Psalm 1: A Prescription for Godly Living

Beulah Girl Feb 2016 (2)

When I was a high school English teacher, one of the activities I liked to do with students when reading poetry was an annotations, or close reading, activity.

Basically, I grouped students, assigned them a poem to read aloud together, and then gave them a short list of items they were to look for and write notes on in regards to the poem. They had to take notes on the speaker, tone, word choice (or words they didn’t know), figurative language, and so forth.

All of these notes that they took would be hand-written on the copy of the poem and would help lead them to a conclusion about the poem’s meaning. Slowing down and analyzing every word of the lines helped them to be able to grasp the meaning on a deeper level.

The same exercise can be applied to Scripture. When I take the time to examine a few lines, I am able to grasp the meaning in a deeper way than I have before.

Recently, I was inspired to slow down and look at Psalm 1. It is a psalm I am familiar with; however, I’ve never examined it with careful scrutiny before. Therefore, I wanted to do so and look at what it means for us:

Blessed is the one

who does not walk in step

with the wicked

or stand in the way that

sinners take

or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the

LORD,

and who meditates on his law day and night.

1. “Blessed is the one …”

Right away, the psalm presents us with a description of a godly person — and, at first, the description is negative in the sense that we are told what a godly person is not. The person is “blessed” who does not walk, stand, or sit with sinners.

In a devotion, author Dorothy Valcàrcel helps to illuminate my understanding of this word “blessed.” I often think of “blessed” as meaning blessed in terms of financial gains or material goods, but she rightly points out that in this context it means spiritually prosperous.

The NIV Application Commentary further highlights this, saying: “The word ‘blessed’ conveys the idea of happiness that flows from a sense of well-being and rightness.” The Pulpit Commentary asserts that this first line of the psalm can be read as “blessings are to the man.”

What we can note about this description is that the psalm isn’t telling us to avoid all contact with the world in a pharisaical sense. We are not told here never to speak to unbelievers or people that would be considered worldly. What it is telling us to do is to not participate in the behaviors described or allow ourselves to be unduly influenced by those who are ungodly.

Let’s note what actions the psalm cautions against: listening to the counsel of the wicked, walking (taking part in) the schemes of the wicked and mocking or showing disdain for Christianity and the Gospel. Again, I don’t believe that the psalm gives us these behaviors so that we can carry a checklist around and consider ourselves holy if these “requirements” are met.

However, it does make it clear that a godly man is one who does not allow the ways of the world or the wicked to influence his thinking or actions.

2. “Who does not walk … stand … sit”

What we should also observe here is that the behaviors described in the psalm that the godly person should avoid are those that the person may fall into quite unintentionally. This person may not have set out to be opposed to God or engage in wicked actions; however, this person allowed himself to be led away by a series of actions on his part that may not have started out looking so bad but ended up being quite wicked.

The psalm seems to indicate that these behaviors may lead one to another. The NIV Application Commentary asserts this very idea, saying: “The order of these verbs may indicate a gradual descent into evil, in which one first walks alongside, then stops, and ultimately takes up permanent residence in the company of the wicked.”

We have all had the experience of observing individuals who gradually fell away from righteous living and got involved in things they shouldn’t have been involved in. Perhaps we noticed at first that they began to hang around different friends and dress differently. Then we perhaps noticed that they began to talk differently and act in ways they hadn’t before. Pretty soon, we may have been saddened to hear that they were fully immersed in the lifestyle of their new friends and were perhaps even enticing others to join in their exploits.

I once heard of a Christian band who began to play in bars and clubs as a ministry outlet. While this in and of itself would have been perfectly acceptable — and a Christian witness is most needed in places where the church often can’t be found — the bar scene began to have an influence on this band. Pretty soon members were rumored to be smoking marijuana, drinking heavily at parties and using foul language.

The Christian music group members claimed that they were adopting these behaviors in order to be hip enough to be an influence in traditionally non-Christian environments. However, it was clear that the environments these youngsters were spending their time in were having more of an influence on them than they were having on their environments.

The Bible is very clear about how Christians should appear to non-Christians. It doesn’t say we are to blend in so that we can make others more comfortable. No! Not only here but other places in Scripture urge us to live differently and not allow ourselves to adopt the customs of the world we find ourselves in.

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the word, do you submit to its rules. ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch’? (Colossians 2:20, 21)

If we aren’t careful about the individuals and environments we allow to affect us, we may gradually fall into a lifestyle of living that we never set out to be part of to begin with. We should heed the warning in the psalm and know that this descent into evil may be very subtle — starting with simply taking some bad advice and ending with being fully immersed in a wrong lifestyle. We would do well to watch what we are allowing to infiltrate our thoughts and impact our actions.

3. “But whose delight is in the law of the Lord … ”

In this part of the psalm, the language shifts away from the negative description of the godly given earlier to a positive description of the godly person. We learn that the godly person is someone who not only avoids the unwise counsel and company of evil sinners, the godly person is someone who is fixed on something better: his “delight” is in the meditation and commands of the Lord.

Rather than allow the schemes and wisdom of the ungodly to flood his mind, the godly man fills His mind with the things of God so that He knows which direction to go and what plans to make.

And, as many commentators point out, the godly man is not one who never sins or makes a poor choice. The godly man, however, does not persist in poor choices. He corrects himself rather than continue in his downward spiral — and the antidote against poor decisions is constantly learning and meditating on the laws of God. He loves to learn God’s ways because God’s ways bring Him security, peace and joy.

That reality should be a comfort to us as we’re reading this because we’ve all done things we shouldn’t have as Christians — and there have been times that I can trace how one poor choice has led to more bad decisions in a season. However, I don’t believe the intent of this psalm is to present an unattainable standard of living.

