Psalm 1

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Come in, you may be seated.
People of God, let us now turn to our sermon text this evening, which comes from Psalm
1, which can be found on page 528 of your Pew Bibles.
Psalm chapter 1. Take care and you’re listening to this as it is the word of the Lord.
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. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he
meditates day and night. 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. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor
sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish. Thus far the reading of God’s holy word. Let’s pray to him
for help. Oh Father, we thank you for this word. We thank you that by it we might, we know who you
are, and what you have done, and what you will do. And Father, we pray that you would be at work in
our hearts, by your Spirit, to enlighten our minds in the knowledge of Christ, knowing that all the
Scriptures speak of you, and of your death and resurrection. And Father, we do pray that you
would be glorified in our hearts, that you would be enthroned upon our praises this evening, as we
contemplate your word and hide these things in our hearts, that we might not sin against you. Father,
we pray these things, in Jesus’ name, amen. Well, our passage this evening teaches us that the Lord
knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. There’s a theme taken from the
last verse of our reading today. The Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked
will perish. And we see this worked out in two sections. First, we see the way of blessing in
verses one through three, which corresponds to the righteous. And second, we see the way of the
wicked in verses four through six. So what does it mean to be blessed? That is, after all, how this
Psalm starts out. I’m sure we’ve all seen that word out and about. I know while working as a
banker in Fairmont, I have people answer me when I say, how are you today? Blessed. And in fact,
it’s popular to post online about some pleasant thing in life and then write, hashtag blessed.
And so what does the word mean? We typically understand that to be blessed refers to God’s
favorable disposition towards us and his granting us a portion of the many good things that he
alone gives. And while this is the right understanding of the general usage of that word in most of the Bible, this Psalm makes use of a different word than the usual Hebrew word for blessing. Instead
of the more usual word, Baruch, the word here is similar to the name of Jacob’s son, Asher,
which was a play on words. And we read about this naming of Asher in Genesis chapter 30 verse 13,
where we read, and Leah said, happy am I, for women have called me happy. So she called his
name Asher. Here in Psalm 1, it is in a form that makes an interjection so that it’s an expressive
thing, with a smile even. How happy is the man? From the start then, we have an enthusiastic
expression that sets before us a vision of the good life. And from what I can tell, the reason
it tends to be translated as blessed has more to do with a long history of translation, possibly
going all the way back to the Greek Septuagint, than it does with the particular word. In many
ways, happy and blessed have a similar and overlapping sense of meaning to them, and we
tend to view those things that bring happiness as blessings, so that their result is in mind.
However, our hearts can be very deceitful things. Sometimes we think that we will be made happy by
things that are doomed only to bring sorrow. The psalmist then sets before us something that is
sure and good. Happy or 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. But his delight is in the law of the
Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 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.
If we were to sit down to write out what makes for happiness and blessing, I imagine that we would
not be likely to lead with a list of things we don’t do. Yet here we have just that. The happily
blessed man does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. Throughout the Bible, walking is often a
metaphor for one’s way of life, and that is certainly the case here. The psalmist sets before
us the good life that proves to be a happy and blessed way of life, and he begins by setting up
a contrast between the blessed man and the wicked. The blessed man does not walk in the counsel of
the wicked. And so where do you go to pick up your ideas of what happiness and blessing mean? What
things do we hold to be good? From whom do we seek this counsel? Well, if you’re like me, I think
in many ways we pick up our ideas of what the good life looks like from the world around us,
without really considering it very carefully. We pick it up from things that we perhaps watch on
television or the internet, and in movies. We pick it up from books that we read. We pick it up
from our family members, friends, and neighbors. People talk about what they consider to be important
in life. And we get upset when things aren’t going the way that we want them to go. We make plans for
our lives and the lives of those around us based on things that we value in our hearts. And so it’s
worth asking yourself, who are your counselors? Who do you look up to? What sources do you go
to in order to get guidance in the way you live your life? Here the psalmist says that the man who
is happy and blessed takes care to walk not in the counsel of the wicked, as he walks along the way
of the blessed. And so we do well to consider from whom our counsel comes and to take care.
Who do you want to be like? Who do you look at and say, I wish I could stand in their shoes?
I imagine that in a number of cases these are the same people to whom you go for counsel.
And so there is a sort of progression that comes here. We get an idea or counsel that strikes us
as good for whatever reason. And we begin to live our lives with that idea in mind and take it as
counsel for our lives. And as it gets established in our way of life and in our heart, we take a
stand for it. And the next thing you know, we will likely be looking down on others who disagree
with us. We think, ah, you’re not up to standard. And we perhaps even go so far as to mock them
for not enjoying this way of blessing that we consider so great. But what if we’ve taken
bad counsel? What if we have set up in our hearts something wicked that we have said is good?
This is a problem if we are seeking counsel from the wicked. Our hearts get set on wicked things.
