Today I started a new sermon series in the Book of Psalms. I expect this to be a series that I do for several weeks before pausing to look at something else and then returning to the psalms in the New Year, God willing.
The video is recorded the day before and, because there is less of a time constraint, is more detailed than the “live” sermons. The notes below are those sent out to church members who do not have access to the internet.
We are starting this series in the psalms for several reasons:
- I have been much in the psalms since Covid-19 hit us. It is full of real life prayers from real life people with real life struggles.
- They teach us how to pray, how to live, who God is, how worthy He is, and how to trust in the midst of trial. They teach about hope in a world where there is not much hope on a human level. They present the full range of human emotion; they are, in the words of Calvin, “an anatomy of all the parts of the soul.”
- They speak to us about Jesus. The sixth-century bishop Augustine once said that Jesus is the choirmaster who leads His people in singing the psalms. He sings them first – they are true of Him, the true Davidic King – and we sing them ‘in Him’, as people saved by Him and united to Him by the work of His Spirit. Augustine says: “Let us therefore now hear the voice of Christ singing before us in prophecy, to whom His own choir should respond either in imitation, or in thanksgiving.”
This first psalm is important – it is like a gateway into the rest. The word of God is the foundation of living all of life in a state of favour with God, to seek His face to trust Him in troubles, to persevere when under attack, to face death, to worship, to serve to enjoy the good things that God gives.
Psalm 1 starts with the word “Blessed.” Psalm 150 ends: “ “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” That is the purpose of all of life and eternity. Only a “blessed” person (“man” in v1 means men and women) can fulfil the command to praise the Lord.
“Be blessed” is something we say to each other. We often think of it as merely things going well for each other. But it is better than that – true blessing is things going well in our relationship with God. It is joy in God and all that is done. It is peace with God because our sins are forgiven in His name. It is the blessedness of knowing God. It is being happy, content and satisfied in Him.
I) The way of blessing (v1-2)
Verse 1 tells us how not to be blessed. There is a progression in all of the words: walk, stand, sit, indicate growing closeness to sin; “counsel”, “way”, “seat”, show a person listening to sinners before joining with them.
Although the three groups (wicked, sinners, scoffers) could all be descriptions of ungodliness in general, the final group are those who are not only sinners but proud of it, those who mock God and His people.
That is the way not to be blessed. V2 gives us the alternative way, the way of blessing. Through the word of God, defined here as “law of the Lord.”
- Law, although it does refer to the books of Moses, in this context it means all of God’s teachings – for us the whole of God’s revelation in scripture: His revelation of Himself, His promises, His teachings, His commands.
- “Of the Lord” – this is authored by Him. We recognise the earthly authors but we don’t see them as the ultimate author. So, we treat what is said as it is, God’s word.
Not “read as a religious duty” but delight. Something in which the psalmist takes pleasure. This is the attitude of heart and a desire to hear God’s word. Delight is natural because of who is speaking.
It is one of the signs of being blessed, of enjoying God’s favour, that there is a desire for God’s word. There are times when we are spiritually weak due to sin or neglect or discouragement, when that desire is very weak, but that desire is normally there for the true believer. If it is absent, you need to pray for it to return. If it has never been there, you need to go back to the gospel and ask the Lord to show you what He has done for you. Do you believe it, have you seen how amazing His salvation is?
V2 also speaks of “meditating” on the word. We will come back to that next week.
So, the first two verses show that there are two ways to live. One is v1 and the other is v2, and they have results in both life and eternity.
II) The effect of the blessing (v3-4)
The blessed person is likened to a tree – a tree standing in a desert place but by streams. A tree in an arid region can only survive if there is water. We live in the dryness of a world that is against God, we have spiritual attack and trouble and yet we can stand secure because we are grounded in His supply. See Jeremiah 17:7-8.
The word of God brings life – as we meditate in the word, our roots are in the life giving word and so we grow. The supply of God’s grace and goodness flow into our lives through the Word of God.
“fruit in season” – the fruit develops in the life through the life giving word, the fruit of the Spirit will grow in us.
“Its leaf does not wither” there is no decay. Not stopped by drought. The tree is not getting its life from the outside, but from underneath – from the life-giving water. So, our happiness and peace is not dependent on outside but on the supply of God’s life through His word.
“In all that he does he prospers.” This is a startling statement and there is not time in this message to unpack fully. There is a prospering in an ungodly sense (Psalm 73:3). So what does this mean?
It is linked back to “blessed” – to enjoy God and His favour, to be satisfied in Him.
In the context, it is the ultimate outcome. All these things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.. You are going to glory! What greater prosperity do you want? If He makes you materially successful then that is kindness to you. But this prosperity is better; He is assuring you that you will be carried through to eternal riches. The ultimate “success” and prosperity is to stand complete and accepted before almighty God and to stand before Him for all eternity.
Verses 1-3 are fulfilled in Jesus. He is the one who didn’t walk, stand or sit with the wicked. He is the One whose delight is in the law of the Lord, who meditated on the law day and night. He is the one who bears His fruit – the fruit of salvation in all those who believe. He is the one who prospers in building His church. If you are a Christian, you are in Him.
And He is the One who be the judge of v5 and the leader of the congregation of the righteous – all who have believed in Him.
Verse 4 contrasts this with the “wicked” (those that live godless lives, turbulent lives, without order and recognition of God and His will). They are “not so” (not like trees by water). Rather, they are like “chaff” – the dust and worthless part of the grain when the seeds have been removed. They are like this dust, so light and insignificant that they are swept away. Some may build earthly statues, but they do not last or stand before Almighty God.
III) The outcome of the blessing (v5-6)
The psalm now moves on to look at eternal consequences.
Verse 5 – “The wicked” (as v1 and v4) will not stand in the judgement.” They will be held guilty (Ecclesiastes 12:14). The sign that they are lost is in being in the company of v1 and the fruit of emptiness in their lives, that is living for themselves for the things that perish and not for the things that remain.
Verse 5 also speaks of “the congregation of the righteous.” That is those who have been made righteous because they have been forgiven (Psalm 32:1-2). The congregation looks forward to that great multitude before the throne in Revelation 7. The believer will stand in the judgement through Christ and so will be in that great multitude.
Verse 6: “The Lord knows the way of the righteous.” This is personal knowledge, intimate knowledge. Not just knowing about us but knowing us truly.
“the way” – same as v1b. There is the way of sinners and there is the way of the righteous. A saved person is in the way, the way of the Lord, the narrow way, the way, the truth and the life, and the Lord knows them.
The contrast at the end with “the way of the wicked” shows that the way of the righteous will not perish. The way of the righteous is secure in Christ. The Lord knows our way and He will keep us on the way.
But in a practical, day by day level, we remain on the way as we are directed by the Word of God and empowered by His Holy Spirit. As we’ve said before, the Lord will keep His people, but He uses means, instruments, tools to keep us. And the means that He uses is His word as we receive His word.
So the psalm ends with this great security for the believer. But a great challenge if you are not. Are you ready to stand before God?
For the Christian, there is also a challenge: the call to us to avoid the way of v1. We are His. Why would we want to live back on that road? While, if we have been truly saved, we cannot lose salvation, we can lose assurance and peace. What is the point of throwing away peace?
We want to delight in Him and that delight and satisfaction comes as we receive the word, as the word bears fruit in our lives and as we walk in the way. And that is how we are ultimately and truly happy. That is where we will be truly satisfied and enjoy God.
We will look more at “how” we do this next week.
But, for this week, remember, Christ is the fulfilment. He sings to us: Blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the Lord. He sings to us – you are like a tree planted in Me. Meditate on the word, make the word your delight.