Monthly Archives: August 2018

Psalm 126

Title: From where does prayer come?

Text: Psalm 126

Introduction: I sat on the edge of my bed and cried. I was 34 years old and had worked toward this moment for 13 years. And, I felt like such a failure.

Why had God called me and not blessed? What was I doing wrong? Why didn’t God let me pursue a different vocation that interested me so many years ago? There were many! Lisa can tell you I changed my mind about what I wanted to do and be a dozen times.

But that wasn’t the case. I was pastoring a church, as had been my dream, and felt I was wasting everyone’s time. So I just sat there and cried.

I don’t know if my kids know about that moment. I know Lisa knows, not because she was there. She wasn’t. She was busy in the kitchen getting lunch ready. But I know she knows I was down. Those moments over the past 35 years have never escaped her notice.

So, I sat alone in the bedroom, on the end of the bed and just cried.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt despair or struggle and just laid your soul bare before the Lord with tears and petitions?

Transition: That is where the Psalmist describes these people, but with one added flare: God delivered them. The context appears to be agricultural in nature. So, I think we can assume the Psalm itself is about a drought or famine in the past and God blessed them and restored their fortunes with abundant harvests and crops. So keep that in mind as we make our way through Psalm 126.

The Psalm has one natural division between verse 3 and 4. You might note that your text in whatever version you’re using. I think there is a good argument to say that there is even a third section by dividing up the 2nd section, between verses 4&5. Here’s how I see it (One long sentence into three parts):

  1. Remembering God’s Faithfulness in the past (1-3)
  2. Leads us to Powerful Petitions through Prayer (4)
  3. And makes us laborers who water our work with tears of passion and expectation (5-6).

Let’s look first at God’s faithfulness.

I.     Remembering God’s Faithfulness in the past (1-3)

exp.: if you notice in these first three verses, the writer calls for the hearers to remember when God acted ‘before’ and what joy it brought them. Furthermore, the nations saw what God had done and God was glorified in all of that. Rd v 1; a memory of God’s faithfulness; there was a time in the past when Israel had lost its ‘fortunes’ and then God ‘restored’ them; the truth is we don’t know what he’s talking about. It could have been a reference to the exile, but if you go back to Judges, when they first settled the land and read all the way through up to this point, you’ll see that happen repeatedly. Maybe that’s the point. Then, he uses this simile: we were like those who dream. Sometimes, God moves in such miraculous ways, that life just seems to be dreamlike – like it just can’t be real.

ill.: Consider Peter chained between two guards, with two sets of chains. Peter was fast asleep when an angel of the Lord ‘struck’ him on the side. That is to say, he nudged Peter awake. Now, Peter was not quite sure that what was happening to him was real. He thought he was having a vision. That is until the angel left him and he stood alone in the street. That is when he came to himself. I love that phrase. We see it also of the prodigal son who was suffering and finally came to himself. That means he came to his senses – the predicament he found himself in was real.

exp.: you’ll note the writer uses a simile in both verse one and verse four: like those who dream, like streams in the Negeb… The Negeb is a desert area in the southern part of Israel. Man, oh, Man, to the streams flow when it rains.

Now, there are more similarities in these two verses (1-4): Yahweh is used in both, restore is used in both and fortunes is used in both. And, as I already mentioned, you see the word like. When that happens it should cause you to ask yourself if there is some sort of repetition here. It is fitting to see if there is a chiastic structure going on. It looks like there just might be: there is repetition in v 2 in the tongue and the mouth. And there is another repetition at the end of 2 and v3 in The Lord has done great things. If that is the case, then the phrase then they said among the nations is being magnified or is the emphasis of this section. Let that sink in for a moment. The whole focus then would be that God is glorified through us in those moments.

app.: it makes me wonder about what that looks like. I wonder if sometimes we glory in the blessings of God and don’t point others to Him during those times. Just wondering…

Let’s stick with the simile for now and move away from form and structure. It is used for effect. Remember when the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, it was like…

A dreamlike anticipation is what Leslie Allen suggests in his commentary. Now, dreamers get this. You stable, realistic, “in-the-moment” people probably don’t get this imagery. Dreamers – we get it.

