Reference

Psalm 1
7. The Righteous One

Songs of Jesus
6. The Righteous One Dan Bidwell, Senior Pastor Psalm 1 21 August 2022

Sharing: 10 seconds. Turn to the person beside you and tell them which season you like the most.

Out of all the seasons I love Summer the most. Who are my fellow summer lovers? I love the hot days and sunshine and short sleeves and wearing flip flops. There’s daylight saving, summer vacation.

Back in Australia summer meant swimming at the beach – not quite the same here in northern California where the water is icy. Never to worry – Jo and I had a few days in Cabo last week and the water temperature was perfect!

Then there’s winter. I know lots of you are winter lovers. And you can’t wait for the weather to cool down so you can get rugged up in your sweaters and coats and scarves and knitted hats. In winter you get to light your fireplace. You put the big duvet on your bed, perhaps you wear your fluffy bed socks around the house. I love going for an early morning walk on those mornings when there is frost on the ground – if you’re here in Yountville, I recommend taking a walk down Yount Mill Rd into the vineyards this winter in the early morning. Rug up well, but it's worth it. It is magnificent!

Hands up my spring lovers. Spring is fantastic if you’re a gardener. The winter cold mostly disappears and the flowers spring up. Here in the valley it’s when the mustards grow in the vineyards, and the new buds burst out on the vines. Spring is the perfect season for garden parties and house auctions and weddings. I like Spring because it promises that Summer is almost back again.

But I’ve forgotten one season. Autumn.

I know I said I love summer the most, but just quietly I maybe love Autumn more. There’s something about the cooler evenings and mornings, the amazing blue skies and windless days. The trees changing colour and the smell of the autumn leaves piled up on the ground.

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My wife, Jo and I got to go away for her birthday a couple of years ago, down to a little country hideaway back in Australia, called Kangaroo Valley. We stayed in a little farmhouse and the yard was littered with the most fantastic smelling leaves from the plane trees – I think you call them sycamores – you know, the ones with the big leaves and the little yellow spiky seed pods.

Anyway on this farm there was a gravel pathway and a woodpile and a little chicken coop and a veggie patch, and the kitchen had French windows that you could pull completely open so that it was like you were outside even when you were inside. And I stood there waiting for the kettle to boil on the gas stove and watched the leaves fluttering down gently. I wish time could have stood still in that moment...

But time never stands still.

The seasons come and go, faster every year it seems. Some seasons in life are wonderful, while other seasons are difficult or frightening.

Yet in all of life’s seasons, we have a God who calls us to trust in him, and to live every moment following Jesus faithfully, whatever life may bring.

So today I want to bring you a really simple message from Psalm 1.

A sermon about becoming a Christian who grows through every season, who flourishes in every season. The sort of person who doesn’t wither away from Jesus but instead stands firmly rooted in God’s word and his promises, whatever the season might bring.

So let me pray for us and we’ll open the Bible.

Our heavenly Father, you are the one who set the seasons into motion, the one who makes the sun rise and set each day, the one who gives life and takes life away. Teach us today to find you in every season, to grow in every season, and walk away today with joy in your promises to us. We pray that you will speak to us today through your word and by your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Let me read Psalm 1 for you again. Psalms are easy to find – just open your Bible to the very middle and you should find them.

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,

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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 judgment, 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 Psalm is a Psalm of two halves: you have the righteous person in the first stanza (v1-3) (Define righteous – the one who follows Jesus). And you have the wicked in the second (v4-5). And they are compared and contrasted: we should want to be like the righteous; and not like the wicked.

This Psalm has beautiful symmetry, like a mirror. The first and last words of the Psalm tells us the destinies of both the righteous and the wicked – one is blessed (v1) but the other is bound for destruction (v6).

I’m not going to focus too much on what the wicked are like. I want to concentrate on the righteous, because I think here we see a picture of the person who is Growing Through Every Season.

And particularly through the image of the tree that the Psalmist paints. Look at v3:

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.

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We have this image of a tree – a tree which is rooted firmly, drinking deeply and bearing fruit. It’s a healthy tree. But it’s not just the picture of a healthy tree – it’s the picture of a healthy Christian.

So those three ideas will structure my talk...

  • Rooted Firmly

  • Drinking Deeply

  • Bearing Fruit

    Rooted Firmly
    So the first idea is being rooted firmly.

    I’m not a great gardener, but I’ve heard that the roots of some trees can be as much as two to four times the diameter of the tree that you can see. (Kind of like an iceberg – there is much more below the surface...)

    When the roots are wide and deep like that, it means that when wind and storms come, the top might move a little bit, but under the ground there is a firm foundation to keep the tree from falling.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen the Monterey cypresses growing along the Big Sur, and 17 Mile Drive just outside of Pebble Beach. The wind blows quite strongly there, but the trees barely move at all. The trunks are beautifully twisted as they hold against the wind, but nothing shakes them.

