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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Psalms 1:1-2--Blessed is the Man

The book of Psalms is likely the most read book of the Old Testament among Christians.  It begins on a high note giving us instructions on how to live a good life away from those things that would drag us down and destroy us.  It begins:

"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; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:1-2 NKJV)

To really get a good grasp on a passage it is often good to read it from more than one translation so I want to quote the passage here from two other versions—the New Revised Standard Version and the New Living Translation.

"Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night." (NRSV)

"Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.  But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night." (NLT)

The Old Testament Hebrew word translated "blessed" or "happy" in this passage ("joys" in the NLT) means, according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, happy or favored.  The Hebrew can legitimately be rendered "happy" according to most commentators.  It is not a state of emotional ecstasy as in "I am so, so happy" but a state of being in which one could say he has been blessed by being saved from all the troubles and trials sinners bring upon themselves unnecessarily by the lives they live.

It is the kind of blessing or happiness that one can easily fail to recognize for it is related to things like peace, contentment, and joy rather than the momentary and fleeting ecstasy that a single solitary joyous event might bring on.  It has permanence.  It is an abiding quiet type of happiness that lies deep within the soul.

There are things a godly person will never experience which are wonderful blessings within themselves.  The godly person is not going to experience the loss of the love of a loving wife and children because of his cheating on his wife.  He is not going to experience anger and bitterness against himself because of his deceitfulness, lying, and slander.  People are not going to avoid him and disrespect him because of his vulgarity, his foul mouth.  He will not be known as an unloving, unkind, and bitter man.  Because we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly nor stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of the scornful and we do follow God's counsel we miss the trouble, pain, and sorrow that comes as a direct result of ungodliness.    

If we want to enjoy this blessing then we cannot walk in the counsel of the ungodly.  Who we associate with and whose counsel we take can make all the difference in the world.  "Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.'" (1 Cor. 15:33 NKJV)  Good parents have always been concerned about the company their teenage children keep and with good scriptural reason to back it up.  It is just a fact if you hang around with the wrong people long enough and get into a close relationship with them it is going to rub off on you.  Run with the wrong crowd, avoid the righteous, and it will catch up with you in due time.

There are people out in the world whose advice or counsel needs to be ignored for it is ungodly and ultimately leads to suffering and sorrow.  Gross ungodliness is easy enough to recognize but ungodliness today is often cloaked in what the world perceives to be a mantle of righteousness and can easily draw the uninformed into its grasp.  Paul said, "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works." (2 Cor. 11:14-15 NKJV)

Homosexual marriage is the latest such thing.  The Bible is clear that homosexual relationships are ungodly but the counsel of the wicked says it is bigoted, unloving, and intolerant even unchristian to prohibit these relationships.  Two generations ago when my grandparents were still living and my parents were yet young all recognized this sin as immorality.  Nowadays it is unloving and bigoted to be critical and some mainstream denominations are beginning to accept gay marriage as righteous.  We cast the word of God aside and say society, not God, is the ultimate judge of godliness, righteousness, or whatever similar term you wish to use.  It seems crazy but who can deny but what we are doing that today? 

When I was growing up it was still immoral and frowned upon for a person to leave their husband or wife.  Nowadays you can have 3, 4, or 5 marriages, all unscriptural, and nobody bats an eye.  In fact, marriage itself is now optional, just move in together.  Adultery in America means nothing to anyone except it seems to the spouse against whom it was committed and to Christians who still refuse to take the advice of the ungodly and who have not been deceived by the one who has transformed himself into an angel of light.

What I am getting at is that it is becoming harder all the time, especially for the young and immature, to discern good from evil, godliness from ungodliness, in a secular and politically correct world where these false ministers of righteousness have gained sway over the public mind.  I know of one case where a woman who attends denominational services on a regular basis, an educated woman, gave her son and his girlfriend a hotel room for the weekend to relax.  Can you imagine?  But that is the world we live in today and people do not seem to be able to distinguish godliness from ungodliness.   Fornication is no longer considered to be ungodliness or sin but just an accepted part of growing up in America in the times in which we live.  Few see it as sin.   

