Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Treasure of Heaven on Earth

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24)
One day a rich young man came to Jesus and asked, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life.” He was somehow sensing a lack in his life, a disconnectedness from God, from heaven, even from life itself.

Jesus answered him simply, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He knew that was where the problem lay, as well as the solution the young man thought he was seeking.

“Which ones?’ the young man asked. Jesus named a few, notably, the ones that pertain to relationship with others (the Fifth through Ninth Commandments). “All these things I have kept from my youth,” said the young man, and yet he still knew that something very important was missing in his life.

Then Jesus gave this startling reply: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” The young man went away greatly saddened because he had many possessions. Or as some have wisely noted, his possessions had him.

You see, the real problem was that he was trusting in his possessions, looking to them to be his source and supply. But in doing so, he was breaking the very first commandment: “I am the LORD your God; you shall have no other gods before Me.” This young man’s wealth and possessions had become his idols, usurping the place of God in his life. He was banking on them, instead of on God, to take care of him.

The young man departed and we do not know whatever became of him. But consider what would have happened if he had done as Jesus had told him. He would have entered into eternal life, the zoe life offered by God, the life Jesus came to bring us in abundance. Not only that, he would have discovered that he could trust God to take care of him and be his source of supply. He would have been banking on heaven.

“You will have treasure in heaven,” Jesus said. What is a treasury? Simply a storehouse. What is the purpose of a storehouse? It is a place where you keep things until you need them. “Treasure in heaven” is not God’s way to keep us from the things we need in this life. Quite the opposite, it is how God preserves for us the things we need in this life. When we commit ourselves and our means to the kingdom of God and His purposes, thieves cannot break in and steal them, varmints cannot consume them, and rust, rot and mold cannot corrupt them.

Watch how it works: Jesus told the young man to sell what he had and give to the poor, and he would have treasure in heaven. The Bible says, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what He has given” (Proverbs 19:17). Perhaps the rich young man forgot this, but Jesus didn’t.

Now, here is an interesting thing about the Hebrew word for “lend,” lavah. It means to entwine or join together, as in an arrangement between two people. It is used of the relationship between a lender and a borrower. When we give to the poor, God makes a deal with us where we are the lender and He is the borrower. God always makes good on His debts. The Hebrew word for “pay back” is shalam, and in this arrangement means that He will reciprocate, recompense, and restore. And when God repays, it is always with interest.

If this young man would have sold what he had to sell and given out of it to the poor, he would have had an account with God in the bank of heaven. Then when he himself was in need, God would have repaid him handsomely. But his money and possessions had become his idol, and he trusted in them more than he did in God. And he went away sorrowful.

When we bank our treasure in heaven, God will meet our needs on earth.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Because of His Great Love

Oh, give thanks to Yahweh, for He is good!
Because His great love endures forever!
(Psalms 136:1)
God is love. Therefore, everything He does is because of His great love. Everything! Psalm 136 lays it out for us:

  • All the great wonders He works He does because of His great love.
  • He made the heavens by the wisdom of His great love.
  • He drew the dry land out of the water and placed the sun, moon and stars because of His great love.
  • He struck the firstborn of Egypt because of the great love He had for His people, to deliver them from cruel bondage.
  • He brought Israel out of captivity because of His great love.
  • He manifested His mighty strength on their behalf because of His great love.
  • He divided the Red Sea and let Israel pass through it safely because of His great love.
  • He let the Red Sea swallow up Pharaoh and his army because of His great love.
  • He led His people through the wilderness because of His great love.
  • He struck down great and famous kings — Sihon of the Amorites and Og of Bashan — to protect His people because of His great love.
  • He gave their land as an inheritance to Israel because of His great love.
  • He remembers us in our lowly state and rescues us from our enemies because of His great love.
  • He makes provision for all His creation and gives food to all flesh because of His great love.
Give thanks to Yahweh because He is good and His great love endures forever.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Recession? No Thanks

My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
There has recently been a lot of talk about recession. Well, I don’t know whether or not one is coming. All is know is that my wife and I have decided that we are not going to be taking part in it, thank you very much. Of course, when I tell people this, I get some very confused looks: “How can you not be a part of it? Everyone is gonna be part of it. You gotta be part of it — you have no choice!”

Now, if the economy was our source and supply, I guess they would have a point; when the economy goes south, we would just have to go south with it. Fortunately, though, we no longer look to the economy to be our supply. Our supply is from God, and He is not in recession. Never has been; never will be.

