Not afraid of bad news

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There is no doubt that the psalms are full of praise for God and Psalm 112 is no different. It begins with “Praise the Lord” and if you were wondering what for, the psalm explains. To praise God is to speak well of God and such praise would be given if only we could truly appreciate all that God does for us. This psalm is a companion with psalm 111 but this psalm falls into the category of a wisdom psalm making it distinct. Just like other psalms which have key verses and memorable verse, like “the lord is my shepherd I shall not want”-Psalm 23  or “blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked” –Psalm 32 or “I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness”-Psalm 84. Now there are many other Psalms which have those familiar verses, that help us to remember them.

Anyone who is familiar with Psalm 112, will often remember v7 in particular “he is not afraid of bad news” it’s a striking verse for more than one reason and if for no other reason that we live in a world will bad news does come and it’s even more of a blow when its without warning when we are not expecting it. This man, however, is not afraid of bad news, for such is his personal stability in God.

Summary

The psalm begins with praise and also with wisdom. The wisdom is highlighted by the fact that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and so what this man gets to enjoy in his life with God is in the context of also receiving wisdom because he fears God and because he delights in God’s commandments verses 1and 2.

As we move through this psalm it’s clear that he has received many temporal blessing in this world. Temporal as a means of describing them as belonging to this world. Now while it’s true that God is eternal and gives eternal blessings. This is not the focus of this psalm as such. This is about being blessed as you live your life in this world. In a world where bad news can come temporal blessings can provide temporal comfort. This is not to say they are the source of security or comfort but God does use them to make life easier. The blessed man reflects God in all that he does v5-9 but the wicked man v10 does not see this as a virtue.

A distinction

We are not to think however that this wicked man is just any old man, but rather he is probably an Israelite, one of God’s people but not one who is faithful to God and so this is why his desires will perish, they will not bear fruit. In the psalms, we see that God’s people who are faithful and trying to live faithfully in all that they do have to do so in an unbelieving world where they have enemies. But those who desire God’s commandments are also challenged by those who are amongst God’s people who don’t desire God’s commandments. So a very important distinction here can be seen. The world is blessed by God but God’s people, in particular, are blessed in particular ways. But even amongst God’s people there will be differences due to how much each one fears the Lord and delights in his commandments. We want God to treat everyone who belongs to Him in the same way when it clear that God’s people do not obey or delights in God in the same way. So the division here is between those who are blessed by God and those who are not amongst God’s people because of their desire, not God’s.

The blessings

Here is a man who has wisdom and we know this because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1). Wisdom is a blessing that is practical. But this man also delights in God’s law; obedience to God is not as difficult when you love what you are obeying. This then is the foundation of this man’s daily life.

We should notice then that the blessing which follows are temporal in that they are of this world and are perishable, his offspring will be mighty in the land v2 wealth and riches are in his house v3. The righteousness which this man has is the same kind which we find in the Sermon on the Mount – practical righteousness, works of mercy and this is seen by the fact that he reflects God’s righteousness by dealing generously v5 and giving to the poor v9.

The point here is that the eternal God is the source of temporal blessings. It’s true that these blessing made come from the world in the form of money, food, home etc., but their source is God and this is what this man understands. The eternal God is the source of temporal blessings as well as the eternal ones. So when this man lends and gives to the poor, he does so because he understands that he is not the source of these temporal blessing but God is. And since these temporal blessings can make like easier, and give temporal comfort then they should be given even if it is only to create a small temporal change in a small way. Shelter for the homeless, a meal for the hungry, water for the thirsty, there is no doubt that they are temporal benefits but they are benefits nonetheless.

In the same way, some people can afford private health care and have operations performed by the private hospital this can only happen for those who can afford such a thing. Education may be considered a temporal blessing but no one would argue that it improves the life of the person who has received, that it can open more doors. So it’s not too difficult for us to understand that righteousness is to be practised through the giving of temporal blessings in a temporal world and this reflects God when we do. God makes this righteous man’s life easier with such blessings but he gives them, to such a man who will steward what he has been given not just for himself but towards the poor because he understands that he is not the source of such blessing for the poor but God is through him. God is not afraid to point out that he does not give to some not because he doesn’t love them but rather because of their inability to steward them properly – and however much we tell God that we can, the response is to always begin with a little.

Personal stability

As we conclude we are drawn to this man’s personal stability – he is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord v7. Like the other blessings, this man is not the source of his own stability but he does have the responsibility and this is spelt out in the fact that he trusts in the lord v7 but also remember delights in the commandments v1.

What we are to notice here is that his stability comes from what the word of God concerning him says. V6 the righteous will never be moved and they will be remembered. If it’s the case then that God’s word concerning the righteous is that they will not be moved then we can understand why this man is not afraid of bad news. Because the word of God concerning him says he will not be moved. His stability comes from God and his word concerning Him and he will not be afraid of bad news because his heart is firm trusting in the lord.

The legs of Jesus could not be broken not because he had legs which couldn’t be broken but because the word of God concerning the bones of Jesus said that they would not be broken. Focusing on what God word says regarding us is how we will not be afraid of bad news.

Exhortation

No good thing is withheld from those who walk uprightly and godliness with contentment is great gain, such truths are found here in this psalm and should be found in our life. John Calvin believed and taught that such material blessing as we see here, even though temporal would be bestowed upon God’s people even more lavishly if it were not for our sinful natures. In other words, we would see more blessing which comes from living by faith if only we lived by faith faithfully.

The word of God holds true – so you can leave here not being afraid of bad news, but you can only leave here not being afraid of bad news by fearing, delighting and trusting in God in the same way the psalmist does here, which is something you can do.

By Daniel Ralph

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