Psalm 1

Well, this morning we are jumping into a series we are calling Psalms.  And we will be looking at some great psalms along the way.  When times get tough, the tough get going to the book of Psalms.

The book of Psalms as we know it today was a compilation songs and prayers collected over many hundreds of years.  Written by a variety of authors for many different occasions, we call this compilation of 150 songs and poems – the book of Psalms.   

Now what we want to remember about the Psalms is that they are above all, they are emotional.  They are written in the midst of stuff going on in real peoples lives.   And so the Psalms are the space in the bible for the poets and the song writers and the artists to express their life with God in a different way than say Paul does when he writes a letter to a friend.

When the soul gets too full it spills out in these poems and prayers and songs.

Today we are going to look at the first Psalm – many consider the first psalm something of an introduction to the entire book.  As the writer is going to put before us two kinds of life.  Two kinds of living.

Let’s start reading from Psalm 1 and I am going to read today from the New International Version.  It begins…

Blessed is the one….

Okay – let’s stop and talk about this word – blessed.  First of all – it’s important to note that the Bible indicates that blessedness is available to all.  You are able to be blessed.  It’s possible.  Blessed is the person who….

So this morning – here’s the outline for this morning…  What is the blessed life and how do I find it?

So let’s start with the first question.  What does it mean to be blessed?

And what’s interesting is that the word blessed it means happy.  “Happy”.  Happy is the one.  Well then, you might ask, why doesn’t the translators translate the word as Happy – why use the word blessed?  It probably has something to do with the way we think about the word happy nowadays.  There is something about the word that is rather thin.  Happy feels like a fleeting thing.  I can be happy and then frustrated within the same minute of an hour.

And so let’s start by what it isn’t.  The blessed life is NOT a life marked by comfort, power, popularity or pleasure.  It’s not this.  It can’t be this.

By the way – there are churches out there who preach that Jesus came to give you a life marked by comfort.  Jesus came to deliver you a comfortable life – this is not one of those churches.  And I’ll tell you why.

Because if I can divest you of your happiness with a slap in the face – if you can lose the blessed life with a good old slap in the face – then your blessed life is too thin.  Your happiness is too weak to endure real life.

When we begin reading Psalm 1 and it says Happy is the person – some people want to say – I’ll tell you what happiness is – sitting on a beach with a cocktail in my hand taking selfies of my toes with the ocean…  That sounds great – but it’s not the blessed life.  All it takes is one really old European in a speedo – shaking the sand off his towel in your eyes and face and there’s sand in my mai tai.

Happy Mothers Day!  Have I ruined it?  “Take me back to my toes in the sand imagery – NO!  I will not.  That happiness is too thin.  It’s like chaff – it can be gone with a one hot blast of real life.  You deserve a better kind of happy.

We need a blessed life that’s thicker than that.  We need a happy that doesn’t depend on comfort or pleasure or power.  All of those things can come and go in your life in moments.

So if the bible doesn’t mean the thin happiness of an A+ vacation, what does the Bible mean when it tells us that the blessed life is available to all?

A blessed life is a Flourishing life.  Like a tree planted by streams of water – It has found roots.  It has found a source of life that roots it – which gives its happiness staying power.

Thick happiness is a life that flourishes.  You need a happiness thick enough to endure all circumstances – whether you are in a prison or in a palace – (Both could ruin you)  Your roots run deep enough to tap into a source of joy that endures all of the seasons of life.

The blessed life is a flourishing life.

My wife Jody grew up in San Diego and in her back yard there was a peach tree and a lemon tree and it was great!  Well, Jody’s parents decided one day to sell their house in San Diego and move to Omaha – which was great of them.  But they really missed the lemon tree.  And one day they decided to buy a lemon tree and try to grow a lemon tree in Omaha.  they put it in a vase with wheels and rolled it outside on warm sunny days and brought it inside on cold winter days.

And you know what – that tree wasn’t exactly flourishing.  If Charlie brown had a lemon tree – it looked like this one.  Maybe a dozen leaves.  We never saw a lemon on it.  But they were bound and determined to hang onto sweetie.

Fast forward a couple of years – Jody’s parents decided to move back to San Diego – for a variety of reasons they moved back to San Diego and It was months before we packed up their house and moved their stuff back, and in that time, sweetie the lemon tree didn’t fair too well.  In fact – Jody’s brother Rob came and helped pack their stuff and I see him walk out of the house with the most decrepit looking tree…

It looked like this.  I promise I am not exaggerating – it looked identical to this picture – which is also a lemon tree.  And honestly – I made fun of them.  I was like – just put that thing out of its misery, will you!  If it was alive – it was barely alive.  There was no flourishing to be seen.

But they had some weird emotional attachment to sweetie. And so they brought it back to San Diego and planted it at the entrance to their home.

On Friday I asked Jody’s dad to send me a picture of Sweetie- Here’s sweetie today.  It produces hundreds of lemons.  Every time I see that thing I swear it looks at me like – you thought I didn’t have it in me.  You thought it was impossible to flourish?  All it took was roots – that went deep into soil it was built for.  And fruit!  And life!  And a flourishing life.

