Year B – Proper 21 – Now Thank We All Our God

The well know celebratory hymn, Now Thank We All Our God, sounds jubilant as though it was written in a time of prosperity and plenty. But it was  written as a result of the terrible and tragic Thirty Years War by Martin Rinkart, a Lu­ther­an min­is­ter, was in Eil­en­burg, Sax­o­ny. Like scenes from the last few decades in Africa, this city saw a great torrent of refugees with broken lives. Plague and famine were everywhere and pastors conducted dozens of funerals every day. At one point the Swiss Army surrounding the city required a high ransom but Rinkart pleaded with them to lower their required ransom and they did. Shortly after that the war ended and Pastor Rinkart wrote this hymn for a celebration. This is truly a hymn of thanksgiving for God’s mercy and Pastor Rinkart’s voice used once for pleading to the Swiss is preserved in this grateful hymn of praise.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Year B – Proper 21 – James 5:13-20

James 5:13–20 NRSV –    Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 5:14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 5:15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 5:17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 5:18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. 5:19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 5:20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Summary –  James teaches that the community of believers, along with their elders, is the place of healing. This healing comes as we confess our sins to one another and pray, since “the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” As we reach out to those who wander from the truth we can save others from death and cover a multitude of sins. Three principles arise in this passage: 1) Patient Endurance is required for the faithful in congregational life. 2) Prayerful Confidence is needed in pursuing our needs of wisdom and healing in the context of the Christian community. 3) Penitent Restoration brings salvation to wayward members of the Church.

Insight – What needs do you have? Are you suffering, sick, down, hurting, feeling at a loss? James responds to needs in this final passage in his book. Congregational life is redemptive.  God uses many means of grace which come through other believers. Centrally, we are required to be faithful and endure in the body of Christ. There is no Lone Ranger salvation in the Bible. This last passage closes the book in parallel with the opening verses: “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials … produces patience.”

Catechism – What is taught about prayer? The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

Discussion – How does God use other believers in your life?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we thank you that you provide your grace through the sharing, singing and praying of others. Answer our prayers and grant to us healing from the inside out and cause us to be faithful to pray for others and seek their healing that we may rejoice in all that Christ has done for us. In Jesus Name. Amen.

GS

Year B – Proper 21 – Mark 9.38-50

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”  But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.  Whoever is not against us is for us.  For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.  If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.  If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.  For everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Summary – On the heels of Jesus’ teaching regarding who is the greatest, using a child as an object lesson, Jesus responds to John’s question regarding someone else casting out demons who was not a disciple.  The two incidents are related as they deal at the heart with the disciples’ attitudes towards each other and others.  In the previous passage, they were concerned to be greater than one another.  In this passage, they are concerned to show their superiority to others.  Jesus continues to preach humility:  someone else who does a miracle in Jesus’ name will eventually join us, and whoever gives us a cup of water because of Jesus will be rewarded by God.  Don’t impede, then, the work of those who are or will be on our team.  Jesus then flips it around:  by pridefully shutting down someone else who thinks positively about the name Jesus, they would be putting a stumbling block before them, and would receive punishment.  Jesus goes on to build His message which at the root is aimed at cutting out sin and supporting belief in Him.

Insight – Imagine if you were out shopping for clothes with a friend, and your friend kept talking about how amazing this new pair of shoes was.  He went on and on, saying, “These are the best shoes ever!  Everyone who is anyone needs these shoes.  No shoes will EVER be as cool as these.”  So you begin to think to yourself, “Okay, these must be pretty neat shoes, I should check them out.”  So you walk over to the shoe section, find the shoes, and begin to try them on.  But then your friend walks over, makes a face at you, and says, “You look dumb in those shoes, you shouldn’t wear them.”  How would you feel?  Would you want to buy the shoes anymore?  Jesus’ disciples wanted to do something similar.  They wanted to tell someone who was beginning to believe in Jesus to stop.  Jesus called this a “stumbling block,” because it causes people to fall and not continue in the path they are walking in.  Each day, we, as Jesus’ disciples, must do everything we can to build other people up in such a way that they begin to think positively about Jesus and then believe in Him.

