Category Archives: Psalms

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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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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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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Psalm 121

Title: The Lord is my Keeper

Text: Psalm 121

Introduction: A kindergarten teacher told every student to draw a picture of what was important to them. In the back of the room, Johnny began to labor over his drawing. Everybody else finished and handed in their picture but Johnny didn’t. He was still drawing. The teacher graciously walked back and put her arm around Johnny’s shoulder and said, “Johnny, what are you drawing?” He didn’t look up; he just kept on working feverishly at his picture.

He said, “God.”

“But Johnny,” she said gently, “no one knows what God looks like.”

He answered, “They will when I’m through.”

 

Today I want to describe God to you in such a way that you’ll know Him better. I can’t say you’ll know what he looks like when I’m done, but I hope you’ll have a deeper, richer understanding of Him.

 

Open your copy of God’s Word to Psalm 119. I want to show you the flow of Psalms. Psalm 120;

This morning we move from Psalm 120 – a statement of distress and struggle, to a psalm of God’s magnificence. This Psalm is really all about God: His greatness and His goodness.

What a great lesson – even before we begin – to take our eyes off of us, off of our problems and focus in on God.

In this situation of distress and struggle, the Psalmist changes his tune (pardon the pun).

The Psalmist asks a rhetorical question to begin with: rd v 1 – I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

Let me give you some context quickly. This Psalm was originally set in the context of the King asking this question and responding to himself. In v.2 he answered himself. Then, in v.3, the Priest would take over the Psalm with this amazing declaration of God’s greatness. When the Israelites returned from exile, they used this Psalm in the context of themselves – those returning from exile. They would speak in v1-2 and the Priest would make the declaration in v3-8;

  • Confession of Faith: Where does my help come from?
  • Confidence in His Character:
    • He is steadfast, causing us to be Immoveable,
    • He is faithful. People will let you down. A Human Guard will fall asleep while on duty, while on the wall. Not so with God.
    • He is your protection, your guard, and your keeper.
    • Not just in this moment, but in your future, He can be trusted.

Transition: so, let’s begin with this first section – the voice of the people who are beginning their journey.

From where does my help come? They know.

I.     A Confession of Faith in the Creator God. (1-2)

exp.: rd v 1a; the hills, or mountains. There is this idea of lifting up the eyes to see where God is. You’ve probably noticed that Israel – against God’s demands, by the way – offered sacrifices on the ‘high places’. These folks had a perception that God dwelt on high and wanted to offer their sacrifices on high. But God told them that sacrificing on the high places was what the previous occupants of the land did and they weren’t to be like those people. The Israelites were given specific commands about sacrificing. Again, I don’t think this is a concerned question (i.e., like I’m scared and I don’t know where I’ll get the help I need.) I think this is rhetorical in nature. Rd v 1a again; rd 1b; I love this word ‘help’.

  • Help: We often think of help as that assistance that makes work or toil easier. That isn’t what this word means in Hebrew. Help in Hebrew doesn’t mean assist. It means without assistance, without intervention I would die or I would fail – I would not make it. The English idea of help has weakened this word. Consider: rescue, redeem or
  • Lord: Yahweh. God’s covenant name. And then, there is an answer you might not expect. My help comes from the Creator God – Yahweh. This is the very first characteristic we learn about God in Genesis 1.1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

ill.: As one stands in Jerusalem, at the Temple, you can see the mountains which surround the city – or, I guess in today’s understanding, make up the city. I was told there are 7 of these summits. I was drawn to them one day while I was at the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem. I was rooming up on a higher floor and stepped out onto the balcony where I was counting cell phone towers and noticed how the hills looped around the city. They are indeed impressive. I imagine a king making this statement and being encouraged and enthused, as he would see these mountains tops that God created. This same Yahweh, who created these massive, impressive features, is the same God who will rescue the king in his time of need. And it would be the same for the Israelite pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem. It would be a tremendous visual aid.

app.: This first, opening statement then wouldn’t be a question of concern, but rather a Confession of Faith.

t.s.: Based upon this confession, the priest would now declare his confidence in God. And this confidence is based upon God’s Character. Let’s look at that now:

II.   A Declaration of Confidence in the Character of God’s (3-8)

exp.: rd 3a; He will not let your foot be moved; this definitely fits with the journey motif of the pilgrims. For the king, the idea was that the king might be assassinated if his human guard failed him; rd 3b; He might ‘slip’ into Sheol or tumble into Sheol if his human guard fails him. But, as a reminder, The Creator God we serve is not like the ‘gods’ of the people or the human guards of the king. God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the one who keeps Israel, he will neither slumber nor sleep. Rd v4; So, here is our first characteristic as presented in Psalm 121:

  1. He is Steadfast. He will not be moved. So then, neither will you be moved.
  2. He is Protection. Rd v 5-6; The Lord stands to your right hand. Therefore, you are covered in the shade created by such a great God. Modern-day statements similar to this one: He hides you in the shadow of the Cross. Now, take yourself to the desert areas of the Holy Land. Try to walk from Jericho to Jerusalem in the heat of the day. The Sun would eat your lunch. I’m guessing that none of us could make that journey. First, we’d probably get lost. 2nd, we would become dehydrated and overheat. We would die out there in the barren land. The night wouldn’t be any better for us. It gets cold at night.

I see two different spheres of influence here. One is that of people. God protects his king in the one instance, and God protects his people in the 2nd instance. The 2nd sphere deals with nature. The elements can bring destruction, but God protects his king or his people from nature, too.

