Lovingkindness And Truth

Psalm 115 opens in verse one by ascribing glory to God because of His lovingkindness, because of His truth. I’ll admit, I was a little caught off guard by the marriage of those two nouns. Lovingkindness and compassion appear together quite often in the Bible. So do truth and righteousness.

But lovingkindness and truth? Not so very common. Or so I thought until I searched a little more.

It seems a number of Psalms couple these two qualities of God. Here’s a sampling:

All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth
To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies. (25:10)

You, O LORD, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me. (40:11)

I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens
And Your truth to the clouds. (57:9-10)

But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth. (86:15)

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Lovingkindness and truth go before You. (89:14)

Clearly lovingkindness and truth are not, as I first thought, an unusual combination when describing God.

What caught my attention, however, was the way these two traits reflect God’s role as a judge.

So many people, including some believers, don’t want to talk about God judging anyone. He’s loving and kind and good.

All true. All. True. ALL. TRUE.

Nothing can take away or diminish God’s love or His kindness or His goodness. Nothing.

Not even His wrath. Not even His justice which requires punishment for sin.

In God is the perfect marriage of truth and mercy, or as the NASB states it, lovingkindness. God is Truth; His works are true and His ways just (Daniel 4:37). But God is also love, and His mercy endures forever.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (107:1)

For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations. (100:5)

Because God is Truth and there is no lie in Him, He is the perfect judge. No one can sway His understanding of the truth. There’s no slanting actions or thoughts so that they can be seen in a more favorable light. There are no excuses that will satisfy. There’s no bribe that would change His mind.

With God as the judge, all the facts will come out. The guilty will be condemned; the oppressed will find satisfaction and relief from the misdeeds of those who oppressed them.

But God is also merciful: “He Himself knows our frame. / He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14). So He does what we cannot do for ourselves. He doesn’t ignore our sin. He doesn’t dismiss the charges. He pays for our sins.

Romans 8 says it so beautifully:

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (vv 3-4; emphasis mine)

So here’s the way things are, in a nutshell:
We humans are sinful and have no way to get out of our sin or escape punishment for it.
God sent His Son to pay what we owed.

That’s it. We needed to be rescued and God sent us a Rescuer. We needed to pay our debt, and God paid it for us.

Some people get hung up on several points of this simple plan of salvation.

  • Some do not admit they sin or are sinful.
  • Some think God is cruel to judge according to laws He established.
  • Some think God doesn’t have the right to judge.

Essentially the argument against salvation takes one of two angles: Either humankind is fine just as it is, thank you very much. We can either do for ourselves or we’re good as is and don’t need any doing on our behalf, from God or from any one else. Or God can’t judge because He’s either cruel or He doesn’t have the right to rule over humankind.

In other words, humans are better than God says we are, or God is not in a position to rule as He says He is.

Both positions question God’s word. God says, but a person with a rebellious heart refuses to take God at His Word.

So God tells us straight up: He is truth and He is lovingkindness. Then He demonstrates those qualities over and over, finally culminating by giving us His Son.

Like a good teacher, He presents the truth, then illustrates it over and over, then demonstrates it, and finally reinforces it. In this case, God sent His Holy Spirit as evidence of the new life His followers have.

Atheists would have us believe that humankind is good and God is cruel.

They would have us believe that humankind is capable of rescuing ourselves from the mess of our own making; and that God is why things are so bad.

The problem is, we humans can’t even agree about the nature of truth, let alone what is true and what is deception. Why would anyone want to believe that humans and truth are in sync?

Then there is lovingkindness. Should I list off the wars in just the last fifty years? I mean, Man’s inhumanity to Man is clearly documented. We as a group of people care more for revenge and getting our own way and power and greed than we do for justice and mercy. If that weren’t true, we, the so enlightened twenty-first century humans would not allow a single incident of slavery—child slavery, sex slavery, whatever. We know it’s wrong. We admit it and have signed laws to prevent it. And yet . . . we toss truth and mercy out the window when they don’t serve our purposes.

Not so with God. He is constant. He is trustworthy. He does what He says. “God is not a man that He should lie, / Or the son of man that He should repent. / Has He said and will He not do it? / Or has He spoken and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)

Published in: on March 27, 2017 at 6:34 pm  Comments (6)  
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The Kindness Of God

Lion-origional, smallGod doesn’t need defending nor does His word. God Himself is omnipotent as well as omniscient and as such, quite capable of defending Himself. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a 19th century preacher in London, first made this point clear with an oft-repeated analogy:

The Word of God can take care of itself, and will do so if we preach it, and cease defending it. See you that lion. They have caged him for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries. (from “The Lover of God’s Law Filled with Peace,” sermon by Spurgeon as quoted at All Is Grist)

Defense isn’t necessary, then, but what about praise? Praise is like a fragrant sacrifice offered to God, so rather than defending Him, I want to praise Him.

These days, He’s falsely accused of many things, often by those who claim they don’t believe in His existence. It strikes me that He’s mocked today much the way Jesus was when the Romans had Him in custody. Scripture says, “While being reviled He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23)

So one of God’s kindnesses is that He doesn’t pass judgment immediately on everyone of us who rejects Him, spits on Him, maligns Him, or acts in a hypocritical way that could cause others to think less of Him. He is slow to angry and abundant in lovingkindness:

But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth. (Ps. 86:15)

Along that vein, He allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. At times, of course, He withheld rain, usually from the chosen people, Israel, who were not walking in His ways. He used prophets to warn them, then judgments to rebuke them. Sometimes these judgments took the form of other nations coming against them and defeating them in battle. Other times it took the form of drought and famine. But always the goal was so that they would know that God is the Lord.

God never loses sight of the big picture. He understands that this life is but a vapor. From time to time, in Scripture He compares this life to that of a flower that fades or falls off or to smoke that vanishes away or to fog that appears for a little while and then disappears. For God knows that what matters is what comes next. So He’s always looking for ways to break through the veil of darkness and unbelief.

That’s why He appeared to Abraham and to Jacob; why He spoke with Moses and to the people of Israel; why He sent prophets to His people; why He walked in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo; why He brought Israel out of exile; why Jesus came; why His Holy Spirit breathed His word into the writing of Scripture; why He makes His abode in the heart of every Christian; why He built His church. All His work is to reveal Himself to humankind.

God’s kindness extends to His Church. He has brought us together as branches of Himself. He calls us His children and has equipped us with special gifts we are to employ in serving one another. He calls us to love the brotherhood, to pray for one another, to forgive each other.

He also commissions us to share with the world the good news about redemption and forgiveness of sins. In other words, God’s kindness extends to the very ones who hate Him most, who mock Him and reject Him and are determined to be His enemies.

Unfortunately, because God delays His judgment, some think He is indifferent to sin or impotent to punish it or oblivious because He’s non-existent. How sad they do not recognize that He’s extending His mercy in order that all might come to repentance and be saved:

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Rom. 2:4).

But here’s the thing about God’s kindness: it is the means by which He rescues us from the dominion of darkness. Paul, when he stood before King Agrippa, told how Christ Jesus appeared to him and commissioned him

‘to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ (Acts 26:18)

That’s God’s kindness to those who are in the camp of the enemy. Jesus said that it’s not the will of the Father that any of these should perish (Matt. 18:14). God said He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ez. 33:11). He said He desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).

How great is our God! Great in lovingkindness and mercy. Praise to His name.

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