The Self Interest of God (Psalm 117)

4 05 2006

Psalm 117:1-2 Praise the LORD, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples! 2For His lovingkindness is great toward us, And the truth of the LORD is everlasting. Praise the LORD!


From the mouth of children-The Purpose Driven GOD!
In talking about this Psalm with my children last night I asked them why it is that God commands us to praise him. My 6 year old son, Luke, quickly answered, “Because God is greedy for praise..” He then quickly added, “in a good way!”.

I believe his simple explanation is quite accurate here in the 117th Psalm. God is indeed greedy for praise, not in a sinfully selfish way, but rather in a divinely glorious and intolerant way. God is incessantly pursuing his own supremacy in all things, including the affections of us his creation.

This only makes sense. God has made all things for to draw attention to his perfect character, so we too as his creation are to reflect his glory. In this text we have the gracious reminder and exhortation to do what we have been created to do, namely to agree with God concerning his ‘praise-worthiness’ and so therefore passionately engage in the personal promotion of God’s supremacy.

Notice also the boundless radius of this command; it covers not only all countries, but all peoples!! This Psalm is depicting the necessary eradication of all borders and barriers when we are talking about the praising of Jehovah! The God of the Bible is not concerned with receiving glory from only one race or nation, but rather from all races and all nations! For it is God who has created all of the people within all of the nations for the purpose of ascribing glory to his name.

I love the two reasons here for this command for radical praise: 1) great lovingkindness, 2) eternal truth.

Great Lovingkindess-
God has been exceedingly abundant in his lovingkindness towards his creation; blessing all with life and the subsequent enjoyment that comes with it. However, here to the Jew this song would speak of their great covenant love as expressed through the redemption from Egypt and the faithful love that has preserved and blessed the nation as they anticipated their Messiah. It is interesting to consider that this Psalm, included in the Hallel, would have most likely been song by our Lord, the ultimate redeemer, during the Passover meal with his disciples. I was encouraged today as a friend pointed this out to me.

Consider the scene as the living and incarnate Word sung the revealed Word to the Father?! What a pristine picture of glory!! Imagine the beauty of hearing the Son of God extol the lovingkindness of the Father? We know of his lovingkindness through Jesus, but Jesus knows of his lovingkindness through both the backdrop of eternal joy which was his with the Father, as well as the infinite cost that was spent to redeem sinners to the praise of the glory of his grace.

Eternal Truth-
The eternal nature of divine truth is also praiseworthy! There are no expiration dates on the truth, it does not diminish its sweetness and character, it is truth forever because its source is the eternal and unchanging character of God. How refreshing is it to know that the truth does not change? We as believers are defending the same body of doctrine today that the apostles and early church defended (Jude 3)!

I can praise God because his lovingkindness is great and his truth is eternal! I can praise him because he gives grace to understand this, grace that rescues me in and from my sin to behold his greatness and enjoy his character.

God’s loving character is exalted in the powerful display of the redemption of unwilling sinners, even converting us from enemies (Rom. 5.10) to become friends (Jn. 15.13-15) who are eager to sing praises such as this! Praise the LORD!

The Blessed Trial (Psalm 116)

29 04 2006

Psalm 116:1 I love the LORD, because He hears My voice and my supplications.

The heart of the Psalmist is depicted here to demonstrate for other worshippers of the true God, the one who made heaven and earth and now sustains all things by the word of his power (Heb. 1.3) the necessity of stimulated affections towards Jehovah, even in light of tough circumstances.

I am struck by these the first words that fly out of the writer’s heart and ultimately his pen as he writes this song of praise: ‘I love the LORD’ I suppose I am struck because I too love the LORD, so therefore these words ring true, affirming and encouraging. But they also stimulate within me a burning desire to join the chorus of worship here, to echo the writer with a hearty ‘Amen!!’

Notice the reasoning why he loves the LORD: ‘because he hears my voice and my supplications’. In this Psalm the writer is under particular distress and persecution even to the point of death (cf. v4 & 15), however, the saint finds great encouragement in the character of God, particularly his faithfulness and mercy.

