Halleluiah, Praise the Lord!

Introduction

The last time I taught, it was from the Book of Jonah. I really enjoyed studying it, there is a plot, a life lesson, historical significance, miracles, and fishing lessons.

But Psalms is usually hard for me. I read today’s scripture and thought, “It’s a book about praise.  How am I going to find a complete lesson here?  There’s no plot, no life lesson, just praise.”

As usual, though, when I sit down to truly study the Word, I find out it’s not all about me.  I have to learn that lesson almost every week, and you’d think I’d catch on.  It’s never about me. It’s always about the Lord.

Today’s scripture is only 6 verses long. Not a single person is mentioned, no historical cities, no leaders or kings, no narrative, no character conflict. Let’s begin with a simple reading, and then, during our study today, we will see where we are led. Psalm 150, and let’s read it together:

1 Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
   praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
   praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
   praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
   praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
   praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

This Psalm is the final Psalm in the book of Psalms. Psalms addresses our joys and our sorrows, our tears and our trials, our pains and our pleasures. Our life is full of difficulties that our Lord knows full well. Just like in the book of Revelation that tells us at the end of time we will all be praising the Lord, the book of Psalms ends with praise, because of and despite our joys and sorrows. Psalm 150 is the final Psalm, full of praise and hallelujahs, and inspires to mobilizes us and all of creation to praise the Lord God. It’s a crescendo, a peak, the final Psalm that implores us to give unreserved adoration, praise, gratitude, and awe.   There are no reasons given.   There are no reasons needed.

We have some luxury of time to spend in our chapter today since it’s only 6 verses, so we’re going to study each verse one by one, because I believe we have much to learn about praise from Psalm 150.

Psalm 150:1a, Praise the Lord

Let’s start with the verse 1, “Praise the Lord,” but let’s switch to Hebrew for a moment, because oddly enough we’re going to spend a lot of time just on the first word of this Psalm. The first word is “הַלְלוּ יָהּ”and I understand if you don’t recognize it at first, but you will. It’s made up of two parts –

      • הָלַל, pronounced “halal.” This is a verb which means “praise”, but it has several other meanings that illustrate what praise is. It also means to shine, to flash forth light, to be boastful, and to act madly like a fool. In other words, go all out, give it everything you have.
      • יָהּ, pronounced “Yahh.”       This is a contraction, a shortened version of “Jehovah,” the proper name of the one true God, the name revealed to Moses at the burning bush.

If we put these two words together, it means “praise the Lord,” just like we read from Psalm 150:1.   But let’s pronounce the Hebrew words and see if you recognize it. “Halal Yahh”. That’s right, the word is Halleluiah.

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Halleluiah, praise the Lord madly with all abandon, with everything we have. Halleluiah, for the Lord God is on His throne.   Halleluiah, for the Lord God reigns forever and ever. This phrase “Halleluiah” is used only 24 times in the Old Testament and they are all in the book of Psalms 104-150, and two of those Halleluiahs are in our study verses for today. And “halleluiah” is used three times in the New Testament, all in Revelation 19, and we’ll get to that in a little while. And “halleluiah” is used 145 times in Handel’s Messiah.

One of those translations of “halal” was to shine, to flash forth light. When Diane and I were first married, we took a honeymoon trip that included a day trip to an unusual place. My outfit that day was a swimsuit, hiking boots, a hardhat, an inner tube, and a flashlight. Sadly, I have no pictures of that outfit.

We put the hiking boots and flashlight in a plastic bag, then sat in the innertube and floated down a river that entered the mouth of a cave. We exited the river, put on our hiking boots, hardhat and flashlight, and hiked into the cave.

Deep in the cave, we entered a large cavern, and the guide had all of us turn our flashlights off.   I’ve never been in such pitch-black darkness. The phrase “can’t see my hand in front of my face” was literally true. There was nothing.

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Genesis 1, “And God said, ‘Let there be light’”. The guide turned on his flashlight and it was blinding. And wherever the flashlight shone, that’s where you looked, because you could not see if you looked anywhere else.

Halleluiah, shine a light on the Lord, fix our eyes on our Creator, for He alone is worthy.   Halleluiah, praise the Lord.   Even if our circumstances are pitch-black, praise the Lord and shine our light on Him. Shine a light on the One who created light. Shine a light on the One who will never leave you or forsake you. Shine a light on the One who knew you in your mother’s womb. Halleluiah, praise the Lord.

So here I am, thinking I’m going to have trouble putting together a lesson from the book of Psalms, and 10 minutes into the lesson and we’re not even past the first word.   Halleluiah, the Lord God provides according to His mercies. Let us move on to the second word because at this rate this is a 2 hour lesson.

Psalm 150:1b, Praise Him in His Sanctuary

Verse 1,

Praise God in his sanctuary;

   praise him in his mighty heavens.

After the “Halleluiah,” each verse begins with a command, an imperative, to “Praise Him” for very specific things, beginning with His sanctuary and His mighty heavens.

His sanctuary then (and now!) was a specific place of worship that people could go to praise the LORD with other people. It was a corporate place of worship. They would hear scripture read from the scrolls, they would offer sacrifices and offerings. They would sing songs and pray. They came together as a community of believers to worship and praise God, not unlike what we do today in churches around the world.

The church is a place where we shine a light on the LORD. Sometimes I hear people might complain about a church, “Oh, I didn’t get anything from that sermon,” and we’re missing the point. It’s not about us. We gather to shine our light on the Lord.

We do it through bible study classes, we do it through worship services with choirs and orchestras and praise teams leading us in songs. We do it through the preaching of the bible. We do it through the giving of tithes and offerings.   We do it through baptism. We do it through prayer. We do it through coming forward to join the church to be part of this particular community of believers at this church. Each weekend when we come to this place for worship and bible study, we are living out Psalm 150:1.

But the next verse says to Praise the LORD in “His mighty heavens.” Other translations say “mighty expanse” or “mighty firmament.”   When we started this journey this year of studying the bible chronologically, we started with Genesis 1:1,

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

God created everything we see when you look up into the sky. The sun, the moon, the stars; the vastness of the universe. God also created what you see when you look around and down at the earth. The mountains, the trees, the flowers, the plants, the animals, the oceans, the ground, the vastness of planet earth.   We are to shine a light on the LORD both in His sanctuary and in the vastness of creation.

David said it best in Psalm 8:1-3,

Lord, our Lord,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
   in the heavens.

When I consider your heavens,
   the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
   which you have set in place.

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I love the ocean and the beach, it is spectacular. The vastness of the water, the unrelenting waves, the movement of ocean as it comes up to the sand on the beach and then recedes.

I also love the mountains, how they reach up to the heavens as far as I can see.

I love the plains of Texas, the flatness merging into the hill country. I love summer nights in west Texas where the sky is so black and you can see the milky way and the billions of stars and the moon and even some planets that can be seen with the naked eye. David knew this was a great opportunity for us to consider the Heavens of God, the work of His fingers that He has set in place.

Psalm 150:2, Praise Him for His Power

The first verse of Psalm 150 tells us where to Praise Him – in church and everywhere – and then the second verse tells us what to praise Him for.

Praise him for his acts of power;

   praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Praise Him for His mighty acts, which we saw over and over in the Old Testament. His mighty acts go far beyond just speaking the world into existence.

The mighty acts of God are not based on size or spectacular grandeur. The flood was definitely a mighty act. But the mighty act of the water receding and a rainbow in the sky to mark a covenant never to flood the earth again was a mighty act greater than the flood itself.

Taking a man named Abram who could not have a child with his wife Sara and making a covenant with him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars was the beginning of a mighty act. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham and He became not only a Father of a Nation, but the Patriarch of all Patriarchs. God would forever be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; 3 generations that began with a mighty act of God.

The 10 plagues of the Exodus Era were mighty acts of God that even Pharaoh couldn’t deny.   The parting of the Red Sea was a mighty act. The Lord broke down the walls of Jericho, gave water from the rock through Moses, delivered Daniel from the lion’s den, brought down fire on Elijah’s sacrifice, and sent chariots of fire to protect Elisha. And God provides rain from heaven and our daily bread and even the very air we breathe.

But we know the mightiest act of all was God sending His only Son, Jesus Christ to live a perfect, sinless life on this earth as a human being. Jesus gave His life on the cross, crucified to death for our sin, buried in a tomb. And then three days later Jesus rises from the dead, conquering sin and death. And He did this so that all who believe in Him would have eternal life. The death and resurrection of Jesus was the mighty act of God based on His love for us. It is a mighty act when God takes sinful, rebellious, complacent people and saves them unto Himself.

Beyond the mighty acts of what God has done, we are to Praise Him for His “excellent greatness.”

Sometimes we can be so focused on the acts of God, we forget about the character of God.

The excellent greatness of God is unsurpassed. We Praise Him for His sovereignty, His unchanging nature, His omniscience, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His power, His grace, His mercy, His goodness, His kindness, His holiness, His faithfulness, His justice, His wisdom, and on and on and on.

He is great because He rules as sovereign over the universe. He is so sovereign that He can give people free choices and still retain full sovereignty. He is good; in fact, He is the good of the universe.   He is wise; His wisdom is so high that no one can even grasp His thoughts. He is merciful and just, kind and loving, gracious and tender, yet at the same time holy, just, and the judge of all humanity. His “excellent greatness” deserves praise from all His creation. There is nothing and no one that compares to God’s greatness.   David summed it up this way in Psalm 40:5 –

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count.

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Sometimes in our lives, our prayers, our thoughts we tend to focus on what God wants us to do and what we want God to do. Psalm 150 calls us to praise Him regardless, just because of who He is.

We have looked at where to praise, what to Praise, and now let’s look at how to praise in verse 3.

Psalm 150:3-5, Praise Him with Music

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

   praise him with the harp and lyre,

praise him with timbrel and dancing,

   praise him with the strings and pipe,

praise him with the clash of cymbals,

   praise him with resounding cymbals.

Throughout scripture, music is an integral part of praise and worship. When Moses and the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, the first thing that they did was sing a song, Exodus 15:1-2 –

Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: “I will sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

 

Slide15.JPGMany times, in the Psalms it says to sing to the Lord, though in Psalm 150 it is all about the instruments. Trumpet, lute, harp, tambourine, stringed instruments, flutes, and cymbals. I like to think the euphonium would be included.

The musical instruments listed also had historical significance and carried memories, devotion and purpose. For instance, trumpets announced sacrifices in Jerusalem. Trumpets called people to worship. Trumpets announced the entrance of a King.

The tambourine and dance were a celebration of joy. Dancing to the tambourine was a way to celebrate the freedom, joy and happiness of who the Lord is and what He has done.

The cymbals are a sign of exaltation. It is like an exclamation point. The cymbals are even listed twice in verse 5.

Ultimately, praise is not about the instruments, it is about the heart. It is an expression of what is going on in your heart, mind, soul and spirit. Some people praise the Lord through song, through instruments, through writing, through artwork, through serving others, through prayer; there are countless ways to Praise the LORD.

Psalm 150:6, Let Everyone Praise Him

So far, we have seen where to Praise, what to Praise, how to Praise and finally, now we are going to see who does the praising in verse 6.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

If you are breathing, praise the LORD.

Regardless of circumstances, relationships, achievements, bank accounts, or anything else that would be temporary, praise the Lord.

Praise is the attribute of God’s people, but praise is the responsibility of every created being in the universe. God is seeking worshipers who will “worship Him in spirit and in truth.” God calls all nations to praise Him and to look to Him for their salvation. He is worthy of the praises of all people everywhere. When the apostle Paul defends his missionary ministry to the Gentiles in Romans 15:11, he quotes Psalm 117:1 to demonstrate that God is seeking praise from all nations.

“And again: ‘Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles Laud Him, all you peoples,’”

One motive for missionary trips is to bring praise to God from all the nations. Praise from every nation will come to pass; John’s vision in the book of the Revelation 5:9 reveals a song sung by people redeemed “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” They join with the angels and the elders in Revelation 5:12 to sing heaven’s sweetest song:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”

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God created everything to bring Him praise and commands everything that has breath to praise Him. One day Balaam’s donkey will praise the LORD; one day the great fish who swallowed Jonah will praise the LORD; one day the lions who refused to eat Daniel will praise the LORD. In fact, in Revelation 5:13, John writes,

“And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever’.”

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Conclusion

Psalm 150 ends just as it began: “Hallelujah.” Praise the Lord. Ten times we are commanded to praise Him who sits upon the throne. Praise Him all the time and everywhere and with all we have.   God alone is worthy of this praise.

I learned a lot from Psalm 150 today. I’ve learned to embrace the beauty and the imperative of praising my Creator.   There is beauty found in this simplicity. This Psalm is absolutely timeless and a great reminder that whatever we are going through today, this Psalm comes at the right time. Whatever challenges we might have personally or with a family member, this Psalm comes at the right time. If we are having difficulty at work or perhaps finding a job, this Psalm comes at the right time. If we are one of the few where everything is going exactly right in your life on every level without a care in the world, this Psalm comes at the right time.   Halleluiah, praise the Lord.

We end today’s study in Revelation 19:6-7a, the only place in the New Testament that uses the word Halleluiah:

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah!
   For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
   and give him glory!

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Amen and Halleluiah, praise the Lord almighty.

To God be the glory.

Kingdom Wisdom

Introduction

Two weeks ago, Jim Armstrong visited our class and taught about Solomon’s wisdom.  I loved his story about his wife’s dress; when she asked if it made her look fat, his answer showed he lacked wisdom.

So you’ll excuse me if I was a little confused when I started looking into my bible study assignment for this week and realized it was about Solomon’s wisdom.  Again.  I saw Jim Armstrong in the elevator a couple of weeks back and asked to just borrow his notes and teach the same lesson again.  It would save me a lot of time.

So recently my wife bought a new dress….

No, I’m just kidding.  Jim’s lesson was excellent, but we are going to have a very different lesson on wisdom.  Whereas Jim taught us the difference between knowledge and wisdom and focused on 1 Kings 3, today we’re going to talk about how the best wisdom also depends on knowledge, how the bible provides both wisdom and knowledge, and that the wisdom in the bible provides not only spiritual wisdom, but also worldly wisdom.  As we continue our study of what makes a Godly leader, we include Godly wisdom as a key attribute of a Godly leader.  We are going to spend some time on the proverbs that Solomon wrote.

God has placed each and every one of us on this world for a purpose.  To love God with all our heart, our soul, our strength, our mind, and also to love one another.  That means we must learn to live in this world and live with one another in a way that brings glory to God, letting our light shine so others may see the truth and light that dwells within us.  But navigating this world can be hard.  While we know the source of all truth begins with God’s word, applying those truths to a fallen world or around people that have rejected God aren’t always so easy to do.  We need wisdom.

What is Wisdom?

So what is wisdom?  Is it the same as education?  I have a short educational video that examines the importance of education.

Or maybe it’s a college diploma?  Having a diploma is definitely an indicator of wisdom.

So maybe a diploma isn’t what makes somebody smart.  Nope, a godly leader exhibits wisdom, and wisdom is composed of three parts –

  • Knowledge
  • Understanding
  • Application

Knowledge

This world is a dangerous place, not just spiritually but mentally and physically and every way you can imagine.  We need wisdom to live and we need wisdom to thrive, and we need this wisdom every day and in every aspect of our life, in relationships, in finances, in sex, in work, in discipline, in parenting, and more.  Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs to give his people, and us, guidance we need for life, because our lives are complex.  Not every decision has a clear black and white answer.

Lets start be offering a definition of wisdom:

Wisdom is the ability to skillfully navigate the world God created.

And as long as we are studying definitions, let’s examine the definition of the word “Proverb.”

A proverb is a verb that has lost its amateur status.

Most of the book of Proverbs is written by King Solomon. Solomon was considered the wisest man of all time.   And when Solomon ascended to the throne of David, God offered Solomon anything he wanted.  Solomon could have asked for gold, power, fame, long life, anything at all.  The treasury of heaven was opened wide and Solomon went shopping with a credit card that had no limit.  Anything.

But Solomon did not ask for gold, or power, or fame, or long life.  Solomon knew he could not rule Israel without God.  Instead of asking for gold or power or fame, Solomon asked for the ability to skillfully navigate being the king of Israel.

In 1 Kings 3:7-9, Solomon said,

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David.  But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.  Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

In other words, Solomon asked for Wisdom.

The Lord’s response in 1 Kings 3:10-14,

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.  So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.  Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both wealth and honor – so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.  And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”

This response reminds me of God’s promises to us.  Are we to seek fame or fortune, wealth or power?  In Matthew 6, Jesus provides a lot of information on how to live our lives – without worry, don’t brag, give to the needy, don’t store up treasures on earth – but then in Matthew 6:33, Jesus says,

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Whatever our desires are, don’t chase after our desires.  Chase after Jesus, and He will give us our desires.

So Solomon received Wisdom and all of God’s other blessings, and then Solomon with his God-given wisdom wrote down the Proverbs so that we, too, may learn to become wise.  The Proverbs are lessons and principles given to us by God to help up navigate His world successfully.  Wisdom is the foundation for successful living.  Solomon tells us in Proverbs 8:35-36,

For those who find me [wisdom] find life
and receive favor from the Lord.
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
all who hate me love death.”

So if we want to find life and receive favor from the Lord, then we must follow God’s wisdom.  If we want to walk in pain, disappointment, and continuous frustration in life, then all we have to do is ignore God’s wisdom.

