Summary: Psalm 1 tells the tale of two lives being lived in stark contrast of one another. It is the tale of life of the "God-Centered" or the Godly Life and the life of the "Self-Centered" or the Ungodly Life.
Opening Statement: [Music Video - Two sets of Jones’]
Transition: We live in a world that is filled with contrasts . . . Rich and Poor; Big and Little; Good and Bad; Black and White; Day and Night; Light and Darkness. Just as this music presentation sets before us two paths, two ways of going about life, so another Biblical song sets before us two paths, two contrasts, two differing approaches to life that lead to two different destinations. Psalm 1 tells the tale of two lives being lived in stark contrast of one another. It is the tale of life of the "God-Centered" or the Godly Life and the life of the "Self-Centered" or the Ungodly Life.
Sermon Title: Psalm 1 "Two Paths, Two Destinations"
Series Title: Finding Sanctuary in the Psalms
Reminder: Remember that Hebrew poetry does not rhyme. Hebrew writers tend to parallel ideas and images rather than words. Biblical poetry should be enjoyed rather than dissected and analyzed. Don’t scrutinize every noun or verb. Don’t try to find some hidden meaning in every word or phrase. Poets use more words than necessarily to express an idea. Poetry is meant to stir our souls and lift our hearts in broad strokes, much like an artist. Biblical poetry stirs up within us that which is special about an encounter or experience with God.
Notation: The Psalms were designed to be a literary sanctuary, a spiritual island to cling to in a raging world. The whole book was like a temple, a sanctuary where intimate expressions of personal dialogue with God take place.
Background: Why was this Psalm placed here? The Book of Psalms went through several editing phases and is actually a collection of collections spanning a thousand year period. Why did Psalm 1 end up here? It was intentionally placed in its present canonical position in order to introduce the book. It functions as a "doorkeeper" to keep out the wicked but to admit the righteous to sanctuary. Those who enter the sanctuary of the Psalms will find blessing. Those who resist this blessed sanctuary and the lifestyle that it endorses, otherwise known as "the ungodly," have nothing to say to God. They find sanctuary in other things to their own peril. Psalm 1 functions as the doorkeeper to the sanctuary. It’s not a declaration of limited accessibility. It’s available to everyone. But not everyone chooses to enter this sanctuary. It contrasts two ways of living, and two groups of people -- the godly and the ungodly. It speaks of the choice we all face as human beings, and of the choices that we face every day of our lives, choices between two fundamentally different ways of life, two different roads that these verses say lead to very different destinations.
Question: What are those two destinations? Well, the first and last words of the psalm describe them. That choice will either make one "happy" or will lead one to "perish or self-destruct." These words of Scripture tell us that the way we choose is a matter of life and death.
1:1 How happy is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand in the pathway with sinners,
or sit in the assembly of arrogant fools!
Definition: The Psalmist identifies the one who enters the sanctuary of the Psalms as a righteous person who does not follow the wicked. In the psalms the “wicked” are proud, practical atheists (Ps 10:2, 4, 11) who hate God’s commands, commit sinful deeds, speak lies and slander (Ps 50:16-20), and cheat others (Ps. 37:21).
Explanation: He’s using metaphor to communicate with us about them. Wicked people do not literally take walks down a path called "Advice of the Wicked" or stand in a street named "Pathway of Sinners" or sit in a seat labeled "Assembly of Arrogant Fools." "Walking, standing, sitting" are metaphors for an entire lifestyle. The wicked have lifestyles that do not include God. The sequence “walk-stand-sit” envisions a progression from relatively casual association with the wicked to complete identification with them. To “walk in the advice of the wicked” means to allow their evil advice to impact and determine one’s behavior. The righteous resist such progression and instead find sanctuary in the Psalms.
1:2 Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the LORD’s commands;
he intently studies his commands day and night.
Explanation: Those who find sanctuary in the Psalms are described using a figure of speech common in Psalms - hyperbole or "exaggeration for affect." Poetic license allows for this. No one can meditate on God for 24 hours a day - 7 days a week. We’ve got to sleep sometime. He’s describing how a person’s whole life is impacted by finding sanctuary with God in the Psalms to the point that whether you’re awake or asleep, your life is characterized by God’s peace and control. Study of the law is metonymic here for the correct attitudes and behavior that should result from an awareness of and commitment to God’s moral will.