|An oasis in the Negev Desert of Israel created by trees planted by the Jewish National Fund.|
picture from oasis entry on wikipedia
My notes on a sermon at St John's Church, Broadbridge Heath by Rev Paddy Beresford (vicar)
Apologies to Paddy if I've got things awry!
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,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
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.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
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 is about "how to avoid the desire to do wrong". Getting into a place of habitual wrongdoing is an insidious process, rather like the way rust creeps along weak points in a car's bodywork. It is a result of increasing levels of compromise; white lies, grey lies, black lies...
This has a lot to do with what we allow ourselves to believe, what we tell ourselves If we have had any kind of a Christian upbringing, then giving way to a moral compromise will set up an inner disruption in our mind, which will lead to stress, low self-esteem, and all the other things which get in the way of happiness.
We should be on our guard about entering areas of behaviour which we know we should avoid.
The Hebrew word which is translated as "blessed" actually means "extremely happy".
The Psalm stars with the bad news:
"walking in step with the wicked" - the beginning of wrong thinking/doing often starts in such an easy, casual way, falling in with the way of people doing the wrong thing.
"stand in the way that sinners take" - the Hebrew word translated as "stand" is more "take a stance" (maybe "take on board"?). This means that your position in the wrong way is becoming stronger, firmer.
"sit in the company of mockers" - "sit" implies "take up residence", or "make your home" in the company of people who mock the right way, the good way. Now it will be really hard work to extricate yourself and get back into the right way.
Two examples of people in the Bible who followed this path are Judas and Pilate. Judas started off as one of the Twelve, so he must have been a true follower of Jesus to begin with. At what point did he move away from this position? When did he start along the road which lead, step by step, to the point where he sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, the cost of a lame slave.
And what about Pilate? He moved from declaring Jesus innocent, and of finding nothing to charge him with, wrong in him, to washing his hands and condemning Jesus to death in order to preserve his own position and status.
The Psalm ends with the Good News:
The way to stay on the right path is to take delight in the word of God. The whole word, not just our favourite bits. We might wake up and say "what a lovely day - I feel in the mood for a Psalm!" When do we wake up and take delight in - say - Leviticus? But we are not to pick and choose. Psalm 18 and 19 state that the word of God is flawless, perfect. Paul talks about the word of God too.
We should chew on the word of God, in the way that a cow chews on grass to produce milk. Today we are receiving "milk", because the vicar has done the "chewing" for us. God wants us all to be able to chew on his word, so that we can all produce "milk" for others.
From Milk: From Cow to Carton