Friday, June 30, 2017

Psalm 1:3 - Blessed Beyond Measure

Psalm 1:3 – “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

In studying this Psalm, we have seen what the blessed person does not do (v. 1). We have also seen what the righteous person does do (v.2). Instead of being enamored with the wisdom of the world, the blessed person delights in the Word of God. It holds his attention. It is a light to the feet (Psa
119:110). And it is always on his mind. “He meditates on it day and night” (1:2).

I can see the effects of meditation on the Word in my own life. When I am regularly reading, meditating, and praying through Scripture, I find that I am more heavenly minded. But when I neglect Scripture, I am more prone to focus on the things on earth (cf. Col 3:1-2). Being a pastor now, with Sunday coming quickly every week, I am in Scripture most of the day. That is one of the benefits of always preparing sermons, blogs, devotionals, etc. But I have not been a pastor for long. Before full-time ministry (especially in seminary!), I found it very difficult to keep my attention on Scripture. Our lives tend to be so busy. Time with God gets crowded out by so many trivial things. And it is to our detriment. Whenever I take time from a busy schedule to meditate and pray through the Scriptures, I always see benefit.

When I was first preparing sermons, I used to find myself spinning my wheels. Sometimes I would get nowhere for hours! Then I would realize that I was doing this all in my own strength. I was not meditating on the Scriptures. I was not praying through the Scriptures. Over the years, I have learned that those two are essential for sermon preparation. It is essential for life too!

What does the life of the blessed person who meditates on Scripture day and night look like? This psalm compares the blessed person to a tree. And not some dead and unkept tree. He is like a tree that has been transplanted. It is cared for. It is loved. The owner found it, and transplanted it next to channels of waters so that it would flourish. The abundant waters cause the tree to bring forth fruit in its time. Notice, the tree does not always bear fruit. There are regular periods when there is no fruit produced. But it always comes in its time. Even though there is not always fruit, there are always leaves. And they do not wither.

What does the symbolism mean? The blessed person is the tree which has been transplanted. God found us and transplanted us to His orchard where the streams of His Word flow. We are made to flourish there from the nourishment of the Word. And fruit is produced in its time. “He is not a freak. There are times for fruit-bearing just as there are times for growth and times for rest. So long as we are abiding in the Spirit we need not worry about the fruit. It will come in its season” (Phillips, 20). And we will never wither away spiritually. If we remain in the Word, constantly nourished by its waters, our spirit will always thrive. “If a tree is alive and being watered, it will show the proper growth; likewise if true believers are in the word, they will produce righteousness” (Ross, 190).

To elucidate this further, the psalmist gives us the final phrase of verse three. This is called emblematic parallelism (Ross, 190). The symbolic (or emblematic) language in the first half is now explained by a parallel statement. It is well-known that parallelism is an integral part of Hebrew poetry, and there are many kinds of parallelism. The psalmist explains the symbolic language by stating, “and all that he does prospers.” This is the reality intended by the simile of the tree. “This is not a blanket statement promising unlimited success; the context itself restricts the application. If the righteous meditate in God’s word, they will live in obedience to it—and doing that is what will succeed” (Ross, 191).

When we are nourished by the Scriptures, we will not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers (cf. v. 1). Instead, we will delight in the words of God, and we will be blessed and made to prosper. There will be times of pruning. And that hurts. But it is for our good. Our Father always works everything for good to those who love Him (Rom 8:29).

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Psalm 1:2 - The Righteous Person Does...

In the previous blog post, we saw that the person that is under God’s blessing does not “walk in the way of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers.” Those are characteristics that negatively define the righteous man. The first three lines of Psalm 1 tell us what the blessed person does not do. We can turn them around and make them positive. The blessed man walks in the way of the righteous, stands in the path of the godly, and sits in the seat of believers. This person follows the advice of the saints, and rejects the counsel of the wicked. This person observes the ways of the godly, but is not associated with the wicked. This person learns from believers and not from the scoffers.
The blessed person does these things, because he drinks deep of the Word of God. “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night” (Psa 1:2). This blessed man discerns righteousness and unrighteousness, because he holds everything to the teaching of Scripture. He delights in the law of the LORD. This is a person who has faith in the salvation of the LORD. He trusts that God will be true to His promises. And the blessed man delights in God’s law. Literally, he delights in the Torah. Of course, the first five books of the Bible are known as the Torah. But Torah means instruction or precepts. Abraham was said to have kept God’s Torah (Gen 26:5). Speaking of the Passover, God said “it shall be for a sign unto you upon your hand, and for a memorial between your eyes, that the LORD’s law (Torah) may be in your mouth: for with a strong hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt” (Exod 13:9). When the Israelites complained that they wanted food, God told Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction (Torah)” (Exod 16:4). This word is used more than 40 times in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It is in the instructions and precepts of God that the righteous person delights. “I love your law” (Psa 119:113b). Why? Because “Your law is truth” (Psa 119:142b). Thus, the righteous person loves the instructions that God has revealed to us in His Word. That is why God’s word is so precious to us. Because it reveals His instructions to us.
The righteous so delights in the Word of God that “he meditates in it day and night.” To meditate does not mean to empty our minds. In biblical terms, it means the opposite. It means to fill our minds with truth by repeating the truth over and over. The blessed man does not fill his mind with the teachings of man. He fills his mind with the teachings of God. He repeats the Words of God over and over to himself. And he doesn’t do this for a small portion of his day. He does not allocate fifteen minutes to this. He meditates on the Word of God “day and night.” This is poetic language that describes the idea of constantly. The righteous person constantly meditates on the Word of God. Perhaps the Bible is not always open, but the words are constantly running through his mind. In this way, he stands firm again the scoffing of the wicked.
Let us always be meditating on Scripture, savoring every word over and again. In doing so, we will find ourselves much enriched. We will find our prayers more enriched. Our speech will take on the flavor of God’s Word. And our thoughts will be more like God’s thoughts.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Psalm 1:1 - The Righteous Person Does Not...

