Ever hear the expression “watch your posture!”? Health care professionals (and parents) know that posture affects a person’s health in many ways.
The Bible also has something to say about posture in a spiritual sense. We see this in the opening of the Book of Psalms where David uses metaphorical language for specific types of wrong behavior from the perspective of our posture (which, as the dictionary definition above shows, can reflect our spiritual attitude as well as the position of our body):
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers” (Psalm 1:1).
It’s easy to read over these words without thinking about the analogy David was making, but we see in this verse three different ways we can err in our lives. First, David speaks of the person who walks “in step with the wicked” or “in the way of the wicked,” as other translations word it. When we read the entirety of Psalms we see that this isn’t just a poetic way to say “does wrong” – it is a specific comment regarding those who choose to actively move toward or with what is wrong. It’s an expression based on a Hebrew way of thought that is found not only in the Psalms, but also in many other biblical books: “They rush to commit evil deeds” (Proverbs 1:16), “Feet that run rapidly to evil” (Proverbs 6:18), “Their feet run to evil” (Isaiah 59:7), etc. This is ultimate wrongdoing in that it encompasses a deliberate desire for evil.
Next, David speaks of those who “Stand in the way that sinners take.” By contrast with those who “run to evil,” such people do not necessarily desire to go in a wrong way. This is evident in the fact that they are not “walking” or “running” with evil, but they “stand” in that way in the sense that they do not remove themselves from it. This can apply to those who know better, but do not choose to avoid evil, or even feel trapped in its hold through the force of habit, addiction, or lack of resolve. In Ecclesiastes 8:3 we are warned not to “stand” in an evil situation, or to “stand up” for evil by supporting those who further it.
Finally, in this analogy, David speaks of those who “sit in the company of mockers.” Being a “mocker” in the Hebrew Scriptures is often synonymous with being someone in rebellion against the way of God (Proverbs 29:8, Isaiah 29:20, etc.). In this case, we are not told of those who actively seek evil, or who do not remove themselves from it, but who, perhaps in weakness of character, “sit” with those who do wrong – they passively participate in what is not right, because of peer pressure, work pressure, or whatever.
It’s a simple analogy, but David’s three “postures” of sin should remind us all that it is possible to fail by degree. We may not actively be seeking evil by “walking” or “running” after it, but are we still allowing ourselves to stand or “stay put” in wrongdoing, or to be influenced by those around us so that we “sit” with and do not truly separate ourselves from those we know influence us to do wrong?
The word of God gives us alternatives to these failing behaviors. 2 John 1:6 tells us “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands…” Philippians 4:1 tells us that we should “…stand firm in the Lord in this way…” and Revelation 3:21 states “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne…” The common denominator in all these positive spiritual “postures” is clearly that of obedience. Physical posture is important for physical health, but David’s point in laying out the three types of sin in his first psalm is that our spiritual posture is even more important for our spiritual health!