To gain wisdom, we start with a good foundation of knowledge.  Solomon wrote Proverbs to the people of Israel so that they could sail the sea of life without crashing into the rocks and sink.  Many of the young Israelites were establishing their independence, moving out of adolescence and into adulthood.  They were and age where they’d get married and begin their careers.  They needed a handbook to navigate the world.

The book of Proverbs provides many simple truths like Proverbs 12:22 –

The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.

Simple to understand.  Thou shalt not lie, and keep your promises.

Proverbs 10:4 –

A slack hand causes poverty but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

In other words, work hard.  You cannot succeed if you don’t work.

Proverbs 12:4 –

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

I’m not sure if this is advice given to the men or the women.  Let’s say it’s for both.  Men, your wife is a crown, like precious jewelry, so take care of them.  Women, you can either be a crown or you can be rotten, your choice.  Either way, I’ve met some singles over the years that are so desperate to find a spouse, they’ll marry anybody without first asking God if it’s God’s plan.  Marrying a godly spouse doesn’t eliminate marital strife, but it makes solutions to arguments so much easier.

Proverbs 18:6 –

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.

In other words, just watch your mouth.

And Proverbs 22:11,

He who loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king as his friend.

None of these truths are difficult to understand.  They are not secrets to cheat at the game of life. They are simply truths, rules that God has established for us to have success in life.  Honesty is better than lying. Work is better than laziness.  Select a spouse based on their heart.  Don’t keep talking when you don’t know what you’re saying.  If you’re kind and gracious you will befriend influential people.

But knowledge alone doesn’t make us wise.  Over the years, I’ve met some very educated people that don’t seem to have a lick of common sense.  God didn’t just lay out a bunch of rules and say, “Do this and don’t do that.”  If we look at the people Jesus had the most difficulty with, it was the Pharisees who could quote all 613 mitzvots in the Torah but didn’t understand *why* God established all those mitzvots.  Knowledge without understanding is foolishness.

Understanding

What good is knowledge unless you have understanding?  Proverbs doesn’t teach us to be an engineer, a painter, or an accountant.  Proverbs teaches us to master life.

Superficial knowledge produces a shallow life and foolish living.   God’s goal in the book of Proverbs is not for us to just possess the facts, but for us to grasp the reality of what lays beneath the surface of the facts. To comprehend that below the surface of reality, God created His world with the understanding that wisdom works. Wisdom is woven into the very fabric of our reality. Life operates best when we live wisely.

Solomon writes about Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-31,

“I [Wisdom] was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.

Understanding helps us to push past the “what” and peer into the “why.” Understanding helps the information and the informed work together for good.

Choosing God’s path of wisdom means that we don’t endure the heartaches of sin now.  The person who chooses the world’s path may enjoy temporary pleasures, but these pleasures often have consequences that follow.  When a Christian chooses what is right, he has no shame, no heartache, and no fear that the consequences will catch up and overtake him, Proverbs 3:13-14 –

Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.

Application

So the book of Proverbs has so much wisdom to teach us, but also how to apply it to our lives –

  • A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.  (Proverbs 25:28)
  • It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.  (Proverbs 21:9)
  • The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.  (Proverbs 22:7)
  • Do not toil to acquire wealth be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.  (Proverbs 23:4-5)
  • Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.  (Proverbs 11:28)
  • When a man walks in integrity and justice, happy are his children after him.  (Proverbs 20:7)
  • Truthful lips endure forever, the lying tongue, for only a moment.  (Proverbs 12:19)
  • A mild answer calms wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  (Proverbs 15:1)
  • He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.  (Proverbs 14:31)
  • Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.  (Proverbs 10:12)
  • The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.  (Proverbs 18:10)
  • Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
  • A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.  (Proverbs 11:17)
  • A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.  (Proverbs 14:30)
    When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.  (Proverbs 29:2)
  • In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  (Proverbs 3:6)
  • The whole point of Proverbs is to make us wise. Wisdom is evident in our lives when we exhibit knowledge, understanding, and application.

Tony said something last week – remember the aunt that was in heaven on her own little tiny cloud?  Tony also said he met somebody that told him, “you don’t know what the bible says, let me give you this pamphlet that will help.”  That is blatantly untrue.  The bible explains itself and provides all the wisdom anybody needs to understand the bible as well as life, love, work, finances, everything.  It’s all in there.

How Do I Get Wisdom?

1. Recognize where wisdom comes from.   Listen to Proverbs 1:7 –

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Ultimately, the fear of the Lord means that believers understand that they shall stand before the Lord Jesus one day and give an account; those who choose the way of death will be ashamed, while those who choose life will rejoice.

All throughout Proverbs we see the repeated phrase “The fear of the LORD”.

The fear of the Lord is not a terrifying fear that God is going to punish me if I disobey. The fear of the LORD that Solomon mentions throughout Proverbs is a reverence for God and a respect for His power.

Remember wisdom is the ability to skillfully navigate the world God created. We become wise when we recognize this is God’s world and His approach to life works best.  We are not naturally wise people. Wisdom comes supernaturally through our response to God.

2. Listen, Keep, and Do Not Neglect

Then, in Proverbs 8:32-33, Solomon writes –

And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.

A three step process:  Listen, Keep, and Do Not Neglect

Listen – Solomon wants us to be aware that wisdom will only come through active listening for God’s instruction.  We must study what God says about living a wise life.  Proverbs is 31 chapters long, one for every day of the month.  It’s almost as if God is telling us that we have a need for wisdom every day and an opportunity to receive wisdom every day.

Keep – Wise living only occurs when we keep His ways. The word “keep” here means to obey.  Foolish living occurs when we recognize God’s wisdom but reject it.  But those who are truly wise will keep the principles of a wise life laid out in the book of Proverbs.

Do not neglect – Wisdom is a lot like physical fitness. A lot of us start the fitness journey in the same way, we realize our current health isn’t what it used to be.  We are more winded going up the stairs, our pants don’t fit as well as they used to, and the scale keeps climbing up and up.  So, what we do is we begin to research. We look up plans to improve our fitness. We look at all the benefits of various healthy diets.  We talk to people who are in better shape than us, possibly a trainer. We get an app to track our fitness progress and goals.  We even buy a new pair of shoes.

But that isn’t enough to make us physically fit.  All the research and planning isn’t enough if we have neglect to, you know, actually work out.  We have to apply what we learned.

At any point in time in our physical fitness journey, we can become unfit.  We can neglect the gym.  We can neglect stretching.  We can neglect healthy eating.  A life of fitness can start and stop at any time.  Most of us have started a diet, broken our diet, and restarted our diet, sometimes in the same day.

A life of wisdom is a life of persistence. It takes continual discipline and hard work to build a wise life.  If we want to possess the skills, we need for navigating the complexities of life, then we can’t afford to neglect wisdom.

It comes down to our choice to put into practice that which is revealed.

Conclusion

Wisdom helps us steward our lives well and provides a life that may influence others in order to bring glory to God.

Do you want wisdom?  James 1:5,

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

So be smart.  S-M-R-T.  Ask God for His wisdom.

To God be the glory.

The King’s Prophecy

I. Introduction

We’re continuing our chronological study of the bible; last week, Chris brought us into the time of David and the end of King David’s life.  Throughout David’s life, he was a man after God’s own heart, even though David was an adulterer, murderer, deceiver.  Yet, God rescued David, just as He rescues you and me.
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Man is corrupt; we have a fallen nature.  God gives us free will to choose Him, and also gives us an opportunity not to choose Him.  Beginning in the Garden of Eden, Adam was in God’s perfect will, and Adam still chose to rebel.  And each one of us have had an opportunity to be in God’s perfect will, and yet we can all look at aspects of our lives and say, you know, I made choices contrary to God’s plan, and those poor choices led me here.
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There is an opportunity for each person to be righteous in the eyes of the Lord.  If we are perfect, as He is perfect, God says we qualify to be in His presence in heaven.  And that’s what heaven is, isn’t it?  Perfection with the Lord?  Heaven isn’t a place of “good enough.”  That wouldn’t be heaven.  That’s hardly an improvement over this world.  No, heaven is perfection, and God’s perfect justice will destroy all evil and sin and “good enough”.  All it takes to enter heaven is to be free of sin.  And throughout history, do you know how many men and women have succeeded in living a life free of sin?
David’s son Solomon tells us centuries ago in Ecclesiastes 7:20,
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
no one who does what is right and never sins.
And centuries later, Paul repeats in Romans 3:10,
As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one.
That’s right.  Nobody.  No one is righteous, no not one.
And King David, a man after God’s own heart?  He wasn’t perfect.  Oh no, he set all sorts of bad examples of how to fail spectacularly.
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But God didn’t wind up this planet, stick a bunch of people on it, give the world a spin and say, “well, Good luck.  Hope to see you again sometime.”  God’s justice is perfect, sure, and perfection is required to enter into His presence, but God also has perfect love for us and He doesn’t condemn us to destruction with no hope.
All the way back in the garden of Eden, God tells of a coming Seed who will redeem man.  God amplifies this promise to following generations by promising Abraham that his descendants will be a blessing to the nations, and by providing a substitute for Abraham’s son Isaac.  He continues to layer that promise with clearer pictures of redemption by accepting the blood of the lambs on the doorposts in the Passover, by establishing the Day of Atonement, and by giving Israel the sacrificial system.
In the book of Numbers, 24:17-19. Balaam blesses Israel,
“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel…
Out of Jacob One shall have dominion.
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And Isaiah writes full chapters of prophecy about the coming redemption of man through a Messiah who will win the victory for us sinners, including the entire chapter of Isaiah 53 which reads in part, verses 2-6,
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Because King David was a man after God’s own heart, God blesses David with details about the King and Messiah yet to come: the Messiah’s life, His death, His Resurrection and His Reign forever.
David wrote in Psalm 25:14,
“The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He shall show them His covenant.”

