Well, it is a joy to be with you once again. If you have your Bibles handy I invite you to turn with me now to Psalm 1, Psalm 1. And it’s also printed for you in the prayer bulletin. I’m very glad to be with you again. It’s my privilege to teach and open God’s Word for us tonight. We just sang that beautiful, metrical rendering of Psalm 1, one of my favorite hymns, “That Man is Blessed Who Fearing God,” and tonight as we study together, and think about what it has to say regarding the Christian life it is very fun, I think, and very benefiting to do so. So, before we read, and study Psalm 1 together, let’s ask for God’s help.
Heavenly Father, we ask now that You would open our eyes by the Holy Spirit so that we would be able to understand wonderful things from Your law, and that You would apply that truth to our hearts in very specific ways. Help us, O God. Give us ears and hearts that listen and learn what it is You have to say to us. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This is God’s Word to us from Psalm 1. Hear it.
“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.”
Amen. And we praise God, and bless Him that He has indeed spoken to us in His holy, inerrant, and inspired Word.
The Psalms: Model Prayers for the Christian Life
Well, if you were here at prayer meeting just a few weeks ago you will recall that Mr. Kevin Phipps preached to us from Psalm 67, and I thought he did a wonderful job that evening of showing us how that Psalm is a model for prayer. It shows us the heart of God in that Psalm, and the love He has for His people, how God will fulfill His covenant promises for His own people to Abraham, how He will display His saving power among the nations. And, in fact, one of the things he did when he examined that Psalm is he showed how it gives God’s people a model for prayer. It teaches what God loves, and what God desires, and it helps us to pray toward that end. Well, tonight, when we come to Psalm 1, and I want to approach it in much the same fashion. It teaches us what God loves and desires, and so it helps us to think God’s thoughts after Him, and helps us to pray toward that end.
When I was in college, one of my mentors was a music professor, a man by the name of Dr. Joshua Drake. And during my time there Dr. and Mrs. Drake had their very first son. His name was John. And I remember one afternoon, just simply walking across campus with Dr. Drake, one afternoon, a few days after his son had been born, and for no particular reason I started to whistle that hymn that we just sang, “That Man is Blest Who Fearing God,” and Dr. Drake told me, he said, “You know, Sean, that was the hymn I sang to my son in the very first hour of his life. That was my prayer for him and for his life. I hope that John, my son, becomes the kind of Christian man that is described in that Psalm.”
Well, friends, that’s exactly the kind of perspective that we can come away with, and I hope we can come away with, from Psalm 1 tonight. I think this is a beautiful passage for us to think about, especially here in the context of prayer meeting. And so, as we look at this passage, I want to do so under two simple headings. First, what does this Psalm teach us about the will of God for the Christian life, the life of the believer? What does this Psalm teach us about the pattern of the Christian life, about what God loves, about how we live as His blood-bought, covenant, redeemed people? And then, second, how does this Psalm serve as a model for prayer? When we see the will of God in this Psalm, how can it influence us in our prayer life? How can it serve as a model of our petitions unto our Heavenly Father? So, two points.
I. The Pattern of the Christian Life
First, then, what does this Psalm teach us about the will of God for His people, about the pattern of the Christian life? When we study the Psalms we realize that they are the Holy Spirit inspired reflections and convictions of the believer, and even more specifically we realize that many Psalms are asking, “Because I am already loved, and treasured, and adopted by God, and belong to Him by grace, through faith, how shall I now live? What is the good and righteous way that God has designed for His people?” Many of the Psalms are asking that question, and that is the perspective, here, we see in Psalm 1. Right away the Psalmist is reflecting on the concept of blessing, or delighting. Verse 1 begins, “Blessed is the man.” And do you notice how you’re drawn in right away? Do you want blessing in your life? Who doesn’t want blessing in their life? That Hebrew word there means, “Happy,” and it means it in the richest, most full, sense of the word—happiness—which is rooted in moral, and mental, and physical, and spiritual well-being.
The State of Blessedness
But now, who is this happy, this blessed person that the Psalmist is pontificating about? Well, apparently, he is the one who does not do something, as well as one who does something. The blessed person does not, “walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers.” Walk-stand-sit. You love how that Hebrew progression comes out there. But what does he do? We see the author setting up a nice little contrast here for us. Verse 2, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” So, instead of finding pleasures in the words, or the ways, or the fellowship of the wicked, the one who is truly blessed finds pleasure in meditating on the Law, the Torah, which is simply an Old Testament way of expressing the Word of God, or the full ways of God. So the point of verse 2, then, is to say that when you experience, when the believer experiences the Word of God like that—as so delightful and satisfying—that it actually captures your mind and your heart day and night, and it weans you away from the counsel, and the path, and the pattern of the world.