Child Catechism – Why does Jesus teach us to support and encourage other people?  So that they learn who Jesus is.

Discussion – Do you think Jesus actually wants you to cut your hand off or pull out your eye?  Why or why not?  What might He really be getting at?  What does the very last sentence of verse 50 have to do with the rest of the passage? (That “peace with one another” is more or less the goal of each piece of the passage.)

Prayer – Father, we so often fail to look at others with love.  We want to put them down because they don’t do things our way.  Change our hearts through your Spirit that they would not cause others to stumble, but would put aside those things which cause us and others to stumble.  Cause us to have the mind of Christ which is humble and obediently dies to self.  For your name’s glory, Amen.

Year B – Proper 20 – Psalm 1

1 Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Summary The psalmist has two categories of people in mind, and every person falls into one of those two categories:  There are tree-like people (v.3), and there are chaff-like people (v.4), and what makes them different is this: tree-like people are those who delight in the instruction of God (v.2), whereas chaff-like people are those who delight in the instruction of the wicked (v.1).  Tree-like people meditate on God’s instruction day and night (v.2), whereas chaff-like people sit under the teaching of scoffers (v.1).  Tree-like people bear fruit (v.3), producing goodness in others and in the world; whereas, chaff-like people do not bear fruit, because that’s not something chaff does (v.4).  Tree-like people are happy (v.1) , in that they are planted by streams of water (v.3), which is to say, they have roots anchored where they’ll be nourished by God’s Word; whereas, chaff-life people are not happy (v.4), in that they will be driven away by the wind (v.4), which is to say, ultimately blown out of history and importance, since they did not have roots anchored where they’d be nourished by God’s Word.

Insight The Psalter has a lot to say about “the righteous” and “the wicked,” but those are not the two categories which this palm discusses, per se.  This psalm discusses those who delight in being influenced by God and those who delight in being influenced by the world.  Why?  Because, as the very first psalm in the Psalter, this psalm’s job is to lay groundwork for everything that follows; in other words, this psalm explains the two categories of people whom the Psalter goes on to discuss: the righteous are righteous because they delight in being shaped by God, and the wicked are wicked because they delight in being shaped by the wicked, by sinners, by scoffers.  What’s more, the Psalter goes on to offer an opportunity for the very thing it commendsbeing shaped by God’s Word: The Psalter, more than any other book, leads us in thinking and feeling after God’s own thoughts and feelings.  So, immerse yourself in it, meditate on it, pray it, sing it, and you will be like a tree planted by rivers of water.

Child Catechism
Q:  Who are like trees planted by streams of water?
A:  Those who delight in the law of the Lord!

DiscussionWhat if you do not currently delight in God’s Word…but want to?  Is it possible to acquire a taste?  Have you ever acquired a taste, before?  How?

Prayer O God, we will be happy, ultimately, if we do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit under the teaching of scoffers, but rather delight in Your law and meditate on it day and night.  Grant that we would so delight in and meditate on Your Word that we would be like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, whose leaves do not wither.  Grant also that we would remember that the wicked do not prosper, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.  AMEN.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year B – Proper 20 – Mark 9:30-37

Mark 9:30-37

 

They went on from there and passed through Galilee.  He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”  But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.  Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”  But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.  He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”  Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Summary – During their travels, Jesus teaches his disciples yet again about the nature of his earthly ministry.  That he would have to die but would rise again.  Somehow, even though this same point had been made in chapter 8, the disciples “did not understand” him.  Upon arriving in Capernaum, Jesus questions the disciples about their trail discussion, even though he knew exactly what they were arguing about.  In order to prove this point, and to set them straight with regards to their feelings of superiority, Jesus teaches them that the acceptance of children welcomes Jesus himself, which is directly connected to accepting the Father.