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II. The Messiah’s Life

God reveals details of the Messiah to David.  In Psalm 69:8-9, David describes the life of his future savior like this –
I am a foreigner to my own family,
a stranger to my own mother’s children;
for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
This prophecy is fulfilled many times in the life of Jesus, such as in John 7:1-9.  Jesus’ brothers taunt Him and try to get him to go up to the Feast of Tabernacles, where the Jews want to kill Him.  Verse 5, John writes,
For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
In Mark 3, Jesus gathers His disciples and gives them power to drive out demons, but in verse 21-22, his family thinks he’s lost His mind and the rulers think Jesus serves the devil –
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

III. The Messiah’s Death

David also writes about the death of Jesus on the cross.  In Mark 15:34 as Jesus was being crucified,
And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Jesus is specifically directing us to read David’s words in Psalm 22, which begins,
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
Psalm 22 is incredibly specific in describing the suffering and death of Jesus, including ridicule, abandonment by His friends, being surrounded by enemies, even His thirst, Psalm 22:15,
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
One of the soldiers gave Jesus vinegar to drink, a rag tied to a stick, but Jesus refuses it.  And David even prophecies the soldiers gambling for His clothing in Psalm 22:16-18,
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
In John 19, Jesus’ own executioners end up wearing His clothing, His righteousness clothing sinners.

IV. The Messiah’s Resurrection

David write about the Messiah’s resurrection in Psalm 16:9-11
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Both Peter and Paul cite this Psalm as a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection, noting that not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but He would rise before any bodily decay.

V. The Messiah’s Reign

Then the triumph of Jesus shines through the last part of Psalm 22, verse 27-28,
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
Israel’s unique relationship with the Lord will expand to all nations and opens God’s grace to the gentiles.

VI. The Messiah’s Prophecies Fulfilled

God has built a careful plan of both prophecy and fulfillment of His prophecy to demonstrate His truthfulness, and yet, many Christians are unaware of the great lengths God went through to demonstrate His fulfilled promises.  And if Christians aren’t confident in the truth about salvation through Jesus, how can nonbelievers be confident in the truth?
This is important – to know that Jesus lived and died, rose again on the third day, and sits at the right hand of the Father.  In 1 Corinthians 15:14, Paul reminds us that our entire faith rests on this point –
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
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In a recent study only 92% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ was a real.  Less than half of Millennials believe that Jesus was God, preferring to think of Jesus as either a spiritual leader or something else, or not sure.
Like many of you, my wife and I pray for family members who do not know Jesus.  My wife’s family can be very ugly when she talks about her faith.  Imagine her joy when her sister called one Easter morning and left a voicemail that said she believed in Jesus!  But when my wife called her back, her sister hadn’t come to faith.  She was only agreeing that Jesus was a real person.
This shouldn’t even be a question – of course He existed.  There is more documentation about the life of Jesus than about any other historical person.  But when a non-Christian asks this question, they usually mean “not counting the bible”.
But there are multiple secular historians that wrote about an amazing man in a relatively unimportant small corner of the Roman Empire.  Roman Tacitus, considered one of the most accurate historians of the first century, wrote about Jesus.  So did Suetonius, chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian.  Julius Africanus.  Pliny the Younger.  Lucian of Samosata.  Mara Bar-Serapion.  We can nearly reconstruct the life and ministry of Jesus from non-biblical sources.  Of course Jesus existed.
One of the most important external sources about the life of Jesus is Flavius Josephus, a famous Jewish historian for the Roman Empire.  Now, as a Jew and a Roman, Josephus would have been strongly opposed to the ministry of Jesus, but instead, Josephus wrote in Antiquities –
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats….He was [the] Christ…he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.”
And –
“At this time there was a wise man named Jesus. His conduct was good and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who became his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”
Yeah, but was Jesus the son of God?  Certainly King David Isaiah wrote prophecies about the coming Messiah, and prophecies were written hundreds of years before Jesus –
OT Prophecies About Christ
Prophecy Scripture Years in Advance
Manner of Birth Isaiah 7:14 700 years
Place of Birth Micah 5:2 700 years
Nationality Numbers 24:17 1400 years
Tribe Genesis 49:10 1800 years
Time of & Response to His Messiahship Dan. 9:25-26 600 years
Crucified Between Thieves Isaiah 53:9 700 years
Pierced Isaiah 53:5 700 years
No Broken Bones Psalm 22:17 1000 years
Gamble for His Clothing Psalm 22:18 1000 years
Buried in Rich Man’s Tomb Isaiah 53:9 1000 years
I read a list of 355 separate prophecies in the bible about Jesus, and Jesus fulfilled every one.  A mathematical impossibility.  In a book called “Science Speaks,” they calculated that the odds of one man fulfilling all the prophecies was one in 10^17 power.  To put it in perspective, imagine the entire state of Texas covered in silver dollars two feet thick, and only 1 of those silver dollars is marked.  Now imagine a blindfolded man, heading out of Dallas by foot, would manage to pick out that silver dollar on his first try.  That’s the equivalent odds of one in 10^17th power.
I read that in a debate with an atheist, the atheist claimed that the only reason Jesus fulfilled those prophecies was because Jesus set out intentionally to fulfill those prophecies in order to deceive people.  So the Christian asked him, “So how did Jesus choose to be born in Bethlehem?”
If that wasn’t enough proof, Jesus made His own short term prophecies that were fulfilled –
Christ’s Short-Term Predictions
Prophecy Scripture
Betrayal by a Friend John 13:21
Three-fold Denial by Peter Matthew 26:34, 75
Manner of His Own Death Matthew 20:18-19
Manner of Disciples’ Deaths John 21:18-22
AD 70 Events Luke 19:41-44
When Jesus said in Matthew 24:2 that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed,
Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
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The Jews looked at the massive temple and scoffed.  But the temple in Jerusalem had a fortune in gold and silver inside for safekeeping, but during 70 AD the Romans set fire to the temple and the gold and silver melted and ran between the stones.  The Roman soldiers tore each and every stone out and threw it over the temple mount wall trying to retrieve the gold and silver.
Well, ok, so there’s proof Jesus existed and fulfilled prophecy, but maybe Jesus was just a great spiritual leader.
Well, Jesus was indeed a great spiritual teacher.  He never claimed to be God, did He?
That’s a narrow minded view of the life of Jesus.  Jesus never used the words, “I am God,” but He claimed to be God nonetheless.  In John 10:30, Jesus says,
I and the Father are One.
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The Jewish leaders understood that to mean Jesus and God were the same.  And when Jesus said to the Jews in John 8:58,
“I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am!”
The Jews then took up stones to kill Jesus for blasphemy as the Mosaic Law commanded.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is quite unlike the Ten Commandments, it is the most amazing spiritual and prophetic sermon, and absolutely impossible for us to fulfill unless we allow Christ to remake us in His image.  So could Christ both claim to be God and teach this Sermon and be wrong?  C.S. Lewis grappled with this very subject and developed the Tri-Lemma.
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If Jesus claimed to be God and knew it to be false, then he was a liar.  But His teachings are those of compassion and love and truth.  Or maybe Jesus claimed to be God and didn’t know, which means He was a lunatic.  Hard to square that with the Sermon on the mount.
Or Jesus claimed to be God and knew it to be true.  Then the choice becomes ours on whether to accept Jesus as Lord.
But great spiritual leader that wasn’t God?  Jesus did not intend to leave us that option.  Liar, lunatic, or Lord are the only options.
Well, ok, he fulfilled prophecy and was the Son of God.  That doesn’t mean He was raised from the dead, does it?
Again, we have to look at the facts.  In 1 Corinthians 15:6-7, Paul says,
“After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles…”
Paul is telling the church of Corinth something they had seen for themselves, Jesus walking among them after His death on the cross.  They had eyewitnesses living among them.  It could not have just been a lie, because the witnesses still were around.
Let’s say I told you that I remember when Hillary Clinton won the Presidential election in 2016, or Hurricane Harvey slamming California, or the Texans winning with Superbowl.  You know those statements aren’t true – you remember the news.  And even if you weren’t in Houston, you can ask witnesses who remember.  In other words, there are people still alive who remember the truth.  A story like a dead man rising from the grave was believable precisely because so many saw Him, and Paul said those witnesses are still alive and you can question them about the life and resurrection of Jesus.
Some skeptics might then admit all of this was true so far, but maybe Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, maybe He was only wounded, or perhaps somebody stole the body.  There are lots of theories, but none of them make sense, especially in light of all the witnesses that saw Jesus.  Here are some of the theories –
  • Swoon theory.  This theory suggests Jesus didn’t actually die, he survived the crucifixion.  They put Him in a tomb, wrapped Him in linens like He was dead, but then He recovered and got up and walked around.  But the Roman guards who crucified Jesus were very good at their jobs of torture and death, and their own lives depended on it if they failed.  The Romans pieced him through the side with a spear and blood and water came out indicating hypovolemic shock followed by pleural effusion, the water from the lungs settling into the heart area, something that only occurs after death.  Jesus was most certainly dead.  And after having his skin flogged and beaten and tortured and hypovolemic shock and crucified, it’s not possible that being stored in a tomb for 3 days without food or water that a nearly dead Jesus could get up, untangle the linens that wrapped His body in a cocoon, and then walk around and mingle with His disciples and nobody notice that He was near death.  If He had survived – which He couldn’t and didn’t – then He would have been in ICU for months.
  • Ok, so He died on the cross.  Maybe his body was placed in the wrong tomb.  But that doesn’t make sense – there was again a Roman guard stationed outside the tomb.  Both the Sanhedrin and the Romans were trying to destroy early Christianity, and Romans making a mistake like that would have been punishable by death.  Besides, when the Christians claimed Jesus lived, the Jews or the Romans could just present the body to prove He was dead.
  • Maybe somebody stole the body.  But who would have done that?  The Romans?  No, that was punishable by death and they wanted Jesus dead.  The Jews?  They also wanted Jesus dead.  Besides, when the disciples and the 500 started walking around the streets and word got around that Jesus was alive, again, all the Jews or Romans had to do was produce the body.  That would have killed Christianity instantly.
  • That only leaves the disciples themselves who had motive to steal Jesus’ body.  But that doesn’t hold up, either – every one of Jesus’ disciples were tortured and killed for proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus.  Maybe one person could survive torture and maintain a lie, but all twelve, enduring torture and prosecution and still proclaiming Christ lives?  They all died proclaiming Christ, and I just can’t imagine they would all do that for a lie.  No, they believe Christ died and rose again.
  • Mass Hallucination.  No really, that’s a theory.  Not a good theory, but hey, I included it on the list.

