************ Sermon on Psalm 1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 26, 2003
Years ago a small northern Pennsylvania community constructed a city hall and fire station. All the citizens were so proud of their new red brick structure--a long-awaited dream come true. Not too many weeks after moving in, however, strange things began to happen. Several doors failed to shut completely and a few windows wouldn't slide open very easily. As time passed, ominous cracks began to appear in the walls. Within a few months, the front door couldn't be locked since the foundation had shifted, and the roof began to leak. By and by, the little building that once was the source of great civic pride had to be condemned. An intense investigation revealed that deep mining blasts several miles away caused underground shock waves which weakened the supporting earth beneath the building foundation, resulting in its destruction.
So it is with compromise in a life or in a church. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, one rationalization leads to another. This triggers a series of damaging alterations in a life or in a church that was once stable, strong, and reliable.
I No Compromise
Compromise is the concern of the psalmist as he composes his first song. He encourages us to resist even the slightest temptation to compromise. His message to us: no compromise.
No compromise. I'm not talking here of those give-and-take times so necessary for husbands and wives, or brothers and sisters, to live in harmony with one another. Without that healthy kind of compromise none of us would ever have the freedom to be different, our own unique person, with our own gifts and abilities and talents to apply in a way and place of God's own choosing. Also, without that same kind of compromise, nations could never find a meeting ground for peaceful coexistence.
No compromise. I'm thinking of compromise with wrong, of allowing the slow-moving tentacles of evil to wrap themselves around us, squeezing the joys and rewards of obedience from our lives. It happens so silently, so subtly, we hardly realize it's taking place. Like an enormous oak that has decayed for years from within then suddenly falls, those who compromise with evil, those who compromise their principles, can expect an ultimate collapse.
Written between the lines of the psalm in front of us is evidence of the age-old battle in which all of us are engaged: compromise – the erosion of our good intentions and our godliness.
II Happiness is No Compromise
A In the first three verses the psalmist describes the happy person. This is the person who chooses to live a righteous life, who consciously resists the compromises that erodes one's commitment to a godly life. The psalmist begins in verse 1 by illustrating with three negatives the importance of allowing absolutely no compromise with evil, lest the evil become a habit of life. Listen to the words of this verse:
(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.
That word blessed is somewhat bland in our English language. The Hebrew term is much more descriptive, especially with its plural ending. A workable translation would be, "Oh, the happiness, many times over ..."
There are two verbs in Hebrew meaning "to bless." One is b rak and the other is ' shar. Psalm 1 uses ' shar. What's the difference? B rak is always used of God or by God; it is something God does or is; it is God Who b raks man or is Himself pronounced b rak by man; it is a benediction, an act of grace. On the other hand, ' shar is always used of and for man; the man who is said to be ' shar has done something to deserve the word being applied to him; it is a word expressing envious desire, a kind of congratulation for doing something wholesome or positive.
B What is it that a man or woman can do that causes such an abundance of happiness? In different psalms we are given different answers: very happy is the person who trusts in God (Ps 2:12), who obeys God's Word (Ps 119:1), who helps the poor (Ps 41:1). Our psalmist takes the negative approach. "Very happy," he says, "Much happiness," he says, "to the person who does not ..." The psalmist tells us that the happiest of people, the ones who are the envy of their friends and neighbors, are those who don't compromise convictions or with evil.
III Friends/Companions and Compromise
A How does this compromise come about? How does Satan get God's children to compromise convictions and with evil? The message of verse 1 is that it is the company we choose to keep that can slow down or even stop our righteous intentions. The people we hang around with, befriend, work with, or even marry can erode our righteous intentions and erase our righteous behavior. Notice the increasing progression that takes place in verse 1 as well as the arrangement of the material into 3 different categories:
walk ... counsel ... wickedIt is clear to see that the psalmist has spiritual erosion in mind. The three groups of word pictures shows a life on a downward spiral of an increasing spiritual erosion because of the kind of company that we choose to keep.
stand ... way ... sinners
sit ... seat ... mockers
Walk is a term that suggests passing by or "a casual movement along the way." The Hebrew word for stand has the idea of coming and taking one's stand. Can you see the progression here? The casual passerby slows down and now takes his stand with the sinner. The next word is sit. This suggests something more permanent, an abiding, a settling down.
Compromise starts off by only flirting with evil. Then it progresses to actually engaging in evil. Finally, it becomes your mindset.
