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Grace Notes

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"HOPE FOR HIS LOVINGKINDNESS"
by Philip Owen

          Is this a time when believers need to be exhorted? Absolutely. Are the very circumstances themselves that we find our nation embroiled in intended to be an exhortation to, if not a rebuke of, believers? Certainly. In such times, are we left defenseless, helpless, and hopeless? Of course not. Listen to the “God of all comfort” (II Cor. 1:3b). “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine” (Psa. 33:18, 19). Consider, for a moment, these words: “those who hope for His lovingkindness.”

            What a reality. Yes, God chastens believers. Yes, His holiness is absolute and His justice incontestable. No, He never winks at the smallest sin. Yes, if we sow to the flesh we will reap correction. However, God will not permit us to forget or to misunderstand that He is filled with lovingkindness. Nothing He does in the lives of believers, nothing He ordains to happen to us, and nothing He permits to befall us can or will abrogate that fundamental attribute of His: lovingkindness. Our human fathers at times may have chastened us in error or corrected us in anger or frustration. God is incapable of any action that would violate His lovingkindness toward us. Even the seeming harshest of circumstances that a believer faces are governed by the lovingkindness of the Lord.

            What an invitation. Of course, the invitation is not explicit, but surely it is implied. If God is careful to tell us that His eye is on those who hold Him in reverential awe and hope for His lovingkindness and that He delivers them, surely He is encouraging us to expect Him to deal with us with love and grace. We shortchange the Lord—no, we dishonor Him—when we fail to trust that He is invariably lovingly kind. To think that we can get away with sin is foolish and dangerous, but to think that God would ever abandon His lovingkindness toward those He has redeemed is sadly outrageous. The truth is that we want to measure God’s lovingkindness by our own, which is imperfect, weak, and failing. We are incapable of plumbing the depths or of scaling the heights of God’s love. When we have studied it and experienced it for a lifetime we will not have exhausted its capacity.

            It is not silly sentimentality to hope in the lovingkindness of the Lord. We are not pursuing a foolish fairy tale to hope in the Lord. God wants us to believe and know that He is full of lovingkindness. The hope that God invites us to exercise is no mere insubstantial human wish or desire that may or may not be fulfilled; it is the substantial fruit of the Spirit. God expects us to confidently expect Him to show us mercy and grace. Certainly, it is possible to be presumptuous in that expectation should we think that God will ignore sin. But it is perhaps an even greater presumption to disbelieve what God has told us in His Word about Himself and what He has demonstrated throughout time: His mercy endures forever. We can misunderstand or mis-define His lovingkindness, but we cannot exaggerate its magnitude.

            The more clearly we see our own sin, the more we will understand the love, grace, and mercy of the Lord. The more we recognize the lovingkindness He pours out on us every day, the more we will appreciate it. We should want, seek, and expect the lovingkindness of the Lord to be poured out on us. To fail to recognize it is to believe, to some degree, that we merit the good things we receive or that we don’t deserve or don’t need the bad things that come our way. We do the Lord a grave injustice when we allow circumstances to obscure or distort our recognition of the lovingkindness of the Lord. It is an evidence, not of naivete, but of spiritual maturity to exercise implicit trust in God’s lovingkindness.

            Believer, is your hope in some potential change in circumstances; is it in your ability to endure or to overcome; is it in some merit you feel you possess? The fruit of that hope will be bitter disappointment because “The eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness.” We have yet to imagine the extent of that truth, but eternity is waiting around the corner to begin revealing it to us.

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