Every trail leads somewhere but do all those paths end up in the same place? And if not, just what happens when you find you’ve ended up on the wrong path? What do you use to reset your direction? Some people just follow the crowd, others set their own direction by intuition, while still others seem to have some sort of spiritual director guiding their way. What about you? We all need some direction at times. It doesn’t matter if everything is going good or if the path we are on is rocky and we’re carrying a load. But just where can we find good direction that brings us to a successful conclusion?
What if you were on this trail? And you came across this lovely sign. Seems like you can go in three directions. Which path do you choose? How do you decide? Are the three paths equally long, are they safe and well travelled? Which one will you take? Do you go down and to the left, the path seems very wide and well travelled. You can actually see many fresh footprints heading in that direction.
Oh wait, there appears to be another path not quite as well travelled but still to the left. It looks like more people have taken that path than the one that leads to the right. And after-all you prefer to set your own path through life. So will you go left or right?
That path to the right looks like a bit of a goat trail. And like I just said, there are some footprints leading off in that direction but not nearly as many as the other two trails. So do you go left, left and down or to the right?
So how do you choose what direction to take? What guides you? Clearly not this sign. Or does it?
Does this help?
Where do you turn for Spiritual direction in life? Do you just go, as many people claim, by intuition? Or maybe you read your horoscope in the newspaper or online? Perhaps it’s a trusted friend you like to bounce things off of when making decisions on which way to go? Where do you turn for Spiritual direction?
Being that we’re in a church I would like to think that you read your Bible rather than a horoscope. And the truth is the Bible has been guiding people’s paths for thousands of years now. So I would suggest to you, it ought to trump both your intuition and even your friends’ best advice. Not that it’s wrong to get advice and counsel from friends but again I think it’s wisest to trust something that has guided people for thousands of years and helped them to safely navigate the narrow road that leads to life.
That said, do you have a favourite part of the Bible you like to regularly read?
For me the Psalms never grow old, and every time you read them God has a way of leading you onward in this journey called life.
Today in HIStory we’ll look at Psalm 1 and see what Spiritual direction we can glean from it.
So if you have your Bible along turn to Psalm 1. To find it in your Bibles, open the book about halfway and back up a bit.
I love this Psalm; it is so practical! David, its author, wrote 73 out of the 150 psalms we find in our Bibles. His life was anything but boring! He was constantly calling out for direction and God inspired him to write down the path he was on so those who came after him could read and find direction from his words.
One mechanism that seems to flow through most of his Psalms is the struggle between two people; a person who loves God and is blessed by Him and a person who doesn’t love God. The struggle between the blessed and the cursed!
Some say it is the struggle between good and evil that plays out in each Psalm. As a disciple of Christ, you and I would say it is the struggle between our old way of doing things before you met Christ and the best ways to find and know Him.
I’ll read it through twice. Once in the New International Version and the second time from The Message.
(1) 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. (2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (3) 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. (4) Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. (5) Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. (6) For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Psalm 1:1-6 (NIV)
Here it is again as Eugene Petersen translated it and see if you would agree.
Psalm One, 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. Instead you thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night. You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, Never dropping a leaf, always in blossom. You’re not at all like the wicked, who are mere windblown dust— Without defence in court, unfit company for innocent people. God charts the road you take. The road they take is Skid Row” (Eugene Petersen).
Very graphic isn’t it?
We saw signs like this at the beginning of many trails we were on this summer. Leave nothing but your footprints. But where will those footprints lead for those following in your footsteps? That’s what David is getting at in this Psalm. Leaving a path worth following.
The book of Psalms begins with this message about individuals and their relationship with the Almighty and the effect that has upon their community.
David explains the difference between these two individuals so that you can make a choice as to which sort of community you’d like to be a part of.
First he tells us a few things the good person doesn’t do and by inference we can assume that the bad person actually does those things.
The bad person, “… walks in the counsel of the ungodly, … stands in the path of sinners, … sits in the seat of the scornful” (1).
Walks, stands, sits. Things we all do every day of our lives even if we are without legs to stand on. We are around people, our communities, our neighbours, our family, our friends.
This verse is speaking about where this “good person” finds community. The people you choose to hang out with will affect your walk with God very much. How can it not? And that will in turn affect His blessings or even curses on your life as well. Those who hang around where evil abounds soon find that life is pretty much going nowhere good.
Ask any addict if they wish they had never started down that road and if they are honest they’ll tell you. It seemed harmless, everyone was doing it, my friends suggested I try it and it took the edge away from life. Soon enough it took my life away too. The Bible says the wages of sin is death. Death of relationships that get abused in order to get high. Death of dreams that often literally go up in smoke. And eventually death itself.
David gives the impression that, unlike the evildoer, “a good man” is actually going somewhere. He too is walking; he is not standing idly by just accepting everything that comes his way. He is going somewhere. He is on a mission. And he is blessed by God with friends who like him are on a mission and who give wise advice to help him to go in the right direction.
