I usually enjoy taking the summer months of the year and preach through a different Psalm each week. Yesterday, preached through Psalm 1, which I entitled "The Pursuit of Happiness." The movie by that title is one of my favorite movies. It tells the real story of Chris Gardner, who was homeless with his son while working through an internship with Dean Witter. He eventually is offered the only job out of 19 interns and when he does, he says, "This little part of my life is what I call 'Happiness.'" When he is offered the job, I am always gripped emotionally. Even though I know what is about to happen. It gets me every time.
The heart longs for redemption and triumphant things. While that story is amazing, it holds nothing compared to Psalm 1, which tells the story about a greater pursuit of a greater happiness. It is not about getting a job offer or your team winning some big game. It is about the abundance of happiness that is found in being part of the righteous versus being part of the wicked. In fact, it only takes a short reading to realize that this chapter is about distinguishing or comparing the righteous person to the wicked person.
One word of warning here. We should avoid reading Psalm 1 as causative, meaning that if you follow these things, you will be righteous instead of wicked. It is better to read it as evaluative, meaning that it tells us what the righteous person does and what the wicked person does. It is best understood when we read it as a mirror to our hearts. The way in which I am living gives evidence to my team. As I went through this Psalm, I tried to show Three Distinguishing Characteristics Between the Wicked and the Righteous.
1. Their Influences (vs. 1-2)
The righteous person refuses to be influenced the way the wicked person is influenced. He does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of scoffers. Taken individually, each of these three statements could mean many things for our life, but taken together they are meant to warn us against the downward spiral of negative influence.
Instead, they want to be influenced by the Law of the Lord (revelation of God) which is their delight. It is in the meditation of the truth of God that this man is influenced. It is his joy to pick up the Word of God and orient his life by it. And in them, he meditates day and night. That does not mean they sit in the yoga position and empty the mind. It means that they are actively filling the mind with God's truth that they continually reflect.
2. Their Fruit (vs. 3-4)
The righteous man that is influenced by the Word of God is like a tree planted by the streams of water. He is a prosperous tree that yields fruit in its season. The wicked man is one who is influenced by walking, standing, and sitting with sinners is compared to a dry, dead chaff that the wind drives away. This is the difference between something that is alive and something that is dead. It is the difference between something that produces good fruitful things in life and something that is worthless, of no value.
What does the fruit look like? It could be many things. It could be the fruit of the Spirit. It could simply be the stability in troubled times. As the roots of your life go deeper and deeper into the depths of God's truth, it becomes easier and easier to respond right in difficult times of life. Bad theology will produce bad responses in life. But good theology that is rooted to the truth of God will produce good responses.
3. Their Destinations (vs. 5-6)
This may be less noticeable, at least now. But the wicked man will not stand in the judgment, they will perish. The righteous man is known by the Lord. This is an intimate knowledge; a saving from judgment knowledge. The two teams face two drastically different outcomes.
This passage is usually one of the easiest in the book of Psalms to grasp. However, I have always found difficulty with this question: Are there ever any righteous? Has anyone ever fully walked not in the counsel of the wicked? Has anyone ever taken their delight in the law of the Lord, or meditated on that Law day and night? Has there ever been anyone who has really been firmly planted by the streams of water?
The answer is YES. Jesus Christ. It is because of Jesus' perfect righteousness that allows us now to be the blessed man. It is only because of His obedience that we can say no to the counsel of the wicked. It is only because He pleased the Father that we can find delight in His Word and meditate on it day and night. It is only because He overcame death that we can be like a tree planted by streams of water yielding good fruit. He is the only perfect man; but because of His perfections, we can be made perfect in God's eyes.
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