Psalm 1 and Meditation: The High Point of Daily DevotionsApril 19, 2023 Blogs
We all, always, do what we think will make us happy. We always choose to do what we think will make us most happy.
From the ultra-marathon runner, to the couch potato, to the teen scrolling tik-tok, to the lazy employee, to the grinding entrepreneur – we do what we think will make us happy.
So some seek immediate pleasure, some seek rewards that’ll pay off in 20 years.
We’re all here tonight because of our happiness. Whether we just love singing together, or we think being here will pay off in the long run, you’re here, and not doing something else, because you want to be happy.
Happiness is also what drives us to sin. In our fallen state, we’re fools – we think that sin, breaking God’s law – will lead to happiness. Sin often tempts us by presenting the bait and hiding the hook: it promises happiness, but hides the stinging consequences.
This morning Nathan rightly preached against an experientialism – letting immediate, unsanctified experience drive the purpose of the life of the local church. And I wholeheartedly agree. BUT we are experiential creatures, and Christianity is an experiential religion.
What we must do is let Scripture inform our experience.
So tonight, we’ll look at something The Bible says correlates 1 to 1 with your experiencing happiness.
Tonight, we’re talking about personal devotions, morning devotions, quiet time, whatever you’d like to call it.
My guess is that some of us here probably feel guilty about how that’s going. Or if you’re not feeling guilty, you’d like to do it more.
Well if that’s you, I hope that tonight’s encouraging. I hope in our discussion about daily devotions, you’ll seek and find happiness in a lifelong habit of Bible reading, meditation, and prayer.
Turn to Psalm 1 with me.
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.
Blessed: Blessed means happy, fortunate. Blessed is what we want to be. Blessed, or happy, is the quality or state of life that we all desire.
This psalm, the first psalm – that’s setting the tone for the whole book of psalms, like an overture in an opera – this psalm is saying: “That man is blessed who loves God’s word.”
Look down at this passage. Blessed is the man, it says – then it actually starts with three parallel negatives.
Blessed is the man who… doesn’t walk with the wicked. He doesn’t get comfortable with sinners. He doesn’t look like scoundrels.
Instead (see that “but” starting verse 2?) instead he delights in God’s law and meditates on it day and night.
God’s Law – His Torah, his instruction – Is his word. By Law the psalmist means God’s word.
What does this blessed man’s life look like? What’s the result of loving the Word like this? Look at verse three – it looks like fruitfulness. It actually looks like prosperity.
The Blessed man, the Happy man, meditates on God’s Word day and night because he loves it, and the result is prosperity.
Your happiness depends on your daily meditating on God’s Word.
I have three questions for us tonight:
- Isn’t this legalism?
- What is meditation?
- And what does it have to do with the church?
First, Is this legalism? Is this psalm, and are we teaching, some kind of prosperity gospel? If you read your Bible, you’ll get prosperity?
Absolutely not (or, to sound like Paul, by no means!). Because while I think it’s true that meditating on God’s word will lead to prosperity, we first have to read this like Christians who have the rest of the Bible. We have to read this first as being about Christ.
Christ is the blessed man. He’s the one who is supremely blessed by God. He’s the one who delights in God and loves his law. He’s the one who not only loves his law, but perfectly kept his law.
He’s the one who was obedient to the point of death, and like a seed that is buried in the ground bears fruit, so he has died and has borne much fruit. He’s bearing fruit now in the spread of the gospel, the growth of the church, and the multiplication of good works in the world that glorify him.
Christ is the blessed man. And the gospel is not that our law keeping blesses us, but that Christ’s law-keeping has blessed us. And the blessing, the prosperity he’s won for us is a blessing that’s far better than any earthly riches or fleeting pleasures.
Ephesians 1: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
God blesses those who are in Christ, those who have repented and believed, with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies.
And the chief of these blessings, the fountain from which every other blessing flows, is knowing God.
John 17:3-5 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
The good news of the gospel is that through the person and work of Christ, our sins have been forgiven, we’ve been raised to life by his Spirit, and we are reconciled to God. We know him, we have fellowship with him, and he himself is our blessedness, our happiness.
The good news of the gospel is that our happiness is ultimately the result of Christ’s devotion, not our devotion.
And through that gospel grace, we can now commune with God, or have fellowship with God, through his Word.
So as Christ’s delight was in God and his Word, he’s now saved us so that we can delight in his Word.
