Truly Blessed!

Reading: Psalm 1
Many human beings make happiness their central quest. Not all would say so in those terms. For some it is peace and contentment. For others it is freedom to be and do all that they want.

Yet "happiness" seems to be an elusive and fragile quality. At the very point where people think they have it, circumstances change - unwanted events, unwarranted interference... - and happiness evaporates.

It often seems that the happiest people in the world are the ones who arenít looking for it, who have less control over their circumstances, who donít have what we call "advantages"... In other words, happiness is a byproduct, not the central issue in their lives.

Psalm 1 is a significant introduction to the whole book of Psalms. It sums up the two ways in which human beings seek to order their lives - with or without God.

"Blessed", the opening word, is translated "happy" in some modern versions. However, we can miss the point of it all - the happiness of the people is a consequence of their relationship with God. Theirs is a manner of life which is open to the blessing of God. In other words, they are "blessed by God".

What is the source - the spring - of their life and actions?

It isnít to "walk in the counsel of the wicked" (v. 1). The King James Version has "ungodly" here and in vv. 5-6. The word may not imply grossly evil people. Their lives may be plausible and commendable in many ways, but they live without reference to God. In our televisual age we are constantly being pressed to "walk in the counsel of the wicked/ungodly" - often subliminally absorbing the false and deficient values of our age.

It isnít to "stand in the way of sinners". There is more of a measure of conscious acquiescence in this expression.

It isnít to "sit in the seat of mockers" - the Good News Bible has "join those who have no use for God". This implies active collusion in their rejection of God and their scorn for Godís people.

With each phrase, the expression is more intense, proceeding from casual influence (walking) to active involvement (sitting).

By contrast, the truly blessed person finds direction, not drudgery, from Godís revealed purposes " reading, thinking, reflection". The Word of God is a source of life, nourishment, wise decisions and actions, perseverance in adversity...

In the Burdekin we have a vast underground lake in the delta region - said to hold some ten times as much water as the Burdekin Falls Dam. The farmer puts down a spear into this hidden secret supply and pumps it up to irrigate the cane. The water isnít cheap, but it gives Burdekin farmers a considerable advantage over many other areas in times of drought.

Jeremiah said, "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" (Jer. 17.7-8).

"Whatever he does prospers" (Ps 1.3). That doesnít imply that he is "prosperous", in the sense of having a large bank balance! What it does mean is that his life is successful, fulfilling the purposes of his God-directed life.

The life of the wicked/ungodly person is focussed on immediate, rather than long-term, fulfilment. In the short-term, they may appear very successful. But in the long-term, "they are like chaff" (v. 4), they "will not stand in the judgment" (v. 5) and their way "will perish" (v. 6).

There are two ways to live - with or without God. We are designed as creatures of choice. Faith is voluntary. Our choice is real, but the consequences are real too.

Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate. 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" (Mt. 7.13-14).

Thatís the choice to make and the way to go!

Prayer: O Lord, you are the creator and source of life. You are completely trustworthy. Yet so often we choose a way that is independent of you, but very dependent on the ideas, attitudes and values of others around us. Forgive our foolishness and sin. Help us to trust you and to depend on your Word. Enable us to give solid hope to those who are confused and bewildered. In Jesusí name, Amen.

Choose Life!

We are shaped
by the choices
we make -
for good
or ill!

They mould our life
and determine
our destiny.

But we are not
of our fate
as if
we can choose
our own
and happiness.

Yet our choices
will head us
toward light
or darkness,
to life
or death,
to blessing
or a curse.

The God
who made us
and life
and blessing!
Choose him!
Choose life!

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin BlueCare Devotions, 6 May 2003.
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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