1Blessed 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; 2but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Who is this man? Who might the Psalmist be talking about? Is it your father (on this Father’s Day)? Could it be you? Do you refuse to walk in the counsel of the wicked? Do you refuse to stand in the way of sinners? Who is that man? Do you delight in the law of the Lord? Do you meditate on it day and night?
The first Psalm is rather insightful. The book of Psalms is called the prayer book of the Bible, but it includes a variety of gifts in its pages. It has prophesy, instruction, comfort, all kinds of prayers, and thanksgiving. We regularly include Psalms in our worship for all these reasons.
Psalm 1 is no different. Blessed is the man who walk not in the counsel of the wicked… but his delight in is the law of the Lord… Do you delight in the law of the Lord, and all of His Word for that matter? The word “law” in the Hebrew is “Torah,” which does refer to the law, but would also include all of God’s Word of law and Gospel. So, do you find comfort and joy at hearing what God’s Word has to say to you?
This Psalm is instructive. It takes us to the core of faith. It teaches us that faith is more than just right knowledge about God and His Word, but actually delighting in God and His Word. Remember, even the Devil and his demons have knowledge about God. The Gospel of Mark carefully records how the unclean spirits actually say to Jesus, “I know who you are—the Holy one of God.” (Mark 1:24). But be assured they do not love Jesus, let alone delight in Him.
Do you love the Lord? Do you, as the Psalmist says, delight in the law of God? Even better, do you rejoice that Jesus has kept that entire law perfectly for you, paid the price for your failure to keep that law, and then baptismally sent His Holy Spirit into you not only to lead you to obey that law, but delight in it?
The Psalmist reminds us how this delight is produced. 3He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In short, it comes from being planted in the living streams of God’s love and mercy. And that’s you!
You are planted in the baptismal stream of God’s love. Every time you say the invocation, that love is pressed upon you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As a result, you love because He first loved you. Just as an apple tree bears apples and shows itself to be an apple tree, planted in the baptismal streams of God’s grace you show yourself to be the Spirit-filled children of God as you bear the fruit of love and good works.
The delight of Psalm 1, you see, is that it teaches you where to find strength for faith and life. Not from yourself. Not from your own will power and grit, but from the streams of God’s life-giving Word. Jesus Himself explains it similarly in the Gospel reading.
Where we may wonder how faith in God and the life of good works and love for others spring up within us, Jesus explains it in terms of the wonder of a planted and growing seed: 26[Jesus] said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.
In other words, the power to believe and the ability to do good works do not come from within us. Like the man who scatters seed and marvels at how they sprout and grow, you and I have the seed of God’s Word planted in us and are called to meditate on it and delight in it.
It seems so simple. So, why is life complicated and often lacking in delight? “Why do I know what God wants, but fail to delight in it, let alone do it?” The generic answer, of course, is because of sin. But sometimes that answer is too easy to hide behind and think, “Well, I’m a sinner and there’s nothing I can do about it, so I might as well indulge in my sin.”
Such thoughts are lies straight from Hell, seeking to take up residence in your heart. There most certainly is something you can do about it. Jesus is the one who pays for your sins and gives you faith, but you are the one who must repent of your sin and exercise your faith.
You and I are not entitled to say, “That’s just the way I am, so I can’t do anything about it.” Rather, you and I are called to repentance, to turn from sin, to daily drown your sinful desires in those baptismal waters, and then rise with Jesus to live in His righteousness and purity.
In other words, if you and I want to walk “not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers,” then we must be intentional about exercising our faith. If you and I are to delight is in the law of the LORD, and meditate [on it] day and night, then it’s good to be deliberate about engaging our baptismal faith.
True, many people find meditating on God’s Word to be a foreign practice. But it’s simply reading (out loud) and contemplating on God’s Word in an intentional way. In other words, picture in your mind what God’s Word says and desires of you, from you, and for you. Then fix your mind on what God says, why it’s good, who it helps, and how it pleases Him.
For example, it’s one thing to know the commandments of God, but another to love them, delight in them, and actually do them. Again, it’s one thing to have knowledge about God, but another to actually love Him, even as He desperately loves you this very moment.
The difference might be expressed like this. Over my years as a pastor I’ve attended various gatherings and parties. Occasionally, as people become aware of my presence, there is a shift in demeanor and change in the atmosphere of the party. Some are even bold enough to say to me, “We better shape up, the Pastor is here!” (And it’s not just with me. Pastors of all ages share plenty of similar experiences with one another.)
Depending on the type of party and what people are hoping to do at this party, when a pastor is present there is an unspoken tension in the air that says, “We can’t wait for this guy to leave so we can get back to the party!” It’s the misbelief that the Pastor’s presence somehow makes God more present and better able to see the things you say and do. However, God already sees all you do, hears all you say, and knows everything you think. You can’t hide from Him.
And besides, pastors aren’t dumb. Most of us know what “getting back to the party” means, because there was likely a time in our life when we may have been the life of that party. But my point is this. You and I can know the law of God. You and I can know what His Word says, and even be willing to try to avoid sinning here and there. But that is not the same thing as delighting in the Word of the God and obeying it because you love Him.
And if “getting back to the party” means indulging in a sinful desire—whether that’s at an actual party, at home, at work, or on vacation—then you and I have a problem. We transgress God’s law. We walk in the way of the wicked. And Psalm 1 gives us a warning when it contrasts those who delight in God’s law and those who walk in the way of the wicked: 5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
And there you have it. Indulging in our sinful desires puts you and me under God’s judgment. The wicked will perish, says the Psalm. That means death and damnation on the Day of Judgment. And then it just ends, leaving sinners like you and me in fear and trembling.
But when you reach the end of this Psalm you’re meant to go back to its beginning, for there you will find hope: 1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners…
Just who is this man? He is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ, true man just like every one of us, and yet true God. Never once did He walk in the counsel of the wicked; rather He walked the road to Calvary in the place of all the wicked. And while on His way, His delight was in His Father’s law. He honored and loved His Heavenly Father at all times and in all ways, not just on a designated Fathers’ Day. In fact, Scripture records how He certainly meditated on His fathers’ law day and night.
And to be sure, He did not stand in the way of sinners; rather He stood in the place of sinners. Nor did He sit in the seat of scoffers, but rather was scoffed at and mocked in our place.
He who does not have a wicked bone in His body had His body crucified on a cross by the wicked, so that those same wicked people (even the likes of you and me), might not perish but have everlasting life. Here there is truly something to delight about!
When you meditate upon the love your Lord has for you it fills you from head to toe. When you think on God’s love for you, it replaces the darkness of your life with the light of His life. God’s love for you in Jesus is so powerful it’s like a seed sprouting and taking root in your heart, where fear is replaced with hope, sin is replaced with His righteousness, and shame is replaced with His unconditional acceptance. His love for you is so intense, so vibrant, and so powerful that He walked through death back to life to make sure you have it. You are loved!
Yes, there is delight with Jesus. He has claimed you as His own. He has planted you in streams of baptismal water, washing you from head to toe, and giving you His own life to live here and now. The old is gone, the new has come! You are His and He is yours.
He delights in you, so that you can delight in Him. And when you delight in Him you can’t help but do what He desires and love those who He loves.
Jesus is so fond of you that He comes to you this very day at this altar to feed you with His precious blood and most holy body, filling you with His very own life and hope.
Then He sends you on your way fed, forgiven, and freed, to go out into this world trusting that He will never leave you nor forsake you. That’s His promise. He loves you now and always. He is with you now and always. And when you are with Jesus, there is sheer delight. Amen.