Frustrations Over Conflict

Following their captivity in Babylon, God provided the means and motivation for the Jews to rebuild the temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Ezra and reinstitute temple worship in accordance with the Law once they completed their mission. Nehemiah, who served the king in Persia, ultimately returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and reinvigorate Jewish society and spiritual commitment. However, this, along with the prophecy of Zechariah, demonstrates how slowly the Jews returned from exile, many choosing to remain behind rather than relocate to their homeland. This diaspora created its own challenges, leaving God’s people in the midst of a foreign and ungodly culture to face the constant barrage of immorality, ridicule, and opposition that their neighbors inflicted upon them. Regardless, their captivity had taught them greater piety, and so many would journey to Jerusalem for the commanded feasts. Their longer journey to their homeland presented an opportunity for them to refocus and remember why they were making the trip. During this time, an author or authors penned a series of psalms known collectively as “songs of ascents,” psalms written for the journey home. In Psalm 120 we find the first in this series, and its content very naturally focuses on the author’s feelings at the beginning of the journey.

This psalm has a personal tone to it more than a collective national feeling, and yet its content quite naturally reflects the people as a whole. The psalm opens with a hint of their former captivity. A people in distress cried out to the Lord for relief, and He answered (Psa. 120:1), an acknowledgement that the opportunity to return to Jerusalem existed due to God’s deliverance. However, the reality of life among ungodly people and their regular words of mockery—an ever present problem throughout captivity—now receive a response. For decades they had listened while pagan lips ridiculed their God and their faith as insufficient to deliver them from their hand, but in the end they could point to His lovingkindness and mercy to prove that their faith had not been unfounded (Psa. 120:2-3). Therefore, in a sense, they could point out to those in Babylon that they too now felt the sting of Jehovah’s judgment (Psa. 120:4). However, this opportunity to return home had another effect. The faithful child of God now felt isolated from home as never before, as though living in the distant lands to the north or as nomads in the south (Psa. 120:5). The burden of living long with those opposed to God no longer appeared as merely a physical distance from home but also a moral chasm as well, for while seeking God’s will and peace with others through it, the surrounding world yet resists (Psa. 120:6-7). 

Such a perspective should feel more than natural to the child of God. We also live in a world that promotes immorality and ungodliness. With increasing frequency we hear attacks on our faith and attempts to silence the Bible’s message. Many Christians work in an environment hostile to faith in general and Christianity specifically. The Supreme Court has stripped as many references to God as possible out of the public schools. Political correctness has reached the point where a basic statement of reality receives death threats in response in social media. And with so much out of our control, we should appreciate even more the focus of the psalmist and long for those times when we can gather together as God’s people, proclaim our faith, encourage one another, and build our courage to face the onslaught of Satan’s minions. It took the Jews decades to realize how much they should value worship and spiritual fellowship. God’s people today need to learn from Israel’s failure AND from the psalmist’s revival of hope—and learn quickly.

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The Purpose of Bible Study

Nowhere in scripture will you find more attention and greater praise for the written word of God than in Psalm 119. While those familiar with Bible trivia immediate recognize it as the longest chapter in the Bible, totaling one hundred seventy-six verses, the power and beauty of this psalm lie in its detailed insight into the value of God’s word. Divided into twenty-two sections of eight verses a piece following the Hebrew alphabet and basing every line within each section on the corresponding letter, the psalm displays a brilliant aspect of ancient poetry. However, without any doubt, its content more than its style cause the godly heart to sing. Most assume that David penned this ode to written revelation; however, the focus, placement among the psalms, and limited situational references all point to the time following Judah’s return from Babylonian captivity when the rebuilding of the temple coincided with renewed attention to the Law amidst adversity and controversy. If so, the scriptures still offer a hint regarding its potential authorship: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). The same verbs emphasized in this one verse—seek, do, and teach—demonstrate the same themes that recur throughout this powerful poem, which I encourage you to read in its entirety before continuing. Regardless of the authorship, the content deserves great attention and appreciation for its sublime description of the purpose of studying God’s word. 

