In Who Needs God, Harold Kushner writes this: “The next time you go to the zoo, notice where the lines are the longest and people take the most time in front of the cage. We tend to walk briskly past the deer and the antelope, with only a passing glance at their graceful beauty. If we have children, we may pause to enjoy the antics of the seals and the monkeys. But we find ourselves irresistibly drawn to the lions, the tigers, the elephants, the gorillas. Why? I suspect that without realizing or understanding it, we are strangely reassured at seeing creatures bigger or stronger than ourselves. It gives us the message, at once humbling and comforting, that we are not the ultimate power.”
I think in many ways our souls are starving for that sense of awe, that encounter with grandeur and power because it helps to remind us of our real place in the universe. Sadly, if we can’t find it in the church, we will try and find it someplace else.
In Psalm 111, we have an example of someone who trusts God, not because he fears God and His judgment. Instead, he trusts God because he has come to the point of knowing that God is faithful. Many people look at God and decide to fear Him. It’s kind of like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz, where they only hear a booming voice but do not see its source nor know the character behind it.
This psalm teaches us that we can look at God and decide to trust Him because He is faithful. Many people look at church and Christianity as either improving your life or a Golden Ticket to heaven. In a sense, there is truth to both perspectives, but there is much more as well. There are advantages in trusting in the faithfulness of God. God shows us four examples of His faithfulness that will help us through the most difficult challenges we may face in life.
Firstly, we need to remember His works. In verses 1-3, we read, “Praise the Lord. I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever.”
The word remember is one of the most important words in the Bible. To remember is to be reminded of the experiences we have had in the past. When we see God’s works, it is like a photo of God and what He has done in our lives.
The whole reason that God shows His works in nature is for us to wake up and realize that God is good. His wonderful acts are to be remembered. When it says here to “ponder them”, the psalmist is referring to worship. One of the great ways to grow in your relationship with God is journaling. Anytime you write what God does in your life and you read it and remember it, you engage in worship. Worship tells God that I am remembering Him.
Secondly, we need to remember His provision. Verses 4-5 says, “He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate. He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.”
How many of us fully understand the grace of God. We read verses that say we are saved by grace, but do we understand and live in that promise? We understand our salvation is a gift, but so is the life we live. We live in what He has done through the power of His Spirit in us. He provides and remembers His promises. That gives us hope and peace because He is trustworthy. Many of us live our lives trying to gain something Christ already died to give us.
You can’t gain a better standing nor can you gain more “blessings” as some like to teach. The promise of God is to provide for our needs. Verse 5 says, “He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.” It is for those who “fear Him” and it is based on God’s promises to us. God’s words endure forever. His promises are eternal, not conditional nor temporary.
Thirdly, God keeps His Word. Verses 6-7 say, “He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.”
God’s works are stable. The acts of God are certain. That’s what this verse means with the word “trustworthy” or “veracity” as other translations say. It’s established and there is no subjectivity in His decisions.
We live in a world of subjective “fairness.” What I mean is we think all things in life should be fair and equal. Think about cutting up a cake to share. We would say that each piece needs to be the same size. But with God, He doesn’t judge by fairness, rather He is just. His judgments are right. Whatever decision He makes will be right and just because that is what His character dictates.
We also see here that God redeems. Like Israel, He provided redemption for His us through His Son. Israel was constantly messing up, yet God seemed to bring them out of it. In Judges, He would raise up leaders who would liberate them from their oppressors. For us today, He did the same thing through Jesus. The fact that God provided a way for us to have fellowship with Him forever through the sacrifice of His Son is the greatest act of love and compassion. This was something God didn’t have to do, but because of His love for us, He bought us back from darkness and death into His light and life.
God’s promises endure. Have you ever had anyone tell you that they can keep a promise forever? I haven’t. All of us at some point or another have gone back on our word. We’ve made an oath or promise and broken it. Why are God’s promises trustworthy and ours not so much? We are imperfect. God is perfect. We are mortal. God is eternal. He is perfect. We may forget. God alone can make promises that last forever.
This is based upon God’s character. He is described as being “holy and awesome.” Psalm 99:1-3 describes God this way: “The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome (terrible) name—he is holy.”
When Moses met up with God, He told Moses to take His shoes off because He was on holy ground. The ground was holy because God was there. In essence, we are to strip ourselves of everything that we are and come into the presence of God. It means that we strip all of our pride, all of our posturing, all of our arrogance. Before God, we are but men and women. God is awesome and will fulfill His promises.
All of these awe-inspiring characteristics of God mean one simple thing for every Christian. Believe God when He makes His promises to you. In Genesis 11, Abraham had no idea how God would fulfill His promise. Remember he was old and so was His wife. But God proved His faithfulness and did it.
Like going on a hike in the wilderness, we can’t see as far down the path through the brush and trees. We don’t know what lies ahead. But God does. When we hear from God or read His Word and He makes a promise, you can bet that He will keep it. You have to trust in the goodness of God.
In closing, the writer points out again what matters. He writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” This verse is also the same verse that we find in Proverbs 1:7 which says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
What is amazing is that even though God inspires awe and respect, He still wants to help us. He gives practical wisdom and supernatural experiences that can help us in every situation. God gives answers to His servants. God gives answers to His children. If God is going to do something in your life, He will tell you. Therefore, you have to trust Him. He is not asking for blind trust. He is looking for active trust. If you have a problem? Ask God. He gives answers, and He gives answers generously. As He says in James 1:5, “If you need wisdom–if you want to know what God wants you to do–ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.” When was the last time you asked Him? The timing might be different than what we may expect, but trust that He will answer.
We are told that if we build our lives on the sure foundation of Christ, we can face any challenge in life with faith and confidence. We can bank on because God said it. As Luke 21:19 says, “Stand firm, and you will win life.”