Sunday, March 27, 2016

Wishful thinking or assured reality

PA170148.JPG David is emotional. Here he is affected by the thoughts of running oil down his head and an overflowing heart. With a sense of wonder, generated by the moment, David is convinced about what is following. ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Within the Scriptures we have numerous episodes of his history. Does it bear out this assurance?

Surely it does! Goodness (of God’s grace and covenant) and mercy (God keeps His word) did follow David. It is to the Shepherd’s honour that He didn’t kick this sheep out of the fold. It was fortunate for David and maybe for you, definitely for me, when we wear His brand the Shepherd always seeks the wayward sheep. David’s story is one of great privileges, promises and achievements. It is also one of great betrayal, a father’s stupidity mixed with a spiritual ‘dark hole.’ Where can we see ‘goodness and mercy’ in his life?

It emerges from the wonder of God’s covenant. When He makes one with the nation or the individual He keeps it. Discipline is meted out for protracted insolence and rebellion, mercy is provided for repentance. Consequences for actions done are inevitable, but, God’s goodness offers comfort and hope. All of this is wrapped up in psalm 51. What David wrote in younger days and with emotion proved valid in his later and more turbulent years! Over and over his psalms vibrate with God’s steadfast love, faithfulness and mercy. From our perspective, words written by Paul to the folk at Rome promise a similar assurance. ‘We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.’ (Romans 8:28)

However, for Goodness and mercy and other blessings from God to follow us has a ‘depends’ clause. A father’s advice to his son explains it well enough. In Proverbs 4 the father uses such words as, keep you heart with all diligence, put away crooked speech and devious talk and don’t swerve from the path. Our Good Shepherd has endorsed those words elsewhere in His book of life. Sometimes we feel that the path of right living is restrictive and we are tempted to take detours. The word for paths in psalm 23:3 defines it as a ‘path for wagons.’  God’s lifestyle for us has space for us to enjoy the pleasures of His company and calling. He gives us the privilege of exercising our gifts and abilities with a proviso’ ‘Whatever you do, do as unto the Lord!’

To change the metaphor, we are warned that even as ‘sheep in His fold’ we will reap what we sow.’ We are deceived if we imagine we can sow to our sinful nature and reap spiritual blessings! In fact such thinking is a form of mockery to our Saviour Shepherd’s word and character. We are not to presume upon Him and His grace and mercy to us. Fortunately, God’s gift of repentance is available for us to grasp, embrace and unleash within our heart. We will still know the fallout from our detours or bad seeds sown, but God’s mercy lessens their impact. To know the forgiveness of God is to bow before Him in awe. It is to appreciate the power of grace won for us at Calvary’s cross. It is to offer back to Him our heart, now broken, but healed, and contrite yet joyful. It is as the forgiven, the restored, the humbled we are able to bear testimony to what it means to know Him, walk with Him and worship Him, the One we call Jesus.

It is by repentance we get back onto the right path. It is then our Lord is able to let loose ‘goodness and mercy’ to chase after us. It is when we are following the Shepherd a confidence arises. This happens despite our previous stupidity. Once again we can do no better than quote the one who knew this truth. ‘I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.’ Signed David, son of Jesse, King of Israel, psalm 27:13, 14.

To be concluded next week.

©Ray Hawkins. March 2016.

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