Insight – “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me,” Jesus said in the last chapter.  Jesus was pretty clear, wasn’t he?  Don’t think so much about the things of the world, think about MY mission.  Even so, when Jesus told the disciples again about His need to die and rise again, Mark tells us that they didn’t understand!  How could they possibly have missed Jesus’ point?  It was right in front of their face!  But Jesus used something else right in front of their face to drive home His point: a small child.

We really often focus on ourselves and what other people think about us don’t we?  Jesus wants us to look “below” ourselves and put other people first.  It’s not about us being the most important people.  And just like the disciples, when we are confused about what Jesus is teaching us in our lives, it may just be because we are focusing on ourselves too much, and not looking to the good of others and the good of Christ!

Child Catechism – By welcoming a small child, who are you really welcoming?  I am welcoming God himself.

Discussion – Who are some other people that by welcoming them, you are welcoming Christ?  Is there anywhere in Scripture that makes this same point?  (Matthew 25:35ff)

Prayer – Lord, thank you for making your teaching plain to us in your Word.  Please enliven us through your Spirit to see your Son in the children, the needy, the sick.  Forgive us for our self-centeredness.  May we daily put ourselves last, taking our cross and becoming like you in your death, that your holy Name may be furthered.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Year B – Proper 19 – How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds by John Newton is a beautiful devotional hymn. John Newton (1725-1807) is well-known as hymn-writers go. We all know and love his most famous hymn, Amazing Grace as well as Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder. Newton, of all the hymns he wrote, actually loved this one the most and during his life it was the most popular in his congregation. It was published in the “Olney” collection. The fourth verse says,  “By Thee my prayers acceptance find, Although with sin defiled; Satan accuses me in vain, And I am owned a child.” At the end of Newton’s life when his faculties were failing he said, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things — that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.”

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.

Dear Name, the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding Place,
My never failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace!

By Thee my prayers acceptance gain,
Although with sin defiled;
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.

Jesus! my Shepherd, Husband, Friend,
O Prophet, Priest and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath,
And may the music of Thy Name
Refresh my soul in death!

Year B – Proper 19 – James 3:1-12

James 3:1–12 NRSV –    Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 3:2 For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. 3:3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 3:4 Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 3:5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 3:6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 3:7 For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 3:8 but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 3:9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 3:10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. 3:11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 3:12 Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

Summary –  1) We are accountable for the official use of words (v 1). Teachers, leaders, fathers, and public representatives of all sorts can make application from this. There is accountability for leadership precisely because of the potential to lead astray those in such a leader’s care. Those who teach or publicly use words are therefore subject to a stricter judgment. The principle of accountability commensurate with influence applies to all public discourse.  2) We are accountable for the personal use of our words (vv 2-5a). A perfect person has perfect language. A mature person has mature control of his tongue. Thus, the measure of a man’s maturity is his language. 3) We are especially accountable for the destructive use of our words (vv 5b-12). Words set fires of sinfulness. Our words can be wild and untamed, like a forest fire blazing. Words destroy, not only by inflaming (witness Hitler), but they seep into us like poison. They have power, like an incantation. We can “curse” with our words.

Insight – The main current of this passage is plain in the analogies in verses 10-12. These truly need little explanation. Our words manifest ourselves. If we are in grace, we speak graciously. If we are embittered, we speak bitterly. If we are mean, we will say mean things. If we are inflamed with anger, we will say words which spew this. What is in our hearts, comes forth in our words. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Do you retaliate with your words when wronged? Do we you shoot poisoned darts from a heart of fire? Do you spread malice by subtle suggestions? Do you care for the good name of your neightbor?

Catechism – What does God require of us? (In 3:1-12)?  We are to speak graciously and in truth to care for the good name of our neighbor.

Discussion – Have you ever been hurt by someone’s words against you? How did you respond?

