Cows are fascinating and boring creatures. I think everyone knows that cows have 4 stomachs. But do you know why? It's because of grass. Grass is hard to digest, hence why we don't eat it. Cows have to eat grass, mix it with their saliva, basically vomit it back up again, and chew it...four times. This process seems laborious, and time consuming, not to mention inefficient. But cows are able to do something with grass that we can't. They find life in grass. By spending time chewing on what they have already eaten, cows are able to be healthier, and eat a hostile food to our stomachs.
God calls us to do something similar. We are called to meditate on his law day and night. God's law seems to be a spiritually hostile piece of scripture. You could argue that it is the grass of all of scripture. Its not easy to digest, it isn't appetizing, its mundane. The truth is the law seems to be restricting and not life giving.
So how can we find life in the law?
Pslam 1 says this:
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;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 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.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
David lays out two paths for us in this passage. One is of the wicked. This is man's plan, the one that Adam and Eve chose in the garden, the one Noah chose after the flood, the one Abraham chose by fathering a child with his servant, one Israel chose in the wilderness, and the one we choose every time we sin. This plan leads to death, dispare, and all kinds of hurt.
The other path is that of the righteous. This is God's plan. The one where He told Eve that her offspring would crush the head of the serpent, the one where He promised Abraham that his children (better child) would bless the nations, the one where He delivered Noah and promised to withhold His wrath from man kind, the one where He saved Israel from their slavery, and the one where He sent His son to die so that we could be one with Him again.
In his commentary on Psalms, Alexander Maclaren, a baptist preacher from the 1800’s, and author of many commentary, communicates;
“If a man has not God’s uttered will for his governor, he goes into the category of ‘wicked.’ That sounds harsh doctrine, and not corresponding to the innumerable gradations of character actually seen. But it does correspond to facts, if they are grasped in their roots of motive and principle. If God be not the supreme delight, and His law sovereign, some other object is men’s delight and aim, and that departure from God taints a life, however fair it may be.”
What we see are two paths, one that leads to God and one that leads to death. I may not seem pleasant, but just because we don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s true.
So why don't we naturally love the law?
First of all it is against our nature to love what is right. We are sinners through and through, we are opposed to good things, unless they selfishly help us gain something we want.
People of Chaff
We are like the chaff that David mentions in verse four. We are flighty by nature and we become unstable. When satan tries to temp the one who isn’t firmly rooted in the word - like the tree is - we become easily subdued and we are quickly gone. David paints a bleak picture of this wicked person. In verse one, we see this natural progression that goes from walking, then standing, then sitting. I see this as us trying to scratch the itch left by the fall. We desire belonging (walking), identity (standing), and purpose (sitting).
These people end up in a place that John Calvin, one of the greatest expositors of scripture, and early father of the Protestant Reformation summarizes as, a “desperate obstinacy” where the person finally resorts to a life where they don’t care about right or wrong only longer.
In his book, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis talks about this progression through the lens of grumbling by saying,
“Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others... but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left" to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God "sending us" to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE hell unless it is nipped in the bud.”
When we hate God’s law we find ourselves in a progression that will lead to our death and distraction. This is because we were not made for sin. Sin is a corrosive agent to the human soul that - with prolonged exposure to it - dissolves the person and leaves only sin. We become the sin that entangles us, but in eternity there will no longer be any fun to have had in our sin.
Rather than finding life in the law the wicked will find death in the law.
So how can we love the law?
We have to become like a cow. We need to meditate on scripture. The Puritan Edmund Calamy (1600–1666) defined biblical meditation as “dwelling upon the mercies we receive and chewing upon the promises.” Biblical meditation looks like the constant “chewing” of scripture that we have written into our heart.
When we talk about meditation it can be confused with eastern meditation like we see in Hinduism or Buddhism. This is not the the same type of meditation that the bible talks about.
Deepak Chopra, a prominent new aged author and writer decribes eastern meditation like this;
“As you repeat the mantra, it creates a mental vibration that allows the mind to experience deeper levels of awareness. As you meditate, the mantra becomes increasingly abstract and indistinct, until you’re finally led into the field of pure consciousness from which the vibration arose.
Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from the thoughts filling your mind so that perhaps you may slip into the gap between thoughts. The mantra is a tool to support your meditation practice. Mantras can be viewed as ancient power words with subtle intentions that help us connect to spirit, the source of everything in the universe.”
Biblical meditation is not an emptying of your mind but rather and intentional filling of it.
The Beauty in the Law
The truth is that the law of God is quite beautiful. Gods law reveals who He is. The law is not simply a set of rules. They are the very character of God.
Look at the commandments. God tells us don’t commit murder, this is because God is a God of life (John 6:47-48). When God tells us not to bear false witness, it is because He is truth (John 14:6). When God tells us not to commit adultery, it is because God is a God who is faithful to His covenants (Leviticus 26:9, Nehemiah 1:5, Psalm 106:45).
Loving the law means that we love the God who gave us the law.
Meditation is the act of taking scripture and writing it on our hearts.
John Piper, noted author, and theologian, puts it like this,
“If you have ever wondered, What is hour-by-hour walking in fellowship with the living God? the answer is: it is his speaking to you by his Word through your memory and meditation and illumination and application and your speaking to him words of thanks and praise and admiration and desire and seeking for help and guidance and understanding. The Word is the basis for your hearing him and for his hearing you. The depth and solidity and certainty of your walk with God and your communion with God will rise and fall with whether God's own written Word is the warp and woof of the fabric of your fellowship.”
What John Piper, and I am trying to say is our spiritual intimacy with God is dependent on our meditation of His word.
Four Stranded Garland
A very helpful tool in doing this is Martin Luther’s "four stranded garland.” The idea is that you ask yourself four simple questions as you read Scripture. These have greatly helped me write scripture into my heart.
What did you learn from the text?
What from the text makes you want to praise God?
What do you need to confess now that you have read this passage?
What do I need to ask God for now that you have read this passage?
The truth is we can find life in the law, and this four stranded garland is one helpful way for us to do that.
How can meditation actually change me?
David talks about the righteous person being like a tree planted by streams of water. Trees are naturally stable. They survive each year. They grow even in unfavorable conditions.
When your life is so deeply burrowed into truth the temptations and trials you endure - may hurt you - but it won’t take you down.
Meditation isn’t a practice to help you become a better person. Meditation is an act of grace to help you become the person God has called you to be.
Neglecting meditation leaves Christians spiritually famished. Unfortunately, this is the case in many churches today. Our people look liked starved cows that cannot and haven’t chew their cud properly. This presents a church that Satan isn’t afraid of.
When sleeping christians wake up, and show up, to meditation on God’s word, we will see a church that is a threat to Hell and Satan.
The Gospel in Meditation on the Law
David ends the first Psalm by talking about the judgment that will come to the wicked. The bad news is we are the wicked. We are born in sin, we choose sin, and we love it. We can’t stand before the judgement of God alone. This is why God came down as Jesus to fulfill the law for us (Matthew 5:17). Not only was Jesus the only human who could keep the law - as God - He is the law Himself.
I want us to take the words Paul gave to the church in Rome to heart.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Because Jesus fulfilled the law, and died under the law, we can delight and find life in the law.