“The Blessing of Delight”
August 8, 2010
Do you buy in to the blessing of God’s Word?
I. The Blessing (Psalm 1:1)
II. The Blessing Compared (Psalm 1:2-3)
III. The Blessing Contrasted (Psalm 1:4-5)
IV. The Blessing Summarized (Psalm 1:6)
I have my desk in the front bay window of the new house, and there is a very nice live oak tree right outside that window. I’ve already enjoyed watching it in the mornings and evenings as it breaks the hot sunlight into patches of cooler shade. It reminds me of the tree opposite our front door when we were in Illinois. I often had my quiet time sitting on the couch looking out that door, with a great view of that magnificent, towering oak tree. The sight was a blessing to me for three years. In the same way the sight of a mature believer is a blessing: comforting, reassuring, and challenging. An established and mature believer towers over the landscape, still growing. One of our friends in Illinois was Virginia Milligan. She was in her eighties when we knew her, but very active, very sharp, deeply involved in Bible study, prayer and church life. She radiated spiritual maturity, and was a joy to be around.
Today we begin a series in the Psalms: a hundred days in the Psalms. I’m asking you to read a Psalm each day, and I and others will preach the Psalm that comes up each Sunday, So this week we’ll do Psalm 1, next week Psalm 8, Psalm 15, etc. My desire and prayer for this time is that all of us will delight in God’s Word together as we engage it for these hundred days. Do you believe that can happen? Do you believe you can be blessed and grow simply by delighting in God’s Word for a hundred days? I believe it, and I want to challenge you this morning to do it.
Go back to that oak tree. A mature oak is marvelous. But how did it get mature? Simply, it had to grow. What does it need to grow? It needs sun, moisture, air and soil. It takes all these working together over years to turn an oak from a little nut to a majestic sentinel. In the same way you and I need to be rooted in the right soil, in God’s word and not in the world’s ways in order to come to maturity. The blessing of delight in God’s word is maturity.
Let’s read Psalm 1: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The first word in the Psalm, in the book of Psalms, is blessed, or ‘how blessed’. The Hebrew word is ‘asher.’ It’s related to a word Jesus used in the Sermon on the Mount: blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the pure in heart. There are actually two words for ‘blessed’ in Hebrew, and this is the less common, not used of blessing God, but blessings in the lives of men. In fact one word study translates it ‘to be envied with desire.’ ‘To be envied with desire’ is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.
In the Old Testament, the blessing usually results from some commendable attitude or behavior. A "blessed" man, for example, is one who fully trusts in God: Psalm 34 “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 40 Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust” Psalm 84 “O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”
In the same way, those who walk according to God’s word are ‘to be envied with desire.’ Do you believe that? Psalm 119:1 “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” Psalm 112:1 “Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands.” This blessedness is greatly to be desired, and it is uniformly the product of positive attitudes and behaviors in our lives.
But verse 1 says this blessing won’t happen if we conform to a sinful world and its sinful people. That kind of walk stunts spiritual growth and poisons spiritual maturity. I laugh at the Garden Line show on KTRH because two of the products they push have exact opposite goals. One, ‘Medina HastaGrow’ is a liquid fertilizer: you put a little in the soil, and the plants grow like crazy. The other is RoundUp, the systemic poison used to kill any plant, roots and all. We’ve used both in our yard: when we went to move we had a dispenser that had one or the other of them in it. But we didn’t remember which. We didn’t know if we poured it out whether it would make jungle or desert.
It’s the same way with maturity. Some things promote growth, some things poison it. So a person will receive this blessing if they do not walk in the counsel of the wicked. They don’t go along, they walk the other way from those who desire or promote sin. In our culture this means not walking with those who half-live their lives pursuing only material gain and security; those who convince themselves that personal satisfaction is worth more than marital commitment; those who give themselves up to anger, abuse, lust or pride. Blessed is the man who doesn’t go this way, who rejects these poisons.
Blessed is the man who does not stand in the way of sinners. It’s a progression: the man who goes the same way the wicked go becomes so fascinated he stops and struggles with sin’s seductive temptation. A man comes over and over to a crossroads: at each turning there is a choice of right or wrong, love or indifference, selfishness or selflessness, fidelity or betrayal, kindness or hurt. But every time we choose sin, we apply poison to our spiritual lives.
Finally, blessed is the man who does not sit in the seat of scoffers. The progression is complete: once he walked by but did not stop; once he stood and indulged; now he sits and scoffs. He has hardened himself to the truth and to the good, and only his irrational anger remains to remind anyone that once he regretted his choices. Having gone down the path of sin, he wants others to join him.
