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The first psalm sets the tone of how we are to read the psalms, in your walk with God, in your experiences, your emotions, your knowledge and your worship. It’s the gateway to the psalms.
Have you ever had an argument with your husband or wife? Sometimes, we are told that we do things, but we tend to do easy things. We tend to put off the more difficult things and don’t want to do them. Easy things we like, we’ll do without question. There are things that are hard to do, and we put them off.
If you’re a Christian, do you really want to be a committed Christian? There are degrees of being committed as a Christian. You might be a Christian but are you committed to being one? Being a Christian is a gift of salvation. Once you’ve been saved, are you committed to your walk with Jesus?
Psalm 1 sets the tone of what it looks like to be a follower of God. The follower of God is fully committed,
“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;”
This person is wholly committed to following the Lord. It’s a challenge to us. How committed are we? Is our Christian life deliberate? We can be passive as we listen to preaching and join in singing. Do we engage? What do I need to repent of, to delight in the law of the Lord, day and night? As we come to Psalm 1, what does the Christian life look like to be blessed? God wants us to be a happy believer. It’s a psalm about being blessed. If you’re a committed Christian, in the sense that you are wholly committed to the Lord, you will find blessing. But the reverse is also true. If you’re a Christian and not fully committed to the Lord, you will probably find yourself in paths that are not going to be blessed and take away your blessing of salvation.
Psalm 1 was written in the context of an Israelite worshipping the Lord. What does God say in the Old Testament about following Him? “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse:the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.” (Deuteronomy 11: 26-28) That was the pattern for Israel, if they followed the Lord they would be blessed, that they would be rescued from Egypt. They were told that if they followed the Lord and obeyed His command, that is the path that leads to blessing. But if you don’t do that, it’s going to end up badly.
We see in Ephesians 1 the New Testament context for us, Christians today, who have every spiritual blessing in Christ, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.” (Ephesians 1:3-4). Extraordinary!
As New Testament Christians we’ve been spiritually blessed with every spiritual blessing. You’ve got it all! You might not have the sort of career or house you’ve always wanted, but if you are a Christian you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. You have redemption. You have been forgiven. You have God living in you. You are truly blessed.
When we look at Psalm 1. The first question we ask, in the context of being a New Testament Christians, is ‘Are you happy? Are you blessed?’
The world tells us that we are happy if I …. It’s conditional. Sometimes, it’s an economical term; it’s a relative measure – I’m happy compared to my neighbours because I have more than them. For us, what does it mean to be blessed?
“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;”
God is completely happy in Himself: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we listen to God, this is what it looks like to be blessed. To be blessed is to consider the company we keep, the direction of that company and the environment. If we persistently keep the company of the ‘counsel of the wicked,’ standing in the way of sinners, sitting in the seat of scoffers, there is a direction of travel here. To walk – that’s a kind of dabbling a little. Then standing – mixing with. Then to sit is to get cosy with it.
To follow the path of the ungodly – standing, mixing and sitting – there’s a direction to the path. There’s a cosiness to the direction of unhappiness. The path of being blessed is staying well away from what is evil and wicked, running a mile away from it. Instead, to be blessed is,
“but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.”
My friends, we can sometimes look at the world and think that what it means to be truly happy, to be truly better, is to maybe have what they have, or maybe what the tv adverts say you should have because it’s good for you. But to be truly blessed is to delight in God and His ways. God is the Creator is the one who made us, the one who loves us. God is the one who wants to protect us. He sent His Son to do just that. If you do that, look at what happens,
“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.”
Yes, we are thinking of the Old Testament here, where there was a blessing followed by obedience. But what does it look like for Christians today? If we look at the imagery we see a tree that looks healthy; it’s planted by a stream of water, it yields it’s fruit in season and grows as it should. There are signs of life.
For today, there’s a sign of life, health, stability. When Israel was not being obedient, they were full of problems. When they repented, they had a period of peace and blessings. When we’re Christians we want the things of God, we cling to the promises of God, who is able to provide all things.
Secondly, we see that stepping away from God leads to chaos,
“The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”
It’s an image of wheat and chaff. When the wheat is thrown into the air the chaff falls away and the wheat falls down. The chaff in the wind goes all over the place. When you step away from God there is chaos. It’s not the same picture you see in verse 3, where there is a picture of stability, of health and of order. Consider what the world takes offence at, what churches sometimes do. Stepping away from God’s will leads to chaos. It is chaos when God’s ways and God’s laws start being re-written. It is chaos when God’s plan, the Creator’s plan, starts to be re-read and re-ordered in many different ways.
