The Psalm That’s Stuck on Repeat

I’m in a bit of a weird spot in my Bible reading at the moment. When it comes to reading plans, I generally stick to a tried and true approach. I call it the “start at the beginning, read to the end and start over again” approach. It’s a good method, and one I highly recommend.

But this past year—actually, the last couple of years—has been a bit more scattered than I would prefer. Some of it can be chalked up to the typical struggles we all face. Trying to get more than a verse or two read, hoping that what I’m reading will actually stick in my head. Reading time that feels perfunctory rather than investing in my relationship with the Lord. But what’s happening at this moment is a little different: I can’t get past one psalm, the first psalm at that.

Psalm 1 on Repeat

Whenever I open my Bible, I keep finding myself drawn back to this one passage. Now, really, this isn’t a big problem. I adore the Psalms. I spend more there than I do virtually in any other book of the Bible. But Psalm 1 right now feels like a song stuck on repeat: even when I want to listen to something new, I can’t get past it. Which almost certainly means there’s something the Lord is trying to impress upon me that I need right now.

This psalm encourages the hearer or reader to avoid the lifestyle of those who reject the Lord. The one who “does not follow the advice of the wicked,” who does not “stand in the pathway with sinners, or sit in the assembly of scoffers” (Psalm 1, NET). This person is blessed. He or she doesn’t follow the ways of the world. Instead, this person knows that the ends never justify the means, refusing to live and work as those around us might, manipulating systems and circumstances for their own benefit.

Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands;
he meditates on his commands day and night.
He is like a tree planted by flowing streams;
it yields its fruit at the proper time,
and its leaves never fall off.
He succeeds in everything he attempts.

Psalm 1:2-3, NET

This blessed person is focused on obeying the Lord. He or she sees the life-giving truth of God’s Word for what it is, and chases after it—even if it doing so costs them in the short term. And that part is important. The psalmist contrasts the blessed one with the scoffers in verses 4–6, reminding us that they are like wind-driven chaff that cannot withstand God’s judgment (Psalm 1:4–5). Whatever they gain in the short term will inevitably turn to ash.

Playing by the World’s Rules

So why has this passage been on repeat in my reading? Because I have seen so many of my fellow Christians fall into this trap. What has led them to it, I’m not always sure, but when I see friends and acquaintances falling into the trap of playing by the world’s rules—it grieves me.

What does that look like right now? While not exhaustive, here are just a few that come to mind:

  • Open mockery of people confused and lost in sin (especially around current issues related to gender & sexual orientation)
  • Spreading misinformation and rejoicing in the suffering of others along political lines (conspiracy theories around the attack on Paul Pelosi, recasting the insurrection on January 6, 2021 as something other than an insurrection)
  • Conflating earthly power with spiritual realities (those advocating for so-called Christian Nationalism)
  • Attempting to conflate a vote for one political party over another with fidelity to Christ (despite no party being an accurate reflection of Christian values)
  • Treating essential Christian character traits (kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, etc) as weak and capitulating to the surrounding culture (see any recent discussion on “winsomeness” or Tim Keller)

And that’s not even talking about persecution complexes around illegal and immoral activities or the re-return of misogynistic goofiness claiming to be the true form of Christian teaching on male/female dynamics.

When Our Convictions Are Compromised

Now here’s the thing. Christians must hold firmly to our convictions—the beliefs that shape how we relate to the world. We can’t compromise the truth that God intentionally created us male and female, equally made in the image of God. We must resist the pressure to capitulate on God’s good design for human sexuality—between one man and one woman in the context of marriage—because it is designed to display God’s glory. The same goes for championing a holistic view of the sanctity of human life at every stage of life. On and on I could go, but I hope you get the point.

But holding to our convictions doesn’t mean fighting fire with fire or whatever cliché you might want to use. If we mock and jeer and rejoice in others misfortune, are we not sitting among the scoffers? Are we not merely standing, but actively walking the pathway of sinners? And if we are, where will it lead us?

Refuse to Reject the Lord’s Ways

It can be a struggle to know what to do in the face of all this. There is a part of me that is tempted at times to stick my head in the sand. To use wanting to live a quiet life as a way to avoid all the mess, just as it’s equally tempting to give in and play by the world’s rules.

But that’s not what the Lord has in mind for any of us.

Instead, as Christians, we must refuse to reject the Lord’s ways, both in terms of where we’re being asked to compromise—and in how we respond. We need to reflect the glory and goodness of Jesus in our interactions, especially on contentious issues. It will not be easy, and it does not come with the promise of earthly success. But the Lord will guard our ways, allowing our efforts to bear fruit at the right time—and for us to enjoy his reward for us when we hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).

Photo by Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books including the Big Truths Bible Storybook, Epic Devotions, Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation, and the End of Poverty, and Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World. His next book, published by Lexham Press, will release in Spring 2023.