Archive for September, 2012

The Way Back (Psalm 51), Part I

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Psalm 51:1

The fifty-first Psalm is one of my favorite Psalms and one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  It is the song and prayer of David’s confession after his sins of adultery with Bathsheeba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah.  In my opinion, this chapter is the best example in the Bible of a prayer of a true penitent.  If we ever find ourselves having sinned, this is the chapter that shows us “the way back to God.”  We will take a couple of weeks and look at it verse by verse.

Today, we look at the first verse and David’s immediate plea: “Have mercy upon me, O God…”  David comes to the throne of God asking for mercy.  Any time we have sinned, that is what we must do.  We must come to God and ask for mercy.  That was the prayer of the penitent publican in Luke 18:13, “…God be merciful to me a sinner.”  When we throw ourselves on the mercy of God, we find, like David, that His mercy is “new every morning.”

David also touches on the merciful attributes of God in this first verse: “…according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.”  David makes no excuses.  He doesn’t try to shift the blame to someone else.  He begins his prayer by appealing to the Lord’s abundant tender mercies.  He understands that it is the Lord Who must forgive him if he is to be forgiven.  He understands that only the Lord can “blot out his transgressions.”  He understands that he has sinned and that he has needs the Lord’s forgiveness.

Fortunately for David and for us, the Lord is very longsuffering and full of mercy.  If we find ourselves straying from the Lord, the first step back is to acknowledge our sin and throw ourselves on the mercy of the Lord.

I Will Sing the Wondrous Story (Hymn)

I Will Sing the Wondrous Story
Francis H. Rowley (1886)

I will sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ Who died for me.
How He left His home in glory
For the cross of Calvary.

Refrain
Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ Who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory,
Gathered by the crystal sea.

I was lost, but Jesus found me,
Found the sheep that went astray,
Threw His loving arms around me,
Drew me back into His way.

Refrain

I was bruised, but Jesus healed me,
Faint was I from many a fall,
Sight was gone, and fears possessed me,
But He freed me from them all.

Refrain

Days of darkness still come o’er me,
Sorrow’s path I often tread,
But His presence still is with me;
By His guiding hand I’m led.

Refrain

He will keep me till the river
Rolls its waters at my feet;
Then He’ll bear me safely over,
Where the loved ones I shall meet.

Refrain

This is just an encouraging hymn.  If we’re having a good day, it’s a perfect song: “I was lost, but Jesus found me, Found the sheep that went astray, Threw His loving arms around me, Drew me back into His way.”  If we are worn down, “I was bruised, but Jesus healed me, Faint was I from many a fall, Sight was gone, and fears possessed me, But He freed me from them all.”  If we are having a bad day, “Days of darkness still come o’er me, Sorrow’s path I often tread, But His presence still is with me; By His guiding hand I’m led.”  It’s got something encouraging for us no matter what is going on in our lives.  That is a great song!

A Mighty God Doing Mighty Things

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

Luke 1:46-49

In this passage, Mary says that “he that is mighty hath done to me great things…”  Mary experienced something that no other person in the history of the world experienced.  She had a baby without a man.  That is not natural, nor is it normal.  It has happened exactly once, when God sent His Son Jesus to be born of the virgin Mary.  And she recognized the fact that this was a miracle.

“He that is mighty hath done to me great things…”  There is only One Who could do something like this, the Lord God Almighty.  He is the mighty One Who can do great things.  He did something great to Mary, but He has done something equally great to us.

There is only One Who is mighty enough to die for the sins of all mankind.  There is only One Who is mighty enough to conquer death and the grave.  There is only One Who is mighty enough to bring us from death unto life.  It is the same One Who was mighty enough to cause the virgin Mary to conceive and bring forth a Son.

It is important for us to remember that we serve a mighty God.  We serve a God that does not know the meaning of the term impossible.  We serve a God Who can do anything.  He did mighty works in Bible times, He has done a mighty work in our lives, and He can do mighty works in the lives of others.  Mary magnified the Lord for His mighty works and so should we.

Humility Leads to Honour

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

Luke 1:46-48

I would think that if any person has been called “blessed” over the centuries since Jesus came to Earth, it would be Mary.  She was correct when she said that “from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”  Of all the women who ever lived, Mary might have received more honour than any other.  So where did this honour come from?  It comes from the same place all honour comes from: humility.

Even in the case of Jesus, humility came before honour.  Philippians 2:8-9 tells us “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.”

Mary specifically said that the Lord had “regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.”  She was a humble girl of a humble background.  She way clearly not full of pride.

But she was the one that God had chosen to bring His Son into the world.  This is an important lesson for us.  The Lord is never going to bless and honour pride.  He is never going to change His mind and decide that He likes pride.  In verse after verse in the Bible, we find His hatred for pride and His promise to destroy and judge it.  If we would like to be lifted up and honoured by the Lord, we need to make sure that we are practicing humility.  Mary was not going around lifting herself up and praising herself.  But, due to her humility, God lifted her up and praised her.  We can honour ourselves or we can have the Lord give us honour.  Which would we prefer?

A Rejoicing Spirit

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

Luke 1:46-47

After Mary received the news that she would be the one to bring the Son of God into the world, she gave this prayer of praise to Him.  I can only imagine what she felt like after hearing the news.  God was sending His Son to save His people from their sins.  The prophets had foretold it for hundreds of years.  And God was going to use her to play a key part in that grand process.  This was understandably overwhelming, and she immediately began to thank and magnify the Lord.

After she heard that news, verse 47 tells us that she said “my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”  Her spirit was rejoicing in God her Saviour.  Think of the irony – that God in whom she was rejoicing was going to be that little baby she would soon hold.  Her Saviour would be the One whom she would soon be holding in her arms, wrapping in swaddling clothes.  The One Who created her would be called her Son.  She was right to rejoice in the Lord because of these things.

