“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.” (Psalm 1:6 CSB)
In the first psalm, David speaks of how happy is the man who does not align himself with those who are wicked but instead seeks the Lord and delights in His instruction, meditating on it day and night. Such a one is like a tree planted beside a stream and is always productive. The wicked, on the other hand, are like wheat chaff which have little substance and are easily blown away by the slightest wind. The wicked cannot withstand judgment, while the righteous certainly will. The reason for this is that the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, while the way of the wicked leads only to ruin.
The first statement to be made about this psalm and its teaching is that it is a confession of faith. People of faith believe that God will watch over those who are in right relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. So, what does that mean?
Does this mean that people in right relationship with the Lord can expect that God is going to keep them from all harm? Some will read these verses and conclude that that is exactly what it means. And if that is true, then we have a disconnect when someone who actually is in a right relationship with the Lord suffers harm or death, which will then cause folks to question whether it is really true. Worse, it can cause some to actually turn away from their faith. So, how can we reconcile all this?
First, we simply accept by faith that this psalm and these individual verses are telling us the truth. Clearly, they are expressing David’s understanding of the ways of God, and David experienced these truths and gives testimony to his observation. We should note, however, that David’s life was not without suffering, danger, and struggle. His faith led him to practice trusting God to watch over his way. It was simply a matter of faith and trust.
Second, we recognize the spiritual nature of what is being taught. Our human minds are firmly grounded and oriented to the physical. We tend to read verses like this assuming the physical. Faith tells us that God does watch over the way of the righteous in physical terms, but we recognize that spiritual reality is a greater reality than the physical, and that God’s providence and sustenance applies to the spiritual as well. It may actually have more to do with the spiritual anyway, since the word “happy” used in verse 1 literally means “spiritually prosperous.”
Third, our faith tells us that we trust God regardless of anything that occurs, either toward us or toward those we love. Shadrach, Mechech, and Abednego stated to Nebuchadnezzar that God would rescue them from the fire, and that even if He did not, they would never worship some other god or man, like Nebuchadnezzar. Faith causes us to simply put supreme trust in God and His purposes, whether we understand them or not, or whether we like them or not.
Lord, Remind us today that Your death on the cross and all the suffering You went through for us happened as a result of a supreme faith and trust. Help us to recognize that even those in a right relationship with You might undergo some level of suffering or struggle, and that You will watch over our way. Help us to not allow experience or observation to undermine our trust in You, as if they were somehow greater than You. Amen.