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God and money -- Success, Psalm 1:1-3
Advice for successful living
The Psalms is probably the most popular book of the Bible. It is one of the most quoted books by the general public and even New Testament figures such as Jesus and Paul quoted from the Psalms. Most of the Psalms were written by David, a young man who went from being a lowly shepherd in his father's back yard to being King of Israel. David was very in tune with the emotions we feel in different situations as well as the ups and downs of life. He also shows the foundation of the wisdom that was later demonstrated in his son, Solomon, who wrote most of the book of Proverbs.
The first Psalm talks about the lifestyles of righteous people contrasted with ungodly people. The first two verses tell us what it takes to live the righteous life. The third verse tells of the benefits of such a life. In these verses, the psalmist echoes the advice God gave to Joshua about living a successful life. To begin, we look at verse 1 of this psalm.
1. "Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly..."
Your "walk" means more than just moving from one place to another using your feet. It refers to your lifestyle, or manner of living. The word counsel means advice. It is interesting that the first psalm in the book of psalms opens with this warning. It tells us you will be a lot better off in life if you don't follow the advice of people who don't know or follow God. There is a lot of bad advice out there disguised as wisdom. The world tends to have an "anything goes" mentality that is not acceptable for you if you want to live God's way. If you listen to them and follow their advice trouble will result. Many people who wanted to be successful have been derailed simply by following the wrong advice. In this poetic way, the psalm writer says, "don't do it."
2. "...nor standeth in the way of sinners..."
The idea here is that of standing. We are all prone to wander over into sin territory. We all make mistakes, make wrong decisions, fumble and stumble. But to stand is to stay there and we are not supposed to stay there. When you find yourself in the wrong place, MOVE! When you realize you have made a mistake or done something wrong, you only have to confess it and ask for forgiveness and then MOVE ON. Don't allow yourself to be brought to a standstill by sin.
3."...nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful..."
Notice the downward progression here. First you are walking. At least you are going somewhere. But then you are standing. At this point you have stopped moving forward and there is no progress. Finally you are sitting down and have given up even trying to get somewhere. How many people are just like this. They started out with goals and plans and then they were slowed down and stopped by other people. Now they sit around criticizing people when they are doing nothing themselves. They are resigned and bitter and they mock those who are still trying to realize their hopes and dreams. At least when you are walking in the wrong direction, you can turn and walk away. When you are standing in the wrong place, it takes some effort to get moving again, but you can do it. But when you sit down, it takes even more effort to get back up. For some the effort is too great and they never get up again. So the psalmist warns us not to go there in the first place.
Don't just follow the crowd
Those are the don'ts, what are the do's
The first verse tells us which way is the wrong way to go. But what is the right way to go? That is explored in the second verse.
1. "But his delight is in the law of the Lord..."
The "law of the Lord" at the time this psalm was written was the law of Moses, which made up the first five books of the Bible, and the writings of the prophets. But for us it refers to the Bible as a whole. The psalmist here tells us that wise people study the Holy Word. But more than that, they enjoy the scriptures, and read and study them for pleasure. The average person today, even the average churchgoer in America, does not read the Bible for pleasure or any other reason. In spite of the availability of numerous versions to make the book more readable, most people don't read it here. But the instruction here says read the Bible, study it and be happy in reading and studying it. This takes practice. First a person has to make it a priority to spend time reading the Bible. Maybe borrow some television or internet time. As you read it and study it and pray over it regularly, you will develop a liking for it.
2. ''...and in His law doth he meditate day and night..."
Most people associate meditation with New Age practices or Eastern religions. But meditation is supposed to be a part of the Christian's development as well. But meditation is different for the Christian. Instead of emptying the mind, we fill it with the Word of God. The original word for "meditate" here means to mutter. You repeat the scriptures silently or quietly to yourself and in this way you memorize them and they become buried in your mind and your heart. You repeat them over and over. This also builds your faith, as faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of God. This verse tells us that this type of meditation needs to be a reguar practice, both day and night, rather than something done sporadically here and there. If you find pleasure in reading and studying the Word of God, as the first part of the verse states, you will naturally find yourself in it day and night.
Of course the whole point of doing all this delighting and reading and studying and meditating is so that you can follow the teachings of God's Word and allow it to transform your life. So what if you "don't do" the things it says 'don't do' in verse 1 and you "do" the things it says 'do' in verse 2. What happens then?
That, of course, brings us to verse 3.
Trees planted by the water
The rewards of righteous living
The third verse tells us why the person who follows the instructions of verses one and two is blessed.
1. "And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water..."
A tree that has its own water supply is the picture of the blessed life. This tree doesn't have to worry about rainfall or drought. In times of scarcity, this tree will still be nourished. I can think of people right now who would like to be this tree. Water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and the Christian can find spiritual nourishment from following God's ways. But our physical needs are also met. Jesus said, God knows what you need...seek Him and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you." To be planted in such a good place means we aren't just passing through, and our blessings are not just an accident or random, but they are intended and they are a way of life. God wants us to do things His way so that He can bless us continually with nourishment and care.
2. "...that bringeth forth his fruit in his season..."
This part of the verse tells us that this is a fruit bearing tree. We are supposed to be productive in life--that is God's intention. Our productivity shows itself in different ways, but everyone of us is made with a purpose and part of that purpose is to be productive in some way. Fruit can have many meanings. It can be having children and raising them well. It can be prospering in business, it can be spiritual fruit, the evidence of a life transformed by God. Fruit is not something we do for ourselves. Have you ever seen an apple tree eating an apple? No. Fruit is for others, to see what life is like for someone who follows God. Fruit attracts people to the tree and when we are fruitful for God, others are attracted to us and we can tell them about Jesus. Fruit has a season. We are not always equally productive, but there are times of rest and times of being stll as well of times of growth and abundance. People sometimes forget that we have seasons in our lives. They think life is supposed to always be one way and they get surprised when it changes. But if you stay in God's will, down seasons will always be followed by new seasons of growth. If you learn what your seasons are, you can plan while you are dormant for maximum success in your growth season.
3. "...his leaf also shall not wither..."
Remember, this tree is planted by water. It has continued nourishment, so it doesn't dry up. You can be going along, doing well, and then things start to dry up. When this happens, you start experiencing losses. When leaves wither, they start to drop off the tree. If we look at our economy, all the water supplies (stocks, bonds, real estate, banks) dried up at once. And our leaves started dropping off. But the person who has been steadfastly following God's ways does not experience this kind of shrinkage. Now, really, we all go through some loss, because no one follows God perfectly. But the more you do the things in verse 1 and 2, the less damage you see in your life.
4. "...and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."
This is the big bonus prize. Whatsoever? Whatsoever! When you follow these steps, everything you do will be successful. Of course, there are some things you won't do. But the things you do decide to do will go well for you. What an awesome promise!
This is another one of God's success formulas. But notice that it has an "IF-THEN" nature. Many of God's promises are contracts or agreements. There is a part you must do, and there is a part God does. He says, IF you do this, I WILL do that. Until you do your part, nothing happens. We wonder why things don't go well for us sometimes and we even get angry with the Lord, but are we doing our part? Even our salvation required us to do something, namely confess, repent, turn to God and believe in Him. When we do those things, He takes us in. You can have a wonderful car, but if you don't get in it and drive, you will never go anywhere. The promises of God are the same way. If you don't DO your part in them, you will never get anywhere, but if you do, His mighty power becomes accessible to you.