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TEXT: Psalm 1

SUBJECT: Blessed in Christ

Thirty years ago, I heard a pastor preach Psalm 1 with great precision and power. He told us the meaning of all the key words and applied them to everyday life with great effect. I was so impressed with his sermons that I stole-uh, borrowed them-to preach the same series myself.

Looking back on my old sermons, I stand by everything I said, and still very much admire what the other pastor said first. Except for one thing: He and I preached Psalm 1 as Law. Most of our time was spent telling our people what to do and what not to do-

--Don't walk in the counsel of the ungodly,

--Don't stand in the way of sinners,

--Don't sit in the seat of the scornful.

Instead of doing these bad things, you ought to be doing good things, and in particular-

--Delighting in the Law of the Lord, and

--Meditating on it day and night.

From the duties, we went on to show the consequences of choosing the good and refusing the bad. If you live in God's Law, your life will be happy and fruitful; if you don't, you'll be unhappy now and forever-

But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Does Psalm 1 teach these things? Yes it does, as both a simple reading and a careful study will confirm. It does tell us what to do and what not to do and what will become of us if we do or don't obey it.

But Psalm 1 is not Law; it is Gospel, and, unless we read it this way, it leaves us guilty and discouraged. Thus, we've got to read it in the right way, and that means, in light of what scholars call 'the Christ event'-the Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus. Read in this way, Psalm 1 leaves us encouraged, and enabled to be the kind of people it describes, and the kind of people God wants us to be.

Blessedness is possible in this life, even for likes of you and me. Last week a woman in the hospital told me her religion wasn't very good. I told her mine wasn't either-but my Savior is! This is the Gospel she needed to hear-and so do we.

Not everyone is called to the public ministry of the Word; but every Christian is called to the private ministry of the Word. We're all preachers and the people we need to preach to first and last and most is.ourselves! Preach Psalm 1 to yourself, but preach it as Gospel, not Law, because it is Gospel!


The Psalm opens with a pronouncement-

Blessed is the man.

The word, blessed, can mean either 'happy' or 'favored' or both. Here, I think it means both. The word, moreover, is in the plural suggesting its fullness: 'Oh how favored he is! Oh, the joys of this man!' You remember Lou Gehrig's farewell speech in Yankee Stadium. Even though he had a disease that would kill him in a few months, he said-

Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

If it's good to be lucky, it's even better to be blessed. And that's what the man is: 'blessed'.

Observe also: this 'blessed life' is lived in the world. Of course, the saints in Heaven are blessed! But the Psalm is not set in Heaven. The happy and favored man is living the same place you are: with ungodly and scornful sinners on every side. He is not living above his circumstances, but in them he find a happiness that does not depend on them. He has bills to pay, a sick mother to care for, noisy neighbors, a demanding boss-and he's still 'blessed'.


The man's happiness is not a 'natural' thing. Some people are born bubbly and cheerful, and optimistic. You just can't keep them down. Most of us aren't this way, and there's nothing in the Psalm to make you think its man has that lucky emotional wiring.

While his happiness is the Gift of God, it is also connected to the way he lives his life. He doesn't walk in the way of the ungodly. This means he doesn't follow the crowd; he doesn't get his beliefs and morals from what he sees on TV, what his neighbors are doing, what the latest statistics show. He has chosen a harder life: the strait gate, the narrow way. In a world following the damned to damnation, he follows the saved to salvation.

He also doesn't stand in the way of sinners. He's not holier-than-thou, looking down his nose at people who don't live up to his standards. But he knows friends shape your character. Bad friends are bad for you; good friends are good for you. The friends he makes are good for him-maybe not good for his career or reputation or popularity-but good for his soul. They provoke him to love and good works, and don't drag him down to sin and despair.

Neither will he sit in the seat of the scornful. He's not 'cooler-than-thou', sneering at other people. Least of all will he scorn the Word of God. If a duty makes him look like a fool to the world, he looks like a fool; he doesn't assimilate the Word to the world, but himself to the Word. He doesn't ignore God or mock Him or patronize Him, he fears the Lord and keeps His commandments.

The Blessed man may have had good parents who brought him up rightly and set a good example for him. If he did, he's thankful for them. But he's not the man he is by breeding only. He loves the Law of God and he meditates in it day and night.

This is the secret to his success. Some time in his past he got a taste for the Word of God, and he never lost it. From it he learned-

How shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to your Word.

What he learned young, he never outgrew. Though he became wiser with time, he never became wiser than God, or too wise to simply believe and obey His Word. What Samuel said as a boy, the blessed man said his whole life-

Speak, Lord,

For your servant hears.

The blessed man prefers God and His favor over the world and its approval. Consequently, he-

Does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.


Having told us what the blessed man is, does, and doesn't do, the Psalm goes on to compare him to something everyone of that time and place loved: a lush and fruitful tree-

He shall be like a tree

Planted by the rivers of water,

That brings forth its fruit in its


Whose leaf also shall not wither;

And whatever he does shall prosper.

The tree is evergreen (and therefore, always beautiful and shady), and it turns out a bumper crop every fall. I like to think of it as an olive tree, trees that live for centuries, trees planted by a father and passed on to his family for generations. While other trees die of old age or dry up in drought or become diseased, this one keeps on living and producing and bringing happiness into the world year after year.


If the blessed man is like a green, fruitful tree, not everyone is blessed-

The ungodly are not so,

But are like the chaff

Which the wind drives away.

'Chaff' is the husk of grain, nature's packaging you might say. When you eat a candy bar, what do you do with the wrapper? You throw it away. When a farmer beat out his grain, he let the chaff blow away. Because it's good for nothing, and only a nuisance for him to clean up.

'Chaff' is what the ungodly man is like: worthless, a nuisance. Preaching on Ezekiel 15, where the ungodly are compared to dried up grape vines, Jonathan Edwards titled his sermon-

Wicked Men, Useful in Their Destruction Only.

If a man doesn't glorify God or love his neighbor, what's he good for? He's good for burning, that was Puritan's points. And a powerful one it is, though not easy to swallow.


The Psalm closes with the two ends: there are two kinds of men, two kinds of lives, and two kinds of ends. The blessed man stands in the judgment, has a place in the congregation of the righteous, because he and his life are known to God, and approved of.

The Lord knows the ungodly, too, of course, and, in the end, He will separate them from His people and expel them from His Presence. Forever.

What a tragedy! A man made in the likeness and Image of God, made for the Lord's fellowship forever, is lost to it, fully and finally. Of all the appalling lines written in all the appalling books in the history of the world, none match the words of Dante, at the gate of Hell-

Abandon hope all ye who enter here.


However you read it, Psalm 1 is magnificent. As literature, as theology, and as a manual for living, it cannot be improved upon. I love what the Psalm says and how it says it.

But for all its admirable qualities, Psalm 1 leaves me broken. Because, at my best, I do not live up to its high standards, and I'm rarely at my best. The truth is: I have walked in the counsel of the ungodly, stood in the way of sinners, and sat in the seat of the scornful. And not only 'have' done these things, but still do them more often than I know or care to admit.

What's more, though I love the Word of God, it's not always my chief delight, and I've spent many, many days and nights not meditating on it!

This can only mean, I cannot stand in the judgment or find a place in the assembly of the righteous. I'm not a tree, I'm chaff! The Lord does not approve of my way, and it has to perish!

I am not 'the blessed man'.


Neither are you. Psalm 1 does not describe the moral majority, the Christian minority, not even the handful of true saints that grace every generation. Psalm 1 is about One Man only: Jesus Christ!

Only He never, ever walked in the counsel of the ungodly, stood in the way of sinners or sat in the seat of the scornful. Only He delights in the Law of the Lord with all His heart or spends every living moment in its meditation.

This means only He is the Evergreen Fruit Tree; only He can face God in the Judgment; only He deserves a place in Heaven. Though Paul and others claimed to keep their consciences clear, only One Man could say-

I do always those things that please Him!

Though the Bible praises good men from time to time, it reserves it highest praise for One Man-

Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, made higher than the Heavens.

That single solitary man is our Lord Jesus Christ.


No one but Jesus deserves the favor of God. And, by faith we come into union with Jesus, come into union with Him just as we are, before we clean up our act or grow in grace!

Faith doesn't make us worthy of God's favor, but it puts us into the One who is.

Are you a Psalm 1 person? In yourself, you're not. But through faith you're not 'in yourself'; you're 'in Christ'. And this means all the favor God has for Him is also yours. Not because of who you are and what you've done, but because of Who He is and What He's done!


No wonder the ancient Greeks and Romans laughed at the Christians. The pagans had something solid: detailed plans for becoming good people. All the Christians had was a story and a call to faith. But, for all the impracticality of the Gospel, it had this in its favor: it worked. By believing in Jesus, sinners became saints.

Then. And now.

The message, therefore, is to believe in Christ-not one time only-but every day all day. For it is only in the Blessed Man that we become blessed.

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