Sunday, June 7, 2009

Psummer Psalm Pseries - Psalm 1: Foundations


Psalm 1
1How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
4The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.

When I go to the beach, I like to build sand castles. Though I just dabble at it, I realized quite quickly two things. The first was the importance of the foundation. If you want a big sandcastle, you need a good foundation. The second was that sand is transient. If you want to build something that will last, don’t use sand. We saw what happened when the tide came in on that sandcastle - down in a heap.

I just read an article in the paper that talked about a good builder who put up a building, but did not have it square on the foundations. It was the architect speaking and he said the structure had to be torn down and redone because it began to sag and slide even further off the foundations. Foundations are so important. As we start our Psummer Psalm Pseries, we start with Psalm 1 which really is the doorway into the Psalms. The things we read in it are foundational, and a good reminder as we go into the summer season.

Note that Hebrew poetry likes to be symmetrical. The Psalmist will often repeat a statement using slightly different words that builds on what he repeated. Contrast is another device relating to symetricality. Often both sides of the coin is presented. Keep this in mind as we go through the Psalms this summer.

Verse 1:“Blessed” - plural - Oh how very happy…
Notice the movement and progression: Walk - Stand - Sit It is almost as if you are on a journey. In a journey you head out to a destination and as you get closer you slow down so you don’t pass by where you are going. When you arrive, your journey is done and you stop. Consider also the aging process. When you are young, life is a flurry of activity. With our kids at home we now mesh 4 schedules and there are a lot of things happening. In some 15 years our life comes back to us in small ways, as much a factor of age as anything. We begin to slow down. And in our old age we arrive. We have our opinions and experience of decades and decades. We know what we like, and we like what we know. Where we end up on our journey, whether it be a road trip or life, is dependent on the road we travelled. The Psalmist reminds us of this process and encourages us to find the good path.

Charles Ryrie compared these verbs to Believe - behave - belong. These verbs are all choices. I am amazed when I read about riots how many people run to the danger and violence. Me and my feet will always seek less populated streets and places. Where do your feet take you? Do you run to things that draw you away from God? And when you get there, do you stand and watch?
I read this and think of King David. He was not with his army where he should be, and gets presented a compromising position when he sees Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. What does he do? Does he turn away, turn and pursue things that will not tempt him, or does he take the opportunity as presented and just stand there? Most of us know the story. He not only stands there, but calls her to his bedroom and commits adultery. He not only walks and stands in the place of temptation and sine, but he sits down and willingly gives himself up to his desires. All along this story arc were places where David could have made the choice that would have resulted in none of this happening. This sin led David to scheme and commit 1st degree murder. Selfish, destructive selfishness. What happened?

A big part was that David allowed his foundations to go bad. David was the shepherd boy who confronted and defeated goliath. He killed the lion and the bear to protect his little flock of sheep. So much potential, so much promise. And God did use Him still, in mighty ways; but David limited what God could do in and through him because of his personal weaknesses.
That’s why I challenge us often in three areas: Action - words - thoughts. It is in these three areas that we live out our life. It is in the private places of our brain, our mind, our heart where we erect our foundations of life. It is out of this place that flows our words and actions. I have heard people swear purposefully who call themselves a child of God, leaders even. There is a current storm in the blogging world relating to profanity in the pulpit between Mark Driscoll and John Piper. Why can’t our speech reflect the work of holiness that the Holy Spirit is working In our inner man? Why can’t our actions reflect that same character of God? Why do we give up so easily the struggle of righteousness in our behavior? Why are we so quick to admit our humanity and our weakness, when God is working so much more into our lives?

Do you see the result of having no foundation? Verse 4 says the wicked are like the chaff blown away in the wind. This is the picture of winnowing. You taking the harvested grain and throw it in the air. The heavier meat of the grain falls back down, but the light garbage of the stalk is blown away in the wind. This Psalm says that the wicked will not stand spiritually. They are judged and found wanting. They will be cast away. They may think they have control of their own destiny for a season, but they are nothing. God knows; He is not mocked.
Listen to the contrast. The picture is of a tree firmly planted by streams of water. I get a sense of those huge willow trees.

The deep roots, the deep foundations cause the tree to survive fierce storms.
The deep roots, the deep foundations cause the tree to be fruitful at the right time.
The deep roots, the deep foundations cause the tree to be useful for many things, including shade on the hot days of summer, or a rope swing for kids into the cool waters beside.
The deep roots, the deep foundations cause the tree to be an anchor to the river bank. Erosion would tear away at the dirt if not for the tree.

Tall, majestic, long-living - these are the spiritual qualities of the righteous, the person who follows God. My dad’s friend, Ed Prosser died last Sunday. He was 80 years old, married for 57 of those to his wife Donna. He is one of those guys that I would hear about over the years - a pastor, a teacher, a District Superintendent… nothing really set him apart, no large churches, not wealthy in terms of Canadian standards. But he leaves a legacy. A legacy to his family, a legacy to the people he ministered because his foundation was deep.

There is so much that draws us away from God, from our faith in this world. It is only by sinking our roots deep in Jesus, deep into the word that we will run the race well.
Application? It is found in verse 2. Love the Word. Get it into your heart and mind. Memorize it. Read it. Use it in your conversation. Let it guide you in life. If you are not already, become a student of the Word and let it be your lifelong pursuit. My dad is 80 and still works at reading it through each year, cover to cover. This Psalm would be a great one to commit to memory.

What foundation are you building your life upon?

Read this Psalm again in closing.

2 comments:

pj said...

you know, I really like readng your writing, because its so real life and easier to understand what the bible is saying.

Steve G said...

Thanks for the comment, PJ, and thanks for stopping by again.