The Godly Person Looking at Life (Part Two)

Psalm 36:1-12

Next, David turns his attention to the character of God (36:5-9). When we think of all that God is, well we might say, “Here is a whole world to explore” (Kidner). David directs those who listen or read to three specific areas.

Consider the Lord’s immeasurable love and faithfulness (36:5). These two qualities of God are joined in various places (cf. Psalms 57:3; 61:7; 86:15; 89:14; 115:1; 138:2). How can you think of love apart from faithfulness? There is no need for uncertainty about God’s character. David wants us to fill our souls with the grandeur of God’s love and faithfulness. Go outside on a clear night; gaze upon the wonder of deep space; understand that God’s love and faithfulness reach beyond what you can see and comprehend.

Ponder God’s incalculable righteousness and justice (36:6a). We see these two joined in other places (Psalms 33:5; 89:14; 97:2). Have you ever seen the Rocky Mountains? Great mountains are “firm and unmoved, lofty and sublime” (Spurgeon). Mighty winds disturb them not, and so nothing affects God’s righteousness and justice. “Not even to save his elect would the Lord suffer his righteousness to be set aside. No awe inspired by mountain scenery can equal that which fills the soul when it beholds the Son of God slain as a victim to vindicate the justice of the Inflexible Lawgiver” (Spurgeon).

Survey the Almighty’s active involvement with his creatures (36:6b-9).

  • God preserves life. Since the fall, we pursue destruction, but God keeps life going, constantly providing and restoring the balances of nature.
  • His love is precious. Think of valuable coins and costly jewels. The regalia of a mighty emperor is a shabby rag compared to the love of God. The value of God’s love surpasses all! What can be compared to having the almighty, eternal, all-wise, everywhere present, Sovereign Lord fully committed to love and cherish you?
  • He provides secure shelter. We can hide under the shelter of his wings (cf. Ruth 2:12; Matthew 23:37) during life’s scariest times. Sometimes we all need a hiding place. We need to be kept safe until the storm passes by. Listen my friend; the Lord Jesus invites you to find refuge under his wings. Why will you tremble naked and defenseless before sin, condemnation, and death? Run to Jesus while you may!
  • He gives abundant joy. Since sinners are at war with God, they view him as sour and dour, as full of gloom and doom. But when we see God’s justice forever satisfied in the cross of Christ, we understand his kindness and sternness (Romans 11:22). God is good and joyful; at his right hand are eternal pleasures (Psalm 16:11). When we trust him, we may drink from his river of delights.
  • He is the source of life and light. God is self-existent, having life in himself. He chooses to give life to his creatures. To have life, we must connect with God himself. This happens when you turn from your sin and trust in Christ for salvation. In a world of darkness, God is light in the full biblical meaning of purity, clarity, truth and joy.

Life apart from the living God is very uncertain and troubled. But why continue in that path? You may have joy and peace as you trust in Jesus Christ!

This produces the response of prayer (36:10-12). This prayer flows out from the truth already presented. Three ideas in his prayer:

  • A request for love and justice (36:10). We need both. We were made to experience and to share the love of God. Our lives are empty apart from his love and sharing it with others. As we live forever with the Lord, we will know more and more of how infinite his love is. And we will share this with others loved by the Lord. It won’t just be “God and me”; it will be “God and us”. And we need his righteousness at work to put our world to right. So much is wrong now! This is like the days of Noah; violence fills the earth.
  • A request for protection from the wicked (36:11) – Since we are frail, we need God to protect us from those who would harm us. “Our best defense against violence is still prayer” (Leupold).
  • An affirmation of faith (36:12) – David concludes with a look to the future. He talks about the destiny of the wicked. Many times, it seems as if evil is sure to win. But this verse calls us to look to the end of God’s story. The Sovereign Lord will triumph, and we will share in his final victory!