VII. Conclusion

Every person must make this decision about Jesus.  Did Jesus live?  Did He die?  Did He rise from the grave?  Is He a Liar, a Lunatic, or Lord?  The evidence is overwhelming, from a biblical view, a logical view, an historical view.

In John 20, Jesus has been crucified and raised to life, but Doubting Thomas won’t believe it unless he puts his hands in the holes left by the nails in Jesus.  And Jesus appears and lets Thomas do exactly that, telling Thomas to stop doubting and to believe.  Thomas’s reaction in John 20:28-29,

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

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God has given us hundreds of fulfilled prophecies so that we may believe.  Those of us that have already placed our trust in Jesus probably also have a personal testimony of Jesus in our lives to help eliminate all doubt.  Jesus is real, our Messiah, our salvation, our rock and our fortress, and our redeemer.   As King David writes in Psalm 22:29-31 –
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!
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To God be the glory.

Faith and the Revelation of God

I. Introduction

A guy named Pete gets a job as a switchman with the railroad, and undergoes weeks of training. The supervisor then takes him into the switch booth to test his readiness. The following exchange takes place:

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Supervisor: “Imagine you were sitting here alone and you learned there was a train coming from the North on that track, and another coming from the South on the same track. What would you do?”

Pete: “I’d throw this switch right here and put one train on the other track.”

Supervisor: And what if that switch didn’t work?”

Pete: “I’d go down to the track and throw that big switchlever there, putting one train on the other track.”

Supervisor: “And what if that switchlever didn’t work?”

Pete: “Then I’d come back here and call the dispatcher to stop both trains.”

Supervisor: “And what if the phone didn’t work?”

Pete: “Then I’d go to that gas station across the street and use their phone.”

Supervisor: “And what if their phone didn’t work?”

Pete: “Then I’d go get Uncle Joe.”

Supervisor: “Uncle Joe??? What would he do?”

Pete: “Nothing, but he ain’t never seen a train wreck.”

Many of us, though, have seen a trainwreck in our lives or the lives of somebody close to us.  Something terrible, something awful, that left us with a feeling of “why me?”  When I was young, and I’m fortunate that I don’t remember this traumatic event, I’m was told that a man in a mask burst into my room, grabbed me by my ankles, lifted me up, and while I hung there naked, he smacked me on the bottom.  They told me he was the doctor, I certainly hope so.  As a newborn, I was already having a hard time maintaining my dignity.  I mean, really, what did I do to deserve THAT?  And it seems sometimes that some people have been trying to smack me around ever since.

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Perhaps you’ve been smacked around, too.  A marriage that failed, a mother or father that died.  I have a friend up in Conroe who has a granddaughter that’s permanently brain damaged since the age of 8 months because of a tragic home accident.  When calamity happens, we want to ask why, we want to question God.  Some may want to step away from their faith in anger at God.  Why do bad things happen to good people?

There are lots of possibilities.  For the unbeliever, God will use pain and suffering to turn the unbeliever away from evil ways.  Repent, turn from sin, and face God.  For the unbeliever, God has only 1 instruction: Believe in Him.

For one who professes Christ but leans on men or perhaps lean on their own understanding, God sometimes uses calamity to strengthen faith.  If a Christian leans on money, God sometimes takes that crutch away through a family emergency, perhaps loss of a job.  If a Christian leans on his own works, God may allow health issues to make him dependent on God.  For a strong, upright and faithful Christian, God uses calamity to sanctify him, to bring him closer to God.

And then sometimes, we don’t have any idea why we suffer.  We look at ourselves for unrepentant sin, something we’re doing wrong, we think God’s trying to tell us something, and we just can’t figure it out.  It’s undeserved.  We’ve been smacked on the bottom and been through a trainwreck, and we don’t know why.

II. The Book of Job

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The book of Job is an illustration of undeserved suffering.  Job is a prominent and wealthy servant of God, and in a matter of minutes, Job loses everything.  Financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, all took a beating.  To Job, it might appear that God had deserted him and offered him no comfort or explanation.  Yet through all of his suffering, Job remained faithful to God and even stopped to worship Him in the midst of suffering.  That’s inspirational, a perfect example of how God wants us to respond in everything.

Let’s walk through Job’s life and see what happens.  If you have your bibles, let’s turn to the chapter on Quality.  You know, Quality.  Quality is Job 1.

Job 1:1 –

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.

Job was “blameless and upright.”  He was morally sound, mature, full of integrity.  The Hebrew word for “blameless” is “תָּם tâm” and also means “perfect.”  Job walked the straight and narrow path.
Job “feared God and shunned evil.”  This doesn’t mean he was a coward; a healthy fear and respect of the power of God is necessary for good spiritual discipline.  Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

I think the phrase “feared God and shunned evil” together are interesting – “feared God” meant Job always did the right thing, but more than that he shunned evil, or also avoided the wrong thing.  He was a complete man of God, not one who did good when people were watching and evil when people were not.  Job was not a hypocrite who said one thing and did another, he was a man of perfect integrity, doing what was right and avoiding what was wrong.

He was also a very wealthy, prosperous man.  Let’s look at his tax return –

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  • seven sons, 3 daughters.  Excellent, so he had a lot of deductions for dependents
  •  7000 sheep.  Enough wool to make something good.  Or at least something baaaad.
  • 3000 camels (For the record, I don’t own *any* camels!)
  • 500 oxen (I don’t own any cows, though I’ve eaten a few)
  • 500 donkeys (I don’t own any donkeys either.  True story: my brother once gave his wife a donkey for Mother’s Day.  His life is very different than mine.)
  • and a large number of servants.

Job was like sort of a cross between Billy Graham and Warren Buffett.  In verse 4 through 5, we also learn that Job was blessed not only with material wealth and public prestige, but also a loving family.  Seven sons and three daughters that regularly broke bread together and Job would pray for them and offer sacrifices on their behalf.

Now, in verse 6, we step away from the human world and into the spiritual world where there is some sort of conference going on in Heaven.  The angels of the Lord are presenting themselves before the Almighty, and Satan also arrives in heaven.

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“Where have you been?” says God.

“Checking things out, wandering around, looking for some mischief.”

