David, the psalmist, simply says that if you are merciful to others, if you lend yourself to others fairly and with good judgement, then you are merry. Accompanying your kind words and loving deeds is a happy heart.
The man is merry, that doeth mercy, and lendeth; he disposeth his words in doom; (Happy is the person who giveth favour when he lendeth; he disposeth his deeds with justice, or with good judgement😉
If I should climb up to heaven, thou art there; if I sink down to the world beneath, thou art present still. ( Psalms 138:8, KNOX )
A puzzle here in David’s words and in the oral rendition of the story of Job – God is everywhere! We imagine God is incapable of being in the presence of evil, but that is obviously not so. Yes, He turns from His Son at the Cross when all the sins of the world attach themselves to Jesus; but God is found even if we climb to the heavens or descend to the realms of death and hell. That the Lord comes into the presence of the Enemy, Satan is evident in the beginning moments of the story of Job.
6 One day, when the heavenly powers stood waiting upon the Lord’s presence, and among them, man’s Enemy, 7 the Lord asked him, where he had been? Roaming about the earth, said he, to and fro about the earth.8 Why then, the Lord said, thou hast seen a servant of mine called Job. Here is a true man, an honest man, none like him on earth; ever he fears his God, and keeps far from wrong-doing. 9 Job fears his God, the Enemy answered, and loses nothing by it. 10 Sheltered his life by thy protection, sheltered his home, his property; thy blessing on all he undertakes; worldly goods that still go on increasing; he loses nothing. 11 One little touch of thy hand, assailing all that wealth of his! Then see how he will turn and blaspheme thee. 12 Be it so, the Lord answered; with all his possessions do what thou wilt, so thou leave himself unharmed. And with that, the Enemy left the Lord’s presence, and withdrew. ( Job 1: 6-12, KNOX )
God’s ability and willingness to be in the presence of the Enemy is nearly as difficult to understand and accept as His ability and willingness to suffer and die. God is engaged with death and evil. To think He is not is to misunderstand Him. God does not create death and evil; but He allows both. In so many ways, He uses both. Why?
On this third anniversary of GRACE PARTAKERS – well, not the actual day but you get the idea! – I stop to recognize that somewhat like David ( no I am not a “David” ) I choose to follow an urging ( I hope not to presume ) of the Holy Spirit to write a short note on a single verse of scripture each day. I’ve fallen off “each day” but I strive to meet this expectation. My prayer is like David’s:
“And the speeches of my mouth shall be such, that they please; and the thinking of mine heart is ever[more] in thy sight. Lord, mine helper; and mine again-buyer. (May the words out of my mouth be such, that they please thee; and may the thinking of my heart be acceptable before thee forevermore, O Lord; my helper, and my redeemer.)”
I’d like that “the thinking of my heart be acceptable” to God. I’d like that “the speeches of my mouth” please Him. Only God knows my heart; only He can judge my motivations. Even I not dare to say that what I write makes any difference in His Kingdom. I can only hope.
And so my theme at GRACE PARTAKERS is to glorify the Lord, my God and “mine again-buyer!”
Why should I be “subject under God?” The obvious answer is that God is my Creator; He knit me together in my mother’s womb, and fashioned me in His Mind long before my conception or birth. I am His, and always have been and always will be.
The other obvious answer is that He saved me. He is “my salvation, or my deliverance” just as David sings in his song of triumph over an enemy.
The enemy defeated by God for me is death, the wage of sin.
Therefore, like David, I sing:
“Surely my soul shall be made subject under God; for my salvation, or my deliverance, is from Him.”
“3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord; either who shall stand in the holy place of him? (Who shall go up on the hill of the Lord? who shall stand in his holy place?)
4 The innocent in hands, that is, in works, and in clean heart; which took not his soul in vain, neither swore in guile to his neighbour. (Those with innocent hands, or works, and with clean, or pure, hearts; they who took not their souls unto idols, nor swore falsely to their neighbours.)
