Opportunities for the Overwhelmed

Note: I published this on this blog about seven years ago. It seems timely for us to revisit this psalm. – PO

Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:1–2)

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Photo: Sue Oesterwind

The Psalms are filled with comforting promises and convicting precepts.  The more adversity and affliction we face, the greater the need for the Psalms.  We have opportunity to see that truly no temptations have overtaken us except those which are common to man (1 Corinthians 10.13).  If God was faithful when David was overwhelmed, then He will be faithful when we are overwhelmed.  We need refuge and relief.

Life presents plenty of opportunities for you to feel overwhelmed.

We are overwhelmed by the difficulties life.

David faced plenty of these difficulties.  Think of the overwhelming feelings when his son, Absalom, rebelled against him and was killed.  David was moved deeply.  Overwhelmed, he cried bitterly, “O my son Absalom – my son, my son Absalom – if only I had died in your place!  O Absalom my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18.33).  Physical pain is also overwhelming.  If it is constant, it will wear you down and leave you feeling overwhelmed with depression.  I’ve had other times in my life when I’ve been caught in a lie or some other embarrassing situation.  Even though God forgives, I’ll think back on those times and cringe.  Sometimes we are so caught up in our past regrets, we are overwhelmed.  My relationship with Jesus Christ gives me victory over these over difficulties in life, but I often find myself just settling for getting by day to day.  I just sort of become resigned to feeling overwhelmed.  The goal is to grow closer to God when I am overwhelmed.  The difficulties of life tend to leave us overwhelmed; it becomes a way of life.

We are overwhelmed by the battles in life.

My sin is always before me.  God convinces me to confess it and move on toward the mark set before me.  However, often the pangs of conviction leave me in deep anguish.  If I did not understand the mercy and hope God offers, I truly would have destroyed myself long ago.  I look at the inward condition of my soul at times and say, “O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7.24)  Add to this that I feel God is so far away.  Sometimes “my soul refuses to be comforted” (Psalm 77.2) and my spirit is overwhelmed (77.3).  Perhaps the Lord has cast me off forever (77.7).  Has his mercy ceased forever when it comes to me (77.8)?  Has He forgotten to be gracious to me (77.9)?  His anger toward me has stopped the flow of His tender compassion and mercy.  Of course, nothing is further from the truth, but it doesn’t change the way we feel.  Life presents external and internal opportunities for us to feel overwhelmed.

We are overwhelmed by the finality of death.

I live under the constant prospect of death.  Of course, all of us do.  But I’m reminded of it daily.  My body has changed.  Cancer has crept in and made me aware of just how brief life truly is.  I struggle with the ability to maintain my schedule.  I feel overwhelmed.  There are times and seasons when I say with Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain …I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1.21-24).  Death holds no sting for the believer.  I welcome it in some respects.  It cannot come soon enough when my heart is overwhelmed!  However, deep depression and loneliness makes death dreadful.  Ungodly and ungrateful people die like animals; they have no understanding of eternity.  But we know the terrors of death’s finality.  Our hearts are severely pained within us.  The terrors of death fall upon us.  Fearfulness and trembling come and horror overwhelms.

The Lord presents plenty of opportunities for you escape being overwhelmed.

Prayer stabilizes life like nothing else can.

When God sees that we are finally looking to Him alone for our strength and comfort, He is pleased.  We look to the Creator not His creation for these things.  No one else can help me.  No one else knows me.  The person I think will help me will eventually abandon me.  I fall …he falls.  We all perish together (see Isaiah 31.3; reminds me of “Ring Around the Rosie”).  But before the throne of God’s grace, I find Him answering before I call …hearing and acting before I speak (Isaiah 65.24).

Prayer will prolong my physical life in order to accomplish the will of God.  Prayer will deliver me from my rebellious spirit.  Prayer will stabilize my chaotic inner life.  “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jam 5.16).

God delivers us through prayer so that we might glorify Him.  He turns grief to joy in a season of prayer.  He gives peace through 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 Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7)

Prayer leads me to the Rock higher than I.