While various descriptions of God’s word dominate this psalm, its purpose lies not in emphasizing spiritual learning but spiritual living. The psalmist interweaves his love for the word of God, his learning the word of God, and his living the word of God throughout the psalm, all in the process of seeking God, honoring God, and obeying God. Thus, these concepts do not exist independently of one another but rather coalesce to present a unified whole. This should affect how God’s people see God’s word and the role it should play in their lives. For the psalmist, seeking God and living according to what God revealed are part of the same process. The word deserves the utmost attention, respect, admiration, care, and love we can muster precisely because of Who gave it to us. While God introduces the extent of His power and providential care through creation, He reveals His mind, His purpose, and His heart through His word. It serves as the gateway to knowing Him and then also knowing how to please Him. God’s word guides us through life, away from sin, and to the LORD. The word of God opens a window into wisdom far above our own experience that provides insight into the nature of life and into our own soul. It offers a perspective for our existence that lifts us up when we are down, humbles us when we forget our place, and gives strength in times of weakness—not due to offering cliches and feel good stories, but by drawing man closer to His Creator. However, all of inspiration benefits us none whatsoever unless we are willing to spend time, thought, and energy contemplating not only the meaning and wisdom of divine precepts but also considering the God who gave them. Our God does not call on His people to understand His will in some academic fashion; He gave us His word to affect our will so that we submit to His will.

Every aspect of studying God’s word should ultimately focus on living in a way that brings us closer to God. And yet, in today’s world, people seem unaware that obeying what God has revealed is the pathway to that closer relationship. In fact, some speak as if the Bible is an impediment to people’s love for God, as if doctrinal faithfulness and precise obedience—both direct responses to God’s will—somehow diminish joy, hope, and love. We should all adopt the psalmist’s point of view. For him, the word of God was not an impersonal document loaded with burdensome regulations and restrictions. Instead, he allowed himself to embrace its content as though feeling the breath of God as He spoke. Thus, the word was not an impersonal barrier but an essential bridge, making it possible for God’s heart and wisdom to affect our own and so change our lives completely through our obedience. If this is not the end in mind when we study God’s word, we are doing it wrong.

What Can Man Do to Me?

As a general rule, people feel sorry for themselves far too much. Self-pity fills social media when people take a break from arguing about mostly meaningless matters. Rather than seeing the challenges of life as regular occurrences and difficult circumstances as the nature of life, people behave as if they have some inherent right to a perfect life free from adversity. We have convinced ourselves that we can rid the world of warfare, eliminate all disease, and quash bad behavior with the wave of a wand. We have turned every possible negative into some kind of cause as if we possess the ability to eradicate all sadness. As a result, rather than accepting the reality of problems in life and rising to meet the challenge with courage, character, and commitment, many respond with an insufferable case of the “Why me?’s.” Modern society has become so soft that people believe they can encourage competition while outlawing losing, challenge children to be their best while complaining when anyone pushes them to improve, and enjoy freedom of speech while maintaining the imaginary right to be free from ever being offended. Ironically, this deplorable state of humanity exists primarily due to placing so much focus on…humanity.

When the psalmist penned Psalm 118, by inspiration he looked far beyond even his own society to describe an attitude regarding life that expresses a perspective that transcends self even in the midst of great hardship to embrace faith to such a degree that it redefined life. From this perspective, challenges and adversity do not dominate but rather the mercy of God, because it demonstrates His care throughout life so consistently for good that the negatives stand out by comparison (Psa. 118:1-4). Therefore, accepting the reality of danger in this life, even under duress (Psa. 118:5) faith remains strong (Psa. 118:7-9) because “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psa. 118:6). Thus, rather than allowing life’s challenges to overwhelm, faith makes it possible to remain strong and confident even when under attack (Psa. 118:10-12). Life upon this earth faces the ugly reality of death on a daily basis—and sometimes with a fury that demands attention every moment (Psa. 118:13-16), but even then faith conquers fear because, come what may, “I shall not die, but live, And declare the works of the Lord” (Psa. 118:17). God does allow suffering in this life (Psa. 118:18), but He does not abandon us to it (Psa. 118:19) because He has made it possible to deliver the righteous even from the most tragic circumstances, which is why, even when facing death, we can offer Him praise (Psa. 118:20-21).

If such faith and perspective seems impossible, what follows in the psalm should help tremendously. “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psa. 118:22-24). The perspective offered throughout the psalm is Christ’s. Despite the rejection of the Jews, the humiliation of the trial, and the excruciating pain of crucifixion, Jesus never asked, “Why me?” He understood. And when we not only appreciate His attitude but also adopt it, it makes it possible for us to see life in terms of God’s mercy and goodness too, for even through our suffering and death, He has not abandoned us (Psa. 118:25-27). He is still our God, and He still deserves our praise (Psa. 118:28).  Therefore, whatever adversity, whatever hardship, whatever pain, whatever grief, let us also respond with eternity in view and cry out to heaven, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psa. 118:29).

Short and Sweet

Though the shortest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 117 is far from short on content. Beginning and ending with “Hallelujah,” including the Gentiles in the call for praise, and then combining the power of God’s love with the perseverance of God’s truth, the depth of meaning contained within this psalm far exceeds the natural expectations for two brief verses. And yet, even then, a consideration of the likely timing and focus of this psalm shines new light that proves worthy of reflection and deep meditation. Therefore, consider these words: “Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, And the truth of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!” (Psa. 117:1-2).

Three times the psalm mentions the covenant name of God, Yahweh, which makes the opening appeal to Gentiles all the more interesting. Why would the psalmist, by inspiration, connect the covenant name of the LORD with the Gentiles with whom He had no such covenant? Why refer to “us” in verse two, which would have included the Jewish psalmist and therefore the Jews in a psalm calling on Gentiles to praise the LORD? What relationship would the truth of God’s revealed will have to the Gentiles who had no written revelation? When considered in its own time, the beauty of the psalm takes on a puzzling nature. However, its placement in the canon adds yet another dimension. This psalm occurs within the general framework of psalms associated with the return from captivity. Therefore, the attention given to Gentiles proves all the more striking. While some might consider these questions reasons to doubt the inspiration of the psalm, they actually shed light on its meaning.

This psalm acts as a perfect response to Judah’s return from captivity because it focuses on God’s greater purpose and the reason underlying their return in the first place. Therefore, as the Jews returned to their homeland after seventy years, as promised, the LORD once more demonstrated His faithfulness to the covenant despite Judah’s own failure. But that covenant had implications far beyond Judah, as God told Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). The covenant made with Abraham was designed not only for Israel, but for all. Therefore, the covenant name of Yahweh stands as an important reminder of God’s intent to bless all nations. Thus, God included even those peoples who could not trace their physical origin back to Abraham in the blessing of peoples, as Paul would later emphasize to the Galatians (Gal. 3:26-29). The postexilic date puts the second verse in greater relief as well. The LORD extended His merciful kindness, His steadfast love, to His people. It indeed prevailed “toward us.” His love brought them back to fulfill their purpose as a people when their conduct alone would never have warranted it. But the LORD had promised not just to return them from captivity but to use them to bless others, and that truth endured in the mind and heart of God despite the sins of Judah and all mankind. The covenant thus pertained to all people—not just to the Jews. And their return from captivity proved that God had not forgotten His promise nor turned away from that established purpose. Imagine then, as Judah left Babylon after the decree of Cyrus, the psalm calling out to their former captors to praise the LORD!  What a scene! But it was appropriate because He was also doing it for them. Even more, it is only because of the enduring character of Jehovah God that salvation is possible for us today. “Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, And the truth of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!” (Psa. 117:1-2).