Ill.: One of my favorite illustrations about dreaming is in the book The Disney Way. Walt Disney was a dreamer. After Disney World was completed there was a special ceremony to cut the ribbon. Many who had worked on the project gathered for that special celebration near the front. As they were getting ready to cut the ribbon, one lady commented that it saddened her to think that Walt Disney wasn’t there to see this grand opening. A man standing near her said: He did see it. That’s why its here! That’s vision and that’s dreaming.

app.: Allen is suggesting that there was a ‘time’ before God’s blessings. Israel had experienced God’s blessings before, but now, for whatever reason, that wasn’t the experience. It could have been famine or drought. Who knows, but God? It doesn’t matter so much of what or when it was for us, but that it did happen at some time.

There was a time when the leadership saw people in the fields gathering more fruit and vegetables than they could possibly eat. The leadership saw the rivers flowing at their banks capacity, markets full, people laughing and enjoying the bounty of God’s blessing. And in that moment the leadership remembered when there had been drought or famine or pestilence or something horrible and they remember petitioning God for his blessings. They had been in a tough situation and wha-la! Now, what they had prayed about and asked God for – God’s answer was happening before their eyes. One day, after toil, struggle, prayer, and patience, God restored their fortune. He blessed them in the very manner their leadership had envisioned while praying.

And what did that cause them to do? rd v 2a: Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; Isn’t that what happens when God answers prayer? Aren’t you just amazed and filled with worship that has to spill out?

Look at the rest of v2; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” And indeed, they testify in v 3: The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.

t.s.: So, now the writer moves to prayer – a prayer born out of remembrance. And that’s our 2nd point this morning… Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past…

II.    Leads us to Powerful Petitions through Prayer (4)

exp.: rd v 4; Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb! ; A simple prayer, really; this is a prayer grounded in the faithfulness of God.

ill.: Can I just stop and be straight-forward with you right now? I’m there. I look at Calvary and recognize that she is a shadow of her former self. Lisa found a brochure of Calvary from the year 1999. There is a picture on the front of 20 people (really 21, but you can make out who it is). Of those 20 people whose pictures grace the cover of that brochure, only one person is still at Calvary 20 years later.

app.: God has blessed Calvary in the past. If I could show you pictures of her in her former glory (to use a worldly term), then that would be a great picture of v1 for us. To those who are older, I could say, Remember when the Lord restored the fortunes of Calvary? We were like those who dream. Can you use your imagination and see these hallways filled with people? Can you see us moving back into the south wing and needing one room per age group: one room for the 1st graders and one room for the 2nd graders and…. Can you see the worship center filled to capacity? Can you see this Fellowship Hall filled with every table and every chair? If you’re someone who has been here for at least the last 20 years, you can imagine it. And if you’ve been here since the 1940’s you can remember the former days when Calvary had 100’s and 100’s and 100’s of people – maybe 1,000 or more.

t.s.: that’s where those prayers are born… in memories of God’s faithfulness in the past. But the Psalmist is clear now. He tells just how those prayers flow –

III.   And makes us laborers who water our work with tears of passion and expectation (5-6)

exp.: rd v 5; Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! Then there is this repeat of v 5 and a doubling up with emphasis: He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

ill.: What a picture! It isn’t the rain that comes which waters the seed that has been sown. It’s the tears of the laborers! Notice that these people don’t just get on their knees to pray. These people go to work.

app.: I think there will be times when a person will stop in and say they stopped in because they saw the church and they heard a voice that said: you should visit there. But really, that isn’t the Great Commission. Is it?

ill.: Matthew 28.18 – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. That’s a lot of authority Y’all. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, pray. … no… that isn’t what he said. He said… ? Go! Make disciples. Baptizing. Teaching.

Just curious, when you think of times when Jesus taught about prayer, what did he say? Does this sound familiar: And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Listen, sometimes, all you can do is pray. But, often times, there is work to be done.

