Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Mark 12:38-44; Galatians 2:1-10; Psalm 111; 2 Samuel 16-17
Psalm 111 is a psalm of praise for who God is and some of his attributes. This is one of eight biblical psalms that are acrostics: each line begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The next psalm is another acrostic, and points to a close connection between the two. This psalm describes the character of God while Psalm 112 describes how the man of God should exhibit similar characteristics.
The psalm begins with God’s activity. Three Hebrew words point to different types of actions, and different responses. God’s works usually refer in Psalms to what he has made: his Creation. James Clerk Maxwell, ranked by physicists as the third greatest physicist of all time, surpassed only by Newton and Einstein, had Psalm 111:2 inscribed over the entrance to the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. One of the world’s leading physics departments, when it moved into a new building in 1973, the verse was retained over its entrance. Research physicists who peer into the wonders of nature still ponder their original source.
The other words, translated ‘deeds’ and ‘wonders’ refer more to his on-going actions. Some reveal his righteousness, that he does no wrong (Deuteronomy 32:4); others his grace and compassion. He is concerned for the poor, and faithful in his commitments. He is just and trustworthy. He provides redemption for his people and understanding for those who follow him.
Seeking to accurately image the character of God will guide us in many decisions. We see this exemplified in today’s other passages. Ahithophel’s advice was so highly regarded it was viewed as the same as God’s word (2 Samuel 16:23). Yet in being unfaithful to David, his advice went against God’s character. Absalom probably liked the idea of sleeping with David’s concubines, but this both exploited these women and violated any notion of trust. Instead of promoting justice and faithfulness, Ahithophel encouraged Absalom to become ‘obnoxious.’ Thus Ahithophel’s advice became foolishness (2 Samuel 15:31), he lost all credibility and committed suicide (17:23). He reminds us that even the wise must listen to God daily and continue to learn as they rely on him and his wisdom (Proverbs 1:5).
Jesus criticises the teachers of God’s law because they exploited the vulnerable and put themselves before others (Mark 13:38-40). In contrast, the widow’s generosity is now proverbial. Paul likewise reminds us of the importance of caring for the poor (Galatians 2:10). God’s character is described for us so that we can know him and praise him for who he is. Also, we are all made in his image and should seek to image him with our lives. That begins by knowing who he is and acting as he would, guided by his wisdom and empowered by his Spirit (Psalms 111:10).