Faith’s Bold Assertion
February 21, 1999 / No. 2929
As believing children of God we confess that our lives are the unfolding of the will of God. By God’s grace we have been made to be pilgrims so that the world is not our home. And the pathway that we now travel is not a product of chance. But that pathway for each one of us is determined by the will of God. We read in Psalm 37:23, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD.” And in Jeremiah 10:23, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” All that stands between right now and the moment of death, as well as all between the past and the present is and was set down by the unchangeable, wise, and gracious will of our heavenly Father.
There is the will of God upon us. God’s providence, God’s marking down all the days and nights of our lives and all that shall come to pass: the sorrow and the joy, the weariness and the happiness.
There is also the will of God in us, that work of sanctification. What we read in I Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification” – the work of grace to mold us after the image of Christ in repentance and holiness and submission and separation from the world, and Christ-likeness. The fact that you live right now and have breath means that all which concerns you in the will of God has not yet been completed and brought to its goal as set by God.
Now we read in Psalm 138:8 this bold assertion of faith, this confident affirmation that the Lord will perfect (or bring to completion, or finish) everything concerning us. We read, “The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.”
Is this prayer yours? Is this confidence yours? Do you make that bold assertion: the Lord will perfect, the Lord will bring to completion His work concerning you? Note the personal tone: The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me. This is not the heritage of all mankind. It cannot be appropriated in any other way than by faith. The Lord is indeed swiftly leading to completion what concerns the wicked world, preparing wicked men for judgment (and that is very frightening). But only a believer who walks before God can have the confidence that all things are going to end in peace and glory. Do you have that confidence?
Answer these questions: Do you have a concern for heavenly things? Do you desire the mansions of glory more than the dwelling places of earth? Are the things of God your concern? Have you tasted experientially of God’s mercy? Do you know your own lost estate? And have you a faith which is the work of God’s hands?
Forsake not the work of God’s hands, says the psalmist – that is, do you know that the work of salvation is not your work but God’s work in you? Then you can have confidence that the work that God has begun, He will carry on even unto heaven, knowing that whatever grace begins, grace will finish. Now, when the psalmist makes this bold assertion, “the LORD will perfect that which concerneth me,” what does he mean? He is expressing there unwavering confidence in God to complete the work of His grace which God began in him, or to finish all that He had willed concerning the psalmist in this life. It is identical to what the apostle Paul was confident of concerning the Philippian saints. In Philippians 1:6 we read, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Now the psalmist says, “The LORD will do this.” Psalm 138 is one of those Psalms in which the only way God is addressed is as Jehovah, the great I AM THAT I AM. Jehovah is supreme in the psalmist’s thinking. That was the name, you remember, that was revealed to Moses in the burning bush: God in all the livingness of His covenant love and unchangeable grace towards His people. The psalmist is not looking on God abstractly or in a vague way. But He knows the essential character of God: I AM ALL THAT I AM, I am the eternal, I am the unchangeable, I am the faithful one. He is the one who must be faithful to all of His promises. Malachi 3:6, “I am the LORD, I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” The psalmist’s confidence is in God alone.
His confidence is not in his faith, his love, his success, his staunchness, the mettle that he is made out of. But his confidence is in the Lord. If you base your confidence upon yourself or in man or in money, your confidence is a dream.
Your confidence can only be in the Rock of Ages, Jehovah. And he says, The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me, or bring to completion what is appointed for me. Now suppose you have a blackboard and you draw an arc, two-thirds of a circle, beginning at two o’clock, around the bottom to ten o’clock. Then, to complete the circle you draw from ten o’clock to two. You have completed your circle. That is what the psalmist is confidently asserting. Jehovah, in all of His faithfulness, will complete all that He has appointed for me in the will of God. Everything that He ordained for me in His counsel, which was necessary to bring me to His side and to prepare me for that place in eternity, God will bring to its completion.
Exactly what does that mean? That can fall into two categories. As we said, that is God’s providence, God’s work upon us, the will of God which directs the events of our life. Not chance or fate or bad luck or forces emitted by the colliding or arrangement of stars or random choice or statistics. But the active, the wise, the all-comprehensive will of God who performs all the thoughts of His heart, whose counsel shall stand “and I will do my pleasure,” He says. That will of God is like the hands of God molding the clay on the wheel, pleasant sometimes, yet sometimes difficult – sunshine and clouds. God will use all things to accomplish His own will upon us.
But that will of God is also for our sanctification, His work within us to make us holy even as Christ. It is concerning our Christian character, our Christian task. What we must do in this life to serve Him. It is concerning how I must live as His child in this world and fight against my sin and separate myself from the world.
Everything that concerns me, God will perfect, He will bring it to its completion. That is very personal. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me. That is very comforting, too, is it not? You know the works and the purposes of God are great. He is God, and what God is aiming at is grand and glorious and befitting of God Himself. Paul was thrilled. He was awed by it in the epistles ( Eph. 1; Col. 1; Rom. 11). He saw it all as centering in the glory of God in Christ, the new Jerusalem. God’s intent to lead all things to the moment when God shall be all and in all.
But the psalmist, by faith, lays hold on this personally. He lays hold on the hem of God’s garment. God will accomplish all of His purposes for the church and for the glory of His name, yes. But God will also accomplish all of His purposes for me! Jehovah is actively bringing about His will to bring me to perfection. It may be in ways of difficulty. It may be through moments of darkness. In fact, at times I might say it is impossible that anything good will come. It may be in a way that dashes all my hope. It is certainly not going to be in an easy way. It is not going to lead you by the way of the Philistines, that is, by that smooth path to Canaan. Oh, no. He is going to bring you through the desert.
But, you see, the child of God has this confidence, that the great Jehovah will perfect that which concerneth me. This confidence of course comes as we walk in the way of faith and in the way of obedience, in the way of possessing a heart of gratitude to God. The psalmist obviously was a man of prayer. He was a man who lived his life of faith in a hostile world. He says in verse 7, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies.” The psalmist was in the real world, the world that we live in, the world which tempted him to compromise his faith in God, to tone his faith down a bit, the world which hated him and counted him as an oddball, an enemy.
A world of trouble within as well. He felt his own sins. He felt his spirit languish, his heart droop. And at times he felt he had been brought to his end and there was no light from God. Yet, his faith asserts, Jehovah will bring to perfection everything that concerns me. Do you have this confidence?
On what does this assertion rest? How can we have this confidence? Was it something just for the psalmist? Was it something unique to biblical times? Had he, perhaps, seen something like the parting of the Red Sea, or Daniel in the lion’s den, or some great display of God’s power? Perhaps he had received a visit from an angel. Then he knew that God was not going to forsake him. Did he have a special word from God out of the clouds? Or perhaps a visit from Abraham’s spirit, or a vision on the living room window of the virgin Mary? Oh, no. None of that! The basis of this assertion was nothing peculiar to the psalmist, nothing dramatic, and nothing visible to his eye. The basis of his confidence was something that belongs to the most weak and pitiable and lowly child of God. It belongs to every child of God possessing true faith. It was based upon knowing God and knowing one virtue of God especially: His mercy. Thy mercy endureth, O LORD, forever. The psalmist was confident because he had a sight of the unchanging mercy and love of God. That was the rock upon which he stood. And from that rock he could shout: The LORD will perfect, He will complete that which concerneth me. Why? Because Thy mercy, O LORD, endureth forever. That is why.
God’s mercy is His tender pity for those who are wretched and His compassion to do them good. It is a mercy which is over all of God’s elect or chosen – not upon all, but upon those whom God has chosen freely. We read, in Jeremiah 31:3, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” This mercy, this compassion of God, is revealed in the cross (Rom. 8:32), “He spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all. How shall he not also freely give us all things?” Out of His eternal mercy towards His people, God saw us wretched in our sin and He gave His Son. He did not spare His Son from any of the punishment that we deserved. God’s heart has a permanent disposition of mercy towards His children, deep, broad, and unending, a mercy which endureth forever. It is never used up. It never comes to an end.
Therefore I am confident that He will complete all that He has appointed for me. Because God’s mercy is not fickle. It is not something here today and gone tomorrow. God is Jehovah, the unchangeable God, the I AM THAT I AM! His mercy does not change. He is the God who will not lie. He cannot go back, He cannot deny Himself. So the work that He began by His mercy shall be fully done. Being merciful once, He shall not change.
Where do we learn of that mercy? There is only one place to learn of that unchangeable mercy of God. That is in the holy Scriptures, with the Holy Spirit working in our hearts showing that Scripture to us and revealing to us that we are the desperate and unworthy sinner. Through the Scriptures God shows us ourselves. He shows us what manner of man we are. He gives a true self-disclosure. That is the difference between the work of God’s grace in our heart and the absence of that grace. The absence of that grace would be to take up the Scriptures and ultimately to learn nothing from the heart – nothing about yourself. You would still be deluded about yourself. But by the grace of God the Scriptures reveal to us what we are. We learn what kind of a man we are, we learn about our sin.
Then, He leads you to see that amazing mercy. You could peer to the stars through a telescope until your eyes got blurred and red, but you would not see the mercy of God. You could gaze through the intricacies of microscope upon the things that God’s hand has created and you would not see the mercy of God. Not through a telescope and not through a microscope; but in the Word of God preached to you. Through the appointed means of the preaching of the Word of God, God reveals the fountain of His mercy for thirsty souls.
Do you know your sin, your filth? Are you distraught? Are you, of yourself, a sinner – do you know that? That is the work of God. Then the work of God is to show you His mercy in Jesus Christ. When we stand upon that mercy, that unchangeable compassion of God for the miserable wherein Jesus Christ has washed away our sins, then we may assert, “The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me.”
And it will lead us to prayer. Forsake not the work of Thy hands. That is the prayer of the psalmist. Maybe that surprises you. It should not, but maybe it does. Because there are many who say that if you believe the doctrines of grace, why should you pray? Then they say it is all canned and dried. And that is right. Those who do not believe the doctrines of grace cannot understand why we who do believe them would pray. They cannot understand it. But those who embrace the doctrines of grace, they do not have this difficulty. Knowing the sovereign God who is unchangeable in mercy, and that He will perfect everything concerning me, means that I will fall down in prayer and I will pray, “Lord, forsake not the work of thine hands.”
Why? Because, first of all, to be in a state of grace is God’s workmanship. It is the work of God’s hands. It is not my work. It is His work. The hands which made and fashioned the world are also the hands which made me a child of God. By divine hands we are made to be children of God.Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” That is the doctrine of sovereign grace. That is not an obscure sideline of the gospel. All who believe that the work of salvation is going to be completed believe that God began it in the first place. If man begins the work, then man must bring it to completion. There is no comfort in that lie.
No, God did this. We are the work of His hands. I am what I am by the grace of God. Believing that, we will pray: “Lord, I am Thy child because it was in Thy heart and in Thy mind to make me Thy child. Now, Lord, I come to Thee in the midst of the trials of this life which appear insurmountable, and I pray on the basis of Thy self: Forsake not the work of Thy hands. I do not pray, Lord, that since it was by my decision that now I am a child of God, Thou wilt continue to convince me to side with Thee and to remain a child of God.” Oh, no! We pray, “Lord, it is Thy work. Continue the work of Thy hands.”
Still more, we pray this way because we need His continued grace. When God works upon us, then we do not run spiritually automatically. We depend upon Him. Our sin remains within us. Our inclination is always to forsake God, to fall away. We know that. The reason that you play with sin and you compromise with the world is that you do not know that you are nothing but a sinner. Do you think someone who knows that he is soaked in gasoline will go near a fire? Do you think so? Those to whom mercy has shown that they are sinners, they do not want to go near to the fire. They do not want to be left to themselves. So they pray, “Lord, do not forsake me. Let me know that Thou art near. Under Thy protection take me; as my Savior now appear.”
Do you believe that God will perfect all that is pertaining to you? Then you will be fervent in prayer. In moments of temptation and loneliness, when your soul is being crushed, you will look to Jehovah. You will think about Him. You will recall His tender mercies and you will pray earnestly, “Lord, forsake me not.”
And you will arise. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth you.
There is still much to be done before the journey is complete. There are days, perhaps years, of trial and purging and testing and growth in grace and battle against sin, and suffering for His sake. But faith makes an assertion. Looking to Jehovah and knowing His mercy, faith with all boldness says, “The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy endureth forever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.” Jehovah will bring to completion all that He has appointed for you. And it will end in glory.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word so precious and so true. Bind it to our hearts. Amen.