וּבְדֶ֣רֶךְ חַ֭טָּאִים לֹ֥א עָמָ֑ד
“…and in the way of sinners [he] does not stand”
As we enter the next phrase of v. 1, we begin to see a pattern in the Hebrew text. The person who is blessed by God is the one who (a) avoids a fealty-motivated, loving (i.e. loyal) action within (b) a context antithetical to or set against the One True God. For example, in 1:1a the heart-motivated action is “walking,” used metaphorically for living (as in a total way of life), and the antithetical context in which this blessed walker is to avoid is walking “in the counsel/advice/way-of-thinking of the wicked.” Now in 1:1b, the action is “standing” and the antithetical context is “in the way of sinners.” Let’s unpack this latter action and context.
“Not stand.” The verbal concept of “standing”dips deep into biblical imagery. Standing is not seen in the abstract, as if the physical action in and of itself is important. Rather, what is in view is the relational (covenantal) aspect of the standing. One of these powerful images is “standing before God” as in a mediatorial role. Many times the mediator must stand before God on behalf of the people, such as when Abraham, Moses, and Samuel “stood before God” (Gen. 18:22; Gen. 19:27; Deut. 4:10; Jer. 15:1).1
An important correlation is that not only did the mediator stand before God, but God’s people also stood before God via the representative head/mediator. As such it is important to pause and ponder before Whom humanity stands—the majestic Lord of Heaven and Earth:
As Joseph stood before Pharaoh (Gen 41:46), David before Saul (1Sam 16:21), Abishag and Bathsheba before David (1Kings 1:2, 28), and Nebuzaradan before Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 52:12); so the believer stands before Yahweh in a position of obedience, respect, and readiness to serve. Such a position is noble in proportion to the majesty of the one served. When a person stands before Yahweh for service, there is no higher honor to which he may aspire.2
Much more could be said about “standing.” (One interesting comparative usage of “stand” to note, for example, is Psalm 33:11. This verse uses both “stand” and “counsel,” the same two words we see in 1:1.) An important aspect to note for our reflection is that standing involves loyalty. You always stand before someone or something loyal to some foundation, whether it be yourself, a club or society, a religion—you’re feet are always planted somewhere. The man who would be blessed by God cannot plant his feet in the camp of the wicked; rather, the blessed man must plant his feet in the Lord’s camp.
“In the way of the wicked.” From the Fall (Gen. 3) onward, there have been two “ways”3 in which man can live: in obedience to God or in disobedience to God. At every point God’s people are faced with the fundamental choice: Do I believe God and follow His way of life in obedience, or do I disobey God and follow my own way.
The choices are mutually exclusive. Jesus boldly proclaimed: “I am the way,” precluding any other way to God4 In Acts believers’ identity itself is tied directly to being followers of “the Way.”5 The blessed man cannot follow the world’s wicked way of life since he is rather to be following God’s way. The cursed man is he who, having begun to listen to “the counsel of the wicked,” now is “forgetful of himself” and “grows hardened in wickedness”; It becomes easier and easier to sin and harder and harder to hear God’s counsel and to live in obedience to it.6
1 TWOT, I:673-5. Also see Psalm 106:23, in which Moses stands before God as the mediator; the same action is performed by Phinehas in Psalm 106:30.
2 TWOT, I:674.
3 “Way” is “the customary mode or manner of living.”
4 John 14:6
5 Acts 9:2; Acts 16:17; Acts 18:25f; Acts 19:9, 23; Acts 24:14, 22; Acts 25:3; Acts 26:13
6 Calvin points out the progression of sin: from listening to wicked counsel (walking with the wicked) to taking action upon that counsel (standing with the wicked) to scorning those who oppose the wicked (sitting in the seat of the wicked). John Calvin, commentary on Psalm 1.
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