A key observation in Psalm 1:4–6 is contrast. Don't miss the many things that are quite the opposite from the preceding verses. "The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away."
"Not so!" That is exactly how verse 4 begins in the Hebrew Bible. It is an emphatic negative assertion. Literally, it says, "Not so, the wicked!" It refers back to the three preceding verses describing the righteous, godly believer, who:
• is happy many times over (but "not so, the wicked!")
• delights and meditates in the Word (but "not so, the wicked!")
• is like a tree (but "not so, the wicked!")
• is fruitful and prosperous (but "not so, the wicked!")
Instead, the psalmist uses a single term that portrays the life of the ungodly—"chaff," the paper-like skin of the grain seeds which separates at the time of threshing. Chaff is completely worthless. In contrast to the firmly rooted, fruit-bearing tree, chaff blows away during the winnowing process. The Hebrew word for "blow" means "to drive asunder, disseminate, diffuse, strike, or beat."
After comparing the lives of the "godly" and the "wicked," David considers the fate of those who reject the Lord. "Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous" (v. 5). The first word connects this verse with the previous verse—"Therefore (or on account of their inner worthlessness and instability)...the wicked will not stand in the judgment."
The Hebrew verb translated "stand" is not the same as the previous term rendered "stand" in verse 1. This particular Hebrew term means "to stand erect, to arise." The idea in the mind of the songwriter is an inability to stand upright before God's judgment. A parallel statement follows: "nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous."
The one who has never come by faith to the Lord and trusted Him alone for eternal life and a position of righteousness in God's eyes has no part among the assembly of believers. Again, let me remind you of yet another contrast. In destiny, there is a great difference between the godly and the ungodly. But so many unbelievers live healthy, moral lives...even sacrificial and dedicated lives. How can anyone say they won't be among the eternal assembly of the righteous? Verse 6 answers that question: "For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."
You'll observe it is the Lord who does the judging. He alone sees the heart. He alone; not man. Only God is capable of being just and fair. But doesn't the first part of this verse bring a question to your mind? Doesn't He know the way of the ungodly as well? He certainly does! But this sixth verse is explaining why the ungodly will not be able to stand up under judgment nor stand among the righteous assembly (v. 5). Why? Because the Lord takes special interest in the righteous. Because the Lord is inclined and bound to the righteous by special love. He will not allow an intermingling between the righteous and the unrighteous. That is not His plan.
The verse concludes with the severe reminder that the way of the unrighteous will perish. What a jolting climax to the psalm! Again, another vivid contrast. Instead of prospering, the ungodly will ultimately perish just as the little red brick city hall was ultimately condemned.
Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Faith for the Journey: Daily Meditations on Courageous Trust in God (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.