If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Psalm 112. I'd like you to keep your finger there at Psalm 112. I want to show you something about the two psalms on either side of it. If you allow yourself to look back at the beginning of Psalm 111, it begins with that ascription, “Praise the LORD” that Paul referred to in the prayer tonight. And then if you’d look forward to Psalm 113, it too begins with the exhortation, “Praise the LORD,” so each of these three psalms are paired with the beginning of the psalm starting with that kind of an exhortation to praise the Lord. There is another way in which these psalms parallel one another, especially 111 and 112. We said last week that Psalm 111 directs us to the blessedness of God. Psalm 112 tonight will focus on the blessedness of the godly person. And we see the connection between the two even in the final verse of Psalm 111. Take a look at that before we give attention to Psalm 112. It ends with “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments.” And then concludes, “His praise endures forever.” But those verses or those sentences prior to the final ascription of praise to God, His praise, God's praise endures forever, focuses us on the godly person who fears the Lord and does His commands. There's a sense in which Psalm 112 is an expansion on that theme. You’re going to see that very idea come out in the first verse of Psalm 112, “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in His commandments.” And so that theme from the final verse of the 111th psalm is picked up again in Psalm 112 and expanded.
Now this psalm begins with an exhortation to us to praise God and then the rest of the psalm focuses on what a godly person looks like in this world. And that lets us know that it is appropriate for us to sing about such things. All of our songs of praise do not have to be directly focused upon God because He gives us songs in His Psalter that are not directly focused upon Him, so that even when we are thinking about what a blessed person looks like and what a godly person looks like at the direction of God's Word, we are giving Him praise, even though the praise is not directly focused on Him. Most of the songs focus us on God, but occasionally we come across psalms like this and like the very first psalm, “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,” that focuses us on what a godly person looks like, what their lives are like, what their priorities are like. And of course one of the reasons that this happens is to do what? To set before the eyes and to put into the mouths of the singing congregation an example to emulate, a character to strive for in our own life and experience. Dr. Wymond will occasionally remind us that our singing isn't just focused on giving praise to God, it's also focused on exhorting one another, and this is one of those passages where we exhort one another in song to emulate the character of the godly person that's described here.
Well in the passage tonight, we are going to take up a subject that we looked at for a few moments last week, the subject of piety. Now again, the word piety is not one that we commonly use in our natural conversation in our day and age. Maybe Presbyterians do, but piety is not a term that generally makes the drugstore counter or the dinner table discussion of the world out there today, and when it does, it's generally negative. When we hear the word piety we immediately think of the word pious, and pious has a certain kind of connotation in our culture and it's not a happy connotation. But piety is something in the Scriptures that is highly valued, and in this passage again, true piety is described. It will be commended to us in the beginning of the psalm, then the psalm will define for us what true piety is, and then it will display true piety in the life of a person. And we want to look at those things together tonight, but let's pray before we read and hear God's Word.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word. Thank You that You not only direct us to sing to You and about You, but that You direct us to sing to You and to praise You by singing about and meditating upon what true godliness looks like in our lives. Heavenly Father, we confess that we need to think about that because especially in our time there is such a torrid pace in our lives that we often go days and weeks and months on end without stopping to think what we're doing, why we're doing it, what our priorities are, what we're living for, what we really care about, what is most important, and what You have to say to us in Your Word about those things. So thank You that You've already made us sing about those things tonight and that we have the opportunity to think about them under Your Word, guided by Your divine, inspired, authoritative, inerrant truth, assisted by Your Holy Spirit opening our eyes to understand these things, and making us want to be like You. Help us, Lord, then as we hear Your Word. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
This is the Word of God. Hear it in Psalm 112:
“Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in His commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor. The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish!”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
In this psalm, a psalm that begins with an exhortation for us to praise God, we see a picture of true piety, true godliness in the life of a person. First, piety is commended to us, then piety is defined for us, and then it is displayed to us. Let's look at those three things together tonight.