Like Christ, our happiness comes from meditating on the Word, as God through his Word reveals himself to us and brings us into ever-closer fellowship with him.
So no, this psalm is not describing some kind of legalistic, works-righteous, prosperity gospel. It’s telling us that our great blessing is fellowship with God, accomplished by the Son.
And so, it makes sense, that meditation on his Word, leads to blessing, happiness, and spiritual prosperity. The means God’s given us for fellowship with him, for life – eternal life – is his self-revelation. His Word.
And so blessed is the man who reads. Who hears. And who not only hears but meditates.
Two: what is meditation? Why are we looking at this passage when we’re meant to be talking about personal devotions? Doesn’t that mean reading and praying? And isn’t meditation something Buddhist monks do on a mountain, or something yoga instructors do to clear their mind before a class?
Meditation, biblically speaking, is thinking on, dwelling on, mulling over truth. It’s not emptying your mind, but filling it with truth, digesting that truth, and pressing it down into your heart.
Meditation, David Mathis says, “doesn’t entail emptying our minds, but rather filling them with Biblical and theological substance – truth outside of ourselves – and then chewing on that content, until we begin to feel some of its magnitude in our hearts.”
Thomas Watson defined meditation as “a holy exercise of the mind whereby we bring the truths of God to remembrance, and do seriously ponder upon them and apply them to ourselves.”
Edmund Calamy wrote, “A true meditation is when a man doth so meditate of Christ as to get his heart inflamed with the love of Christ; so meditate of the Truths of God, as to be transformed into them; and so meditate of sin as to get his heart to hate sin.”
It’s not eyes seeing ink that brings blessing. It’s not even study, a bare grammatical understanding that brings blessing. It’s meditating on Scripture that brings blessing, as it warms our hearts, changes us, shapes us, and grows our fellowship with God. Skimming over a chapter or two in the morning and skirting out the door only to have our minds filled with news, music, a podcast, or whatever automatically comes on when we get into the car profits us very little.
Meditation, the slow, deliberate digestion of Scripture and the truths contained in it, is what blesses us, causes us to bear fruit, and firmly plants us so that we’re unmovable by the ever changing, ever blowing winds of circumstance.
This is what God wants for his people. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” he tells Joshua.
This is what Paul wants for his beloved churches. He writes to the Colossians “ And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;” and commands them to “Set your minds on things that are above.”
And he tells the Philippians to “think on” what is pure, lovely, commendable, anything excellent and worthy of praise”
How often have you found yourself not remembering a single thing you read that morning? How many times have you left service Sunday morning, and by evening service you don’t remember a thing in the sermon. The problem is, and I’m as guilty of this as anyone here, that we don’t meditate. We don’t dwell on the word, we don’t press it down into our minds and hearts.
We wake up cold and think that walking by the fire of God’s Word will be sufficient to warm our hearts for the day. Sit by the fire and warm yourself. Let the Word melt your hard heart by sitting for extended time in it. In our distracted age, how hard is it for us to sit and ponder a verse, a line, even a word for several minutes?
Meditation is the natural and necessary bridge between our reading and praying.
To meditate on God’s Word, we first need to read God’s word. and the natural result of our meditation should be praying, calling out to the speaker of the word that whatever we read, whatever we thought on, whatever we mulled over in our mind would be true in us.
Joel Beeke gives a really helpful and really practical way to practice meditation.
Beeke says to start with 9 minutes. 3 minutes of reading, 3 minutes of meditation, and 3 minutes of prayer. We all have 9 minutes to spare. Set a timer if you need to: start with 3 minutes of slow, careful bible reading. If you make it through a chapter, Great! If you only make it through a paragraph, Even Better!
Then move to 3 minutes of meditation. Thinking carefully about a truth from the passage you just read. Consider its context. Consider its divine source. Consider its relation to Christ. Consider its requirements it’s placing on you.
Then run to God in prayer for 3 minutes, praying the passage and its truths back to God, pleading with him that it would be true of you and our church.
God calls us to read, meditate, and pray daily. For our good. For our fellowship with him. We must abide in his word if we are his disciples.
John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
We’re being offered pure joy, pure happiness in the word, and we’re so slow to go to it. We’re quicker to pick up our phones, to fill our minds with entertainment, and to distract ourselves with countless other things. Let the joy of communion with Christ motivate you to meditate daily. The Bible is promising you that it’s the best thing you can do.
Thirdly, what does this have to do with the church?
