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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, September 11, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 1

Happy are those
   who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
   or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
   planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
   and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so,
   but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
   nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
   but the way of the wicked will perish. (NRSV)

Widely believed to serve as a sort of introduction to the psalms as a whole, Psalm 1—like Proverbs—emphasizes following God’s Torah (law, instruction) as a means to a prosperous life. Although the Apostle Paul will later make clear the limits of our ability to produce right living and righteousness from following the law (something that Old Testament books like Job explore as well), Psalm 1 is still important for the way in which it teaches us to be prudent about how we choose to live our lives.

Though God’s love and grace are not contingent on our actions, our actions nonetheless have a tangible impact on ourselves and neighbors—something that the biblical text emphasizes again and again, most clearly in Jesus’ command to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength—and to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Mark 12:28–31). New Testament letters like James wrestled with this seeming contradiction in Paul’s thinking: “What good is it if you say you have faith but do not have works?” James poses at one point in his letter.

Although not directly addressing James, Paul responds to this question in a sort of chicken-and-egg fashion: in Romans 6, 7, and 8 he writes that it is because we have been freed from the law by God’s grace that we are now free to follow the law through the gift of God’s Spirit. The primacy of God’s love and grace teaches us to live by love and grace—and so once more we find delight in God’s commandments, just as the psalmist of Psalm 1 wrote.

Holy God, inspired by the incredible depth of your love and grace, may you teach and guide me to live according to your commandments. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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