And, you know, isn’t it interesting, when we read this, what a difference of definition Scripture has when it comes to blessing versus how we tend to understand blessing, or how the world would rather define blessing for us. You see, part of what this Psalm does, and one of the reasons I think it is so useful and helpful, is how it redefines our categories. Because this state of blessing that he’s describing here does not always come in the midst of comfort. Sometimes it comes in the middle of hardship or heartache. So you step back and you think. Well, does this mean that you are not blessed? Does it mean that God is not good? Well, no. One of the beautiful things that Psalm 1 teaches us is that blessing is not simply a state of comfort. Isn’t that what the apostle Paul says in Romans 8—the blessing of union with Christ, and adoption by God, yet mixed with the sufferings of this present age? You can imagine this Psalmist here is facing something like that. The ridicule and the resistance of the wicked, which he more than hints at here in the text. His own friends and neighbors scorning him as he strives, with all of his might, to follow his God, to live a godly, righteous, sober life in the midst of a present and evil age. Friends and neighbors who think that he’s unstable or even dangerous for loving the Word of God and following His God. Sound familiar? Hold that thought because we’ll come back to it in just a moment.
But, you see, Scripture is very honest about these things: Pain, hardship, and sometimes unspeakable tragedy in the life of a believer. But his source of joy is not from those circumstances. For the believer there often is this strange mixture. That in the midst of hardship and heartache, and yet there is this holy happiness and satisfaction in God—that is the blessed man that we learn about here, and it is simply beautiful, isn’t it? Well, there’s something to pray about right there…for yourself, for each other, that we would be a people who would have a holy happiness and satisfaction in God in times both of pleasantness, and of devastation. We can pray, “O God, give us a satisfaction that is built upon the promises of God like this man, like this Psalmist is meditation upon here. Make our joy be not dependent on our circumstances, but may the source of all our joy be our God and our Savior, Who is steadfast and unassailable. O God, let us not be a people whose satisfaction is fickle or determined by circumstances.” There’s a prayer.
A Picture of Blessedness: Fruitfulness
But also, notice in verse 3, we have a couple of illustrations of that blessedness that he’s going on to describe here. What is it like to be that blessed man—the person who delights in the Word of God, who is consumed with it, who treats it like food and nourishment to His body? The first illustration we see is that such a person will be like, “A tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season.” Fruitful, the Psalmist says, the will of God for His children, and the pattern of the believer’s life is for His children to delight in His Word so that they’ll yield fruit in season—spiritually fruitful. There will be love, and joy, and peace, and goodness, and gentleness, grace, and Christlikeness running from them in abundance. That’s the effect that the Word of God has on the soul of a believer, and that’s what he’s reflecting and remarking upon here.
I love what John Piper says at this point of this passage. He says, “O for more fruitful people. You know them. They are refreshing and nourishing to be around. You go away from them fed. You go away strengthened. You go away with your taste for spiritual things awakened. Their mouth is a fountain of life. Their words are healing, and convicting, and encouraging, and deepening, and enlightening. This is the effect of delighting in the Word of God.” There’s something to pray about—that we might be spiritually fruitful and nourishing, in love with the things of God, loving holiness, showing grace, loving God’s law such that His Word never departs from our lips, meditating on it day and night as it says there in verse 2. There’s a prayer.
A Picture of Blessedness: Enduring
Well, then there’s a second picture. Not only that, fruitfulness, but a leaf that does not wither—something that is green, something that is durable. You can imagine the sort of geographical context the Psalmist is in: the climate of the Middle East, and the hot winds are blowing, and the rain is not falling, and all the other trees that are not planted by streams of water are withering and dying away. But in spite of all this heat and all this drought there is a leaf that remains green. And he’s talking about a believer, here, because delighting in God’s Word is like being planted by a stream. The happiness, the satisfaction of this person is durable. It is deep. It does not depend on which way the wind is blowing, or his constant changing circumstance. He gets his life, and his joy gets its life, from an absolutely changeless source—the Word of God—God in His Word.
And then, there, at the end of verse 3 he goes on, “And in whatever he does,” this fruitful, this enduring man, “he prospers,” spiritually, eternally. A treasure and a reward is laid up for him in heaven that is irrevocable no matter how much injustice he may be suffering in this earthly life. Indeed, Scripture reminds us that—not eternally, but temporally—sometimes the righteous suffer and wicked prosper. He talks about, “In all that he does he prospers,” but notice how the Psalm evaluates the temporal prosperity of the wicked, here.