This isn’t the only time we see characteristics of God. The Bible is filled with “the Lord is” statements:

Today we read that the Lord is your keeper. I thought of some other verses that describe what the Lord is to me, to us and I decided to search my Bible for statements about the Lord. This is what I found: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The Lord is my strength and my song. The Lord is my refuge. The Lord is my banner. The Lord is holy. The Lord is with us. The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in love. The Lord is our inheritance. The Lord is mighty. The Lord is among us (in our midst). The Lord is Peace. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. The Lord is righteous. The Lord is able. The Lord is a stronghold. The Lord is king. The Lord is my cup and my portion. The Lord is my light. The Lord is my shield. The Lord is powerful. The Lord is upright. The Lord is good. The Lord is near. The Lord is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. The Lord is robed in majesty and glory. The Lord is merciful and gracious. The Lord is at your right hand. The Lord is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens. The Lord is on my side. The Lord is faithful. The Lord is a fountain of life. The Lord is the Maker of all. The Lord is safe for all who trust him. The Lord is justice. The Lord is exalted. The Lord is the judge. The Lord is the lawgiver. The Lord is our righteousness. The Lord is Awesome. The Lord is God. The Lord is the everlasting God. The Lord is the true God.

And I didn’t even type up all of them! I wonder how many there are? Someone could take each of those statements and create a devotional book expounding upon all of the declarations of who God is!

3. He is Eternal. In this 3rd declaration, the Psalmist moves from images and metaphors to generalizations with the purpose of expressing God’s steadfastness and his protection, not just for this moment, but forevermore. Rd v7-8;

  • For the king – this would be a statement that God would be with the king as he went out to battle and as he returned home.
  • For the Israelites – it would be a statement that God would go with them in their going out to the field to work and when they returned in the evening to their home.
  • For those in exile – it would be a declaration that God was indeed with them as they were sent away and that he would be with them as they returned.
  • For the pilgrims – it would be a declaration that God was with them as they traveled from their homes to festival or feast and that He would be with them as they returned home – until the next festival time. I think the context would be closer to say that he was with them as they left the festival or feast and be with them until they returned for the next festival or feast.

Conclusion: Consider the vivid imagery of the Psalm for a moment. If you were watching this Psalm on a TV screen, you might see the opening verses from outer space. God, the Creator God, Created all things. You could stay in outer space for some time observing the vast universe and slowly move in toward the earth as you take in the vastness of God’s creation. You might move in beyond the oceans to the land. You would see the mountains and lakes. You might move in closer and see the animals that dwell there: all the birds of the skies and the beasts of the fields and all that passes through the sea. You might move in even closer to the people, zooming in past all of the people to where you are. And, zooming in even closer to your foot you would see that this Creator God, who created all of that, he will not let your foot to stumble.

What a great picture of God. He is so great and grand, tremendous and magnificent. You can fly to the farthest, most remote part of our Universe and not escape his eye. Indeed, so close is he that he can move beyond all of those created things to see you right where you are. He knows your needs, your pains, your fears.

Ill.: You need a little perspective. Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a new member of the British Parliament took his 8-year-old daughter on a brief tour of his beloved London. They came to Westminster Abby and the awesomeness of it struck that little girl. She stood looking way up at those columns and studying the beauty and grandeur of the Gothic church building. Her father was struck at her concentration. He looked down and said, “Sweetheart, what are you thinking about?” She said, “Daddy, I was thinking how big you seem at home and how small you look in here.”

Psalm 121 gives us some perspective – of who we are and who we are to God.

Application: So, what are some take-a-ways from all of this?

  1. The Lord is your *helper. And I mean that in the Hebrew sense of the word: without him, you would not make it. You would surely fail. When I say ‘help’, I don’t mean to assist you. He’s not Onstar! He is your salvation, your rescue, your redemption.
  2. The Lord is your keeper. He is your guard. He is your eternal, steadfast, immovable protector. He guards your going out and your coming back in. In him, we live and move and breathe and find our very existence.
  3. But The Lord is only this to you if you’re His. If you’ve never surrendered your life to Him, you’re just out there on your own. Would you surrender your life to him today if you never have before?

Here’s how we do things at Calvary. I want to call you to surrender your life to Christ. I’m not going to ask you to come forward in front of everyone, but I am going to ask you to come to talk to me. If you want to know what it means to be a Christian, come to visit with me. If I’m talking with someone, be patient. I really want to visit with you.

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Psalm 120

Title: Longing for Home

Text: Psalm 120

Introduction: We’re in Psalm 120 this morning. We’ll also turn to Nehemiah and look at a couple of verse in chapters 2 and 4. Go ahead and mark those two places now.

A longing for Home; (my freshman year). 2nd story, night fire while in the army.

Let me ask you this morning: Have you ever been homesick?

In preparing for this series, I was moved by different authors and commentaries on the Psalms. Dr. Leslie Allen, a professor at Fuller said that he experienced a ‘trauma’ in his family, which led him to serve as a hospital chaplain for a few hours each week. I suppose it was a sort of therapy for him. I don’t know what the trauma was nor the experience of his life. But what he said about the Psalms in connection to that time in his life has stayed with me. He said: My own experience of trauma, and the consequent addition to my life of a few hours per week working as a hospital chaplain, have underlined for me the ongoing value of the Psalter in relating believers to their God. What an accurate description of God’s Word as found in the Psalter and how fitting it is at various times to each believer in his or her trials.

All of us have felt betrayal, anger, vengeance, the searing pain of losing a loved one, worry, doubt, confusion, hurt, and the like. These Psalms hit every believer at some point on the life spectrum. You may read a Psalm today that you’ve read a hundred times, but, because of where you are at the moment, it could really speak to your heart.

There is something interesting going on here in Psalm 120 that I found no help within my many books on the Psalms. I’m sure I’m not the first to notice it, but I want to point out to you something very interesting about this form of poetry… Lord (1), Lord (2), deceitful tongue (2), deceitful tongue (3); Verse 4 would then be the middle of the climax if this were seen as some chiastic structure; dwell (5), dwell (6), peace (6), peace (7):

  1. Lord: Yahweh, the focus of his prayer.
  2. Deceitful tongue: The conflict or difficulty he is facing.
  3. Dwelling: The struggle with living in a foreign land because he has been exiled from his homeland.
  4. Peace: Shalom, his desire, his request.

