Julianna was sick last week. The virus sponges got to her. So, I was at Walgreens looking at medicine for a flu.
Problems is: There’s no such thing as just flu medicine. There’s medicine for the runny nose. Medicine for the stuffy nose. Medicine for the runny and stuffy nose. Medicine for a cough. Medicine for a hoarse cough. Medicine for a mild cough – for chills, for fever, for sneezes, for wheezes, for sore throat, for upset tummy, for high fever, for low fever, for nighttime, for daytime, for midday time – and for just about any of these countless combinations.
It’s hard to know which you need to treat your specific symptoms!
Today, we’re starting our series called Psalms of Lent. It’s a series based on Psalms – and we’re doing it in Lent. But it’s more than that. The Psalms are a collection of 150 God-inspired poems. They were often used as songs for worship. Some of the most well-known verses of the Bible comes from the Psalms.
Over the next five weeks, we want to look at five Psalms that specifically address 5 spiritual symptoms that you might be going through as we go through the Lenten season. Hopefully you familiarize yourself with them and keep them on hand when you are experiencing the very symptoms that these Psalms describe.
As always before we delve in, let’s say a prayer and ask God to bless us: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Reasons to Avoid Temptation
The Psalm we’re going to start with is Psalm 1 – the very first Psalm. As you’re paging to Psalm 1, a few notes: Psalms consists of 5 books. Mini-books, if you will. Each book is a collection of Psalms. (Think of it like sequels – Book One: A New Hope; Book Two: God’s Word Strikes Back; Book Three: Return of the Psalmist.) Now the Psalms in each book are often linked and arranged by authorship. That’s why many think Psalm 1 is probably written by King David. Most of the Psalms in book one of the Psalms were written by King David. Since this Psalm is next to other Davidic Psalms, a Psalm of David would be a pretty good bet.
The content of Psalm 1 would make a lot of sense then. It’s all about Temptation. Temptation is something that David knew well. Throughout his historic and well-written career as king of Israel, he had moments of following God’s Word and moments of following himself. Moments of Trusting God (see: defeating a giant named Goliath) and moments of trusting his own urges (see: luring a bathing woman up to his room to have sex with her.)
Whether it is David or not – Psalm 1 is a very important Psalm. It succinctly and efficiently offers encouragement to flee temptation and to follow God.
(1) Temptation Leaves You Unhappy
Look at verses 1-2.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
Or stand in the way that sinners take
Or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD
And who meditates on his law, day and night.
The Hebrew word “blessed” simply means “happy.” “Happy” is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked. "Happy" is the one who doesn’t stand in the path of sinners. "Happy" is the one who doesn’t sit amongst mockers. And you are all nodding your heads. This makes sense while we’re in church.
But it doesn’t always make sense, does it?
Pretend it’s Friday afternoon. You’ve finished all your work. Your desk is cleaned up. Your laptop is packed. You are ready to leave work, pick up your spouse, and head out to catch the show with the tickets you bought months ago!
Then, the boss pokes his head into your office: “I’m gonna need you to stay and finish the report I was working on. I’ve got a plane to catch for my trip to Hawaii.”
God’s Word might not make you very happy at that moment. God’s Word says, “Be gentle.” God’s Word says, “Listen to your boss.” God’s Word says, “Don’t gossip.” But at that exact moment you want to do the opposite of all those things! It might make you happier to call him names. It might make you happier to vent on Facebook. It might make you happier to simply leave work and not do anything he says ever again. It might make you happier to find his picture on the company website on his desk and draw a moustache on it with Microsoft Paint.
But next week Monday when you’ve got a pink slip on your desk and you don’t have a job anymore and you don’t have money to support your family anymore and there’s all kinds of long term stress in your life now...It might not be so happy.
There’s a reason we translate blessed as blessed as opposed to happy. Happy is a temporary word. Blessed is a long-term word. Blessed leads to long-term happiness, long-term, spiritual happiness.
There is no guilt.
There are better relationships with your family.
There are better relationships with your friends.
There’s a better relationship with your God.
Long term spiritual happiness is given to those who love to follow God’s Word.
Long term spiritual happiness does not come to those who follow temptation.
Keep that in mind the next time that you are tempted:
This temptation cannot bring you long term spiritual happiness.
Temptation can only bring you long term spiritual unhappiness.
Which is precisely why God wants me to avoid it.
(2) Your Spiritual Fruit Withers
How so? Psalm 1 explains by using an awesome illustration in verse 3:
The blessed person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither
—whatever they do prospers.
If you walk alongside church right now you’ll notice these little black, mechanical, robot looking things. They aren’t robots. They are sprinkler heads. Now that we’re entering the spring season – we’ll be getting plenty of sun. The sprinkler heads are a part of an irrigation system that gives the plants the necessary water in addition to the sun they have been receiving. Without it – and if the watering of the plants was up to me – the plants would probably die. They wouldn’t get enough water. I’d forget.
Of course, in the Old Testament, irrigation systems were a bit different. People would dig trenches from the edge of a river leading to the area with their crops. From there, they’d take buckets and water their crops.
But they didn’t need to do that near the river’s edge. How come? The water from the river naturally soaked into the dry ground on either side of it. The plants and trees growing near the water’s edge – got all the water they needed. They were extremely healthy.
It’s the same thing with the one who plants themselves near God’s Word. When they do so, they have planted themselves near the nourishment needed to keep a healthy faith.
They are planted near the promises of God’s love.
The roots of faith drink in the mercy of God’s grace.
The water of life provides all the nutrients needed to be exactly what God wants them to be.
They yield fruit – the exact fruit that God desires – the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
That sounds nice.