What will become of those who give ungodly counsel?  "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isa. 5:20 NKJV)  If you can make wickedness look good and make it seem to be the charitable and reasonable thing to do and make the Bible appear to be outdated, bound to ancient societies long since buried in history, leaving the word with little to no applicability for today then it is all the easier to get people to walk in ungodly counsel, especially the young who lack life experience.  People today are being poisoned against God's counsel.

Anything that draws boundaries that makes a clear cut line between right and wrong is considered judgmental today no matter how many scriptures you can quote to uphold a doctrine.  Why?  Because Satan has done his work and discredited a conservative reading of the scriptures.  People have lost faith that the word of God means what it literally says or that they will have to give an account to a God who will hold them accountable.  "Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, "You will not require an account." (Psalms 10:13 NKJV)

The only way to know what constitutes ungodliness is by knowing what the Bible says and believing it but when people reach the point that their faith has been destroyed in the word what then?  "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalms 11:3 NKJV)  I find it interesting that the Psalmist David left the question unanswered for I think we all know the answer instinctively.  We are getting close to the point in America where the foundations will have been destroyed in terms of faith in the word of God as having any real meaning for us as a guide for daily life. 

The great desire in our time is to have every religion known to man serve as a route to eternal salvation.  That is why the Bible can no longer be accepted by modern liberal thinkers for it says, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12 NKJV)  This is, of course, a reference to Christ.  We have gone from one church being as good as another, which was never true as Christ only built one church, to the point now where one religion is as good as another.  Where does it end?  Again, I think we all know the answer to that question as well. 

Note the progression in ungodliness in this passage in Psalms 1.  First, you take counsel of the ungodly, next you become one with him taking his side, standing with him, and finally, you become scornful of righteousness, you are now the one giving out ungodly counsel yourself.  As the expression goes "who would have thought it" when you first started down that road?  Ungodliness leads to more ungodliness.  Paul says, "But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Tim. 3:13 NKJV)

One can become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  "But exhort one another daily, while it is called 'TODAY,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." (Heb. 3:13 NKJV)  This passage has always scared me for it tells me such a thing can happen and if it happens to a person what then?  You no longer care.  How can you repent?  If you cannot repent, what then?  We all know the answer.

At the close of this first Psalm David says, "Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.  For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish." (Psalms 1:5-6 NKJV)

The good news is there is a blessed man in this Psalm, the one who ignores the wicked and ungodly, who will not take their advice, nor stand with them, nor sit in their seat, "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night." (Psalms 1:2 NKJV)

People who are not faithful Christians cannot understand how a person could delight in the law of the Lord nor how a person could be interested enough to meditate on it day and night.  When my Dad died he did not leave me a book he had written to me, for me.  I wish he had.  If I had such a book I would rejoice in it and read it and reread it and reread it again and think about it often.  I would find great joy in that.

God, our eternal father, has left us all a book and while that book is for all mankind it is also personally written to each one of us as individual children of his, or at least we can be his children if we will.  This is his letter to us, his way of communicating with us, the only thing we have that truly contains his thoughts, tells us of his love, reveals his nature, and tells us what he wants us to do, and what our future will be like. 

God is going to take care of you and make you eternally happy, at least that is his desire.  Why would you not want to read about that and meditate on it?  Why would you not take an intense interest in what he has to say to you in his word?  Why would you not delight in it?  Speaking on a personal level it is the one place I have found peace in my life.  I cannot tell you how that works, you will have to get to the point where you experience it for yourself, but there is peace to be found in reading and meditating on the word of God. 

There is no space here for me to go on for there is too much to say about the value the word of God has to every person who is willing to reach down and pick his Bible up and begin the long journey of learning about God.  The 119th Psalm will tell you all about the word and its value.  Read it.  But, until you have time to do that remember there is a blessed man in the world—the one who heeds Psalms 1:1-2.

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