On a hot day in August 1950 in Arnolds Park, Iowa Billy Graham was scheduled to speak at a series of campground meetings. Due to sickness, he was unable to preach that day so an evangelist by the name of Leighton Ford stepped in and took his place. In typical Billy Graham fashion, the preaching was followed by an altar call for anyone who wanted to come forward to receive Christ as Savior. I don’t know how many people responded that day, but among those who did were two very special people, Fred and Marj Hintz, my grandparents. They were a young married couple with two little kids, both of whom they dragged to the front of the meeting with them while they prayed to receive Christ. One of those children was my mom.
It was a costly choice as many of their friends and some family walked away from them, but legacy always outweighs cost. Fast forward to 2015 and their descendants include 5 children, 11 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great grandchild (I think). Incidentally, of the 16 great-grandchildren, two of them have been adopted from Africa extending the reach of Grandma and Grandpa’s obedience to an entirely different continent!
Psalm 112:2, 3 (NKJV)
“His descendants will be mighty on earth;
The generation of the upright will be blessed; Wealth and riches will be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.”
My story is a good one, and I’m one fortunate person to have been born into a family whose grandparents and parents were obedient to Christ and answered his call on their lives. But this is not everyone’s story. How do we interpret these verses in light of our reality? How do we reconcile these verses with the reality of wayward kids, financial distress, or having no children at all despite the fact that we really do try to live a righteous life? Have we missed out on God’s blessings? Are we just simply not righteous enough?
It’s important to remember that the study of God’s Word is to be done in context. This Psalm, obviously, is part of the Old Testament where spiritual blessing was often, though not always, demonstrated through financial blessing, long life, many children. In addition, as part of the Old Testament, it was written in the context of the Law. To apply this Psalm to our lives today we need to apply it in the context of the New Covenant and all that that entails. It is from this vantage point that we will find our answers.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NKJV)
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-‘not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,’ says the Lord ‘but this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘know the Lord,’ for they all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.’”
Everything changed when Jesus hit planet earth to bring a new covenant, the covenant of grace which replaced the Law that those of the Old Testament lived by. No longer were generations taught the Law and commanded to live by it. Instead, His kingdom was eternal, open to everyone, not just the Jew, and easily known by anyone who would desire it. To that end, He taught unceasingly what the life of a believer would look like. I mentioned earlier that Psalm 112 is one of 13 Psalms in this series of didactic Psalms that demonstrate two ways of life, that of the righteous and that of the unrighteous. Ironically the characteristics of the godly mirror the character traits of those in the Beatitudes, that is, meek, poor, needy, brokenhearted and the like.
If His kingdom was spiritual in nature, then the blessings we can expect are often spiritual in nature. Maybe you’re the first person in your family to have a relationship with God. What an opportunity to set the foundation for those who come after you. Maybe you don’t have children, or have only one, or those you have are not following Christ. Does that mean you’re unrighteous, that God will withhold blessing from you? Hardly. What about those around you who have been encouraged, or who have made a different decision about something because you took the time to listen and point them to Christ? Or maybe just by watching your life someone else mustered the courage to take a different path, the right path.
I sat at a funeral over the weekend of a woman whose life was an example of this. She had terminal cancer and lived with it for years in front of everyone. As a result of her relationship with Christ and the way she handled her disease people from all over the country who had never met her were touched by her life. Her identity was in Christ, not her cancer. She lived and parented strategically, always with her identity in Christ at the forefront of her mind dictating how she behaved.
What are we talking about here? The Christian life is not about us. It’s about leaving a legacy in whatever way God has mapped out for you whether that’s through your children or friends, strangers we meet, whomever. The life of a Christian should mirror the stone that’s thrown into the water causing ripples to go beyond what the eye can see. That’s the wealth and riches we can count on, that we can store up for ourselves. Those who’ve come to Christ because of our testimony will spend eternity with us fulfilling the promise that our righteousness endures forever.
I Timothy 6:17-19 (NKJV)
“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”