On this Father’s Day I have to tell you that in my mind there has never been a greater day to be a man seeking after the things of God than this day in which we live. You may wonder how I could say such a thing with all of the negative press that men have been getting over the past few years. That is a fair question and one that deserves our attention.
Men have been getting a lot of press during the past few years, much of it exposing our sin and expounding upon our shortcomings. We read how we failed our wives and children, floundered in our pursuit of integrity and honor, and how we have fumbled around with no direction and no purpose in life. I don’t need to recite the detailed lists of ways in which we have failed – we are well aware of our foibles, failures, and the ways we have fallen.
I do want to say to you that God has shown me that my failure have been greatly multiplied when I have walked contrary to the will of God for my life. I have learned the hard way that life lived apart from God is a sure-fire guarantee for heartache, shame, and failure no matter how rosy the path or how promising the prospects may have appeared at first. I have known the road I should take, and yet I have chosen another road, a dangerous road that has hurt many and could have hurt even more had it not been for the grace of God. I’m sure that many of you men can identify with what I am saying.
With that said, let me reiterate that today is a great day for us as men. The reason why I believe this to be true is because of the widening gap in the two roads that are being held before us as the path for men to pursue in this life. These two roads are diametrically opposed to one another and yet they are the most talked about avenues that men are considering today. The roads are self-fulfillment and submission.
Our society is working overtime to lure men and entice men down the road of self-fulfillment. The road of self-fulfillment is paved with pleasure with its ornately decorated avenues, its seductive sounds of success, its titillating images, and its erotic and exotic sensations. Have you noticed how everything under the sun aimed at attracting men is being packaged with an erotic cover and exotic labels? We as men, and our sons, are being told that real manhood is upheld with the twin pillars of sex and escape, the twin sisters of pleasure. The superhighway of self-fulfillment is filled with buyers and sellers who hock their wares and empty their pockets trying to find something to relieve their burdened hearts and fill their emptiness.
Scantily clad women, if they are scantily clad at all, look at us through the TV screen, the movie screen, in the pages of magazines, and at events we frequent with our sons and daughters and seek to lure us into their trap. Lonely men, empty men, perverted men, and misled men follow like a puppy listening for its master’s voice. Madison Avenue knows that when a man is teetering on the edge of an abyss, searching for purpose in life, and walking apart from God’s will then that man is vulnerable to his greatest weakness.
Through the years of working with men, listening to men, and being a man myself, I have learned that, for so many of us men, sex is a stumbling block. It is the weak link in the chain of manhood. It is the Achilles heel of manhood. It is our point of vulnerability. Yet, if you listen to the voices of society, if you turn your ear to the so-called authorities, and you pay close attention you will quickly learn that the chief end of man is to experience self-fulfillment that is closely tied to success and sexual ecstasy.
This is what we and our sons are being told, but what we are not being told is the dark side of what society tells us is our soul’s delight. What society is selling as our soul’s delight in actuality is our soul’s demise. There is a wake of destruction and death that follows those who choose this path of pleasure and self-fulfillment. You will never see the stories of men who have lost it all in their pursuit of erotic experiences. You won’t hear stories like the ones I know of young men who bought into the lie that sexual freedom brings fulfillment. You won’t hear about the time a promising young man’s funeral was held at First Christian Church in Plano, Texas. Bobby had ridden the rocket ship of success in the modeling world and was one of Benetton’s lead models. He drank it all in, enjoyed his new wealth by splurging on women and good times. Needless to say, Bobby was good looking. He was a cover guy with startling good looks and a body like a Greek god. The women were all over him and he loved every minute of it. But, one day, after the new had worn off and he had found himself empty, Bobby ended his life.
You won’t hear the stories like the one I heard recently in our Tuesday morning Bible study. A dear lady from another church who attends the study told our class how she had lost her first marriage because of her husband’s addiction to pornography.
And you have probably not heard the story of George Roche, the past President of Hillsdale College who carried on a twenty-year affair with his daughter in law. The lives of these men illustrate for us that man’s appetites, which he thinks will bring him delight, will destroy him.
Chuck Colson told a powerful story in his Breakpoint Commentary just a few months ago that demonstrates for us that apart from delighting in the Lord we will be destroyed. Let me read it as Chuck wrote it.