He chooses their Godly direction over the “wisdom of the world” and takes steps to do the right thing, which is not always the easiest thing, but he chooses it simply because it is the right thing to do.
In verse 1 where David wrote of the blessed, that they don’t “stand in the way” he wasn’t suggesting that they let evil run rampant, stepping out of its way. The Hebrew meaning behind the word, to “stand in the way” is a legal term where the person standing may say whatever seems right to them. Like a lawyer before a jury stands and gives a summation, or a Pastor stands to expound on the Word of God.
A person who “stands in the way of sinners”, is one who speaks gossip or obscenities. The one who spreads false rumours as though it was gospel truth. Those who bully with their words if not by their actions. They choose to lie when they speak. (see John 8:44; Gen. 3:4-5; ) Not so with the blessed, they know the truth and speak up for it. They stop listening to those who gossip and make a decision not to spread it. They haven’t got time for that because they are on a mission, they want to be found where wisdom is found.
When we become disciples of Christ we often have to make a drastic choice in this regard. Our old friends want the old us to laugh along with their naughty news. While the Spirit within us reminds us that the end thereof is only death. We may even be tempted to keep one foot in the old life with the old friends just in case this new life doesn’t work out. The problem with this is our feet end up going in opposite directions and we are split in two. The blessed person of God doesn’t do this. They are not double minded. Following Christ, being His disciple is their one and only plan. They follow that path even when the road seems rocky and they are carrying a load.
I have heard Christian folks rationalise their poor choices insisting it is OK to constantly hang around the wrong crowd. And they point to Jesus and say look who He hung out with, sinners and prostitutes and the like…
But let me tell you, Jesus didn’t sit and listen to their teachings; passing on their gossip and accept their advice on how He should live; they sat and listened to His. He was always purposeful in His hanging around sinners. And that purpose was to bring them the good news that they no longer had to live in a community cursed of God.
If God really calls you, like Pastor Peter, to that sort of community development he’ll equip you to resist the temptations that come with being there regularly. But I can tell you for sure Peter doesn’t hang out in the allies drinking with the buds, smoking and getting high. He is there bringing God in their midst, helping people find new life, showing them it is possible to change the path they are on. Seriously folks, if God isn’t calling you to that sort of ministry, don’t you be messing in the devil’s zone, because he’d happily make you feel right at home!
David also gives us, in this Psalm, an easy way to identify a morally corrupt community. This is how you can tell if the company you constantly keep is on the wrong path. David says, they are the people mocking your faith, and cursing Christ and God in your presence.
The Bible clearly says that “…bad company corrupts good character“ (1 Cor. 15:33) …not the other way around! If you spend the majority of your time with those who mock your faith it wont be long before you begin to mock others as well. Crowd mentality is powerful at persuasion. After all, even those who once followed Jesus could be found the day of His trial shouting crucify Him! They listened to the voices around them to their peril.
Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8 (NIV).
But what David is getting at is there is a subtle polluting that comes with hanging out in the wrong community.
Has this ever happened to you? You shower and get all dressed up to go out for a special occasion and come home smelling like an ashtray because you had to walk through a crowd of people smoking just outside the restaurant? It’s not like you lingered there long but even just a few seconds was enough to pollute your lungs and soil your clothes.
Well that is what David was getting at here! Hanging around those who mock God pollutes you, like smoke in a crowded place, except it pollutes your soul. You can’t un-hear a lot of that stuff that flows from their lips.
The truth is if I’m around those constantly dropping f-bombs and swearing up a storm before I know it my mouth has picked up that old familiar language. And this pastor used to swear like a sailor, just ask my wife. My verbiage embarrassed her on more than one occasion. So if I don’t guard what my ears hear I find I need to repent way more often.
Fortunately for me, when most people find out I’m a Pastor their vocabulary seems to improve immensely, if only for a short time. I don’t even have to say anything about it usually. They just pick up from my sanitised speech that the rarefied verbiage is no long my native tongue. And if they don’t I usually don’t hang around them too long.
Because as David implied, the man God blesses doesn’t hang around and join in the cursing chorus. If you have a choice just walk on! You don’t have to cause a scene. If you don’t have a choice, if you must be there, talk on in ways that show you care for the person not the colourful language. Be polite and see if they begin to pick up your native tongue. Or be direct and see how wicked they really can be.
But if and when that little voice in you says, this is not the community you need to be in… as Karemi would say, “you have two feet and a beat so get up off your seat!” Get up and leave! (Matthew 10:13-15)
David goes on to say, those who are blessed of God have built up some good habits! In verse two he writes, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night” (2).
“The Law of the Lord”, that David is talking about, is the Bible specifically the five books of Moses, for that was readily available to him. But we have sooo much more. It’s that birth lottery thing again! We in N. America have multiple ways to get into the Bible. I was at the dollar store on Saturday and the whole Bible was available in printed form for $1. It’s available online free to anyone who has an internet connection. You can read it or even listen to it daily. There are still folks in many places on earth who die wanting to get a glimpse of the Bible. Yet we have it so openly at our disposal. Do you delight in it? Read it day and night? Weekly? Monthly? Maybe once in a while?
