“When one considers David and Solomon, one tends to think of gold, silver, crowns, thrones, victory, wives, children, fame and pleasure. After all, were not David and Solomon both honored with a double-portion of this world’s pleasure? However, consider David in the cave, and consider David on the run from his own son. The same dismal condition was experienced by Solomon. There were times when both kings wallowed in danger, depression, and despair. However, this Psalm was no less true for them in the dark days than it was in the more enjoyable seasons of life.”
On the majority of Christian television shows and radio broadcasts, Prosperity Theologians rule the day. With their “power of positive thinking” messages and “name it and claim it” theology, they promise health and wealth to all with sufficient faith — especially those who are willing to prove their faith by sending them a “seed faith” offering. When presenting their fundraising pitches, cloaked as sermons, they choose their scriptural texts carefully. In the New Testament, they avoid the Apostolic and early church testimony, and pick proof texts which promise “mountain moving” results. Then, in the Old Testament, they avoid Job, Lamentation, and the Prophets and preach from selected Psalms. One such favorite prosperity Psalm is number 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!
In this passage, the Psalmist rejoices in the blessings of the Lord. Fertile wombs and many children are promised. Wealth and riches flow in abundance. Bad news does not touch and bother the worshiper. Righteous judgments abound throughout the land, and the poor are ever-improved by the rich. Because of God’s blessings, the emotional state of the worshiper is steady; so too is his cash flow. So blessed is this worshiper of God that wicked men see, covet, and are overcome with envy. Doesn’t this sound glorious? Where do we sign up for this life plan?
However, how does this square with the experiences of Able, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus, Stephen, and Paul? Scarce would be the person who longs to walk in their shoes. Then, when one looks at the church of the first three centuries, one notices their lack of health, wealth, and temporal prosperity? Christians were more likely found in catacombs and coliseums than in castles. One can then widen his perspective and look at the typical Christian around the world. How is this Psalm to be interpreted in the 10-40 window or in third-world environments? And the same reality can be seen in America — even in the Bible Belt. It is not hard to find faithful Christians who are hurting terribly. One can almost hear these friends saying, “What about my blessing? What about my party? Are you kidding me … the wicked do not look at me and envy. No, they look at me with pity!”
So, how does one apply Psalm 112 to real life? It is this author’s contention that one should apply this Psalm, and other benedictions, in three ways:
First, those who enjoy such temporal blessings in this world should be filled with humble thanksgiving and loud adoration. They should recognize the temporal grace which God has given to them. They should not take this for granted, and should look about and see other faithful believers who prosper not in the same ways. They should not be arrogant, but recognize the source from whom all blessings flow. Then they should be loud and braggadocios — not of themselves, but of their gracious God. Wealthy and healthy Christians should make sure their neighbors realize their fountainhead of eternal and temporal grace.
Second, those who enjoy such blessings in this world should be filled with repentance and holiness. God promises discipline to all his children who walk in rebellion. All of the above benefits are tied to the pursuit of righteousness. According to the Psalmist, blessed is the man who:
- Fears God
- Greatly delights in God’s commandments
- Is upright
- Is righteous forever
- Trusting in the Lord
Sometimes, men struggle due to the consequences of their sin. They have denied God’s Word, played the fool, and are reaping what they have sown. Other times, men struggle because God’s hand is heavy upon them. Therefore, all believers who are recipients of God’s grace, should consistently walk in repentant holiness, lest they encourage the gracious fatherly correction of God.
Third, those who enjoy such blessings, and those who enjoy not such blessings, should be filled with eternal hope. When one considers David and Solomon, one tends to think of gold, silver, crowns, thrones, victory, wives, children, fame and pleasure. After all, were not David and Solomon both honored with a double-portion of this world’s pleasure? However, consider David in the cave, and consider David on the run from his own son. The same dismal condition was experienced by Solomon. There were times when both kings wallowed in danger, depression, and despair. However, this Psalm was no less true for them in the dark days than it was in the more enjoyable seasons of life. All of the promised blessings are coming true in the day when the King of Kings finally and fully vanquishes Satan and sin. Until then, God gives all people such a longing, and then he gives some people such a reality in order to remind men that Christ’s kingdom has not fully been realized.
Ultimately, for the wicked, this is all the heaven they will ever experience. However, for the Christian, this is all the hell they will ever experience. And for some of them, even this “hell” is not so terrible. God has been for more gracious toward rebels than they deserve.
Joseph A. Franks IV is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. This article first appeared on his blog, and is used with permission.