Monthly Archives: September 2018

Psalm 130

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Title: Out of the Depths

Text: Psalm 130

We’ll be in two texts this morning: Here in Psalm 130 and later, we’ll turn to Romans 5 for a moment.

Introduction: A young boy from down south attended Sunday school for the first with his grandparents who lived up north. He was so excited he couldn’t wait to tell grandma about the lesson. “My teacher taught us all about the whales,” he announced. “You mean Jonah and the whale?” grandma asked. “No,” he said, “Jacob and the whales.” “I think it was Jonah,” the grandmother gently corrected. “He was swallowed by a whale in the ocean.” But this young man knew his lesson. “No, it was Jacob. He moved out into the desert and when he got thirsty, he dug some whales.”

Communication sometimes can be hard. Especially when you think you already know what the other person is trying to say. But what about when someone wants to communicate, but they’re in a place where there just are no words. For instance, praying. What is it like when you want to pray, but you don’t know what to say or even how to say it.

ill.: The Valley of Vision; a help in praying; sometimes, I just don’t know what to say.; Read the first one…

Have you ever been in a place where there were no words to adequately describe your plight, your plea? That place – that is where the Psalmist describes, Out of the Depths.

I have to say, though, we could categorize this struggle. What I mean by that is people get to the bottom of life – to the depths in different ways. We could create categories out of those different ways. Two come to mind: First, Some people reach the bottom, but not by their own doing. It wasn’t their fault, per se, just life and the calamity that sometimes plagues it.

  • The loss of a child
  • The suffering of a spouse
  • The tragedy of a natural disaster, just to mention a few.

But this Psalm doesn’t come from that category. Consider the despair someone feels from hitting the bottom because they have put themselves there. That would be the 2nd category. You made that decision. There is no one else to blame but you. And you know it. This Psalm, Psalm 130, was born out of that pain and despair.

Now, before we dig in, I want us to look closely at the Psalms four natural separate sections: 1-2; 3-4; 5-6; 7-8. The ESV, NIV, CSV has formatted the passage with space in between 2-3; 4-5; 6-7 to help us identify them.

Show slide:

  • His Prayer from a place of deep despair (1-4)
  • His Trust (Faith) in the only place he can hope (5-6)
  • His Plea for Israel to put their hope in God (7-8)

For our purposes this morning, I’ve made my divisions between verses 4-5 and 6-7. So, I’m going to group verse 1-4 together. You’ll notice he’s speaking to God. That’s his prayer. I want you to then be looking ahead to verses 5&6, where we find the basis for his prayer: God’s faithfulness. This man’s faith and his trust in God are grounded firmly in God’s faithfulness to his Word. And thirdly, what he’s found is what he wants for his people, so he issues this plea: Israel, hope in the Lord, too. And he then tells them why.

Transition: Let’s begin with this first section…

I.     His Prayer: A cry and a confession born out of his condition (1-4)

exp.: Psalm 120.1, 5; a call that comes from the distress of living in exile; Psalm 121.1, 7; a cry for rescue from ‘all the evil’; Ps 123.1-2; Have mercy, v3 Have Mercy; why? V4; we’ve had more than enough of what this world offers;

Question: What are these circumstances that surround this Cry? Is it from a geographical place? Or, is it from the depths of anguish? The context of the Psalms of Ascent would lead us to both – geographically and spiritually. This word depths is used metaphorically to refer to the overwhelming personal devastation in Psalm 69 – as in, the Psalmist suffers from those who are attacking him.

In Psalm 124, David presents this idea of being swept away: 4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters. Had God not intervened on behalf of Israel, they would have been cast into the depths!

For the Jew, the depths is the scariest place to be. In Revelation 13 we see the Beast rising up out of the depths of the sea – coming from this place of darkness and evil – a very scary place where evil abides.

What a picture! And the writer is here, in the depths, crying out to Yahweh.

To be in this place alone… that would be bad. But he isn’t alone and he knows it. He knows there is someone he can call to and count on… And that, my friend, makes all the difference in the world!

Note the poetic efforts to whom he is addressing:

  • vs 1: Yahweh, vs 2, Adonai
  • vs 3: Yahweh, Adonai
  • vs 5: Yahweh, vs 6: Adonai
  • vs 7: Yahweh, Yahweh

Using both terms, the Psalmist is appealing to the almighty power of Yahweh and to the close personal relationship the Psalmist has with God. Goldingay says the Psalmist does this because he believes God has the power and the obligation to respond. The obligation comes from the close personal relationship.

app.: What a beautiful picture of God: We should always retain an understanding of the Great Omnipotent God who created the Universe. And, this same Great, Almighty God desires a personal relationship with each one of us. This is the message we preach. And the hope we bring to the world.