Rather, it urges us to consider that we as individuals have a free will. We have a say in whom we allow to speak in our lives and what actions we engage in.

Therefore, if I were teaching once again and discussing with students a conclusion I might come up with in regards to these few lines of verse, I would say this: We all have a choice. Yes, God is grieved when I sin and has the laws He does because He has holy standards — but ultimately, as I heard one pastor say once, all of God’s laws are love.

Beulah Girl Feb 2016 (1)

He gives me the mandates in His Word not to simply wield His power over me, but so that I can experience peace and stability in my life by learning His Word and abiding by it.

As laid out in this psalm, the difference between the godly and ungodly is simple: godly people choose God and trust His ways over the world’s!

Subscribe for our blab chat on the topic of godly living or watch the replay!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Why Ignoring God’s Word Is Not Smart

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What comes to mind when you hear the word “summer”? Do words like “sun” and “sand” and “water” pop into your head? Do you envision lazy days spent outside eating ice cream after grilling lunch or dinner on the back porch? Perhaps you think more broadly and the ideas of family and fun spring to mind?

Well, please allow me to briefly share what comes to mind when I think of summer. (Disclaimer: I’m a high school English teacher.)

The word “time” springs to mind when summer is mentioned. Time to finally do all those things I’ve been pushing aside during the busy school year. Time to clean and organize my house. Time to help my children sharpen their reading and writing skills. Time for doctors’ appointments, and time for the car’s oil change and finishing that Christmas project I started back in December.

Time to put my life back in order before the next school year begins.

And that is what I have focused on since summer began. That to-do list.

All that being said, I have also managed to carve out time for VBS and a trip to see my family, along with squeezing in a couple visits to the pool with the kids. Really, when all is said and done, I’ve been mighty productive. So why do I feel so unaccomplished? So unfinished and incomplete?

Recently, I asked my Jesus those questions, and I instantly received the answer.

I am feeling so broken lately because I have been making time for every other priority in my life EXCEPT for God’s Word.

The moment the Holy Spirit showed me my error, the words of Psalm 51 sprang into my heart: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Those words were written by King David after the prophet Nathan confronted the king about his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah. David was instantly repentant after hearing Nathan’s condemnation in 2 Samuel 12:9: “Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.”

David had ignored God’s Word when he took Bathsheba (you shall not commit adultery, the seventh commandment) and killed her husband, Uriah (you shall not murder, the sixth commandment). I imagine David, like me, had not been spending time in God’s Word to have made such grievous errors in judgment.

Ignoring God’s Word can have severe consequences.

We see this truth when the Lord says this to David through Nathan the prophet in 2 Samuel 12:10: “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”

When we don’t make spending time in God’s Word a priority, disaster can and will, eventually, strike. A child of God found not spending time in His Word can be likened to a person driving a car in the pouring rain without the windshield wipers on. If you keep driving like that, you will crash! And David crashed hard.

As for me, I, too, have been ignoring God’s word. Like King David, this summer I have been living life according to my own whims and desires without taking any time to consult God’s Word — to consult God. By ignoring His Word, I have been leaving out a primary way God can speak to me and teach me.

Additionally, not spending time in His Word can lead to spiritual malnourishment. And that’s how I’ve been feeling this summer — starved. The reason I am feeling so fragmented lately is because I have deliberately cut off my spiritual sustenance and have been starving myself. No wonder I have grown weary and feel faint of heart.

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Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

How could I make all this time for temporal things and totally ignore what is lasting and true?

Am I alone in this? Do you also need to make time for the One who created time? Let’s make some mid-year resolutions and resolve to ignore God’s Word no longer.

Here are two things we can do to foster a growing relationship with the Lord:

1. Start your day in His Word. Even if you only have five minutes to spare, stop and acknowledge the Lord by reading His Word. The world in which we live is dark and scary. It’s a battlefield for the child of God! Philippians 4:7 admonishes us to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and it just makes sense that it is best to do this BEFORE the day begins and not after the battle has already begun.

2. Study His Word. It is also important to become intimately acquainted with God’s Word. 2 Timothy 2:15 explains that you should “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” We need to make time to really study His truth. Happily, one of the results of having a time like this is establishing a deeper relationship with the giver of life Himself.

Making these resolutions is simple, but putting them into practice can be daunting. I get it! If you are a busy working mom like myself, making the above two suggestions top priority in your life is a huge undertaking. But we must try!

The consequences of failure in this area of our walk with God could create irreversible damage. Just recall the loss of David’s first infant son with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12) and the adversity he faced in the later years of his life with his son Absalom (2 Samuel 15).

So, if you are feeling as if something is amiss in your life, perhaps you are missing out on time in God’s Word. Resolve with me to ignore it no longer. I plan on ending my summer and starting the new school year moving in the right direction — closer to God’s Word and thus closer to God.

Just a closer walk with Thee; Grant it, Jesus, is my plea; Daily walking close to Thee; Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Will you resolve with me to spend more time in God’s Word? Post a comment about your plans, and let’s create a dialogue and solidify our intentions before the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

Jamie Wills

Jamie Wills

Jamie is a high school English teacher, wife and mom. She is a marathon runner and writes regularly in her spare time on miscarriage, running, spirituality and everyday life on her blog -- posting things that God shows her that she doesn't want to forget, or "forget-me-nots." Jamie holds a master's degree in education and sponsors speech and debate at the high school level. Jamie is the mother of three children -- two beautiful daughters, Beth and Hannah; as well as Angel, a baby she lost in August of 2010. She currently resides in Georgia with her family.

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