Today we transition in our look at the book of Psalms. For the last week we have been reading Psalms written by the troubled soul. They were written from the position of persecution because of righteousness, or from a place of betrayal and feeling alone in the middle of a world that is hostile to everything that they are. This week we step into a grouping of psalms that are looking at righteousness and wickedness; often comparing/contrasting the two. But for me the one that I want to look at is the 1st one. Psalm 1.
When being compiled, the writers decided that this was the one that they were going to start the book off with and I believe that it was not by random chance that it was. It was chosen very purposefully for its prominent location in this hymn book. It lays the foundation for the rest of the book by pointing to a comparison between two people; the righteous and the wicked. It, in a way, asks the question, "Before you read any further in this book, which one of these two people are you going to be?" The choice is ours.
Interestingly enough I cannot think of the first psalm without thinking of my great grandmother. She was very old when I was a child and I did not know here extremely well but she was a women of God. She was the matriarch of our family and she and my great grandfather, who passed away when I was three, were very involved in the ministry happening in southern Idaho. They raised my grandfather to know the Lord and he in turn raised his kids likewise.
My Great Grandmothers story is an amazing one. And knowing it now, has showed me all the more how her faith was rock solid and the faithfulness of God was so evident in my families life. It also highlights her love for the 1st Psalm. I would like to quickly tell you her story. (although I may have some of the exact years off the story is true just the same.)
She was born at the turn of the century in Sweden and lived a relatively normal childhood in prewar Europe. She eventually was married and had two daughters. Her and her husband owned a small grocery store and by all appearances life was moving along rather normally. They were believers and were trusting in the faithfulness of God. But in 1918 with WWI just finishing, the flu pandemic was roaring onto the scene. One of its 50 million plus victims was her husband. He was only in his early to mid twenties.
She was left to care for her two young daughters and manage a store. The store eventually closed and she had no way to care for her family. At this time one of her many sisters had married and moved to America. America was bursting with opportunities and so My Great Grandmother ( her name was Ruth, I will refer to her as such from this point forward) left her two very young children with relatives and boarded a freighter with another one of her sisters to go to America; California to be exact. They took the several month trip from Stockholm Sweden down to the equator, through the Panama Canal, and up the Pacific coastline to California.
She found work and sent money back to Sweden to take care of her daughters, but always with the intent that she would make enough to move back and establish her life once again in Sweden. It was after being here for a time that she decided to become a U.S. Citizen and she enrolled in a citizenship class. In that class she met a 6'6" Norwegian named Ingvald Shervik. (He had changed his last name to make it more American when he came through Elis Island to the midwest, where he stayed with relatives but had recently moved to CA because there were more opportunities) They fell in love and were eventually married.
At this point the plan began to change. They had a son and named him David (my grandfather) and realized that America was to be their home. So they worked hard to make a way to bring over Ruth's two daughters from Sweden. As they were working on raiseing the funds needed and taking care of the necessary arrangements, The Great Depression hit with all its force and fury. There was no way to bring them over. Sadly by the time that they would be able to many more years had passed and her daughters had become young women. They did not want to come to America and had felt that their mother had abandoned them. Although there was reconciliation and there were many visits by Ruth, Ingvald and David to Scandinavia to see family, her two girls never once stepped foot on American soil. Ruths family and her life wer now here, but God was faithful and she never took her eyes off her savior.
So with Ingvald, (as much a man of God as she was a women of God) they raised their boy to know the Lord, and Psalm 1 was something that he learned and memorized very early in life. And my grandfather is a fitting example of what the righteous man in Psalm one looks like.
One reason I know that this psalm in particular was so important to my great grandparents was the fact that when my father, uncle and aunt would go over to her house, they were not allowed to eat dinner until they had each recited Psalm 1. It was a core value that she had that she would continue to invest in her family so that every effort would be made to help set her kids, her grandkids, and eventually her great-grandkids on the path of knowing Christ as their Lord and savior.
One of the things that I believe Ruth saw in this psalm was a descriptive pattern for life, but not just any life, a life that is committed to following after God. It is interesting that there is a progression of decreased movement in the first couple verses.
"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."
The obvious question is this; Who are we getting our counsel from? Do we look to the world and wicked or ungodly means for the counsel of how to live our lives or do we delight in God's Word? Do we find answers in the one who has them or in the place that pretends to have them?
But more than that, look again at this progression. What typically happens is that when we begin to listent o ungodly counsel we slow down and decide to camp out a little bit. Instead of maybe walking on we slow down and decide to be a little more comfortable with what we are hearing; telling ourselves that it really won't hurt to stand around and listen for a bit. "I can always start walking again if I want to."
But after awhile we are fairly comfortable with what we are hearing and decide to "rest our feet" a little. We say, "what could it hurt to sit down for awhile?" but what is really happening is that we are allowing ourselves to be increasingly more and more comfortable with the counsel of the wicked which in turn allows us to justify standing (living, accepting, acting, etc) as sinners do and after awhile we begin to mock the very thing that God is offering us. TRUTH
These two verses set up, in a lot of ways, the whole rest of the book of Psalms. It is also a strong challenge to us. Which path will we choose?
My great grandmother trusted in the Lord all of her life. In every situation, good and bad, she looked to God and His Word for counsel. Even when life seemed hopeless she found her hope in the one who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. The One is faithful even when we are faithless. The God who saves.
If you have wondered what it means to be blessed or if you are someone who really wants to have a blessed life, there is no better recipe for making this a reality in you life than taking Psalm 1 and making it a life verse. Living out the TRUTH that is written there and putting your trust in the one who will watch over your ways.
Have a blessed week and thank you for letting me share with you a bit of my story. Look for ways that you can be story tellers in life. People want to hear about authentic truth lived out in the lives of those that they know. There is no greater skill to continually practice than that of a storyteller. Remember this, Jesus was one first.