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Two Ways

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Text: Psalm 1

Theme: Way of the righteous, the Lord knows, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Doctrine: Guidance of God

Image: God upholding the righteous.

Need: desire for success, and antinomialism within Church

Message: constantly, and joyfully reflect on the instruction of the lord as a means of grace for genuine success.

Just Two

Psalm 1 (esp v.6)

Intro

In this psalm we have multiple comparisons of two's.  There are two types of people, just two.  Two ways to live, just two.  And two outcomes, just two. 

Two Persons

Profile of righteous person

There are two people, just two.  Blessed, or more literally happy, is the person who...  Here, the psalmist gives the key to happiness, the key to a good life, a happy life, is to be like the person described in the next few verses.  Happy is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.  Now, the wicked, or ungodly, do not think that they are doing wrong, they just want you to experience the same things they are.  They present you with enticing choices.  They make sin look attractive.  They make you think about your morals, cast doubt on what is right and wrong.  They make you second guess what you had taken for granted, they say, “Did God really say...”  and you find yourself unsure.  The righteous person does not live in the counsel of the wicked.  He does not allow the smooth talk of the wicked to seep into his mind, leading him astray. 

Nor does the righteous person stand in the way of sinners.  To stand in the way of sinners is to be identified with them.  To stop and congregate with them.  To spend your time with them.  To hang out with them.  The righteous person is not identified with sinners, she does not stand in the way of sinners.

Nor does the righteous person sit in the seat of mockers.  He does not join with the people of the world who mock the Christian as simple or uneducated.  She does not turn up her nose in disgust when the name of the Lord is pronounced, but rather bows her head in reverence.  Proverbs 21 describes the mocker.  "The proud and arrogant man—“Mocker” is his name; he behaves with exaggerated pride." (Proverbs 21:24, NIV)  To sit in his seat you take his place.  You exaggerate your own worth and become arrogant.  You think that you are better than others, better than God.  All you need is yourself, and you mock those who know they need something else.  The righteous person does not sit in the seat of mockers, he does not participate in their wickedness. 

Commentators Keil and Delitzsch observe the progression from bad to worse, they translate this verse this way, “Blessed is he who does not walk in the state of mind which the ungodly cherish, much less that he should associate with the vicious life of sinners, or even delight in the company of those who scoff at religion.”   Warren Wiersbe points out the similarity between this list and the actions of Peter before his denial of Christ.  First, Peter follows the crowd at a distance, walking along; then he stands in the courtyard of the high priest; then he sits down at the fire to warm himself. 

This slippery slope is easy to see in our own lives especially in the lives of teens.  When I was in high school I started hanging with the wrong crowd.  They accepted me as I was, but they were all ungodly people.  They did things I knew were wrong, I justified the association by saying to myself, “Well, maybe I can be a good influence on them.”  But, they were a bad influence on me, not the other way around.  I began to listen to what they were saying.  I began to spend so much time with them that I was identified with them.  People knew that I was with them, and that I hung out with them.  I began to do the same things they did.  I started to drink, just a bit at first, then developed more of a problem.  We were too young to drink legally, so we hung out in Esso's parking lot.  Often we would go cruise the streets after having a few drinks, its was more fun that way after all.  Then, one day, one of my friends from school stopped by our normal drinking spot.  She did not approve of what we were doing, and out of concern for me made that abundantly clear.  The others who were with me started to mock her and hurl insults at her.  And you know what, I joined right in.  I began to call her names, and told her to take her holier-than-thou attitude elsewhere.  I did the exact opposite of what this psalm says.  I was a miserable person, I had no meaning in life, I was floundering around without a direction or cause in life and was the farthest thing from happy. 

Eugene Peterson translates this verse this way in the Message, “How well God must like you—you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, you don’t slink along Dead-End Road, you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.”  I was the opposite of this, I was hanging out at Sin Saloon, and I was not happy. 

The righteous person does not do these things, but rather delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates on his law day and night.  We may not think that studying God's law is the most exciting thing in the world, but that's where we are wrong.  I think we have bought into the world's way of thinking, assuming that having a set of rules is a bad thing.  Our sinful nature does not want to be tied down. 

God gave us guidelines which are to our benefit.  God created the world, and he gave us the owners manual.  He did not give us some arbitrary rules to follow which sounded good to him, no, he gave us the instructions we need to succeed in this world.  The righteous person delights in the law of the lord, and meditates on it day and night, or as the message puts it, “you thrill on God's word, you chew on it day and night.” 

Profile of wicked person

But, not so the wicked!  There are two people, just two, the righteous and the wicked.  The wicked person does not avoid the things the righteous person does.  The wicked person listens to the smooth talk of the ungodly.  He associates with sinner, and identifies himself with them.  He participates in the wickedness of the mocker.  The wicked person does not delight in the law of the Lord.  He ignores the instructions given to him. 