That will make 4 different areas of focus in this Psalm if this is significant. A fifth area would be verse 4, the climax of the Chiasm: 4A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!

There is another focus here that I’d like to bring out and I think this is the teaching point of the Psalm: Speech. Words. It flows through the Psalm. Words. What we say. Words represent emotion, feeling, anger and what lies inside of us. Jesus said that what comes out of the mouth is an overflow of the heart.

  1. He calls to Yahweh (v1). His words are directed at Yahweh.
  2. His request is deliverance from speech, or more specifically, ‘hate speech’, ‘smear campaign’ (i.e., lying lips and a deceitful tongue in v2.)
  3. Verse 3 represents speech as presented in a vow or perhaps a curse. Rd v 3; it is a formula we see in the O.T. You read often times in the form of “may God do so to me if I don’t…
    1. 1 Kings 19.2: Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”
    2. Probably the most popular verse where you’ll remember this is found in Ruth 1.17: 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
  4. Arrows are sometimes used as a metaphor for words or speech. The picture here is that these words are wounding the psalmist and setting his world on fire – in a bad way. In a real battle, warriors would light their arrows with fire because the arrows that didn’t pierce an enemy would land on a roof and start a fire, a fire that would burn down the house and probably those other homes and businesses within close proximity, causing major destruction. Thus are the words of the psalmist’s enemy. Some of his words are landing and wounding him and others are bringing destruction to his home and his community.
  5. In verse 7, the Psalmist speaks for peace. In Psalm 35.20, David uses deceit in contrast to peace: 20 For they do not speak peace, but against those who are quiet in the land they devise words of deceit. In Psalm 27.3, David uses an army and war as metaphors for someone who rises up against him. That’s the picture we see in v 7.

If you take these pictures, illustrations or metaphors from Ps 120, you can see that this Psalm might just be all about the harmful words someone is using against him. It is at this point we might ask who is the speaker? The Thompson Chain Reference Bible attributes this Psalm to David, when Doeg, the Edomite, on behalf of King Saul, was harassing David. That might just be the context, but the compilers of this collection of psalms want this Psalm to be sung with the exile in mind because they have endured much of the same difficulty. Those who hate them have maligned them time and time again. I think Haman in the book of Esther illustrates this perfectly for us.

So, what? Are these people just disgruntled because someone is saying something nasty about them? Well, yes, but it is so much more than that. These folks have sojourned in a foreign land for decades. Do you see that in v5? Rd v 5; Meshech is to the North and west of Jerusalem in what we would consider modern day Turkey. Kedar is to the East and South of Jerusalem. This can’t possibly be the same person speaking of being exiled in two different places. There is no way they were exiled to these two locations so very far apart and in different directions. So, while it is true that the Jews were scattered in the dispersion, what is the writer telling us?

John Goldingay references Michael Goulder’s work in his article in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (1998) at this point. He connects these locations in v5 with Sanballat, the Horonite, and Geshem, the Arabian found in Nehemiah (2.10, 19). We don’t know very much about either man and a lot of speculation goes into this. But, there is some powerful archeological evidence to strengthen Goulder’s hypothesis.

  • Sanballat, the Horonite: His name is Babylonian and translated as – Sin, the moon god, and ballat means he gives life. Haran, was the seat of worship of Sin, the moon god. History teaches us that Sanballat had power from the Northwestern areas of Samaria and beyond. We know that he was governor over Samaria at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, even though he would have been very old at that time. His sons would have done most of the work for him. So, Sanballat’s power would have been North and west, maybe even as far as Modern Day Turkey.
  • Geshem, the Arab: We know nothing of him except through extra-biblical material. Inscriptions have been discovered in archeological finds from Arabia to Egypt. He must have wielded great power. One inscription mentions him as “King of Kedar”.

Look what they say; rd Neh 4.1-4; Now, Nehemiah knows this isn’t the first time the people of the land have tried to stop God’s work. They did it a few years back when Ezra was rebuilding the Temple. And, evidently, it worked for a while, because in Ezra, we read that the rebuilding of the Temple ceased for a period of time until Haggai and Zechariah (the minor prophets) intervened.

So here is the theory: maybe, just maybe, these two towns (Meshech and Kedar) are meant to represent the very people who are disseminating venomous lies with their deceitful tongues. Ezra had suffered in his mission from men who were like Sanballat and Geshem because of their lies to the king and to the people who would rise up against Ezra and the Jews. Maybe, just maybe, those men saw the success of their predecessors and now they figured they would lie and jeer and taunt Nehemiah, too.

You know the story. The wall was rebuilt and in record time. But it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t difficult for Nehemiah and the families who worked. If you read the book of Nehemiah, you know it was very difficult.

So, keeping this bit of information in mind, I want to get you to feel what the psalmist is doing here. And I plan to do this by pointing out a few principles from the text that applied to those people and to the people of God today. In this Psalm’s complexity, in its beauty, in the genius of its composition, I want you to feel what they felt. So, the first principle I see here is:

I.     The prayers of the people of God are born out of the faithfulness of God. (1-2)

exp.: note that verse 1 is in the past tense. He had been in distress and he is in distress again; this is simply a cry for help that comes from the confidence that God has acted before and he will surely come to the rescue of his people again.

ill.: Ps. 37.25: I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. My faith is stronger now that I am older. I wish I could have been more faithful when I was younger. However, as the years have passed, I have seen God remain faithful time and time again. Older believers, if you hear me and you agree, say “Amen.”

app.: Oh, young people, Trust the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. I know that’s hard, but that is the way to go. In all of your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. Let your prayers be strong and specific. Most of all, pray God’s Words back to him. Repent where you rebelled.

