“Blessed Is the Man Whose Delight Is in the Law of the Lord” (Psalm 1)

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 17, 2019

“Blessed Is the Man Whose Delight Is in the Law of the Lord” (Psalm 1)

This morning I want us to look at the psalm appointed for this day, Psalm 1. And we’ll do so under the theme: “Blessed Is the Man Whose Delight Is in the Law of the Lord.” If you have an ESV Bible or a Lutheran Service Book, turn now to Psalm 1 and follow along as I read:

Blessed is the man
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.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1, as the first psalm, serves as an introduction to the entire Book of Psalms, and a fitting introduction it is. It begins, “Blessed is the man.” The Hebrew here can be read as an exclamation: “Oh, the blessedness of such a man!” “How blessed by God is this person!” Statements like this that begin with “Blessed” are called “beatitudes.” This was a common type of saying in the ancient world. Jesus used beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount.

This beatitude here in Psalm 1, before it goes into what the blessed man does, first says what he does not do: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” Notice those verbs, “walk,” “stand,” “sit.” The blessed man does not walk “in the counsel of the wicked,” that is, he does not shape his conduct after the principles of the godless, he does not follow the wisdom of this world. Next, the blessed man does not stand “in the way of sinners.” He does not establish himself in their shameful practices. And third, the blessed man does not sit “in the seat of scoffers,” that is, with those who scorn and scoff at his religion. He does not join in with those mockers of God.

Verse 1, then, with its reference to the way of the wicked, the sinners, the scoffers–this forms a sharp contrast with what follows in verse 2: “but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” “His delight is in the law of the LORD.” It is in God’s law that the blessed man occupies himself, not in the world’s foolishness and rebellion.

Now about this word “law.” As Lutherans, when we hear the word “law,” our tendency is to think of “Law” in the narrow sense: “Law” as “demand,” “Law” as condemning word of judgment, “Law” as opposed to “Gospel.” But in this context, here in Psalm 1, the term “law” has a much broader sense. It refers to the whole will of God, including his primary will for our lives, which is to save us–and that’s “Gospel.” So when we see “law” here, we really need to understand both “Law” and “Gospel.” The word translated as “law” is the important Hebrew word, “Torah.” It literally means “instruction” or “teaching.” Another way to understand “Torah,” then, is “the word of God.” The blessed man delights to be in God’s word.

And notice, “his delight is in the law of the LORD.” The Torah is not some anonymous book or an impersonal law code. No, this is the Torah of the LORD. In most English Old Testaments, the word “LORD” is in capital letters. That’s a sign that the Hebrew word behind it is the divine name, “Yahweh.” “Yahweh” is the name by which the one true God revealed himself to Moses. Yahweh is the God who made his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yahweh is the God who remembers his promises and acts in history, in order to save his people.

So here where it says, “the law of the LORD,” “the Torah of Yahweh,” it’s speaking of the God whose plans and promises have been fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Christ, the Son of God, the Word made flesh, has made God known. Christ has brought us into the new covenant sealed with his blood, shed on the cross for our sins. Christ Jesus lived and died and rose again to save us and make us God’s people for eternity. Jesus is “the Torah of Yahweh” in the flesh, the Word of God incarnate. This phrase “the Torah of Yahweh” moves us beyond dealing in abstract concepts or grasping for some generic “God” up there. Rather, “the Torah of Yahweh” speaks of the personal will of a personal God, who has acted for us specifically and concretely in the cross of Christ. This personal connection–that we know the God who seeks us and saves us and speaks to us in his word–this is why we delight in the law of the LORD.

Now I have to admit, there are times when I do not delight in God’s word. I get bored or busy or I tell myself I don’t need the word that much. Maybe you’re like that too. But that’s our old sinful self talking–the Old Adam, as we call him, rearing his ugly head. That sucker is a dead man, though, and he needs to keep on being put to death on a daily basis. If we listen to our old sinful flesh–which is really the same as listening to the devil’s lies or the wisdom of this world–then our lives will not be very fruitful. We dry up spiritually without God’s word.

But God has streams of living water for us, and we are made to soak them up! Because we are baptized! We are new people in Christ, the people of God, born of water and the Spirit and indwelt by the Spirit of God. The new man resonates to the word of God, loves it, delights in it! That’s who you are, dear Christian! The new man in you loves the word of God! In the word, you find your life! In the word, you find your Savior, who loves you more than you can imagine! This is why you delight in God’s word.

“His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The blessed man is the one who keeps on pondering the law of the LORD. Day and night, night and day. Constantly, all the time. I’m reminded of what Moses told Israel back in Deuteronomy 6: “These words that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Or remember what the LORD told Joshua: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

That brings us back to the blessed man of Psalm 1, and to verse 3: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Now we see why this man who meditates on God’s word is called “blessed.” He’s got a lot going for him. He’s compared to a tree planted by streams of water. For a tree to be planted near abundant supplies of water is very beneficial. Just as streams supply the tree with nourishing and refreshing moisture, so God’s word supplies us with nourishment and refreshment. When supplied with steady streams of the word of life, our lives will produce both growing faith and good works.

Today I want to commend to you the word of God–the study of it, the reading of it, the receiving of God’s word, and your living from it. The word of God preached and sacramented and taught at church. The word of God read and meditated on in your home. If your Christian life has dried out, this is the way to be refreshed and get growing once again. This is the way for you to be “like a tree planted by streams of water.”

The word-fed life flourishes. Now contrast that with what we see in verses 4 and 5: “The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” The wicked have no use for the word of God, and so are dried up and driven away like chaff. Without root below, without fruit above, they are discarded and worthless. Cut off from the source of life, they’re dead without even knowing it.

The contrast running throughout this psalm is summed up in verse 6: “For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Two ways, the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. Two roads, two paths, running in opposite directions. One way delights in and meditates on the word of God. The other way has no use for it. One way is blessed by God: “The LORD knows the way of the righteous.” He knows his own and watches over them and cares for them. The other way, the way of the world, is a road that leads to destruction: “The way of the wicked will perish,” eternally. You don’t want to go there. God’s word warns you against the wrong path and gets you going in the right direction, the path of life. On your own, you will stumble and fall. But Jesus will take you with him all the way home, to be with him forever. His word, the word of life, will sustain you.

“The law of the LORD,” the Torah of Yahweh, the living, dynamic word of the true and living God–there is no other way to be blessed. This is why we hold God’s word sacred and gladly hear and learn it, in preaching, Bible classes, and our daily devotions. Delight in and meditate on this word day and night. You will be well supplied by God’s life-giving word, and you will bear the fruits of faith. Indeed, you will be “like a tree planted by streams of water.”

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Published in: on February 17, 2019 at 3:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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