Summary: Your alignment with God’s word will determine where you stand (sit, and walk) on any issue. Advice from Scripture is better than advice from anybody else.
Like a Tree
Why do some people have all the luck?
I understand that luck is a fabricated force that many people use to explain how apparently random forces fall one way instead of another. I’m not saying that luck exists. I am simply pointing out that many people, us included, sometimes wonder how we can swing the advantage in our own direction.
Let’s ask the question in a way that is a bit more realistic. It isn’t a question of luck. We know that God does favor some people, though he doesn’t play favorites. We call the people God favors, blessed. We find ourselves wanting to know how we can fall into this category.
On the other hand, some people seem to be doomed. I like that word, it says an awful lot even if it does seem melodramatic and suggest something that may not be changed. We don’t want things to go wrong and we don’t want our lives to be meaningless and empty.
Before I get started I want to talk about something technical for a moment. It is very important for understanding the point of this psalm.
In English poetry we have certain devices that make a poem pretty to our ears: things like rhyme and rhythm. The similarity in sounds in words make the flow of the poem smooth and melodious.
In Hebrew poetry it is different. They did not have many devices like this. One device they used was like building a platform for the point to rest on and then building a stair-case rising to the point and another one descending from it. The point of this kind of poem is somewhere near the middle and each stair leading up or down has something in common to show it is on the same level. This is one of those psalms.
The reason I point this out is because we as English readers tend to get distracted from the point. We see the beautiful image of the tree standing by the river and we remember that and forget that it leads us directly to the point of the psalm.
But we will get there in a few minutes.
The question addressed by this psalm is “who is blessed and who will perish?”
Or as I like to say, “who is doomed.” The psalm starts on the first level in verse 1 by telling who is blessed and ends on the first level in verse 6 by telling us who is doomed. Then the writer tells us what he means by doomed. The psalmist pronounces the final judgment:
• The way of the wicked will perish
• You will perish. You will die.
Now of course everyone is going to die and we must be careful not to think that people die because they did something unusually wrong or because God is angry with them. This is not usually true. Sin brings death in an ultimate sense. But individual deaths usually don’t come about because of individual sins.
What is the “way of the wicked?” That is an interesting question that may be partially explained by the second level of the psalm that defines the blessed person by asking a second question:
It answers with the question “where are you?”
More accurately, “where are you not?” The psalmist asks this question 3 ways:
• Where do you not walk?
• Where do you not stand?
• Where do you not sit?
Notice this trio of place concepts in verse 1 and in verses 5 & 6. This is the second step building up to the platform.
• Step 1 question: Who is Blessed and who is doomed?
• Step 2 question: Where are you?
Sometimes the best answer to a question is another question.
Where do you walk or get advice?
God says, you want to know if you are blessed or doomed. Look at where you will not walk:
• Do you refuse to walk in the counsel of the wicked?
• Or are you unable to walk in the way of the righteous?
I’m reminded of a story about David in 2 Samuel 15-18. His kingdom was being overthrown by Absolom.
When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head. David said to him, “If you go with me, you will be a burden to me. But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; I was your father’s servant in the past, but now I will be your servant,’ then you can help me by frustrating Ahithophel’s advice. Won’t the priests Zadok and Abiathar be there with you? Tell them anything you hear in the king’s palace. Their two sons, Ahimaaz son of Zadok and Jonathan son of Abiathar, are there with them. Send them to me with anything you hear.” So David’s friend Hushai arrived at Jerusalem as Absalom was entering the city. 2 Samuel 15:32-37 (NIV)