CERTAIN TRUTHS FOR UNCERTAIN TIMES 9-26-10
One of the things I enjoyed doing when I used to go to the beach a lot, especially when I was younger, was to stand on the beach right where the waves wash up around and under your feet. As the waves retreat or flow back into the ocean, the water takes the sand around and under your feet away. You have probably experienced that “tingling sensation” as your feet resettle just in time for the next wave to hit. The entire routine or experience begins again. This shifting of the sand, as the waves hit one’s feet, reminds me of the kind of certainty that this world offers us as Christians. Just about the time you settle in and begin to feel comfortable, another wave hits and the shifting begins again.
But the waves of life often bring much more than a tingling sensation to our feet; they bring challenges to our faith and remind us of the uncertainties of this life. James reminds us in chapter 1 of his epistle that our God does not change like shifting shadows, and Jesus reminds us to not build our lives upon shifting sand. There is a lot of shifting that goes on around us; a lot of change – sometimes we view it as positive and other times negative – but God provides us as His people with certain truths that do not change. These truths are eternal, and do not change, because they are based upon our eternal God, who does not change.
One of the great truths of the Psalms is that many of the prayers and songs of the Psalmist deal with the uncertainties of life, and all of the emotions that go with it, yet in dealing with these realities, the Psalmist always brings us back to the even greater reality of God’s certain truths. In uncertain times, God always offers us certain truths – truths that encourage us and comfort us and empower us to work through the difficulties and uncertainties of life. This morning I want to look with you at four of these truths from the Psalms.
I want to begin with Psalm 90, verses 1 and 2, which introduces us to the fact that God is eternal, which leads us into the four points of this message.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
The Psalmist declares the eternal nature of God as the basis for our security or refuge. We dwell or abide in the Lord because He is eternal, and He was here before the world began. There has never been a time when God did not exist, nor will there ever be. The Psalmist’s primary point is that in a world that is transitory and always changing, we put our hope and trust in a God who is eternal and does not change. The reason this is so important to us is that this God is our dwelling place, meaning that we are able to take refuge and find safety in Him. He is not some far away deity that no one knows or can relate to. Rather, our God – the God who created the heavens and the earth – is a personal and loving God, who takes a profound interest in His creatures.
For not only is God eternal – He is from everlasting to everlasting – but the first point to consider is that God’s love is eternal. An essential part of God’s eternal and changeless nature is His love; and it’s because of His love that God reveals His mercy throughout all generations. There has never been a time in human history where God has not revealed to us His love and mercy. In Psalm 103 we read these words: “But from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children – and with those who keep His covenant, and remember to obey His precepts.” Even as God is from everlasting to everlasting, so is His love. The abundance of God’s love has always been a certain truth in uncertain times. But God’s love is not “random love” but its covenantal love, meaning that God reaches out to people in order to bring them into relationship with Him.
We have no claim or right to God’s love, as if we deserve it or can demand it, but God makes it available to those who seek Him and trust Him by faith. The point of the Psalmist is that God has always been dependable and faithful to His people. This is why we can always have confidence in God and always find Him willing and able to provide us with comfort and strength in times of need and uncertainty. We can always count on God’s love because it is eternal, and it does not change. It’s not based upon our character or our faithfulness, but upon God’s character and God’s faithfulness. What more certain ground could we have for our faith, than God’s covenant faithfulness?
Our certainty in life does not rest on the commitments that people make, or the commitments that the world makes – these kind of commitments are usually conditional and temporal, thus always leave a place for uncertainty. But God’s commitment of love for us and to us in His covenant is certain, because God’s love is eternal; and it’s in Christ that we receive and experience this love. In Psalm 89 we read about this covenant love that God established with His Son from all eternity, and continued throughout history and which will endure forever. Psalm 89: “I will appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth. I will maintain my love to him forever, and my covenant with him will never fail. I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as the heavens endure.”
The Davidic line is an expression of God’s covenantal faithfulness and eternal commitment to His people, which is culminated in the coming of Christ. God’s eternal love is not based upon David’s performance or His people’s performance, or our performance, but it is based upon His own covenant faithfulness; and the performance of His Son, who kept the covenant perfectly; and it’s through Him that we now can experience the benefits of this covenant grace and mercy by faith in Christ. It’s God’s commitment to us in His Son that is the basis and the foundation of our certain faith.
