Sermon February 2, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1430

February 2, 2020 Psalm 1.1-6

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“God’s Delightful Word”

 

1Blessed 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; 2but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3He 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. 4The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

 

  • Blessed Happiness

 

I find it fascinating that the first Psalm in the collection begins with happiness over things you should not do. Blessed or happy is the man or woman who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers. It is sort of like a beatitude that is turned upside down. Instead of blessing for something like pure in heart or peacemaker, positive situations, we have a blessing for what not to do. Don’t hang out with the wicked, sinners, or scoffers. We don’t use the term scoffers; it is to show contempt, scornful, and I think of it as the attitude we see a lot today of people who think of themselves as above all others.

But the Psalm does move quickly to the positive side of blessing. Don’t do this, but do this instead, and that is to delight in the law of God. That is to delight in God’s Word. This is where happiness and joy and gladness and life can be found. To delight is to desire and desire that which is pleasing. The Hebrew comes from the root meaning to incline, to be pleased with. I think this makes sense as we are inclined toward those things that are pleasing, unless we have some warped sense of human desire. We are inclined toward the things that bring us pleasure. I have yet to hear anyone exclaim, “I love having root canal!”

Psalm 1 has clear-cut distinctions for us. Do not follow the ways of wickedness, sinfulness, or scoffing, instead, the happy person delights in the word of God. Happy if you do that, sad if you do not. The distinction is made between the righteous and the wicked, the innocent and the guilty, the obedient and the disobedient.

Happiness in Psalm 1 is about obedience, joyful obedience to what God has laid out for a blessed life. Some have noted that the entire collection of Psalms is arranged to show that obedience to the word of God leads us to praise of God. Psalm 1 is the beginning obedient delight in the Law and Psalm 150 culminates that obedient life in the praise of God. Between Psalm 1 and Psalm 150 is the life of faith. The Psalms represent the journey of life that includes joy and sorrow, praise and lament, blessing and curse, victory and defeat, that is, all the dimensions of our existence.

The journey for the Psalms begins with the Word of God and in that Word we delight.

 

  • Delight in the Word

     

I think Psalm 1 expresses the kind of delight that evokes a “can’t wait” attitude. You know how it is when we cannot wait to be with someone. You know how it feels within to anticipate your favorite activity. “I can’t wait to get to the game.” “I can’t wait to be with her.” What about, “I can’t wait to meditate on the word of God”? Or we come out of an occasion that was delightful to experience. We may not use that particular term, delight, but we might say it was fun, exciting, fulfilling, or wonderful.

Imagine the Lord’s delight in us if that were our attitude coming into God’s Word! “Oh Lord, I delight in Your Word!” Can’t wait to have the next opportunity to enter in. Love it. Desire it. Crave it. This is something that God inserts into our lives and into our spirit. It is something that we can pray for if we do not have that sense of desire and yearning. And this delight is, I believe, as great as we can find in anything else, perhaps greater, because the word connects us to God and meditating on the word strengthens our faith.

John Piper notes that there is a change from the physical outward movement in verse 1, walking, standing, and sitting, to the inward movement of devotion, delighting in the Word. This inward movement will then change your outward behavior of walking and standing and sitting. You will walk with the good, stand with the righteous, and sit with the gracious. Joy in the Word is alternative to sin. Delighting in God’s Word keeps us from the temptations of this world and from the sin in which God does not delight. This is our goal, to please God, to glorify God, to enjoy God, and that delight is centered in this Holy Sacred Scripture.

 

  • Meditate on the Word

 

After delight comes meditation. Imagine for a moment if we took Psalm 1 as our prayer for this week. Make prayer a form of meditation and do so day and night.

 

(Printed prayer card) O God, pour out Your blessing and keep us from walking in the counsel of the wicked, or standing in the way of sinners, or sitting in the seat of scoffers. Make our delight in Your Word and our meditation constant, day and night. May we become like trees planted by streams of water that yield fruit in season and produce beautiful leaves that do not wither. May all that we do become prosperous. We know wickedness will be blow away like dust. We know that the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for You O Lord know the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. We pray in Jesus name. Amen. (Psalm 1)

 

What if we were to pray Psalm 1 day and night? If we prayed this Psalm long enough it’s truth might lead us to great delight! What if we dared to pray Psalm 1 for 10, 20, or 30 days? Too often we are distracted by other things of the world. In the midst of our distracted lives, we remember this morning for a few minutes a word about a blessed life and that the wicked will perish. We recall for a few moments during this hour of worship a gospel truth that God’s Word is where real life begins and ends. We imagine the opportunity before us of complete and utter obedience that is blessed and joyful. I long for such a life, especially in our time when the world seems to be falling apart and threats abound for the church and the nation. Let’s make our meditation a prayer of Psalm 1.

 

  • Results when in the Word

 

The happy person delights in God's law and meditates on that law day and night. Sounds like a tall order when we think about it. Meditation day and night on God's word? Meditation is about thinking, reflecting, focusing, pondering, and as I invite us, praying. I remember when I first started studying the scriptures I used to write down a Bible text and maybe a thought about that text, on a 3x5 card. I would carry that card around for the day and 3, 4, 5 times a day pop it out to read it and think about it few a few minutes. The text was with me all day and into the night. This is such a simple example and practice to bring about the delight of Psalm 1. Take this prayer with you throughout this week and do this discipline of daily and nightly prayer of the Psalm.

