June 5, 2010

The NAMES of God, The PLANS of God, The CHARACTER of God, and the GRACE of God – Psalm 25

Posted in Devotionals tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:24 am by Sarah Bosse

I was reading and studying Psalm 25 tonight. And when I read verse 11, something stood out to me. So I’m going to back-track for a minute and summarize. Then I’m going to take you on an Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity and Creativity-Gone-Nuts bunny trail (the same trails I walk daily in my mind) so that we can plunge deeper depths and enjoy more of the fullness of God and the many facets of his character.

In the first few verses, prior to verse 11, the psalmist expresses his trust in God and his assurance that Believers in Christ will be found in the Truth. He then asks for God’s guidance and longs to know the ways and paths of the Lord, “for you are the God of my salvation”.

Then he seeks God’s forgiveness. He asks God to see him not for his sins but through the lens of God’s own steadfast love and “for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!” (Insert a mental sticky note wherever I’m inserting quotes – I’m going to eventually come back to that.) Verses 8 through 10 are drawing out more examples of God’s character – His uprightness, steadfast love, faithfulness – and how His character is displayed in real-life, practical types of ways.

Bunny Trail Number One:

There is a REASON for EVERYTHING that GOD DOES.

And guess what! If God’s reason for doing what He does is self-serving, then who is anyone that he may rightfully say anything AGAINST it?! HE IS GOD, after all!

This comes from the ESV Study Bible. It’s part of the “Overview of the Bible: A Survey Of The History Of Savlation“.   (You might want to open up this PDF document with the link above because I’m going to be jumping around a lot here but, except for Scripture references which I’ve also set as quoted text, the quoted offset text comes from this document, and you will be able to read what I’ve omitted and be able to read it in its entirety if you choose.)

The Bible also makes it clear that God has a unified plan for all of history. His ultimate purpose, “a plan for the fullness of time,” is “to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10), “to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12).

That, my friends, is the REASON for our creation – the reason for our being and our living and our breathing and our doing and thinking and everything we are. And I, for one, am SO GLAD that there IS a REASON for me to be here – a reason for my existence! I’m not the product of a collision of cosmic space dust or microbe mutation! I was created, as you were, specifically for the purpose of praising His glory!

God had this planned even from the beginning: “remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “my counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.”” (Isaiah 40 6:9-10).

Summarized, that previous paragraph just said that God is supreme. It also says that he knows everything, has a plan, knows how to carry it out, and will make sure that it is perfectly carried out to accomplish his purposes. Hallelujah!

Bunny Trail Number Two:

The fact that God has a reason for everything that he does, and that he knows how to carry out his plans to fulfill his own purposes, and that his purposes will not and cannot fail is a very good thing! This gives us much reason to rejoice in God.

Do you know why this is such an amazing and wonderful thing? Because God’s reasons and purposes, not only serve himself, but also serve those who belong to him, who love God and are called according to his purposes.

“When the fullness of time had come,” when the moment was appropriate in God’s plan, “God sent forth his son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” (Galatians 4:4-5).

“Boy! I like your plan, God! Gee, why didn’t I think of that?” Even the idea that God himself would be born as a man, suffer, and even die (!), should make us see that God’s plans are infinitely larger, more complex, more humbling, and more grace-requiring than human man’s mind would ever have been able to conceive, much less fully comprehend. The great difficulty with which the desciples believed (Luke 24:25-27; Luke 24:44-48) is easy proof of the above statement, as these men were typically the most like-minded with Christ during His earthly ministry, and specifically chosen of God to understand the things of God and the identity of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Certainly, the difficulty faced by the Pharisees and Sadducees in understanding the spiritual truths that Christ taught and the very essence of the gospel is additional proof that God’s plan and means of salvation are fully God-originated.

The work of Christ on earth, and especially his crucifixion and resurrection, is the climax of history; it is the great turning point at which God actually accomplished his salvation toward which history had been moving throughout the Old Testament. The present era looks back on Christ’s completed work, but also looks forward to the consummation of his work when Christ will come again and when there will appear “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13; see revelations 21:1-22:5).

Bunny Trail Number Three:

God FREELY CHOSE His own Plans and Reasons and Methods.

