You could not have made it up. At the beginning of this year nobody could have imagined the circumstances through which we would be called to pass. A virus engulfing a large part of the world, tens of thousands dead, many more recovering yet bearing scars, perhaps for life. The profound medical, social and economic impact will only gradually become apparent. Whilst the situation here slowly improves, in other countries the pandemic is still hugely dangerous, and spikes in parts of Europe serve as a reminder that it has not gone away.
As we emerge from lockdown and, with thankfulness, begin services of worship again, what should our thoughts be? Various concerns will crowd in upon us, with anxiety, fear or depression the burdens many are bearing. We may experience all kinds of worries and concerns, but as Christians our focus must surely be on the Lord. Much has changed, but he has not. We need to turn our thoughts to him and what he is saying to us. Letâ€™s consider Psalm 115:12-13 and note three things:
1. The Lord has remembered
Our basic attitude is expressed in v1 â€˜Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name be the gloryâ€™. The psalm is God-centred from the outset. It is he who should receive all glory. The fundamental reason is â€˜because of your love and your faithfulnessâ€™, because of the kind of God he is.
These truths about the love and faithfulness of God lie behind the statement of v12. The tense of the verb used here refers primarily to the past â€“ â€˜The Lord has remembered usâ€™ (ESV). This then describes his fixed attitude and so the NIV reads â€˜The Lord remembers usâ€™. His present remembering is rooted in what he has done in the past.
When Scripture says that the Lord â€˜rememberedâ€™, it is not merely referring to his having exhaustive information about us, although he knows us in every detail. â€˜Rememberingâ€™ speaks of his saving action on behalf of his people. He delivers and blesses those whom he remembers. This was the experience of the dying thief in Luke 23. He prayed, â€˜Remember me when you come into your kingdomâ€™ (v42), and was told by Jesus, â€˜Today you will be with me in paradiseâ€™ (v43). Whatever the limitations of the manâ€™s understanding, this was a prayer for salvation which was graciously answered by the Lord.
The Lord saves those he remembers. He could remember our sins, but instead we have the language of grace: â€˜I am he who blots out your transgressionsâ€¦and remembers your sins no moreâ€™ (Isaiah 43:25).
The name he uses is significant: â€˜the Lordâ€™, the covenant name. This is the God who makes a covenant, a bond of love, with his people, an unbreakable relationship of grace. We are often told in Scripture that the Lord â€˜remembersâ€™ his covenant, meaning that he maintains it in all its gracious aspects.
As we emerge from lockdown, we can say, â€˜The Lord has remembered usâ€™. That is true in many ways, including the preservation of health and the provision of strength, but our greatest cause for rejoicing is the salvation that no virus can damage. Can you take these words as your own?
2. The Lord will bless
The Lordâ€™s remembering us in grace includes all the provision we require, yet he loves his people so much that he goes on to give a rich promise: â€˜The Lordâ€¦will bless usâ€™ (v12).
The future is always uncertain (as James 4:13-16 reminds us) and our present circumstances emphasise that uncertainty. There are so many questions, with few answers, relating to health (physical and mental), work, education, and even church life. If we focus on the uncertainties we are liable to become worried, fearful or even depressed. The ultimate solution, however, is to focus on the Lord and on his promises.
In the full light of the New Testament we see that all the blessings of the Lord come through Christ whose redemptive work has made all the necessary provision. Hence we have the promise of Philippians 4:19 â€˜my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesusâ€™, and in 2 Peter 1:3 we are assured that the blessing of God includes â€˜everything we need for life and godlinessâ€™. None of our needs is unknown to the Lord and so all anxiety, however understandable, is ultimately groundless.
Note that three times the psalmist says, â€˜He will blessâ€™. We are given an absolute assurance. We need not be in doubt, but may say, â€˜I shall not be in wantâ€™ (Psalm 23:1). Do you believe that?
3. The Lord is to be feared
The promise of blessing is not for everyone, but only for â€˜the house of Israelâ€¦the house of Aaronâ€™ - Godâ€™s own people. This includes not only Jews in Old Testament times, but all who trust in the Messiah in all ages. The language of 1 Peter 2:9 shows that we can apply these words to ourselves as Christians: â€˜you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to Godâ€™. That is why Christians can take these promises as addressed to them and sing these songs. The Lord addresses those who â€˜belong to Christâ€™ as being â€˜Abrahamâ€™s seed and heirs according to the promiseâ€™ (Galatians 3:29).
As v13 shows, the blessing is for those â€˜who fear the Lordâ€™. Here is a mark of those who belong to the family of God. This demonstrates the truth or falsehood of a profession to be one of his: does this person â€˜fear the Lordâ€™?
This â€˜fearâ€™ is the respect of children for a beloved parent, it is shown by those who love and reverence their heavenly Father. It is the fruit of Godâ€™s grace. This fear is not a terrified anticipation of wrath, but a loving devotion to the Lord and a willing submission to his revealed will. It is an attitude that shapes our whole life, since â€˜the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdomâ€™ (Psalm 111:10).
The blessing is for â€˜small and great alikeâ€™. Earthly distinctions are of no account. The only qualification for benefiting from his promises is godly fear for the Lord who loves and saves us. With such an assurance those who fear the Lord can face whatever the future brings, including the trials through which the Lord in his providence leads us.
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