“Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”Benjamin Franklin
In March of 2020, even these two certainties became questionable. The traditional April 15 federal tax filing deadline was postponed until July 15. The Covid-19 death count was reported each and every day on the news, and the numbers appeared to be dramatically climbing. However, many questioned the truth of these reports. Things once so clear became mired in ongoing confusion.
As citizens of the “now and not yet Kingdom of God,” we will continue to experience uncertainty and challenges on this side of Heaven.
Psalm 118 shares a story of God’s steadfast love enduring forever. Human beings are hardwired for certainty. Anxiety runs rough-shod, stealing all peace of mind when interruptions arrive. Where do I look for certainty in difficult times? I have a tendency to research, make endless detailed plans, and complain to others.
How about you?
Our only solid certainty can be found in God.
1 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord say, "His steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 118:1-4 ESV
Why do we need to repeat, “His steadfast love endures forever”? When something in the Psalms is stated three times in a row and written as a command, it might be wise to consider taking the directive.
The psalmist instructs the reader to practice this collectively and individually. Each person or group must say the truth aloud. It is not enough to simply be aware of the concept. It must be declared aloud so our hearts and minds can hear it, take it in, believe it. Clearly, we are a forgetful people.
God’s resilient, recurring, and relentless love pursues believers. His love runs counter to any kind of love the world might offer. God’s love goes on after we die to the next generation. It always seeks to bring about the best for everyone involved no matter the cost.
5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. 6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? 7 The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. Psalm 118:5-7 ESV
What do I need to be set free from? Sometimes I allow myself to be caught up in the net of other people’s expectations.
Do enemies stalk me in the dark of night? Do enemies attack me in my home? At times the enemy who comes against me is my own inner critic, or my ability to consider all worst-case scenarios.
Remembering the location of the Lord serves as an antidote for fear. He is on my side. While I might not see Him or feel Him, He is still right there. Furthermore, the Lord understands. These verses remind me He hears me and answers me. He is my helper. Any strategy of man is limited by the presence of God. While suffering can and may occur, the Lord’s presence will sustain me.
He is on my side both present with me and always for me. Therefore, I can triumph over people and things in His divine mercy and not in my own strength. To look in triumph over whatever comes against me (people, situations, failures, wounds) reveals confidence in His ways and a transformed perspective. This I find remarkably challenging, and I often fail. Reading through psalms like this one, helps me to remember what is true and get back on track.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9 ESV
Refuge taken with a friend or family member may fail. Refuge taken with a leader or government (prince) may disappoint. Only the Lord can provide adequate refuge all the time. Because He knows my enemies, He knows better how to protect me.
How do I take refuge in the Lord?
Taking refuge requires me to set aside time, and space, and to focus on Him alone. My natural tendency is to do the very opposite in an effort to escape pain by distraction or numbing out.
10 All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 12 They surrounded me like bees; they went out like a fire among thorns in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. Psalm 118:10-13 ESV
These verses point out how I can escape and cut off a toxic influence. God always makes a way of escape. This can only be done in the name of the Lord. Operating in my own strength will fail.
14 The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. 15 Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, 16 the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!” Psalm 118:14-16 ESV
Songs transform the atmosphere. Turn on some music in a room and watch the mood change. Music combined with praise provides a powerful weapon against my enemies.
Where are these tents of the righteous located?
Anywhere they are needed. The Lord provides portable places or sanctuaries where we can find forgiveness and declare the joy of our salvation. When we do, He joins us and refills us with the joy of His presence.
17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. 18 The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Psalm 118: 17-18 ESV
This particular battle may be over and the rescue occurred. However, I am called to testify about what God has done. I am to recount His deeds to encourage and equip others for their own battles. As we live in the “now and not yet Kingdom of God,” battles and uncertainties will remain. However, we can finish as we began by praising God for His steadfast love enduring forever and declaring the joy of our salvation.
Today, I declare aloud, Your steadfast love endures forever. Thank You for remaining by my side even when I lose sight of You. I will choose to sing songs of praise and remember the joyous day of my salvation. I will run to take shelter in Your tents of righteousness. Before the sun sets, I will find one person to share a testimony of Your faithfulness to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.