Results tagged “lovingkindness” from Reformation21 Blog

Psalm 107: "Oh give thanks to God our Saviour"

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Psalm 107
Oh give thanks to God our Saviour
For his mercy rich and free;
Sing his praise who find his favour,
Rescued from the enemy.
Every land gives up his chosen,
Gathered up from east and west;
North and south send forth his people,
Each redeemed and fully blessed.

Fainting souls without a city,
Thirst and hunger pierce each breast;
Sheep who need the Shepherd's pity,
Weak and weary, needing rest.
When their cry goes up to heaven,
When they seek the God of grace,
He delivers them, and leads them
Forth to a blest dwelling place.

Lost souls sit in death's cold shadow:
Chains, afflictions, bind them tight.
Once they scorned the Lord of glory,
Now they quake before his might.
When such souls cry out to Jesus
Darkness brightens, chains will break:
Death's cold shadow holds no longer
Those redeemed for Jesus' sake.

Fools, afflicted in transgression,
Soon arrive at death's dark gate.
Bowed beneath guilt's harsh oppression,
Hopeless, lost, for death they wait.
Seek the God who rules in heaven,
To the Lord your cries increase;
He will save from dire destruction,
Give souls healing, grant them peace.

Those who go upon the ocean
There behold God's mighty hand.
When he raises storms and terrors,
Who before his power can stand?
Turn to Christ and plead his favour,
His word calms the mounting waves;
Find your refuge in the Saviour
Who from every terror saves.

See the increase of the righteous,
How God sets the poor on high!
Therefore bless him, sing his praises,
All his glories magnify.
Thank the Lord for all his goodness,
Poured upon us like a flood;
Understand his lovingkindness,
Ransoming by Jesus' blood.
Jeremy Walker

See other hymns and psalms.

Of excellence and failure

Last Sunday I failed again. I often fail on the Lord's day, but this Sunday evening was one of those particularly noticeable occasions. There were a number of factors at play, as there always are, but there was at least one that meant I was never going to succeed. In fact, I had set myself up to fail.

I had the privilege of preaching at another local church, and the morning seemed, by God's grace, to go well, although - to be honest - I failed. In the evening I was preaching on Psalm 36.7: "How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of your wings."

I only had two basic points: a precious quality and a proper response, with some applications along the way. In the first part, my intention was to bring out something of the excellence of the covenant faithfulness of our redeeming God, as the psalmist brings his lovingkindness from the heavens of verse five into the experience of men in verse seven. But how do you communicate God's steadfast love? How do you begin to begin to explain its preciousness?

We considered it as divinely excellent, and I failed. I spoke of it as greatly extensive, and fell short. We thought of it as transcendently sweet, and my words thudded to the ground. We looked at it as unquestionably sufficient, and it was beyond my communication. We marvelled at the fact that it is unshakeably consistent, but I could not get that across. We noted that it is profoundly valuable, but how little of that was explained. We recognised that it was entirely undeserved, but I barely scratched the surface. Along the way, we sought to illustrate this from the life and death of the Lord Christ, and I missed the mark.

In a sense, that was the point. As William Plumer points out, "I had rather hear the exclamation, How excellent! than the cry, I know it all!" You see, we were always going to be defeated. I was always going to fail. I had no other possibility. I cannot say "I know it all!" but I can at least cry, "How excellent!"

The truths that preachers handle are, in a real sense, beyond us. We pray for the Spirit's help as we prepare and preach. We long for enlarged hearts with which to feel our themes, for acute minds with which to explore these realities, for tongues of angels with which to speak of our discoveries and desires, and - with the best we have in this world - we are like men who leap and drop; our words like arrows that fall short of the target, though truly aimed; our thoughts the thoughts of those who stumble in murk; our feelings the feelings of those who are barely awake.

And we keep trying and failing. It is a miserable, glorious, constant failure. We speak of God's holiness, and fail; we preach peace in Christ, and fail; we explore the divine wisdom and power in salvation, and fail; we consider the beauty of election and the wonder of perseverance, and fail; we dive repeatedly into the unsearchable riches of Christ, and come up having barely begun to plumb the depths or search out the vast reaches of his glorious being and doing.

And we try again and again and again, for we have no other theme. I walked out of the pulpit on Sunday evening having aimed very high and fallen very low. The more I preached the further I seemed from my goal. The more I strove, the more my efforts collapsed. Here I was, with this incomparably excellent thing - the lovingkindness of God - and I could not display it as it deserved; this quality incalculably precious, and I could not communicate the least part of its value.

But I could try. If we aim lower, we can hit the target. If we are content with something else, we can succeed. But, in this, it is better to aim true and fall necessarily short, and - by God's grace - sometimes to get a little closer than at other times. And so this Sunday I expect to fail again, and I am preparing accordingly. I will continue setting myself up to fail, and pray that I might miss by less than last time, because the preacher's calling is to declare the precious lovingkindness of God in all its splendour and majesty, not so that anyone can say, "I know it all!" but so that some will say, "How excellent!"

Who is a God like you?

"Who is a God like you,
Pardoning iniquity
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?

He does not retain his anger forever,
Because he delights in mercy.
He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.

You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea.
You will give truth to Jacob
And mercy to Abraham,
Which you have sworn to our fathers
From days of old." (Mic 7.18-20)

If our God were anything other than this, anything less than this, what hope would poor sinners like us have? Where else would we find peace and cleansing? To whom else would we turn?

But he delights to show mercy. His anger is only for a moment, and his favour is for life. His compassion is swift and sure. He tramples our iniquities under his feet. He heaves all our sins into the unfathomable ocean of Christ's blood. He holds fast to his word, to all those promises which are "Yes" and "Amen" in Christ Jesus.

If he were anything else or anything less, we would be lost. But he is and remains our incomparable God and Saviour, and we are safe now and forever.