Authority and Life - RR272K19
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Let us worship God. Thus saith the Lord, ye shall seek Me and find Me when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. Jesus said, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Let us pray. O Lord our God, we come into Thy presence, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, after Thy justice. O Lord, the heathen rage and take counsel together against Thee, and they seek to destroy Thy kingdom and Thy saints. We come to Thee, O Lord, beseeching Thee to work in our time, in our midst, in and through us to accomplish Thy purpose, to bring forth Thy justice, and to make known Thy so great a salvation. Bless us this day by Thy Word and by Thy Spirit, that day by day we may move in Thee and to Thy purpose, to do Thy will, O Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is from the Psalms, the first psalm; our subject: authority and life. Authority and life, Psalm 1. “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 forth 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.” [00:03:01]
Psalm 1 is too little appreciated in our antinomian...
Psalm 1 is too little appreciated in our antinomian age. It gives the temper to all the psalms, and it sets forth a fundamental fact: namely, that submission to God’s authority means life, while rejection of God and His Law means death. It’s promises are very clear: that anyone whose delight is in the Law of the Lord, who meditates in the Law day and night, is going to be like a tree planted by rivers of water that bringeth forth his fruit in his season. We are promised that, if this fits us, whatsoever we do shall prosper. Well, people don’t like things that plain. Today, too many Christians are programmed for defeat. They go through the scriptures to find all the texts that deal with defeat. And it’s true that there is warfare in this world, but the world is at war against God; and, therefore, will be at war against all who are godly. But the fact is that it is an uneven war. The forces of ungodliness, of rebellion, are not going to triumph: the ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. The people prefer to turn the moral universe upside down, and are unwilling to say that God has said, “Whatsoever he, the godly man who delights in the law of the Lord, shall do shall prosper.” [00:05:23]
Well, this psalm makes known now serious our predicament...
Well, this psalm makes known now serious our predicament is today. Some commentaries, which profess to believe the Bible from cover to cover, have actually held that this psalm gives, and I quote, “a distorted statement of the nature of true happiness.” Now, that’s rebellion against God, to despise His word, because the Law is praised in this psalm. Hence, many commentators insist this psalm is alien to the spirit of the New Testament. One writer, however, says it’s a good psalm, but doesn’t apply today: it looks ahead to the millennium, and it’s a picture of the ideal man in the millennium. Dewey Morgan, a British writer, writes quite eloquently about Psalm 1, as one, and I quote, “In which the distant poles of God and man merge into a splendid orb, and man becomes one with his Creator.” But never once does he refer to the Law, or to the fact that these blessings are promised to those who obey God’s Law and who are faithful to the authority of God. After you read page after page of Dewey Morgan, you wonder what bible he is using, because it is not recognizably the Psalm 1 that we encounter in our Bible. [00:07:21]
Now, this is not to say that all the commentators have...
Now, this is not to say that all the commentators have done this. Spurgeon and Joseph Addison Alexander, and others have seen the meaning very clearly. It is interesting that, unlike many another psalm, no author is listed for this; so we don’t know whether it was Asaph’s, or David’s, or whose psalm. In a sense, however, it is the very word of God, as are all the psalms, because we encounter these words elsewhere. We encounter them in Jeremiah 17:5-8, in essence, the same thing, where this psalm is referred to, and we are told, “Thus saith the Lord; cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, in whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” [00:09:15]
What does God tell us through Jeremiah? Simply that...
What does God tell us through Jeremiah? Simply that the ungodly man has put his roots into a desert where there is no water; where there is only salt, which will kill any growing thing; where he is cursed, because he has departed from the Lord. But the man who trusts in the Lord is like a tree planted by water, who does not feel the heat of oppression, has no need to be careful in the year of drought, because the waters there will flow continually and shall not cease from yielding fruit. I submit that the scripture from beginning to end tells us in a hundred and one ways what Psalm 1 summarizes. Why are we afraid to claim the promises of this psalm? Why do men run it down, see it as Old Testament, as though God could only be good to the primitive people, you know, the Hebrews? But now, we’re too sophisticated in the age of grace to have blessings. That’s, in effect, what they are saying; and I believe it is blasphemous. When we compare Psalm 1 and Ezekiel 17:5-8, what we’re told is very clear: to trust in the Lord is to obey his covenant law, belief in God’s Law is the way of life of blessedness; and second, to delight in the law of God is to delight in life, and to reject God’s Law is to choose death. [00:11:44]
At the beginning of this century, one commentator,...