And when you see the work of God in your life, that will move you to come back time and again to the faithfulness of God. That’s what the Psalmist does here…

t.s.: Now, he turns from his distress and his plea for God to deliver him, to confront his enemies. We see this in verse 3&4;

II.    The battles of the people of God are fought through the faithfulness of God. (3-4)

exp.: rd v 3; the verbs in v. 3 are passive. That means this author isn’t the one who brings about the action. God is the one who brings about the action. He will turn back upon them the very plot they have against him. rd v 4; that’s what shall be done to you!

I don’t think this is an imprecatory psalm. Yes, the psalmist is hoping for God to defend him. One could easily make the first two points of this message be: deliver me and defend me.

ill.: Recently we saw the movie: Paul, Apostle of Christ. I loved the many storylines flowing through the movie. There was the dilemma of staying or going. Persecution was rampant and severe. Pricilla wanted to stay and minister in the face of this persecution. Aquilla wanted to leave – his reasons were good. Some believers got weapons and stormed the prison where Paul was. Others were passive, praying their lives would influence and persuade their persecutors.

app.: you and I are faced with this same dilemma when we face persecution – that is, persecution on a different level. Someone may not like your ideas or be jealous of you and say things about you that aren’t true. How do you defend yourself? One thing you don’t do is behave in that same manner! You don’t tell lies about others just to get back at them. It is God who avenges. And, man, oh man, how fearful to fall into the hands of an angry God.

ill.: I was reading up on the coals of a broom tree and evidently, these coals burned very hot and very slowly. There is a Jewish story about these coals, obviously presented with hyperbolic language. The story is that these two men where camping and they kept warm through the cold night with the coals from a broom tree. The next morning the men continued on their journey home. According to the story, they returned a year later and the coals were still hot enough to start a fire!

app.: Well, like I said, that’s hyperbole for effect. But, the point is that the coals of a broom tree were hot! And, they burned for a long time. In effect, the writer here is saying that Yahweh is going to deal with these enemies, because of their deceit – because of what they wanted to do to the Jews.

exp.: let me remind you of what Paul said: For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. Paul also said: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

t.s.: The Prayers of the people of God are born out of the faithfulness of God and The battles of the people of God are fought through the faithfulness of God. Finally, the third principle:

III.   The hope of the people of God is not in where we are now, but where we shall be one day. (5-7)

exp.: And that is with God. This is not our home. We’re not designed to live here and we’ll never truly be happy here. rd v 5-6; the psalmist isn’t on Mt. Zion… yet! The psalmist is a wanderer and he dwells in a land that is not his own and he dwells among a people who are at home where they are. He dwells among a people who don’t like him and his God.

ill.: When he ‘sings’ this psalm, he elicits an emotion… let me demonstrate…

Beulah Land

I’m kind of homesick for a country

To where I’ve never been before

No sad goodbyes will there be spoken

For time won’t matter anymore

 

Beulah land I’m longing for you

And someday on thee I’ll stand

Where are my home shall be eternal

Beulah land, sweet Beulah land

 

I’m looking now across the river

Where my faith will end in sight

Just a few more days to labor

Then I’ll take my heavenly flight

 

app.: The purpose here isn’t to sing a song, but to elicit a response.

t.s.: Let me ask you: Have you ever been homesick?

Conclusion: One day this life will end for each of us. For some, it will be sooner than later. Are you absolutely positively sure where you’ll spend eternity? If you’ve never given your life to Christ, I’d like to give you a chance to do so this morning.

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Introduction to the Psalms of Ascent

Title: Psalms of Ascent

Text: Psalm 120-134

Introduction: Ezra (and Nehemiah)

When you read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah you get an understanding of the intense passion these two men had. Their desire was for their heritage. Their passion was for their God and the city he gave them – Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, the Temple. Ezra was responsible for leading the rebuilding of the Temple. Nehemiah was responsible for leading the rebuilding of the wall around the city.

The journey these men took began in Persia. It is believed by some that this is where the small collection of Psalms that we know as the Psalms of Ascent originated. We don’t know this for sure, but it is a very good theory. The idea behind this theory is that the Psalms of Ascent were compiled by Ezra (or priests working with him). The same word is used in Ezra 2.1 (7.9) as in this title telling of how the people “went up”. So, Ezra then compiled these Psalms and the priests then taught them to the people as they journeyed to Jerusalem. At least that’s one theory. I like it. It would have been inspirational and motivational. And so after the people returned from exile, they kept the tradition alive and would sing the Psalms of Ascent whenever they would journey from their homes in Israel to the Temple in Jerusalem for their seasons of feasts and festivals. This is how their children and their children’s children would learn.

There is a 2nd theory and this is the one I learned as a young man. The theory is that the priests would make their way to the Temple and as they ascended the 15 steps to the Temple, they would stop and recite one Psalm for each step. The 1st step would be Psalm 120. The 2nd step would be Psalm 121, and on up we go.

Let me show you some pictures.

I would propose to you that both of these happened: the priests reciting the Psalms as they climbed the stairs to the Temple and the People singing them as they journeyed to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple. Theory probably isn’t the right word. There is evidence both happened, it is just that neither one became a prominent tradition practiced through the years.

This leads to a question you might have: Why are we working through them? Why the Psalms of Ascent? Why did we leave Romans? Well, it is hard! Romans 8-11 are probably some of my favorite passages in Romans. Two Reasons: 1. I calendared it this way months ago. But really, the simple answer is Worship; I want to focus on worship for a season – that is the reason I put it on the calendar. Consider our three areas of focus as a church:

  • Worship: One Passion
  • Discipleship: One Mission – the Great Commission
  • Mission/Ministry: One Body serving in ministry and mission.

So, for this season, we’ll keep an eye on this task of worship.