    I guess those cypresses have grown up in conditions that force them to grow deep roots – roots that can withstand the wind and the storms of life.

    We often talk about putting down roots, don’t we? Meaning when we find somewhere we want to live, and we put down our roots. We have families in a place, we buy property, we make memories, cherish friendships. We weather the storms of life, and remember the ones no longer with us, even as we welcome new members into the family tree. That’s what we often mean when we say ‘putting down roots’.

    But I think that the roots the Psalmist is taking about are quite different.

    You see the righteous one has his roots planted firmly in the Lord.

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The Psalm is pretty simplistic about people – there are just two types – the righteous and the wicked. The righteous, they’re not like the wicked. And the evidence of their life puts them firmly on the righteous side of the divide.

Look at v1.

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,

The righteous one walks and stands and sits separately from the wicked.

That is, the righteous one chooses consciously to live differently than those who do not know the Lord. It means the righteous one doesn’t have to keep in step with the world and its morality. The righteous one doesn’t go down the windy pathway with sinners, but instead prays “Lead me not into temptation...”

You see the righteous one lives a life firmly rooted in the Lord.

That’s very different from putting down roots in a place, or in a community. Different communities stand for different things. And times change, and values change. Things that once seemed important can be forgotten and superseded by the new thing. We can be part of a community and one day wake up to realise that, actually we don’t like where it’s headed and we don’t feel as firm and secure as we thought.

But when we put our roots down firmly in the Lord, we can know that he won’t change. God’s character won’t change, his goodness won’t change. His mercy won’t change. His promises won’t change.

See if we plant ourselves firmly in the Lord, we know that we have an unshakeable foundation, an anchor for our souls. A root system that will not move despite any of life’s storms or cyclones or floods, because the God who created and sustains the world is the one who is holding us safe in his palm.

So that’s the first idea – to grow through every season we need to be rooted firmly in the Lord.

Drink Deeply

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The second idea is this: to grow through every season we need to Drink Deeply from God’s word.

Hands up if you have potted plants in your house? How often do you have to water your indoor plants? Regularly, right?

We always had lots of indoor potted plants growing up. I had this Golden Cane Palm in my room, which I never watered. And then the leaves would start to turn brown and get crispy, then I’d water it to try and fix it, but the potting mix gets really hard and the water would just spill off it and wet the carpet... My Golden Cane Palm was extremely short lived.

I think for a lot of Christians, their spiritual life is a bit like what happened to my Cane Palm. They drink deeply at the beginning of the waters of eternal life that Jesus talks about. And then nothing much more to drink for a while, until they feel themselves drying up. And so they drink again, and are revived for a bit. Until the leaves dry up again. And again. And sometimes they leave it so long that the waters just bounce off the hard dirt and aren’t absorbed anymore. And they shrivel up...

The tree in Psalm 1 is not like my Golden Cane Palm.

This is (v3) a tree planted by streams of water. Not just one stream but we’re talking about fertile ground for a tree to grow in. There is abundant water for the roots to find and absorb so that the tree can grow strong, and we read at the end of v3 that its leaf does not wither. This is a healthy tree that doesn’t fall prey to droughts and storms – it has a firm foundation and a steady water supply.

Of course the Psalmist is describing a picture of the righteous one. And we can see in v2 where the water supply comes from for the righteous one.

2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

The water that God wants us to be planted in, is his life-giving word! The righteous one in the Psalm delights in the Law of the Lord – that is he or she delights in the Scriptures. So much so that they meditate on them day and night.

This righteous one drinks deeply from the well-spring of God’s word.

  • -  It’s there that he satisfies his thirst for wisdom. And truth. And justice.

  • -  There in the Scriptures that she finds meaning, and identity.

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  • -  And it’s there that we find answers for how to live in this world, to learn what sort of person we should become. To know what is Good and what is Evil. To learn patience. And godliness.

  • -  It’s only in God’s word that the righteous can quench their thirst for forgiveness,

  • -  And only there that we can drown our sorrows with God’s promise of a world without

    mourning or death or crying or pain.

    See, God’s word is a delight for the righteous one. A treat, something to look forward to. A book to pore over, to study and learn and inwardly digest. A manual for life. The secret of life in black and white.

    PAUSE

    And yet for many of us, the Bible gathers dust on a shelf. Or gets lost among the other apps on our phone or iPad. It gets forgotten in the morning rush, and in the witching hour, and in the moments when we just need to sit down and unwind and put our feet up in front of the TV. It gets lost underneath the weekend papers, and while we watch the kids at soccer, and when we have to babysit the grandkids.

    Do you know where your Bible is? Is it gathering dust somewhere? JIf it is, that’s Ok. Because you are in for a treat.

    Some of you might remember The Neverending Story (reference for the 70s and 80s kids!! Yay Gen X!)

