TEXT: Psalm 119:129-144
For a brief time when I was a young fellow I was a court reporter, that is covering city court every day and county court I think quarterly. This was a regular thing that was my responsibility and I learned some things about court mediation when an attorney was extremely gifted his client did very well often. An attorney, a representative, a mediator in the court can gain points for his client. It’s a wonderful comfort to us to know that in the highest court of the universe in heaven itself we have an advocate, we have one to represent our cause before the Father and He is none the less than Jesus Christ the righteous and He has Himself made propitiation for our sins, that while we were in our sins, He is able by this great sacrifice of His to turn the Father’s wrath into favor toward us, and indeed not just turn the Father only, but settle the accounts where God makes a just settlement of them by the cross of Christ.
So in the Old Testament when you read of people coming successfully to the Father, they do it on the same basis that we do it. It is through the mediator. That’s why they had to make sacrifices and when they made their sacrifices for their sins, God accepted them knowing that He has pre-arranged from the foundation of the world to offer His own Son on the cross. So in the Old Testament they approached God, really in all of their religion, it focused on the coming Savior, mediator.
And today we remember our Savior Jesus Christ. We approach the Father through Jesus Christ. Did you notice in one of the verses, it is an extremely, I was going to say intricate, but it is not so intricate, it is pretty open and is easy to see, but just full of truth. I’m referring to the 132nd verse of the great Psalm 119, and Psalm 119, the longest chapter of the Bible, right near the very centre of the Scripture and you could call it the heart of the Bible. Psalm 119:132, “Look upon me and be merciful to me, as Your custom is toward those who love Your name.” In order to let it just seep right into the pores of your minds and hearts let’s read it again please. “Look upon me and be merciful to me, as Your custom is toward those who love Your name.” Notice how he approaches God. This should encourage you as you come through Jesus Christ to come appropriately and notice first His immediate request. He is not like a thief and hiding from a policeman. And he says, “Lord, look upon me” or as one translation has it “Turn to me, Look upon me.” Too often we segregate our lives and we think of going to church, that’s our religious day, and then we have the secular realities, as if God is not real. The only unchanging one in the whole universe is God Himself. So we need to say “Lord, look upon me in my daily life, as I’m bumping along here on this subway, Lord see me now, as I’ve now finished school and there are so many uncertainties ahead of me, look upon me, as I’m here Father with broken relationships, look upon me, as I’ve got to move again, Lord, I don’t know where I’ll go, see me, Lord, turn to me. I need a job, Lord, I don’t have any work, no assured income, Lord, look upon me. Bring your whole life to Him. That’s the point of this text. Lord, look upon me, and it implies certain things if you just think about that for a moment.
A person who says that to God is sensing his need, is he not? And he also senses somehow that God is a bountiful supplier of such needs as he may have and there is a trust implicit and implicated in these words, “Look upon me, look upon me” and there is also a sense of unworthiness as you read on through the very next phrase, you sense it there. And so let’s go to that now. Not only has he this immediate request to ask of God, look upon me, but he hastens to add the conjunction and, and that brings him right into his ultimate request. His immediate request is, “Look upon me,” and he adds “be merciful to me.” He’s pleading for God’s mercy or His graciousness, as it can be translated. When you know God, you are able to pray this prayer with a great bit of confidence, you see first of all God is omnipotent and in His omnipotence He has the actual power to change that which is a clinker in your life. The thing that’s the heaviest burden on your heart, on your heart, on your heart, that God can handle. Is anything too hard for God? He is omnipoteht, all powerful, in fact nothing is harder with Him than something else. Only He cannot and will not deny Himself. There is no sin with God. More than that our text is saying here that God is merciful and the Psalmist is saying, Lord, would you show me this mercy that I know you have. And when you read in the Scripture that God is loving and merciful and gracious as it is repeated over and over again, the mercy of the Lord, the loving kindness of God, the tender favor of God endures forever. When you read this then you know God is willing to associate with me. I’m a sinner, yes, but there is a happy arrangement at the cross whereby Jesus Christ paid for my sin and God the judge of the universe, holy, holy, holy, though He is, He can put His arm justly around me, for that is the merit of the cross of Christ. All through Scripture God is merciful. Even when He turned Adam and Eve out of the garden, that was mercy, for His reason for doing that was not just to execute them somehow. They died when they sinned, but He did not want them to live forever as sinners and to get the tree of life in the horrible condition that they were in. And, yes He sent the flood, but no sooner were they out and over with that, He sent the rainbow. God has all along been showing His mercy and after a visit to the cross, not any Christian should ever feel God is not intent on mercy, He inclines toward mercy. If there is a leaning God, it’s toward His mercy to His children; God is merciful. So the Psalmist prays, “Lord, look to me, look upon me and be merciful to me.” Would you look at the next verse? We are not going to spend time going into other verses, just this one for now, but, he says, “Direct my steps by Your word and let no iniquity have dominion over me.” Now in this verse, immediately I see something here that the mercy he is needing from God and asking of God is not to just settle my legal guilt in the court, but he wants mercy to quit his sin. He wants those pet sins to be thrown out of his life and he knows that quitting even the sins is impossible to do apart from the mercy of God. You know something, after you sinned a certain way, for example in your attitudes and character and after your character is molded, your very patterns of speech your tone of voice and your way of showing this sin streak in the disposition is so inculcated into the character that it is impossible, humanly impossible to change your personality. But it is not divinely impossible. The Lord God can do this and if you will today say, “Lord, I’m not happy with the way I am, look upon and be merciful to me,” and read on into that next verse and let it say to you, “Lord, I see it now, let no sin have dominion over me, but I see something else just ahead. “Direct my steps by Your word” and when you see in Scripture the word “by” or “with” it means through the agency of your word. God gives you a practical instrument by which you may quit your sin. Isn’t that encouraging, that you can come to church and sit here and the Bible’s open and lo and behold, the God you’ve hesitated to get around, you can say, “Lord, look to me and show me mercy” and then He says, “Take My Bible and I’ll teach you the way of God.” And sin does not need to have dominion over you, just because you’ve always been that way doesn’t mean that you have to continue that way. Let God into the mix of things and it’ll be different. The mercy of God then is for settling accounts of guilt before God’s court. It is also to enable us to change and the Holy Spirit brings the presence of Jesus Christ into a willing heart and God can change you and me. Well, he moves from there and he says, “Be merciful to me, (and these are words that cause me to choose this text for today) as Your custom is toward those who love Your name.” Is that not encouraging? Is that not worth sitting in church to hear? It’s God’s custom. Now the old King James, if you have that, your tongue is twisted as you try to read it, “As thou usest to do” but all it means is that what you may be counted to do. The NIV says, “As you always do,” and the NAS says, “As is your habit.” So the Lord Himself has a custom, He has worn a groove of grace to the needy heart, always He’s been this way since creation. This is what may be expected of God, because this is how God is and He never deviates from expressing what He is and who He is, and that is perfection when it comes to loving His children. Only you must make sure you are His child, and you must not beat about the bush and say, “well I’m religious” or “I’m better than so and so.” You have got to come to terms with your sin. For we have broken God’s laws, we’ve offended God, but here now is the line of His mercy, the way He loves to be. The way He is.
Way back in the Old Testament when Hannah was praying that remarkable prayer in I Samuel 2:8b, 9a, she cried out, “for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s and He has set the world upon them.” You know what comes next? What a magnificent statement, these great pillars God placed in space as it were and then He parks the earth on top of them and then the very next statement is this, “He will guard the feet of His saints.” That very God, creating all things is watching over the steps of His little ones. He loves His children, that’s the God we have. Let’s read our text again please, “Look upon me, and be merciful to me, as is Your custom toward those who love Your name.” Now there is the foundation of His hope. We saw first His immediate request, “Look upon me” his ultimate request, “and be merciful to me.” The foundation of his hope, “as Your custom is.” And now, the challenge that he faced. Here it is, because you see this love of God is selective, the only ones who will be recipients of this response from heaven are those who love His name. Now a lot of people I guess have thundered against heaven, some have cried out to God, almost defiantly, “why don’t you help me,” some have most pitifully cried, but we’re talking about going through our mediator, not just going saying now Lord here I am, but going through Christ and calling upon God in the name of Jesus Christ, our mediator. And having Him help us in our need. And in order to do that, there’s a challenge appended to this particular text. “Look upon me, and be merciful to me as Your custom is toward those who love your name.” Loving the name of God. Yes, there is selectivity, but you may have a certainty here. I say an absolute certainty because all I have to know is do I love God? And I know He loves me. Do you know why that’s just so apparent? Because the scripture tells us that we love Him because He first loved us. So all I have to do is find a spark of love and if it’s in my heart, it is only possible to be there because He has first loved me. These cold stony hearts of ours would never first love God. But He loved us first and He proves it by giving His own Son for us. And so when I love Him, I know He’s already first loved me. Because my love is dependent love — dependent upon Him and His great loving mercy, that’s why there is, you see, a connectedness, a connected nature in the works of God. I love Him, I know that is connected to His love for me. I want His mercy to forgive my guilt and I know that is going to be connected always with a desire to quit my sin and not take advantage of God’s grace, but have grace to quit the sin, so justification is linked inextricably to sanctification.
What does it mean to love the name of the Lord? Now we don’t use that expression like this much today. But just take a look at it, it says the Lord’s custom of mercy is promised to those who love Him, love His name, love the name of God. Now the name of God means something more than that by which He is called, it is that which He is. So when you see that in the Bible, “the name of God,” it will inevitably mean, not just a title of that by which He is called, but that He is, and to love the name of God is a biblical way of saying that we love Him intimately and very personally. We love Him deeply. For example, it will imply, loving all that I know God to be. But it is more than just what I now now, but it involves all that I will ever know of Him. For example, it is realizing that as I continue to grow in grace, He will uncover more of Himself to me. That’s what the Lord Jesus taught His disciples in John 17 before His crucifixion, He said, “Father (as a prayer to His Father) I have manifested thy name to these whom you gave me and I will continue to declare and make it known to them.” It’s a process forever. And then by the grace of God, one day in heaven, the name of Christ will be made known to us, step by step progressively throughout the eons of forever. The name of God. And then lying far beyond will be the vast oceans of infinitude, beyond what we have ever experienced yet, beckoning us onward, ever onward, and saying, “My friends, there is yet more to know of your God. Know the Lord, there is more, there is more.” The infinite holy God, He is infinite in all of His perfections, the Lord God almighty. Do you not love God for all that you know about Him? And how much more yet, does He want you to know and to love Him for ever? I would like for you now to prepare your heart to respond to God in prayer. I think when we read a text like this, we should say something back to God to make a response in our hearts. We’re talking here about approaching God. That’s what we want to do before we leave this today, is to approach Him and to respond to Him.