Jesus Christ is the Rock.  He is sufficient to meet our every need.  If we really were convinced of that, we would pray.  We pray, “Lord God lead me to the Rock!”  The Rock upon which we have a secure foundation …the rock that crushes guilt, composes our thoughts, dissipates temptation …pours forth grace to go through affliction and wind up closer to God than we ever have been!  “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I!”

I am sure that some readers cannot really relate to what I am writing, but the storms of life are coming.  You misunderstand Christianity if you think that you will always be in safe harbors and of sound mind and body just because you trust in Jesus Christ.  All of us are dying.  Life is very brief.  The best way to prepare for the inevitable is cling to the Rock higher than you.  The terror of judgment awaits us all.  The believer is judged for his life-work.  What is enduring and eternal?  What is vaporous and temporal?  Jesus Christ will declare it from His Bema Seat.

Other readers are overwhelmed by acute personal turmoil.  Realize that your natural tendency is to go to the creation rather than the Creator.  No pastor …no mother and father …no friend will stand in the place of God.  God is always faithful, and God will never fail you!  Overwhelming times present themselves to drive you to the Savior.  If you lived a constantly prosperous life, you would not see your need.  You would neglect the Lord Jesus.  As you mature in your relationship with Christ, you will recognize the purpose of affliction and be grateful for it.  There is great opportunity for the overwhelmed and great glory for the God of the overwhelmed.

Everlasting Mercy

As for man, his days are like the grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.

– Psalm 103.15-18

A326E0AF-DADD-4504-A5AF-41EC2943AA55Life is short and uncertain. Our days are like flourishing flowers and fading grass. Imagine what life would be like if we had no hope after death. The winds of time pass over us. The indelible mark we thought we left fades away. No one remembers, but the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting. This is where we find consolation, comfort of love, and fellowship with the Spirit of God.

The LORD’s mercy is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him. His righteousness is passed on from generation to generation. This simple fact governs our character and reveals the mercy of God to greater extents.

  • Mercy Governs the Character of Man
  • Mercy Glorifies the Character of God

Mercy Governs the Character of Man

The mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him (Psalm 103.17). No pain, no gain. You can’t have mercy without fear. We fear God. This separates us from most in the world. A fear of the LORD changes our hearts. It’s a transforming concept. It keeps us from moving against God. It keeps us desiring to please Him like a child is eager to please his earthly father.

God’s mercy is for those who keep His covenant. This particularly is for Israel. However, Abraham is the father of all those who labored under the Law of Moses and the father of all those who labor under the Law of Christ.

The righteousness of God apart from the Law is now revealed. It the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. Jesus has fulfilled the Law for believing people. Our sins are washed away by His blood. Our souls are renewed by His grace. God provides everything for us. We respond to such a great salvation with the affection of dear children. We lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of us.

But we also remember the Lord’s commands and do them. We fear God. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all thing that I have commanded you, and lo I am with you always even to the end of the age. Amen” (Matthew 28.19-20)

The Law of God is still written upon our hearts. The principles and promise of God are still very certain. The will of God is still very clear. We strive to be perfect even as our Heavenly Father is perfect. We don’t excuse our behavior with the words, “Nobody’s perfect!” Instead, we understand that, “Somebody’s perfect! That Somebody is Jesus Christ, and He wants to perfect us. Don’t trust anyone who tries to discourage you from pressing toward the goal for the upward prize of God in Christ Jesus! Mercy governs the character of Man!

Mercy Glorifies the Character of God

God’s everlasting mercy is juxtaposed over and against our fleeting lives upon the earth. We are as a flourishing flower of the field. James said that we are “as a flower of the field” and we will pass away. “For sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and it’s beautiful appearance perishes” (James 1.10-11). Nobody remembers it according to Psalm 103. It’s hard to contemplate this, but you will pass away, other generations will come up, and they will forget you just as you have forgotten those who have gone before us.

