PSALM 112: In Praise of the Godly

Psalm 112 is a “wisdom psalm.” There are 25 “wisdom psalms” all together (1, 10, 12, 15, 19, 32, 34, 36, 37, 49, 50, 52, 53, 73, 78, 82, 91, 92, 94, 111, 112, 119, 127, 128, 139) in our Book of Psalms. Such psalms are readily identifiable by their acrostic patterns and intricate designs. For example, psalm 112 contains ten verses and twenty-two phrases, each beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the original, almost all of the twenty-two phrases contain only three words.

When we compare psalm 112 with psalm 111, we see there are similarities and differences. In terms of structure, they are identical. The themes are parallel. Psalm 111 deals with the character of God but psalm 112 deals with the character of the Godly man.

Since the clever design of these psalms is lost on modern readers, we may wonder why the authors of these psalms took such great pains to write them in such a intricate, well-thought out manner. For one thing, it made memorizing them easy; memorization of Scripture was something the ancient Hebrew had to do, not only in obedience to their Law, but also since there were no printing presses. But also, the structure brings out the advantages of godly wisdom (even in the face of adversity) in such a powerful way it can’t be missed.

1. The character of the Godly, verses 1—5

Praise the LORD.

What a magnificent way to begin a psalm! “Praise the Lord” is really a compound Hebrew word, Hallelu-Yah, better known to us as “Hallelujah.” In the context of this psalm, “hallelujah” is not just an ecstatic utterance. Even though it is placed at the beginning of the psalm, it represents the duty of a believer after he has considered what is to come. In other words, after reading through psalm 112, the believer can only sit back and praise the Lord.

Blessed are those who fear the LORD, who find great delight in his commands. (verse 1)

This verse takes on a whole new meaning when we understand what the Hebrew word asher, “blessed” really means. We use that word often, and sometimes incorrectly; we “bless the food,” for example. Because we pray for God’s blessing, we automatically think that to be blessed means that we have received something from God. As it is used here, “blessed” simply means “happy.” So the thought of verse one is that those who do two things will be happy. The two things are parallel expressions that involve a wise pattern of behavior that is based on knowledge of God’s Word:

(1) Those who fear the Lord. To “fear the Lord” means many things, including to “respect,” to “honor,” and even to “fear” the Lord. Our “fear” of God does not necessarily mean we are to be scared to death of Him or afraid of Him, but rather it suggests a healthy aversion to living in a way that would displease Him. The opposite of being afraid is the state of being blesses, or happy. It’s easier to be happy in life when we know we are living according to God’s will.

(2) Those who find great delight in God’s commands. The true believer loves God and delights in God, but also delights in God’s Word. This makes perfect sense when we realize that God’s Word is really just a reflection of Himself. God’s Word tells us everything we need to know about God; we get to know God personally through His Word. So, to love the Word of God is to love God Himself. Such a person, the psalmist wrote, is happy.

Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever. (verses 2, 3)

This happy man, who loves God and God’s Word; who lives with a reverential fear of God, is also a righteous man, his “righteousness endures forever.” This person, so blessed, practices righteousness—it is his way of life; his way of living. He thinks about living righteously and is always concerned about it. Nothing is more important to this happy man than living righteously. This is suggested by the word “endured.” His righteousness is enduring (it is constant), and lives on after him; he left a righteous mark behind.

What we learn from these two verses is that righteousness and rewards go hand-in-hand. As the righteous person honors God, so God honors the righteous person: his children will be blessed—they too will be happy and prosperous. Although not always the case, godly parents more often than not produce godly children. This was true of young Timothy, for example:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (1 Timothy 1:5)

How many of you today are serving the Lord because your parents or grandparents prayed for you? Or set a godly example for you to follow? What we are reading in these two verses is a principle, not a promise. If you live righteously, you will be blessed by God in all ways and your children will stand a better chance of loving God and living for Him.

But living righteously for God does not guarantee a life of ease.

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. (verse 4)

Those who live godly lives may enjoy light in the darkness—God’s light in the midst of dark times. Smack dab in the middle of such a poetic view of life, we have a dose of realism! We are all going to experience dark times; nobody, no matter how righteous they may be, will experience dark times. It may see as though wisdom and God’s Word are not so helpful during those times. It may seem as though God is far a way. “Darkness,” incidentally, is not to be taken literally; it usually refers to some sort of adversity. Even in adversity, God comes to rescue the godly. We may be tempted to despair and we may not feel God’s presence, but we have this indisputable promise that is repeated time and time again in the Bible!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

[T]eaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

No matter how we may feel or what it looks like, God is always with us and He promises to deliver the righteous from adversities. The question we naturally ask is: How does God do this? How does God provide relief in the midst of adversity? Verse five is the answer:

Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.

Wise is the person and godly is the one who is gracious and compassionate and does all they can do to lighten the burdens of other righteous people.

2. The trustfulness of the righteous, verses 6—10

When a person holds to and lives according to the unshakable tenets of Scripture, he himself is just as unshakable:

Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. (verse 6)

History remembers those who live according to a righteous conviction; when a child of God determines to his life according to God’s will, sets his course in heaven’s direction, does not waver, and never compromises, they will be remembered. Why are these kind of people remembered? It is because they are trustworthy, and that is rare quality:

Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:7, 8)

Those who are easily shaken are unstable in all they do. Those who are easily shaken let circumstances dictate how they feel, what they think, and the decisions they make. Not so the godly one who lives for God:

They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes. (verses 7, 8)

Whether he gets good news or bad, the righteous person stands absolutely firm and resolute in the face of bad news.

Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

How can he live like that? It is because the righteous one trusts in God, not in circumstances! It is because he has faith that he will ultimately prevail no matter what, and he therefore has no fear.

What a great way to live! Would you like to live like that? A lot of Christians aren’t, but wish they could. The ability to live like that is within every single believer. This kind of powerful living isn’t for the so-called “super saints,” it’s for all believers. The problem is, a lot of Christians want the happiness promised them without fulfilling the prerequisite of living in accordance to God’s Word and seeking to live according God’s will. When your mind is not focused on God and is torn in a dozen different directions, you will not be happy or content and all the blessings of Psalm 112 will not be yours.

In the kingdom of God, there is a “give and take” that many believers don’t notice. For example, most of the blessings promised to believers are not free—they depend on YOU doing something in order to receive them. In that sense, blessings may be viewed as rewards. Here is another example of “give and take” in the kingdom:

They have scattered abroad their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honor. (verse 9)

Generosity and compassion are “symbols” of wise, righteous living. A wise believer is one who looks after the unfortunate. This is something Paul understood well:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

As it is written: “They have scattered abroad their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” (2 Corinthians 9:9)

God is gracious, generous, and compassionate and He expects His children to be just like Him. Doing the will of God is motivated by a desire to be like God. This is the essence of the of this psalm: the godly will be as trustworthy as God Himself. Immovable devotion to God will result in a person being like God.

Like so many psalms, this one ends with vindication for the godly person:

The wicked will see and be vexed, they will gnash their teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing. (verse 10)

It may not be the case now, but the righteous will always be vindicated in the face of the unbeliever. At some point, the unbelievers who mocked you or persecuted you on account of your faith will see that you were right, all along! The “delight” of the blessed man will be matched by the “longings” of the wicked. This is such a powerful verse! How sad for a believer to want anything an unbeliever has! In fact, the unbeliever longs to have what the believer has! But no matter how badly the unbeliever may long for what you have, he can never have what you have because what you have begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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