Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 30 June 2010
“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.” (Ps 1:1-2)
MAIN IDEA: We love the Word of God but forget that growing in the Lord is not a matter of getting into the Word, but letting the Word of God get into us.
One of the hallmarks of Christians is their allegiance to the Bible, the Word of God. Outsiders may admire Christian believers for their common book, but they also frown at the many divides over this sacred text. Preserved, fought over, argued, studied, the Bible has often been a source of contention the world over. From bible versions to the interpretation of specific verses, people continue to get into the precious Word of God diligently. There revere it. They spend many years studying it. They organize themselves around it, claiming it to be the primary anchor for one’s life.
A) Getting Into the Text
Psalm 1 is one of my favourite psalms to memorize. For me, it is the title, the introduction, the preface, to usher us into the beauty of the Word of God. It begins by describing a blessed man who will not do any of the three evil deeds, which is followed by what he WILL do. Verse one prepares the reader for verse 2. Then with a mysteriously simple act of delight, we read about a seemingly ‘passive’ activity. In contrast to the three active works of evil, this one act of virtuous delight does not seem to be an appropriate response. After all, should we not counter enemies with guns and bullets? Should we not punish evil doers with justice? Should we not adopt Rambo-like heroism to defy the three kinds of viciousness? Perhaps, we can fire a righteous torpedo at Mr ‘wicked.’ We can shoot a corrective arrow at Miss ‘sinner.’ We can even fling a moral grenade into the gathering of ‘mockers’ to silence them. We tend to want to ‘get into’ the Word of God to find ways to deal with such despicable people. We ask what the Bible has to say on how to tackle such evil doers.
Instead, we have the image of a man who does not grit his teeth in a vengeful mode, but in gaping wonder at the Word of God. From delight to meditation, from start to finish, he seems to be passively NOT doing anything else but meditate. Imagine this, if the man is to meditate on the Word day and night, who is going to work to provide for the family? Can anyone right a wrong on meditation alone? Can we run away from rebuking a bad deed? Should we not address errors with corrections? Such an act can even be irresponsible.
This is one of the challenges each time we try to ‘get into’ the text to look for answers to the questions we have about the world. Unfortunately, the Bible is not a Do-It-Yourself manual for solving our problems. If we try to get into the text with such a mentality, we will be disappointed. We might even say that the Bible is irrelevant for mankind. The problem is that we cannot manipulate God’s Word to fit our world. We need to humble our hearts to let the Word of God fill us and change us from within.
B) Getting Into the Text For All Kinds of Reasons
As Bible believers, we can be guilty of getting into the text for all the wrong reasons. Of Psalm 1, we ask:
• “Meditation is good, but can it put bread on the table?”
• “Taking time to reflect is good, but can reflection pay my monthly utility bills?”
• “Reading the Word is excellent, but can I feed my family with it?”
These are questions common to many believers. Unfortunately, Psalm 1 is not a verse about earning money or to pay our monthly bills. It is not a Do-It-Yourself manual on solving the problems of our world. It is much more. The Psalmist recognizes this by adopting 2 postures: Delighting and Meditating.
C) Delighting In God
The Bible is the living Word of God. Unfortunately, man often treats it like a static text for answers. Like yeast that works through the dough, the Word of God when allowed to touch our hearts can work to transform our human heart and soul from within. It is one thing to cram biblical content into our heads. It is yet another to be touched by the word, that our immediate response is to delight and worship God. The story of Mary and Martha is a case in point. While Martha is busy attending to many different tasks to provide for her guests, she lets the work get into her head. Then the worry and anxiety got into her heart. Upon letting the worries dominate, Martha’s attitude begins to change. She turns from delight in having guests in her house turn into despair that her sister Mary is not helping her with the chores. Her concerns with everyday matters to get things done, turn her into a frantic woman. The final straw is when she becomes so frustrated with her sister, that she even refuses to call her sister by name!
On the other hand, Mary continues to enjoy the presence of Jesus. We may ask. If there are no ‘Martha’s in this world, how can work get done? I believe, the story of Mary and Martha is not about condemning one action (Martha) and elevating another (Mary). The key is in delighting in God. If Martha had not let the work get into her head and her heart, Jesus would have praised her servanthood.
Similarly, when we try to ‘get into’ the Word of God, and not get the answers we want, we can complain and even disregard the Bible’s relevance. We will be unwittingly allowed a Martha-like dissatisfaction to overwhelm our thankfulness. Jesus shows Martha the way:
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41)Remarkably, Jesus is telling Martha that the way to peace is not to be distracted and worried about many things. Only one thing is needed. We need to choose that and then learn to delight in that. We need to hear this message. There are too many multi-taskers out there, more prone to worry and anxiety.We need one thing, not many things. The latter distracts. The former helps us to focus.
D) Meditating: Letting the Word in
The key to understanding the actions of this peaceful psalmist is to recognize that we deal not with flesh and blood but powers and principalities. Like chess, winning the battle is not to attack the pawns or devour many of our opponent’s pieces. At the end of the day, the goal is to checkmate the king. Likewise, in spiritual warfare, we need to think strategically. We need to engage the mastermind, and not be distracted by the smoke signals from the front line. The Psalmist is doing something that allows him to know the way of the righteous.
There is a remarkably similar parallel in Proverbs 4:14-17. It talks about the way of sinners that lead one toward all manner of evil. Proverbs 4:18 reveals the way of the righteous as follows:
“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”This is the fruit of true meditation. It results in good works. It results in righteousness. A kind of meditation that keeps us fixated on self is never the good work God intends for us. The Psalmist in Ps 1:2 who meditates on the law day and night, is likened to the Proverbs rendition of righteousness from dawn to noon-day light.It teaches us something about Christian spirituality.
E) About Spirituality
Christian Spirituality is not about accumulation of information into our heads. It is about the de-cluttering of worries and multiple concerns; followed by a focus on Christ. Christian spirituality is not about organizing our lives according to our management know-how. It is allowing the Spirit of God to guide us, to learn when to push, to pause, or to pull back. Christian spirituality is not about our vain attempts to get into problem-solving mode, even trying to get inside the Word of God on our own strengths. It is about meditating on God’s Word and to humbly let the Word change us from inside. In other words, it is not us getting into the Word of God, but the Word of God getting into us, transforming us from inside.
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