There are few, like less than 3, TV preachers I would ever listen to if I wanted to learn something. Until John MacArthur started his TV ministry last year, that number was less than 2. That one preacher was Ravi Zacharias. However, I do watch TV preachers sometimes. Why, you ask? Because it is so side-splittingly funny. It is literally like watching a comedian. You have people teaching doctrine that is absolutely heretical and some people actually believe what they themselves are saying. “It isn’t God’s will for you to be sick.” “God intends for all believers to live with an abundance of money.” They preach that Christianity exists to make people happy. The pastor of America’s largest church has written a book that appeals to peoples self esteem and greediness. These people purport to tell people how they can be “Happy”. However, what does the Bible say about true happiness and fulfillment? Does it line up with what these used car salesmen who pass themselves off as teachers of God’s word claim? Let’s look at Psalm 1 and find out for ourselves.
Psalm 1 verse one begins by saying “Blessed is the man”. The word translated blessed is the Hebrew word esher and can be taken to mean “how happy”. We will study the specifics of what causes one to be happy according to the verse, but we do notice that the state of being blessed or happy is not the result of having things. People are not happy because of their home, their car, or their job. In fact, true Biblical happiness doesn’t have anything to do with material possessions. It has to do with our relationship with God. Notice, therefore, that this verse also talks about the absence of situations in a person’s life that make a person happy. It doesn’t talk about what a person who is happy has or does but, rather, what they do not do. We should note as Paul teaches in the book of Romans that we, as Christians, were once slaves to sin. Now, in our redeemed state, we are slaves to righteousness. Therefore, we have been set free from sin in order to serve God. Because of that, there are some things that a Christian should not do. This does not mean that we keep a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts but because we have a new nature inside of us we will live differently.
Notice the verse says someone is happy who does not “walk in the council of the ungodly”. Throughout scripture, “walk” is used to describe the course of our life. How we conduct ourselves is a direct reflection of what we think and what we believe. A happy person, in this verse, is one who does not let his actions be controlled by ungodly advice. The world and its wisdom will always be contrary to the wisdom of God. This is because, as Paul notes in Ephesians chapter 4 the ungodly people in this verse have “futile” minds. Therefore, they have an inaccurate view of the world in which they live. In that case, a person is better off not listening to worldly wisdom and ideas but, instead, should turn to God’s perfect holy word and godly preachers/teachers for council. As the apostle notes in Romans 12, we are to be “transformed by the renewing of [our] minds”. To fail to do so invites folly into one’s life.
Next, the author writes that a person is happy if they do not “stand in the paths of sinners”. It is instructive to note that the action in this verse progresses from walking to standing to sitting. The Hebrew word for path is derek. This word can be used figuratively to mean “course of life” or “mode of action”. As I said earlier, how we live proves what we think or believe. If a person fills his or her mind with the thoughts and teachings of this world, it will show in how they live. They will find themselves standing with those whose mode of life conflicts with the teaching of God’s word. The Bible teaches here that those who are happy do not have the same “course of life” or “mode of action” as those who are unredeemed. Certainly, all of us fall short of the standard that God sets from time to time. However, if a person is truly a Christian they will live differently than the rest of the world because they have been reborn and filled with the Holy Spirit. Happiness, then, is a result of being separated from this evil world system.
Finally, the author says that those who are happy do not “sit in the seat of the scornful”. As the action progresses in this verse, so does the godlessness of the people with whom we should disassociate ourselves. They have gone from ungodly to sinners to people who are scornful. Now, they are pictured not only as ones who sin but who mock the righteousness of God and His holy word. People who live contrary to scripture should be avoided as close companions. However, we should be even more careful to avoid those who speak and teach against the word of God. As this verse notes, those who are happy will not “sit (abide) in the seat (dwelling place)” of those who contradict God’s word. When people disregard and verbally mock God and the Bible, we need to remove ourselves from their influence (council), forsake their behavior (path), and remove ourselves from their abode (seat). When we do that, we can focus on the word of God. The study of the Bible and fellowship with other Christians is what produces true happiness.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved