Call to Worship:
New City Catechism
Q. 52 What hope does everlasting life hold for us?
A. It reminds us that this present fallen world is not all there is; soon we will live with and enjoy God forever in the new city, in the new heaven and the new earth, where we will be fully and forever freed from all sin and will inhabit renewed, resurrection bodies in a renewed, restored creation. [Revelation 21]
Our God and Father, we praise you this morning as Creator, Sovereign Ruler and Savior. We confess that there are times when we doubt what this Psalm teaches us. There are times that we think the blessed man is the man who has more possessions or greater wealth. Help us then to see the foolishness of that thinking. And may we find true and lasting joy in you. Help us to go in the way of righteousness which does not listen to the counsel of the wicked, but instead looks to your instruction and counsel which lead to joy and life. We thank you for sending your Son and for all the blessings that you have bestowed upon us through him. It is in his name that we ask for these things, Amen.
Hello Waukesha City Church. I hope this audio finds you well. And thank you for listening in. I am grateful to all of you who have stuck with me through these short teachings.
We start on a new Psalm this week. And I thought we would go back to the very beginning of the Psalter to
This Psalm is a personal favorite of mine. I remember memorizing it with my family when I was in grade school. And it has been stored in the bank ever since, though to be honest at times it’s gotten dusty in there from lack of use. But for some reason the first few lines of the Psalm have always stuck with me along with the essential message of the Psalm. And it has been a faithful companion, sometimes an assuring one and sometimes a needing nagging one. So, I’m thankful to my parents for having me memorize it.
Let’s get to it then. I’ll read the Psalm first and you can follow along.
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. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The Psalmist is laying out a contrast for us between those he calls righteous and those he calls the wicked. And we should not think of those categories as simply moral categories. As if the righteous are those who have reached moral perfection and the wicked are those who sin. No. That is not how he is using those terms.
Instead, we are meant to understand them as relational categories. Yes, the righteous practice righteousness, but they are called righteous because of their relation to God. They are those who delight in God and his law. The wicked are those who refuse to acknowledge God and worship him as God. So they too are called wicked because of their relation to God. At the heart of their life is a heart that is in rebellion against God. So they may do good things and not just wicked things, but Scripture calls them wicked because they are at odds with God who is the source of all goodness and life.
So this Psalm is not teaching moralism: that by our own effort we can attain our own righteousness by good deeds. But rather, it is describing for us the difference between the life of those who belong to God, those know him as their God, and those who live in a state of rebellion and willful ignorance toward God.
This type of comparison is found all throughout Scripture. What it does is divide all of humanity into two separate camps. And people today really hate that. The idea that there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who stand before God as righteous and those whom He regards as the wicked.
Now we know that our standing before God is based upon his grace and not our merit. We are declared righteous by the perfect obedience and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So again, it isn’t a matter of good people and bad people. But the fact remains that Scripture divides the world into two categories: those who know God and love God and those who do not. And there is no third way. Third option.
And this means that the most important thing about a man or a woman is his or her relation to God. Is it enmity or is it peace? There is a sense in which everyone has some kind of relationship with God. The question is what kind of relationship is it? Is it one of hostility and wrath, or one of faith and mercy?
We see this very same dichotomy in John chapter 3. Verses 18 says, “Whoever believes in him (speaking of Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Then the last verse of the chapter, verse 38, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” So this is the testimony of God’s Word, both in the Old and New Testament. There are two ways to live: the way of faith and the way of unbelief. There are two kinds of people: those who have turned to God for mercy and grace and those who refuse to acknowledge God and His revelation of himself to them.
Now then, back to our Psalm. We can think of it in these terms then: the man or woman of God and the man or woman of the world. One is called righteous because of his or her being right with God. The other is called wicked or sinner because he or she is not right with God and frankly doesn’t care to be.
Now we haven’t even jumped into the first verse yet, and as we do I want to propose that what God is saying here in the very first phrase of the first verse is at contrast to what the world says. Let me explain.
It is all around us: in movies and in advertisements and on social media. And really, well everywhere. It is the competing aim that society has to define what the blessed life is and what it looks like.
I want us to think about this and dig deep on it. Because I think that we so often miss what we are being sold.
Almost every advertisement today is not selling a product as much as it is selling an idea. “Blessed is the man who has this.” “Blessed is the man who knows this.” “Blessed is the man who does this or accomplishes this.” “Blessed is the man who looks like this.” “Blessed is the man who wears this.”
And the truth is that this isn’t happening with just business that have widgets for sale. It is in any kind of promotion for a way of life, for a worldview, for an ideal society, for a tribal identity, for a righteous cause.
Now thanks to twitter the word “blessed” has come back into vogue. Now it just has a hashtag in front of it. Pastor Jake preached a sermon on this Psalm a few years back and gave us a sampling of how that word is used on social media today. There is obviously some confusion over what it means to be blessed. But the confusion is not so much over the word itself, rather over what constitutes true blessedness.
Blessed is the man could be translated as joyful is the man. To be blessed is to know true joy in life. The blessed life is the life of fulfilment and joy. We could even say it is the good life. The life that is enjoyed as it is meant to be lived: under God and the blessings He gives.
Now what is my point in all of this? It is to say this. That the counsel of the wicked, of those who don’t know God, is to point at anything in this world and say, “Blessed is the man who has that.” You want the good life? Then do this, then think like this, then get this. And if you do that, then you’ll find joy. You’ll find satisfaction. You’ll find peace. You’ll be blessed.
But, God says to us, blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked. Instead, His delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.
The good life, the blessed life, is not the life the world is selling. Christian, you are not missing out on anything. So, don’t go buying the counterfeit blessedness. God is the one from whom all blessings flow. If you know Him and delight in His Word (His instruction and promises), then whatever else you have or don’t have, makes no difference. God speaks the truth to you here:
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.
The instruction of wicked does not bring joy. The instruction of the Lord does. So delight and meditate upon it, Christian friends. God is the source of our blessing and joy. The good life is the life lived under his grace and blessing, taking delight in his instruction.
Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.