Dr. Rick Flanders
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth for his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
“The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
(The First Psalm)
The first chapter of the Psalter is a very important song for everyone, and it sets the table for the reading of the longest book of the Bible. Psalm 1 contrasts the prosperity of the “righteous” with the useless lives of the “ungodly.” But its few lines give us far more than this contrast. They give us the foundation for building a prosperous and fruitful life with eternal significance. I think it is the perfect song for Millennials.
You have heard of the Millennials, haven’t you? This is a term used to designate the latest generation of Americans that have come to young adulthood. The label was apparently coined by authors Strauss and Howe whose books have presented a sociological analysis of recent American history based on designating and discerning the most recent of American “generations.” You have heard the common names that have been given to this parade of generations, haven’t you? There were “the Greatest Generation,” who survived the Great Depression and World War Two, and their children, “the Baby Boomers.” We have also learned about “the Silent Generation,” which was born to the Boomers, and then “Generation X.” The “Millennials” are sometimes called “Generation Y,” and are made up of people who were reaching adulthood when the new millennium began.
It is interesting that the Bible also evaluates masses of people based upon their generations. The prophecy of Agur, found in Proverbs 30, contains such an evaluation.
“There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.
“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, yet is not washed from their filthiness.
“There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.
“There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.”
Apparently a rebellious generation is followed by a self-righteous generation, which spawns a proud generation, followed by a vicious generation. Each generation of men is characterized by something bad.
The generation of Jews that rejected and crucified Christ was called by Him and others, “a wicked and adulterous generation” (Matthew12:39, 16:4), a “generation of vipers” (Matthew 3:7, 12:34, 23:33), “an evil generation” (Luke 11:29), and “this wicked generation” (Matthew12:45). On the Day of Pentecost, when Simon Peter admonished the Jews of Jerusalem to repent of slaying the Christ, he appealed to them by saying, “save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). Men must not only be saved from their sins, but also from their generation. Every generation of every nation has had perverted and sinful ways. It may also be characterized by certain virtues (such as the high moral standards of the Victorians and the courage and stamina of the Greatest Generation), but each generation, including mine and yours, adopts attitudes and practices that send them to destruction. Jesus said, “Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). The majority goes down the road to destruction, Jesus said. It is true of every generation.
Those who comment on such things say that Millennials are characterized by these traits: tolerance, narcissism, detachment from religion and the institutions of society, interest in acquiring wealth, “pragmatic idealism,” teamwork, social progressivism, postponement of the traditional rites of passage into adulthood (such as marriage and leaving home), and the use of technology in daily life. Millennials, of course, are people, and not just representatives of a demographic group. And they, like everybody else, need help in achieving success and happiness in their lives. Already some of them are following their peers down a road that will lead them nowhere, or to disaster. They, just as every member of every generation that has lived before them, must have help that will lift them above the problems of their particular crop of people. That help is in Psalm 1. It tells us what to do. Read it again, and see what it is saying to us.
STOP FOLLOWING THE WRONG PEOPLE
The First Psalm is a song about success. “Whatsoever he [the man that follows these principles] shall prosper,” we are promised (verses 1-3). “His leaf also shall not wither” (verse 3). And yet the first principles we are taught here are negative, and not positive. The man who is “blessed” does not heed the counsel of the ungodly, nor live like sinners do, nor adopt a scornful attitude toward the things of God. The fact is that people who live their lives without God do not experience good lives. Young adults, unfortunately, have not lived long enough to know this fact by experience and observation. They must take it as true from godly people in their lives, and from the Bible. Men and women may earn fortunes, or win medals, or get famous through a self-centered, godless philosophy of life, but they will not find peace or joy. Many of the people who are admired most by Millennials died by suicide or drug overdose. Doesn’t this tell you something? The Millennial philosophy of life is marred by its attention to ideas that don’t work and have never worked to make life truly happy. So don’t follow your peers off the cliff! Read again verse one of Psalm 1, and take it to heart.