While we might not have as visible of a part in God’s eternal plan as Mary did, does our soul ever rejoice in the Lord?  Do we ever just find our soul overflowing with God’s goodness, mercy and love?  Do we ever just stop and think about all it means to have salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ?  Do we ever think about how great it is to be pardoned from our sins?  If we will stop for a minute and meditate on these things, I think that, with Mary, our souls will begin to “rejoice in God our Saviour.”

Magnifying the Lord

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord

Luke 1:46

After hearing the news that she had been chosen by the Lord to bring His Son into the world, Mary spoke to her cousin Elisabeth.  And, while she was speaking, she began praising the Lord, and it is recorded for us in this passage.  It is sometimes called the “Magnificat.”  Whatever it is called, it is a great prayer of praise to the Lord and we would be wise to repeat it and believe it ourselves.

The first part of her prayer is this: “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”  Her soul magnified the Lord.  Does our soul magnify the Lord?  Sometimes we might magnify the Lord with our mouths, and sometimes we might even magnify the Lord with our actions.  Those things are good and right and we should be doing them, but do we magnify the Lord in our soul?  That seems to me to be a deeper level of magnifying Him.

To magnify something is simply to make that object bigger and more important.  Is the Lord the most important thing in our hearts?  Is He the most important thing in our lives?  Does He fill our souls?  Or are we constantly seeking to push Him aside?  Do we allow Him to fill us or do we crowd Him out with earthly pleasures and possessions?  How much is He magnified in our souls?

There are many ways that we can magnify Him, but all of them should come out a deep love for Him in our hearts.  It is there in the soul that we can truly magnify Him and worship Him the way Mary magnified and worshipped Him and the way He deserves to be magnified and worshipped.  How are we doing?

“Be It Unto Me…”

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.  And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

One of the many things about this passage of Scripture that amazes me is Mary’s attitude about the whole thing.  Imagine that you are hearing what Mary is hearing.  She has just been told by an angel that she will be giving birth to the Son of God, Jesus.  Imagine all of the things that must have been going through her mind at this time.  She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph.  Who was going to believe this story?  Think about her telling people that an angel had come to her and had told her that she, as a virgin, would be having a baby and that baby was the Son of God.  A highly unlikely story.  Would people believe her?  Would Joseph believe her?  It must have been exciting and frightening at the same time.

But in the midst of all of that, her simple response to the angel was this: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”  Her response was one of complete faith in the Lord.  She realized that she was but an instrument in the hand of God, to be used as He saw fit.

“Be it unto me according to thy word.”  Just think how great our lives would be if we would adopt that attitude in our everyday lives.  Just think of how wonderful it would be to accept the Word of the Lord without question and without hesitation.  Think of what we could accomplish in our Christian lives if we would have the type of simple faith that would allow the Lord to use us any way He saw fit.

“Be it unto me according to thy word” should be our motto as Christians.  Is it?

Nothing Impossible With God

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.  And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.  For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Luke 1:35-37

Mary had received the news that she would be giving birth to Jesus, the Son of God.  She didn’t understand at first how this could be, but the angel explained it to her.  A virgin giving birth is a human impossibility.  It had never happened before that and would never happen after that.  Simply put, it is impossible.

But God does not see things humanly.  The laws of nature are made by God and are under His complete control at all times.  He can change them or modify them as He sees fit.  He does not operate on the same level of “impossibility” that we do.  As verse 37 tells us, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”  There is nothing that God cannot do.  If God wants an old lady (who was barren) to have a child, He can make that happen (as in the case of Zacharias and Elisabeth having a son, John).  If God wants a virgin to conceive and have a Son, He can make that happen.  If He wants that Son to be His Son, the perfect and spotless Lamb of God Who would die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, He could do that.  He convinced Mary that nothing is impossible for Him, and we serve the same God.

This is an important thing for us to remember the next time we face an “impossibility.”  Nothing is impossible with God.  Nothing.

I Will Sing of the Mercies (Hymn)

I Will Sing of the Mercies
Author:
?

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever
I will sing! I will sing!
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord!

With my mouth will I make known
Thy faithfulness, Thy faithfulness
With my mouth will I make known
Thy faithfulness to all generations!

This is a short one but a good one.  These types of songs get into your head and help you all day long.  What better thing to have running through your head than “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever?”  I couldn’t find an author to this one, so if anyone knows who wrote it, let me know and I will give credit where credit is due!

The Son of God

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?  And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Luke 1:34-35

After hearing the pronouncement of the angel, Mary was understandably confused.  She was going to have a Son, she was going to call His name Jesus, and He would be great, eternal and the Son of the Highest.  But there was one problem: she had no husband.  Humanly speaking, that would present quite a large hurdle in the area of having a child.  But not to God.  As this chapter says in verse 37, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

This would not be the son of a man.  Man is sinful.  When Adam sinned, he plunged the entire human race into sin.  Every son born to every man since Adam was born with Adam’s curse and Adam’s sin nature.  The human race did not need another prophet.  It did not need another “good man.”  The only thing that could save mankind was a perfect, sinless sacrifice.  Man needed a Saviour and could not provide one on his own.

But then came Jesus.  He was not born of a man.  He was born of God.  Joseph, while being a good man, was not His father.  Joseph could not have been His father, for Joseph had a sinful nature.  His father was not a sinful man in the line of Adam.  His Father was the God of Heaven and earth.  He would be the perfect sacrifice.  He was sinless and undefiled.  He was truly the Son of God.  Have we recognized Him as such?