‘The LORD looks out for the silly, the foolish, the easily led; when I was down, out, and running on empty, he helped me to my feet, filled my emptiness and set out together with me on his way again.’
I should warn you, that’s my own paraphrase; not an especially flattering description is it?
We may prefer the notion of single-mindedness and there is something of that in the New Testament, where our hearts and minds are also pretty much one and the same. Paul wrote, ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.’ Colossians 3:1-4.
So, yes, the LORD does want us to grow up into Christ-likeness and he is pleased when his children reflect him; but not only then. Like the best of fathers, he loves and cares for us all the time.
It is more appealing to think of ourselves as strong minded, even ‘strong-hearted’, set on following God, rather than as silly, foolish, and easily led astray. But who of us is not, at least occasionally, that sort of child; that sort of sheep?
‘I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.’ 116:1
In Matthew’s Gospel, (9:11), he mentions the criticism directed at Jesus by the Pharisees when he ate with Matthew and other ‘tax collectors and sinners’. Jesus’ reaction to that criticism made an impression on Matthew ; (9:12, 13) ‘On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’
Like the Psalmist, when we were in ‘great need’, God saved us; but our neediness was more than just that we found ourselves down and out and running on empty. We were, Jesus said, ‘sinners’ in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness; we were ‘dead’ and cut off from him as the source of life. We were just like the Ephesians to whom Paul wrote (2:4, 5) ‘ But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.’
‘Alive with Christ’; that’s something the writer of Psalm 116 didn’t know about but we may still identify with him and even sing with him, today.
Even now, when we are ‘in Christ’, forgiven and alive to God by his Grace aren’t there still times when we feel that old neediness, that separation from our Father, whether because of our own sins or the sins of others or just because the weight of life’s difficulties seems too much to bear?
Can we call out to him again? And will he still answer?
James tells us, yes.
‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.’ James 1:2-8.
First published at Singing in Babylon August 2012