This Psalm describes the righteous as trees and the wicked as chaff. Chaff is the husks of kernels of grain that provide no food value for humans, and because they are light the wind blows them away, separating them from the grain.
The Nature of a Tree
What do trees represent in this Psalm? I believe that the most succinct English word with which to express this would be character, the strength to do what is right even when the pressure is on. Isaiah 61:3 says, “…That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” Chaff refers to the person without character.
A tree can withstand a very strong wind, while chaff is blown away by the least breeze. Likewise, the wicked are blown off course by the slightest temptation while the righteous described in Ps. 1 can be counted on to stand in the face of tremendous pressure.
The old expression, “Every man has his price,” must have been coined by a wicked man. In a video of a Burmese Christian woman she explained that the Buddhist government soldiers would round up believers and ask, “Are you a Christian?” If they would answer in the affirmative the soldiers would shoot them. The interviewer asked, “How would you answer?” Without batting an eye she responded, “I would tell them that I am a Christian.” Many of God’s people have displayed faithfulness even in the face of death. They could not be bought with any price, even their lives.
Righteous Living Requires Character
In Joshua 1:7 we find the Lord commanding Joshua,
Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.
In this verse the Lord informs Joshua that keeping the Law requires character. It is hard to stand against the world, the flesh, and the devil, instead choosing righteousness.
This is evident today as well. In our affluent society it requires character to be a good steward instead of spending a disproportionate amount of our resources on ourselves. It demands character not to click on one of the many links for pornography sites that confront us on a daily basis. It requires character not to read ungodly novels. It requires character not to watch movies with ungodly content. It requires character to witness for Christ. It requires character to be faithful to one’s spouse. It requires character to set aside time for Scripture reading and prayer.
The Source of Character
Psalm 1 informed us that character growth results from meditating on the Word day or night. Joshua 1:7-8 conveys the same message. Psalm 1 apparently is correlating the person meditating on the Word and a tree planted by the rivers of water. It is through drinking in the water of the Word that we grow into a strong, fruitful tree, a person of character.
It is amazing that this formula is so simple. Memorize and meditate on Scripture, and you will develop character.
In light of the simplicity of this formula and its vast contribution, promising to develop the component of our lives most significant to us and to God, it is astounding that it does not attract more attention. One would think that this would be the central concern in Christian parenting, a major emphasis of every church, a priority of every Christian, the focal point of every discipleship program, a central feature of every Christian educational curriculum.
I wish that I could say that on a scale of 1 to 10 I could rate myself as a 10 in Scripture memory. I can’t. However, I can say that I continue to work at it, and that passages I have memorized have ministered to me in a profound way. The point is that, not surprisingly, God’s program works. I trust that all of us will work the program.