Rooted for Life | Psalm 1
Passage: Psalm 1
Christopher Rich – July 1, 2018
PSALMS | Soundtrack for our Souls | Wk 1
Rooted for Life | Psalm 1
Introduction | Overview of Psalms
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we begin a new series Psalms: Soundtrack for our Souls.
We all have songs that when we hear them we instantly remember, a time/ place/event, a person, or emotion. In this series, we are going to look at the songs God has given us to remind us who He is, what He’s done/doing, and how we’re to think, feel, act, and relate to God. Today, we’re going to look at an overview of the Book of Psalms as a collection of divinely inspired songs brought together into a rich anthology given to help us have a realistic and artistic voice for understanding the complex relationship between God and His People. We’re also going to look at Psalm 1, as the first of two part of songs that set the tone for the entire collection.
Why Music? Music is powerful in shaping the ways we think and feel on a multitude of levels. Songs and poetic writings get stuck in our heads we sing them or hear them over and over and now you have words/lyrics that are imprinted in your brain. You can access them more easily the memorization. They are effective for teaching, shaping, and giving voice feelings and experiences that cannot be simply bullet pointed out. There is a way that we are created to respond on more levels to sung/composed lyrics than the spoken or written word. In God’s word, we are given histories, prophecies, regulations, first person accounts of life with Jesus, letters to churches unpacking doctrinal truth and life practice so much given to engage with God at an intellectual and narrative level AND we are given these poetic/musical works. Our God knows us and desires for us to connect with Him in way that stir not only our mind but our soul. This is why we sing in our corporate gatherings, this is why we enjoy a good concert, and why we are intentional about WHAT we sing starting with the key question of every song we sing “Are the lyrics true and biblical?”
Psalms Overview: There are 150 Psalms broken up it five distinct books. There are at least 8 human authors inspired by the Holy Spirit, most notably David who while big a great shepherd, victorious warrior, shrewd politician, man after God’s own heart, was also an accomplish musician. (try being one of David siblings) The writing of these songs spans near the entirety of the Old Testament from Moses song, to songs written after the Jewish Exile into Babylon. This spans several centuries, so these 150 songs are more of greatest hits from the best musicians. They’re songs about a relationship between God and His People, and this is a lengthy and complex relationship. Some are short and repetitive, (I can make your hands clap) some are longer and complex (Free Bird or Bohemian Rhapsody) Most of the Psalms are written to reflect on an individual or corporate experience. Many have specific episodes, experiences, context that help inform and inspire there writing, but they are written in timeless and classic ways so they are easily able to speak to us and us relate to them when we are in similar if not identical circumstances and moods.
The collection is brought together for a purpose. For a people, both individual and corporately, to be able to navigate and make sense of the God, the world, their lives and hearts in a language that speaks deeply to the soul. CS Lewis said “The Psalms are poems, and poems intend to be sung; not doctrinal treaties nor even sermons.” While the Psalms are not a systematic theology they do teach doctrine and the give poetic voice to what is true about God and His people. Key truths of God’s character and nature include God as the Creator of everything, Redeemer of His people, one who sustains, provides, and protects in the face of trials and opposition. We sing to God as warrior, King, Father, teacher, and judge, but most importantly…
Psalms are about Jesus - Jesus is clear in Luke 24 that all of the Law, prophets, psalms point to him and are about HIM. We cannot look at the Psalms (or any other OT writing) properly unless it back through the lenses of seeing how they connect with or two Jesus. Otherwise we’re going to try to be good Hebrews (and likely fail), rather receiving new life as disciples living for Him. We can only read, hear, sing these psalms rightly in as much as we remember they’re always and ultimately about Jesus.
Here is the challenge for those who take the New Testament seriously; try to singing those Psalms Christologically, thinking of Jesus as their ultimate fulfillment. See how they sound, what they do, where they take you. – NT Wright
So we read Psalms as prayers to Jesus as God. Looking at different genres of God’s word determine different ways of interpreting them. There are three fundamental genres in the Psalms and some sub sets:
1: Orientation (Worship Praise, etc) These are the Hymns of Praise - Upbeat, easily recognizable for their praise of God for who He is. Happy, Top 40, pop, American Idol, love songs, stuff played at weddings and prom (Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, 21 Pilots), only instead of being about your boyfriend, they’re about the Creator of the Universe, about Jesus who is the object of our worship and praise for who he is! We are made for worship and we are to worship God in Jesus this is the beginning of life with God.
