“He rejected the tent of Joseph;
He did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
But He chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loves.
He built His sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth, which He has founded forever.
He chose David His servant
and took Him from the sheepfolds;
From following the nursing ewes He brought him
to shepherd Jacob His people,
Israel His inheritance.
With upright heart He shepherded them
and guided them with His skillful hand.” (Psalm 78:67-72)
Throughout Psalm 78, that we have walked through for the last two weeks, we see the father cycling through judgement and grace. Discipline and mercy. Destruction and redemption. Anger and compassion. Do not be mistaken: our sovereign God is not a moody, bi-polar despot. He is a holy God who longs for His children to love Him as He loves them. And He will do whatever it takes to get their attention and draw them under His sheltering wing.
Holiness without grace is tyranny. Grace without holiness is impotent. But holiness and grace, working hand in sovereign hand, by the omniscience of our Abba Father makes all the difference. It is His holiness that demands judgement for our disobedience. It is His grace that redeems us from His judgement through our repentance and faith. As Charles Haddon Spurgeon once wrote: “Grace is the mother and nurse of holiness, and not the apologist of sin.”
The New Testament gospel, the Good News, is that we can be saved from ourselves. Throughout the gospels and the epistles, there is a reverberant theme: Salvation is here! Grace has arrived! And all we have to do to receive it is repent and believe.
Can it really be that simple? Can I really just apologize and “accept Jesus into my heart” and be saved? No. That’s not what repentance and belief mean. It’s not that simple. It’s not enough to be remorseful for your sins; you must repent and turn away from your sin and seek to live your life in accordance with the dictates of God’s word, believing that Jesus paid the price for your sins and His Holy Spirit is living in you to empower you to walk in the light, rather than stumble through the darkness. If the Christian life was as simple as saying “I’m sorry for my sin, but I don’t need transformation.” then you’ve missed the point.
Salvation without transformation is a bogus gospel. Without repentance, your faith will not save you. Faith is more than a casual acknowledgement of the truth. Faith is a deep abiding within the truth. God didn’t choose Judah over Joseph and Ephraim because of any merit that Judah had earned. He chose Judah because of His sovereign choice to be faithful to His covenant. Joseph and Ephraim abandoned the covenant by choosing not to fully participate in the settlement of the Promised Land with the remainder of Israel. But Judah fully participated and God chose to reward that obedience. But it was God’s sovereign choice to do so because of His love for Judah and His remembrance of His covenant with Abraham on Mt. Zion.
It is on the spot of where God initiated that covenant that God ordered His temple to be built, as a commemoration of His faithfulness to always be with His people. He chose David from the tribe of Benjamin to be His king in Israel, because of God’s love for Him, which inspired David to write more than half of the Psalms and shepherd the people of God – in spite of his failures as a husband, king, and man. God chose David to be the shepherd king of His people, knowing that he would be imperfect, but also knowing that he would do so with a humble and repentant heart.
David was not immune to the judgement of God when he sinned. In fact, he was repeated called out for his moral failings and Israel fell into chaos because of it. But once he repented and endured God’s discipline, the kingdom was restored and peace was maintained and the kingdom legacy was passed on to his son, Solomon. Ultimately, David’s repentance gave rise to the Savior as his earthly descendent, in fulfillment of God’s promise to not remove the rod forever from His hand.
We must remember that as believers we are not immune to God’s discipline. In fact, we are even more responsible to obedience to His word for the sake of His kingdom. God will put His reputation on the line for you when you put your complete faith and trust in Him. When you abandon Him and refuse repentance, you cannot expect to experience the fullness of His grace in your life. Judgement is the natural consequence of our sin, but grace is the supernatural prerogative of our sovereign God who is simply waiting for His children to cling to Him.