Blessed is he who cares for the poor; the LORD will deliver him in the day of trouble.
Isaiah 50:17; 10:1, 2; 3:14; 58:5-11; Jeremiah 22:3; Amos 2:6). The Lord Jesus Christ confirmed all this by his precepts, illustrated it by his life, and actually deems it of so much importance that, looking onward to the time when he shall be the Judge of all the nations, he declares that, according as men have attended to his poor or not, will be the stupendous distance between a "Come, ye blessed!" and a "Depart, ye cursed!", (Matthew 25:31-46). Hence the theme before us now is one that is vitally bound up with the essentials of true religion and of acceptable worship to God, so that we have the warrant of the entire Scriptures for dealing with this blessing, which is here pronounced on the benevolent, as being not only the words of David, but a continuous utterance of Divine revelation from beginning to end. Hence it would wonderfully enlarge and strengthen the basis of such an appeal as this verse suggests, to combine with it the two benedictions in Matthew 5:7 and Matthew 25:34, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy;" "Come, ye blessed of my Father!"
I. THE REVEALED WILL OF GOD SHOWS US HOW TRULY MAN IS THE OBJECT OF A. DIVINE REGARD. No one can study intelligently the book of God and compare it with the pagan estimate of human nature, without being struck with the amazing contrast between heathenism and Christianity, and, indeed, between heathenism and Hebraism. Often, indeed, both Moses and Christ are accused of indifference to the lot of the slave, because neither of them overthrew slavery with a single thrust; but they did a better and a nobler thing - they dropped those seeds of thought concerning man's dignity, concerning men's relation to God and to each other, that, in springing up and bearing fruit, would cause slavery to fall most utterly, never to rise again. And, even now, the kindly thoughts of and for us which pervade the book, given in germ in the Law of Moses, and in ripest form in the Epistles of St. John, are such that when they take effect in human hearts and lives, they turn selfishness to love; and if such, effect were to be universal, we should have a Paradise below! A common Fatherhood is over all; hence a common brotherhood should bind all in one. "There is no respect of persons with God." To despise the poor, to turn aside the right of a man before the face of the Most High, the Lord approveth not. And this pure leaven of the kingdom is gradually diffusing itself through the race, and will, till the care of God for us all comes to be mirrored in our care for each other.
II. WHEN AND WHERE GOD'S CARE FOR MAN AS MAN IS UNDERSTOOD AND COPIED, THERE WILL SPRING UP PRACTICAL BENEVOLENCE; and this will take effect in every form in which such kindness can be shown. The special feature noted here is that of "considering the poor," which would involve a looking out for cases in which we can render aid of any kind whatever; and when such cases are before us, making them the objects of our deep interest and practical concern. Briefly we may set these under four heads. We should be ready and ever
(1) anxious to be helps everywhere;
(2) anxious to help men for Christ's sake;
(3) anxiously caring for men as men, either because Christ died for them, or because Christ lives in them; and
(4) anxiously seeking out the cases of special sorrow and distress, that we may cheer the suffering and the sad.
III. ON THOSE WHO LIVE A LIFE OF SUCH PRACTICAL BENEVOLENCE FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, THERE IS A BLESSING PRONOUNCED. It will be the blessing of both the Father and of the Son, yea, and of the Spirit too. The Spirit; for he pronounces it in the inbreathing of these sacred words. The Son; for he proclaims it now, as our Teacher, in the Sermon on the Mount, and will pronounce it, as Judge, at last. The Father; for the very words of the blessing which the Son pronounces are, "Ye blessed of my Father. In this love he blesses specially all whose love is the reflex of his own. And the people's blessing will attend him who lives to bless the people; in such a case, in a high and holy sense, vex populi, vox Dei.
IV. THE BLESSING OF HEAVEN ON THOSE WHO LIVE TO BLESS OTHERS IS DIVINELY RICH AND FULL. What does it involve?
1. Divine approval; for God's heart of love has diffused its own glow of sympathy within.
2. The heart of the Lord Jesus is touched; for he feels kindness done to others for his sake as done to him. Wonderful, indeed, is his Inasmuch."
3. Those who love like Jesus will find their home with him. How inspiring are the words, "Come, ye blessed of my Father"!
4. There will be the recompense of "a kingdom prepared. Oh, how infinitely do the recompenses of abounding grace outweigh any little acts of kindness the saints may have shown to the poor of Christ! Only grace" can account for a reward so large.
V. OF SUCH IMPORTANCE IS THIS LIFE OF SERVICE FOR OTHERS THAT, APART FROM IT, ALL RELIGIOUS FORM IS EMPTY AND VAIN. (Matthew 7:12, 21-23; Matthew 25:41; Mark 10:21; Luke 16:19-31; 1 John 3:17; James 2:6, 13; James 5:1-4.) To call Christ "Lord, Lord," and then to disregard his injunctions, will be of no use. Note: Here are three lessons urgently calling for enforcement.