Let’s approach it from the same standpoint as Ezra and Nehemiah. Consider their lives; where they were and what they were going through:

  1. Israel has been in exile for the past 70 years or so. So, these guys were born in exile. They’ve never known a Temple. All they know is what they’ve been told. There is much of their past they don’t know about or they don’t understand.
  2. They are in exile because of their sin and their rebellion; Daniel 9.3-19; Wow, what a prayer, an acknowledgment of why they were where they were. Consider this: God’s actions were so real, so evident and so very effective, that the Israelites never again had trouble with worshipping idols.

Let me ask you as you consider the prayer of Daniel: Do you want God’s blessing on Calvary? Do you desire for God to pour out his blessing on this Body of Believers? Do we deserve for God to bless us? No, and we must remember that we cannot appeal to God because of our righteousness, but only because of his mercy. Let us keep this in mind and ask God to draw us closer to him in the coming weeks as we focus on him, as we experience his mercy and forgiveness, and as we are moved to worship.

The plan is to sing the Psalms, study the Psalms and hopefully be moved in our worship.

A Word about the whole book: The Book of Psalms used to be understood as a random collection of Songs. But, today, more and more scholars are seeing the organization of these Songs.

  1. Outline of Psalms – 5 books
    1. Book 1: 1-41 tell of David’s reign
    2. Book 2: 42-72 is more of David’s reign and the transition to Solomon’s reign.
    3. Book 3: 73-89 is about the divided kingdom and the eventual conquering of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria and the Southern Kingdom by Babylon and being carried into exile.
    4. Book 4: 90-106 covers the years Israel was in exile.
    5. Book 5: 107-150 is post-exilic in nature.
  2. You could break that down even further with an Introduction (1-2) and a conclusion (146-150)
    1. Psalm 1 is about the torah and Psalm 2 is about the King of Israel. So the idea is of delighting oneself in the Law of God and following God as their King.

Speaking of organization, there are even smaller segments with different types of focus. Let me show you some famous segments.

  1. Segments
    1. Hallel (113-118)
    2. The Law (Psalm 119, Psalm 19)
    3. Psalms of Ascent (120-134)
    4. 103-107

Let’s talk about this particular segment, the Psalms of Ascent, for just a moment, as we prepare to study them in the coming weeks. I want you to see there is flow here, too. There are smaller segments that demonstrate cohesion.

  1. It appears that these songs were selected with their theme of the Temple:
    1. 7 of the 15 Psalms mention Zion. 125, 126, 128, 129, 132, 133, 134
    2. Psalm 122 mentions Jerusalem.
    3. Psalm 121, 123, 124 use formulations related to Zion.
    4. Psalm 127 mentions the ‘city’ and 130 and 131 mention the faith community of Israel gathered in the Temple complex.
    5. Only the 1st Psalm (120) doesn’t mention the Temple in any fashion. So, what does that mean?
  2. From the Jewish viewpoint, the Psalms of Ascent begin with the Jews at war and ends with the priest’s blessing them in the Temple. So, the flow appears to be a journey. The people are in a foreign land (120.5), Meshech and Kedar as the Psalms of ascent begin in 120 and they are in the Temple worshipping in Psalm 134. Read those passages.
  3. The high points: popularity and familiarity
    1. Psalm 121: 1-2
    2. Psalm 122:1
    3. Psalm 127:1, 3-5a
    4. Psalm 130: 1-4
    5. Psalm 133: 1

Conclusion: So, what am I hoping to accomplish here?

Well, I mentioned earlier the purpose of this study is worship. But where does worship come from? How does it well up within and boil over? I mentioned earlier that the introduction to the book of Psalms in Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 are about delighting in the Law of God and following God as their king. But, I think it is deeper than that. I think that both of these two themes are all about Jesus and He’s the one I want us to see as we make our way through the Psalms of Ascent.

Look at Psalm 1 with me. rd v 1; Blessed is the man who… rd 2. …Blessed are all who take refuge in him. So, you see these already go together with these bookends. Go back to Ps. 1: read v 1; Really, who is that? Anyone here do that perfectly? Anyone you know of? Only Jesus. Look at v 5-6; who is the only one who can stand on his own in the judgment? Only Jesus, the perfect man.

Look at Psalm 2 with me. rd Ps 2.1-9; This is about the King – The Lord’s King, who according to v 7 is – His Son. Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in Jesus.

I propose to you that the Psalms of Ascent, as with all of the Psalms, point us to Jesus – God’s Anointed One. He is the theme, the purpose, the reason for those songs. It is Him we will see and it is Him we will be inspired to worship. In the Psalms of Ascent, you’ll see themes of:

  • Peace
  • Unity
  • Mercy
  • Protection
  • Rest and Restoration
  • Family and Community and how they impact each other
  • Discipline
  • Redemption
  • Faithfulness
  • Blessing

Application:

  1. Read through the POA
    1. You can read through them in one easy sitting.
    2. Read half on one day and the other half on the manãna.
  2. See how they go together. Is there a familiar theme in the previous Psalm or in the next Psalm? Is there a flow here? See if there are bookends to different Psalms, like I showed you in Psalm 1 and 2.
  3. Be praying about your worship.
    1. As an individual
    2. As a family
    3. As a community

Ask: Do I come in here Sunday after Sunday without having prepared my heart for worship? What is your Sunday morning routine like? Does it include yelling? Scrambling to get here in a fashionable time? Be praying about your worship and how you contribute to this time on Sunday. Also, pray about what God might be doing in your life concerning worship. Where does he want to take you? What does he want you to see? Is there anything about your worship he doesn’t like – that he wants to refine?