God says, “Have you considered Job?  He’s the best of the best, blameless and upright, fears God and shuns evil.”

This disturbs me.  I’d like to avoid the devil and stay as far away from him as I can.  Yet here God is saying to Satan, “Dude, are you bored?  Check out my man Job.”  Why would God do this?

The short answer is, we don’t really know.  No one can truly know the mind of God.  Here’s a few things we do know, however – we know that Romans 8:28 says

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

All things, including what’s about to happen to Job.  How could calamity be considered good?  Well, Job wouldn’t know this of course, but he turned out to be an example for thousands of years of God’s power and absolute control.  That’s good for us to know, even if Job didn’t.

We also know that God promises not to give us more than we can handle.  In 1 Corinthians 10:13,

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

God will not permit anything to come into our lives that we are not capable of withstanding.  That doesn’t mean tragedy won’t come our way – only that when it does, we’ll either be able to stand up under it or provide a way out.

Job 1:9-11,

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.  But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

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I’m not surprised Satan cops an attitude with God.  Satan says that the only reason Job fears the Lord and is a man of perfect integrity is because God pays Job to be a great guy.  God has built a hedge of protection around Job and blessed Job abundantly.

Have you ever prayed for a hedge of protection?  It’s a good prayer, to protect ourselves from evil.  But this verse shows that the hedge of protection is taken down as easily as it is put up, either by God or by a very aggressive landscaping company, but more importantly, if the hedge of protection is taken down, it may not have anything whatsoever to do with our morality.

Are we shallow Christians that believe that if we are doing God’s will, God will bless us?  That’s what the heresy of the Prosperity Gospel teaches, a “name it and claim it” attitude.  Are we making some sort of bartering agreement with God?  OK God, I mowed my neighbor’s yard this week.  I helped a little old lady across the street.  I said, “God bless you” when somebody sneezed.  Now listen God: you owe me.  That is a shallow Christian that misunderstands the will of God.  We do not do God’s will in order to receive blessings.  We do God’s will so that God may do His will.  We may or may not receive blessings on this earth.  In my experience, we all receive an abundance of blessings that we take for granted, but earthly blessings are fleeting.  God’s blessing to us is His son Jesus, sacrificed for our sins and shortcomings so that we may have life everlasting with our Savior.  That’s our blessing.

And yet, on this earth, God *is* a God of blessings, but He is not *only* a God of blessings.  He’s not some magician we produce at parties to pull a rabbit out of a hat for us.  I’ve heard some people give an excuse for their behavior by saying, “God just wants me to be happy.”  That is not God’s primary desire.  The gift of joy comes from the Lord, but God’s primary goal is for us to bring glory Him, to worship He who created us and to point others to the good news.  We cannot excuse your behavior by saying, “God wants me to be happy.”  When you read about the disaster about to befall Job, can you still say God wants Job to be happy?  No, God wants Job to glorify God.

We also know here that Satan badly misjudges Job, and God is perfectly right and accurate.  Satan believes that if Satan is allowed to wreak havoc in Job’s life that Job will renounce God and curse God to His face.  God knows Job, though, just as He knows you and me.  God will be able to use Job’s calamities for God’s purposes.

Job 1:12,

“The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”  Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.”

What would happened if this exchange was about you?  What if God and Satan were talking about you in heaven?  “Have you considered my servant Michael?  Have you considered my servant Gene?  Have you considered my servant Elizabeth?  Put your own name in the blank.  God knows where you are spiritually, and He promises not to give us more than we can handle, but how would you feel about God talking about you with Satan?

God is sovereign, all powerful.  We like to believe that God is all good and nothing evil comes from Him, but that’s an incomplete picture.  God *is* all good, but He is also sovereign, in charge of everything.  Notice Satan has to ask God’s permission before he is allowed to mess with Job.

The humans in us would like to say God’s answer should be, “Nope, don’t mess with Job, he’s mine.”  We like to think of God and Satan as being the great generals of a massive battle between good and evil, battling it out in the heavens and on earth.  Obi Wan Kanobe versus Darth Vader.  Professor X versus Magneto.  Captain America verses Thanos.  Aslan versus the White Witch.

We think Satan is reeking his havoc on Earth from Hell, but that’s not quite right.  From the book of Job and in 1 Peter 5:8, we know that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, and Revelation 20:10 tells us that Satan will not be cast into the Lake of Fire before Judgment Day.  God isn’t battling Satan, God is sovereign.  God is referred to as “The Almighty” in the book of Job 31 times.  When Satan wants to do evil, he has to ask God’s permission.  This is true in the New Testament, too, by the way.  In Luke 22, the disciples are squabbling over which one of them will be considered the greatest in Heaven, and Jesus rebukes them and tells them to be more concerned about serving.  Then he says in Luke 22:31:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.”

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Look, Satan is asking for permission again.

Does it bother you that God gives permission for suffering?  A big mistake in our Christian walk is to misunderstand what “God is in control” means.  We think that since God is in control, we have a right to expect Him to keep bad things from happening to us.  We want to think that because we want to keep bad things from happening to our friends and family, and if we think that, God should think that.  We are children of God, are we not?  How could God let something bad happen to us or our loved ones if He is in control?

But let me ask you some blunt questions.  Did God have a son?  And did that son suffer?  And did that suffering work for God’s glory?  God does have a plan, God is in control, and it is human folly to think that God’s plan does not include suffering.  As Christians, we know that our suffering will be used by God for His purposes.  We know that it is our response to disappointments in life that makes us stronger in our faith to our almighty God.  The sinner doesn’t have this comfort.  To the sinner, suffering is pointless.  Suffering makes a sinner bitter.  Suffering makes a Christian better.

Let’s see what sort of things we’ve learned so far about God.

Lessons Learned about God:
– God is sovereign over all, good and evil.
– God provides hedges and removes them according to His will.

We’ve learned a few things about Satan during this exchange.  I learned Satan has access to God in Heaven.  I read this exchange and thought, Holy Smoke, how did Satan get in there?  That’s not allowed!  But it’s true, Satan has access to God, and must ask God for permission before he can do evil.  We learn that Satan is evil, but not sovereign over evil.  Satan has to ask God’s permission.

Lessons Learned About Satan
– Satan has access to God’s throne in Heaven.
– Satan has to ask God’s permission before he can touch God’s people

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What happens to Job after this?  Satan may not lay a finger on Job – God set that boundary and Satan must obey – but Satan sends destruction.  Job 13-19, the Sabeans steal the ox and donkeys, then kill all the servants.  Then lightning strikes and kills the sheep, then the Chaldeans steal all the camels, and then a mighty wind collapses his son’s house and kills all of his children.  In a matter of minutes, Job loses everything.  Everything.

Now I know that in this room, we all have tragedies in our lives.  Death.  Divorce.  Pain.  Unemployment.  Why do we have to suffer?  When we’re facing a calamity, the first thing as Christians that we must do is self-reflection.  We must look inside ourselves for unrepentant sin.  The Old Testament is replete with examples of God sending His perfect wrath in order to turn His people away from evil and toward Him.  We’ll never be 100% righteous, but we know when we are sinning and it feels too good to stop.  God will get our attention one way or another.

But what if we’ve examined ourselves for unrepentant sin and find none?  God did not allow Satan to bring harm to Job just to say to Satan, See, I told you.  God’s not trying to prove a point.  God knew Job’s faith was real, and God knew this before he allowed Satan to do what he did.  God’s purposes in allowing suffering are complex and it is not possible to reduce the purpose of suffering to some simple explanation.  But our response to that suffering illustrates our faith.

I know how I have reacted to suffering in my life.  Anger.  Depression.  A mix of both.  Sometimes it’s been directed at God, how could you do this?  How could you let something like this happen?  But let’s see how a faithful man of God reacts, see what he does and does not do.  Job 1:20,

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.  Then he fell to the ground in worship.

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Instead of tearing robes we wear black, but ancient signs of grief included tearing his robe and shaving his head.  It is ok to grieve.  It is ok to cry.  We are commanded to love one another, and I’ve discovered that love means emotional risk.  The loss of love is most certainly a time for grief.  God gave us emotions, and it’s ok to have those emotions.  But Job didn’t stop at the crying and wailing about his calamities.  Job said,

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Job fell to the ground and worshipped God.  An amazing response.  A teachable lesson to me.

