A few days ago we began exploring Psalm 78, a Psalm which in its 72 verses details God’s peoples’ unfaithfulness, sin and rebellion (unhappy reading), as well as His goodness, mercy and faithfulness (happy reading).
I noted that a couple of things (at least) leapt out to me as I read it, things of great relevance when it comes to thanksgiving. The first we considered in Blog 315 – how remembering and not forgetting all that the Lord is and all He has done for us is so very important, and how thanksgiving is a really practical and straightforward way of helping us not to forget, but rather to actively remember. Verse 7 of Psalm 78 encapsulated this.
The second thing that I noted, which is related, is also contained in verse 7. In the earlier verses the writer exhorts his readers and hearers to listen as he tells of the praise worthy deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders He has done, as well as His laws and statutes, and that they should also tell the same to their children. (v1-6). Why? Verse 7 “Then they would put their trust (‘confidence’ NASB) in the Lord, and would not forget His deeds, but would keep His commands.”
I believe the order of this verse is important. Notice trust and confidence in the Lord comes before obedience. Maybe we think, or tell each other that the main thing is to obey the Lord, and we see that the children of Israel went wrong when they disobeyed Him, as did Eve and Adam, and as do we. This is true. But what often comes before disobedience? A lack, or loss of trust. What makes obedience so much easier? A confidence and trust in the Lord. If Eve had really trusted that God had her best in His heart would she have disobeyed Him? Joshua and Caleb trusted that God would deliver the walled cities and giants into their hands (BIG problems) and so they were able to obey. The other 10 spies didn’t trust and they didn’t obey. Hebrews 4 emphasises this – verses2/3 the importance of faith/believing, – verse6/11 the absence of this leading to disobedience.
I think the Hymn writer got the order right and it wasn’t just a matter of getting the rhythm and rhyme right. “Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey” And thanksgiving is such a big help here. Sometimes obeying the Lord seems hard, or risky, or I am fearful, or I feel I will lose something and miss out. Sometimes I do need gritted teeth to follow the Lord. But the more I feast, in thanksgiving, on the goodness, care and kindness of the Lord, on His power and desire to do the best for me, remembering all He has done for me, the more my faith and trust will grow. Feast on how trustworthy the Lord is in thanksgiving and then walking in His ways and obeying Him is likely to flow more freely.
There is also something else wonderful that Psalm 78 has to say about trust. And this is contrary to so much of our human thinking and behaviours. Verse 22 seems to be a pivotal verse between all God’s goodness, provision and deliverances for His people, detailed in the Psalm, and things going wrong in the people, their conversations and behaviour, also described at length. It says “They did not believe in God, or trust in His deliverance” It seems to me that God’s sadness at this, communicated through the Psalmist, says that the Lord, unlike many humans, loves to be trusted and loves to be depended upon. He doesn’t say “Don’t bother me, I’m busy”, or “Stand on your own two feet”, or “sort yourself out”, or “Buck up you weakling”, or “don’t come to me with your mental health issues”, etc. like people may. No, He says “Come to me. Lean on me” (Matthew 11:28-39). Especially relevant perhaps, when we are weary, having tried to live our lives for Him in our own strength. Effectively I think He’s saying ‘I love being trusted.’’ “I love bringing deliverances to your life.’ Psalm 68:19,20. Hebrews 11 is a hall of fame of ‘people of faith’ who leant hard on Him.
Some of us, maybe, almost need a brain/spirit ‘transplant’ to recognise that the Lord loves doing things for people. He loves us running to Him like children in trust (Luke 18:17), rather than toughing it out in our own strength. He really is quite different from some of our human models. Consider how excited Jesus got about the centurion (Luke 7:9) and the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:28). They leaned in hard on Jesus and He was thrilled. He was THRILLED.
Let us allow thanksgiving to fill up our trust tanks so that, especially in moment of pressure, we increasingly lean in, onto Him, not only believing in His love, power, ability and faithfulness, but importantly also in His desire and PLEASURE to be there big time for us, as we trust and put our weight on Him.