Bible Study Commentary on Jesus the Great I AM
The Way, the Truth, and the Life - For believers and unbelievers
by I Gordon
Last time in 'I AM' series we looked at the wonderful statement by Jesus - 'I AM the way, the truth and the life' and we explored what I called 'essential truth in the last days'. We saw that on the night before His death, once Judas had left, Jesus spoke to the disciples and gave them important truth to hold onto. In particular we focused on the following points from John 14 that are as relevant now, as we approach His return, as they were then:
1. Don't let your heart be troubled but trust in Him! (vs 1)
2. Take hope in what is prepared for you - your heavenly home (vs 2)
3. Take hope in Jesus' soon return for His bride (vs 3)
4. Don't compromise on the message of salvation but freely share it (vs 6)
5. Live your life with a reliance on His life. (vs 6)
Now I was going to move on to the next 'I AM' which is 'I am the Vine' but I got that 'not so fast' check in my spirit. So after praying and studying some more I felt to do another message on this great I AM statement of Jesus. This message is not from the New Testament though. It is from the Psalms. In many ways it is a very simple foundational message but one that in its simplicity, can be quite profound and hard hitting. It stopped me in my tracks a few times as I pondered it. It is a message that speaks of the way, the truth and the life for both believers and unbelievers.
So here is the Psalm that I'd like you to turn to. Firstly, start with the Lord's perfect number. Then multiply that by the number for resurrection (also Jesus number). Now minus the number associated with the Jubilee (or Pentecost). Now multiple that by the number of witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11. Finally subtract the number of disciples that had Jesus had in his ministry around Israel. Finally add the number of disciples that betrayed Jesus. As a little clue and help, if you are now thinking of turning to Psalm -3 you may want to double check your sums!1 Or you could cheat and just look at the next heading!
Psalm 1 is obviously the opening Psalm so it stands as the gatekeeper for the rest of the Psalms. It is not long at just 6 verses but it certainly packs a punch! It is a Psalm that is split down the middle, The first three verses speak of the believer. The last three the unbeliever. I noticed a little while back that the first three verses in Psalm 1 has 'the way, the truth and the life' woven into it. What I didn't notice until I studied it recently is that the last three verses have 'the life, the truth and the way' also shown for the unbeliever. The first three verses show an upwards progression, a pattern for believers of all ages to follow. The last three show the downward slide, the reality for unbelievers. Let's begin with looking at the way, the truth and the life for the believer in the first three verses.
Verse 1 - The Way for the believer
Psalms 1:1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
The text starts out speaking about the way and it does so from the negative perspective. Blessed is the man who DOES NOT walk in this way. It provides a three step downward hardening in the hearts of unbelievers. They go from walking, to standing, to sitting. You will note that the unbeliever is getting less and less moveable! Speaking of the unbelievers we have:
Those that walk in the counsel of the ungodly - These are those who aren't sure which way to go so they are asking and listening. Unfortunately they are listening to the ungodly and that is influencing them. But on the plus side they are people that are still somewhat open minded, able to accept counsel and are asking questions and listening... for better or worse.
Those that stand in the way of sinners - Then there are those that have taken their stand. They are generally no longer after counsel. They are not asking questions and don't normally want to be told about the Lord. It is hard to move such people for they have taken their stand on what they believe. They stand in the way of sinners and are happy with that.2
Those that sit in the seat of mockers - Then there are those that are no longer listening to counsel, and haven't just taken their stand in the way they will go, but have pulled up a seat and from it desire to mock and scoff at the true way. They aren't moving anywhere. They are firmly planted and take delight in telling you what is so stupid about the thought of God and faith. These are normally the atheists and anti-theists. We have some in our extended family that fall into this camp. They are quick to argue, quick to tell you why they are right and often hold themselves are mentally superior to you. They aren't going to put up with some old fashioned ideas from an old book or non-progressive people!
Western society has a whole lot of people in the number 2 category and it is increasingly moving towards number 3. Now remember - blessed is the man WHO DOES NOT DO THESE THINGS! 'Bad company corrupts good morals' Paul wrote (1 Cor 15:33). Be careful what counsel you are listening to! The word translated 'blessed' here is 'esher' and it means 'happy' - it is a noun meaning a person's state of bliss. Oh how happy is the person who doesn't go down this slippery slope of sin described in verse 1! Many think that sin brings happiness but it is the opposite. Blessed or happy is the one whose heart is open towards God, whose conscience is tender before the Lord and fellowships with Him who is the way. Now the positive side of this is seen in verse 2.
Verse 2 - The truth for the believer
Psalms 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Here we have 'the truth' and the truth for the believer, and for all mankind for that matter, is found in God and in His word. Instead of listening to the counsel of the ungodly we have the word of God. But it's a strange age that we live in. We have more Christian resources available, more books, more YouTube videos and websites, more teaching than ever before. And yet within the Christian world in the West that despite all this is experiencing more confusion, more apostasy, and more worldliness in the lives of those that claim to be Christians than ever before. This poses some questions - Are believers delighting in God's word as the Psalm says? Are they meditating on it as God says or thinking more about the attractions in the world? And make no doubt about it... we have a deluge of 'the world' in this age. Has the 'food' of this world taken all your time and left little for God? Are you after 'fast-food' when it comes to spiritual matters or do you really desire the choice soul satisfying goodness of His word?
Remember also that Jesus said that He Himself is the way, the truth and the life. So as we come to the word, we do not come for facts or figures or even for general knowledge. We come to find Him who is the truth, who is the word of God, in the word of God. The greatest delight is when we come to see that all of God's word is teaching us and pointing to the person of Jesus Christ and His position in our lives. The best Bible study is that which Jesus gave the two on the road to Emmaus for we read that... 'Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.' Luke 24:27. All the scriptures speak of Christ. But we need to dig. We need to think and chew it over. We must read and meditate in the truth. We live in a frantic age and live busy lives and maybe that is why we often see such a superficial Christianity around us. But look at what is says for the one who delights in God's word...
Verse 3 - The life for the believer
Psalms 1:3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
For the believer who is walking in the way or God, delighting and meditating in the truth of God, the word says here that they will experience the life of God. In our scripture this is pictured as a tree that is planted by streams of water, receiving the refreshment and life that that water brings. It says such a person will yield fruit in season and will prosper. But we need to partake of that which is there for us.
As an illustration, over the past summer I entered into a competition. It was a deadly serious one-on-one competition to grow the best watermelon. Me versus the nationally recognized organic grower (as seen in the Bay of Plenty times) Christopher Coney (a member of our church). Many warned me not to. "Pull out" they said. "It's madness... He's a professional - you're not thinking straight, he does this for a living. And you? You just push keys on a keyboard and wiggle your mouse to make it look like you're busy when your boss walks past." They had some valid points. Quite a few actually. But nevertheless, I forged ahead. Now it is true that the odds were stacked against me. Chris owns an organic orchard and does this day in, day out. Me? Well, my vege garden space is about 2m x 3m. He was planting 100's of watermelon seeds and could pick the best one. Me? I only had room for one... so I was hoping it was going to be a good one. So I dug a nice hole and added a whole lot of rich organic soil and fertilizer (argh, kindly donated by Chris). I then transplanted my little 10cm tall watermelon plant from it's cushy indoor pot to this rich new outdoor environment. I waited, I watered, I watched and sang the odd song... Two weeks later it was... 10cm tall. A slower than expected start so I created a mini-glass house over him (the perfect environment) and watered, waited and watched some more. Having been told that watermelon's are vigorous growers I expected big things. Two weeks later it was... 9cm tall. Then 8cm with a few bite marks out of it. At the same time I was getting insider information fed to me weekly that told me that by this time Chris had dozens of watermelon plant that were meters long and had fruit. A few weeks and a lot of misplaced love later, I gave up and admitted defeat. I'd given him water, warmth, love, richness... and nothing. He gave me nothing. He refused to grow! Just as a small side note on closer inspection it was found that whoever transplanted him from the pot to the garden had damaged his roots.3 So even though he was living with all this rich goodness above and below him, he couldn't partake of it because he couldn't get his roots down. A little example from everyday life and is still instructive also for the Christian life!
So if Psalm 1 is telling us anything it is to get our roots down deep into the word and life of God. There will, like my watermelon, be no growth without it. But there is, God's word tells us, a sustaining stream of water when we follow God's way and His truth. There is provision for the dry seasons so that the leaf does not wither. It's not saying that the winds won't blow hard on us at times. They will. It is not saying that great heat won't come upon us. It will. That is why we need the water of His Spirit and word! It is not saying that trying times won't come. They will. But it is simply saying that we will find a hidden source of life, unknown to the unbeliever, in such times But the key is in the roots. How deep are your roots? Do you delight in the word of God? Have you found that He has allowed times of strong contrary winds so that you put your roots down deeper? Do you want to know Him better? We need to make time. The many winds blow hard in this age but there is, God's word tells us, a sustaining stream of water when we follow His way and His truth and that is what we need today.
Verse 4 - The life of the unbeliever (lifeless)
Psalms 1:4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
The second half of this Psalm starts with the ominous words 'But not so the wicked'. Verses 4-6 speak of the unbeliever and it also contains the way, truth and life but in reverse order. Instead of an upward growth as in verses 1-3, there is a downward fall. It starts with their 'life' spiritually speaking and descends down to the eventual way they will go. It was these verses that really stopped me as I was studying it. Instead of the picture of a strong fruitful tree, we have the imagery of chaff blown away by the wind. So what is chaff?
