I’m seeing green. I love this time of year as tiny sprouts of life sneak up through the moist soil to show their pointy heads. Winter and spring may be caught up in their annual skirmish, but spring is showing signs of victory today.
I think my hands working the soil late yesterday had something to do with waking up this morning to Psalm 1. I’ve memorized this Psalm (a few times) so it’s like an old friend who I visit frequently and joyfully and reverently.
Trees, fruit, leaves—what a beautiful picture of flourishing life, productivity, fruitfulness, abundance, stability. I desire these things in my life. I desire these things in the lives of my family and friends. They are the definition of “blessed” according to the Psalmist.
Blessed. The very first word of the Psalter.
Hebrew scholars tell us that this word means supremely happy or fulfilled. In a world of unhappy, lonely, fearful, broken, depressed, stressed out, burned out, hopeless, angry people, one might think the promise of supreme happiness would produce Black-Friday length lines at the local Christian book store as crowds grabbed for Bibles like half-priced iPhones. But there’s a reason that isn’t the case, and it has to do with the number two.
There’s an old Chinese saying that good things come in pairs. The Bible contains a lot of pairing and contrasting, and most of them—Chinese sayings aside—aren’t good. There’s the wide gate and the narrow gate, the barren tree and the fruitful tree, the house built on sand and the house built on rock, bad fruit and good fruit.
And in Psalm 1, there’s the wicked and the righteous. The righteous man, the one who is blessed with supreme happiness and fulfillment, is the one who delights in the law of the LORD and meditates on it day and night. He is the one that the Psalmist describes as a tree planted by streams of water, bearing fruit, and enjoying lush foliage.
Do you ever come away from another Christian and feel as if you just ate a great meal? Or maybe you come away saying, “What a loving person!” We probably all have relationships like that, and we’re drawn to these kind of people because they strengthen us and encourage us and deepen our relationship with the Lord. They are people yielding fruit in season—loving fruit, joyful fruit, peaceful fruit.
George Müller discovered an amazingly helpful thing after years of starting his day in prayer. For ten years he struggled with the same things most of us wrestle with when we wake up and try to pray. Müller explains, “I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour, on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc.; and often, after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then began really to pray.”
But then things changed when he began to realize that “ the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.” He did this by reading the word first, then meditating on it. He also noted that he didn’t read and meditate with the aim of teaching or ministering to others, but simply to feed his own soul. He found that this practice left him in a peaceful and happy state of heart by breakfast time. “Since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is, to obtain food for his inner man.”
Müller explained food for the inner man this way: “Now what is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.”
So why is happiness in God so important and why so needful in the morning? Happiness in God is the spring from which self-denial and sacrificial love flow. Think of all the things that come our way in the span of a day—unexpected demands on our time, temptations, crisis phone calls, squabbling children, broken washing machines, irritable family members, heavy traffic.
If I don’t start my day in the word and I don’t find my happiness in God, I’m probably going to spiral down quickly and no one will mistake me as a self-denying or sacrificially loving person.
If I do start my day in the word and find my happiness in God, then at the very least I’m going to have things to meditate on the entire day—lovely things, true things, holy things. Yes, my day will have distractions and temptations and disappointments, but this Psalm tells me I don’t have to wither in their presence. The Stream is nearby and my roots have dug deep into the soil of grace. Fruit is going to happen.
I rise before dawn. . .I hope in your words (Psalm 119:147)
[Müller, George . The Autobiography of George Müller (Kindle Location 2628). Gideon House Books. Kindle Edition. ]