However, God is glorified from generation to generation and from everlasting to everlasting. His mercy glorifies His character. There was never a past when God’s mercy did not exist. There will never be a future when it does not exist. It’s everlasting. He didn’t have more mercy because of my miserable existence. He is unchanging in His mercy. He is determined to show compassion and mercy toward those who have spurned Him. It’s all according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began (2 Timothy 1.9).

We are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame before the LORD in love. That is accomplished according to His good pleasure and to the praise of His glorious mercy. The acceptance I have right now in Christ demonstrates the everlasting mercy of God. While it is true of Israel, it is also true of the Church of Jesus Christ: God has loved us with an everlasting love and with loving kindness He has drawn us through Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 31.3).

Everlasting mercy means that I can be confident that He who has begun a good work in me will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. He will not turn away from doing me good for all eternity. He will put His fear in our hearts so that we do not depart from Him (cp. with Jeremiah 32.40). God is faithful. His mercy endures forever.

Father,

I am fearful when Your mercy leads me to presume upon Your gracious character. I am marginalizing Your authority over me when I do this. I am fearful because I will face great humiliation to learn humility. Be patient and help me respond to Your light chastening.

Set me apart from the world to learn at Your feet. Strengthen me to pursue a holy life. A flourishing, fading life can have eternal value because Your word stands forever. Help me lay up for myself treasure in Heaven. I could lay up many good things in this life. But rust will corrupt them and the moth will eat through them. The thieves will steal them. I never know when my temporal days will end. Today, I ask for Your mercy. Nothing else matters. Life is too short, and so I’m asking for Your everlasting mercy.

The Promise of Love

“Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed.  But You are the same, and Your years will have no end.  The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You” (Psalm 102.25-28).

6A7FE51A-DD06-46E3-8CA7-F1C8E2A4C826The author of these words was overwhelmed and afflicted. He calls upon God to hear him quickly. His cry is one of anguish. Verses 3-11 describe that anguish:

  • He is skin and bones because he forgets to eat. Perhaps this is due to a raging fever.
  • He is isolated and alone and emotionally spent.
  • He believes that he is receiving God’s indignation and wrath for sin in his life.

Verses 12-22 are the hinge-point of the psalm. “But You, O LORD, shall endure forever” (v. 12). God continues forever even though the psalmist’s life is brief. If the psalm is written during the exile, then he believed God would restore Jerusalem or Zion once again. God “shall regard the prayer of the destitute and shall not despise their prayer” (v. 17). Future generations would declare the name of the LORD in Zion and His praise in Jerusalem (v. 21). The people will gather together once again. The kingdoms shall serve the LORD (v. 22). While this happened when Israel came back to rebuild after the exile, the psalmist is also looking forward to this happening on a worldwide scale during the Millennial reign of Christ.

The psalmist prayed that the Lord would not take his life away in the midst of his days. He didn’t want to die too soon.  The psalmist then writes of God’s eternal existence. God was present at creation. He is present now. He will be present when the first heaven and the first earth pass away, and a new heaven and a new earth take their place. God outlasts creation. He has no beginning and no end. Psalm 102.25-28 are quoted by the writer of Hebrews as well (Hebrews 1.10-12).

“…You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed.  But You are the same, and Your years will not fail” (Hebrews 1.10-12).  

The fact that Psalm 102 obviously refers to the LORD God and that Hebrews 1 is referring to God the Son demonstrates that Jesus is the LORD. There are two aspects of the character of Christ highlighted in both Hebrews 1 and Psalm 102: His eternality and His immutability.

Christ is eternal.

“By Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers” (Colossians 1.16). Jesus Christ is “before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1.17).  If Jesus created all things, then He Himself cannot be created.  He is the eternal creator God.  He was with God in the beginning. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1.3). Yet He was robed in flesh and came out of Bethlehem Ephrathah. He came forth from the Father to be the Ruler in Israel. He is the One “whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5.2). He is everlasting God.

Christ is immutable.

