Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Psalm 86:11-17 The Unchanging God

KEY TEXT: Psalms 86:11-15 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seek my life, and they do not set you before them. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

KEY THOT: Our God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Even the composers of the psalms (who lived about 1,000 years before Christ) knew God as the merciful and gracious God, who is "slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (v.15). The only difference between the OT and NT revelation of God's mercy and grace is its depth and breath. While the OT has only the shadow and types of Christ, the NT has the substance and realities that cast the shadow and types. Whether understood in shadows or substance, God's mercy and grace remain unchanged. 

Someone has defined mercy as "not getting what we deserve" (divine forgiveness) and grace as "getting what we don't deserve" (divine favour). But the motivation behind mercy and grace is God's "steadfast love", for it is because of love that God shows us mercy and grace. In the OT, this revelation of God's love was partial in Moses' law; but in the NT this revelation is perfect in Jesus Christ: "And from [Christ's] fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:16-17).

As a result of his understanding of God's mercy and grace, the psalmist asks God to "Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name" (v.11). Despite the psalmist's understanding of the Lord as a gracious God, he nevertheless asks that the Lord may teach him to "walk in the truth" (obedience) and "unite my heart to fear your name" (fear of the Lord). Grace does not make obedience unnecessary nor make fear of the Lord irrelevant. In fact, true understanding of God's grace will lead to a desire to obey God's truth and fear His name.

Another fruit of this understanding of God's mercy and grace is an attitude of thanksgiving and a desire to exalt His name by our lips and our lives: "I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever" (v.12). The greater our experience of God's mercy and grace, the deeper our worship of Him. Worship is a fruit of our personal knowledge of God's grace and mercy. 

Without this knowledge, worship becomes a religious ritual without meaning: "And the Lord said: Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men" (Isaiah 29:13). And Jesus, quoting this text in Isaiah, said: "You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Matthew 15:7-9).

May our worship of God be motivated not by human doctrines and traditions but by our deep knowledge of God as one who is merciful and gracious, "slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." 

Abba-Father, You are the God of Israel as much as the God of the Gentiles. In fact, You reveal Your mercy and grace to Israel first before we Gentiles share this revelation. May You help us to walk in Your truth and fear Your name always. Amen.

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