Question: "What is the counsel of the ungodly, and how do we not walk in it (Psalm 1:1)?"

Answer: Psalm 1 seems to present a choice that every person must make. There is a fork in the road of life: one route is the way of the righteous, which leads to blessings; the other is the “path of sinners,” and it ends in destruction. A prerequisite for experiencing a blessed life is described in the opening verses:

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1–2, NKJV).

The blessed man does not walk “in the counsel of the ungodly.” In the original Hebrew, the word translated “counsel” is a noun meaning “something that provides direction or advice as to a decision or course of action.” The “ungodly” are wicked people, sinners, and those characterized by godlessness.

To walk not in the counsel of the ungodly means to reject any advice from the wicked. It includes avoiding any guiding influence that might shape or direct one’s way of life toward godlessness. Walking involves progress; thus, the verse instructs, “Don’t walk in the counsel, don’t stand in the path, don’t sit in the seat” of the ungodly. The apparent progression presents a picture of someone walking next to sin, then stopping to stand and take it all in, and then finally sitting right down in sin’s seat “to enjoy the fleeting pleasures” of it (Hebrews 11:25).

Not walking, standing, or sitting with the ungodly implies steering clear of sin by avoiding participation in every aspect of the sinner’s way of life. The apostle Paul warned, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared,” cautions Proverbs 22:24–25.

A Christian cannot expect to make forward progress if he seeks counsel from sinners or makes plans with unbelievers: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

The person who chooses the righteous way of life avoids thinking like the ungodly, behaving like the wicked, and associating with the godless. Instead, he will “walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20).

A believer who “walks not in the counsel of the ungodly” will apply biblical truth to his daily life, letting God’s Word be a lamp to guide his feet and a light for his path (Psalm 119:105). His “delight is in the law of the Lord,” and he “meditates on his law day and night,” says Psalm 1:2. Such a person will grow in faith and spiritual maturity (Romans 10:17).

God blesses the route of the righteous because they “fear the Lord and delight in obeying His commands” (Psalm 112:1). Rather than taking pleasure in sin and the things of the world, they “live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philippians 2:15, NLT).

Loving God and obeying His Word will result in abundant blessings (Joshua 1:8; Luke 11:28; John 14:21). As we read the Scriptures daily, study them, memorize them, and meditate on them night and day, our thinking changes. We no longer love the world or the things in it (1 John 2:15–17). We no longer walk in the counsel of the ungodly. We “don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world”; instead, God transforms us by changing how we think. Then we can experience God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:2, NLT).

People who walk in the counsel of the ungodly listen to worldly advice, make plans with the wicked, and willfully participate in the sinner’s way of life. Romans 8:5–7 describes these people as those “who live according to the flesh” and “have their minds set on what the flesh desires.” By contrast, “those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”

God calls His children to choose the way of righteousness—to be set apart, holy. He calls us out of darkness to walk in His light (1 Peter 1:15–16; 2:9). That is the path to the blessings of life and peace.