THE LORD’S MERCIFUL KINDNESS
by Wayne S. Walker
“For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 117:2). The longest Psalm is Psalm 119. The shortest Psalm is just two Psalms earlier, Psalm 117, with two verses. It is basically a Psalm of praise. Verse one reads, “Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him all you peoples!” The second verse then gives the reason why the Psalmist encourages everyone to praise the Lord. “His merciful kindness is great toward us.”
The Lord’s merciful kindness towards sinful mankind is truly great. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Even though every single responsible human being has sinned against God, He still loves us enough to have sent His Son to die for our sins so that we might have salvation.
The Lord’s merciful kindness towards His people is also great. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ….in [whom] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:3-7). Not only is redemption offered to all mankind, but also once we have been redeemed, we have wonderful blessings such as the privilege of prayer, the guidance of God’s word, the fellowship of other Christians in the church, and, of course, the hope of eternal life. That is merciful kindness indeed!
The Lord’s merciful kindness towards each of us as individuals is surely great as well. “Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). Yes, I know that there are many in this world, and even in our own land, who are suffering. But the vast majority of us have roofs over our heads, clothing for our bodies, sufficient food to eat, and a number of other comforts and conveniences, all of which the merciful kindness of God makes possible.
The Lord’s merciful kindness towards the world in general is great. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The Bible definitely teaches that Jesus will return. There is much evil in this world, and we may sometimes wonder why He has not come back yet. But the reason is that God is longsuffering and wishes to give every possible chance for repentance. Certainly we can join with the Psalmist to say that God’s merciful kindness towards us is great!
CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD
by Wayne S. Walker
“Then I called upon the name of the LORD: ‘O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!'” (Psalm 116:4). God is our Creator. However, is not like the “clockmaker” who simply builds the clock, winds it up, and then impassively watches it run down. He loves His entire creation, especially mankind, and taking an interest in all our affairs, most particularly our souls, He cares about us and invites us to call upon Him.
Christians, that is, those who through His Son Jesus Christ have become His spiritual children, are given the privilege of calling upon the Lord in prayer. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:6-9). While God has not promised that He will always give us the answer that we want, He has promised that He will hear and respond to the prayers of His people.
Those who have not yet become Christians, and are thus not God’s spiritual children, are not offered the privilege of prayer. God may well choose to listen to them, but He has not promised to answer. The way in which those who are outside of Christ call upon the Lord is by obeying His commandments revealed in scripture to meet His conditions for salvation from sin. Saul of Tarsus was told, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Saul was lost in sin. He called upon the Lord to wash away His sin by arising and being baptized.
There is one word of warning. God wants everyone to call upon Him. However, sometimes those who are living in rebellion to Him will find themselves in some situation where they feel “at the end of their rope” and will “call upon the Lord.” If they are truly repentant and will fully turn to the Lord, this is great. Yet for some, it is merely a “grasping at straws” with no real intention of obeying the Lord and living for Him afterwards. Here is what the Bible says about that. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12).
“THE LORD HAS BEEN MINDFUL OF US“
by Wayne S. Walker
“The LORD has been mindful of us; He will bless us; He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron” (Psalm 115:12). The Lord has not promised His people that their lives would be the proverbial “bed of roses.” Christians will experience their share of the general trials and tribulations that result from living on a sin-cursed earth, and there may also be persecutions for the sake of righteousness. However, through it all, God has promised to be mindful of our needs and provide for us as He knows best. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
I assume that every faithful Christian can look back over his life and at least in his own mind identify those times when he has seen evidence that the Lord has been mindful of him. Lloyd Otis Sanderson, who lived from 1901 to 1992, was a gospel preacher and a well-known hymn writer among churches of Christ, editing three songbooks for the Gospel Advocate Co. In 1948 he copyrighted a song which says, “Though I through the valley of shadow, O’er mountain or troubled sea, And oft in the darkness, have travelled, The Lord has been mindful of me! The Lord has been mindful of me! He blesses and blesses again! My God is the God of the living! How excellent is His name!”
Concerning this hymn, Sanderson wrote, “When I was converted in 1922, I first thought that I had made a sacrifice. I left a good work, providing good pay and good friends and boosters with an opportunity to receive worthy promotion. I was involved in fund-raising for the Methodist Church with a goal of $75 million for mission work. But I left that and became a member of the church which had suffered brunts from denominationalism everywhere. But I didn’t really sacrifice. I didn’t miss a week’s work by the change. I found so many true associations. I had a thousand mothers in spiritual Israel. I had brothers and sisters by the thousands who were nearer and dearer than flesh kin. I was led into endeavors that far outstripped what I had been doing. I decided that I had been wonderfully blessed. With this feeling, I wrote ‘The Lord Has Been Mindful of Me.’ You can see this story in the lyrics. In days of shadow, troubles, and darkness, the Lord has still been mindful. More than any grief, sorrow, adversity, or sacrifice, I have been blessed. I’m rich, saved, happy, in good health, prosperous in many ways, homes open to me, and friends of greater value than all the wealth of the world. Indeed, God blesses and blesses again. And this was the song of my heart.”
