Theme: Remembering God’s Mercy
In this week’s lessons we find encouragement from the knowledge of God’s past faithfulness, and the hope of future blessings because of who he is.
Scripture: Psalm 85:1-13
The place we have to start to overcome discouragement is by reflecting on the goodness of God toward us in past days (vv. 1-3). This is part of the problem, of course, because it is the unfavorable contrast between these past experiences of God’s mercies and the lack of them now that has caused us to become discouraged. Yet it is part of the solution too, since it is because God is good that we have hope of recovering what we’ve lost.
The first verse deals with the land and with the people’s reversal of fortune, which is why we think of this as applying to the period following the exile. But what is striking about this opening stanza is that it is not the restoration to the land that is dwelt on, but rather the forgiveness of sins and the removal of the wrath of God, which preceded it. As the psalmist says, “You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger.”
The greatest of all mercies that we can receive from God is forgiveness of sins, and it is from this foundation that all other covenanted mercies flow. Yet how little we value it! If God gives us good health, a happy and supportive family, a good job and praise from our employer and friends, we think we are blessed. If we lack any one of these things, we begin to suppose that God has somehow forgotten us or does not care. We do not think how blessed we are to have our sins forgiven and to be delivered from the judicial wrath of God through the atoning death of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of the strongest salvation language in Scripture is present in these verses. “Covered their sins” describes what is meant by “atonement.” “Set aside your wrath” is what is meant by the word “propitiation.”
If we would remember God’s mercy to us in the forgiveness of our sins, it might not be necessary for us to go any further along the four-step path suggested by this psalm. By taking this step alone we might find that we are already rising out of our discouragement and will soon be praising God again rather than complaining to him.
What is the first step to overcoming discouragement?
What is meant by calling God “good”? How does reflecting on past mercies help the spiritually depressed person?
Why is it wrong to conclude that God has forgotten us if we lack something such as good health, a successful job, or a happy family?
Reflection: How often is your attitude dependent on the good things God gives, rather than on your salvation?
Application: Review your own past experiences of God’s blessings as a means to trust him with your present discouragement and uncertainty about the future.