wickedness

Genesis 1, Ezra 1, Psalm 1

Welcome to the first installment of OT18. Read each chapter each day and you’ll read through the Old Testament this year.

Today the schedule calls for us to read Genesis 1, Ezra 1, and Psalm 1. This devotional is mostly about Psalm 1, so read that if you can’t read all three chapters.

God created us to be social creatures. It is natural for us to seek acceptance from others, to try to find a group where we fit in and belong. One way to belong is to do what others are doing. Find a group that seems like they might accept you, do what they do and sooner or later, they will accept you as “one of us.”

People have differing personalities so the desire for acceptance is stronger in some of us than others. But we all want to fit in somewhere. Our happiness is largely determined by the quality of our relationships, so we look for friends in order to be happy.

That desire to fit in can be a positive force for good in our lives, but it can also be destructive. I said above that, “our happiness is largely determined by the quality of our relationships,” but Psalm 1 says that a happy person (that’s what “blessed” means in this context) is one “who does not walk in step with the wicked.”

This statement runs counter to our instincts. If people accept us and offer us friendship, we naturally want to “walk in step” with them. Psalm 1:1 warns us, however, that the happiness we find in acceptance will not last if we find our acceptance with wicked people. Wickedness is always destructive. Ultimately, God will judge the wicked but even before that judgment, the Bible teaches us that wickedness leads us into destructive ways. The feeling of acceptance and safety we find among wicked friends will lead us to do wicked things to “keep in step” with them. Those wicked actions are like seeds buried in the ground; eventually, they will bear fruit in our lives and the fruit of wickedness will always be painful and destructive.

The contrast to those who seek acceptance from the wicked is found in verse 2. The happy person, the “blessed one” (Ps 1:1a) is the person “whose delight is in the law of the Lord.” Because God is eternal and perfect, his word points us to eternal principles that will always be right. They may bring short-term pain but, if we love God and his word, if you are one who “meditates on his law day and night,” you will find stability and fruitfulness in your life (v. 3). Meanwhile, the wicked seeds sown by the wicked will cause them to be blown away (v. 4), rejected in God’s judgment (v. 5). Ultimately, their ways will lead “to destruction.”

I’m glad you’ve subscribed to these devotionals and I hope they are a blessing in your life. My goals for them are (a) to help you be in the Word each day by making it as easy as possible and (b) to help you look at your life through the microscope of God’s word, think about what you see there, and make changes accordingly.

The first thing I want you to consider is, who do you spend your time with? Do you spend your time in God’s word and with his people? Or are you trying to keep in step with wicked people--ungodly friends as school, ungodly co-workers or family members, celebrities, actors, and journalists who care nothing about God? The beginning of a new year is a great opportunity to re-assess your life. Maybe it is time to look at where your time is spend and make some changes for God’s glory and for your own flourishing (v. 3).

I’d love it if we could discuss these readings everyday. If you have a thought or a question about one of the passages we’ve read--even one I didn’t write about--would you consider putting into the comments? Or, repost the day’s reading to your Facebook wall and ask your question or make your comment there. Others may join in and we could actually have a real discussion together about God’s word everyday.

I won’t nag you about this in these devotionals; it’s just a suggestion for you to think about. Thanks for reading and happy new year!

Proverbs 10:1-16

Today read Proverbs 10:1-16.

The word “righteous” means “that which is right” or “one who is right.” Being “right” requires some kind of standard for measuring the “rightness” of something. In the Old Testament, the thing that is “right” is God’s law because it came from God himself who is always righteous. So, when the book Proverbs talks about “righteousness” or a “righteous” person, it is describing someone who acts as God would act, or as God expects us to act as defined by his laws.

Today’s reading from Proverbs 10 refers to righteousness directly in some way or other in verse 3, 6, 7, 11, and 16. Each of these verses praises the benefits of righteousness--the righteous won’t go hungry (v. 3), wear a crown of blessings (v. 7), have their names used as blessings (v. 7), speak words that are “a fountain of life” (v. 11), and earn life as their wages (v. 16a). Wisdom, then, calls a person to a righteous life. It points people to God’s character as revealed in his word and says, “Live this way and you will be blessed in so many ways in your life.”

Let’s drill down on verse 7, though, and think about what it is saying. The verse says, “The name of the righteous is used in blessings, but the name of the wicked will rot.” What comes to mind when I mention the names:

  • Bernie Madoff
  • O. J. Simpson

These are two high profile examples of people who made a name for themselves--Madoff in finance and Simpson in professional sports. Both of them were heroes to many for a long time in their lives. Before his “investment firm” was exposed as a Ponzi scheme, many people thought Madoff had made them wealthy or increased their wealth. Some of these people may have raised a toast to him or named their children after him in years past. But while they were praising his investment prowess, he was spending their money, not investing it. His wicked ways eventually caught up with him and his name is now synonymous with fraud, fulfilling this proverb, “the name of the wicked will rot.” Something similar could be said about O. J. Simpson, among guys who became interested in football or rooted for him or bought his jersey or made money in Buffalo because of his popularity.

In addition to these high profile people, there are millions of smaller examples of people who exploited others for their own selfish reasons. Though they may have once had a good reputation, their name is now rotting because of their wicked ways.

Those who lived a righteous life, however, are remembered fondly by spouses, by their children and grandchildren, by their business partners or co-workers, by civic leaders and neighbors. I see this whenever I attend a funeral for someone who lived a righteous life; people line up to say good things about that person because “the name of the righteous is used in blessings.”

In addition to the fact that we will answer to God for how we live on this earth, there is something to be said for considering your reputation when you make moral choices. Is this decision something you want to be said about you or is it something you would never want to be known? These questions can guide us toward wiser decisions in our lives.

Let me add, of course, that nobody is completely righteous--that’s a fundamental truth of scripture. God’s grace covers our sins and even those who have harmed their reputation can rebuild it with repentance and through sustained obedience. Don’t let this proverb cause you to feel guilty; let it warn you and motivate you to wise--righteous--in the decisions you make with your life going forward.