“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” – Psalm 145:18 (ESV)
Perhaps there are times when you feel distant from your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is not uncommon for those who believe to go through trials and testing of their faith. Sometimes it seems that what is before us is insurmountable and like a huge tidal wave it is about to wash over us and take us under. That is the time to remember this promise and call on God. If you have repented and believed on Jesus Christ, you have been saved from the wages of sin and are safe in Christ. Being in Christ is why we can believe that the LORD is near when we call on Him. He is not distant and He is not out of reach of our voice. In fact if we are truly in Christ, then He is in us with His Holy Spirit. This is not hocus-pocus as many who reject Jesus would claim. Our Almighty God is a spirit yet a true person who loves and cares for us enough to offer His only begotten Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for our sin. He promised this long ago and what God promises, He fulfills.
“Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.” – Psalm 119:77 (ESV)
The biblical meaning of mercy is exceedingly rich and complicated, in fact several Hebrew and Greek words are needed to understand the depth of this attribute. There are many synonyms used in our various Bible translations to express the dimensions of meaning involved. Our favorites might be “lovingkindness,” and “steadfast love.” Well-known in the concept of mercy is the compassionate nature to forgive an offender or adversary and to help or spare him in his sorry plight. Many other words in the Bible describe the character of our Lord. Perhaps we can say God’s mercy is the foremost attribute revealed. In revealing Himself to Moses, the Lord declared His great mercy (Exod. 34:6–7). The prophets likewise take great pains to remind Israel of this facet of God’s divine love. Micah 7:18 in particular provides a challenging statement: “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.” The Lord our God is not merely merciful, but delights in the opportunity to grant mercy. God’s very nature is to show continual and everlasting mercy without limit.
“It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” – Psalm 119:71-72 (ESV)
Each verse in Psalm 119 uses one of eight different words to focuses us on the Word of God. Terms are used have different meanings but each is a reference to Holy Scripture. Because the Psalms were written before New Testament times the psalmists had in mind the Scriptures they knew. Even the psalms were written by many guided by the Holy Spirit and then collected into what we have as the Book of Psalms. Today, these citations include the whole Bible as we have it. First we recognize the value of tough times, difficult days⸺even days of affliction (v.71). Even those times when others cause grief and heartache. Nobody really likes to be afflicted but we can recognize that God uses it to teach us to trust him. The next verse tells us how valuable are the words from God’s law, that come from His mouth. Worth more than a large pile of gold and silver. God’s law and testimonies, his precepts and statutes, his commandments and judgments, his word and ordinances are all given to us for our benefit. We have all this blessing so that we may know God in a more intimate way.
“But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” – Ruth 1:16-17 (NASB)
This story demonstrates remarkable loyalty and worth reading in context. There’s not space here to go into it entirely. We find some contrasts as we read the story, Ruth’s sister-in-law, Orpah choses to return to her heritage which was idolatry and worship of the false gods, Chemosh and Molech, to whom children were sacrificed. Ruth wants nothing of that life. Naomi, her mother-in-law has demonstrated her faith in the true God and has won Ruth’s loyalty and desire for it. Yahweh God is who Ruth wants to serve. She is willing to give up her past, any family she has back in Moab in order to live the life of Naomi, no matter what that will be. Our promise is in Ruth’s declaration. God has put that love and desire and faith in Ruth’s heart. But there is a much larger promise that is being fulfilled through Ruth’s choice. A wealthy man of importance named Boaz marries Ruth and they have a child named Obed. Obed became the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. Ruth, a Moabitess became part of the line of the promised Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.
“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” – Psalm 56:3-4 (NASB)
Fear can paralyze us, freeze our feet to the ground and cause us to lose our balance. The psalmist, David composed this song which is labeled as “A Mikhtam.” We do not positively know what this label means. But we do have clues. For one clue, this is a very important and valuable song. It extolls God’s goodness and faithfulness. It sings of why we can put our trust in God especially when we are afraid. It reaffirms for us that human kind and their devices cannot truly hurt the faith believer in God. David pleads and rejoices in the help and deliverance God gives him. The root of the word means to stamp or grave (as in engrave). It leads us to believe that it labels the song as a composition so precious as to be worthy to be engraved on a durable tablet for preservation. Others might render “a psalm precious as stamped gold,” from the word kethem meaning fine or stamped gold. Perhaps like today’s top-selling songs that are “certified gold” could be considered “michtams” of a sort. We don’t know for sure anything except that God’s Word is all more precious than gold.