Since God’s plan focuses on Christ and his glory (Ephesians 1:10), it is natural that the promises of God and the symbols in the Old Testament all point forward to him. “For all the promises of God find their Yes, in him [Christ]” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Okay, that is amazing! We shouldn’t let this escape us. The promises of God find their yes, and amen in him; Christ. They didn’t have to. God had his plans fully made before creation. And nobody was holding a gun to God’s head, telling him that he had to give of himself sacrificially to provide the proof of his character and incorporate the ultimate act of love into his plans for all of history and all of creation. This decision was all of God, and there was no one but God to influence him, not that anyone would have been particularly successful. It is an unspeakable kindness to us that God would choose to give us (his created people, whom he did not forced to love him, but allowed them the ability to choose whether to obey and love Him or to sin… and who chose, of course, to sin…) promises in the first place… and that he would cause these synonymously God- and man-serving promises to come to fulfillment through himself and his sacrifice, of his own free will.

When Christ appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, his teaching focused on leading them to understand how the Old Testament pointed to him: “and he said to them, “of foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (i.e. “OF COURSE it was!”) And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27). One could also look at Luke 24:44-48: “then he said to them, “these are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “thus it is written, but the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, that repentance and forgiveness of sin should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Your witnesses of these things.””

Bunny Trail Number Four:

God accomplished the fulfilling of multiple plans through one and the same means.

So, in a sense, it served God that he should sacrifice himself. And it clearly also served man that God should sacrifice himself. God’s self-sacrifice serves both God and man in the sense that it brings us back to God’s original plan for all of history and salvation, “to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10), “to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12).

Indeed! What would or ever could make God more glorious than the greatest sacrifice in all of eternal history, brought about for the purpose of saving Hell-deserving sinners?! If this does not inspire praise of His glory in our hearts, then we are lost and have sadly missed the point of the Gospel and the REASON for our very existence.

——————————————

Tidying Up

Yes, I’m pretty sure all these thoughts will come back together…just hang on for the ride. Let’s tidy up for a minute. Here are a few take-aways that I want to write down as some applicable summarizing thoughts (and a segway to the next section) regarding what was just written and read.

There is a REASON for EVERYTHING that GOD DOES. The fact that God has a reason for everything that he does, and that he knows how to carry out his plans to fulfill his own purposes, and that his purposes will not and cannot fail is a very good thing! This gives us much reason to rejoice in God. God FREELY CHOSE His own Plans and Reasons and Methods. God accomplished the fulfilling of multiple plans through one and the same means (the sacrifice of Christ).

Now add these thoughts to the boiling pot:

God doesn’t owe man anything. We’re the clay; He’s the Potter. God doesn’t need to prove Himself to us. If He says “I am Holy,” then that’s good enough – He’s GOD! He doesn’t HAVE TO prove it to little undeserving, itsy-bitsy-minded us! But, in His grace, in His kindness and love for us, He has chosen to have a relationship with us, to make us FRIENDS with God, and to give us assurance of His character through tangible means. Let’s explore these ideas further, and then the jigsaw puzzle should fit together rather nicely.

Moving Forward (by moving backwards):

Let’s go back to Psalm 25. I’m going to copy and paste a portion of Psalm 25 below so that we can read it together and we’ll move on from there. There are more than 14 verses, but for the sake of time and sanity (yours, not mine – mine’s already misplaced), I’m going to focus on verses 1-14 right now.

Psalm 25:1-14
Teach Me Your Paths
Of David

25:1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.

6 Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!

8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

11 For your name’s sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.

Bunny Trail Number Five:

Friendship with God and the Fear of God, all initiated by God.

Now skip down to verses 12-14.

12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.

Check that out again because I want to develop this idea before the previous one. The FRIENDSHIP of the Lord (say what? wow!) is for those who fear him. First, fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Just look at the book of Proverbs. And we know that wisdom, and the fear of the Lord go hand-in-hand. Lest we grab at this 14th verse and say, “Aha! I have to, in my “human strength,” fear God and then He will….” let’s remember that salvation and every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of the heavenly lights in whom there is no shadow due to change. If we ask for wisdom, seek it as more precious than anything this world can offer, and believe fully that the Lord will provide wisdom as he has promised to do for those who do not doubt, then we will receive it – that is God’s promise (and his plans and promises cannot fail). There is action on the part of man required here – to ask, believe, seek – but it all starts as an act of God – his seeking and calling us, saving us, renewing and changing us. The fear of the Lord means that we see God as being so holy, powerful, and awesome that we would not DARE to run away from Him by following a path of sin, but only run to Him. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” This is how the humble Christian life works – humility is central to submissive wisdom and the fear of the Lord. And it all starts and is sustained by the work of GOD, not man! for even the “work” of man is subject to and fully dependent upon the grace of God, for we are utterly depraved in and of ourselves.

