Psalm 1:1-6

Be Blessed, be Happy

          One famous Christian preacher called the Psalms the Treasury of David, and a treasury is a place where riches are kept. So, today we are going to begin to open the treasure chest that is the Psalms. Over the 4 remaining chapels we have together in this 1st semester we will look at just 4 Psalms. Now there are 150 psalms in total in this book, so I really only want to give you an appetite for more. And if you want you can read the other 146 and wrestle with what God wants you to know about Himself and yourself.

          The psalms are different from other parts of the Bible because they contain peoples’ words, through prayer and songs and poems, to God. When we say the Bible is God’s Word, we automatically think that all it contains are His words to people. What we don’t recognize is that the Bible also contains words that are spoken to God or are about God. This is what the psalms do, and these Words are also God’s Word.     Because they are written to Him and they express the truth about Him in a poetic way then we should not interpret them literally word for word. We need to recognize when many different forms of speech are used like metaphors and similes etc. The main difficulty for us then is, how do these words that are spoken to God also become God’s word to us? The main way they do this is by helping us, the readers, to express our joys, our sadness, our successes and failures etc., or simply just to worship God by thinking about His ways. 

          And that is how I want to treat them as we look at four psalms over the next four chapels. These Psalms are showing us the experiences of believers of the past, they are reflections of their emotional upsets, problems, and difficulties that they have gone through. They tell how they found their way through those times and they serve in helping us when we are faced with similar problems. There is no book like the Psalms, to help our hearts express themselves when we feel discouraged and defeated, or even when we are happy and encouraged.       

          Most of the Psalms that we have in our Bibles were written by David, but not all. Some were written by his choir leaders in Jerusalem, The names of Asaph, Jeduthun, Ethan, and others that we see in the titles or headings were actually royal choirmasters. One or two were written by Moses, and another one or two by King Solomon. There are also several Psalms whose authors we can’t identify. The whole book is a collection that has been put together by the ancient Hebrews in order that we might understand what the people of God have gone through and how they found their way out.

          Now Psalm 1, which we will look at this morning, acts as a kind of introduction to the whole collection. This Psalm is a description of the wicked and the righteous. In it, we see the life that is lived with God at the centre, and the life that is self-centred. We should know that when the Psalm talks about the ‘wicked’ it does not necessarily mean murderers, rapists, or drug dealers, or the kind of people we usually think of as being ‘wicked’. We often think of some notorious person, like a gangster or a robber as being wicked. But the Psalmist does not mean that.

          The term really means the ungodly, the man who has little or no time for God in his life. This term refers to the person who doesn’t even think about God and completely ignores Him. According to this Psalm, to completely ignore the Creator of the universe is to be wicked, is to be ungodly.

          The psalmist also introduces us to the opposite of the wicked person. This is the person who lives a God centered life. He tells us what the benefits are of the God centered life. What we see here then, in this first Psalm, is the simplest way to look at life. We are presented with two ways to live.

Let us look together at what is said about the God-centered life. In verses 1 & 2 David sings,

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,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

          That is a description of the God-centered life. Notice what word it begins with "Blessed,". However, blessed is one of those words which only Christians use -- it really means "happy”. Here, then, we have the secret of happiness. You may recognize that that is exactly the way the Lord Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5.

          That sermon which Jesus Himself preached began with what are called the ‘Beatitudes’. This is just another one of those peculiar Christian words that means “the blessings”. In Matthew 5:3-11 Jesus gives the beatitudes like this, “Blessed are the poor in spirit (or happy are the poor in spirit), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Happy are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled, etc.” So, what the psalmist is saying here in psalm 1 is, “the man who lives like this is happy”.

          What follows is the psalmist’s descriptions, both negative and positive of the godly life. First, he focuses on the negative in this way.

who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,

          Here we have, in three words, the way that defines how we all live our lives. We are either walking, standing, or sitting. The psalmist also speaks about how evil progresses from one level to the next. He tells us about the wicked, about sinners, and about mockers (those who ridicule).
 To ‘walk’ refers to the decisions we make each and every day. We take steps all day long as we make decisions about all kinds of matters. To ‘stand’ refers to the fact that we take positions on all sort of issues and causes. We give our time and energy to certain things and we take a position on things that we believe are important. To ‘sit’ presents a picture of the person who has made up their mind. This is their continuous character and temperament. What you see is what you get. Their outlook on life has been settled. We all know people like this, they make true the old saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

          What the psalmist is doing in these verses is pointing out to us that we can tell who is ungodly because they live entirely different from the way believers do. Their decisions are based upon the philosophy of the world. What is the philosophy of this fallen world? I usually summarize like this, “Me first;” “Get it now;” and “Nothing Bad will happen.” The man who has found the secret to happiness can be recognized because he does not make decisions based upon the philosophy of the world. He rejects their philosophy. He does not, as the psalmist says, “walk in step with the wicked”. He rejects their philosophy. 

