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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, 16 January 2015

Psalm 125 - Riches of God's Grace

We are not told who wrote this psalm or when it was composed. Verse 3 could suggest that the Israelites had recently experienced deliverance from captivity. This detail points to the faithfulness of God to his promises – that, although he has to chastise his people when they backslide, eventually he restores them. It is this permanent principle that makes the psalm so precious to believers in all ages.

As people walked round the city of Jerusalem, they observed the defence 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.

In verse one, the psalmist says that the defining mark of God’s people is that they trust in the Lord. Only those who trust in him will experience his blessings. God’s people are not only saved by faith, they also live by faith. We are so used to this description of the Lord’s people that we are liable to forget its simplicity. Faith is based on information but it does not need a great intellect; the believer with a smaller intellect can live by faith just as much as the believer with a greater intellect. Faith is strengthened by experiences, but it does not need profound experiences in order to function. What matters as far as faith is concerned is the object of one’s faith.

The first blessing that the psalmist mentions is the permanence of the believer – he or she cannot be removed from their standing in God’s presence (v. 1). Then he mentions the Lord’s protecting grace in verse 2. We have powerful enemies (the world, the flesh and the devil), but we have an infinitely powerful God. Verse 3 reminds us of another blessing of grace – the Lord prevents his people from entering into situations in which they might sin.

Moving on to verse 4, we see that God’s grace provides what his people need. In this verse the psalmist turns from speaking about God to speaking to God. His practice here is one that we should imitate. He prays that God’s people would enjoy God’s 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.

In verse 5, we see another side to God’s providence. If people choose wrong paths, the Lord will shepherd them as well, except he will lead them into paths of destruction. This is a reminder that sinners cannot oppose God and get away with it. In a sense, God gives them the path that they chose, which is solemn.

Nevertheless, the Lord also gives the blessing of peace to his people (v. 5). We should note the certainty of it and the comprehensiveness of it. Peace will be theirs wherever they are and it will be theirs at all times. The peace of God is not merely the absence of hostilities, it is also his powerful presence revealed in a variety of ways. After all, he is the God of all grace (1 Pet. 5:10). 

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