4th Sunday after the Epiphany
Prof. Charles Blanco
Psalm 1 Sermon
January 29, 2006

Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
187 "Open Now Thy Gates Of Beauty"
375 "My Faith Looks Up To Thee"
342 "In Christ There Is No East Or West"
434 "Beautiful Saviour, King Of Creation"


TEXT: "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. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."

If you were looking for a definition of a dysfunctional home, Joey's would have to rank up there. Joey's brothers and sister came from his father and four different women, all of whom loved under the same roof together! Add to that, Joey's father didn't possess the finest parenting skills. He was known to play favorites among the children, which led to jealousy. It got so bad Joey was forced to leave home. As a young man, employment prospects were bleak, so Joey ended up working for a man as an indentured servant, a slave basically.

Joey, however, proved that you can rise above your upbringing, and he served his boss well. He had a real business sense about him, and before long, Joey's boss found that he could entrust all his affairs to him.

The wife of Joey's boss, however, had affairs of another type in mind, for Joey was a handsome young man. One day she made it plain that she wanted Joey to sleep with her. This was a point in Joey's life that called for decision. If he went with her desire, Joey would be doing wrong; but by keeping her happy, it might make his life easier. If he refused, she could make his life miserable. She wouldn't be ignored. What would he do? Here was the point of decision.

Every life faces points of decision, don't they? Maybe not quite as exotic as Joey's situation, but we all encounter forks in the road. Do I go this way or that? You can't go both. You have to decide.

Our text from the Scriptures today, Psalm 1, focuses particularly on the moral and spiritual points of decisions we face in life, the fork in the road that allows us to go the dark way of sin or the righteous way of God. We face those decision points often.

Someone hands you a juicy piece of gossip; do you pass it on or not? At the party Friday night, you're presented with the possibility of getting drunk or high; do you go there, or not? Here comes Sally whom you've never gotten along with; do you treat her like she doesn't exist, or do you change your attitudes and behaviors toward her? This big test will mean the difference between getting a scholarship or not, and the smartest kid in class is sitting right next to you and he's not doing a very good job at covering his answers; do you peek or not? Our country's economic boom finally trickles down to you; what do you do with that raise in pay--feed the greed monster in you, or take this opportunity to radically adjust your stewardship patterns? Your next door neighbor says to you, "Life is a pain, and then you die." Do you nod in agreement or do you take that opportunity to witness to the true meaning for life Jesus gives?

Points of decision. We face them all the time. Psalm 1 lays out the importance of making right decisions--decisions that grow out of meditating on God's instruction night and day. This isn't just an intellectual game ("Did I get the right answer?"). Psalm 1 charts out the consequences of our decisions. Those who go the way of sin choose a life that amounts to nothing in the end, a life that is as insubstantial as chaff blown about by the wind. Their decisions may look as if they yield a good time at the moment, to get high, to cheat, to do what feels good; but God lets us in on their final end: those who take the path of the wicked will not stand in the judgment. They will perish forever.

By contrast, reveals Psalm 1, those who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or abide with those who mock at notions of right and wrong, they will be blessed in life, prospering eternally, like a tree planted next to a stream of endlessly running water. It will be well-fed, producing good fruit, and its leaves will not wither. Over such a person God's protective watchfulness will rest evermore.

What we find then is that each point of decision in life is also a potential point of prosperity. Each time we listen to God's Word and do what he tells us, God promises prosperity and fruitfulness and satisfaction.

But there's the rub, isn't it? For we've all stood at the decision points in our lives and gone the wrong way, haven't we? It sounds so ugly to say that we have chosen the path of wickedness, but what else is gossip and vengeance and seeking my pleasure and ego-gratification regardless of its impact on others? And it's not as if we can claim we don't know what's right or wrong. God has made that plain in his Commandments. The toppling truth is this: we came to the fork in the road and chose the wrong way; we came to the point of decision and decided for sin, not God.

Which truth might make us all want to tear Psalm 1 right out of our Bibles? For Psalm 1 makes clear that by our own choices, we will perish. And so we would, had not another choice been made, the choice of our Triune God for our rescue. To deliver us from the path of perishing, Jesus shared our flesh and blood and walked the roads of life we face. But when he came to the fork in the road, he chose well. In the wilderness Jesus fasted and prayed, meditating on God's Word day and night, and when the Tempter came to entice him down the path of self-service, Jesus turned the other way. In the Garden of Gethsemane when the pain of death was right before him and his humanity yearned to miss that pain, Jesus chose the path of obedience to his Father's will. On the cross when the sins of the world laid hell upon him, Jesus could have gone the path of divine power to free himself; but instead he chose the path of self-sacrifice that freed you and me from the curse of death, paying the price only his innocent blood could offer.

No, don't tear Psalm 1 from your Bible, but do make sure to read it in light of the full working of the Triune God. Do let Psalm 1 bring into the light of day your need for rescue, and then let God's Spirit lead you to the cross of Jesus and his empty tomb and his cleansing baptismal waters. To Jesus cling with faith, trusting the promise of God that in Christ is your righteousness, that his faithful decisions are counted as your own, that in Christ you are planted in the garden of salvation forever, and your leaves will not wither, and you will bear him fruit, forever.

Hearts renewed by this gracious Gospel of Christ all have the same reaction: they want to choose rightly when the points of decision come their way, seeing them in Christ as points of prosperity, points where we can show forth our faith and trust in God, points where we can put into action what we have learned from meditating upon God's Word in worship and in our devotional lives.

Now don't be misled. Prosperity may not come immediately. Remember, Jesus chose rightly, and his way led to the cross. Choosing to follow God in a sin-splintered world may bring you suffering. But take the whole picture into account. Prosperity isn't counted in the short-term, but the long-term, the term of eternity, before the judgment seat of Christ. Choose for Jesus at each point of decision and trust him to make it a point of prosperity. And should you err and go the wrong way, repent and return to your merciful Lord; he will renew you in his forgiving love.

Well, what about our friend Joey? What choice did he make at the bed of his boss's wife? He chose God's way, refusing adultery. And did this point of decision become a point of prosperity? Yes it did, but not immediately. Joey's boss's wife didn't take kindly to rejection, and she accused Joey of molesting her, and had him thrown in jail, which might make you wonder why I brought him up at all!

For just this reason: although Joey didn't immediately prosper by choosing God's way, God did keep his promise to prosper him, and you can read about it in Genesis 37-50 where the story of Joey, better known as Joseph, is told. In due time, God freed Joseph from jail and made him a leader in Pharaoh's court. Under his godly decision making, his dysfunctional family was brought together under Joseph's care.

I will promise you nothing less. When you meditate on God's Word day and night and choose his righteous way, God will prosper you; even in jail your leaves will not wither. Jesus has made this a certainty, dying and rising to rescue us from the path of wickedness, setting us anew on the path of faith, whereon your next point of decision is your point of prosperity, Meditate on his Word day and night, and choose well.