Psalm 99 – The Holy Helper

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Our ideas of God take shape in the many ways in which we live our lives.  A God who is always right, fair, just, and loving in everything he says and does is a God we can place our complete trust.  A cranky god who is aloof and indifferent doesn’t help anyone.  Yet, with the true God of all creation we can be assured of a strong spiritual support for any and every situation.  When we have as our ally a robust theology which informs how we think and gives shape to how we act, then we can step forward with confidence knowing that God has our backs.

Sound theology doesn’t simply happen; it needs to be identified, nurtured, and expressed in daily life.  Remember, the Old Testament psalms are the church’s prayer book.  Each individual psalm is meant to be an inspiration to prayer, as well as serving as the actual prayers themselves which we can utter to God.  To use the psalms as boots-on-the-ground prayer is essential to providing a firm foundation from which to know and serve God.

As I often do, I’ve provided my own translation of today’s psalm which captures the spirit of the text.  I encourage you to pray it over slowly, several times, and with proper emotional flavor behind the words.

The LORD rules; let all people everywhere who live unjustly, shake in their boots!

            God sits enthroned above all creation; let the earth quake on its foundation!

The LORD is great among his people;

            In fact, He is far above all people.

Let everyone, no matter who they are or where they’re from, praise Your great and awesome name.

            He is holy!

Mighty Ruler, the lover of everything that is just and right,

            You are the One who established what is fair and equitable;

You labored behind the scenes for causes which are just and right,

            and brought harmonious relations to folks at odds with each other.

Magnify the LORD, our God!

            Approach Him with great and mindful humility!

            He is holy!

Godly people of old such as Moses and Aaron were among his devout followers;

            Those like Samuel were among the humble who called on His Name.

People from times long ago have cried out to the LORD, and He has answered them.

            He spoke to the ancient Israelites in a great pillar of cloud.

They sought to keep and entrust His gracious rules given to them.

O LORD our God, you answered them;

            You were a forgiving God to them,

            Yet, you also were the One who held them accountable when they slid off the rails.

Magnify the LORD our God!

            Humble yourselves and worship at His holy mountain,

            because no one is like the LORD our God, a holy Helper!

Amen.

Psalm 86

            What is your view of God?  For some, God is up there, somewhere, like some white-bearded old guy who is aloof to what is going on down here – there is neither anything personal nor personable about him, at all.  For others, God is a force which binds all things together; he’s there, but you’re never quite sure how to get in touch with him – it’s like a crap shoot trying to connect with him.  For yet others, God is perpetually perturbed about something; he’s got a bee in his bonnet and its our job to figure out what he’s sullen and upset about all the time so that we might appease him in some way.
            But the psalmist, David, sees God in wholly other ways than this.  For David, God is personal, knowable, and very reachable.  Reading this psalm tells us a great deal of how David thought about God.  Notice what we learn about God from the way David describes him: “You willingly forgive,” “your love is always there,” “you listen,” “you perform great wonders,” “you protect me,” “you are kind and merciful,” you don’t easily get angry,” and “you help and comfort me.”
            Now this is a God you can sink your teeth into.  He’s attentive, engaged, and anything but upset all the time.  This is the reason why David has no problem asking God to: “please listen and answer my prayer,” “save me,” “make my heart glad,” and “teach me to follow you.”  With this God, David willingly states without being coerced: “I will serve you.”
            If your view of God cannot support and bear the weight of your life’s hardest circumstances, then you need a different view of God! I invite you to see the God of David.  This God has the ability within himself to satisfy your life’s greatest needs.

 

Great God of David, you are above all things and beside all things and with all things.  You are uniquely positioned and powerful to walk with me through all the situations of my life.  Thank you for sending the Son of David to make real your promises to me.  Amen.

God – The Jilted Lover

 
 
Throughout the Bible, God likens his relationship to his people much like a lover – as if he were married to them.  God’s covenant relationship with his people is at the heart of understanding the whole of Scripture.  Whenever they stray from his promises, God is offended and hurt. 
 
            Yes, God feels pain.  God is an emotional Being, which is why we have emotions as people created in his image.  One way to look at the Bible is that it is a book primarily about a jilted lover – and that lover is God.  He has set his affection and his love upon people, but, for the most part, people have spurned their lover’s advance.  And it pains God.  When the original man and woman decided to find satisfaction outside of God, he was jilted and hurt.  When people went on to have children and raise them, they did so largely apart from the God who loved them.  People strayed so far from God that it hurt. “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.  The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6:5-6).
 
            But God was still gracious, sparing Noah and his family.  He took a group of Noah’s descendants, Abraham’s family, and set his covenant affection on them.  Through the Israelites God hoped to lead the entire world to himself.  Yet, they, too, came to fail God and set their affections on others.  So, we have a large chunk of the Old Testament devoted to communicating God’s hurt and disappointment.  Like a jilted lover, God longed for Israel to remain faithful, and, at the same time, was hurt and angry.  So, then, we have prophecies like Hosea.  Hosea had an unfaithful wife, and throughout the book of Hosea the relationship between him and Gomer mirrored the relationship between God and Israel.  Just as Hosea did not give up on his wife, even though she was brazenly unfaithful, so God looked at Israel as his wife and could not bear to give her up.
 
