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Tehillim-"Praise" ... The word "psalm" is from the Greek, meaning "A song sung to a harp," from the verb "To play on a stringed instrument."
In the Beginning
"Forgetting those things that are behind, I reach forward unto those things that are before"
Today we stand at a new beginning-the beginning of a new year. In our readings we begin Genesis: "In the beginning God created." We begin Psalms: "Blessed is the man . . " We begin the Gospel record: "The book of the generations of Jesus Christ"-Saviour of the world.
There is great power in a new beginning. It is a time for self-examination and renewed determination and dedication.
In the wisdom and love of God, our lives are divided up into little periods of activity and consciousness, separated by periods of rest and sleep. Each new day is a new beginning. If we are sincerely trying to serve God, we can each day, with complete confidence, forget the failures of the past, as long as we rise up and try again.
God assures us through the prophet Ezekiel (18:22) that all past failures will be forgotten if at last we overcome. We must daily begin again. We must greet each day with renewed faith and hope, thanking God for each new day's beginning as it comes, doing our best for that one day while we have it, and closing the account as each day ends, to arise once more and begin again.
And now another full year of days has ended and been laid away, and we start a fresh new chapter in our lives.*
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
The Psalms of David present the mind of the ideal man.
Not the perfect man, in the sense of never having experienced imperfection, but the IDEAL man in God's sight, who out of weakness is made strong, and who, from the flesh, rises to the Spirit. The characteristics of this man are-
Unshakable trust in God;
Entire devotion of the life to God's service;
Full submission to God's will;
A deep, intimate mutual relationship of love with God;
A constant longing for God's presence;
An unmovable conviction of God's perfect righteousness;
An overwhelming consciousness of God's nearness;
A confident assurance of God's omnipotence, and of the final eternal triumph of goodness and the suppression and destruction of all evil, and the joyful salvation of all faithful servants of God who "hold fast to the end."
The Psalms show us man as he is, and what he may become in the love and promise and providence of God.
We find portrayed therein a deep sense of sin and weakness, together with integrity of purpose and recognition of the divine standard of perfect holiness that is the pattern and the ideal. The mind of Christ-the godly mind-recognizes mortal weakness and uncleanness, and seeks for divine strength and holiness-recognizes the sorrow and vanity and death related to present things, and seeks for joy and peace and love in God.
The Psalms express, above everything else, intense devotion and absolute trust. Their chief characteristic, and the chief characteristic of David himself, is an intense awareness of God's immediate and all-pervading presence and care-over all nature, but especially over those who seek Him, most strikingly expressed in Jesus' words (Matt. 10:29)-
"Not a sparrow falls without your Father."
Blessed is the man
Psalm 1 is an introduction to the whole book. It sums up its entire message and purpose-the blessedness, happiness, joyfulness, God-favoredness, of the godly man-
"Blessed is the man . . . "
This was Jesus' first word in his teaching, as he began his public ministry to Israel-
"Blessed are the poor"
...It is fitting that this book of praise, which so beautifully expresses the mind of Christ, should start in the same way as his oral, personal teaching.
"Blessed" includes all good - excludes all evil. It is all we need to know or have. If we are among the blessed of God we have everything, we lack nothing.
If we are not among His blessed, then nothing matters. Nothing can begin to compensate us for the loss of this all-important, all-embracing thing.
...We cannot go any deeper, nor make the message any simpler, than this. This is life: plumbed to its depth and reduced to its simplest realities.
Attain this, and you have attained everything. And it can be learned, practiced, perfected anywhere, anytime, and under any circumstances.*
"Ungodly, sinners, scornful"
seem to indicate degrees of active and confirmed wickedness.
Everything in life is moving. We cannot stand still. We are going up or down-toward life or death. If we WALK incidently with the unconcerned ungodly, if we permit a transient and apparently harmless passing association to develop, we shall soon find ourselves STANDING with the deliberate sinners, and at last SITTING down with those who are confirmed in their scornfulness of God.
Why? Because to enjoy the company of the ungodly we must deliberately dull and suppress our spiritual sense, as with a drug, and this is fatal.
We must stifle our conscience - and this course is fatally progressive. And when we choose it, God judicially pushes us deeper into it, to our own helpless destruction. He sends a "strong delusion."
Truly we inevitably must have many contacts with the world, both of necessity in daily activity, and by choice in endeavoring to proclaim and radiate the light of the Truth. Jesus actively and deliberately filled his ministry to the utmost with contact and association with people - even the openly sinful.
But he was never for a moment one of them, or one with them, though his enemies made great capital out of this association-
"Behold, a friend of publicans and harlots!"
But he was always completely separated from them by a perfect insulation of purity and holiness of mind and purpose.
He never for a moment forgot his one great purpose in life, his perfect oneness with God.*
Meditate day and night
Does this seem like an impractical ideal-only for those who do not have a pressing daily round of labour and responsibility to take care of?
