“Who is like the Lord our God”? Verse 5 of this Psalm asks this question so that people will not only ponder just how great and amazing God is, but will also joyfully and unabashedly sing and proclaim His greatness. So this begs the question, what makes our God so great? Let’s look at just some of His characteristics: God is holy and perfect in all His ways. God is just and impartial and will judge every person for their motives, deeds, and actions. God is all-knowing and can proclaim what the end of time will be from the very beginning. God is all-powerful to create and destroy all things with a word. God is merciful and is slow to bring wrath towards mankind’s sins. God desires that we respond to Him by faith in love and not by actions alone, trying to earn His love. A person comparing the God of the Bible to other gods might find some similarities, but there is no god like the God of the Bible.
And of all the things that makes God so unique is how He loves people. Verses 7-9 state that a main reason why we should praise Him is for this very fact: He loves those who the rest of the world thinks are less than. Many times our human nature is to discount people that society considers “beneath us.” But Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that when we choose to love and care for those that society looks down on that we are ultimately serving Jesus Himself. If we truly think about it, all of us are “beneath” God, and He should discount us for our sheer pride and sinfulness. Yet God shows us an amazing love by ultimately dying to pay for our sins when we were still in complete rebellion towards Him. Instead, He looked upon on us and chose to pour out His amazing grace and love towards us. That is the reason why we as Christians can love- because He first loved us (1 John 4). When you truly think about just how amazing and awesome God is we should do nothing but praise His name and tell others of how amazing He truly is- all because He loves a sinner such as me!
A follower of God cannot remain silent about their faith. In Psalm 96, the author tells everyone to sing, declare, and proclaim God’s magnificence all over the world. When we are silent about our faith, we are being silent about the most important relationship in our life. If you have a healthy marriage, you would not hide the fact that you are married. It raises red flags when someone is hiding the fact that they are married. If you have children that you are proud of, would you fail to talk about them when others bring up their children in conversation? Can a proud grandparent remain silent about their grandkids? When we have healthy relationships, we cannot help but bring up those people in our lives and talk about them with others. When we have a healthy relationship with God, this is the same exact thing. We cannot do anything but share with others just how amazing God is. If we are not sharing, why is that? I believe it is because we have forgotten just how amazing God is and how much He has really done for us. In a way, we have an unhealthy relationship with God when we have gone silent about Him when others are around and we do not share. So what do we need to remember about God that makes Him so worthy that we should share Him? Psalm 96 gives us some insight.
First, we are told to “tell of His salvation” to others. What is His salvation? God chooses to approach us while we were His enemies and restore our relationship to Him to that of becoming His children. I do not know of any other religion that has a god that is this loving and personal towards those who intially hated Him. In every other religion, a person must work or perform in order to be accepted by the deity, let alone loved. This, however, is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible chooses to rescue people while they stand against Him and change their hearts by His love. When we see how miserably we fail in our sinfulness against God and yet see how greatly He loves us, we should be overwhelmed by that love and want to proclaim it everywhere just how amazing His love is for me and for people everywhere.
Second, we need to stop and look at the world around us and acknowledge God and His magnificient works. Have you stopped to take in a sunset lately? Have you taken a moment when you come home at night and just taken a few minutes to observe the stars? Have you picked a flower and just stopped to study it in all its beauty and intricacies? Most of us are too busy and just keep staring straight ahead in order to check off the next thing in our long list of busyness that we need to accomplish. However, when we stop and just start to observe and ponder the world around us, we become overwhelmed in just how amazing the world is. How did any of this come into being? Why does the beauty of this world sometimes cause me to catch my breath when I actually stop and take the time to look? It causes me to think and ultimately realize that this all didn’t just happen. God created all of this and created it out of nothing! How awesome!
Third, this Psalm points to God’s salvation and love but also to His judgment. In verse 10, it tells us that we should “Say among the nations…God will judge the world with equity.” This means that God will not play favorites, but will judge everyone according to the same standard. The standard of God is perfection. I am created by God to be perfect and to have a relationship with Him in that perfection, and yet I know that I do not. I have attitudes, actions, and words that I have used to hurt and harm others and ultimately blaspheme against God Himself. We do not like to talk about God’s judgment in modern society, but God will judge people according to His standard…and His punishment is eternal torment for those who are found guilty.
There are times when we look at other people’s lives and we are tempted to envy them. The Psalmist tells us as much in verses two and three when he states that he “almost stumbles” because “I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Why is envy a sin, and why is it so dangerous? There are many reasons, but I would like to share three biblical ones with you.
Reason one is that we envy people because we think they don’t deserve something but that we do. Envy is dangerous because it puts us in the judgment seat that only God can rightly occupy. Think about this…when I envy someone because of something they have received (finances, recognition), I am making the evaluation that they are not good enough, but I am. Remember how the disciples argued among themselves about who was the greatest? Who would have the seat of honor on the right and left of Jesus? Each of the disciples believed that somehow they had done more than the others, and for anyone to receive honor but them was a horrible mistake. We are not meant to be in the judgment seat of what people should or should not get. That seat is reserved only for God. When we try to sit in that seat, it is idolatry and blasphemy.
Reason two is that envy is destructive because we believe its lie that the “great reward” is found here on this earth. When we start to believe that lie, we forget that we were not made for the temporal but for eternity. Why should it matter if someone gets the promotion over me? Why should it matter that someone has gained financially when I haven’t? Why should it matter that someone has a bigger and better house than me? When we focus back on who God is, His faithfulness, His love for us, His promise to be our Provider for all of our needs, we are able to remember that the best is yet to come for me. Why do I want to trade a few years of things on this earth for that which will never fade or end? Now the question might be, but what about injustices that are done to others? The Bible clearly commands that we seek justice for people, but justice is not personal. It is a standard that everyone is equal and has worth. Justice is concerned with everyone being treated fairly. Envy is concerned solely with me.
Reason three is that we need to remember that God does not think or act like we think or act. We want good people to get blessings and bad people to be punished. There is only one problem with that…the Bible tells us that no one is good. If we are going to apply that standard to everyone equally, God should wipe us all out immediately. But the Bible gives us insight into God’s heart. Why does He allow some to prosper that shouldn’t? Why do some people seem to be blessed even though they seem to mock God with their lives? Because God loves and is patient with people. 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” No one gets away with anything. God will judge everyone in the end. However, this verse reminds us that He is patient and that He may be allowing the person to receive what seems like “blessings,” to experience just how worthless and unfulfilling these things are, which can cause them to despair and turn to God. If you are envying someone, it means you care more about your earthly life than you care about what God is doing in their lives. You care more about the temporal instead of the eternal. Are you envious of others right now, or are you fulfilled and satisfied in Jesus? Why don’t you repent of your envy and turn to Christ to be your fulfillment right now? Turn your eyes upon Him! HE is your very great reward!
When my daughter was little she did not like dogs. That is to say, she did not like dogs who were hyper and would jump on her. Because she was so small, almost every dog would play with her so rough that they would inadvertently scratch her or knock her down, not because they were mean, but because they were so big and energetic. Every time that she would see a dog, she would quickly run to me and either hide behind me or beg me to pick her up into my arms and hold her. My daughter ran to me for two reasons: 1. She knew I would protect her and 2. I would gently but firmly get the dog under control so as to not be a threat to her. When my daughter focused on the dog, she would be afraid and could think about nothing but being scratched and jumped on. However, when she ran to stand behind me or to climb up into my arms, she believed herself not only to be safe, but also that the dog was not a threat as long as she was with me. My daughter thought I was a superhero and at times would tell others that I had protected her because I loved her.
In Psalm 46, we have this beautiful imagery of God being our very protection and strength. The passage even goes to the extreme in stating that even if the whole earth were coming apart at the seams that the author has nothing to fear because God’s power is more powerful than the most severe of calamities that we could ever dream of. In fact, one of my favorite sections of Scripture is found in verses six and seven. Here we see that kingdoms are at war, rising and falling with power, and that the battle seems to be raging with no end in sight. How does God stop the madness? He speaks and the “earth melts.” Just think about this for a moment. How did God create the universe? Did he pull out various materials and start to hammer away? No. He spoke and that which did not exist all of a sudden burst forth with life! What could God do to end all of battles and strife that occur? He doesn’t only have the power to force armies to lay down their weapons. He has the power to make the world cease to exist by only uttering a word! I am not saying that is what God will do, but what I am saying is that we forget just how powerful God is and just how powerless people and circumstances are compared to Him.