But remember, why is this person here? Why is he in the depths (whether in exile or in circumstances), why is he crying out in anguish for God’s mercy?

  • Not the world’s mistreatment, even though we’ve read that happening (129.3)
  • Not evil against him, even though the world will be that way
  • Not contempt by those evil doers, even though they are contemptuous.

No, this comes from the writer’s recognition of his own sin. Continuing on in v. 3-4: If you, O Lord (Yahweh, Almighty God), should mark iniquities, O Lord (Adonai, close and personal Father), who could stand? But with you (sweet, loving Father) there is forgiveness, that you may be feared (Yahweh, God Almighty).

This is an excellent question: who can stand before Yahweh? Surely not this poor fellow! Or, if you choose to look at it as being written on behalf of the nation, then surely not the Israelites. They had rejected Him. Hence, they have found themselves exiled and far away from home. The question is asked in such a way that it deserves a response in the negative: No One! The writer recognizes his own sinful state. And, without God’s forgiveness, he cannot stand before God. This close personal relationship with the Almighty God has been fractured.

The Holiness of God:

Why is this? Because God is holy; none can stand in his presence because all have sinned. Ps 14 & Ps 53 declare there is none righteous, all have become corrupt! The writer is moved to pray a cry for mercy because the writer has become aware that he is out of sorts with God – not with the world, or an enemy, or not because of his circumstances. No, he is out of alignment with God. He says: If you, Yahweh, should mark iniquities; iniquity is defined as something that is not equal; something out of proportion to God’s character.

Let that sink in. Iniquity is defined as something that is ‘not equal’; something out of proportion to God’s character.

Don’t get me wrong: we can be out of sorts with an enemy, or circumstances and situations, or the world. But that will never show us our sinfulness like when we cast ourselves in light of God’s Holiness.

The writer here sees himself in light of a holy God and knows that none can stand. David asks in Psalm 24: Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.

Nobody fits that description but one: Christ. Jesus is the only one who has clean hands and a pure heart. Our writer in Psalm 130 acknowledges that without the forgiveness of sin, he cannot hope to stand in the presence of God. But, rd v 4a: But with you there is forgiveness…

May I veer off course for a moment and ask a question? Who prays like this? Our prayers are not typically like this. Our prayers concern ourselves with where we are and what we’re doing. Our prayers are more focused upon the fact that we’ve been mistreated, the circumstances we find ourselves in are beyond our control, or some evil has been perpetrated against us. Not this prayer! This is an acknowledgment of the fact that this person is where he is because he has sinned against God. And he knows there is absolutely nothing he can do to rectify the situation. He needs God to intervene on his behalf.

app.: I wonder if you’ve ever been here? In some respects, this is a wonderful place to have been. Not to stay, but to have been. Let me ‘splain… when you’ve been in this place:

  1. It causes you to realize that you are a weak individual. When you are in the depths because of your own doing, you begin to see how pitifully weak you are. You thought you were strong, but now you see you’re weak and you need the strength of the Lord to protect you.
  2. It causes you to realize that you are prone to sin. You need help getting away from people, places, etc. that hurt you. And sin never just hurts you, but those you’re intimately involved with: your husband, your wife, your children, your church, your ministry, etc. You’re weak and sinful!
  3. It shows you the damage it does to your relationship/fellowship with God. You see separation, you’ve lived being separated from God and you hate it! You understand what it means to say as in Psalm 32:

        Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

        Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

        For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

        For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

Maybe this is our problem today in the church: we don’t have a high view of our holy God. Maybe we’re presenting a god to the world who isn’t holy and doesn’t display holiness. We show the world that Marriage isn’t important to God. Children aren’t important to God. Relationships aren’t important to God. Our view of God is way too small – his holiness is not clearly perceived in our actions and our sinfulness is too readily accepted as being ok. We think to ourselves: Oh, it ain’t that bad!

But the writer here sees it. That is why he writes: If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

t.s.: That is why he prayers a prayer born out of his sinful condition. He sees it, he knows it, and so he declares out from the depths, his trust in God:

II.     His Trust: A Contentment born out of knowledge and experience (5-6)

exp.: rd v 5: I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; One who hopes in the Lord knows that he will not be disappointed or put to shame. Why? Look where his hope is: in his word.

