But the wicked will be destroyed. Psalm 1:6, NCV

Which means that unbelievers aren’t simply sitting ducks who might get wiped out; their annihilation is assured. God’s people will be the ones hiking along the path of hope and happiness, but the wicked dudes are blithely prancing straight toward obliteration. They’re going to be burned up faster than petty cash at Target!

SECURITY COMES WITH THE SHEPHERD

The guaranteed security of God’s people, in contrast with the definitive destruction of those who don’t follow Him, in Psalm 1 reminds me of this sermon Jesus preached in the New Testament:

When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.”

Then those “sheep” are going to say, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?” Then the King will say, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”

Then he will turn to the “goats,” the ones on his left, and say, “Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.”

Then those “goats” are going to say, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?”

He will answer them, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.”

Then those “goats” will be herded to their eternal doom, but the “sheep” to their eternal reward. Matthew 25:31–46, MSG

While this story portrays the “good” group as being more giving—they volunteer with Prison Fellowship and cook dinner for down-on-their-luck neighbors and share their soda with cotton-mouthed strangers—they’re only emulating their Master. Because they’ve walked closely with Jesus, they’ve begun to mirror some of His mannerisms. It’s not that they’re inherently better than the wicked guys; sheep and goats are both stinky, hairy manure machines. (Believe it or not, I actually have a bit of firsthand experience on this issue.) Furthermore, my veterinarian friends tell me that goats are actually smarter than sheep. That means sheep don’t have more intrinsic value than goats. The real reason they’re elevated in this gospel imagery is their relationship with the Shepherd. He’s the reason sheep get to be on the right side. He’s the reason they’re spared.

Just like the smelly farm animals in Matthew 25, Psalm 1 reminds us that our salvation is tied to our Shepherd. Without Him, we would surely follow a delinquent gang of goats down the path of destruction. But God’s perfect grace blazes a trail of hope and happiness for messy people like us. When we follow our Father’s directions, we’ll be able to “walk right,” even when teetering on a pair of ill-fitting, too-cool-for-school boots!

The right-now relevance of Psalm 1

God’s love frees us to steer clear of the path of destruction and keep step with Him in joyful obedience.

ENOUGH ABOUT ME. WHAT ABOUT YOU?

1. It’s been said that the primary purpose of biblical poetry (like that of Psalms) is not so much to teach us as to reach us. What kind of poetry or song lyrics do you emotionally resonate with the most?

2. Reread Psalm 1:1. List the top five people you’re most likely to listen to when you need advice. Do you typically walk away happy after listening to their counsel? Why or why not?  

3. Describe a situation in which you were metaphorically “pulled off the picnic table” as a result of hanging around with ungodly rebels.

4. Read Jeremiah 17:7–8 and Matthew 5:3–12. How are the common themes in these passages connected to the overall theme of Psalm 1?

5. Compare Psalm 1:4 with Luke 3:15–17. Why do you think God “winnows” wicked people from His followers? Have you ever felt the need to separate yourself from some people because of their cruddy attitude about our Creator-Redeemer? How did you make the break?

6. What movie or book can you think of that reflects the theme of Psalm 1? Explain the parallels you see.