In the last few weeks the newspapers have been full of stories about sexual misconduct-and conservatives are horrified. We’re shocked because the titillating exposes involve, not Hollywood stars but prominent conservative leaders. Among them is Newt Gingrich, who is embroiled in a nasty divorce case. Court documents reveal that, at the same time he was espousing family values, he himself was involved in a secret extra-marital affair. Then came the explosive charges involving George Roche, president of Hillsdale College. According to press reports, Roche carried on a two-decade affair with his daughter-in-law, Lisa, who was also Roche’s personal assistant. The ugly story came out after Lisa tragically committed suicide. Many Christians are deeply troubled by these events. They’re asking, how can people stand for high moral principles and then behave this way? Are we all hypocrites? I think an experience I had with George Roche may help us understand what’s going on. A few years ago, I spoke on the subject of ethics at one of Hillsdale’s national conferences. I took Dostoevsky’s famous question, “Can man be good without God?,” as the title of my lecture. I argued that man cannot be good without God, that the human will is rebellious, and that only the power of God’s Spirit can enable us to live a moral and righteous life… In reality, these very public moral failures illuminate what scripture teaches about the weakness of the human will: It is naturally prone to sin–and that’s true, even among those who espouse the most powerful pro-family teachings. The human will is not strong enough to maintain a life of decency and morality apart from the transforming of that will by the power of Christ. No amount of disciplined education, political programming, congressional funding, or sheer determination will do it. Without the help of the living Christ, even the most powerful among us is potentially nothing more than the next moral embarrassment waiting to happen. (Chuck Colson, Breakpoint Commentary, November 30, 1999)
Men, we do not have to walk the road of self-fulfillment that is rooted and grounded in our flesh – in making us feel good through pleasure and escape. We can walk a different road, a road of submission to Almighty God who desires to mold us into the image of His Son. I am learning that to walk in the ways of the Lord brings blessings to many. My life is blessed in knowing Him, in walking with Him, in experiencing His purposes for my life, and His peace that transcends human understanding. More than the blessings that have come to my life, I have learned that the lives of those around me will be blessed as well.
There is a peaceful quietness that falls upon the house of a man who seeks the things of God. These men do not have to worry about the phone ringing in the middle of the night and their wives finding out that they have broken their covenant of marriage in the arms of another. They don’t have to worry about how they are going to tell their children that daddy has found another woman that he loves more than mommy. These men, who seek God, do not have to worry about tearing their homes apart because of addictions to drugs, alcohol, or pornography. These men do not have to spend their time trying to figure out how to cover up their devilish deeds so that their kids don’t find out. These men can lay their heads down on their pillow at night and know that the Lord’s peace is resting upon their house. Let me ask you, “Ladies, does that sound like something you would desire for your home?”
The peaceful quietness of God sounds wondrous to most of you ladies, but let me clue you in, it also sounds wonderful to any man who has seen his life brought to the brink of destruction by his pursuit of self-fulfillment. The real question, the rub is this: “How can we as men pursue the avenue of submission when it is totally contrary to everything that comes natural to us?” Men, that is a great question. I am so glad you asked because we can only see change when we get honest with God and ourselves and say, “It isn’t in me – I can’t do it.”
Let’s take a look at our Scripture for this morning found in Psalm 1. Take a look at this powerful section of God’s Word with me.
1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 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, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1 NIV)
The two diverse roads are illustrated for us in verses 1-2 as we see that the man who is blessed refuses the counsel of the wicked, he doesn’t stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. The Psalmist is describing what the “blessed” man of God refrains from in his daily life. To sum it up – he refused the counsel and intimate company of those whose ways are opposed to God. This is what he rules out of his life. These are the things that he refused to allow to have an impact on his life.
We were talking Wednesday morning in Promise Keepers about what we wanted people to say at our funerals. I asked, “What is most important in your life? What is the one thing that you desire for people to say about you when you die?” I told the men that I desire more than anything that people would say, “Mike was a man who sought the heart of God. He tried to bless others by the way he lived and he was passionate about one thing – bringing glory and honor to the name of his Savior.” If that is what is truly important to me then that gives me a grid to place over my life by which I can gauge every decision and opportunity that comes before me. That grid will give me a head start on declining anything that comes into my life that will detract from my chief aim and goal in life.