The law of the Lord is for everyone. When you tinker with God’s Word it says it will affect the next generation and the generation after that. Whatever we decide, whatever we teach, stepping away from the Lord can lead to chaos. Don’t’ step away from God’s Word.
Finally, as a Christian, are you aware that there is no in-between, no grey area?
“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.”
It’s God’s way or it’s chaos. There is no opinion. It is God’s Word. God very clearly defines for us His Word. Nothing is subjective. There is no philosophy that we’re meant to listen to. There’s no politics. There is no opinion. God is the one we need to listen to. The righteous will be watched, the righteous will assemble. If you are a Christian you have this wonderful inheritance, this wonderful hope that we are heading to. We are going to be with Jesus Christ, we are going to see Him face to face. We will have that ultimate blessing of no more pain, no more mourning, no more sickness, no more death. We will be with Him.
The ungodly, the unrighteous, will not stand. This is why we have to take the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth. There are no ‘what-if’ scenarios. Either you walk with the Lord or you don’t. It’s why, when churches are looking for a pastor or calling a pastor, it’s not whether you like him or not, or whether he does this or is able to do that. Those things matter but it’s not what it’s all about that. What matters is that the church asks someone to come who is going to preach the word of the Lord in a way that people will listen. This is what it means to be blessed, to meditate on the Lord both day and night. It’s getting somebody who can teach and when they teach, we listen. He’s going to be able to teach not just in here, but out there as well because you want everybody to hear the Word of the Lord.
When we come to church we don’t sit on top of the Word, we sit under the Word. In Titus chapter 2 Paul talks to younger men and older men, younger women and older women, to the whole congregation, about what can often happen as we grow in our Christian walk. As we get older we can start to get grumpy and stop wanting to listen. Keep listening. He says to the women things like ‘don’t drink too much, don’t slander, don’t gossip.’ He talks about things that you and I are very prone to, which leads us to start challenging God’s word. We say, ‘Well, actually I’m a Christian but I don’t want to submit to these particular things.’ My friends, there are no grey areas.
To be blessed is to be obedient to God’s Word, to be in that path where God calls us, where we find peace, contentment and joy. The Christian life is not an easy life. But when you start to see those signs in your Christian life where things are not going maybe as well as they should, in the sense where something in your own Spirit does not sit right, God is asking you to deal with it. Come to Him, do not ignore it. Work out whether it’s because it’s external, whether it’s actually something to do with others – that we’re standing in the wrong place, or where we’re sitting where we shouldn’t be.
There are common things that you and I do, as Christians, which eat away at that blessedness that we’ve been given. There are certain things that we might experience as Christians, that often happen, which take away that joy that we’ve been given. We have every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ, why would you want to move away from that? Sometimes, it comes down to our attitude. “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18).
When you find, as a Christian, you are slightly unsettled, when there’s something eating at you and you don’t feel peace or joy and you’re restless, it becomes an obsession and you’re troubled by it. Just ask this, is it your attitude coming from heaven? Is your attitude out of purity? Is your attitude after this wonderful peace that you can have from God Himself? We sometimes lose that joy, that blessedness, because our attitude is not from heaven but from a selfish heart.
Then, there’s anger. Anger takes away that blessedness and joy. Listen to James again, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1) James talks about quarrels and fights. When we argue and when we fight, James says it comes from our desires that battle within us. Is it the other person or the frustration that comes from within? Often or not, the reason we get angry is not because what someone else has said but because we’re frustrated with our own inability. God calls us and challenges us when we’re unsettled and fired up, just don’t look at the other person, look at yourself.
Anger and anxiety grates at you. It troubles you. You can’t have that sense of joy of the Lord that is yours. Philippians 4 reminds us to, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7).
God wants to bless us. Yes, we’re anxious and worried, but God says to come to Him. You have received every spiritual blessing. Pray with thanksgiving, and God’s peace will guard you. My friend, when we find ourselves walking away from that path of blessing, that spiritual blessing in Christ, it unsettles us. If it doesn’t unsettle us, we might have walked too far. What are we called to do? We are called to come back, look at our hearts, then look to the Lord.
The Lord Jesus Christ left glory. He lay aside His own happiness. He put that aside so that He could go to the cross for you. When He went to that cross for you and me, He went so that you and I would be fully blessed. He did it so that we could be one with the Lord. He did it so we could be one with each other. Sometimes, how pathetic I can be, and how pathetic you and I, as Christians, can be. We forget that God sent His Son in order to bless us. He wants us to keep staying close to Him, both day and night. He doesn’t want us to dabble and to go back. He doesn’t want us to get angry and troubled, to fall out and to overthink anything. He wants us to stay close to Him. When we stay close to Him we will find that peace, joy and contentment. One day, it will be complete and we will stand in the assembly of the righteous.