Devotional Week 39 Thursday
“Guide me in Your truth and faithfulness and teach me, for You, You only do I wait expectantly all the day long. Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercy and loving-kindness; for they have been ever from old.”
Psalm 25: 5, 6
So often I don’t know
How to act,
What to say,
Who to listen to,
Which to choose,
Where to go or
How long to wait.
Give me wisdom so I can act
And not be paralyzed
So that I can move out in confidence
In a confusing world
Knowing that You are by my side
Today’s Study Text:
“Blessed is the man or woman who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners.”
Psalm 1: 1
“Nor stands, submissive and inactive in the path where sinners walk.
Psalm 1: 1
“Choosing Where You Take Your Stand”
Psalm 1: 1 Part 4
“Do not lose heart, then, in pursuing your spiritual life.”
Thomas à Kempis
What do I think it means to take a stand?
“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”
Leonardo di Vinci
“The seeming peace a sinner has is not from the knowledge of his or her happiness but the ignorance of his or her danger.”
Within the trio of negative activities that lead to destruction which are found in Psalm 1: 1, we find that we can make the choice to “walk in the counsel of the ungodly; to stand in the way of sinners; or tosit in the seat of the scornful.
As noted yesterday, our mistaken steps don’t often put us in the pit of destruction in one full swoop. Often we move along the wrong pathway a little at a time. Sometimes without noticing where we’ve gone off track. As the Psalmist writes, we begin our pilgrimage by walking. That doesn’t sound too bad. But as we move down the pathway of life, the “counsel” of the ungodly can lead us astray. Associate Dean Sakena Young-Scaggs descriptively paints a picture of Psalm 1: 1 which helps me visually relate to my lifelong journey: “Psalm 1: 1 lays a way of being in the world with the rules for progress presented as stepping-stones in the river of life. One stone is marked ‘blessed-happiness,’ another ‘cursed in despair.’ One stone is marked ‘upheld by God,’ and another ‘condemned under the law.’ We must carefully and intentionally step on those stones, with an awareness that the steps taken today will affect our tomorrow.”
These insightful words can assist us as we look at the second phrase which serves as our warning not to, “stand in the way of sinners.” In order to better comprehend what the Psalmist is conveying, my memory took me back to a morning trip my sister and I made to the house wares store Crate and Barrel on the day after Christmas several years ago. Hoping to take advantage of the tremendous mark-down on Christmas ornaments, we braved the crowded lines and pushing-and-shoving of eager shoppers in order to get the best buy on what was a rather picked-over inventory. I have to admit that events like this hold little enjoyment for me but since I had the wonderful company of my sister, I figured we could somehow make it through the commotion.
Having grabbed just the tree ornaments I’d had my eye on earlier in the week at a 75% discount, I cheerfully made my way toward the sales counter, pushed along by a multitude of other shoppers.
Now I want to stop for a moment because as we found out yesterday, the Psalmist begins his description of our pilgrimage by warning us not to walk in the way of the ungodly. At least, I might note, we begin by walking – putting one foot in front of the other. However, somewhere and somehow we get led astray by counsel that shifts our focus from God’s path to man’s way. It is this deviation, possibly unnoticed at first, which diverts us until we don’t recognize the landmarks. Confusion sets in as we wander aimlessly. And so we stop. We stand still, trying to get our bearings. As the writer tells us, because we are on the wrong path, we are
crowded around, nearly suffocated by the push of those fellow travelers on a pathway that is taking us to the wrong place.
So let’s go back to my shopping adventure. At some moment in my desire to get to a cash register, I found myself so hemmed-in by all the people around me, I didn’t notice I was in a line with a sign way ahead that said “Returns.” Obviously, I had no desire to “return” anything but there I was standing still, feet planted firmly, in a place I didn’t want to be in. This is exactly what can happen to us when we make the choice to walk on a pathway where our counsel comes from those who do not believe God should be at the core of their decisions. As Professor of Hebrew Scripture, Carolyn Sharp correctly notes, Psalm 1 is “densely populated with the wicked, sinners, and scoffers. They give false counsel, they advocate wrong behavior, and they adopt a position of mockery or cynicism toward others and toward God.” Not a pretty picture is it? And all because of the choices we make in life’s journey.
As I was studying for todays devotional I came upon a piece penned by Marton Niemoller, a German Lutheran pastor. Speaking specifically about his experience before World War II and the Holocaust, his chilling words should instruct us on the danger we face in our own lives when we take little note to our pathway; to the advisors we choose to listen to; and then when we choose to stand with sinners in a position of adherence to the actions of those who are actively sinning and found guilty as the Hebrew definition of the word “sinner” tells us. In the words of Pastor Niemoller:
“In Germany, they first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Catholic. Then they came for me – and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.”
Years ago, in many Christian churches, the melodic tune and inspirational words of the hymn, “Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus” were heard on a regular basis. This isn’t a song we hear as often today but the back-story of this hymn, shared by Robert J. Morgan in his book Then Sings My Soul, really touched my heart as I studied Psalm 1: 1 and reflected on the choice we have to “stand in the way of sinners” or “Stand Up for Jesus.”
I’d like to share what author Morgan wrote concerning the call to stand for Jesus:
“Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you,
Ye dare not trust your own.
Put on the Gospel armor,
Each piece put on with prayer;
Where duty calls or danger,
be never wanting there.”
George Duffield, Jr.
“Dudley Tyng served as his father’s assistant at Philadelphia’s Church of the Epiphany and was elected its pastor when his father retired in 1854. He was only 29 when he succeeded his father at this large Episcopal Church, and at first it seemed a great fit. But the honeymoon ended when Dudley began vigorously preaching against slavery. Loud complaints rose from the more conservative members, resulting in Dudley’s resignation in 1856.
He and his followers organized the Church of the Covenant elsewhere in the city, and his reputation grew. He began noontime Bible studies at the YMCA, and his ministry reached far beyond his own church walls. Dudley had a burden for leading husbands and fathers to Christ, and he helped organize a great rally to reach men.
On Tuesday, March 30, 1858, five thousand men gathered. As Dudley looked over the sea of faces he felt overwhelmed. “I would rather this right arm were amputated at the trunk than that I should come short of my duty to you in delivering God’s message,” he told the crowd.
Over a thousand men were converted that day.
Two weeks later Dudley was visiting in the countryside, watching a corn-thrasher in the barn. His hand moved too close to the machine and his sleeve was snared. His arm was ripped from its socket, the main artery severed. Four days later his right arm was amputated close to the shoulder. When it appeared he was dying, Dudley told his aged father: “Stand up for Jesus, father, and tell my brethren of the ministry to stand up for Jesus.”
Rev. George Duffield of Philadelphia’s Temple Presbyterian Church was deeply stirred by Dudley’s funeral, and the following Sunday he preached from Ephesians 6: 14 about standing firm for Christ. The editor of a hymnal heard the poem, found appropriate music, and published it. “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” soon became one of America’s favorite hymns, extending Dudley’s dying words to millions.”
“Make us, O blessed Master, strong in heart, full of courage, fearless of danger, holding pain and danger cheap when they lie in the path of duty. May we be strengthened with all might by Thy Spirit in our hearts.”
F. B. Meyer
to be a bold participant,
rather than a timid saint in waiting,
in the difficult ordinariness of now;
to exercise the authority of honesty,
rather than to defer to power,
or deceive to get it;
to influence someone for justice,
rather than impress anyone for gain;
and, by grace, to find treasures
of joy, of friendship, of peace
hidden in the fields of the daily
you give me to plough.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus