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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the LORD
Text:Psalms 1:2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Obedience
 
Preached:2016-15-01
Added:2016-06-16
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

Bible translation: NKJV

Psalm 25:1,2

Psalm 25:5

Psalm 119:4,5,6

Psalm 1:1,2,3

Psalm 119:66

 

Read:  Psalm 1

Text:  psalm 1:2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Are you happy?

Psalm 1 says,

“Blessed is the man . . .”

and to be blessed is to be happy.  To be blessed is to be supremely happy.  To be blessed is for your heart to be full.

But are you happy?

For all of us there are times when Life is hard.  There is stress and distress.  There are doctor’s appointments and disappointments.  There is friction and confusion.  We get bumped and we get bruised.

How are things with you right now?  How has your week been?  How has your life been?

If your life is hard, if your heart is heavy, if your soul is troubled, you are not alone.  Times of trouble and seasons of grief and even feelings of hopelessness and despair are experiences that every one of us face in this life.

The world wants to be happy.  People want to be happy.  We want fairy-tale lives with fairy-tale endings.  People want a Disneyland experience.  People want to find the happiest place on earth, and they want to be there.  Always.  To be happy is a basic human desire and the pursuit of happiness is what all people are engaged in.

But are you happy?  And is your happiness deeper than any Disneyland experience could ever hope to offer you?

We want to be happy.  We want to be like that tree that Psalm 1 speaks about, a tree that is flourishing and green, a tree planted by the rivers of water, bearing its fruit in season, whose leaf does not wither.  We want to prosper in whatever we do.

But is that possible?  Can such happiness, such blessedness, be available to you and to me? Can you be happy, can you feel blessed whatever happens?  Whatever your present circumstances might be?

Psalm 1 says “Yes!”  The Book of Psalms begins with the words “Blessed is the man”.  Blessed are you.  But the way to blessing, the way to experience true happiness might come to you as a surprise.  Psalm 1:2 says concerning the man who is blessed,

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.”

The measure in which the man of God, the measure in which you are blessed, you are happy, is the measure in which you delight in and meditate on the Word of God.

And that is what I wish to preach to you about this morning.  I preach to you this message:

Blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the LORD!

1. Two ways to live.

2. One way to love.

1. Two ways to live.

It may come as a surprise to learn that the man who is blessed, the person who is truly happy, delights in the law of the LORD.  That is not the way that we tend to think.  When people talk about having a “happy hour” they are normally referring to something else, not an hour in church, nor an hour pouring over God’s law, over God’s Word.  In fact, God’s law is often seen as a chore, as something that restricts.  A kill-joy rather than something that gives us delight. 

Further, in the world there is even a backlash against God’s law, His commandments.  The world, those who do not serve God, do not want to know God’s Word, nor His law.  The world does not want to be bound by such a law.  “There is no god”, they say, and “there is no truth outside of ourselves.”  The concepts of “right and wrong”, of “good and bad” of “true and false” are all relative and everyone is free to make his own mind and together we make up our own rules.  Our world is changing and our laws are changing.  And the world wants us to think that it does not matter, that it is all OK, that it will actually make us happier.

But it is not just the world: even for us as Christians, God’s law is not something in which we regularly take delight in.   In fact, when it comes to how we spend our time and where we spend our energies, it might appear that there are other ways, better ways, to make you happy.  Chocolate, for example.  Curling up on the couch and watching TV.  Reaching for a glass of wine.  Cheering on your favorite team to most amazing win of the season.

But that is not the way of the righteous.  That is, that is not the way in which the people of God are truly blessed.  There are, of course, pleasures in life.  There are things that we may delight in: food and drink, love and family, work and rest, sport and recreation.  But we take delight in these things in the context of a greater delight: a delight in the law of the LORD and in a delight to live for Him.

And that means that at the very heart of being a Christian there is another way to live.  And with that other way to live comes the true way to happiness, the way to being blessed.

Psalm 1 describes that way, calling it in verse 6 “the way of the righteous” and contrasting it to “the way of the ungodly.”  It is the man or the person who walks in “the way of righteousness” who is blessed, but not so the ungodly.  And so the godly person will steer right away from the path of sinners and go in a different direction.  Psalm 1:1.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”

Now this verse is not only the inspired Word of God, but it is also a beautiful piece of Hebrew poetry.  Whereas we like to get our poems to rhyme, the psalms will more often develop a thought through what is called parallelism.  In other words, the psalm will say something in one line and then build on that by saying something similar in the next line.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the council of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”

And if you like to write notes in your Bible, you could underline the words “walks” and “stands” and “sits”, and place a circle around the words “ungodly” and “sinners” and the “scornful”.  We can see a picture building up here.  Verse 1 first says,

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly”

or “in the counsel of the wicked.”  In other words, blessed or happy is he who does not listen to what the world has to say, who does not take on the thinking patterns and the thoughts of those who do not love God.  Verse 2 is going to tell us that the righteous, those who are godly, base their thinking on God’s law, on His Word, what He says in the Bible.  But the ungodly and the wicked do not do that.  In fact, Romans 8:7 says,

“. . . the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it can not.”