Turn to Romans 5.1-5; Romans 4 teaches us that our faith is the same as Abraham’s faith. Here is the basic teaching: God said it. God gave his word. Abraham believed God and because of that, it was credited to his account as righteousness. Abraham’s faith – that is, trusting God at His Word made him righteous. God made him righteous because he took God at His Word. In the same manner, we believe God, that if we confess Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, then, we will be saved. When we’ve taken God at his word, we’re justified and we have certain blessings of now being able to walk with him. Rd 5.1; the blessings from our justification:

  • We have peace (v1)
  • We have access into the Grace of God. (v2a)
  • We rejoice
    • In hope of the glory of God (2b)
    • In our present suffering (3-4)

And this is where we’re going in v 5: and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. And v6-8 tell us that God shows us his love in a physical way by placing his Son upon the cross of Calvary to die for our sin. So, how is it that we won’t be ashamed? Two actions by God lead us to this place of understanding that our hope will not disappoint us. He has poured his love into our hearts (Holy Spirit) – and he gave his son to die for our sins.

A lot of people think that we’re out in left field when we talk of heaven and the spiritual things of God. But, we know because of these two actions that one day – our hope will be a reality. We’ll see him face to face – we will be like him for we shall see him as he is AND, we will not be disappointed.

That’s what faith is. That’s what this man’s trust is all about: Hope in God and what He has said. For hope is a knowledge of something to come that has yet to be realized. But we know it will and we will not be disappointed!

            I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. The writer knows that God’s promises are true. The writer knows that God’s word is something in which he can put his hope! And so he waits because his trust is in God.

Transition: now the writer moves from the first person to the third person. He was praying to God, He gave testimony of God’s faithfulness, now he directs what he has to say to the people.

III.   His Plea: A Call to Hope (7-8)

exp.: rd v 7-8; O Israel, hope in the Lord, That’s where my hope is! The best salesman is a happy customer and the Psalmist fits that description. O Israel, hope in the Lord. Why? He gives two really good reasons:

  1. For with the Lord there is חסד steadfast love, I asked a Jewish rabbi what חסד (hessed) means. He said: most simply put, Grace.
  2. And with him is abundant, plentiful redemption.

These two characteristics are the 2nd and 3rd characteristic we’ve seen to which the Psalmist attributes being ‘with’ God.

חסד is with God; abundant redemption is with God, look back to v. 4: forgiveness is with God! He reminds us of that in v. 8 – And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. It doesn’t matter where he is or how he got there. God will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Conclusion: Chuck Swindoll writes: Do you remember the last time you got a spanking? I remember…As a matter of fact, the spanking was on my thirteenth birthday…In our home…when you had a birthday you were sort of “king for a day.” I remember lying around in bed and on the sofa, barking orders…. And so my father, from the flower bed outside, sensing the need for some correction, called me, “Charles.” And I said, “Yeah,” which was mistake #1 because in our home you didn’t say “Yeah,” you said, “Yes sir.” And then he called…again and said, “Come out and help me weed the flower bed.” And I said, “No,” which was mistake #2. He graciously continued…, “Now don’t lie there and act like a three-year-old. Come out and help me weed this flower bed._” I said, “Daddy, I’m not three, I’m thirteen.”

     …that’s the last thing I remember on that day because with both hands and both feet he landed on my body. And he did not let go until I was very vigorously weeding the flower bed….

Chuck ends the story with a profound thought: I still remember it even though it was years ago. As we worked together through most of that day, he said to me at a time that was well chosen, “Son, I would be less than a good dad if I did not correct you when you disobey.”

Redemption often comes from that cold, dark deep hole we’ve dug ourselves into. We thought we were king, but the King of Glory, in all of his love, redeems us from the pit.

It is this same hope in God’s Word that we preach. It is this same faith we hold so dear:

  • That God is holy, perfect and righteous.
  • That we are sinners… unable to change our condition.
  • So in his tender mercy toward us, he acted:
    • He sent his only Son to live a perfect and sinless life.
    • And then crucified him on the cross of Calvary to take away our sins.
    • And by placing our trust in him – this powerful, almighty God, we can have a sweet relationship with him forever.
  • If you’ve never trusted him before, let today be the day!

 

Title: In a moment we’ll be dismissed, but our time together isn’t over. We’re going to spend some time in fellowship. There will be coffee and some goodies in the back – there in the Cornerstone area. Let’s visit together. Maybe you have questions about what it means to commit your life to Christ. Maybe, you’re interested in joining the church. Come visit with me about that. Maybe there is another decision on your heart. Let’s talk.

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Filed under Psalms of Ascent, Scripture, Sermon, Worship

Psalm 128

Title: The Blessings of God

Text: Psalm 128

Introduction: I could say something – a phrase or a word – and for many here, it would trigger thoughts of times past. Someone would come to your mind and there would be a feeling of nostalgia that would fill your senses. I have my own, but I’m sure we share some together. Do you remember who used to sign off: And that’s the way is…? Yeah, Walter Cronkite. You hear it and you’re taken somewhere. Here’s another one that’s very special to me: And now you know, the rest of the story. I always loved Paul Harvey, not so much for the news, but more for the story at the end of his short broadcast. Do you remember he would say the page number as he made his way through his reading?

