Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 5, 2015
Open Your Bibles to Psalm 1. Today we begin our journey through the book of Psalms. We will be working our way through it for the next three months with periodic Sunday’s where I will step away and cover a specific topic. What I have decided to do is to preach the Psalms as they come. So today will be Psalm 1, next week Psalm 2, and so on and so forth. The reason I am doing this is to protect you from my sinful desire to cherry-pick. I believe cherry picking is one reason we have so many immature Christians today. They have not been taught the whole counsel of God.
It will be my intent to periodically preach from the Psalms in the years, and perhaps decades to come, God willing. This means that if we get through 10 Psalms this summer, my hope is in the next year or two, we will pick up where we left off, until we eventually work our way through 150 Psalms.
Before we begin I want to give you a road map of how today will go. First, I want to explain how I will preach the Psalms. Second, I want to give us some general insight into the Psalms. Third, with the time we have left we will examine Psalm 1.
First, how will I preach. There are two ways to preach, the right way and the wrong way. The wrong way is for me to use God’s Word as a vessel for my opinion. The right way is for God to use me as a vessel for His truth. True preaching is taking God’s Word, breaking it down, analyzing it, mining it for absolute truth, and then proclaiming IT by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what we call expository preaching, and this is when the Word of God has its sharpest edges, and God receives the most Glory. This is the way John MacArthur preaches, John Piper preaches, Matt Chandler preaches, David Platt preaches, etc. These reformed guys preach expositionally, and this is the way I hope to preach. For it is the right way to handle the treasures that are in this book, and we will see this as we study Psalm 1 today.
Overview of the Psalms
With that said, let us step into this amazing book. As we begin our journey we should first recognize what this book is. The Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 songs. The Hebrew title for the book of Psalms is “tehillim” which means to make a jubilant sound or praise. The words “Psalms” comes from a Greek word which means the plucking of strings. So as we walk through these Psalms, we must recognize that we are studying God inspired worship music. This is interesting because these songs are abundantly rich in Biblical truth. In this day in age we have a tendency to think about songs as being emotional and separate from the mind and intellect, but that is not the case when examining the Psalms. In God’s book, deep knowledge of God and praise are inseparable.
So let us talk briefly about the book itself. As I said, it is a collection of 150 separate Psalms. This makes it the longest book in the Bible. Another odd fact is that it contains the shortest chapter, Psalm 117, and the longest chapter, Psalm 119. Another thing that is odd is that, depending how you define middle, the middle of the Bible is Psalm 118:8. The book itself is actually a collection of five books. Those who originally compiled this hymnal for Israel chose to break it into five parts. Perhaps some of you have noticed this as you read through the Psalms.
The psalms are written by a variety of men; the most prominent of those being David. Quite often it is referred to as the Treasury of David. It is believed David wrote nearly half of the psalms. Other authors include, Moses, Solomon, Asaph, the Sons of Korah, Ethan and Heman. In addition, some 50 psalms are attributed to no one. Because the book of Psalms is a collection of separate songs, written by separate men, its coming together took approximately 1000 years, from Moses (1400 B.C.) to the Babylonian exile (500 B.C.).
The last thing that I want us to understand as we begin is that the Book of Psalms is a book about Jesus. Jesus is the Word. Jesus says it himself in Luke 24 that all Scripture points to him, this is true for every book in the Bible including the Psalms.
The pointing to Jesus comes in two forms, prophecies and foreshadowing. Regarding prophecies, the book of Psalms contains more prophecies about the coming of Jesus than any other Old Testament book. More than 90 specific prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus. Regarding the general foreshadowing, we will need to be more intentional as we dive into the text, for shadows do not always catch our eye, unless we are looking for them, but it is interesting to know that the book of Psalms is quoted more by New Testament authors more than any other book in the Old Testament. It is referenced in one way or another approximately 112 different times in the New Testament. So with that, let us now read our text, pray and then unpack it.
In this text we see the comparison of two individuals, the righteous and the wicked. In these two descriptions falls every man. In the eyes of God, you are either one or the other. There is no such thing as a middle ground when it comes to your standing before God.
You see this reality mentioned a number of times throughout the Bible. In fact, last week we briefly looked at one of those text, Matthew 25, where Jesus talks about the coming day of judgment. Jesus says that on that day he will separate the sheep and the goats. The sheep will come into the Kingdom of God and the goats are sent to “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
We see it again in Matthew 13 where we see Jesus talking again about the final judgment and he uses the comparison of wheat and weeds, and he says this, “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30). Just a few verses later we see Jesus again talking about the final judgment before God in verse 47.
The word righteous as used in this passage, does not mean sinless. The reason we know that is also in the Psalms 14 and Psalm 53 it tell us that no one is good, no one is righteous. We know that it is only Jesus who is truly righteous in a sinless sense. The Psalmist in this text is not talking about being sinless, but by having a right position, or standing before God. So how is someone righteous in a Psalm 1 sense. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ. It is by believing in God, we can stand in the congregation.
