Sunday, July 16, 2006

Matt's Messages - What's At Stake at Family Bible Week

“What’s at Stake at Family Bible Week”
July 16, 2006
Psalm 1

We’re going to take a break from our study of Hosea today to think about “What’s at Stake with Family Bible Week.”

Tonight at 6pm, our 5th Annual Family Bible Week will begin. Hopefully, we’ll have about a hundred people gather to eat, sing, pray, and study together for the next five days. I hope that you all come and you bring a friend.

What’s at stake with Family Bible Week?

Well, the name says a lot. Family Bible Week.

It’s a week (five days) designed for families (there’s something for everyone, including time when the whole family is together at a table or together singing in worship)...a week designed for families to learn the Bible.

How important is that?

It’s incredibly important. And that’s what Psalm 1 is all about.

Notice that Psalm 1 divides all people into 2 categories. Look at v.6.

“The LORD watches over the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish.”

There are 2 ways to go in life. Two paths. And they are not BOTH/AND; they are “EITHER/OR.”

Psalm 1 makes it clear that there are 2 ways to go in this life. Two paths. And they are either/or.

You and I are faced with a choice (or a series of choices). Will we go the way of the righteous or will we go the way of the wicked?

Either/Or. The choice is yours.

Each way (the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked) has a final destination. Each path points to certain destination. And the beautiful thing about Psalm 1 is that those destinations are painted in stark, vivid colors.

Now, in life, the paths are not so clearly marked. Sometimes, it seems like the way of wickedness prospers. For example, that was Asaph’s problem in Psalm 73. “Why do the wicked prosper?”

But Psalm 1 makes it crystal clear where each path eventually leads.

Last Sunday and Monday, our family got to go camping for the very first time (all 6 of us) in Cook Forest (my favorite place on God’s green Earth)! And we got to go on hike together. I love hiking in Cook Forest! I don’t know about you, but I like to know when I start out on a hiking-trail, where it is going to end-up. Will we get back to the car, will we have to walk back up hill after a down-hill trail, will we end up near camp or far from camp? These are important questions to ask when hiking.

Psalm 1 stands in the Bible like a huge sign-post at the head of two very different trails. Warning us from the one and urging us to take the other. Verses 1, 2, and 3 describe the path and destination of the righteous. Let’s read them again. This is what’s a stake at Family Bible Week.

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

Does that sound good, or what? The destination of the path of the righteous is blessing.

V.1 says, “Blessed is the man.”

We really don’t comprehend what that word, “blessed” mean. It means more than just to be happy. It means to be in state that should be congratulated. It means “worthy of rejoicing,” “honored,” “praiseworthy.” The person on this path is being recognized (by GOD!) as being in a place worthy of celebration.

How would you like God to open up the heavens right now, look down on you, and say, “Way to go! You are in the right spot now! Congratulations on your recent choices! Good job!”

That’s what this verse does. “Blessed is the man [woman or child]” who is on this path...].

Twelve years ago, I was sitting in chapel at Moody Bible Institute, the guest preacher that day was D.A. Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. And he spoke on the blessedness of this path. And I wrote in my Bible (it’s still there today), “Father, make me a Psalm 1 man.”

I want this blessing. And I want it for you, too. I want it for all of the families attached to our church. I want this blessing for Family Bible Week.

More on that blessing in a do you get there?

Vv.1&2 describe the path. First negatively, then positively. Negatively, this path is not giving in to the crowd and positively this path is loving God’s words.

V.1 again.

“Blessed is the man who does NOT walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.”

Notice the progression: walking, standing, sitting. It’s a downward spiral of giving in to the crowd. Walking in the counsel of the wicked means listening to the advice of the world. What the world says about what matters: money, sex, possessions, success, popularity, power, external beauty, and so on. The blessed person does not listen to that counsel and believe it. They tune it out.

Last week, our Challenge ladies reminded us in their presentation that the world wants to feed us a pack of lies. Those on the path of the righteous don’t buy it.

