Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Prosperity in This New Year

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
(Psalm 1:1-3)
Psalm 1 is a very good place to start off the new year. It offers us wisdom, prosperity and the sharp contrast of two very different ways.

First, there is the way of those who are flat-out wrong; not only morally wrong, but ultimately also strategically wrong — it does not work. In the last half of this psalm, we discover that the ungodly (those who reject the way of God) are like chaff driven away by the wind (v. 4). They will not be able to withstand the judgment of God (v. 5), but will perish in their way (v. 6). This way is wrong from beginning to end. It offers bad counsel, leads to corrupt actions and speaks with bitter, negative words.

It is good to be well-rid of such things, but that is not enough—they must be replaced with something much better. Enter into the second way:
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
Here is a focus that is completely different — the law of the LORD. Now, we often think of law as something that hinders us in our pleasures and pursuits. But that is not what the “law of the Lord” is about at all. The Hebrew word for “law” is torah and can just as well be translated “instruction.” See, God offers us instruction in how we can live and enjoy life to the fullest, to get the maximum benefit and pleasure. That’s why this psalm begins with “Blessed is the man.” It is not about sanctimony but about bliss — deep happiness.

The instruction of the Lord offers the best counsel of all, the wisdom of God. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours, but He gives us His instruction so we can know His ways and think after His thoughts. They properly focus us and lead us into prosperous actions that bring prosperous results.

The instruction of the Lord teaches us how to think, act and speak. That last one is very important because the Bible teaches us that the world was created by words: God said, “Light, be!” and light was. God also created us to be speaking creatures, and our words can be very powerful, but apart from Him we simply don’t know what to say, so we often speak words that are very destructive.

But God has given us His Word, and the man who delights in it, who derives the greatest pleasure and benefit from it is the one who is always meditating on it. Now, the Hebrew word for “meditate” literally refers to what we might call our “self-talk.” When we meditate on God’s Word, we are talking about it to ourselves. As we do, this Word begins to teach us, revealing things to our inner man.

Jesus said that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). When we continually let the Word of God be the source of our meditation, our self-talk, then that is what our heart will be filled with. Consequently, that is what our mouths will begin to speak, which is something we will appreciate especially in times of great difficulty.

Delighting ourselves in the instruction of the Lord and always letting it speak to our heart produces great results: “He shall be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” We do not have time to unpack those statements here, but it is all good and a description of bliss.

Happy New Year!