Prayer – Heavenly Father we praise you for your infinite justice and mercy. We ask that you grant to us that grace with which we can control our words and use them for building up others and not for tearing others down. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Year B – Proper 19 – Mark 8:27-38

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.  And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Summary – Peter gets slapped around a little bit because he told Jesus, contrary to what Jesus had just said, that He shouldn’t tell them that He had to suffer and die.  Clearly, as Jesus said, Peter was being selfish and not thinking about the big picture God had initiated.  So Jesus continued to teach:  self-denial in following Christ is necessary.  Losing one’s life for the sake of the Gospel brings a reward.  So don’t be ashamed of Christ before the world, or He will deny us.

Insight – Peter becomes such a good example of what NOT to do so many times!  Can you believe Peter would tell God’s Son what to teach?  The truth was that Peter was thinking about Jesus’ ministry from a human perspective.  He was thinking about the shame that would come to Jesus and all His followers–and especially Peter–if Jesus were killed.  But right after this exchange, Jesus tells us how we should be thinking.  Don’t think about yourself.  Don’t think about how it looks to other  people.  Put your own personal goals and desires behind that of following Christ, and the life you thought you wanted will become the one you don’t want, while the new life you get through Jesus will become everything you ever wanted.  Being afraid and timid and not sharing Christ with those you have the chance to is doing what Peter did, setting your mind on the things of man.

Child Catechism – How should you follow Jesus?  Forget my own desires and do what God tells me.

Discussion – Why did Jesus have to point out Peter’s Satanic and human-centered attitude? (*Parent hint* The question is getting at Jesus’ faithfulness to His mission)  Why did Jesus even teach them about his impending death at this time?  What are some ways you can be unashamed of Christ and of His words?

Prayer – Lord, we so often fall short of your glory, focusing on our own immediate desires and not on your Kingdom’s purposes.  We need you to change our hearts.  Remove our self-centeredness and replace it with Christ-centeredness, that we might follow after you in a way that makes you proud of us.  In Christ’s name, Amen.

Year B – Proper 19 – Psalm 19

1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament* proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice* goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In the heavens* he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;*
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Summary—The first six verses exult in God’s disclosure of Himself in nature; the next five in God’s disclosure of Himself in Law; the final four offer back to this self-disclosed God a plea for moral rescue—the inevitable response of one who wonders at God’s moral majesty.  David admits that the heavens aren’t speaking verbally (v.3), but immediately clarifies that they might as well (v.4): so forcefully and inescapably do they mean that God is glorious, observers are without excuse (Rom. 1:18-20; 10:18).  But as David considers the sun, he’s reminded of its hot, exposing, penetrating rays: “nothing is hidden from its heat” (v.6).  Which is just what God’s Law is like, so he transitions to that.  Like the sun, God’s Law cuts through deceptive fog and exposes every moral nook and ethical cranny, and it does so with uncomfortable heat.  Yet David does not shirk from this; on the contrary, this process revives the soul and makes wise the simple (v.7), it rejoices the heart and enlightens the eyes (v.8).  Therefore, this Law is sweeter to David than honey (v.10).  But just as God’s glorious sky led to God’s glorious Law, God’s glorious Law now leads to David’s inglorious heart (11-14).  His only  hope is that God will save him, not mainly from sin’s consequences, but from sin itself (12-14).

Insight— How frequently do you look up?  How frequently do you lose yourself in the wonder of the clouds?  In the transcendence of the night sky?  You should let yourself more frequently.  A finite creature could never imagine infinity if it weren’t there—these things speak of a God worth wondering at and a country worth longing for.  You’re supposed to gaze; David did.  And David shows us what it looks like to gaze well: if we gaze in the way God means us to, our thoughts will turn to Him in His awesome perfections, and from there to His Law, and from there to our short-fallings, and from there to gospel hope.  So gaze and wonder and exult frequently; and, every so often, check back with Psalm 19 to see if you’re gazing well.