The LORD’s Servant

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you just wanted a do over? Perhaps you, like I, have regretted saying things due to frustration or just lack of preparation and wanted to take those words back and start again. Or maybe a job or a relationship got off to a horrible start and you spend the rest of your time trying to make up for that bad beginning. In one way or another, we have all been there. But has the prospect of death ever visited you so strongly—whether due to illness, accident, or attack—that led you to reevaluate your priorities seriously or at least reflect on that moment enough to see life in a new light? Most of us have had close calls in automobile accidents. Many know what it is like to survive cancer. Some have returned from the heat of battle. And if we understand the blessing of life at all, such experiences ought to motivate us to engage in sober reflection on what life ought to be going forward.

The anonymous psalmist who penned Psalm 116 offers us just such a reflection. In a burst of emotion and joyous conviction, he calls attention to that moment when, desperate and with death looming over him like an enemy ready to strike, he called on the LORD for help (Psa. 116:1-4). However, as he then went on to explain the deliverance provided, he began with the LORD’s character: gracious, righteous, and merciful (Psa. 116:5-6). This perspective changed everything, for by it he saw his new lease on life as a bountiful blessing from the Lord that gave him new opportunity, drove away sorrow, and helped him get back on his feet—a series of blessings we often long for in the moment and yet forget after the crisis has passed (Psa. 116:7-8). Life goes on because the Lord has made that possible (Psa. 116:9). Then, turning his attention once more to what made this possible, he emphasizes that despite his circumstances, his faith in God never wavered, though his confidence in men most certainly did (Psa. 116:10-11). Therefore, having received deliverance through a positively answered prayer, the psalmist asks the question, “What shall I render to the Lord For all His benefits toward me?” (Psa. 116:12) and then proceeds to answer in the verses that follow, promising to accept this new opportunity at life as powerful proof of the LORD’s care and of how much He cherishes His people (Psa. 116:13-15). Thus, to be the Lord’s slave is a position of value one should cherish as well, for there is greater care and honor in serving God than in the greatest awards available for serving self (Psa. 116:16). The opportunity to offer something back to God, considering all that He has done for us, is a monumental blessing itself, a privilege that deserves publicity far and wide (Psa. 116:17-19).

God’s people, forgiven of their sins (Eph. 1:7; Acts 22:16), dead to the world (Col. 3:5ff), and living anew (Jn. 3:3-5; Rom. 6:3-4), should embrace this new life that makes living a privilege rather than just some random experience we muddle through. Perspective matters greatly—how you see yourself, your God, and others. So, if you want the best life (John 10:10),…

  1. Love the Lord with all your being as long as you live (Psa. 116:1-2).
  2. Recognize what only God can do (Psa. 116:3-4).
  3. Have confidence in God’s character and a humble attitude toward yourself and your need (Psa. 116:5-6).
  4. Be at peace and relax, knowing that God is in control and will take care of you, come what may (Psa. 116:7-8).
  5. Live each day knowing the LORD sees you so that you can live each day longing to—one day—see the LORD (Psa. 116:9).
  6. Have such a faith that adversity causes you to trust the Lord more—not less (Psa. 116:10-11).
  7. Recognize spiritual opportunity and seize it (Psa. 116:12-13).
  8. Take spiritual responsibilities—and life—seriously (Psa. 116:14-15).
  9. See yourself as a servant (Psa. 116:16).
  10. Live life with a thankful heart (Psa. 116:17-19).

These principles are nothing new; they are centuries old, rooted in the very nature of life as God created it. And that is what makes them worth living.

