Summary: He is not afraid of evil tidings; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
During Lent I have been preaching on various verses with each one having its own powerful truth: “my times are in your hand” (Ps.31:15); our God is a consuming fire (Heb.12:29); and now this morning verse 7 from Psalm 112:
He is not afraid of evil tidings; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
That verse always catches my attention because if there’s anything that can turn my heart to Jell-O quickly it’s bad news (evil tidings). A call from the police late at night saying your son has been in an accident is at the hospital with no explanation of what is wrong; the doctor calling you back about the lab results you had done and now they want to do more test because some of the blood counts are too high or too low; there have been rumors of a plant shut down or layoffs and the boss wants to see you in his office at the end of the day. Even the simple suggestion from a friend: “Well Mary I have some good news to tell you and some bad news which do you want to hear first?
All of a sudden that once firm and confident heart I thought I had turns into a march mellow of fear and anxiety as I wonder what next. And here’s this Psalmist saying:
“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”
It’s easy to say but like one pastor who called me this week said after being out of pastoral work for more than a year after leaving his last charge: “I’m really frustrated and find my self questioning and doubting God.”
It got me to thinking where in the Bible (outside of Jesus) is a good example of someone who gets bad news and doesn’t “freak out” as we say or better yet has and can maintain a strong and healthy faith. One example that came to mind was Esther.
Here was a young girl in her 20s who had recently won the Miss America contest in Persia, the greatest empire of the world at that time. Out of a whole group of contestants and a year’s worth
of beauty treatments and preparation, she had been selected by the King to be his new queen--
no simple feat, indeed a real accomplishment. She had been in her new position as queen
for less than a year when like a terrible smack in the face you got the bad news. All of her people, the Jews, were to be destroyed in 6 months. Esther’s initial reaction was tremendous fear with the hope that it would not be discovered in the palace that she was Jewish.
At this point she does not appear as a very good example of our verse because her heart is not firm but terrified. As it is often the case when bad news comes, we don’t have a lot of choices, and Esther is told by her surrogate father, Mordecai, at great risk to her life—to go see the King and persuade him to stop the coming holocaust.
Usually when we run into problems or bad news we have our own 3 step approach:
First, I will take care of the problem myself……
Second, I will call a friend or family member and talk it over..
Third, I will pray and ask God for help
The point is it’s almost always in that order with God taking a distant third, but when the bad news is really bad, like this time, step number three can become step number one very quickly out of desperation and helplessness. And here is where the character and faith of Esther begin
to prove themselves. After a day or two when the truth of how grave the situation is and what
has to be done begins to sink in, Esther sends word back to Mordecai: Gather all the Jews to be found in Susa and hold a fast on my behalf and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish. (Esther 4:16)
For a young lady hardly into her 20s her decision to approach the king uncalled for is what we might call today “stepping up to the plate”; instead of just sitting in her bedroom crying and despondent telling herself: I don’t know what to do or I’m too afraid; Esther has enough
courage to step forward and risk her life. In this example she is successful, the King does agree to see her and she executes a plan to win the King over to her side and as the story concludes, the King agrees to help her and her people are saved. But whether she was successful or not, the real point I am after this morning is how did Esther have the courage to face up to this bad news, how was she able to come up with a plan that won the king over to her side when she was in such a panic-stricken situation?