2: Disorientation (Lament) Why are things the way they are? Why have God’s promises not seemed to be enacted in ways I see fit? They express sadness, fear, pain, even anger, over the broken sinful, unjust, state of the world or difficult circumstances in life crying out to God to fix it. This is Nirvana, Alice and Chains, or any other band that came out of Seattle in the ‘90’s. It’s also most country songs where a guy loses his wife, kids, house/trailer, gun, in the same day. Many of these are quite raw with people and circumstance “why do the wicked prosper? How long Oh God will you hide your face from me/us? Etc” These songs are so important because they are realistic about life in a fallen world with sin. They show hearts that wrestle with doubt even despair. One of the last things Jesus says on the cross as He’s suffering for the sins of His People is “my God my God why have you forsaken me” Psalm 22 of Lament. Lament is a place we can visit, even linger for a season, but we are never meant to languish in lament. Wrestle with doubt but don’t worship it. It is popular to say in churches today “God is big enough to handle your doubts.” And that’s true, but it’s typically said in a way that God is ok with you being in a constant state of doubt or deconstruction. Our God IS big enough to handle your doubt AND our God answers our doubts with affirmations and actions displaying His character, nature, and reminding us of his promises. Laments are meant to minister to us in great difficulty and move us out of those dark nights of the soul into light and life.
3: Reorientation (Thanksgiving) God doesn’t want us to remain in lament. God has worked to restore. These are country songs played backwards and the guy gets everything he back. They are similar to worship hymns, but they tell stories of times when God is praised, but an unsettling situation arises but God has met the need or answered a cry. God is thanked and praised for answering songs of lament, bringing justice, and restoring relationship with him. The songs are written in such a way to share with others God’s work calling them to join the one who has been delivered in their worship of God. We see reorientation in and restored worship in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Ps30 God turned “wailing into dancing.”
This is the path of the Christian life, we met and begin to follow/worship Jesus. We face difficulty and doubt and wonder if the God we’re worshipping is real and active only to be brought back to what is true.
Confidence/Trust/Victory: Usually short and triumphant, showing trust and confidence in a God victorious over the enemy. Like a college football fight song, gets you fired up not for who you are but for your team (God). Jesus is our champion, the one who fight for us and is victorious over satan sin and death on the Cross.
Kingship: A huge concept though out the Psalms as David, a human king writes both about his experience as a king, and serving God as King. These are like national anthems rallying and unifying a people around a shared national identity as citizens of God’s people. Instead of being about a banana republic or despotic dictator, the point to the rule and reign of God, in Jesus, as King of King and Lord of Lords.
Wisdom: Relatively uncommon, these use themes found in other wisdom literature (Prvb, Job, SofS, and Eccl.) They pass on information and wisdom that is true. In our house we’ve been listening to Hamilton. While, musically and lyrically genius it is so well researched it ends up teaching some historical truths.
This week and next we’re going to look at the first two songs which serve as a gateway to understanding the themes of Psalms. Before you engage with a great anthology of you have to decide what your orientation or allegiance is to the one who inspired the writing and the people it’s written for. There is no use in trying to understand how to think and feel about God at a soul level if you don’t first understand what your relationship with Him is. God has come to us so we can respond to Him on His terms not ours.
PART I | Blessed by Our Delights | v1-2
Psalm 1:1-2 | 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; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Blessed is a state not specifically of material abundance but one of happiness, bliss, enjoyable experience. It’s not as material as it is experiential. What is going to lead to a greater more pleasant or enjoyable experience in your life? What course is wise and leads to flourishing? What course is foolish and leads to destruction? The path of happiness and blessing will not be found in one direction. One direction will need to be avoided and abstained from if joy, life, and flourishing is going to be experienced.
Advice from the wicked – All our walking out of life, the actions we do come from something we believe, are taught or desire. In this case blessing, joy does not happen from following the counsel of the wicked. (those opposed to God, those not following the counsel of God.) It is a taking of something, or idea that is foreign to life with God and implanting it into your thoughts deeply to the point you being to act on this counsel. This can happen from outside influences to be sure but do not underestimate your own hearts capacity to counsel yourself in ways of wickedness. Counsel is our thoughts. Walk is our actions.
Allegiance with sinners – This comes to a question of identify. Who do you stand with? I don’t mean do you have non-Christian friends, you should. Where are you finding your primary identify? Where are you finding the direction for your life? Happiness and blessing are not finally found apart from God.
