They Sing of Him
J. Dan Gill
YHWH’s impassable excellence is acclaimed in the songs his people sing. The Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 of their songs. Again and again they celebrate the virtues of their God.
They Sing of His Love
Praise the LORD! O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (Ps. 106:1).
“His love endures forever” were familiar words to those who sang the songs of the Bible. Those words are found in the Book of Psalms some 34 times. They are in the opening words of four Psalms. They are a captivating refrain in each of the 26 verses of the 136th Psalm.
He is worthy of their love. They love him for his virtues and because he cares for them. To truly be his people they must emulate his love. Some of the most powerful words ever directed to human beings are found in his instruction that one should love his neighbor even as himself:
Do not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD (Lev. 19:18).
He takes the same thought yet further when he instructs his people to love even the foreigner — the stranger (Lev. 19:34).
They Sing of His Faithfulness
I will praise you with the harp because of your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel (Ps. 71:22).
His people can depend on him. He changes not (Mal. 3:6). Two key ways in which he never changes are found in the above phrase, “O Holy One of Israel.” First, he does not change in that he is “The One.” Their Father has always been, and always will be, the only one who is God.
Therefore you are great, O LORD God! There is no one like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears (2 Sam. 7:22).
Second, he never changes in that he is holy. By his great love and mercy he may deal with people at various times in different ways. He sometimes works with them according to their ability to comprehend. With extraordinary patience, he leads people from where they are to where they need to be. He himself, however, never changes. His character remains the same. Well-doing always pleases him; evil never does. In opposing evil, he sometimes brings sharp judgment, calamity and even destruction to bear. In his time, he will put an end to all cruelty and inequity on our planet. Yet, today and always, he is the shepherd of his people and the helper of those who will flee evil and seek him. Notice these words from the 23rd Psalm:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows (Ps. 23:4, 5).
His faithfulness is a source of comfort; he is a God of constancy and fidelity. He is neither uncertain nor fickle. Wholly dedicated to his people, he is ever their protector and help (Ps. 18:2). His loyalty to them is certain, never in doubt. And again, they are to be like him. Their dedication should also be certain; their faithfulness unswerving.
They Sing of His Righteousness — He Is a God of Justice
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; constant love and faithfulness go before you (Ps. 89:14).
Throughout history people have tended to reduce God to caricatures of his true self. He is the most powerful being in the universe. Yet, he is not as an angry puppeteer dangling human beings according to whims. He is fair and just in all that he does. He is the judge of all the earth and his judgments are right. Righteousness and justice are essential aspects of his nature (Ps. 33:5). He rightly hates evil. It is not possible to truly love that which is good without opposing the evil that wars against it. He is the ultimate judge of all of the earth (Ps. 96:13). All who do evil have reason to greatly fear him. But to those who will be his people, he is the source of their comfort.
Again, to be like him, his people must seek to be righteous. It is by righteousness that human beings shall approach this God (Ps. 15:1, 2). We must not allow the distinctions between good and evil to be blurred (Isa. 5:20; Amos 5:15). Without exercising equity in our judgments, we are not being like him. How can we really be his children without dispositions of hearts and minds which favor true righteousness?
Doing righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice (Prov. 21:3).
If we do not know justice that is higher than ourselves, then we really know neither justice nor God. In the presence of the true God we rise above ourselves: above war, strife, self-absorption and inequity against our fellow human beings. And it is he himself who will lead his people in the ways of righteousness. Recall again, in the 23rd Psalm he leads “in the paths of righteousness for the sake of his name” (v. 3).
They Sing of His Mercy and Compassion
He has made his wonderful works to be remembered; the LORD is merciful and compassionate (Ps. 111:4).
The God of justice is also the God of mercy. His is a throne of mercy where judgment is tempered by goodness. The disposition of God toward humanity is one of kindness. He made us. He is for us and wants us to succeed. Though we incline ourselves to evil, he allows us to live; to enjoy this world and perhaps to seek after him. He loves those who are righteous but is merciful even to the unrighteous:
The LORD is good to all; his compassion is over all he has made (Ps. 145:9).
His compassion is especially manifest to all who trust in him. David was a good man. Samuel described him as a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). However, because of weakness, David abused his power as king and for selfish reasons cost the man Uriah his life (2 Sam. 11). Later, David greatly sorrowed over his error. Unable to right the wrong he had done, he suffered because of his actions. God did not take up for him in his wrongdoing. Yet, David learned something greater than all of this: He turned to God and found mercy greater than his own failings.
In the 51st Psalm he recounts his appeal to God following the episode with Uriah. He cries out: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unwavering love” (v. 1); “Create in me a pure heart” and “renew a right spirit in me” (v. 10). David resolves that he will teach others who err to return to the LORD (v. 13). He does not avert attention from his humiliation. Rather, he speaks openly of his experience so that others can learn of God’s mercy. And, it is David who in the final verse of the 23rd Psalm brings us these words:
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Ps. 23:6).
If it could be said that God has a weakness, it would be his love for people. He is touched by all who will call upon him from a sincere heart. David sees God’s goodness and mercy as following him — pursuing him — all the days of his life. Who would not desire this God as his shepherd?
They Sing That He Is the God of Truth
I entrust my spirit into your hand; you have redeemed me, O LORD, God of truth (Ps. 31:5).
His word can be completely trusted and his faithfulness dictates that he will do what he says he will do. His truthfulness and his faithfulness are bound together.
He who is the Glory of Israel will not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind (1 Sam. 15:29).
This is a God who will not deny the truth. He will stand by one person who is right against the world when it is wrong. Yet, part of the truth he wants people to learn is the great worth of love and mercy. He forever balances love and truth and his people must learn to do the same. It is not adequate for them to say that they will embrace one without the other. Part of truth is to love. And, part of God’s love is love of truth. People may not perfectly attain to either one. It is certain, however, that they must always aspire to both.
This God not only instructs his people to acknowledge the truth; he also directs them to love it (Zech. 8:19). If we are really to be his people, we must love all that is true. To love him is to love his teachings. And let us never be mistaken: Truth can be known. If we are never able to say what is true, then by the same reasoning we can never say that anything is false. In such a world, truth and error fall together in confusion: a confusion from which we might never emerge. But God himself is the source of truth and he is its ultimate teacher. To say that we cannot know truth is to limit God. And to his people, truth is something active — to be learned and lived:
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth (Ps. 86:11).
We Too Can Be His People
Happy are the people whose God is the LORD! (Ps. 144:15).
David looks and sees God: He is David’s shepherd. It is YHWH who wonderfully and completely provides for him. It is he who leads beside still waters; he who restores David. With him, there is need for no other as God.
We too are blessed if our God is the LORD. He can be our shepherd; our teacher. Let him teach us love, faithfulness, righteousness, mercy, and truth. Let him guide our steps. Let him be our strength.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength (Isa. 40:28, 29, ESV).
Gill, J. Dan (2016). They Sing of Him. In, The One: In Defense of God (pp. 47-53). Nashville, TN: 21st Century Reformation Publishing.
 The patience of God towards humanity is with the hope that people would seek him. That is a theme found in both the Old and New Testaments ( Jer. 29:13; Acts 17:27).
 This is an often overlooked but important point in the story of Noah. That story reveals a God who is always vexed with evil, no matter who or how many people do evil. It shows by contrast that he would stand by one person who is of faith against everyone else when they are opposing the truth.