As Christians, we can recognize that everything in this life is a gift from God.  Our possessions, sure, but our relationships, our children, our very breath of life.  We came into this world naked, slapped on the bottom by a strange man in a mask.  We come into this world with nothing.  And when we leave, we take nothing with us.  The Lord gives it all to us, and the Lord takes it all away again.  “May the name of the Lord be praised.”  It is easy to praise the name of the Lord when he gives.  When he takes away, can we still praise the name of the Lord?  Are we only thankful for things he gives?  He may have many reasons for taking away, all according to His purpose.  Can we give thanks to God for taking it away?
How do we remain thankful while suffering?  Rather than blame God for what he doesn’t have, Job thanks God for what he does have.  In 1 Thessalonians 16:18, Paul tells us,

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

We recognize that it is God’s will for us to be thankful in all circumstances.  Job could thank God because Job realized that everything Job had didn’t belong to Job; it all belonged to God.  God owns everything.  Job had the privilege of managing it for a little while.  And in Job’s careful stewardship and praise, we learn one more thing about God: When Satan attacks, God uses it for His own good and His glory.  Job 1:22,

“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

It’s ok to be angry.  It’s ok to be depressed.  Our emotions are something God gives us.  Job certainly had intense feelings of grief.  But Job did not sin because he didn’t say God was wrong.  He didn’t say God was neglectful.  He didn’t say God has bad intentions.  Through all Job’s grief, he said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job stayed strong.  He didn’t whine, “Why meeeee?”  His character remained that which God approved, even in the midst of suffering.  Job was strong, patient, even resigned.  And Satan must have been disappointed.  Here was a man who loved God more than money, more than his earthly possessions, more than his family.  Job’s relationship with God was not dependent on his circumstances, his position in society, or his stuff.

In Chapter 2, Satan goes back to God and says, “well, ok, so that didn’t work, but you didn’t let me touch him.  He’s still a healthy person.  Let me take away his health.”  I don’t know what this illness was, maybe he had more than one thing.  In chapter 2, we know he has boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head, and they itch.  In Chapter 7 through 30, we learn that it also includes a haggard appearance, running sores, loss of sleep, depression, severe weight loss, acute pain, darkened and peeling skin, and fever.  Oh, and bad breath.  In verse 7, Job sits down in the ashes of his life and scrapes himself with a piece of broken pottery.  Sort of symbolic, like his life had now become a piece of broken pottery.

His wife was less than helpful.

“Are you still holding on to your integrity?  Curse God and die already.”

Slide21.JPGBefore we pick on Job’s wife too harshly, let’s remember that she, too, was intensely affected by all of this.  She, too, had lost all of her children, she’s lost any importance she thought she had in the eyes of the community, and her husband is some foul-smelling creature sitting in a garbage dump scraping sores with a piece of pottery.  So Job’s wife was certainly under a lot of stress.   It’s easy to pick on her, but she’s in pain.  Perhaps she thought her own pain would end if Job would just die.  Perhaps she just loved Job and wanted his suffering to end.

Job still didn’t sin; sometimes it’s easier to remain faithful to God when you’re alone, but remaining faithful to God when you’re with others is harder.   Job tells her that she’s talking foolishly, that her faith is not wise enough.

“Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”

We do not always have a choice in our circumstances, but we do have a choice in how we respond.  Job’s wife responded first with her emotions.  Job responded with his faith.

Job’s closest friends were more helpful.  What did they say when Job first lost everything?  Nothing.  When they came to visit, they were shocked, they cried with him, then sat on the ground with him for 7 days and said nothing.  Nothing.  Just sat and grieved.  Sometimes there’s nothing you can say, so there’s no need to try.  Just be there.

III. Conclusion

I want to close with a few examples.  How many here saw the movie “United 93” about the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania because of the terrorist attack of 9/11?  It’s a powerful movie, mostly for what it doesn’t say.  There’s no commentary explaining people’s motives, just a real-time account of people’s actions.  We see the confusion of the people at the FAA, the hysteria of the passengers, the evil of the terrorists bound on killing as many people as they can.

Many of us have heard of Todd Beamer, who uttered the famous, “Let’s roll” during the passenger’s revolt against the terrorists in an attempt to regain control of the airplane.  What a lot of us may not know is Todd Beamer’s family were devoted followers of Christ.  Can you identify with Todd’s wife, Lisa, the grief she must have suffered?  She turned her faith in God into a powerful testimony and wrote a book that encourages people to build their lives on a firm foundation of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Here’s what she wrote about 9/11:

We all have the choice to look at the things we’ve lost or to look at the things we have, to become bitter or to become better, to live in fear or to live in hope.  I’ve chosen to live in hope, not because I’m a strong person but because of the heavenly, eternal perspective that God has given me.  Lately I’ve been trying to look at the bigger picture, to discover what I’m supposed to learn from all this.  Probably the most important truth is that my security must be in God rather than in anything or anyone in this world.
Think about it: the World Trade Center represented economic power, success, and security; yet it was shaken and destroyed in less than an hour. The Pentagon is the symbol of our nation’s military might; yet it, too, proved vulnerable. Where can we find true security these days?

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I have found safety and security in a loving heavenly Father, who cannot be shaken, who will never leave me or forsake me, and in whom I can trust completely. For those looking for hope, I recommend grabbing the hand of your heavenly Father as tightly as possible, like a little child does with his parent. God is a hero who will always be there when you need him.

And Joni Eareckson Tada who has founded a ministry on sharing the gospel and equipping churches with the tools to evangelize and disciple people affected by disabilities.  Joni said that when she gets to heaven she is going to fold up her wheel chair hand it to Jesus and say, “thanks, I needed that.”

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There’s our example.  Thanks, Jesus.  To truly worship you and bring you glory, I needed that.

To God be the Glory.  Amen.

God Knows Us Intimately

I. Introduction Psalm 139

Once a year, our church asks us to focus on a “sanctity of life” message, so we’re going to have a little 1-week vacation from our lessons in Acts this week. Instead, let us start with Old Testament scripture of wisdom and worship. I know you have your bibles with you because this is a bible study, not a PowerPoint study. So, open your bibles and turn to Psalm 139.

Warren Wiersbe had this to say about Psalm 139,

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What we think about God and our relationship to Him determines what we think about everything else that makes up our busy world–other people, the universe, God’s Word, God’s will, sin, faith, and obedience. Wrong ideas about God will ultimately lead to wrong ideas about who we are and what we should do, and this leads to a wrong life on the wrong path toward the wrong destiny. In other words, theology–the right knowledge of God–is essential to a fulfilled life in this world. David contemplated God and wrote for us a psalm whose message can only encourage us to be in a right relationship with Him.

King David wrote these Psalms, glorifying God in the highest and asking for a closer relationship with Him. As I read over commentaries of Psalm 139, great bible study teachers proclaimed that Psalm 139 was about God’s omniscience, His omnipresence, His omnipotence. All that is true, but none of those words appear in the Psalm. The beauty of Psalm 139 is its simplicity.

II. God Knows Us Intimately – We Cannot Deceive Him

The first six verses of Psalm 139 from David ask God to look into David’s very soul.

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O Lord, You have searched me and known me.

You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.

You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.

You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.

When David asks God to search him, the Hebrew word for “search” is “chaqar” and is usually used for digging deep into a mine. Our friends and family see the outside, but God see what is inside, and He digs deep inside us. Who remembers the Old Testament man named Eliab? Hint, he was a son of Jesse? He was King David’s oldest brother? When the prophet Samuel was looking for a new king to take over for King Saul, Samuel wanted to choose Eliab first. But the Lord said to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7,

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“Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Our exterior appearance is what the world sees, but putting up a facade does not deter God from examining our hearts. God sees the truth. To mangle an old saying,

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool God.

III. God Is With Us Constantly – We Cannot Escape Him

Not only does God know us intimately to our very soul, He never departs from us. Even when we may feel He is far away, He is still with us. We cannot escape Him. Psalm 139:7-12 tells us that God is with us constantly.

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Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;

Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

Sometimes we may try to hide from God, but we cannot. Adam and Eve tried it in Genesis 3:8-9.

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And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

Raise your hand if you think hiding in the bushes is an effective strategy for hiding from God. God is in heaven, God is here on earth, and David says that even if he should make his bed in Hell, God is still there.
So if your strategy for doing things in secret from God (I’m putting my hand over my own eyes), then it’s not working.

Hebrews 4:13 puts it this way,

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And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Whatever and wherever you think you are hiding from God, you’re not.

IV. God Made Us Wonderfully – We Cannot Ignore Him

And God is not only there where we go, but He is with us always. He has been here before we were born and He will be here when we die. It’s not like God looks around one day and says, “Oh! Where did you come from?” Psalm 139:13-18 tells us God is present at our conception and our birth, and we are reminded that each one of is made in the very image of God with a purpose only we can fulfil. Psalm 139:13-18,

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For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!

If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.

The bible tells us that we are not an accident. We were created with purpose.

The bible tells us that we are not meaningless. We were created to be useful.

The bible tells us we are not worthless. The bible tells us that God fashioned us with His own hands in love.

 

a. Evolution vs Creation

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Our secular society has diminished and understated this part of creation. Our public schools teach our children that evolution is a god, that man’s evolution from the apes shows that we are nothing but a random collection of cells that decided symbiotically to live together, our brain cells with our blood cells with our skin cells. And there is nothing special about any one of us.