So, oh, where were we? (Like I should be asking you?) Sigh. The idea is – IT IS ALL OF GOD! The Lord causes us to fear Him. He is the initiator of our FRIENDSHIP with Himself (we were the initiators of our enmity with God), and He has a plan to make His covenant known to us! Again, by His grace, initiated as all good things are, through Him. This is HIS plan.

GRACE, GRACE, GRACE – IT IS ALL GRACE! (If only you knew how my spirit is jumping up and down with joy right now inside of me and how sincerely I wish to share this joy with you! Ah, it’s hardly containable!!) IT IS ALL ABOUT HIM FROM FIRST TO LAST!

Bunny Trail Number Six:

Because He is _________ He (does/will) _________ and I will __________.

We’re going to fill in the blanks now. Look at verses 4 and 5.

4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.

Because He is “the God of my salvation,” He will “make me to know His ways…teach me His paths…Lead me in His truth and teach me” and I will “wait for Him all the day long”.

Look at verses 6 and 7.

6 Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!

Because He is “merciful, having steadfast love and goodness,” He will “remember His mercy and love, and not remember my sins”.

Pay special attention to the last part of verse 7. “…According to your steadfast love remember me, FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR GOODNESS, O Lord!” He does not HAVE TO give proof to His goodness, love, mercy…and yet He chooses to anyways. God gives sinful man proof to support who He is.

Verses 8 through 10.

8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Because He is “good and upright,” He “instructs sinners in the way, leads the humble in what is right, teaches the humble His way”.

Aren’t we glad?! We should be so glad that God is not like us and that He is good and upright!

The Pay-Off For Reading All Those Bunny Trails And The Great Tie-It-All-Together Moment:

Now we finally arrive at verse 11.

11 For your name’s sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.

God cares greatly about His name. God has many different names in the Bible. (A study of the names of God is very interesting and enlightening, highly recommended!) Each one points to yet one more facet of God’s limitless and unexhaustedly awesome characteristics. God is serious about His names, and we should be too.

Psalm 23:3 He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Psalm 31:3-4 For you are my rock and my fortress; and for Your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they ahve hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
Psalm 79:9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!
Psalm 109:21 But you, O God my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
Psalm 109:26 Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love!

Not only does God care about His name, but He’s backed up His name with never-failing promises and guarantees that will surely come to pass because they are part of His perfect plans which all tie into His universal and eternal plan “to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10), “to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12).

We should be serious about both God’s names and His promises because we can CALL ON THEM, as the psalmists have done in the above examples. In their prayers and songs, they use the “Becasue He is ___________, He will ___________, and I will __________” formula to make prayer and supplication to God, to praise Him, to speak the Truth to themselves, to request good things that are in-line with God’s will for them, and to come to God with boldness and assurance of His good will and pleasure.

Aren’t you glad that God chose to show us His character through practical means and real actions? Aren’t you glad that all good things MUST come from HIM and that it all DEPENDS on HIM and not on US, and that He then empowers us by His Spirit to follow in His ways? Aren’t you glad that He has chosen to teach us His ways and His paths, change and renew us, and produce the fear of the Lord in our hearts? Aren’t you glad that He made us friends of God? Aren’t you glad that He’s equipped us with His great promises? Aren’t you glad that His plan of salvation and self-glorification works for both His good and glory as well as our good, and that His plan is for us to have joy in Him eternally? Aren’t you glad His plans and promises and the sake of His name can never fail?

Here is a great quote (not by me!) to polish it all off:

God ordained a redemptive history whose sequence fully displays his glory so that, at the end, the greatest possible number of people would have had the historical antecedents necessary to engender [the most] fervent love for God….The one thing God is doing in all of redemptive history is to show forth his mercy in such a way that the greatest number of people will throughout eternity delight in him with all their heart, strength, and mind. . . . When the earth of the new creation is filled with such people, then God’s purpose in showing forth his mercy will have been achieved. . . . All the events of redemptive history and their meaning as recorded in the Bible compose a unity in that they conjoin to bring about this goal.

Source:

Courtney  Anderson,  To  the  Golden  Shore:  The  Life  of  Adoniram Judson
(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1956), 42.

Sarah M. Bosse

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