You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.
Psalm 14:6 ESV
Pastor Neil said that the seemingly insignificant phrase "but the Lord" is one way to paraphrase the entire gospel message. That should not be a surprise if God really is as scripture says he is and if we really are how scripture says we are.
Consider the inherent contrasts between a transcendent God and mortal man, a good Creator and his fallen creation, a holy Priest and his defiled parishioners, a faithful Lord and his unfaithful servant, a mighty King and his feeble subject, a just Advocate and his guilty client, an honorable Father and his rebellious children, and a devoted Husband and his promiscuous bride.
The contrasts could not be starker.
Because of those contrasts, then, we experience all sorts of other contrasts between how we wish life were and how life actually is, how things should be and how they are, what we long for and what we get.
How does God react in light of all the contrasts between God and his creation and between how life should be with how life is? That is precisely the heart of the gospel message.
Consider just a few examples from scripture of the phrase "but the Lord" and its sister phrase "but God":
"And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days. But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark" (Genesis 7:24–8:1).
"Then Israel said to Joseph, 'Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers'" (Genesis 48:21).
"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today" (Genesis 50:20).
"Now Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has he cast them from his presence until now" (2 Kings 13:22–23).
"For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens" (1 Chronicles 16:26).
"The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins; their cities you rooted out; the very memory of them has perished. But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice" (Psalm 9:6–7).
"You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge" (Psalm 14:6).
"They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support" (Psalm 18:18).
"For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in" (Psalm 27:10).
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all" (Psalm 34:19).
"The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming" (Psalm 37:12–13).
"For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous" (Psalm 37:17).
"As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me" (Psalm 40:17).
"[Those who have foolish confidence] are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me" (Psalm 49:14–15).
"You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. But God will break you down forever" (Psalm 52:4–5).
"Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death. But God will strike the heads of his enemies, the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways" (Psalm 68:20–21).
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26).
"[Wicked rulers] band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge" (Psalm 94:21–22).
"I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me" (Psalm 118:13).
"His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love" (Psalm 147:10–11).
"All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit" (Proverbs 16:2).
"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).
"For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear" (Ecclesiastes 5:7).
"[T]he eyes of the haughty are brought low. But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice" (Isaiah 5:15–16).
"Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread" (Isaiah 8:12–13).
"I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame" (Isaiah 50:6–7).
"For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you" (Isaiah 60:2).
"The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory" (Isaiah 60:19).
"Then I said, 'Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.' But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say, "I am only a youth"; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak'" (Jeremiah 1:6–7).
"[Idols] are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith; their clothing is violet and purple; they are all the work of skilled men. But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation" (Jeremiah 10:9–10).
"I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! 'Denounce him! Let us denounce him!' say all my close friends, watching for my fall. 'Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him.' But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me" (Jeremiah 20:10–11).
"[T]hey sacrifice meat and eat it, but the Lord does not accept them" (Hosea 8:13).
"The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel" (Joel 3:16).
"Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, 'I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, "Go, prophesy to my people Israel"'" (Amos 7:14).
"So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up" (Jonah 1:3–4).
"Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him" (Habakkuk 2:19–20).
"And [Martha] went up to [Jesus] and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister [Mary] has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her'" (Luke 10:41).
"'And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you'" (Luke 12:19–20).
"You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts" (Luke 16:15).
"And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him" (Acts 7:9).
"And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven" (Acts 7:41–42).
"But Ananias answered, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.' But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name'" (Acts 9:13–16).
"And [Peter] said to [Cornelius and the others], 'You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean'" (Acts 10:28).
"They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear" (Acts 10:39–40).
"For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:7–8).
"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:26–27).
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:6).
"For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus" (2 Corinthians 7:5–6).
"For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise" (Galatians 3:18).
"[You] were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ" (Ephesians 2:3–5).
"Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one" (2 Thessalonians 3:1–3).
"[False teachers] are upsetting the faith of some. But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are his'" (2 Timothy 2:18–19).
"At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me" (2 Timothy 4:16–17).
It is impossible to overstate the contrasts between God and us, his creation, and it impossible to put into words the hurt we feel at the contrasts that exists between how things should be and how they are. But the Lord bridges the gap.
Evil and injustice may pile up to the very sky itself. But God is both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus Christ.
The world sits teetering on a precipice. But the Lord stands ready to save. This is the gospel we proclaim.
Be encouraged, dear flock. We're slow and wandering sheep. But God is the Good Shepherd.
Grace and peace,