November 29, 2008

The Way of the Righteous - Psalm 1

Psalms 1

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.

Very happy and full of joy is the man who:

  1. Doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked:
    Our walk concerns the action and direction of our lives. The happy man doesn’t heed the advice of the wicked and set his feet towards their ways (Prov. 1:15). The key here is whose advice he follows. He refuses to heed the counsel of the wicked, though their advice may seem tempting or even rational, because he knows and delights in the Word of God and sets his feet according to that instead. Does your advice come from the world of the ungodly, or from Christ? Are your views of money and relations shaped more by Fortune magazine and Cosmo, than the Bible? Is your direction set by the wisdom of a world enslaved by idolatry, or by the wisdom of the God? Happy is the man who forsakes the former and clings to the latter.
  2. Doesn’t stand in the way of sinners:
    Beyond our actions lie our dispositions. Though sinners may not be actively committing injustice or violence, they have a disposition towards sin. They have no concern for God, and haven’t seen any reason why they need to. They have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). The man who no longer stands in the way of sinners has a new outlook, and his yearning is for God. He has been born again. He is now justified before God and stands in the Way of the righteous (which is Christ – John 14:6; 1Cor. 6:11). He now sees God, and seeing Him, he longs for Him.
  3. Doesn’t sit in the seat of scoffers:
    The scoffers aren’t walking or standing, but sit and mock those who are (possibly both the righteous and the wicked) – They enjoy it when sinners fall into sin and ruin, and they mock the righteous in Christ. The scoffer sees the sinner struggle and does nothing to lift their burden. They see the righteous cry for mercy and laugh in derision. They pray, but their prayer is “'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers…” (Luke 18:11). The man who doesn’t sit in their seat knows that he too has walked in wickedness and stood as a sinner, and that except for the grace and mercy continually bestowed to him in Christ, he would do so again. He would prefer to lift the sinners’ burdens (Matt. 11:28-30) and encourage the righteous rather than scoff at them.
  4. Delights in the law of the Lord:
    He delights in every precept and law of God and loves them. Though he stands condemned under the law, he delights that the Lord Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law, and rests in His righteousness. As Christ is the fulfillment of the law, it can be said that the man delights in Him and His commandments. His desire is for Christ, and his satisfaction is found in Him.
  5. Meditates on it day and night:
    Not the passive meditation of the eastern religions, but an active study and committing to memory. In the same manner that his delight is in the law, so is his meditation. He meditates on Christ as the Word of God day and night. Though he goes about the day, the man has the Word close to his heart and it is ever before him.

The man is joyful and happy because of these things, but how does he get there? Can I just decide to not walk in the ungodly way, not stand with the sinners, not sit with the scoffers, but instead delight in the law of God? No sooner than a leopard can change his spots (Jer. 13:23). Romans 3:10-18 gives us the reason – “No one seeks for God.” We all like sheep have gone astray. We’ve all exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the glory of created things. So how may we be like this man, and find happiness?

“He is like a tree planted by the streams of water”
     
This man is like a tree, receiving its life from a stream of water. What is this water? How does the tree get planted by the water? We learn from Jesus that the tree is planted by God (Matt. 15:13; Isa. 60:21), and that the stream of water is the Holy Spirit flowing from God:

Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14

Jesus expounds on His own teaching a little further on:

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:38-39

Those who trust in Christ will receive the Holy Spirit, Who will flow out of their heart in a river of living water. The Spirit will well up in them to eternal life, and will overflow out of them to bring that life to others.

That yields its fruit in its season”
      The tree planted by the water will yield fruit, and we can be confident of it because it is the Holy Spirit Who is giving the tree life. In fact, it is through these fruits that we recognize a tree as having been properly planted and watered by the Holy Spirit:

And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold." As he said these things, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear.… As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” Luke 8:8, 15

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciplesJohn 15:8

Elsewhere, our Lord shows us that our fruits are manifest in a large part by our words:

"For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:43-45

We also see that the Spirit works fruit in us, and from it we shine as bright lights in the darkness:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

“And its leaf does not wither”

      Because our lives and our fruit are supplied by the Holy Spirit, we rest assured that “according to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”(1 Peter 1:3-5).  We see in this a picture of Eternal Security, or Perseverance of the Saints – namely, that God who planted the tree will water and grow it to fruition by the power of the Holy Spirit, not allowing its leaves to wither. This is the promise of our blessed Savior:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." John 10:27-30

“Whatever he does shall prosper”
     
The man who abhors the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, and the seat of scoffers, and delights in Christ and His words can rest on this promise:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7

This is the promise given for a saint who abides in Christ, and walks by the Spirit which gives him life. He asks and receives, because in everything he seeks to glorify God. The apostle James gives a solemn warning to those whose goal is to fulfill their worldly passions:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:1-4

They fight and covet for things they desire, but never think to ask for those things in prayer. So common it is for many to try and make their own way, rather than turning to the Creator and Sustainer of all things for help. Then, there are some who do ask, but they don’t receive because they’re asking to fulfill their worldly pleasures! James calls people that do this adulterers and adulteresses. They ask God to give them things that they can use them to be unfaithful to Him. As John Piper describes it, people who pray for fulfillment of their worldly lusts are “like a wife who asks her husband for $50, and when she gets it, she goes to her boyfriend and gives him the $50 so he will take her out and sleep with her. They make a cuckold of God.”

Rather, the heart of the man in Psalms 1 asks and receives because he asks according to God’s will, seeking His glory:

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15

Not only in asking and receiving does he prosper, but in doing as well. Much like Hezekiah:

And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered. 2 Chronicles 31:21

      The analogy of the tree is very strong and used throughout the scriptures. In Jeremiah, we find a very similar passage from the Lord, which yields some additional insight:

Thus says the LORD:
"Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
 in an uninhabited salt land.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
 for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit."
Jeremiah 17:5-8

      Of particular interest are the phrases “does not fear when heat comes” and “is not anxious in the year of drought.” In these verses we see the picture of various types of trials and sufferings that come upon him whose trust is in the Lord and that even during these times, “its leaves remain green” and “it does not cease to bear fruit.”

      Picture for a moment a forest of trees, all green and healthy. Then comes a scorching heat that bears down on the trees and they all start to dry up and shrivel. Then a drought comes and they all die and begin to waste away. Now, in the middle of that scene of gloom and death, picture a lone tree, as green as a summer meadow, filled with fruit. Oh, how beautiful that tree is, and how brightly it shines in the darkness!

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7

Our Lord Jesus also shows some of the temptations that will threaten the trees:

And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them… When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. Matthew 13:4-7, 19-22

“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.”

      The wicked are compared to the shriveled trees, which are driven away when the wind blows. Jeremiah contrasts these men with the righteous. They “trust in man” and make flesh their strength. Their end is well known (Matt. 3:12; 7:19; 15:13)

“For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish”

The Lord knows and loves the way of the righteous as a Father knows a Son and loves Him. God loves the way of the righteous because God loves His Son, and all who follow that way shall live because that way is also life:

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

      The way of the ungodly is sin, death, and hell. These shall perish alongside the ungodly.

And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:13-15

 

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Jude 1:24-25

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