For those who don’t know, Paul Harvey would tell these wonderful stories and just leave you wondering all the way through where he was possibly going with this bit of information. And then, in the final couple of seconds, it would all come together. It was like: Oh, I didn’t know that! Now that makes more sense.

In our text today, Psalm 128 picks up where Psalm 127 leaves off. It’s like, here’s the rest of the story.

Psalm 127 review: God is sovereign over every aspect of our lives. He is the source from which our blessings come. And, which flows naturally into 128; Where 127 reminds us of the source of all blessings (the Lord), 128 teaches us where we need to be to receive those blessings. Where you might ask (you see it in v1): walking in the fear of the Lord.

At first, it looks like there are two commands or points of reference here: (1) fearing God and (2) walking in his ways. However, I think they are one in the same. So let’s begin here.

What you do demonstrates who you are. Your fear and reverence of Yahweh (or lack thereof) will be evident in your actions and behaviors. Many people may say they have reverence for the Yahweh, but their hearts are far from him because of what comes out in their lives.

I say that to say that the author’s first statement about fear and walking is really just one reference point. Put that down as a foundation for what we’ll build upon this morning and let’s launch into the heart of the Psalm and the sermon from there. What you do demonstrates who you are. From that point of reference, from that application, upon that foundation now, allow me to build upon that thought and give you a thesis statement that comes from this Psalm:

For the man who walks in the fear of the LORD, the LORD blesses his life: His Work, His Family, and His Church.

I think the scene is easy to picture. The pilgrims have journeyed from afar and have arrived in Jerusalem. They’re coming to the Temple to worship. They’re inside the gates and near the Temple. There is joy. There is laughter. There is excitement. There is … singing.

Maybe the priest sings this song to the pilgrims. First, he preaches and then he blesses. He declares:

        Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!

            You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. (There is food in their pouches; the streets are lined with people selling more food, fruits, and vegetables).

3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. These people are standing around him. I picture him even pulling them close to him. It would be a photographic moment if cameras existed in those days.

4             Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. This creates a sort of bookend to the preaching. You see the blessing begin in v 1 and bookend here at the end of the sermonette.

Now, the priest changes his tone and voice and pronounces a blessing upon the people.

5             The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!

6             May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!

And for sure, Israel would experience peace if the people walked in the fear of the Lord all the days of their life.

So you see the two parts of the Psalm from the outline of the priests Preaching and Blessing. I would divide this psalm into three parts. These three are the same areas or aspects of one’s life from last week:

  1. Work (1-2)
  2. Family (3-4)
    1. Husband (His Wife)
    2. Father (His Children)
  3. Church (5-6) (last week we said community because the context is community, but the application is the church).

Don’t worry, I’m not going to preach last week’s sermon again. Instead, let’s look at a few words and maybe make those the columns we use to build up our house. Do you remember our foundation? What you do demonstrates who you are.

Rd v1: 1 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!

  1. Blessed:: is Asher, it means happy. Genesis 30.13: 13 And Leah said, “Happy am I! For women have called me happy.” So she called his name Asher. When you hear that word Asher, think of the beatitudes (Mt 5.3-11). This word appears in v 1, 2, 4, and 5. It really is a continuation of Psalm 127.5; Question: Would you say you are blessed? Would you say you are happy (in the Biblical sense)? The 2nd column is…
  2. Fear: v1 & 4; bookends; All of Proverbs is dedicated to teaching one how to walk in the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1.7 is the thesis of the book and it reads: 7The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

When you see this word fear in the Bible, just as you do with happy, I don’t want you to think about it in terms of today’s use of that word. It doesn’t mean to be afraid like Friday the 13th afraid. Sure, there is that aspect, but it means so much more. I like the word reverence. It means to have a deep respect and honor for someone or something (like a tradition or practice). To revere someone or something means to show devoted deferential to; to regard as worthy of great honor.

Ephesians 5.33 – 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. See that word respects? That’s the word phobia in the Greek. You know phobia means fear, but not exactly. This translation really brings out the meaning. Respect.

I wonder if many Americans and even people from around the world really understand that. Devotion to God isn’t just a verbal assent to his existence. It means walking in his ways out of reverence. And, it isn’t just having reverence for the traditions of the church. Some traditions are wonderful, but some are not God-honoring. Some are probably even wicked and evil.

