The Blessed Life
The Blessed Life
We are beginning a series on the Psalms. The word psalm is greek in origin and simply means song, and one usually accompanied with musical instruments. It translates the Hebrew title tillihim, which means “Praises". It's the book of praises. These are sacred songs written for the gathering of believers.
These songs were compiled in five books and likely circulated as independent books, and then assimilated into one. The composition of songs is mixed as some are by Moses in 1500 BC, David in 900BC, and many others. They were put together in the current form sometime during the exile and intertestamental period. We are not sure who compiled the five books. There are some distinctives in books. No discernable order to the composition. At times some seem to be arranged thematically.
The psalms together present a godward consideration on various parts of life. They are a “lodestone of theological reflection” (Waltke). Reflecting on what happens in life, what God does, and powerful articulations of ones faith.
We are in the first Psalm. Derek Kidner: Psalm 1 is an introduction to the whole Psalter.
“Certainly it stands here as a faithful doorkeeper, confronting those who would be in ‘the congregation of the righteous’ with the basic choice that alone gives reality to worship; with divine truth that must inform it; and with the ultimate judgement that looms beyond it.”
It also answers a core question we have today: What does it mean to be blessed by God? Let's start reading and enter the door to the Psalms.
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; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 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. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 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. (Psalm 1:1-6 ESV)
Prop: The blessed person has a deep and abiding happiness in the Lord that endures forever, and keeps him from fruitless deeds of darkness.
The happiness you find in the Lord is not just temporary. It's not just for the good seasons. It is in all season. He blesses us and it changes us. It changes the way we live. It changes what we do and don’t do.
This Psalm shows us what the blessed life looks like in three scenes. First is by looking at the...
- Blessed Person:
The topic here is the blessed man. The ashray haish. Man is used as a collective singular. Denotes all people.
Blessed could be translated happy. It is a state of being. It’s a song about the good life and the one who achieved it. It seems appropriate that the first Psalm is about something that would make us sing. We all want to be blessed; we want to be happy, and being blessed would produce a song and dance. Everyone wants happiness.
William James, the philosopher and psychologist said “How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness is in fact for most men at all times the secret motive of all they do.” Alcorn 12.
Denis Diderot “There is only one passion, the passion for happiness.” Ibid.
People want this. Need this. Give their lives for. Psalm 1 reveals it comes from the Lord.
You will be surprised what the blessed person is like in the Bible. Happiness comes somewhere that philosophers do not look. It’s not by winning the Powerball. This Psalm shows happiness is found in the Lord.
We first see what the blessed person is not...
- Does Not Do
Does not walk in the way of the wicked. People say there are two ways to live. You live for the Lord or something else. Walk a path of righteousness or wickedness. Life is simple and we can over complicate it. Our lives are the result of hundreds or thousands of decisions in which there are two basic choices. Every day we sow seeds of who we are becoming.
Psalm 1 simplifies everything and says, “Will you honor the Lord or will you walk in the way of the wicked?” From reading your Bible, to spending your money, the cars you buy, the places you go, the people you are around, and what you are willing to do to make your money.
The blessed man does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. Be careful who you get your counsel from. Just because you have a counselor with degrees, nice office and well mannered does not mean he is helping you follow God. Go back to the word of God. Note: it is not just about what you profess, but what you do.
Some people note a progression here from walking to standing to sitting, and a person coming more resolved in their resistance to God. Like puddy that has conformed to a hole, been pushed in and hardened with time. Many people are like this - they get into routines and beliefs and grow unresistant to change. Becoming a settle scoffer.
It is wrong to walk a path of evil. It is also wrong to sit in the seats of those doing wrong. Sitting could be an image of governing and it is making resolved decisions of the wicked. It could also mean sitting idly as wicked decisions are made and not standing up for it. Perhaps you think of German Christians who refused to oppose the Nazi German church, perhaps it is Christians in our country who refused to stick up for the dignity of African Americans or Indians. They didn’t want to lose their footing in society, were not actively walking a path of wrong, but sitting idly among scoffers opposing God.
The blessed man refuses any assimilation into the ways of the wicked. He doesn’t walk, sit, or stand. Even when it may not be possible to be physically removed from the presence of wickedness, he is steadfast in his walk with the Lord.
That is what he does not do. But the Psalm then turns to what the blessed man does.
- Does Do
What he does is refreshingly singular in its focus. He does not list a multitude of items. It is not get all A’s, start for the varsity football team, earn millions of dollars, work out three times a week, eat all organic, get an ivy league degree. So many things we could do, feel like we ought to do, perhaps some we should do.
He delights in the Law of the Lord. This is amazing to reflect on. Talk about simplifying life. He delights, he loves. We expect happiness and blessedness to come from delighting in something but we don’t think it to be in the word of God.
The world says it is in gold, glory, girls. That is what makes you happy. It is not so. It is in the word of God.
The Psalms spend lots of time talking about delighting in, loving God’s law. The poetry of the Psalms lead us not just to obedient but exuberant adoration of God. He delights in the Bible, in the law, Torah. Consider how many people want to relegate the Old Testament to oblivion. But the psalmists loves it.
Our word happiness comes from the word meaning happenstance. It is a joy in circumstances. You're happy because the weather is nice and cool, that your football team won, and that you have enough money to pay bills. But that is different from an internal joy, contentment and delight. You can have all those things but have no delight in anything. You don’t find the right conditions to enjoy the things of life until you find your joy in the Lord.
Happiness here is a result of being blessed by God. The Christian faith teaches that we are made in the image of God. We are to honor him. He is what we are made for. You can only image something when you are looking at it. We look to God for our purpose and honor him in all of life. When you don’t do this you go against your purpose. Like riding a bike through the sand, you are set up for failure. Doesn’t matter how great your bike is, it was not made for that.
This is why people who have everything are not happy with it:
- Tom Brady. Several years ago when 60 Minutes correspondent, Steve Kroft interviewed superstar quarterback Tom Brady, an obviously unhappy Brady said, “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, “Hey Man, this is what it is.” I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, God, it's gotta be more than this.”
“What's the answer?” Kroft asked.
Brady responded, " I wish I knew. I wish I knew".
Now, years later, a couple more super bowl rings - has it changed? If your three super bowl rings doesn't bring it, will six?
- Jeff Bezos with his hundred billion dollars. Recently divorced. People divorce when they are not happy.
- It's like King Solomon with 700 wives, 300 concubines, building projects, hit songs, praised by world leaders, and yet he said it is all meaningless. A chasing after the wind. The only thing that matters is following God.
- If you don’t believe me, just think of the last time you gave into a sin thinking it would bring life and joy. From a weekend binging on netflix, or alcohol, or the ice cream in the the freezer. It does not fill you.
Only God in his all sufficiency is able to fill and satisfy our longings, desires, and fill our voids.
Difference in pleasure and being happy. When we lack an internal peace and happiness we try to mask it with sensual pleasure. It does not work. It is like finding wood rot in your house and you just paint over. It covers the problem but doesn’t fix it.
The blessed person delights in the word because that is where we know God. That's being blessed! The word nourishes us. Being in God’s word is equated to a tree being by a stream of water. You take away God’s word and your wither.
The happy person meditates on it day and night. That means all the time. Get away from distractions and just have a quiet time in God’s word. Dwell on that. Not on your phone. What do you think about all the time. That is what you delight in.
Delight. So many Christians only know the duty of what people say and have not gone through a real conversion of their hearts being changed where they love and long for the things of God. They know duty, but delight… in church… in reading the bible. Kevin from Iran.
The blessed person has roots in the word of God. He is planted. Notice it says he does not wither but produces fruit. Trees wither in dry times. He is not blessed because life is easy. He is blessed because he delights in God’s word and he is committed to it regardless of what life brings. He bears fruit.
What are the dry seasons in the psalms. Perhaps it is when your boss tries to kill you with a spear, perhaps it is when you lose your job and have to flee to another country, perhaps it is when you have to go and work for your enemy because you have been driven from your home, perhaps it is when your Son betrays you or when your wife leaves you, perhaps it is when you fail morally, when your enemy prevails over you, when God seems to hide his face from you.
Prepare for this. Men, be in God’s word. You want to be strong. Put some roots in God’s word. Don’t be superficial. Trees with no depth are dead right now because they didn’t make it through the summer. Do you want to be a leader? Prepare for dry seasons. Repent of finding strength in things other than God.
If you are struggling, having bad thoughts, sad, depressed. Memorize this psalm.
That is the blessed man. Now the subject changes and the focus moves to a contrast with..
- The Wicked
V4 “The wicked are not so. They are like chaff that the wind blows away.”
They stand opposite to the blessed man. The wicked do not endure. They have no roots. They have no soil that anchors them. They have done whatever was easiest in life and now they simply are blown away.
Do not endure. The wicked are not like the blessed man. Though they prosper for a time, appear to have no troubles that is not the end. Their glory is but for a moment. It soon fades away. They are like chaff, the outward cask of a seed that is ground and blown away. Blown away with a breath of God.
