Posts Tagged 'Righteousness'

EXCEPTional Bible Verses, Part 1

robe-of-righteousness

Righteousness

Matthew 5:20

 

The key verse of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount is verse 20:

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.   (Matthew 5:20, KJV)

If we were to put Jesus’ words in modern English, we might say something like this:  Unless you Christians are better people than the really good people of society; the cream of the crop of citizens, you will never get into heaven.

In Jesus’ day, the scribes and Pharisees were considered to be the best of the best:  the best behaved, best mannered, best educated, most ethical of citizens.  We, with the perspective of hindsight and history have come to believe that the scribes and Pharisees were a bunch of hypocrites, but 2,000 years ago that was not how most people saw them.  In fact, not all these men were hypocrites.  Many were not.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee whose heart was right and as we read the Gospels we note that many Pharisees either followed Jesus or were very sympathetic toward Him.

The scribes and Pharisees were great religious leaders and moral leaders, who were trying to keep the Jewish faith pure in the face of pagan Roman beliefs.  “Pharisee” means “separate,” and they did their best to live up that name, living separate from the Romans and even some Jews.  A good description of them is found in Luke 18—

The proud Pharisee ‘prayed’ this prayer: ‘Thank God, I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t commit adultery, I go without food twice a week, and I give to God a tenth of everything I earn.’  (Luke 18:11, 12  TLB)

Pride was the downfall of the Pharisee, but if we read their prayer, could any one of us quibble with it?  That prayer—pride notwithstanding—tells us that they were punctual in attending worship services, they believed in and practiced private prayer and fasting, they were temperate in food and drink, they gave generously, and did their best to live moral lives in a very immoral culture.  They cared very deeply about their faith.  These people—Pharisees—sound a lot like good Christians!  They have the same kind of characteristics we’d like to see in our own lives.  And yet, according to Jesus, there is NO hope for us unless we are better than they.

What was the problem with these men?  Outwardly you could not fault them at all.  Their problem was something other than their behavior.  Elsewhere in Scripture, we read something that sheds some light on what Jesus is getting at:

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we put on our prized robes of righteousness, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves we fade, wither, and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away.  (Isaiah 64:6  TLB)

This was their problem.  In modern language, the problem with the scribes and Pharisees amounted to “lipstick on a pig.”  In God’s eyes—His pure eyes—even our very best is no better than old, filthy rags.  If that is God’s estimation of our best, what must He think of our worst?

Our first EXCEPTional verse serves to contrast man’s righteousness and God’s righteousness.

1.  Man’s righteousness is prospective, God’s righteousness is possessive

This verse actually sets the stage for what comes after it:  very specific examples of two types of righteousness.  For example, the rabbis taught the people “You shall not kill.”  But Jesus will teach what that really means, and what “You shall not kill” really means is not at all what the rabbis said it meant.  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and even the religious leaders of today, teach that doing righteous things makes a person righteous.  But Jesus taught that under grace, a person does righteous things because he’s righteous.  That’s a huge difference!

Man says:  Do this good thing and you will be righteous.  But God says:  Do this good thing because you are righteous.  Man hopes to win God’s favor by becoming righteous through his struggles to live right and do good.  Yet grace looks at the situation differently.  One who is living in grace lives right because of the grace he has experienced.  The Christian has already found favor in God’s eyes; he doesn’t have to do anything to get it.

Man is concerned with what he DOES, but God is concerned with who he IS.

2.  Man’s righteousness is external, God’s righteousness is both external and internal

This is further described by our Lord in Matthew 23:28—

You try to look like saintly men, but underneath those pious robes of yours are hearts besmirched with every sort of hypocrisy and sin.  (TLB)

Man’s righteousness is concerned with life that is seen by other people; life on the outside, but God’s righteousness is concerned with both life on the outside and on the inside.  In a sense, living a righteous life man’s way is easier because God expects so much more from us.  Anybody can be given a list of do’s and don’ts and be told to live in obedience to that list.  It takes no particular skill or thought to obey a list.  But God wants to engage the whole person; his actions and his mind.  God made us thinking, reasoning, and rational beings.  Grace, not legalism, exalts a man; sets a man free to live according to God’s will because he himself wills it and the Holy Spirit enables him to do it.

Martin Lloyd-Jones observed:

The trouble with the Pharisees was that they were interested in details rather than principles, that they were interested in actions rather than motives, and that they were interested in doing rather than being.

