How God’s Sovereignty Affects Our Attitude in the Present Circumstances (part 1)

In his famous hymn “This is My Father’s World”, Maltbie Babcock wrote these comforting words:

This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget/ That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world: The battle is not done; Jesus who died shall be satisfied, And earth and heav’n be one.

This stanza pulls together two truths that confront us in this world—“the wrong seems oft so strong” and “God is the ruler yet.” In the next three post I want to address this from the biblical perspective of Psalm 75. Over each of the next three posts I will lay out a total of Nine Ways in Which the Sovereignty of God in Dealing with the Wicked Affects Our Attitude Toward our Present Circumstances. Let’s begin…

1. It Makes us Aware That God is Always Near Us (v. 1A)

Psalm 75:1a “We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near.

The reason for the psalmist’s thankfulness was that the “name” of God was near. The “name” of course, points to the presence of God himself.
David wrote about this nearness in Psalm 139:1-12 when he spoke of the Lord intimately knowing mankind from when he knit us in our mother’s womb as well as every other aspect of our lives. There is nowhere that we can hide or be hidden from his presence.

This is a comforting reality in times of need and pain. God really is right here with us. He hears your prayers. He sees your enemies as they attack. He sees it all.

2. It Gives us a Thankful Heart (v.1b)

Psalm 75:1b “We recount your wondrous deeds.

Along with his nearness was a legacy of remembering that brought forth a thankful heart.

Remembering and reciting aids in developing a thankful heart. We are forgetful people, aren’t we? The Lord knew this, and so he constantly calls his people throughout the Scriptures to remember, even instructing them to set up memory aids, special dates, rites, and festivals. In the Church Age, Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper to be done “in remembrance of him.” Why? Because as monumental as the cross of Christ is for our eternity, we still forget about it if left to ourselves.

Psalm 78:4 speaks about the need for parents to recite these memories to their children. It says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

We can grow anxious and weary when we forget that God is in control. We can begin to see ourselves as helpless, awash in the chaos of the world, victims of chance. But if you sit down and read through the pages of Scripture, you will quickly begin to see that God has always been in control. Reminding yourself of this fact will change your outlook radically.

3. It Teaches Us Patience (v. 2)

Psalm 75:2 “At the set time that I appoint, I will judge with equity.

Here we have a change of speakers—the song has moved from Asaph speaking (or the priest who led the singing) to God himself speaking. The Lord says that “at the set time that I appoint…” This language in Hebrew refers to seasonal time, not clock time. Clock time spins fast. Seasons don’t work by a clock. Fruit doesn’t ripen according to your watch. God doesn’t punch-in to work.

Let there be no mistake, God will judge—he says so. But he will judge at the set time that he appoints. We can’t say “Amen” to God’s sovereignty and then be impatient when he doesn’t act on our schedule, can we? We can’t be like Martha, Lazarus’ sister, who got so upset that Mary wasn’t helping her prepare the food in the kitchen that she stomped right into the middle of Jesus’ teaching time and demanded that the LORD command her sister to help her! It appears Martha thought Jesus needed a little help leading the world. He doesn’t.

When you become impatient and wonder when God will judge, remember that God is in control as he has always been. Be still and know that he is God.

Fearing God the Father

“Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in his commandments!”
(Psalm 112:1, ESV)

There used to be a time when people would speak in reverential tones of certain men and women as “God fearing.” This person was known for living a life that was pleasing to God, and was utterly trustworthy and faithful. You would not find a God-fearing man or woman in the company of certain people, or involved in sinful activities and conversation.

God-fearing people were thought of this way because society in general knew what the Bible said. They knew what God expected of men, but they knew that most people only paid lip-service to what the Bible said. But a God-fearing man or woman was different.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines the fear of the Lord like this: “It is a fear conjoined with love and hope, and is therefore not slavish dread, but rather filial [fatherly] reverence.”

We notice here a mixture of fear and love, and it is connected to a fatherly love which is co-mingled with respect. Charles Bridges defined fear of the Lord in a similar manner. He wrote, “[The fear of the Lord is] that affectionate reverence, by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law.”[1]

Bridges, like Easton’s definition, uses the Father and child imagery to help define the fear of the Lord, writing of the child of God and his heavenly Father. This image of God as Father is replete throughout the Bible.

Fear the Father as Creator

In Deut. 32:6 it says, “Do you thus repay the Lord, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?” (ESV). Just as a father provides, protects, and leads his family, so too the Lord had done the same for Israel. But shockingly, Moses’ words reveal that Israel was acting like an ungrateful and rebellious child that has no fear of breaking his rules nor of disrespecting him before the watching world.

The prophet Isaiah also testified against this lack of the fear of the Lord in Israel at a much later time. In Isaiah 1:2 the prophet brought the Word of the Lord saying, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.” (ESV). Notice what the Lord says here—he has reared and brought them up. This reality should have brought him that fear we are looking at. They should have loved and respected him, but they did not.