He laid the foundation of the earth that will perish. Yet He endures. The creation is changed, but He does not change. “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3.10-11). The creation will change but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13.8).

Hezekiah thought just like the psalmist is thinking. He thought he would die in the prime of his life. He believed that he would be deprived the remainder of his years. His life span was gone. But as frail and as fleeting as our lives are, we find hope in the eternal and immutable Christ.  Verse 28 says that the children of the Lord Jesus’ servants will continue. Their descendants will be established before Him. He is referring to Israel, but what was true of them is also true of us. God’s eternal and changeless character brings comfort to all God’s people.

Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life. Those that believe in Him, though they may die, yet they shall live. He will never leave us or forsake us. He keeps us from falling. All that the Father has given Him will never be lost. “The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You.”

Among us are people who are overwhelmed and afflicted. But there is not a reason that a Christian should be without hope. The Lord Jesus lives.  He is our anchor and refuge. His grace is sufficient for us in our weakness.

Perhaps others are resting confidently in Christ. They must remember to direct their praise and thanksgiving to the One who has given them access, hope, and confidence. Imagine what life would be like without Christ. We would be lost and undone. But thanks be to God that we rest our confidence in Christ. He is our unchanging Savior in our ever-changing world.

Praying Psalm 102

Lord Jesus,

I know You hear me. Help me to listen to You. Life is brief and often filled with pain and sorrow. You know this better than I ever could. I may feel as if Your indignation and wrath have isolated me from You, but Your Word makes it clear that You will never leave nor forsake me. You drained the cup of the Father’s indignation for me. I cannot pay for my sins. I could not endure His wrath. You were forgotten and forsaken for my sins. Though I am often sick, overwhelmed, exhausted, and broken emotionally, I know it is temporary. My days here are as smoke, but my hope is restored and set on eternity.

The time is coming when the world shall be made whole. The kingdoms of men will be subdued by You as the King of all kings. You shall bring all things under Your dominion. The Father shall be all in all. My prayer comes before You at the right hand of God. You shall regard it and not despise it. This is the promise of love. Restore my hope. Revive my joy. Strengthen me to redeem the days I have before me.

I am so grateful for Your Word. I am part of the generation that would yet praise You from the Psalmist’s perspective. Both his days, my days, and all those intervening days of long-forgotten saints are as smoke. But You haven’t forgotten them. You haven’t forgotten me.

Everything is changing in the world around me. So much uncertainty. So much pressure. So much opportunity. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Your years have no end. But You have become the first fruits of those who sleep. My temporal life fades. Sleep comes enveloped in darkness, but joy comes when the never-ending dawn breaks. This is why I remain in hope. Though I may die, I shall live. I believe this. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.

There shall be showers of blessing –
Precious reviving again;
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain.

There shall be showers of blessing:
Send them upon us, O Lord;
Grant to us now a refreshing;
Come and now honor Thy Word.

There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!

Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need;
Mercy drops ’round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

D. W. Whittle, 1863

 

Air Mass Formation

I was watching a science class with my boys. The topic was elements necessary for an air mass to form. One necessary characteristic is that they form in a place with stationary air. Then movement takes place. I may have learned that but have long since forgotten it.

75731457-07BD-4AB8-9893-AFFC38EA6E41_4_5005_cPsalm 46.10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” This act of being still reminds me of who is in control. My goal is to know Him and to know what He is doing. Then, hopefully I move throughout my day in the wake of His grace.

