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I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
Isn’t it funny the things that make us happy? It is amazing what a little warm weather, fresh air and sunshine produces in us Michiganders. Oh the praise we can heap upon the blazing sun for breaking up the bleak winter days! That is no surprise given that we were created to worship. However, we all know that summer does not last and the happiness found in it is fleeting. We will find ourselves perpetually in want if we seek our joy in anything but God. So then, what things can we stake our lives upon that will not fade away nor in the end leave us wanting more?
In Psalm 138, David points us to the two things God has made great in all the earth by setting them above all things in all creation, namely His name and His word. David can exalt in these two things along with the One True God because he has experienced the saving, redeeming grace of God in his life. We see this in two ways in this psalm. God’s word reveals His purposes. Throughout the Bible, we see a God who keeps His promises. When God speaks, we hear what He intends to do and the record of Scripture shows that these purposes are always fulfilled. Therefore, because our God not only makes great promises, but actually fulfills them, His Name is also exalted. He does not just make commitments, He keeps them. It is inextricably wrapped up in His character to do so. So we are brought to praise God with our whole heart (v. 1) because He is steadfast love, He is faithful and He will bring us safely through the circumstances of life! What kind of rejoicing does this produce in the lives of God’s people? The kind that not only praises God for His amazing greatness, but flaunts this greatness in the faces of the false gods of Our Time (v. 2).
But to spend our lives exalting and finding joy in these two things that will never leave us in want, we first need to remember. The pattern we find throughout this psalm is David calling to mind what God has done which leads him to praise who God is. Who is this God who has captured David’s affections? He is a God who first loved us (v. 2), who acts for His people (v. 3) and who dwells with His people (v. 6).
As the psalm ends, we are reminded to value God’s name and word above all things and orient our lives around them. The way to walk through the reality of human experience is to daily, and sometimes moment by moment, remind ourselves of the truth of God’s deliverance. We must recall to mind the rock solid reality of God’s commitment to His Word and Name, which promises His people more than we can possibly imagine. And isn’t it interesting that the psalmist closes not by reminding himself of this truth, but by humbly reminding God himself. So one way David gives us to press ourselves deep into the the promises of God is to set our hearts away from self-reliance and upon God’s name and word by reminding ourselves of His amazing grace, that it is He alone that saves, that He will save His people because He has promised to do so, and He will do so because He has exalted not His people above all things, but His name and His word. So God does not mind when we come desperate (v. 6): desperately seeking, desperately asking and even desperately reminding Him to not forsake the work of His hands for His name and glory (v. 8). So let us make this a month to remember and rejoice in God’s love & faithfulness.
Justin S. Holcomb and Lindsey A Holcomb, Rid Of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault (Crossway, 2011), 272 pages.
In a fallen world where unspeakable evil occurs, the church must be a place that shines the hope of the gospel into the darkness. One dark corner of our world is sexual assault. The statistics are astonishing. One in four women and one in six men have been or will be victims of sexual assault. The effects are horrific. And the world is not short of remedies: self-help, self-love, and self-heal. Unfortunately for the victims, these answers are “horrible news.”
Justin Holcomb, a pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, and his wife, Lindsey Holcomb, equip the church to rise and meet the challenge of helping victims of sexual assault, not by the empty hope of self-help, but by grace, redemption, and restoration in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let me be up front with the matter. I really liked this book. Pastors should read it, and victims of abuse will be encouraged by the authors’ honesty and care. So to briefly comment on the book’s content and its usefulness to pastors, counselors, and victims, let me give four brief reflections on its value to the local church’s ministry to the afflicted.
First, Rid Of My Disgrace deals honestly and directly with sexual assault. It presents a clear and full definition, giving victims, churches and pastors clarity on what constitutes sexual assault. They describe in vivid detail numerous effects the assault brings upon a person. Victims will feel like they are not alone, while pastors and counselors will have an invaluable resource for learning what is going on inside the victim when their own words cannot express the inner turmoil. We need an honest and direct book because “surveys and studies indicate that most people know almost nothing about the dynamics of sexual violence and have little or no experience in dealing with it.”
Second, Rid of My Disgrace displays the prevalence of sexual assault and its effect on the victims. “One in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime. These statistics are probably underestimates . . . every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.” These numbers are overwhelmingly high, even considering the problem of under-reporting, and it knows no boundaries of “color, race, religion, nationality, lifestyle, sexual preference, education, class, occupation, ability, or disability.” No matter where we live or minister, there are hurting people all around us, even on Sunday mornings.
The only thing more sobering than the numbers is its effect. Sexual assault can affect every aspect of your life: “your faith, your daily attitudes and emotions, your-self image, your relationships, and your sexuality.” Our churches, along with their pastors, ministers, staffs, and volunteers, can discover new avenues for gospel proclamation and transformation if we can begin to grasp the prevalence of sexual assault and its devastating effects.
Third, Rid Of My Disgrace is gospel-centered and immensely practical. The foundation for healing from the first pages is the gospel. The Holcombs never stop returning to it, continually pointing people to the grace found in Christ alone. God’s way of redeeming his people was through Christ’s suffering on the cross, but the cross is also where our disgrace is transformed. This a practical theology of grace applied to the disgraceful experiences and effects of sexual assault. Our counseling ministry will have this book on hand and will be used in our training seminars classes.
Fourth, God is glorified in every chapter. One of the phrases you hear at Mars Hill Church is “It’s all about Jesus,” and this book is no exception, as Jesus is exalted on every page. God’s grace, his “one-way, unconditional love expressed through, and founded on, the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ” is marveled at from cover to cover. Even if you have never been sexually assaulted or have never ministered to someone who has, this book will cause you to contemplate the depths of the riches of the grace of God in the person and work of Jesus.
Sin is devastating. Maybe more than we realize most days. But the wretched nature of sexual assault gives us a glimpse of sin’s deep darkness. However, the Holcombs show that even if sin goes deeper than you could ever imagine, God’s grace goes deeper still.