Scripture: Psalm 1:1–6
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Pastor Randy Smith
So guess what question I've received the most over the past month? "What book in the Bible will we be studying next?" As you know, we wrapped up Revelation our last time together. So the question (and I do appreciate your interest) is where are we going from here?
Well, I've narrowed it down to two options, but it will remain a secret for a few more weeks. Lord willing, I plan to start a new book in the fall, but have chosen to preach Psalms 1-6 in the remaining weeks we have before September. I'm calling this short series, "Summer in the Psalms."
I'm sure for most of us the Psalms hold a very dear place in our hearts. Reason being is because they concentrate on personal intimacy with God. The prophecy and commands are there as well, but the overwhelming content of the Psalms centers on the writer's relationship with God. And when you add that most of the Psalms were written during times of significant affliction, we too are able to allow the words of God to minister to our hearts to bring comfort, encouragement and healing. That's our goal!
The Psalms are a collection of spiritual poems intended for the worship of God. The primary writer of the Psalms is King David. There are 150 Psalms divided into 5 books with each book closing with a song of praise.
Today we'll take a look at Psalm 1. Psalm 1 is a call for godly living. It informs the reader how to be godly, reminds the reader of the blessedness of godliness and warns the reader regarding the fate of the ungodly.
Regardless of the classifications we place upon humanity, there are only two types of people in the world: The godly and the ungodly, those who love Christ and those who reject Him. This Psalm in a clear and understandable way will contrast these two people - the godly and the ungodly.
I've mentioned that there are 150 Psalms. You've got to love the way the first line in the first Psalm starts out! "How blessed is the man." God starts off this glorious collection of praise for Him with a concern initially for our blessing!
Who doesn't want to be blessed? Or we could say, "Who doesn't want to be happy?" Right off the bat, God wants us to know how we can be blessed. Do you want to know God's answer to happiness? And the answer according to this Psalm is to be godly! That means, come to Christ and receive His righteousness. And then live a righteous life in line with the righteousness you have been given in Christ!
You see the world around you is forever seeking your attention and both directly and indirectly telling you what you need to be or do to be happy.
Yet everything the world offers is diametrically opposed to what God offers. Listen, the world's way brings consequences and God's way brings blessings. Pursue righteous living doing it God's way and you will be blessed. Pursue the apparent attractive directives from the world and you'll be plagued with regret, emptiness, addictions, sorrow and disappointment. The Psalm is saying that there is happiness with holiness!
Now, the remainder of verse 1 provides three statements for the person who honors God in his or her pursuit of righteousness. Here's how the righteous and thus blessed person acts.
First of all (look with me at verse 1) he "does not walk in the counsel of the wicked" It's impossible to live our lives in this world and completely avoid the counsel of the wicked. Suggestions are pumped into our minds from the music we choose or the advertisements we read or the teachers we listen to to the people we associate with. Yet the righteous person is able to discern the good from the bad. They are able to know God's Word and allow all that does not agree with God's Word to be rejected. They heed God's counsel and reject the counsel of the wicked.
Also the verse says they do not "stand in the path of sinners." The righteous do not align themselves with, join the unrighteousness. They love the unrighteous. They see to win the unrighteous to Christ. But they do not participate with the unrighteous in unrighteousness. There is the difference between the two! The righteous find no pleasure in sin. They don't participate in sin. They don't stand in the path of sinners.
Lastly, they do not "sit in the seat of scoffers!" A scoffer is the highest level of folly according to the Bible. A scoffer is a person who goes so far to condemn God and mock His ways and taunt those who desire to follow Him. Spurgeon said of the scoffer, "The seat of the [scoffer] may be very lofty, but it is very near to the gate of hell; let us flee from it, for it shall soon be empty, and destruction shall swallow up the man who sits therein." (Treasury of David, p. 1). The righteous person is the opposite of the scoffer.