Attitude of scoffers- There is actually a progression here. The scoffer is not only wicked in their thoughts and deeds but their entire disposition. They are knowledgeable about God. When you sit in the seat of scoffer you are enthroning yourself in a place where you are judging what is right and good and apart from the standards and life God has prescribed. It is a self-promotion to the office of king/ruler where you are the arbiter of truth rather than the respondent to it. You mock that which is from God and for God’s people. The Blessed man in one whose delight come from God. This “law” of the lord, is so much greater and more than rules or law as we think of them. We too often consider rules and laws as a restrictive and repressive. We would not be quick to say “I delight in the speed limit near my house” I consider it day and night. It is not restrictive rules (though there are clear prohibitions given) but instructive guidance and wisdom given for the purposes of more flourishing life. His delight, his deep desire is not to walk in the way of the wicked, nor identify with sinners, or lift himself up as a scoffer but to be grounded in, well versed in, and receive his instruction and identity from God the Creator, the source of all life. This is on his mind.
We’re back to the mind as the key battle field for the direction of our life. What we think will always inform what we do. But the verses don’t just say don’t be wicked, don’t sin, don’t scoff. These verses aren’t just as simple as don’t do this, do this. There is a very important word and sentence at the beginning of v 2 that changes everything, “but his delight is in the Law of the Lord.” The word “delight” mixed in the middle of the instruction shows that difference between wickedness and righteousness is more than in mere action but is in the condition of our hearts, that leads to our deepest desires. Wicked aren’t wicked out of sense of duty, sinners don’t sin just because they have to, scoffers don’t mock God and the Godly out of obligation. Nobody says “Dang, I have to be selfish today, I wish didn’t have to get drunk or be a glutton today, I have to ignore injustice, too bad I have to look at porn or love myself more than my spouse.” People do those things because they are more attractive, even when there are known consequences, than following the wisdom and instruction of the Lord. The ways of the world and their own selfish desires bring them more “delight” than knowing/living in the will of God. Where is your “delight”?
Just as the wicked don’t act out of duty, neither does the blessed or righteous. See the Christian delights in the instruction, of the Lord, because when they look at the Cross of Christ and see God’s mercy and Grace his shed blood on our behalf they’ve, as Psalm 34:8 says, Taste(d) and see(n) that the Lord is Good! Knowing God’s goodness they read, study, meditate on God’s word because by the power of the Holy Spirit because as Psalm 19:10 says it is now, More to be desired…than Gold…sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Following God becomes not a matter of duty but rather of desire and delight. Duty may lead you to church attendance. Duty may lead you participate in a Bible study or serve the church/community. Duty may get you to read your Bible regularly. Duty may even get you to act as a better husband, father, or person. But delight will leaded to a transformed life with every aspect gladly, whole heartedly devoted to the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus. Delight will lead you to willful obedience that is not focused on short term happiness but long-term Joy. Do you have duty or delight?
PART II | Rooted verses Rejected| v3-5
Psalm 1:3-5 | 3 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. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
The blessed man is rooted intentionally. The idea of a random tree planted alone by a nice stream is appealing but its unrealistic for this song. This is the opening song of a song book written to and for a NATION, a family of God’s people, a forest of trees, so none would be disconnected from the source of living water. The equations here is God’s law/instruction is so life giving it is like water necessary for a fruit tree to do what a fruit tree is. A tree that produces fruit. This tree is actually planted along an irrigation ditch (it doesn’t have the same sing-ability as streams of water) But with this irrigation ditch in mind there is intentionality about where the tree is planted and intentionality about how the water is going to get there.
The Blessed man is Rooted where there are other trees. You don’t dig a ditch to irrigate one tree, but you would for a row, for an orchard. The church is an orchard of trees. Trees intentionally planted by streams of flowing water. Water is coming to them because they are ROOTED where water is. They are regularly drinking. When you don’t gather when you don’t read and pray. You’re like a tree that is meant to be part of an orchard, fruitful, but instead is out in the wild. You might still produce some fruit, you might still be a tree, but you’re never going to produce the way a tree who is ROOTED in an orchard will.
The blessed man is Rooted where water will be constantly. The Christian life, life with God, is not a religious life where you get water for a few days… If God is the source of life, joy, and purposes, why would you want an inconsistent or sporadic experience of that? Water is necessary for life. Water is refreshing.
If you’re a tree out in a field or forest, you’re at the whims of the seasons, seasons of monsoon, seasons of drouth. If you’re not connected to where water will be constantly, you will not experience blessing consistently.