Let me ask you, congregation, about the kind of company that you keep? Does your company start you on the downward spiral of compromise – compromise of principals, compromise with evil?! In our culture there are two main places of fellowship: the church and the bar. If you seek fellowship in the bar, let me tell you, you are on the downward spiral that can only end with you sitting in the seat of mockers, of those who make fun of God and the things of God and faith in Jesus Christ.
B Two examples spring to mind. The first is Lot, the nephew of Abraham. We see the downward progression of compromise with evil in his life.
(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.
I want to warn you again, congregation, 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 path of compromise. You see, it is a fact of life that the environment we or our children find ourselves in always has an effect on our life. Surround yourself with people who curse or blaspheme and it becomes ever so easy for you to use the same language. Surround yourself with friends who live for money or pleasure and it is only natural for you to pursue the same things. Surround yourself with friends who use drugs, abuse alcohol, and spend their time in parties and you too easily find yourself doing the same thing.
Or, think of Samson. Starting him down the road of compromise was looking at and talking with a heathen Philistine woman. Not content with that, he next wanted to marry her. Eventually, his compromise 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.
It never works, congregation, to make even the smallest beginning in compromise with evil. Very few of us have the courage and the strength to resist; very few of us have the courage and the strength to avoid being sucked down and under. To have happiness, true happiness, many times over, we must be careful in our relationships with the unbelieving, the ungodly, the wicked, the mockers so that they don't start us down the road of compromise.
IV Compromise and the Law
A If verse 1 tells us what not to do to avoid compromise, verse 2 tells what to do to avoid compromise:
(Ps 1:2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Why is the Law mentioned here? Because in order to avoid compromise with sin and evil we need an absolute standard, a crystal clear direction, to guide us and lead us. Only the Word of God can give us this. I think here of what another psalmist says:
(Ps 119:9) How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word ... I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. This is the Law, the Word, that points to Jesus Christ and is fulfilled in Him. To avoid compromise we must know and study and meditate upon this Word and Law of God. It is the only standard that can keep us from the slippery slope of compromise.
Those who want to avoid a life of compromise, those who want to lead happy and fulfilled lives, delight in the Word of God.
B Many people think the Law of God takes the fun out of life. Not so!
It is like the instruction manual for new drivers. Those who want a driver's license have to know the manual forward and backward. The purpose is not to take the fun out of driving. Rather, the purpose is to make them good and safe drivers.In the same way, the Word of God, the Law of God, the Ten Commandments were not given to make life dull and boring. They were given for our own protection, to keep us from sliding down the slippery slope of compromise. The psalmist doesn't look upon the Word as irksome, a burden, an interruption to fun. Rather, very happy is the person who meditates upon the Law.
Do you meditate upon the Word of God? Do you spend time with it everyday? If you don't, you are probably sliding down the slope to hell's destruction.
V Well-Planted Trees
No compromise. Verse 1 tells us what to avoid. Verse 2 tells us what to do. And, verse 3 tells us the end result:
(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.
When we avoid the wrong kind of company and meditate upon the Law of God, then we become treelike. First, we are planted – fortified, stable, rooted, solid, and strong. Second, we are fruitful – production naturally follows being planted and growing. Third, we are unwithered – even during days of difficulty, the treelike soul is confident. Fourth, we are prosperous – we fulfill the goals God has designed for our life.
When we avoid the wrong kind of company and meditate upon the Law of God, then we will remain true to our faith, uncompromising in our convictions, and faithful in our zeal for righteousness.
During the Korean War, a group of believers were in a little chapel when communist soldiers barged in with machine guns. One of the soldiers said, "All right everybody, get up!" So they got off their knees. He said, "Line up against the wall!" They did what the soldier said to do. Then that soldier ripped the picture of Christ off the wall and threw it down on the floor. He said, "All right, one by one, I want you to come by here, spit on this picture, and curse His name."
The first three in line were men of the church, they did what the soldier said to do. They spit on the picture and they cursed the name of Christ. The fourth one in line was a high school girl. She came up before the picture and she dropped to her knees. She wiped the spittle off with her skirt, and she said, "Go ahead and kill me. I cannot curse His name."
The soldier said, "Get up!" They blindfolded that girl and the three men, and marched them out behind the chapel. The people inside heard three shots. The soldiers came back in with the girl -- alive.
The soldier said, "Anyone who gives up what they believe that easily is not fit to be a communist." And they marched out.
-- Ron Blue, Moody Founder's Week, 1985.
Let me encourage you today, like that Korean girl, not to compromise with evil or on principles. Let me encourage you today to have the right kind of friends; to take great delight in God's Word; and you will then grow into a stable, reliable, "spiritual tree."
If you follow these guidelines then you will be pronounced blessed, happy, many times over.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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