Published in The Calhoun Times Saturday, January 9th
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2 ESV)
The first Psalm sets up a compare and contrast between the righteous and the wicked, which actually continues for several chapters, but I would like us to spend a few minutes thinking about David’s delight and what he meant by “law of the Lord.” The Pharisees of the first century – you know, the ones always trying to find fault in what Jesus said and did – were legalists. They were more concerned about keeping the Law than knowing God, pleasing God or becoming more like God. They kept the letter of the law but missed the spirit of the law. You will meet Christians like that today, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a legalistic church. David is not bogged down with law keeping. He is described as a man after God’s own heart. When David wrote that his delight was in the law of the Lord he had more in mind than memorizing commandments and following rules. Technically speaking he probably referred to the Torah, the five books of Moses. What he really meant was all the words of God, or what we might refer to as God’s Word.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread, he responded that “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word the proceeds from the mouth of God.” Each time Jesus was tempted he responded with words of scripture. That’s a different lesson for another day. In this case Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. Deuteronomy is one of the books of the Torah so David would have been aware of this command. David is saying that the righteous live by every word that God says, and delights in learning about those words and following God’s instructions. In other verses David writes: “Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it” (Psalm 119:35) and “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97)
Note David’s repeated use of the word meditate. He wants to listen carefully to everything that God has to say and give careful thought and attention to it. He was wants to learn, study, dwell on it and then to apply it, all day every day. He wants to seek God and know God. He doesn’t consider reading scripture to be a chore that he needs to check off some kind of list for the day. He looks forward to hearing from God. That’s the difference between the righteous and the wicked. The righteous person is like a tree planted by rivers of water (Psalm 1:3). Those roots go deep into their source of life and strength. David says that everything such a person does will prosper.
David compares the righteous to the wicked. Proverbs (written by Solomon, David’s son) makes several comparisons between the wise and the foolish. Both sets of comparisons remind me of a parable Jesus told in Matthew 7 about two men building houses. The wise man dug deep and built his house on the rock. The winds came, the flood waters rose, but the house was not moved. The foolish man built his house on the sand. The winds and the floods not only caused the house to fall but great was the fall of it. Jesus says the one that hears his words and does them will be like the wise man. All the words that Jesus spoke were given to him by God the Father. Jesus is the incarnate Word of God. David and Jesus are describing the same thing. What separates the wise from the foolish, the righteous from the wicked, is hearing and heeding the Word of God.
Proverbs says the wise receive instructions with gladness; they learn from it while the foolish despise instructions. There are some athletes born with natural ability but they cannot capitalize on it unless they can be coached. Sometimes “coachability” will get you farther than natural ability. Do you receive instruction? Can you take constructive criticism and learn from it? There is none so blind as the one that will not see. Those are not words of scripture but they certainly have scriptural application. Look again at the first words David wrote; Those that hear and do are blessed.