What Jesus taught was really revolutionary in His day.  He was far more concerned with the inner, spiritual, man than the outward man.  If a man be made righteous on the inside, he will be righteous on the outside.

How can we be righteous on the inside?  When we are born again, that inner righteousness in imputed to us!  Jesus pours His righteousness into our hearts.  And when we live and interact with the world around us, we take that imputed righteousness and impart it to others; we bless others with the righteousness of Christ in us.   That’s a radical thought!

3.  Man’s righteousness in ceremonial, God’s righteousness is spiritual

The scribes and Pharisees thought their ceremonies were the most important part of their faith; that they were the be-all and end-all of their relationship with God.   Not so, according to Jesus.  The righteousness demanded by God is nothing less than complete conformity to God’s holy law in all that person does and all that he is.  That demand goes way, way beyond any ceremonial observance or liturgy.  This radical righteousness is a matter of the heart, not of deeds.  This righteousness is spiritual because it is God-given.  True godliness is not a matter of creeds, confessions, or ceremonies.  It is an inward, spiritual reality.

4.  Man’s righteousness is one-sided, God’s righteousness is deep and wide.

Man’s righteousness benefits other men.  In other words, any human being regardless of his standing before God can perform righteous deeds that help other people.  An atheist can feed the hungry.  A generous Muslim can help a poor person.  But that kind of righteousness is NOT God-ward; it does not benefit Him in any way.  True righteousness—righteousness of the whole person—benefits both God and man.  True righteousness—the kind of righteousness God demands—is directed man-ward and God-ward at the same time.  That’s why Jesus said this to His disciples:

“And if, as my representatives, you give even a cup of cold water to a little child, you will surely be rewarded.”  (Matthew 10:42  TLB)

When an unbeliever gives a cup of cold water to a thirsty person, that thirsty person is blessed.  But when a believer does the same thing, not only is the thirsty person blessed, but God is blessed and glorified.  Why?  Because the believer has done a righteous thing with the righteousness of Christ at work in Him.

I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20  TLB)

5.  Man’s righteousness is an “It”, God’s righteousness is a “He”.

This is the most important point, and it is driven home by the prophet Jeremiah:

And this is his name: The Lord Our Righteousness.  (Jeremiah 23:3  TLB)

Man apart from God is capable of doing great things, undoubtedly.  Man apart from God is capable of wondrous acts of kindness, compassion, and righteousness.  But all those “good deeds” don’t do a thing to change that man’s standing before God.  He is still apart from God.  He may possess good deeds, but he is not in possession Christ’s righteous, and that is the crux of the matter.  A Christian is one who possesses the righteousness of Christ because he himself is possessed by Christ.

When He becomes our righteousness, our righteous acts will far, far exceed those of the scribes, Pharisees, and all the good people around us.  It is the presence of Jesus that makes all the difference.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  (2 Corinthians 5:21  NKJV)

Jehovah Tsidkenu, “the Lord our righteousness.”  Is He yours today?  If you are relying on simply being a good person to get into heaven, you might as well give up.  Being a good person may help your reputation on earth among your fellow man, but it doesn’t do anything to improve your standing before God in Heaven.  Hell will, in fact, be overrun with good people.  You can’t be good enough to qualify for Heaven.  You need something more, and that “something more” is a Someone:  Jesus Christ.  Only He can do for you what you cannot do for yourself.

THE CROSS OF CHRIST, PART ONE

THE WORD OF THE CROSS

The heart of Christianity is the Bible. The heart of the Bible is the Cross. The heart of the Cross is the heart of God. (James Smith)

The heart of God is a heart that is full of compassion for the one who is lost and living without hope. When we think about God’s concern for those living without Him, our minds go immediately to a verse of Scripture almost every Christian knows by heart:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Imagine the depths of love that compelled the Heavenly Father to offer His Son in atonement for our sin and guilt. The Cross is, at the same time, the most glorious and the most awful object ever seen by angels or men. 1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us what the Cross is all about:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The “message of the cross” isn’t found in any single verse of Scripture, but throughout the fullness of God’s Word. This is why so many Christians don’t really understand the true “message of the cross.” It’s simply because they’ve never really heard it. Modern preaching has so fragmented it that, at best, the average church-goer has only heard bits and pieces of the great “message of the cross.” Even at that, there isn’t a Christian anywhere in the world who doesn’t grasp the eternal significance of the Cross of Christ. They may not grasp it in its entirety, but what they do know has resulted in their salvation. Such is the awesome power of the Cross!