Unfortunately, the reverse is also true.
The farther you get away from the water; the less healthy a plant is.
The farther you get away from God’s Word; the less healthy your spiritual fruit is.
In fact, if you stopped watering a plant and only sprayed Weed B’ Gone on it – the only thing that plant is doing is dying. Quickly. That’s what it’s like to get apart from God’s Word and get into temptation. You’re only feeding your life with sin after sin after sin.
Your fruit will wither.
Peace is replaced with hostility because -- What I did wasn’t that bad.
Joy is replaced with guilt because -- What I did was that bad.
Love is replaced with hatred -- especially with that guy over there who is trying to judge me!
Gentleness, goodness, and self-control are replaced with harshness, badness and a complete lack of self-control.
The good fruit God had in mind for you – withers.
The last reason to stay away from temptation is simple and also extremely intimidating. Look at verses 4-6:
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
This section compares those who follow temptation to chaff. Do you know what chaff is? It’s the unimportant, light, worthless part of a wheat stalk. The part that doesn’t get made into bread. The part that doesn’t become flour. The part that doesn’t help to nourish and feed a family.
Chaff is the part that blows in the wind.
It’s the part that the farmer walks all over.
It’s the part that is completely and utterly worthless.
That’s the wicked. That’s those who follow temptation to wicked things.
They fly back and forth doing whatever pleases them—whatever wave of modern thought comes next – that’s the way the wicked go.
The result? Since they can’t stand up to temptation – they won’t stand before God.
They’ll fall flat on their back as God stands over them with eyes of fire and judgment ready to destroy them.
And that’s the final result of sin…destruction.
It’s true. Maybe you know?
Sin destroys relationships.
Sin destroys health.
Sin destroys mental health.
Sin destroys peace with God.
Sin destroys eternity.
It’s a scary reason, but a big reason to avoid temptation – it leads to destruction.
II. Are You in Danger?
Of course, you might be thinking: “Pastor, I appreciate all of this advice, but I don’t know that it applies to me. I don’t do a lot with the wicked. I don’t eat at the Waffle House each Tuesday morning with a group of Terrorists nor have I played Scrabble with a porn production crew. This sermon would be better preached to those out there not me in here.”
Just to be sure there’s not a disconnect on another word in this Psalm, let’s break apart the word -- “wicked.”
To humans us “wicked” usually means “the really bad people -- the other people –the people who do the sins that I would never do.”
But to God? To God – wicked means, “sinner.”
As in any sin.
As in any size.
As in falling to any temptation.
Look at what God’s Word says again, “Blessed is the one who doesn’t walk with the wicked nor stand in the way of sinners nor sit in the seat of mockers.” (v.1) This line of three is a key part of Hebrew poetry. A thought is repeated three times – three ways – for emphasis to clearly and completely draw out the truth that is trying to be made.
The truth that’s being made here? Those who are wicked…or mock...or sin are not blessed.
And those who stay influenced to sin by those who sin are not blessed.
It means if you walking with that group at work who tells dirty jokes about God’s gift of sex - you aren’t blessed.
It means if you stand in the back, nodding your head as your family says racist things about a group of people – you aren’t blessed.
It means if you sit at that fellowship table after church and participate in the gossip about WHO did WHAT and WHEN – you aren’t blessed.
And if you have a temptation that you’ve been following, then everything that we’ve just mentioned is happening to you!
You can’t know true happiness.
Your spiritual fruit is withering.
You’re on the path to destruction.
III. Follow Something (or someone) Else
One more word study. Verse 2 says this:
Blessed is the One...whose delight is in the law of the LORD
And who meditates on his law, day and night.
The word for Law in the Hebrew is Torah. But it also has another meaning, “Word.” This makes a lot of sense. God’s Word contains his law – things that he says. Universal truths that he enforces.
Which is huge.
Because God’s Word contains more than simply “to-dos” and “not-to-dos”. It contains Jesus Christ. The only one who completely and utterly defeated temptation.
We hear about it in Matthew 4:
Jesus has been in the desert.
He hasn’t eaten anything for 40 days.
He’s going through all the things that that tend to make us easy prey for temptation.
Now he’s on top of a mountain.
The devil shows up.
He glides over to Jesus.
He leans in.
His tongue speaks sweetly.
You think this is hard?
Wait till the next part of your journey.
God wants you to suffer.
He wants you to be crucified.
He wants you to die.
That sounds awful.
Tell you what – I’ll give you everything you’ve ever wanted.
Everything your eyes can see!
Only – stop worshipping your Father.
Bow down and worship me.
You’ll be happier.
You’ll be stronger.
You’ll prevent your destruction.
Just do it.
Jesus turns his head.
His energy returns.
He glares at the devil and speaks with authority. “Away from me Satan. It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” (Lk. 4:8)
And good thing Jesus did.
That time and every time.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says this, “God made him who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Understand what this means --
Because Jesus lived apart from sin – he was able to offer his life for ours.
Because he died on the cross – he suffered the destruction for falling to temptation that we deserved.
Because he rose from the dead – he offers to you the perfect life that he lived.
In other words:
If you have fallen to temptation, turn to Jesus.
In him is full forgiveness.
That’s why staying planted by his Word is so – completely and absolutely important!
Because in God’s Word we hear about Jesus.
In God’s Word – we are nourished by God’s forgiveness.
One final blessing. Read verse 6 again:
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous.
There’s no one better to have on your side as you fight temptation.
There’s no one else who sees all of your struggles.
There’s no one else who sees all of your temptations.
There’s no one else who can offer temptation defeating power like our Lord Christ Jesus.