6 July 2020 – The choices that we make

Psalm 1 is the first of 150 songs used in the regular worship of the Jewish people over the last three thousand years. It is this song that sets the tone for the rest of the book and asks its readers and singers about the choices they are making about what is really important in their lives. This is incredibly serious because there are two pathways described in this Psalm and only one is marked as ‘Blessed’ by God.  This Psalm acts as a kind of mirror inviting us to take a long hard look at our priorities about what is really important to us. The Psalm divides into two parts:

1. The choice God favours (Psalm1:1-3)

(a)Expressed negatively (Psalm 1:1) 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. There is a progression of choices portrayed with increasingly negative consequences. It begins with the attraction of that which will be harmful to our lives. The person is pictured walking in the direction of danger without making any commitment to it, even though they might find it attractive in some way.  However, because there is inadequate self-awareness of the danger of this choice this person is portrayed as standing in a place where wrong choices are being made. There is a battle of conscience here ‘Should I or should I not join in? The battle appears to be lost as the individual now pulls up a chair to sit in the company of mockers. However, the Psalmist reminds us that there are those people who stand out from the crowd and say I will not make these kinds of choices. My values and convictions are very different. I want to do what pleases God, therefore, there are attitudes I will not hold; places where I will not go and company I will not keep.    

(b) Expressed positively (Psalm 1:2) but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. Looking at approaching life from a very different perspective the unknown author explains how we might cultivate a more God-honouring perspective on the choices we make each day of our lives. It is alarmingly simple. We are invited to set aside some time each day to read and reflect on a passage from God’s Word and to seek to apply what we have read and reflected on to our daily lives. It is always good to pray before we read the Bible passage to ask for God’s help to understand and apply it to our lives. We have easy access to the Bible. We can download it as an app on our mobile phones or we can read it in one of many printed Bibles. What matters most is reading it and making choices in the light of what God is saying to us. 

(c) The impact of these choices (Psalm 1:3) That 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. There are some forms of medication we obtain from the doctor that take time to work in our minds or our bodies. However, over time they can produce encouraging results providing the patient keeps taking the medication. The person who has a healthy spiritual diet, feeding their minds with good ‘food’, will gain great benefit over time.  Now we may not be able to remember what our Bible passage was for reflection, for example, exactly six weeks ago today. Neither will we remember what we ate for dinner that evening too, but undoubtedly both inputs were to our benefits, spiritually and physically. Do you need to take action to start reading the Bible each day? Or as a Christian do I need to take steps to ensure I give this task a greater priority even this week?  

2. The choice God rejects (Psalm 1:4-6)

(a)No spiritual stability (Psalm 1:4) Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Chaff offers no resistance to the wind. It is so quickly blown away by the wind and may be seen no more. A person like this constantly changes their views wanting to be on the ‘right side of history’, but switching their opinions in response to the pressures from others, with no serious independent consideration of what is at stake. The choices made under the heat of pressure may be seriously harmful to their own lives or to others around them. But the consequences can be fatal. The choice of vocabulary here can appear harsh, but the Psalmist’s motivation is to challenge us not to drift through life making apparently unconnected choices and discovering too late how much of life we have wasted. Instead, he wants us to get his point and say: this will not be me, I will with God’s help not only seek to make good choices in life, but also to aim for the best choices for the future direction of my life that includes committing our lives to follow Him.       

(b) No hope for the future (Psalm 1:5) Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. One day each of us will stand before God to give an account of our lives for the choices we have made here on earth. One choice above all others will be determinative as to how our lives will be considered on that day. This refers to the choice we need to make concerning putting our faith and trust in God through Jesus. Has there been a time in your life when you put your faith and trust in Jesus? If not, this is the most important step in life that you need to take; your eternal destiny depends on it. Why not take that step today, by turning from your sins and to your Saviour the Lord Jesus who died in our place on the cross two thousand years ago. 

(c) The impact for today (Psalm1:6) For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. God is watching over us willing us on to make the best choices for our lives. But the responsibility is your and yours alone at the end of the day. It is never too late to commit our lives to trust Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. But that step of faith is only the beginning of a journey in fellowship with God. He also desires us to join with other Christians as an active participant in a local church. In this time of restrictions due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic we have been limited to online connections in our communities, but look forward to the day when we can meet with others regularly in local church premises.

However, we thank God that through the blessings of modern technology we have been able to meet with Christians in other parts of our country or across the world for meetings and services something most of us had never done before. This has reminded us so powerfully that the Church of Jesus Christ is found in each country across the globe. God is building His Church around the world and we have the privilege of being a part of it. Let us give Him praise today that this work continues despite all the challenges we face or obstacles to overcome, for His name’s sake, Amen

Our song for reflection today is: ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’

Brian Talbot