The Character of the LORD

We live in a secular world. People focus on secular accomplishments, judge value in physical ways, and offer materialistic explanations for their own existence. While the intellectuals of modernity attempt to couch their trust in the world in scientific and philosophical terms, in the end they have simply added technical dressing to a pagan principle. They proclaim the glories of the physical because they deny the spiritual. Secular humanism, the de facto religion of the irreligious, demands a self-saving doctrine built on self-centered trust and self-styled purpose in order to create a self-oriented glory they call self-esteem. How sadly typical that, in order to find value in themselves, they consider it necessary to eliminate God from their thinking. In the process, they limit themselves and their value because they see themselves solely as material beings as well. The LORD offers so much more to His creation than an existence rooted in worldliness. But if we expect others to see this, we must ensure that we fully appreciate it first. In Psalm 115 the psalmist contrasts the worthlessness of paganism with the transcendent nature of  the LORD, and this comparison retains similar substance in combatting modern secularism within our own hearts.

Secularism assumes all existence is physical, but the LORD transcends this world (Psa. 115:1-8). Left to his own devices, man strives for personal fulfillment rooted in his own selfish desires, a matter easily justified if man is the measure of all things. But the existence of a Creator demands humility of man and submission to His will, a will that exists apart from this earth, rooted in omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Any attempt to assert some will by appealing to human experience and wisdom pales in comparison—not only in the nature of the claim but also in the actuality of the practice. Like the pagans of old, materialistic practitioners today, trusting in worldly wisdom, end up caught in the trap of their own hypocrisy, constantly adjusting their precepts and advice in a silent acknowledgment of their fallibility and ignorance. Secularism implicitly encourages its adherents to trust their instincts for personal behavior, trust secular “experts” for answers to life’s questions, and trust government programs for life’s problems. The faithful, on the other hand, trust the LORD (Psa. 115:9-11). This does not constitute a blind faith in the immediate dissolution of all problems in life but rather a recognition that following the prescriptions of divine revelation provide far greater help and protection in life than the combined wisdom of thousands. Secularists convince themselves that they alone are responsible for every positive advance of humankind while simultaneously blaming humanity for every perceived calamity in existence. Because they place themselves at the pinnacle of thought, they reject the providence of a Creator who cares for His creation and for those who serve Him in particular (Psa. 115:12-15). They give millions of dollars and years of effort to try to solve problems that do not exist—all because their pride rejects God. And thus they live in fear, lacking the comfort of the simple phrase, “The Lord has been mindful of us.” Most of all, secularism degrades individual purpose and replaces it with personal fulfillment—a natural progression for those who view life without reference to God or eternity (Ecc. 1:2-16)—but the LORD gives purpose to life (Psa. 115:16-l8). We live as caretakers of the earth—not its children. We live treating life as a blessing and an opportunity to serve God—not an existence created by chemistry and defined by biology. We live for God and for eternity in accordance with His character, and that changes life itself.

Are You Impressed?

Different people find different talents, characteristics, and achievements impressive. Someone interested in sports will find a feat of athleticism far more impressive than a perfectly performed violin concerto. Similarly, an official in the State Department likely values the skill of negotiation more than those working in Defense. Therefore, our own interests play a significant role in what impresses us, a tendency that can lead people into an echo chamber of self-congratulation and away from greater understanding. Ignorance plays a role as well. In public speaking, such as preaching, people usually marvel at memorization, emotionally moving displays, and a well-honed rich baritone voice while taking for granted excellent organization, meaningful development, and thoughtful analysis. In this case, ignorance leads people to notice the obvious in presentation but miss the important in essence. 

While the connection may appear tenuous at first, this problem regularly presents itself in the spiritual realm. Depending on the religion, denomination, or philosophy, what impresses a person reveals much about themselves and about their choice. Certain people find the ceremony, pomp and circumstance, and formality of particular religious groups impressive and compelling. Others wonder at the quiet solitude and meditative qualities emphasized elsewhere. Likewise, many embrace an emotional emphasis and spontaneity while others find this meaningfulness while seeking deeper intellectual meaning within themselves and society. Close attention reveals that people are impressed by and drawn to something they feel that they need in their lives—for whatever reason—or that reflects their own personality.

