Psalm 97:12

“Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous;
and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”

~ Psalm 97:12

God’s holiness is commended to our remembrance. It is not the doctrine of God’s holiness that we are to remember, but His real holiness. His actual holiness causes the righteous to rejoice and give thanks. They rejoice and are thankful for His holiness. God’s holiness is set forth throughout this Psalm. Let us come aside and remember His holiness.

HIS HOLINESS IS SUPREME, for “The LORD reigneth” (Psalm 97:1). None can ascend above God or be comparable to Him. None can even reckon the extent of His dominion—it encompasses all things seen and unseen. Even man’s imagination cannot place a figment above God for all the pagan worshipers are confounded by His holiness (Psalm 97:7). How can they figure it? How can they fashion it? How can they make a likeness of it? Though they boast, they utterly fail—“For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods” (Psalm 96:9).

Even the idols must bow to Him, “worship him, all ye gods” (Psalm 97:7). Idolaters make no progress against His holiness; it is even as Paul told Timothy of those who “resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” They fight against God, “But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men” (2 Timotthy 3:8-9).

HIS HOLINESS IS TERRIBLE, for “Clouds and darkness are round about him” (Psalm 97:2). His holiness abides in righteousness and judgment. In these, God delights. His righteousness means He is faithful. Of what He has purposed, not one tittle shall fail.

In holiness, He dwells in judgment—pleading the cause of the oppressed, the fatherless, and the widow. He hears the cry of their righteous blood and vindicates them. If God calls you a worm, rejoice—it means He is taking up your cause. For thus He spoke to Jacob, “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 41:14). He did not speak to Jacob thus to grind him into the dust, rather to lift him out of the dust. In the Scripture, we find ourselves as weak, full of sores, a frame of dust, a flower of the field, a vanishing vapor, etc. In all this, we are weak and helpless, but He will take us up, plead our cause, and vindicate us with His holy judgment.

HIS HOLINESS IS NOT PASSIVE, for “A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about” (Psalm 97:3). Neither is His holiness contained or subdued. His holiness is then victorious consuming His enemies. What have we then to fear? The earth trembles at His light (Psalm 97:4); “The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth” (Psalm 97:5). Who shall oppose any that are on the Lord’s side?

HIS HOLINESS IS NOT HIDDEN. Even the heavens cannot remain silent or indifferent, “The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory” (Psalm 97:6). The fool says there is no God. The wicked refuse to acknowledge Him and look blindly in the light of the noon sun. However, are not the works of His holiness entered into the eyes and ears of His people? “Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, O LORD” (Psalm 97:8). Do you not hear the chorus of birds singing praise to their maker? Do you not see the glory of the sun spreading its light to illuminate the creation of the Holy God before our eyes? Does not the corn and wheat stand in the field waving an offering to the one who is righteous, faithful to send the sun, wind, and rain upon the earth so that it responds by bearing forth its fruits?

HIS HOLINESS IS HAD FOR HIS PEOPLE
. “He preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart” (Psalm 97:10-11). What a ground and anchor is the Lord’s holiness! Those who love Him love His holiness and therefore, “hate evil” (Psalm 97:10).

Why then are we troubled? Why then are we downcast? Why then do we presume to be trodden under foot? His holiness is the rejoicing of our heart and the very knife cutting the taut sack, which bursts open with gratitude. His holiness is an impeccable light and there we have fellowship with Him.

What a shame that any of His people should need reminded to remember His holiness and give thanks. May our hearts and minds soar upward in the quiet gray of the morning when we render thanks unto Him for the day He has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in the light of the day that declares His righteousness unto us. “Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 97:12).

Psalm 34:14

“Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.”

~ Psalms 34:14

Throughout the whole of the 34th Psalm are set out numerous reasons to heed the words of verse 14. Perhaps, in summation we could look to verses 15 and 16. Benefits are reaped by the doers of good: “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” Similarly, “The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” Let us now briefly consider the four simple statements of our text.

First, we are instructed to “Depart from evil.” We are not to do evil; rather we must depart from it. We must flee from its presence and appearance. We must have nothing to do with it. Solomon warned his son to depart from sinners, “My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood” (Proverbs 1:15-16). It was not only that he was not to take part in their evil deeds, but also that he was to refrain from going in the path with them, for to evil was where their path was leading. He likewise instructed him to avoid the strange woman. “Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:8).

Secondly, we must “do good.” Lot, living in the city of Sodom, had an arduous task just to “depart from evil.” If he were successful in that much, he must have felt accomplished. Likewise, much energy is consumed today by the righteous to avoid evil. However, departing from evil is only one-fourth of our duty in this passage. We must also “do good.” We must be proactive in the doing of good. We must study the good, seek it out, and do it. We must set ourselves in the very way of good and continue to walk therein. “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Thirdly, our responsibility is to “seek peace.” We rejoice when we are at peace. We rest when we are at peace and are refreshed. Although, we are not merely to enjoy peace when it comes, but we are to “seek” it out. Precious few today expend their energies in seeking peace. Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). We are happy to have peace when it comes by the concessions of others, but we do not want to give an inch for the same. This attitude denies both the spirit and the letter of our text and ignores our plain responsibility, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). How many have truly gone to that extremity before conceding it is not possible?

Fourthly, we have another word concerning peace; we are to “pursue it.” Most of us would be glad if we happened to come into peace. Our text is much stronger, instructing us to “pursue” peace. The hunter pursues his prey, and the hungry hunter does so even more. We must hunger after peace and pursue it relentlessly as Paul who said, “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16). Finally, this peace cannot be achieved by ungodly compromise, for at the beginning we are told to “Depart from evil.”

