To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song.
1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall vows be performed.
2 O you who hear prayer,
to you shall all flesh come.
3 When iniquities prevail against me,
you atone for our transgressions.
4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple!
Would You Pray With Us Today?
5 By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
6 the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
7 who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
8 so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.
9 You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
Sin Has Corrupted the World
In the Old Testament, David and his people waited for the Lord. [Verse 1 can be translated “praise waits for you” and in Chinese is rendered similarly.] Like David, today we await the second coming of this same Lord. In those days, God heard the prayers of Abraham, of Joseph, of Moses, and of David. “O you who hear prayer” (v. 2) is Christ himself. If he does not come, who will bear the sins of the people of Israel?
David said, “When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions.” (v. 3) David clearly and thoroughly understood that he was unable to defeat sin. The bondage of sin has corrupted the world, and the poisonous hook of sin has captured all humanity. No one can cleanse themselves from their transgressions.
The dictator who starts an international war; the trafficker who openly abducts women and children; the “royal scribes” who weave lies as if they were truth; the activist who deprives others of freedom in the name of equality; and the religious who deceive themselves and others with conspiracy theories and false gospels: all of these are slaves to sin. None can escape this bondage or wash away their transgression.
Those who cease to be slaves to sin are blessed solely by the sovereign grace of God: “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts!” (v. 4) Grace comes to us of its own accord because the heavenly Father chose us, not because we chose him. Grace comes because the Holy Spirit leads us to Christ, not because we want to draw close to him. Grace comes because the Holy Spirit dwells in us and makes us his temple.
God Is Calling
We are not the only ones who have received favor. No, “all the ends of the earth and the farthest seas” (v. 5) depend on God for salvation. Are you asking God where he is in the midst of the plague? Are you crying out to find him in the midst of war? Do you think he is silent? No! Through these earthly plagues, he is calling to you: “Turn back! Why should you perish?”
Do you think you can obtain eternal life for yourself? Do you think you can accomplish great things on your own? O ignorant human! There is no one you can argue with if your soul is required this very evening. Do you think you know more about righteousness than God? Do you think you are a better guarantor of peace than God? O arrogant one, if there is no God who “by awesome deeds answers with righteousness” (v. 5) and provides for all things, what is there to expect but a jungle where the strong devour the weak?
And yet throughout human history, tyrants, sycophants, dictators, and traitors are usually in fear for their lives. Although a little Mao Zedong lives in the heart of each person, society has not turned into a dog-eat-dog jungle. Although countless heinous evils happen around us, and although lies have blinded the minds of many, our consciences still silently protest. God alone oversees the conscience. Even the most brutal and wicked person – no matter how much they deny God’s existence and resist his gospel – remain “in awe” (v. 8) at the smallest sign of his work.
We Will Rejoice and Sing
Because of all this, O people of God, let us rise and sing even when darkness prevails! Our God is the one who “by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.” (vv. 6, 7) Now, when the people are in uproar and the roaring waves of the sea are tossed, we can look to see how God will stop the sword and “burns the chariots with fire.” Not only does our God judge the nations in righteousness, but he has prepared for us an abundance of grace. He “water[s] its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.” (v. 10) Although our hearts are even harder than the drought-stricken earth, yet when the rain of grace is poured out on us, we will be changed.
Our God is the one who “crown[s] the year with your bounty,” whose “wagon tracks overflow with abundance.” (v. 11) All those who trust in him are blessed.
The times are dark and the world is difficult, yet God’s people are not afraid. We will rejoice and sing in all circumstances. Although we do not know when pestilence or war will cease, we are certain God has loving intentions toward us. He will not destroy us through the plague, but will use it to awaken us from the delusion of scientism and progressivism. He will not destroy us through war, but will use it to break us of false faith in nationalism and racism.
O you who have awakened, you will see God’s grace rain down. In the wilderness and in the valley, the earth will grow green. The sheep will graze in the pastures, and all things will shout and sing for joy.
Elder Li Yingqiang is an elder of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu. He and his wife have two children.