Happy New Year!

It has been a year since my last post on this site. After two years of writing and posting daily devotionals as I made my way through the Bible cover-to-cover, I decided to take a break from the self-imposed pressure of writing and posting every day. I say self-imposed, for the pressure came from my own striving – not from the Lord’s calling. What started out as a journey in the grace of God, over time, became a slog of self-will and effort. Lesson learned, hopefully. I do have things on my heart to write, so I will endeavor to write what the Lord has put on my heart to write as His grace allows, in the timing that He dictates, and not fall into those self-imposed pressures again.

Each year, as I begin a new journey through the scriptures, the New Year’s Day reading always includes Psalm 1 – which is a very fitting start to any year. I love Psalm 1, and every time I read it, I receive new insight and encouragement for the year ahead.

“How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand up 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 leads to ruin.”

Psalms 1:1-6 CSB

The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) titles this psalm “The Two Ways.”The psalmist juxtaposes the way of the righteous with the way of the wicked. The Hebrew word translated here as ‘happy’ means blessed. It is also in a plural form, which would be the same as adding an exclamation point… as in Oh how blessed! Who is this blessed many-times-over person? It is the person who does not follow the advice of, or walk in the ways of, or keep company with the wicked and worldly; but instead, delights in the Lord’s instructions, walks in the Lord’s ways, and sits in the Lord’s presence. The Hebrew word translated here as ‘delights’ is chephets – a word that I have written about before. Chephets is a desire… a longing… a pursuit of something precious. As I meditate on the word chephets, I am reminded me of some of the parables that Jesus told. In Matthew 13:44, Jesus told a parable about the kingdom of heaven being like a treasure buried in a field that is later found by a farmer. In Matthew 13:45, Jesus continued by telling a parable about a merchant in search of a priceless pearl. In both parables, the finder of the precious item sold all that he had to obtain the treasure. Jesus was talking about the idea of chephets – where the word, will and ways of God and His kingdom are so precious that we drop everything in our lives to pursue and obtain the treasure.

What is the treasure that we obtain by delighting in the word, will and ways of the Lord? We will be full of everlasting light and life – bearing fruit in every season and not withering away when troubles come. I have heard it said that the tree mentioned in this psalm – the tree planted besides flowing streams that bears fruit in its season – is likely an Acacia tree. Acacia trees are known as the gift of the desert. In the arid environment of Israel, acacia trees can stand dormant for many many years, but as soon as it receives water, it springs to life and produces fruit and a rich sap that has many medicinal benefits. As I picture the acacia tree and consider its healing properties, I am reminded of the river of God described in Ezekiel 47:1-12 and Revelation 22:1-2. Along the river grow trees that continually produce fruit and have leaves used for the healing of the nations. Acacia trees are a gift, not to the tree itself, but to those who can sit in its shade, eat its fruit and benefit from its healing properties. When we chephets the word, will and ways of God – not allowing ourselves to be distracted by the words and ways of the worldly and wicked – we become fully alive acacia trees… gifts to those who are walking in the dry and barren wilderness. Out of our lives will flow the rivers of living water that Jesus spoke about in John 7:37-38. This life… this light… this ability to feed and heal… this ability to be a blessing to others makes us blessed many times over.

The righteous that the psalmist writes about are those who maintain what is right and dispense justice. In western culture, we often think of justice as punitive, which would cause us to think that dispensing justice would involve doling out punishment to those who have wronged others. However, the concept of justice in the Bible has to do with restorative justice… fixing what has been broken and righting wrongs. Are there times when wrongs are punished? Yes, there are – but we must remember that the act of vengeance belongs to the Lord. The righteous are those who establish restorative justice, while trusting the Lord to bring vengeance when it is time. The wicked, on the other hand, would be those who are doing the wrongs that need to be righted… stepping on other people’s backs to benefit their own causes… holding other people down in order to lift themselves up. It says here, that the Lord watches over [yada] the way of the righteous. Yada is an intimate experiential knowing. The Lord is very familiar with and intimately involved in the course of the lives of the righteous – those who make it their pursuit to meditate on, honor and obey God’s word, will and ways, while also bringing God’s rightness to the earth through His grace and guidance. Those who pursue their own ways, especially if they pursue their own ways at the expense of others, will ultimately waste away and come to ruin.

As we stand at the beginning of a new year, let us set our hearts to chephets the word, will and ways of the Lord by meditating on them day and night, and lovingly obeying them by grace that comes through faith. Let us be among those who are truly blessed many times over, that we may then be a blessing to others. May we be about the Father’s business: bringing His restorative justice and righteousness to the world as we see souls saved through the preaching of the gospel, and disciples made as we teach others the word, will and ways of Christ. In the sense that this psalm describes, may this truly be a Happy New Year!

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