From the Word
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Psalm 1:1–6, RSV
The way of the ungodly is so specious that unto men they may seem to rise in the judgment and to stand in the congregation. But he who cannot be deceived understands their ways and knows that they are ungodly; in his eyes they are not at all among the members of his Church. He knows the righteous only and not the sinners, that is, he approves the one and not the other. Therefore, their way shall perish, a thing they least of all expect or believe, though it continues with such success as to seem to be eternal. God knoweth only the way of the righteous, although it is hidden even to the righteous themselves. God’s right hand leads them on in a wonderful way, seeing that it is a way, not of sense, nor of reason, but of faith only; even of that faith that sees in darkness and beholds things that are invisible.
When, therefore, we are subject to ungodly shepherds, we do not obey the ungodly, but men; for we do not follow their ungodliness, but we endure the presence of their persons. When men cast out and put down such, is it the ungodly that are put down? No, the persons are put down; for the ungodly who are put down remain ungodly still. The ungodly man is only then put down when he is led from ungodliness to godliness. This is not done by external violence but by love, internally praying and externally admonishing, while God condescends to work at the same time.
When thou hearest that all things “prosper” for the righteous man, thou art to desire it for thyself and to sigh for all those who are placed in any adversity, of whatsoever kind it may be; when thou hearest that their leaf doth not wither and that the pure Word of God flourisheth in the Church of Christ, all fables and dreams of men are cast out; when thou seest any of these things thus take place anywhere thou art to congratulate thyself, to rejoice and give thanks unto the divine goodness. And do not think that thou art thus exhorted to impossibilities; only make the attempt and thou wilt be compelled to rejoice and be thankful.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 381–82.