However, when the psalmist reflected on Israel’s birth as a nation, an escape from the greatest power of the time preceded by ten plagues that devastated the land, and on her entrance into what became the homeland (Psa. 114:1-2), rather than recounting the impression made upon those other nations or even the children of Israel themselves, the psalm instead turned to anthropomorphism, assigning living behaviors to the inanimate in nature. However, these actions had a root in reality. The Red Sea and the Jordan River, the borders of Egypt and Canaan respectively, both retreated at the command of God to allow Israel passage (Psa. 114:3). Similarly, when Israel camped below Mount Sinai, the people witnessed the quaking of the mountains before the LORD delivered the Law (Psa. 114:4). Nevertheless, the questions that followed show the real point (Psa. 114:5-6). Why did this happen? Since the psalmist intentionally gave the waters and the mountains traits of the living, making decisions about their behavior, the explanation must do the same. What impressed the waters and the mountains? The next verse answers the question in the form of exhortation: “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the God of Jacob” (Psa. 114:7). The mountains and the seas, recognized for their power and majesty, even worshipped in pagan cultures, here acknowledged the sovereignty of Yahweh, bowing down in figure before Him to do His will. This alone should impress, and yet the psalm adds one more note in the same closing sentence, “Who turned the rock into a pool of water, The flint into a fountain of waters” (Psa. 114:8). The same God whose power and presence impress the mountains shows interest and care for His people. This unique combination is the most impressive aspect of God, and yet so many miss it. Indeed, because people search for a religion, a church, or an idea that fits their personality and proclivities, they fail to appreciate and be impressed by the God who cares for them and simply wants them to do His will (Heb. 5:8-9).  

Purposeful Praise

Everyone enjoys receiving praise. In general it denotes respect, appreciation, and admiration. In learning it indicates satisfaction, competency, and progress. Praise can motivate us toward reaching new heights while justifying the effort made to that point. People have so valued praise that they began treating it as a means of building self-esteem, even to the point of offering praise for meaningless non-accomplishments and failed attempts. Sadly, this latter practice divorces praise from worth, acting as if the words themselves hold the power instead of realizing that the power of praise lies in the truth of the statement, the sincerity of the speaker, and the relationship between those involved. And while many might recognize the folly of empty praise lauded on children for spelling cat with a k, and though many might reject vain offerings of adulation heaped upon them undeservingly, Christians sometimes fail to reflect deeply on the meaning and purpose of praise when they bow before Almighty God. 

The writer of Psalm 113 had no such difficulty. For him, praising the LORD came naturally from a consideration of the distinctiveness of His being, the grandeur of His sovereignty, and the blessings of His covenant. He opened with what might seem generic praise and yet proves to be far from it: “Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, Praise the name of the LORD!” (Psa. 113:1). This is personal praise—praise offered to the One who revealed Himself as Yahweh to Israel, praise given by servants who humbly bow in reverence and devotion, ready to do His will, and praise rooted in the personal relationship the covenant He established made possible. As He explained to the Israelites while they still suffered in Egypt, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them” (Ex. 6:3). The covenant created a special relationship, and that relationship elicited personal praise. But this praise did not usher forth lightly, casually, or routinely. The closeness of the relationship proved all the more amazing when considering the great majesty of the LORD. Eternal, omnipresent, and sovereign—no small sampling of appreciation could do. The praise must match the One praised, and for the LORD that requires a recognition of His transcendent spirit, submission to His sovereignty, and a heart giving its all (Psa. 113:2-4). Then, having reached up to touch the hem of divine majesty, the psalm takes an unexpected turn that distinguishes Jehovah from the pagan claimants to the throne of deity in the form of a rhetorical question: “Who is like the Lord our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold The things that are in the heavens and in the earth?” (Psa. 113:5-6). He is indeed unique. And His interaction and attention to man proves just how different He truly is. The glory of the LORD is visible not in His aloofness towards mankind but rather in His loving interest in every man. Nothing escapes his notice, and nothing is beneath His interest. This description defies not only the gods of mythology and paganism but also the pretensions of Gnosticism and Deism. Through divine providence, the LORD reaches down from the heights of heaven to lift up the lowly upon the earth. He lifts the poor out of their poverty and the needy out of their necessity (Psa. 113:7). He lifts up leaders from among the humble and gives recognition to the unknown (Psa. 113:8). He grants children to the barren and builds a nation for the ages (Psa. 113:9). There is nothing the LORD cannot do. 

