A maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite
I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself. You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant, ‘I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.'”
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touchedâ€”this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.
1 John 1:1-4
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
A song of ascents.
I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.
Save me, O LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.
What will he do to you, and what more besides, O deceitful tongue?
He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom tree.
Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.
I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war
As we lead the Christian life, sometimes we become taken up with the things of this world. Our walk with our God is not as close as it once was. Our desire to pray and to read the bible diminish. We feel we’ve lost the joy in God which we once had. So often, this stems from a small view of God. We forget who God is, and begin to live life in our own strength.
Isaiah had to be reminded of who God really was. He needed a new vision of God, a vision of the God who is high and lifted up. The God whose glory fills the earth. The God who reigns from his throne over all. The God who the seraphs declare to be
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
If we claim to be Christians, then this is the God who we worship. Our view of God should be as he is, because when it is, our view of everything else is corrected.
When we see God for who he is, we’ll see ourselves for who we really are. Isaiah looked upon God, and cried out
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
For before an almighty holy God, we’ll realise we are small sinful men and women. Who are we to complain before God? Who are we to try and live our lives apart from God? Who are we to worship anything else but the one true living God?
This should bring us to a state of repentance, with a desire to turn away from our sin and to turn towards God. As believers, when we humble ourselves before God, when we stop trying to do things in our own strength, then God will work in us. Just as Isaiah’s lips were made clean by God, so our hearts can be purified through the blood of Jesus. We are filled afresh with the Holy Spirit. This should cause us to re-evaluate our lives, to ensure that we are living to serve our Lord and God in his strength and not ourselves in our own strength. There should be no idols in our heart.
This proper view of God will also give us a correct view of the world. Without a proper view of God, it is so easy to think the world’s answers for life are true, and yet they always fail us. The world would tell us to make our own salvation. The world might even tell us that there’s no sin, no right or wrong, and no God.
Yet we are not here to judge the world, but to have compassion on it. For in and of ourselves, we are no better than the world and it is only by the grace of God we have been made holy. For God calls us to tell the world of the salvation which has been purchased with the blood of Jesus on the cross at Golgotha, out of love, mercy and grace. To tell the world that, through faith in Jesus the Christ, there is atonement with God. To tell the world of that great sacrifice from which we ourselves have benefitted.
That we, along with Isaiah, might be able to say
“Here am I. Send me!”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
Of David. Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefitsâ€”
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagleâ€™s.
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger for ever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
God alone should be glorified. So often, we create idols, whether they be of wood and metal as in Jeremiah’s satire, or in anything else – football, jobs, fun, friends, people, acceptance, money, drugs, etc. – which are created but are not the true God. In many cases there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves, and God has given us many things to enjoy. However, so often we place them above the God who created us. For he alone is worthy of all glory and honour, of our primary devotion and effort. All of these created things may give us a certain amount of pleasure, or sense of well-being, but they do not sustain us. It is almighty God who sustains us, providing for all our needs. Yet sometimes, our time, effort and money spent on other things is disproportional to that which we spend on God. We being to think we cannot be without something, effectively making them our idol.
For many of us, our greatest idol is ourselves. So often, we want to do what we want and not what God wants. We believe we know better than the God who made us. If we are ever to glorify God and not ourselves, we must submit to his will and do what he commands. In our sinful state we are unable to do this, but through faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is able to work in us, that we might be able to do the will of the Father.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Mt 5:9
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Mt 5:8
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Mt 5:7
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Mt 5:6
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Mt 5:5
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Mt 5:4
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Mt 5:3
How can it be that those who are poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of heaven? How can it be that those who are poor in spirit are blessed?
The answer lies in how we stand before God. As we are, we are sinners before a holy God. We can try as hard as we can to do what is right, to score brownie points, we can read our bibles, go to church regularly, help those around us with their problems, help old ladies across the road, but as good as these actions are, they cannot deal with our sinful nature. Our sinful nature causes us to sin, to be selfish, to be arrogant, to think we are more important than others, even to think we are God.
Yet, it is so easy for us to think these good actions can make us right before God. In effect, our good actions cause us to think we are rich in spirit.
It is only when we realise that we cannot make ourselves righteous before God, when we become poor in spirit, and we repent of our sin and put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, that we are made righteous. For it is only through Christ taking on our sin, and imputing his righteousness on us do we appear righteous before God. It is only when we acknowledge we are poor in spirit that we are blessed and inherit the kingdom of heaven.
As we’ve been considering the name of God over the past few weeks, we come to the name which above every other name – Jesus the Christ. Just as the name of the Father reflects his character, so the name given to God the Son in the flesh reflects his mission. Jesus is indeed, “God to the rescue”.
“Rescue from what?” you might ask, to which the bible would answer, “Our sin”.
For the Word was made flesh that he might set us free from the punishment due to us for our sin. Whilst he was on earth, he set and example by leading a sinless life, he taught with authority unknown amongst the teachers of the Law, but ultimately he came to die in our place. He mission was made complete in his crucifixion and resurrection, where he took on the wrath of a holy God in his death, and his defeat of death in his rising again on the third day. You might ask “If God were merciful, why could he not just ignore our sin without the need for the crucifixion?” The answer lies in the fact that God is a merciful God. Just as we feel aggrieved when justice is not served in our earthly lives, God must act according to his just and holy nature. Justice must be done, punishment must be served. Through faith in Christ, he takes on our sin, and imputes his righteousness to us.
We are also saved from the power of sin. For anyone who sins is a slave to sin, but the Holy Spirit dwells within all Christians enabling them to say no to unrighteousness. This is not to say we’ll reach sinless perfection this side of eternity, for that would be folly. We will still battle against our sinful nature, but we will no longer have to battle alone, for the Holy Spirit not only enables us to say no, but enables us to become self-controlled, to be free.
However, one day, we’ll be completely free from the presence of sin when our sanctification will be made complete and we will be with God in eternity. The justification which is ours in Christ through faith and is already complete will be accompanied by a sanctification which will be complete in eternity. We will be reconciled to God not only legally, but completely.
As Charles Wesley’s famous hymn quite succinctly summarises:
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Do we know what it is to be reconciled to God?