Look to the Book!
It is so easy to be distracted from a regular diet of the Word of God. Like Martha in Luke chapter 10, we can become preoccupied with all manner of things and fail to sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary. Today, I simply want to share with you two sources that have encouraged and reminded me to look to the Book.
The first comes from the 19th century Church of England pastor Charles Bridges. In his book “The Christian Ministry,” (published by Banner of Truth) Bridges writes (and I quote at length):
“The book of God is indeed the living voice of the Spirit….The attentive study of the Scriptures has a sort of constraining power. It fills the mind with the most splendid form of heavenly truth, which it teaches with purity, solidity, certainty, and without the least mixture of error. It soothes the mind with an inexpressible sweetness; it satisfies the sacred hunger and thirst for knowledge with flowing rivers of honey and butter; it penetrates into the innermost heart with irresistible influence; it imprints its own testimony so firmly upon the mind, that the believing soul rests upon it with the same security, as if it had been carried up into the third heaven, and heard it from God’s own mouth; it touches all the affections, and breathes the sweetest fragrance of holiness upon the pious [worshipful] reader, even though he may not perhaps comprehend the full extent of his reading.” (pp 58, 59)
We may not “comprehend the full extent of [our] reading,” but we can know that we are sitting at the feet of Jesus, hearing the “living voice of the Spirit,” and feasting on the bread of God. The Word will do its work!
The second source of encouragement to look to the Book comes from Psalm 119. I agree with pastor and author Kevin DeYoung that Psalm 119 is the psalmist’s “love poem” for the Word of God. When we feel our hearts cooling down or drifting from the Bible, we would be helped by plunging into the fiery passions and joyful delights of Psalm 119. Let me share just 8 verses to wet your appetite:
“Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your comandments from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones who wander from your commandments. Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies. Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” Psalm 119:17-24
I hope you are encouraged and stirred again and again to look to the Book!
Enjoying God and His Gifts
I have been reading a tremendous book by Joe Rigney entitled, “The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts.” As the title suggests, Rigney is concerned with helping us to glorify and delight in God by enjoying the gifts He gives because He is the Creator of the good gifts and because something of God is reflected in and can be experienced by those very gifts.
Let me give you just a little flavor of the book:
“What, then, can we say about creation? Creation is a communication from the triune God. God loved his Trinitarian fullness so much that he created a world to communicate that fullness ad extra, outside himself. And not just any world–a world full of fish tacos, tickle fights, afternoon naps, Cajun seafood, back rubs, wool house shoes, and church softball.
“The infinite and eternal God created something that is not God but nevertheless really and truly reflects and reveals God….
“As a result, creation is glorious, created shafts of divine glory. As the light of the sun is refracted by water droplets into a rainbow, so creation refracts the glory of God, allowing the full spectrum of his beauty to be displayed for the knowledge and enjoyment of his people. Created glory mediates diving glory so that when we chase the pleasures up the beam to the source, we arrive at the joy of joys, the river of delights, the person of persons, the living God and Father of Jesus Christ.” (p. 74)
As we go about our days seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, moving, and relating let us not only give thanks, but observe and truly enjoy the gifts so that we may enjoy, experience, and know the Giver all the more!
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” Ps. 34:8 (italics mine)
Grace! What a wonderful word. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. We never deserve it but ever need it. We never outgrow the need for grace.
Some days our sins and weaknesses feel like that snowball tumbling down the hill gaining size and speed. With regret, we look back over words spoken, emotions felt, attitudes displayed, and actions performed that remind us we are woefully fallen. We are not yet fully perfected.
What do we need on days like this? A scolding?: “You know better!” A moralistic pep talk?: “Come on. You can do better than that!” Sympathy?: “It’s OK. You are just human.”