How many of you own a car?  How many of you have cracked open the owner's manual?  Not too many, eh?  Well, to be honest, neither have I.  I learned what I needed to from my dad, and just kinda figured out the rest by trial and error.  The wicked person ignores the instruction manual God has given for our lives.  She leaves the Bible she received for graduation on her night stand collecting dust.  She has a bunch of unopened devotional books, collected from years of gifts from well meaning relatives, propping up one leg of her desk. 

The wicked are like chaff that the wind blows away.  In ancient cultures, the way that they winnowed grain was by taking a fork, something like a pitch fork but with closer tines.  They would throw the grain into the air and allowing the wind to blow away the chaff, while the heavier grain would fall back to the threshing floor.  The chaff is the worthless, unwanted leftover of the growing season.  It is the light, fluffy husk that has no substance.  Today we might use it as a protein booster for our cattle or pigs, but back then it was not worth anything.  These are the two, just two, types of people there are in the world.  There is no in between, no middle ground. 

Two Ways

Nature of way of righteous

These two people tread very different paths.  The righteous person treads the path of blessing and happiness.  The righteous person is like a tree planted by streams of water.  This description really hits a cord with me.  See I grew up on the prairies, which in terms of yearly precipitation, are only one step above a desert.  Trees do not grow well on the prairies without irrigation.  The Hebrew for “streams” here, is better interpreted as canals.  In ancient times, the Egyptians had elaborate systems of canals, dams, dykes, and pumps, that allowed every plant to get water.  Some of the gardens in the cities had little ditches of water running literally to every tree.  As I said, the trees back home do not grow well without irrigation.  One of my friends lived in an irrigation district and his trees grew extremely well.  Our farm was not in an irrigation district, and our trees were rather puny in comparison.  His grew fast and strong.  They could be close together, whereas ours had to be far apart, and it took years before they were any protection from the wind. 

The righteous person is like a tree planted by canals of water, which bears its fruit in season.  It bears fruit.  The scriptures constantly use this image to indicate the good works of people of faith.  The fruit of faith is produced by the Spirit.  As Paul says to the Colossians, "And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God," (Colossians 1:10, NIV)  Jesus also uses this imagery in Luke 6:42-44 " “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:43-45, NIV) 

The righteous person yields its fruit in season, its leaf does not wither.  She is protected by God.  Kept safe and secure.  Given nourishment, and kept from any harsh hot or cold climate changes. 

Nature of the way of the wicked

But not so the wicked.  They are like chaff which the wind blows away.  They are not rooted in the law of God.  They are not kept nourished and protected by the Lord.  They are worthless leftovers which are cast out into the desert on the wind.  As Job says in ch 21 "“Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out? How often does calamity come upon them, the fate God allots in his anger? How often are they like straw before the wind, like chaff swept away by a gale?" (Job 21:17-18, NIV)

Two Outcomes

Success of way of righteous

The two people, just two, follow their separate ways, and come to separate outcomes.  There are two outcomes, just two.  There is no middle road.  There is no purgatory.  There is no second chance.  The way of the righteous is blessed because of the protection of the Lord.  Whatever he does prospers.  A better translation would be, “Whatever he does is made to prosper.”  God makes everything he does prosper.  He does not look for success in the things of this world.  He does not place his worth in his family, or in his job.  The righteous man is valuable as a child of God, not because of his business or his money. 

Self-destruction of the way of the wicked

But not so the wicked!  The wicked will be blown away like the chaff, they will not be able to stand in the judgement.  Sinners will not be able to stand in the assembly of the righteous.  When Christ comes to judge the heavens and the earth, the righteous will receive their reward, and the wicked their punishment.  John the Baptist, testifying about Jesus, said, "“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”" (Matthew 3:11-12, NIV)  Jesus baptised his followers with the Holy Spirit, and with fire on Pentecost.  The second part of John's prophecy will be completed when Christ returns.  Jesus is in heaven, readying himself for his return.  He is standing there at the pearly gates.  His winnowing fork is in his hand.  He will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn, and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.  The wicked will not be able to stand in the judgement, but will be blown into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his followers. 

v.6 gives a final summation of the psalm.  The righteous person is happy, and she is blessed because the Lord watches over her way.  The way of the wicked, however, will self destruct.  Notice, that the Lord does not cause the destruction of the wicked here.  God is absent from their path, and the absence of God is death.  They move farther and farther away from him and eventually cause their own ruin. 

Conclusion

There are two people, just two.  They follow two different paths, just two.  They have two different outcomes, just two.  At the end of time, when Christ returns, he is going to judge all people and separate them into two groups.  He will say to the righteous, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  To the wicked he will say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”(Mt 25:34, 41)  So, you are faced with a choice.  You either delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate on it day and night, or you do not.  You either follow in the instruction of God, or you do not.  You either bear the fruit of repentance, or you do not.  At the end of time you will hear either, “Come you who are blessed by my Father,” or you will hear, “Depart from me you who are cursed.”  Turn now to Christ.  He will give you the Spirit so you can bear fruit.  The choice is yours, and time is running out.  God will not wait forever. 

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the 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. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does 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 will perish." (Psalm 1:1-6, NIV)

Amen

Let us Pray

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