Have you ever been resentful of people whose lives seem successful? They’ve achieved recognition; they have beautiful children, and they enjoy material riches. The very thought of them strips any sense of happiness from you.
Now there’s nothing wrong with being successful, having a great family or having money. The question is how do we value them? Do they represent what life is about or is there more to life?
Today we come to a second Reflection on Psalm 1. The Psalm is important for it lays the foundation for the whole Book of Psalms. As it progresses it identifies our two life-choices – a road to nowhere, or a path to life.
Consider verse 3. The imagery is vivid as it speaks of the truly blessed or happy people. They are like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all it does it prospers.
Like a tree, truly happy people draw upon life-giving water, growing slowly, steadily, surely, putting roots deeper and deeper into the source of life. Their source of water is God’s word. And just as a well-rooted tree develops its own particular fruit in the appropriate season, so they develop their own distinctive personality and quality of life.
And significantly, because this tree is well-rooted, its leaf doesn’t wither in the crippling conditions of drought. Unlike reeds in dried-up river beds or grass in parched earth, trees because of their deep-rooting system are more able to reach what little moisture there is. So in the tough times of life, the faith of God’s people is not likely to shrivel up.
Yes, our faith will be tested, but in the same way a deeply rooted tree in drought conditions is stimulated to push down even deeper in search of moisture, so too are we are stirred to dig deeper into God’s word; to rely more and more upon him; to be more focussed on putting our life in his hands. This results in bearing the fruit of love – love for God, love for others. We yearn for this. We long for the water of life, but in our natural state we look in the wrong places.
Two thousand years ago a woman at a well in Samaria longed for happiness but it had eluded her. Thinking that love and marriage was the answer, she had been married five times. And as Jesus observed in his conversation with her in John chapter 4, she was now living with a sixth man. But each time she made the same mistake. Her life was a mess. She felt insecure, lonely, and dissatisfied.
Telling her that he, Jesus, offered living waters which spring into eternal life, he said that true believers worshipped the Father in spirit and in truth. ‘A new age is dawning,’ he said, ‘when access to God is no longer tied to any one race or nation.’ The key is to know Christ and, in turn to make him known.
Consider what Psalm 1 tells us happens to a world that fails to turn to God and put its trust in him. In verse 4 we read: The wicked are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Chaff is the epitome of what is rootless and weightless: it has no substance. It’s useless. We can feel the force of the imagery – the action of winnowing, tossing the harvested grain into the air so that the light, useless chaff will be carried off by the wind, while the heavy grain falls to the ground.
Other psalms point out that all too often it is the godless rather than the godly who seem to succeed in life. But those same psalms also come to the same conclusion as this psalm. There will come a Day when men and women of straw together with their works of straw will be revealed.
Verse 6 looks ahead to this: 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.
If this world is to make any sense at all, there must be a final judgement. If there is any morality, there must come a time when everyone is called to account. One of the points the Bible insists upon is that there will be such a time. And the psalmist wants us to know that on that day, those who have ignored God, who turned their backs on the perfect pattern of life he has shown us, or who have simply rejected him, will not have a leg to stand on.
Are you looking for meaning and lasting joy in life? Psalm 1 tells us how we can find it. We won’t find it by following our own inclinations nor by following our passions. And, with the incarnation of the Son of God, we certainly won’t find it by dismissing Jesus Christ.
We don’t know what life holds. One thing we do know is this. Our world is not getting any better. The western world is more and more wrecking itself on the rocks of unadulterated selfishness. People want happiness but insist upon looking in all the wrong places.
God tells us where we can find it. In responding to him, in learning from him and leaning on him; in living lives shaped by his perfect pattern. Then and only then will we begin to find true happiness.
So, if we want to find true happiness, it’s worth planning a lifestyle that includes the daily reading of the Bible; developing a pattern of prayer, so we can plunge into the springs of God’s living water. The best way to begin is to not procrastinate. If you are not regularly reading the Bible, plan to start today.
A prayer. Blessed Lord, you have caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning, grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, so that, encouraged and supported by your holy Word, we may embrace and always hold fast the joyful hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
© John G. Mason