God will never have say to us, “Well, I’d like to help you out with your need, but things are kinda tight right now, and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Maybe next quarter I’ll be a bit more flush, but right now, I’m just strapped.” Nope. There are never any shortages with God; He always has plenty enough to go around. The promise is always “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” When we look to Him as our Shepherd, we shall never be in lack or want of anything (Psalm 23:1).

Remember what happened to Isaac in Genesis 26. There was a famine in the land, and the Lord told him not to go down into Egypt, but to dwell in a land He would show him, and God would take care of him just as He had taken care of his father Abraham. Isaac obeyed, trusting in the Lord. Though he was surrounded by a hard famine, he chose not to participate in it. Rather, he sowed his seed as if there had been no famine at all.
Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him. (Genesis 26:12-14)
He received a hundredfold harvest — maximum return on his investment — so much so that the Philistines, who had no covenant with God, who did not know Him as their Shepherd, their source of supply, envied him greatly.

The Bible says that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34), which means that what God has done for others, He will do for all who come to Him in faith. Just as He blessed and prospered Isaac, even in famine, He will also do the same for you and me. So my wife and I have decided that we are not going to take part in any recession, but in the blessing and provision of God who supplies all we need according to His glorious riches in Jesus Christ.

God’s promises do not change with the state of the economy. He is still our Shepherd, and there is never any lack with Him.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jury Duty: Opportunity for Onsite Prayer

Kingdom of God, come. Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10, my translation)
This week, God assigned me to go down to the Hillsborough County courthouse and pray for the kingdom of God to come and the will of God to be done there just as it is in heaven. That was my assignment, although I expect Hillsborough County had no idea that was what would be happening when they sent me a jury summons.

When I first received that county letter I was a bit annoyed. Sure, jury duty is a civic responsibility, and I have a great appreciation for the fact our justice system provides for trials to be conducted before, and decided by, a panel of our peers. But let’s face it, such duty is seldom convenient, although, at least in my home county, everyone tried to be as accommodating at they could be.

As the day for appearing approached, I began to see that God had given me an opportunity to go into the bowels of the justice system and call for godly wisdom to be revealed in all the cases that were to be tried and all the decisions that we to be made. So I began to look forward to it.

The day finally arrived and I drove into Tampa, found a good spot in a nearby parking garage (I came early), filed through the security checkpoint and was processed, along with about three hundred other prospective jurors, into a large waiting room filled with chairs and some tables. Some people brought books to occupy their time, or grabbed a magazine from one of the nearby stacks. Others leaned back in their chairs and closed their eyes. There were also some chatty types scattered throughout, but they were generally sociable without being distracting. Everyone had their own strategy for waiting.

Finding a seat by a large man who turned out to be a truck driver, I began praying silently through the psalms for the day (five a day, because 150 psalms divided by thirty days in a month equals 5).

The time was broken up by various procedural matters. We were welcomed as a group, given a few instructions and explanations about jury service, and then sworn in, en masse, by one of the judges. Then we sat back and listened for our names to be called. Before long, a clerk began to rattle off lists and assembling little groups of about sixteen people, who were then led out by bailiffs for the next step in the selection process. This happened about every fifteen minutes, and when each reading came to end, a collective sigh of relief escaped all those who had not just been called.

In between lists, I returned to my psalms. When I finished that, I began meditating through Proverbs 14 (it was the 14th day of the month). Throughout it all, I offered up prayers, asking God to give His divine wisdom to each group, that each decision they made would reveal the heart of heaven, displaying the proper balance of justice and mercy. I was content to pass the day in that manner.

Then they called my name. I packed up my stuff and took my place in line, ready to move into the next level. I prayed for those who were in line with me. We were led into one of the courtrooms and seated before the judge who was to conduct the case for which we were being considered. The prosecuting and defense attorneys were also present, as well as the defendant, a somber-looking young man. I prayed for them all, that godly wisdom, justice and mercy would prevail in those proceedings, and in the life of that young man.

The case was about DUI, and the attorneys began to each one of us questions. Did we have any particular “feelings” about DUI? How accurate did we think breathalyzers were? What did we think about “the presumption of innocence” and about who had the burden of proof? We each answered in turn. Noting that I am a minister of the gospel, they asked me particularly about my opinion of DUI. I spoke my mind, that “driving under the influence” is wrong because it is dangerous and deadly, that I presumed the defendant was innocent until proven guilty, but that I presumed breathalyzers are accurate unless proven otherwise.

Then we were all led out while the judge deliberated with both attorneys about who would be impaneled in this trial. There were sixteen prospective jurors, but only eight chairs to be filled. In the end, I was not selected. So ended my duty.

