God Is Awesome

GOD IS AWESOME

by Wayne S. Walker

     "For the LORD Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth" (Psalm 47:2).  Over the past few years, when a young person has seen or heard of something amazing or stupendous, he might reply, "Awesome!"  Our English word "awesome" means "inspiring awe" or "feeling awe."  This is the first word that came to my mind when I saw the Grand Canyon.  The word "awe" is defined as, "a mixed feeling of reverence, fear, and wonder, caused by something sublime."  The King James Version has the word "terrible" which can mean "causing terror; fearful; dreadful" but is used more often in the colloquial sense of "very bad, unpleasant, or disagreeable."  Hence, the more positive sounding "awesome" is found in the newer versions.

     God is awesome because He created the entire universe, including the earth on which we live and everything in it.  "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).  Each of us can "create" something of whatever it is we do–a cake, a car, a sermon.  However, we simply take things that already exist and then use them to make something different.  God created everything that exists out of absolutely nothing.  "By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth….For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast" (Psalm 33:6-9).  Imagine a human being going into a dark cave, saying "Let there be light," and actually causing light to occur!  We simply cannot do that.  "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible" (Hebrews 11:3).

     Also, God is awesome because He has made salvation from sin possible.  The fact is that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  That is bad news, but there is even worse: "For the wages of sin is death…" (Romans 6:23).  Because every single responsible human being has transgressed the Creator’s law, which was given for our good, we deserve to suffer eternal death or separation from God in hell.  However, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" (1 Timothy 1:15).  Through His love for us God paid the price to make atonement for our sins so that He can offer salvation from sin to mankind.  All He asks us to do is to obey Him.  "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:8-9).  There are many things in this life, including the Grand Canyon, which might be described as "awesome."  However, our God, who loved us enough to provide redemption, is the most "awesome" of all.

Be Still and Know God

BE STILL AND KNOW GOD

by Wayne S. Walker

     "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psalm 46:10).  This Psalm, which is attributed to the Sons of Korah, begins, "God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble" (v. 1).  This world is filled with noises from many different sources–not just physical noise but spiritual noise as well.  However, because, as Martin Luther reminds us, "A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; Our helper, He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing," we need to stop from time to time, be still, and turn to God for guidance.

     On many occasions in this life we face various kinds of tribulations which scream at us that the effort which we are trying to put into serving the Lord and being faithful Christians is not worth it, that we might as well just give up, throw in the towel, and quit.  When we hear such voices, we should be still and look to God and "glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character hope" (Romans 5:3-4).  He will give us strength to endure our tribulations.

     Every day temptations surround us, speaking with seductive voices in an attempt to draw us away from God’s will and telling us that we can find more pleasure in sin than in doing God’s will.  Rather than paying attention to them, we must be still and listen to God, who promises, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).  He will help us overcome our temptations.

     However, before we can hear God, we first have to quiet our own hearts.  "Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side.  Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.  Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change, He faithful will remain.  Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly friend Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.  Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake To guide the future as He has the past.  Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last.  Be still, my soul; The wind and waves still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below" (Katharina von Schlegel, 1752). 

The Ivory Palaces

THE IVORY PALACES

By Wayne S. Walker

     "All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad" (Psalm 45:8).  Psalm 45 is understood to be a Messianic prophecy.  Verses 6 and 7 say, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions."   This statement is quoted in Hebrews 1:8-9 as something that God the Father said to the Son to show that the Son is so much better than the angels.

     We sometimes talk about scholarly academics who sit in their laboratories and write articles telling people what to do but never come out into the real world themselves and see how people actually live as being cooped up in their "ivory towers."  However, this Psalm pictures Jesus as coming "out of the ivory palaces."  Of course, this process began when the Word was made flesh (John 1:1, 14).  He, "being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7).  He left His ivory palaces to come to earth as a man,

     Furthermore, He showed that He truly left the ivory palaces by living as mankind does and subjecting Himself to the temptations that we face.  "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).  In the life that He lived and the suffering that He experienced, He left us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).  He showed us how to live so as to be victorious over sin and the other problems of this life.  Yes, Jesus experienced the “real world.”