Conclusion: Do you remember my story from the beginning of this message of me sitting down on the end of my bed and just weeping before God.

Well, God answered my prayer. Some months later an evangelist came to town. I church joined in the effort and it was a nice week. Afterward, I got cards representing some six different families. As I recall, all six of those families began coming to Calvary. I baptized at least one person from each of those families. Our church began reaching lost people and our church grew. God heard my prayers, he saw my tears, he restored our fortune…

Application: So what does this mean for us today? Well, a couple of thoughts:

  1. Repentance: Most Psalms that deal with this topic of prayer for restoring Israel’s fortunes have something about repentance, too. When taken as a whole, we must remember that God will not bless us in our sin. Where sin abounds, repentance must come first.
  2. When the church is blessed, God is glorified. I wonder if too many churches touch that glory and forget that the blessings of God are for the glory of God.
  3. Don’t confuse your idea of blessings and restoring of fortunes with God’s idea of the same.
  4. The younger generation doesn’t know what we know. My morning Scripture reading is in Deuteronomy and just this week Moses told the adults in 11.1: And consider today (since I am not speaking to your children who have not known or seen it), consider the discipline of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, and he continues on… I was reminded that those who are younger don’t understand what it means. They don’t remember the former glory, the times of fortune. Do you remember in Ezra where the young people wept for joy at the Temple and the older people wept with sorrow because they remembered the former glory of the Temple? The younger generation doesn’t know what we know. Keep that in mind. Maybe the younger generation can comprehend, but only on a small scale. But, for those of us who’ve endured, we must communicate with this younger generation: We’ve been through worse and God has always been faithful to His Church.
  5. Let me ask you: Do you recognize our need? Have you been moved to tears over Calvary? Have you been moved to labor? Do you realize that our church will not simply grow because we are here or even that we pray? Do you realize that we must get out of our seats and go beyond these walls to the ones who are lost and hurting? There is a man who has his 8th 1st-day chip from AA in two years. There is the wife who is hurting because her husband is addicted to porn. There is the mom who doesn’t know how to reach her hurting teenager. There is the daughter who has to make the hard decision to move her momma into a nursing home where she can get the around-the-clock attention she needs. There is the young couple who has been trying to have a baby for 5 long years. There are people all around us who are suffering in silence and you and I have been given the Great Commission to go to them.

Let’s start now. Let’s take our prayers and our tears to God and plead with him to save us, to deliver us, to send us to the hurting and the lost and the ones in need. Lord, send us out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing. And bring us back home with shouts of joy, bringing in the sheaves!

In a moment we’re going to call for a moment of silence. I’d like for you to reflect, honestly, on your heart for our church and our community. If you’ve never asked Christ to forgive you of your sin, I want to talk with you about that. If you have a decision or a commitment you’d like to talk with me about… (like you’re interested in joining our church or believe God might be calling you into the ministry or on to the mission field) please, come and talk with me about it. I’d love to visit with you about whatever is on your mind.

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Filed under Christian Living, Psalms, Psalms of Ascent, Scripture, Sermon, Sin

Psalm 125

Title: Faith’s Firm Foundation

Text: Psalm 125

Introduction: You guys know I spent my vacation camping and climbing mountains. I have to say I loved it – I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lisa camped with me and she was a real trouper. I had planned to put up a picture here of the view she had from her chair as she did her quilting and listened to music, but when I went to get it, I found I didn’t have it. It is on her phone. Anyway, she has some good pics of our campsite and the surrounding beauty of the mountains.

I did summit 10 14ers in 12 days – that is to say, I climbed to the top of 10 mountains that reach an elevation of over 14,000 ft and I did it in 12 days. I also summated one 13er. I have no idea how many miles I walked, but I’d say it was less than 100 miles – but not by much.

