Tuesday, September 6, 2016

6 September 2016
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.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. Psalm 1 (NLT)

            Good morning, welcome. Today we begin our journey through the Psalms. Psalm 1 picks up where we left off with the Beatitudes-the choice between the two ways. I chose the New Living Translation here because I believe it most accurately translates the Hebrew word for ‘blessed’-rendering it as a declarative statement, an exclamation of praise and thanksgiving from one who has spent a lifetime delighting in the law of the LORD. Hold that thought-we will come back to it in a bit.
            Note the series of progressions here. For the ungodly the process begins with keeping the wrong company. Thoughts and ideas are allowed in, thinking is influenced, and actions result forming patterns of behavior-habits are established. We find ourselves well on our way down the path that leads us away from God before we even realize we left the yard. The godly one shows a different progression, centered on God’s law-delight leading to reflection and meditation, producing consistent behavior patterns (habits-bearing fruit each season) –that lead to a prosperity that does not depend upon our circumstances, but upon being known by the LORD.
            This Psalm is as much about character formation-or spiritual formation, if you prefer-as it is about the two ways, and there are two ways of looking at that as well. First is the thinking that it describes the godly person and, since it opens the Psalter, it also sort of sets down the conditions for entrance. That is, if we intend to fully understand the Psalter, to ‘get the most out of it’, this is the attitude we must bring; the character we must have.
            The other way to look at is, after reading the Psalter with open minds and open hearts, allowing its words to take root in us and become our words, this is the person we will become. Or at least begin to become, or desire to become. Looking at it in this way the only requirements for entrance are an open mind, a willing spirit and a commitment to allowing God to transform us. Actually, there is a third way-there is almost always a third way-seeing at it as both the character we have and the character we need. Keep in mind, the Psalter begins with a blessing and ends with praise. The question for us is, what happens along the way?
            Finally, note that this Psalm has no author listed. The nice thing about that for us is we are free to let our imaginations run a little wild; free to speculate. Psalm 1 could be a human voice of reflection and experience, or God’s voice of instruction, or both. Either one lends itself nicely to meditation exercise.
            From the human voice perspective, we can imagine the family matriarch of patriarch gathering everyone together for reflection. Perhaps the Psalm wasn’t even written down yet, and in fact this may very well be how it was originally composed. Who our person was or what their station in life is not important. The point here is the words were spoken by someone, repeated, passed down until someone finally decided to record them and they found their way into the Psalter.
            For this meditation, we become part of the family. One time we may be a child hearing the words for the first time, another time a parent or grandparent hearing them for the hundredth time. Still another time we may be the voice ourselves; reflecting on the events of our lives, seeing how God was always present; a delight when we followed His law; a withering wind when we did not. Let the words become the lens through which we interpret out life experiences; the compass guiding our choices.
            If this type of meditation is difficult for you, try reading the words as though God is speaking them directly to you. I can easily imagine Jesus Himself quoting this Psalm often during His teaching ministry-after all, just because it isn’t recorded does not mean it never happened. Hear God calling you to choose; reminding you your choices have consequences. If in doing this you find yourself on the wrong path, see how God guides you back. I’m here to tell you, He will relentlessly pursue you until you come home.
May the LORD bless you sand keep you this day. JRG

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