The “Man” of Psalm 1:1-3 is the Lord Jesus. He never walks with the wicked, stands with sinners, or sits with the scornful. He delights in the teachings of the Lord and meditates on them all the time. This “Man” prospers in all his ways. As Hengstenberg observes, “…in this life there is no one, who is not conscious of lacking to some extent this delight in the law of the Lord, by reason of the lust and the law in his members, which decidedly and wholly oppose this law of God; as St Paul complains, in Rom. 7:22, 23, saying: ‘I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members.’ Even the regenerate, although delight in the law predominates in them, yet have constantly to struggle with their sinful propensities. Perfect delight in the law presupposes a perfect union of the human with the Divine will, perfect extirpation of sin—for the measure of sin is the measure of dislike to the law—perfect holiness. Christ alone, who was the only righteous one on earth, could have laid claim to such a fulfillment.” He goes on to suggest that the fact that no one prospers in “all his ways” is “…a declaration on the part of God, that there is sin still dwelling even in His saints.”[1]

But believers have this “righteousness” in their connection with the perfectly righteous one, and that connection works itself out in a practical way in this life bringing changes in their lives that bring prosperity in everything he does. They become fruitful trees in a real sense with the hopes of becoming like Jesus in the resurrection. The next verse, Psalm 1:4. says, “The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.” The Palm tree and Cedar tree or healthy and solid, and prosperous. Chaff is blown away with every breeze that passes by. As McGee says, “Two men, two ways, two destinies. One is a dead–end street; it leads to death. The other leads to life. God says what is right and what is wrong. We are living in a day when folk are not sure what is right or wrong. God is sure. His Word does not change with every philosophy of a new generation.”[2]

Guzik reminds us that it often looks like the righteous perish while the wicked prosper. But that’s just the appearance. He says, “It may often seem like the ungodly have these things, (The prosperity of verses 1-3), and sometimes it seems they have them more than the righteous. But it is not so! Any of these things are fleeting in the life of the ungodly; it can be said that they don’t really have them at all.”[3] Much of the wisdom literature deals with the apparent prospering of the wicked alongside the suffering of the righteous. The book of Job is all about that. Kidner points out, “Other psalms will point out that the wicked, rather than the righteous, may seem to be the people of substance (e.g. 37:35f.). But ‘the Day will disclose’ the man of straw as surely as the works of straw.”[4]

[1] Hengstenberg, E. W. 1869. Commentary on the Psalms. Vol. 1. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

[2] McGee, J. Vernon. 1991. Thru the Bible Commentary: Poetry (Psalms 1-41). Electronic ed. Vol. 17. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Guzik, David. 2013. Psalms. David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible. Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

[4] Kidner, Derek. 1973. Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 15. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.