Psalm 1 is a Psalm that proposes you and me are like this lemon tree.  We were built to flourish.  But too many of us are living a life that resembles an Omaha lemon tree.  Too many are missing out on a life that flourishes, in season and out.

It is God’s great desire for you to live a life that flourishes.  But too many of us are settling for the empty promises of the chaff life. Chaff life – and tree life.  Not just any tree – but a tree that flourishes.

On the left?  Thin happy – chaff life.  On the right – thick happy – tree life.   Don’t settle for the chaff life.  God designed you for the flourishing life.

So with that lengthy introduction – let’s read Psalm 1.

1Blessed is the one

    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

What is the blessed life?  It’s a life that flourishes – it’s roots run deep.  It is able to withstand all seasons.  Again – back to our picture- the blessed life is a flourishing life.  Think happy.  Tree life.

So now – the second question – how do we find it?  Where does one find that flourishing kind of life?  The Psalm says – we find it in delighting in the Law of the Lord.  We find it in here.  In the bible.  In the story of God creating us.

We delight in the good news we find in this book.  We delight in God’s story of us.  If you believe there is no God – then your story is that one time a long time ago space debris collided and many years later you accidentally showed up on the scene and good luck to you trying to find meaning in life and avoiding pain.

But God’s story for us is one of friendship with our creator – who respected us enough to give us a choice as to walking with him, who saw us in our distress as we tried to live without him , who launched a rescue mission from heaven in order to save the world – and now who offers to us a flourishing life as we walk with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

We delight in God’s word.  We delight in the story.

A Thousand years before Jesus David wrote that the blessed life is found in delighting in the Word of God.  David didn’t fully understand – that one day the word would become flesh….  and pitch his tent among us.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

David didn’t know what we know now – what he did know was life was found in the word of God.  He didn’t know the word would become flesh.

We find a flourishing life in Jesus.  John 10:10 – Here’s Jesus explaining why he left heaven – to come to earth – I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

I have come to deliver a flourishing life.  A life that has roots.

One thing I’ve learned about Nebraska – as I drive around – and if you see a line of trees out in the field – what does that tell you?  There’s a creek there.  There’s water there.  Those trees roots have found a source of life that allows it to flourish no matter the season.  Hot weather, cold weather – it’ll survive because it’s roots run deep into a source that doesn’t run dry.

There’s a story in John chapter 4 – Jesus is sitting at a well speaking with a woman who had come in the that of the day to refill her bucket – Jesus tells her

13 “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

When we make the decision to place our faith in Jesus – to trust him in good times and bad- our roots go deep into him and we find a source of life – a source of happiness that cannot be slapped out of us.

We find a thick kind of happy – a flourishing life whose leaf does not wither  the heat of life’s tough times.

2 Cor 4

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 

We can endure the heaviness of life without going flat.  Our roots go deep.  We have a source of living water that allows us to flourish in tough times.

1 Peter 1:6

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 

That verse is a thick kind of happy.  A person whose roots go deep can be both of these things simultaneously – greatly rejoicing even though – grief in all kinds of trials.  This is a flourishing life.  This is a blessed life.

Blessed – happy is the one who delights in the Lord his God. He is like a tree planted by streams of water.

Psalm 1 is about Jesus.  Psalm 2 is about Jesus.  At least according to Peter and and John who preach about Jesus from Psalm 2.  Which ends with this simple admonition –  12 … Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

There’s that word again – blessed.  Happy – a flourishing life awaits all who take their refuge in Jesus.

I came across an illusion this week that I thought I’d end our service with today….  it’s called the Herman Grid Illusion – as you scan this picture try to focus on the black dots you see.  Go for it.  Oh you almost had one there.  No you didn’t!  Because there are no black dots.

You weren’t built to chase happiness.  The blessed life is possible, but only if you don’t make the good life the object you chase.  The happy life is possible.  But you will not find it by focusing on your happiness.   

The flourishing life is possible – it comes to the one who’s eyes are fixed on Jesus.  Our good shepherd.  Our wise and loving savior.  We fix our eyes on Jesus – we meditate on his words and his actions.  Blessed is the person who delights in the law of the Lord – blessed is the person who delights in the word made flesh.

Blessed is the person whose roots have tapped into a source of love and wisdom and strength that will never run dry because they run into God himself.  Into the word who has become flesh.  You were built to flourish not just survive.

As I get ready to pray here – may I ask you – what kind of life are you living?  IS it chaff life or tree life?  Thin happy or thick happy?

Perhaps this morning is a good time to make a course correction?  To do business with the Lord and confess that you’ve been chasing the wrong thing?

You can rest assured that God awaits you with open arms.  It’s never too late to place your faith in Jesus.  It’s never too late to begin living a life that flourishes.

Maybe some in here need to take some steps this week to get reacquainted with the word of God – if you don’t know where to start – read John- look for all the ways people describe Jesus.  And how Jesus describes himself.