This is the most challenging aspect of prayer. It is the act of opening your mouth wide and receiving all the fullness of God (Psalm 81.10). Perhaps I’ve learned and forgotten this too many times

Contention at the Cross

One of the reasons we have contention in the church is that we tend to believe what is right in our own eyes. We don’t allow God to dictate to us in His Word; we dictate to Him. Often this dramatically and deleteriously affects church conduct. Once our church begins to take polls and surveys to find out what people like and then strive to give them that, we fail in our mandate from God as a church. We see this in our powerfully taught in 1 Corinthians 1.18-25.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. – 1 Corinthians 1.18-25

Two groups of people are explicitly mentioned in this passage: Jews and Greeks. The Jews request a sign and Greeks seek after wisdom. The Jews want another powerful exodus from God. The Greeks treasure human wisdom and philosophy. There is nothing wrong with a desire for power and wisdom. The trouble is that the Jews wanted power and the Greeks desired wisdom on their own terms. They wanted to define the works of God on their own. They wanted their own limited expectations to come to pass.

There are two groups of people in our present age according to v. 18: 1) those who are perishing and 2) those who are being saved. Those who are being saved are those who rely on the cross as a manifestation of God’s powerful deliverance from sin. We understand that we live in the present because Christ died and rose again in the past. Those who stumble at the cross reject the crucified Christ. Such a thing is a manifestation of weakness and foolishness to them. Therefore, they are perishing while we are living.

Paul quotes Isaiah in v. 19 of our text (see Isaiah 29.14). He will methodically bring six Old Testament quotations forward to buttress his argumentation for the good of the Corinthian believers. The idea behind this particular quotation is plain: Don’t try to match wits with God. We need this reminder. A great reversal is coming. God will destroy the wisdom of the worldly wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent in this world.

The flurry of four rhetorical questions in v. 20 tell us that worldly wisdom is already rendered foolish in this present age. Where are they? Where is this great human wisdom and power? God makes it all foolish in the crucified Christ. This is the great reversal. What many in this world consider foolish is presently the wisdom of God, but it is veiled to so many who are perishing.

The world cannot know God through human wisdom. If it could, this would mean that the world is somehow deserving. We are undeserving. God is known only through His wisdom, and Christ is the Wisdom of God (see v. 24). God’s wisdom is the opposite of the human wisdom so highly prized in our world today (see 2.6-16). It is the message that is important and emphasized in verse 21. Why preach the message of Christ crucified? To save those who are believing in this world! God is pleased to save believing people through a message the world considers to be foolish.

The Jews look for another powerful exodus. The Greeks look for human wisdom and reason, the pursuit of philosophical ideas. Jesus refused to give a sign to those who remained adamantly opposed to Him. The Jews only wanted a sign that would not contradict their idea of a powerful Messiah delivering them from Rome. They want a powerful warrior not a Lamb of God who would take away their sin. The Greeks wanted to constantly learn but never come closer to the truth. God must conform to their ever-shifting ideas and reasonings. They want a wise philosopher to challenge and change their thinking. They don’t want stability; they want upheaval.

There is a third group of people in verse 23: those who preach Christ crucified. Christ crucified contradicts the message of Jews and Greeks. The Jews stumble at the cross and the Greeks scorn at the cross. But we submit at the cross. What is considered weakness, folly, and defective is actually “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v. 24).

God is calling both Jews and Gentiles to believe. But He calls them from His perspective of power and wisdom. We must conform to Him and not the other way around. This is the message believers preach today. It still contradicts the world’s message of power and wisdom. But for us Christ is the effectual power of God for salvation to all who believe, Jew or Gentile. Why? “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (v. 25).

God is neither foolish nor weak. Paul is simply continuing with a literary theme in this paragraph. The idea of the foolishness and weakness of God are hypothetical ideas used to highlight the great reversal and contrast of this paragraph. The supposed weakness of God would still be superior to any human concept of power. The supposed foolishness of God would still be superior to any human concept of wisdom. But obviously, there is no foolishness or weakness in God.

This paragraph of Scripture is a contrast. The Jews request a sign, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to them. The Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, foolishness to them. There will always be those who stumble at the cross, scorn the cross, and submit at the cross.

Stumbling at the Cross

The Jewish people stumbled at the cross because they were looking for power and great glory. They only saw shame and weakness at the cross. Deuteronomy 21.23 and Galatians 3.13 indicate that everyone who hangs on a tree is cursed. This is how the Jewish people saw it. They could not reconcile their understanding of Messiah with passages like Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53. They stumbled at the cross.

