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It's not very often that we use the appointed Psalm for Sunday as the basis for the sermon. But this past week, I finished reading and praying through the Psalms, one a day. It's a race I'm going to run again, beginning today. And what better way to begin than with you as we meditate on Psalm 1 together.
I. Blessed is the man…
“Blessed is the man…”
The very first word in the entire book of Psalms is the wonderful word, “blessed.” How good it is to met at the door by such a warm and gracious greeting as this. 'Knock, knock.' 'Who's there?' 'A poor, miserable sinner.' We expect to be told to go away and come back again when you get your life in order. But what do we hear? A beatitude.
The 1st Psalm in the Psalmody prepares us for every other Psalm with the incredible greeting, “Blessed is the man…” “Blessed are you…” The ‘man’ who is ‘poor in spirit,’ the ‘woman’ who ‘mourns,’ the ‘person’ who “meek,” all those who ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness.’
“Blessed is the man,” who hears this divine ‘benediction’ as spoken to him, to her. ‘To me?’ ‘Yes, to you.’ He is making ‘all things work for good,’ for you. He is making ‘all things new,’ for you.
II. He delights in the law of the Lord…
If that doesn’t change your outlook and attitude towards God and His Word, then nothing will. The 'blessed man' is 'blessed' with “delight.” “He delights in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Make sure that we hear this right. It's not the man who 'delights in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night' who is blessed. That would make the 'blessing’ the reward for good behavior. But who can meditate 'day and night', and how much 'delight' must we have so that we may be ‘blessed’?
No, this is pure grace. The 'beatitude' comes first. It was the first word spoken, before any other word. The 'blessing' gives what the 'blessing' gives, on whom the 'blessing' falls. The 'blessing' gives the man on whom the blessing falls, “delight in the law of the Lord.” It's pure ‘delight’ in the gift.
It is as though a new world has been opened up to him. The law of the Lord was there for him all the time and he could probably recite a couple of verses from memory if called on to do so, Psalm 23, John 3:16. But it produced no “delight” in him. It was like seed that fell along the path. I just laid there, never really came to anything, until it was finally trampled underfoot.
He was so preoccupied with “walking in the counsel of the wicked and standing in the way of sinners, and sitting in the seat of scoffers,” that this “law of the Lord,” was like seed that fell among the thorns and was quickly chocked off.
But now, after the 'blessing' is given, the same word that had previously gone in one ear and out the other with hardly a reaction from the man, now produces this incredible “delight” in the man.
And he can't get enough of it. He meditates on it day and night. There are simply not enough hours in the day. He can't wait for eternity to kick in when there is no day or night and the ‘delight’ never ends.
B. Law of the Lord
So, just what is this “law of the Lord” that produces such 'delight' in this 'blessed' man?
The words in the Hebrew are, “torah yahweh.” 'Yahweh' is that personal name of God that God gave to Moses to give to God's people. “I am who I am.” It's His 'personal name.' His enemies and those who do not know Him call Him by His formal name: “Elohim”, God; or “adonai,” Master. But to His friends, His children, His lovers, He gives His 'personal name.' “Yahweh”
The word, “torah” comes from the root, “yarah.” “Yarah” means 'to throw something at a target.' Picture a spear. You throw it at a target, a tree, an animal, a person, with the intention of hitting the target.
“Words” are like spears. They're thrown from one mind to another. And some meant to inflict the same damage as a spear. I know that some people throw words around with absolutely no target in mind. But all serious speech has a target it wants to hit. And God's Word is always serious speech.
God throws His “torah”, His Law, at your heart. Picture the Holy Spirit. Your heart is the target. And when His “torah” hits its mark, it “pierces to the division of soul and spirit, joint and marrow, because it is ‘living and active.” (Heb. 4:12). In other words, His Word, His “torah,” gets inside you and takes root and grows and starts to produce its fruit, fifty, a hundred, a thousand fold.
III. He is like a tree
This brings to the Psalmist's mind the picture of a fruitful tree.