The first verse of Psalm 1 gives us a similar grid. If we as men decide that we will not heed the counsel of those who are opposed to the ways of God nor will we become intimately involved, sharing our souls with those whose ways are opposed to God’s ways then we will greatly diminish our threat of being led astray by the world’s ways down the road of self-fulfillment.
I do need to say this: Do not draw from this verse that we are never to associate with those who do not know the Lord. That is contrary to Scripture. We are supposed to reach out to those who do not know the Lord in order that we may share with them the grace of God, the mercy of God, and the salvation that rests in Jesus Christ. We are to help comfort them in their sorrow, celebrate with them in their victories, and point them to Jesus. This is something totally and completely different than sharing our souls with unbelievers.
Men, we need the company of godly men, not perfect men, but men who are seeking the heart of God. If you do not have a small group of men whom you can share your struggles with, have pray for you, and with whom you can seek God on a regular basis then you are setting yourself up for a train wreck.
In verse 2, the Psalmist says, 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. I want to take the rest of our time to focus on this one passage of Scripture. I want us to understand the heart of a man who delights in the law of the Lord.
First let me give you a little Hebrew lesson. The Hebrew word that is translated, “delight,” is “#p,xe” (hepes). The basic meaning is, “to feel great favor towards something” or “to feel emotional delight.” The word is used in many different ways. We see how the word is used to convey the idea of a man delighting in the love of a woman. Shechem had delight in Jacob’s daughter Dinah in Genesis 34. Men experience delight in other men as Saul was delighted with the prospects of David marrying his daughter Michal (1 Samuel 18). The word is also used in reference to activities that are done with delight such as the time that Joab wanted to know why David took delight in taking a census. The word is also used of God delighting in His people. In 2 Samuel 22, David said that the Lord rescued him when his enemies were pursuing him because God “delighted” in him. Listen to David’s words,
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. 19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. 20 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (2 Samuel 22:20 NIV)
Nehemiah also appealed to God’s delight in His people who delight in revering the name of the Lord and who seek to honor and glorify His name when he prayed in Nehemiah 1:11. Listen to Nehemiah’s prayer.
11O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” (Nehemiah 1:11 NIV)
In Isaiah 58, God instructed the people of Isaiah’s day and told them that if they did certain things then they would find their joy in the Lord. Listen to God’s instruction to the people.
13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’S holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 14 then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 58:13-14 NIV)
In Psalm 1, we read that the man of God will not find his delight in the company of sinners, mockers, or the ungodly, but his delight, his emotionally charged joy, would be found in the law of the Lord. Men, don’t miss out on the emotion of the word we just studied. The Hebrew word is not a stoic, reserved, sit-on-your-hands-as-you-grin-and-bear-it kind of word. The word is charged with wide-eyed enthusiasm and overflowing joy.
I had the strangest thought this past week. You will have to forgive me for being so undignified and barbaric, but I longed for the moment when the Word of God would be read and men would jump up out of their pews and begin to clap, whistle, and whoop and holler as if Shaq had just shattered a backboard. For far too long we men have heard the Word of God and yawned as if we had just heard the most irrelevant bit of information on the planet. Men, wake up! Our delight, the joy we have longed for, the lasting thrill that keeps eluding us is before us this very morning. Our soul’s delight will not be found in another exotic escape, erotic experience, or esoteric escapade meant to invigorate our numbed minds and bodies. It is our spirit that is crying out and longs to be satisfied and delighted! Delight yourself in the Lord.
The Psalmist says that the man who is blessed finds his delight in “the law of the Lord.” For so many people today they hear the word “law” and immediately run for cover. We despise rigid, cold rules to weigh us down and keep watch over us as we try to live our lives. There is a good reason why we cringe at laws. Laws remind us that we can so easily run astray and become law breakers. They remind us that we fall short. Laws make it clear to us that we haven’t mastered this life. As a result of this reality we have seen many in our society throw off restraint and live by whatever desire they have at the moment. In actuality this new way of living is a law unto itself. The new law is “Do whatever you please.” We can try to throw off all moral guidance offered by God, but we will still submit to some philosophy of living. We will be guided by God, our own desires, or what others desire for us.
The Psalmist found his delight in the teachings of the Lord and it brought him rest and peace, guidance and purpose in life. Take a look at these powerful examples from Psalm 119.