Chaff is 'the husk of corn or wheat which was separated from the grain, by being thrown into the air, the wind blowing away the chaff, while the grain was saved.' Chaff lacks any substance or usefulness. There is nothing you can do with it. Historically it had no use so they would either burn it or just let it get blown away by the wind. In end of the age prophetic imagery, John the Baptist spoke of Jesus with:
Mat 3:12 "His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
A man or woman is either wheat or chaff before the Lord. A man may be very impressive in the eyes of the world. He may have amassed fame and fortune. He may have gained position and power. He may be the greatest orator, the greatest sportsman or lead business innovation around the world. There may be millions that looks up to him... Yet without the life of God, he, or she, hasn't even begun and is like chaff in the eyes of God. Poof... Blown away by the wind. Without God's life in the creation there is nothing of substance and nothing that can be used. Daniel portrayed the kingdoms of this world in the same way:
Dan 2:35 "Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
The greatest nations and kingdoms on this earth will be like chaff. This text from Daniel says that all the kingdoms, all the worldliness, will be blown by a great wind so that not a trace of them was found. NOT. A. TRACE. I know when I went to America and was in New York I thought of this verse. You stand there with all the hustle and bustle, the millions of people walking here there and everywhere, the sky scrappers and advertising, the fortunes being won and lost on Wall Street... all of mankind's worldly endeavors. And I remembered this verse 'and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.'
Verse 5 - The first realization of truth for the unbeliever
Psalms 1:5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
Verse 5 gives us the truth for the unbeliever and was the verse that hit me the most as I studied this Psalm. What stopped me, literally, as I was doing this study was this thought that the very first realisation of truth that many will have is that that they rejected, laughed at, mocked or just generally ignored, the most essential truth of all. And now they stand before God and it is too late. The unbeliever will finally see the truth that God exists. They will finally see the truth that He provided salvation for them but they rejected it. They will finally see the truth that the day of salvation is now past and their fate is sealed. They may have come from a Christian family but decided to go their own way. They may have just been caught up with the lights and excitement of this world. It won't matter. Their first stark and frightening realisation of spiritual truth will come upon them when they come before a holy God whose salvation they have ignored, mocked or despised. That is the first time they will experience truth. And not only that but they will see all the opportunities that God gave them to respond to the truth... but they refused. I can't even begin to imagine what that would be like.
This verse tells us, as so many do, that there will be a separate of the wicked from the righteous. The ungodly, who had no problem standing in the way of sinners earlier, will not be able to stand during the judgment. This is not a popular thought in church circles anymore. As the church at large moves away from the truth it is becoming popular to say that all roads lead to God. I wasn't looking but during the week I read of a Baptist Mega-Church Pastor in the US who gave a sermon to his 10,000 members and said:
"There was a time when you would see people in the pulpit say, 'well, if you don't believe in Jesus you going to Hell. That's insanity in many ways because that is not what Jesus even believes. And so the key is you believe in God. And whatever your path is to God I celebrate that. Personally I celebrate that.'
Whatever path you are on to God, that's fine according to this Baptist Pastor4 ... An evangelical outreach founder left a telling comment on the video saying:
"The preacher on this video is both right and wrong: he's right in that all roads do lead to God; but this God is both love and a consuming fire. If you meet Him on the Christ road of His love you live, but any other road, be it religion, philosophy, or a miscalculation of the Person of Christ, the lake of fire is waiting!"
He is dead right. The fact is that ALL roads DO lead to God. Everyone will come before God. All roads do lead to verse 5 of Psalm 1! And for the unbeliever who rejects God's offer of salvation Hebrews 10:31 will unfortunately be experienced where it says 'It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.'
Verse 6 - The way of the unbeliever
Psalms 1:6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Finally, verse 6 gives us the way for the wicked. In contrast to the way of the righteous that have put God in His right place, the wicked have gone with that which could be expressed in the two words 'my way'. The way of the wicked will perish. Scripture tells us that God does not desire that any perish but all come to a knowledge of the truth. That is why He sent His Son so that all who believe in Him WILL NOT PERISH but have everlasting life. But the reality is that many won't listen.
So just as there is a way, truth and life for the believer, so there is the life, truth and way disclosed for the unbeliever.
These last three verses are full on. They should cause us to think of those that do not know Him. And they should get us to appreciate all the more what has been given us. Sometimes it takes the contrast to see the blessedness of what God has done in Christ once again. Remember how this Psalm started? Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. Literally, 'oh how happy is the man...' Oh how happy! David used the same word when he said 'Blessed, (or Oh how happy) is the man whose sin God does not count against him.' (Psalm 32:2) That is the position of the believer.
Conclusion - The perfect man of Psalm 1
So we can learn a lot from Psalm 1 about the way, truth and life for the believer. We do not walk in the way of the ungodly. To combat the ways of the world we should delight in and meditate on the word of God. And we have seen the great need to set our roots down deep in God so that we have access to the living water of His life.
But let us conclude by asking this - Ultimately, who is Psalm 1:1-3 speaking of? Who is the one who has never walked in the counsel of wicked? You? No. Who is it that has never stood in the path of sinners or sat in the seat of scoffers? Me? No. Who is it that constantly delighted, meditated and lived out God's word without fail? Who was it that despite all the hostility and contrary winds, stood firm like a tree planted by the streams of living water, prospering in His way? Jesus. It was and is Jesus. Psalm 1 gives us the way, truth and life to walk by but ultimately it speaks of Him who did walk that way perfectly. The One who is the way, the truth and the life.
And that is why all who have found refuge 'in Christ Jesus', though we have stood in the way of sinners, will be able to stand in the day of judgement. Not because of what we are but because we are in Him who is the perfect man and fulfilled every aspect of Psalm 1:1-3 perfectly!5