Message given at the conference in Switzerland in September 1968
[W. E. Thompson]
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the streams of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also doth not wither; and whatsoever he doeth he shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3).
WE have been hearing how the New Testament is constructed on a spiritual basis rather than on a chronological one, and that is also true of the Old Testament, particularly the books of the Psalms. As we read the Old Testament, and the Psalms, I believe we need to do so from this standpoint. If you have good Bibles you will find that the Psalms are divided into five books, and I think you will find that these five books of the Psalms correspond to the five books of Moses.
The first book of Moses is Genesis, the book of beginnings, the book of man. Throughout that book we read of God’s dealings with man, and the main content is a man; and the first book of Psalms (1 – 41) deals with the blessed man. That is what we are now going to consider. But, for your interest, if you read the second book of the Psalms, 42 – 73, you will find that they correspond to the book of Exodus, for they are the Psalms of deliverance. Then what is the next step after deliverance? It is not service, but worship — the sanctuary. “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary” (Psalm 77:13). That is the book of Leviticus — and you will find a lot about the sanctuary in Psalms 73 – 89. Next we have the book of journeyings — the book of Numbers, and if you read that fourth book of [38/39] Psalms (90 to 106) you will find much about wanderings and wilderness experiences. Then, of course, the fifth book of Moses, the book of Deuteronomy, has the land in sight.
We have also seen this week how God’s history is bound up in the history of a man, and the Psalms are the reflections of God’s dealings with a man, for we will find here almost every experience that we can possibly know. It is said of David that he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), and he was also a man after God’s head, for it says: “He shall do all my will.” Thus we find in the Psalms the answer to our needs and our problems.
This first Psalm begins with a very important word — “Blessed”: “ Blessed is the man …”.
WHAT ARE BLESSINGS?
Now what are blessings? We use the word a great deal. We pray for God to bless us, to bless this one and that one, and I think perhaps it is true to say that we have come to Aeschi for a blessing. Now I believe that there are some Christians who consider that God is like a supermarket. All they have to do is to get their baskets and pick a blessing here and a blessing there; they go to the conference section and think that they can just fill their baskets with this kind of blessing.
No, blessings are not like that. We just cannot go round and collect them. These blessings are to be found only in Christ, and we shall find that we shall be blessed only in the measure that we are ourselves truly in Him and really share in a practical way His blessed life. “Blessed is the man …”. Well, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ is the first and the primary blessed Man, and it is the purpose and intention of God to bring us into these blessings of Christ. ‘Blessed’ is the first word used in the earliest recorded discourse of our Lord Jesus Christ — “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). God put Adam in the garden of Eden for a blessing, and the blessings that he lost are only regained in our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why His ministry has so much of this very important word. We want, and we need, a blessing. so that Lord says: “Blessed …”.
Another translation of this word helps us to understand what it means — ‘happy’. We can talk about the blessed man as a happy man. But then I would like to ask another question. What really makes us happy? What is it that really constitutes true, deep happiness? I think it is the word ‘satisfied’. We can take this word ‘blessed’ away and put ‘satisfied’ in and it would be quite correct.
Now this kind of satisfaction is not a cheap and easy thing, but is something that goes right, deep down into our very innermost being, because it is deep in the heart of God Himself. It is the very meaning of the Gospel. If you look at 1 Timothy 1:11 you will read a verse that will alter your whole idea about the Gospel. It is “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God”, or “ satisfied God”. Is that not wonderful? That makes a difference to what you mean when you talk about a ‘Gospel meeting’, when you are supposed to preach some kind of formula which is the answer to people’s needs! No, this Gospel that we have been brought into is the gospel of a God who is absolutely satisfied. Why is He satisfied? Because He has found the way by which He can reclaim man and bring Him back to Himself. After He had created Adam He said: ‘It is good!’ I do not think that God was finally satisfied after creating Adam, but He was certainly satisfied at the coming into the world of the final Adam — “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). And God is satisfied because of those sons who have been brought to glory. That is why He is a blessed God, and the only basis of our true blessing is as we experience that in which God is well pleased; and that depends upon the measure in which the Lord Jesus Christ reigns within us.
