Today we will deal with an objection that may be raised to the interpretation given thus far to the verb “know.” Many would say that I am not reading Psalm 1:6 entirely and correctly because it says that “the LORD knows the way of the righteous,” not the person; if it is affirmed that God intimately and sovereignly knows (foreordains) to His salvation those whom He wills, then He is not a loving God because He is not thus with all; if, however, it is said that the Lord merely knows (ordains) the way of the righteous and their righteousness (making Christ’s atonement merely a possibility, not a certainty because it is contingent upon man’s will), then He is loving because He takes no action unless we mortal creatures use our Almighty free will andallow Him to save us. This objection naturally springs forth from rejecting the wonderful truth of Scripture that God is Sovereign and He “has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Romans 9:18, ESV). Oh, the arrogance of such belief!
What we must understand is that a person sins because he is a sinner and believers do good works because they have been made righteous; that is, their natures have been transformed from ungodliness to righteousness. It is a matter of nature or essence.
Just as in the metaphor of the tree used in this Psalm we see that every part of it is indeed a part of it, so the way of both the godly and the ungodly are indeed part of them. When we read in the Psalm “the counsel of the wicked…the way of sinners…the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1, ESV), we naturally conclude that the way by itself is nothing without the sinner: the counsel, way, and seat are named according to those who use them. So when the Psalmist says “counsel…way…seat,” he is referring to the ungodly men themselves, not something abstract outside of them.
To illustrate this, allow me quote our Lord,
“And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone;they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said,“Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”” (Matthew 15:10-20, ESV).
In Psalm 1:1, the “counsel…way…[and] seat” of the ungodly are not separate from the person, they represent the person, they are the person. In this section of Matthew 15 our Lord explains this by showing how man is not ungodly because something outside of him makes him so, but he is ungodly because he is inherently defiled by sin.
When Psalm 1:1 says “the counsel of the wicked…the way of sinners…the seat of scoffers,” it is giving us the description of an ungodly man in his entirety: counsel, his doctrine; way, the application of his doctrine and what is in his heart; seat, the musings of the heart.
If Psalm 1:6 makes a difference between the righteous and his way, then the same difference would have to be made in verse 1. If such difference is made, then there is no reason why the “counsel…way…[and] seat” of the ungodly should be avoided, for it is then neither good nor bad, godly or ungodly, but just abstract concepts without meaning.
When our Lord lists the things that come out of the heart of a person, we do not say that they are separate from the heart, but rather, that is what the heart is: evil, murderous, adulterous, sexually immoral, false, slanderous, etc.
Finally, if such distinctions are to be made, what is it that will perish in the day of judgment in Psalm 1:6?
“….but the way of the wicked will perish.”
Are we to understand from this that only the results of wickedness will perish in the day of judgment but not the wicked themselves? Certainly not.
Bringing this back to Psalm 1:6, therefore, we see that the way of the righteous, just as in v.1 the way of the unrighteous, represents the righteous person, not something outside of him/her.
In our final entry on Psalm 1:6 we will take a look at John 10 and the teaching of God’s sovereign and intimate “knowing” of those who are His. Stay tuned!