In one of his many songs, David proclaims – at least in the Wycliffe translation of the Word – that God “loveth mercy and doom.” In parenthesis, the translator adds an alternative version: “[God] loveth righteousness and justice.”
On one hand, “mercy”; on the other “righteousness.” On one hand, “doom”; on the other hand “justice.” Even in the final phrase, on one hand, “mercy”; on the other “love.”
For the word of the Lord is rightful (For the word of the Lord is true); and all his works be (done) in faithfulness. He loveth mercy and doom; the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord. (He loveth righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the love of the Lord.)
Imagine God loving “doom.”
If you look around at the state of the world at large, God loving doom is not hard to imagine. Listen to the evening news and doom is all around you – earthquakes, erupting volcanos, tsunamis, rising sea levels, erratic weather patterns, droughts, fires. And this doom does not yet include what people do to you ( or what you do to people… )!
So, where’s the evidence that God loves mercy?
The evidence for God’s mercy is less compelling, you might say. But, I would argue the evidence of God’s mercy is the doom inflicted and endured by Him on the Cross. “All [God’s] works be done in faithfulness.”
‘What people do to me, I shall not dread or fear for I hope and trust in God,’ sings the psalmist.
“In God I shall praise my words; I hoped in God, I shall not dread what thing flesh, or man, shall do to me. (Yea, I shall praise God with my words; for I trust in God, and I shall not fear what any person shall do to me.)”
With complete trust in God, it makes sense that I would not fear anything someone might decide to do to me. Fear and dread and worry indicate a lack of trust in God, especially a diminishing of belief in His perfect will. Jesus, for a moment, asks God the Father if perhaps His perfect will might be fulfilled in some other perfect way than through crucifixion and death. But, within the same breath, Jesus says: ‘But not My will Lord, but Yours.’
Since Jesus is without sin, it follows His dread of the cross is part of His sacrifice for us. His fear relieves our fear just as His punishment deflects the punishment meant for us.
So, day in and day out, our worries and fears and dreads — though natural reactions to the stresses of living — should never define us. What should define you and me is our trust and hope in God, who is perfect and “who works all things together for good to those who are call according to His purposes.”
Utter alone-ness — loneliness, not solitude — descends upon a person at any given time and often without warning. David says that when he looks around him and sees the wicked prosper, both “his flesh and his heart fail.” (Psalm 73:26) He bemoans, “As for me, my feet are almost gone; my steps are well nigh slipped” (Psalm 73:2)
Despite abject distress, David rejoices that “God is the strength of [his] heart, and [his] portion for ever.” (Psalm 73:26) He sings, “I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.” (Psalm 73:23) God is David’s inheritance — “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” (Psalm 73:25)
What compares to God? What want transcends desire for Him? Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2: 20)
In Brooklyn this fall, my daughter and I attended a street fair centered around the arts — In one particular open air building, several people were giving away large, colorful bags. A few other people were handing out orangeade and lemonade sodas — for FREE! We were even allowed to come back for seconds — yes, the sodas were very good! on a hot day in New York.
David the psalmist sings:
“For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.”
Of course, the difference between the street givers and the Lord is immense — the street givers are actually advertisers; they expect you to purchase their products at a later time and in great quantity. They hope this, anyway. On the other hand, God truly gives. Yes, He has expectations. His hope is that you will accept His gift so He may have a relationship with you through His Son, Jesus via His Holy Spirit.
And no need for seconds — this relationship lasts your lifetime and His!
David, the psalmist whom God declares is a man after His own heart, tells us to “sing a new song to the Lord, for He does marvellous deeds; His right hand and holy arm win Him victory. The Lord makes His victory known; He displays His righteousness to all the nations. He remembers His constancy, His love for the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth see the victory of our God.” (Psalm 98:1-3, NEB)
David emphasizes five key concepts in this song: God’s power, His righteousness, His constancy, His love, and His victory.
E.M. Bartlett sings of the victory of God from a slightly different viewpoint. Now God’s victory is also our victory, but this triumph remains essentially God’s victory. God seeks us out before we know Him; He purchases us and plunges us to victory “beneath the cleansing flood” which is His shed blood, not ours.
David and Mr. Bartlett emphasize God’s constancy, not ours.