Do you think I’m exaggerating? Listen to the voices that bitterly cry out, saying wrong is right and right is wrong: those who say that divorce is the right answer to marriage difficulties; that pre-marital sex is inevitable; that homosexual behavior must be defended. This week’s ruling calling same sex marriage a fundamental right goes against the will of California’s people, against the Word of God, against biology and against thousands of years of cultural understanding. Judge Walker scoffs at morality.
Verse 2 says ‘but.’ This contrast leads us to the positive behavior of the man who is to be envied with desire: ‘Blessed is the man’ whose ‘delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.’ In the Psalms ‘the law of the Lord’ represents the whole of Scripture. So we are to delight in all Scripture, and meditate on it. And by these things we mature. The experience of countless believers through the centuries and in our own generation shows that these are critical, key components of mature living.
What do you think of that word ‘delight’? Is there much in life that delights you, brings a sparkle to your eye, a smile to your face, a swelling in your heart? Can you remember the last time you were delighted? Was it going to the mountains? Seeing the sunrise? Watching a one-year-old learn to walk? Hearing a two-year-old talk? Was it the sight of your husband, your wife?
Do you ever delight in spiritual things? The presence of God in prayer; the text and music of a well written song; the joy of fellowship? And do these spiritual delights include hearing God’s voice from His Word, hearing the truth and knowing it true and feeling it as joy in your soul. I could give a dozen examples from the Psalms alone of texts that have delighted my soul at key moments: Psalm 39, or Psalm 51, or Psalm 84.
But instead I want to explore how you can find that delight, the Psalmist’s delight in God’s word? First, you have to be a believer. This week while unpacking I read a few courtship letters from one of our old boxes. I remember how eagerly I used to receive Gail’s letters. But reading the Bible, even reading the Psalms, without being saved is like reading somebody else’s love letters: you may recognize the nice sentiments, but they won’t do a thing for your soul. It’s the letters from your own love that move you and bring you joy.
The Bible says that until we become believers, we are spiritually dead: we’ve been killed, spiritually, by sin. We’ve walked away from God, rebelled against him, declared independence, done what we know is wrong and concluded in our hearts that while God might be real, I don’t need or want him.
That’s spiritual death. But God did not want us to remain dead. He wanted us alive to him for eternity. He wanted us alive so that we could receive his love letter, grow and mature. Because of that desire, his love, he sent Jesus, who died on the cross, and broke the bars of death, bridged the gap of separation between us and God, and gave us the gift - the free gift of new life. Paul said “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ.”
How can we make this love letter our own? Only through that relationship with the one who sent it; only by trusting, believing that what God has said is true, and depending on His Son as our rescuer. If you do that, accept the love gift he offers, then this delight in his Word can be yours.
Second, though, you have to read it. If I receive a letter from my love and leave it unopened on the table, I’ll never delight in what is said. The simple truth is that to appreciate the word you have to spend time in it. Gail characterizes this as a reverse hunger. You start out not hungry at all: maybe you open the Bible only because you’re supposed to. But unlike physical food, when you take in God’s Word it builds hunger. I hope, in the next hundred days, as you take in a little of the word each day, that your hunger grows and grows. It may take time; don’t rush it; but let these words become food for your soul
So believe it’s for you, read it to create hunger, and finally, engage it on a heart level. Much of what I see in my old love letters to Gail could be considered repetitious or mundane: it was meaningful because she read with her heart to know my heart. In the same way Psalms might seem repetitious, until you read them with your heart to know God’s heart. So next week when you read Psalm 5 and it says “Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing,” you need to agree with that on a heart level, not as an intellectual exercise.
Verse 2 gives us one other key word to focus on during your interaction with the Psalms over the next fifteen weeks: “His delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.” What does it mean to meditate on the Word? In Eastern meditation the goal is to empty your mind of thought, become a blank slate. In Biblical meditation the goal is to fill yourself with the Word of God, to dwell on and interact with it using both heart and mind.
What analogy can we use to illustrate meditation? One of my favorites is eating. Jeremiah says “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” Moses and Jesus both use the same analogy: “Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” If the intake of Scripture can be compared to the intake of food, then meditation is chewing on what you take in, like a cow chewing her cud, or a child chewing his gum to get every last molecule of flavor.
When we meditate we turn a text of Scripture over and over in our minds, looking at it from different points of view, examining how it can be applied, testing its meaning in its context. In many ways the heart of meditation is found in asking the text all kinds of questions, questions that analyze the text, focus the text, personalize and apply the text. For our hundred days in the Psalms I’ve included some questions: What is the mood of the Psalm? What is the turning point, if any, in the Psalmist’s thinking? What are the key words or phrases in the Psalm? What do I learn about God? What do I learn about man? What attitudes or actions can I apply from this Psalm?
