“Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.”
This text is a beautiful confession of faith. It is a beautiful confession to make as we begin a new year.
We do not know what will happen to us in 2018. Who will be born and who will die? What afflictions will enter into our lives? What will happen in our family? What will take place in our church? We know very little about tomorrow!
But we do know who will be our God each day of this coming year, and every second of each day. The great God who has been our God, who is our God, will be our God in 2018. In fact, He will be our God for ever and ever.
We need not fear. This God will guide us. Literally He will carry and lead us.
Who is this God?
The word “this” obviously distinguishes the only true God from all the gods of the Gentiles and the gods of man’s imagination. “This God” is the Most High Majesty, the great three in one, the One glorious in every attribute infinitely and eternally. Of the existence of this God we are fully persuaded, even though He is Spirit, invisible to the eyes of His creatures. He is the One who did great things in creation. He did even greater things in redemption.
This God is Jehovah, the eternal and perfect “I am.” He is the Self-existent and the Self-sufficient One. He needs nothing outside of Himself. And He is this eternally, that is, unchangeably. There is no necessity within Him to have something that is not already Himself. We deliberately do not say, “…that is not already His” because Jehovah does not possess His attributes; He is those attributes.
When this God creates, it is a wonder that is inconceivable to any human. And, then, when this God is pleased to establish and to maintain a special relationship of love with a people who are not only dust but sinners of the vilest sort, we must realize that this is astounding. As Jehovah, there is nothing within Him that requires Him to do this. Further, from our viewpoint He is under no obligation to bestow this relationship on any sinner. We should never stop adoring the depths of His mercies!
For sinning saints to know this Jehovah God, they must lean completely on the knowledge given by the Spirit through the holy Scriptures. Any accurate knowledge of Jehovah God is to be found in the Bible, that is, in His self-revelation. It is essential that we think of Him as accurately as possible. We are not to think of Him as we want Him to be. That is a looking at Him without faith. Our faith will have us constantly checking His Word to be sure that what we think of Him is in harmony with His self-revelation.
The psalmist begins the Psalm by declaring, “Great is Jehovah.” He is great in magnitude. He is great in extent. He is great in His being. He is great in every one of His works, both those works He performs within Himself and those He performs outside Himself. Jehovah is so great that no creature can conceive of just how great He is. He is great in every perfection. He is immeasurably great in power, in wisdom, in holiness, in justice, in goodness, in faithfulness, in grace.
This greatness is seen in His works of creation and providence, where He is King and Lord of all. We take a car ride up a very high hill, stop at an overlook, and look at the tiny houses below. We take a plane to 30,000 feet on a clear day and realize that a man below is too small to see. And, then, we are to remember that this God is far above and beyond what we can see. We gaze up at the majestic snow-covered mountains or into the depths of the Grand Canyon and we are put into stunned silence before their Creator. We gain a small grasp of the greatness of the universe in a planetarium. And we see an infant just taken from the darkness of a womb and we are amazed at his Maker. We have a little understanding of His greatness in creation. “According to thy name, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth” (10). Our praise of this Creator and Sustainer cannot be too much, too earnest, too reverential, or too constant. The praise from all the angels, every human, and every work of His hands would not be sufficient.
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made. I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder; Thy power throughout the universe displayed. When through the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees; when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur, and hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze; then sings my soul, “How great Thou art!”
The greatness of Jehovah God in His creation is exceeded by His greatness in His work of gracious redemption. God’s work of redemption is implied when the Psalm uses a variety of expressions to refer to the redeemed church: “the mountain of His holiness,” “the city of the great King,” “the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God,” and “Mount Zion.” Then there are the references to the various aspects of the church: “her palaces,” “thy temple,” “the towers thereof,” and “her bulwarks.”
This description of the church is from the viewpoint of the old dispensation. The amazing wonder of the church is the fact that this is what this God has made His dwelling place, the revelation of His holiness and lovingkindness together, devoted to His honor. She is the work of God’s “lovingkindness,” which “will establish it forever.” His work of saving unto Himself sinners at the cost of His Son displays a greater greatness of God. It is the greatness of His beautifying grace. It is only because of Jesus’ death that God and His church can dwell together, for that is what makes every elect sinner to be forgiven and righteous in God’s sight.
This work of redemption is described by the psalmist in the language of types and shadows. In verses 4-8 he describes a historical event when the holy city of Jerusalem was given a divine/miraculous deliverance from a surrounding enemy. The greatness of the enemy (their kings) marveled, trembled, and hasted away. Fear took hold of them, and great pain. The strength of their navy was utterly and irrevocably broken. God was and is graciously pleased to take on Himself the responsibility of defending and preserving His church. Every child of God, and all of us together, have experienced deliverance from a most powerful enemy—our sin and sinfulness.
This makes God so very worthy of praise—praise that proclaims His lovingkindness, mercy, faithfulness, grace, and love.
And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin. Then sings my soul [and our souls together], “My God, how great Thou art!”
“This God is our God.” With this God we have a relationship! It is one of possession. He is “our God.”
To be able to say that this God is ours means He must first have taken us to be His. He is ours because we are His. In election He chose us to be His people, giving us to His Son. In the covenant of fellowship, this God has us as His friends.
Also, let us realize that before anyone can say that God is our God, he must say that He is my God. I am His and He is mine. This is because I belong to Jesus and Jesus belongs to me. I am bought to be His by such love. The result is that my life, my praise, my all, are His and not my own.
This confession of faith is made by believers together. Jehovah is our God. This is to be our confession together. We will not be going through the new year alone. We will be walking with the other members of Christ’s body. Walking together will help us make and keep this beautiful confession.
That we rightly know this Jehovah to be our God will be evident in our giving of praise to Him together as a great choir. Our praise is worship. Our praise is rendering grateful returns of ardent love to Him who first manifested so great a love for us. Our praise is our serving Him by serving each other.
This God is our “guide.” This means that He is faithful and constant to bring us, to carry us, to shepherd us all the way home. He guides us by His counsel. He feeds and leads us in the ways of peace and life. He guided the church of the old dispensation by sending the ten plagues, dividing the Red Sea and Jordan, bringing daily food and drink, and defeating every foe. His Spirit leads us into the fullness of Christ, guides us into all truth, directs us into the Father’s love, and leads us to the land of uprightness.
This relationship of God being our God is “for ever and ever.” While no man can say that His possessions are his forever, Jehovah is ours not only today, but every day of this new year. He is ours in every age of time, and into all eternity. He is constant and unchangeable in His love for us, so that nothing can separate us from His love. While we experience many changes in the course of a lifetime on earth, this relationship will never change.
And that is the reason why He guides us “even unto death.” This means that He always guides every member of His body and the church as a whole from beginning to the end. As He led Israel through “Jordan” (which means “death,” but now “conquered death” because He guides us through it), so He will guide us through our individual deaths. He is guiding us with every detail of our life until then. When the earth dissolves like snow before the great fire, this God will still be guiding us through it all.
As we begin a new calendar year, we must have our minds filled with the awareness of this God. He is Jehovah. He is our God. And He is our Guide for ever and ever.
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, “My God, How great Thou art!”
To God be the glory! He is worthy of all praise!