GET INTO THE BIBLE
Down through the centuries, one characteristic common to those who have made life work in spite of disaster in the lives of their peers has been that they believed and followed the Bible. Argue if you will against the Bible being, as it claims to be, the Word of God, but you cannot successfully disprove the fact that folks who follow the Bible make good lives. Verse 2 of Psalm 1 says that the blessed man, instead of following the advice or example of ungodly people, delights “in the law of the LORD,” which is a term for the holy scriptures. He meditates on the words of the Bible “day and night.” In order to do this, he must systematically read the scriptures, learn what they mean, and even memorize the words in order to mull them over in quiet moments of the day. He follows a plan to change his way of thinking in order to change the way he lives. That plan is evidently the one explained in Psalm 119:1-16 (read it).
The way a person finds the good life and the true God has always been the same. It is the same way now as it was a century ago, and a millennium ago. That way is laid out in the Bible, and you can find it if you will search for it (look at Proverbs 2:1-9). Drop out of the “now” generation and join the “forever” generation (First Peter 2:1-10) by getting into the Bible and finding God in its pages. Go to a Bible-teaching church, and learn the marvels of God’s truth. Find a Bible-believing preacher and let him guide you along the way. Ask God to open your eyes and teach you His eternal truth.
PREPARE FOR ETERNITY
“The ungodly are not so,” is the way the last half of the Millennials’ Psalm begins. Verses 1 through 3 promised us that a man who rejects the sinful influences around him, and delights in the Word of God, studying it and meditating on its words, will prosper in whatever he does and will flourish in every way (find similar sayings by Jesus in John 15:1-7; He called it living “more abundantly” in John 10:10). Those who live another way “are not so”; the godly and the ungodly do not experience the same amount of success in life. They “are like the chaff which the wind driveth away” (verse 4). But their problems are not in this life alone. Verses 5 and 6 take us into eternity, where we find the righteous in one place and the ungodly in another. Sinners will not “stand in the judgment,” but rather will be among those who will be judged for their sins. They will not be “in the congregation of the righteous,” for “the way of the ungodly shall perish.” When you get into the Bible, you are not only confronted with issues about the way you live (although that will certainly happen). You are also confronted with your relationship to God, which determines where you will live forever.
The next psalm (the Psalms were songs given by God to His people to meet special needs in their lives) tells us about the chaos in the lives of every generation (take the time to read Psalm 2). It also gives the answer: making peace with God by kissing His Son (verses 6-12). It is a kiss of love and a kiss of faith. Before the writing of Psalm 2, it was not known that God has a Son, but this phenomenal song not only tells us about Him, but also introduces us to Him! Of course, thousands of years later we know that His name is Jesus. He came to be the Savior of the world. Psalm 3:8 says that “Salvation belongeth to the LORD.” We cannot save ourselves from our sins by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. God must rescue us from what we are and what we deserve. God is “not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee,” we read in Psalm 5:4. That’s why there is a Hell. If men get what they deserve, they don’t get Heaven. If you get to Heaven, you will get there by mercy and not by justice (read Psalm 5:5-12). Unredeemed sinners will suffer for their sins, but those who are redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross will “ever shout for joy.” Incidentally, these songs were written by David as he was moved by the Holy Spirit a millennium before the birth of Christ, and the death and resurrection of Jesus are predicted in detail in Psalm 22 (read this one, too). It was always God’s plan for His Son to come to earth on the mission to save mankind.
Psalms 2:12, 4:5, and 5:10-12 say that we are saved when we put our trust in the Lord for our salvation. That’s something you should do right now. The New Testament scriptures call it believing on Jesus (look up John 1:10-13, 3:16, 3:36, and 6:35-48). Call on Jesus’ name and trust Him now to do for you what you cannot do for yourself: save you from your sins and give you eternal life. Then you will have a chance to build your life, your marriage, your work, and your peace of mind on solid ground. Don’t just follow your generation. Follow Jesus Christ.
Evangelist Rick Flanders