SCRIPTURES – Ps. 112; Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Heb. 3:12-19; Mark 10:17-22
Psalm 112, our Introit for today, says, “Blessèd is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!” The people around Jesus would have thought that the rich man who came to Him was a prime example of this blessed man. After all, he strove to obey God’s commandments. He respected Jesus as a teacher. He was concerned about eternal life. And, he had prospered. Of course he was blessed by God! Jesus didn’t seem to think so, however, for He demanded a great sacrifice of him; and the man, unable to do it, left in sadness.
Let us carefully consider these words of Ps. 112, for they answer the rich man’s question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Praise the Lord!” Ps. 112 begins. God is pleased with praise; but praise is far more than happy feelings and uplifting words and songs. “Praise the Lord!” the psalmist says – and he is not referring to some undefined higher power who is different things to different people, a God you can call by whatever name you want. The Lord he praises is Yahweh, the God who revealed Himself to Israel of old as the Creator of all things who is not only above all things but is also present and active among us; and, who came among us finally as Jesus, the Lord of all in human flesh and blood.
Jesus points to this Lord when He says, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” He is not saying that He is not good, or is not God. He is responding to a man who thought that God and His words were not sufficient for his salvation, and so hoped that Jesus would give him what God hadn’t given. He was setting Jesus in opposition to and over God and His words, and Jesus would not go along with this.
Oh, how we are prone to doing this! We want a God, a Jesus, who will confirm and conform to how we think and feel.
The other day I saw a sign out in front of a church that said, “Jesus didn’t reject people; neither do we.” Those are nice sounding words, and they are meant to honor Jesus; but, they don’t because the words are not true. Jesus rejected the rich man as he was, did He not? Yes, He invited the man to follow Him – but only if he changed, sold all that he had and gave it to the poor!
You can’t have Jesus as you want Him to be, nor have Him accept you as you want to be. To praise Him is to receive Him and love Him and confess Him as He is, as God’s words reveal Him to be; and then, to ask Him to make of you what He will. This praise honors Him, and He honors it with His eternal salvation.
Giving such praise to God and receiving His blessing comes only as you are in His Word. Ps. 112 points this out by saying, “Blessèd is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!” You need to gladly and eagerly hear and learn and take to heart what the Bible teaches about God and about yourself. Jesus challenged the rich man to show His fear of God and delight in His Word by getting rid of all that he had and relying solely upon God. How are you challenged?
Is it a challenge to give up work time or personal time to make time to listen to God? This giving up is praising Him; and you have the blessing of God’s time, His eternal life, as you do so.
Will you lose favor with others if they know that you not only read but actually believe to be true what the Bible says? This is praising God; and you have the blessing of His favor you as you do so.
Will you lose out on some things you would like to do if you give more of your hard-earned money – even give sacrificially – to support your church’s teaching and preaching of God’s Word? Jesus’ demand that the rich man give up his wealth is certainly an indication that He expects sacrificial giving. This is praising God. As you do so you have the blessing of having Him who created heaven and earth, and holds all things in His hands, as your loving Father.
Does God really expect us to give up and make sacrifices to follow Him? Of course He does! “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength,” He says. All that you are and all that you have, then, are to be His! He expects this, because He is a God who has given to you – and day after day after day continues to give to you – Himself and all that is His.
Just think: there before the rich man stood far more than He expected. Jesus was not just a good teacher. He was Yahweh, the God of Israel and of all creation, in the flesh! The man didn’t see this because Jesus was there in great lowliness. He was poor and relied upon the support of others. He was a servant who took upon Himself the burdens of the people in all of their sicknesses and sufferings. We who have and know the rest of the story, the fullness of the Scriptures, know this! We know that He who is eternally one with the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven, who is the focus of the praise of the angels, took upon Himself this mortal flesh and came down into this sinful, sorrowful, angry and hate-filled world to take our sins – the cause of the sorrows and anger and hate – upon Himself and suffer their punishments in our place. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich,” says the apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 8:9. Jesus demanded far less of the rich man – and He demands far less from you – than He gave. “Come, follow Me,” He invited the man; and so He invites you. “Come, follow Me. I will give you My eternal life and take care of you always.” As you follow Him, the writer of Hebrews promises: “we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” (Heb. 3:14)
You share in Christ! He is yours, and you are His! What, then, do you lack? All things are yours, for you are Christ’s! All that He gives you is yours, to use to the honor of His name.
This is what the rich man did not get. His question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” sounds so good. Notice, however, that the focus was himself. He did not ask what he must do to honor God, but what he must do to get something for himself.
Martin Luther, commenting on Ps. 112:1, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments!”, wrote (LW 13:395-397):
“This is an excellent verse, in which is contained this thought of the Spirit: If you desire to be great, begin with God!... What does it mean to fear God? To fear God is really nothing else than to keep God in sight… He sees all we do, and we think of nothing else than the fact that His eyes rest on us. I do nothing except with this thought in mind: “O Lord, let it not displease Thee.”… Such a man needs no code of conduct. He wants to have all his life directed according to God’s will.”
Focus on God! As you fear the Lord and delight in His commandments God will indeed direct your life according to His will. You will be eternally blessed! – to the praise of Christ. To Him be praise forever! Amen.