Faithful and Just (Psalm 111)
The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy (v7).
Psalm 111 is placed among the Jewish readings for the Passover Feast. This gives great background for the Church's placement of this Psalm alongside our Old Testament and Gospel readings this morning. In our Old Testament reading, we have Israel preparing for the first Passover in Egypt. Moses institutes God's command for every firstborn to be consecrated to God. The Gospel reading continues the birth story of Jesus. Forty days after Christmas, in accordance with the Mosaic Law (Luke 2:23; Exodus 13:2), Jesus is presented in the Temple as Mary's firstborn. Consecrating her firstborn to God, Mary sees God's "faithful and just" works (v7).
God's "faithful and just" works are to be studied by all who worship Him (v2). The phrase "faithful and just" shows up only in two verses in the Bible. Both talking about God.
- Psalm 111:7: "The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy."
- 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
When is God "faithful and just?" When He forgives our sins. When He cleanses us from unrighteousness. God was faithful and just in Egypt. Forgiving the Israelites' sins. Cleansing them from unrighteousness. Through the waters of the Red Sea. The Baptism into Moses (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). Their sins forgiven. Their unrighteousness cleansed. A chosen and holy people to live before Him in the Promised Land. Justified for service to God in bringing the Messiah into the world.
When is God faithful and just to you? When He forgives your sins. When He cleanses you from unrighteousness. He is faithful in the waters of Baptism. Baptism into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Your sins forgiven. Your unrighteousness cleansed. A chosen and holy people to live before Him in the world. Justified to live with the Messiah, "who is and who was and who is to come" (Revelation 1:4).
How do we know that we're His chosen and holy people? God tells us in His Word. The only way we can know this is to study His Word. This is why our Bible studies usually go through the text of the Bible instead of specific topics. This study takes His faithfulness and justice from His spoken Word through the printed page into our hearts. It increases our desire to know more and to grow more in the fear of the LORD.
God's "faithful and just" works demand you to study them. We seek to study God's Word to find His "faithful and just" works in our lives. Letting "the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16). All God's works are studied to find His wisdom. To worship Him. To thank Him for His many blessings of body, soul and life. To "put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:14). To fear Him reverently as the Creator of all.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding" (v10). We cannot consider ourselves wise if we don't have reverent fear of God. We pray for this reverence every Sunday we come before our heavenly Father with our petitions. We seek for God to help us grow in our wisdom by increasing our faith. With increased faith, more reverent fear emerges. With more reverent fear, we grow in wisdom like Jesus (Luke 2:40). This growth produces in us a devotion that we yearn for. This Christ-like devotion manifests itself in a relatively few people in every generation. We certainly think of the great prophets of the Old Testament. The Apostles of the New Testament. Church Fathers like Augustine, Cyril of Jerusalem, the Cappadocian Fathers. Reformers like Luther and Calvin. Men and women who are devoted to their Lord above all things. Consecrating themselves to the pursuit of godly devotion and reverence.
One of these devotees was Simeon of Jerusalem. A "righteous and devout" man, "waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him." He was brought by the Spirit into the Temple. "It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ" (Luke 2:25-26). Think of this great honor. You will not die until you have seen what everyone has been waiting for since the Garden of Eden. You would get to see Jesus face-to-face. This would be like knowing that you will never physically die. Jesus will come back in your lifetime. You will get to see God's splendor and majesty coming down through the clouds (v3; Acts 1:11).
Another great devotee was Anna the prophetess. So devoted to the Lord that she never left the Temple. Continually fasting and praying (Luke 2:37). Eighty-four years old. A widow for most of those years. She had devoted herself to waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38). She came into the Temple and saw the baby Jesus. She immediately, like the shepherds forty days earlier, went out to spread the news that the Messiah had been born. Both Simeon and Anna were devoted because God's works are faithful and just (v7). Devoted because of their study of God's Word. Study only available because God had made His "faithful and just" works to be remembered (v4).
Simeon and Anna were devoted to God's righteousness that endures forever (v4). To make sure that His righteousness endures forever in our hearts, God "has caused His wondrous works to be remembered" (v4). God commands the Israelites through Moses, "Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place" (Exodus 13:3). The Passover was the single greatest event in Jewish history. God wanted everyone to remember what happened that day. It's that important of an event.
God wants you to remember the important events in your life. Especially where His righteousness is involved. Your Baptism anniversary. Even if you don't remember what happened that day. Remember that it happened. That you were made a child of God on that day. Your Confirmation anniversary. Remember the vows that you took on that day. The day you publicly confessed your faith to the congregation and the world. These are important events in your life and should not be forgotten. Why does God want these events remembered? So you can continue to tell the story of His salvation. He encourages the Israelites (Exodus 13:14-15):
- And when in time to come your son asks you, "What does this mean?" you shall say to him, "By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem."
God wants these events to be remembered because they are to be used as teaching moments. St. Paul says that the Old Testament records of the Israelites' wandering in the wilderness were "written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). Without the events being passed down from one generation to another, no one would study them to see when the prophecies might be fulfilled (LSB #366.4).
God's ancient promises have been "established forever and ever" (v8). "He sent redemption to His people" (v9). The redemption of the firstborn children of both man and animal illustrates the consecration of the Holy One of Israel as the firstborn of a virgin. God commanded, "Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine" (Exodus 13:2). The redemption of the firstborn shows that the redemption of the whole world was through the firstborn of all creation. The Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds. The firstborn of all creation has been born in the flesh "in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to ... Israel" (Luke 2:31-32).
With this revelation and glory, there would be acceptance and rejection. Aged Simeon predicts this before the Holy Family leaves the Temple (Luke 2:34-35):
- Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.
The thoughts from many hearts are revealed as they look to Jesus' cross. What are your thoughts about it? Did He come for your fall or for your rising? He is the sign of everyone who believes. The Son of God. The "faithful and just". Amen.
Praise belongs to You, our God, because You have fulfilled Your promises to Your people Israel in the incarnation of Your Son, and sent the light of Your truth to our fathers when they were walking in ignorance of You. Grant us steadfastly to trust Your covenant of grace that we may live therein. Make Your works of mercy and truth known to our children, that they may praise Your name in generations to come. Amen.