Psalm One: It is a Binary Picture

Introduction

Before I worked in the church I used to sit at computers all day every day, across a number of different roles. Towards the end of that Chapter I worked in software and web development. Where for the first time in years I tried to remember skills I have learn at university. Underneath every website or software you interact with you interact with there are layers and layers of code. Code that looks complicated and makes thousands of decision simply, when, you please a button. Then, if you look deeper and deeper into computer’s and the software than runs them you will soon see that everything boils down to a binary choice: true or false, positive or negative, 1 or 0.

Binary is a basic truth of mathematics and computers, no one is going to challenge it: Yet as I left school and entered the “Adult World” of university I remember being so confused by the choices and culture. Nothing was Binary: Everything was fluid. There was no longer any sense of what was actually right or wrong; what was right to you, was, your right as long as it did not infringe on others.

We now live in a world that seems to foreign to the social norms that we use to take for granted. The Judaeo-Christian worldview that has shaped the last 2000 years seems to be crumbling before us. Moral positions that where once respected and the normative standard, now: seem out of place. Our Judaea-Christian ethics that have shaped the churches ethics and morality now seem too binary, to simple and almost dangerous.

I do not know about you, but, at times I almost feel embarrassed about some on my personal views, I want to find better reasons to explain them – not for any purpose of getting people to see my reasoning – but just to be able to avoid saying: “Because the bible says so.” Yet, as the world moves from binary and fixed morality , to fluidity in morality, sexuality, identity and many other areas is it really as confusing as it seems?

C.S Lewis is someone who’s books have impacted my life and thinking and that of the wider church. He is someone who speak powerfully into culture today, even some 70 years on. To us who are worried that are thinking is to rigid, two simplistic or even dangerous and to those who think that fluidity and self determination are king: CS Lewis speaks these words:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

CS Lewis – The Great Divorce

So, as Lewis writes, there are two types of people those who walk in the ways of the righteousness and the wicked: That is what we are thinking about this evening. It’s Binary.

Context & Background

Psalm One and Two act as concise summaries for their entire book of Psalms, even though these are two Separate songs they complement each other. They both employ a comparison between those who walk in Righteousness and those who walk in their own sin. It is a picture of Binary:

  • PS1: Presents the two ways to live on the level of the individual: PS2 does so at the level of the Nation.
  • PS1: Present the ideal persona of a righteous person who is rooted in the word of God: PS2 Present the ideal King, who’s primary duty was to be rooted into the word of God.
  • PS1 begins with blessedness of the individual who is rooted in the word of God. PS2 ends with a picture of the blessed multitudes who have taking refuges under the shadow of the wings of Lord of Heaven.
  • Both Psalms then employ a word picture on the Hebrew word Haga, which is translated as either “meditate” (PS1) or “plot” (PS2) the different in the use of the word is the focus of the person. In PS1 as we will see later, the person meditates on Gods Word (Law) thus, is the picture of righteousness. In Psalm two the person meditates on rebellion, thus is the picture of evil.

PSALM ONE: ROOTED AND RIGHTEOUS (1-3)

(1) A BLESSED MAN

Psalms one and its six verses brings together two pictures that describe one truth: The foundational ideal behind that CS Lewis Quote: Only those who walk with God and are rooted in his ways will flourish, any other way only leads to death and decay.

We hear from the first verse that someone who dose not walk in the advice of the wicked is blessed or to put it another way: someone who follows the wisdom of God is Blessed. The sense of blessed (ashre) here is happiness or privilege. The person who does not walk in the way of the wicked then is someone who knows true happiness and privilege; similar in the sense to Proverbs 3:13 or Matthew 5:3-11 .

The righteous man is blessed because he does not: walk with the wicked, those who intend it only for evil; nor stand with sinners, those who are active and aware that they are breaking God’s holy law; nor does he sit with scoffers, those who would speak in a mocking and dark way and an image often portrayed in Hebrew Wisdom Literature as a picture of an arrogant, someone who considers themselves about discipline and correction – the furthest a person can be from salvation. Additionally, We must notice from the off, that these are not accidental avoidances; they are a active seeking of something better, someone better – company that does not corrupt. Such is the desire of this man for good things and such is his heart that he actively avoids all that might challenge or corrupt it, no matter who they might be, or, what they might offer, he will not walk, stand, or sit with them. The three function described here in verse one should empathise the fact that those who are truly righteous avoid thinking like, behaving like and dealing with the wicked. The opposite picture being if someone does walk, stand and sit he has succumb to all that the world has to offer.

Are you a blessed person? Do you know the same sense of happiness and privilege because you do not need the things of this world to give you worth or meaning? This is a description of someone who’s heart has truly been changed by God: this is someone who loves the things of God more than the things of the world and as such wants to avoiding anything that might challenge his desire for God. is this our heart and desire, are there people who we are actively involved with that could be considered, evil, sinners or scoffers and who are then distracting us from the things of God. Why are we involved with them? Are there even Christians who we sit with who do not share the same heart and desire for the things of God and their dullness then dilutes our passion and faith. Are you actively fighting for you faith, or simply floating. I am not suggesting in anyway that we are all should be a picture of this righteous perfection, bu we who are in Christ are driven by a desire for Christ and the things that draw us closer to him and then equally are strengthened through the power of the spirit to deal with that which, distracts us.

(2) A DEEPLY ROOTED MAN

Do you wonder how the person this Psalms describes actually functions? How he can actively avoid the ways of the world and be described as someone who has deep privilege. Verse one by itself leaves us with an impossible picture. However, in the context of the whole Psalm the sense of verse one is that the righteous person is blessed because they actively do not try to find wisdom or worth in the thinking or actions of the world; The blessedness in verse one is not just an active avoidance, no, instead is an active seeking of something else; of someone else – which we see in verse two – The righteous person is blessed because they find their worth and wisdom in: God. The righteous man is blessed because he choses not to delight in the ways of the world, instead he delights in the things of God, namely: his law. Moreover, not only does he delight in it, he see it as a positive thing. It shapes every aspect of his being.

The Righteous man does not need to walk with the wicked, stand with the sinner or sit with the scoffer in search of something because he has found it all in Gods teachings. Such is the depth of the law and instruction that God gives, such is its power and usefulness that not only does he delight in it – think well of it – but, he spends all his time thinking over it and how it can apply to this or that situation. As Eugene Peterson would paraphrase it: “You chew on the scripture day and night.” The righteous man does not need to find happiness, wisdom or worth in the ways of the world because he has all he needs in the word of God: he cannot find a situation that’s it teaching does not lend itself to; he cannot find an aspect of Yahweh that he does not like. He cannot find anything in the world that even comes close to the beauty, delight and meaning of God as revealed through his written word. He is a blessed man because he knows God, and he knows God because he is blessed by his word.

The righteous man is a blessed man, because, he is a rooted man. He is rooted in the the things of God. The teachings of God thrill him to the point where he cannot stop thinking about them all of his time: It is not some aimless philosophical pondering, but substantive application to his own life and the context and situations he finds himself in. Such is his trust in the teachings of God that he knows it should cover all aspects of his life.

The challenge for all of us who read this then is do we think of the word of God in the same way: Are we thrilled by it and thinking over it; Can you remember what was spoken about the last time you where in church? Did you realise that it could be applied to a situation you where in? Did you realise that theme from the sermon was similar to what you have been doing in your own quiet time. The truth is for me and you, where the righteous man delights in the world of God, we tend to find it quite dull and where they mediate all day and night, apply and using it to challenge them and us we read it out of some sort of sense of duty, to tick a box and convince ourselves that all God needs form it is the five verse our devotion tells us to read a day. We need to become like the righteous man and delight in the word and things of God. Because it is this delight and mediation that then allows us to act like eh righteous man in avoiding the ways of this world. If we do not find ourselves in one thing we will lose ourselves in the other.

(3)A ROOTED TREE = A HEALTHY TREE

We have in the last couple of verses compared and contrasted the ways of the righteous and the ways of the wicked. Now through simile, a picture is painted for us further enhance what the Psalm has been teaching. The righteous person who avoids the trappings of the world is like a tree planted by streams of water – It is a beautiful picture of the results of what will happen when a person is saturated in the word of God: they will grow and in season bear good fruit, they will withstand the torments of time because of where their roots are planted: Because, this is not just any tree, this is a stable tree with deep roots beside an active and living source of life. Not only is this tree alive, it is producing: The phrase “it’s fruit in its season” should give us that sense of the slow and steady growth of the tree: That a person who is rooted in the word of God is not just secure against the storms of life or floods that come when the stream bursts its bank, but, when required they will produce fruit. This is not a selfish tree that sucks water of the stream to sustain itself, no, this is a good tree that absorbs the water of Life (the word of God) and in time produces new and exciting fruit, That is proper to the time and needed. Furthermore, the promised immunity from withering (the leaves) we see at the end of the third verse is not that this tree is independent form the season or the effects of time. It’s the reality of how deeps its roots are , that, when things get tough and drought comes that it will survive because it is grounded and rotted near a stream that never ceases.

We who are in Christ are this tree, the picture painted here is a picture of you and me. We know the word that became incarnate and Dwelt amongst us, we have the spirit of God working in us and we are bearing fruit when the time is right. When Drought comes God sustains us even though we grow tired or weary and we do not lose hope. Finally, because of where our roots go down what ever will do shall prosper.

(4-5) DOOM AND GLOOM.

Hear the words at the end of verse three again: “whatever they do prospers.” Hold them and listen again to verse four: “Not So the wicked!” Let’s join those two sentences together, “Whatever they [the righteous] do prospers, but, not so the wicked! They are like chaff, that the wind blows way.” Does your mind heed the employed comparison between the two similes. The righteous are like a solid oak that will bear fruit when it needs to, feeds on the river of life and because of it’s deep roots will survive drought and whatever the seasons throw , not only does it survive it prospers. The wicked on the other hand, they are like chaff that gets blow about in the wind, that is they are subjected to whatever the season throws such is their weakness and uselessness. Chaff is in this case the ultimate picture of what is rootless, weightless and useless – it is the ultimate agricultural picture of uselessness. The last scene in verse four is of the winnowing process where the farmer works the grain to get ride of that which is useless, throwing it up in the air so the lightest wind will catch it and remove the week stuff. Its judgement, and descriptive of what awaits those who go against the will and ways of God,

The therefore at the start of verse 5 directly realties to how the wicked have chosen to be. Those who have actively chosen to live a life opposed to God and his ways are like Chaff, therefore when they stand before the judge they will not have a leg to stand on and no seat amongst the people: it’s a counter image to their previous actions and shows us when they (the wicked, sinful and mockers) stand before the true Judge (God) they will have no defence for their course of actions. They will see their power collapse before them and will be explused from the community of God forever. Read some words from Isaiah 2:10-21:

Enter into the rock

and hide in the dust

from before the terror of the Lord,

and from the splendor of his majesty.

11 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low,

and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled,

and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

12 For the Lord of hosts has a day

against all that is proud and lofty,

against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;

13 against all the cedars of Lebanon,

lofty and lifted up;

and against all the oaks of Bashan;

14 against all the lofty mountains,

and against all the uplifted…

That is the fate that await those who avoid the ways of God, those who would chose to live as their own God, those who think that they know best. There are two types of people in this world, those who follow God will prosper in light of eternity, those who follow themselves will face collapse and expulsion.

(6) IT IS YOUR CHOICE (Conclusion)

It is simple really, it comes down to you. Will you respond to God working in your life, This Psalm starts by declaring joyfully that the righteous person is blessed because they avoid the things of the world. The three stages mentioned in verse one show three aspects or steps of departure from God and relationship with him. In verse one we see conformity to the way in three different aspects: Accepting of Advice, conforming to its behaviours and adapting its attitudes. Steps that if we follow would lead us to be like the scoffer which proverbs 3:34 tells us is the person furthers from God. In verse 6 we see where that walk ends up – destruction. Yet, thankfully we also see what happens when we walk the road less travelled the road of righteousness. They are with the Lord, he watches over them and not like a bird hovering in the sky. The word translated as watches over also means “knows them” it is used in Genesis 4:1 in reference to the act of love. So while the wicked who are blown about like chaff are lead to destruction the righteous shall prosper and know deep and intimate relationship with God. The road the righteous walk Leeds to communion with God and deep and intimate knowledge of him, it is an active walking and choosing the things of God, spending time in his word and with his people as well, it is a road that leads to a deep love for God and his ways. It is also an active avoidance of others who chose to walk a different road, and easier road a road that leads to death and decay, a road that leads to nothing. Is it as Zig Ziegler says “Every choice you make has an end result?” What is your choice? Are you walking the road less travelled and resting on the assurance that you are not walking alone, That Christ goes before you and the spirit is within you helping you. It really is a binary choice, will you make the right one?

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