Some churches light candles to start the service. Is there anything in the Word of God about lighting candles before worship? Should a pastor be fired or should a family leave a church because they stopped lighting candles?

I said: Some traditions are not God-honoring. Some are probably even wicked and evil. Let that sink in for a moment. You might be offended at that statement. Ask yourself: are there traditions in my church that I value more than the commandments of God?

Jesus confronted the Pharisees on this very topic and they didn’t take it very well. Do you want to upset people: attack their traditions. I’m in Mark 7, beginning in v 6:

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“ ‘This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart is far from me;

    in vain do they worship me,

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

app.: As a Jewish man, his responsibility to care for his parents was established by the commands of God. But, the Pharisees saw a way to get that some of that money and they used their religious practices and traditions to get their hands on it. So they voided the commandment of God and established this new practice, this tradition. A man could claim “Corban” – and devote what should have gone into caring for his elderly parents to God. A loophole was created in the commandment of God to benefit the Pharisees and the man himself.

So, ask yourself: are there traditions in my church that I value more than the commandments of God? This is hard to answer and you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Your tendency and my tendency is to see your traditions as commanded by God. So, ask yourself and then answer: are there traditions in my church that I value more than the commandments of God?

t.s.: Solomon, Son of David is saying through his proverbs to his sons and his people, and to us: The Beginning of Wisdom is the Fear of the LORD. Blessed, Fear and

  1. Fruit: fruition is evident in v2, 3a, (3b), possibly 5; Fruition is the heart of this passage and each aspect of the man’s life deals with the man being fruitful.

ill.: Ligon Duncan points out that his passage is directing us back to the garden – that is, the Garden of Eden.

By the way, this psalm has clear allusions to the Garden. You see them in the three blessings that we’re going to talk about in a few moments — work, wife, children. Rule — work the land. Here is Eve — God gives her in marriage. Be fruitful and multiply — children. This psalm is deliberately taking us back to the Garden and we see that in the battle to understand the blessedness of the fear of the Lord in the very first verses. Because in Genesis 3 what did the serpent say to Eve and to Adam? “If you want to be like God, disobey, disobey God. Take of the fruit of the tree of which He commanded you not to eat.” And what did the serpent say? “You will be like God. You will find true blessedness. You will know true fulfillment. You will have true satisfaction. You will find true happiness. You’ll be free. You’ll be doing what you want to do. You’ll have everything that you’ve always wanted to have and you will be like God.” That is the temptation of Genesis 3 from the serpent to Eve and to Adam. What is the serpent doing? He is deliberately separating holiness and happiness and he is saying those two things are incompatible. “You will not be happy, you will not be like God as long as you obey, as long as you are holy. You’re going to have to separate those things in order to experience true happiness.”

And what is the psalmist doing? He’s putting those right back together and he’s saying, “Wrong, Satan. The place in which true happiness is actually enjoyed is in the fear of the Lord.” He is responding to the world and the flesh and the devil and he is saying, “No, holiness is the sphere in which the happiness that God intends for every one of His children is enjoyed.”

What a great lesson for us! Satan isn’t doing anything different than he has always been doing in his cunning and deceitful ways. It’s the same old lie, just packaged with a different wrapping.

Conclusion: Friday night we left my mom’s and went by to visit Lisa’s mom. Our mothers live about an hour away from each other. Lisa’s sister came out and joined in the visiting. Mom pulled out some genealogy papers as the girls were talking about family and the past. I wasn’t paying too much attention because I usually can’t get into their conversations. I don’t mean I can’t get ‘into it’ by the fact that it is boring. What I mean by that is they have an intuitive, an instinctive ability to know when the other is going to stop speaking. And so, one or the other will continue the conversation without a drop in the flow. After 35 years of marriage and watching these ladies do this, I know to just sit back and enjoy. It truly is a beautiful work of art when these ladies are at maximum power. First of all, I can’t interject something when the flow is happening. I would have to interrupt the flow. And men, you probably know what I’m talking about – you just don’t do that. And 2nd, if there is a lull, it means that part of the conversation is over anyway. Finally, what I have to say was a part of the conversation three or four topics ago and is no longer applicable.

Well, in the flow of that evening, someone was mentioned. I don’t think he was family, per se, he was just someone who had the same last name as the family. Maybe he was just a friend of the family. It was mentioned that he was a pastor. I heard pastor and I was drawn into the conversation. But my heart sank when that part of the conversation concluded with him leaving his wife and children and running off with another lady. He left “the ministry.”