Donald S Whitney, in a book called Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life says: “By means of meditation the facts of Biblical information are fleshed out into practical application. Information flows through our minds like water through a sieve: it comes and goes so quickly that we retain very little. But when we meditate, the truth remains and percolates. We can smell its aroma more fully and taste it better. The heart is heated by meditation and cold truth is melted into passionate action.”
So read your Psalm and ask it questions. You can also do things like pray through a passage: talk to God about what he’s saying. Or rewrite the Psalm: paraphrase it in your own words. Finally, many people like to journal this meditation: write the paraphrase; write the prayer; write an application.
The blessing of this kind of delight, the blessing of this kind of heart meditation in God’s word is almost incalculable: it is maturity itself. Verse 3: He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”
This is a wonderful word picture of maturity. Think again of a tree, an oak or redwood. A drought may come to the land; fire may rush over it, wind may attack, pestilence may invade. But the tree stands. It suffers little because its roots are deep: it is drinking and absorbing the nutrients from the river.
This is the effect of delight and meditation on God’s word in the life of a believer. You develop maturity by drinking in the life giving waters of the Word of God, and allowing it to give you growth through obedience. The metaphor is perfect. The people we know who are mature are like trees. They are not easily moved, not easily swayed from their tasks. They don’t say a whole lot, but by their presence they provide shade, shelter, stability, and fruit.
Don’t miss that: a mature tree is not fruitless. The tree in Psalm 1, nurtured and sustained by the Word of God yields forth its fruit in its season. When a tree is young it puts its energy into growth, but as it reaches maturity it begins to yield fruit. When fully mature, it yields abundantly. Jesus develops this well in his parable of the soils. Explaining the last two kinds of seeds he says: “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
How do you know if you are mature? Look for fruit. Of course fruitfulness is a whole topic in itself; there are many kinds of fruit talked about in Scripture. For simplicity, why not look for the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. That’s the kind of fruit, the kind of life that mature people you know display.
In contrast, verses 4-5 tell us the fate of the person who walks in the counsel of the wicked, stands in the way of sinners, sits in the seat of scoffers: “Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”
Notice the two contrasting images: the person planted in the Word is a fruitful tree. The person who follows the paths of sinfulness is chaff. You know what chaff is: the part of the wheat that has to be removed before the good kernel can be used. In ancient cultures, the wheat would be beaten or crushed at the threshing floor. Then the wind would sweep the light chaff from the heavier kernals of grain and simply low it away. So you’ve got two choices here: you can be a tree, solid, stable, fruitful, mature, or you can be chaff: useless, not part of the fruit, blown away by every wind, That’s the distinction between going the way of the Word or going the way of the World.
Verse 6: For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. The blessing of delight in God’s Word is maturity, which in these last few verses is called ‘righteousness.’ It is right standing with God that translates into right living, and we call that right living ‘spiritual maturity,’ though it actually touches every area of life.
And all of this is built on the very practical foundation of time in the Word, of delighting yourself in the Word, of meditating on the Word. I can testify from my own experience, from church history, and from experiences of my contemporaries, both personal friends and those I’ve read about that if you will follow the simple formula of delighting yourself in the Word of God, and of meditating in the Word of God, growth in maturity will follow just as certainly as the growth of a tree comes from rain and sun and soil.
Delight yourself in the Psalms; delight yourself in this love letter from the Lord. Believe in Jesus and in what he has done, so that the address on this letter is yours. Open the letter and read it, and engage with it on a heart level. And then meditate on its teaching: take today’s Psalm and question it and wrestle with it until it gives up its nutrition into your spiritual life.
Let me close by pointing out the few simple tools that we’ve created to help you spend these hundred days in the Psalms. The first is simply a calendar. The hundred days goes from now until November 14th. The calendar just shows which day is which Psalm. It also shows what Psalm we’ll be preaching each Sunday. Copies of the calendar are at the back of the room or on my blog.
The second item is a little bit more detailed, focusing on the coming week. We’ll publish this on the blog, and put copies on the back table each Sunday. This is a single folded sheet of paper, designed to fit in a Bible, and it gives you a list of some questions you might ask in meditating on the Psalm each day. One of the things it focuses on is what I call the turning point of the Psalm. You’ll find that the Psalmist often starts out with one mood or point of view, but that as he spends time talking to God about it, his thinking turns a corner, typically toward praise or affirmation. This is a key to many of the Psalms.
Below the questions this sheet gives you the day, date and Psalm, and a little space so you can record your observations and applications. It’s a simple tool that I hope will help you stay on track as we spend these hundred days together, because I’m convinced that the blessing of delighting yourself in God’s word will be growth in maturity.