First of all, piety is commended to us, and it's commended to us in the very first sentence of the psalm after the exhortation to us to praise the Lord. After we are exhorted with a hallelujah to praise the Lord, we are immediately told, like in Psalm 1, that “blessed is the man who fears the LORD,” so piety and blessing are linked. The fear of the Lord, which is the soul of piety, the essence of godliness, is linked with blessing so that we get those two things together. To fear the Lord is to be truly blessed. To experience true happiness requires the fear of the Lord, and that is such an important truth because Satan attempts to break those things apart in our hearts and minds all the time. In the garden, he said to Eve and to Adam, “If you really want to experience blessedness, if you really want to have happiness, if you really want to be like God, you must not fear Him, you must not obey His command. To find happiness, you must go outside of the command of the Lord, you must cease to fear the Word of the Lord, and you must do it your own way. And if you will do this, you will find happiness.” And so he said, “In order to find your treasure and your satisfaction and your blessedness in this life, you have to cease to fear the Lord and cease to obey His commands.” And here, the psalmist puts those two things which Satan attempted to separate, right back together. No, true blessedness is not found in rejecting the fear of God, true blessedness is not found in rejecting the commandments of God, it's found in the embrace of the fear of the Lord and in the keeping of His commandments.
Now think, young people, about how this plays out in our own experience. You will have friends who say to you that you are never going to experience the joys that are afforded to you in your youth if what you care about is the Bible and Jesus and the Gospel and church and your parents’ counsel and concerns. No, joy and fullness and treasure and satisfaction will only be found, we are told, if you go the way of seeking your own pleasure, whether it's in drink or in the company of certain friends or in various acts of rebellion. And here the psalmist is saying, “No, no, no, no. Blessedness is not found in a life that throws off constraint. Blessedness is found in a life of the fear of the Lord.” And of course, those of us who have gotten older know that that particular challenge does not go away. The middle years of life, those of us who have gotten there, are not for the faint of heart. And in the middle years of life, you begin to think, “Perhaps I will find happiness outside of the commitments that God tells me to keep in His Word. Perhaps that is where I will find my joy. I am unhappy in keeping these things, so perhaps I will be happy in rejecting these things.” And the psalmist begins by telling us, “Blessed is the man who fears God,” precisely to warn us against that kind of thinking which is the precise thinking that Satan gave to Eve and Adam in the garden. True blessedness is found in the fear of the Lord.
And if you’ll notice, you take a look at verses 2 and 3, that blessing is even tangibly described. “His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” So they’re going to be generational blessings on the person who truly fears the Lord. And then verse 3, “Wealth and riches are in his house and his righteousness endures forever.” And there’re going to be material blessings on the person of true piety, the person who fears the Lord. Now does that mean that if you are godly, if you fear the Lord, you will always be rich and everything will go great with your children? Well, you don't have to read far down in this psalm before you’re told that one of the characteristics of a person who fears the Lord is they don't fear bad news, which lets you know that they hear some bad news in the course of their life. So there's no “pie in the sky, by and by” theology here. There's a recognition that there are hard things that happen in life and that the person who fears the Lord is able to handle those things, respond to those things in trust.
But furthermore, think about it — Job, as he is pictured for us both at the beginning and at the end of his book, is a man with what? Material and generational blessings. Does that mean, because he is depicted as an ideally pious, an ideally godly, an ideally fearing the Lord man, does that mean that he does not face any troubles? Well, you would have to skip over the middle of the book to think that's what it means. He faces all manner of troubles, but the point of this is not only to describe the blessings of godliness in classic and typical Old Testament terms, material and generational, it is to make it clear that Satan is lying to us when he tells us that satisfaction only comes outside of the fear of the Lord, that we’ll only find what we're looking for if we jettison what God says and we do it our own way. And yet, over and over and over, at the point of every specific sin, that is the challenge. Every time we sin we are saying that we think we will be more blessed if we do that sin than if we do what God says in His Word. So every time we sin, no matter what the sin is, we're fighting this battle all over again to believe that blessedness is entailed in godliness and there is no blessedness apart from godliness.
