the pursuit of happy

the when-happy-doesn't-cut-it blog for serious Christians

psalm 1 and the way everlasting

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.

As I meditated on this happy principle this week, I caught a glimpse of at least three facets of this jewel of a psalm: the way everlasting, trust to walk in the way, and the promise of abiding.

I’m going to break these up into three posts for brevity’s sake, so stay tuned for trust and abiding!

The Way EverlastingThe 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?

Isaiah gives us the answer by way of contrast to the crooked way of the wicked, “The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them know peace” (Isaiah 59:8).

The blessed man is one who walks the ways of peace and justice. He is a peace-maker to restore man to right relationship with his Creator and he is the voice crying out in the wilderness for the justice of God to bring low the haughty and exalt the humble:

Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. – Isaiah 40:3-4

The blessed man does not turn aside from the way (an expression used throughout Scripture) into the paths of sinners to listen to the counsel of the wicked or to sit among the scoffers because his eyes are steadfast on the face and glory of his Master. He is constrained by his love for the One whose very nature chafes the sinner and stirs the raging of the wicked.

His paths, his wisdom, and his place of feasting are totally other than because he understands what the wicked cannot accept, that “the way of man is not in himself, that is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

The Way of the Wicked

All men pursue happiness, but those that strive against their Creator think they will find prosperity and success by their own strength. They pursue paths of pleasure, fortune, beauty, fame, wisdom and even spirituality and yet come to nothing while the righteous have more joy in their heart than they have when even their “grain and wine abound” (Psalm 4:7). They are like Naman refusing to wash in the river Jordan to be healed because they can find no place for their own glory in such a lowly act. They will climb mountains to find God and the rivers of life, but they will not come as little children, and they most certainly will not come to the cross and the crucified God.

And so the way everlasting – the way of the happy man – confounds the wisdom of the world. The wisdom of the Cross is the same wisdom that says the meek will inherit the earth rather than the strong, and it infuriates the fallen hearts of men. The meek and lowly man seeks nothing for himself, but he sets his affections on the law of another world, another kingdom, and therein finds the kind of happiness, success and prosperity that will forever elude the wicked.

More than that, he finds the God who says, “I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are things I do, and I do not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).

Those that choose not to be led of the Lord choose so out of a desire for their own rule and independence – a total severance of the Creator-creation relationship that can only produce darkness and death in the creation. It is the reason the Father reminded Jeremiah, “But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward” (Jeremiah 7:23-24).

Law is Not a Four Letter Word

This is where you have to throw out any animosity you may have picked up in the world or in Christendom toward this terrible three-letter word: law. As I hope you’ve already gleaned from this psalm, the law was given for our good and even our delight! The Father told Joshua, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Joshua 1:8).

The word Torah, which is most often translated as law, literally means teaching, instruction, or guidance. It’s the voice behind us that whispers:

This is the way, walk in it. – Isaiah 30:21

The Way Everlasting

The psalmist is not tossing out a trite “follow the rules” statement when he talks about meditating on His law day and night. He’s talking about a way of Life that is not subject to darkness or decay but “shines brighter and brighter until the full light of day” (Proverbs 4:18).

When we delight in the law, the counsel, and the guidance of the Father, we are rejecting the way of man that has been striving since the garden to find life and wisdom outside of the Father’s provision.

To reject that crooked path is to find joy, rest, peace, and the beginning of true wisdom in the fear of the Lord.

Counting the Cost

Unfortunately, when we choose this narrow way, our very lives condemn and provoke those who still walk in darkness in the same way that the life of Jesus exposed the white washing of the Pharisees.

We may find new enemies in our family, friends, and even fellow Christians, but we will certainly find a new enemy in our own soul, our flesh that wars against the Spirit as foolishly as Naman and as fiercely as any Pharisee. Suffice it to say this: the choice we make to follow this way will cost us everything save true Life itself.

…Which is why we’ll need to learn to trust and to abide!

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