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(Part 38)


December 19, 2009

Today’s psalm (Psalm 71) brings together the different elements of our themes from 2007 to 2010. God weaves the many threads of the very important lessons He wants to teach us, in order to build the tapestry for our life and work in the years to come.

At the core of it all is who God is. God is the Almighty! He is awesome. There is none like Him. “You have done great things; O God, who is your equal?” (v.18d). Now God is not only awesome and powerful, He is also just and righteous. The psalmist proclaims God’s “power and justice” (v.18c-19a,NAB); His “power and (His) righteousness” (RSV). Being all powerful, God is other-worldly, distant, beyond reach. Being just and righteous, He is intimately involved in our daily life and struggles.

If God is almighty and all-powerful, then nothing is impossible for Him. If He is just and righteous, then we can call on His awesome power to help us in our need. And so what does that make of God in relation to us? God is our refuge and our deliverer.

The psalmist exclaims, “you are my strong refuge!” (v.7b). With confidence he proclaims, “Be my rock and refuge, my secure stronghold; for you are my rock and fortress.” (v.3). Thus he claims, “In you, Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.” (v.1).

But there are times when we will seemingly be put to shame,[1] when we will be oppressed and afflicted. At those times, we look to God as our deliverer. The psalmist prayed, “My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked, from the clutches of the violent.” (v.4). We precisely can call on God because He is just and righteous. “In your justice rescue and deliver me” (v.2a,NAB); “In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me” (RSV).

In fact, God does not only deliver, He redeems. God does not only lift us up from oppression and affliction, but He took on oppression and affliction in order to lift us up from sin. He does not only deliver our material and physical bodies, but He redeems our souls. The psalmist exults, “my soul, too, which you have redeemed” (v.23b).

In the face of an Almighty God who is just and righteous, who is our refuge and deliverer, who redeems our souls, what is our proper posture?

First, we must have hope in the Lord.[2] In the midst of lamentations, we look to God. “You are my hope, Lord” (v.5a). Since God indeed is our hope, then we must have hope in Him. “I will always hope in you” (v.14a).

Second, we must have our joy in Christ.[3] The Lord is in our midst, a mighty Savior.[4] He has redeemed us and brought about our restoration. He himself rejoices in us. If God saves us, restores us, and rejoices in us, then we too must rejoice in Him. “My lips will shout for joy” (v.23a).

Third, we trust in Jesus.[5] Because God is Almighty and He is committed to care for us, we can turn our lives over to Him, trusting fully in His divine mercy and grace. “You are .... my trust, God, from my youth.” (v.5b). Jesus, I trust in you.

Hope, joy and trust are important because life is not a bed of roses. On the contrary, life is full of pain and suffering. At times we feel truly hopeless and helpless about the circumstances of our lives. There is no light at the end of the dark tunnel. We have nowhere to turn. Like Job, we might even blame “the Almighty, who has made bitter my soul” (Job 27:2).

In the face of affliction, rather than turn away from God, we should in fact turn to God. When there is no one else, there is only God. Only He can raise us from the depths of our sorrow. “You have sent me many bitter afflictions, but once more revive me. From the watery depths of the earth once more raise me up.” (v.20).

Even though in the Old Testament the afflictions of the sufferer may be taken as a manifestation of God’s anger, still, it is to God that we turn, because He is our refuge. “I have become a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge!” (v.7).

If God is our refuge and our deliverer, if God indeed is our Savior, then our response is clear. We must give Him the worship that is His due, and we must share Him with the many others who live in a world of affliction and suffering. We recognize Him for who He is, the Almighty, and we proclaim Him to a world that is in need of redemption.

We worship God simply because He is the Almighty. “My mouth shall be filled with your praise” (v.8a). We worship God because He is faithful and we can truly turn to Him in our need. “I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.” (v.22,RSV). We worship God tirelessly, ever growing in intensity. I “will praise you yet more and more” (v.14b,RSV); I will “add to all your praise” (v.14b,NAB).

We proclaim Christ, that is, we evangelize. We speak about the good news of salvation in Jesus. “I will speak of the mighty works of the Lord” (v.16a). This we do faithfully; “to this day I proclaim your wondrous deeds.” (v.17b). This we will do through the generations, until the Lord returns once again. We live “to proclaim your might to all generations yet to come” (v.18b).

If God the Almighty is just and righteous, then again our response is worship and evangelization. “O God, I will tell of your singular justice.” (v.16b,NAB); “I will praise your righteousness, yours alone.” (v.16b,RSV). “My mouth shall proclaim your just deeds” (v.15a,NAB); “My mouth will tell of your righteous acts” (v.15a,RSV).

We worship God and proclaim Him because what God does for us is overwhelming. He is our redeemer and deliverer. His mighty acts in our lives are too numerous to count. We look to “your deeds of salvation all the day” (v.15b,RSV); “day after day your acts of deliverance, though I cannot number them all.” (v.15b,NAB).

We acknowledge what God does for us as we worship. We proclaim what God does for us as we evangelize.

The God and to the nations, we will speak about this Almighty God who is just and righteous.[6] “Yes, my tongue shall recount your justice day by day.” (v.24a,NAB); “And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long” (v.24a,RSV).

* * *

[1] That is how it will look to the world, but in God we are never put to shame.
[2] Our theme for 2007.
[3] Our theme for 2008.
[4] Zep 3:17a.
[5] Our theme for 2009.
[6] Our theme for 2010.
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