Psalm 1 may well give us the key to the whole Christian life in its first sentence.
As I have studied Genesis 1-2 over the years, I have become more and more aware of the way it connects blessing and obedience. In Genesis 1-2, the commands are blessings and the blessings come in the form of command.
That same connection is evident in the first sentence of the Psalter, and that cannot be mere coincidence. As the first thing that God did for man in his creation was to bless him (Genesis 1:28), as the first words God ever spoke to man and that man ever heard from God were blessing (Genesis 1:28-30), so the very first word of the Psalter is “blessed” (Psalm 1:1). And, as in Genesis 1-2, blessing and obedience (delighting in the will of God) are connected. They go together. And, by the way, Psalm 1:1-2 is also the very picture of the opposite of what happened in Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve when they sought blessedness through disobedience.
The Psalter begins by explaining the way of blessedness. It explains that in which true blessedness –deep, rich, real, God-bestowed, God-centered happiness– consists. And it does so in the very first sentence. Psalm 1:1-2 “Blessed is the man” . . . [whose] “delight is in the law of the Lord.” Notice there is no opposition of blessing and obedience, or of delight and duty. The “have to” (rejecting sin, v.1, and knowing and doing God’s will, v. 2) goes hand in hand with the “want to” (delighting in God’s will, v. 2, and experiencing blessing as you do, v. 1).
Putting the “have to” and the “want to” together is one of the most important aspects of the Christian life.
Obedience is the place where sinners saved by grace enjoy God’s blessing. Because God’s commands are meant for our blessing, and because sin always brings with it curse, not blessing, the place God has designed for us to enjoy his blessing is in delighting in him and in his will and word. Or, to put it another way, when the “have to” and “the want to” meet, that is the place of blessedness.
The blessed person delights in knowing and doing the word and will of God. It seems to me that this is the whole key to sanctification. Indeed, it is almost the whole definition of sanctification: growing in delight in the will of God. Jerry Bridges has called it “the joy of fearing God.”
To delight in the law of the Lord, is to take pleasure in knowing and doing the will of God, to find joy in what God finds joy in, to want to do what you ought to do, to love what God loves, to want to be and do what God created and redeemed you to be and do.
And while there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to progressive sanctification, understanding and pursuing this is huge, HUGE, for the Christian life. It is striking and obviously important that this insight stands at the doorway into the Psalms. It reminds me of the exhortation of the metrical version of Psalm 34: “Make you his service your delight, He’ll make your wants his care.”
Lord, make me freely, willingly, relentlessly, increasingly, tenaciously to delight in your word, your law. To want to know it and love it and do it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.