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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 116’

Jo 17Last week, in preparation for speaking somewhere on Australia Day, I went on a little foray back into our nation’s history—and also into the depths of my brain, as I tried to remember what we learnt at school about Captain Arthur Phillip and Botany Bay and Port Jackson and such like. How amazing that, after eight months of sailing across thousands of kilometres of ocean, those eleven ships of the First Fleet managed to arrive within a few days of one another! But can you imagine being tossed around in the depths of a small, wooden ship for eight long months, scared, starving—and probably sick too? I feel ill even thinking about it!

No wonder the first chaplain to the new colony, Reverend Richard Johnson, chose some verses from Psalm 116 as the text for his first sermon here a week later—in particular, verse 12, which he would have read from the King James Version:

What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?

Or, as the New International Version puts it:

How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?

Perhaps some of those present—particularly convicts—might not have felt as thankful as Richard Johnson did. How had God been good to them? Here they were on the other side of the world and so unsure what lay ahead for them. I read about the youngest convict to reach our shores—a nine-year-old boy, transported for stealing. I wonder what his life had been like before that and what happened to him as he grew up in New South Wales. Others too seem to have been sentenced so unjustly, then suffered further injustices after arriving here.

Yet the writer of Psalm 116—most likely David—had been in equally terrible situations. And his response here is a very moving, heartfelt song of thankfulness to God. So, as I read it through several times, I began to think about my own response to all God has done for me over the years. How thankful have I been for God’s constant rescuing, providing, comforting, healing and guiding, along with so many other things?

Verse 7 seemed to challenge me the most:

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

Yes, I can be at rest. God provided for and sustained me in the past—and God will do the same in the future. It irks me a little at times when I hear people say things like ‘Oh, God was so good to me—I found a car park easily.’ Or ‘But God was good and I didn’t miss my bus.’ No doubt they are simply expressing their thanks to God, but I am often tempted to pipe up, ‘So does that mean God was bad when you couldn’t find a car park or did miss your bus?’ Of course not. God does not change (Malachi 3:6). God will remain faithful and I can therefore be at peace.

God is good—all the time. In the midst of widespread drought in our country when bushfires rage and people lose so much, even their very lives, God is still good. One day we will understand. But for now, let’s keep on trusting God—all the time.

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Jo 17I love the Psalms. Time and time again, I come back to them—particularly when I am busy. In my old Bible that I am reluctant to pension off because I know where everything is in it, there are many verses in the Psalms I have highlighted via a wiggly line drawn beside them. And many of these are now etched in my mind, so that they feel like old friends when I come across them again.

Yet I often still find surprises along the way. One morning recently, we needed leave home earlier than usual, in order to mind our grandchildren for the day. I rushed around, organising this and that, but then found myself with a few minutes spare before we actually had to walk out our door. So I decided I could read at least a few verses of the psalm I was up to and thus have it in my mind as we drove to our daughter’s house. I opened my Bible to Psalm 116—yes, I had read that yesterday. I turned the page and there before me was Psalm 117—all two verses of it!

Praise the Lord, all your nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

That was it! I was sure I had never seen this tiny psalm before, yet I must have. Despite its brevity, I decided it packed quite a punch. And it was just the right length for me to remember, as we hurried out to begin a day full of interesting activities with our two young grandchildren.

Later that evening, as I sat down to re-read my huge psalm of the day and ponder on it some more, I decided it pretty much sums up in a nutshell what our amazing God is like and how we are called to respond to him.

Great is his love toward us’—that to me surely gets straight to the heart of the gospel. In my own life, it was God’s love that first drew me to him as a fifteen-year-old. Even after all these years, I can still remember thinking, ‘Wow! God knows me! And God loves me!’ Then many years later in my life, I believe God gave me a glimpse of his amazing love for me all over again one New Year’s Eve. I saw in my mind a picture of someone whom I knew was Jesus holding me as a baby and looking down at me with the most incredible love shining from his face. He was speaking tenderly and saying over and over again, ‘Wow—Jo-Anne!’—and I knew I would remain loved and secure in his arms forever, just as this psalm goes on to say. Whatever happened in my life, the Lord would remain faithful.

And, after more than fifty-five years, that is still my testimony. God has rescued me so many times, picked me up and held me close until I was strong enough to stand again. So what can I do but praise the Lord from my heart, as The Message version of this psalm encourages us all to do?

Praise God, everybody! Applaud God, all people! His love has taken over our lives; God’s faithful ways are eternal. Hallelujah!

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