For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
I’ve heard many teachings on the first psalm and every teaching has focused on some other verse or verses than this. It’s not that this verse is ignored, but that it seems to receive less attention, in my experience. While it is important to know the course of decline into unrighteousness and to check ourselves on that and it is important to know what the righteous person takes pleasure in and what the result of that is, I felt that a reminder of the ultimate outcomes was worthy of consideration this morning.
This psalm tells us that the righteous person delights in The Law of the LORD and thinks deeply on that Law. The righteous person does not spend great amounts of time getting intimate with people who mock and deride God and His standards. The end result of that is that God knows the way of the righteous. Being a word nerd, I felt that I must look up the verb tense of the word. I was pleased that the idea floating around in my head turned out to be correct. It is not merely that the LORD knows the way of the righteous in the sense that we know the information for a test at this moment and forget it a few days (maybe hours) later. This is an unbroken action; a continual knowing. This could be rendered that the LORD has known, knows now, and will know in perpetuity the way of the righteous. He knows and continues to know everything that a righteous person does.
By contrast, the unrighteous or wicked are not rooted and they mock and look for sins to commit. The end result of their actions is that their way will perish. Again, I had to look up the verb tense and found that it is a future action. It has not yet happened. What I find absolutely fascinating about the verb is that the word rendered perish could also be blot out. There are only a handful of things that God speaks of blotting out in The Bible. He speaks of blotting out the remembrance of particularly wicked people from under heaven. This makes sense, as we wouldn’t want the next round of especially wicked people finding inspiration from those who had gone before — just think de Sad and Bathory and you’ll get an idea why this was a good plan on God’s part.
God speaks of blotting people’s names out of His book. The idea is that the name in the book is the record of that person’s existence and they’ve done something so heinous that God simply expunges the record of them. He, being God, will never forget who they are are what they did, but He strikes them from the record. I can only imagine why and speculation does none of us any good.
God also speaks of blotting out sins. This is an understanding of the passage that is stretching things a bit, but I’m going to toss it out there not because it is necessarily in the text but because it does not contradict sound doctrine. The Bible says that there is not one righteous person. Not. Even. One. That the One and Only person to ever achieve righteousness is God in the flesh: Jesus Christ. The Bible also states that God “blots out” our sins and no longer remembers them. Moreover, I am told that if I am in Christ I am a new creation; that old things have passed away; that all things are new. And again, I am told that I have become the righteousness of God in Christ. All of this combines to leave me with this: I am not righteous on my own. Once I put my trust in Christ and His sacrifice, I was made new; had my old ways blotted out; was given the righteousness of God that Christ has always had.
This psalm absolutely is a contrast of the ways of the righteous and the wicked. But I think that it can also be a foreshadowing of what God was planning in salvation. He planned to put to death our old man and his wicked ways (the way of the wicked will perish) and to substitute for that now dead nature His own nature. As mentioned above, this is stretching the text a bit, but it is not undoctrinal (God does, in fact, save us and redeem us and blot out our sins) and poetry allows for a certain interpretive leeway. This morning, I am reminded that God blots out the way of the wicked — including the me that walked in wickedness and those times when I relapse into wickedness. This, to me, is a reminder of God’s forgiveness and an encouragement to press further up and further in. God chooses to remove all record of my wrongs and to make me like a fruitful tree. And I ache for the fruit of love and joy and peace and patience (Lord knows I need it) and kindness and goodness and gentleness and self-control (Lord knows I need a long ton of this). This also serves as a reminder that God knows the way I go. He is intimately acquainted with what is coming today and tomorrow and every day thereafter. He knows the way of the righteous. Not that I have any righteousness of my own, but that God has imputed Jesus’ righteousness to me and I stand in that righteousness alone.