I don’t know what generation that was in. I don’t know what part of the family was affected by his actions and behaviors. I only know that it must have been devastating. And that Satan was victorious in that battle. Like Eve, he fell for the lie. And in their conversation, his life relegated to a footnote. No real work in ministry done, just a footnote…

Next week, as we come to Psalm 129, we’ll see this. The point of next week’s Psalm is just the opposite of this week’s point: those who do not walk in the fear and ways of the Lord will not be blessed.

 

Application: Wouldn’t you like to know what it feels like, what it means to be blessed by God? Wouldn’t you like to guard your life and your walk and protect it in such a way that you can experience his blessing? I do!

I love the picture here of these people coming to Jerusalem. They’re here in Jerusalem to bless the Lord. But before they get to do that, the priest speaks a blessing over them. Take that in for a moment. Rd v 5-6: 5 The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! 6 May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!

What a blessing! For the person who walks in the fear and reverence of the Lord will experience the blessing of God in his life. Here in this Psalm, the writer limits the topic for the moment to these three spheres: his work, his family (i.e.: his marriage, and his children) and his church (community).

Some here today might be asking why they haven’t experienced this fulfillment in their life. It might be in the sphere of work, or marriage, or with children. Maybe you’ve haven’t experienced this in your church. Can we go back to the Garden for a moment? This garden theme flows through Scripture. We see it in Genesis 1-3. We see it in the Israelites inheriting a land flowing with Milk and Honey. We see it in the New Jerusalem in Revelation.

There is a taste of heaven here on earth, but not in its total fulfillment. This is how it once was and this is how it shall be one day. It is the day that we look toward. It is our hope.

In this life, we cannot walk perfectly in the fear and reverence of the Lord. Sin gets in the way. Just as it marred the garden experience for Adam and Eve, so we’ve been affected. But there is hope, and that my friend, is what Paul Harvey would say is the rest of the story.

But there is hope for you, and that hope comes through Christ. There is hope for your life, for your labor, for your lineage.

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Filed under Psalms, Psalms of Ascent, Scripture, Sermon, Worship

Psalm 127

Title: Unless the Lord…

Text: Psalm 127

Introduction: An incredible athlete. All-state football, basketball, and track. Mike played racquetball with a friend, a lineman. He first lost 21-1; then, 21-3; last game he lost 21-7. Mike said: Well, I’m getting better. His friend said: Sorry, that last game, I played you left handed. Don’t’ you hate when you find out you are not doing as well as you thought you were.

Today’s message is hard in that way: you find out that you’re not doing as well at this family thing as you thought. But that’s ok because, in the end, you learn it isn’t even about you. It’s all about God.

Read:

127 A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

        Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

        It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

        Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

        Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.

        Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

I’d like to point out a couple of what I’ll call highlights this morning as we begin. I say highlights because there are words or phrases we’ll want to note in the text as we begin.

Psalm 127; A Psalm of Ascent; Of Solomon; So who wrote this? Solomon, and there is some very strong evidence to point to this… I just want to point them out to you now, but we’ll talk more about them when we get to those verses:

  1. Building the house (1a): 2 Samuel 7; David wanted to build God a house, but God said no. Instead, God built David a house;
  2. Vanity: 3x’s in v 1a, 1b, 2; Vanity, Vanity, all is vanity.
  3. His beloved (v2): Song of Solomon; 2 Sam 12.24-5: 24 Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the Lord loved him 25 and sent a message by Nathan the prophet. So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord. There is a footnote there at the name Jedidiah which says that Jedidah means: beloved of the Lord.
  4. Wisdom Literature: this Ps. has characteristics of a Wisdom passage; a simile in v 4, Blessed is the man… in v 5;

I just want you to note these highlights and we’ll come back to them at the end of the message.

2nd, the author’s main idea for Psalm 127 is: God is sovereign over all affairs in one’s life. I think that is where he’s going. And, I hope you’ll feel the same way by the time I’m finished this morning. Let me show you what I mean:

  1. 1st he mentions building “the house” – not “a house”, not your house; also, in keeping with the context of the Psalms of Ascent, these folks were going up to God’s House: the Temple. So this gives it a religious context.
    1. House could mean a house, but I don’t think he’s talking about architecture.
    2. House could mean Israel. That doesn’t fit the flow of the passage, though.
    3. House could mean lineage. He could be talking about the messianic promise of the one to come. Hold on to that. Or family.
    4. Or, House could mean Seeing that this is in the POA, I think this is his focus.
    5. Caveat: Sometimes a passage has more than one meaning. And, I think this has multiple meanings, especially for those of us who live in the age of the Church.
  2. 2nd, he mentions watching over the city. The city is Jerusalem. This is where the house is Mt. Zion or the Temple and the city is Jerusalem. There is the idea of protection. Think about two weeks ago and the passage of the peaks that surround her.
  3. 3rd, he mentions work and rest. You work too hard and you don’t get the rest you need.
  4. 4th, he mentions the family. To be more specific, Solomon references Sons. (v3, 4, 5, them, being the relative pronoun of the antecedent, Sons).

