I found myself listening to this song from Audra Lynn this morning and it struck me as being so applicable to our recent theme of putting our trust in the Father, so I thought I would just share a YouTube version of it here for your edification. If you can’t watch or listen at the moment, I’ve typed out the lyrics below the video. Enjoy!
So far in our exploration of Psalm 1, we’ve looked at what it means to forsake the way of the wicked to walk in the way everlasting and we’ve looked at what causes us to stumble or to run in the paths of the righteous. We’ve seen that delighting in the law of the Lord requires a radical trust like that of Peter on the water or Daniel in Babylon . . . but now we’ve come to the difficult thing.
How can we live today the kinds of lives these men did in their time? How can we defy every law of nature to answer the Master’s call to come to Him on the water? How can we astound the rulers of our world with the wisdom of God manifested in our lives? And more than all of that . . . what cost are we willing to pay to see this kind of trust manifested in our own lives for the glory of the Father?
Psalm 1 describes a blessed man as one who refuses to walk in the way of the wicked, but instead delights in the law of the Lord. In the previous post, we looked at the way of the wicked in contrast to the way everlasting. Today, I want to address the question that this psalm stirred in my own heart . . .
How Can We Actually Walk in this Narrow Way?
Isaiah tells us that “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). The psalmist confesses, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments” (Psalm 119:176).
So what is it that makes even those who love His commandments stray from the narrow path of life and into the broad road of destruction?
I believe the answer is unbelief and the remedy is trust.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. – Psalm 1:1-2
Isn’t it beautiful the way the psalms begin with a declaration of blessing on a man or woman who chooses to delight in the Lord? We must be careful not to read this psalm too quickly. It is easy to miss or even distort its beauty if we chalk its wisdom up to nothing more than our mothers telling us to choose our friends wisely and follow the rules.
I’m going to break these up into three posts for brevity’s sake, so stay tuned for trust and abiding!
The Way Everlasting
The Hebrew word that has here been translated as blessed can also mean happy. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find it is actually derived from a word that means to prosper, to go straight or to make level.
So the psalmist grants us a picture of the pursuit of happiness as the journey of a man who walks down a straight road or a level path. But what does it mean to walk on the straight and level way?
Most of us are very familiar with the beatitudes listed in “the sermon on the mount.” Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek! They’re called “beatitudes” because of the Latin word for blessed – the word most traditional translations have used to translate the Greek. More modern translations say something more ridiculous like, “Happy are those who mourn!”
But did you know there are actually more than 50 of these same kinds of statements throughout Scripture? As I mention in my about page, I started my “pursuit of happy” by highlighting (in green!) all of the “blessed is,” “blessed are,” and “blessed be” statements I came across while reading through the Bible. These will obviously show up as I continue to write, but it occurred to me that I should share the list in a more permanent way as a page on this blog.
Can I confess that every time I sit down to write a new entry for this blog, I feel more and more inadequate? There is always a certain tremble in my heart, but today I undertake to write as a Gentile believer an appeal to others in the Christian church to consider a day that many do not even know originated from the Father in their own holy script: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Out of that necessity, I want to describe Yom Kippur very briefly as one of the appointed times of the LORD (emphasis indicating His Name) in which corporate atonement was made for Israel once a year. If you’re totally unfamiliar with Yom Kippur, read Leviticus 16 to get a sense of what the Father set forth for this day.
I’m only touching briefly on what the day is because the purpose of my writing today is to address the question implied by my title: Why should happy-seeking Christians consider Yom Kippur?
I was helping clean out a bookshelf earlier this week when a tiny green booklet fell into my hands. Its title, “The Blessedness of the Unoffended,” made me feel a little like happiness was the one pursuing me! I devoured the booklet’s 25 pages and, knowing I would never be able to do the subject of offense as much justice as its author, immediately set to work typing it all into a Word document to ensure that its treasures didn’t get locked up with me.
You should read the entire booklet for yourself at the bottom of this post (it’s only a seven-page pdf!), but I want to focus primarily on just one of the points the author, T. Austin-Sparks, makes about this principle of happiness:
Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me. – Luke 7:23
In our pursuit of happiness, we will find that the Father very often declares this blessedness over those who do good or who possess some worthy quality. They are blessed because they consider the poor or they are blessed because they are poor in spirit. But if our pursuit begins there, we risk missing the real secret of the thing.
We can never begin anything in ourselves that will last beyond our own feeble strength or our own short lives (even generations can come to an end), so if we are to find a happiness that is eternal – the only kind an unchangeable God can rightly recognize – we must have it from the Father at the start.
Though he may strive, a godless man can never attain to a happiness that cannot be stripped from him because it is not in man’s power to do true good or within his nature to possess anything of real virtue. So it is only by the granting of a merciful God that any of us take even the first step in this, our noble pursuit.
If you’ve been chasing the American dream for long, you’ve probably figured out that this “pursuit of happiness” bit is at best elusive and at worst merely cheese to draw you into the rat race and keep you running. That’s probably because the whole concept was an edit to John Locke’s trinity of rights to “life, liberty and property.” Happiness definitely sounds better, but I’m not so sure Americans (or anyone else, for that matter) don’t believe the two to be synonymous. There’s a reason possession is nine-tenths of the law, folks.
No matter how enlightened we may claim to be, it is man’s nature to perpetually pursue and acquire things – even things that aren’t things, like our families and our reputations. Things that are ours! Things that make us happy! Why do you think the disciples were so appalled when Jesus told them that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven? If a rich man isn’t “blessed’ enough to enter the kingdom, then who can be saved?
This is the same paradigm shift that makes the beatitudes so radical. Jesus’ words strike blow after blow to everything most of us spend our entire lives pursuing in one way or another. Blessed is a word that doesn’t really like to be defined in any language, but the reality is that the Greek’s best guess at its meaning was simply, “happy,” and the Hebrews likely viewed it in such a context as a gift. But how can the poor or the mourning be happy? And what kind of gift is persecution?