Meditations on the Psalms (1:1-2) Pt. 2
Psalm 1:1-2 (ESV) 1 Blessed 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; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
I’ve been pondering what Psalm 1:1 has to do with the isolation precautions being taken relative to COVID-19. A superficial reading of the text could yield an encouragement to practice social distancing, i.e. stay away from the bad guys. But, using the text like that is more about imposing our situation on the text than allowing the text to impose itself on our situation–which is how I think Scripture should be handled: the word should interpret experience, not the other way around.
What do the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, and the seat of scoffers have in common? At heart, they are all expressions of our root sin, selfishness. Each is a means of indulging carnal pride, the inherent desire to oust God from His throne and exalt ourselves to His place. It is the sin of Cain who offered a sacrifice of fruits and vegetables, as if to say, “Look God. You cursed the ground but I have overcome the ground AND your curse all by myself!” It is the self-indulgent sin that led to the flood and the decimation of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is the sin that drives Satan. It is the sin of the humans at Babel who refused to spread throughout the whole earth and thought they could make their way to the dwelling of God by a tower of their own construction.
Selfish pride was the sin of the Jews who thought they could worship the gods of the nations and God would just let them get away with it. It was the sin of the Pharisees who replaced the grace of God with rules of their own making. It was the sin that overruled Pilate’s good sense and surrendered innocent Jesus to the merciless, fickle crowd. It was the sin that swung the whip, and pounded the nails, and raised the cross, and gambled for His clothing. It was pride that mocked and scoffed as He hung naked before the world, giving to the world what the world cannot and would not gain for itself.
And, lest we leave this sin in historical context and consider ourselves excused, it is the sin that so easily besets us and ought to be thrown aside that we might run and win the race of faith. It is the sin that holds us long before we take up faith. It is the sin that sets the personal, spiritual boulders and potholes that hamper our progress in sanctification and holiness.
Selfishness sabotages the soul. Blessed is the man who stays far from the selfishness inspired advice of the unbeliever, who takes no comfort in the selfish attitudes and behaviors of the unredeemed, who finds no refuge in the proudly misplaced affections of the rebellious. Blessed is the man or woman, girl or boy, who, by their faith in and devotion to Jesus, has found a new delight, a different life motive than resides in the world.
Many are the discussions surrounding COVID-19 and the legitimacy of governmental guidance during this crisis. Many are the objections to whether this is a real crisis at all. Many are the pointing fingers and blaming lips of the world. Let it not be so with you. You, blessed man and woman, have a different source, a different filter through which to screen your responses to the challenges you face on a daily basis. Your delight is in the law of the LORD and on His law you meditate day and night.
As you spend time in God’s word you come to know Who God is and how God works in the world. You learn to recognize His hand as he accomplishes His eternal plan on the temporal stage of creation. You become less startled and less anxious for the cultural twists and turns of society, not because they are necessarily less important to you, but because you understand and appreciate them in an entirely different, an eternal and holy and glorious, context. Rather than getting lost in the details, you carry on with a birdseye view of the big picture: The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1).
Blessed are you, not because you do not feel the impact of what goes on in the world, but because you are not sucked into the world’s misunderstanding and misrepresentation of events. Where the world is anxious, the blessed have peace. Where the world is fearful, the blessed know love. Where the world is angry and confused and bitter, the blessed know joy and wisdom and humility. The delight of the blessed is the law of the Lord.