God: The Source
of All Encouragement
Dr. James T. Naismith of Scarborough, Ontario, is a retired physician who presently devotes his full time to a Bible teaching ministry.
This is his second article in his series on the theme of “Encouragement.”
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (Ps. 42:5, 11; 43:5, NIV). Which of us has not, at one time or another, asked these questions? We can relate to the psalmist because we too have had depressing experiences and often need encouragement. In spite of his feeling of reproach by men (42:10; 43:2) and rejection by God (42:9; 43:2), he knows the solution to his problem and expresses it three times — immediately after he has asked these questions: “Put your hope in God” (42:5, 11; 43:5, NIV). Moreover, he is confident that his problem will be solved, his situation will change, and he will “yet praise Him” (42:5, 11; 43:5), However dark things are now, he is assured that God will send out His light and truth and bring him into His “holy hill” (43:3, 4). There, at “the altar of God,” he will find “exceeding joy” in God. God is the source of his encouragement. And He is for us! As we considered in our last study, He is “the God of patience and encouragement” (Rom. 15:5); indeed, He is “the Father of mercies and the God of all encouragement” (2 Cor. 1:3).
It was a black day for David and his men when they arrived at Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:1-3) and found the city “burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters taken captives.” They “wept until they had no more power to weep.” David’s two wives were captured; and his men were on the point of stoning him. Not surprisingly, he was “greatly distressed,” “but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (v. 6) — he found the source of all encouragement! But how is God an encouragement to us in times of stress and distress? Let us consider five reasons:
A. The Names of God:
David’s experience of God’s encouragement led him to write many psalms, including Psalm 9, where he declares: “The Lord will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know Thy Name will put their trust in Thee: for Thou, Lord hast not forsaken them that seek Thee” (vv. 9, 10). “Times of trouble” — David certainly had his share of these! He was writing from his own experience when he said: “Thou, Lord, has not forsaken them that seek Thee.” After all, it was he who wrote: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up” (Ps. 27:10). He had learned the secret: “They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee.” To know God’s name is to know not so much what God is called, but what God is. Bible names frequently have great significance: divine names are always significant and there are hundreds of them in the Scriptures. They declare His nature and Person. What encouragement is to be found in them! Let us ponder just three: one in the Old Testament, one in the New and one in both.
An Old Testament Name: JEHOVAH. This is the name David used in Ps. 9:9, 10 — translated “LORD”; it was his favourite name for his God. It is the most frequently occurring name of God in the Old Testament — about 7600 times: 6800 times translated “LORD” and 800 times “GOD” (KJV). Jehovah, or Yahweh, was the name of God in covenant relationship with His people. The very meaning of the name is an encouragement to His redeemed people: He Who always was and is and ever will be; the ever-existing One; “the Lord, the everlasting God” (Gen. 21:33). On four occasions the name is left untranslated in the King James BIble, and each of these occurences provides encouragement:
Ex. 6:3: Here the name “Jehovah’ is associated with another divine name; “God Almighty” — “El Shad-day” — the All-sufficient God.
Ps. 83:18: “Thou, Whose name alone is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth.” Our God is supreme over all. Elyon, another name of God, was first used in Genesis 14:18-20: Melchizedeck was “priest of the most high God.”
Is. 12:2: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid: for the LORD Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation.”
Is. 26:4: “Trust ye in the LORD forever: for in the LORD Jehovah is everlasting strength.”
What encouragement is given us by these statements about Jehovah: the All-sufficient God; the Supreme One; the One Who is the source of our strength, our song and our salvation; and in whom is “everlasting strength.” Surely we can trust Him forever and not be afraid!
In addition, the name “Jehovah” occurs three times in the King James Bible in association with another Hebrew word to form three of 10 or so “Jehovah titles”; these, too, provide encouragement for discouraged saints:
1. JEHOVAH-JIREH: Gen. 22:14: associated with Abraham, and the “altar” (v. 9) on which he offered up Isaac (Heb. 11:17). He sees all our circumstances and provides for all our needs: as He saw Abraham and provided the “ram caught in a thicket.”
2. JEHOVAH-NISSI: Ex. 17:15: associated with Moses and the “altar” he built as a memorial after the victory over Amalek; a perpetual reminder that it is God Who provides victory over life’s foes, and that prayer is vital to secure this victory (v. 11). He is our Banner.
3. JEHOVAH-SHALOM: Judges 6:24: associated with Gideon and the “altar” he built to commemorate the peace God gives to allay the fears we have; as the Lord told Gideon: “Peace be unto thee; fear not.”
Similarily, encouragement can be derived from considering other Jehovah titles found in the Old Testament, but not transliterated in the King James Bible. For example: JEHOVAH-ROPHEKA — Ex. 15:26: the Healer. JEHOVAH-MeKADDISHKEM — the Sanctifier: Ex. 31:13; etc. JEHOVAH-ZeBA’OTH — 1 Sam. 1:3, etc.; Lord of hosts, Lord Almighty. JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU — our Righteousness: Jer. 23:6; 33:16. JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH — Ezek. 48:35: The Lord is there. JEHOVAH-ELYON — Ps. 7:17; 47:2; 97:9: Most High. JEHOVAH-RO’I — Ps. 23:1: My Shepherd.
A New Testament Name: FATHER: This is the precious name by which we know God in view of the relationship with Him into which we have been brought as “children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:36). The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is now, in virtue of His death and resurrection, our God and Father. As Jesus said to Mary outside the empty sepulchre: “I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God” (John 20:17). “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God … Beloved, now are we the sons of God” (1 John 3:1, 2). We have “received the Spirit of adoption (sonship), whereby we cry ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom. 8:15)—a name that slaves could not use—only sons.
What blessings and privileges are associated with this name! All that an earthly father should be and do for his children — and more — our heavenly Father does for His children, brought into His family by sovereign grace. What encouragement this should give us in all of life’s circumstances and trials: to know that God, Who controls all circumstances, is our Father!
Anticipating this relationship, the Lord Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, described some of the characteristics of their heavenly Father to His disciples, and indicated the great privileges and corresponding responsibilities that come from this relationship. In Matthew 5, 6 and 7, where the first New Testament references to God as our Father occur, the Lord emphasized that the lives of children in God’s family should be:
1. Without impurity (Matt. 5:21-48), because “your Father Who is in heaven is perfect” (v. 48).
2. Without hypocrisy (Matt. 6:1-18), because “your Father sees in secret” (vv. 6, 18).
3. Without anxiety (Matt. 6:19-34), because “your Father knows that ye have need of all these things,” (v. 32) and “your Father feeds” — provides for even the birds (v. 26).
4. Without hesitancy in asking our Father for our needs (Matt. 7:1-12) , because “your Father gives good things to them that ask Him” (v. 11).
An Old and New Testament Name: LORD. The Hebrew name “Adon,” or “Adonay” in the Old Testament, and the Greek name “Kurios,” used of God and Christ in the New Testament, imply His authority, power, and control of all things, including all the circumstances of life and the order of the universe. He is the supreme Sovereign. Nothing happens that is beyond His control. What an encouragement it is to know that “He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36)! We can safely entrust everything to Him and submit to His will.