“ What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” – Romans 9:14-16 (ESV)
There might be many different reasons that we find ourselves not understanding the ways of God. Today, is one of those times. Our temptation is to question the why of something that happened because we didn’t want it to or thought it shouldn’t be. As true faith believers, we know that God has not made any mistake today because He never makes mistakes. We have prayed fervently for a close friend who today was called home to be with Jesus. Now, we continue to pray for his family. His wife and daughter and father-in-law in need of God’s mercy and compassion. This family lost both grandmothers in the last year and a half. But our promise today is a good one. God promises no injustice (that’s the no mistake promise). So if in weakness we may argue God is not just, Paul the Apostle says BY NO MEANS! “May it Never Be!” The Authorized Version says, “God Forbid!” NO MISTAKES, even in the toughest circumstances. It is God who gives and who desires to give Mercy and Compassion in abundance as He wills. It is God who has unbounded supply of mercy and it is He who will give it as we need it.
“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” – John 13:6-7 (ESV)
On a very important night Jesus is with His disciples observing the Passover meal as was the practice of following their Jewish Law. This was indeed the last supper and not only for Jesus but for the disciples. What was about to happen, Jesus’ death and resurrection would fulfill with the requirements of the Law for the sake of righteousness. Jesus was willing to be the perfect and final blood sacrifice for sin. Foot washing was an act of hospitality, and the disciples thought Jesus was doing that. But Jesus was symbolizing what was about to happen for all who believe in Him. Peter, failed to see beyond the humble act itself to the symbol of necessary spiritual cleansing. Jesus responded with this promise: unless the Lamb of God washes away a person’s sin they will have no share with Him. It was for this reason that Jesus, who saw the whole, said to Peter, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Two verbs are translated as ‘understand.’ The first one is knowledge by intuition or by reflection, the second is knowledge by observation and experience.
“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” – Genesis 28:15 (NASB)
After his trickery and snatching the blessing Isaac intended for Esau, Jacob had to flee for his life. It is Jacob who woke up from a dream of seeing angels ascending and descending a ladder to heaven named the spot El-Bethel because it was where he met God. God affirmed for him the promises and covenant already given to Abraham and Isaac. It was through Ezekiel who described the gates of the New Jerusalem and the city spoke these last words of his prophecy, “And the name of the city from that time on shall be, Yahweh shammah “The LORD Is There.”” (Ezekiel 48:30-35) This name of the LORD expresses a blessed promise and truth about Him: the LORD delights to be wherever His people are. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. When they sinned, God instituted sacrifices so that relationships could be partly restored. Ezekiel prophesied a lot about God’s glorious presence with His people. Jesus promises that we would experience His presence wherever we go as His disciples (Matthew 28:20). The heavenly Jerusalem will be marked by the presence of God dwelling with His people as He has always promised.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. ” – Psalm 23:1 (ESV)
A very familiar verse we share on this 20th anniversary of a tragic day. It is good for us to remember such horrific events so that we can remember again that we have a caretaker who watches over us. Of the thousands who lost their lives on this day in 2001 we know many were believers in Jesus Christ. Many others were not and that compounds the tragedy for them. Also, many first responders who were there that day and lived through it have had residual health effects. God, our Shepherd know this. Nothing happened or happens today that our God is not aware of. We do have this promise: strictly speaking, Yahweh roh is the beginning phrase of Psalm 23, “the LORD is my shepherd.” It combines the personal name of God, Yahweh, with the descriptive name of God, rohi or ro‘i, meaning, “my Shepherd.” The root word ra‘ah means to feed and tend domestic animals by pasturing them. This name speaks of God caring for His people in practical ways as well as providing spiritual sustenance. God provides and cares for everything we need, thus we can say today, no matter what happens, “I shall not want.”
“And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.” – Ezekiel 37:28 (NASB)
What is to be ‘removed from common use?’ It is sanctification, what the Holy Spirit does for us. Today we consider a title of God some call a name. This is a promise to us as it was a promise to the people of Israel in Ezekiel’s prophecy⸺a promise for the future we have today. YAHWEH M’KADDEESHCHEM: “The Lord Who Sanctifies, Makes Holy” The word Kaddosh means holy, to dedicate, set apart, sanctify. We can find this title name in Leviticus 20:8 “You shall keep My statutes and practice them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” Let’s notice the last word of this verse ‘forever.’ Ezekiel was giving a prophecy regarding what would be at the end of time when Israel is fully restored in God’s Kingdom. Then there will be an everlasting sanctuary for all the people of God. When God sanctifies Israel and all true Israel it means to make holy, separate. This is the work of the Holy Spirit who is sanctifying all of God’s people. This sanctification, it’s a promise we have now and will be fully realized and experienced when we are with Jesus in heaven.