I drove home, happy to be released, but also thankful for the opportunity to pray for God’s kingdom to be revealed and His will to be done in such a place where important, life-changing decisions are made. I may never know of any specific outcomes from my prayers that day, but I believe that when we pray the way Jesus taught us to pray, there will be divine, world-changing results.

Everywhere you go, there is an opportunity for you to pray for the kingdom of God to come and the will of God to be done there just as it is in heaven.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

For the Sake of Heaven on Earth

There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it. (Matthew 19:12)
In Matthew 11, Jesus talked about the kingdom of Heaven on Earth forcefully advancing, and forceful men laying hold of it. In Matthew 13, He described it as a treasure hidden in a field, for which a man would give up all he has in order to possess it as his own. In Matthew 19, He briefly discusses a complication of marriage, particularly concerning divorce. Hearing this, his disciples said, “If such is the case with the man with his wife, it is better not to marry” (v. 10). Jesus answered
But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.” (vv. 11-12)
Referring to those “who have made themselves eunuchs,” He does not mean that they have emasculated themselves, as some have erroneously supposed. Rather, He is speaking of those who choose not to marry but to remain celibate in order to fulfill their destiny in God’s kingdom.

Some serve the kingdom by being fruitful and multiplying through marriage and family. Others serve by the devotion and focus unique to those who are single and celibate. Jesus recognized that not all receive, “but only those to whom it has been given.” In other words, it is a special calling. Concerning this same matter, Paul said, “As God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk” (1 Corinthians 7:17), and “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called” (v. 20). He also cautions that it should not be a matter for great concern, for we are each free to marry or remain single, as the Lord has given us grace.

In the plan of God, the norm is for us to “be fruitful and multiply,” to “fill the earth and subdue it,” and to “have dominion” (Genesis 1:28). This is the prime directive given to man and woman, and it speaks of uniting in marriage, have children and nurturing families. For those do, great promise is given:
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
(Psalm 127:3-5)
But there is also great promise given to those who follow a special calling, who devote themselves in singleness and celibacy for the sake of the kingdom:
Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord speak, saying, “The Lord has utterly separated me from His people;” nor let the eunuch say, “Here I am, a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56:3-5)
So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
Whether you are married and nurturing children or single and celibate, let it be for the sake of Jesus, the Gospel and the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jesus the Anointed One

The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me. (Luke 4:18)

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. (Acts 10:38)
In the West, we often tend to think of “Jesus” as His first name and “Christ” as His last, but that is not accurate. “Christ” is not His surname; it is His title, and speaks of His office and function. Our English word “Christ” is an anglicized version of the Greek word Christos, which translates the Hebrew word Messiah, which literally means “Anointed One.” That is, Jesus Christ is actually Jesus the Anointed One.

In the Old Testament, kings and priests were anointed to show that they were authorized and empowered by God to operate in those offices. The title “Anointed One” shows that Jesus is authorized and empowered by God to rule over His people as His perfect and final King. It also reveals that Jesus is the true and ultimate intermediary between God and His people. All other kings and priests in the Old Testament were merely types and foreshadows of Jesus the Anointed One.

What is the function or purpose of His anointing? First, let’s look in Isaiah 10:27, where we see a description of the anointing:
It shall come to pass in that day
That his burden will be taken away from your shoulder,
And his yoke from your neck,
And the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil.
The anointing is for removing all burdens from the people of God and destroying all the yokes of the oppressor. That is exactly what Jesus came to do — to remove the burdens and destroy the yoke of the oppressor. Jesus said,
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
The Bible teaches us that Jesus not only came to remove our burdens but also to destroy the yoke, or works of the devil:
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. (Hebrews 2:14)
Even the name “Jesus” speaks of this. In Hebrew, it is Yeshua, which literally means “salvation,” and speaks of deliverance, healing, and restoration to prosperity and well-being. We find all this in the anointing. One day, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue and He read from the scroll of Isaiah (at Isaiah 61:1-2):
The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.
(Luke 4:18-19)
Then He sat down, indicating that He was about to comment on that passage, and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). The gospel of Jesus the Anointed One lifts the burden and breaks the yoke of poverty, sickness, blindness and oppression, bringing prosperity, freedom and wholeness in their place. Because He is anointed with the Spirit of the LORD, all these things are fulfilled in Him and are available to all those who believe Him. Peter summarized it this way:
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38)
Remember that Jesus is the Christ, the One Anointed by God to lift every burden and destroy every demonic bondage in your life, and restore you to wholeness in every way.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Boundless Love

The first and most important thing is that we are boundlessly loved by God who blesses us to love Him boundlessly in return.”

