Family, friends, political leaders, and professors all have counsel to give to us. Much is wise learned from experience and wisdom gathered over the years. We do well to listen to such tested counsel. However, some counsel is just plain wrong and foolish. If a person took you to the edge of the Grand Canyon and suggested that you jump, informing you that you would fly. Would you do it? Would you invest in a risky business enterprise without performing due diligence?
There is good and wise counsel and evil and foolish counsel. Sometimes, it is difficult to separate them out due to circumstances, cultural setting, and many other variables. The laws of many lands have good counsel and foolish counsel integrated. One question we must asked to know the difference between the good and bad and wise and foolish is, “What is the basis or source?” Is the source limited to culture or circumstance? Or can it be applied universally with all cultures and peoples without exception?
The psalmist who penned Psalm 1 is very straight forward with absolute statements with counsel and the person giving and taking it. He does not not mince words about what is wise and foolish, good or evil, or the nature of individuals giving counsel. He identifies the blessings that come to people who take counsel he defines as godly, upright, or sound words by stating it in a negative,
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly
Nor stands in the path of sinners
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful”
At the very beginning he speaks of the ungodly, sinners, and scornful intimating that the godly, upright, and people with sound words exist. In doing so, he offers a polemic for the presence of God, the recognition of sin and sinners, and evil speech. By giving attention to the ungodly, the psalmist immediately renounces atheism and its foolish philosophy or counsel. Atheists, agnostics, and polytheists have written and published hundreds of thousands of books giving people the advice of their philosophy. At the basis of this advice is to ignore God and His existence. Live as though God does not exist and that all that exist is material. Scorn those who believe in Him. Stay away from God’s word but rather call it dangerous. The psalmist has a message for such people. They are like chaff without power, taken up by the winds, and scattered across the landscape. They and their words do not last.
However, those who worship God, listen to Him, associate with His people, and speak words of wisdom receive blessings from God. They find their place in the presence of God and prosper. This psalm is an apologetic worthy of continued thoughtfulness over the span of a lifetime for gathering from it eternal wisdom that dwells with God and applies universally to all peoples for all times to eternity. Its reading is a great way to begin a new year.