Songs of Greatness is a sermon series on the greatness of God from the Psalms in the Bible. Blessed is the One — Human beings want a flourishing life, a life of blessing. And God wants us to flourish, too. However, we do not follow God’s way of blessing. But in Jesus, we find the King who was promised of old, who offers a whole Kingdom of blessing by repentance and faith. Recorded on July 4, 2021, on Psalm 1-2, by Pastor David Parks.
So today we get to start a new annual theme for our preaching ministry focused on The Greatness of God. It’s my conviction that many of the problems we face in the evangelical church today would be solved if we had a far bigger view of God. Way too many Christians have way too small of a vision of God in their day-to-day lives. But God is not small, we just need a change in our vision of him. So to kick-off this annual theme, we’re going to start a new sermon series today from the Psalms called, Songs of Greatness. The Psalms are a collection of songs/poems that the people of God have used to worship God for 1000’s of years. We’re not going to go through all 150 psalms in this series, but we’re going to start with Ps 1-2 today and end with Ps 150 by the end. Throughout this series, I hope to help you have a bigger, truer perspective, and a more compelling vision of who God is; and he is great. So if you have a Bible/app, please open it to Ps 1. I’m going to read and unpack Psalm 1 first, and then we’ll move on to Psalm 2. So first, Psalm 1:
Psalm 1:1-6, “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. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
Both the start of Psalm 1 and the end of Psalm 2 contain statements of blessing. Blessed is the man, and, I know we haven’t gotten there yet, but Psalm 2 ends with the statement, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” And this is a literary device in the Bible known as an inclusio. Think of an inclusio as like little brackets which unite a section together, typically under a common theme. So to understand the meaning of these Ps, we must start with the observation that our text is bracketed with a theme of blessing. Well, what is a blessing? Many people say a blessing before eating a meal together. I often close our services with a benediction, which means blessing. But a blessing is simply something good in your life: provision, protection, guidance, health, prosperity, kids, corn on the cob, all blessings. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” wrote James, the brother of Jesus. And so we rightly attribute every good thing in our lives as a blessing from God. So here, at the start of the worship hymnal of the Bible, a reason for our praise is the theme of a life of blessing. And the imagery for this kind of life is really vivid: like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season. That means their life consistently, and at the right times, is productive, fruitful, bears much fruit. Its leaf doesn’t wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Now this statement, like much of the wisdom literature in the Bible is not a guarantee for how life will work. Instead, it’s more of a guideline for how life typically works. This world is broken and sometimes faithful men and women suffer and sometimes evil people seem to have an easy life. But this is typically not how life works.
But here’s the deal: Human beings want a flourishing life. The life of Ps 1 is what we want. I’m not sure animals think much about the quality of their lives. Our dogs seem to live pretty much moment by moment. But human beings, if given the chance, always want a better life for themselves and especially for their children. One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed doing in my life is backpacking along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along the south side of Lake Superior. And when you go backpacking for several days, you have to bring everything you need for life with you. If it’s not in your backpack, you most likely aren’t going to find it along the trail or in the woods. But to keep the weight of your pack down, you really should only bring what you need to survive. And this works for a couple of days or maybe a week. But we aren’t content to simply survive. We want to thrive, whatever that looks like. What do you think of when you think of a flourishing life? If you could pack what you need for a flourishing life into this backpack, what would you include? Some people might define flourishing by a certain income level that provides a certain lifestyle or level of comfort. Other people might define flourishing as raising healthy, well-mannered kids or enjoying satisfying/interesting relationships. Other people might define flourishing as finding a stimulating/productive career that helps people or makes a difference somehow in the world. Still, others might define flourishing as the freedom to follow their hopes and dreams, whatever they might be. And these are all good things. But according to God, pursuing these things alone will never lead you to enjoy a flourishing life.
God wants us to flourish. Now, one of the surprising things revealed in the Bible, given the fact that many people, when they think of God, picture a disapproving/judgmental figure, is that God actually wants us to have a flourishing life, too. But God, as our Creator, knows the way that people ought to live in order to have a flourishing life. And it’s simple, it isn’t complicated. Here in Psalm 1, he tells us that it is by meditation on and obedience to his law. So the law here doesn’t just refer to the Mosaic law in the OT, but rather, the first five books of the OT known as the Torah or the books of Moses. That was their Bible at this time in history. And the Torah was also known as the Law but they contain so much more than just laws. They contain stories of creation and of who God is and what he has done. They contain the origin of the people of Israel and their exodus from captivity in Egypt. They reveal what happens when people walk away from God and the destruction that that causes. They reveal much about who we are supposed to be and what we, as human beings, are supposed to do in this life. There’s great power and wisdom and insight to be found here. Blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, they meditate day and night. This is very similar to what God told Joshua when he took over leadership from Moses in Joshua 1. The Lord told Joshua, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” So we don’t want to simply survive, we want a flourishing life. But according to God, the only way to find this flourishing life is to read/think about/obey his word.