In Isaiah 64:8,the prophet used the father metaphor alongside another picture of God as a Potter. In this passage, it says, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (ESV). This text looks forward to the coming Millennial Kingdom when the heart’s of God’s people shall turn and embrace the Messiah that they have rejected.

We see in these words the recognition that the Lord has made them and he is free to do with them as he sees fit. One day Israel will humble itself before the Lord in national contrition and joyful submission. God can do what he wants because he is not only Father, but he is Potter, who has made the clay into whatever he sees fit.

Fearing the Father as Wisdom

Probably most familiar to us is this aspect of the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (ESV). When we consider the fear of the Lord as Father and Creator, we can better see why to reject the Lord and His commands is foolish. A child, who has little strength, wisdom, experience, power, and influence is foolish to put off the care and counsel of a father who gives these to his children.

When the Lord spoke to Job and began prodding him to answer his questions, like a child who quickly has learned that he is over his head, he simply put his hand over his mouth. This is wisdom, knowing that the Father knows best and that our finite minds cannot begin to grasp his infinite plans for us.

Fearing the Lord as Judge

This is very different from the idea of fearing the Lord as Father and Creator. It is the fear that comes when a wayward child has been disobedient and has turned aside from the father’s ways. It is also the fear that does not come from a child of God, but from the fool that despises the Lord and his commands. It is not a true and pure reverential fear mixed with love, for there is no such love in the rebellious creature. This fear is a craven, slavish fear that the disobedient slave has when he fears his master will discover that he has been stealing from him secretly. Except our Lord is not blind to those that have offended him.

An example of the wayward who fear the Lord is found in Ezra 10, where the people have come to understand their disobedience in intermarrying with the pagan nations around them, something God had expressly forbidden Israel from doing. In verses 1-4 we read that the fear of the Lord (“trembling” in v. 3) has led to repentance and obedience. But the wicked fear the Lord in a different way, a way which is fearful of judgment to a point, but will not lead to any true changes in their lives.

Belshazzar did not repent when he saw the hand of God writing on the wall. He trembled in fear, but did not turn from his sin (Dan 5:9). When Paul preached the gospel before Felix, the Acts 24:25 says he was “alarmed” about the coming judgment, but he did not repent. And when James speaks about the demons believing and shuddering, we do not say that they have repented of their wickedness (James 2:19)!

Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (ESV). The wicked flee from a judgment that will one day overcome them. They cannot escape the Lord’s righteous judgment. But the righteous do not flee the Lord even though we fear him. He fears him with reverence as our Father and Creator.

Fear and love meet in the fear of the Lord. He is our Father, Creator, and God. These should endear him to us and motivate our hearts toward worship. If they don’t, if we need manipulation, fear of judgment or punishment, we are not children, but slaves. Children don’t have that sort of fear of a righteous Father. They love him, respect him and desire to please him.

[1] Quoted by Bruce Waltke in NICOT, Proverbs 1-15, p. 101.

Little Saviors

“Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.”
(Psalm 146:3–4 (ESV))

There seems to be no end of little saviors in the world today. There is great value in heeding the reminder of the psalmist in this passage that tells us that no matter the form of our little saviors—whether they are bankers, doctors, psychiatrists, teachers, bar tenders, best friends, politicians, children, spouses, or even pastors, they will all prove to be inferior saviors who cannot even save themselves from death.

Psalm 146:5 goes on to say, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God…” Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes, is of course dead; so are his sons. But the God of Jacob is still offering aid.

The next verse describes the God of Jacob as he “who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;” This God who is our only hope for a Savior, is definitely powerful enough to save in our time of need. He made everything. What has your little savior ever made? Remember God made everything out of nothing. And the little phrase, “who keeps faith forever,” means that not only is he powerful enough to save his beloved, he is good and faithful to do so.

But will he even notice me?, you might ask. Yes, he does! In verses 7-9, the psalmist shares the heart of our mighty God and Savior. He writes, “who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.” The poor, oppressed, the hungry, blind, those bowed down with cares. The foreigner and the orphan, all of those who are so often forgotten by the world, are not forgotten by God. What about those little savior we hope in so much? Do they notice the weakest and the poorest of the world? Most only pay lip service, and the best of them are powerless to do anything about their plight. But our Savior does more.

Do you have any little saviors that you are trusting in? Be assured, they will fail you—even the best of them. But God the Father sent his Son Jesus to be the Savior of the world. What greater love is there than this? He is the Lamb who died as a substitute for sinners. What greater power is there than the power that conquered sin and death? He is the soon and coming King. What greater power is there than this? Place your trust in Christ. Not just to be the Savior from your sins, but place your full trust in him for everything. He is worthy.