These were no mere boasts. This praise reflected Israel’s history. The nation, as promised, sprang forth from the womb of Sarah. Their first two kings rose to prominence from obscurity. Then the LORD’s kindness renewed and from the poverty of captivity provided the means for rebuilding the temple, Jerusalem, and the nation. However, one final thought makes this praise all the more significant. The psalmist quotes from Hannah, who would bare a son given to the LORD. But more than that, this psalm anticipates Mary, who would sing a song of praise that not only celebrated a birth made possible by the LORD but also signified just how much He would be willing to humble Himself on behalf of mankind (Phil. 2:5-8). Praise the LORD!

Blessings of Righteousness

God has done so much for man that it boggles the mind. From the provisions of creation to the promises to Abraham to His intervention in history with the children of Israel to the sending of the Savior, at every turn God stepped in to provide precisely what man needed at exactly the right time. Indeed, even before Jesus came, the psalmist acknowledged this. However, sometimes men spend so much time marveling at the grace of God that they fail to consider the responsibilities of faith. Psalm 112 pairs with the previous psalm, so indicated by the acrostic based on the Hebrew alphabet, and answers Psalm 111’s citing of all that God has done for man by calling on men to respond in the only manner appropriate to such an outpouring of grace—with faith and faithfulness. In the opening declaration the psalmist writes, “Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, Who delights greatly in His commandments” (Psa. 112:1). Thus, the righteous will respond to all that God has done with praise, with reverence, and with a careful consideration of the divine expectations for man contained in God’s Word. As the verses that follow demonstrate, this triad of characteristics produces a particular character and way of life.

Following God’s design for life develops people prepared to lead others in society and to provide guidance for generations to come (Psa. 112:2). By conforming to the character and conduct described in Holy Writ, individuals put themselves in a position to prosper in life, working to provide for themselves and for others in need (Psa. 112:3a). More than this, their spiritual behavior creates a legacy that not only affects their fellow men but also reaches into eternity (Psa. 112:3b). The righteous become a blessing to people they know (Psa. 112:4a), demonstrating interest, compassion, and fairness in all their dealings with others (Psa. 112:4b). Indeed, the heart of the righteous reaches out to others with unmistakeable generosity (Psa. 112:5a) while maintaining good judgment so that no one should take advantage (Psa. 112:5b). Even during hard times, the righteous maintain a steady faith because they do not allow the difficulties of the moment to dominate their view of eternity, trusting the LORD to provide and protect whatever might come to pass in this life (Psa. 112:6-8). Such preparation of the heart makes it possible for the upright to use their own blessings to help others (Psa. 112:9), just as the apostle Paul noted when he quoted from the psalm (2 Cor. 9:9-12).

The righteous life offers the only fitting response to all that God has done. Nevertheless, while the righteous respond to God’s goodness with praise, reverence, and study, unfortunately, not all are righteous. The wicked fail to appreciate God’s blessings, reject His favor, and allow bitterness and resentment to grow within until they can see none of the good God has done. Left only with their own desires, they have nothing of value to treasure in life, and their lives often show it (Psa. 112:10). How sad, with all that God has done from creation forward for the benefit of man, that some remain oblivious to these blessings and instead see only themselves. Having God in our lives improves everything about life. It gives us perspective and purpose. It develops within us compassion and character. It challenges us to do more for others and see beyond the moment. When we see what God has done for us, it is truly amazing what righteousness in us can then do.

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