5 He shall take blessing of the Lord; and mercy of God his health. (They shall receive a blessing from the Lord; mercy from the God of their salvation, or of their deliverance.)
6 This is the generation of men seeking him; of men seeking the face of God of Jacob. (This is the generation of people seeking him; of people seeking the face of the God of Jacob.)”
I know a little of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church; I know the psalms are considered weapons against the forces of evil. As the liturgy progresses with each side of the church chanting the verse to the other side and the other side chanting the next verse to the first side – and so on, back and forth; the sounds rise and form a shield. I’ve personally felt the power of the Word of God in the audible liturgical services at Mepkin Abbey.
Participation in the liturgy, for me, is an honor I wish all Christians might experience firsthand.
In the Christian Book of Prayer this psalm – Psalm 24 – is one that stands out as special along with Psalm 95 and 100 and another I can’t recall right this minute.
God asks us, “Who shall come up here to Me? Who is able to stand in My Holy Place?”
And He answers His own question, “The innocent in hands, the clean in heart, the one who does not lie.”
“[Into] Without end I shall not forget thy justifyings; for in those thou hast quickened me. (I shall never forget thy precepts; for through them thou hast given me life.)”
Wonderful, isn’t it? – that word “justifyings.” And who is the justifier? Well, God of course. Who quickens whom? Well God of course quickens us. How? Through His own justifyings; His own precepts.
Always I think of God’s work as the preparation of the Gift – the salvation earned for us by His Son who sacrificed Himself for us – His enemies – on the Cross. And our work? Ours is hard and easy at the same time – we are called to accept the Gift from His hands.
Notice who is the fool? The fool is the one who says there is no God. With no Creator, the foolish man is corrupted by his own study; his view of the universe distorted by his own thoughts. With such a view of life, the fool is incapable of doing good. His deeds remain abominable. Not one person who denies God’s existence does good for the capacity for love is absent.
“To the victory, [the psalm] of David. The unwise man said in his heart, God is not. They be corrupt, and they be made abominable in their studies; none there is that doeth good, none is till to one. (To victory, the song of David. The fool said in his heart, There is no God. Such men be corrupt, and they be made abominable in their deeds; there is no one who doeth good, no not one.)”
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14, ESV)
David sings how the skies speak of God, declaring His glory and proclaiming the work of His hands. He sings of the goodness of God’s ordinances, how “the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” (Psalm 19:7, NIV) Then he muses, “Who can discern his [own] errors?”; and he prays, “Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” (Psalm 19:12-13)
How is this accomplished? Through “the meditation of [the] heart.” Jesus says, “From out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)
David recognizes he has hidden faults. His prayer is that the Lord Himself would work to keep David “from willful sins” that these would not “rule over [him].” His hope is to remain relatively free of “great transgression” so that from the overflow of his heart, his mouth will speak what is “acceptable” to God.
Jesus speaks against keeping our outsides clean while allowing what’s inside us to defile our speech and actions. Jesus calls us to make His kingdom our treasure, so that what emerges from us naturally reflects what is in our hearts. Like David, let us rely on God the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out, not from the outside in.
God makes it crystal clear that He is holy and just. In Him there is no darkness. He makes it even clearer that He is merciful. Throughout His Word, He speaks of and shows off His great hatred of disobedience, sin, and waywardness. Simultaneously, He speaks of and shows off His willingness and great desire to forgive, restore, and love those He calls His own.
Our part is believing these two truths regarding the nature of God. Believing in God’s wrath necessarily leads to fear, but “perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18) Our fear is rather awe of God, a marveling of God’s ability to “forgive the iniquity of Your people; You cover all their sin. You withdraw all Your wrath; You turn from Your hot anger.” (Psalm 85:2-3) “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.” (Psalm 85:11)
Jesus proclaims, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins; I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Luke 5:24)
“If we confess our sins, [You] are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.”