But the blessed man of Psalm 1, he does not do this. And the reason he does not do this is
because unlike the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, and the seat of scoffers, this man’s
delight is in the law of the Lord. He takes counsel for what is good from that law. He takes his
stand there. He mocks and scoffs at only those whom the Lord mocks and scoffs. For indeed,
the Lord does mock and scoff at the wicked in due time. This blessed man of Psalm 1,
his vision of the good life is informed by God’s law. That is where he takes his delight.
He delights so much in God’s law that he meditates on it day and night.
Now, the application of a lot of texts set before us a need to hide God’s word in our hearts.
And indeed, it looked like from this morning’s Sunday School that many of you are doing just
that. It’s a wonderful thing. One great way of doing this is regularly reading God’s word.
But it is true that for the vast majority of human history, most people did not have ready
access to their own copy of the Bible. And even if they did, they wouldn’t have been able to read it.
They had to hear it, read to them. Then they would think about it in their minds and keep
thinking about it. And that is what is meant here, especially by meditate. It is having this
in your mind, whether it be by reading or by hearing, and thinking it over, even muttering it
under our breath. It isn’t the sort of meditation that we might see on TV, where some cross-legged
guy says empty your mind and goes into a trance of some sort. But it’s rather having something
in your mind, meditating, thinking on it. The meditation of the blessed man is a meditation
that keeps God’s law present in his mind. His word is ever in mind. He says it under his breath,
and he thinks about God’s law both day and night. And we have that set before us as that which is
good, that which is blessed, the good life. To think about God’s law when considering
how we should live. He takes counsel from people whose delight is also in that law,
and he measures other people’s counsel in light of God’s law. He remembers this law must always
be motivated by those two great commands, to love, to love God, and to love others,
just as Christ taught. And he makes it his aim to please the Lord.
This blessed man meditating on God’s law both day and night is said to be like a tree,
planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither,
and that in all that he does, he prospers. And so first things first. You know, we often would tend
to think of blessing and of our happiness as first containing this security, this health,
this vitality. But the Scripture sets before us the Scriptures. It sets before us God’s counsel,
and it sets before us the Lord as the cause of our blessing, the one to whom we go in trust to be
blessed. This tree is sustained even in life’s droughts. Even in life’s droughts, this tree
sustains others with its good fruit. Even in life’s droughts, this tree remains healthy with such life
within the leaves that they do not wither. This is the way of the blessed man of Psalm 1. He draws
near to God, and God has drawn near to him. He trusts in God and in the people of God as his
counselors. He takes his stand in the way of the Lord, and he sits in the seat that God has given.
He is humble rather than quick to mock others, because he delights in the law of God,
and he has true prosperity in all that he does, because it is pleasing in the sight of God.
What is your idea of prosperity? What is your idea of this good life? What is
on your bucket list as something that must be done?
I’m not saying you can’t have a bucket list, but it’s worth asking and considering why they’re there.
Are these things governed by God’s word? Are you using your time and resources to bless others
by bearing good fruit? Or are you simply entertaining and pleasing yourself?
Again, there is a place for enjoying the fruit of one’s labors.
But may it be that you make it your aim to please the Lord, because from him alone
comes blessing. From him alone comes true and lasting prosperity.
All the joys of this life are witness-bearing joys.
They tell a tale of joys that are to come, and in their passing away,
they speak to the sure glory of the Lord alone as our joy.
Our passage teaches us that the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish. Those who have set their hearts upon the word of the Lord
set themselves on a way that is known by God.
And so we have seen something of the way of blessing. Let’s now consider the way of the wicked.
In verses four through six, we read,
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The way of the blast man, it stands firm, it bears fruit, it does not wither, it prospers.
But the wicked are not so. We see a great contrast. Not planted, but rather driven away by the wind like chaff.
Not fruitful, but without substance. Not prosperous, but empty.
You see chaff is an unfruitful residue. It is empty. It does not sustain.
God’s judgment comes and it is his wind that drives away the chaff.
When he comes to gather his righteous ones like one gathers wheat into a barn,
we’re told that the wicked will be cut down and that they will not stand in the judgment.
They will not be gathered into the barn. Those who stood in the way of sinners will not be assembled
in safety with God’s righteous ones. This is a picture that God has shown us of his saving work.
You see in this life sometimes it’s not so clear. In this life there are those who subvert righteousness
and those who are righteous suffer and are cut down and seem by no means to prosper.
And yet, it is not life under the sun that determines the nature of this blessedness.
Again, it’s the Lord that knows the righteous.
And this light momentary affliction prepares for those who are the Lord’s an eternal weight of glory.
We see in this psalm even a picture that can be drawn focusing on the two atoms.
We see that when God created Adam and Eve, he planted them in the garden of Eden and told them
to be fruitful and to multiply.
But what happened? They took different counsel than God’s law.
They turned to walk in the way of the serpent following after his counsel,
and Adam took his stand in the way of sinners. And when God himself came in judgment,
you see him scoffing at God, pointing his finger at him, blaming his sin on the woman that God gave
to be with him. It’s that same progression, isn’t it? And it’s that same empty fruit.