I saw some beautiful country and spent some time in prayer. I was afraid a couple of times. Well, more than a couple of times. I was only in danger – real danger that I know of, on Missouri Mountain. There is a certain kind of ‘fear’ I feel when I climb. Sometimes I think it has to do with the altitude more than a genuine fear. There are inherent risks one takes when climbing mountains. But, I want you to know that I do my best to carry everything I’ll need in case of an emergency. The army trained me well to be able to survive out in the wilderness if something were to go wrong. And I would hope that I could put that training to use if it were ever needed.

When climbing a mountain, you want to research everything as much as possible. The truth is that there are some mountains to climb that are harder than others. Each mountain has its own problems. When climbing there is instability. Sometimes footing is hard. Sometimes you have to use your hands for some extra stability. Sometimes, climbers take the mountain foolishly and end up getting hurt. Sometimes accidents happen. When I had finished my last mountain, I was dropping below the summit and came across a climber who had fallen and blown out his knee. He was lucky to have a person climbing that morning who was a part of a rescue squad and about 20 other people around willing to help. She knew just what to do. Later on, as I continued my descent, I videoed the helicopter making its way to the saddle, just below the summit to pick him up.

I want to talk with you this morning about a mountain where one can feel stable and secure.

Turn with me to Psalm 125. Let’s read the text together. I’ll read and you follow along in your copy of God’s Word. Let’s all stand together as we read the Word of the Lord together.

The Lord Surrounds His People

125 A Song of Ascents.

        Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.

        As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.

        For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong.

        Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts!

        But those who turn aside to their crooked ways the Lord will lead away with evildoers!

Peace be upon Israel!

Prayer; thank you, you may be seated.

Normally, the ESV gives some natural separation to the divisions in the text, making it easier for the reader to identify. But, as we see this morning in the text of Psalm 125 – there aren’t any. But I think there are – at least that is how I’ve divided the text up:

  1. A statement of Faith or Trust in the presence of Yahweh in one’s life and the security and stability His presence brings (v1-2).
  2. A warning of danger when wickedness is allowed into the presence of Yahweh’s People (v3).
  3. A prayer for Yahweh to keep his people and his place pure (v4-5).

Look at v 1 with me again: Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. What a statement!

You probably remember the context of these Psalms of Ascent. These were sung or chanted maybe by the pilgrims, as they would make their way to Jerusalem and around Jerusalem as they made their way to the Temple for Worship. Standing in Jerusalem you can see the other mountains around her. rd v 2; As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.

Goldingay writes: There is a particular strength about Mount Zion, constituting as it does a thumb-shaped crest with steep slopes on three sides. But the Temple Mount isn’t the highest summit in the Jerusalem area. It’s probably the lowest. There are other summits that rise up around it.

Leslie Allen notes: Vivid reference is made to the ring of mountains surrounding Jerusalem. “Zion is… a modest hill. It’s top is not as high as the tops of the surrounding mountains: it lies 66 m below that of the Mount of Olives, 76 m below that of Mount Scopus, 33 m below that of the hill to its west… and 53 m below that of ras el-mekkaber”.

Standing on the mount in Jerusalem, which feels secure in itself, one can look to these surrounding mountains and feel even greater security and stability. Allen concludes: To the eye of faith these mountains became a symbol of Yahweh’s everlasting protection.

The language here in Psalm 125 is what we call a simile. Those who trust in God are ‘like’ Mount Zion.

The point the writer is making is that his trust isn’t in the mountain of God itself, but rather in Yahweh (see all caps, i.e., Lord).

And there is good reason for this. In 2 Samuel 5, the text tells us that David ruled at Hebron for 71/2 years and then moved the capital to Jerusalem. But, taking Jerusalem wasn’t easy. Even the inhabitants (the Jebusites) thought they were safe from David. Rd 2 Sam 5.6: And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.”

The inhabitants of Jerusalem felt so secure, that they believed they could post the blind and the lame as guards and still be safe! But guess what, Jerusalem fell to David, and of course, it became known as the City of David. David knew it was secure, not because of its position and situation in the midst of other mountains. It was secure because God made it secure. And the writer of Psalm 125 echoes that thought: Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.

Something then happens in v3, which causes the reader to pause: For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong. Sometimes, people don’t put their faith in Yahweh. Sometimes, they put their faith in the government that rules them. Some trust in the scepter that rules over them. Here is a warning to those who would and a statement that God will not allow that to continue forever.

I think this is the principle being taught: if wickedness is allowed to rule over God’s people, then eventually God’s people will become wicked in their behavior.

Historically, and in context with the passage, from 600 BC onward, there is a foreign presence in Israel. It isn’t a Jewish King that rules – it isn’t someone from the House of David. And, foreigners in the land bring a presence of sin that permeates the people and influences their culture and their practices.

As an example, just look at the disciples. You have a variety of men who represent different aspects of their culture. Consider Levi or Matthew. What was his occupation? He worked for Rome – a tax collector. Many, who saw Roman occupation as evil, would have hated him. Consider John, who was close enough to the Chief priest and his family that he was able to get Peter into the inner court to see what was going on with Jesus on the night he was betrayed.

If wickedness is allowed to rule over God’s people, then eventually God’s people will become wicked in their behavior. That outside presence of wickedness eventually influences God’s people. But, the psalmist believes that God isn’t going to allow that to happen. And that is his prayer; rd v 4-5;

            Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts! But those who turn aside to their crooked ways the Lord will lead away with evildoers! Peace be upon Israel!

Some scholars see a type of poetic structure in these last three verses:

  • the wicked (3a)
    • the righteous (3b)
    • the righteous (4) – those who do good and are upright in their hearts.
  • the wicked (5)

This structure would be a smaller structure to the overall structure of an Emphasis on Yahweh, which has Yahweh in v1&2 and again in v4&5.

What is the Psalmist saying? What is his emphasis? It is the importance of faith and trust in God. His first sentence here would be a perfect thesis statement: Those who trust in the Lord (Yahweh) are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.

Placing your Trust in God brings stability and security. Allowing outside influences in your life will be destructive. So, pray. Pray that God will remove those who desire and practice wickedness. Pray that God would bless those whose lives have been changed by him: those who (internally) are upright in their hearts and (externally) practice holiness to the best of their ability.

But just how does that impact our lives? Is the Psalm 125, an OT passage, applicable to the church? Yes!

Here is how I would outline this passage for the church:

  1. Faith’s Firm Foundation brings Stability (1)
  2. Faith’s Firm Foundation brings Security (2)
  3. A lack of faith and a dependence on the world brings instability and wickedness (3)

 

A 4th point might be Pray! Pray for the Church (you see that in verses 4-5). But, I think I’ll make that my application.

Application: Pray!

  1. Pray for God’s people and that righteousness would possess them.
  2. Pray that God would protect the righteous and keep wickedness far from her.
  3. Pray for Unity and Peace in the Body.

After my vacation and visit to Colorado, I now have 27 summits. After all of the talk of mountains and hikes and storms and fears, you’d probably think that the mountains were my main motivation.

Can I show you a picture?

IMG_0547

You see, it isn’t really about the mountains for me. It’s about the relationship! And you know what, it isn’t about the mountain in Psalm 125. It’s all about the relationship.

If you don’t have a relationship with God through his Son Jesus, let me tell you how you can.

In a moment we’ll be dismissed. We’ll gather in the back for some coffee, cookies, and doughnuts. Come and talk with me or Duffey, or one of the elders. We’d love to visit with you about what it means to give your life to Christ – to know and have that security and that stability that comes through a relationship with him.

Maybe, you’ve got another decision on your heart:

  • You’re thinking of church membership
  • You feel God might be calling you to ministry or missions.
  • Maybe you just have questions about Christ. Come talk to us.

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Filed under 2 Samuel, Psalms, Psalms of Ascent, Scripture, Sermon

Psalm 122

Title: The Simple Pleasure of Public Worship

Text: Psalm 122

Introduction: Simple Pleasures. Most times, it seems, that what we enjoy most in life – are the simple pleasures.