To the modern mind, our text must seem radical indeed. Frankly, if we have any hope of following these precepts, we must be able to make decisive value judgments. We must be able to know what evil is and be able to distinguish it from the good. This is a mark of maturity and wisdom, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

Society today rejects this wisdom, wanting rather the moral ambiguity of “objectivity.” Such objectivity is illusive, and in fact, is neither possible nor desirable. God’s people cannot mill about in the fog of obscurantism. There is no such lack of clarity in God’s Word. He says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). Solomon wrote, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15). To confuse good and evil is a serious evil in itself. We must be able to discern good and evil, and “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9).

Ruth 1:16-17

“And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee,
or to return from following after thee:
for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge:
thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried:
the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”

~ Ruth 1:16-17

Typically, when we want to understand a term, we go to the dictionary to look it up. If we are particularly studious, we may go to an encyclopedia, or some other source, to investigate the etymology of the word. We may also study its usage, trying to determine the various inflections and nuances associated with its meaning.

However, God does not speak to us this way. He did not give us a dictionary or encyclopedia for us to understand what He requires of us. God spoke to us and gave us His Word—His Son, a Person. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14). “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2). God spoke to us in and through a person, meaning His Word is personal and narrative.

Christ was the greatest narrative theologian ever. He taught with authority through parables and illustration and “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). His words were simple, yet profound. He did not speak to His disciples like a Calculus professor lecturing his students on the proofs and corollaries of The Mean Value Theorem. He rather spoke in simple terms, illustrating what “The kingdom of heaven is like” (Matthew 13:31).

A good example of the way God speaks to us is in Hebrews 11. The chapter does begin with a description of faith abstractly, but the substance of the chapter is spent on illustrating what faith is and does. The life of faith is there seen worked out in the real lives of God’s people. It is a moving and compelling picture that climaxes with martyrs of whom the world was not worthy and then proceeds to tell us, in light of all this, to run the race.

What does this have to do with our text? Before us is a passionate, moving illustration of biblical repentance. This occurs in the real world in the real life of Ruth the Moabitess. It is a striking and compelling example of repentance, explaining to us what no dictionary could convey by simply defining the term.

Ruth’s repentance was on this wise. A certain woman named Naomi dwelt in Bethlehem Judah with her husband Elimelech and their two sons. They enjoyed modest riches and reputation in their homeland. A famine arose that affected their lifestyle and they removed to Moab, only for a time of course until things became better in their own land.

Moab wasn’t nearly as bad as they imagined and they got along well until disaster struck. Elimelech died leaving Naomi and their two sons in the land of the pagans. This was a grief to Naomi, but the pagans were friendly and likable and she enjoyed her standard of living there enough to continue.

Her sons were growing into men and as such were wont to be married. They found a couple of lovely pagan girls, Orpah and Ruth, and soon were settled down. It would not do for these girls to remain amongst their pagan families, so they left them for the Israelites and dwelt on the fringe of Moab for some ten years in domestic bliss.

Moreover, both of Naomi’s sons died leaving a Jewish widow with two widowed proselyte daughters-in-law stuck halfway between here and there. Naomi’s grief can hardly be imagined by someone like me, but it must have been very great. These things had taken a toll on her and she purposed to return to Bethlehem, where she had heard God was feeding His people.

Orpah and Ruth went with her on her way for a while. Naomi encouraged them to return but they were resolved to go with her all the way to her home. Naomi insisted they “turn again” (Ruth 1:11) to go back to the life they knew before. She professed to have nothing for them; she would later testify of coming back to Bethlehem “empty.”

The women all wept in an anxious moment. Though Orpah loved Naomi, she kissed her and went on her way back to the pagans. She had “gone back unto her people, and unto her gods” (Ruth 1:15). Orpah had run well for a season, but she was of those who draw back. It happened unto her “according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:22).

The tension grew as Orpah disappeared from sight and the tears began to dry on Naomi and Ruth’s cheeks. There were powerful persuasives for Ruth to return—Naomi had counseled her to that end and Orpah had trodden the very path before her. The doubts and questions swirled in Naomi’s mind as she spoke her last peace, “return thou after thy sister in law” (Ruth 1:15). Her words seemed to hang in the air until the silence at last overtook them. Then, the quiet was broken by a voice that grew from quivering to firm as Ruth spoke the most beautiful words that could fall from Gentile lips. “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”

It was not that Ruth loved Naomi and Orpah did not that Ruth would not leave her. It was rather because Ruth loved Naomi and loved Naomi’s God that she would not leave her. Ruth had repented; she had turned. Ruth left her native people and her native gods. She had made an end of all else except the God of Israel. She clave unto her mother-in-law because God was with her and, with her life, Ruth vowed to worship and serve the true and living God that created the heavens and the earth.

Here we have the marvelous meaning of repentance in the real world. Repentance means a change, and, O what a change! Paul praised God for the Thessalonians and how they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Ruth turned from her life of rebellion to God’s kingdom, took hold of the skirt of a Jew, and went with her because God was with her (cf. Zecheriah 8:23). She had turned and burned all her bridges behind her like Asaph, who confessed, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Psalm 73:25). She was one with Peter, who answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Ruth repented. She turned to the true and living God to the exclusion of all else. May God grant many Ruth’s in our generation! I pray the Holy Spirit will grant that we understand what it means to repent.

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