Today is Thursday, and we’re approaching the close of the second week of Lent. My name is Gina, and I’ll be sharing the scripture, reflection and prayer time with you today.
Scripture: Psalm 1 (Living Bible)
The Bible is full of agricultural analogies. Over hundreds of years, the books of both the Old and New Testament were written by and among peoples who lived close to the land and animals. Their very survival depended on knowing how to cultivate fruit and vegetables, grow grain, and protect livestock from disease, accident, and wild animals.
The vast majority of ancient peoples were subsistence farmers or shepherds, which meant they only grew or gathered enough for their own family to eat day by day.
In some of today’s societies and cultures we live in places where larger corporations do most of the farming. The rest of the population purchases our harvest at markets and grocery stores. So we may give little or no thought to the possibility of starvation, or where our food will come from. Especially if our society has the means to import food from distant countries when their own region experiences a drought, early frost, or crop failure due to insects or disease.
But the people who lived during the time of these prophetic writings probably gave a lot of thought to their survival, and how to ensure their plants and animals produced their food, milk, and meat.
In this context, a Psalm about the necessity of resisting the so-called wisdom and advice of people who live in defiance of God takes on much greater weight than we might realize today.
The land of the Bible was a dry, arid climate. Droughts were frequent, rainfall infrequent. Water was critical to survival, both for the people to drink, and for their crops and animals to live and flourish.
Here, we are shown a picture of trees along a riverbank, their roots pushing through the soil to draw life-giving water from the rushing river below, and their branches heavy with juicy fruits. The Psalm writer says that we are like these trees—healthy, nourished, satisfied, bursting with fruit and green leaves—when we orient our very selves around God’s laws, and are always alert to obeying them. We are trees that live.
By contrast, those who defy God’s laws are compared with chaff. Chaff is any kind of disposable shell or husk from grain. It contains nothing that would nourish a human, and humans can’t digest it. When grain is harvested, this chaff is peeled away and burned, discarded, or fed to animals. In this Psalm, those who ignore God are like dead husks. Chaff is the picture of those who defy God as the one Who has outlined the ways we need to live to experience peace and prosperity with Him and each other.
This is no small matter. Like many other passages we’ve read during our Lent journey, God draws a picture of a life or death choice.
When God gathers up those who love Him at the end of time, those who didn’t love by obeying Him will be like chaff: blown away.
One of today’s other scripture readings, from Jeremiah, is almost an exact echo of this Psalm. The prophet says that a man who turns from God’s wisdom to put his trust in the wisdom of other men is like a stunted shrub in the desert. A dried up, withered shrub that is dying for lack of water and nourishment. But, Jeremiah continues, a man who trusts in God is “like a tree on a riverbank, roots reaching deep into the water,” producing “luscious fruit.”
Sometimes we might think of rules or laws as a drag on our freedom. Human law systems can certainly become oppressive, impossibly complex, and create new injustices while trying to correct existing ones. We find ourselves looking for ways around overbearing regulations that might help someone else but hurt us. We resent laws passed by out-of-touch or corrupt legislators that obstruct our prosperity, or restrict our freedom to worship God and talk about Him with others.
God’s laws are not like that. They are perfectly designed to set us free. It is man’s wisdom and ways that enslave us. Not God’s.
All around us are people who think they know the best way for us to live. They distort God’s laws to satisfy their desire for immediate gratification, or to be sheltered from the natural consequences of their ungodly choices.
Some say they are believers, but pick and choose laws from God’s Word, saying some are good, but the rest are misunderstood today, or that we can ignore any of God’s laws that seem to be too harsh or unloving according to our contemporary, cultural definitions of kindness or love. They are loose with their obedience.
Some openly rebel against God’s laws, determined that they know what is best for them and their societies. Others refuse to acknowledge God as the giver of these good laws.
As the Psalm writer says, we should avoid walking in the counsel of such people. Meaning, we can have relationships with them, but shun their advice when it counters God’s laws. When we walk with people who don’t know God, we should influence them, not the other way around.
Our reward is that the godly person experiences “delight” in thinking about God’s perfect wisdom and goodness embodied in His laws. Joy and peace come from rooting ourselves in the nourishing, life-giving soil and water of God’s Word, while those who refuse to obey His fully revealed laws will blow away as lifeless husks and shells.
It’s a stark picture, but thank God that in His goodness, He keeps warning us, holding nothing back that we need to know to make an informed choice about who we will serve and how we will live.
Let’s make sure we know and understand God’s laws, and follow them out of our love and gratitude to Him.
- Have I taken the time to study, understand and delight in God’s whole law, found throughout the Bible? How can I reach a deeper and more complete understanding of how God wants me to live?
- Have I found it convenient to skip over some of God’s laws, or have I reshaped them to make me feel more comfortable? If so, which ones and why?
- Is there an area of my life I have been disobedient, and need to begin putting God’s law into practice in my life?
We ask Your mercy and forgiveness for any way in which we have ignored, failed to understand, or even defied Your good and kind laws. We acknowledge that anything You ask us to do or not do is only for our good, for our peace and prosperity. We know that You would not give us laws that harm us. Forgive us for doubting You or thinking we know better.
Please help us to reach a more complete understanding of how You are asking us to live, not just in our words and actions, but in our attitudes and relationship with You.
Grant us spiritual, emotional and psychological nourishment through delighting in Your good laws, so that our witness will help others to experience the joy of obeying You, too.
Thank You for being a giver of good laws.
We pray this in the name of Jesus.
The additional scriptures for today’s reading are from: