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February 24, 2019

Sermon Psalm 1:1-6 . . .“Bible songs:  Be like a tree”

“Bible songs:  Be like a tree”

Psalm 1:1-6

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

In an article entitled, “Ten famous trees you should see in your lifetime,” the author writes:  “Some of the most stunning landmarks on earth, these trees are famous for their age, height, width, or cultural significance.  They span the globe from California to India, and many breathtaking destinations in between.”  And he writes:  “These aren’t the trees from your childhood backyard--but they’re sure to inspire the same sense of adventure, playfulness, and exploration.”

So what are the ten most famous trees in the world?  Take “The tree that owns itself,” in Athens, Georgia, for example.  Apparently, it sits on land once owned by Colonel William H. Jackson, a professor at the University of Georgia.  When he died, he deeded its ownership, as well as eight feet all around it, to the tree itself.  He even posted a granite monument that reads:  “For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides.”

And fortunately for the tree, it sits on its own plot of land, is protected by its community, and doesn’t even have to pay any taxes.

Or think of a bristlecone pine known as the “Methuselah Tree.”  After more than four thousand years, it’s still growing somewhere in the White Mountain Range of eastern California.  But unfortunately, you can’t see it.  Its exact location is a closely guarded secret.

Downtown Manhattan boasts a Callery pear tree, also known as “The 9/11 Survivor Tree.”  It was nine feet tall when the World Trade Center was hit, and barely survived.  But it was replanted, nursed back to health, and now stands thirty feet tall.  

And think of a banyan tree in downtown Lahaina, Hawaii.  It was planted in April of 1873, and is now sixty feet high, and a quarter of a mile around, making it the largest banyan tree in the United States.

And last, but certainly not least, there’s the “General Sherman” tree, the largest living tree in the world!  It’s 275 feet tall and weighs just over four million pounds.  It’s biggest branch is larger than most trees east of the Mississippi.  That’s a tree!

From Genesis to Revelation, trees were pretty important in the Bible too.  Think of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, and think of the tree of life in the book of Revelation.  In the book of Luke, a tax collector named Zacchaeus was so short, he once climbed a sycamore-fig tree, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed beside an olive tree.

Where would we be without trees?!

Psalm 1 talks about a tree too, one that’s been planted by a stream of water.  But before I say anything more, please turn in your Bible to page 568 as I read the words of our text.  Look at Psalm 1, verse 1:  “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.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.  The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

It’s easy to find the book of Psalms in the Bible.  Take most any Bible, open it in the middle, and you’ll probably find the book of Psalms.

And, I suppose, there’s a reason for that.  It’s there in the middle, because it’s the very heart of God’s revelation--hedged on one side by the record of man’s fall into sin and his rebellion and, on the other, by God’s grace shown in and through Jesus Christ.

In all, there are 150 psalms, divided into five distinct books.  And there are as many as eight human authors, all inspired by the Holy Spirit, including David, Moses, Asaph, and Solomon.  And while some psalms are short and simple, others are very long and complex.

And if I could say, there are many different kinds of psalms.  Some are “praise psalms.”  For example, David wrote in Psalm 103:  “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name!”  And he wrote in Psalm 139:  “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Some are historical psalms.  Asaph wrote in Psalm 78:  “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!”

Some are relational psalms, like Psalm 8:  “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

Some are penitential psalms, like Psalm 51:  “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”

And some are Messianic psalms, like Psalm 22:  “Dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet--I can count all my bones--they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and cast lots for my clothing.”

And Jesus loved the psalms.  In fact, out of all sixty-six books of the Bible, He quoted from the book of Psalms the most.

And five hundred years ago, when Martin Luther began to teach from the book of Psalms, he said:  “The Psalter ought to be a precious and beloved book, if for no other reason than this:  it promises Christ’s death and resurrection so clearly--and pictures His kingdom and the condition and nature of all Christendom--that it might well be called a little Bible.”  And he said:  “In it is comprehended most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible.”

And Psalm 1 stands, as one author put it, “the faithful doorkeeper; the vestibule leading into the sanctuary of praise known as the book of Psalms.”  And he said:  “Psalm 1 is to the entire book of Psalms as middle C is to the piano.  It’s the text of which the book of Psalms is the sermon.”