This is why He tells us to find our strength and refuge in Him. There are many situations in our life that we find overwhelming and to an extent, those situations are overwhelming to us…but not to God. God desires for us to run to Him and to trust Him to be our fortress. As our “Abba, Father” He has given us permission to confidently climb into His loving and protective arms and know that nothing is more powerful than Him. It does not mean that I won’t suffer, but what it reminds me is that when I suffer, my all-loving Father has a purpose for what I am going through and that purpose will be for my benefit and ultimately for His glory. He tells me in these overwhelming circumstances to run to Him and find my safety and strength in my relationship with Him. Are there overwhelming situations in your life in which you need to be reminded that God is much more powerful? Just as my child ran to me when she faced something overwhelmingly scary, you can run to God and find comfort in His arms.
Why do you read your Bible? The reason is important. There might be times when we are not very enthusiastic to pick up God’s Word and read it, but that is not what I’m talking about. What I mean is that if you read the Bible but are not seeking to know God and please Him, you could be fooling yourself that God is pleased with you. There are instances throughout the Scriptures that point to people acting in ways that seem godly on the surface, but inwardly, they are far from God. In John 5, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “you search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
We need to be reminded that there is a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. In Psalm 27, David calls God “my light”, “my salvation”, and “the fortress of my life.” David is not talking about God in academic or theological terms but speaking out of a faith that knows God and has experienced Him personally in these capacities. We can see this because David responds to God’s command, “Seek my face,” by saying, “my heart says to you, your face, Lord, do I seek.” (vs.8) To seek God’s face is to genuinely submit my life to His in trust and love especially when times are difficult. To say that God is “light” means that I have been in the darkness and know that He is my only hope of seeing the direction I need to go and so in faith I walk that path. In saying He is my “salvation” is to experience the threat of being destroyed and seeing God being my only hope to rescue me and thus I trust and put my confidence in Him alone. In saying He is my “fortress” is to be under siege from various enemies and experiencing God’s protection as I flee to Him. David doesn’t just know facts about God; he knows God intimately.
It is easy to think that if we know a lot of the Bible or can quote it that we must be pleasing to God, but what God desires from us is a humble heart truly seeking to know Him. Without this kind of “knowing” and “seeking” of God, we have missed the entire point of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Paul states, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead”. Let us not just make a check mark on our to-do list, but instead, let our hearts daily say as David’s did, “Your face, Lord, do I seek!”
Asking questions to understand something is an innate part of who we are as human beings. We see this in young children as they constantly ask the question, “Why?” over and over and over. Although this can be an exasperating experience at times for adults, we know that the child is just trying to learn and process the world around them. So, why is it that some people say it is wrong to question God and that we should just have faith, if questioning is one of the main ways that people learn?
In Psalm 13, David is experiencing great sorrow because of his enemies. The sorrow is so great that he questions God again and again, wondering where He is in this difficult, painful moment. Verse 1 states, “…will You forget me forever?…” Some might say this is sin because they view it as attacking God’s character and accusing Him of unfaithfulness, but that is not at all what David is doing. We know David is not accusing God because verse 5 shows us this much in that David also states, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.“
David is asking questions because he doesn’t understand what God is doing and why. David has assumptions about how God should act, but God doesn’t fit his assumptions. David wants God to act in a certain way because of his distress, yet he knows that God is and has a steadfast love, even if it doesn’t feel like it in this particular situation. The Hebrew word for “steadfast love” is “hesed.” There really is no good, single word in the English language that can truly convey its full meaning, but it is a love that is promised in convenantal loyalty to someone else. In other words, God will fulfill His promises and actions towards the individual based on His love and loyalty. David is confident in God’s love towards him even when he doesn’t fully understand why God is choosing to do what He is doing. Regardless, David knows that God is committed to him in loving faithfulness. By trusting in God’s character instead of his circumstances, David gains a richer faith not by creating God in his own image but instead by allowing God to reshape his understanding into a fuller knowledge of who He truly is.
By David asking his questions while also trusting in who God is, He grows deeper in his faith and in his intimacy with God. David wasn’t afraid to ask tough questions to and about God because he wanted to know and trust Him more intimately. Are you wondering where God is in your painful moment? Why not ask Him and trust that He will reveal to you a deeper sense of knowing who He truly is and a deeper, richer faith that can trust Him more.