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Filed under Bible Reading, Christian Living, Psalms, Psalms of Ascent, Scripture, Sermon, Worship

Romans 7.1-6

Title: Praise for Redemption

Text: Romans 7.1-6

Introduction: a few weeks ago Larry asked me in our Bible Study time on Wednesday night if he understood me correctly when I said that we no longer have to obey the law – which, by the way, I did say. In the same week, Andy Stanley was highly criticized for his comments about Christians today and their need to ‘unhitch’ themselves from the OT.

Ouch. That scared me a little. I would in no way suggest that. So, I listened to Andy’s message and I think I understand what he’s trying to say. He’s trying to say what Paul said: We’ve been set free from the Law. It can’t save us! We don’t have to obey it’s demands any longer because Christ has set us free from it’s bondage.

The writer of Hebrews brings this out in chapter 8: Heb 8.7, 13:

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

And there are more evidence of this:

Eph 2.13-22: 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Col 2.13-14; 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

He crucified it. I think this is the direction Paul has been headed all along in Romans. Let me show you what I mean. In 1.16-18 he gave us his thesis statement for the book: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

How can he say v. 18 so confidently? How can he say anyone is unrighteous? Because of the Law. The Law shows us we’re sinners.

So, Paul says he loves the Gospel. This wonderful story begins with the wrath of God against sin. Sin is his first topic. You see that in chapters 1, 2 and 3. But, Salvation is revealed within this Good News. And, it comes by faith in Christ.

Look with me at chapter three as he arrives at this stage of the Salvation story: 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

Paul says that the law shows us that we’re sinners, but it can’t make us righteous. He continues: 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Note he says that it is apart from the Law and only through faith in Jesus Christ.

We continue our way through Romans and come to chapter 4. Rd 4.13-16a; 13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. What he is saying is that if the law could make one righteous, then all you’d have to do is obey it. But you can’t. All the law does is… continue in v 15. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. So, all the law really does is show us that we are sinners and that God is Holy.

16 That is why it depends on faith…

Then Paul makes his way through to Chapter 5 and declares in v 20-21, that through Christ, God has increased His Grace all the more where sin abounded. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now, to address this issue, Paul presents to the reader a fictitious “Judiaser”. This pretend man debates Paul and asks a very serious question for the Jew in 6.1: What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? Paul says absolutely not, and then he expounds through chapter six and chapter seven.

We pick up in Chapter 7 this morning. I want you to see that Chapter six and seven, though different, are very similar. Paul constructed it in such a way as to draw attention to the sanctification process.

 

Note how Chapter six is about the Christian and his relationship to sin, and, Chapter seven is about the Christian and his relationship to the law. Let me demonstrate this for you. You’re in Romans 7; now look back to chap. 6.

 

 

6.1: sets the topic as Sin

6.2: We died to sin

6.4: we might walk in newness of life

6.7: he who has died is freed from sin

Compare w/:

7.1: Sets the topic as Law

7.4: You have died to the law

7.6: we might serve in newness of the spirit

7.6: we have died to that which held us captive; we are released

 

So, here’s what we’re seeing: Paul is dealing with the Law in the same manner he dealt with Sin in the previous chapter. He uses the very same words. He uses the same flow. He uses the same thought pattern and the same sort of logic. He’s declaring that we’ve been set free from them both, sin and the law.

 

In the 7th chapter of Romans we see a type of Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde presentation about the Law.

I say that because (and I want you to remember), The Law of God is precious to the Jews. It’s precious to Paul. Ps 1.2: Blessed is the man… his delight is in the Law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.

Ill.: Lisa, Jenn and I watched Fiddler on the Roof Friday night. Tavia said that he wished he could be a rich man.

If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack
To sit in the synagogue and pray.
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.
And I’d discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.

In the OT you find time and again, the love for God’s Word that his people had.

Psalm 19.7ff: it is perfect, reviving the soul; rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eyes, clean, righteous, sweeter than honey and drippings from the honeycomb. Think about that for a moment. The Jews felt the Law of God was sweeter than honey and drippings from the honeycomb.

Psalm 119 is replete with statements of the beauty and wonder of God’s Law and just how precious, how dear the Law is to the Psalmist and to the Jews. 4x’s in Psalm 119 the Psalmist says: Oh, how I love your law!

But, the Law was also cruel. The Law not only magnified the sin, the debt, the trespass, but it also increased the trespass. For all of it’s good, it brought shame. No one could ever live it out. Paul will press this point later on in 7 – that the Law is precious and cruel at the same time.

Read 7.1 with me. Well, what happens when a person is no longer living? They’re dead. In 6, he said we must die to sin. Just as Christ died, so we too die. That’s the picture of baptism. Back up in 6.Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

He is saying the same thing to us in 7.1: you are bound by this law, that is, until you die to the law.

My first goal today is to point out this principle.

Transition: If you’re taking notes, that would be point #1, for it is Paul’s first point. The Principle.

I.     The Principle (1)

exp.: And the Principle is this: You must die to the law, just as you die to sin. You have to fight this instinctive drive to set up standards as a way to earn your salvation.

t.s.: But just as he does in chapter 6, Paul then gives us an illustration to make his point in the next 2 verses.

