Our’s is a world of distrust. Besides commerce and community, our most meaningful relationships depend on trust. But it has imploded. “The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer tracks the decline in confidence in institutions and the media over the years. It shows how a crisis of truth has brought this about. “Without trust, the fabric of society can unravel to the detriment of all”. Of course the problem is that we need some shared values so as to establish trust. Who do you trust? God’s faithfulness is of absolute importance. We depend entirely on it (Malachi 3:6; 1 Corinthians 1:9). We can encourage each other with the truth that God’s faithfulness is so great that His mercies are renewed every morning (Lamentations 3:23). But what makes God’s faithfulness great? How would you measure God’s trustworthiness?
David Dickson deals with this question when opening up Lamentations 3:23. He notes that the Lord’s kindness and compassion is the effect of His Word and covenant with His people. Jeremiah praises God for His covenant keeping. He calls Him a faithful God and one who is exceedingly mindful of His Word. Thus, he gets a sight of God’s compassion through His covenant and promise being performed.
God’s Faithfulness is Seen in Relation to His Promises
This shows that God’s kindness is only rightly seen by the light of His Word and promise. The wicked get their food, drink and health from God and say that God is good, but they do not see how this is received by virtue of promise. They do not therefore make good use of these blessings. But the godly see God keep His promise, and that every gift they get is by virtue of a covenant. If they lack the gift they are sure to keep a fast hold of the covenant.
Keep the Lord’s promise frequently in mind. Thus, when the Lord hears our prayers we may know that our prayers are heard by virtue of such a promise. When we are heard in trouble, we know we are heard by virtue of that promise (Psalm 50:15). Thus by marking the promise being fulfilled two benefits are received. First, the benefit itself. Second, a better hold on the promise and a foundation laid to get a benefit at another time. Those who lack the promise cannot look for the benefit. The man who has the promise can go to God and tell Him that by virtue of such a promise He heard him before and therefore He must hear him again.
Those who look to the benefits they get by the light of the Word get many advantages. When they see their children like plants around their table (Psalm 128:3), they may say, “these are the benefits of those that fear God”. They will therefore strive to fear Him more. When God lets them see how He is displeased with their behaviour yet gives them grace to turn to Him, the promise that God in wrath remembers mercy (Habakkuk 3:2) is fulfilled. This would be a way to grow in faith – connecting every work of God with one of the Lord’s promises.
What Makes God’s Faithfulness Great?
1. He Promises Great Things and Delivers
Not only does the Lord do many things by virtue of His promise. He does exceeding great things. He has great things and therefore He gives things that are as great as what He has promised. If a man promises great things and keeps his vow, he is much more faithful. He has promised a great thing and kept his promise. Such is the Lord’s faithfulness.
2. He Performs More Than He Has Promised
God’s faithfulness is great in performing more than He has promised. If the Lord promises a pound, He gives two pounds. His faithfulness is the greater, so the Lord’s works pass His Word, and He performs more than can be taken up in His Word. Therefore, He is said to magnify His Word above Himself (Psalm 138:2).
Then be sure that all that is promised in the Word will be performed. More, in fact, for the Word cannot express the things that God will perform. Thus, it is said that eye never saw, ear never heard, neither entered into the heart of man to conceive what God has laid up for them that fear Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).
3. He is Faithful to the Unfaithful
God’s faithfulness is great in being steadfast and sure in His promise to such unfaithful persons. If a great man made a promise to an untrustworthy person, who is likely to challenge him for breaking that promise? If he keeps promise to such, his faithfulness is great. But God’s faithfulness is greater because not only does keep promises to unfaithful but to wicked and unworthy persons.
4. He is Faithful When He Has Reason to Break His Promise
His faithfulness is great in that when we give Him reason to break His promise, He does not. When a mutual agreement is broken on one side, the other side usually count themselves free of obligation. But although God might often and justly take advantage of our breach of covenant, yet He does not breaks it. We often promise to believe more firmly, repent more seriously, pray fervently, obey God’s will readily and submit ourselves to Him. Yet we have broken it all and He shows mercy not only beyond, but contrary to our deserving. Do not therefore let our undeserving break our confidence, for although we are undeserving, the Lord’s faithfulness is great. He keeps fast to His promises and will surely perform them, even when He might justly break them.
As we have seen, the voices of authority in our world have lost credibility. In relation to the media, people say: “I am not sure what is true and what is not”. They complain that they don’t know which politicians, or organisations (even charities) to trust. We certainly need trust at the basis of our relationships but trust in sinful man will always be undermined. As the Bible often reminds us, there is inherent weakness in depending on human strength. Confidence in the trustworthiness of God can never be undermined, however. If we find that our trust in others is weakened to any extent let us only strengthen our confidence in God’s faithfulness.
The updated extract in this blog post is from a series of sermons David Dickson preached around 1628. They have never been published before but are due for release by Naphtali Press & Reformation Heritage Books in the coming months (DV).