Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Truly Blessed: A Sermon preached at the Midweek Morning Prayer in St Elizabeth's Dundonald on Wednesday 17th September 2008. Psalm 1

In what circles do you move? Where do you spend your time, and who do you listen to? Our Psalm this morning suggests that such things can be a help or a hindrance to our spiritual life.

The opening words of our Psalm, therefore, provide us with some idea of how to be blessed. Now, ladies, don’t worry, blessing is not only open to the men folk, because that phrase ‘blessed is the man’ also applies to women – blessed is the one…

First, we see what the blessed one does not do, then we see what they do. ‘Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, not sits in the seat of scoffers.’ Do you see this downward spiral – how easy it would be to fall into this trap. It begins with walking in the counsel of the wicked – listening to advice from the wicked, walking with them and letting them chart our course.

Then from walking with them, we stand with them. Standing in the way of sinners. Then finally sitting – sitting in the seat of scoffers. Boasting about what we have done, delighting in our sin. The circle we move in can be a vicious cycle, leading us deeper into sin.

On the contrary, the blessed one doesn’t do these things. Instead, we see where they get their counsel from – the law of the LORD. Rather than spending time delighting in evil, ‘his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.’ How often do we spend time listening to the LORD in his word?

Verse 3 presents us with an awesome picture of the one whose delight is in the word of the Lord. Each phrase adds more and more to the word picture – a picture of stability, of rootedness, of refreshment, of productivity, of prosperity.

I must confess that I’m not much of a gardener. A few years ago, I bought a couple of cactus plants at a church sale. It would be easy to care for them – after all, if a cactus could survive in the desert, then it could survive in my room. But there was one thing I forgot. The cactus can only survive in the desert because its roots go down deep to find water. Without water, the cactus would die. And that’s what happened with mine. No growth, no flowers, just withering.

The tree in the Psalm flourishes with fruit in season and leaves that don’t wither because it is planted beside the streams of water. Just as the trees need water, so we need to be nourished and sustained in our spiritual lives. The man in the Psalm is like the tree because the water comes by feeding on the word, by meditating on the Scriptures. Are you well watered?

Again, in verse 4 we see the contrast. The righteous one is strong, prosperous, rooted, but the wicked is like chaff that the wind drives away. The image is of the threshing at harvest time. The wheat is thrown into the air, and the useless chaff, the straw is blown off, while the good seed (which is heavier) falls to the ground, to be stored up.

Earlier we saw how the righteous one didn’t mix in the wrong circles for advice. Now, in verse 5, we see that the wicked will not be able to mix in other circles. ‘Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.’ Time is marching on, towards the great Day of the Lord, when the final judgement will occur. The Lord is calling a people for himself – which he began with Abraham. We also became part of the people of God when we trusted in Christ. The Book Revelation shows us what it will be like in the new Jerusalem: ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside the city are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.’ (Rev 22:14-15) Separation and exclusion from the congregation of the righteous. That’s what verse 6 says as well. The two ways open to us are not the same. One leads to life, one leads to death.

We all begin on the path marked for destruction. We all deserve death because of our sins. Yet this is the good news of the gospel, that we can be saved, rescued, turned around, and transferred to the path of life – not because of ourselves, but because of what Jesus has done for us.

Two pathways; which are you on today? ‘The LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

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