Do you see what the Psalmist is doing thus far? In verse 1 he is intending to contrast the ways of the wicked with the ways of the righteousness, the cursed and blessed based upon the ways a person conducts himself in this world. So on the one hand, the way to tell the difference between the righteous and the unrighteous is to look at how such a person is living in this world.
The righteous will make decisions and take actions that reflect the decisions and actions of God. And on the other hand, the righteous person is blessed because he or she will be pursuing God over the counsel and actions of the world.
Contrary to lusting after the things of the world, verse 2 says the righteous man has "his delight in the law of the Lord." The "law of the Lord" is another way to refer to your Bible. We could put it this way: "The righteous person finds no pleasure in the ways of the world. Rather he delights in knowing God's ways. His pleasure is in discovering and reading and hearing and applying principles from God's Word."
You see, this is what makes him different from the unrighteous man. It's not just the profession. It's a change of heart. There is a totally different delight. The fruit of truly being saved is seen in a total change of affections. It goes from rejecting God's law to loving God's law. It's from being involved in religion out of duty to being immersed in revelation out of delight. Big difference! It's black and white!
And if this is the case, what is he found doing? As verse 2 says, "And in His law he meditates day and night." It's only natural that we will think most about that which brings us the greatest delight. Our minds naturally dwell on the things that make us happy.
To meditate on God's Word is to allow it to be played over and over in your head. While the godly man lives in a sea of paganism, meditation on God's Word allows God to exist within him as he lives on his own little island of righteousness. Meditation is more than a daily devotional. It's taking God's Word, memorizing a portion of it and continually thinking on it throughout the day. It's carrying the biblical text in your mind with you.
As we read in Psalm 119:11, "Your word I have treasured in my heart." Or as Joshua said, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success" (Jos. 1:8).
And if these guys said this and all they had were the first 5 books of the Bible, how much more should we say it when we now have 66 books to choose from!
As we meditate on God's Word, the Lord is showing us application to daily situations. He is convicting us of sin and protecting us from sin. We develop a fuller understanding of the passage and find ample opportunities through that text to praise God throughout the day.
So heartache for the one pursuing unrighteousness, but how does God describe the one pursuing righteousness? Look with me at verse 3. "He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water."
Alright, to get this metaphor you need to think the Middle East, the desert. And if you have ever been to the desert you know that there is not an abundance of trees.
I remember the time that Kayla and I were hiking through Death Valley back in 2009. We were told of a trail that leads to a natural oasis. It was hard to imagine when we started because the landscape was rugged, dry and showing absolutely no signs of life. Yet as we moved along the trail, we observed a few green blades vegetation. Then we observed a trickle of water. Soon as the water increased, so did the plant life. As we approached the oasis, it was teaming with luscious green vegetation.
Life without God is like being a tree trying to grow in a desert environment. No nourishment. Rocky ground too hard for a root to penetrate. No hope for any sort of fruit. It's living in an unforgiving land, holding on for life day-by-day just grabbing for anything that might bring some sustenance.
Yet the godly is compared to "a tree firmly planted by streams of water." And did you notice the personal touch of God's intimacy in that verse? Not a wild tree that just happened to shoot up in the right place, but a tree that was anguishing on the verge of death in a desert, uprooted and then as the verse says, "planted" by God by streams of water. Personally relocated.
As Jesus said in Matthew 15, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted" (Mt. 15:13). There is no hope for the ungodly, but for the godly they are cared for, they are blessed, they are continually nourished by the never-failing rivers of grace. They are, verse 3, "[yielding their] fruit in its season. Their "leaf does not wither." They shall never be uprooted. "And in whatever [they do, (verse 3 says) they prosper]."
When the verse says the godly prosper, don't take that to mean that they will have all kinds of worldly success. Oftentimes the godly individual experiences suffering that may exceed the ungodly in this life. But what the godly has that the ungodly does not have is the promise of God that all things are working together for his or her ultimate and eternal good (Rom. 8:28).