Striving for True Peace and Unity

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

(Psalm 133:1, ESV)

As Christians we know that there will be no final and eternal peace until Jesus comes and reigns forever. But we share the good news of the gospel because we know that there is still the need for peace in the tumultuous souls of the lost. Inner peace comes when there is peace with God because our sin debt has been paid by Jesus upon the cross of Calvary.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

(Colossians 1:19–20, ESV)

But there is another peace that we need to strive for as well. It is a peace and unity that emerges from our heart based upon the gospel of peace that unifies us as brothers and sisters in Christ and demonstrates the love of Christ to a watching world. In Jesus’ day the disunity that existed was mainly the distinction between Jew and Gentile. The gospel overcame that division so that Christ has created one Church, unified in the Savior, baptised in Christ, celebrating one communion, prepared to enter into one Kingdom.

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

(Ephesians 2:14–16, ESV)

When two women in the church of Philippi didn’t get along, Paul wrote, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:2, ESV). There is no mention of the color of their skin, by the way. It doesn’t say who was at fault. The basis of their unity is given: “agree in the Lord.”

When addressing the need for unity in his letter to the church that was in Rome, Paul stated that the unity they demonstrated would act as one clear voice for the message and glory of Christ: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:5–7, ESV)

But what if you have been wronged by someone who claims to be a Christian? What if you have suffered unjustly for no reason of your own? Paul also addressed this in Romans 12, right smack in the middle of a section on not taking revenge and not seeking to avenge yourself, but leaving it to God. It says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18, ESV)

The early church existed in the midst of a wicked world. Unity was common in most churches because they were led, not by emotion, politics, the flesh, or human reason and philosophy. Instead, where unity reigned it was because the Lord led his people through his Word and his people lived according to that revelation. We can never overcome the evil of this world by echoing that evil back in our response. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21, ESV)

Frustration of injustice that leads to sinful anger, sinful speech, justification for sins committed, and promotion of anarchy, and chaos does not reflect the spirit of Christ. May we seek to address sin and the need for change within the church and within our culture and society by the means that God has given us–godly living, reasoned speech, loving service, gospel proclamation, person to person confrontation of sin committed, and a willingness to overlook some sins for the sake of love and unity.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

(1 John 3:16–18, ESV)

Are You Investing in Eternity?

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. A Song of Ascents.

(Psalm 127:1–128:title, ESV)

In our fast-moving world it seems that there are those of the opinion that you work hard and play hard, collecting all you can get out of life. There also seems to be a growing number of people who feel that they are entitled to the fruits of others’ labors simply because it is a human right to have what your neighbor has, so why work?

The Bible definitely speaks positively about the need for hard work in order to provide for your needs, and beyond yourself, the needs of those who are weak and helpless. This reflects the character of God who “labored” for six days in creation and also cares for the needs of all of creation.

But Psalm 127 addresses a real problem that we need help with in our modern age–work hard, but work in such a way that you are dependent upon the Lord God for your effort.

In these first two verses of this psalm, the work of building, securing what we have, and making sure we have good food to eat, are all measured to be vain activities if the Lord is not involved in the life of the one making the effort. This isn’t to say that such a person doesn’t meet their goals. The house is built; the city is secured; the toil does produce bread. That isn’t the issue.

The question is, when all is said and done, and when we stand in heaven before God, will what we have done in this busy life have been done in vain because we did not include the Lord in our work, but instead rushed headlong into our work by ourselves? This is a good question to ask before we have gone on too far in life. It is a tragedy when life is only examined on the death bed. At this point, what can be changed?

The second half of the psalm (vv. 3-5) are so different from the first half, that some have thought that they are two different songs somehow placed together. But they are connected, both poetically, and logically. The Hebrew word for “builders” (v. 1) is bonim, and the word for “children” (literally, “sons”) is banim. But there is a greater connection here.

Whereas the first part is a picture of the mad rat-race of life to get as much as you can by your own herculean efforts, the second half begins with the inheritance that is received as a good gift from the Lord. Like a plot of land (a common gift of inheritance in the biblical world), the land would need to be cleared of trees, stumps, weeds, etc., then plowed, seeded, and finally harvested.

Children are like this. They are gifts from the Lord, and they are for a time a liability rather than an asset. They need a lot of attention, pulling sinful weeds, watering with love, seeding with the gospel, removing rocks of rebellion and unbelief, but in the end, this fruit of the womb has a reward. Not a reward from God for our goodness or righteousness. No, children are a gift of grace. The reward is the fruit of the labor in seeking to raise children in Christ. When we do this, it is the Lord who builds the house–not a literal house, but a figurative one, in the family.

These children will become warriors for truth in the hands of the parents, beginning in the quiver of the parents, and eventually being launched out into the world to carry on the building of a household that pleases the Lord. How blessed is this father and mother!

It is a tragedy that the family has been attacked in our society and world. Abortion has destroyed innocent unborn children in the name of progress and opportunities. Not only is it wicked, it is foolish.

It is a tragedy when parents sacrifice their children in order to provide them with a “good home” all the while tearing down their family through neglect and the instilling of unbiblical values through abandonment of duties and disregard for the warnings of Scripture.

Who has built your “house?” If it isn’t the Lord’s doing, all your labor will be in vain.