And something you’d never know unless someone were to tell you, the very first word of Psalm 1 begins with the very first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the very last word begins with the last letter.  It’s as if to say, from beginning to end, if you want to better know God’s plan and purpose for your life, like where happiness can be found, what road you should take through life, how your life can be more fruitful, and who should be your closest companions and friends, you’ll find the answers here in Psalm 1.

Let’s look again at the text.  Verse 1:  “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.”

“Blessed,” it says.  We use that word a lot.  We say, “Bless your heart,” “Blessing in disguise,” and even “Bless this mess.”  But what does it really mean to “be blessed”?

To be blessed doesn’t mean that our home is big and beautiful, our health is perfect, and we’ve got more than enough money in the bank.  

American millionaire Jay Gould once had all the money you could ever want.  Still he said, “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.”  Lord Beaconsfield, once Prime Minister of England, said, “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.”  And French philosopher Voltaire said, “I wish I’d never been born.”  

Just because you have everything you could ever want, doesn’t mean you’re blessed.

Instead, to be blessed means to rest, fully and completely, in God.

Think of what Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount.  He said:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit...Blessed are those who mourn...and blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  He said in the book of Luke:  “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!”  And John wrote in the book of Revelation:  “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”

Think of Mary.  Anyone could have told you she wasn’t blessed at all!  She was a young, teenaged-girl, pregnant, and not married.  Her parents, as well as everyone else in town could hardly believe her, and Joseph, her fiance, had made up his mind to walk away.

Still, her cousin Elizabeth said:  “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the Child you will bear.”  Even Mary herself couldn’t help but say:  “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  And she said:  “For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”

To be blessed means that, no matter what the circumstances--healthy or sick, rich or poor--we rest, fully and completely, in God.

Now notice what comes next.  Verse 1:  “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.”

Do you see the progression--walks...stands...sits?  They’ve been called the three degrees of separation from God.  

When we “walk in the counsel of the wicked,” we believe what the world says.  When we “stand in the way of sinners,” we accept its ways.  And when we “sit in the seat of scoffers,” we do what it tells us to do.

But to walk with the world is to walk farther and farther away from God.

But a man who is truly blessed is, verse 3:  “Like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.”

And verse 4:  “The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”

Chaff is rootless.  Chaff is weightless.  Chaff is useless.  It’s what the wind eventually blows away.

So what does all this mean for us?  Simply this--there are literally two kinds of people in this world, two ways, and two lives--those who believe in Christ, and those who don’t.  It’s either/or.  You can’t belong to both.  And their destinations are as different as heaven and hell.

So who can save us?  In Christ, we have a Man who never walked in the counsel of the wicked, not once.  In Christ, we have a Man who never stood in the way of sinners, not once.  In Christ, we have a Man who never sat in the seat of scoffers, not once.

Instead, He delighted in the Word of the Lord, and on that Word, He meditated day and night.  And because He did, we are truly blessed.

It’s easy to say that a bride’s walk down the aisle is one of the most special moments in any wedding.  Dressed in her gown, as all of her closest friends and family look on, she walks down the aisle, and sees the love of her life, waiting for her at the altar.

But for a bride name Hannah Patterson, that moment almost didn’t happen.

Two years ago, in July, she was driving to meet her then-fiance Stuart Patterson, when she was badly injured in a car accident.  Her pelvis was fractured in three places, her lung was punctured, and her ribs were broken.  She would need months to recover.

But her wedding was in August, just five weeks away.

So what did she do?  First, her father pushed her in a wheelchair partway down the aisle.  Then Stuart, the groom, met them, picked her up out of the wheelchair, and carried her the rest of the way.

Their wedding photographer said it was one of the most moving moments she had ever seen.

And if you think that’s amazing, think of Jesus!  For He has come to rescue His bride from the brokenness of sin, to lift us and carry us, and to make us whole again.

 

We praise You, dear Father, for the psalms, songs that point us to heaven.  Help us to be like a tree planted by streams of water, and by Your rich, unfathomable grace, bless us, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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