KMC – Preacher Juan Smith – 19.9.2021
There is no indication of when this psalm was written or who wrote it. But it is a fitting opening for the Book of Psalms in that it emphasises the message Christ-followers find repeatedly in the pages of Scripture, namely there are two ways those who follow Christ can live their lives. Every person has a choice to follow God or to reject Him and they alone are responsible for the choice they make. This theme is repeated by Jesus in the New Testament as He describes the blessings of choosing God and the consequences of rejecting Him. The one who follows Christ is blessed, denoting contentment and fulfilment. The Hebrew word is plural, indicating that there is more than one blessing available to any person, whoever they are. The psalm identifies certain behaviours which the one who decides to follow Christ does not do (vv 1-2). Instead, the Christian will enjoy spending time reading the word of God, thinking about what they have read. Scripture needs to be read and considered at any time of the day and night, not read and laid aside. As a result of such time spent with God in the Word such a Christian will flourish and live in such strong faith that they will bear fruit for God. But there is another way to live. Nothing that can be said about the Christ follower is true of the one who rejects God. It may seem that, at times, they are as blessed or more blessed than the Christian, but such blessings are fleeting, like chaff which is easily blown away. Those who make this choice will be judged and found wanting by God (Daniel 5:27). God knows the decisions every person makes. Those who follow Him receive His peace and protection. But those who reject Him may seem to be on a comfortable path, but it is a path that leads to destruction.
Jeremiah was born about 645BC into a priestly family who lived in Anathoth about six kms north of Jerusalem. Jeremiah was called by God to give God’s prophecies when he was about 18 years old. His prophetic ministry lasted about 40 years when Jerusalem was destroyed (587BC). He lived at the same time as Zephaniah, Habakkuk and Ezekiel. The exile he refers to was the one that carried Daniel and his friends away from Jerusalem. Jeremiah’s message is one of renewal, rebuilding and restoration. The people are to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow what is wrong and to build and plant in a new beginning. This passage begins a collection of what theologians call ‘Jeremiah’s complaints’. Life was not easy for the prophet. He faced a plot against him by those who lived in his village. They did not like his message and wanted him to stop prophesying in the Lord’s name. It may have been that, for historical reasons they did not want attention drawn to them and their village when Jeremiah stood in front of the authorities in Jerusalem and so they planned to silence him themselves. But they did not take into account that Jeremiah was speaking the Lord’s message. Their plot may have been successful if God had not warned him about it.
James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a
James recommends that all those who teach the Good News should be gracious and gentle. Any other attitude would be arrogance, controlled by selfish and personal ambition. Many of the rabbis were arrogant. They forced their teaching and opinion on those whom they taught whereas in fact it is the student’s choice whether to accept the teaching or not. It is essential for anyone who teaches or preaches to remain humble. The wrong kind of teaching is fanatical; tries to annihilate any opponents; is selfishly ambitious wanting its own opinions to be accepted, rather than the truth; and is arrogant. It is essential for a genuine teacher to be humble and more aware of what they do not know than of what they know. The wrong kind of wisdom is an animal instinct, worldly, and is a product of Satan’s work. It drives people apart. But true wisdom comes from God:
• It is pure
• It draws people closer to one another and to God
• It helps people to discern when they need to make allowances – sometimes mercy is greater than the Law.
• It is willing to yield in that it is always willing to listen to others points of view.
• It is willing to reach out to anyone in trouble, whether that trouble is caused by something beyond their
control or of their own doing
• It is unwavering – Christian wisdom is built on Christian certainties which are unchangeable.
• It is honest, without hypocrisy.
For all this to exist in any group of Christ-followers there must be unity in which people make an active attempt to build the right relationships between the members of the group and God. James asks a basic question: Is your aim in life to submit to the will of God or to fulfil your own ambition? He goes on to warn of the futility of living a life that is driven by selfish ambition. Later in the chapter, James again warns against the evil the tongue can do.
Jesus was travelling with His disciples. At this time He wanted to spend time with them alone so He could teach them. He did not want to attract crowds of people. He knew that He did not have much time left and that the disciples still did not understand what He had been trying to teach them. The summary of His teaching, as recorded by Mark, focuses on Jesus’ betrayal, death and resurrection. Even though this is the second time such a conversation is recorded (Mark 8:23) the disciples still did not understand. They were reluctant for ask for further clarification. Jesus challenged them when they had reached Capernaum as to what they had been arguing about. The disciples were ashamed to tell Him as they had been fighting about who was the greatest amongst them. As far as they were concerned some important event was going to happen when they reached Jerusalem. They understood it had to do with the kingdom of Heaven and that meant power and prestige. Didn’t it? Yet deep down they knew they were wrong for, once again, they were reluctant to answer His question. When the discussion took place, they thought Jesus could not hear and so it was acceptable to discuss such things. But now that it was evident Jesus knew about it, it suddenly seemed shameful. But Jesus had another lesson to teach them. A rabbi would sit down when he wanted to teach something important and now Jesus sits down and gathers His disciples around Him. He told them if they wanted to be first, they should be last and servant to all. They were not to seek honour but defer to one another. This example of the economy of Heaven turns human ideas upside down. Jesus did not abolish ambition but re-framed it. Perhaps the disciples showed signs of still not being able to understand for Jesus showed them what He meant. He called a child to Him. Here was the Miracle Worker standing next to a small child who had no influence at all! Then He lifted the child up and held him in His arms. He showed His acceptance of the child. The lesson revealed that no one could accept the Father and reject Jesus. If anyone welcomed One he welcomed the Other.
Points to ponder
• Psalm 1 describes two ways of living. Which way are you following? How do you know this is your way?
• There are times when opinion in the church is divided on one matter or another. How would you deal with
this? What action could you take personally to restore agreement and peace into the situation?
• How do you handle conflict? How ready are you to support someone who is being criticised – in their
presence – and in their absence? How does your response change when you think they are in the wrong – or in
• Every one of us holds or has held a position of influence at some stage of our lives, whether it is in our
families, our congregation, our workplace. Looking at the situation after you have read and considered
these Scriptures, would the way you exerted that influence change? Why/why not?
• How do you respond to those who have ‘pipped you at the post’? And what is your response to those who have
come second to your first? Why do you respond in this way? How does the thought that Jesus sees each of
your responses make you feel? What changes would you make in the light of this thought?
• If you are considering this in a small group, how can the group help you with the struggles you have named? If you are alone, who can you go to for help and support with your struggles.