WHO IS TREMBLING?
by Wayne S. Walker
“Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob” (Psalm 114:7). The short 114th Psalm magnifies the power of God in His deliverance of Israel, and cites three examples. When Israel came out of Egypt, the sea fled, a rock turned into a pool of water, and the Jordan River turned back. God is the Creator of the earth (Genesis 1:1). When He commands the natural forces of earth to act, the earth trembles and obeys Him. It has no other choice.
God is also the Creator of mankind (Genesis 1:26-27). However, because He made us with free will, we do have a choice. We can, of course, tremble and choose to obey Him. This is what we should do and what He wants us to do. However, we can refuse to obey. Trembling suggests “fear,” and it is a common problem with mankind which is certainly manifest in our time, that “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). Many today do not seem to fear God at all.
While God allows people to choose to disobey Him, He wants us to know that there are consequences. “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30-31). We can either tremble before God now with reverence and awe to obey Him, or we can cower in terror before Him in judgment and be lost forever.
FROM MORNING TILL EVENING
by Wayne S. Walker
“From the rising of the sun to its going down the LORD’s name is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3). Because He is the Creator and especially because He is our Savior, the name of the Lord is to be praised. But when? Yes, we should certainly praise His name when we assemble together with the church for worship. However, our praise should not be limited to such times. Every day, “from the rising of the sun to its going down,” we should praise God.
“The rising of the sun” suggests the morning. Granted, some are more ready to wake up when the alarm goes off in the morning than others, but one of the first things we should do as we arise is to praise God for watching over us during the night and allowing us to see the dawn of a new day. “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great the sum of the! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You” (Psalm 139:17-18).
The “going down” of the sun suggests evening, but that which happens between morning and evening is what John Ellerton called “Our day of praise.” Every day we receive wonderfully good blessings and mercies from the Lord, for which we ought to praise Him. Even the bad things that happen He allows for a purpose, and we can praise Him for His comfort and strength to bear our burdens through the day. “Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day” (Psalm 25:5).
Then as the sun experiences “its going down,” we can praise God for His guidance, protection, and provision during the day and for the opportunity to rest at night. “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2). Rather than sitting around anxious all day, rising up early to stew about our sorrows until late at night, we should cast all our cares on the Lord, focus our minds upon His gracious benefits, and do what we can to praise Him from morning till evening.
DO YOU FEAR THE LORD?
by Wayne S. Walker
“Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who delights greatly in His commandments” (Psalm 112:1). There seems to be much misunderstanding about the idea of fear, at least from a Biblical standpoint. I have heard lessons by young preachers who said very plainly that we should never, ever serve the Lord out of fear. Wanting to be charitable, I assumed that maybe I could guess what they were trying to say, perhaps that we should not serve the Lord solely out of fear. But a simple statement which implies that fear has no place in the Christian’s life, period, overlooks the fact that many passages speak of fear in a positive sense while others, it is true, do talk about it in a negative sense. Therefore, we are left with the conclusion that the word is most likely used in two different meanings. And as we examine the scriptures, we see that this is precisely the case.
Sometimes the word “fear” is used to describe a sense of being afraid, of dread, of terror. The relationship of the Christian to the Lord is not based upon simply being afraid of God. Therefore, Paul says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Instead, our relationship with God is based on love. And John reminds us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). There is no feeling of dread or terror in the life of one who is truly a faithful child of God, simply because there is nothing to be afraid of.
However, the word “fear” is also used to refer to a deep reverence, respect, and awe for God that leads to obedience. Even Solomon noted that the whole of man is to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). One of the problems with our society, as was true in Paul’s day and even in the Psalmist’s time, is that “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). Therefore, in order to please our Maker and have the hope of being with Him in heaven, we must “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28). So, the “fear of God” is not just being scared of Him and His punishment, although for each of us it is still a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, but it is an abiding desire to serve God out of love for what He has done for us. Truly, the man who fears the Lord is blessed!
by Wayne S. Walker
“He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name” (Psalm 111.9). Instead of “awesome” the familiar KJV had “reverend.” Some versions use the word “aweful” which literally means “full of awe but which is used today in our colloquial speech to mean nasty. We hear the word “awesome” quite frequently from the lips of young people today to refer to anything that is nice or great. What in previous generations was “the bees knees” or “the cat’s pajamas,” and when I was growing up was called “cool,” today is “awesome.” Sometimes words lose their significance by overuse.
Though I am not nearly so well travelled as some, I have seen many nice, even great, things in my life. I have seen the beauty of the Florida tropics. I have seen the quietness of the Arizona desert. I have seen the majesty of the Rocky Mountains and the lesser but still spectacular grandeur of the Great Smokies. I have seen the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean from the North Carolina shore, and of the Pacific Ocean from a beach in California. I even appreciate the simplicity of the midwest prairie landscape. I am sure that there are other breathtaking things in this world, but the only thing that I have ever seen which even comes close to “awesome” is the Grand Canyon.
Yet, He who made the Grand Canyon and all these other things must be far more “awesome” than they. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1.1). In contrast to the awesome physical creation, we wonder with David, “What is man, that you are mindful of him and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3). Yet we know that God is mindful of man, not only in making material provisions for physical life here on earth, but making spiritual provisions for our eternal souls. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Yes, when we consider all that God has done for us, truly we can say, “Holy and awesome is Your name.”