     However, the ultimate way in which He demonstrated that He left the ivory palaces was that "being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8).  He died for us that we might "have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:14).  Truly, "Out of the ivory palaces, Into a world of woe, Only His great eternal love Made my Savior go" (Henry Barraclough).  Jesus never tells us, "Do as I say and not as I do."  He did it Himself!  To illustrate how we can live and die to please God, He came out of the "ivory palaces."  

God Is King

GOD IS KING

By Wayne S. Walker

     "You are my King, O God; command victories for Jacob" (Psalm 44:4).  The Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate both read, "You are my King and my God, who commands victories for Jacob."  Either reading emphasizes the fact that God is King.  Because Israel was God’s chosen nation under the old covenant, He was their King.  This was certainly true during the time of the exodus from Egypt, wilderness wanderings, conquest of Canaan, and period of the judges.  Still, even after they clamored for a human king and God gave them one, He was still, or was supposed to be, the ultimate King.

     Today, God is still King.  He is, in fact, King of the entire universe, including the whole earth, in the sense that He created it and it is governed by His natural laws.  "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).  In this sense, all creation is His kingdom.  "The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all" (Psalm 103.17).  It may be that some on earth do not acknowledge Him as King, but that does not change the fact that He is King.  Within a kingdom, there may be rebels who do not acknowledge the king’s rule, but if they are within his territory, they are still subject to his laws.

     Also, God is King over His church.  Of course, Jesus promised to build the church (Matthew 16:18).  However, Jesus is the Word who in the beginning was with God (the Father) and Himself was (and still is) God (John 1:1).  Jesus was raised from the dead to sit upon His throne at the right hand of God (Acts 2:30-33).  Right now, Christ occupies a special relationship to the church as its King, but when He returns, He will deliver up the kingdom back to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).  As a king is head of government, the church is to be subject to Christ as its head (Ephesians 5:23-24).  In the person of Jesus Christ, God is King over His spiritual kingdom.

     This also means that God is King in the hearts of all people who obey Him.  "…For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20).  When we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord because we believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, we are in essence pledging our allegiance to Him as the King of our lives (Romans 10:9-10).  The truth is that God is King.  Nothing can change that fact.  There is only one question that remains.  Is He your King? 

Light and Truth

LIGHT AND TRUTH

By Wayne S. Walker

     "Oh, send out Your light and your truth!  Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle" (Psalm 43:3).  When it is dark and we need to see, we want light.  So we flip a switch, light a candle, turn on the flashlight, or whatever.  Darkness is often used in scripture as a symbol of sin, and this world is certainly a dark place, spiritually speaking.  We need light to show us the right way.  The Psalmist asks God to send His light, and He has!  "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).  Yet, the Psalmist asks God to send out His light and His truth.  Of course, we know what God’s truth is.  "Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your word is truth" (John 17:17).  God’s light and God’s truth are not two different things.  This is merely the Psalmist’s poetic way of letting us know that God’s light is found in His truth which is His word.

     Why does the Psalmist want God’s light and truth?  "Let them lead me."  While many people are determined to find their own way in life, Solomon reminds us, "There us a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 16:25).  The prophet knew that "it is not in man who walks to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).  My own experience confirms this.  When I have tried to make my own way, it usually ended up in a mess.  But when I follow God’s way, things are always better.  "He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake" (Psalm 23:3).  "I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou Shouldst lead me on; I loved to choose and see my path; but now Lead Thou me on" (John Henry Newman).

