************ Sermon on Psalm 1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 19, 2009
"The Blessed Man"
GEMS, what do you need to be happy? Do you need certain clothes and shoes, a certain hair style, an invitation to a birthday party? Are you happy if you are popular? Are you happy if you get good grades at school? Are you happy if you have a cell phone, an IPhone, a Wii console with guitar hero? Are you happy if you can go to Disney Land? What do you need to be happy?
Psalm 1 talks about happiness and what is needed for happiness. It starts off with the word "blessed." That word "blessed" is so bland in the English language. The Hebrew word is much more descriptive, especially with its plural ending. A workable translation is "Oh, the happiness, many times over ..."
There are two words in the Hebrew language for "bless." The first word speaks of God's blessing. The second word, the word used by Psalm 1, speaks of what man does to bless himself, of how you can be a blessing to yourself and others.
So, what can you and I do to be a blessing? What can you and I do to be happy? What can you and I do to pursue happiness? Psalm 1 gives us two answers. First, we can choose friends carefully. Second, we can study God's law.
I Choose Friends Carefully
A The first thing we can do to be happy, to be blessed, is to choose friends carefully. Listen to what the psalmist says:
(Ps 1:1) Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.I want you to notice the two kinds of progression in this verse.
First, there is progression in the kind of persons mentioned. In the Hebrew, the wicked are those who actively seek evil. Theirs is a life filled with immorality like deceit, adultery, lies, cursing, anger, and drunkenness. These are people who break the second table of the Law. The Hebrew word translated as sinners could be better translated as "criminals" – those who commit crimes like theft, rape, and murder. These are people who are imprisoned or even executed for their crimes. The Hebrew word for mockers has in mind those who make fun of religion, who laugh at people when they pray, who have no use for God and His worship. These are people who break the first table of the Law.
Second, there is progression in how one associates with the wicked, the sinner, and the mocker. The blessed or happy man does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. Walk is a term that suggests passing by, something casual and meaningless. The blessed or happy man does not stand in the way of sinners. The Hebrew word for stand has the idea of actually mixing in, standing among, sinners. Can you see the progression here? The casual passerby slows down and now takes his stand with the sinner. The blessed or happy man also does not sit in the seat of mockers. This suggests something more permanent, an abiding, a settling down. You bless yourself, you pursue happiness, if you do not walk, stand, or sit with the wicked, the sinner, and the mocker.
The message of verse 1 is that the company we choose to keep can affect our happiness. The people we choose to hang around with, befriend, work with, or even marry can impact our happiness.
B Two examples spring to mind. The first is Lot, the nephew of Abraham. We see the downward progression of the friends and companions he chose to hang around with.
(Gen 13:11) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company ...In the light of Psalm 1, we would have to say that Lot chose to "walk in the counsel of the wicked." Then what happened?
(Gen 13:12-13) Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. (13) Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD. In the light of Psalm 1, we would now have to say that Lot chose "to stand in the way of sinners." Genesis 19 shows us where this ends up.
(Gen 19:1) The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. Notice, Lot no longer lived near Sodom. Now he lived in and with the wicked of Sodom. In the light of Psalm 1, we now have to say that Lot chose to "sit in the seat of mockers." It started off so innocent-like – merely choosing the well-watered plains for his flocks and herds. It ended up with Lot and his family being at one with the wicked of Sodom.
The second example is Samson. He chose to be friends with a heathen Philistine woman. Not content with that, he next wanted to marry her. Notice, he followed the same progression as Lot. Eventually, his friendship with her cost him his sight and his life. So many of our young people and adult singles think there is nothing wrong with dating unbelievers. Samson is the perfect example of what can so easily happen.
C I want to warn you, GEMS, about the kind of company that you keep. Those that you choose to hang around with, even casually, can so easily start you down the wrong path. You see, it is a fact of life that the environment we find ourselves in always has an effect on our life. So, take a hard look at your friends.
Let's look a few years down the road for you girls.
Let's say you have a problem with alcohol or drugs. You are not going to break free from this problem if you keep hanging around with others who drink too much or use drugs.
Let's say you are head over heels in debt because you want to keep up with your friends. When they get a new car, you get a new car. When they buy a computer, you buy a computer. When they redo their living room, you redo your living room. When they purchase a boat, you purchase a boat. When they take expensive trips or go for weekends to the hotel, you take expensive trips or go for weekends to the hotel.
Let's say your faith life and prayer life and church attendance are not what they should be. If you hang around with people who do not pray and do not go to church, people who make fun of God or never think about Him, your faith life and prayer life and church attendance cannot improve; in fact, they can only get worse.
Let's say you have a problem with bad language or pornography or telling dirty jokes and stories. If you are buddies with people who do the same sort of thing, you can only be dragged further and further down the sewer.
