Three steps in decision making lead toward adopting a philosophy of life. We adopt a philosophy piece by piece, segment by segment, thought by thought, and action by action. As we engage these steps, our intents and commitments become more pronounced toward a direction for our life. There are numerous advice givers for information in making a decision. Each of these advice givers may or may not have taken the same advice they give. For example, some will give advice on a diet plan but never use it themselves. The adage, “Take my advice, I am not using it,” becomes true for them. Just watch television, read newspapers, or flip through magazines and you will find articles and advertisements advising you on every aspect of living. Each has a philosophy about how one should look, smell, see, talk, hear, dress, present oneself, vote, worship, argue a point, or even think about issues. They want you to embrace their viewpoint and philosophy and shame you if you do not embrace it.
Generally speaking, a lot of people become influenced by their own advice and follow it. When giving such advice they deem important, they consider it valuable. The more valuable they find it, the more they consent to it and embrace it. Even if they half-heartedly believe in their own advice, they follow it because they do not want to be exposed as being inconsistent when giving advice. Eventually, they adopt a philosophy of life and advise people from that philosophy after taking it themselves and giving consent to it through action.
There are two ways to take or give advice, consenting to it, and embracing it: a positive way and a negative way. Parents tell a child, “Don’t touch the stove top because it is hot!” A financial advisor recommends that his clients engage in budgeting. The child consents to parental advice by staying away from the stove top. As time passes and the child grows into adulthood, he embraces the lifestyle that hot stoves should not be touched with a bare hand. The same applies to those who listen to a financial advisor’s advice. They consent and eventually join the group of people who exercise budgeting as a lifestyle. Wisdom grows for those who take sound advice. However, those who take unsound advise suffer its consequences.
Psalm 1 announces the above three step process of adopting a philosophy of life and a sound lifestyle. It dispenses this process in negative form preceded by a positive outcome,
How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers!” (v. 1, The Apologetics Study Bible.
The psalm tells its readers not to take the advice of the wicked, assent (consent) to sinners or join (embrace) a “group of mockers.” In other words, there are certain types of people we should avoid and with whom we should not keep company (embrace): the wicked, sinners, and mockers. They will make us unhappy. Avoiding them and embracing God’s instruction will make us happy. Other Bible versions use the word “blessed.” Being blessed means favorable (not necessarily an emotional response). Within the context of this psalm, we understand that this favor comes from God.
The psalm expands on this favorable outcome with the illustration of a sturdy tree. Prior to this illustration, it expands on the meaning of happiness or blessing: delight. That is, the person delights “in the LORD’s instruction. This delight compels him to give continuous thought (meditation) to the results of the LORD’s instruction: sturdiness as a tree, fruitfulness in life, and prosperity. Spiritual thinking through the word of God results in these outcomes. These outcomes are not necessarily material well-being and external success. They could be, but God does not promise them. Prosperity does not mean material riches but reaching specific successes God designs for our lives.
The other side of this favorable outcome are results of opposite decisions, decisions that avoid the advice and result in embracing that which the psalm warned: chaff and disappearance of all that is good. These decisions ultimately lead to the rejection of the source of all blessings, God Himself. This psalm gives stark images that heighten the urgency of following sound advice, consenting to it, and embracing it. Unhappiness is not the ultimate result to avoid. Rather, it is God’s judgment and destruction. Those who delight in the LORD and commit their ways to Him find security in Him and not judgment just as a sturdy tree that rises confidently to the heavens.
Advice can be warnings. This psalm gives warnings about giving consent to certain life characteristics and embracing those who follow them. Warnings are like street signs. We see them all the time. Not following them could lead to disaster. Consenting to them and embracing them leads us to a favorable destination, God’s destiny for our lives.