It is a sign that you are perishing if you cannot see the infinite wisdom and power of God on display in the Cross of Jesus Christ. God’s word concerning the Cross is God’s message of love and grace to us through the Cross.

Let’s look at God’s word concerning the Cross and what that great word means to us today.

1. Holiness and sin

One message of the Cross is God’s own opinion concerning holiness and sin; that is to say, the holiness of the Son of God who suffered on the Cross and the utter wickedness of sin for which He suffered. The true wickedness of sin is revealed in what Jesus said out it John 8:34—

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

What an awful thing sin is! It seduces you, tricks you into becoming your friend, then it never, ever lets you go. James, the earthly brother of Jesus, understood all about sin:

Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:15)

Back to John 3, after stating bluntly that sinners are enslaved by sin, Jesus poses a question a few verses later:

Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? (John 8:46)

Jesus’ teaching on sin is plain: sin and slavery are inexorably linked. No human being can be free if they are not free from sin. The only free people are those who have placed their full faith and trust in Christ; who have broken the hold sin had on them.

However, Jesus Christ was completely sinless—He was guilty of no sin—for if He had slipped but a single time, He would not have been fit to be the Messiah; He would have been in the grip of sin. But our Lord knew what His mission was and He remained unfettered and out of sin’s grip.

Jesus Christ was holy, harmless, completely separate from sinners, even while living among them, revealing the invisible God to them. Thanks to the Cross of Christ, we are given a clear picture of our Heavenly Father’s love for sinful man. The holiness of God and the sinfulness of man collided on the Cross, in the Body of Jesus Christ. In the Cross, we see God at His best and man at his worst. Even while the vilest of sinners plotted to crucify Christ, our Lord bore their sins in His body.

But that is the only time holiness and sin have met together in one Person. The truth is, darkness cannot exist in the light. The unrenewed spirit of a man cannot have any fellowship with God on any level. The Word of the Cross is the word of victory because the holiness of Christ crushed the sinfulness of man.

2. Love and sacrifice

John 3:16 tells us that God gave His only son to save the lost. God gave His Son with no expectation that He would escape His death on the Cross. God the Father had no hope of saving sinful man apart from the awful death of His Son. Therefore, man has no hope of salvation without the Cross.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

God loved us so much that He offered His Son’s life in exchange for the ours. Imagine that kind of love! And the Son of God, loved us so much that He was willing to sacrifice Himself as an offering for us. Remember what Jesus taught:
the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

The message of the Cross is not only a message of holiness and sin, but also a message of love and sacrifice.

…Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)

Only God the Father could love us so much as to give His one and only Son over to the terrible death on the Cross to save them. Only God the Son could love us so much that even while we were still enslaved to sin; even while were were still His sworn enemies, He offered Himself as the prefect sacrifice for our souls.

As one scholar has observed:

The sufferings and sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the irrefutable proof and expression of the intensity of the love of God.

3. Righteousness and peace

There is aberrant theology that has been floating around since the days of the early church that teaches the redemption price offered by Christ was paid to Satan in order to free the souls of man. However, Satan has never had the right to any soul. In fact, we are told in Scripture that Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice to God. The Cross, then, contrasts the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man, stands for love and sacrifice, but it also makes possible peace with God through righteousness.

...and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:20)

The requirements of righteousness are infinite, and they are met only by the infinite value of the life and blood of Jesus Christ, who Himself is infinite.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13, 14)

Before Christ, everything stood between us and God and everything stood against us. The work of Christ took it all away! Every single thing that stopped us from approaching God, summed up in one word: unrighteousness, was taken to the Cross and removed from us as far as the east is from the west. Because our unrighteousness has been taken away and replaced by His righteousness, we are now completely free to approach God without any fear.

Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. (Psalm 85:10)

On the Cross, righteousness and peace have met!

by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:15, 16)

There was no other way to make peace between God and man except by way of the Cross. Only Christ’s righteousness could accomplish this. There is no other way for any human being to be at complete peace with God except through the Cross of Christ.

4. Salvation and power

When we began this study, we quoted Colossians 1:18. Refer briefly back to that verse:

For the message of the cross … is the power of God.