When you come from a godless lifestyle as I did, your mind is full of that worldly trash, unfaithful arguments and mocking and so it needs cleaning just like my clothes did when I came home from the restaurant smelling like an ashtray. My mind needed deep cleansing!
Reading God’s Word is a refreshing bath for your soul! And God blesses those whose delight is in digesting His word, mulling it over and getting intimate with Him through it. (John 1:1-14)
David says that those who take time with God in His Word are blessed in specific ways. Verse 3, “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”.
How would you like to prosper in all that you do? I know it seems improbable if not impossible. But God has given us His formula for lasting prosperity.
David says, by focusing your life on the wisdom of God’s word and finding your counsel in the godly community, you will grow like a healthy tree that is well watered.
We know what well watered trees produce in this area! All sorts of good tasting fruit like cherries and plums, peaches and pears, and tons of apples!
But David isn’t simply talking materialistic prosperity here as some suggest. He talking about the fruit you will exhibit in due season. It’s lasting fruit. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) type of fruit. “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control…”.
This sort of fruit is lasting, in fact it is eternal. Those who have gathered much of it are very prosperous indeed!
We know it is lasting fruit because David is talking about trees that have access to fresh and plentiful water that keeps them healthy and nourished. Their leaves do not wither because they are planted by the stream. That’s the community to be in! When you have godly community around you, you continue to grow and flourish in the fruit of the Spirit.
When all you have is ungodly community around you it’s like a tree in the dessert, if your roots aren’t deep enough there isn’t a hope that you’ll survive. It’s only a matter of time.
So watch out…be aware. If you get to a point where your spiritual life is dry and no longer satisfies you, that’s a warning sign! Look around at the community you are keeping, are they bringing you streams of living water or sucking the life right out of you? Are you becoming more like the good man in this passage or like the other man?
Whom David says his life, ‘is like chaff that the wind blows away!’
Though the wicked prosper for a time, (and they do, there is no use denying it) their days come to swift and sudden end according to the Bible. And when they do, they find out that the worldly advice, and all the arguments that they put forth for not following Christ has yielded them but one unavoidable judgement. And since Christ is their judge you know that judgement can’t go well for them! The one whom they mocked is the one to whom they must answer on that day. David says that like the chaff that blows away, the wicked are eternally lost. No matter what argument they put forth after their final breath on this side of eternity our paths will never cross again!
Let this Psalm be a warning and an encouragement to you.
To show there is still hope David ends this Psalm with both the promise and the curse. It is as though he is saying God helps those who choose Him to spend eternity with but not so the wicked. “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:6 (NIV).
So I ask you, are you going to be those whom God blesses or curses? God gives you the choice.
Let me finish today with the apostle Jude’s final words to those who were walking in troubled times: “(21) Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (22) Be merciful to those who doubt; (23) snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. (24) To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy– (25) to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” Jude 1:21-25 (NIV)
Dig deeper into HIStory : Psalm 1:1-6
- Who do you hang around with the most these days? Why?
- Do you tend to lift others up when they are down or do they tend to draw you down with them?
- Where do you go for spiritual direction?
Read today’s passage in a few versions if possible. Psalm 1:1-6
- What do we know about the author of this Psalm? (Acts 13:22; 1 Chronicles 14:17; 1 Chronicles 18:14; 1 Sam 5:5;1 Samuel 18:12; Ezekiel 34:23)
- How does one become one of the “blessed” that we find in Verse 1? ( Psalm 1:1; 2:12;32:1-2; 34:8; 84:12; 106:3; 119:1-2; John 13:17; Rev. 22:14;See also Deut. 28:2-68)
- What things must a person avoid to be blessed? (Psalm 1:1) (Psalm 81:12; Psalm 64:2; 36:4; Prov. 2:12; 4:14-15; Prov. 13:20; 1 Peter 4:3; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 22:15)
- What has God left to help us know good from evil? (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; 40:8; 119:11-15; John 14:21-23; 1 Cor. 11:1)
- What rewards or benefits does practising good bring? (Psalm 1:3, 92:14, 128:2, Gen. 39:3; Isaiah 3:10, 26:3; Jer. 17:8; Romans 5:1)
- What can you do beginning today to receive spiritual direction?
- What will happen to those who are wicked? (Psalm 1:1,6; Isaiah 27:11; Hosea 13:3; Matthew 3:12; John 15:6; 2 Thes. 2:10)
- How does hanging around the wrong crowd effect us? (1 Cor. 5:6; 15:33; Gal. 6:7; 2 Tim 2:16-18; 2 Peter 2:18-20)
- Who are the people in your life that are constantly dragging you down? How are they doing it? What might you need to do in these relationships?
- What good habits have you learned about in this Psalm that you can begin to practise today?