He didn’t bless his fellow man, but through him came futility and cursed toil and death.
And at God’s judgment, they were driven out of the garden, away from the tree of life.
Even still, God had his purpose to bless. And so he came to the withering tree of mankind,
speaking words of promise. And a seed would come from the woman to destroy the works of the wicked
one. Mankind for a time was spared in mercy, but only Noah and his family were spared in the day
when God judged the wickedness of man by sweeping them all from the face of the earth.
After that, God chose from his descendants one with whom to make his covenant. He took Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, and made them to grow like a tree. And he took the tree and planted it in
the land of promise. But the people and kings sought the counsel of foreign gods. They took
their stand with the nations. They mocked God who saved them. They followed after the pattern
of Adam. And their doom was sealed. God cut down that tree in judgment as he expelled his people
from the land where he had planted them. But God made a covenant with David.
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear
fruit. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
God drew near and opened the way to the tree of life in the life and in the death of his own son,
born of the woman, the seed of the woman.
And we find Jesus who walked not in the counsel of the wicked. He came to do his father’s will.
Though Satan tempted him with every desirable thing of this world, Jesus replied,
it is written. Jesus would not stand in the way of sinners. Though the rulers of Israel
viewed themselves to be righteous, and though they mocked and scoffed at Jesus for being a friend
of tax collectors and sinners, he came to do the father’s will. His delight was in the law of the
Lord. It was his meditation at all times, whether day or night. He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He persisted in teaching righteousness,
even in the blistering heat of life’s sufferings.
For he had an endless supply of water from God, welling up to eternal life. And the water that
he gives brings life to us. His leaf did not wither. In all that he did, he prospered,
because all that he did was according to the counsel of his father in heaven,
whose will he had come to do. He stored up his treasure in heaven, even in his death,
dark as it seemed, dark as it was. He bore fruit and blessing. His way was known to the father from
all eternity. And after bearing our sins, he was raised and given all authority in heaven and earth.
His return will be the ultimate day when no wicked stand before his face, and no sinner will be
gathered into the congregation of the righteous, the church of the living God, saved by his blood.
For now we see such things, and they torment us. But we ought not be surprised.
On the day of his judgment, what will matter will be that we lived our lives in him.
What will matter will be whether we are known by him, for the Lord knows the way of the righteous.
But the way of the wicked will perish. Christ is the blessed and happy man of Psalm 1.
And any who seek refuge in him, forsaking their sins, can be assured that nothing can separate
them from his love. The good life, the happy life, is the life that looks to him. It is the life that
follows after him. And he alone is the way, the truth, and the life. He opens that prosperous way
and calls to us to take up our cross now and follow after him.
So that we like him can store up our treasures, not on earth where moth and rust destroy,
where thieves break in and steal.
Not to store up those fleeting pleasures and prosperity of this creation, but to find our
prosperity and happiness in Christ, who sits at the right hand of God the Father.
Our hearts are restless until they rest in him. And so there will come a day when we obtain that
inheritance in heaven. And on that day we will come to what we already read in Revelation 22,
verses 1 through 5. I’ll read that again.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne
of God and of the Lamb, through the middle of the street of the city. Also on either side of the
river the tree of life, with its 12 kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month.
The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads,
and night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their
light, and they will reign forever and ever. Such is the glory of those who abide in Christ.
As we consider Christ and his fulfillment of this psalm, we see that the Lord knows the way of the
righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. We see that Christ is for us the tree of life,
into whose life we have been joined by faith. His blessing has become our blessing.
In him the way of the wicked came to an end. Their doom is sure.
It came to an end when he was crucified for us and for our salvation. Our own wickedness has
been put to death in him. As it is written, for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Second Corinthians 521, and also Galatians 220, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer
I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith
in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
Our lives are now lived in conformity to his. Sin is put to death in him,
and in his righteousness we receive blessing.
In thanks we offer up our spiritual worship to him, presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable to God. Because we are in him, our own wickedness is dead and perishing.
Our own righteousness is established and having that outworking of fruit. We drink from the abundant
river of his grace and yield the fruit of the Spirit as we are bathed like branches in the light
shining from his face. And so let us read once more this psalm as we hope in him who leads us
in the way of righteousness and who keeps us from the way of the wicked.
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. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he
meditates day and night. 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. The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish. Amen. Just pray.
Oh Father, we thank you for your word. We thank you that you have made yourself known to us,
that you have had mercy upon us, miserable sinners. And we thank you that you put to death
our sins, that what we once were is now no longer what we are before you,
though we do not yet see what will be. Oh Father, we pray that you would be at work in us
by your Spirit, that light that shines in on us to give us life from the new
heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells. Father, we pray that your kingdom
would come, that it would come quickly, that you, oh Christ, would come quickly.
And we ask, Lord, that you would cause us to bear much fruit
in your righteousness. And we pray these things in Jesus name. Amen.
Amen.
People of God, let us respond to the word by standing, if you’re able, to sing Psalm 67a.
Psalm 67a.