The Cross is a magnificent symbol of God’s power to save. All who believe in what was accomplished on the Cross and all who understand the message of the Cross, are conscious of the saving power of God.

In the Old Testament, during the Passover, the Israelites were safe only as long as they remained in a house whose door posts had been sprinkled by the blood of the lamb. Similarly, as Christians we are safe only as long as we live within the shadow of the blood-sprinkled Cross of Christ. At the Cross Jesus gave His life for ours, so we must lose our lives in that same Cross if we are to truly live for Him.

The word of the Cross is the word of salvation to all who believe. It’s the way to a new life in Jesus Christ. The Cross is God’s instrument by which any sinner may be made a new person. There is not a sinner anywhere in the world who is beyond the shadow of the Cross. Anywhere and everywhere to anyone is available the power of the Cross.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The only way to experience new life in Christ, is by way of the Cross. The Word of the Cross makes no sense to those who are already dying. But to those who are looking for hope and purpose and salvation, the Cross is the power of God.

RIGHTEOUSNESS THORUGH FAITH


Romans 3:21—31

Paul loved paradoxes.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. (verse 21)

Here he talks about something “apart from the Law,” which “the Law and the Prophets” attest to! The issue is personal righteousness, which Paul has already taught is not acceptable to God if it is based on any form of legalism. The only answer to the problem of man’s being righteous in God sight is that God’s righteousness within that man must be manifested through faith. As far as Paul was concerned, the Law itself was designed to point man toward faith in a righteousness outside of himself and this idea was further preached by the prophets, like Habakkuk, whose famous declaration is that “the righteous shall by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

The way Paul used the word “law” (nomos) should be noted. In verse 21, Paul stresses that the “righteousness of God” does not come by legalism (law), but the law (as in the Old Testament) is really God’s revelation to man of the importance of faith.

1. What God Did, vs. 22—26

This group of verses is significant because for the first time, Paul makes it clear that the faith which justifies a person is not a general faith in God but rather faith in Jesus Christ:

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. (vs. 22a)

This idea is brought to full light in 1 Corinthians 1:30 and in 2 Corinthians 5:21—

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

When we believe in Christ as Lord and Savior with saving faith, His righteousness becomes ours. This is a gift given to anybody who believes, whether they have a knowledge of God’s Word like the Jews or have been living in ignorance, like Gentiles. All receive Christ’s righteousness at the moment of faith because all need it!

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… (vs. 23)

The tenses of the two verbs of this phrase, unnoticed in English, are nonetheless important. “All have sinned” (past tense in the Greek) and “fall short” (present tense in the Greek) point to a significant thing: the historical fact of our sinful condition results in our present “falling short” of God’s glory. The word translated “fall short” is hystereo, and means “in need of” or “deprived of.” What does all that mean? Human beings were created in God’s own image so that we, through a relationship with Him, might reflect His character and nature—His glory, in other words— in our lives. However, sin disrupts our relationship with God and ruins His image in us because we live in such a way that robs God of His glory. But Jesus Christ, as the Son of Man, perfectly reflected the invisible God during His earthly ministry, and through faith in Him, God’s image in sinful human beings may be completely restored.

But how does this happen? Exactly how does God give this gift to sinful man?

a. Justification, vs. 24

all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Although it seems Paul is teaching a kind of “universal salvation” in saying that all who have sinned are suddenly justified. Of course this is not what is meant by use of the word “all.” It is “all who believe” that are justified, not all that have sinned.

What does it mean to be “justified?” Over the centuries, the Church has had different ideas about what Paul was getting at. For a long time, thanks to the writings of men like Chrysostom and Augustine, the Church taught that to justify someone meant that a sinful person was made righteous by infusing them with goodness. In other words, righteous acts made a person righteous.

That view, still held by the Roman Catholics, has been discarded in favor of another one which views God as the initiator of our righteousness. At the moment of a sinner’s conversion, he is declared to be righteous by God, as the great judge of the universe. This is not to say that God turns a blind eye to the fact that we still sin. God’s declaration of righteousness has nothing to do with our ethical goodness or our virtue. It has to do with Christ’s.

Having been declared to be righteous, God, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, enables and empowers the redeemed sinner to transform his life so that it will more accurately reflect God’s glory.

So, we might say this: At the moment of our conversion, we are made completely righteous in Christ. From Heaven’s perspective, we are as righteous as we can ever be. But, from man’s practical perspective, we are certainly not righteous; we still sin, we still seek forgiveness. This is where the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit comes into play. He makes us righteous, day-by-day, as we submit our wills to His.

