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Lecture on Psalm 1: A Pathway toward Blessedness

Ikuro Teshima

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
Psalm 1:1, English Standard Version

The first phrase is an exclamatory cry which in Hebrew is read, “Ashrei haish (blessed is the man)!” As the word “ashrei” is plural, it means many blessings. The psalmist himself sincerely feels so much blessed that he expresses his overflowing emotion by exclaiming, “How blessed is the man!”

Some people interpret this psalm as a lecture on the pathway to happiness or as an ethical lesson, saying, “If one does not walk in the way of the wicked and sinners, he will surely receive happiness.” But this is a gross mistake.

The poet says, “Ashrei! How blessed I am that I have not walked in the plotting of the wicked, not stood in the path of sinners, but have come to God’s seat!” This cry is similar to Jesus’ exclamation, “Makarioi, how blessed are the poor in spirit!” in the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount. He repeated the cry of “μακαριοι makarioi: blessed” nine times there.

Unless a person is blessed himself, he cannot convey the gospel to others. If he talks about faith with a sad and bitter look, he cannot witness that he is living in the true religion of the Bible. Only when we are able to say to one another, “How blessed we are!” we can claim that we are living by the biblical faith.

Every morning when I wake up, my heart beats with excitement and my eyes are full of tears; I find myself murmuring, “How glad I am, my God! How blessed I am!” In my old age I truly appreciate that I have lived a life full of bliss. Why do I feel so? It is because I possess the “happiness” that others do not know. People without faith have a difficulty in understanding this religious joy. I spend each day in gratitude to God, crying out this joy within my heart, “Ashrei, how blessed I am!”

(1969)

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