The Psalm begins with the word “Blessed.” Interestingly, this is what Jesus called Peter in Matthew 16:17 after Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven”
It is how Jesus began the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are those who mourn…blessed are the meek…blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…blessed are the merciful…blessed are the pure in heart…blessed are the peacemakers…blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” I do not think it is a coincidence that the book of Psalms begins the same way.
The word blessed in Hebrew is esher and if you were to look up the meaning in a Lexicon it would say happy. In fact, the Holman Christian Standard Bible translates this verse as “How happy is the man…” Having said this, I think there is a reason why this word is commonly not translated to happy. Happy doesn't quite do this word justice. It doesn't have enough depth to it. For to be esher (blessed) is to be happy as a result of receiving. Esher is just not a feeling, it is a feeling that is produced by grace. This makes sense in light of how we tend to use it. If you were to ask me, how do I feel and I said “happy” that would be different then if I said that I feel “blessed.” By saying blessed I am saying, I am happy, but that my happiness springs from something unmerited.
So who is the blessed in our passage? The Pslamist starts with the negative, then moves to the positive. First he says that a blessed person is one, “who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” With each one of these descriptions you can see an escalation of evil, or an increase in the hardness of ones heart, walk, stand, sit.
So what does it mean to walk in the counsel of the wicked? It simply means seeking advice from the fallen, broken, sinful world. Unfortunately, this is a common characteristic of most people, even Christian people. When in uncertain, where do you seek advice? Oprah, Dr. Phil, an unsaved Psychologists, celebrities, magazines, unsaved coworkers, and unsaved friends. Each one of these people, if they have not received Christ in their life, are spiritually blind, and have no hope in giving you Christ exulting counsel. Jesus said it well in Matthew 15:14 when he said, “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
Which leads to our next phrase “nor stands in the way of sinners.” This is the faliing into the pit in which Jesus spoke, for it is the implementation of the wicked advice. Another way to think about it is the taking the wide and easy path that leads to destruction that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 7. Or the “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—“ that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2. It is standing against God and with sinners, those who miss the mark.
Lastly, the Pslamist says, “nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” This is the final act of rebellion. Not only does this person seek advice against God, and implement that sinful advice, but they then mock those who don't follow suit. They begin to teach others and ridicule those who do not accept their sinful opinion. They become a teacher and preacher of sin They want more wicked people to jump on their bandwagon of rebellion. This was the case for the Pharisees. Jesus said this to them in Matthew 23:15, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
Regarding these three positions of walking, standing and sitting, I can't but help see the connection with the current status in America regarding homosexuality. Many self-proclaimed Christians, and self proclaimed Churches have sought counsel from the world, chosen to stand with the disobedient, and now they scoff at those who do not join in with their sinful ways. They mock those who have read and have accepted Leviticus 18, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Timothy 1, and the dozens of other implicit scripture on the subject. The people who reject these text are like our psalmist says, chaff. They are blown about with the ever changing wind of this fallen and broken world. Today it is homosexuality, tomorrow it will be something else. As scripture clearly teaches, this is not the pathway of blessedness, it is not the pathway of happiness, love doesn't win. It is trampled on and destroyed. This walking, standing, and sitting with sinfulness leads to one destination...perishing.
No, the blessed ones are those who “delight in the law of the Lord.” What is the law of the Lord? The word used here is actually torah, which is commonly used to reference the first five books of the Bible, but torah in Hebrews means instruction. So a good reading of this text is to say “delight in the instruction of the Lord.” Which of course includes more than just the law, or the first five books of the Bible, but all of the Scripture.
For the man that is blessed this treasuring of God's Word causes him to think about God's instruction day and night. Reading the Bible is not about a check list. It is something that he soaks in, thinks through, works out, analyzes, and clings to.
As the Psalmist says, the man that is blessed has been planted next to the Word of God. He has made the intentional decision to live life in accordance to God's Word. It is his standard of truth. It is his sustainer. As Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, this man is living “on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
And what is the result? Fruit. The man planted in God's Word is guaranteed to yield fruit. What kind of fruit? Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control”
Imagine if I came up to you and said, I have a sure fire way that you can have experience love and joy and peace and in every situation you will have he capacity to rise above it, and be outside the fray, would you want it? Of course you would. And folks you can have it if you want it. If you want to have a blessed life, the answer is not found on facebook, or magazines, or doctor Phil. It is not found in the counsel of the wicked. It is found in God's Word.
This is why we at Cornerstone are Bible people. This is the way that God has designed to pour his Grace out upon you, through His Word. And what is wonderful, is that each one of you have it in your hands in this moment. Spiritual prosperity is literally within you grasp, so make the intentional decision to be happy, and plant yourself in the living Word of God.