Christ in the Psalms
On Sunday nights, I am preaching a series entitled “Christ in the Psalms.” Yesterday, I preached on Psalm 1. Here is a brief overview of the message.
I would imagine that one of the things Jesus taught that angered some of the scribes and Pharisees was Jesus’ definition of sin. In the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18, Jesus teaches that the Pharisee was wrong for thinking he wasn’t a sinner simply because he had relatively good behavior. It was the tax collector who walked away “justified” – a man who confessed that he was a sinner and plead for the mercy of God.
You might be thinking, “What does this have to do with the psalms?” Psalm 1 compares and contrasts the man who is blessed and the man who is wicked. The blessed man does not heed the counsel of sinners and he delights in God’s Law. As a result, he is healthy – bearing fruit in the appropriate season and prospering. The wicked man; however, is dead and rootless. Because of this, he will not stand in the judgment nor will he be allowed into the congregation of the righteous.
There have been times in the past where I have read Psalm 1 with a type of mentality that focuses on my so-called “goodness” rather than with a Luke 18 mentality. Yet, if we understand how Jesus defines sin, we begin to realize something. All of humanity falls into the “wicked” category. None of us glories in God like we ought to. None of us delights in His Law perfectly. All of us should walk away from Psalm 1 with an attitude similar to that of the tax collector: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Lk. 18:13)!
But, how can we receive mercy? We need to ask who the blessed man is. Again, Jesus opens our eyes to the answer to that question. Jesus says of Himself in Luke 24 and John 5 that He is the point of the Scriptures (referring to the Old Testament). He even calls people foolish because they did not see that the Scriptures were written primarily about Him. Since this is the case, we need to view Psalm 1 (and all of the Bible) through the lens of seeking and finding the Messiah. Therefore, the answer to the question of “Who is the blessed man” is Jesus because He perfectly fulfills the qualifications of this person.
Now comes the next question. Is there hope for other people to be considered “blessed” or “righteous” (v. 1, 6)? The Scriptures give a resounding “yes.” Just like the tax collector was justified (i.e. – declared righteous) upon the call for mercy, so humans are justified when they look away from their own self, and the things of this world, to save them and then look to Christ to save.
As a result of this, Psalm 1:6 says, God knows (i.e. – is intimately acquainted) with the life of the righteous. The Creator of the universe involves Himself in a loving way with those who are righteous. What an amazing and blessed truth this is!
It is only on the basis of the Messiah that we can fully grasp Psalm 1. But, does that leave the righteous in the slavery of sin? In other words, do those who have been blessed by the Messiah seek to live in sin? Absolutely not. The Scriptures are clear that those who have been justified by Him now seek to be like the Blessed Man, Jesus.
The cry of the righteous is similar to the cry of Paul in Romans 7. We realize that we are not the blessed man – even after being justified – because we are not perfect. We have been rescued because we delight in God’s Law (Rom. 7:22), but we still have a “flesh” that weighs us down. The response of Paul is similar to what our response to Psalm 1 should be: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 7:24-8:2).
Our response to Psalm 1 must not merely be “Try harder!” Instead, our realization must be God’s perfection, our sinfulness and the redemption offered in Jesus. Cry out to Him for mercy. The solution for deliverance is found in God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Then, by His grace, walk by faith in His greatness. Enjoy the love He offers and be enthralled with the freedom to glorify God. Stop wallowing in your sinfulness, and remember that your life is held together because of Christ and His work. Let that be the impetus for your desire to be like the Blessed Man who rescued you.