Category Archives: Psalms

Two Paths, Two Destinations (Psalm 1)

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Psalm 1:1)

The First Psalm is a contrast between two different types of people on two very different paths. The blessed, righteous man is described by that which he does and does not do. This opening Psalm culminates in the Sixth verse where we are told that “the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

Two paths. Two destinations.

But how is it that so many of God’s people, people whose destination is not the same as the “wicked”, are walking on the same path? Why do we walk on the path of the wicked if we do not wish to end up in the same destination? We can argue, of course, that those who do so may not really be God’s people after all or else they would not be content to walk on paths which lead away from the Lord. Perhaps many of these are like those poor souls whom the Lord Jesus described in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (KJV)

Maybe a great many of these people are only fooling themselves. But are there not many who, like the Prodigal Son of the parable, are sons and daughters indeed who have merely taken a wrong turn and started down a path which will take them further and further from the comforts of their Father’s House?

Consider the example from Scripture of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. The Bible calls Lot a “righteous man” (2 Peter 2:7) and he surely must have been or else he would have perished in the same judgment that befell the rest of Sodom (cf. Genesis 18:25). But when we look at Lot’s life, it quickly becomes apparent that this man was not walking on a righteous man’s path. For he walked in the counsel of the wicked when he chose the lush Jordan Valley to graze his livestock (Genesis 13:10). He stood in the path of sinners when he settled in Sodom (Genesis 13:12-13). And he sat in the seat of scoffers when he “sat in the gate” of the city (Genesis 19:1) — the place in the cities of Old Testament times where city officials and judges conducted government business.

Psalm 1:1 presents a blueprint of a downward spiral that can ensnare even a child of God if they allow it. The first step is to walk after the counsel of the wicked, that is, to follow the advice of worldly people who do not know God. It is to value the things that the world values and to prefer that which is desirable to the flesh over the things of God. Lot’s own woes began the moment when his Uncle Abraham offered him a choice: settle in any part of the land and I will settle elsewhere. Lot was given an opportunity to live anywhere in the newly adopted homeland and what did he do? He looked out across the Jordan Valley and decided that he would move his livestock there.

I don’t know whether or not Lot consulted anyone else before making his decision, but if he had, would this not have been the advice most people would have given him? Pick the best spot, the greenest fields, the most fertile valley. Or, to put it in modern terms, choose the biggest house, the most expensive car, the best designer clothes, the highest paying job, etc. This is the advice which the worldly-minded give; this is the counsel of the wicked. Give no thought to the will of God or to the needs of others, just make yourself as wealthy and comfortable as possible.

The second step naturally follows the first and seldom takes long to reach. Once we begin to accept compromise in our lives, it is easier to continue doing so. Since Lot was already residing in the region, why not go ahead and settle his family within the walls of Sodom? After all, they surely had the nicest houses, the richest markets, and the top entertainment spots in all the country. People flock to the biggest cities today for the same reasons. So what if the residents of Sodom were “wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord” (Genesis 13:13)? Eventually, Lot became firmly established in his new home city. He would take a prominent position in the town council and his own daughters would become engaged to two local men (who were themselves the very portrait of scoffers who laughed at Lot’s warning of the impending judgment – Genesis 19:14).

Such is the process of the “righteous man” in conforming himself to the world. He walks in the wicked’s counsel, he stands in the path of sinners, he sits in the seat of scoffers. Each step involves laying down a little deeper root and allowing a little more compromise. If we are not headed for the same destination as the wicked who will perish, then why do we walk along the same paths? We walk, but at least we are still moving; we stand, but at least we are still ready to start moving again; until finally we sit, firmly entrenched in the way of the wicked.

“And if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:7-9)

The Bible tells us that Lot, a righteous man, was tormented while living among the wicked sinners of Sodom. He chose everything that he believed would make him happy and prosperous, yet paid a heavy price in the agony of his own soul. The Apostle Paul warns Christians in 2 Corinthians 6:14 that righteousness has no partnership with lawlessness, neither does light have any fellowship with darkness. How can we know if we are really a “righteous man” who has gotten over onto the path of the wicked or if we are simply among the wicked walking along the path we naturally belong on? Because the people of God will find no peace or contentment there. In fact, we will be downright miserable. We might be able to fool ourselves for a moment by pretending that a lifestyle of sin, lust, and greed is bringing us great pleasure; but if we truly belong to God then we will be tormented by walking along the path of the wicked.

The opening words of the First Psalm are, “How blessed is the man…” Literally, it means how happy, how joy-filled, how contented is the one who shuns the path of the wicked! Dear Christian, if you find yourself today living as the wicked do, treading along the road that leads to destruction, is it not time to begin to walk the way which God intended for you? Your Salvation is in Christ Jesus, your destination is Heaven, and your Father is God Almighty. Do not live as Lot did, entrenched among the wicked. Live a life from this day forward that glorifies God and blesses you.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Advertisements

Psalm 51: A Model Of Genuine Repentance

Genuine Repentance Is Always Preceded By Conviction

“For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” (Introductory notes, Psalm 51)

In a day when study Bibles are becoming larger and filled with more footnotes and marginal references than ever, it can be easy to overlook the fact that those little introductory notes at the beginning of many of the Psalms are actually part of the original, inspired Scripture. When the Psalms were initially compiled together, it was noted that the 51st Psalm found its occasion following the confrontation of King David by Nathan the prophet. 2 Samuel 11 records David’s great sins in committing adultery with Bathsheba and subsequently ordering the murder of her husband in order to conceal the resultant unwanted pregnancy. 2 Samuel 12 tells us of the Lord’s using one of His prophets, Nathan, in order to convict David of his sins and lead him to repentance.

Although 2 Samuel 11:27 states that the thing which David did was, “Evil in the sight of the Lord“, it does not say that the thing which David did was evil in his own eyes. It took conviction by the Spirit of God, speaking through the prophet Nathan, to make David realize just how appalling his sinfulness really was. It wasn’t until he could see his deeds from another perspective that he was moved to come before God in repentance.

Because we are all like-minded concerning our own sin, genuine repentance must necessarily be preceded by conviction of the Holy Spirit. Even as Christians, it is easy for us to excuse our own sins and downplay their seriousness in our own minds. Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, revealing the depths of our own depravity and our capacity to pursue the works of the flesh, we could never understand the severity of sin and our need for repentance.

Genuine Repentance Pleads For God’s Grace

“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:)

Real repentance pleads for God’s grace and mercy, realizing that nothing else can ever blot out our transgressions. David opens up his great psalm of repentance by asking God to deal with him according to His loving-kindness and His greatness. David does not ask God to deal with him according to his own kindness or greatness. God forgives us because of Who He is and because of His goodness and compassion, not our own good works. Repentance is a plea to God to deal with us in mercy and not to give us what we truly deserve.

David responded to Nathan’s parable about the stolen lamb by declaring that the villain who had done this deserved to die (2 Samuel 12:5). According to the Law of Moses, both adultery and murder were punishable by death (cf. Leviticus 20:10, 24:17). He was aware that if God were to give him what he deserved, then he should be put to death. But thank God He doesn’t give us what we deserve, but gives us that which we do not deserve when we come to Him in repentance. Hypocrisy calls for the Lord to give us what we have earned; repentance prays that He will not!

Genuine Repentance Recognizes That All Sin Is Against God

“Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,…” (Psalm 51:4a)

King David had committed sin against Uriah and Bathsheba, but it is God to Whom he directs his repentance. Why? Because he recognized that all sin is ultimately the breaking of God’s Law and it is against God that we sin. Do we owe an apology to those whom we transgress against? Yes. Should we seek the forgiveness of those whom we hurt? Absolutely. But we should always bear in mind that all sin is first and foremost a violation of God’s Law and that we should seek reconciliation with Him whether we have been reconciled to others or not.

Genuine Repentance Confesses That God Is Just

“So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.” (Psalm 51:4b)

Hypocrisy, when confronted, will downplay its own transgressions with every excuse and alibi imaginable. It will blame everyone else, including God Himself, for its error and will never accept accountability for its own actions. The Apostle Paul points out the absurdity of the creature bringing an accusation against the justice of the Creator by comparing us to clay in the hands of the Potter (Romans 9:19-21). Shall that which is made accuse its Maker of injustice or unfairness?

Real repentance confesses the justice and fairness of God. God is blameless in His conviction of sin and all of His judgments are right (cf. Psalm 19:9). If God were to allow every last person to perish in their sins, He would not be unjust in the least little bit. Praise be to God that He is merciful and not only just!

Genuine Repentance Recognizes Man’s Sinful Nature

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)

True repentance identifies our indwelling sinful nature which abides in our flesh. The conventional wisdom of this world proposes that all people are basically good and that we are all essentially innocent until proven otherwise. But the conviction of God shows us that our hearts are desperately wicked and unrighteous (cf. Jeremiah 17:9). We do not become sinners because we commit sin, we are born sinners! With the Fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden came a sin nature inherited by every living person born thereafter. This is not an excuse for our behavior, only an explanation of it. When we repent, we agree with God’s assessment of man and testify that, apart from Him, no good can ever come from us.