I don’t know, maybe it is just because I’m getting older, but that is what I look forward to. I know everyone likes something different. Lisa and I are headed out of town for a couple of weeks of summer vacation. We’re going to do what we love. I’ve been praying the weather is nice and we can have a fire at night. I don’t know what it is about a fire in the fireplace or fire pit, but I could just sit and stare at it for hours. When you’re in the mountains it seems there are more stars – and they’re so much brighter.

The Simple Pleasures.

If the pilgrims are making their way up toward the Temple for worship and ‘singing’ these Psalms of Ascent, then, Psalm 120 is sung while they are still far off. Psalm 121 is sung as they see the hills of Jerusalem in the distance – maybe they don’t see the city, but they know they’re getting closer. If so, then Psalm 122 would be sung as they stepped inside the gates of the city. Just to be inside the gates! Man, they’re so close! Simple Pleasures.

What joy there would be when they arrived! The journey would have been long, but it at this time, would be considered worth it! Maybe they’ll be like Jesus who turned his face toward Jerusalem in Luke 9.51; There are like 6 references to their journey toward Jerusalem. You read through Luke and you follow Christ and where he goes, but if you’re not looking specifically at the references, you’ll miss the pilgrimage. These guys are probably thinking their journey is for a feast or festival – It is the Passover – but, I believe Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He was going to be the Passover lamb to be sacrificed for the sins of the world.

Maybe the people have been on a long journey and now they’ve arrived. I wonder what went through their hearts and minds. I wonder what their senses picked up that was familiar and brought excitement. The sound of animal hooves on the stone road or the noises they make as they coo and crow. The sights and sounds of the big city that they’ve not heard since last there? I wonder… I’ll bet it was the simple pleasures.

 

Let’s pause for a moment and bring this home: What goes through your heart and mind when it comes time to go to church? What do you think? What do you feel? Is there excitement? Is there a sense of anticipation?

Look back with me now to Psalm 122; rd v 1-2; someone said, “it’s time!” and now they’re standing within the gates.

Transition: note with me the first simple pleasure David records…

I.     There is a joy that arises from within when the Psalmist hears the invitation to go to the house of the Lord. (1-2)

exp.: I was glad! The House of Yahweh; which, by the way, forms bookends to this Psalm. You’ll see the House of Yahweh again in v9; I think this joy rises up within because the psalmist loves to worship Yahweh.

If this Psalm is of David, then the context is of David already standing within the walls of Jerusalem rejoicing at the call of someone who had previously said to him, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” For the Psalms of Ascent, this psalm was added to this collection because it works perfectly with the pilgrims who are making their way to Jerusalem. There is an excitement that arises when one considers coming to the house of God to worship him.

ill.: I liken it to Youth camp. You guys just got back. Some of you testified to how wonderful it was. If Duffey were to announce this morning that He is putting together a group of teens who will be going back to Camp, I wonder if any would be like David here and say: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go back to Youth Camp!” At Youth camp, you probably worshipped and fellowship and had experiences that are unlike being in the real world. You’ve withdrawn from the world and you’ve enjoyed the mountaintop experiences of getting away from the world and getting closer to God.

app.: Look at his experiences of worship: v4, to give thanks; v6-8, for prayer (peace, security, prosperity, unity, community);

t.s.: there is joy – and if you don’t have it, I can’t make you experience it. It is something that is born from within you. There is joy that arises from within when the believer hears the invitation to go to the house of the Lord because the believer loves to worship God. But there is a 2nd Simple Pleasure…

II.    There is a gratitude that arises from within when the Psalmist thinks about the city where the Worship of God is central and the rule of David’s throne is set. (3-5)

exp.: Jerusalem, the psalmist loves Jerusalem! Why does he love this city?

  • From the context of the king, David has been there all week at a festival. He now thinks about leaving and he can’t wait to return.
  • For the pilgrim from a faraway land, he’s thinking and longing about standing there again. Whether that is someone who is coming back from exile, or if it is someone who lives in the country but has to travel to Jerusalem for a festival and a time of worship, that person is longing for the city – And, that person is so excited about getting there once again, because it isn’t just any city.