1. Let the agnostic and positivist, who are calling out for a religion that means "living for others," see if they have not here the religion for which they call, and which is only waiting for its professors to act up to it, to revolutionize the world.
2. Let but the spirit of the text inspire man universally, and all struggles and alienation between class and class would forthwith cease.
3. Let some who have given disproportionate attention to doctrine, and who have paid too little heed to life and love, aim at a readjustment. We want doctrine and life; not one without the other.
4. Let Christian Churches learn that if they would commend themselves to the age, they must live to serve the age, by holy thought, pure living, and manifested love I
5. Let us thank God with all our hearts for the ameliorating influence on the lot of man, of this Divine command to care for others; e.g. homes, refuges, hospitals, etc. - C.
I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, Thou knowest.
1. In this matter our age stands in strong contrast to some former notable periods. In the days of Whitefield and Wesley men everywhere and in all conditions made religion a matter of common converse. Then great reforms took place. The traffic in slaves was stopped; the condition of prisoners improved; Church missions and Sunday schools were established. Then society was almost universally stirred and excited by the most glorious themes of the Gospel.
2. Observe how desirable in every way is the practice of converse upon the things of God. Christianity is no private monopoly, no exclusive, personal possession. It is a social religion, because it is made to be talked of, and talked into every sphere of life, and to rule and govern them all.
3. It is, then, very clearly our duty to use the faculty of speech for God's glory, for the health and strengthening of human souls. All the processes of building and uprearing in this world are prized by men. But by just so much as souls are nobler, grander structure than houses or palaces, or bodies, so the vital energy of pure and holy speech, dropped into the outward and inner ears of men, startling, quickening, sobering, prompting, guiding, elevating, sanctifying them, to good resolves, to noble acts, to self-devotion to God and man, to purity, to excellence and heavenly-mindedness; so the work and power of holy speech towers immeasurably above all the constructive work of architects and builders in this outward, visible world.
4. You tell me it is bard to talk about religion. Many people are reluctant and unwilling to speak concerning this most sacred of all themes, lest they should be betrayed into a habit of cant; which is the simulation of feeling when one has no feeling. Others are afraid of becoming flippant about holy things. And, first let me say there can be no general rule given concerning religious conversation. Perhaps the nearest approach one can make to a precept are the words of St. Paul (Colossians 4:6). That is, our conversation should be saturated with pious and religious prudence flowing from the Holy Spirit. In ordinary conversation we should talk with such a sense of sacred propriety, with such Christian cheerfulness, with such generous courtesy for the opinions and feelings of others, that although the name of Christ be never mentioned, people may gather that we have been with Him, and that His Holy Spirit is the prompter of our life and thought. On the other hand, there are times when our discourse should be most direct and distinct. When we are dealing with the sick, with people who are anxious and inquiring, with indifferent and careless people, then circumlocution or indirection is a great fault. Be faithful to souls, in your conversation as well as in your walk and bearing. But bear in mind two things.(1) That no stilted, formal, unmeaning words on religion will reach any man's soul. If you are not impelled by duty and interest in men to talk with them concerning religious matters, hold your tongue.(2) Join to this the duty of avoiding all debate and wrangling upon religion. The work of Christians is to persuade and invite the careless; not to dispute with them.
I. OUR LORD DID UNDOUBTEDLY FULFIL THEM. He concentrated every faculty and power to this work; He testified frequently to the greatest crowd. His preaching was never heartless. As if He had said, "Thy righteousness is in my heart, but I have never concealed it there." And He always kept to vital matters — to God and His attributes. "Thy righteousness, Thy faithfulness," etc.
II. LET US STRIVE TO BE ABLE TO SAY THE SAME. It is certain that many will never be able to, for in all our churches there is a very large proportion of idle people. I hope they are saved; the Lord knows whether they are or not, but whatever else they are saved from, certainly they are not saved from laziness. They must imagine that they are ornaments, for certainly they are of no use, so far as any good offices are concerned. Nor will cowardly people be able to make this protest. The retiring disposition of many Christians is seen in somewhat the same way as that of the soldier who, when a charge was ordered, felt himself unworthy to be in the front ranks. Nor again will spasmodic people — people who begin things with much zeal, and then drop them. But many men of one talent will. I have known many such — good, earnest, humble, patient, praying toilers, hidden in obscure villages, with an extremely narrow sphere. And some, too, to whom larger talents have been entrusted. Let all such resolve to be able to lay claim to its praise.
III. IF WE CAN, MUCH COMFORT ON MANY SOLEMN SUBJECTS WILL BE GAINED. The death of so many unsaved men; their hereafter, so awful; the doom of the heathen, the uprisings of error — for the blame of this wilt not lie at our door. Now, are not some of you ready to undertake this work of going forth as God's missionaries? In the sight of God ask yourselves — is it not your duty?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I have not hid Thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation.
