Faithful to the Skies (Psalm 36:5-6)

Yesterday we considered the first few verses of Psalm 36 in my post – A Revelation of Wickedness. Picking up where we left off, we take a sharp turn away from the wickedness of humanity to the wonders of our gracious God. Perhaps the psalmist – King David – was hoping to convey the absolute contrast between the evil of men and the goodness of God.

5 Your loving kindness, Yahweh, is in the heavens.

    Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God.

    Your judgments are like a great deep.

    Yahweh, you preserve man and animal.

Psalm 36:5-6 WEB

Verses five and six begin to compare some of God’s attributes with features of the physical world to provide a sense of scale. Sometimes, when my children take a photo of an insect or similar, we encourage them to add something else to the background to show the size of the object in question. In a similar way, King David is trying to convey the magnitude of these characteristics of God. He begins with loving-kindness.

Verse 5 in the WEB is perhaps not the most helpful rendering. It says that God’s loving-kindness is in the heavens. The NLT puts it like this: “Your unfailing love O Lord is as vast as the heavens.” Which I feel is a much clearer picture. God’s love is so vast that it reaches from the depths of the earth to the highest heavens. God’s love, which never fails, is as big as you can imagine. This is, of course, poetic language, as love cannot be measured by volume or distance. Instead, God demonstrates His love for us in the form of a rugged cross and a suffering Saviour. As John states in his Gospel, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.” That’s the size of God’s love!

With poetic emphasis (and particularly in the Hebrew style), God’s faithfulness is now compared to the height of the skies. Faithfulness is not something we see a great deal of in our world today. It means to be steadfast and loyal, to keep to our word no matter the circumstances and to remain at a friend’s side in the bleakest of trials. God will never leave you. He will never forsake you. God is faithful, meaning what He says and saying precisely what He means. We can trust God because we can trust His word.

We can #trust #God because we can trust His Word – that is, the #Bible

Verse six compares God’s righteousness to the mountains of God. There are few geological features as impressive or even breath-taking as a mountain. To us mere humans standing at their foot, a mountain seems an almost eternal object. Often, from the base, the top is obscured by cloud and we can only imagine how high it extends. Likewise, God’s righteousness is seemingly unending.

The word righteousness here is integrity, or moral uprightness. God is righteous; He is morally perfect and without fault. God is both pure and just, and He is blameless and holy. As we stand before a mountain and feel rather small, we ought to stand before God and feel wholly inadequate before Him. Our righteousness is like filthy rags in comparison, and we dare not hope to approach Him without the cleansing work of Christ. Thanks be to God who no longer sees our sinfulness, but instead sees us as pure and righteous as His Son through the shed blood of the cross!

Verse six then points out another massive geological feature – the great deep. Indeed, the psalmist compares God’s judgements to the depths of the mighty ocean. I do not mind admitting to you that I have something of a fear for the ocean. Partly due to its size and partly owing to its power, I rarely venture into the waves. I recall a story my wife tells of a time when she was swimming over a coral reef. The water was perhaps a few feet deep, but as she swam out further over the edge of the reef, the ocean floor dropped sharply away and there was apparent nothingness beneath her. Rather unsettled, she returned to the relative safety of the reef. The thought of it sends shivers down my spine! It is not only the imagined creatures lurking in those depths, but also the vast volume of water and absence of light that disturbs me.

The deep, here, is perhaps not meant to be so terrifying as I’ve made it out to be! Put simply, it is a huge mass, and again gives us a sense of scale to the judgements of God. I read this as God’s ways being higher than our ways, rather than God’s judgements being harsher or harder than ours (although perhaps that is also true?)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.

9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways

    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

Verse six concludes by noting that God preserves both man and animal alike. We could spend a long time considering the preservation of man at God’s mighty hand, but I rarely pass a verse like this without pausing at the inclusion of animal kind. While we know that humans are far more valuable than animals, God is not dismissive of His Creation and willing to care for animals of all kinds as well. I recall a poorly dog we once had, and reading closing words of the book of Jonah where the city of Ninevah is spared. The book of Jonah includes concern not just for the people of Ninevah, but also the animals that live there too (see Jonah 4:11).

