The congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ begins us worship with a solemn declaration. Having come before the Lord their God, we say that “our help” is none other than the God “who created the heavens and the earth.” We may rest assured that this declaration, if made in sincerity and truth, is pleasing unto God.
The sensitive soul may me troubled with the thought that his life does not always manifest the fact that he places his reliance only upon God. There is, of course, always reason for this feeling when we speak in any way, at any lime about the hope that is in us. Our confession and our life are never in complete harmony and sometimes even in sharp conflict with each other. We have an example of this in Peter, the apostle. It is he who makes the glorious confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; and it is he who takes the Master to task for speaking about doing the work for which the Christ came into the world. For this reason Jesus first pronounces him blessed, and only a few moments later rebukes him as an instrument of Satan.
When these doubts created by the conflict between confession and life trouble our soul it may be well to remember what happened between Peter and Jesus after the resurrection. Jesus puts the question to Peter: “Lovest thou me?” He repeats that question three times. Peter knows very well why the Lord does this. He has denied the Master thrice, how could he dare to say that he loves him? But Peter stands his ground. You know his strong defense. He appeals to the fact that his Lord knoweth all things. He He knows how he failed miserably in the terrible night when Jesus was in the hands of his enemies. But he also knows the bitter tears and anguish of soul suffered by his disciple. He knows that in spite of his betrayal he loves Jesus, the Christ. Thus we declare, in spite of our sinful reliance oft times upon the things of the these things: “Our help is in the Name of Jehovah, who made the heavens and the earth.” And our God is pleased and responds to our declaration with those beautiful words: “Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God, the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ through the operation of the Holy Spirit.”
Because it is the same mouth that speaks, we easily loose sight of the fact that on the one hand it is the congregation which by mouth of the minister declares that God is our help, and on the other hand that it is God who responds, although it be by that same mouth. This emphasizes the fact that we must be thoughtful and attentive in every part of our worship in order that the formal part never become mere routine. In the votum and the salvation is a soul stirring manifestation that God is meeting with his people. He loves his people with all the intensity of his divine being. These are no empty words that flow from the lips of the minister as the servant of God. God assures his children once again that nothing less than his grace, mercy and peace is their portion.
It may be well to remind one another of the fact that the salutation spoken by the minister shows that he is not only a brother among the brethren. He is this, indeed! For this reason the salutation ought to be introduced by the words: “Dearly beloved brethren and sisters.” It would be improper if the minister should ever forget this. But it is equally wrong if the congregation and the minister should forget that the man in the pulpit is in a very special sense the servant of the Lord. We must be careful that we do not fall into the error of the Anabaptist, Darbyist and other sects, who do not have divine worship, but only an informal gathering of Christians with one another. No matter how profitable such gatherings may be, they cannot take the place of the official coming together of God and his people on the Lord’s Day 1 do not wish to write about this now, but the fact that ministers often do not appear in the pulpit in special garb certainly is an indication that the consciousness of the special place the minister occupies in the meeting of God with his people is not too strong.
And thus we love those words: “Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God, the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, through the operation of the Holy Spirit.” This is not the expression of a pious wish, but the proclamation of a spiritual reality.
God our Father in Heaven in and through Jesus Christ assures us that his grace and peace is our portion. After a week of living our every day life we need this assurance. We come to confess that we have kept none of God’s commandments. We are burdened with the knowledge that the good which we would do we have not done, and that the evil which we hate found a place in our life. But God assures us that he does not change. That we may know that his goodness attends us in all our ways. There is peace between God and us, notwithstanding our sins. A peace which is grounded in the eternal, sovereign love of God in the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, a peace which tells us that the curse of God does not rest upon us, which brings to our attention the blessed fact that God is for us. All this is realized in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. This greeting on the part of God causes us to say with renewed conviction, Abba, Father.
God and his people united in the bonds of an enduring love! Therefore we anticipate with joy this declaration and it is for this reason, too, that we say with the Psalmist: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of Jehovah.” It matters not that we have heard these words over and over again. Do you ever get tired of hearing words of endearment from the lips of those whom you love? Hundreds, thousands of times they may be repeated and the loving heart ever finds new inspiration and pleasure in the familiar, reoccurring phases. No, we do not get tired of hearing: “Grace, mercy and peace be unto you.”