Hope in the Promise-Keeper

9 Mar

Psalm_89_1-2--Faithfulness_4-3Sojourn’s adaptation of the hymn, Approach My Soul the Mercy Seat, begins with these four lines:

Approach my soul the mercy seat

Where Holy One and helpless meet

There fall before my judge’s feet

Thy promise is my only plea, O God

These words are amazing when you think about it. It is pure Gospel. God is the righteous Judge over all creation, and yet He bids us come into his presence, though we don’t approach Him based on our own merit. When the Holy One and the helpless cross paths, there is only person who is capable of intervening–or interposing (His precious blood, that is)–our Savior and Judge, Jesus Christ. Our salvation and the boldness by which we can approach our maker is based on His promise of reconciliation. If He has said that we may draw near to Him through the blood of Christ, then we can do just that. He is trustworthy. And when we do, His promise is our only plea.

Too many times I have found myself before God trying to convince Him that He got a good deal when He saved me. I like to think of myself as an intelligent and committed member of His following, which should be a welcome addition, right? Unfortunately, my self-appraisal equations don’t seem adequate to bridge the gap between the “Holy One and the helpless.” Something much greater than my inflated sense of goodness needs to be at work. He calls us to abandon all and trust that He has already provided everything we would ever need in order to be in an intimate, soul-laid-bare, kind of relationship with Him.

His promises really are our only plea.

There is much written on this subject in these days of Gospel-Centered everything. These are Christian buzzwords that are thrown around by many who have little to no understanding of what they really mean. Or, at least, that is my fear. But, what I want to do in this post is take a brief look at Psalm 89 and see that trusting in God’s promises is not a New Covenant strategy for fighting doubts of our eternal security. It is, in fact, our only hope of anything in this life, and this strategy has always been essential for God’s people as they dealt with the struggles of life. There are basically three steps in understanding the importance of God’s promises for us today.

  1. We must be reminded of God’s character.
  2. We must be reminded of His promises.
  3. And, we must take care to synthesize the first two truths in our own lives/circumstances/problems.


Reminding Ourselves of God’s Character

In Psalm 89, we see that the author, and God’s people, are not in the best of circumstances (v. 38-48). They are “cast off and rejected” by God (v. 38), and feel abandoned in every way. But that is not how the Psalm starts. The first part (v. 5-18) consists of an account of God’s character, and His faithfulness in particular. The author appeals to God’s character as can be seen through the simple fact that He is God. That is, not because of what He does, but because of who He is. And he appeals to God’s character as seen through His acts, as well. We can see this well in the Psalm’s theme of God’s faithfulness.

He is demonstrated to be faithful because He is God:

For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?…Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you. (v. 6-7, 14)

And He is demonstrated to be faithful because of His acts:

O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm. The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them. The north and the south, you have created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name. You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand. (v. 8-13)

For now, we are only taking note of the fact that the psalmist takes care to make an appeal to God’s character. We will find out why in a moment.


Reminding Ourselves of God’s Promise

In the first few verses of Psalm 89, the writer introduces the main theme of God’s promise to King David. God is quoted as saying, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: ‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations'”. (v. 3-4) In so doing, the author is creating a direct link between God’s faithfulness (v. 1-2) and the Davidic Covenant. (v. 19-37) God is a promise keeper, and He made a promise to David. Again, there is nothing profound here, just the fact that the psalmist does indeed mention that God made a promise.

Synthesizing God’s Character and Promise in Our Lives

Here is where the rubber meets the road. It is good to remember that God is righteous and holy and faithful and a host of other important character attributes. It is good to remember that He has made us promises. But it is better to remember that by combining these two ideas, we can have hope in our present difficulties. Reminding ourselves of God’s character is only helpful for us if He has actually chosen to communicate to us in promises. If He has promised us nothing, then it gives us no hope to meditate on His power. In fact, it would probably fill us with terror. Similarly, remembering that He has indeed made promises to us is only meaningful if He is capable of fulfilling those promises. I could promise to give a million dollars to every person who reads this post, but for any of you who know me, that promise is empty since I will never be able to deliver on it.

What is amazing is that this process of remembering and synthesizing knowledge of God’s character and promises is what the Psalmist does in Psalm 89. As seen above, he repeatedly speaks of God’s faithfulness and His promise to David. In the first 37 verses that is all he talks about. But, the reason why comes up in v. 38-45. There was a great inconsistency between God’s character, God’s promise, and the psalmist’s present reality. The people were not experiencing the blessing and fruitfulness that God had promised to David. Actually, what they were living was about as far away from that as could be imagined. And this is attributed to God (notice all of the “you”s in v. 38-45).

But the psalmist needs hope. And, though he acknowledges that it is God’s hand that afflicts them, he reminds himself that God has made them a promise, and that God is faithful to His promises. So, in prayer, he rekindles his hope in God by reminding himself of these truths and applying them to his present suffering. And, once he has done all of this, he ends with “Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.” (v. 52)

In our own lives, we need to cultivate this practice every day. Reminding ourselves of these truths will give us the hope we need to press on in service to the Lord in this life, and that in spite of all our hardships. I hope to meditate and write a bit more on how this actually works out in my own life in future posts.


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