A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this morning and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Psalm 1
In 2008 more than 4000 books were written on “how to be happy”, and yet our culture is perpetually looking for the “secret to happiness” with no real success. Even with our constitutional ‘right’ to pursue happiness it remains elusive because it is a philosophy that declares, “my happiness is the highest good because I deserve to be happy.” This philosophy looks for happiness in all the wrong places.
Psalm 1 begins with the word “blessed” which translated from the Hebrew literally means, ‘happy’, but the writer of this psalm doesn’t need 4000 books to explain how someone can be happy, he just needs six verses.
This opening psalm has a very distinct purpose; to introduce to the main point of all the psalms, and in many ways the entire bible with its very practical message, and main point: There are two ways to live, there are two kinds of people, there are two pathways in life, and there are two outcomes.
The book of psalms is a “wisdom” book, and like other wisdom books in scripture it provides a contrast between what is right and what is wrong. It gives a straightforward pair of alternatives by aptly describing the consequences the wicked experience for their wickedness and the blessings (or happiness) the righteous experience for their faithfulness. This is the main idea of Psalm 1.
In the opening verses we are presented with the way of the righteous. It is described in three ways: negatively, positively, and metaphorically:
Verse 1 presents a negative description that tells us what the happy man or woman does not do.
[Read Psalm 1:1]
First, the righteous person does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. Here is how a spiritual decline begins, by listening and considering the foolish counsel of the wicked.
Second, the righteous person does not stand in the way of sinners. To stand here does not mean to stand in someone’s way, but, in a sense, to walk in their shoes. The righteous person doesn’t adopt the way of the wicked. They don’t let their way of life become their lifestyle. All of us have seen how this can happen. We see it often in young adults when they dress alike, talk alike, and act alike. They no longer just listen to their friends; they act like them.
Third, the wicked get comfortable as they sit in the seat of a scoffer. This is the final step where their wickedness becomes verbal. They scoff at God, they scoff at parents, they scoff at authorities, they scoff at anyone who does not live as they do.
[Read Psalm 1:2]
In verse 2 we come to a positive description that tells us how the righteous person lives. It would be natural to expect the writer to describe in a similar way the positive traits of a righteous person; he walks in the counsel of the righteous, he stands with those who are godly, and he sits in the seat of those who offer praise. But this is not what he does.
With the righteous person there is only one description, the one in which everything else stands and falls, the one in which the believer’s faith is proven genuine: “His delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he meditates day and night.” This is the only description given of the righteous man. This is all he needs. He is shaped daily by God’s word.
What we see here is that what we know determines what we think, and what we think shapes how we live. The implication of this is that what we take in—that which tells us what to know—makes all the difference.
This is similar to Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:2. He writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The “law” is not something bad here, but good. “Law” translated means “Torah” which literally means “instruction”. God’s word trains us because it is in us. What people see of us on the outside is to be a reflection of what is true on the inside. We can put on a good act, but the psalmist tells us that who we really are is determined by who we are on the inside. Jesus warned his audience not to be like the Pharisees: Matthew 23:27 – “For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”
The importance of Psalm 1:2 has always been a biblical reality. For example, in Deuteronomy 17:18-20, Moses prophesies how the future king of Israel must live: “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted above his brothers, and the he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.”
The king’s primary responsibility was to write out the law and read it every day to learn to be reminded to delight, fear, and know the LORD.
[Read Psalm 1:3]
Verse 3 provides a metaphor for the righteous person. The middle east is an arid place where water is scarce. Seasonal streams appear to water the plants, but for many months they receive no water and have no real life in them. Here the psalmist tells us is a tree, planted, by streams of water that do not run dry. Here is a picture of the gospel. This is not a wild tree but one “planted” by Lord. That is us. We have been “planted” by Christ by his saving grace. He is our living water and we will never thirst again if we drink from him because his stream never stops flowing. We will be fruitful, and all that we do – choosing the right path will be blessed by God prospering us.
Next, the psalmist gives us another metaphor describing the way of the wicked.
[Read Psalm 1:4]
They are like chaff. No substance, no value, of no use. They are tossed in the air on the threshing floor and disappear. This is the life, the path, and the outcome they choose, and in the summary verses we see the eternal outcome for both the righteous and the wicked.
[Read Psalm 1:5-6]
The psalmist concludes with a summary of two ways to live, two paths to choose, and two outcomes to experience. Notice how the psalmist returns to his description from Psalm 1:1. The wicked stand in the way of sinners, but at the end they will not stand at the judgment, nor will they be able to sit in the congregation of the righteous because they sat in the seat of scoffers. This is the outcome of the wicked, and in the end they will tragically perish.
Not so the righteous! Because of Christ we will stand at the final judgment.
The Hebrew grammar in Psalm 1:1 anticipates complete obedience. The problem for us is that from Adam onward no one has ever lived up to this psalm’s expectation except one man. Who is the blessed man of Psalm 1? Not Abraham. Not Moses. Not David.
The blessed man of Psalm 1 is Jesus, the incarnate son of God who never sinned and yet took the sins of the world upon himself as a sacrifice for our sins. This righteous man walked on the narrow path, went through the narrow gate, entered the darkness of our world even though he was the light of the world, and then he was crucified to die for our sins so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ.
There is a problem we are confronted with in Psalm 1. On our own, we are unable to live out the reality of this psalm.
But the good news of the gospel is that if we are united to Christ by the Spirit then we can live out the glorious truth of this psalm.
The gospel promises us that we can walk in obedience and not the way of the wicked. Not perfectly, but faithfully. Christ will complete in us what he began. We have his spirit that we might delight in his word. We have his promise that he will forgive us when we sin, and we have his commitment to keep our eternal life secure.
Therefore, let us walk in the good of the life we have in Jesus, delighting in his Word each day, delighting in the work he has done on our behalf, delighting in the good news that he is for us and he goes with us every day.
Song of Response