"The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who
hope in His mercy" (NIV—"in His unfailing love"—Psalm 147:11)
A lot of people in churches…a lot of people in ministry can be compared to those who go around giving advice to those who are happier than they are. The unfortunate truth is—we often tend to become mere information providers when we should be giving God’s HOPE to those we meet. The hope everybody needs is based in something much larger and more wonderful than mere facts or data, even when it reflects a variety of Scriptures. True hope is solidly based in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross...the God-man who died for you and for me. Proverbs 13:12 teaches—“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” Jesus Christ will come to bless you and me—He is the “tree of life,” the One we have always needed.
I was a worrier for much of my life...and I come from a family of such people. I was around worriers—which may be defined as other members of humanity—all my life. But the HOPE we need is the Lord who comes to us as shown in our verse for today—"The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy" (Psalm 147:11). His “pleasure” is a process that gives us true hope and heals us from worry. The phrase "who hope in His mercy" can also be "who hope in His unfailing love"…and His love will indeed give hope to those who trust in Him. When we have faith in the Lord, we find His love, and knowing Him gives an abiding HOPE that sustains us. Years ago, the timing belt in my car went out and the engine stopped, causing me to drift to the right across several freeway lanes until I stopped on the shoulder. I was terrified. A few days ago, in a different car, it happened again and as I drifted to the right across six lanes to the shoulder, I was not afraid. Same problem but a different me—I know the Lord and He is with me. I have hope.
Psalm 33:18 is very similar one to our verse for today, and it reads—“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy." That Psalm continues—"To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine" (Psalm 33:19). You can trust in the Lord for a very good reason—He loves you and intends to express MERCY in your life and mine—but he will not violate your free choice…His mercy, His hope is given to those who want Him. And He actually DID extend mercy to you when Jesus died for the sins of the world. Trust in Him and He will end the worry that is a "famine" in your soul. You will be satisfied by the Lord and His love—you will find hope in Him.
The key to understanding is found in His kind of love…Not merely ours, which is limited at best but HIS love, which is infinite and beautiful in your life and mine. His kind is seen in 1 John 4:18, where we are taught—"there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment, but he who fears has not been made perfect in love," and then we see the key phrase—"We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). When we as a people didn’t particularly want Him, He died for you and me. His love within us is contagious, it is from God...and it will produce love in others, in the people we meet—even the "difficult" ones—often those who are most like us.
"Fear" and "worry" are rather nasty blood brothers, producing the "torment" described in verse 18 of 1st John 4…and note that the nagging concerns in your life are going to be dealt with by His love. You'll discover that many of the fears which drag you down and isolate you from others are not worth either your time or your concern. All too late many find they gave their lives to worry when they should have trusted in the Lord. We need Him. Fear is at the opposite "pole" from the love, faith and hope you so desperately need.
Years ago, God called me back to "school"—His direction in my heart was to return to college—where I sought and obtained a four year degree entitled "Religion with Emphasis in Bible." I thought it would open the doors to ministry in significant ways and I worried a lot when the Lord did not seem to open those doors to me. Did I make a mistake I wondered? But what I did not realize was that our real job is so much more than our human perspective—we are being fashioned into a people of faith in God who trust in the Lord, find HOPE in Him and begin to transmit His love to others. It’s more than education…more than training…greater than theological understanding…it’s a personal relationship with the One who loves you.
It is wonderful to learn about the Bible but it should lead us to trust in Him. It is one kind of learning to be taught about producing effective sermons and it is something else to discover how to love other people. It is wonderful to memorize Scripture verses, but even better is to apply them and have faith in Him. It is excellent to have theological understanding but more valuable to HOPE in the finished work of God. We need the Bible and we need Him even more.
Mary Magdalene is wonderful…and I am so glad she was included in the Word of God. The Pharisees had a lot of information but she knew she was forgiven and had something better than they did—infinitely better than anything they knew or understood. With His love, His mercy, she found hope—for His love is without limit. When we know His love, our preconceptions and limitations will be blown apart as we finally KNOW the love of God in Christ Jesus. He gives us certain hope—we are safe in Him—forever.
"The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy" (NIV—"in His unfailing love"—Psalm 147:11). In the true-to-life movie "Chariots of Fire," the great runner Eric Liddell said of God, "When I run, I feel His pleasure." God had created this man to not only race with excellence but also to run for God. When he ran, he was in God's will. He would not run on Sunday, which was his personal conviction and each of us should respond to the personal convictions God places into our hearts. Liddell became famous, not only for his running abilities but also because of his fidelity to our Lord.
What race are YOU running? There is greatness in you because you are "fearfully and wonderfully made" by the God who loves you (Psalm 139:14). He has great plans for you...though it may be years or decades or into eternity before we even begin to fully understand what this is all about. Because of His mercy, because of His love, you can HOPE in Him. You can have all the excitement of Mary Magdalene, though you outwardly may seem to have little…and live in a small room, a wheelchair or a confined place. Your potential HAS NO LIMIT because of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
This life is but a MOMENT compared to eternity…He has saved you forever. You and I tend to think in terms of outward accomplishments whereas He "takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy." Put your trust, your hope and your love in Christ and never be afraid again. Why? Because He loves You and He has unlimited mercy—even for people like us. We can know His pleasure when we place our faith, our hope—in Him.
Father, I trust in You, now. You sent Jesus, and He died in my place. I confess to you that I have worried…and still tend to do so…instead of simply trusting in You. Fill me, Holy Spirit, and replace my fear with the love of God which is in our Lord. I trust in You, Lord Jesus. I accept the mercy, the grace, the love and the hope You have made available to me—even to me. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus Name. Amen.
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