My Comforter

“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” asks David in Psalm 22:1. We can fall into what seem to be terrible times of trial and feel like everything, even our own God, is against us. This feeling is what David expresses in his question. Trials can come in many ways and forms: perhaps we feel so fallen into a sin that even God can no longer save us, a loved one has been taken from us despite their youth and healthiness, or we ourselves suffer with some terrible illness. However, all of these things are only a minor comparison to what Christ, our caring Shepherd, has suffered. Christ suffered the full pouring out of God’s wrath for innumerable sins of an innumerable amount of His elect people. In His suffering, Christ became our Mediator who knows all our burdens and grants us full assurance of peace in salvation.

For us, Christ “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men,” (Phil. 2:7). As a man, we know that “Jesus wept” and felt the pain, weakness, and tiredness of our bodies (John 11:35, John 4:6, Matt. 8:24). He also knew what it felt like to be hated and unjustly tortured. Countless times the Pharisees questioned Jesus with wicked motives, men tried to push Him off of a cliff, He lost His friend Lazarus, and all His suffering climaxed when He bore the wrath of God on the cross. Now, the One who suffered all these unimaginable miseries has become our Mediator. Jesus, who suffered more than is imaginable–for this punishment came from the all powerful God– understands any pain that you or I may ever encounter. This merciful Saviour, our gracious Comforter, speaks to us and comforts us in the scriptures, through His voice in the preaching, and in speaking with us and answering our prayers.

In His word, Jesus assures us of our salvation, which brings us peace in any trial, saying “therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Every week Jesus spiritually renews us with the preaching so that it is fitting to compare the preaching to milk or meat as is done in I Corinthians 3:2. On the Sabbath, we are assured that we have no need of fear, but may live instead devoting all our heart and soul in joy and thankfulness praising the God of our salvation. Lastly, Jesus works peace within us by answering our prayers. He is our “Emmanuel… God with us” and He knows everything we need (Matt. 1:23).  For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (I Pet. 3:12)

Through any affliction we may face, our Lord Jesus is our comfort. He has been touched with our infirmities and knows the feelings of temptation (Heb 4:15). There is no man who can comfort us like our gentle Shepherd. He fully understands and comprehends the burdens we may face and has a compassionate love towards us, His sheep. How blessed we are to have a full assurance and confidence in Him knowing He is our faithful Mediator who “change[s] not” (Mal. 3:6).

Luke Christian Potjer

 

Forgive Us Our Debts, As We Forgive Our Debtors. 

Every day in our prayers we ask for forgiveness of our sins. We confess them before God as they weigh heavy on our hearts. How often do we pray for the ability to forgive others? The fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer pairs these two together and puts an emphasis on the importance of each one.

In Matthew 18 we read the Parable of the two debtors. It is a very familiar parable to us all about a servant who was forgiven an unpayable amount of debt he owed to his master. After the servant was forgiven this debt, he went to his fellow servant who had borrowed a minuscule amount of money, and had him cast into prison until he would pay the debt. We read this passage with disgust and we can hardly believe the cruelty of this man. How dare he refuse to forgive this man after he had just been forgiven of an unimaginable amount of debt!

And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt” (Matt. 18: 29, 30).

We read this passage with disgust, yet we are that servant. Every time we sin we add and we add to our collection of debt against God, and it has built up to an unpayable amount. We are the man who owes money to his master, and to make it even worse, we refuse to forgive our neighbour just as he did. Every time we hold a grudge and refuse to forgive our neighbour (at times even our closest friends), we are STILL that man who is trampling his friend into poverty. The hate and anger that builds up in our hearts that quite often lasts days and weeks is our way of disobeying the fifth petition. This fifth petition is part of the beautiful prayer given to us from Jesus, and we repeatedly pray over and over again.

As we forgive our debtors.” Jesus directs us to pray this. He instructs us to pray this because he knows our sins, and he knows how hard it is for us to forgive! So often we dwell on a small incident, and as our anger builds up, we drive farther and farther away from God’s command to forgive those who sin against us. Forgiveness takes prayer, takes patience, takes love, and takes selflessness. To forgive we must turn our hearts from anger, bitterness, and hurt. But forgiveness goes against our human nature. We don’t want to forgive! Out of our obedience to God we must have faith and pray for Christ to work that forgiveness in our heart. We must forgive our debtors. Only those who forgive, may be expected to be forgiven from God.

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14,15). 

Yet our story has a different ending.
“And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.” (Matt. 18:34).

This story is a parable of earthly men, and the poor fellow servant is cast into prison. It is here that we must be fully aware of God’s unfailing mercy. The debts that we build up before God, we are not able to pay and we never will be. God knows this, which is why he sent his Son to pay for them. He does not cast us into the depths of hell, but he promises us eternal glory. And as the Lord continues to forgive our repeated sins as we confess them before him, he will also continue to give us the strength to forgive our debtors.

Please forgive all of our sins, Lord, and help us to forgive others.

Averly Kikkert

Rescued from the Depths

It seems to me that when we discuss the story and book of Jonah, we very often miss a key element.  There is much talk of the first chapter, which features the well-known Bible story of Jonah’s stubborn disobedience of God’s command to cry against Nineveh and the ensuing stormy voyage, as well as the detail of Jonah being swallowed up by a fish prepared by the Lord.  We also spend much time on chapters 3 and 4, in which Jonah does go to Nineveh and preach to them a gospel of repentance for sin, and Jonah becomes angry at God’s will for the city.  However, we seem to frequently glaze over chapter 2.  This chapter contains the words of Jonah while in the belly of the fish.  It is a very beautiful prayer, and we would do well to study it as much as the other chapters for its instruction regarding our prayer lives.  It also serves as a preparation for worship of Jehovah.

Verse 2 sets the tone for the prayer.  In it, Jonah acknowledges that he cries out to God “out of the belly of hell” and “by reason of [his] affliction.”  He also makes mention of God’s ability and willingness to hear him.  This is a good way for us to formulate our own prayers, as well as to approach the house of God tomorrow – in total admission that we are sinful creatures worthy of hell and unworthy to be heard by Him apart from His grace, but also recognizing that that grace is present for us and that He does hear us.  Proper reverence is vital in worshipping God, and reminding ourselves that we need Him for all things is a good way of obtaining that reverence.

Verses 3 and 5 are closely related, describing the horrors of drifting into the depths, suffocated by weeds.  The literal nature of this part of the prayer is obvious, but it has a symbolic component as well.  When we become ensnared by a besetting sin, we are Jonah, trapped by seaweed and pressed on every side by the increasing burden as we continue to sink further and further into the depths of sinfulness.  At times, we, as did Jonah, can feel as though there is no escape, and we destined to drown in our wicked way.

However, there is hope for the child of God.  Verses 4 and 7 both mention turning to God’s holy temple.  It is the natural reaction to attempt to swim to the surface on one’s own power, but we know in our hearts this is foolishness.  Our only salvation is in God, and to obtain it, we must turn to Him and own that we are sinful.  This too is mentioned by Jonah; in verse 8, he says that others “observe lying vanities,” and in so doing “forsake their own mercy.”  However, he makes a beautiful confession in verse 9, stating, “But I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.”  As we come into the holy temple of God tomorrow, let us do so with hearts full of sorrow for our sinfulness, but also filled with thanksgiving, remembering that “Salvation is of the Lord.”

God’s answer to the prayer is seen in verse 10: the fish vomits Jonah out.  There is much practical instruction for us here.  His prayer is answered because it is a true prayer, the only kind God heeds.  May we come to Him on Sunday with a pure heart, prepared to rightly worship and petition Him, as Jonah did.

A good summary of the prayer is found in verse 6: “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever: yet hast Thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.”  Remember tomorrow morning when you go to the house of the Lord that in the past week, you have truly descended to the bottoms of the mountains and have become imprisoned in your sinfulness.  But remember too that God, through Christ’s work, lifts you out of the depths of sea, removing you from the ensnarement of your sins.  As we sing in Psalter number 29:

“My soul in death’s dark pit

Shall not be left by Thee;

Corruption Thou wilt not permit

Thy holy one to see.

Life’s pathway Thou wilt show,

To Thy right hand wilt guide,

Where streams of pleasure ever flow,

And boundless joys abide.”

Matt Koerner