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Jesus IS Ruling Well



Jesus IS Ruling Well

As I was reflecting on 2020 and pondering the year ahead, a verse from Psalm 118 came to mind. As it turns out the whole Psalm is full of the type of wisdom that will help us all to reflect on a year we didn’t expect and will help us prepare for a year we can’t really predict. Psalm 118 offers us three things to remember about God, and then an appropriate response at the end. This little transcript is in no way an in-depth exegesis of the whole psalm - so full of glory as it is - but touches on the key points which are of most use to use for helping us get to grips with how God operates in the world.

Point one: Remember that God is good


The first thing we need to remember according to the psalm is that God is good. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. That's how the psalm begins. Right from the off, the psalmist is establishing the innate goodness of God. It’s the premise of the rest of the psalm and good practice for us, to recognise that God is a good God. Before we even know what the psalmist might say next, he wants us to be assured of God’s character. He is a good God, whose steadfast love endures forever. His love is constant and persistent and is the very thing the psalmist recognises as being what makes him so good and worthy thanks. His love never ebbs and flows. There is nothing to make it waver or shift. And how we feel, or even what believe about any given situation, doesn't change this unchangeable fact! Whatever he’s going to say next, the psalmist wants us to know that above all else, God is good and worthy of praise and thanks.


And it’s perhaps pertinent for us to remember this at this time. We might be tempted, due to the circumstances we all found ourselves in last year, to question that love or that goodness. Or, to at least feel ungrateful. Lots of things happened last year that we probably don’t feel particularly inclined to give thanks about. But, before the psalmist even mentions his own circumstances, he sets up God as good and proceeds to give thanks. No matter what has or will happen to him, God is good and he will give thanks. And this is a reminder for us, too, that we understand our lives - present situation included - on the premise that God is good. And the tell that we do this, will be that we give thanks.


Point two: Remember that God Answers in our Distress


The second thing the psalm helps us to do is to remember that God answers us in our distress. Verse 5 of the psalm is key here. The psalmist has found himself in a distressing situation - not an uncommon theme for a psalm. There are enemies involved in the particular situation he has in mind here, we see that from v10 onwards, and we could rightly think of the pandemic as the reason for our distress. But the key thing is to note that when he calls on God, God answers him. God lives up to the goodness of his character, to the goodness of his steadfast love. And note also the particular wisdom in v8. It’s better to trust in God than man, to trust in God than princes the psalmist says. How relevant is that? Clearly a temptation for God's people throughout the ages.


And I think it is fitting for us at this time, to recognise that God will be the one to save us from our distresses, including pandemic distress. Not Boris Johnson, not Chris Whitty, not even science, the great authority & hope of our time. It’s easy to watch the No. 10 press conferences with bated breath, isn't it, waiting for a scrap of hope and good news. But it’s God who will answer us. And it’s his answer that we should be most eager to hear. The problem we have, is that the answer God gives isn't always the answer we want. This is dangerous because we will then either fail to hear God's answer or, we'll fail to trust his goodness.


Furthermore, the psalmist actually goes on to say in v18 that the Lord has disciplined him. Yes, he sought to be freed from his distress. Yes, he saw fit to take refuge in God from his circumstances - let's all feel free to do this. But the psalmist also recognised the work God was doing in his life through those circumstances. As Graham, one of the pastors at my church prayed on Christmas morning, I was struck by the language he used. He prayed that Jesus would rule well for us in 2021. And I think we need to recognise that Jesus is ruling well, he has ruled well. This worldwide pandemic is Jesus ruling well. So let’s remember that God does answer and will set us free from our distresses, even if that doesn’t look like how we might expect. But let us ponder how God might use our circumstances for our sanctification and for his glory. Especially as we begin 2021 in the same way we ended 2020. The true Christian need not fear distress. He can and should seek deliverance, even from temporal suffering. Even if God chooses not to deliver us, it's right that we act like he's a father to us and seek the comfort a father always wants to bring to his children. But let us not fail to recognise discipline (which is not a response to our sin - discipline is not punishment). Discipline is how God fits us for heaven, and displays his glory to the rest of the world. If we can demonstrate, in how we respond to difficult circumstances, by affirming God's goodness and thus declaring his glory, the world will know that there is a light that the darkness will not overcome.



Point three: Remember Jesus


And it’s true, God has already provided things like a vaccine and a great healthcare service for us. He knows what we need before we ask. We’re beginning to see his hand at work to relieve us of a situation we’d rather not be in. But, as the Psalmist goes on to show us, whilst God will answer us in our distress, we should remember that God HAS answered us in Jesus. He's the third thing to remember. Because, even though the Psalmist thanks God that in his distress he was not given over to death, the psalmist still died eventually, right? And vaccine or no vaccine, you and I are going to die of something eventually, which is why from v19 the psalmist develops the bigger picture for us, actually giving us a prophecy of the Lord Jesus. Check out verse 22. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes. Jesus uses these very words about himself in the gospels to show what he came to earth to do; to become the cornerstone, the foundation of faith for all those who will trust in him for salvation from their sin. Not from their enemies, not redundancy, not ill health or even a worldwide health crisis - Jesus came to die to save us from SIN. And to be saved from sin is a much more marvelous thing than to be saved from anything else that might cause us distress. This is the day that the Lord has made, he says v24, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Do you see the difference Jesus makes for us? Even in our day of distress, because of the salvation Jesus has become for us, we should be able to say, this is a day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Every day we are saved from sin is a day to rejoice in. Because we literally don't need anything else. Being saved from our sin through faith in Christ puts us in the position of being ready to die. And we can bank on that and use it to cultivate a heart that can trust Jesus more and more each day.


We don’t NEED anything else from God. He graciously provides us with many good things, sometimes more, sometimes less than we are used to. But for the Christian, every day is worthy of rejoicing in, if we really grasp how marvelous our salvation is. We should even be able to look back on the year just gone and say 2020 is a year that the Lord had made, let us rejoice and be glad in IT! 2021 might not look much different than last year. But if you’re a Christian, if you remember your salvation in Jesus and all that he is for you, you have something to rejoice in each and every day.



Point four: Devoted life of Worship


And you know, if we really, truly believe all that, that God is good, that he answers, and that Jesus has saved us from our sin, we’ll act like it, won’t we? We’ll live a devoted life of worship, which is the final point. After the psalmist’s prophecy, he goes on to recount acts of worship. He praises God and blesses him v26, he continues to recall God’s goodness; he has made his light to shine upon us we’re told v27. And he offers a festal sacrifice on the altar in thanksgiving. Do you see what he’s doing? He’s continuing in his devotion to God. He doesn't spend his delivered hours on his own whims and pleasures or to fulfill his own dreams. He clearly has a heart that is delighting in God and he wants his life to be marked by thanksgiving through sacrifice. He demonstrates his thankfulness through obedience and devotion. He's seen that to be free from sin is all he needs, so he lives for God because to miss out on the pleasures of this life is not to miss out! To abandon our love of the world to a love for Christ is not to abandon joy or pleasure, but simply to find it in a different, safer, place. The joy we get in a devoted love for God is qualitatively and quantitatively more than the joy we get from a love of the world.


And it’s a good challenge for us, isn’t it? To check our devotion to the Lord at this time. When there are so many potential things to make us feel like God has let us down or is not good, it can be a challenge to remain motivated to serve and obey. Yes zoom might be hard work sometimes, yes wearing a mask in church is annoying, and yes we do have to operate in a way we’d rather not at the moment, but if we are able to rejoice in Jesus as our salvation, able to say this is the day that the Lord has made, we will remain committed to him and devoted to him in service. The minor frustrations of all those things shouldn't really be an issue for the person who's joy is most full in salvation. Not that we don't notice them as annoying or inconvenient, but that we don't care to waste our energy battling with God's sovereignty. Rather, we enjoy him and the salvation he is for us. Now, devotion to God will look different for each one of us, I’m not here to say what we all should and shouldn’t do - be sensible and keep safe. But don’t let abject circumstances rob you of your joy in Christ, remain devoted to him in whatever way you can. And lastly, just note the end of the Psalm. Exactly the way it began. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. The Psalmist acknowledged God as good and then found him to be good. Coincidence? I think not. If we acknowledge that God is good, we’ll find by experience that his steadfast love endures forever.



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