Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and they meditate on his law day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall prosper.
It is not so with the wicked; they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
For the Lord know the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is doomed.
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 585)
THere is an irony to this psalm which is less subtle in autumn than in springtime or the height of summer. Surrounded by bare-branched trees, I read of the ones who are like trees whose leaves do not wither, and I found myself suddenly in dubious company.
Then I looked again at the beginning. Is it not strange that the very first line of the Book of Psalms is written negatively? Happy (or in other translations, Blessed) are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor, nor…
They are the ones singled out for their unusual nature, their unique, perhaps unicorn-like characteristics!
The rest of us live gathered together like the trees of the forest who bear fruit, yes, but imperfectly, and whose leaves wither and fall. They will be renewed and refreshed in the springtime, but in the meantime they blow away like chaff on the wind, they are scattered and bare.
The Psalmist points us towards hope in the God who gathers in lost sheep. “As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness” (Ezekiel 34:12).
This God will not leave us forever at the mercy of the wind, but will gather us before the judgment seat and allow us to stand before the council of the righteous to receive God’s gracious and fearful determination.