How to Have a Happy New Year (Ps. 1)True Happiness
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Happy New Year! How many times have you heard that in the last couple of days? My question for you is, “Will it really be a happy new year for you?”
Leslie Basham: No matter how you feel at the beginning of 2013, Nancy Leigh DeMoss is going to show you how to set your mind on the things that matter most.
This is Revive Our Hearts for Wednesday, January 2.
Fernando Ortega singing:
I will delight in the law of the Lord, I will meditate day and night . . .
Leslie: She’ll talk about how not to just have a happy new year celebration, but how to have a truly blessed year ahead.
. . . satisfied, oh so satisfied . . .
Nancy: I looked on Amazon.com the other day and I saw that there are almost seventy-five thousand books available through Amazon with the word happiness or happy in the title. I think you could probably read all those books and still be an unhappy person, right? Happiness doesn’t come from reading books that tell you about how to be happy.
I want to start this new year by having us look together at a passage in God’s Word that tells us how to be happy. How to be happy today and tomorrow, next week, the next week, and throughout the course of this year. That passage which we’ll be spending the next several days on together is Psalm chapter 1. The first psalm. It’s one of the most familiar psalms in the Scripture, and it’s one I’ve loved over the years, but I’ve never before had the chance to teach it.
So, I’ve been studying it a lot over the last several weeks, the last few months, and am very excited about what the Lord has been unpacking in my own heart in relation to Psalm 1, and that we get to spend these next days looking at this chapter.
Let me invite you to turn to Psalm 1 if you’re in a place where you have your Bible, where you can open up. You’ll get the most out of this series if you’ll follow along in your own Bible. The Psalms, as you know, is the hymnal of Israel. It’s a collection of worship songs.
There are some different types of songs—different genres, as they say. There are some praise, thanksgiving songs in the “psalm book.” There are songs of lament—or complaint, as they’re sometimes called. They can be an individual lament (a person who’s going through a really difficult time and is struggling and pours his heart out to the Lord.}
There are some psalms of corporate lament, where the psalmist talks about the people of God who are going through a difficult time. And then there are what are known as “Messianic” or “royal” psalms. In the immediate, they have to do with the king . . . psalms about the king or centering on a prayer for the king of Israel.
In the bigger picture, as you step back, many of those psalms actually look ahead to the royal Son of David, the Messiah, so they’re known as Messianic psalms because they have significance that points to Christ.
Then, we have some psalms, such as Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 that are known as “penitential psalms.” These are psalms that focus on penance, on repentance, on seeking God for forgiveness.
Then, we have psalms that are known as “wisdom psalms.” They’re similar in many respects to the Proverbs. These wisdom songs teach us how to be blessed, how to go the right way, how to walk in the ways of God, and they warn us against walking in the wrong ways. Well, Psalm 1 is a wisdom psalm.
The psalms deal with every season and every experience of life. As we look at any psalm—including Psalm 1—we see that these passages point us to the wisdom of God. They point us to the ways of God. But the psalms also point us to Christ, who is the wisdom of God.
We’ll see a lot about righteousness in Psalm 1. We’re going to be seeing glimpses of Christ, who is our righteousness. He’s the One who justifies us. He’s the One who can make us righteous before a holy God.
Now, Psalm 1 is actually a preface or an introduction to the whole book of Psalms. This short psalm, six verses, serves as a foundation on which the whole rest of the book of Psalms rests. Charles Spurgeon said that we could consider this psalm, “the text upon which the whole of the psalms make up a divine sermon.”
So, here’s the text, and the rest of the psalms expound on and expand on this first psalm. We’re going to see in this psalm some themes that are found through the rest of the psalms, but also throughout the rest of Scripture. So, today as we start this series, I want to make a few general observations about the psalm, and then over the course of these next few days, we’ll dig in, in much greater detail.
I want to encourage you over these next days to be reading the psalm yourselves. Read it multiple times, maybe in different translations. And, over the next week-and-a-half, as we live together in this psalm, I want to encourage you to memorize it. You can do that.
It’s a great way to start this new year . . . memorize it, meditate on it, mull it over, and make it a foundation for your life in this coming year. Let’s read Psalm 1, which in my Bible is titled, The way of the righteous and the wicked. We’re going to see there are two kinds of people featured in this psalm.
In the first three verses, the first half of the psalm, we will see the character and the blessedness of the godly person. And then in the last half of the psalm, verse 4–6, we’re going to see the character and the ultimate doom of those who are the wicked or the ungodly (depending on which translation you have).
So, Psalm 1, beginning with verse 1:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (vv. 1–6)
Now, one of the most obvious things that stands out to me about this passage is that there is a whole series of contrasts . . . there are a lot of opposites. For example, we see two kinds of people, two ways of life—the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked.
One way is God-centered, the other way is self-centered. One leads to blessing, the other way leads to destruction. Matthew Henry summarized this psalm as speaking of the “holiness and happiness” of a godly man, and the “sinfulness and misery” of a wicked man. That pretty much sums up Psalm 1.