I. The Righteous Live Wisely According to God’s Word (1-3)
IA. The Righteous Avoid Living According to the Sinner’s Philosophy

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
People have their opinions. They come to their opinions through many influences in their life. Their parents are a big influence, especially early in life. Teachers have a lot of influence in the lives of young people, and due to the expansion of education, the influence of teachers continues well into adulthood. A person’s friends are an influencing force. The literature read and the media consumed are a major emphasis on a person’s opinions. Advertisements, whether we are conscious of it or not, shape our opinions.
When we have no opinion on a matter, or we suspect ours to be wrong, we consult others to ask them for their counsel. We search the internet for blogs and forums that will help us to form an opinion on a matter so that we will know how to respond. This is how our worldview is shaped.
According to Scripture, there are only two worldviews: the worldview of the lost and the worldview of the righteous. Notice that Psalm 1 begins with the word “blessed” and ends with the word “perish.” Those are the options. The worldview of the righteous person has God’s blessing upon it. The worldview of the wicked person brings God’s wrath. The righteous person in this Psalm avoids the counsel of the wicked. He does not walk according to their counsel, he is not associated in their paths, and he is certainly not seated among scoffers.
Because the righteous person avoids these, he is blessed. The word “blessed” “refers to the joyful spiritual condition of those who are right with God and the pleasure and satisfaction that is derived from that. It is an abstract plural, stressing the fullness of joy” (Ross, 185). One of the blessings of being in covenant relationship with God through His Son is that we experience the blessings of God. And the blessed believer is characterized by walking in the light (1 John 1:7) and not in the darkness.
The wicked, sinners, and scoffers are all in the group who practice unrighteousness. It is used of those who are outside of the covenant of God. These are the unsaved. Those who walk in this world. The unsaved listen to themselves. They do not listen to those who speak God’s Word. They scoff at those who abide by the counsel of God (cf. 1 John 4:5-6).
What we take into ourselves is very important. It is said “You are what you eat.” In the realm of the mind, it could be said, “You are what you listen to.” Christians need to be very discerning in what they are listening to or watching. This is especially difficult in this digital age where information comes at us faster than we can take it in. Let us be very careful what we look at and listen to.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Why We Should Study Proverbs

The Bible is the revelation of God that is about God and about how He would have us live life. God is the Creator of all things, and therefore He is infinitely superior to them. There is no one like Him. No one has the infinite knowledge or wisdom that He has. We are limited by our creatureliness. He, as the Creator is unlimited. We are limited by the effects of the Fall, namely sin. He, as the pure and righteous King, is unlimited.

Through His Word, God has revealed His eternal plan of redemption through His Son Jesus Christ. He has revealed that one day, Jesus Christ will return and vanquish His enemies in order to rule over a kingdom of righteousness. And He has revealed that the righteous will participate in this Kingdom while the unrighteous are thrown into the Lake of Fire.

What does it mean by “righteous?” Who are the righteous ones? If “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), and if “the wages of sin are death” (Rom 6:23); who can stand in the day of judgment? Praise be to our God and Savior “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:14). “It is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Being a gift, it is not on account of our works (cf. Eph 2:9), for “to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom 4:4-5).

So there is no work that we do in order to be saved. No amount of works can save us. Ephesians 2:1 says that all people are dead in sin, only walking “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2). It takes a divine act of God to “[make] us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and [raise] us up with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:6-8).
What do those who are thus redeemed look like? They repent of sin (Acts 17:30), and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 13:39). This is the message we preach: redemption from sins comes only to those who believe that Jesus Christ died to take away sin (1 John 3:5). Romans 10:9 says that salvation is only by confessing with the mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised Him from the dead.

And the life of the believer is then marked by godliness. 1 John 3:5 also says that “in Him there is no sin.” “We walk in the Light as [God] Himself is in the Light” (1 John 1:7). How do we do this? We meditate on the Word of God (Ps 1:2). He has given us His precepts that we might walk according to their light. Psalm 119:105 says that God’s Word “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Yes, it guided us to salvation. It guided our feet to the narrow path. And now it also gives us instruction that we might walk in a manner that is worthy of our Lord and pleasing to Him in every respect (Col 1:10).

One of the most practical books in all of Scripture is Proverbs. It instructs us in wise living. It teaches us how to live in light of the revelation of this great and almighty God. Being one of the most beloved books by all who read the Bible, it is amazing how few resources there are to help us meditate on the Proverbs. And fewer still delve into this precious book verse-by-verse. But that is how the Proverbs are to be studied. They are to be savored section by section and proverb by proverb. I believe that if our churches took the time and put in the (indeed massive) effort to examine the Proverbs, much of the foolish living that so characterizes our churches would be cured. If we all took time each day to mull over a proverb—not read a whole chapter in a hurry—we would find ourselves filled with practical instruction for godly living.

Let us apply ourselves to this end. It is my hope that this blog series will enrich your understanding and help you to think through the Proverbs and how they apply to your life.