The way that we know that God’s love is eternal is through His Word to us. From the beginning God spoke and the heavens and earth were created; and from the beginning God spoke to those whom He created in His own image; and it’s this Word of God that is eternal. We turn again to the Psalms – Psalm 119:89: “Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” The eternal and enduring quality of the heavens characterizes God’s Word. It stands firm or certain in the heavens, because it proceeds or comes from the eternal Lord of heaven. We don’t base the truth or find true hope in what we see here on earth, or upon the ever changing opinions of man. This world brings us uncertainty, but God’s Word brings us certainty. This is what the Psalmist means when he says, “It stands firm in the heavens.” It is “settled” and determined; God’s word is not fickle, but it’s fixed, sure and immovable.
Isaiah speaks about this in Isaiah 40 when he contrasts the eternal and permanent nature of God’s Word with the finite and temporal nature of men. He says, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field . . . The grass withers and flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” The question that Isaiah raises is this: “Where do you find your hope; and who will you trust in for the future?”
Will it be in mankind’s short-lived accomplishments and temporary glory, or in the eternal and permanent word of God? Isaiah, like the Psalmist, is teaching us that God’s Word is based upon His unchanging and unfailing purposes, precepts and promises. All of this is settled in God’s mind. His eternal purposes – what He plans to do and will do are certain; His precepts, His laws and decrees that determine these plans are set and certain; and His promises – the way God accomplishes and rolls out these plans in history is certain. It’s when we know and trust God’s Word that we can have certainty, and not be bound by uncertainty.
Peter quotes this passage from Isaiah 40 in I Peter chapter 1, in the context of our salvation saying, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, (as Isaiah said) all men are like grass, and all their glory like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” As Christians we trust in what is permanent, not in what is temporary; we trust in what lasts forever, not what fades away. Our salvation is permanent because it’s grounded in the work of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God, and so although the uncertainties of this temporal world will affect us and influence us, they will not shake our faith. We stand firm on the solid Rock of God’s eternal Word.
Even as God’s Word is eternal and endures forever, so does God’s kingdom. This is the third certain truth that the Psalmist points to in Psalm 145:13 – “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.” God’s kingdom is proclaimed and explained through God’s Word. One of the great things about God’s kingdom is that it is unlike all the kingdoms of this world. Not only is it permanent, but it has none of the uncertainties of the kingdoms or nations of this world. We look at the political instability and economic instability in our own country and around the world today – and we know it’s not new or novel to our time – but we should be reminded of the radical contrast between God’s kingdom and all others. We must never trust in human kings or leaders, no matter how powerful or persuasive they may seem. Nebuchadnezzar serves as an illustration or example of this principle and contrast, as we read in Daniel chapter 4: “God’s kingdom is an eternal kingdom; His dominion endures from generation to generation.”
This certain truth of God’s eternal kingdom points us to an eternal King who rules and reigns over His kingdom. This eternal king is the eternal God whose love for His people is eternal. Our God is a God who not only exercises unlimited power – His is omnipotent and Almighty – but He also exercises unlimited compassion. He demonstrates grace and kindness to His creatures. God has the power to crush the enemies of His kingdom and judge all of His subjects, but because we have a God who is rich in loving-kindness and mercy, He is able and willing to forgive His enemies and save us from our sin. God’s kingdom is not primarily a geographic location, but a spiritual realm that we enter into by faith.
God’s eternal love is revealed to us through His eternal word, which calls us into His eternal kingdom, and by faith in Jesus Christ we have entered into eternal life, and have now experienced a fourth eternal truth – the great truth that God’s people are eternal. We read about this certain, and very comforting truth in Psalm 23, when David says, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This takes us back to the certain promise of Psalm 90 – the verse I spoke about at the beginning of this message – “Lord, you have been our dwelling place from generation to generation.” But you see, the Lord is not just our refuge and our strength; and our safety and security in this life, but also forever. Our relationship with God is not just one in time and history, but it’s one for eternity.
This is because our God is the everlasting Shepherd. The Psalmist says, “The Lord is my shepherd” because He is the one who leads us and guides us and comforts us and protects us, in and through the uncertainties of life. All of the blessings described in this Psalm, prior to verse 6, are enjoyed by the person who is under the care of the Shepherd. This imagery of the Shepherd is seen not just in Psalm 23, but also in Psalm 80 – “Hear us, O Shepherd of
We see the Everlasting Shepherd come into this world to save His people from their sin in the person of His Son – the Good Shepherd – Jesus Christ. It’s Jesus who secures this eternal relationship with God for us. He demonstrates God’s eternal love by laying down His life for His sheep.
Our certainty in uncertain times rests in the power and authority of God the Father, through the work of God the Son on our behalf. Jesus says in John 10 – “I know my sheep and my sheep follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Our certainty in an uncertain world comes from our eternal God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus we trust in what is permanent, not what is temporary; and we find our hope and joy and our comfort – not in what changes and fades away, but in what lasts forever.