And so the first thing we have to understand is that your starting point as a Christian is fundamentally different to the starting point of a person who is not a Christian.  And that will affect what the ungodly person is going to say.  It will affect his counsel, the things he teaches and thoughts that he expresses.  The world has a message and they want you to hear it.  And every time you listen to the radio, every time you sit in front of the TV, every time you scroll through your news feed the world is giving you its counsel, is telling you what to think.  They want to tell you about money and about marriage, about holidays and about homophobia.  They want to tell you what beauty is and they want to tell you what success is.   And we need to be aware of that.  We need to understand that the starting point of the ungodly is different to the starting point of the righteous and that their counsel, what they say and what they teach, will often not lead you to God and His law but away from Him. 

Because if we are not careful then we will go from “walking in the counsel of the ungodly” to “standing in the path of sinners”.  In other words if we are not careful, we will go from thinking in the same was as the ungodly to behaving in the same way as the ungodly.  When we fill our minds with ungodliness we will also practice ungodliness.  And from there one gives up on the pathway of the godly altogether and he “sits with the scornful”, he takes his place among those who mock the way of righteousness.  For that is what the scornful do: they ridicule the godly for living and acting differently to the way that they do.

The godly, however, are not like that.  People who follow God’s ways do not follow the ways of the wicked, nor do they take delight in it.  Rather, they delight in God’s Word.  Verse 2:

“But His delight is in the law of the LORD”

And then repeating this and adding a bit more, as Hebrew poetry loves to do,

“ and in His law he meditates day and night.”

That’s what the godly person does.  Instead of turning to the counsel of the wicked, he turns to the law of the LORD, to the Torah, to use the Hebrew word here.  And when Psalm 1 speaks about God’s law, the Torah, it refers not just to the 10 Commandments but to all God’s Word.  And that is what the godly person delights in, that is what he meditates on.  That is what shapes him and what molds him.   And that is what Psalm 1 is getting at here:  whatever really shapes your thinking will shape your life.  If you are going to be absorbed by the thinking and writing and speaking of the ungodly, of those who reject the Lord and hate His law, then sooner or later you are going to following them.  But if you are going to immerse yourself in the word of God, meditating on it day and night, then you will live from that law as well.  And then you will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.  Then you will bring forth fruit in its season.  Then your leaf shall not wither and whatever you do shall prosper.  Then you will be blessed.  Then you will be happy.

The ungodly, on the other hand, will not be blessed and will not be truly happy.  Psalm 1:4 says that the ungodly are like the chaff which the wind drives away.  When the grain crops of Israel were harvested, the grain would be threshed and so separated from the chaff, and the chaff would be blown away in the wind.  Compared to a fruit-bearing tree, one commentator wrote, chaff is “rootless, weightless and useless.”  And so the way of the ungodly will not cause you to be blessed, will not give you true happiness.  The way of the ungodly promises you everything but in the end it gives you nothing.

But now the question must be asked:  what about you?  And what about me?  There are two ways to live, to roads to travel.  But what way do you live? What road are you travelling on?  Jesus said in Matthew 7:13,14,

 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

But have you found it?  Do you walk in the way of the righteous?  Are you one of those who have entered by that narrow gate?

You may find this a hard question to answer.  The problem is that when I see those two ways to live, the way of the righteous and the way of the ungodly, then I am convicted of the fact that although I want to walk in the way of the righteous, I still find myself attracted at times to the way of the ungodly!  I still find myself listening to the counsel of the ungodly, I still find myself drawn to the path of sinners.  Our old (1984) Book of Praise had us singing that blessed is the man

“who does not stand where sin its pleasure offers.”

But how often do you find yourself doing that?  Do you really hate sin as much as you should?  Do you really hate sin and do you really love God’s law?  Or are we like spectators, looking in at the gates of Sodom and Gomorrah, standing there with an ungodly fascination yes, even, some sort of attraction to the sin and the vain pleasures of this world?  “Forgive me, O God, for I am a mass of contradictions!  I want to love you, I want to do what is right, I want to love Your law . . . But sometimes and in some ways it seems as if I don’t.  Sometimes and in some was it is as though my delight in Your law gives way to take delight in that which is wicked.  Oh wretched man that I am!  What can I do?  Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

But there is One Man who is righteous.  There is One Man who truly did not walk in the counsel of the ungodly nor stand in the path of sinners.  There is One Man who truly did delight in the law of the LORD, who meditated on it day and night, who spoke it and who lived by it.  And He is our Lord Jesus Christ.  And the good news is that He is not just our example, the One who has shown us to walk in the way of the righteous, but He is the way.  Jesus is the narrow gate through whom we must enter.