THE LOSS OF BLESSEDNESS
Now we find in this first Psalm how the devil tries to rob this blessed man of the enjoyment of his blessings. The first verse, with its three negatives, gives us an idea of how the devil tries to rob us of what God has given us. The blessed man ‘walks not in the counsel of the ungodly; he stands not in the way of sinners; he sits not in the seat of the scornful’. There are three nouns and three verbs in that verse, and they are very important. The ungodly: that represents everyone who does not acknowledge God. The sinners: that represents those who actively do evil. The scornful: those who are directly opposed to God. You will notice that there is a decline in these three kinds of persons.
I want to say a word to all young people under eighty, and it is this: It is vitally important what friends you have and what company you keep, if you are the people of God, if you are those who have a completely different nature, and if you are the blessed people, for this is where the devil begins to work.
Notice those three verbs: Walk — Stand — Sit. Again there is a declension. We do not find ourselves immediately sitting amongst those who scorn God. It all begins with a walk. Some years ago in [39/40] Bombay the Lord brought to Himself a remarkable young Hindu. He came from a very staunch Hindu family, and it was wonderful to see his growth in the things of God. Then he began to lose his joy, his blessings. We found that he began to go right away and his life became quite contrary to the life of a Christian. Ultimately he went right back into his Hindu family. How did this happen? He began by ‘walking in the counsel of the ungodly’. He started listening to his worldly friends concerning things like marriage, and began to take advice from non-Christian friends. Then one day I looked in his bag and I found some books. They were not very nice books. He was ‘standing in the way of sinners’; and I know many young Christians who have lost their blessings through reading the wrong kind of books and magazines. Eventually he found himself in the ‘seat of the scornful’. If we had the time to study the story of the Prodigal Son we would find the same kind of thing.
This matter of walking is very important. Our walk reveals our character. Those disciples in John i did not hear the Lord Jesus preaching, for it says: “They looked upon Jesus as he walked, and said, Behold the Lamb of God!” He was identified by His walk. We can disguise ourselves in many ways. We can wear a wig, or we can paint our faces and do a lot of outward things, but we cannot disguise our walk. The blessed man walks in the newness of life, for we shall walk in the light of that new, hidden life. As we know the Lord so we shall walk. When God revealed Himself to Abraham as El Shaddai, the Almighty God, what did He say? ‘Go and preach about it!’? ‘Go and write a book about it!’? No, He said: ‘Walk!’ — “Walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1). This walking is a very important part of our Christian life.
THE LAW OF THE LORD
In verse 2 of this Psalm we find something about the positive aspect of this blessed man. It is very simple: “His delight is in the law of the Lord.” Now we delight our bodies in good food. We delight our souls in a variety of ways — in nice music, or beautiful scenery, but our bodies and our souls do not delight in the law of the Lord. We can only delight in the law of the Lord in the inward man. Paul said: “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Romans 7:22). The natural man never understands and delights in the Word of God. He may read it and say that it is wonderful literatures but he does not delight in it, because “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
We also find in verse 2 of this Psalm that this blessed man meditates in this law, and not just for a few minutes in the morning and in the evening. It says: “Day and night.” He is constantly meditating in the law of the Lord Jehovah.
But wait a minute! What was David’s Bible? What was the “law of the Lord” in which David meditated for such a long time? He did not have Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, nor did he have the letter to the Ephesians. He had Genesis — well, that is quite interesting. He had Exodus — yes, there are many interesting things there. He had Leviticus — oh, what can you get out of Leviticus? And he had the other two books of Moses.
If we really have the life of the inward man we shall find a tremendous lot in Leviticus, and, young people, please do not skip these books when you read the Bible! If you want to know the real blessedness, you meditate in these books. What is the key, the secret of them’? It is the satisfied God! You look for the satisfied God in Leviticus and you will find a tremendous world of richness.
