Summary: Psalm 1 describes how to be truly successful in life.
The Good Life
A young man was learning to be a paratrooper. Before his first jump, he was given these instructions:
1. Jump when you are told.
2. Count to ten and pull the ripcord.
3. In the unlikely event that your chute doesn’t open pull the emergency ripcord.
4. When you get down, a truck will be there to take you back to the airfield.
The young soldier memorised these instructions and climbed aboard the plane. The plane climbed to ten thousand feet and the paratroopers began to jump. When the young soldier was told to jump, he jumped. He then counted to ten and pulled the ripcord. Nothing happened. His chute failed to open. So he pulled the emergency ripcord. Still nothing happened. No parachute. “Oh great” he thought, “And I suppose the truck won’t be there when I get down either!”
Have you ever felt like that? Have you experienced failures and disappointments to the point that you just don’t expect anything to go right for you? Sometimes the whole world seems to be against us.
But then there are some people who seem to just breeze through life. They always land on their feet. And success always seems to come their way - almost to the point of being unfair.
What does it take to be a person who always lands on their feet? Well unlike the situation of the young soldier in our story there is hope.
Psalm 1 offers us an understanding of “the good life” that differs enormously from the way these things are usually understood in Australia today. It turns the common perception of reality on its head and suggests a life of blessing that is so radical that it’s remarkably appealing.
1. Blessed by God (v1)
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in he 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.” (v1)
The leading thought here is that the believer is blessed by God. God is the one who blesses people who “do not walk in the counsel of the wicked,” who refuse evil advice. It is in God’s law that this person finds their delight. It is the sound of God’s voice and through God’s direction that this person finds “happiness.” In short, the understanding of how life works in this first Psalm is thoroughly God centred.
Isn’t this so opposite to the way we often think. Almost without exception we find humanity today centring fulfilment upon itself. Think about it - to “have a good time” in our society almost always means to go out and “enjoy yourself.” Not God, but yourself! Not others, but yourself. We can be an extremely self-centred bunch can’t we?
We innocently tell our hosts that we “enjoyed ourselves tonight” and think that that is being polite! It’s less often that we heard it said, “I enjoyed your company tonight.” In our generation, life’s goal is to reach self-fulfilment.
In the Psalms, true satisfaction involves not enjoying oneself, but taking delight in a real and living relationship with God. This is the secret of lasting Christian joy. This is important so please listen - the goal of the Christian life is not to enjoy oneself, but to enjoy God - and this is what brings that deeper joy. Far more permanent than mere happiness.
Let me explain this a little bit further. The goal of life for the writer of the Psalms, and for every believer today, is not found in self-fulfilment but in praising God.
For the person in the street “well-being,” or energy for life, comes from within us. But for the believer, “well-being” in life comes from their connection to the source of life - God.
What’s so unsettling about all of this is that what the Psalmist calls “wickedness” is what many Australians today see as life’s idea goal - i.e “independence.” What generally marks success and maturity in Australian culture is self-sufficiency - being a self-made success.
Wanting or needing help, whether from others or from God, is taken as a sign of weakness or instability. What is so stupid about this is that we crave to be accepted and admired by others and yet seek it by attempting to “stand on our own two feet.” This independence effectively cuts us off from the very people whose friendship and acceptance we ache for!
Jesus spoke about this when he said,
Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35)
What he is saying is that when we place God at the centre of our lives, we risk losing every physical thing - maybe even life itself. Yet true happiness is only found here - and the loss involved is trivial when we compare it with gaining a new and eternal life.