Not standing in the way of sinners means not choosing to go along with the crowd and do the self-seeking sinful things that our nonbelieving friends and family want us to do. The NIV makes it sound like we’re stopping sinners by standing in their way, but it really means that we’re in the middle of their path, and we’ve identified with them and what they want us to do.

Did you know that peer pressure is not a teenage thing? It’s a human thing. It is a sinner thing. It affects all ages. The way of blessing says no to peer pressure for sin. The godly man or woman does not stand in the path that sinners stand in.

Do you stand out amongst your friends because you don’t do all of the things that they do?

Refusing to sit in the seat of mockers means valuing godly things instead of scorning and ridiculing them. It’s an attitude thing. In our culture today, there is a cynicism and disdain for spiritual things. But the road of blessing does not go through that town! It maintains reverence and respect for God and the things of God.

Are you running with crowd? Are you just going with the flow? The way of blessing says no to the press of the crowd and goes it own way.

Family Bible Week is about cultivating a counter-cultural lifestyle and swimming upstream.

Now here’s the most important part...

The way of blessing comes from loving God’s words. That’s in v.2.

“But [instead of giving in to the crowd] his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

The Law or “Torah” of the LORD was the first 5 books of the Old Testament. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. That was probably all of the Bible that the psalmist had in writing at this point.

So when it says the Law of God, think the Scriptures. What God has said. The Bible.

The blessed man or woman loves the Bible.

Loves. V.2 “His DELIGHT is in the law of the LORD.” Not just that he reads the Scriptures. Not just that he is disciplined in reading the Daily Bread. The blessed person delights in the Scriptures because they bring him close to God.

Now, get that. This is not describing someone who loves Bible Trivia but not the Author of the Bible. This is someone who realizes that God has spoken and feeds off of His words. Eats’em up. [Jeremiah 15:16]

This is the person that says, “What did God say? I want to know! I want to know! Tell me. Tell me what God says!”

And when he gets that information he doesn’t let it go. V.2 again.

“On his law [on His words] he meditates day and night.”

The word here means to mutter, to mumble, to meditate. It means to chew on a word like a cow chews its cud. Over and over again, the words of God are rehearsed and turned over on the tongue.

Day and night. That means all the time, focusing on the Word of God. Thinking about, chewing on, soaking in God’s Word.

That’s the key to the blessed life according to Psalm 1. Not giving in to the pressure of the sinful crowd but making your own way through loving the word of God.

If you love the word of God, you will not choose to walk, stand, or sit with the world.

The Word of God re-adjusts your priorities and your values. It becomes the lens through which you view the world, the grid that you make all your choices through, the yardstick that you measure the worth of everything by.

Does this describe you?

Are you becoming a Psalm 1 man or a Psalm 1 woman, a Psalm 1 teen, a Psalm 1 boy, a Psalm 1 girl–enthralled by, delighted in, enraptured by the words of God? That is the road to blessing.

That’s what’s a stake at Family Bible Week. Blessing.

The Psalmist describes that blessing in v.3. I love the imagery here.

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

Do you see in your mind a picture of a sturdy palm tree standing tall and firm against the elements? The picture here is of a stable life. A life that does not fall when the wind of adversity blows. A tree planted by streams of water doesn’t run out of nourishment because the words of God are more satisfying than bread or honey from the comb. A tree which yields its fruit in season is a life that is productive and effective in the Lord’s service. A tree whose leaf does not wither is a person who does not fall apart when the hard times come.

Eventually and ultimately, God works everything for the prosperity and good of those who love Him and His words like this!

The ravages and storms of this life do not even shake this kind of a tree. Jeremiah 17 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Vv7-8).

That’s the kind of life that I want. And I want it for this congregation. That’s why I get up every Sunday and preach the Word. That’s why we have a Bible component to every one of our ministries. That’s why Bible is the middle name of Family Bible Week.

Because the road of blessing runs through the love of the Bible as it brings us nearer to knowing God.

Boys and Girls, Men and Women: Do you love the Word of God?

I want this to be a church family of mighty trees. With deep roots in the soil and nourishment of the Scriptures.

That is blessing. That is prosperity. And that is the destination of the righteous path.

The other path ends up in a very different place...

