1. Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scorner.2. But his delight is in the law of Jehovah; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
1. Blessed is the man. The meaning of the Psalmist, as I have stated above, is, that it shall be always well with God's devout servants, whose constant endeavor it is to make progress in the study of his law. The greater part of mankind being accustomed to deride the conduct of the saints as mere simplicity, and to regard their labor as entirely thrown away, it was of importance that the righteous should be confirmed in the way of holiness, by the consideration of the miserable condition of all men without the blessing of God, and the conviction that God is favorable to none but those who zealously devote themselves to the study of divine truth. Moreover, as corruption has always prevailed in the world, to such a degree, that the general character of men's lives is nothing else but a continual departure from the law of God, the Psalmist, before asserting the blessedness of the students of the divine law, admonishes them to beware of being carried away by the ungodliness of the multitude around them. Commencing with a declaration of his abhorrence of the wicked, he teaches us how impossible it is for any one to apply his mind to meditation upon God's laws who has not first withdrawn and separated himself from the society of the ungodly. A needful admonition surely; for we see how thoughtlessly men will throw themselves into the snares of Satan; at least, how few comparatively there are who guard against the enticements of sin. That we may be fully apprised of our danger, it is necessary to remember that the world is fraught with deadly corruption, and that the first step to living well is to renounce the company of the ungodly, otherwise it is sure to infect us with its own pollution.
As the prophet, in the first place, enjoins the godly to beware of temptations to evil, we shall follow the same order. His affirmation, that they are blessed who have no fellowship with the ungodly, is what the common feeling and opinion of mankind will scarcely admit; for while all men naturally desire and seek after happiness, we see how securely they can indulge themselves in their sins, yea, that those of them who have departed farthest from righteousness, in the gratification of their lusts, are accounted happy, because they obtain the desires of their heart. The prophet, on the contrary, here teaches that no man can be duly animated to the fear and service of God, and to the study of his law, until he is firmly persuaded that all the ungodly are miserable, and that they who do not withdraw from their company shall he involved in the same destruction with them. But as it is no easy matter to shun the ungodly with whom we are mingled in the world, so as to be wholly estranged from them, the Psalmist, in order to give the greater emphasis to his exhortation, employs a multiplicity of expressions.
In the first place, he forbids us to walk in their counsel; in the second place, to stand in their way; and, lastly, to sit in their seat.
The sum of the whole is, that the servants of God must endeavor utterly to abhor the life of ungodly men. But as it is the policy of Satan to insinuate his deceits, in a very crafty way, the prophet, in order that none may be insensibly deceived, shows how by little and little men are ordinarily induced to turn aside from the right path. They do not, at the first step, advance so far as a proud contempt of God but having once begun to give ear to evil counsel, Satan leads them, step by step, farther astray, till they rush headlong into open transgression. The prophet, therefore, begins with counsel, by which term I understand the wickedness which does not as yet show itself openly. Then he speaks of the way, which is to be understood of the customary mode or manner of living. And he places at the top of the climax the seat, by which metaphorical expression he designates the obduracy produced by the habit of a sinful life. In the same way, also, ought the three phrases, to walk, to stand, and to sit, to be understood. When a person willingly walks after the gratification of his corrupt lusts, the practice of sinning so infatuates him, that, forgetful of himself, he grows hardened in wickedness; and this the prophet terms standing in the way of sinners. Then at length follows a desperate obstinacy, which he expresses by the figure of sitting. Whether there is the same gradation in the Hebrew words rsym, reshaim, cht'ym, chataim, and ltsym, letsim, that is to say, a gradual increase of evil, I leave to the judgment of others. To me it does not appear that there is, unless perhaps in the last word. For those are called scorners who, having thrown off all fear of God, commit sin without restraint, in the hope of escaping unpunished, and without compunction or fear sport at the judgment of God, as if they would never be called to render up an account to him. The Hebrew word cht'ym, chataim, as it signifies the openly wicked, is very properly joined with the term way, which signifies a professed and habitual manner of living. And if, in the time of the Psalmist, it was necessary for the devout worshippers of God to withdraw themselves from the company of the ungodly, in order to frame their life aright, how much more in the present day, when the world has become so much more corrupt, ought we carefully to avoid all dangerous society that we may be kept unstained by its impurities. The prophet, however, not only commands the faithful to keep at a distance from the ungodly, from the dread of being infected by them, but his admonition farther implies, that every one should be careful not to corrupt himself, nor abandon himself to impiety. A man may not have contracted defilement from evil examples, and yet come to resemble the wicked by spontaneously imitating their corrupt manners.
In the second verse, the Psalmist does not simply pronounce those happy who fear God, as in other places, but designates godliness by the study of the law, teaching us that God is only rightly served when his law is obeyed. It is not left to every man to frame a system of religion according to his own judgment, but the standard of godliness is to be taken from the Word of God. When David here speaks of the law, it ought not to be understood as if the other parts of Scripture should be excluded, but rather, since the whole of Scripture is nothing else than an exposition of the law, under it as the head is comprehended the whole body. The prophet, therefore, in commending the law, includes all the rest of the inspired writings. He must, therefore, be understood as meaning to exhort the faithful to the reading of the Psalms also. From his characterising the godly as delighting in the law of the Lord, we may learn that forced or servile obedience is not at all acceptable to God, and that those only are worthy students of the law who come to it with a cheerful mind, and are so delighted with its instructions, as to account nothing more desirable or delicious than to make progress therein. From this love of the law proceeds constant meditation upon it, which the prophet mentions on the last clause of the verse; for all who are truly actuated by love to the law must feel pleasure in the diligent study of it.