“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…but His delight is in the Law of the Lord…”
Psalm 1:1-2 (ESV)
Everyone is influenced by someone- including you. None of us live our lives in an vacuum, and there are few places where this becomes more evident than in our everyday decision making. Every decision we make is an exercise in yielding ourselves to certain people, and certain messages. This being the case, it becomes incredibly critical that we take the time to consider who and what is speaking most loudly into our lives and influencing our choices.
Psalm 1 presents us with two broad categories of influence, both enormously potent- the “counsel of the wicked” and the “law of the Lord.” Defining these two sources briefly, the “law of the Lord” is found in God’s Word, the Bible, and in the lives and influence of those who walk according to it. On the flip side, the “counsel of the wicked” is found in the world’s values, and in the lives and influence of those who walk according to it. This “counsel” comes to us in many varied forms- film and television, music and art, politics and even human religion. Often, at first glance, it seems to carry much in common with what God says is true and right. But upon closer examination, the deceptiveness and destructiveness of the world’s “counsel” becomes clear.
The “counsel of the wicked” is ultimately rooted in a lie- a tremendously tempting lie- the belief that what matters most in life is doing what makes you happy, as quickly as possible, at any cost. The world we live in promises us in a thousand different ways that if we could just look like this, have this relationship, have this experience, have this new “toy,” achieve this success, then all of our problems will suddenly fade away, and we’ll finally be happy. The ways in which this lie drives much of our decision making are seemingly unending…
• We drift in and out of relationships- including marriage- in the hopes that this time, this person will finally provide us with what we’re looking for. Inevitably, though, they don’t- and we’re left to make our exit and resume our search again.
• We bury ourselves under a mountain of financial bondage- in the hopes that this time, this purchase will finally satisfy the longings of our soul. Inevitably, though, they don’t- and we’re left to spend more to acquire more to appease our appetites.
• We run in and out of jobs- and even careers- in the hopes that this time, this move will finally give us the sense of purpose and achievement we can’t seem to get. Inevitably, though, we find ourselves disillusioned yet again, left to blame someone or something else for our unhappiness, and look for the next opportunity.
I could go on, but I think by now the point is clear. The “counsel of the wicked” always overpromises and under delivers- and in the wake of decisions made according to this influence, there is often grave damage to you and to others who are inevitably impacted by your decisions.
The “law of the Lord,” though, leads us in a drastically different direction. While Psalm 1 present the “wicked” as windblown “chaff” which is tossed and thrown amidst the pressures of life in this world, the man or woman who “meditates on the law of the Lord” is pictured as a “tree planted by streams of water.” In contrast to the flighty and unreliable nature of the world’s counsel, this is an image of strength, steadiness, and endurance over the long haul of life. It isn’t an image of ease- after all, trees are subjected to the same natural pressures as “chaff”- but it is a picture of resiliency in the face of life’s storms.
In every decision we make, we have a choice to yield ourselves to one of these two sources of influence- the “counsel of the wicked” or the “law of the Lord.” To use the psalmists’ imagery, we can either be the “chaff,” or we can be the “tree.” Being the “chaff” will always seem tempting on the front end, because it seems to lead to quick results. But when all is said and done, the “chaff” will be long gone; only the “tree” planted by the “streams of water” of God’s Word and wisdom will remain. God desires- for His glory, and for your good- that you would anchor yourself in those “streams,” believing that in the end, the “fruit” borne out from that choice is better and sweeter than anything this world can offer.
Practically speaking, what does it look like to “be the tree”? Two recommendations- seek wisdom from wise people, and saturate yourself in God’s Word. I don’t think you need me to tell you that if you want to take a step toward faithfulness in any area of life (i.e. marriage/parenting, generosity, evangelism), it helps to find someone who is a few steps down the road from you and ask them to speak the truth out of their experience into yours. Perfect examples don’t exist this side of heaven, but living examples of godliness do; find them, and engage them however you can.
But even more important is making the choice to saturate yourself daily in the eternal wisdom of God’s Word. Don’t wait until you’re “under the gun” of a big decision to open God’s Word for answers. Take it with you everywhere you go by rooting yourself within it consistently. Read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize it, talk about it with others, and ultimately live it. There is no greater source of nourishment available for our souls- and no greater source of wisdom for our decisions- than what God has provided us in His Word. You’ll never “be the tree” that God desires you to be until you’re planted in those “streams.” As you walk this week, ask yourself these questions…
With whom am I walking, standing and sharing life?
To whom or what am I yielding in the process of making life decisions?
Am I seeking wisdom from wise people, or am I submitting myself to the “counsel of the wicked” in any way?
Am I saturating myself daily in God’s Word, growing the deep roots that I need to make godly decisions?