— Fr. Thomas Hopko, 2007 commencement address
St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.
Quote in
First Things, December 2007.
Pure bliss!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Kingdom of Forgiveness on Earth

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Peter thought he would be doing pretty good to forgive someone seven times. Jewish rule required only three times, while Peter was offering seven times. But he was asking a loaded question — and it backfired on him!

“Seven times isn’t nearly enough, Peter. Try seventy times seven” (my paraphrase). Jesus wasn’t quantifying forgiveness (forgive 490 times). No, He was saying that there is no limit to forgiveness. Then to drive the point home, He likened the matter of forgiveness to the kingdom of Heaven on Earth — it is vital to our relationship with our heavenly Father.
Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. (Matthew 18:23-27)
See how great a debt this man was forgiven. Ten thousand talents was an enormous amount of money. One talent equaled about 6,000 denarii; ten thousand talents was worth 60 million denarii. A denarius was about one day’s wage. If a man labored every day of his life, he would have to work over 164,000 years to pay off such a debt. But that is how much this steward owed his master — and that is how much he was forgiven.

Now, we ought to think that one who was forgiven such a debt would be willing, out of love, respect and gratitude toward his master, to forgive the debt owed him by another. But such is not the case.
But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, “Pay me what you owe!” So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. (Matthew 18:28-30)
This steward, who was forgiven the debt of 60 million denarii, was completely unwilling to forgive the debt of 100 denarii (one 600,000th of what he himself had been forgiven). The forgiveness of his master did not penetrate his heart. He did not let even a tiny bit of the kindness shown to him flow through him to someone else.
So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. (Matthew 18:31-34)
The master had forgiven the great debt owed him, but he did expect that the compassion he showed his servant would be reciprocated toward others. As Paul said, “Owe no man anything except to love one another” (Romans 13:8). That is the only proper debt we should have. Because of his unwillingness to forgive, the servant reaped a hard harvest of suffering and shame.

Now consider carefully Jesus’ conclusion to the matter:
So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses. (Matthew 18:35)
Notice that forgiveness is first a matter of the heart. God has forgiven us a great debt, more than we could ever pay, and He intends for it to work throughout our heart like the leaven of love. When we are unwilling to forgive others, we are rejecting the work God wants to do in us, instead of letting divine love have its perfect way. God will not let up on us until we repay the debt of love and forgive those who have sinned against us.

Do not hinder the flow of forgiveness from heaven to earth. Let your love and forgiveness be without limits, and so let the heartbeat of your heavenly Father change the world through you. It is vital to the manifestation of the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Prosperity for the Nations

Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
(Psalm 2:10-12)
Psalm 1 shows how the individual can prosper and be blessed. Psalm 2 shows how all the nations of the earth can prosper and be blessed. Though it ends with a note of hope and assurance for all those, even heads of state, who put their trust in God, this psalm begins with a conspiracy of nations in rebellion: “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?” (v. 1). What is interesting here is that the Hebrew word for “plot” is the same one used for “meditate” in Psalm 1. There it speaks of meditation — one’s self-talk — on the Word of God; here it refers to the vain imaginations of traitors egging one another on in accusation against God.

The psalm writer continues, “The kings of the earth have set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and His Anointed [Messiah]” (v. 2). This is the counsel of the wicked, the path of the sinful, the seat of the mockers. Hear the bile of their anger: “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us” (v. 3). They devise, they scheme, they connive. They twist and contort and imagine themselves a great terror to the purposes of God.

God laughs. Their brilliant strategy is utter nonsense, as comical as a flea trying to work jujitsu on an elephant. It does not slow Him down one bit as He prepares for the Great Coronation, and He lets them know it.
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”
(Psalm 2:4-6)
And Messiah receives the assignment:
“I will declare the decree:
The LORD has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.’”
(Psalm 2:7-9)
All the nations of the earth are His inheritance; the whole world belongs to Him. Though He is the stone the kings and builders of the world rejected, He has become the Cornerstone with which everything must be set in proper order — or else be demolished.

And here’s an unexpected turn. Instead of dropping the hammer on them, God graciously extends an invitation, an opportunity to get a little life-saving wisdom.
Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
Get a clue. Receive correction. Figure out who is Lord of All and serve Him with all your heart, realizing how awesome He is and counting yourself fortunate to have come to your senses just in time. Run to His embrace and honor Him with a kiss, while there is yet time to know the happiness — the bliss — of finding all your peace and prosperity in Him.

Messiah has ascended to His throne and is receiving the nations for His inheritance, and He is calling them to receive Him, and know Him as King over all kings and Lord over all lords. The prosperity of the nations is found in Him alone.

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!