God is indeed a saving God; a Rescuer! He is able to preserve our life on this dangerous world but also to save us from sin and its consequences in the life to come. I have only managed two verses today, and perhaps this isn’t the longest of posts, but this seems a good place to pause. I rejoice that despite my failings, and my disturbing familiarity with the first four verses, that God is able to save me. Despite my wickedness, and that of the world around me, Jesus was willing and able to step down into the mire, live the perfect life, and suffer the consequences of sin which was alien to Him. He paid the penalty for me and for you. He died a brutal death, physically and not to mention the spiritual element, in order that you and I might go free.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in the preservation business. God sees the trap we find ourselves in, a pit of our own making, yet He is not content to leave us there. Giving up His most precious Son, God paid the price for each of us. If we call on Him today, trusting in what He has done and letting go of our pitiful efforts, we too can be saved – preserved – for all eternity. It is not a mere nod to Jesus that is enough, we must give Him our entire lives and learn to live for Him, and learn to let Him live through us.

As you stand before God today, is it a mountain of righteousness you see, or a righteousness which stretches to the heavens above? Do you feel small before Him, aware of your own failings? I know I do at times! Yet, as we put our faith in Jesus, we are cleansed and made new. Do not let this moment pass you by! Make a commitment today, and begin to follow Jesus. Learn His ways, and rest in Him. If you make that choice today, I’d love to hear from you.

We will return to the rest of this psalm another day. Blessings on you!

Justice (Audio)

Andy shares about the subject of justice, and considers one of the Proverbs given below.

Condemning the innocent or letting the wicked go—both are hateful to the Lord.

Proverbs 17:15 (GNT)

This audio will also be uploaded to the podcast feed for those who prefer to listen to it there. You can find the podcast “The Andy Brown Podcast” on all good podcasting apps, including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Salvation In No One Else

Our passage for today is Acts 4:1-22, and you can read the full text at that link. I’ll refer to various verses throughout the post.

Acts 4 continues the events we discussed in chapter 3 so it is useful to familiarise yourself with those first. In summary, Peter and John went to the temple and while there, healed a man who it says was “lame from birth.” This caused something of a stir among the crowds gathered, and Peter seized the opportunity to speak. He did not preach on the topic of healing, as you might expect, but used it to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Not Everyone Is Happy To Hear Good News

As they spoke to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came to them, 2 being upset because they taught the people and proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Acts 4:1-2 (WEB)

The “they” in the first line is referring to Peter and John. We see that not all were happy to hear Peter’s message, and the priests and other “religious” leaders were upset by what they were teaching. The word “upset” here is the Greek word – diapomeomai – and I won’t try to pronounce it! It means to be troubled, displeased, or offended, and to the point of being worked up about it. One of the reasons for this would have been the claim that Jesus was the Resurrection, as the Sadducees did not believe in a bodily resurrection.

We believe the message about Jesus to be good news, but there are many who do not. Not everyone will be happy when we share our faith, and as we see in verse 3, they reacted very strongly indeed and arrested Peter and John, holding them in custody overnight.

Yet in the midst of such strong opposition, we see a great number turning to Christ. In fact, we observe more people joining the faith than did on the day of Pentecost!

But many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

Acts 4:4 (WEB)

Silly Questions

The next day, you might hope that the religious leaders had had a chance to sleep on things and be a little more reasonable about it. But sadly not!

They gather together all manner of important people, including the high priest and apparently several members of his family (see verses 5-6). It must have been some kind of court hearing, as they bring out Peter and John, and place them in the midst of them all.

When they had stood Peter and John in the middle of them, they inquired, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”

Acts 4:7 (WEB)

It is time to begin the questioning… imagine one of your favourite TV legal dramas… The prosecution stands to their feet, gathers their papers, and addresses the witness… and what do they ask? A pretty daft question in my opinion!

They ask Peter and John by what power, or in what name, they have performed this miracle. it is a rather silly question because Peter made it abundantly clear the day before in what name and power he had performed the miracle!

By faith in his name, his name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which is through him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

Acts 3:16 (WEB)

The “he” above is Jesus Christ. Had the religious leaders been listening to what Peter was saying in front of them all, they would already have known the answer to this question.

Despite this, and continuing our courtroom example, Peter launches into his own defence, which is really no defence of him at all, but of the Gospel of Christ.