You can see that contrast if you look at the first word of the psalm—blessed—that’s the holiness and happiness of a godly man. Then, look at the last word of the psalm—perish. Do you see the contrast? The sinfulness and the misery of a wicked man, who will perish. “Blessedness” and “perishing.” That’s a contrast.
We see contrasted in this psalm two different destinies. We have the outcome and the future of the godly person, who will stand, who will endure, contrasted with the future and the destiny of the ungodly person. That person will perish. There’s a parallel passage to this Old Testament passage, found in the New Testament, in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus speaks of two gates that open to two very different roads.
Matthew chapter 7, beginning in verse 13, Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life.”
One way leads to destruction and one way leads to life, and the gate that leads to life is one that few find. Jesus continues in the Sermon on the Mount by talking about two different trees. We see this contrast between two ways of life. There’s a healthy tree, and there’s a diseased tree. The healthy tree bears good fruit, and the diseased tree bears bad fruit.
Then He talks about two different men, one who was wise and one who was foolish. You remember how those two men built their houses on two different foundations. The wise man built his house on the rock. The foolish man built his house on the sand. And there were very different results of those two different building projects.
The house built on the rock stood firm when the storms came. The house built on the sand fell and was demolished, destroyed, when the storms came. It’s interesting when you look at this psalm and at the contrasts in Matthew 7, there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground, does there?
That challenges us to ask, as we get into this series, “Am I walking in the way of the righteous, or in the way of the wicked?” The answer to that question determines the ultimate outcome of your life; it determines your eternal destiny. But the answer to that question also determines the outcome of your year, whether you will be happy in the year ahead or miserable—and we’ll talk a lot about that in the course of this series.
There’s another contrast found in this psalm, and you see it in verse 1 and 2. “The way of the godly,” is talked about, and there’s a contrast between what they do not do, which is found in verse 1, and what the godly do, which is found in verse 2. That’s another contrast.
Then again in these first couple of verses, there’s the contrast between the counsel of the wicked, seen in verse 1, and the law of the Lord, seen in verse 2. These are opposite of each other. So we see a series of contrasts, and we’ll talk about these over the next days.
Now, I want to focus a few moments on the first word of this psalm—the word blessed or blest. This Hebrew word is used twenty-six times in the psalms, and it’s only used of God blessing man. If we bless God, that’s a different word that is used. But this word, found in Psalm 1, is a word that’s used of God blessing man. It’s a word that means “happy.”
The secret of happiness is found in this psalm. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word that is used here for happy is the same word that is used at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . ." Happy are the poor in spirit. The Beatitudes are God’s secrets for happiness.
Here is an Old Testament set-up for the Beatitudes . . . this is the key to happiness. This is the key to blessedness. The word blessed in Psalm 1 is actually plural. It could be better translated “blessednesses.” Now, that would be a little hard to say, but it speaks of abundant blessing.
Also, it’s emphatic. “Blessed!” are those who walk this way. Charles Spurgeon spoke of this word, and he said it means, “Oh, the blessednesses, the double joys, the bundles of happiness, the mountains of delight.” Do you get the picture of happiness overflowing?
This is not sparse happiness; this is not scant happiness. This is abundant, overflowing happiness. You see this idea throughout the course of the psalms, this concept of God wanting to bless His people with abundant happiness. Let me read to you some other verses in the psalms that use this word.
Psalm 2:12: “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
Psalm 32:1: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
Psalm 34:8: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”
Psalm 40:4: “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie.”
Psalm 65:4: “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near to dwell in your courts.”
Psalm 84:12: “Oh Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you.”
Psalm 94:12: “Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord.” That doesn’t sound like abundant blessing, does it? But the Scripture says the one who is disciplined by God, the child of God who is chastened by the Lord, is blessed. Blessed is this person He teaches out of His law.
Psalm 112:1: “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments.”
And then, Psalm 146:5: “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.”
Now, would you say as you listen to those verses (and there are more like them) that God wants us to be blessed? He wants us to be happy, and He’s saying in this wisdom literature, including Psalm 1, “Here is the way to be truly happy . . . to have overflowing happiness."
Here’s the other observation I make from the list of verses I just read: Blessedness, true happiness, is seen in connection to the Lord. All of those verses had something to do with your relationship with the Lord. “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord . . . Blessed is the one who takes refuge in the Lord.” This is the happy condition of the people whose lives revolve around God.
It also says that there is no true happiness or blessing to be found in a life that is lived apart from Him. Now, you know people, as do I, who are giving no thought to God in their lives. They think they are happy; they think they are going to have a happy new year. They may have had a blast at parties over the weekend.
But there is no true, lasting, deep happiness or blessing to be found apart from Him.
Now, the blessings of Psalm 1 are conditional, as is true in other parts of Scripture. Verse 1 tells us there are certain things that will tear down your life. They will make you unhappy. They will keep you from experiencing God’s best in your life. They will set you on a course to misery.