No. These are not the answers to our sins and guilt. What we need is grace! God’s redeeming, forgiving grace. We need another drink from the river of life. We need to wash afresh at the fountain of cleansing. We need to keep believing the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
What we need, God freely and liberally gives to those who humble themselves. He is no miser with the riches of His grace and forgiveness. The psalmist revealed in this truth, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!…If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared…with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” (Ps. 130:1, 3-4, 7)
If the weight of your sin, guilt, and regret is burdening you today, then God’s grace is still for you! Let us daily confess our sin; He will forgive. Let us humbly acknowledge our guilt; He will abundantly pardon.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, our God ever yearns His resources to share; Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; The Father both thee and thy load will upbear. His love has no limits, his grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. — Annie J. Flint
In coming to our last look at Psalm 107 I would like us to consider 2 truths found in verses 33-42 which nicely summarize the Psalmist’s teaching on the steadfast love of the Lord.
The first truth (v 33-38) is that the Sovereign Lord of steadfast love can and will do whatever it takes to save and sanctify His people. Current conditions are no problem to Almighty God. If His people are in sin and need awakening and repentance then He will “turn rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground…” If His people are in great need and cry out to Him then He will turn a “desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.” Whatever the wisdom of God deems necessary for the progress and preservation of His people, He will do. God will have a holy, humble, and happy people for Himself.
The second truth (v 39-42) is that the Sovereign Lord of steadfast love opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. “He pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks” (v 40-41). “All wickedness shuts it mouth” as it rejects and resents the steadfast love of the Lord; while all the upright receive it and rejoice in it (v 42). Therefore, let us “humble [ourselves] under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
As we reflect on these two truths in Psalm 107, we see the glory of the gospel. For, in and through Jesus we see that the Lord went to the furthest extent to save and sanctify a people for Himself. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:32) And, in the light of such incomparable glory and unimaginable grace there is no room for pride. We will either bow in faith and humility and be saved, or we will resist in pride and be eternally banished from the loving presence of God.
“Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.” (Ps 107:43)
“The LORD will fulfil his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (Ps 138:8)
Today brings us to our penultimate reflection of Psalm 107 found in verses 23-31. Here we read of the fourth and final group of people who experience the Lord’s steadfast love in a time of great crises.
Though no sinful actions are specifically referred to (where ESV uses “their evil plight” in v 26, NASB uses “their misery”; NKJV uses “trouble”), we might be safe in thinking that this group was guilty of pride and presumption; two sins we are all too familiar with. It seems that they were making their trip on the sea without any deliberate regard to God. “No need to seek His help or guidance. We’ve got this!” Maybe they had some of that presumptuous pride which James warns about, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life?… Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)
We’ve all been there; going on with our lives as if we are in control. Making our trips and plans as though we determine our destiny. What we need in those times is to be humbled. That’s what this fourth group needed, and that’s exactly what they got. “They saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep” (v 24). The Lord sent a powerful storm, a shaking of the waters, to remind them of how small and impotent they actually were. “Their courage melted…they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end” (v 26-27). God put them in a situation where they did not know what to do. They had come to the end of themselves.
That’s when they looked up and away from themselves and unto God. “They cried to the LORD… and he delivered them….” (v 28). Once they humbled themselves before God, He responded in great power and mercy. He stilled the storm, hushed the sea, and brought them safely to harbor.
Even though we often forget it, this whole dramatic scene reminds us of how small, feeble, and not in control we really are. And, thankfully, it reminds us of how in control Almighty God is. He, by power and prerogative, can stir up or calm down the seas. He rules and overrules according to His own will. What overwhelms us is subject to the commanding word of the Lord. Therefore, we ought always to humbly acknowledge Him in all our ways.
The disciples learned this when they too were suddenly caught up on a raging sea. Jesus was asleep and they were afraid. In a panic, they cried out to Him. The Lord awoke and commanded, “Peace! Be still!” “And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39). Small wonder then that they were “filled with great fear and said….,’Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'” (Mark 4:40) I have a sneaking suspicion that Psalm 107:29 was coming into view, and they were realizing that Jesus was not merely a man but the God-Man. They were in the presence of the Sovereign Lord!
Like the fourth group of Psalm 107 or the disciples in Mark 4, when we are at our wit’s end let us cry out to the Lord. In His steadfast love, He will command, “Peace! Be still.”
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.