The Righteous Path in Dark Times

To my fellow believers in Jesus.

In a time where it’s easy to become pessimistic and give in to the doom and gloom culture that permeates everything, I believe we are called to something greater. It’s easy to draw a following by decrying how the world is going to hell in a handbasket. It isn’t hard to write off everything that you see and hear in the media as propaganda. And if you do those things you actually aren’t setting yourself apart from anyone. Let me explain.

We are called to something greater.

As things currently stand, everyone believes the world is run over with evil. As long as things are polarized the way they are, the opposing camps will believe the other camp represents something evil. Democrats believe Republicans are wicked and vice versa. White versus black, rich versus poor, ideology versus ideology, and no compromise. You’re either all in or you’re not in at all. The result of this is when you ask anyone if there’s evil in the world, they’ll always affirm that and point to the people in the opposite camp.

It’s also not all that unique to believe everything is propaganda, because, again, each camp looks at the other as an agenda-laden den of vipers. This is why it’s difficult to know who’s telling you the truth. When each camp has their facts, and calls the facts of the other camp fake, it becomes impossible to know which facts are actual facts. Compound that with the problem that authorities have a history of being opaque about their intentions and motives, and you have a perfect storm where no one trusts any authority.

What is our greater calling?

What, then, is our greater calling? What will set us apart in times of darkness?
Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
 he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. – Psalm 112:4
Psalm 112 gives us some answers. For the upright, light dawns even in the darkness. We will distinguish ourselves by loving Jesus, obeying His commands. By doing those things, we will supernaturally bring light into darkness. I want to walk through Psalm 112 to shed light on why it’s important for us to be people of the righteous path in times like these.
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. – v 1-3

Raise a Hallelujah

The psalm starts with a hallelujah (hallelujah means praise the LORD). Immediately, worship and praise of the LORD is first and foremost. We should be people of worship regardless of what’s happening in the world around us.

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in His commandments.

The Hebrew reads, happy is the man who fears/reveres Yahweh. For believers, the pursuit of happiness begins by fearing the LORD, yet so often we believe it begins with earthly liberty. If I’m free to pursue my hopes and dreams, I’ll be happy. The problem is that most of our hopes and dreams don’t make us as happy as we’d hoped. They’re not able to sustain the weight of the happiness we innately desire. God says, fearing me will make you happy. So simple, yet so unbelieved.

The one who fears the LORD will greatly delight in His commandments. Fearing Yahweh will lead us to obedience. In fact, obedience is the way Jesus said we’d know we love Him. If you love me, you’ll obey my commandments (John 14:15). Therefore, real, lasting happiness is found in fearing/revering, and obeying the LORD. Period.

His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.

The man who fears the LORD sets up his children for spiritual flourishing. If his children listen to him, they will be mighty. Every generation of children must make a choice whether to believe what their parents believe. God has built this principle into the fabric of creation. The children of the righteous will be blessed if they listen.

However, you don’t have to look far to find God fearing people whose children took a completely different path. You see it in the Kings of Judah. For instance, Jehoshaphat, a righteous king, was succeeded by his son, Jehoram, who was wicked (2 Kings 21:5-6). You can probably find believers in your own life who have wayward children. Sin is always in the shadows, and often finds its moment to derail the legacy of the godly.

Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.

Any time we see the Word promise wealth and riches we should do two things: think spiritually and look ahead into the final Kingdom. The fact is not every person who loves Jesus becomes financially wealthy in this world. But, it is a fact that everyone who diligently pursues the LORD becomes spiritually wealthy in this world, which builds rewards in the future Kingdom. Our greater calling involves sending our wealth ahead to the New Heaven and New Earth by seeking spiritual riches here in the present.

His righteousness endures forever because his righteousness isn’t his own. His righteousness comes from the LORD as a gift because through faith we receive Christ’s righteousness as a gift. Our righteousness can hardly endure a long line in McDonald’s drive thru. Christ’s righteousness, though, 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. – v 4-5

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.

I led with this verse because it gives us the best contrast. Light in the darkness. A torch in a dark valley can be seen for miles. But why? What makes his light… light? He is gracious, merciful, and righteous. If it isn’t our righteousness, but Christ’s, then it’s also Christ’s grace and mercy that flow from us, not ours.

The grace and mercy of Christ in dark times will always stand in contrast to the culture. Jesus is too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals. He’s marching in peaceful protest, and He’s working in Wall Street. He’s healing the addicted and reconciling the estranged. He’s telling the criticized to toughen up and the critic to lighten up. You won’t be able to put Jesus in a culture category because He transcends our culture… He’s His own culture! He’s the third and greater option in a polarized nation. He’s not just a hope, He’s the Living Hope! Wherever you find His people, you’ll find Him because we are nothing if He isn’t with us!

[soapbox over]

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice.

There’s something about this statement that may not be abundantly clear on the surface. The man who fears the LORD deals generously and lends. This implies that he is able to be generous and lend, which also implies that he is not indebted to others. Those who fear the LORD will work for financial freedom so that they can maximize their generosity. This might sound a bit Dave Ramsey-ish, but I think in this case, Dave is in line with what God has already told us. The one who fears the LORD and imitates His generosity will be well, or said another way, will flourish.