The promise is that one who meditated on the word is like a tree planted by streams of water. Sturdy, strong, flexible, grounded. A righteous person looks like a tree that stands strong and tall on the banks of the river, absorbing all the rich minerals and water, soaking up the sun and nutrients that bring it a healthy existence.

The results are clear: meditate on God’s Word and you become like a tree with plenty of nourishment, if not, you become like the chaff that disappears with the wind. No ambiguity, no obscure decisions, the terms are set forth by the word with clear designations. This is the kind of prayer we usually teach our children. We want them to live with the understanding that God gives us choices and that those choices have consequences. To live by faith is to be obedient to God’s word – to live any other way means being blown away like dust in the wind.

Psalm 1 is both prayer and confession of faith. It is a declaration of assurance in the form of prayer, confidant that obedience to God’s word will bring blessing. It teaches us to pray for a life that looks like a tree planted by the waters – stable, flourishing, and healthy. This is a powerful speech - a powerful prayer because in praying this we trust that life is truly this way. Such a prayerful obedience in our lives will bring happiness, joy, and prosperity. We are not praying fantasy, but we are imagining new possibilities for our future that are made possible because of God and obedience to God’s Word. When we get down to the meat of this Psalm we see that the prayer offers two options for life: that the righteous prosper and the wicked perish. It is a prayer that does not often square with our observations about life. Such order seems far removed from our perceived reality. But the power of prayer is to imagine a new reality, to evoke a new perspective, to challenge the perceived reality where the wicked prosper and the righteous perish.

When life does not appear the way Psalm 1 asserts, the obedient Christian prays this prayer in order to re-imagine life as God intended. In the face of injustice and chaos, we prayer for God’s proper order. When we have been obedient to God’s word, we pray for God’s blessings to come upon us. Psalm 1 asserts and imagines life in a properly ordered fashion and therefore evokes in us a life directed toward passionate, joyful, delightful obedience.

 

  • Results when out of the Word

 

The Psalm tells us about the other option. It reminds me of a battery operated toy like a character that rolls across the floor beating a drum – the Eveready bunny we’ve seen on TV commercials. But as with every toy that runs on batteries, the batteries started to lose power and fade, much to the delight of the parents. The bunny is walking along fine and suddenly stops, still beating the drum at a slower, softer pace, until finally there was no walking, no beating, just the sound of the little motor trying to eek out one more bang.

I see the way of the wicked as that of a battery operated toy. They can walk for a while, they can make a lot of noise, until the energy runs dry, but they can still stand with sinners, until finally all they can do is sit in a chair and scoff! This is what one avoids in order to be happy. One does not walk, stand, or sit with evil.

We can pretty much identify those who walk in evil's counsel – they run around abusing others or vandalizing and such, they stand allied with wrongdoing, hanging out on the street corner waiting for trouble to come their way, but I am fascinated by this seat of mockers or scoffers as some translations render it. Scoffers don’t do much of anything. They just sit there as scoff at the world around them. Nothing pleases them, everyone else is a target of ridicule, it’s always someone else's fault, the scoffer just sits like a public menace. These days I see scoffers as those who claim everyone else is doing wrong when the only one doing wrong is the scoffer himself.

Psalm 1 says that righteous people, people who want to be blessed or happy do not act this way. Do not walk, stand, or sit with evil ones.

 

  • God’s Delightful Word

 

Israel and the church have considered the Psalms central to the concern and practice of prayer. We have perhaps neglected this rich resource in our prayer lives for various reasons. We feel that we do not always understand the Psalms. We shy away from some of the language of the Psalms. Whatever the reason, the Psalms, with a few exceptions, are dismissed in our life of prayer. But, the Psalms can be a teaching word to us for the act of prayer. The Psalms teach us to pray. In this I think the delight we can take in the Psalms and in all of God’s Word is that the Word itself is delightful.

Everything we need for life and for salvation and delight is in the delightful Word of God. The joyful life is an obedient life centered on the Word of God. The word becomes our delight precisely because it is delightful.

We trust this Psalm and pray this Psalm because in this prayer is the promise that the Lord watches over the righteous. The righteous are those who trust in God’s word and delight in God’s law. We are taught the way of God, the way of the righteous, and the futility of the wicked. We are taught to follow God’s way and no other. We can only do that with deep conviction in prayer and mediation. We can only do that in persistent assertion of the truth of Psalm 1. Ask, seek, and knock fully confident that the righteous will prosper and the wicked will indeed perish.

The Word is delightful because it reveals the truth. We delight in the truth as we have delighted in the Gospel of the One who is the Way and the Truth and the Life. We delight in Jesus because of what He has done for us through His life, death, and resurrection. This is our delight, that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1.1,14). This is the delightful Word of Truth, from Psalm 1, John 1, from all of the Bible. Delight in the Good News today, for it is truly delightful. Amen.

 

 

 

 
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