The destination of the path of the wicked is death. Vv. 4&5.

“Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”

The wicked are those who do not love the words of God. The wicked are those who go with the flow of the crowd. Listening to their counsel. Choosing their sinful paths. Mocking the holiness of God. And ignoring the word of God.

Vv.4 and 5 are a warning sign at the head of this path, cautioning us to stay far from it. Because at the end of this road is destruction.

The Psalmist says, “Not so the wicked!” No blessing here. There may be a temporary prosperity for those who thumb their noses at God. But not for long. God’s justice will triumph. And they will be destroyed.

If the blessed righteous are like sturdy trees, the wicked (according to Psalm 1) are like chaff that the wind drives away.

“Chaff is the leftover dust and plant refuse that comes with the harvest. In modern farming...the chaff would be all of the junk that spits out the back end of the combine as it makes its way through the fields. It is the chopped up parts of the plant that are no good to anybody.

In ancient farming...there were no machines for separating the good grain from the chaff. What would happen at harvest is that the heads of grain would all be gathered and then left to dry. The good seeds of wheat and barley would be all mixed together with the husks and shells and stems.

And so, the farmer–in order to clean his crop–would have to thresh. On a windy day he would...take his dried heads of grain and toss them up into the air, over and over again. As he did this the heavier, valuable seeds of grain would fall back to the ground around his feet while the lighter, worthless pieces of chaff would be caught by the wind and carried away....

The life of the wicked, the Psalmist is saying, is like that chaff. The literal reality this image is picturing for us is a life of instability as the wicked float from one whim to the next. ... ‘All they are is dust in the wind.’

Or, to change metaphors, they are like boats without anchors. They have nothing solid to latch onto, nothing permanent to define their lives. Instead, as they make their choices according to the fancy of their feelings, they are blown aimlessly through life” [Russell J. Muilenburg, “The Costs of Living a Life Without God” morning sermon, January 9, 2000].

Do you want to be: a mighty tree or chaff in the wind?

V.5 says more. “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”

Judgment day is coming; and those who have not come into a love relationship with Jesus Christ by feasting on the words of God in the Scriptures will not live through the judgment. When the “church of the firstborn” joins in heaven to sing the praises of Christ our Savior, these people will not be present.

Like chaff from grain, there will be a separation of the righteous and the wicked. Those that love God’s words and those who do not.

The two paths will diverge and their destinations will be very different. V.6 makes this plain. It is either/or.

“For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”


The wicked will die in the judgment. If you choose that path–to walk in the counsel of the wicked (what messages are you listening to through the media?), to stand in the way of sinners (what choices are making about how you will live your life?), to sit in the seat of mockers (God will not be mocked. What attitudes characterize your life?)–if you choose that path, it ends in perishing.

But the other path, the path of delight in God through His Word, ends in being “watched over,” guided, directed by God Himself in personal relationship. V.6 again.

“The LORD watches over the way of the righteous.”

Never out of His sight. Never out of His watch-care.

Psalm 121 says “He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over [you] will neither slumber nor sleep.”

God doesn’t rest in caring for the travelers of the righteous road.

That is such good news!

But it’s one or the other. We must choose. It’s Either/or.

That’s what’s a stake at Family Bible Week.

Matthew 7 says, “Enter through the narrow gate [take the righteous road to blessing through delight in God through His Word!]. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

That’s what’s a stake at Family Bible Week.

Blessing or Death.

Maybe you’ve been walking the path of the wicked.

Today, I want to challenge you to take a detour. To repent.

That’s what repent means–to take a detour, to change direction, to jump paths.

I challenge you to turn off of the way of the wicked and place your trust in Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross. Because on the Cross, He took the punishment for sin and He paid the penalty that sin had accrued.

You don’t have to find your own way.

Jesus made a way for you. And He has laid it out in His Holy Word. You just have to trust Him and set out on the path.

We’ll go together. That’s the point of church. We help each other out on the way of the righteous.

That’s the point of Family Bible Week.

The whole family cultivating a love for God by learning and loving God’s Word together.

Growing together as sturdy trees enjoying the blessing and watchcare of God.