But generosity isn’t where it stops. He is also just in all his dealings. Like Jesus, he isn’t a respecter of persons. He is an equitable person, who deals with all people as he would like to be dealt with. He loves his neighbor as himself and seeks to treat everyone with the same standard of grace that he has received from God.
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. – v 6-8

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.

I’ll keep calling back to this because it’s so important. The righteous will never be moved because Jesus is the Righteous One, not us. While it’s true that the psalmist didn’t have the fullest revelation of this truth, even King David understood that his flourishing depended entirely upon God’s Spirit remaining with Him (Psalm 51:11). When we stand in Christ’s righteousness, we will not be moved… and because it’s His righteousness we’re talking about, He is the one who is remembered forever!

The principle for us is this. These dark times will not shake us as long as we walk in the light with Jesus. It’s His righteousness that makes us unshakeable, and we will withstand whatever may come. This is a great segue to the next two verses.

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.

I’ve never lived in a time where there has been more bad news than the last six months. Pandemics, eroded liberties, police brutality, civil unrest, deadly shootings, and those are piled on top of the already polarized political and cultural environment we’ve created for ourselves in the last decade. Should we wear masks to help lessen the spread of COVID-19? Some say yes. Some say no. So, we argue and debate, and... get no where.

The righteous are not afraid of bad news. When Christ lives in me and through me, He makes me brave. He provides the boldness to face down another day of turmoil all around me. He makes me steady. My thinking isn’t swayed into extremes, but I remain fixed on Him and Him alone. He is my only Extreme. I don’t give into the despair. I don’t succumb to the pressure to conform to the world, but neither am I given to defiance that carelessly strews stumbling blocks on the path to Jesus.

The righteous are also always aware of the battle. If COVID-19 disappeared tomorrow and we achieved racial harmony, and all violence ceased, and our politicians all got saved, that would be awesome. But the battle would continue because our fight is not against flesh and blood. The righteous remain steady until the war is over and we triumph with Jesus over our adversaries. If I may go here, part of the deception that will accompany the final tribulation is that we’ll see peace break out everywhere (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Don’t be deceived by man-made peace. Man-made peace is still an agenda of darkness because the only peace that truly endures is the peace brought by God’s Kingdom, through Christ’s triumphant return. Remain steady and alert, unshaken, and Spirit-filled as we await His return.
He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever;
his horn is exalted in honor. – v 9
I saved verse nine to deal with it by itself before we get to verse ten. Look what the righteous man does. He distributes freely and gives to the poor. His generosity, which flows from righteousness, will exalt him in honor. This reminds me of a historical fact. When the Church was still young and persecuted by the Romans, the Christians took care of the sick and dying in the Empire. They took care of people who otherwise would have been persecuting them. They took care of the sick through two epidemics of plague in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, even though they themselves were being killed for their faith.

There’s a divine generosity at work in the heart of every believer that stares their enemies in the face and says, even though you would kill me, I will love and serve you. The LORD exalts and honors that kind of love. But I think this kind of generosity has a relationship with the final verse of this psalm.
The wicked man sees it and is angry;
he gnashes his teeth and melts away;
the desire of the wicked will perish! – v 10
The wicked sees the flourishing of the righteous – his generosity, his steadfastness, his justice, his light – and just gets angry. Why? Because, like John 3:19 says, people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. It doesn’t matter how much your generosity may help people, when your light exposes someone else’s darkness, they will do one of two things: they will either want to know more about your light, or, and more than likely, they will hate you. Jesus told Nicodemus that the world would rather be in the dark because their deeds are evil. That’s even a telling statement in itself. This isn’t a matter of ignorance of evil. The world knows its deeds are evil and prefer darkness so that those works might be concealed. They choose darkness because they know it keeps their evil deeds away from the light. However, here’s the thing about darkness…
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you. – Psalm 139:12
Nothing is hidden from the LORD. When it comes to Him, the things we do in secret, might as well be done at noon in the middle of the road on Main Street. When our light enters into their world, all they want is for our light to go away, even if we are a great help and bring extreme generosity with us. They’d rather we didn't.

“People may know your opinion, but do they know your LORD?” 

I don’t know how this impacts you, but it brings me great joy to know that even in these dark times, we can find happiness in the LORD (or be blessed for those of you who struggle with happy). We can be full of hope. We can be generous. Not only can we be, but we should be. Turn off the echo chamber you’ve curated on social media. Silence the voices in your life that constantly cry doom and gloom. Fix your eyes on Jesus and get your hands dirty with helping broken people meet Him. Be a light, not a fight (I know we're in a fight... but it rhymes).

Last Sunday, my friend and fellow servant, Noah, preached and wrapped his sermon with this question: “People may know your opinion, but do they know your LORD?” Stop fretting and telling people what you think about all our bad news and start showing and telling them about Jesus. He’s greater… and not just greater, He’s better.

No… the best.
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