II.    The Illustration (2-3)

exp.: In Chapter 6, he used an illustration and it was “Slaves and Masters”. In chapter 7, he’ll do the same, but this time it is “the husband and the wife.” Rd v 2-3;

Excurses: This passage isn’t about divorce. I know some folks like to use this passage to say people who get divorced and remarried are committing adultery. First, I want to caution you against establishing a doctrine on one verse. 2nd, I don’t think that is what this passage is teaching. Paul is teaching us about the Law and our need to die to the law. Let’s understand what he says within the context of the whole passage.

ill.: Remember the principle: you are bound to the Law until you die to the Law. Read v 2a: For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives… any problem so far? A woman makes a vow to her husband and she is bound to him while he is living. Pretty simple. Rd 2b; 2nd, if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So, if a woman is married to a man and he dies, she is no longer bound to the oath she made to him because he has died. Still pretty straight forward, correct. Let’s continue. Rd 2c; so, if she marries another man in this new situation she finds herself with her husband gone, she is NOT considered an adulteress. Verse 3: Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. So, without adding anything to Paul’s illustration, let’s look at the facts of his story. If a woman is married to a man, and she leaves him and lives with another man while he is still alive, then she is called an adulteress. That’s pretty straightforward. There is nothing in here about divorce. Paul doesn’t even mention divorce. Paul simply says, if this woman is married to this man and she goes and lives with another man, then she is an adulteress. She’s committing adultery. I’m pretty sure we would all agree with that. But, on the other hand, if her husband dies and then she marries another man, she is free to do so, because, she is no longer bound by the original contract. The bond between them has been severed because he died, freeing her up to marry another.

t.s.: For the application we must look at verse 4-6…

III.   The Application (4-6)

exp.: rd v 4; likewise. So, just as a woman is free from her marriage vows when her husband dies, likewise the believer… rd 4; we have been set free from that and are able to be bound to another – Christ. That isn’t the Body of Christ – the church, but rather the Body of Christ, physically speaking. rd v 5: For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. We were married to the Law, so we lived that way. But now, our circumstances have changed, as Paul says in Galatians 2: 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. His summary is found in v 6: But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Paul mentions now, really for a 2nd time, the purpose and the reason behind this new marriage to Christ. First he says in v 4, in order that we may bear fruit to God. What kind of fruit is this? Well, in keeping with the teaching in Galatians, it would be the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Doesn’t that sound just like Jesus? We die to the law to bear fruit in our lives in such a way that others see Jesus in us. In Galatians 4.19, Paul says he is in anguish of childbirth to see Christ formed in them.

He says down in v 6 that we’ve died to the law and are united to Christ so that we serve (slave) in the newness (same word as in Chapter 6 for walk in newness of life) we serve in the newness of the Spirit. Without even knowing it, we served the devil. Now we serve God in the newness of the Spirit.

ill.: I have an old pastor friend who used to say that when he became a believer his “want to” changed. He didn’t want to do the things he used to do and he now, wanted to do what Christ desired of him. He wanted to serve in a pleasing manner. He wanted to be faithful. He wanted to walk in newness of life.

Conclusion: I think that kind of sums up how a believer moves from one realm into another. No longer bound by a set of rules to be obeyed externally, God writes his law upon our hearts. Now, what manifests itself in the life of a believer is what comes from within. Our ‘want to’ changes.

A young lady was so moved at her salvation she wrote a song about it. The Title of this song (a hymn you would call it): Praise for Redemption. You don’t know it by that title. You almost didn’t know it all, because when it was written, no one really liked it and it faded into obscurity for some 80 years.

In 1954, Billy Graham was hosting a crusade in London. It is truly amazing the anguish he endured there in London. He wanted to preach, but many of the religious leaders were so hard on him. Robert Morgan writes: The British Press was critical of the young evangelist and an Anglican bishop predicted Graham would return to America with ‘his tail between his legs.’ Funds were short, forcing the Graham team to take pay cuts. A member of Parliament threatened a challenge in the House of Commons, accusing Graham of interfering in British politics under the guise of religion. Friends in high places were advising Graham to cancel or postpone the meetings. Graham, shaken, dropped to his knees repeatedly, beseeching help from Heaven.

As a part of these struggles and financial cutbacks, Cliff Barrows began compiling hymns for the Great London Crusade Song Book. Barrows received many hymns from different folks. One such person was Reverend Frank Colquhoun, a well-known British preacher and lover of hymns. There was this unknown hymn by this lady named Fanny Crosby, who had published that hymn some 79 years before. That hymn was Praise for Redemption, and it goes like this:

To God be the glory, great things He has done; 
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.

Refrain:
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

Jesus had redeemed Ms. Crosby and she wanted to shout praises of Glory to God for the great salvation she had experienced. So she composed that song. Of course, the song was sung for 3 months there in London in 1954 and exploded onto the Christian Scene.

Fanny Crosby wrote many songs about her faith. If this one had never been found, we’d still know about her faith. But aren’t you glad it was found.

Praise for Redemption. Fanny Crosby had found a new life in Christ. She had been taken from life to death. Do you hear her plea in the chorus: O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son.

If you’ve never accepted Christ, I offer him to you today. If you’ve been living by the law – trying to be good and never haven been changed by the Spirit. Would you come today?

Here’s how we do things at Calvary. I want to invite you to come talk to me (or any one of the elders) this morning about anything on your mind. There will be other church members there, too, of whom I’m sure would love to visit with you. We’ll have some coffee and cookies back there, and maybe some doughnuts.

Maybe you want to talk about church membership or feeling a call to missions or ministry. Come visit with us.

Let’s have a moment of silence and reflect upon the day’s activity.

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Filed under Colossians, Ephesians, Faith, Galatians, Psalms, Romans, Salvation, Sanctification, Sermon, The Gospel, The Law

Psalm 19

Title: Do you ever wonder if God is really out there? Does God really exist?

Text: Psalm 19

Introduction: Do you ever wonder if God is really out there? Have you ever asked yourself: Does God really exist? This is a tough question and if you’re honest – whether you’re a Christian or not, you have. How could you not? You’re bombarded everyday with those who would love to discourage you. And with all of the bad things in the world, how could God – if he is even out there – how could he let all that stuff go on?

I told you about my friend who went to the doctor and he asked her how her treatments were going. Do you remember? She said Treatments? I’m not getting any treatments? Treatments for what?

He said, “for your cancer.”

“I don’t have cancer.”

But she did. She hadn’t seen the doctor in 14 months. That’s when they found her cancer in her stomach. But no one told her. No one followed up.