Evaluating in Light of Eternity
Look at what he says in verses 4 and 5. He says, “The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” You see, when this Psalm ponders the value of being wicked, or delighting in the Word of God, it measures its final value by what happens at the great judgment. Oh yes, you look around, and the Psalmist was looking around, and he sees a great deal of evil, and dishonesty, and sleaziness, and cheating in the world. And, yes, there may be some prosperity in this life for the wicked, maybe even for a long, maybe even for their whole lives. And so it’s so easy for us to get tunnel vision, then, isn’t it? And it’s easy to completely forget any sense of eternal perspective, and we find ourselves getting envious and cynical don’t we? But thankfully here comes God’s Word,and it brings such a helpful correction to us, because in the end the Psalmist is meditating: the wicked will be swept away like chaff, but those who have delighted in the Word of God, even if wracked by hardship, their life will be a life whose labor is not in vain if we can borrow the words from the apostle Paul.
There’s an attitude and a perspective to pray for—for God’s Spirit to be at work in your heart, and in the heart of your fellow church-members—for this kind of perspective and vantage point on eternity that the Psalmist is reflecting on here—to say, “O Lord our God, cultivate in us that kind of attitude, that kind of demeanor, that kind of biblical perspective on eternity, that when the road is long, and the way is hard, and the faith isn’t popular, and following Jesus isn’t comfortable, and it seems to bring us nothing but worldly harm, and discomfort, and scorn, Lord keep eternity in view right in front of us. Fix our eyes on the Savior and on the promises of God in His Word.”
II. A Model for Prayer
In fact, that brings us, now, to the second point of our study. We’ve seen the will of God unfolded before us, the pattern of a believer’s life, attributes, if you will, that are condusive and fitting for the life of a saint. So, how does that move us to pray? How does this Psalm serve as a model of prayer? Because so many times we come to the Psalms, and as we’re reading them we’re thinking and we’re feeling along with the sort of experiences of a believer as he’s going through pilrimmage in this life. It was John Calvin who famously said, “In the Psalms we have the entire anatomy of the soul.” But not only can we think and feel along with the Psalms as they showcase the contours and the experiences of the Christian life for us, but also, we can get a sense of the devotional heart, and the devotional desires of the Savior, here, in these texts—the God who inspires these Psalms.
Praying the Psalms, the Prayers of the Savior
You see, as we plumb the depths of these prayers, these prayers in the Psalms, we can start to see the Savior’s will for the lives of His people. In fact, I love what one man writes about prayer and the Psalms. Let me read a little bit for you. He says, “If your prayer life seems worn, if you find yourself often praying for illnesses, thanking God for your dinner, or tacking on a quick little ‘Forgive us our sins’ at the end of your prayer, without any sort of specificity, if prayer seems to be the same generic repetition that it’s always been consider praying some of the prayers of Jesus, consider praying the Psalms. If you want to see a model for Jesus’ prayer life go to the Psalter. If you want to pray some of the prayers Jesus’ prayed go to the Psalter. If you want to see a model of Jesus’ prayer lives consider praying some of the prayers of Him, consider the Psalms. Here we can pray along with the Savior, this 5,000 year old prayer and hymn book that would have been studied, and prayed, and sung by the Lord Jesus some 2,000 years ago. And the prayers and the songs from His lips can be the same prayers and songs on our lips.” Here’s how he concludes, “Do you wonder how Jesus might have prayed for grace, and strength, and to resist temptation? Do you wonder how Jesus might have prayed for God’s people to grow up into maturity and godliness? Go to the Psalter.”
You see, friends, here in this Psalm we see not only the will of the Father, but we see the prayers of the Savior for His people. And whatever He prayed for Himself, and for God’s people, we can pray for ourselves, and for God’s people. And so we’ve already mentioned a few things that we might pray for. And you step back for a moment, and instinctively we say, “Well, sure, who wouldn’t want to model their prayer after Bible? I want to pray the truths of Scripture. I want those truths to be worked out in my life in real and tangible ways.” But I suspect that if we’re honest with ourselves we don’t always believe that they can be.
Delighting in the Law?
For instance, we might pause there at verse 2. “Delight,” he says, we wonder about this delight. The deepest mark of this happy, blessed person in Psalm 1 is that he delights in the Word of God. It’s not a burden to him, it’s a pleasure. That’s what we want. But the reality of it is that so often Bible reading, and prayer, and meditation are frankly just a drudgery. Something is wrong. We find them to be a drudgery because, frankly, we don’t find any pleasure in them. We have other things that we want to get to more: TV, or breakfast, or work, or the newspaper, or the computer. Take your pick. Fill in the blank. Our sinful hearts incline toward other things, and not to the Word, or the Lord of that Word. And so it is not a delight to us. Now, did the Psalmists ever struggle with this? You better believe it. Yes, they did. They admit it over and over again. It’s clear from the way they pray. You see it all over the Psalms. They know that things are not right in their heart, and there’s nothing that they can do. They need to obey, but they don’t want to obey. God’s law is my duty delight, and yet I sense, and I realize, and I admit that it’s not my delight. And regardless whether or not it’s my delight, it’s my duty to obey, and even then I don’t want to obey. I sidestep it. I avoid duty. I disobey. “The good that I would do I find that I do not, and the evil that I would not do, that I find that I do. O, wretched man that I am, who is able to save me from this body of death?”
