Summary: We’re blessed when we avoid certain things and embrace others. Our beliefs lead to behavior which can lead to belonging.
Going the Right Way in the New Year
Rev. Brian Bill
I heard about a son who called his parents on New Year’s Day. His dad answered the phone so he decided to ask him a question, “Dad, what’s your New Year’s Resolution?” He said, “My New Year’s resolution is to treat your mom like a princess all year long.” Later, the son asked his mom what her resolution was. She replied, “My New Year’s resolution is to make sure your father keeps HIS resolution!”
Here we are on the first Sunday in the New Year. My guess is that some of your resolutions have already been broken and some of you are bummed out about it. Maybe you entered the New Year with a sense of excitement or perhaps you’re still battling the blahs. Whatever the case most of us would love to know how we can go the right way in the New Year. We wish each other Happy New Year but some of us wonder if it’s even possible to be happy. Would you like to know what would make ’08 really great?
As we kick off our third journey through the Old Testament we’re entering some of the most beautiful books ever written – Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Job and Lamentations. And this morning, we’re going to camp in Psalm 1. Here are some introductory comments about this super psalm that stands as a summary for the rest of the Psalms.
* We do not know the human author of this psalm but some think it could be Solomon.
* Psalm one is referred to as a “wisdom psalm.” Like the Book of Proverbs, reading and applying its words brings wisdom.
* It’s also been called the “Psalm of Psalms,” meaning that once we grasp its meaning and live out its truth, we will be well on our way.
* The Book of Psalms opens with a benediction or blessing.
* The structure is very straightforward as the righteous are commended and the wicked are condemned.
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 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, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
This psalm naturally falls into two divisions of three verses each. Verses 1-3 speak of the righteous and verses 4-6 address the unrighteous. The whole human race is divided into two separate groups and is categorized with various biblical words: saints and sinners, saved and lost, godly and ungodly, believers and unbelievers, and those who are blessed and those who are condemned. I’m going to follow Warren Wiersbe’s outline for the first three verses.
The Way of the Righteous
1. Separated From the World (1). Unfortunately, the word “bless” is a bit bland in our language and has also become a Christian cliché, which means we use the word but don’t really know what it means. We could define it this way: “Oh, the happiness, many times over…” It also carries with it the idea of congratulating someone for doing something positive. Actually, the word “blessed” is in the plural, meaning “the blessednesses,” which can mean a high number of “happinesses” or it may refer to an intensity of God’s blessing.
One pastor writes that blessing is “an inner satisfaction and sufficiency that does not depend on outward circumstances for happiness.” Those who are “blessed” have inner lives that are rightly aligned. The root idea is “approval.” When we bless God, we are approving and praising Him; when He blesses us, He is expressing approval of us. In the sight of heaven, those who do or don’t do certain things are “superlatively blessed” because the Almighty is extending His endorsement.
How much do you crave God clapping for you? Do you want His smile more than your self-centered aspirations? Do you desire His applause more than the approval of your friends? How badly do you want His blessing? If you want God’s blessing more than anything else, you can have it. But first you must please Him above everything else.
“Blessed is the man who does not…” We’ll notice right away that the company we choose to keep can wipe out blessings and lead us to a bad place. If we want a blessed and happy New Year, then we must start with separation. Blessing comes as a side benefit of the choices we make and the things we choose to not do. Bob Deffinbaugh writes: “Prohibitions are not punishment, but a divine protection.” If you and I want to be blessed, then there are three things that we must not do – there is a way we will not walk, a trail we will not take, and a seat we will not sit in.