Describing God; September 29, 2019

Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures for ever.

This Psalm is unique in being antiphonal, a call-and-response between a worship leader and either a choir or the entire congregation. The whole rest of this Psalm is an expansion of this one verse, giving all sorts of ways in which the Lord is good. Where the NIV says “good,” the Japanese says “of deep compassion/mercy.” That is significant, because it is the term used in the best-loved hymn in Japanese, What a Friend We Have in Jesus. I think that whoever translated that song was powerfully anointed, because it captures the difference between Yahweh and every other postulated god. Most Westerners don’t have other gods (in a theological sense) to compare with the Biblical picture, but the differences are striking. It is really a problem when we become so used to the stories of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we take it all for granted, failing to appreciate the enormity of grace and blessing that is poured out on us. This Psalm is an attempt to remind Israel of all that God has done for them, in a sense putting life itself into context. We would do well to make our own version of this Psalm, substituting events in our own life where God has met our need or forgiven our sin for the events in the history of Israel that are used here. We too need to be reminded that God’s love / grace / mercy endure forever, and to be appropriately grateful.

At 71, I can come up with quite a list of times and places God has been far better to me than I deserved, and I must never forget it. As a pastor, one of my challenges is in helping people understand that God never picks on them, but that they actually deserve far worse than what they experience. We don’t like to admit that! I point out to them that if I were God, I would have given up on me a long time ago! Today being a 5th Sunday, rather than having a sermon we are sticking to singing and testimonies. I think my testimony needs to have this theme today. God’s grace is indeed amazing, and I must never forget that.

Father, thank You indeed for Your love / grace / mercy. Thank You for the privilege of telling others about You and what You are like, so that they too may repent and believe, for their salvation and Your glory. May this church, today and every day, be a testimony that all can see as to who You are and what You are like, drawing many into Your kingdom for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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