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Fear the Lord (Psalm 112)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au
  1. Wisdom

We live at a time where although we seem to know more about our world, we seem to understand less about ourselves and how we ought to live in it.

1.1 More knowledge

It has been said that in the year 1900 human knowledge doubled just about every century. By 1945, at the end of the second world war, it was supposed to be doubling every 25 years and by 1982 every 13 months. With the internet some argue that it is now doubling every 12 hours[1]. Whether you can really measure the growth of knowledge with any real accuracy is highly unlikely, but what can’t be denied is that it has been growing at an incredible rate.

1.2 Less wisdom

Yet despite knowing more about our world we seem to understand less about how to live well in it. We lack the wisdom to live well.  According to recent research, young people (ages 15 to 24 years old) in the western world are less happy than the previous generation[2]. It used to be the other way around, but in recent times things have changed. The US surgeon general has been quoted as saying that ‘young people are really struggling in the US and around the world”[3].

Sadly, although we have greatly grown in what we know we aren’t any wiser. Wisdom is more than knowledge; it is the understanding and insight to apply what you know so that you live well. People in the western world seem to be more confused, more troubled, and more anxious. We lack any real understanding and insight into life. We seem to have become more foolish and less wise. Despite all that we know and how fast our knowledge has been growing, we don’t seem to be aren’t any wiser.

  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

At the end of Psalm 111 which we looked at last week, the psalmist reminded God’s people of where they could find the wisdom and understanding that they needed to live in this world. The psalmist wrote….

Psalm 111:10

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

Today in Psalm 112 the psalmist has described what those who fear the Lord are like and how they are blessed. Like the previous psalm, this psalm is also an acrostic with each line of the song beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Both psalms begin with a call to praise the Lord. In Psalm 111 those who fear the Lord were to praise Him because of his great works. In this psalm, they were to praise him for those who do fear him are wonderfully blessed.

Psalm 112:1-2

Praise the LORD. Blessed are those who fear the LORD, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.

2. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

This psalm would have been an encouragement to the Israelites to fear the Lord because it reminded them of how the Lord had promised to bless them. The reference to “the upright” in verse 2 or “the righteous” in verse 6 is just another way of referring to those who fear the Lord and delight in his commands. In the rest of the psalm God’s people are reminded of the ways in which those who fear the Lord will be blessed and what those who walk in his ways following his precepts are like.

While it is true that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and those who fear him are blessed, in reading this psalm we do need to consider that our situation is not the same as the Israelites. Before Israel entered the Promised Land the Lord had promised to bless them if they feared him and obeyed his commands. Listen to what Moses told the Israelites…

Deuteronomy 28:3-6

If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: 3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. 4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.  5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.  6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

Many of the blessings in this psalm reminded Israel of how the Lord had promised to bless them if they feared him and obeyed his commandment. We need to take this into account when applying these words to ourselves.

(1) They will prosper and their righteousness endures (v3)

The first thing that the psalmist said was that those who fear the Lord and find delight in his commands would prosper and their righteousness would endure forever.

Psalm 112:3

Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.

Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land Moses had told them that if they feared the Lord and obeyed him then it would go well for them and they would prosper and live long in the land (see Deuteronomy 4:37; 8:8-9). He would bless them, and he would set them high above all the nations of the earth and he would make them fruitful. Everything that they turned their hand to do would be blessed (see Deut. 12:1) and their righteousness would endure forever.

In Psalm 111 in verse 3 the psalmist said that God’s righteousness endures forever. Here in Psalm 112 it’s those who fear the Lord whose righteousness is said to endure forever. The psalmist repeats this idea also in verse 9 after talking about generosity of the righteous who freely scatter their gifts to the poor. The psalmist seems to be saying that those things that righteous do that are done in obedience to the Lord and his word (see Deuteronomy 6:25) will have lasting value or significance. They will stand forever perhaps because the Lord will not forget them.

While on this side of the cross we are not promised the same sort of material blessings that Israel was promised in the Promised land. As believers we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ (see Ephesians 1:3). We are told that our inheritance is being kept in heaven for us. And it is one that can never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:4).

We are not yet living in the Promised Land. We are waiting for Jesus to return and for the new heavens and earth, what the apostle Peter refers to as “the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). But while we wait, we are to fear the Lord and delight in his commands for its our righteousness that endures forever.

(2) Even in the darkness light will dawn

The second thing that the psalmist said about those who fear the Lord is that they are gracious and compassionate and righteous and that even in the darkness light will dawn for them (v4).

Psalm 112:4

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

It was a promise that even though they would face difficulties and hardship and suffering in life they would never be without hope. On the one hand this verse dispels any idea that God promises his people a trouble-free life. There will be darkness. But at the same time there is reassurance – even in the darkness light dawns for the upright.

The Lord doesn’t forget his people or leave them in darkness. For those of us who trust in the Lord there is always the light at the end of the tunnel. There is an end to the darkness. We know that we will emerge from the darkness and even in death we have hope because of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. There will be a new day. Light will dawn for the upright – those who are gracious, compassionate, and righteous like their God.

In Psalm 111 it was the Lord who was described as gracious and compassionate, but this also is what those who fear him and delight in his commands are like. They are gracious and compassionate in their dealings with others. By delighting in his commands and following his precepts they become more and more like him.

(3) Good will come to them

We also see this in the next verse, verse 5. Those who fear the Lord are also generous and lend freely and good will come to them. They conduct their affairs with justice and the promise to them is that good will come to them. Again, before entering the Promised Land God’s people were called to be generous to the poor and needy. They were to be open handed and to lend freely to those in need (see Deut. 15:7-10).

Deuteronomy 15:10

Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

The psalm is really a reminder of what the Lord had impressed on the people of Israel before they entered the Promised Land. It reminded them of how they were to live and enjoy God’s blessing in the land. If they wanted to live in the land and be blessed it was essential to listen to the Lord and to walk in his ways and follow his decrees.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. You can’t live wisely following your own ways. It’s foolishness. That is the mistake that Adam and Eve made in the garden. They wanted to be wise in their own eyes and decide and choose for themselves the right from wrong, the good from evil. They wanted to be like God. But God gives grace to the humble and he humbles the proud and that’s why the wisdom of this world is foolishness. True wisdom is found in delighting in his commands, building our lives on his words and walking in his ways so that we reflect who he is in the world.

Generosity and lending freely are one of his traits that his people are to reflect as God’s people. In a similar way the apostle Paul called the believers in Corinth to excel in the grace of giving because we know the grace of the Lord Jesus.

2 Corinthians 8:9

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Paul also went on to say in chapter 9 of 2 Corinthians that God is able to bless us abundantly so that we have all that we need to abound in all the good work that he has called us to do (2 Corinthians 9:7-9). He even quotes verse 9 from Psalm 112 when urging them to be generous.

2 Corinthians 9:9

As it is written:  “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”

(4) They will not be shaken

The fourth thing the psalmist says about those who fear the Lord and keep his commandments is that they will not be shaken.

Psalm 112:6-8

Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. 7 They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.  8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

 

The righteous will never be shaken. These verses are not saying that there will be nothing in life that will shake our world, but that those who fear the Lord will remain steadfast in their hearts. In verse 7 the psalmist wrote that their hearts are steadfastness trusting in the Lord. In verse 8 he wrote that their hearts are secure. It’s about the internal security and the peace of mind that those who fear the Lord have. It isn’t that they don’t ever get bad news or don’t have cause to worry or that they don’t have bad things happen. But it is their faith in the Lord that overcomes their fears.

When the bad news comes it won’t drive them from trusting the Lord. They won’t be overcome by their fears. Fear won’t replace faith for their hearts are secure or firm because they know that the Lord will never forget them and, in the end, good will come and they will look in triumph on their foes. It’s faith that drives out fear.

Like the Israelites, we still live in a world where so much can go wrong. We live in a world where others can cause us so much pain and sorrow and heartache. We live in a world where wars continue to rage and where the innocent suffer. We live in a world where there is sickness and where death rules. But it’s our faith in the Lord Jesus that secures our hearts. We know that in the end, we will stand in triumph over all our enemies (sin which wants to master us, the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion wanting to devour us and death which wants to end us). But thanks to God, wrote the apostle Paul, to the Corinthians, he gives us victory through our Lord Jesus. (see 1 Corinthians 15:57-58). Bad news will come but our hearts have been secured by trusting in the Lord Jesus.

(5) Their horn will be lifted high in honour

The last thing the psalmist writes is the horn of the righteous will be lifted high in honour. A horn is an “image of power and dignity”[4]. It is the righteous who will be lifted up and their righteousness will endure, but in contrast everything that the wicked have worked for will come to nothing.

Psalm 112:9-10

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honour. 10 The wicked will see and be vexed, they will gnash their teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

3. Fear the Lord

Do you want a life of significance? Do you want a life that doesn’t come to nothing then don’t pursue your own selfish longings but learn to fear the Lord and delight in his commands, his word. .

  • Delight in his commands

Learn to follow his precepts and obey him. Living to please our own longings and desires is not enough for they will amount to nothing. It is those who find delight in his commands who are blessed. It’s their righteousness that endures forever..

When the kids were young, when we used to go ten pin bowling, we would put up the guide rails on the lane so that there would be something to show at the end of the night. Otherwise just about every ball bowled would have been in the gutter. The word of God are the guide rails that God has given for us to live life in this world. People are confused today because they have taken down the guide rails of what God has said is good for us to do.

But the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and it is those who follow his precepts who have good understanding and are blessed. They are secure in a way that others can never be for it isn’t our external circumstances that make us secure, it is having a steadfast heart. Our hearts are steadfast when we trust the Lord. We know that even in darkness light dawns for the upright. Good will come for those who fear the Lord.

  • Believe in the Son

If you have been feeling confused and lost, what you must do is learn to follow his precepts and learn to obey him. You must learn to delight in his commands and on this side of the cross, God’s chief command is to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23). It’s to obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:8) by putting your trust in him and to listen to him. For as the apostle Paul has written, he has become for us wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30) for he is our righteousness, holiness and redemption. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3).

Forget what this world is telling you about how to live. The world in which we live promotes the idea that it all about following our desires and longings. But the psalmist says that the longings of the wicked will come to nothing. You will only become more and more confused. Fear the Lord and delight in his commands. Learn to do what he says and not what you think is best.  Obey his voice and trust in the Son of God. For blessed are those who fear the Lord who find great delight in his commands.

 

 

 

[1] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/24735132.2020.1731203; https://jimcarroll.com/2022/12/23-trends-for-2023-8-knowledge-velocity/

[2] “World Happiness Report” coordinated by Oxford University’s Welling being Research Centre, Gallup and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

[3] This quote and the information in this paragraph largel came from an article written by Robert Booth, Social Affairs Correspondent, Wednesday 20 March 2024 in The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2024/mar/20/young-people-becoming-less-happy-than-older-generations-research-shows#:~:text=If%20the%20views%20of%20only,group%2C%E2%80%9D%20the%20report%20found.

[4] Temper Longman III, Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, 79%