The Blessed man is Rooted to be fruitful/Productive - The intake of water is not like a reservoir storing water. It swells as more water flows. It’s not a conduit of pipe that is used for water to flow through to another point. The water, God’s word/instruction flows in and is used to make something new. The tree consumes water and the water is us used to produce fruit. The “mediation day and night” of the instruction of the Lord is not for simple retention but for productive transformation. Into fruit. Water is used in the natural life of the tree to produce fruit that is more defined and specific than water. Fruit is sweet, juicy, flavorful and nourishing. No one is is like MMM dry orange. (dried fruit is good for trail mix but it isn’t the same as fresh fruit!) We are made and planted for the purpose to produce fruit that is sweet, flavorful, and nourishing to others. We cannot decide if we’re fruitful, but we can know where and how we’re most effective at producing fruit. We are most productive when we are rooted deeply connected to stream of water.
The Blessed man is Rooted to Endure difficult seasons. The blessed one is like a tree rooted into a direct and consistent source of water because you are strengthened. It’s easy to be able to look at the difference of a tree that is not planted near a water source and one that is. The first would only get water when it rained which would be infrequent and inconsistent. Without constant water it would struggle during times of drought, just trying to survive. This tree would be weak, and unfruitful, not able to help anyone else. After a period of rain it may look good for a time only to return to struggling as it went days, weeks, and months without water. The tree planted by stream of water would have roots would drink deeply daily weather it had rained that day or hadn’t rained in weeks or months. It would be healthy, even in scorching heat the leaves would remain green strong and luxurious. Even in challenging environments and difficult seasons it can provide shade and comfort to those would still be productive and bear fruit blessing, even feeding, those around it. This is not because there is anything naturally better with this tree than the other, just that it is connected consistently to the source of life surviving and even growing during times of adversity not by its own power but by the power of something greater. So which tree are you? Where are your roots planted? What’s keeping you from blessing others? Or do you even have roots at all?
Wicked are not likes trees at all. There is another way. Not with God. Not rooted in His word. Here the wicked are even put in the same category as the tree. They’re called chaff, dry, rootless, dead plants that aren’t even usefully enough to start a fire with. They aren’t struggling to survive; spiritually they’re dead and disconnected from God. They may even deceive themselves to think they enjoy freedom because they’re not tied down and dependent like the trees. Instead they’re rooted in themselves, which is no root at all, so that even a puff of wind sends them into oblivion leaving them hopelessly chase some illusion of life. You need to know, if you’re disconnected from God, you’re disconnected from life.
Chaff is untethered to anything that will bring or produce life. Chaff is dry. It produces nothing. It is profitable for nothing. A good stiff wind will carry it away. It’s like tumble weed. No one is like, I just had the best chaff salad. The farmer will come for harvest. He goes to the trees and because he has tended them and rooted them to be fruitful. Chaff blows away into a wind of destruction. Which are you, fruitful tree or useless chaff? Which do you want to be? I ask because you may be chaff and desire to be a tree. Our God is a powerful God a merciful, gracious God who is able to transform scattered chaff into rooted trees. This is decision point before the rest of the Psalms continue. Who are you going to be? What are going to trust in, where will you be rooted? The stakes are high because there are consequences for sin and eternity hangs in the balance.
PART III | Two Paths | v6
Psalms 1:6 | 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
God knows “watches over” the way of the righteous, the life of the righteous. But there is another path. These paths can be alongside each other for some time. Those we follow and trust God and those we don’t, we coexist in this life and this world, but they do not coexist in the next. One path leads to life and the other to death. We don’t read this as OT worshippers of God but as NT believers in and disciples of Jesus. Before you consider if you’re wicked or righteous, sinner or saint know the standards.
Who is righteous? Who seeks the instruction of the Lord? Who seeks God? Who lives righteously? Psalm 14 say no one does. All are corrupt (me and you) this is quoted in Romans 3 which summarizes this idea and says. “all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God “(walking in the way of righteousness) But the God promises and God delivers “one righteous man” God’s Son, Jesus to stand in our place. Sinless, Jesus is the wisdom and counsel of God. Jesus is the spring of living water who brings life to His people.
2 Corinthians 5:21 | For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus intentionally planted himself on a cross to suffer the fate of wicked, sinners while being scoffed at.
God took that righteous one and it was Jesus desire to suffer and die for His people, to take their sin from them and die for it. His perishing on our behalf is so we would not have to suffer judgement because he knows no one can stand it. He gives His righteousness to His people so they could enter into the congregation of the righteous that no of them could possible earn on their own. He did this so we would delight in Him and be rooted in the source of life and joy. Rooted in Jesus. Rooted for Life.
Two roads diverge in a wood and I- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
There are only two paths out here. Not many, not a maze of jungle trails but two clearly laid out paths. Marked enough by this psalm the destination of each path is not in questions. Before you take another step make sure to take the road that walks with, and leads to life when we Trust Jesus.