Keep these two contrasts before your view: the wickedness of the sinner and the incredible goodness of God. The way of life is to turn from sin and trust the life and joy giving Savior. Call on him without delay. We need to share the God of faithful love and righteous justice with others. We will have many opportunities, if we are able to stir ourselves to action. Warmer weather is on the way. We can invite others over for dinner, to go for a walk together, to attend a ball game or an outdoor concert together, or perhaps to go on a day trip together. Go where people are gathering, like some of the new town centers or special evenings in the gardens.

Grace and peace, David

Thinking about God and His Friendship with His People

Psalm 25:8-15

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way (Psalm 25:8 ESV)

Previously, we considered two prayers that open this encouraging psalm. It is a meditation on the covenant friendship between God and his people. In the first part of the psalm we observed David’s confession of his struggles about his hope, his need to learn God’s ways, and even his relationship with God. Now after two prayers in which he confessed his struggles, he stopped to think about God and the people who are friends of God.

In the opening chapter of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin wrote the following, which will assist our own meditation of the subject of this psalm. “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves… As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power—the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness. What wore the face of power will prove itself the most miserable weakness. That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God.” [1.1.1-2] This is the great problem of our day: “We flatter ourselves most sweetly.” Although such flattery may make us feel good for a while, in the end it is destructive, warping our opinions and leading us away from the God who is able to meet our true needs. David has turned from flattery; now he thinks about the God who is there and speaks, the God who should be our truest friend.

David directed fellow worshipers to think about the character of God. The Lord is good and upright. When we think of God being upright, we mean his moral perfection. His character is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4), his ways are perfect (Hosea 14:9; his works are perfect (Psalm 111:8), and his word is perfect (Psalm 119:137). By God’s goodness we mean his moral perfection in benevolent and generous action.

God is generously good; he wants his creation to share the joy of his glory. God shows his goodness in two ways. The first is called “common grace” (Psalm 145). God created everything “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Though God cursed creation because of human sin (Genesis 3:14-19), the curse is within the larger context of showing greater glory in Christ restoring all things (Romans 8:18-30). So even now in common grace he preserves life and provides the blessings of life (Acts 14:17). The second way God shows his goodness is called “special grace” (Titus 2:11), which is all he does for the salvation of those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Followers of Christ share in the glory of redeeming grace.

At this point we must avoid a trap. The trap is having a ‘formal theology’ that is contrary to our ‘functional theology’. What do I mean? On one level, we Christians can talk with each other and say, “We believe that God is good. Amen.” But how do we live our lives? Do we think that God is holding out on us? Do we view God as somehow demanding that we obey him without joy? Do we think that he puts the cookie jar in front of us, but never lets us have any cookies? “One of the deepest deceptions is the lie that there is something good out there and it is better than what God gives” (Welch, Addictions, p. 192). Do we think that everyone else is having fun, and that God really wants us to be miserable? Don’t listen to Satan’s lie that God is not good, and that sin is really good. But this is where our struggle lies!

Here David tells us what God does because he is good and upright. Since he is good, he instructs sinners in his ways. Since we are sinners, he knows that we need to know his ways. The compassion of his goodness reaches out to us, as a caring adult reaches out to help a lost child.

The devil makes unbelievers blind to lead them more easily to hell, but God teaches us his truth to guide us to heaven. He did this especially in sending Christ, who is our prophet, priest, and king. Before Jesus died for sinners, he preached to sinners for three years. Yes, more than that, Jesus pleaded with people to have a change of mind and believe the good news about himself (Mark 1:15). More than that, he promised a kind welcome to all who come to him (Matthew 11:28). More than that, he guaranteed that all who come to God through him will never be driven away (John 6:37). And today, his Holy Spirit welcomes all to come (Revelation 22:17). Right now is an excellent time to believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved!

David found assurance that his prayer to be taught (25:4-5) would be answered because of the character of God. If we want to leave the paths of sin, we should be encouraged that the Lord wants to teach us exactly how to do that, not only by information, but by teaching us about Jesus (Ephesians 4:20-21) from the inside out.

Grace and peace, David