And when we belong to Jesus Christ, when we are saved in Him, then everything begins to change.  When we are saved in Jesus and found righteous in Him, then we will live in Jesus as well.  And then “the path of sinners”, the way of the ungodly loses its appeal.  We begin to hate sin for what it is, then we will learn to love the way of the righteous, taking true delight in God’s law.  That brings us to our second point,

2. One way to love.

It is important to understand that there is a difference between “the way of the righteous” and “they way to become righteous.”  Many people think that the way to become righteous, the way to get to heaven, is to be a good person, living a good life and obeying all God’s commandments.  But that is not true.  Indeed, it cannot be true because not one of us is good enough to do that.  We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  There is only one way to become righteous is by turning to Jesus Christ, trusting in Him, believing in Him and loving Him.  Jesus Christ is “the way of the righteous.”  As He Himself said in John 14:6,

“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

But now, having come to God the Father through Jesus Christ, having become righteous in Him, we will now walk in the way of righteousness.  You are not saved by obeying God’s law, but having been saved you will want to keep that law.   Jesus said in John 14:15,

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

And again in John 14:23,

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word.”

And John 15:9-11,

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.  These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

We may not and we can not love God’s commandments if we do not love Him first.  But having loved Him, we obey Him.  And not only do we obey Him, but we want to obey Him and we want to obey Him more.

And so we will delight in the law of the LORD, and so we will meditate on it day and night.  It is not a hard thing to be a Christian, it is not a kill-joy to hear God’s commandments and try to keep them, but it is a good thing, a beautiful thing, a delightful thing.  For how could it be anything else?  When Psalm 1 was written in Old Testament times, God’s children could only point to the lamb or other animal that was offered for sin.  They could only do that – and long for the true Lamb, for the Messiah to come.  And yet they could still rejoice in the LORD, they could still delight in His law and they could still meditate on His Word day and night.  But for us today the joy is so much more, so much greater!  For us today, we may rejoice in the righteousness that is ours in Jesus Christ!

And that is why we will turn to God’s Word, and that is why we will delight in His law, and that is why we will meditate on it every day and every night.  And as we delight in it and as we meditate on it we will learn it, we will understand it and we will apply it not just with our heads but with our hearts.  We will grow to love God more and more, we will seek Him and we will find Him.  We will live our lives for Him and we will follow Him. 

When the Bible speaks about meditating on the law of the LORD it means that we will do more than just read it and forget it as we rush on through life.  It means that we will not simply skim over things, picking and choosing what we want to read, what we want to hear, what we decide to believe and how we feel like living.  No, we will drink deeply from God’s Word.  We will ponder His law and we will ask, “What does this Bible passage teach me about God, about who He is and what He has done?  What does this Bible passage teach me about myself, about the sinfulness of man and the need for a Saviour?  What does this Bible passage teach me about Christ and His work of salvation?  What does it teach me about the church, about living in the midst of God’s people?

And then as you meditate on God’s Word, then set your mind also on the Word that became flesh, the Lord Jesus.  Set your mind and meditate on the One who loves you, the One who died for you, the One has ascended and sits at the Father’s right hand for you, the One who sends you His Holy Spirit to comfort you and to abide with you forever.  Set your mind upon Him and delight in Him.

And when we do that, then things will start to change.  Then our reason for living and our way of living will change.  Then not only will we begin to see sin for what it really is, but we will want to do what is right.  And then we will be like a tree.  A tree that is planted by the rivers of water, a tree that brings forth its fruit in season, a tree whose leaf shall not wither.  Then we will be blessed and then we will be happy.

We will  be happy because we will be safe and we will be content in Jesus Christ. 

And so I ask you, brothers and sisters:  Are you happy?  Do you experience the blessings of God?  Even in sorrow and deep grief do you have that fullness of joy that that is ours in Jesus Christ?  Is your heart still filled with gladness?  A gladness for the gospel and a joy for your Saviour?  Do you long for God and do you love to know His law and do you want to obey Him, to live for Him and to serve Him?  When the joy of faith grows distant, when a love for sin grows to be greater than a love for God’s law, then turn from that sin and turn to Jesus Christ.  Look upon His face and remember what He has done and then stand fast in the preciousness of the gospel.  And then walk in the truth of the gospel.  Walk in the way of righteousness.  Take delight in the law of the LORD and meditate on His Word.

And you will be blessed.  You will be happy. Supremely happy.  For blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the LORD!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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