      What is the goal of having God’s light and truth lead us?  "Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle."  In this dark world of sin, following God’s light and truth will bring us to His holy hill, that spiritual Mount Zion on earth, which is the Lord’s church, to which all who obey God’s word and are saved from sin come (Psalm 15:1-5, Hebrews 12:22-24).  However, God’s has something even greater for his people, and His ultimate design is to bring us to His eternal tabernacle so that we may dwell with Him in heaven.  "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:6).  "E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee, Since God through Jordan leadeth me" (Joseph Henry Gilmore). 

“When Shall I COme and Appear Before God?”

"WHEN SHALL I COME AND APPEAR BEFORE GOD?"

By Wayne S. Walker

     "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When shall I come and appear before God?" (Psalm 42:2).  The unnamed Psalmist, one of the sons of Korah, feels himself painfully separated from God, perhaps in some way unable to be in the temple where the presence of God among His people was located.  So he asks, "When shall I come and appear before God?"  There are several ways in which we might "appear before God" today.  One way is in prayer, by which we "may come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).  In this way, we can never be separated from God except by our sins which will cause his face to be against us (1 Peter 3:12).

      Another way in which we can come and appear before God today is in our worship assemblies.  While it is true that when we assemble together we can teach, admonish, and exhort one another, we are first and foremost to "come before His presence with thanksgiving [and] shout joyfully to Him with psalms" (Psalm 95:2).  I have visited faithful saints who were sick and unable to be present for worship, and they have told me how much they miss being able to assemble with the brethren, saying that they are so looking forward to their recovery when they can once again come and appear before God.  I have also talked with aged saints whose health conditions simply do not permit them to be out of their homes or the nursing facilities where they live, and they also lament how much they hate not being able to come to worship.  If we truly have the attitude expressed by the Psalmist in verse 1, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God," I would think that we would not want to miss a single opportunity to come and appear before God in worship while we have the time, knowing the possibility that someday we may not be able to do so.

     There is one other way that we shall come and appear before God.  "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).  You and I will be there.  What will be it be for us?  Have we done good or bad?  The only way that we can be prepared for that day will be to obey the Lord’s will in all things.  Let us live so that we can look forward to that final day when we shall "come and appear before God." 

“I Have Sinned Against You”

"I HAVE SINNED AGAINST YOU"

By Wayne S. Walker

      "I said, ‘LORD, be merciful to me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against You" (Psalm 41.4).  This Psalm is identified as "A Psalm of David."  However, we know nothing specific about the circumstances.  We do know of some specific times in David’s life when he sinned, such as in committing adultery with Bathsheba and in numbering the people.  However, while David was generally a man after God’s own heart, we would tend to conclude that David, as a child of God under the old covenant, understood the general truth that God revealed to His children under the new covenant, that "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).  I suspect that David realized that he sinned more than just the two times listed previously.

     I, too, must come face to face with the fact that in my weakness I have sinned against the Lord, more than I care to think, and, like the publican in Jesus’s parable, must cry out to the Lord, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13).  However, we should all remember something.  For an unbeliever to be saved and enter the kingdom of heaven requires more than just saying, "Lord, Lord" (Matthew 7:21).  Likewise, for a child of God who sins to obtain forgiveness requires more than just saying, "I’m sorry; please forgive me."  It requires genuine repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).  Charles H. Spurgeon said of Psalm 41:4, "Here was the root of sorrow.  Sin and suffering are inevitable companions.  Observe that by the Psalmist sin was felt to be mainly evil because directed against God.  This is of the essence of true repentance."

     However, when I truly repent and confess my sins, God is faithful and just to forgive me (1 John 1:9).  This is referred to by the Psalmist as healing the soul.  Just as when we are physically sick we want to be healed of our illness, so when we sin we need to be healed of our guilt.  It was prophesied in the Old Testament that "To you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings" (Malachi 4:2).  "The Great Physician now is near, The sympathizing Jesus; He speaks the drooping heart to cheer, O hear the voice of Jesus" (cf. Matthew 9:12).  Therefore, I am so grateful that through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ, God’s grace is available whereby I can tell the Lord, "I Have sinned against You" and receive healing for my soul.