By way of review we will finish our study of Psalm 37 today and tomorrow in Part 9a and 9b as we cover attributes seen in the righteous lot; then we will have Part 10 in another passage to conclude our study of Dispelling the Darkness. This excerpt of our study is long as I seek to finish this series this week. Hang in there with me. We are almost at the conclusion.
“The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives. For those blessed by Him will inherit the land, but those cursed by Him will be cut off. The steps of a (righteous) man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand. I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread. All day long he is gracious and lends, and his descendants are a blessing. Depart from evil and do good, so you will abide forever. For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked will be cut off. The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.” (vs. 21-29).
The remainder of Psalm 37 reveals attributes seen in those who practice His righteousness in likeness to Christ. Our righteousness is the product of a life surrendered to God for His use in the earth. God’s light shines bright through those who willingly surrender in obedience to His ways, portraying Christlikeness in all they do. Here in the remainder of this passage of Scripture today and tomorrow we learn 10 attributes that will bear out of the life of the righteous as fruit from the Spirit of God at work in them.
1) The righteous are gracious:
One fruit of a righteous life is the ability to be gracious. As I think on what graciousness looks like, I see that it requires the practice of Agape (Godly love), for the act of the gracious is to give grace. Grace requires forgiveness of wrongs done against us and it requires us to be able to relate with those forgiven with a spirit of graciousness.
This fruit of graciousness practices patience toward others. It portrays kindheartedness even toward those who hurt us, not being arrogant or vainglorious, and it does not act unbecomingly through rudeness and unmannerly ways. Graciousness is not self-seeking or self-centered; it does not merely looking out for one’s own personal interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). All that is found in 1 Corinthians 13 is part of a gracious heart.
I am not going to go back over forgiveness again (see my blogs on that subject). I am going to say this. God hates broken relationships, because it is contrary to His desire for His creation and it misrepresents Him and His harmonious nature of unity. He desires our unity with Himself and with one another. But He understands that sin exists in the earth, and though we may forgive someone for a harm they do to us or another we love, that does not mean we will have a heart to go back to the same old relationship. That is why Jesus said that God allows divorce, because of the hardness of our heart.
Our ability to relate is adversely affected when trust is broken. Even God has shown this to be true of relationship with Him. When we break trust through sin against God, it brings a separation in our ability to have relationship with Him. But even in relationships that are broken by sin done toward one another that destroys trust, the practice of graciousness can and should be the trait of the righteous in Christ. There is still a relationship potential with those we forgive. It just may be hindered and changed by a wall of mistrust. If that is the case, the only thing short of a miracle from God that will heal the breech if for trust to be restored, and that takes time that often changes the dynamics of the relationship.
2) The Righteous are Giving:
As we said before, the righteous in relationship with Christ through saving faith have already inherited the land: we are part of His eternal kingdom and one way we experience His kingdom on earth is through our righteous practices. As the children of God, we are promised that we will receive of His supply: sufficient for every need, sufficient for every good deed, and surplus to help those who are in any need.
God graces us with His supply, giving us the ability to work and make a living. He supplies for us through the inheritance of wise parents who saved so as to take care of themselves in their old age and to have some to pass on as inheritance to their children and grandchildren. And He supplies for us in miraculous ways. All of His supply to us belongs to Him and is given to us for our wise stewardship. The principles of God are as stated above, and if we practice them well, we will find His provision in abundance. Read the following passages of scripture, and then I will give my opinion in the matter of our finances and wealth:
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
“I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it (collect an offering). But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality—your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality” (2 Corinthians 8:10-14).
God supplies us sufficient for our need. He calls us to give to others “according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” He does not expect us to go hungry or let our children be without necessities while we give it all away to others. God expects us to meet the need of our families and to pay our bills—beginning with the Tithe to God through our home churches. It is obedience here in the use of our finances for our daily needs that shows God we can be trusted with more. As we show Him we will not fritter away our supply on our lusts, but will respect and follow His principles for their use, He trusts us with surplus.
Once we prove faithful with the little, He begins to call us to do good deeds, and He supplies extra, sufficient to cover the good deeds He leads us to. His heart desire and goal is that we grow strong in our stewardship in these areas so that He can then pour out abundance to us above and beyond the need and the good deed. Out of that abundance we are called to help in meeting the need of others “so that there may be equality.”
But it is our choice whether we prove faithful in the use of His supply or not: that should not fall to government. Governments take these passages out of context, thinking that no one is to be wealthy in this world’s riches while others are poor. Jesus said, “The poor will ALWAYS be with you” (Matthew 26:11). So what is it that we are to work at bringing to equality?
I believe it is that needs be met: that none be in desperate need while growing in their walk as stewards of His supply. If a man loses his job, we are to help him feed his family while he seeks another. If a woman’s husband leaves her and the kids, we are to help her get on her feet. Are we to give to all who have need? NO!
“For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).
God desires those who are His to grow to be good stewards of His supply, and He supplies through our ability to work. “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:18).
Ephesians 4:28 says, “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” This tells me that God desires us to grow through these stages of stewardship in our wealth, working up to a level of faithfulness that brings His abundance, so He can pour out His blessing through us to meet the need of others from the abundance He gives us. That is the call of every believer, and this giving heart will be seen in us as the fruit of righteousness springs forth.