Scorning at the Cross

The Greeks scorned at the cross because they were lovers of knowledge. This was utter foolishness to them. They didn’t see wisdom at the cross. They didn’t see God’s great plan for redemption. They scorn the cross and prove they are perishing.

Submitting at the Cross

But to us who are being saved, we preach Christ crucified because we are submitting at the cross. We are those who are called. We are both Jews and Greeks in the Church of God. For us, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God! We have been called and we have believed. We preach Christ crucified. The death of Christ reveals the foolishness of our wisdom and the weakness of our power. Jesus died for us!

  1. The Power of God – Christ crucified is the power of God. We see God’s power in the conversion of many since the cross. We see God’s power in our own conversion. God powerfully transforms shattered lives.
  2. The Wisdom of God – Christ crucified is the wisdom of God. He is the supreme revelation of God. He is the Word, and to know Him is eternal life. He is THE wisdom of God not a wisdom suited for a particular culture with itching ears.

As we submit at the cross, we preach Christ crucified. He is the greatest good that has ever come out of the greatest evil perpetuated on a man. We count all things loss for the excellency of this knowledge.

  • The cross of Christ is not a stumbling block to us. Christ is the Light. The god of this age has blinded religious moralists and those seeking a sign or some miracle. He blinds those who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. We preach Christ crucified and not ourselves (see 2 Corinthians 4.4-5).
  • The cross of Christ is not foolishness to us. We certainly have the ability to reason and think. God blesses us with a strong intellect. But this must be submitted to Him to be of any use for us. We cannot know anything completely or perfectly. We will never know as God knows. The wisest among us will become as little children are. God destroys the wisdom of the wise and brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent (v. 19). Our greatest need is to be taught by God.
  • The cross of Chris is the power of God and the wisdom of God to us! We desire to identify more and more with the cross of Christ. We don’t want it to be a stumbling block or foolishness through misapprehension and misapplication of the truth. True wisdom and true power will always be considered foolishness and weakness in this present age. But the true perspective is that God is both wiser and stronger than all of us. We submit to Him.

 

The Beauty of the Lord

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Photo: Sue Oesterwind

“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us!” This is a wonderful and blessed thought for the present moments of our temporal lives. Psalm 90 contains eternal blessings for the temporal lives in which we live, move, and have our being. We yearn to be satisfied early with God’s mercy so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days (90.14). Visible demonstrations of God’s mercy and lovingkindness convey His gracious presence when He seems so far away. When the beauty of the Lord our God is upon us, we look toward that eternal Day when we shall truly see Him unfettered by the sin demanding His mercy each and every day within the temporal realm.

The Beauty of the LORD Our God

Whole volumes are given over to the study of God’s character in the pages of Scripture. It is a pursuit that accomplishes what seem to be two opposing goals: drawing us closer to the Lord while at the same time letting us know that we’ve only scratched the surface of our understanding of His immensity. The fool denies eternity within in his heart. He will worship none other than himself. Therefore, God gives him over to his obstinate folly, and he remains without excuse.

Design, variety, pleasure, and beauty within God’s creation point to the glory of God (Psalm 19). The creation demonstrates that God is all-wise and all-powerful. Those looking for answers to ultimate questions will not find them by ruminating over dead poets and philosophers. These answers come from the illuminating work of God through His Spirit. Those of us viewed as fools by the world have a wondrous revelation of God in His Word. Those deemed as wise by the world have these things hidden from them. It’s quite sad. They grope aimlessly for some new twist or turn in the meanderings of men.

But God is not manifested within the creative order alone. We see Him in the pages of mankind’s history. He is sovereign. Everything is rushing toward the Day when He shall be all in all (1 Corinthians 15.28). We see Him beautifully weaving and stitching together not only history in general but also our very lives. This is the beauty of the Lord our God! He has redeemed us for His glory and so we worship Him in the beauty of His holiness and for His glory. The greatest goal of all creation is to bring glory to the Creator. And the Lord Jesus Christ has made this possible. Jesus is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power (1 Timothy 6.14-15).