Genuine Repentance Rests On The Blood Of Christ

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
 Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)

Hyssop, in the Old Testament, was a plant used to apply the blood of sacrifice during ceremonial cleansing. This verse speaks of the blood of atonement and, ultimately, looks toward the Blood of Jesus Christ which alone can wash sin away and purify sinners. It took the Blood of Christ to wash away our sins when we were first converted; it takes that same Blood to continue to wash us clean after we become Christians. The hyssop itself is a portrait of our faith which is the applicator of the Blood, for it is by faith that His Blood is applied. True repentance, therefore, places its faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ for the remission of all sins — past, present, and future.

Genuine Repentance Recognizes That Joy And Happiness Are Found In God, Not In Sin

“Make me to hear joy and gladness…” (Psalm 51:8a)

Sin lures us away from God with promises of joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment through the pursuit of our own fleshly desires. But only pain, sorrow, and destruction ultimately await. Yet in God we find all that we need that pertains to life and joy and true repentance sees this.

Genuine Repentance Accepts The Consequences Of Sin

“…Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.” (Psalm 51:8b)

There is a great dearth of real repentance within most of our churches today because many believers fail to see that sin carries consequences. The fact that God forgives us and we are not going to Hell seems to be the only concern for some. But we often forget the solemn warning of Galatians 6:7,

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (KJV)

Yes, God forgives our iniquities but that does not always mean that we escape all the consequences of our actions. All we have to do is read on in 2 Samuel to see that David suffered a multitude of consequences for his sins, in fact, his life was never quite the same after this incident. God did not put David to death, nor did He condemn him to Hell. Nevertheless, David suffered grievously during his life on earth for the transgressions he had committed.

Let us never think that our sins, because they are pardoned by the Lord, bear no repercussions.

Genuine Repentance Acknowledges Our Capacity For Further Sin

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

Notice not only the things which David says in this Psalm, but that which he does not. There are no promises of self-reformation, no bargains struck where he vows to “do better” in the future. Lord God, You create in me a clean heart and a right spirit. You. The pride of our flesh seeks to impress God with lofty aspirations and oaths of fidelity which we are inclined to believe that we can produce, yet are entirely beyond our limitations. Real repentance confesses our shortcomings and begs the Lord to strengthen and purify our hearts that we may not sin against Him.

Later in the Psalm, David declares:

“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17)

There are no rituals which we can perform, no acts of self-reformation which we can undertake that will move us one step closer to the Lord when we have sinned. God seeks a broken and a contrite heart in us, that is, a heart which admits that there is nothing it can do to in and of itself to be reconciled to fellowship with Him. God doesn’t want our promises, our vows, or our oaths to do better; He wants a heart that cries out in desperation for His mercy, a heart which knows that there is no righteousness it can produce which will impress Him.

Genuine Repentance Seeks Restored Fellowship

“Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:7)

David does not pray for God to restore His Salvation to him, but the joy of his Salvation. David did not lose his salvation because he sinned and neither do we. There is, however, a degree of withdrawal of God’s Presence from us when we are living with unconfessed sin and our fellowship with Him is temporarily broken. God does not totally abandon us, but whatever closeness we enjoy with Him will suffer. Neither does the Lord take His Holy Spirit from us, but all of those wonderful fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit will not be manifested. Peace and joy will be absent when we are walking apart from God and any service or ministry we have been entrusted with will lack both satisfaction for us and efficacy for others. Which is why:

Genuine Repentance Will Seek Our Own Right-Standing Before We Witness To Others

“Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You” (Psalm 51:13)

Nathan told David that his sin had given the enemies of God occasion to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14). Nothing delights the natural man more than a backslidden believer. Oh, how they love to mock and accuse the hypocrite! The money-hungry preacher, the alcoholic Sunday School teacher, or the young man who hands out tracts to his co-workers who know full well he is living with his girlfriend. These are all viewed as laughingstocks by unbelievers and, sadly, it is the Lord Who is mocked most viciously in these cases.

We need to be sure that we have dealt with our own sins and have truly repented and turned back to God before we ever attempt to preach or witness for Him. We must be sure our own house is in order before we try to teach others. It is only when our own fellowship with God is fully restored that we are qualified for the work of teaching other sinners how to be restored themselves.

If there is unconfessed sin in your own life, won’t you come to the Lord in genuine repentance now? If your own fellowship with God has been broken, why not use King David’s great model of repentance contained in the 51st Psalm to be restored to the joy of your own Salvation right now.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible  (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]

%d bloggers like this: