Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Psalm 111:3; Psalm 112:3; also Psalms 111:4 and Psalms 112:4). In Psalm 111. God's faithfulness is celebrated; in this, man's faithfulness. The whole psalm is a continued reiteration of the blessedness of God's service. But -
I. AFTER THE MANNER OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, THAT BLESSEDNESS IS TOLD OF AS BEING SHOWN IN PRESENT EARTHLY AND TEMPORAL REWARD. The seed of God's servant is to become both mighty and blessed. Health should be his, and, yet more, righteousness. Mercy shall go forth from God to him, and from him to his fellow men. He encourages those who need a helping hand, showing favor and lending; and his enemies, for he will have enemies, he will overcome in the judgment. He shall be long and lovingly remembered, and his trust in God shall deliver him from all fear. His enemies he shall meet in the might of confident faith, and see his desire upon them. Be is generous to the poor; he maintains his righteousness and rises to great honor. The ungodly see this with rage and vexation, and perish in his sight. Such was the form which God's recompenses to his faithful people took in the days of old.
II. BUT EVER SINCE THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST HAS BEEN PUBLISHED, THE BLESSED NESS OF GOD'S SERVICE IS NOT LESS, BUT IT COMES IN A FAR DIFFERENT MANNER. For serving God may mean, and has meant to myriads, the loss, not the gain, of all earthly good (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:19). So that if we had no other than earthly good to hope for, we should be miserable indeed. But we have. Take the suggestions of this psalm, referring them to that form of blessing which the servant of God realizes now.
1. His seed shall be mighty and blessed. Is it not so? Are not the most effectual influences which are now bearing on men those which stream forth from the Church of God? Slow, no doubt, is their operation, but ever sure and increasing. And as to being blessed - ask the faithful themselves.
2. Spiritual wealth is his. The treasure store of Christ is opened to him, and his part therein is seen in the maintenance of holy character and standing before God and man.
3. The consolations of the Lord are his, and they make him a son of consolation likewise (2 Corinthians 1:4).
4. He is endued with kindly dispositions, and his fair fame his enemies cannot traduce (cf. Revised Version, ver. 5).
5. He abides in the love of God, and when he departs hence his memory is sacred and perpetual.
6. He is kept in perfect peace. (Ver. 7.) He shall be kept trusting in God, and shall see his soul's enemies destroyed.
7. Selfishness is not in him, but a generous loving heart, for which all men bless him (ver. 9).
8. His life convicts the wicked man of his miserable folly, and robs him of all power to do him harm (ver. 10). Is not all this the blessed life? - S.C.
I. HIS CHILDREN SHALL BE BLESSED. (Ver. 2.) "Mighty" in a warlike sense here.
II. SHALL PROSPER IN OUTWARD CIRCUMSTANCES. (Ver. 3.) "Godliness is profit able unto all things," etc.
III. SHALL ENJOY THE LIGHT OF GOD'S PRESENCE, AND OF Ills OWN COMPASSIONATE DEEDS IN TIMES OF ADVERSITY. (Vers. 4, 5.) "Gracious, full of compassion and righteous;" these attributes will irradiate his darkest hours.
IV. BRING RIGHTEOUS, HE IS IMMOVABLY GROUNDED IN GOD. (Ver. 61) Fixed in his trust and hope, and in all the principles of his character.
V. HAVING A CLEAR CONSCIENCE, HE IS RAISED ABOVE ALL FEAR. (Vers. 7, 8.) Delivered from the terrors that beset the guilty.
VI. HAVING AN INNER RIGHTEOUSNESS, HE ENJOYS THE HIGHEST HONOR FROM GOD AND MAN. (Ver. 9.) - S.
thousands of generations.
I. PARENTAL GOODNESS GIVES CHILDREN A CHANCE. Think how many children are born into the world over-weighted with disabilities. For extreme cases, take the vicious and criminal classes. But the fact is for us more effectively illustrated by cases of self-indulgence in youth, which involve weakened health and lowered moral tone. Good parents give their children a fair chance in the struggle of life. The children are not burdened with low vitality, self-indulgent appetite, or inability to find pleasure in pure things. Sometimes good people's children fail, but reasons for the exceptional cases can usually be found.
II. PARENTAL GOODNESS IS RECOGNIZED BY BLESSINGS ON THEIR CHILDREN. And this is the form of reward that parents best appreciate. They live over again in honorable, successful, and pious children. Therefore Easterns desired families. No nobler ambition possesses humanity than the passion to make the coming generation wiser, stronger, and better than the passing one.
III. PARENTAL GOODNESS IS THE ONE GROUND OF HOPE FOR THE RACE. Napoleon was asked what one thing France supremely needed. His reply was almost an inspiration. He said, "Better mothers." - R.T.
rightness. It is being right - right with God, and right with man, and doing right because we are right. How to become right, and how to be right, are the supreme questions for all moral beings. Every great teacher who has arisen in any age or any nation has set himself' to answer these two questions; and our Lord Jesus Christ, with Divine authority, answered them in his Sermon on the Mount. He did a prophet's work in recalling men to the spiritual conception of righteousness as heart-rightness inspiring life-right-ness, i.e. rightness of conduct and relations. Possibly, in our text, the main idea of the word is beneficence, kindness to others. But this only presents righteousness on its side of relation to man; it has also a side of relation to God. Both have to be included.
I. A MAN'S RIGHTEOUSNESS AS MAN CAN ESTIMATE IT. We have a human standard of rightness. It varies in expression; it is really everywhere the same. It is the standard of the best man of our nation or race. The psalmist said his goodness could stand the test of the "saints that are in the earth," but not the test of God. Man's idea of rightness includes purity, energy, and charity.
II. A MAN'S RIGHTEOUSNESS AS THE MAN HIMSELF CAN ESTIMATE IT. There is a consciousness of rightness, a conscious will for the right and love of the right, which are a man's dignity and strength; which a man has a perfect right to cling to as his chief treasure. Job firmly says, "Till I die I will not remove my integrity from me. My righteousness I hold last, and will not let it go." David said, "Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me." And our Divine Lord, as a man, said, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." A man's rightness is no sufficient basis for his acceptance with God, but it is good so far as it goes.
III. A MAN'S RIGHTEOUSNESS AS GOD ESTIMATES IT. He knows the distinction between its accidental and its essential features. He distinguishes the thing which appears from the foundation on which it rests. Rightness, judged by human standards, may rest on a basis of self - self-pleasing and pride. Some men respect themselves too much to do a wrong thing. But the highest type of rightness is built upon the recognition of God as the standard righteousness, who requires those who would do right to be "all glorious within." He asks for "truth in the inward parts" - R.T.
I. LIGHT DOES SO ARISE. Morning by morning, if only we were astir to see it, the light arises out of the darkness. There comes the paling of the dark, and then the gradual dawn. And the method of it is full of suggestion as to like times of darkness. The light comes because the earth swings itself round into the light. The earth, unlike the people who dwell upon it, is obedient to the Divine law concerning her; and hence, though she be in darkness, she comes out of it in due time by obeying her Creator's will, and turning towards the light.
II. THIS IS TRUE OF OTHER FORMS OF DARKNESS.
1. That of mental perplexity and doubt. This is very prevalent. All thoughtful minds seem doomed to pass through it. The getting at the real truth of things, especially in the matter of religious faith, is not easy. And if doubt be the prompting only of a sincere love of truth, then it is right, and it will be dispersed ere long. But then it often is not so prompted, but springs from quite other motives. The liking to be thought intellectual and mentally capable is often the pure origin of so-called doubt. If a man owns himself a believer, he incurs the risk, in many circles, of being regarded as weak, credulous, and more or less foolish and ridiculous. Yet more, the plea of doubt absolves a man from taking a decisive stand for God. He knows he ought to, but he gets out of the obligation, or thinks he does, by pleading his doubts. And doubt condones sin. Hearty belief brings obligation to self-restraint along with it, but doubt is free from such encumbrance, and is therefore welcomed by the sinful heart as a friend. Light will not arise to such, but the darkness will deepen more and more. But to the upright, the sincere seeker for truth, and who is not doubting because of any lurking liking for what is evil and self-pleasing to him, in due time the light will arise.
2. The state of soul-darkness also. How much of this there is! The faith of Christ ought to make men happy, to fill their souls with light and joy. But it very often fails to do this. The gladness of God's love seems only conspicuous by its absence in the case of all too many Christians. They are not sure that they are forgiven; they are certain they are very far from being holy; their sanctification is anything but complete; they cannot realize the love of God to them; they walk in darkness, and have little, if any, light; and death is still a terror to them. But are they sincere, true-hearted seekers after God? If so, their light shall arise, in spite of temperament, ill health, bad teaching, earthly care and trouble, and any other of the many causes of soul-darkness. Only let them rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.
3. And so, too, when the child of God is in darkness as to the conduct of life. How often we seem unable to make out the right way, to know the right thing to do! It is so in the home, the business, the Church. But again the promise holds good.