Psalm 1: A Description of the Savior
You see, even as Psalm 1 teaches us what constitutes a righteous life, it forces us to look outside of ourselves, doesn’t it? And we read this, and as soon as we read this we realize, “This isn’t me. This righteousness that he’s talking about, this prospering righteousness in contrast to the wicked, this isn’t me. The only righteousness that I have in myself is as filthy rags.” But there is only One who has fully loved God’s law, and there is only One who has fully delights in God’s will, and the One who loves righteousness and holiness and obedience unto His Father. His name is Christ Jesus, Who, “became to us wisdom from God, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” Paul says.
You see, Psalm 1 not only convicts us of our failure, and forces us to flee to God for mercy, but on this side of Calvary, we see that the righteousness which God demands of us was fulfilled in Him, Christ, Who is our righteousness, so that the righteous demands that we see here in Psalm 1, that we don’t measure up to, we see it set before our eyes. The righteousness which God requires of you has been imputed to you, Christian, by your Savior. “For our sake, God made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God,” the apostle Paul revels in. So, even in Psalm 1, Christ is set before our eyes, and we are moved, once again, to cling to Him by faith. Now, let’s be quick, friends, not to rush past this point because it can seem so elementary, and because it can seem like we’re just kind of tagging Jesus on at the end here of this text, but let us not be quick to rush past this crucial point: make sure that you are clinging to Him, and pray for those who are not—that God would open their eyes, and that they would see their desperate need, and they would see the One who alone is sufficient for these things, that we would see the righteousness that God requires opened up to us in Psalm 1, and realize that there is One alone whose righteousness we need if we’re going to fit in the contours of this righteous way.
Psalm 1: A Description of the Christian
But, not only does Psalm 1 force us to look outside of ourselves to a Righteous Redeemer, but Psalm 1 also comes to us as a description of a believer. Over and over, this portrait of godliness is set forth for us in the Psalms, over and over again as you go through those 150 beautiful chapters. But at the same time, over and over, we see the Psalmists on their knees begging for God to come and help them, don’t we? To work in them these characteristics of righteousness and godliness, to continue conforming them after the character of God Himself. In their minds, in their emotions, we see them pleading with the words, with their actions, their temperament, their wishes, their will, their desires. We see them begging God’s help over and over, saying, “O Lord, would You make Your commands my delight?” We could even flip forward a few pages to the New Testament, and we see it in the Savior Himself. Such a model. And we see Jesus in dark Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood, begging for His Father’s strength and grace, “O how I am tempted, Father, yet ‘Not my will, but Thine be done,’” He prays. And so here we are. And Psalm 1 gives us this ideal disposition of a believer. And we read it, and how quickly we realize and remember our all too frequent failures, and failures to live up to this measure that’s set before us. And so it drives us to do what? It drives us to do the same exact thing that those Psalmists 3,000 years ago did: beg for God’s help. As believers, we have all the priviledges of the New Covenant. We beg for help from the Lord Jesus Who has poured out His Spirit upon His people, the Spirit who changes His people’s desires. Why? “In order to equip us with everything good that we may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight.”
Praying for the Lord’s Help to Live and Obey Psalm 1
And so, my friends, I wonder if that doesn’t give you something to add to your prayer list tonight for yourself, for your spouse or your children during family worship or at meal time, for your grandchildren, for—not just your own family—but for the covenant children of this congregation, for folks in this room, sitting in these seats right here with you, folks who are on the same weary road right along with you, Christian brothers and sisters who are tempted and tried and so often failing. I wonder if that doesn’t move us to pray for each other in that way, to say, “Lord our God, would you work that in our life? In those of us who are spiritually weary and despairing, would Your Spirit change our heart’s desires because they are not what we see before us? Would you equip us with everything good to do Your will? Would you work in us that which is pleasing in Your sight? That’s Your will for us, Lord! Work it in us, we beg You.” Because we see Psalm 1, and we see the life of the believer, and we realize, “What a lofty command God has given. But what a beautiful transformation God that God is working in His children. I want to pray for that. I want to pray for these things to be true in my life, and in your life. I want that way of blessing, and that way of God’s righteousness, to be my delight, and to be my obedience.” And God in His kindness has given this Psalm to convict us, to teach us, and to help us pray to that very end. We praise Him for it. Shall we pray together?
Heavenly Father, we do thank You for this Psalm. We pray, O God, that You would make us to be men and women who love righteousness and godliness, who take sheer delight in our Savior. So, Lord God, by Your Holy Spirit make this work of grace, and our sanctification, and growth, and Christlikeness, make it a reality that we may be presented mature in Christ. We pray for the righteous way of Psalm 1 to be true in each way of our lives. Work it in us, Lord God, by Your grace. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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