We see the unseen Father in the Son who is “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1.3). The beauty of the Lord our God is found in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. His painstaking work of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, His redemptive work upon the Cross of Calvary, and even His work of judgment from His glorious throne represent the beauty of the Lord our God in perfection. Men journey with us and hear whispers of God, but we see what they cannot see. That is why it seems that the myriads of people who hear the same words from the Scripture we do remain deaf and dumb toward them while we are humbled, and our faith deepened by the very same words.

Be Upon Us

The Lord’s beauty is conveyed through light shining out of darkness into our very hearts in order to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Jesus mediates the beauty of the Lord God. He has shown us light that the world cannot see. Not only this, but He has given to us the opportunity to reflect that light and thereby glorify God.

The primary reason for gathering for worship on Sunday is so that we may behold the beauty of the Lord. “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). Our yearning, broken, contrite, and dependent hearts expect satisfaction in the beauty of the Lord. The venue of our idea of a sanctuary has changed. But we still desire to see God’s power and glory (Psalm 63.2).

Second, mankind is created in the image of God (Genesis 1.26-27). But that image is much maligned. We must experience a new birth so that we might “put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4.24). It is the beauty of the Lord that we behold with unveiled face. It is the beauty and glory of the Lord that shines forth and reflects or radiates from our lives as a mirror reflects the image of a man. What happens inside of us is the transformation from glory to even greater glory and so on. It is the sanctifying work of the Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 3.18). This verse communicates a continual process until we are made perfect as our Father is perfect.

We look toward the Day as we press toward the mark until “we come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4.13). May the Lord grant that His beauty be upon us today and to a greater degree tomorrow. Let us grow in grace and flourish in holiness! Let us comprehend what is the love of Christ and be filled with all the fullness of God!

Building an Eternal Mindset

Let us pray that we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18–19). The goal is that nothing in our temporal life affects our pursuit of this fullness. Even tribulation works patience, experience, and eventually a deep and abiding hope – a confident expectation that God will make good on His promises. Trials reveal deeper problems within us. They refine us. So, we bear up underneath them knowing that God will use them to show us His glory in greater detail and to conform us to the image of His Son.

Our pursuit of holiness is our pursuit of God. Our pursuit of mercy is our pursuit of God. Time spent in Scripture and in prayer keeps us balanced and growing. May the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us!

Abide Satisfied!

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Photo: Sue Oesterwind

“Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4.8). Wisdom’s “ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3.17). Moses lived with a generation of men and women who did not believe those two verses. Our own generation is like the generation of Moses’ day. Even many Christians remain unsatisfied today. There is no gladness only disillusionment and despair. But it need not be this way. Moses writes, “Oh, satisfy us early with your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!”

There are two precious truths related to one another in this verse. First, satisfaction is found in God’s mercy. Second, those who find this satisfaction are glad and rejoice all their days. So, the verse explains to us how satisfaction and joy come into our lives.

How to Abide Satisfied

“Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy.” David asked, ”
“Who will show us any good?” He concluded, “LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us. You have put gladness in my heart.” – Psalm 4.6-7

There is no satisfaction in life apart from Christ.

The Book of Ecclesiastes attests to this when Solomon wrote, “All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1.1). Work for the sake of work leads to despair. Our eyes are never satisfied with seeing, nor our ears with hearing (1.8). There is nothing new under the sun (1.9). Solomon had the gold, the girls, and the glamor. But none of the things on this earth are meant to bring satisfaction to our lives. Wealth and prestige mean little on your deathbed. If we had it all, we would still want more. Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard. Haman wanted the honor Mordecai had. It’s the same old story. Nothing on this earth will satisfy because it isn’t meant to satisfy. The things of this world are tools to reach the people of this world for the true God of Heaven and earth. They were never meant to satisfy or to be an end in and of themselves.

