Theme: Reverence and an Eternal Perspective
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded of the need to trust the Lord for his deliverance from our struggles, and to praise him for his goodness and mercy.
Scripture: Psalm 107:33-43
Even for the righteous, God sends sorrow as well as joy, hardship as well as material blessing. Today we begin our look at four uses of this doctrine.
1. Reverence for God. The first use of this doctrine is to encourage reverence for God and humility in us, since God’s ways are not our ways and his ultimate purposes in life are usually beyond our finding out.
I think here of the way the Apostle Paul ended that great third section of Romans in which he was unfolding the sovereignty of God in bypassing the majority of Jewish people in order to bring the gospel to the Gentiles but would also one day work among the Jews again so that “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). This is one of the most profound passages in the Bible, one that has proved difficult even for the most astute commentators. Paul seems to be probing the mind of God as only an inspired apostle could. Yet when he has finished his explanation of God’s sovereign purposes in history he does not boast in his understanding, as if he were saying, “Look what I have figured out.” Instead he breaks into a doxology, writing, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen (Rom. 11:33-36).
There is nothing wrong with trying to understand the judgments, paths and mind of God. We are encouraged to do so. But we should never forget that God’s ways will always be beyond our full understanding and that many times we will simply have to clap our hands over our mouths and wait to see what God will himself do or say, if anything.
Habakkuk tried to understand why God was raising up the Babylonians to overthrow his people, but he could not. So he concluded, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint” (Hab. 2:1). When God did speak he gave Habakkuk one of the greatest revelations in the Bible—“the just shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4, KJV)—the words that meant so much to Martin Luther.
2. Looking for things that are eternal. That leads to the second use of this doctrine: faith. Or as we could say, looking beyond the things that are seen to those that are unseen and eternal. Abraham is one example of those who have done this. He had been called out of his home city of Ur to go to a land that God would give him. He never actually owned that land, except for the small part he purchased as a burial plot for his wife Sarah, and his life was not easy even when he was living where God had told him to go. There were famines, disagreements with his nephew Lot, danger from marauding desert tribes. But that was all right with Abraham because he knew that the greatest blessings he had been promised were not to be enjoyed in this life but in that to come. Hence the author of Hebrews sums up his lifetime walk of faith by saying, “He was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).
Let me put it this way. Although there are ups and downs in this life, the end of all things for God’s people is not down but up. We can know this and look for it because we know that God is both good and sovereign. I think it is significant that Psalm 107 ends on this precise note. It calls us to “heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD” (v. 43).1
1Rowland E. Prothero, The Psalms in Human Life (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1904), pp. 344, 345.
Explain the first point in the doctrine Dr. Boice mentioned today.
What did Paul conclude about the ways of God?
Why do we not always understand God’s purpose?
How is Abraham an example of someone who looks for things eternal?
Reflection: Do you face trouble in your life with the knowledge that “the end of all things for God’s people is not down but up”?
Key Point: God’s ways will always be beyond our full understanding; many times we will simply have to clap our hands over our mouths and wait to see what God will himself do or say, if anything.
Reverence: a feeling or attitude of deep respect mixed with awe; veneration.
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to R.C. Sproul’s message, “God’s Mercy, God’s Glory.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)