Ill.: Consider that those who lived out in the country of Judea had to travel to Jerusalem and how hard that would have been. Do you remember Hannah and her husband, Elkannah? Their journey was once a year – year by year. Every year they would travel from his city to Shiloh, where the ark was at that time. Consider when a family packed up and went, who took care of the business; fed and cared for the animals, etc.?

ill.#2: There is work to be done. Lisa and I are going out of town. It is absurd, the amount of work. Lisa had to make three bulletins this week. I had to line up someone to mow our yard. There was a lot of prep work. And, when we return, we’ll be playing catch up for a few days.

These people had it harder than we do! They would be gone for longer than we will be gone.

There was this hard work, but there was also this ‘emotional’ experience – an emotional attachment. But, it is more than an emotional attachment!

  • There is stability here in Jerusalem.
    • The gates (v2) are strong and sturdy; rd v 3,
    • the city itself is built in such a way that it is described as; bound firmly together; And I think this is more than just stone and mortar, walls and towers (v7).
    • It is also a community.
      • You see this in v 4; there are 13 tribes of Israel and they’ve all come to this place for this celebration, this festival.
      • This is where the king lives and rules. The Davidic lineage. Remember the Christmas story? Jesus was of the house of David.
    • In the last section, you see two words that are very similar, but still different: Secure and Security. We’ll say more about these two words in a minute, but for now, note the feel of what being inside the city gates would bring to the pilgrim.

ill.: When I was in Harlingen as a young minister, my pastor required the staff to make hospital visits each week. In a church that size, there was always someone in the hospital. Every Thursday I would drive to Valley Baptist Hospital and visit members. To be quite honest, I didn’t know 99% of the people there who were members of my own congregation. But I got to meet some neat people. One such lady was in her late 90’s. She had been a part of FBC Harlingen most of her life. She played the piano and taught in the children’s Sunday School for decades. Her memories were much like what David is sharing here: they brought her joy and a deep sense of gratitude. She would refer to the church as ‘choych’. And she would say it with a sweetness, such a fondness that I think most folks just don’t get.

app.: I wonder if the younger generation is missing out on something truly wonderful in having an emotional attachment to the church? We’re so mobile. With 400 churches in Smith County, it is so easy to just move your membership.

Now, an emotional attachment isn’t everything, but it is something wonderful. There is an emotional attachment to the place and to the people. And I think it only comes through a loyalty of commitment to community and unity – to the people of God.

Let me ask you: What happens to you when someone mentions the church? Is there a feeling, an emotion that rises up within you of longing and desire? Is there joy and gratitude that arises within when you speak of the church?

Derek Kidner in his two-volume set on Psalms says: What Jerusalem was to the Israelite, the church is to the Christian.

Martin Luther: Our Jerusalem is the church and our temple is Christ.

app.: I think the text is clear that their reasoning for coming was to (v.4) give thanks. Unity and Community were byproducts of that mandate. They did not come to Jerusalem on a yearly basis to work on their unity.

t.s.: there is joy when he hears of and gratitude when he thinks of Jerusalem and the Temple. Then, there is a switch on the part of the Psalmist. His longing turns to an imperative. He commands the people to pray – and that is my 3rd Simple pleasure…

III.   There is a concern that arises within the Psalmist for the welfare of this divine institution as he considers the fragile state of the human condition. (6-9)

exp.: it feels good to care about something; to take ownership! In v6 he begins with a command: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. There is a question about whether this should still be going on. Maybe you’ve seen this bumper sticker? The Psalmist tells you what to pray – I mean he gives you the words: “May they be secure who love you! 7Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” These two words secure and security have the connotation of May they ‘securely prosper and secure prosperity’. Why pray for these things? His answer is in 8-9: For the sake of my family and friends, for the sake of the Lord’s house.

Do you follow the news of Jerusalem? UPI headlines yesterday: Muslims Worshipers, Israeli Police Clash at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Jerusalem continues to search for peace, but peace eludes them. Why? Jesus told them 2,000 ago: 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19.41-44 – We learned in our Christian History class this summer that there were Christians who knew this and fled to the hills and were saved when Jerusalem fell in 70AD.

