Wednesday, July 05, 2006
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.”
Life in the Slow Lane
The first psalm, which serves as sort of a “gateway” into the world of the Psalms, contemplates a life whose worldview is controlled and blessed by the reign of Yahweh. Our “troubadour” invites us into an alternative world, one that is God directed, one in which there is order and stability. On his verbal canvas the “righteous” and the “wicked” are starkly contrasted in terms of “business.” Hustle and bustle are spiritually debilitating and are contrary to the rhythm of grace that our minstrel sings.
The singer bellows “Blessed (happy!) is the person who does not walk in the council of the wicked . . . but his/her delight is in the torah of the Lord, and on his torah he/she meditates day and night.” So far our singer has simply told us what the righteous person does not do. He/she has nothing to do with the wickedness. Instead of the “way of the wicked” the Lord “watches” over the way of the righteous (v.6a). So far a key to happiness, according to our singer, is a cessation of activity. The “Sabbath” principle is operating here. The blessed person has cultivated a core worship principle: plugging into God’s rhythm of grace . . . being still and letting the goodness of God fill his/her being.
By contrast it is the “fool” who is constantly on the “go.” The fool, the unblessed, never stops to smell the roses and it is precisely for this reason that she misses out on God! “Be still and know that I am God . . .”
The only activity (if it can be called an “action”) attributed to this blessed person is the worship discipline of “meditating.” He/she loves to reflect upon the splendor of God’s mighty deeds displayed in the Exodus. The story of God’s generosity to a rebellious people in the wilderness is a favorite. For God’s People today we relish the story of Jesus. We see him walking among the lepers and dining with the prostitutes. We delight in his teachings. We hold six hours one Friday above all else! The blessed lives on the word of God as if it were a delicious meal. . . it is savored not rushed. God’s word, because it reveals the glory of Yahweh and his amazing grace, is handled like expensive wine. We plumb the depths of something beyond our ability to grasp . . . we sit in wonder of it all. Through our meditation we come to the conclusion that Robert
Richardson did years ago, “How truly incomprehensible and beyond comparison is the love of God for man” (Communings in the Sanctuary, p. 21).
Simply basking in the light of that love is what a Christian does! Nothing matters since God takes care of me and my needs, first at the Cross and then every day of life. What a comforting and peaceful thought . . . indeed how “happy” this worship discipline is for the righteous child of God.
The troubadour moves to his central metaphor of righteousness. Those who are caught up in God’s rhythm of grace . . . his order and tempo for our lives are like a mighty tree planted by a stream in an oasis. The world may be cruel and inhospitable over the hot and dusty sand dunes but in this oasis of God’s torah . . . life is secure in the One who blesses. Nourishment is always in plentiful supply, so the tree can be healthy and produce a great crop . . . in spite of the desert just beyond the hill. In this oasis, where the worship discipline of peaceful reliance upon God reigns, no droughts come, for the Lord takes care in the end. We might compare this image with that of
Jeremiah who also sang,
But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water that
sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are
It has no worries in a year of drought and
never fails to bear fruit. (17.7-8)
Note that neither Jeremiah, nor our Singer, say that there will never be a drought. We know from life that there will be. But the person oriented to God not only “survives” such an ordeal but even finds the strength from the rhythm of grace to thrive!
How? Because she is “planted” by God in the oasis, he receives freely and gratefully what the Gracious One has done. As Jeremiah says even a year of drought the tree does not fear for its life, because the life giving water flows from God to nourish. It flows from the very source of the righteous meditation . . . God’s loving torah. No wonder our troubadour exhorts us to find quite and rest . . . stillness . . . without it we miss the river of the Spirit that flows from God and gives us life sustaining water.
Life in the Fast Lane
By contrast to the righteous blessed disciple of shalom is the one who lives in the fast lane . . . the wicked. This individual does not even warrant an entire complete sentence in the singer’s song in the Hebrew . . . that is how “insignificant” he really is. “Not so the wicked!” The wicked could never dream of having the stable and productive life of the righteous . . . she could never be a Tree. Life is to filled with activity!
Life is super fast, this person does not have “time” to be a tree. This person’s life is so helter skelter that they are like “chaff that blows away in the wind.” Their lives are spinning out of control, always behind, always more to do, always meeting a deadline from yesterday. They never realize their lives are spent until it is to late: when they find themselves in divorce court, when they find themselves in juvenile court, when they wake up one morning and don’t recognize their son or daughter. Suddenly it becomes very clear . . . the fast lane exacts a heavy toll. We wake up and realize I am existing but not living . . . what a sad day. But also a day with
Our singer calls these folk “chaff.” They are less than useless. Chaff is a “waste” product. Their lives have become a land fill for others refuse, they are slaves and never realize it. This person is a fool, not because God loves them less and their lives are wasted not because of a lack of gifts. They are fools and full of waste precisely because they refuse to let God’s rule, his reign, govern their schedule. They are not functioning as God designed them to.
They are “busy!” So busy they never see the blessed state of peace in the time of quiet, in the time of Sabbath meditation. They are fools because they believe they have endless sources of energy . . . but even a nuclear reactor runs out of fuel.
But the ultimate contrast between the slow lane and the fast lane is that God has an intimate relationship through his Son with us. “Not so the wicked!” The Lord watches over the way of those who slow down to relish his creation. God made it to display his glory but we often fail to see it because we are moving at warp speed.
Our singer makes a good case for focusing on the gracious words of the Lord. He makes a plea for us to slow down to the rhythm of grace for it is here that what we are pursuing in the “fast lane” are given to us as gifts of grace: blessedness, shalom, meaning. We can never be happy, secure or “satisfied” by trusting in our works and busy schedules. We must surrender to the gardening of God, he will plant you like a tree firmly rooted in the rhythm of grace and the river of the Spirit.
Hesed & Shalom,