Devotions on Psalm 1:1-6
May 25, 2015-May 31, 2015
Monday, May 25, 2015
“Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1a).
In the media’s coverage of the Baltimore demonstrations there is a video clip of a mother pulling her sixteen year-old son out of the demonstrations and away from the protesters. She had told him that he was to come straight home after school and reminded him that he was not the type of boy who threw rocks at the police. When the bell sounded at the end of the school day, the boy’s friends all headed toward the demonstrations. Caving in to peer pressure the boy followed them–conveniently forgetting his mother’s instructions.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we take pride in the fact that we march to the beat of a different drummer. We do not follow the ways of the world. Yet, how often are we like that sixteen year old boy? We share a juicy tidbit of gossip about a co-worker even though we are not sure that it is true. We remain silent when our friends make racial, bigoted or prejudicial remarks. We join in the “put downs” rather than seek to “build up” those around us with our words and actions. The advice of the wicked oftentimes comes packaged as the common sense and popular practices of the world.
Our goal should not be to be pridefully perfect but rather to be humbly aware of the strength of the wicked’s advice in our lives. We seek to be faithfully obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we fail–and we will fail–we can rejoice that through the cross of Christ we have the assurance of God’s forgiveness, love and presence.
Holy God, we seek to do your will. Enable us to be sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit and deaf to the advice of the wicked. Amen.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
“Or sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1c).
Don Rickles is a famous “insult comedian.” He has made his living putting other people down and being a paid, professional scoffer. We laugh at his jokes and all too often follow his example.
Today being negative is acool thing to be (forgive my outdated slang). Make a few negative comments about the government and see how quickly people join you. Criticize a public figure and there are sure to be people who will add to your words. Poke fun at an unpopular student, co-worker, pastor or congregational “pain-in-the-butt” and you are quickly accepted as a member of the group. Bash the immigrants, homeless, welfare recipients, the people who live in the “bad” part of town and a host of others, and you’ll get pats on the back. It’s so easy to become a scoffer.
Martin Luther in his explanation to the eighth commandment has this to say about scoffing. He writes, “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.” This is not to say that we take a Pollyanna approach to life where everything is simply wonderful. It does challenge us, though, to view all of life from a positive rather than a negative perspective. We may not receive as many laughs or pats-on-the-back, but our words and actions will reflect more closely God’s view of God’s creation.
God of life, help us so that our words and actions bring life rather than death, encouragement rather than discouragement, hope instead of hopelessness and despair. Amen.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
“But their delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:2).
Every so often something is lost in the translation. It certainly is the case in this verse. What is translated “law” in the English, is “torah” in the original Hebrew. The Psalmist is not talking about the Ten Commandments and taking delight in the do’s and don’ts of a religious life. Rather the Psalmist is writing about the first five books of the Bible, which contain so much more than the “law.”
The first five books of the Bible contain stories of God’s interaction with creation and with humankind. There are stories of grace and faith, sin and forgiveness, courage and cowardliness, love and hate. These stories are instructive and inspiring. They remind us over and over again that God is intimately involved in the lives of God’s children and God’s creation.
As disciples of Christ our delight is not in rules and regulations. Such things do not bring life. Instead we rejoice, give thanks and praise as we meditate on what God has done in the past and seek to apply what insights we gain to our lives today.
Unchanging Lord, we love to read the old, old stories and meditate on them so that your Spirit can move through us as we share those old, old stories of your love and grace. Amen.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
“They are like trees planted by streams of water” (Psalm 1:3).
They say, “It’s a jungle out there,” but life can also be like a desert. The sun bears down on us like a spotlight. The heat gets turned up. The path is filled with brush and cacti–everything has thorns. Our lips are parched, our skin is dry and there is an unquenchable thirst in our souls. A few wild beast roam the land and pose a danger to us. What really makes life miserable, though, are the “critters” the scorpions, snakes and lizards that bite and sting.
In the middle of this harsh landscape is an occasional dense growth of cottonwoods. The trees are tall and their foliage is lush. They have established themselves on the shores of a stream or a pond–water. They are a sign of abundant life and they are a stark contrast to the wilderness that surrounds them.
We may not be able to change the landscape of our lives, but we do have access to water. God’s Word refreshes, renews and brings forth new life. Sinking our roots deep into the moisture of the word not only quenches our thirst but also enables us to thrive. Like desert Cottonwoods, we stand out and our very presence beckons others to the water.