So, let me go back to the main idea: God is sovereign over every aspect of one’s life. And, there are four areas Solomon mentions: Religious, Community, Vocational, and Family. Solomon is basically charging his people to Trust God in every aspect or every facet of their lives.

One last highlight: 3rd, I want you to see the flow of the Psalms around this particular Psalm in the POA.

  • In 125: We find that we can place our trust completely in the Lord because he is forever faithful. He alone brings stability and protection.
  • In 126: The Psalmist is calling upon God’s people to (1) sincerely pray for Yahweh to act once again as he has in the past and to (2) work through those prayers with labor and tears with the hope that God will restore their fortunes.
  • Here in 127: God alone is sovereign over Man’s affairs (religion; community; vocation; family). All else is ‘vanity’. Unless the Lord does this work, it will all be in vain.
  • In 128: This Ps. continues with the theme of the family. A man who walks in the fear and way of the Lord is blessed in the grandest of ways (his family, his work, his faith).
  • 129: Just the opposite – a man who doesn’t walk in the fear of the Lord will not be blessed.

So, what we see is this natural progression for the Israelites as they give themselves fully to trusting the Lord.

  • 125: God alone brings stability and protection to those who trust completely in God.
    • 126: Then, there is a call to do just that and to pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on them.
      • 127: God alone is sovereign over every aspect of Israel’s existence (religious, community, vocation, and family).
        • 128: This Psalm continues with the theme of the family and a declaration that the man who walks in the fear and way of the Lord is blessed in the grandest of ways.
          • 129: Presents just the opposite – the person who doesn’t fear God and walk in his ways will not be blessed.

Let’s zoom in closer to 127 and make our way through these four aspects of a person’s life and see what Solomon is saying to his readers and what it means for us. Let’s look at the 1st aspect: Religious aspect.

I.     Religious (1a)

exp.: rd 1a: Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

ill.: The story of David wanting to build a house for God… 2 Samuel 7;

app.: now, for those readers, yes, they were thinking about the rebuilding of the Temple and the need to trust Yahweh in that endeavor. But for you and me… this is a definite reference to the Messiah and his lineage in 2 Samuel. With this in mind, the Church exists because of the Messiah. 2 Samuel isn’t about a Temple for God so much as it is about the Messiah. God’s Temple is the body of Christ. If you’re a Christian, that’s you and me.

ill.: last week a man was wearing a shirt that said: I don’t go to church. I wasn’t offended exactly but thought he was using his T-shirt to tell those of us who are Christians to leave him alone. That is until I saw the back of his shirt, which read: I am the church. That’s a good point. The church isn’t a building of wood, screws, and drywall. The church is the people. And that’s what we’re ‘building’… we’re building people.

ill.: there is something really interesting here beyond those two highlights, the building and the builder. 3rd, there is a play on those words that you’ll miss in the English but is evident in the Hebrew. In v 1, you see the word build? It is bonim in Hebrew. Do you see v 3, the word Sons (or maybe children)? It is the word banim. The writer is intentionally drawing the reader’s attention to his play on words… they kind of rhyme or sound very close to the same.

That is why I think there is this multiple meaning here. The Temple, The Messiah, this is the religious aspect of a person’s life. For us, that connection (building and sons) creates a thread that weaves its way through this song – it connects the beginning and the end to say that we’re building a building that isn’t a building!

t.s.: Ok, so Solomon goes from that broad aspect and narrows it down to community. And, that’s our 2nd aspect here…

II.    Community (1b)

exp.: rd 1b; Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. This Psalm was chosen because of its connection to the Temple and the City of Jerusalem. Those topics are found throughout other Psalms of Ascent. The city, Jerusalem, is not only where the Temple of God is, but it is also where the people of God are. The People of God are being challenged to trust God for their protection. Remember Ps. 125 where the Psalmist painted a picture of security with the mountains surrounding Jerusalem. And, how the Psalmist declared that those who Trust in Yahweh are like those mountains? He is saying here, once again, don’t trust in the people as much as you trust in the Lord to protect you. Because, if the Lord isn’t watching over you, then putting a man on the wall won’t do you any good!

ill.: There is something truly wonderful about community. Community – a place where you belong, a place where you feel safe, a place where you feel loved.

app.: Does that not describe the church? Again, I don’t mean this building or these facilities. I mean you and me, coming together and creating a safe place, a safe space for believers. A place to grow, a place to invest yourself.

t.s.: Religious Aspect, Community aspect, and 3rd, Solomon narrows this focus down to the individual – and keeping it within context, he’s talking to every single man.