Verse 2 tells us there are other things that will build up your life. They will make you fruitful, stable, that will give you greater capacity to enjoy God, to experience His best in your life. The psalm is saying, essentially, “Oh, the blessedness, oh the happiness, of the man or the woman who lives this way!”
Throughout this psalm, we’re going to see the centrality of the Word of God as the foundation for our happiness. It’s essential, if we’re going to have a blessed and a fruitful and a righteous life, that we base our life on the Word of God. We’ll talk a lot about the role of God’s Word in our lives as we dig into this psalm.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” Luke 11:28. So a life that is centered in the Word of God, a life of hearing God’s Word, obeying God’s Word will result in a blessed life.
Now, I want so much for you to be blessed in this new year that we’re going to issue once again this year—as we did last year—what we call a Daily Bible Reading Challenge. It’s very simple. We’re just encouraging our listeners to read the Bible every day in 2013. Some of you did that in 2012. Some of you started it last January and then you forgot about it and dropped off.
Whether you’ve ever done it before, whether you’ve heard it before, whether you’ve done it throughout the past year or not, this is a good time to start afresh, by taking this daily Bible reading challenge. We’re going to give you opportunities throughout these next several days to let us know that you want to take that challenge—to sign up for the Daily Bible Reading Challenge.
We’re not saying how much you have to read—there’s no specific reading plan (though at our website we have a lot of different reading plans available). I’m using one this year myself. I may tell you a little bit about that later in the series. But, just that every day throughout this year, your intention is to get some time in the Word of God.
And to help you with that challenge, once again we’re offering what we’ve called My Personal Bible Reading Journal. This is a resource available only through Revive Our Hearts, and it’s very simple. If you got one last year and you used it, you’ll need another one this year.
It has fifty-two weeks of the year. Each week is broken down into seven days, and each day gives you space to write down what you read that day, and just a few lines to jot down what stood to you about that passage . . . some way that God spoke to you, something that you noticed.
This is a book for you to journal your daily Bible reading. I want to encourage you to take advantage of this resource. We’ll be glad to send you one for a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Let us know that you’d like the Daily Bible Reading Journal, and you’d like to take this Daily Bible Reading Challenge in 2013.
Now, the kind of blessedness we’re talking about in Psalm 1 is not the kind that depends on your circumstances, or how you feel. This kind of happiness is not controlled or diminished by adversity that comes into your life. This psalm promises a source of blessedness and happiness that will last—it will endure regardless of what is going on around you.
Psalm 1 describes someone who remains satisfied and steady and steadfast in spite of whatever circumstances may blow up against his or her life. So, let me just say to you at the beginning of this new year that God wants to bless you. He wants you to be happy.
Now, that doesn’t mean that your circumstances will be easy this year. Some of you are in the midst of great difficulties now—and if you’re not, all of us will face some difficulties in the year ahead. For some of you, there are going to be some enormous difficulties—some suffering in the days ahead.
The fact is, we live in a broken world, and difficulties are inescapable. This is the world where we have allergies and colds and cancer and taxes and crime and divorce and broken promises, storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, physical, economic, relational disasters, natural disasters—all of the above—and more!
But here is the good news: God is redeeming this broken, fallen world. There’s this theme of blessing that runs through the Scripture from the very first chapter until the very last, and this can be a blessed and happy new year for you. Whether it will be or not will be based on which of these two courses you choose—the way of the righteous or the way of the ungodly.
The fact is, we’re most happy when we’re enjoying God and fulfilling His purpose for our life, to fill the earth with His glory. Psalm 16 tells us, “You make known to me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy [blessednesses] at Your right hand there are pleasures [there are delights] forevermore” (v. 11).
I heard one pastor preach on this recently. He was talking about this whole thing of the delights of God’s Word, and the delights of the person who walks in the way of righteousness. He said, “Let not the world look at us and say, ‘We have the pleasures, and they have the misery’ . . . rather, let the world look at us and say, ‘They have the pleasures. I want to know the source and the fountain of those joys.’”
Fernando Ortega has written a song based on Psalm 1. It’s called "I Will Delight." I want to take a few moments now for us to listen to that song and just use these next few minutes as a chance to meditate on this Psalm 1 and the delights of knowing and walking in the path of the righteous. Let’s listen to this song:
I will delight in the law of the Lord, I will meditate day and night.
Then like a tree firmly planted I’ll be grounded in Your Word.
Blessed is the one who follows the way of the Lord.
Blessed is the one.
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing you how to make the phrase “Happy New Year” real. Psalm 1 shows us what true happiness looks like, and she’s leading us through it in this eight-day teaching series called, How to Have a Happy New Year.
Let me tell you how to get a copy of the resource Nancy told you about. We’ll send you My Personal Bible Reading Journal when you donate any amount to support Revive Our Hearts. Call us at 1-800-569-5959, or donate any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com.
Small choices can have big consequences. Every wise decision leads you toward true happiness, and every unwise choice leads away from true happiness. Nancy will explain why tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.
Topics: Devotional Life