          The godly person also “does not stand in the way sinners take”. The Hebrew word that is translated as a sinner is actually very interesting. It literally means, “to make a loud noise” or “to cause a disturbance”. It has the idea of causing a riot, creating a disturbance, making trouble, etc. What the psalmist is telling us then is that the godly person does not provoke riots. They are not at work causing disturbances.

          The godly person is obedient to the laws of life and the land. We can also say the godly person, therefore, does not “stand in the way” of those who live just to cause trouble for others. This word ‘stand’ does not have the meaning of ‘stand against’, they do not resist the ungodly it simply means that they do not stay in the same place with those who are going that way. The godly person has rejected all that.

          And lastly, the psalmist says that the godly person does not, “sit in the company of mockers”. This word ‘mockers’ is not referring to those who make fun of others. This refers to those who blame everyone else for what is wrong and never blame themselves. This is an attitude of our hearts that we all need to fight against. If anything goes wrong, it is always somebody else’s fault. Parents blame their children; children blame their parents and they both tend to blame the schools. Nation blames nation, and, in the end, everyone is blaming everyone else. That is the philosophy of this world. The ungodly people are the mockers, the cynics, who consider that everyone is conspiring against them. They blame others for their problems.

          The person who is godly has completely rejected the attitudes of the ungodly. Their life is characterized by positive things. Their attitudes are selfless. They are obedient to God’s laws and are completely aware that everything that they have and experience, come from Him. To us, this description is very unusual, and I think that most of us would ask ourselves, “Does that describe me?”

          Now, I don’t want to just focus on the negative so let’s consider the positive aspects. Verse 2 says the godly person’s, delight is in the law of the Lord, and [they] meditate on His law day and night. This is the reason that the godly person is able to reject the philosophy of this world. They have learned to delight in the law of the Lord. The “law of the Lord” is just another name for the scriptures. It means more than the law of Moses and it actually includes the whole revelation of God.

          The godly person has learned that in the book of God they find the truth about life. They are happy because they know that they now have a book that tells them the truth and shows them a different way to live. What is more it reveals a power by which they can fulfill all His commands and decrees.

          Imagine that all we knew of the godly person was the description in the first two verses. I think most of us would agree that this person maybe has a bit of an ego problem. Maybe they think they are better than everyone else and that is why they do not act like others do. Well thankfully we are not left with that impression as the rest of the second verse makes it clear that the reason the person lives that way is not because they have a big ego but because they have been shown the truth about themselves and the truth about God and His law.

Let’s read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

          That is a description of the life that the Christians in Corinth once led. That is what the person in Psalm 1 finds out about themselves when they read God’s law. They, like the Corinthians, like us, are not left just with a list of God’s demands. God’s word also gives a way through which the godly type of life is possible. In the case of the Corinthians, it would be possible through the Saviour, whose life and strength they would be able to share through faith. This is the same truth that we find in many of the Psalms where the godly person also learns to draw upon the strength that God offers as they go through life.

          What does it mean to “meditate on His Law, day and night”? Well, surely that does not mean that we should go around thinking about scripture and repeating them over and over all day long. We might get into an accident especially on these streets. That is a mechanical understanding of this verse. What it means is that the godly person has learned that a wonderful new life is made possible by God and is available for any situation. They are able to appropriate it whenever it is needed day or night. Whenever they need strength they ask the Lord for it. The godly person does not attempt to use their own resources or to find some kind of encouragement from outsiders and thus to depend upon external circumstances for peace and rest. No, they learn to rely only upon the strength of God. That is what makes the difference. This is the secret of the godly life. This is the way any of us can learn to be selfless, obedient, and cheerful under every circumstance.

In verse 3 we read the Psalmist’s evaluation of the godly life,

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.

          I have had many people say to me, “Pastor I don't know what is wrong with me. I want to be a good Christian, and I try hard, but I'm always doing the wrong thing. I just can't live like a Christian." My counsel to them is this, “There may be several reasons for that but first let me ask you about your private time with the Lord. Do you enjoy spending time reading the Bible and praying?” Why do I ask that? Because many people think that if they just read the Bible then they will be miraculously transformed. But you don’t grow as a believer through the process of osmosis.  Because, after all, it's not the time spent in reading the Word that's important, but it's the time spent in the presence of God that strengthens you." They would soon admit that they don’t spend that much time in personal communion with the Lord.

          And that is exactly what the psalmist means here in verse 3. The godly person has learned to make their appeal to the grace of God and rely on His strength. Because their roots are deep into the rich and moist soil of God’s Word. They are like a tree planted by streams of water. They are fruitful, which is probably referring to the fruit of the Spirit that is described in the New Testament in the book of Galatians 5:22. This is the character of God that is the same in both Testaments: Love, joy, peace, patience, etc.

          The psalmist goes on to tells us that "Their leaf does not wither." That means the godly person is spiritually alive because they are in touch with God. And finally, we are told that all they do prospers. In other words, they are effective. Whatever they put their hand to is accomplished because they do not rely on their own strength, their own wisdom, their own abilities, but on the strength that they are continuously asking the Lord to provide. The person who learns to live this way is a happy person. Their outward circumstances do not make any difference because they know that happiness is not found in the abundance of things that you possess, as Jesus tells us. The godly person is happy because they have learned the secret of happiness.

