Here in Psalm 145 in three consecutive verses, the psalmist David gives us three prominent characteristics of those who are truly the people of the LORD. As I review these characteristics, I want to examine my life and be sure these are prominent in my own relationship with the LORD.
145:18 “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him . . . in truth.”
What does it mean to call upon the LORD? There are so many examples in Scripture of this that it is almost overwhelming. It is obvious that our great God wants us to know what it means to call on His name. For example, in Psalm 107, God’s people “cried out to the LORD in their trouble,” and He delivers them out of all their distresses. In Psalm 116, because the LORD has inclined His ear toward him, the psalmist vows to call upon the name of the LORD as long as he lives. Psalm 142 shows us that calling out to the LORD means crying aloud with our voice to Him. And the classic text in Romans 10:13 tells us that “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” But I think that there are two broad categories of calling on the LORD.
- There is the INITIAL CALL upon the LORD that resulted in my salvation and inaugurated my eternal life. For the true child of God there must have been an event in my life in which I called out to the LORD for His rescue, an event that marked my repentance and faith in the LORD and that ushered in my new birth and my new life in Christ.
- But there must also be the ongoing, daily and hourly calls to the LORD that give tangible proof that there was an initial call and give evidence that the results of that initial call continue until this day. For if I do not call upon the LORD every day, then it probably means there was no genuine initial call at all. A human infant makes an initial cry at the start of life and then continues to breathe moment by moment as their life goes on. Just so, the child of God cries out to the LORD initially and then continues to cry out to Him as their new life in Christ goes on.
145:19 “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him.”
It is also true that the one who is known by the LORD and who truly knows the LORD is one who fears the LORD. Now some have asked if it is right for the believer to fear the LORD, but Jesus Christ Himself removes all doubt about this issue, for our Lord commands His followers to fear God in Matthew 10:28: “Fear Him who is able to destroy soul and body in hell.” The Old Testament, the Bible that Jesus knew in the days of His flesh, is filled with verses about fearing the LORD. In Psalm 34, the saints are commanded to fear the LORD (“O fear the LORD, you His saints”), and the psalmist teaches what it means to fear the LORD (“Come you children, listen to me, and I will teach you the fear of the LORD”). In Proverbs, “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (1:7; 9:10).” All the Old Testament believers feared the LORD and trembled before Him (Isaiah 6:1-8; 66:2). The nations are to fear the LORD: “He is to be feared above all gods (Psalm 96:4).” But this is not restricted to Old Testament saints. Paul knew the fear of the Lord, and so he persuaded men (2 Cor. 5:11) to come to faith in Jesus Christ. The believer is to work out his salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). Peter instructs his disciples to “conduct yourselves in fear” during the time of your stay on earth (1 Peter 1:17). The emotion of fear is natural when we understand that “our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).” Finally, the book of Revelation asks, “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy (15:4).”
But having looked at the biblical evidence for fear of the Lord, we also know that this fear is wrapped in God’s immense mercy displayed supremely in Calvary’s cross. Because of the cross, we no longer feel the terror of standing before a wrathful judge awaiting our final condemnation. Rather, we now feel the embrace of an infinitely powerful and holy Father whose glory and presence and purity and power overwhelm all of our senses.
Our understanding of fear is distorted by our sin and by the Fall. Now all human beings can only come to the Lord out of the place of condemnation where God is the righteous Judge and, because of this, all mention of “fear of the LORD” recalls those years before our redemption when we hid from the Lord and from His holiness. Thus all believers must unlearn the terror of the LORD which marked the days of our unbelief, and must learn the fear of the LORD which the Bible commands. This fear is that orientation toward God’s holiness and wrath that trembles before sin and disobedience and judgment while being confident that, because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, the condemnation and punishment our sins deserve have been forever propitiated by our Redeemer (1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Thus it is that God’s people cherish the fear of the LORD.
145:20 – “The LORD keeps all who love Him . . .”
The third characteristic is the most obvious one. Those who truly know the LORD love the LORD. As God has demonstrated His love toward His people innumerable times and has demonstrated it supremely in His giving His Son on the cross to atone for our sins, so our love for God must be demonstrated and displayed if it is real.
Indeed, it may rightly be said that a Christian is a person who loves the Lord and who is loved by the Lord. In Deuteronomy and Joshua, at least ten times the people are commanded to love the LORD their God. Having been loved by the Lord (for the Lord is the initiator), the child of God spontaneously loves the Lord in return. “We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).”
When asked what the greatest commandment was, our Lord Jesus Christ said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30); this is the first and greatest commandment.” Implied in these words is a love for the Lord that consumes us and that dominates every facet of our being. This is the love of the Lord of which the Bible speaks.
How is this love manifested? For we can see that love for God is different than love of people and so is manifested differently. Love for God is most clearly manifested in obedience to the Lord’s commandments. John 14:21 says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, He it is who loves Me.”
Finally, the love of Christ controls us (2 Cor. 5:14) and this love issues forth in our being ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) and so urging men and women to receive the reconciliation to God which is offered in the gospel. Thus our love for the Lord is a love that labors to see God glorified and sinners saved.
Call upon the Lord. Fear the Lord. Love the Lord.
SDG rmb 7/16/2017