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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Friday, 28 February 2014

The Grace of God (Psalm 125)

Obviously the arrangers who placed the psalm among the psalms of ascent regarded it as a suitable psalm for the pilgrims to use as they attended the annual feasts in Jerusalem. Going to these feasts gave them the opportunity to walk around the city and observe the natural defences that the surrounding mountains gave to the city. As they did so, they compared these natural defences to the spiritual protection that they had in God.

The psalmist says in verse 1 that the defining mark of God’s people is that they trust in the Lord. The point that the psalmist is making is that only those who trust in the Lord will experience the blessings of the Lord. God’s people are not only saved by faith, they also live by faith, and in doing so receive great blessings from him.

The first blessing that the psalmist mentions is the permanence of the believer – he or she cannot be removed (v. 1). We can think about the amazing fact that they cannot be removed from membership in the family of God. This position of intimacy and importance is never removed from them.

A second blessing is the Lord’s protecting grace (v. 2). The psalmist was aware that God’s people had many enemies; in fact they were surrounded by them. Yet between them and their enemies was a secure defence, the Lord himself. Just as the city of Jerusalem has a natural defence in the range of mountains around it, so God’s people have a spiritual defence in God against their spiritual enemies.

A third blessing is the Lord’s preventing grace (v. 3). There was a danger that the Israelites would resort to inappropriate ways of obtaining deliverance. We can never make spiritual progress by disobeying the Bible. How glad we should be that the Lord often prevents such responses from occurring.

In verse 4, he psalmist turns from speaking about God to speaking to God. There is great energy in this prayer. He is an example of the Saviour’s words in Matthew 11:12, that the violent take the kingdom of heaven by force. He prays that those who are upright in heart, who are trusting the Lord and exercising patience as they wait for him, will enjoy his good things. What a range of spiritual benefits is found in that small word ‘good’! What a variety of blessings we can pray for one another to receive.

Verse 5 reminds us of the providence of God.  If people choose wrong paths or crooked ways, the Lord will shepherd them as well, except he will lead them into the paths of destruction. This is a reminder that sinners cannot oppose God and get away with it. When his enemies fail to repent and instead persist in opposing his people, the Lord eventually intervenes and removes those who have been attacking his kingdom.

In the same verse, the psalmist mentions another divine blessing, that of peace. We should note the certainty of it and the comprehensiveness of it. Peace will be ours wherever we are and it will be ours at all times. It is not surprising that the Lord is called the God of all grace (1 Pet. 5:10).

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