We have a big problem. However, and here’s the big problem of humanity, this is why the world is how it is today: we do not want to follow his way. We do not want to listen to his word. If God (or anyone if I’m honest) tells me to turn right, something inside me starts screaming to turn left instead. We want to create our own way, not based on God’s word/will/wisdom but on our knowledge/experience, and especially on our emotions/desires. And the reason this is a problem is that our way never ultimately leads to a flourishing life. It always falls short. It would be like bringing saltwater in my backpack on the trail. I could drink and drink and drink, but I would still die of thirst. Even in relative peace and prosperity, life for so many feels incomplete/unfulfilling or lacking in any real meaning/purpose. And more often than not, the things we spend our time/money/energy pursuing break down or come apart or are corrupted in some way. This results in the widespread depression and anxiety that so many people are experiencing today. We have a hard time seeing how things will get better in the future or how anything we do really matters at all. What in the world are we to do? Let’s move on to Psalm 2. We won’t spend as much time here, but I think it’s vital to understand this way of blessing/flourishing. Ps 2.
Psalm 2:1-12, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break[b] them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
Now, the original audience in ancient Israel would’ve thought of this Psalm as applying to their earthly king and God’s authority over and blessing of him. But we know that in the generations after Ps 2 was written, the people failed, again and again, to read/listen to/obey God’s word. They rejected God’s way, and during the time of the exile and on, the line of the kings of the people of Israel was broken. So how would God be faithful to his promise to raise up a king who would rule over all the nations of the earth as his son? Who could it be? The early church saw Ps 2 as finding its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. In Acts 4, as the believers pray, they refer to the kings of the earth working against the Lord and his anointed (vv. 1-2) in reference to Herod and Pontius Pilate’s involvement in the crucifixion of Jesus. In Acts 13, when preaching to a Jewish synagogue, the Apostle Paul refers to v. 7 of Ps 2, saying that the salvation that God had promised their ancestors had come through Jesus, the Son of God. In his baptism, Jesus is explicitly named as God’s son. And v. 7 is quoted twice more in the book of Hebrews referring to Jesus. In fact, at the end of Revelation 2, Jesus quotes v. 9 about himself. So Psalm 1 and 2 are bracketed with a theme of blessing. And in Psalm 1, this blessing, this way to find a flourishing life, is found by joy in/meditation on/obedience to the word of God. But then, over the course of history in the Scriptures, and over the course of our lives today, we discover there’s a big problem: We do not follow his way. And it seems as if this path to blessing/flourishing is impossible for us. But here’s the good news of Psalm 2. There will be a king, one who would be called the Son of God and who would have authority over all nations/kings/principalities/powers of this dark world. And he would bring this blessing for all who what? Who take refuge in him.
The Greatest King and a Kingdom of Blessing. In the NT, Jesus’ main teaching was an announcement of good news about the kingdom of God. He taught that there was a kingdom that was breaking into the kingdom of this world. And this kingdom, the kingdom of God, offers abundant life/love/joy. And he was the king. All authority in heaven/earth has been given to me, Jesus said. And his kingdom offers meaning and purpose that transcends our short lives here and now. His kingdom brings freedom and redemption and the renewal of all things in heaven and earth. His kingdom will finally bring justice to the wicked and a harvest of righteousness and peace. And all you need to do to start living in this kingdom is to repent and believe. Repent means a change of mind that results in a change in the direction of your life. Repentance means to turn and go in a new direction. Repent from trying to build your own flourishing life apart from God! Repent from ignoring his word. Repent from the folly of thinking you know how to handle your life better than your Creator. Repent and believe. Believe that in him you will find a refuge and a strength. Why? Because who is Jesus, again? He is the great Son of God, sent from heaven. He is the answer to our great problem exposed in Ps 1. He is the great promised king of Ps 2 — the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And it’s in him we find refuge, in him we find blessing, in him, and only in Him do we find a flourishing life. Are you ready to receive him as your king? Are you ready to follow him today?