And so the psalm begins, “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,” precisely to connect those two things in our mind. It is not that God is saying, “I am calling you to godliness and even though you’re going to have to leave all kinds of blessings behind, just grit your teeth and bear it.” No, He's saying the words of the hymnist, “Solid joys and lasting treasures, none but Zion's children know.” It is not the worldling that enjoys true blessedness, it is not the worldling that enjoys true satisfaction, it is the woman, the man, who fears God. That's what the psalmist is saying at the outset and we have to pray ourselves into believing that because the temptation of Satan is so loud in our ears and our hearts. So many times the way of godliness looks so much harder and it looks like it entails so much more pain than the way of rejecting the fear of the Lord that we are tempted in our minds to think that blessedness and happiness on the one hand and godliness and obedience on the other are not connected, and in fact they appear to be mutually exclusive at some points. And the psalmist is saying, “Not so; in fact, it's the other way around. Disobedience and blessedness are mutually exclusive. However the short-term gains of sin may appeal, in the end, it will not bring blessedness, it will bring misery.” Right? Isn't that the connection that Paul makes? Sin equals misery; sin brings misery and death. Godliness, however, is connected with blessedness, and so that's how this psalm begins. It commends piety.
Now we haven't even said anything this week about what we mean by piety, so let's go right to the second thing this psalm does — it defines piety for us. And it defines piety with a parallel phrase. “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,” verse 1, “who greatly delights in His commandments.” Now, notice two things — fear of the Lord; obedience to commandments. But it's not even obedience to commandments, is it? It's fear of the Lord and delight in the commandments. That is very, very significant, because in that we begin to get at something like a definition of piety. One great commentator has said, “We are not keeping God's commandments until we delight in keeping them.” We are not keeping God's commandments until we delight in keeping them. You see, disciples delight in duty.
You remember how we were saying last week as we considered what the Bible says about discipleship, what Jesus so often said? “It is My meat; it is My food; it is like spreading a seven-course banquet in front of Me to do the will of God. When you tell Me, ‘Do the will of God,’ My response is not, ‘Oh, do I have to?’ it's ‘You mean I get to eat that? That's the table that You've spread for Me, Lord? I get to do that? You’re kidding, right?’” There's a delight in doing what God has commanded, and this is at the very heart of true piety.
Listen to what Calvin says, “True piety consists in a sincere feeling which loves God as Father as much as it fears and reverences Him as Lord, embraces His righteousness, and dreads offending Him worse than death.” And then elsewhere, Calvin says this, “I call piety that reverence joined with the love of God which the knowledge of His benefits induces for until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by His Fatherly care and that He is the author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond Him, they will never yield Him willing service.” And in this passage, we have an example of willing service. Do you see the phrase again? “He greatly delights in God's commands.” What is piety? The piety is that fear of God which is the soul of godliness and it is a filial awe and reverence for God that constrains adoration and love.
Have you ever had the privilege of working with or for someone who, in the course of working with and for that person, you develop such an admiration for that person's character, such an appreciation for their vision and their integrity that you would do anything for that person? It delights you to work for them. It's been my joy in life to be a number-two man, a right-hand man, a junior assistant to several truly great men from the time I was a teenager through my thirties I got to be the person who stood behind someone else and sort of held their luggage and sort of helped them along and watched them do their ministry. And I so admired those godly men that the Lord put in my life that I would have chewed through steel bars for them. And that's what true piety is like in relation to God. When you realize what a loving heavenly Father He is, how generous He has been, when you realize the marvel of His character, you love Him so that you long, you desire, you delight to do His will. Your attitude is not, “Oh, do I have to?” it's “You mean I get to do that? I delight to do His will!” Why? Because you love to please Him. It's not a burden to please Him. You love the encouragement, you love the blessing of doing that which is pleasing in His sight. And this is piety to delight in duty, to delight in doing what God commands.
William Plummer, the great southern Presbyterian commentator on the Psalms says, “The greatest want in the world is a want of true piety.” And it's certainly one of the greatest wants in the church. If our congregation was characterized by a true delight in God and a true delight in His commands and a true reverence and fear of Him, what a witness there would be to the world around us, what a witness. And so true piety is defined for us even in these little phrases.