If prosperity is defined as God defines it (Rom. 8:29), the true blessing (verse 1) is becoming more godly, being more conformed to the image of Christ. We know that it often takes trials in our lives to accomplish it. The trials make us cling to Christ. So it is often the trials that produce the best fruit on our branches. So it is often the trials that keep our leaves from withering. And it's often the trials that keep our roots firmly grounded in the right soil.
So we rejoice in God's promise that we will prosper, but we take that promise through the eyes of faith knowing that God is working our prosperity in us even when at times we may appear less blessed than the unrighteous one (Psm. 37:7). Listen again to Spurgeon: "As there is a curse wrapped up in the wicked man's mercies, so there is a blessing concealed in the righteousness man's crosses, losses and sorrows. The trials of the saint are a divine husbandry, by which he grows and brings forth abundant fruit" (Treasury of David, p. 2).
Blessings of prosperity for the righteous, but verse 4 says, "the wicked are no so." The unrighteous have no hope. Whatever so-called fun they are having now will end. As a matter of fact, the decisions they are making are only working toward their final shame and overthrow when they are each called to an account. Their life will have amounted to nothing worthwhile. Memory of them will fade from existence.
Look at how God puts it in verse 4. "They are like chaff which the wind drives away."
Wheat or barley was a common agricultural crop in Israel. And the way they commonly separated the grain from the chaff was through a process called "wind winnowing." In its simplest form, it involved throwing the mixture into the air so that the wind blew away the lighter chaff while the heavier grains fell back down for recovery. The grains were kept and the chaff would simply disappear into the wind.
God compares the unrighteous to this chaff. The imagery that comes to mind is rather evident. Worthless life, dispensed of in an instant. Contrasted from the grain that is cherished and brought into the Father's barn.
"Therefore," verse 5, "the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous."
The Psalmist is continually calling the reader to look beyond the so-called attractiveness of this world, the behavior they enjoy, the principles they celebrate. So much of it contrary to the law of God (the law that we delight in - verse 2!) and so much, if not all of it, outright rejecting the presence of God.
If we are not careful, Christians can get pulled into their mold. The warning in Psalm 1 is not only instructing us that their present life is not blessed and prosperous, but also warning us that their end will be tragic. Those who have rejected God clearly demonstrated by their delight in unrighteousness (not God's law), verse 5, "will not stand in the judgment."
There will come a day will God will create a big separation. Remember, only two kinds of people in the world. The righteous and the unrighteous. Even now they are together. Jesus taught us about tares among the wheat. Chaff is even among the grain in God's churches. Sinners mix with the saints. No different than dross mixes with the gold. But the day of separation during the final judgment will come as God separates His sheep from the goats. And at that time, as verse 5 continues, "sinners [will be removed] the assembly of the righteous."
And after all, this only makes sense. Heaven is a place of perfect righteousness. How could unrighteous enter? Moreover why would an unholy man that rejected God his entire life wish to live with God in a place of undiluted holiness?
Verse 6, "For the LORD knows the way of the righteous." That word "know" speaks of intimacy. It's the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 4:1 to speak of Adams physical relations with Eve. God has a special love for His people. He is acquainted with their ways. He takes pleasure in their righteousness and desire to be like Him. Their reward will be to be with Him in even a greater and richer eternal existence.
"But the way of the wicked," verse 6 says, "will perish."
The Psalm is made for all people to ask the question. Which side am I on? For your life in this world will determine eternity in the next.
Obviously none of us are righteous enough for heaven, but Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins and give us His perfect righteousness. Those who come to Christ by faith are declared as righteous as Jesus. And those who truly come to Jesus and receive Him as their Lord and Savior will give evidence of it by loving, pursuing and longing for more righteousness. In this live they will be blessed, they will prosper and in the end they will be rewarded with an eternity of being with the One they love in a place of perfect righteousness their hearts have always desired.