Now, the psalmist briefly describes the person who has no time for God in verse 4.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

          You’ll notice that it has taken two verses to describe the godly life but only two words to do the same for the ungodly. It says in verse 4, “Not so”. The ungodly are the complete opposite of the godly they believe in the philosophy of the world that I described as, “Me first; Get it now; and Nothing bad will happen”. The ungodly lives on that basis and make their decisions based upon that philosophy. They are involved in both small and large acts of rebellion against God. And even though they are the ones who violate the most basic laws of life they still blame others for all the trouble they experience.  Even when they have brought it upon themselves by their own decisions and actions. The final evaluation by the psalmist is that “They are like chaff that the wind blows away

          Let me explain what this “chaff” is, and I’m sure you will quickly understand what the psalmist is saying here at the end of verse 4. I spent two years living in a province of Canada called Alberta and we had farms there that were massive with some covering over a thousand Acres. They grew nothing but wheat. And every fall they would harvest their wheat. And they would use these huge machines called combine harvesters. As these machines cut the stalks of wheat they would then be carried up into the belly of this machine where the kernels of wheat would be separated from the stalks. At the same time, they would start the process of separating the kernel of wheat from its shell which was called the chaff which was blown into the air. Now if you were unfortunate enough to drive by a farm while the wheat was being harvested and you didn’t close your vents in the car or roll up the windows, then this chaff would be inside your car in no time. It would stick to everything with even a little moisture including your skin and it was very difficult to clean off and would be very very itchy. Chaff was thought by everyone to be the most worthless stuff there ever was.

          When I first read this Psalm, I was reminded of just such an experience I had with chaff and I was amazed that even in the days of King David, a thousand years before Christ, the only thing they could think of to do with it was to blow it away, "the chaff which the wind blows away." And still, two thousand years after Christ, the only thing we can do with chaff is to blow it away. And that’s what the combine harvester does, it is the first step to get it out of the way as it is worthless. And that is God's evaluation of the life that does not live for God. It is like chaff.

          Yes, ungodly life may be very impressive in the eyes of the world. Such a person may have a beautiful home, drive a big car, and have many other luxuries. But in God's evaluation, their life is worthless. They have never fulfilled a single thing for which God put them here in this world. Their life is so much wasted time as far as God is concerned, worthless, like the chaff which the wind blows away.

          In verse 5, the psalmist gives us two conclusions about the future of the ungodly person. First, "[They] shall not stand in the judgment." This is referring to the final judgement day. That time when God will evaluate our lives based upon what we have done, or not done, with what He has given to us. The ungodly person’s life is immediately considered, as being worthless. Everything they have done will be seen as so much wasted energy, so much chaff.

          We are also told that the ungodly person will not be "in the congregation of the righteous." That is also a reference to this final judgment. When all those who are saved are gathered together and take into the kingdom of heaven. The ungodly person will not be there. They may even have been religious. In fact, I tend to picture them as being just that. But, maybe you remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:23 that, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ You can be sure that the ungodly person will not be present in the congregation of the righteous because they have never put God at the center of their life.

                    Then the Psalm concludes in verse 6 with this tremendous word of explanation.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

 We may ask why does all this happen in this way? Why is it that though outwardly a man's life may be very impressive, inwardly it may be nothing but a hollow shell, empty and worthless? The answer is, "The Lord watches over the way of the righteous,". The Lord is watching over that person, guiding them, guarding them, and keeping them. " but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. That means it will eventually become worthless.

          There came a time when the Apostle Paul stood as a prisoner before Nero Caesar. He is considered by historians as having been one of the most evil and wicked rulers ever to have lived. He even commanded that the body of his own mother be ripped apart that he might see the womb that he had come from. Yet The life of the mighty Roman empire revolved around this one man, Nero Caesar.

          Then the apostle Paul, an unknown little Jewish man, from the disliked Roman province of Judea, stood before him. No one knew who Paul was. He was only known as someone who had been causing trouble in some remote places. Here he was, a prisoner in chains, standing before the mighty emperor. And yet someone has made the amazing comment, that today we name our sons Paul, and our dogs, Nero.

Most people cannot read this Psalm without asking the question, “Have IU discovered this kind of happiness? Do I have this power that produces godliness in me? Or do we spend most of our time in ungodly pursuits so that we are like chaff which the wind blows away. Do we waste our lives chasing after the things of the world around us?

 

Let’s Pray,

Lord, we thank you for teaching us the way of godliness, and to show us how we can live a life that is acceptable to You. Lord, we pray that you will help us to live this kind of life no matter what obstacles or persecutions we face.  We pray that our lives, in the day of judgment, will find value and that we shall stand in the congregation of the righteous. May we live our lives confident that we are under your watchful eye and your living fatherly care. You have revealed to us today that You know the way of the righteous, and that the way of the wicked will perish. May we continually search Your Word to find the truth and apply it to ourselves.

This we ask through the name of Jesus, Amen.