Now there is a problem in our day, not only of people who take advantage of the welfare system and the benevolent organizations, stealing what could help another when they are either unwilling to work or are unwise in the use of their finances. There are also those who steal from the funds that should be used to pay their bills, “sowing” into God’s work as if to bribe Him for more so that they can spend it on their lusts and make more bills. This is backwards from what I see in scripture. God expects us to pay our bills, to owe nothing to anyone but love, and to be wise in what we deem to be a need.
Does that mean we should never get any of the niceties or things that bring us pleasure? No, but it does mean that we must seek the Lord’s opinion and bring our desires in line with His first, making sure He is wanting to bless us in that way and that we are not spending funds intended for meeting a need on our greed. If His peace is not umpiring the transaction, best to step back and wait awhile.
“For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12). All have a responsibility to learn how to live in sufficiency, recognizing and meeting their need, being content with what they have and not robbing the surplus that could be used to meet another’s need. The wealth God gives is His, trusted to us as stewards of His kingdom for our use in ministry to our own needs and the needs of our family, and to His church through the first fruits of the tithe, then to meet the need of others around us. And when we do help another, we should help them to realize their role as steward of the gracious gift of God, helping them on their journey to abundance.
Do you think this principle explains why scripture says more than once that the children of the righteous will not be seen begging bread? I do. If we are setting the good example of stewardship and righteousness, we will raise up a righteous lot of good stewards. But if they do come into any need, they will find the family, godly friends and their church standing at the ready to help them get back on their feet, and they will seek after and find the faithfulness of God to supply them with ability to again make wealth.
3) The steps of a (righteous) man are established by the Lord
The righteous seek the Lord for their step by step instruction for living. They trust the Lord to direct their path and establish their course. They also know and trust that when the path takes an unexpected turn, it is at the Lord’s bidding for a purpose of His own: whether as consequence for some sin, as pruning and refining our lives, or as a door of opportunity with some eternal purpose.
The righteous realize that they are secure in Christ with an eternity made sure. Any difficulty along the way to the eternal has Kingdom purpose, either to work something wonderful in their lives, or to help them on their path to transformation to Christlikeness. When the path takes an odd turn, ours is to seek the Lord for the next step and to discern the purpose, knowing that we are in the place we find ourselves for a reason.
Knowing that we are established for all eternity through Christ, “WHEN we fall, we are not hurled headlong, for God holds our hand” to keep us from undue harm. We are eternally perfected in Christ; but we are continually being perfected in our earthly existence. There are times in all our lives when we stumble over some root sin, or stone of temptation. God will allow it only as far as is necessary to get our attention and lead us in dealing with the root issue that makes us vulnerable to stumbling. But He never lets us go so as to lose us from eternity with Him.
Even if we die as the consequence of a momentary sin, being unable to repent for that particular sin, if our faith and belief in Christ is active and working in us, we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, secure with Him in the eternal realm.
Realizing that God only allows me to stumble in order to promote my growth in righteousness helps me to get back up, dust off, and be transformed to His likeness. And you know what causes that goal to be important to me?
4) The Righteous Delight the Heart of God
The righteous man seeks to know the ways of the Lord so that they may know HIM, and so they may walk in the way of the Lord, growing stronger in relationship to Him. This process of growth in the knowledge of God is important and vital in the life of the righteous who desire to be known by God, called by name as a friend of God.
5) The righteous, when he discovers sin within, departs from evil to do good in order to show His delight in the Lord and to bring delight to God. I have shared the following in my writings many times, but it bears repeating here:
Years ago, I was reading God’s word and, coming upon one of the passages that speak of us getting a new name from God in eternity, I sensed a familiar prayer to know mine well up in me from the depths of the Spirit of God as never before. And just as I thought I would burst with desire for the answer, I heard clearly in my spirit, “Abigail.”
Knowing God had something awesome for me to discover through that name, I pulled out my concordances and other books I have that show the meaning of words and names. In my study I discovered that Abigail has a twofold meaning, like the flipside of a coin. On one side it means “One whose heart rejoices in God.” On the other it means “One in whom the heart of God rejoices.”
This is the call of all who would be the Righteousness of God. We are to so greatly rejoice over the Lord and our relationship with Him that we will do anything to protect the relationship. And as we do that, He finds rejoicing of His heart in us.
Thus is the call of this study, be sanctified, set apart to God as never before. Be Abigails in the Kingdom of God on earth.
Scripture teaches that the sins of the parents are visited on the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. I believe that not only means that they will suffer from the consequences of our actions, but it provides a loophole in the law that gives Satan permission to set up stumbling stones before them, tempting them in the same area of sins we have fallen too. But the descendants of the righteous shall see the lovingkindness of God to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 20:4-6)! And we are told in our passage today that the descendants of the truly righteous – the children of us who delight the heart of God, will be a blessing.
We want our nation to rise up from the ashes? We want the prosperity of our children protected? “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Beloved child of God, seek righteousness, it is the only cure for our land and the best hope for our children. Sanctification begins in Christ, covering you with the blood of the Lamb of God, and making you His delight. And your righteous sanctification is perfected as you seek God wholeheartedly, desiring Him first and foremost, having no other gods before Him. As we in this way become the delight of God, the apple of His eye, He will heal our land.
Tomorrow, more on righteousness.