Child Catechism—
Q: 
What does the sky say?
A:  God is glorious!

Discussion— Parents, if you’ve got decent weather and a clear sky, tonight, why not take the kids out and wonder together at God’s glory?

Prayer— O God, the heavens declare Your glory, and the sun is like Your Law.  By it, we are warned; falling short of it, we hope in your saving acts and gospel promises.  Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to You, O Lord, our Rock and Redeemer.  AMEN.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year B – Proper 18 – Psalm 125

A Song of Ascents.

1 Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides for ever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time on and for evermore.
3 For the sceptre of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
so that the righteous may not stretch out
their hands to do wrong.
4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.
5 But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways
the Lord will lead away with evildoers.
Peace be upon Israel!

Summary v.1: Those who trust in Yahweh—those who truly lean on Him for salvation—are like Mount Zion in that they cannot be moved.  “Mount Zion” is both one of the mountains that Jerusalem is built on, and The Place of God’s special presence by which the worshipper ascends to the Heavenly Temple.  As a physical feature, it will stand as long as the world does; as an Ultimate Reality, it will stand as long as God does.  Those who are trusting in Yahweh remain this secure.  Which is not to say that nothing bad can happen to us, but at least that everything works together for our good (Rom. 8:28).  v.2: Jerusalem, although built on mountains, is surrounded on all sides (except the north) by even higher mountains, distanced from them only by valleys.  The psalmist sees in this a type of Yahweh’s protection surrounding His people.  v.3: Wicked tyrants may rule God’s people temporarily, but never so long that God’s people must react in wickedness or must participate in their rulers’ wickedness (1 Cor. 10:13).  v.4-5: The psalmist expects Yahweh to do good to those who are good, and evil to those who are evil.  Now, the psalms everywhere express incredulity at the paradox that the wicked seem better off than the righteous (Ps. 73, etc.); but, those passages usually wind up with a view toward each person’s end, and we see that the sufferings of the righteous only contribute to their glory (2 Cor. 4:17) while the temporary glory of the wicked only contributes to their suffering. 

Insight Who are the “good” to whom God will be good (v.4)?  Do we not all sin?  Of course (Prov. 20:9), but in terms of how God labels those whose sins are already dealt with, there seems to be a “soft justice” with God:  Abraham sinned, nevertheless, God said that he kept His charge, commandments, statutes, and laws (Gen. 26:5).  Despite the case of Uriah, God could say that David had not failed to keep His commandments (1 Ki. 15:5).  The psalmist elsewhere says that he does keep God’s Law (Ps. 119:55-56).  Zechariah and Elizabeth surely sinned, yet God could say that they observed all His commandments and regulations (Lk. 1:6), partly, no doubt, because the commandments and regulation they obeyed included those which atoned for sin.  Paul sinned, yet he could say that he lived before God with a clear conscience (Acts 23:1).  And we could go on.  You see, because Jesus died, rose again, and ascended (and only because Jesus died, rose again, and ascended), you can keep God’s Law, including His command to confess your sins (1 Jn. 1:8-10).  If you do keep God’s Law, it is because He is saving you, and has placed you among those for whom He is working all things together for good.

Child Catechism
Q:  To whom will God do good?
A:   Those who, by God’s grace, are good.

DiscussionAugustine said that when God crowns our merits, He crowns nothing else but His own gifts.  What do you think he meant by this? 

Prayer Almighty and ever gracious God, we have sinned against You, and do sin against You, and have no hope of ourselves.  We do, though, have every hope in Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  He bore our sins on the cross, and that work fully satisfied Your justice against us.  The love which You now pour into our hearts can never expiate sin, nor does it need to; but, that love poured in and through us is a gift of Yours which You then reward—thank You.  So, O Lord, do good to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.  But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways You will lead away with evildoers.  AMEN.

Contributed by Scott Cline