    There’s this moment when Bastian (the main character) finally gets to open the leather-bound book and begin the story. And his eyes are wide open with anticipation as he blows the dust off the cover...

    That can be you with your Bible. Go home and find it, blow the dust off the cover and open it up. It’s the ultimate neverending story – and you’re in it. Delight in it, meditate on it, drink it up. Plant your roots where they can soak up God’s life-giving word...

    That’s the second idea – Growing through every season means drinking deeply from God’s word.

    Bearing Fruit

    We’re up to our final idea. Growing through every season means bearing fruit. 7

At every house I’ve lived in, I’ve planted fruit trees.

At our house in my last parish I planted an apple tree, and a little orchard of peach and nectarine trees. The possums always ate the stonefruits before I could pick them. But the apple tree it was magnificent! After 3 years, the apple finally produced 7 perfect (small) Granny Smith apples!

I love the idea of having fruit growing in my backyard.

But growing fruit isn’t that easy. It takes a bit of work: you have to know when to prune back the branches, and how much to cut off; you have to know when to fertilise; and when to spray for bugs; you have to watch out for mould. Then you also need male and female trees to get fruit, and you need bees in the area to help with pollination...

It might just be easier to go the fruit market.
The tree in the Psalm is a fruit tree. Planted by streams of water, it yields it fruit
in season.

Of course the Psalmist isn’t really talking about a tree, but about the Christian life. Because fruit tells us about the tree.

Jesus said a good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit. (Mt 7:17)

And Jesus wants us to live a fruitful life following him. Think about the parable he told concerning the 4 soils: the good seed grew and produced a crop 30, 60 even 100 times what was sown.

God’s ideal for our lives is that, as we follow him, as we grow in Christ and in maturity, that our lives will bear fruit. Gospel fruit. Fruit that shows what kind of tree we are – fruit that shows where our roots are, and fruit that shows what waters we’ve been drinking in. The fruits of righteousness.

For the Psalmist, that picture of a man delighting in God’s word is a picture of fruitfulness (left hand). It’s contrasted with the life of the wicked, who are described in v4 as chaff (right hand).

You know what chaff is, right? When they grow wheat or other grains, the bit you want to keep is the head or the kernel of the grain. The rest of plant – the stalk, the husk around the kernel – it’s all useless and not good for anything. To separate the wheat from the chaff, the farmers would bounce the heads of wheat up and down to loosen the chaff, which would blow away in the wind. God is saying here that the wicked are like chaff – they’re not fruitful, or useful. The wicked won’t survive God’s judgment. He’ll get rid of them, like the wind blows away the chaff.

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But the righteous, the ones bearing fruit... That’s what God wants!

So what does fruit look like, when we are a tree planted firmly in God and drinking deeply from his word?

The Bible tells us it means being transformed, renewed, born again as a person who lives for God, rather than living to please our fleshly desires. Alive in the Spirit, rather than dead in sin. Becoming more and more like Jesus as we are conformed to his likeness (Ro 8:29).

But what does that look like? In practical terms?

I think it means more and more our lives are characterised by the fruit of the spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:23)

You might find one of them terribly difficult – patience for example. Why not work on your patience for a few months. Find out what the Bible says about it, see what Jesus says about it. Pray about it. Ask someone you trust how they think you’re going with it. Prune the parts of your life that make patience difficult – you might have to control your tongue, or learn gentleness or kindness or love, but eventually you will see the fruit of your efforts. Because your delight will be in the Lord, and seeking to live the righteous life will give you great joy.

In Season

There’s one more phrase that we haven’t touched in v3. The last 2 words at the end of the second line... like a tree which yields its fruit in season.

I said earlier that not every season is our favourite. Not every season is easy in life. And perhaps we might be tempted to think that under certain circumstances, it’s just not possible to bear fruit. Certainly our physical bodies have limitations, and we won’t be physically able to do the same things throughout every season of life. But should we expect our spiritual life to wither as our physical life does?

That’s not what this Psalm says, at least the way I read it in v3. In fact when we are rooted firmly in the Lord, and drinking deeply from his word, our ‘leaves’ will never wither. Perhaps this is a metaphor for eternal life? Or perhaps a way of saying that the Lord will sustain us through whatever comes our way. And perhaps even when the season doesn’t seem right to bear fruit, God will use that situation to bring forth a harvest for his kingdom.

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I think of Jesus, as he walked to the cross. Even in that terrible situation, God was using Jesus’ death to bring forgiveness and salvation to many. The righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God... (1 Pet 3:18) Bearing fruit in an unexpected season...

I think of brothers and sisters here who are facing their own death. Bearing fruit as they express their trust in the Father who loves them, and the Son who has saved them into life beyond this mortal season...

It’s a picture of health, isn’t it? And spiritual blessing. To live a life rooted firmly in the Lord, drinking deeply from his word, and bearing fruit in every season.

I pray that we’ll be a church blessed with such spiritual health. Shall we pray?


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