            But Israel still did not seek God’s love and grace.  And it aroused within God pain and anger because not only did they spurn God’s affectionate advances, they actively sought other lovers, as the prophet Ezekiel communicated in language not suitable for children:
25 At every street corner you built your lofty shrines and degraded your beauty, spreading your legs with increasing promiscuity to anyone who passed by. 26 You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your neighbors with large genitals, and aroused my anger with your increasing promiscuity. 27 So I stretched out my hand against you and reduced your territory; I gave you over to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were shocked by your lewd conduct. 28 You engaged in prostitution with the Assyrians too, because you were insatiable; and even after that, you still were not satisfied. 29 Then you increased your promiscuity to include Babylonia, a land of merchants, but even with this you were not satisfied.
30 “‘I am filled with fury against you, declares the Sovereign Lord, when you do all these things, acting like a brazen prostitute! 31 When you built your mounds at every street corner and made your lofty shrines in every public square, you were unlike a prostitute, because you scorned payment.
32 “‘You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband! 33 All prostitutes receive gifts, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favors. 34 So in your prostitution you are the opposite of others; no one runs after you for your favors. You are the very opposite, for you give payment and none is given to you (Ezekiel 16:25-34).
 
            Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, God could not help but be gracious to his beloved wife (Isaiah 54:5-10):
For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.
“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again.
10 Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
 
            As the Old Testament comes to a close, God was still longing for his beloved to return.  “This is what the LORD Almighty says:  ‘I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.’” (Zechariah 8:2).  All of this was in the heart of the Apostle James when he wrote to the church about their spiritual adultery (James 4:4-6).  He knew that she was flirting with the world, and he wanted them to stop and return to the God who loved them and longed to show them grace, if they only would but humble themselves.  The Apostle John put it this way: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17).
 
            Here is the bottom line, my friends:  God does not want us to go somewhere else to have our needs met.  God yearns, passionately, for us to find our pleasure and enjoyment in him.  If and when we adulterate ourselves with the world, it hurts God deeply, like it would any jilted lover.  God waits with loving patience to show his grace and compassion.  But we have to be in an attitude of humility in order to receive grace.  Pride prevents us from receiving God’s good gift. 
 

 

            Seek the Lord while he may be found.  It is through the Lord Jesus Christ that all of God’s good promises and love find their ultimate fulfillment.  Come to Christ.  Receive the forgiveness he offers.  Walk his path of discipleship.  Follow Jesus.  Forsake all to obtain Christ.  He longs to show his affection and love to you.

How Our View of God Influences Us

 
 
            There are many people today who have given up on Christianity.  For all the reasons given (and they are many), the one I encounter most often is the person who comes to the point of believing that Christianity just does not work.  I will say at the outset that I approach Christianity with two major presuppositions:  I believe the Christian life works; and, I believe our view of God largely determines whether Christianity works, or not. I don’t think anyone sets out attempting to live the Christian life in order to fail at it.  No, we fully expect for it to work.  So, then, if we are to live a successful Christian life, we need to keep a few things in mind.
 
One of Satan’s primary objectives is to destroy the believer’s understanding of God (Genesis 3:1-10).
 
A chief way of doing this is through using influential factors from our past.  We can trace much of our contemporary beliefs, values, and actions to the past actors of parents, church, good/bad experiences, place of upbringing, siblings, peer groups, teachers, and friends.  Our earthly relationships in life are often transferred to our relationship with God.  For example, if one’s father was demanding and perfectionistic, it is possible that the person might transfer those same attributes to God. 
 
Sometimes a Christian’s view of God is more like a policeman always watching for us to break the rules; an old man who is aloof and largely uninterested; or, a fickle Being who can never be pleased.
 
But this isn’t how God describes himself in Holy Scripture.  God is the Sovereign Creator, Lord, and Redeemer.  He is our heavenly Father who is absolute in holiness, truth, and love.  Within God himself there is complete self-existence, unity, harmony, love, enjoyment, immensity, and infinite integrity (Psalm 147:5; Malachi 3:6; Deuteronomy 6:4).  When God deals with his creatures he is always observant, powerful, and present (Psalm 39:7-12; Jeremiah 32:17, 27).  What is more, God continually acts with veracity, faithfulness, mercy, goodness, justice and righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:9, 10:13; Psalm 36: 7, 10; Jeremiah 31:3; Hosea 14:9).  God always acts this way because he is love and truth.
 
Who God is determines how he reveals himself in his law and his will (Leviticus 11:44, 19:1-2; 1 Peter 1:16).
 
This is why Jesus is described as “The Word of God” in John 1:1.  In his revelation, God has made himself known to us.  Therefore, the appropriate response to such a God of truth and love is worship (recognizing His sovereign greatness); praise (recognizing His absolute perfection); and, obedience (recognizing His infinite love).  When we gain a view of God as always having our best interests at mind; showing steadfast love to us even when no one else does; redeeming and healing us from past trauma; giving purpose and meaning to us; providing everything we need for life and godliness in the awful muck of this world; then, it is not a stretch to offer worship, praise, and obedience to such a God because our view of him is one of adoration.
 

 

            Church ministry thrives when individual believers have a view of God which is consistent with his infinite grace, love, mercy, and truth.  When there are cracks in the foundation of understanding the basic nature and attributes of God, then the house cannot stand.  This is more than checking off a list of appropriate beliefs in God; it is giving ourselves fully and irrevocably to God because he is the One who loves us perfectly and completely.  One of the prayers that God delights to answer is:  “God, show me your glory, love, and truth.”  Don’t give up quite yet.  Let God reveal His attributes to you and your church as you seek Him with all your hearts.