What is true of friendship in general, is especially true of romantic friendship. Someday, I dare say, all of your girls hope to date and get married. Words cannot describe the grief and misery that usually results when a Christian marries a non-Christian. While dating, the unbeliever is often willing to go to church. But things change right after the wedding. Then the unbeliever becomes angry if you ask them to go to church and accuse you of nagging. Then they become angry because you always seem to go to church. To keep them happy you stop attending the second service, no longer teach Sunday School, quit the choir, and no longer give any money to the church. You started your marriage with prayer and Bible reading at the supper table but pretty soon you find yourself praying and reading by yourself and then you find you rarely or never do it anymore. The children go to church with you when they are small, but as they get older they give you trouble and want to stay home with the other parent and you have nothing to say.
Quoting a well-known proverb, the Apostle Paul tells us that "Bad company corrupts good character" (1 cor 15:33). Bad friends result in anything other than blessing and happiness.
D So, what kind of friends should we pick so we are blessed and happy? You need friends who are not materialistic, friends who accept you for who you are rather than for what you have. You need friends who love the Lord Jesus and read the Bible and faithfully attend worship services. You need friends who don't get drunk and use drugs. You need friends who don't use bad language, people who talk respectfully about the opposite sex, people who never use pornography. You need friends who are a good influence on you, and not a bad influence.
What kind of friends should we pick? Let's rephrase verse 1 into something positive rather than something negative.
Blessed, happy many many times over, are the GEMS who walk in the counsel of the holy, who stand in the way of the righteous, who sit in the seat of worshipers.These are the friends we should have: people who fear the Lord and obey His commands, people who love Jesus.
Or, let me quote from Psalm 119:
(Ps 119:63) I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts.
So, pick the right kinds of friends, people who help you in your walk with God, and you are in pursuit of happiness and blessedness.
Of course, your number one friend should be the Lord Jesus Christ. Talk with Him every day. Listen to Him every day. He, above all others, helps you in your walk with God. He is your example. He is your Shepherd. He is your Savior and Lord. When you follow Him, you will never be led astray. You bless yourself and pursue happiness when Jesus, by grace, is your friend.
II Study God's Law
A The second thing we can do to be happy, to be blessed, is to study God's law. Listen to what the psalmist says:
(Ps 1:2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
The happy or blessed person is someone who delights in the law of the Lord. The law is not to be understood as only the Ten Commandments; nor is the law just those rules and regulations given by God to control all aspects of Israelite society and religion. Rather, the law refers to God's Word in its entirety; in other words, the Bible. The happy or blessed man is he who delights in God's Word. He does not look at the Word as something that must be read, but as something that he wants to read. He takes pleasure in the Word. He desires to read the Word. The Word of God is a joy to him. This person is happy when he can spend time with the Word of the Lord.
How many Bibles do you have in your home? Five, six, maybe even more? There are Bibles in our pews and meeting rooms. Isn't it fair to say that we are surrounded by Bibles. But do we delight in the Word of God?
In countries like Russia, Myanmar, China, and Eritrea, there is a real shortage of Bibles. In spite of the opening of borders and the best efforts of organizations like The Bible League, it is estimated that less than 20% of all Russian believers have access to a Bible. Those believers who have a Bible, can you imagine how they treat it? They treat it like a treasure. They reverently turn its pages. They delight in having the Word and in reading the Word.
The happy or blessed person not only delights in the Word but he also meditates upon it day and night. To meditate on Scripture is not just to read your Bible and put it away. Rather, you study your Bible, search through it, and memorize texts.
I think here of Jerome. He was born around A.D. 345, and died 75 years later. In a Bethlehem monastery he spent 34 years in seclusion. What did he do? He studied Scripture full-time. I think also of the monastery of Cluny. In Cluny the emphasis fell on the study of and meditation on Scripture: during the summer, 3 hours of every day were devoted to this; during the winter, 10 hours of every day were spent on this.
I know that none of us can be like Jerome or the monks of Cluny. After all, we have jobs, school, children, and other day-to-day responsibilities. Yet, the blessed or happy person is he who delights in and meditates upon the Word.
Are you blessed, are you happy? Do you delight in and meditate upon Scripture? Do you spend time with the Word?
B Why is it so important to read and study the Word, to delight in it and meditate upon it? The psalmist tells us in verse 3:
(Ps 1:3) He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. The blessed or happy person who reads and studies the Word is like that tree. He draws nourishment unto life everlasting from the Word. His faith never withers and dries and falls away. He produces plentiful fruit – the fruit of repentance and obedience; the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The blessed or happy person who delights in and meditates upon the Word becomes mature in the faith, and more and more like Christ (cf Eph 4:13-15). Then, as Paul puts it,
(Eph 4:13) ... we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
C The psalmist tells us that for happiness, true happiness, we must go to the Word. In his Gospel, John tells us that "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (Jn 1:14). So, in the final analysis, to be happy we must go to the Word become flesh, even Jesus Christ. Only in Christ are we like that tree planted by the water. Remember the words of Jesus,
(Jn 6:35) "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."
GEMS, do you pursue happiness? Are you blessed? Psalm 1 tells you what to do. First, you must choose friends carefully. Second, you must study God's law. Because both help us in our walk with God and Christ.
Notice what it comes down to? Happiness has to do with the Lord. If you have a relationship with the Lord, then you have what it takes to be happy.
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