Delivered 17 February 2018.
If anyone asks me which book of the Bible they should read first, I respond, “Start with the Psalms.” The Psalms cover every possible human condition, from sorrow to celebration. The Psalms also tells us that regardless of what we face — fear, loss, success, elation, depression, even death itself — God cares about His people, loving us regardless of what life hurls at us and how we respond to it.
You have to admit that Psalm 1 make for a great beginning to one of the greatest books in history. If you want any hope of making it through this life, you’ll need wisdom, and Psalm 1 tells us the benefits of godly wisdom. Psalm 1 not only tells us of the delights of godly living; it points us to the One who can take through life — and death itself — into eternal delight in the presence of our loving God and Father.
The author began his psalm with a word we all want to hear. “Blessed.” Hebrew has 2 words for “blessed” or “blessing.” This word refers to happiness in life. If we want happiness in life, we must live as God expects.
The psalmist wrote, “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.” You’ll notice the psalmist covers 3 types of people, all of whom bring trouble to life.
First, we have the wicked. The term “wicked” refers to those willing to do anything to further themselves. They’ll oppress the poor, accuse the innocent, bribe the judges, even resort to murder if necessary to achieve their own desires. The term “walk” tells us this has become their lifestyle. The wicked have lived in selfishness and pride for so long they no longer feel any guilt in anything they do.
Then, you have the “sinners.” The word used here refers to people who know God’s expectations but somehow miss the mark. While everyone misses the mark at some point in life — after all, no one is perfect — these people do so habitually. They’re not willing to exert themselves to live as God requires.
Lastly, we have the “scoffers.” These people hear the words of God, but in their pride they mock the commandments and those who follow them. Unfortunately, no one can tell them anything because they’re certain they know more than anyone else. No one can convince them of their errors because they refuse to accept instruction.
The person who avoids these people will do well because “his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The law of the Lord will lead the godly away from the ones who refuse to listen to God. Those who “delight,” or take pleasure, in the law of the Lord will avoid many of the troubles faced by the folks listed in verse 1. Those who truly delight in the law of the Lord will keep that law in their minds “day and night.” They will face every situation with the law of the Lord in their minds; they will constantly desire to please God by keeping the law of life.
People who delight in God’s law become “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season.” We’ve all seen trees that grow in areas of reliable water sources. Even in the middle of the worst drought, a tree with a constant supply of water will live. “Its leaf does not wither,” the psalmist said. The person who delights in God’s law will “prosper” “in all that he does.”
The wicked, on the other hand, “are like chaff that the wind drives away.” The wicked disappear when life overwhelms them because they have nothing permanent to sustain them. The words of an eternal God bring them no comfort because those words convict them. Hard times may reveal the error of their ways to the wicked, but in their pride they will refuse to repent and live rightly.
“Therefore,” the psalmist wrote, “the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” When judgement comes, the wicked will have no one to stand for them; they will have no advocate to defend them.
On the other hand, “the LORD knows the way of the righteous,” those who have followed His law and whose rightly-lived lives have demonstrated God’s faithfulness, love, and goodness. “The way of the wicked will perish” in the end while the righteous will live eternally.
When I read this psalm — which I do regularly — I’m reminded of many lessons in life.
First, I’ve lived long enough to know what happens to people who choose the wrong friends. I’ve seen people who decided to hang out with the wicked, sinners, and scoffers, and trust me, it never ends well. As the old saying goes, “bad habits corrupt good manners.” I’m not saying we should separate ourselves from everyone. Rather, I’m saying we must choose good friends and spend our time investing in each others’ lives so that even the wicked, sinners, and scoffers will see the benefits of right living in us.
I’ve also seen the benefits of living by the law of the Lord. I’m not talking about the Mosaic Law, even though I believe everyone should seek to live by the 10 Commandments. I think everyone should know the 10 Commandments (especially those folks with the bumper stickers supporting them). I’m talking about the laws given to us by Jesus. When asked about the greatest commandments, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:38-39). Those 2 commandments summarize the Law. Those 2 commandments will free us to do whatever necessary to demonstrate the love of God for everyone He put in our paths. Believe me, God will put people in our paths. He’ll put righteous people in our paths, and He’ll put unrighteous people in our paths. We must live rightly before God in front of the unrighteous, and we must actively support the righteous and strengthen their faith through our common love.
There’s something else about living rightly and delighting in God’s law. Don’t ever think this passage’s promise of prospering means we’re exempt from trials in life. Even the most well-watered, most deeply-rooted trees suffer. Storms buffet them; fires threaten them; droughts weaken them. However, they stand strong because of their deep, well-watered roots.
Christian, we must deeply root ourselves in God’s word. We cannot delight in what we do not know. This gives me an opportunity to encourage you to join us in Sunday school for Bible study. This gives me an opportunity to encourage you to read Scripture daily. Start with the Psalms. Let me know when you finish the Psalms, and I’ll happily direct you to another book of Scripture.
Lastly, we cannot help but see the greatest example of one who delighted in the law of the Lord in Jesus, Our Lord. When confronted with evil, Jesus quoted Scripture. When confronted with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, Jesus quoted Scripture. When confronting the corruption in the Temple, Jesus quoted Scripture. When He showed mercy to the poor and needy, Jesus quoted Scripture. When He hung on the cross, dying for our sins, Jesus quoted Scripture. Jesus truly meditated on the law of the Lord so He could live its truths.
Do you need more proof? Turn to Luke 24, where, when walking with the disciples to Emmaus after His resurrection, Jesus, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets… interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). The law of the Lord takes us to Jesus Himself.
The law of the Lord convicts us of our sin and points us to the need for a Savior. The law of the Lord reveals our inability to live rightly before God and points us to the cross, where Jesus died to atone for our sins. The law of the Lord joyfully — delightfully — tells us that confessing Jesus as Lord and believing in His resurrection assures us of eternal life (Romans 10:9-10). The law of the Lord tells us that God adopts us into His family and gives us the right to address Him as “Father” (Romans 8:15). The law of the Lord tells us that, at our judgment, we will stand “justified” (Romans 5:1) before our Judge, who will declare us innocent. The law of the Lord tells is we will not stand alone in the judgment, but that Jesus even now serves as our advocate (1 John 2:1-2).
People of God, delight in this glorious law, the law that saves us and assures us of eternal life. People of God, delight in our Savior, who in love draws us to Himself and teaches us who to live rightly. People of God, delight in life as lived in this law, so that even the wicked will see the love of God in you and repent. People of God, delight in your Father’s love, now and eternally.