This justification, Paul qualifies, is given “freely,” stressing the idea that this is a gift from God; it is His way of making us right with Himself. We are declared to be righteous, forgiven our sins and saved not for any reason within ourselves because we have no merit and no virtue.

b. Grace, vs. 24

Grace” is the reason any sinner, though guilty, may be justified. Paul loved to use the word “grace” so much, it is seen over 100 times in his letters. It means “God’s unmerited favor.” It is the ability of God to treat us far better than we deserve to be treated. Grace is God’s compassion in action.

God’s grace is free to the sinner. There is not a single he can do to earn it. Though free, it is not cheap. God’s grace came as the result of the death of His precious Son.

c. Redemption, vs. 24

The word “redemption,” apolytrosis, means simply to buy back slaves in the market place in order to set them free. Human beings are enslaved to sin, unable to free themselves. We are further under God’s wrath, which we also cannot escape from. But, praise God, He intervened, paid the price to “buy us back,” and released us from our bondage.

Christ’s shed blood—His death on the Cross—provided the ransom to free us from sin’s dominion and free us to live according to God’s will.

d. Propitiation, vs. 25

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—

The “sacrifice of atonement” is a “propitiation.” God has found a way to uphold His law and preserve His justice while at the same time extending mercy and grace to a repentant sinner who trusts in Christ. In Christ, the guilty sinner finds complete forgiveness of his sin and cleansed from its guilt.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

God’s propitiation, His sacrifice of atonement, is both subjective and objective in nature. It was accomplished historically by the shedding of Christ’s blood, which is objective. But the effects of His shed blood must be received by faith, which is subjective.

Through faith, we identify ourselves with Christ’s death; we see His death as God’s judgment upon our sins and at the same time our dying to them, and also at the same time, we graciously receive God’s gift of salvation. At that moment, we can say with Paul:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

The last phrase of verse 25 is packed with power: because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. This tells us that what happened to Jesus on the Cross was a clear demonstration of God’s judgment upon the world’s sin from time immemorial . The Cross of Christ forever stands as the symbol of God’s condemnation of sin and His divine patience with ignorant sinners. God was able to be patient with man’s ignorance and sin in the past because He had determined from the foundation of the world to offer His Son before the eyes of the whole world as THE “sacrifice of atonement.”

2. Three-point conclusion, vs 27—31

The remaining group of verses gives us three important points:

a. Righteousness by faith means no boasting, vs. 27, 28

God’s ingenious “faith alone” plan excludes all boasting. Who can boast when God did all the work? Faith in Christ means there can be no pride of accomplishment; our salvation and our righteous position before God was the result of God’s merciful act in Christ’s death.

For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (vs. 28)

This stunning verse is the basis for the doctrine of sola fide: FAITH ALONE. And yet, faith alone as no power whatsoever apart from its Object. It has been accurately noted that faith is “the hand of the heart which received the gift of God’s pardon through Christ.”

b. Righteousness by faith is for all, vs. 29, 30

The “faith alone” plan establishes the true unity of God as God of all people. This plan is equally effective for the Jew and for the Gentile.

c. Righteousness by faith establishes a new law, vs. 31

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

From 1:18 through 3:20, Paul painted an accurate but desperate picture of the sad condition of all human beings. From 3:21 onward, the picture changes. Hope is now in focus. Help and hope are to be found in Christ. But some of his readers might have thought Paul was a little hard on the Law. So he makes sure we all understand that faith in no way renders the Law useless. In fact, the Law actually serves the Gospel by removing all boasting about how one is able to be saved. How does this happen? Through the Law, man’s eyes are opened to the reality that he is utterly hopeless. The Law was given so that man would seek after grace. Grace was given so that the Law might be fulfilled. The Law, in spite of what some preachers may say, was not at fault because it was not fulfilled. It was man’s fault; focusing on the letter of the Law yet ignoring its Spirit.

Religious rituals and ceremonies all-too often blind their participants to the truth of God’s Word. Martin Luther once observed:

As wealth is the test of poverty, business the test of faithfulness, honors the test of humility, feasts the test of temperance, pleasures the test of chastity, so ceremonies are the test of righteousness by faith.

Christians must ever be on their guard that we substitute anything for the “faith alone” plan.

(c) 2011 WitzEnd

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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