“He, this ‘blessed man… who delights in the Law of the Lord,” he is like a tree, planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all he does, he prospers.”
The Hebrew word here is really about a tree that has been transplanted. This tree had been growing, (if that’s what you want to call it) in an arid, dry place. It never did very well, never produced much fruit.
But now it’s been transplanted. A new start in new soil. Transplanted by 'streams of water,' ‘living water,’ ‘life-giving water,’ ‘baptismal water.’ And a once barren tree is now a ‘fruitful tree.’
One more thought also comes to the Psalmist's mind as he pictures this tree. It yields its fruit “in season.” Trees, by their nature, do not start producing fruit instantly. It takes time. This 'fruit’ that the 'blessed man' has when the God spears him with His 'torah,' is nothing at all like the 'instant gratification' or the ‘fast result’ that we’ve come to expect from everything nowadays. It's not ‘immediately useful.' It takes time and requires patience and perseverance, lots of repetition.
Even when the tree IS fruitful, it's fruit comes “seasonally.” It's not constant. There are highs and lows, ups and downs, lean times and times of abundance. But this tree, this 'blessed man,' moves from season to season with a steady 'delight' in both the lean times and the times of abundance, because that precious “torah yahweh” has hit its target, his heart. “In all that he does, he prospers.”
This is what the 'blessed man' “mediates on day and night.” That word “meditate” in the Hebrew is a fun one. The word is “hagah”. Literally, it means, “to murmur” or “to mumble.” In other words, “to meditate” on the “law of the Lord” is a verbal activity. It's why we're taking the time to actually 'sound out' these delicious Hebrew words this morning.
The prophet Isaiah uses this word in the 31st chapter when he writes, “As a lion or young lion GROWLS over its prey…” (Is. 31:4). “hagah.” A lion with its prey and the ‘blessed man,’ with the 'torah yahweh' act very similarly. They 'growl' and 'purr' and ‘murmur’ and mumble’ over it. They ‘smack their lips,’ they enjoy devouring it.
V. The Blessed Man
So, now that we have 'murmured' and 'mumbled' and 'growled' for just a few minutes over this precious Word that the Lord has hurled into our hearts, we wonder, just who is this 'blessed man?' Who is this man who “who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
In all honesty, that doesn't exactly fit us perfectly, does it? We may well be the ‘blessed man’ by faith, but in actual practice we fit the description of the ‘wicked man,’ much more closely. How often do we throw cold water on that delight in the Law of the Lord by doing what the wicked man does; walking and standing and sitting in the counsel of the wicked and the way of sinners and the seat of scoffers?
This is what St. Paul must have had in mind when he wrote to the Romans, “For I delight in the law of God, (the 'torah yahweh’) in my inner being. But I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (Rom. 7:22).
So, who is “the man,” who “in ALL THAT HE DOES he prospers.”
In our 'growling' and 'purring' and 'meditating,' we suddenly realize that there is a 'definite article' here – “Blessed is THE man.” And the word for 'man' here is 'ish,' which is the word for 'male', as opposed to 'female' as opposed to “adam,” or “anthropos.” As opposed to 'humanity’ or 'mankind.' “The blessed man” is a particular man. He is the “one man”, Jesus Christ.
He is the one who ‘delights in the 'Law of the Lord,' because He IS the “torah” in the flesh. He is “Yahweh,” the great I am, the ‘personal name’ of God, “dwelling among us.” “I call you my friends.”
And as we 'meditate' on this, that 'tree' comes into a clearer focus as well. Transplanted from Jerusalem to Golgotha, it is transplanted by the ‘STREAMS OF BLOOD AND WATER’ that flow from Jesus’ side where the SPEAR PIERCED HIS HEART.
This ‘tree’ has only two branches. But what blessed fruit it produces: forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, eternal life, 'delight in the Law of the Lord.'
And the ‘season’ is today, now, the time has come to ‘take and eat, take and drink.’ Blessed is The Man who DELIGHTS in giving you His body and blood; and blessed is the man who DELIGHTS in receiving it.