24 Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. (Psalm 119:24 NIV)
35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. (Psalm 119:35-37 NIV)
45 I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. 46 I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, 47 for I delight in your commands because I love them. 48 I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees. (Psalm 119:45-48 NIV)
92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. 93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. 94 Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. 95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. 96 To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless. (Psalm 119:92-96 NIV)
The Psalmist has found great delight in the precepts, teachings, and commands of Almighty God. We too can find the same delight, joy, and peace in God’s teachings if we will turn to the Lord.
The Hebrew phrase used in verse 2 is “hw”hy> tr;AtB.” (Betorath YHWH). The root of the first word in the phrase is the word, “Torah.” The word means “teaching.” The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament says,
The word t?r? means basically “teaching” whether it is the wise man instructing his son or God instructing Israel. The wise give insight into all aspects of life so that the young may know how to conduct themselves and to live a long blessed life (Prov 3:lf.). So too God, motivated by love, reveals to man basic insight into how to live with each other and how to approach God. Through the law God shows his interest in all aspects of man’s life which is to be lived under his direction and care. Law of God stands parallel to word of the Lord to signify that law is the revelation of God’s will (e.g. Isa 1:10). In this capacity it becomes the nation’s wisdom and understanding so that others will marvel at the quality of Israel’s distinctive life style (Deut 4:6).
There are all kinds of teachings and all kinds of teachers that have set themselves us as authorities today. There has never been a day where people have had greater access to a wider variety of teachers than our day. You can watch teachers on television, pick up their books at super stores, read their lessons on the internet, and attend their conferences. Teaching has gained wide spread acclaim because people sense that something is wrong, they need something to change in their life, and so they are open to what others have to say.
Just because one is a teacher or because something is labeled as a “New York Times Best Seller” doesn’t mean that it is relevant or rooted in godly wisdom. The teaching that the Psalmist is highlighting is a one-of-a-kind, supremely unique kind of teaching that can’t be attributed to human reason or intellect.
The Hebrew phrase that I shared earlier underscores the uniqueness of teaching that leads to a state of blessedness. I was talking to Dr. Darnell this past week and discussing this phrase with him when he pointed out to me that the ending of the word “torah” ends so as to demand a linking with the very next word. The next word is YHWH. It is probably translated “LORD” in your Bible. It is the personal name God has revealed to His servants.
The teaching that is the delight of a man of God is not the theorems or fantasies of this societies system, but it is the teaching of Almighty God. The man of God takes great delight in the teachings of the Lord because He knows that God’s purpose is to mold him into the image of His Son, to protect him from his own sinful drives, to bring him into His presence, and to save Him from eternal death and destruction. What a joy God’s teaching is for the man who yearns for God.
The Bible says in Psalm 34, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Once a man has tasted of God’s goodness and has drank deeply of the waters of life he can’t get enough. The man who has tasted of God’s goodness is never satisfied that he has taken in all that God has to offer – he wants to know God more and more. This is why the Psalmist says, “on his law he meditates day and night.”
The Hebrew word for meditate is “hg”h'” (haw gah) and it means, “to utter, mutter, moan, meditate, devise, plot.” The man who is seeking his delight in the teaching of the Lord is the man who constantly turns the Lord’s teaching over and over in his mind and heart, he recites God’s instruction to himself, to ponders the thoughts of God day and night and he finds great delight.
God instructed Joshua to meditate upon His teaching so that he would be prosperous. God said,
8Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8 NIV)
The Psalmist asked that his words and the meditations of his heart would be pleasing to God when he said, in Psalm 19,
14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14 NIV)
We asked the question towards the beginning of our study, “How can I pursue the road of submission when it runs opposite of the road that comes naturally to me?” The answer is found here in Psalm 1. First, refrain from giving yourself to those whose ways run contrary to the ways of Almighty God. Second, delight yourself in the teachings of Almighty God. You will never know the sweetness of God’s teachings unless you invest yourself in drinking deep and long at the well of living waters. Third, meditate on God’s teachings day and night. Turn them over in your mind and heart, apply them to your every move during the day. Think about them as you lay on your bed when you go to sleep at night. Then, and only then, will we find our steps leading us to the blessings of the Lord and the peace that only He can give.
Men, the greatest gift that you or I could ever receive on Father’s Day has nothing to do with things, but it is the gift of eternal life found in Jesus our Lord. If you have never received Jesus as Lord of your life then won’t you receive the gift this morning.