1. Such experience is even an impulse to self-manifestation, as all love and gratitude are. It wants to speak and declare itself as naturally as a child will utter its first cry. Thus, if one of you had been rescued, in a shipwreck on a foreign shore, by some common sailor who had risked his life to save you, and you should discover him across the street in some great city, you would rush to his side, seize his hand, and begin at once, with a choking utterance, to testify your gratitude to him for so great a deliverance. Or, if you should pass restrainedly on, making no sign, pretending to yourself that you might be wanting in delicacy or modesty to publish your private feelings by any such eager acknowledgment of your deliverer, or that you ought first to be more sure of the genuineness of your gratitude, what opinion must we have, in such a case, of your heartlessness and falseness to nature? In the same way how can the young convert keep from saying, "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare," etc. etc.
2. Such an inward change is in its very nature the soul and root of a corresponding outward change. It is the righteousness of God revealed within, to be henceforth the actuating spring and power of a righteous and devoted life. It will inform the whole man. It will glow in the countenance. It will irradiate the eye. It will speak from the tongue. It will modulate the very gait. The good tree will show the good fruit. It cannot go on to bear the old, bad fruit out of modesty, or a pretended shrinking from ostentation; it must reveal the righteousness of God within, by the fruits of righteousness without, else it is only a mockery.
3. If any one proposes beforehand in his religious endeavours, or in seeking after God, to come into a secret experience and keep it a secret, his endeavour is plainly one that falsifies the very notion of Christian piety, and if he succeeds or seems to succeed, he only practises a fraud in which he imposes on himself.
4. It is not less clear, as I have already said incidentally, and now say only more directly, that the grace of God in the heart, unmanifested or kept secret, as many propose that it shall be, even for their whole life, will be certainly stifled and extinguished. The thought itself is a mockery of the Holy Spirit. The heart might as well be required to live and not beat as the new heart of love to hush itself and keep still in the bosom. Nothing can live that is not permitted to show the signs of life.
5. This is the express teaching of the Gospel, which everywhere and in every possible way calls out the souls renewed in Christ to live an open life of sacrifice and duty. He calls upon them to endure hardness, to make a loss of all things for His sake, to be His witnesses before men; leading always the way by their own bold, faithful testimony. The nearest approach to such encouragement anywhere given, is that which is afforded by the ease of the two senators, Joseph and Nicodemus. One of them, we are told, was a disciple secretly, for fear of the Sews. And the other came to Jesus by night, to inquire of Him, that he might not be counted a disciple. Both of them appear to have kept silence on His trial before the council, letting the decision go against Him there, and taking no responsibility on His account. But after He was crucified, they came to ask the body, and brought spices to embalm it. They were good, as disciples, to bury Jesus, but not to save His life, or serve Him while living. The truth is, that there is a very heavy shade over these two delicate and courtly friends of Jesus. They were men of society, and therefore saw the dignity of Jesus; but if you would like to be reasonably confident of your salvation, it certainly becomes you to do something a great deal more positive than to let your Master die, making no stand for Him oven in the council where His death is voted, and then come in with spices to bury Him. The most fragrant spices are those that honour one's life, and not the posthumous odours that embalm His body. How singular is it, too, that not even the Pentecost calls out these disciples of the tomb. It is as if they had been buried with their Master and had not risen. In that wondrous scene of fellowship, where so many from all parts of the world are surprised to find themselves confessing and embracing, in open brotherhood, strangers of all climes and orders, and selling even their goods to relieve the common wants, it does not appear that any spices of the heavenly charity are brought in by these two. The real truth is, in respect to almost all these pretenders to a secret religion, that they are persons who know nothing of it. They are moralists, it may be, practising at what they call a virtue by themselves, but they do nothing that brings them into any relationship with God. It is not the righteousness of God which they have hidden so carefully, but it is their own — which, after all, is not hid. What value there may be in discoveries of Christian experience. Some of the best and holiest impulses ever given to the cause of God in men's hearts are given by testimonies of Christian experience. They may be abused, but that is no reason against their proper use. Besides, there is a higher view of these personal testimonies and confessions. All these experiences, or life-histories of the faithful, will be among the grandest studies and most glorious revelations of the future. Exactly as an apostle intimates in those most hopeful, inspiring words of his, "When lie shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe." May He not be glorified in them here, and, in some feebler measure, admired for the testimonies yielded by their experience as their warfare goes on. How many are there in our Christian communities that are living afar off and apparently quite inaccessible, who, if, at a certain time in their life, they had gone forward and taken the places to which they were called, would now be among the shining members of the great body of saints. Then testify freely, act but naturally, live openly the grace that is in you.
(Horace Bushnell, D. D.)
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