“God be praised, He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, stand firm and immovable, and work for the Lord always, work without limit, since you know that in the Lord your labour cannot be lost.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58,NEB)
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
David admits he doesn’t understand God’s thoughts. After all, he says, “how vast their sum is!” (Psalm 139:17) God has so many thoughts, “they outnumber the grains of sand;” yet when David wakes, he discovers “[he] is still with [God].” (Psalm 139:18) God does not get distracted. He is always aware of David’s heart, of his concerns, of anything offensive within him; and God always leads David in the way of everlasting life.
“For [God’s] faithful love to us is great; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever! Hallelujah!” (Psalm 117:2, NIV)
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
“The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
Ultimately, fear is obsolete for the Christian. We are under the shadow of the wings of the Almighty God. We are sheltered in Him; He is our tower, our stronghold, our sure fortress. Since God is on our side, who can be against us? Since He is the stronghold of our lives, of whom shall we be afraid? Since there is no punishment in our future, what have we to fear? Nothing should frighten us.
Fear is destroyed because the Lord Himself is our salvation. He is our light; and as we walk in His light, we know the truth and this truth sets us free — free from guilt, free from condemnation, free from sin’s power and from the sting of death.
“Though an army besiege me, my heart does not fear; though war break out against me, even then am I confident.” (Psalm 27:3)
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)
My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for He plucks my feet out of the net.” (Psalm 25:15, ESV)
Evil forces — whether persons, demons, or tortured spirits — are always throwing nets out in front of those of us who walk according to God the Holy Spirit. What I never forget is God “plucks my feet out of [those] nets.” Even if I see the net and yet step into it willfully in a spirit of disobedience, God the Holy Spirit is faithful to rescue.
My prayer is akin to David’s: “For Thy Name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.” (Psalm 25:11, KJV) I trust the Lord to show mercy and to “bring me out of my distresses.” (Psalm 25:17, KJV) I believe God “keeps my soul, and delivers me.” (Psalm 25:20, KJV) Therefore, I pray with David, “Let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in Thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on Thee.” (Psalm 25:20-21, KJV)
“I desire to do Your will, O Lord,” sings the psalmist.
Oh that we each have that desire — the desire to discover, know, and do the will of our God. Many, if not most of us claim to desire to do the will of God, but I must admit to doubting this is true. We spend so little of our time contemplating God, meditating upon His Word, praying for His will in our lives; that it’s hard to believe we really desire His will.
Some of us might think that God’s will is enigmatic. His thoughts are so far above ours that we are incredulous. We think how can we know what God wants.
But, God’s Word is rather clear — He wills for us to seek Him first, to love Him first; then to love our neighbors in the same manner that He loves us. This perfect love may indeed be beyond our capability, but we have an obligation to yield ourselves to God the Holy Spirit who works within and through us to accomplish His will.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, take courage, and wait for the Lord.”
I can’t think of more comforting and yet challenging words than these. We are reminded that God acts; He is not idle. But the call to wait for the Lord, to be strong and take courage also implies that something difficult, even painful has entered our lives. We are staggering; we are fainting from woe. We can barely eat; we do not know the comfort of sleep. We each cry out, “I am wearied with groaning; all night long my pillow is wet with tears, I soak my bed with weeping. Grief dims my eyes; they are worn out with all my woes.” (Psalm 6: 6-7)
The comfort is that “though [our] fathers and [our] mothers forsake [us], the Lord takes [us] into His care.” (Psalm 27:10) In the Lord, “[we] find refuge.” (Psalm 7: 1) Yet, often we are left feeling abandoned, crying out: “When my prayer comes back unanswered, I walk with head bowed in grief as if for a brother; as one in sorrow for his mother I lay prostrate in mourning… O Lord, how long wilt Thou look on at those who hate me for no reason?” (Psalm 35: 13-14, 17)
We must remain “joyful in hope, patient in affliction” writes Paul. (Romans 12:12, NIV) This joyful hope as we wrestle with pain and a feeling of unanswered prayer is the essence of our faith, our belief in the essential goodness of our God. Without this faith, we are unable to “be strong” or to “take courage.” Without this faith in God’s perfection, we do not “wait for the Lord.”
Know that God is good, that He loves us beyond measure, beyond comprehension. Like the psalmist, we each must say: “But for my part I trust in Thy true love. My heart rejoices, for Thou hast set me free. I sing to the Lord, who grants all my desire.” (Psalm 13:5-6)