III. THIS CONDITION IS EVER THE SAME. AS the earth would ever be in the dark if it did not turn round to the light, so will men be unless they turn to the light. Do this in thought, in prayer, in practical obedience, and ere long the darkness will have passed, and the light will shine. - S.C.
assails him. But a widely operating principle is illustrated in his case. The good man always has the best of it in the dark times of life. Spurgeon says, "He does not lean to injustice in order to ease himself, but, like a pillar, stands erect; and he shall be found so standing when the ungodly, who are as a bowing wall and a tottering fence, shall lie in ruins. He will have his days of darkness; he may be sick and sorry, poor and pining, as well as others; his former riches may take to themselves wings and fly away, while even his righteousness may be cruelly suspected; thus the clouds may lower around him, but his gloom shall not last for ever, the Lord will bring him light in due season, for as surely as a good man's sun goes down, it shall rise again. If the darkness be caused by depression of spirit, the Holy Ghost will comfort him; if by pecuniary loss or personal bereavement, the presence of Christ shall be his solace; and if by the cruelty and malignity of men, the sympathy of the Lord shall be his support." The advantages of the good in times of calamity may be thus indicated -
I. HE CANNOT BE LEFT ALONE. The self-contained man, who wishes to be left alone in his prosperity, must not wonder if he finds himself alone in his adversity. The dependent man, who leans on God in his success, will surely find that God is there, to be leaned upon, when his time of trouble arises. He who joins himself to God finds himself everywhere with God.
II. HE CANNOT LOSE WHAT HE VALUES MOST. All that human calamity can do is to affect our possessions and our circumstances - the things that we have; it has no injurious power on the things that we are. Trouble cannot take away our faith in God, our loyalty to God, our joy in God. "The Lord is the Portion of mine inheritance," and no earthly calamity can take him away. "When heart and flesh fail, the Lord is the Strength of my heart, and my Portion forever."
III. HE CAN SEE LIGHT AND CHEER WHEN OTHERS CANNOT. Many were distressed about Daniel in the lions' den, but there was light in the darkness for him. St. Paul and Silas were dark enough in the inner prison at Philippi, but there was light in the darkness, and, in the joy of it, they "prayed and sang praises unto God." St. Paul sees such a shining forth on the darkness of his life-troubles, that he can speak of "this light affliction, which is but for a moment, and worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." - R.T.
we use the terms, if we would apprehend how the Bible-writers use them. We vow eternal friendship. We say we will never do things. But man has no right to use such terms, save as expressions of intense feeling.
I. "EVERLASTING" IS A FIGURE FOR A PROLONGED PERIOD. "For eternal remembrance," i.e. for all future time, as long as man can remember anything, "the memory of the just is blessed; but the name of the wicked shall rot." When a thing goes on and on till we can no longer see it, and can think of no agency that can stop it, we call it "everlasting." An illustration may be taken from the familiar garden flower which we call "everlasting," because, in contrast with other flowers, it will last, in our vases, all the winter.
II. "EVERLASTING" IS A FIGURE FOR THE DIVINE. It belongs to the thought of God, because we cannot conceive any causes which brought about his existence, or imagine any forces, or combination of forces, which can make his existence to cease. The word is applied by Moses to God, "The eternal God is thy Refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Mere continuity cannot be the thought. That can only be the figure in the word. What must he be who was, and is, and is to come?
III. "EVERLASTING" IS A FIGURE FOR THE SPIRITUAL. It is when it is applied to men and to men's future. Everlasting life is spiritual life, of which one feature is continuity. Eternal death is spiritual death. And this is explained by the associations of the figure. One of our chiefest "notes of value" is the length of time that a thing will last. The gnat that is born and dies in an evening is esteemed of small value; the cedar tree, that outlasts the generations, is esteemed of great value. In order, then, to bring to us the sense of its supreme value, the spiritual life is spoken of as lasting forever. We raise the value of that which lasts for centuries; we reach the highest value in thinking of that which lasts forever. - R.T.
I. MOST PEOPLE ARE. The postman's knock, much more a telegram, will often set their hearts palpitating. They realize how precarious is the tenure by which they hold their good things; they have many times had experience of the instability of that in which they have most trusted; and hence they are afraid, etc.
II. BUT OF THE SERVANT OF GOD IT IS SAID, "HE SHALL NOT BE AFRAID OF EVIL TIDINGS."
1. As a fact, real religion does ensure this. See Daniel, when he knew the decree was signed (Daniel 6:10). See Paul's letters in his imprisonment. See Nehemiah, etc.
2. It does not mean that evil tidings do not come to them as to others. They do, and often of a disastrous sort, affecting them in body, mind, and estate.
