By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Sabbath, 29th December, 2012)
Give Thanks to the LORD for His Enduring Mercies
Luck is Fickle and Treacherous
A brand new year is upon us; year 2012 is on its way out with all its blessings and pressures. Every New Year holds a certain mystique–the mystique of the unknown in the coming days, weeks and months. Circumstances change, we fall on good and hard times, we go through trials and tribulations (Ps. 34:19), and yes, we have our good times, too.
For me, it would be foolhardy to trust in mere luck or fate to see us through the incoming year. We need to anchor our lives and destinies to something more solid and reliable, a resource, a power that will stand us in good stead no matter what wind blows or what crisis comes our way. We need to anchor our lives and futures to a Rock that is higher than us as David sought for with heartfelt emotional prayers:
"Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
"From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Ps. 61:1-2).
Thankfully, David’s God is our God too. He is the Higher Rock of dependability who gives us sure-footedness in life, for "he that believeth [in Him] shall not make haste" , i.e. act in panic (Isa. 28:16). He is our UNCHANGING SURE HOPE who will guarantee us victory as overcomers this new year. Not only does He abide forever as God, so too is His faithfulness, love, goodness and mercy. Moshe said of Yahweh His God in Ps 90:
"LORD, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God" (vv. 1-2).
What this means is that we are not just about to enjoy His goodness and mercy; we have been perennial beneficiaries of it. Thus, as we say farewell to Gentile year 2012, it behooves us to praise and thank God for all His great mercies towards us all through the year. He has been good to us, and words alone are inadequate to express our thanks. We must celebrate Him in song and praise and shout Halleluiah and Hosanna to His holy name. And what a better way to do this than to sing along with the anointed, renowned sacred composer, the Psalmist!
His Enduring Mercy calls for Praise after Praise
He begins: "O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever" (Ps 136:1). The reason why we ought to render thanks to God is plainly stated: "for He is good" and He is good because "His mercy endureth for ever".
Our God cannot even stop Himself from doing good (see Matt. 5:45). He has it wired into His nature to be merciful – and forever so – and He manifests that intrinsic quality of mercy in acts of goodness.
But this tenderhearted God of everlasting mercy and goodness is no titular tribal God. He is "the God of gods" and "the Lord of lords" (vv. 2-3).
I don’t know about you, but that’s my God. My God is the Supreme Being, the highest Supernatural Authority. The apostle Paul stated with emphasis:
“… though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
"But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him" (1 Cor. 8:5-6).
My God and your God stand out from the cast. He has no equal in all the universe. All the pagan gods are dumb gods, and the dark evil spirits submit to Him. He alone wields ALL power: "God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God" (Ps 62:11).
This is the God whose mercy is always there for me. Which power can stop His hand? At His rebuke "the sea … fled: Jordan was driven back. The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs.
What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back? Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs? Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob" (Ps 114:3-7).
Which demon, then, can frustrate the good plans of this mighty of God of mine concerning my life and your life? Indeed, He deserves thanks because when He stretched forth His hand of power to bless and redeem His children, no one dared put up a challenge, "what doeth Thou?" (Dan. 4:35).
He "alone doeth great wonders" (v. 4). He is the only genuine miracle worker–and all for His enduring mercies’ sake! Which He Manifested:
- When by wisdom He made the heavens (v. 5). The heavens did not come into being as a result of a cosmological upheaval which took place billions of years ago called the ‘Big Bang’. God Himself created it together with all its glories and wonders by wisdom. By the same wisdom, God made you to be awesome, or as David couched it "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps. 139:14). You are not an accident; "the only wise God" (Rom. 16:27; 1 Tim 1:17) designed you for His glory (Isa. 43:7). Like the heavens, God by the application of wisdom made you to reflect and to declare His glory (Ps. 19:1-6 & 1 Pet. 2:9). Even after Satan managed to darken the human heart, He shined in your heart "to give the light of the glory of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). And we are bound for even greater glory: "the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father" (Matt. 13:43; Dan. 12:3).
- When He redeemed the earth from being swamped by waters (v.6) at creation (Gen. 1:9-10). In so far as raging "waters" represent troubles or crises (Isa. 43:2) and the "earth" people (Jer. 22:29), the divine assurance is that the troubles of this life will not overwhelm and subdue you; you will always rise above the waters of tribulation and problems. In fact, you will pass through them unscathed because your Redeemer has overcome the world (Isa. 43:1-2; John 16:33). I am very sure such was your story this year, and that’s why our God deserves all praise and honour.
- When He made "great lights" – "the sun to rule by day" and "the moon and stars to rule by night" (vv. 7-9). The "great lights" of heaven are an enduring testimony that the people of the Living God, Yah, will never be in darkness: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee" (Isa. 60:1-2).
- When He smote the firstborns of Egypt so that He might bring His people Israel out from among them "with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm" (vv. 10-12). For His enduring mercy’s sake, God dealt robustly and decisively with any hindrance or enemy standing in your way of redemption so that your calling and destiny of blessing could be secured.
- When He parted the Red sea for "Israel to pass through the midst of it, but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea" (vv. 13-15). Thank Him profusely for it. His mercy ensured your improbable redemption in the face of all odds this year but at the expense of those who hated you. Not all people benefitted from His mercy this way, but you did. Because you are chosen, you are "Israel", and you cannot remain unredeemed. The crushing of oppression and oppressors is an act of mercy.
- When He led Israel through the wilderness (v. 16). It was not a cosy town ride in a fully provisioned chauffeur-driven limousine in downtown New York! They roughed it in the wilderness; the sweltering heat of the sun scorched their bodies, and they felt the pangs of extreme hunger and thirst. But God did all that for His enduring mercy’s sake! The reason? " … that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live" (Deut. 8:3). No wonder, you went through some rough times this outgoing year — the life-threatening sickness, the financial hardships, etc. That too was part of God’s way of showing you mercy so you would learn to depend on Him and stay closer to Him at all times. God’s mercy has been yours all year round through the good and the bad times, and so He deserves thanks after thanks.
- When He struck "great and famous kings", including Sihon, the king of the Amorites and Og, the king of Bashan, one after the other, so that He might transfer their lands to Israel for a possession (vv. 17-22). They were "great and famous kings", but God deemed His chosen people more precious and deserving. As far as God Almighty is concerned, everything else in this world, be they the great men of the earth, plays second fiddle to you. You are the "apple of His eye" (Zech. 2:8); He will secure your interests to the detriment of the world’s greatest men. He says to His people Israel in Isa. 43: 3-4: " … I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life" (ESV). He is Yahweh Sabaoth (the LORD of hosts); He’s God Almighty!
- When He "remembered us in our low estate" (v. 23). Our God is not a fair-weather friend. Throughout the year, He "remembered us in our low estate". That is to say, He acknowledges us even when we are down, when we stumble, and when we seem helpless. Beloved, whenever you feel depressed by unfavourable circumstances, know that the Lord Jesus is not ashamed to call you a brother and a friend (Heb. 2:11; John 15:13-15). He won’t desert you in your hour of trouble. Instead He invites you to "cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7). Indeed, "The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him" (Nah. 1:7).
- When "He redeemed us from our enemies" (v. 24). The Hebrew word translated "redeem" pâraq (Strong’s #6561) primarily means "to break off or craunch; thus figuratively "to deliver: – break (off), deliver, redeem, rend (in pieces), tear in pieces". It connotes a show of strength. But that strength is not human; the strength that brings redemption is uniquely Divine. Otherwise the enemies, who are always stronger than, us would prevail (1 Sam. 2:10). Thus God redeemed the Israelites from the bondage of the Egyptians "with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders" (Ex. 6:6; Deut. 26:8). His holy name be praised that all of us here as a church and as individual believers saw His outstretched arm of redemption this year. This is the reason why we are glorifying Him today.
- When" He gives food to all flesh" (v. 25). His largesse is beyond imagination; He gives food to every living creature, big or small, diurnal or nocturnal, and of whatever nature and habitat. Because of the enduring mercy of God, your daily bread is assured! "Give us this day our daily bread", we implore in The Lord’s Prayer and He answers us, "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" [as far as your daily needs are concerned] (Heb. 13:5). So lift up your voice in praise. “… there is no want to them that fear Him" (Ps 34:9), for He "richly gives us all things to enjoy" (1 Tim. 6:17). We have no cause to complain but to be profusely thankful for His benevolence. Who among us here on just one occasion went to bed on an empty stomach (not because of fasting but) because there was no food to eat? Was there ever a time when your children likewise starved for lack of food? The enduring mercy of the LORD would not allow it. He opens His hand "and satisfiest the desire of every living thing" (Ps. 145:16).
The enduring mercies of God is nonpareil–without equal. "The God of heaven" (v. 26) is the only God who possesses this kind of mercy–a mercy which enduringly glorifies, redeems, routs enemies, blesses, satisfies and enriches, and which has the miracle power to bring all of them to pass! I don’t know that of any other deity. Our God Yahweh is a true and living God. He has done great things for us. And we are gathered here today for one thing only – to praise His holy name and thank Him for all His mercies towards us. Let’s sing in His praise and give testimonies to His great power of redemption. "His mercy endureth forever". Amen!