Salvation In No One Else

Verses 8-12 tells us what Peter tells them. He very clearly spells out that they are being “tried” for doing a good deed, which is the healing of this lame man. Peter sets out that the miracle was done in the Name of Jesus, and in that Name this man now stands before them all – whole and healed.

Peter states the facts of the case, but also cites Old Testament Scripture, quoting from Psalm 118 that Jesus was indeed the stone that the builders rejected, and yet He became the Cornerstone.

The pinnacle of Peter’s words is found in verse 12:

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that is given among men, by which we must be saved!”

Acts 4:12 (WEB)

Salvation is found in no one else, and there is indeed no other Name by which we can be saved. Jesus is the One and only way to Heaven, and no one comes to the Father except through Him.

The religious leaders are astonished by Peter’s boldness, which is really inspired by the Holy Spirit (see verse 8). They recognise that these men are not educated in the religious Law, and yet can speak with confidence and effectively witness for Christ. The leaders cannot deny the miracle, which many have seen, yet they do not want this teaching about Christ spread about. They were the ones who killed Him after all!

Sending Peter and John out, they discuss what they can do. They realise they have few options and so, calling them back in, demand that they no longer speak in the Name of Christ.

Whether It Is Right

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves, 20 for we can’t help telling the things which we saw and heard.”

Acts 4:19-20 (WEB)

Peter and John now have a choice to make. Do they obey the religious leaders, or do they obey God? Peter responds by putting the ball firmly in their court. Is it right to listen to you or to God, he asks. They have no answer to this at all, only offer further threats. They have no legal recourse and they fear the people who witnessed the miracle.

Under normal circumstances, we are to follow the commands of our leaders and authorities. When those commands directly contradict the Word of God, then we have a choice to make.

In the UK, we are largely able to practice our faith without harassment but things are changing. Christian values are no longer popular, and our Government continues to make ungodly decisions. I praise God for the freedom we have in this nation, and pray it may last. If it does not however, let us boldly proclaim the truth that salvation is found in no one else, no matter the cost.

Don’t Wait (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Don’t wait until you are in trouble to fully seek the Lord – start now!

While times are good, it can be all too easy to forget God. Yet when things start falling apart, He is the first one we turn to.

No one likes to go through troubled times or trials, and when we do, we usually ask “Why would God allow this to happen to me?” There is no easy answer to such a question, but one possibility is to encourage us to seek God more fully.

When you find yourself in a situation you cannot handle alone – a serious health problem, financial difficulties, or the loss of a loved one – you turn to something bigger than yourself, and that is God.

My pearl today recommends you don’t wait until the trouble comes to start seeking God. Start today! Commit yourself to Jesus, and walk with Him closely every day. Spend time in the Bible and in prayer, and make the effort to have a great relationship with Him.

If you do, then there will be no need for the trial that brings you back to God. Even if trouble comes for other reasons, you will be in a much stronger place to face them.

If nothing else, then the COVID-19 crisis has served to bring many people back to God. Praise Him for that GOOD THING COMING OUT OF THIS PANDEMIC.

How is your relationship with Jesus right now? Has it been neglected, or is it stronger than ever?

If you are reading this and you don’t know Jesus personally, then please allow me to introduce you! God made everything, including you and I. He had only one rule, and we broke it introducing something called sin into the world. Sin separated us from God and none of our good deeds can fix it. 

God became a human being who we know as Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life, but humanity executed Him on a cross even though HE was innocent. He was our substitute and took our place and the punishment we deserve. If we put our trust in Him, He will save us from our sin and give us eternal life in heaven.

Three days after His death, Jesus rose to life again. Likewise, you and I can escape death and live again through Him.

To start a relationship with God, all you need do is ask. Talk to Him now, which we call prayer. Ask Him to become your friend and to forgive you of all the wrong things you have done. Ask God to come and live within you, and He will put His Holy Spirit in your heart to guide and help you.

Get yourself a Bible or read it online, it will tell you all about God and how He wants you to live. Find a good local church which teaches the Bible, and join with a group of other believers. They will help and pray for you.

Lastly, please get in touch with me. I’d love to pray for you and celebrate your new relationship with God! Bless you this day and always!