At the beginning of this century, one commentator, an English scholar, Kilpatrick, made the statement, and I quote: “Divine knowledge cannot be abstract, nor ineffectual.” We cannot know God and hold abstract knowledge. Our God is a living fire, and there’s nothing abstract about fire. Our God is the supreme and ultimate Person, and there is nothing abstract about a person. Out Lord makes very clear the essential unity of faith, obedience, and doctrine. In John 7:16-17, our Lord says, “My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” In other words, the way to know the blessings of Psalm 1 is to move in terms of them. In other words, the way to know the blessings of Psalm 1 is to move in terms of them; to delight in God’s Law, to obey God’s Law, to put ourselves under God’s authority. Then, we can have the blessing, because the knowledge of God can not be abstract. It is a living thing. [00:13:24]
We can no more separate faith, works, and knowledge...
We can no more separate faith, works, and knowledge, than we can separate a man’s head from his body, and from his feet, and expect all three to be alive. It’s sure death. And so those who talk about a head knowledge and a heart knowledge of the Lord, and who want to separate love and justice, faith and works, grace and law are trying to dissect what cannot be dissected. Man, we are told by this psalm, is a godly man, is like a tree planted by rivers of water. Note the psalm does not say planted by a river: by rivers of water. The imagery is purposefully in the plural. There are waters without end, sustenance without end, for those who believe and obey the Lord. Moreover, notice it is a planted tree; or, very literally, the connotation here is a transplanted tree, and the word is very often used to indicate something transplanted. [00:15:11]
So that we who believe in the Lord, we who are saved...
So that we who believe in the Lord, we who are saved, are transplanted out of the dry and desert place into a place of rivers of water; and we are there, protected. “His leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall proper.” This psalm is giving us an equation. Equations are something we have in mathematics. Now, what this psalm is telling us: if we believe and obey God, if we submit to His authority, this equals life; if we do not believe in God, if we despise His Word, this equals death. And I submit, when God makes an equation like that, it has all the weight and authority of two plus two equals four, and then some. God means what He says. This is the way it is. He doesn’t say there aren’t problems in this world. He doesn’t say that the ungodly rage against us, and that isn’t true. He says, “Yes, these things happen. But here, this is the fundamental equation. All these things happen. The world is full of storms. The world is full of the wrath of the ungodly. But basically, this is the fact, here and now, not just in the world to come. The godly are blessed in the face of all their trials and all their persecutions. They have productivity. They endure in the time of judgment, and they come forth in victory.” Godliness equals life. Godliness is obedience and to delight in the law of the Lord. On the other hand, the ungodly are scornful—interesting word, scornful. They despise everything. As one rabbi long ago commenting on this verse said “to the man whose soul is rotted with scorn, nothing is sacred”—to the man whose soul is rotted with scorn, nothing is sacred. The man who is scornful has a soul rotted with scorn. [00:18:31]
Now, this psalm militates against a very powerful tradition...
Now, this psalm militates against a very powerful tradition and force in the modern era. This is, one might say, a very strongly anti-modern psalm. In the modern world, of course, this is a part of sin; but it has been developed; it has been refined, with the romantic movement; and it has become a part of modern culture. Creativity, power, and freedom, and all things desirable are equated with revolt against God. Some years ago, a scholar, Mario Praz, wrote an exceptionally good study, The Romantic Agony. In The Romantic Agony, what he did was to document the fact that the romantic movement, which began with the idolatry of the good, the true, and the beautiful, ended up seeking out and idolizing every kind of perversion and depravity; and it was a logical development, because they sought the good, the true, and the beautiful apart from God; and their rebellion against God led them ultimately to drop everything that in any way smacked of God. As Albert Camus, the French existentialist said “because God is good, I must choose evil”; and the course of the ungodly becomes deliberately evil. And so you have the romantic agony: the culmination of rebellion, and the adoption of every kind of perversion, every kind of degeneracy of every form of suicide. “All they that hate Me love death,” God says. For such people, to be alive means to sin and to defy God. [00:21:06]
Early in the 1970’s near one university, a student...
Early in the 1970’s near one university, a student stood outside a church shouting and railing at the people as they came out of the church, accusing them of being the living dead. He was on drugs, so he was the living dead; but what was he saying? He was saying that because they had never experimented sexually with total permissiveness—and he was very graphic and specific, as he would ask a woman, have you ever tried this or that, and so on—total permissiveness, with every kind of depravity. They were the living dead. Of course, this kind of thing very early was set forth in the romantic movement. One of the most brilliant, if undisciplined, of the romantics, William Blake, in 1793, expressed his opinion about the virtue of rebellion against God’s Law, declaring in his book, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and I quote, “Those who restrain desire do so, because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason, usurps its place and governs the unwilling. And being restrained by it by degrees become passive till it is only the shadow of desire.” For Blake, therefore, any kind of moral restraint, any kind of self-discipline, was the prelude to fading away, to dying; so that the ungodly have made an equation that to rebel against God and His moral law means creativity, power, and freedom means for them life. They see things as an equation; of course, they’ve turned things upside down, and what they are talking about equates with death. [00:24:03]
But Christians are afraid to trust God’s Word, and...