Oh Water of Life, quench the thirst of our souls and then enable us to bring water to the people around us so that we all may live and thrive. Amen.
Friday, May 29, 2015
“In all they do they prosper” (Psalm 1:3c).
It had been an especially hard day for Diego. Clients had been demanding, co-workers preoccupied or uncooperative and the burden of unfinished business overwhelming. When he arrived home, an exhausted Diego plopped down in his chair and groaned a sigh of relief. A few moments later his wife, Bonita, bent down and welcomed Diego home with a kiss. In short order his three children surrounded him, hugged him, and pulled him out of his chair to help them with their homework. When the homework was completed the family sat down to a delicious and filling meal. Diego reflected on the day and on life after the children had been put to bed. He wasn’t rich or famous. Work was hard and challenging. He had his share of trials and tribulations. Still he was a person who was blessed. In the words of the Psalmist he prospered in all he did. He could complain, he thought to himself. Instead he chose to offer a prayer of thanks.
Our families may be more similar to the “Modern Family” on television than to Diego and Bonita, but we can still be prosperous and blessed. The fact that we are married or single, young or old, rich or poor, healthy or sick, does not alter the fact that we can be prosperous. God has blessed us with God’s overwhelming grace, unconditional forgiveness and steadfast love. God provides us with people who love us along with our daily physical needs. If we bother to look around and discover our blessings instead of focusing on our problems we will realize that we have much for which to be thankful. We may not be rich, but we indeed have true wealth.
God of abundance thank you for the blessings you have poured into our lives. You have made us all prosperous people. Amen.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the winds drives away” (Psalm 1:4).
There can be no greater contrast than between a towering Cottonwood tree and a piece of chaff, which is exactly what the Psalmist intends. Before a kernel of grain can be used for cooking and baking it needs to be separated from it’s outer husk. In ancient times this was done by placing the grain in a large, flat basket. The person who was thrashing would wave the basket and toss the grain into the air. The wind would than blow that chaff away. This was repeated until there was no more chaff mixed with the kernels of grain.
A lot of wicked people that we meet do not seem to be too light weight. We may wish that they’d blow away, but usually they have remarkable staying power. We wouldn’t usually use the word, “chaff” to describe them. The wickedness in us, however, sometimes make us feel like chaff. We are at times blown to and fro by the winds of our self-centeredness and our cravings. Our unforgiving thoughts of revenge, anger can dry the life out of us. Insecurity and depression can cause us to view ourselves as worthless as a piece of chaff.
In the poetic world of the Psalmist people can be an either/or. In real life, though, we are both/and. The destructive effects of our wickedness can only, effectively be handled through confession, repentance and forgiveness. The new life that God’s grace brings into our lives can then be watered and nurtured by opening our hearts and minds to God’s word. Out of the mulch of chaff new life can spring.
Forgiving Lord, we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed by what we have done and left undone. Blow the chaff of our sin away and bring forth new life that is rooted in your word. Amen.
Sunday, May 31, 2015
“For the Lord watches over the righteous” (Romans 1:6).
Kevin and Faye took their two grand daughters to the park. Once at the park the girls ran to the various playground equipment and began to climb, slide and swing. The grandparents watched both enjoying the girls having fun but also on the lookout for any danger. Strangers were given the once over. The interaction of the the girls with the other children in the park was observed so that any abuse or harm could be averted. Words of encouragement were called out to the girls. If they heard, they didn’t respond. Occasionally the girls tried to use a new playground apparatus while Kevin or Faye stood by as guardian angels to catch them if they fell or give them a nudge if needed. All the time the children were enjoying their freedom and independence.
We have been given a rich, exciting, fulfilling life. Like a playground we are able to enjoy life while it excites us, challenges us, tests our mettle, strengthens us and helps us grow. As we play, God watches over us. God doesn’t sit back on a park bench and read “USA Today” or “The Wall Street Journal.” God watches our every move, keeps watch for any danger, protects us when we take our leaps of faith and catches us if we fall.
The Psalmist celebrates God’s involvement in life and we are invited to join him in the celebration.
Ever observant Lord, thank you for your presence and involvement in our lives. We rejoice in your love and ask that you empower us to live boldly and courageously as you watch over us. Amen.