Well, well. Another New Year. A new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to do better than we did last year. Hopefully we’ll drop some bad habits and pick up some new ones. To be brutally frank, I really hate New Years resolutions. Not so much the theory, but the practice ends up pretty disappointing. I make all these promises to myself, and end up not following through like I should. Sound familiar? Most of us start out with the best of intentions, but most of us don’t get to the root of the problem, which I’ll get to in a moment.
Just a head's up: We're now starting a approximately five-month-long tour of the "Wisdom" literature minus Job and Song of Solomon. We studied Job in June of last year, and we're not studying S.o.S. for a variety of reasons. That leaves Psalms, Proverbs (my absolute favorite book of the entire Old Testament), and Ecclesiastes. So let's start with Psalm 1.
The first Psalm is a little different from most of the others. It belongs to the wisdom category (most of the Psalms have been placed in one or more categories by scholars), so it actually sounds like it belongs in Proverbs more than in the Psalter. The wisdom literature in Scripture is very practical, focusing more on how to live than how to worship or believe.
Like other wisdom literature, the Psalm sets up a stark contrast between two very different lifestyles. The first verse actually presents a wicked person as a contrast to the righteous man. In effect, it’s saying, “If you want to be righteous man, don’t be like this guy!” A lot of scholars (and I agree with them) see a downward slide into sin presented here: First you “walk in the counsel of the wicked,” or listen to their advice. Second, you “stand in the way,” or path, of sinners. You’re on the crossroads, and you make a decision to go down that path. Finally, you “sit in the seat of mockers”: you are firmly settled in that position, and not only don’t follow God’s way but even make fun of those that do. It all starts out with little decisions.
So how do we avoid this? What one decision can we make to ensure we don’t end up that way? Well, for the last few years I’ve been reading God’s word, mostly everyday, but the author is talking about more than this. We are to “love” God’s word, and to “meditate” on it.
What does it mean to “meditate” on it? If you haven’t figured it out already, it’s a far cry from the “meditation” found in Eastern religion. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Eastern meditation empties out your mind. Biblical meditation fills your mind, specifically with God’s word. Think of a cow chewing its cud, and you get the idea.
Since this is something that most of us aren’t used to, here’s a practical way to get started. Say you read a passage of Scripture, and you want to meditate on it. Write it on notecard, and tape it on your mirror. Write it on a card small enough to put into your wallet. Several times a day, pull it out and read it to yourself, slowly. Incorporate it into your prayers: “Thank you Lord, that [the verse or phrase] is true.”
This, my friends, gets to the root of the matter. You can’t really have a lifestyle that’s better than your beliefs, at least not for long. As you read and meditate on his word, the Spirit will use it to change your heart. Then you’ll be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” He’ll start to change your heart, which will show itself in your actions.
And the contrast between these two lifestyles will end up in two very different destinations and destinies. This isn't teaching salvation by works (we’re saved by grace through faith), but the way we live demonstrates whom we serve, and the two groups will be separated for eternity: In the end, “the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”
So how about joining me in a commitment this year to not only read God’s word but meditate on it on a daily basis? Let it infuse every cell of your being, let it be the background of every thought you make, and I promise you it will make a difference.
And now for your enjoyment and edification, here's "Psalm One" by Kim Hill.
Father, your word is very precious to me. Give me a love for your word, your teaching. Let me sit at your feet for a while, Lord Jesus.
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