There is no satisfaction in religion apart from Christ.

All religions and religious activity are vain when performed by self-righteous people. Self-righteousness drains life from people. It turns us into duty-oriented slaves of whatever religious or secular system. Self-righteousness always leads to despair. We are left asking, “Have I done enough to atone for my sin? Will God be finally pleased with me and bring me to Heaven?” There is no assurance in that kind of life. The self-righteous person will be unsettled in the end. Death and judgment loom largely, and the self-righteous person will see the futility of it all. A self-righteous person will grow jaded, hypocritical, and very legalistic in his or her outlook on life. Such people will be very surprised when they cry out, “Lord! Lord!” And Jesus will say, “I never knew you.”

There is only satisfaction in the LORD’s mercy.

All of us have sinned a fall short of the glory of God. We will give an account of our lives to God. Those who trust in Christ alone for eternal life are ready to enter into God’s presence. We need not be ashamed at judgment because we “know whom we have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what we have committed to Him until that Day” of judgment (2 Timothy 1.12). We will be accepted into God’s presence when we die because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our acceptance and hope are found in Him alone. Our physical bodies are likened to tents that will one day be destroyed only to be given a house not made with hands (a glorified, resurrected body), eternal in the heavens. We want a heavenly, eternal body in Heaven. This awaits us because and only because of the mercy of God (2 Corinthians 5.1ff.).

We will not be eternally condemned so we ought not participate in temporal activity and thinking that will be (Romans 8.1). I have not seen Christ with my physical eyes. Yet, believing, I rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1.8). This will lead to the end of faith – the salvation of my soul. That is true satisfaction. Mercy satisfies and leads to abiding joy.

How to Abide with Joy

This kind of joy benefits a person early on in life. When we seek the mercy of God early in life, we find great blessing and joy. We are reaping what we sow. Relieved from sin’s burden and offered the clarity and discernment to live eternal life, we experience satisfaction that cannot be found in any other earthly pleasure. Even if we get swept away by the things of this world, we come to a crisis point and long for the old paths of mercy once again. The wonder of wonders is that we find these paths every single time.

We grow through seasons of affliction. Circumstances don’t roll out in the way we expect them to. We are born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward. Yet, even so, we know that God loves us. His love is poured out in our hearts in such measure that it overwhelms the deepest miseries of life.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5.1-4).

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? The Lord’s voice cries to the city— Wisdom shall see Your name: “Hear the rod! Who has appointed it” (Micah 6.8-9).

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8.28).

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4.17).

I have not reached my death bed. I’ve come close. But I am confident when I do that a crown of righteousness is waiting for me. I know this because God has had mercy upon me. His mercy pardoned my soul and took away the sting of death. If we grab hold of this truth by knowing and believing it, if we consider it as a truth to be lived out practically in our lives, and if we present ourselves and all we have to God for His service, our obedience will be rewarded. We indeed will be hard-pressed between two desires: 1) to depart and be with Christ through death; or 2) to remain here in continual service for the Lord and His people. See Philippians 1.23.

It’s never too early to pursue God’s mercy. Seek satisfaction and happiness in spiritual things not material things. Be satisfied with God’s goodness.

“Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion,
Streaming to the goodness of the Lord
For wheat and new wine and oil,
For the young of the flock and the herd;
Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden,
And they shall sorrow no more at all.
Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance,
And the young men and the old, together;
For I will turn their mourning to joy,
Will comfort them,
And make them rejoice rather than sorrow.
I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance,
And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the Lord.”

– Jeremiah 31:12–14

We have to work and provide for our families. But our zeal and fervency for God must be evident in all we do. We don’t labor for food that rots or cars that rust. We look for enduring, everlasting life. We look forward to the kingdom and glory of God.

When we grow old, much of our time on earth is done. But while we live, we must lose no time. We redeem the time we have because the days are evil. We still must cry out for God’s daily mercy. We shall have it. We shall abide satisfied with the joy of the LORD as our strength!