Now piety is displayed in the life of this godly person in a variety of ways and I want you to look at verses 4 to 9. We can't say everything that's said here. For instance, in verse 4 it would be very profitable to meditate on what it means that “light dawns in the darkness for the upright.” It seems to be an indication that even in those places where you’re tempted to say, “Okay Lord, it's dark here, Your providence is murky; I'm not sure what I should do,” that one result for the person who fears God is that she, he, knows what to do even in those dark times because God gives them light. He guides them through those dark places. We could profitably consider that, but I want to focus your attention on three things — three aspects of character that are highlighted about the person who fears God in this passage.
And the first one is this — this person is just. Look at verse 5. “It is well with a man who deals generously and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice.” Even though this person is materially blessed, verse 3, we are told in verse 5 that that does not lead him to abuse either money or power. He is just in his use of money and power and he is generous in his use of money. Notice again, “He deals generously and lends and he conducts his affairs with justice.” So unlike a person who views money as an end in itself and the blessing to be desired, he recognizes it as a gift and a stewardship from the Lord and he's just in the way he uses the money and power that the Lord has given to him. He knows that there's a greater end so he's able to resist the temptation to abuse money and power and instead be just in his usage of it. So here we see that the blessing of piety is not just in the material and generational blessings, it's in the character blessings that come with God's grace.
Secondly, we're told, and you see this in verse 7, that “He is not afraid of bad news.” In other words, positively, he, she, trusts in the Lord. Even when bad news comes, this person is not tempted to give in to the sins that flow from fear, but trusts in the Lord. We saw this morning how fear gave a toe-hold for sin in Peter's life. And we're told that one of the effects of the true fear of God is that you’re able to trust God in situations that would lead other people to fear. One of the metrical psalms has this phrase — “Fear Him ye saints, and ye shall have nothing else to fear.” If you fear God, you’ll have nothing else to fear and that is a true and Biblical principal and we see it worked out here. This person trusts; that's one of the effects of true godliness in his character.
And then third, look at verse 9. “He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted.” One thing about this person, in other words, is even though the Lord has materially blessed him, he is not stingy; he is not miserly. Instead, he is generous. He distributes freely. He has given to the poor. His righteousness endures forever. He is generous in the way that he uses what the Lord gives to him. By the way, this stanza is picked up by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 9. Right next to the statement, “Though He was rich, yet He became poor for your sakes that you might become rich in Him,” and so we're being told by Paul that this describes Jesus who was generous and the true example of true piety.
My friends, the cultivation of the fear of God, not a cringing fearful anticipation of His judgment, but a childlike reference and awe of Him that delights to do His will is absolutely critical to fighting the most important fights of the Christian life because the great temptation that Satan always holds before our eyes is that it just costs too much to follow God and that we can't afford that kind of costly discipleship. And God, in His kindness, comes back to us in Psalm 112 and in dozens and dozens of other places in the Scriptures and He said, “Are you kidding Me? You can't afford to miss the blessings of fearing Me because the fear of Me will bring you the only true blessing that exists and the rejection of My fear will leave you nothing, forever.” That's what verse 10 is about. The one who rejects the fear of the Lord ends up with nothing forever. That's why we need to school ourselves in this fear because it's what we need in the great battles of our lives, whether we're fifteen, fifty-five, or ninety-five.
Our Lord and our God, we thank You for this picture of a godly person. We recognize that this person is not godly simply by following a set of rules or principles. We recognize that a person is only godly by the work of Your grace in his or her life, but we also recognize, Lord, that Your commandments are good and it's only the evil one who says that they’re not. And though Your commandments are not a way for us to make ourselves right with You, yet delight in Your commandments is the ultimate evidence and expression of a heart that truly reverences You and worships You and holds You in awe. We want to be like that, Lord. We want, by Your Spirit, You to make us like that. Do this thing, O God, in us, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Now would you stand and receive God's blessing and take your bulletin in hand and we’ll sing the final stanzas of Psalm 112 after the benediction.
Peace be to the brethren and love with faith through Jesus Christ our Lord until the daybreak and the shadows flee away. Amen.