Sermon on Ps. 145, preached on 12 Aug 2018.
Bible Readings: (OT) Psalm 145:1-21 / (NT) Matthew 6:19-34
God’s providence for all living beings (vs. 8-9, 14-17)
God’s providence for all saved ones (vs. 18-20)
God’s providence for our thanks and praise (vs. 1-7, 10-13, 21)
Last Friday, a funeral service for our beloved sister in the Lord was held. At her departure, we miss her in faith, having a sure hope of the coming kingdom of God. As we think about the life of a Christian who has completed his/her earthly journey, there’s one obvious theme that stands out in that life. That is, God’s providence; in other words, God’s provision or supply for the needs of that Christian on time. From birth to death, every believer continues his/her life on earth by the Lord’s provision, His providence, like the way the Lord gave a birth to the nation Israel, leading them out of the slavery in Egypt and nurtured them all in the wilderness, protecting and feeding them for forty years. Every moment and the whole life of a Christian stands on God’s providence.
The psalm we’ve just read is about this subject, God’s providence, His provision for our needs on time. So, let us hear God’s message and humbly take it to our hearts for our eternal benefit in the Lord Jesus. Three points will be presented to explain God’s providence: first, ‘God’s providence for all living beings,’ second, ‘God’s providence for all saved ones,’ and last, ‘God’s providence for our thanks and praise.’
GOD’S PROVISION FOR ALL LIVING BEINGS (VS. 8-9, 14-17)
Firstly, we’ll think about God’s providence, the Creator’s supply for the needs of all living beings in His creation. Vs. 8-9 talk about this, saying: “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made.” This means, God’s provision is for all, regardless of people’s faith in the Lord and God, regardless of their rejection of their Lord God. God provides all people what they need.
Consider the things of the world. We’re in the middle of winter, and God provides plenty of rain, with an enough time for plants to prepare for another cycle of seasons through which all living beings on earth, in the air and under the water will be nurtured. Mankind is a part of this great group of beneficiaries. Everything is timely; everything is sufficient. Although we see occasional excess or lack of things like rain, thus, have flood or draught, that’s only temporary; in a macroscopic picture, God supplies to all living beings what they need in this world. Moreover, people in the world – once again, regardless of their faith in the Lord – receive all things from God who is the Creator and Ruler of this world. Sunshine falls on everyone equally and indiscriminately; fresh air blows into every nostril on earth equally and indiscriminately. Goodness of day and tenderness of night are given to all men. Food for each one’s stomach is plentiful on earth, unless people are greedy and exploit it from one another. This food, not man but God grows in His goodness. So, God’s providence for all men is amazingly extensive, unfathomably comprehensive and uncountably voluminous.
But, this is a bewildering or stupefying concept, if you consider this, together with God’s specific attribute, that is, His righteousness. God is righteous and that means that He knows what is right and what is wrong; it means that for someone good and honourable, He rewards; but for anyone unjust and sinful, He brings punishment upon him. So, being a righteous God, He cannot defy or bend His nature and become a careless flip-flopper or faddist. A sinner must, therefore, be punished rather than sustained with all sustenance from this righteous God. Moreover, the Bible testifies and says that God is good, there’s no evil in Him. If that’s true – and we know that this is true – then, there should be no evil whatsoever in God’s world, like the way no darkness can exist before the sunlight. No evil man can exist in the holy, good and righteous God’s world. But, what we see is God’s indiscriminate provision for all men. What a mind-blowing concept this is!
Furthermore, vs. 14-17 of Ps. 145 add more aspects of God’s such provision for the general population of the earth: “The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing.” As God’s extensive supply for people’s daily needs is true and real, such providence of His for all sinners in the world is a bewildering concept. We cannot fully understand its reason, but we know, as the Bible teaches us, that this providence is available for men because of Christ Jesus, the Mediator. Only in Him who is gracious is this providence dispensed by the righteous God explainable. So, God’s such provision for men declares His righteousness and goodness and glory, not only among the nations and the peoples, but also among the angels and the heavenly hosts.
GOD’S PROVIDENCE FOR ALL SAVED ONES (VS. 18-20)
Then, our next point to consider is ‘God’s providence for all saved ones.’ Vs. 18-20 tell us about it. And the Lord’s providence for all who are saved is something special, compared to that of the general mankind. See how special this is, as read in vs. 18-20, beginning from v. 18: “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.” This is about God’s nearness to the saved and readiness for His personal visit to the one who calls on Him. This is something entirely foreign to God’s provision for the general public. It’s personal and active, connoting spiritual joy for every encounter.
V. 19 continues, “[God] fulfils the desire of those who fear Him; He also hears their cry and saves them.” Again, this provision is active, willing and personal, denoting a cheer and delight in provision. The words in these verses picture a loving relationship of parent and child. Holding his child, a dad whispers and says, ‘My son, tell me what you want and I’ll give it to you.’ Embracing her dear daughter, a mum smiles and says, ‘You’re my precious. I’ll be with you always.’ This is the picture of God’s heart with His provision for His beloved, like you and me.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that God will give all we ask, and He will answer us and dandle us every time we cry to Him. God will sometimes leave us without answering, without dandling us because that is necessary and what we need at that specific moment. Yet, He’ll never go away from us, because (as these verses tell us) God desires to fulfil our needs and doing so is His delight.