1,000 years after David commanded the Israelites to pray for peace, Peace came and stood in their midst. And they missed him! You see in v 41 that it broke his heart as he wept over the ‘city of peace’.

(Pause)

ill.: Do you remember when David was chilling out in his Palace and looked out across the way and saw the tent where the Ark of the Covenant was? His heart broke. He thought it wrong that he, the King of Israel should dwell in a palace and the presence of God in the Ark of the Covenant should dwell in a tent. He set his heart and his mind to build a Temple for God. You probably remember the story. God chose his son, Solomon to build the Temple. So David prepared everything ahead time for his son. He got all the lumber and materials in order before he died so that his son could build that Temple.

It was at that time that the Israelites were given a picture of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace:

  • He is the king who was descended from David
  • He is the great high priest who would intercede for us.

app.: And only when you come to the place where you surrender your life to the King and ask for him to intercede for you as your priest can you truly find peace. Peace can only come through Christ. That’s why he wept. Consider Luke 13: 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! He wanted to gather them! He wanted that peace for them. But they had other plans.

Now, you might be wondering really Fred, you got that from here? Do you see v 3? That phrase bound firmly together? That is the same wording in Exodus for the prescription of how the Tent, which possessed the Ark, was built: bound firmly together. Exodus 26.11; So you have this imagery of God and the command of the tribes of Israel to ascend (v.4 – go up) to give thanks to the name of the Lord. Verse 5 declares the rule of the King who administers justice and judgment.

t.s.: And for me, that’s point #4 this morning and the conclusion of the matter:

Conclusion – The Reality of it all: they missed it (Luke 19.41; 13.34)

exp.: But you don’t have to miss it. That really is the message of the Gospel: there is no peace without Jesus.

They came to their festivals. They sang their psalms. They longed for peace, but when peace was in their midst, when peace visited them, they missed him. Don’t miss your opportunity to find peace.

Application: What are we called to do in light of this message? Three questions for you to consider:

  1. When was the last time you said: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” The Psalmist loves Worship, he loves the place of worship, and he loves the people who worship God with him. There is a zeal and a passion for the Worship of God – for the Place of Worship, the People of Worship. Do you get excited about that, too?

ill.: One of the things I miss about my girls is that they used to get so excited about Sundays and going to church. There was an excitement about picking out their dresses; about picking out the necklace that would go with that dress; about the shoes that would match; about getting their hair done. I can remember driving by the church and my girls, when they were little would point it out with enthusiasm, there’s the church – like I was missing it somehow. When was the last time you got excited about church? When was the last time you said: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

  1. When you do come to the church, what are your expectations? What do you hope to accomplish? Do you look for those who aren’t here and make comments about them? Is this a social hour? Or, Do you come to this place for the sole purpose of giving thanks to the name of the Lord?
  2. Do you long for, deeply desire God’s favor to be visited upon the people of God? Do you pray for her peace? Do you pray for her prosperity? Do your prayers bubble up from the passion and longing you have for her? Pray for the Church.
    1. Matthew Henry: The peace and welfare of the gospel church, particularly in our land, is to be earnestly desired and prayed for by every one of us.
    2. Spurgeon said: For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. It is to the advantage of all Israel that there should be peace in Jerusalem. It is for the good of every Christian, yea, of every man, that there should be peace and prosperity in the church. Here our humanity and our children, our neighbors, and our fellow countrymen are likely to be blest.

 

Here at Calvary, we spend time in fellowship after our worship services. If you’re a guest, we’d love to visit with you, too. If you’ve never accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, we want to take advantage of this time and share Christ with you. Maybe you have a commitment you’d like to share with us: surrendering to missions, joining our fellowship and becoming a member – whatever it might be – we’re going to have a moment of silence to reflect upon the Greatness of God and consider what He is calling us to do. After that time of silence, join us in our time of fellowship – come and talk with us.

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