3. Nor does it mean that such tidings have no effect upon them. They do, saddening and distressing them much. Jesus wept.
4. But they are not afraid of them. They do not recognize such things as having power to touch them where their real treasure is, or as having any power in themselves at all; they are but God's ministers, and the ultimate issue of them cannot but be good. And those foreboding fears which so often precede them, God's servants are delivered from; for they believe the words, "As thy day so shall thy strength be."
III. THE SECRET OF THIS BLESSED FEARLESSNESS. It is plainly pointed out in our text.
1. "His heart is fixed;" that is, he has come to a settled conviction as to his relation to God, and as to God's mind to him. He is as certain of God's good will and all-sufficient power and grace as a dear child is of his mother's love. His feet are on a rock; he has come to be fixed in heart as to the Lord's leading him in the right way. He does not merely think it, he is fully persuaded of it, he knows in whom he has believed (Isaiah 26:3).
2. This fixedness of heart, which is so blessed, is the result of habitual trust. "Trusting in the Lord." We can form habits of trust, as of any other act of the mind. It is not a single act of faith, or a spasmodic intermittent trust, which will ensure this fixedness of heart. Built must be perpetually repeated until the habit is formed. We must put our will into it, and we must abandon everything which would render such trust impossible, as all allowed sin will and must. - S.C.
I. EVIL TIDINGS MAY DISTRESS THE GODLY MAN. Piety never either changes or deadens natural feeling. It would be true to say that it even made natural feeling more keen and sensitive. Loss of money, place, influence, and health do distress pious men; and the triumph they may gain over themselves should never be allowed to deceive us. Their victory is seldom, if ever, an easy one.
II. EVIL TIDINGS CANNOT OVERWHELM THE GODLY MAN. Because he never stakes his all on any venture. Come what may, he has a reserve, and an abundantly satisfactory reserve. "Moth and rust may corrupt, thieves may break through and steal," but they never yet found the godly man's "heavenly treasure." It is not only that, take everything away, and he still has God. It is that, in having God, he potentially has everything; what he has lost is restored, if that is best; but certainly he has the "supply of all his needs."
III. EVIL TIDINGS DRIVE THE GODLY MAN CLOSER TO GOD. He has learned the lesson of trust; and he is sure to practice it in the time of need. His heart is fixed. Trouble does not make it waver, but binds it closer, fixes it firmer. Just as the little child sits close by father in the train, but presses closer when the train rushes into the dark tunnel. "His heart being fixed in solid reliance upon God, a change in his circumstances but slightly affects him. He can be patient, waiting for the salvation of God." - R.T.
2 Corinthians 9:9; see Proverbs 11:24, 25). The exact translation of the word suggests, not occasional or impulsive giving, but constant and systematic giving, frequent and customary giving. The temptation of riches is to love them for their own sake, and to hoard them in order to be proud of them and to rejoice in them. The Christian triumph over the temptation of riches is found in regarding them as a trust to be used in Christ's service. A man goes wrong when he thinks - These riches are mine. A man keeps right so long as he feels - I am one of Christ's stewards, and it is "required of stewards that they be found faithful." The good man is "God's reservoir, and forth from his abundance flow streams of liberality to supply the needy." "Benevolence of heart, when displayed in the benefaction of the hand, is the surest mark and fairest accomplishment of a moral and religious mind."
I. GIVING IS A SIGN OF SERVICE TO GOD. It is a way of working for him. The man who gives acknowledges himself to be a servant, an almoner. None of the things he possesses are regarded as his own. Everything is a trust for use.
II. GIVING IS A SIGN OF SYMPATHY WITH MAN. "The poor" (in some sense poor) "we have always with us." Civilization tends to make very rich and very poor. Calamities bring sorrow; many are born with disabilities. Sentiment concerning the poor is a sigh of poor character, unless it be conjoined with self-denying and wise efforts for their well-being. When the man said he felt for a poor sufferer, the Quaker replied, "I feel half a crown, friend; how much dust thou feel?"
III. GIVING IS A SIGN OF LIMITED HOLD OF THE WORLD. Compare the miser and the generous Christian in their grip of the world. The miser grips the world hard; he can have his treasure only as long as he lives. The Christian is but passing through the world, and wants to do as much good as he can while he passes along.
IV. GIVING IS A SIGN OF A MAN'S LIKE-MINDEDNESS WITH GOD. "He giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; He so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." (See our Lord's teaching in his Sermon on the Mount, especially Matthew 5:42, 45; Matthew 6:144.) - R.T.