We buried her yesterday. I asked her if she was bitter and she said: Good heavens, no! I asked her if she thought about suing. She asked me why? She wouldn’t be around to enjoy it. And besides, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. God knew.

Think about that. How unfair is that? And to say that God knew and didn’t reveal it to her!

Can God really be out there with so much injustice and so much evil in the world?

And if he is out there – why does he remain silent? Why doesn’t he speak up? Or does he? Where can you hear him if he is speaking?

Transition: Well, Psalm 19 lays out for us very clearly just where we can see him and hear him if we’ll truly look and listen. Look at Psalm 19 w/ me:

19 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1         The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

2         Day to day pours out speech,

and night to night reveals knowledge.

3         There is no speech, nor are there words,

whose voice is not heard.

4         Their voice goes out through all the earth,

and their words to the end of the world.

In them he has set a tent for the sun,

5         which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,

and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

6         Its rising is from the end of the heavens,

and its circuit to the end of them,

and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

I.     God is Making Himself Known through His Creation (1-6)

exp.: specifically, the skies; Every day and every night God is speaking to the world saying – I’m here. Can’t you see!

  1. There is no time when God is not speaking.
  2. There is no place where God is not speaking.
  3. There is no one who is hidden from God’s speaking.

The Artistry of Creation is a proclamation that God exists.

ill.: Kim Hill is an artist. I’m guessing 99% of you won’t know who I’m talking about. She paints some of the most realistic, stunningly beautiful paintings you’ll see. She has galleries in Fredericksburg and here, in Tyler, TX. Even if you’re not into art, I feel fairly confident that you would look at her paintings and just be amazed. You’ll look at those paintings and know that someone painted them. That paint didn’t just get spilt and make such an amazing garden painting, or pasture of longhorns. If I was rich, I’d own a few Kim Hill paintings.

app.: But just because you see one of her paintings, it doesn’t mean you can know her through her art or her designs. In order to get to know her, you’d have to read about her. You would have to meet her.

t.s.: Day after day and night after night, as you look up into the stars, you can get a sense he’s there. But, you can’t know him intimately through his creation. You can know he is out there. And that is the 2nd point Psalm 19 makes:

II.    God is Making Himself Known through His Word (7-11)

exp.: he has systematically and meticulously preserved his Word for us today. He wants us to know Him more intimately and deeply. Look at v 7-11;

7         The law of the Lord is perfect,

reviving the soul;

the testimony of the Lord is sure,

making wise the simple;

8         the precepts of the Lord are right,

rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is pure,

enlightening the eyes;

9         the fear of the Lord is clean,

enduring forever;

the rules of the Lord are true,

and righteous altogether.

10         More to be desired are they than gold,

even much fine gold;

sweeter also than honey

and drippings of the honeycomb.

11         Moreover, by them is your servant warned;

in keeping them there is great reward.

Note first the synonyms God uses to describe his word: law, testimony, precepts, commandment, fear and rules. These five words are the same words used in Psalm 119 – The great Psalm on God’s word. And – they’re used in the same order.

Look secondly at how God describes his word: perfect (or blameless), sure, right, pure, clean and true and righteous altogether.

And note 3rdly what they do for the individual: reviving the soul, make wise, joy to the heart, enlightening the eyes, God’s word makes it so we can see clearer. I’d call that perception.

app.: God Communicates His Reality in and through his creation. He Communicates His Character through his Holy Scriptures.

t.s.: But there is a third way we can know God…

III.   God is Making Himself Known through The Servant (12-14)

exp.: rd with me v 12-13;

12         Who can discern his errors?

Declare me innocent from hidden faults.

13         Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;

let them not have dominion over me!

Then I shall be blameless,

and innocent of great transgression.

Blameless, this is the word we saw up in v 7 translated as perfect.

  1. The servant writing this Psalm identifies himself in the very beginning, back up in the Title: A Psalm of David. That’s King David. There was no King quite like David. We know he is an imperfect picture of the Messiah, but we get a vague idea of the Messiah by seeing David. David, of course, messed up. He wasn’t perfect. Do you remember his great, public humiliation? That’s right: Bathsheba. He committed adultery with the wife of one of his most trusted and loyal leaders – Uriah. And then he had him murdered in order to cover it up.
  2. But there is another servant mentioned here. David is prophesying about him. There is only one person who has ever really been innocent in all his ways: the man, Jesus. He is only one who actually ever was blameless and perfect. Jesus is God’s servant who came to demonstrate God’s love to you and me. But God demonstrates his love toward in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
  3. There is third servant I’d like to mention. There is David the writer and Jesus the Messiah. The third servant isn’t listed here, but is definitely a sign that God is communicating his reality and his love through this servant. The third servant communicates God’s glory: and that’s his followers.

Every time someone comes to Christ and finds forgiveness, it communicates to people out there who don’t know God, that God is real. Sure, we Christians aren’t perfect like Jesus was – even though for many of us we try, but we fail. But that really is the message! Jesus came to die for sinners like you and me. And every time someone comes to Christ, it is a way God communicates to the world; a message that screams out that God is real.

We see it in the picture of a baptism…

The life of a person who comes to Christ is demonstrated in their baptism: the old person dies and a new person is raised to a new life. But, it is also a picture of Christ, who died on the cross of Calvary for our sins and was raised again to bring life and hope to everyone who commits his life to follow Christ.

ill.: Chase’s baptism…

Conclusion: if you’ve never accepted Christ into your life, I want to give you the opportunity this morning… If you want, we’ll even work out some way for you to be baptized this morning if you’d like. If you’re under 18, we’ll have to have your parents permission of course. But, if you’re out there in the congregation and you’d like to commit your life to follow Christ – this invitation is for you.

Application: God’s is communicating to you

  1. Through the Skies
  2. Through His Scriptures
  3. Through His Servant

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Filed under Prophecy, Psalms, Salvation, Scripture, Sermon, Servant, The Gospel