Well just as our individual happiness depends on our daily meditating on God’s Word, I’ll also say that our health and happiness as a church depends on our daily meditating on God’s Word.
1 Peter says “4 As you come to him [that is Jesus], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house”
We are a church – we’re a gathering of believers, living stones – we’re more than that, but certainly not less. And our health as a church is directly dependent on the health of our individual members.
If we as individuals are diligent in connecting ourselves to the Vine, the source of Life, our church will grow in maturity, and we will be blessed. If we neglect to do so, how can we expect to withstand the winds and waves of the world that constantly beat against us?
At least two parts of our church depend on your daily devotions: The health of the pulpit and the health of the members.
The health of the pulpit depends on your daily devotions.
So be Bereans.
When Paul and Silas arrive at Berea in Acts 17, they begin preaching the Word, and the Bereans “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.”
God ultimately holds congregations responsible for the content of the gospel preached weekly. Read Galatians to see that. And so, if you’re daily connected to the vine, if you’re immersing yourself in the Word, you’ll be able to tell what is true and what is false, what aligns with God’s word and what doesn’t, and so if you hear a false gospel from the pulpit, you’ll be equipped to take action.
But a good Berean, doesn’t sit merely as a critic, first, they are “Eager hearers.” This is so important. Long before we sit in judgment of a sermon, we have to be eager hearers. If we flip that order, our hearts will be bitter and judgmental.
So be eager hearers, excited for the sermon, then let the Sunday sermon inform what you read the rest of the week. Having judged Nathan a competent handler of the Word, let him teach you how to read your Bibles. See how he makes connections to Christ, see how he applies the Word to your heart and life, and try to do the same each morning. Be eager hearers before harsh critics. The health and happiness of the church depends on it.
The Sunday sermon and your daily devotions feed off of one another. The more diligently you hear and prayerfully meditate on one, the more profitable the other will be. Likewise the more flippant one is, the less you’ll gain from the other.
So the health of the pulpit depends on your daily devotions. The health of the body also depends on your daily devotions.
To be equipped to do your job as church members, we all need to be hearing the word, learning how to study it ourselves, meditating on it, and praying it, so that we can minister to one another.
Ephesians 5 tells us to speak the truth in love to one another. How can we do that if we don’t know the truth? The more we’ve saturated our minds with truth, the better equipped we’ll be to speak truth to our brothers and sisters in need.
And the better our prayers for them and with them will be. Each of us have committed in our covenant to pray for one another. “nor will we neglect to pray for ourselves and others” our covenant says. Keep a member directory in your bible and pray through a page or two every day.
Your prayers are effective. They’re vital to the life, health, and prosperity of this church and all the members in it.
Before we do that now and pray together as a church, hear these 6 tips for personal devotions… I hope most of us are doing many of these already, so if any are newer concepts or ideas, maybe take note of them.
- Make Bible reading, meditation, and prayer a daily duty. Prioritize it. Make sure you set aside time each day to do it. If you don’t plan, you won’t keep up. This isn’t legalistic any more than scheduling dinner is legalistic. Plan on reading, meditating, and praying each day. And when I say make it a “duty,” prepare for it like a duty – don’t expect it to be mindless and easy like watching a movie. It’s a joy that takes mental effort. It’s more like going to the gym than watching TV.
- Commit not only to reading and praying, but to meditating on God’s word. Let meditation be the high point of your time – the pinnacle to which your reading is building and from which your prayer flows. I suggest starting with Joel Beeke’s 3-3-3 method.
- Find a Bible reading plan. It doesn’t matter how slow or fast it is, so long as eventually you’re consuming all of Scripture, and so long as you’re finding time to meditate on it.
- Eliminate distractions. Read print, not on a phone. It’s too easy to pull up Twitter, email, or whatever app you can find to pull yourself away from the Word. If you have a family, work to give this time to others. Bless them by giving them some undistracted time in the word.
- Be realistic and flexible. Start small, and be ok with temporarily changing things up if God gives you something to do for a day or season. 9 minutes on a busy day is better than nothing at all because you can’t get to your elaborate, 2 hour system.
- Do it with and for the church. See yourself as a living stone, as a vitally important member in this body. See it as a duty to your brothers and sisters here. And do it with the church. Rely on one another. Ask one another how their time in the word is. Ask one another what their habits are – both to encourage them and to learn from them. Ask someone to start a reading plan with you – doing it together can be motivating.