Too often we, while in the cords of the trial, find ourselves gazing at the problems rather than the God who is to be seen so clearly and magnificently in the respective trials! For it is in this trial that the Psalmist really sees God! What follows is a role call of the divine characteristics: gracious (5), righteous (5), compassionate (5), preserving (6), saving (6), goodness (7), & mercy (8).

Would he have seen the glory of the LORD apart from this trial? Not this clearly. Even as the Psalmist says in another place: Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.

This text is a timely reminder for believers to embrace the sovereignly placed trial with trust, dependence, love and worship! For the trial is the very means by which our loving Father draws his children into a closer and more dependent relationship with himself.

Psalm 116:12-13 12 What shall I render to the LORD For all His benefits toward me? 13 I shall lift up the cup of salvation And call upon the name of the LORD.

Reclaiming the Heaven of Heaven

11 04 2006

worship_sfw2.jpgIn thinking about heaven, as revealed in the Scriptures, I am struck by the God-centeredness of this place.

We so often today employ the word heaven in terms of something that brings us pleasure. For instance, ”this cheesecake is a slice of heaven”, or “I was in heaven during the NCAA tournament”, ect… And for some people, and regrettably so, cheesecake and basketball may be all they think about when they think of heaven.

However, for Christians, this cannot be!

For heaven is not about you, me, cheesecake, or good basketball, but rather, it is about the Almighty God receiving the glory due his name, through the uninterrupted and sincere exaltation of his precious and pleasing Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!! This is heaven indeed.

Christ, himself speaking of this reality, prays to his Father that he would soon enjoy the uninterrupted joy that he has always and eternally enjoyed (John 17.5).

The Apostle John, via a gracious Holy Spirit transport, writes for us of the content and mood of heavenly discourse in the book of Revelation:

Revelation 5:11-14 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” 13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

There is no time for generic heaven in the real heaven….because heaven is the heaven of God!

Perhaps so many people would not be claiming that they are in fact going to heaven if they really knew what heaven was about!

Heaven is not about being reunited with our grandparents, our deceased pet fish or anything else that has origins on earth, rather it is about the redeemed saint of God coming face to face with the infinite glory of the Savior, and beholding it!

Heaven is about worship!

Heaven is about praying not in the future tense, “Hallowed be your name” but in the present tense, “Your name is hallowed!”

I cannot fathom the reality of having the impediment of this sin-cursed body removed, only to be fully controlled by divine love, with my own selfishness eradicated forever, while beholding my beautiful Savior through glorified lenses.

Join me as I try to think about heaven more often, even dwelling upon the reality of it, the ceaseless praise that is going on right now to the blessed Savior for his wrath drinking death upon the wood of Calvary.

And in educating our affections, let’s also educate those around us with this glorious reality.

God is not on the take

3 04 2006

A recent article in Reuters highlighted that football (soccer) referees in Nigeria were officially permitted to take bribes from teams and players. Further, the officials were encouraged to maintain their “fairness” even in light of the bribes. football-picture.jpg

How can the referees maintain objectivity while selling their impartiality to the highest bidder?

Doesn’t the acceptance of bribery disqualify one as fair, just and good?

Sadly, this thinking is not limited to the Nigerian football league; in fact it is the prevailing contemporary view of God and his judgments.

Many believe that God can maintain his justice while turning a blind eye to sin. In so doing they believe that at the end of the day their “good” is better than their “bad” and God himself being “good” will allow them to enjoy heaven with him.

The problem here is the misconception of God; it is far too low of estimation! God himself boasts that he will not take bribes:

Deuteronomy 10:17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.

For God to take a bribe He would forfeit his righteous and holy crown.

God has demonstrated the seriousness with which he takes sin in the relentless outpouring of divine wrath upon the head of his precious Son, the Lord Jesus (cf. Romans 3.21-27).

Let’s stop pretending that God is involved in playing games and his justice is for sale and instead let’s jealously contend for his unchanging character while rejoicing in his great forgiveness that came at such a price.