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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Title:The Man of God and His Lifestyle Choice
Text:Psalms 1:1-6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

TH 604 - Rejoice Ye Pure in Heart
Psalter 109 - Personal Devotion to God
TH 238 - My Dear Redeemer and My Lord

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

There are only 2 lifestyle choices when you boil it down. The  broad path that leads to destruction or the narrow path that leads to life. When Joshua led the people to the Promised Land, he told them there were only 2 paths. Either choose to serve God and obey him, or choose whatever idols to serve - those in Egypt or those in Canaan; but for him and his house, they’d serve the Lord. Jesus told his disciples to count the cost of following him. Some returned to the world, the broad path that leads to destruction; but others said - “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life… thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” The choices determined how their lives ended. Judas chose the way of wicked; the others chose the way of The Godly Man.

Psalm 1 puts before us two choices. Do we seek God and receive eternal blessings; or do we disobey God and receive eternal judgment? As we study this Psalm, let’s take note of 3 divisions - firstly, the lifestyle choices of the godly lead to happiness; secondly, the lifestyle choices of the wicked lead to judgment; and thirdly, the identities of the godly man and ungodly man. But before we go into the points, I would have you look at the outline and your Bible to see the structure of the first 2 points. This is a chiastic structure of Hebrew poetry. Psalms is poetry and poetry uses structure to make its point. 

A. True happiness (v 1 - Blessed is the godly man)
     B. He avoids sin and pursues holiness (v 1-2 - He will not identify with the wicked but pursue righteousness)
       C. His spiritual fruitfulness (v 3 - He will grow)
         D. “His leaf will not wither, he will prosper”
       C. His unspiritual dryness (v 4 - He will fail)
   B. He avoids holiness and pursues sin (v 5-6 - He will not identify with the godly but pursue unrighteousness)
A. True unhappiness (v 6 - Perish will the wicked man)

The main point and central phrase, what it’s driving at is the prosperity of the godly man. His leaf will not wither and he’ll always prosper. It focuses on the perfect man of God who has made the right godly choice.

Firstly, the life choices of the godly lead to happiness. Verse 1 says, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” What’s the meaning of blessed? To repeat myself a bit from another sermon, the word blessed means “happy.” The word is esher. Deuteronomy 33:29 - “Happy esher art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency!” 1 Kings 10:8; the Queen of Sheba said of Solomon - “Happy esher are thy men, happy esher are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.” The equivalent in Greek is makarios like in the Sermon on the Mount. Makarios or happy are the poor in spirit. Like in John 13:17, when Jesus told the disciples to be humble - “If ye know these things, happy makarios are ye if ye do them.” Happiness has to do with spiritual blessings.

Yes, many have their own definition of blessing. The Chinese have their 5 traditional blessings - longevity, wealth, health, love of virtue, and a timely and painless death. Many people yearn for these - that’s why the prosperity gospel is so popular. Who doesn’t want longevity? That’s why we try to preserve our lives. Who doesn’t want health and wealth? People also pursue morality - I’m okay, I don’t hurt anyone. And people also fear a painful death. But remember - life is messy and then we die. God doesn’t owe us these things. But real blessings are spiritual and eternal blessings. The text says the man who doesn’t walk, stand, or sit with sinners is blessed. His delight is not in riches, but verse 2, in the law of God. So when are you truly happy? When you’re holy and wise! When you see the poverty of your spirit, mourn for for your sins; and come meekly to God for forgiveness, hungering and thirsting after righteousness. You’re happy because you’ll be forgiven and restored. And the word “blessed” is plural - meaning intensely happy is he that hates sin and love’s God’s law.

So what are the lifestyle choices of a happy and godly man? Negatively, he hates sin. Verse 1 says that he doesn’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, and sit in the seat of the scornful. What do these mean? There are many ways of looking at them but 2 resonate with me. One describes walking, standing, and sitting as the activities of life - how we think - walk in the counsel of the ungodly; how we behave - stand in the path of sinners; and where we belong - sit together with those who mock God. The other suggests the progression of sin - if you follow sinful counsel, you’ll stand with sinners against God, then you’ll finally join with them. So the godly man won’t progress in his sin by thinking, acting, and belonging sinfully. He hates sin; resists temptation - won’t be unequally yoked. 

But his life choice is not just to avoid sin, but it’s to pursue holiness. Verse 2 - “But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Delight means joy - he finds joy in God’s law. It shows affection. But there’s action too - he meditates on it day and night. He delights and he meditates. The law mentioned here was given through Moses. It contained the moral law - how we must live because of God’s character. It also contained the ceremonial law. If you sin, how can you be cleansed? By sacrifice. So the godly man delights and frequently thinks on this law; like Joshua 1:8 - “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” When you delight and meditate, it brings prosperity and success - true happiness. Because you’re right with God.

The word “meditate” in Psalms and Joshua is interesting. It’s the Hebrew word haga (hawgaw). It’s an onomatopoeia. The word is the sound it’s trying to convey - like “boom” or “burp” or “clang”. Haga is the continuous sound a lion makes when it’s growling over its captured prey. As in Isaiah 31:4 - “Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey…” Like in NatGeo flicks - when a lion captures a prey, it gnaws on it and makes this sound. It’s the sound of consumption - hunger. Figuratively, it’s the continual hungry thinking over a matter. Day and night fixation. The godly man keeps thinking on the Word, consuming it, muttering over it, until it becomes part of him.

He’s also happy because he’s spiritually fruitful. Verse 3 says, “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” This pictures a flourishing life. The godly man prospers even in difficult times. The Promised Land had dry and hot summers - especially near the Dead Sea. But trees planted in the oases of En Gedi or by the Jordan River - which overflowed its banks twice a year - they would bear fruit, even in drought. Their leaves wouldn’t wither. Their roots are deep. Jeremiah 17:8 speaks of trees like that - in times of heat and doubt they will still bear forth fruit because they’re planted by the waters and spread their roots to water sources. The godly man who avoids sin and delights in the law will be spiritually fruitful. Despite trials, he will live rightly and grow in holiness. Like Paul - when he was in prison, he was able to say - rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. Like Job, when everything was taken away from him - he cried out - the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord. They flourished in difficult times.

What kind of life choices does the godly man make? He avoids sin and sinful ways, and doesn’t agree with sinful people. He constantly meditates on the law - on God’s moral standards, his atonement and forgiveness. He’s intensely happy.

But secondly, we see that the life choices of the wicked lead to judgment. Verse 4 says, “The ungodly are not so.” That’s abrupt. After describing the godly man, the Psalmist contrasts it. The wicked are not so. In other words, the wicked choose to live the contrary way. So whatever is said of the godly, the ungodly do the opposite. While the godly man shuns evil, loves the law, always mediates on it, and knows God’s character and salvation; the wicked do not. They’re not spiritually or morally fruitful - they’re unspiritual, immoral, dry. Verse 4 says, “but [they’re] like the chaff which the wind driveth away.” The chaff is the leftover part of the grain. It’s the stalk and the skin of the kernel. It’s the part of the grain you don’t eat. The wind drives it away. In biblical times you threw the chaff and grain up into the air to separate them. The heavier grain would fall to the ground. But the chaff - the very small pieces of straw - were so light, they would blow away completely. In other words, the wicked have no fruit of holiness and are useless. God will throw them away.

And verses 5-6 speak of what they don’t do - “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” Previously, the psalmist described what the godly man avoids - the ways of sinners; to show what he delights in - the law of God. So here, the psalmist describes what the wicked loves by describing what he cannot obtain. Because he is spiritually unfruitful; therefore, he won’t be able to stand in judgment, nor will he, as a sinner, belong to the holy team, nor will he walk or behave righteously. So even though the verbs are not there of walk, stand, or sit - they’re implicit. By describing what they cannot attain - meaning, holiness - it means they indulge in unholiness. This is what Christ himself said - men love darkness rather than light.

They will not stand in the judgment. This can mean 2 things. Because they are morally unfruitful and wicked, they will not stand up to do right; but also that they cannot stand guiltless when judged. Just as a conquering king makes his enemy lie down to become his footstool - the wicked will be subdued. They also won’t sit in the congregation of the righteous. In other words, they won’t be counted among God’s people. They’re outside the camp. Like the scape goat, forced out into the wilderness to die. They perish because they avoid holiness and pursue sin.

Ultimately, their end is true unhappiness - “the way of the ungodly shall perish.” Jesus said in Matthew 13 that judgment day is like a harvest. The chaff will be blown away by the wind. The wicked will be dismissed. The goats will be separated from the sheep. Jesus will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” They will have no place in the assembly of God’s saved people. They will be in outer darkness, gnashing their teeth.

As we look at this psalm, we’re tempted to say - okay, in that case I’ll choose the way of the godly - his lifestyle looks good. There are blessings, holiness, fruitfulness, eternal life. But will we never take ungodly advice or think ungodly thoughts? Or will we never behave sinfully? Will we never agree with sin? Do we always delight in God’s law? How many of us meditate day and night? How many of us hunger after it as we should? Even those who love the Word - we recognize we don’t love it enough. And therefore, to truly understand thirdly, the identities of the godly and wicked, we must understand the structure of the Psalm.

The central theme here of this wisdom Psalm is the identity of the godly man - verse 3 says - “his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Whatsoever he doth shall prosper. Whatever we do doesn’t prosper! Not everything. But whatever he does prospers. His leaf does not wither. On the other hand, in difficult times - we wither. The best of men are at best men! In fact, we are the wicked. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. It says that if we say we have no sin, we make God a liar, and the truth is not in us.

But this is where we realize that the perfect man - his leaf shall not wither - not even in times of drought - and we remember Isaiah 53:2 - “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” This is Christ. He’s the only perfect man there ever was. In the midst of dryness he was still fruitful. In times of temptation in the wilderness, not eating for forty days and nights, he delighted in the Word of God - it was his meditation day and night. When he was asked to turn rocks into bread - he said man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. The God-man consumed the uttering of God. They were his delight, because he was the Word of God. In heaven, we see in Revelation 22:2 - “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” That tree in heaven is a picture of Christ. He is the tree of life that bears fruit even in winter. When he on earth, whatever he did prospered. He healed the blind, made the lame walk, the deaf hear, and mute speak. He cleansed the lepers. And most of all, he cleansed those who would trust in him from their sins.

Whatever he set out to do on earth, he did. He came to live a righteous life. He came to keep all of God’s commandments. John 15:10 - “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.” And he kept God’s commandments till the end. John 17:4 - “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” He prospered. He accomplished the work. Not only did he resist sin at the wilderness, he resisted sin in the garden - a lush garden but with the most intense spiritual testing. But in all of these testing he obeyed. He knew the work of atonement because he knew the ceremonial law. He knew he had to be a holy priest offering up an offering without blemish. And at the cross when he had offered himself, he cried out - it is finished. And when he ascended into heaven, he sat down at the right hand of the father. He entered into the heavenly temple and sat down. The earthly temple never had a seat because the work of the priests was incomplete. Christ was the only priest in the history of mankind that finished the work. And in the end he was successful and prosperous! He overcame the devil. He subdued for himself a people. He had an inheritance and a kingdom. And his reward is happiness. Hebrews 1:8-9 - “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Jesus is the happiest man ever - because he is absolutely holy and obedient. 

Dearly friends, by contrast, we are not. Because we are the wicked. And unless Christ the blessed and godly man is our Lord and head, we can never hope to be blessed. We will always walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of the wicked, and sit in the seat of scorners. Only when we are on the team of that perfect man can we be truly blessed. Only then will God blessed us through him. That is why for you, dearly beloved, must you abide with him. To be close to him. John 15:4-5 - “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” We therefore need to abide in Christ. We have no hope of delighting in the law otherwise - unless we know what Christ has done for us. When we are far from him, we are dry. This is why we need to stay close to him and have communion with him.

Our true happiness is not health and wealth and long life now - there’s no such thing here that is promised us. But he promises us everlasting life and eternal riches found in Christ in heaven, because we are his people. And here, as we walk with him, we will be eager to please him and obey him out of love.

Sermon Outline:

1. The Life Choices of the Godly Lead to Happiness

    A. True happiness

    B. He avoids sin and pursues holiness

    C. His spiritual fruitfulness

2. The Life Choices of the Wicked Lead to Judgment

    A. His unspiritual dryness

    B. He avoids holiness and pursues sin

    C. True unhappiness

3. The Identities of the Godly and Wicked

    A. His leaf shall not wither

    B. He shall prosper

    C. Abiding in Christ

Conversation for Change:

  1. If the Christian’s happiness is predicated upon abiding in Christ, what does our unhappiness in life indicate?
  2. What happiness are you really after? And what choices are you making in your life that show that?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Mark Chen

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