THE EVIDENCE OF BLESSEDNESS
In verse 3 we find the evidence of the blessed man: “He shall be like a tree.” To you people living in Switzerland that may not be very wonderful, for you have so many trees around you. The country is just full of them. But to those of us who in the East a tree is quite a rare thing, and it was certainly a rare thing in the country where David lived. When you fly over India and look down over the barren plain you will suddenly see a little patch which is all green, and there are many trees. If you look more carefully you will see the reason: there will be a river. This tree here is “planted by the streams of water”. Here is the centre where the Holy Spirit is working, and certainly our blessedness will depend a lot upon that. Get near the stream and we shall grow.
We read three things about this tree in this verse — about its root, its leaf and its fruit. These are very important things in this blessed life. Without the root and the leaf there will not be fruit, and the Lord has ordained that we shall go forth and bear fruit. The main purpose of a tree is to bear fruit, and this is the evidence of a blessed man. How does he do this? He must draw his life from two sources. There is the hidden life, the roots that go down deep into the dark earth where the streams are. The more I read concerning the Holy Spirit the more I believe that His work is essentially hidden. We do not read that the Holy Spirit is given to us for sensations! That life which feeds on the Holy [40/41] Spirit is a hidden life. David said in Psalm 51 that the Lord wanted “truth in the inward parts”, and Peter talks about “the hidden man of the heart” (1 Peter 3:4). It is this hidden life, this life deep down in the dark that is so important to blessedness. If we had time to read Psalm 17 we would understand more of this — you can read that at your leisure!
Not only is there the hidden life, but there is also the outward life, the life that is derived from the leaves. The leaves draw from the sun’s rays, and through the process which is known as ‘photosynthesis’ they minister life to the tree — and we need this corporate life. You notice that it says: “We all with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord”, and then the photosynthesis — the spiritual synthesis — goes on.
Now it is most important that we see that we maintain in balance the hidden life and the corporate life if we are going to bear fruit, and you notice that it is ‘fruit in season’. That does not mean that you have only to bear spiritual fruit once a year. Please do not think that! I think it means timeliness. There is a verse in Proverbs 25 which says: “A word in due season is like apples of gold” (verse 11, margin). The timely word, the timely act, the timely bearing of spiritual fruit are the things which bring blessedness.
And then we find, concerning this man, that “whatsoever he doeth, he shall prosper” (margin). Not ‘it shall prosper’, but “ he shall prosper”. Sometimes people think that they only have to do all these things and then go to business, and the business will prosper. God is not interested in our business prospering, but He is interested in us prospering.
This immediately takes us to another man in whom God’s history is bound up — and I wish we had another hour to study the life of Joseph together. Dear old Jacob, when he gathered his sons together at the end, did not have very much to say about Judah and the others, but he said this about Joseph: “Joseph is a fruitful bough. … His branches run over the wall” (Genesis 49:22).
(Next to the house where I am now living the neighbour has a very nice apple tree and it comes over the wall — and there are more apples on my side than on his! Well, they are blessings indeed!)
Jacob goes on to say: “The Almighty, who shall bless thee, with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that coucheth beneath …” (verse 25). There are many more blessings there if you will read that passage. Joseph was a man who was prospered of God. Whatever people did to Joseph, he prospered. We find that in Genesis 39. If his brothers put him into a pit, he prospered, and if he was made a servant in Potiphar’s house, he prospered — and if you want an illustration of not walking in the ways of the ungodly and sitting in the seat of the scornful, you read Joseph’s history in Potiphar’s house! You will understand why he prospered! They put him in prison, and even there he prospered.
Now this is the character of the blessed man. It does not matter where you put him, for he will spring up with spiritual prosperity — blessedness. If we had time to study it we would understand that Joseph’s life was one that was alienated from his brothers. It was a life that was contrary to a lot of the natural things around him, and it was a life of suffering — and there are blessings to come from the sufferings of Christ. It may be that some of the truest blessings that the Lord will ever give us are those that come through suffering and limitation, but when they are the blessings of the hidden man, the blessings of the satisfied God, we shall go right through and bear fruit, and our blessings will be shared by many. – W. E. T.