See one more verse for this willingness of the Lord, v. 20: “The LORD preserves all who love Him.” Here, to ‘preserve’ means to ‘keep, watch, protect and save’ by constantly tending and keeping His eye upon. Isn’t it special? Isn’t it exciting, just to imagine God always keeping His all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful eyes laid upon us, the saved? The intensity of His keeping and preserving us is to the level of even counting the number of our hairs! What a special love and care this is! No wonder why theologians term this as ‘special providence,’ whereas His providence for all living beings as ‘general providence.’ So, our enemy cannot take us away from God’s hand, not only because God’s hand is mighty and powerful than our enemy, but also because the Lord never turns His eyes away from us but always watches us, searching every bit of our life and our desire and our need! And He is ready to answer and save us! This is inexistent in God’s providence for the general population of the world. Those without faith, thus, their sins unforgiven, thus, without the Lord’s pardoning grace will never face or even dream of such intimacy in God’s provision. All who reject God and Jesus altogether die and return to dust, never knowing of such a blessing and joy the saved souls enjoy. That’s what the entire verse 20 means when it says, “The LORD preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy”!
Moreover, God’s special providence for the saved like us is dispensed throughout our life. So, everything that happens to each of us is not by chance or luck but by God’s special purpose for us. For example, the Apostle Paul’s earlier life as Saul, as a Pharisee zealous for the Jewish tradition, was a part of God’s providence for him. Not too long after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Saul was in charge of killing Stephen, one of the seven deacons of the early church. Saul also persecuted many followers of Christ. But even that became a part of God’s special providence for him, and his later apostleship for evangelism to the Gentiles. Understanding this, Paul later writes in Rom. 8:28, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
Let me tell you one more story and this is about John Newton, a repented and saved sinner, who later became a minister of the gospel of Christ and composed the famous hymn, ‘Amazing Grace.’ He used to be a slave trader, before meeting and believing in Jesus. He ministered to God’s people and died at the age of 82. And it is known that shortly be before his death, he said with a loud voice, this: ‘My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour!’ His former sinful life was the best teacher to his soul about his sinfulness, and he benefited from it greatly, up until the very moment of his death. God’s providence for His beloved is special now and forever more!
GOD’S PROVISION FOR OUR THANKS AND PRAISE (VS. 1-7, 10-13, 21)
This leads us to our third and last point, that is, ‘God’s providence for our thanks and praise.’ God’s special providence poured upon John Newton yielded his lifelong praise and thanks. The Apostle Paul says even now to us that it is no trouble for him to urge us and all Christians to ‘rejoice in the Lord’ again and again, as in Phil. 3:1. This is why we find in this 145th psalm words of thanks and praise almost everywhere. It begins from v. 1, then, goes up to v. 7, saying, “I will extol You, my God and King, and bless Your name forever and ever.” Then, it turns into a praise raised by all generations as in vs. 5, 6 and 7. Moreover, not only ‘I’ and ‘all generations,’ but also ‘all God’s works and all God’s saints’ shall thank and praise the Lord now and forever more, as recorded in vs. 10-13. It sounds like that the whole world God created is forever filled with praises and thanks all believers sing! And you and I are a part of this song.
I wonder how much you concur with this picture of all saints thanking and praising the Lord for His providence. I wonder how consistently your soul is engaged in rejoicing in the Lord because of His special care for you. After all, having a knowledge of God’s providence is nothing beneficial for a Christian, if he/she doesn’t know why he/she should thank the Lord and praise Him for His amazing grace. So, on the one hand, if a Christian is grumpy and frowns all the time, that person has not yet realised in his soul what God is doing to him, he hasn’t understood what God’s special provision is.
On the other hand, if you find in your daily life more reasons for saying something like, ‘Oh, this is the Lord’s work, this is my Father’s grace, and I thank Him for this,’ you surely have found your Father’s gracious provision and are enjoying it every moment of your life. Then, what you used to regard previously as ‘chance’ or ‘luck’ becomes God’s guidance, and His blessings in your life. Martin Luther, 16th C reformer, rightly pointed out, in one of his writings the nature of discovering God’s provision in believer’s everyday living in these words: ‘God’s wonderful works which happen daily are lightly esteemed, not because they are of no import, but because they happen so constantly and without interruption. Man is used to the miracle that God rules the world and upholds all creation, and because things daily run their appointed course, it seems insignificant, and no man thinks it worth his while to meditate upon it and to regard it as God’s wonderful work, and yet it is a greater wonder than that Christ fed five thousand men with five loaves and made wine from water.’ You and I should likewise find God’s working hand from our daily routines and, finding it, should give Him due glory and honour by thanking and giving praises to Him, the Lord.
Moreover, our thanks and praise should also be seasoned with our finding of His will for us. You receive God’s favour and say, ‘Thank You, Father; I praise You,’ and if that’s all you do, you miss out something very important. That is, finding out why your Heavenly Father granted such a favour and provision to you. So, finding the Lord’s will for you and me in His providence, we should follow His will for us which will deepen our thanks and praise more and more.
There are numerous things, similar to Lincoln’s case, happening to us always. The point is that, whether we find our gracious Father’s sufficient hand and plan for us; then, finding it, whether we thank and praise Him with our soul, and follow Him.
My dear fellow members of God’s household, let us ask the Lord to open our eyes so that we may see His providence in our life; seeing it, we may find His will for us individually and corporately as Christ body, and carry it out, giving more thanks and praises to Him, our gracious Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen. ***