How about Pharoah opposing God’s people. Saul’s oppression of David. Jesus was opposed by wicked people. But they do not last. As you trust in God you will see the wicked prosper. You will see them do better than you and you may even see them stand in victory over you. But know it is short lived.
A few years ago I found an article on all the big name sports players who were now bankrupt. They were the ones I looked up to when I was young and they were living it up with the money, fame, and all that goes with it. Now years gone by, they are broke, penniless, all that was attracted by the fame left when the fame did. Withered, dried and blown over.
Wickedness is a path that does not last. Your faith may be tested by seeing the wicked prosper, but take the long view. With a breath they perish. The Lord blows and they are gone. It may not happen in this life, but it will certainly happen in the judgement.
Do not escape. The ultimate is in the judgement of God. We are all going to stand before the judgement seat of God. He will bring every wrong and every word to account. This is what keeps you grounded when all the world seems to be going bad. People who claim there is no God because of the evil in the world. They want everything righted now.
I have seen many people walk away from God because of the hardship of life, because of wrongs done. Why would God allow that to happen. A few weeks ago, my former pastor, colleague, a friend, well known author and speaker, announced that he was no longer a Christian. We walked through some very difficult waters when we worked together, and they certainly affected him in a particularly hard way. We have not talked in depth for a few years now, but in posts that he has made it appears there is a high degree of disillusionment in God because the way he thought things should have gone.
God expresses his grace by not executing judgment immediately. We are all beneficiaries of that grace. And it is hard when someone does something wrong and is not punished. In grace God delays this. But God is just and will not overlook it forever. The wicked will not escape. You can get away with things now, but you won't forever.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,” (Mat 12:36 ESV)
There is judgment coming. This is the day that people get what they deserve. And the greatest sin is not stealing, or lying, or murder, but it is refusing to honor and serve God. It is rejecting a relationship with God. It is pushing him to the side. You don’t want life with God and so the judgment is getting that for eternity. That is where the path of the wicked leads to. The punishment fits the crime. You won’t be happy, forever. It is sobering, and this sober warning is intended to drive us back to the path of righteousness. Back to faith. Back to Christ. The end result is everyone is judged. The wicked perish. The righteous are delivered.
God’s blessing comes to us in Jesus. “In him we are blessed with every spiritual blessing” Eph 1:1
We receive this by turning from a path without God and turning to honoring him, discovering what he has done for us and delighting in Christ. Christ is our replenishing stream. He is the source of God’s blessing so we root ourselves into him, his ways, his commands.
True life and happiness is found in Jesus Christ. He is the one we are made for. He is the one that unlocks the gates of joy.
What does this psalm mean for you? It begs you to consider what you are living for. Are you seeking delight in the world or in God or have you rejected him and been left empty. No internal peace and simply trying to fill that void in your heart with pleasure. There is something better.
What path are you walking?
To the non-Christian. If you are new to Christianity this is why we hope in Christ. I want to encourage you to keep exploring what it means to follow him. Walk the path of getting to know more.
To the new Christian: If you have trusted in Christ recently one way you express that new commitment is through Baptism: this is a way to declare who you are following. It marks your life as devoted to God. It is a way to profess. It is one of the first steps that faith leads you to walk. It’s a big decision, and one you are called to do. It is a mark of a new commitment to Christ.
To the stagnant Christian: I also want to speak to those who are stagnant. Are you content with a sprinkle of God’s grace or are you really digging deep in him. Don’t be half hearted in your devotion to God. That is the most unhappy place.
Charles Spurgeon said the half committed Christian is the most miserable person on earth. He has just enough in the world to be miserable in the presence of God; he’s just enough into God to be miserable in the world.
You may be miserable and bored in church because you are not surrendering everything to God. The world and doubt has blocked your view, your joy, your devotion. Like the film on a window it needs cleansing, and that is done through repentance. You need to humble yourself and confess your sins, and return to the life he calls you to. Know there is so much more than what you currently have.
You have to make a choice. Who do you believe has the path to happiness? Who do you believe you will give an account to? In the church we believe life comes through Jesus and that he will reign over all things. If you have never trusted in him I want to invite you to trust in him, push aside other ways and follow him. Begin a time of exploring your faith with others.
- Why is it important to know what the blessed person does and does not do?
- Do you delight in God’s word? How do you grow in loving God?
- How does the end of the blessed and wicked contrast? Why should we keep this in mind?