III.   Vocational (2)

exp.: For men, this one hits so close to home. We define ourselves by what we do and who we are. I imagine it was the same for those men. Think about it. When men meet each other, what do they ask? What do you do for a living? Look at what Solomon is saying to these men: rd v 2: It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

It is vanity for the one who builds the Lord’s house without the Lord. It is vanity for the one who watches over his community without the Lord. It is vanity that a man works restlessly – long, hard hours to provide bread for his family. A man should work hard, but only while trusting in the Lord – not in what is produced by the work of his own hands. He needs to find time to rest. Resting is trusting.

ill.: do you know where we first read about rest? Gen 2 – when God rested. The 4th commandment is about rest. But, think about this for a moment. This rest isn’t about you. Maybe that’s why most men don’t obey that commandment. I don’t need to rest. That’s because you’re being selfish. You’re thinking about you. The commandment is: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it … holy. The passage continues: the 7th day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Resting isn’t so much about you.

app.: he blessed the 7th day. He made it holy. He rested on it as an example for you to follow. Then he commanded you to not work 7 days a week. Work is good. Hard work is good, but it isn’t everything. And for sure, it doesn’t define who you are – at least it shouldn’t. Think about this: if you’re working 7 days a week, then you’re not trusting God – you’re trusting yourself. And the whole point of v2 is about bringing glory to God through your work.

t.s.: your religion, your community, your work, and finally, your family.

IV.    Familial (3-5)

exp.: Obviously, the largest part of this passage focuses in on the family. I would say this about that: if you’re looking at building a house – that is, a line, a heritage (v1), then you’d start with the family. The family is the backbone from which these other aspects find meaning and purpose. If you’re wanting each of these other areas to be strong and healthy, consider the family first.

  • Dad, what are you without your family? Take me for instance: would you want me to still be your pastor if I abandoned my wife? If I abandoned my family? If I abandoned my work and ministry. If I abandoned the community?
  • What kind of employee are you if your family is falling apart? Boss, what kind of employee do you have if his family is falling apart? Don’t men focus in on their work better when the home fires are burning as they should?
  • Isn’t our community better and stronger when our families are better, healthier, and stronger? Show me a community where the average household is missing a father and I’ll show you a community with lots of crime and poverty. I’m not meaning to berate families missing fathers or be hateful or spiteful toward communities or demographic groups who have a higher percentage of single-parent homes. That’s not what I’m saying here. But, I am asking you to compare those communities with other communities where fathers are involved in the life of their family and in the life of their community. And, in the life of their church.

app.: Consider Solomon’s words: rd v3-5; Families are truly blessings upon every other aspect of our society. And can I be bold enough to add here – that it starts with dads, husbands?

t.s.: Do you remember the title, who wrote this Psalm? Yeah, Solomon.

Conclusion: Of Solomon. If you read his story though, He didn’t heed his own counsel. His lineage didn’t follow the Lord. More of his descendant kings rejected God than followed God. His marriages were not what God had designed and purposed for him. His foreign wives and concubines led his heart astray to chase after foreign gods. Here you have the wisest, richest man who ever lived and he didn’t follow his own teaching.

Do you know what is the difference between Wisdom and Foolishness? It is simply this: what one does with the information they have.

Application: This can be disappointing. You work hard at family, only to find out that life has been beating you and he’s been playing with his left hand! So, what would I have you take away with you today?

  1. Your family dynamic doesn’t mean so much as your family devotion. God is sovereign over every aspect of your life – even your failures. So don’t feel sorry for yourself for past mistakes or experiences. Don’t use yesterday as an excuse to not follow God today. Single parent, Single adult?
    1. Single parent. That’s ok, you still can teach your children to trust God.
    2. Single adult. Practice now what you know to be right and don’t surrender your principles and standards. And that goes for male or female.
  2. Vanity, Vanity, Vanity. Solomon is giving this warning so that we’ll work hard to do what is right. Listen, it can be so hard to begin trusting the Lord. But, it really does get easier the more you do it. Start today.
    1. It starts when you give your life to him.
    2. It continues as you trust and follow him.
    3. It grows as you repent of times you fail.
  3. Consider ways that you can bless your community. HOA? Community party/Block party;
  4. Are you getting the rest you need? Sure your business and your work are important. But take an honest assessment of yourself and your life. Remember, no one lays on their deathbed and wishes they had spent more time working.
  5. This should lead us to worship. We need the Lord. The understanding of our desperate need for God and our utter dependence on him should lead us to Worship.

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