One of the happiest verses in the Bible must be this one: “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psa. 115:3). Almost never have I read that verse without smiling, if not actually laughing—not in derision or disbelief, but in delight. It is a disarmingly simple yet absolute declaration of God’s omnipotence and its corollary, His sovereignty.
An inaccurate view of this declaration. We are instructed to fear the Lord. We are told that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. We are warned to fear the One (i.e., God) who can cast body and soul into hell. Without doubt, a holy God who judges all sin is a God who should be feared. It is absolutely right to do so. One of the most damning statements in all the Word of God is one given by Paul in his epistle to the Romans. Quoting from the thirty-sixth Psalm, he condemns Jews and Gentiles alike with these words: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” One of the chief characteristics of an apostate people is that they cease to fear God. So, yes, it is right to fear God, the lost and the stubbornly sinning in abject terror of judgment, and the penitent believer in reverent trust and obedience. Given these realities, it would be easy, then, to read our text as a warning to fear God. But as we have suggested, although the Word of God is filled with commands to fear God and warnings in that regard and, therefore, believers and unbelievers alike should fear (but in a different manner and for different reasons), our text was not written in order to inculcate fear. How do we know this?
The accurate view of this declaration. The simple answer is: the context. Consider what follows the declaration in the third verse. Three times the psalmist calls upon, first, Israel (v. 9), then, the “house of Aaron” (v. 10), and finally, “you who fear the Lord” (v. 11) to “trust in the Lord” because “He is their help and their shield” (vv. 9, 10, 11). In other words, the fact that God does always and only just what He pleases is offered as a reason, not to fear, but to trust and take comfort in Him because He uses His omnipotence and exercises His absolute sovereignty in order to help and to shield those who trust in Him.
But the psalmist isn’t done yet. He offers more encouragement and assurance. Now he adds God’s omniscience to the arsenal of weapons that God wields on behalf of His own. “The Lord has been mindful of us,” he says. “Uh-oh,” we respond. “Knowing what I know about myself, that could be unpleasant.” Not so, says the psalmist: “The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us” (v. 12a)! Then he reiterates the same three groups: “He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless those who fear the Lord”; and just to be emphatically clear, he adds, “the small together with the great” (vv. 12b, 13).
Nor is he yet quite done with his encouragement. He adds a benediction (in this case, a God-breathed promise of blessing). “May the Lord give you increase, you and your children. May you be blessed of the Lord” (vv. 14, 15a). The opening bookend is that God does whatever He pleases. Here is the concluding bookend: God is “Maker of heaven and earth” (v. 15b); He is both omnipotent and sovereign.
We are not given leave to dispense with reverence, for the psalmist ends thus: “But as for us, we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forever. Praise the Lord!” (v. 18). But it is a reverence imbued not with abject terror, but with peace and rest, rejoicing and thankfulness. We are told to believe and expect this omniscient, sovereign God to work on our behalf and for our benefit. And by “our,” I mean, those who fear the Lord (see, vv. 11, 13), that is, those who exercise a reverential trust in Him. God wants His own to know and trust in the absolute certainty that God can and does do whatever He pleases and that it pleases Him to bless those who love Him and to be a help and shield to those who trust in Him. We must take our eyes off our circumstances and look to our Savior because He has the desire to bless us and the ability to take care of us. Can you believe that? And will you “Bless the Lord from this time forth and forever”?
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