But Christians are afraid to trust God’s Word, and to say there is a correlation between authority and life, between faithfulness and life, between the way of the Lord, walking in the counsel of the Lord, delighting in His Law and life. Blake said man’s desire must take priority over the Law of God. Blake held that man’s will is not fallen, but good; and must be realized it has authority. And, therefore, for Blake and for others of the romantic movement, and the whole world of the ungodly to our day, to deny man his will is slavery—it is slavery.
A while back, when there was a question of closing the bathhouses where the homosexuals have been holding forth, there were debates about it in Los Angeles and in San Francisco, as well as elsewhere; and it was interesting that one who argued, a homosexual, against closing the bathhouses insisted the problem was not the bathhouses; it was simply a matter of education. Education, as to what? That homosexuality was bad? Oh no, no; not that. Somehow, education is going to eliminate AIDS, it’s going to eliminate gonorrhea and syphilis, and it’s going to eliminate crime: that’s the mythology, that somehow education—data—will equate with life. That’s not what Psalm 1 tells us. The modern equation turns Psalm 1 upside down; and godliness and rebellion against God are seen as a life-nourishing force; and the biblical faith is held to be the way of death. After all, this is what both humanist manifestos set forth. This is what liberationism in all its forms—men’s, women’s, child’s—sets forth: the denial of God’s authority and of God’s Law. This is the way of life. And what Christians ought to be saying to all of this is: look at Psalm 1; thus saith the Lord. [00:27:18]
Thus, the central question with regard to authority cannot be on the secondary level. We finish today, our series on authority, and we have dealt with it from a theological perspective. We haven’t gone into all the secondary matters: the authority of rulers, of husbands, of parents, and so on. That’s all real enough, but none of that stands apart from the essential authority of God. And today, authority is breaking down in every sphere, because men do not take scripture seriously, because what Psalm 1 tells us is not seen as God’s truth: it applies to the millenium, or it doesn’t express New Testament religion; it was for the primitive Hebrews. The issue on authority is between God and man: who is the Lord? And Genesis 3:1-5 and, again, in Matthew 4:1-11, the tempter says, “My principle, that every man is his own god; this is the authoritative and governing principle.” And our Lord, in return, says, “It is written; it is written; it is written.” God, here, spells out the word of authority: “Man shall not live, man cannot live, by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Men have pursued the tempter’s concept of authority, of every man as his own god; and they have pursued it to disaster and death. “He that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul.” “All they that hate me love death.” In Psalm 1, the alternative God provides is plainly set forth. The equation is there for us to read: only under God’s total authority is there life for man, both now and in the world to come. [00:30:34]
Let us pray. O Lord our God, Thy Word is truth. Thou, alone, art the way, the truth, and the life. Give us grace to believe and to obey; to know that Thy Word gives us the way of prosperity, of success, of triumph in Christ. Make us ever mindful that our Lord has summoned us to believe Him and to keep His commandments; to go forth, making disciples of all nations, teaching them all things that Thou hast commanded. Make us joyful and faithful in this task, that whatsoever we do shall prosper. Grant us this, we beseech Thee. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Now, are there any questions about our lesson? Yes?
[Questioner] I’ve been reading and studying the books of Judah, and have been struggling to write a review of a book by someone named Dallas Willard; but I think there are some who will kind of put, you know, obedience to God’s Law over against obedience to God –
[Rushdoony] Well [laughs], putting obedience to God’s Law over against obedience to God is –
[Questioner] – well, in that they like to say, they like using the word, “we have a personal relationship to God,” and if we merely want to obey His laws that “you’re just a prude; you’re being Muslims, instead of Christian,” or something like that. [00:32:57]
[Rushdoony] Well, that creates an artificial distinction...
[Rushdoony] Well, that creates an artificial distinction between God and His Word, and it, in effect, says “I will be faithful to God, as long as He keeps His mouth shut. I will like you, Lord; I’ll love you, but don’t ask anything of me.” I don’t think that can be done. That is setting up a standard that is not scriptural. Where does God say “you can be obedient to Me, without being obedient to My Word”? That’s the kind of sophistication that dispensationalism indulges in, and I think it’s very, very sinful.
Any other questions or comments?
Well, if not, let us conclude with prayer. O Lord our God, unto Whom the ends of the earth shall come, we thank Thee that Thou hast called us and commissioned us to serve Thee, and to obey Thee, and to delight in Thy Word and in Thee. Make us every joyful in our calling, triumphant in Thy service, and ever mindful that Thy kingdom is the kingdom of righteousness, joy, peace, and truth. And now, go in peace. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always. Amen. [00:34:55]