Perhaps we are missing the meaning of the meditation. It is not necessarily a withdrawn, abstract, inactive meditation, but rather a positive, active, practical application of the law of God to every phase and detail of life's necessary activities.
We should do nothing, say nothing, think nothing, without the guidance of the law of God.
It must be our constantly consulted compass-our "meditation day and night." We must ask at each step of the way, "What is the will of God?"- which is but another way of saying (and it is the whole key to life that we perceive and realize this) - it is another way of saying,
"What is the way of wisdom, and joy, and harmony, and facing reality?"
2 But his delight is in the law of Yahweh; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
The Psalms are much more than the emotional outpourings of a human mind. They speak freely and surely of prophecy and eternity, and the deep original causes and purposes which only the Spirit knows. They portray the development of the mind and character of the multitudinous Christ, centering particularly in the training and perfecting of its glorious head.
The Psalms fill in the gaps and omissions of the Gospels. They take us behind the scenes, and give us an inner view of the Gospel picture. In them we are with Christ during those years when he was hid from the world, and during those hours when He was alone with the Father.
This is the godly man. The fact that such a character seems extreme and unattainable is illustrative of the depravity of the flesh, and its deceptive ability to present its own deformity and illness as the standard of health. But this is the true standard -- anything less is a diseased condition.
This ideal character, the godly man, appears throughout all the Psalms, weaving them into an epic of the perfect fulfillment of man's destiny.*
His delight is in the law of Yahweh
To be acceptable to God, we must "delight" in His law. We must perceive its beauty and necessity and desirability. It is the freely-given, joyful allegiance of our hearts that God desires - not just the enforced obedience of our bodies, however dutiful and faithful such obedience may be.
We must see the beauties of God's holy law, and we must be irresistibly moved by His love and goodness to want to please Him and draw near to Him.
We must love His law, both because it is holy, and because it is His. Truly, spiritual love cannot be forced or invented, but it CAN be learned and developed.
God first reveals Himself to us as all-good and all-powerful. He asks our love, and He asks us to conform ourselves to eternal reality.
He teaches us that we are by nature animal and unspiritual - unable to either comprehend or conform to purity and spirituality, but He assures us that love and affinity for these divine things that lead to eternal life CAN be learned and developed.
He assures us that the more we learn, the more we shall love, and the more we love, the more we shall learn. It is a progressive spiral upwards to life and joy, just as living after the flesh is a progressive spiral downward into sorrow and death.*
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Rivers of water
TRUTH, Reality, Divine Light and Guidance.
The law of the Lord is the river of water, without which the tree does not have a chance to live at all, let alone to bring forth fruit.
...But what about God's law, which we profess to love. If God has spoken on a subject, even (as we may think) obscurely - the only possible course of honesty, wisdom and love is to study it intently, search it out, and if there is any doubt as to the meaning, to keep on the safe side, because we love God.
Sometimes God is obscure on purpose, so that the true state of our heart and love will be exposed.
If our roots are not reaching ever more deeply and thirstily into this pure river of water that is God's law, we do not have a chance of life at all, for we are voluntarily (though perhaps blindly and unknowingly) choosing the flesh-pleasing way of death.*
Bringeth forth his fruit
This is what John said-
"Bring forth FRUITS. Every tree that bringeth not forth fruit is cut down and cast into the fire"
This is the test. "Faith without works is dead." Where is our fruit? What do we have to show? What have we done, what are we doing, for God?
Truly at best we are unprofitable servants, and we cannot be discouraged if our best seems very little, as long as we can honestly say it IS our most and our best. *
His leaf shall not wither
Here is the real test of the wisdom of anything. What is the END? Will it last? Are we building for eternity? Or are we building on sand? Is the ultimate result of our course life or death?
Planning and providing for the future is recognized in the world as the difference between thoughtful intelligence and improvident stupidity, yet the REAL planning and preparing for the future almost everyone neglects.
But how soon health fails, and life comes face to face with death, and it is all over, and one more sinks into an endless grave-
"This their way is their folly" (Psa. 49:13).
But, "HIS leaf shall not wither." He, and he alone, has really planned for the future, and the future is his-in glorious, endless immensity!*
*Bro Growcott - The Psalms
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
The Psalms manifest an intense zeal against all forms of sin and wickedness, and all who choose such ways. This annoys moderns who in their supposed superior understanding and "compassion" prefer to pour a murky haze of what they call "love" over all distinctions of right and wrong.
But true godliness will stand with the Psalms: eager to help, eager to show compassion, but rigid and uncompromising and clearly outspoken against any ungodliness, anywhere, any time; and looking forward in eager and unashamed anticipation to the universal vindication and triumph of righteousness and holiness, and the unsparing crushing and annihilating of all who deliberately choose the God-defying ways of wickedness*
*Bro Growcott - The Psalms