I believe this state-mandated religion of evolution is responsible for the callous attitude toward human life. We don’t appreciate that we are created in God’s image. I don’t always appreciate that you are created in God’s image, just as you probably don’t appreciate that I’m made in God’s image. And that idiot that just cut us off when we were just trying to exit the freeway, even though we turned our blinker on and tried to merge? They are certainly not made in God’s image. They’re just a random collection of cells. Stupid cells, at that.

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Those other stupid cells – by which I mean, other people crafted in God’s image – have been with us since the Garden of Eden. God asked Adam if Adam ate the forbidden fruit, and Adam immediately through Eve under the bus. “Eve gave it to me, that’s why I ate some of it.”
Adam blamed Eve. Eve of course, blamed the serpent, and the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on.

Of course, their kids had to see this attitude in their parents. And then one day Cain’s attitude overcame him, and Cain killed Abel. To Cain, Abel was just a bunch of stupid cells.

But to God, it was precious human blood that God Himself had knitted and embroidered in the womb. When Cain killed Able, God said in Genesis 4:10,

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The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”

Mankind through the years continued to inflict pain and death on one another. Family conflict gave way to tribal conflict. Tribal conflict turned into national conflict, then war. Then genocide. Over the centuries, mankind has become very efficient at killing mankind. The New York Times estimates that 1 billion people have died in wars since history began.

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Between wars, terrorism, genocide, we humans have become efficient and ruthless at trying to eliminate the human race. And each and every one of those deaths is a soul that God fashioned with love and kindness.

b. Abortion

And not just through wars and genocide. Oh no, we are far too callous of human life. We destroy human life from before birth all the way through old age.

Abortion kills 3300 per day in the US alone. Worldwide, 115,000 per day. 42 million souls per year. Nearly 2.5 million just since the New Year. Some sobering statistics about abortion becomes obvious when you see a real-time Abortion Clock .

One of the most common reasons given for supporting a woman’s right to abortion is to protect the life or health of the mother, and also as a remedy against rape or incest. Rape is a traumatic experience for sure, and I certainly do want to diminish that horrific act. But statistics show that even if you support this exception to abortion, it’s almost never a reason given for abortion. The Guttmacher Institute in 2004 anonymously surveyed women after their abortion for their reasons, and the results are as follows:

  • <0.5% Victim of rape
  • 3% Fetal health problems
  • 4% Physical health problems
  • 4% Would interfere with education or career
  • 7% Not mature enough to raise a child
  • 8% Don’t want to be a single mother
  • 19% Done having children
  • 23% Can’t afford a baby
  • 25% Not ready for a child
  • 6% Other

Over 92% of abortions are not related to health of the woman, health of the baby, or because of rape. 92% just didn’t want a child. That means of the 1.44 billion babies aborted since 1980 worldwide, 1.3 billion babies, hand-knitted and embroidered by the God of the Universe Himself, would be alive today. That’s about the same as the entire population of China or India.

When we think of them instead of just a bunch of stupid cells, then it’s easier to justify their elimination.

c. Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

And the human race isn’t content with ending life at the front end, we’re also trying to end it early at the back end. Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicides are on the rise since countries such as Belgium, Switzerland and The Netherlands and now the state of Oregon have made it legal. Statistics are harder to come by since it’s not legal everywhere – yet – but the legal early terminations of life are already in the thousands per year. In the UK where euthanasia is not legal, they had the Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient, originally designed to help doctors provide quality end-of-life care for terminal patients. In reality, patients were sedated and denied food and water so it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Patients became terminal after entering this care. The practice has been discredited and discontinued, but not before 130,000 a year were euthanized under this program. All because some stupid cells were inconvenient to the living.

Murder, war, abortion, euthanasia. This is not what God created us for. God has given us purpose and meaning. He created us in love. God created us to know Him and resemble Him as our heavenly Father, created with moral and spiritual capacities and creativity.

Jeremiah 1:5,

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.

Genesis 9:6,

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

Psalm 127:3,

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

Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

How much does God value us?

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John 3:16,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God knit us together, embroidered us, planned and numbered our days and given us tasks we were each created uniquely to perform.

V. God Judges Righteously – We Cannot Dispute Him

So Psalm 139 tells us about God’s omniscience, His omnipresence, His omnipotence. The first 6 verses tell us that we cannot deceive God because He knows our deepest desires. Then the next 5 verses remind us that there is no place we can hide because God is everywhere. And the next 5 after that tell us that God had made us for a purpose, and that we are hand crafted and embroidered by God Himself.

Is it not sensible, then, to try to get to know our God better since He had made such a great effort to know us? Psalm 139, 19-24 –

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Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God!
Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men.

For they speak against You wickedly;
Your enemies take Your name in vain.

Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?

I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;

And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.

Some prefer to oppose God. Some want to argue with God and tell God He is not running the world correctly. King David had words to say about these sinners. He called them wicked, violent, liars, blasphemers, and rebels, but David also grieved over them of them.

And God also grieves over them. Sometimes it is hard to hate the sin but love the sinner. Well, as long as it is other sinners and not us. But scripture tells us in the last days evil will be considered good, and good will be considered evil. I know each year it’s become more and more difficult to find a movie or television show that celebrates good people. When I read the news, they make it seem that abortion and euthanasia are virtues, and people that oppose such horrors should be locked up for the good of society. And every year it seems the devil has a tighter grasp over the world.

David closes Psalm 139 with a prayer for God to search his heart, know his anxieties and concerns, forgive him, and lead him. We can easily deceive ourselves and convince ourselves that good is evil and evil is good. But we ask God to search our hearts while we search the scriptures. We must put on the whole Armor of God.

VI. Conclusion

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In the movie “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the Resistance fighter named Finn is about to destroy a massive weapon by the enemy by ramming his ship into it, certain to result in his death. Rose Tico, a young fighter in the Resistance, has just saved Finn from death, but the weapon is still intact. Finn asks, Why did you do that?” Rose answers,

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“That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.”

We’re not here to fight people who perform abortions, or who have had abortions. We’re not even here to fight murderers. But we are here to spread the light that is the message and the good news from God, that everyone may have eternal light. For Ephesians 6:12 says,

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

We fight this battle with love for our family, our friends, and our enemies. Why? We do this because of 1 John 4:19,21

We love because He first loved us. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

God loves us while we were still yet His enemy. God loves us with an intimacy we cannot even fathom in its depth. We learned from Psalm 139 that

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  • God Knows Us Intimately – We Cannot Deceive Him (Psalm 139:1-6)
  • God is With Us Constantly – We Cannot Escape Him (Psalm 139:7-12)
  • God Made Us Wonderfully – We Cannot Ignore Him (Psalm 139:13-18)
  • God Judges Righteously – We Cannot Dispute Him (Psalm 139:19-24)

To God be the glory. Amen.

Our Protector

I.      Introduction

I see we all arrived safely at church this morning.  Raise your hand if you’re not here.

Today we’re going to study how the Lord protects us, and I thank the Lord He protected all of us this morning and brought us safely here.  I’m not sure we all stopped to think how the Lord hand a hand in our safety this morning.  The Lord’s protection is ever surrounding us.  Sometimes we notice, sometimes we don’t.  He protects us from the big things – there are many threats on the world stage right now, from North Korea threatening to nuke the US Territory of Guam.  Guam has a tiny population.  I’m sure when the news broke, three fishermen in Guam looked up and said, “What?  What did we do?”Slide2

And God protects us in the small things, closer to home.  How many saw Chris’ video of driving lessons with his daughter?  Chris, did you feel protected?Slide3

Let’s begin with Psalm 141, a prayer from David to the Lord for His divine protection.

II.      We Need His Protection

This Psalm of David begins with praise and worship to the One who deserves praise and worship.  Psalm 141:1-2,

O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to You!
May my prayer be counted as incense before You;
The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.

It is right to give the Lord the praise He deserves, for the Lord alone can answer prayers.  We know that the Lord answers prayers, and we also know that the Lord works on His own timetable.  When David says, “hasten to me,” does He think the Lord is somehow far away?

No, not at all.  David is keenly aware that the Lord is always near.  I know we do not always feel like the Lord is near.  Sometimes it seems as though He is far away, but I once heard that if you’re ever feeling the Lord is far away, it’s not because He left you.  It’s because you left Him, and maybe it’s time to turn around and go back to the place where you left Him.

No, David’s prayer is for the Lord to act quickly, to answer his prayer now.  When we pray to the Lord, it’s ok to ask for the Lord to speed things up a little, to answer our prayers quickly.  Too often we dismiss our own prayers saying, “if it is the Lord’s will.”  And that is true, if it is the Lord’s will, He will answer.  But the Lord hears the pleas of the heartbroken who turn to Him, and we can ask for the prayers of our heart to be answered quickly.

Whether the Lord answers quickly or on a timetable that we can’t see, it is right to continue to praise the Lord.  David asks the Lord to consider his heartfelt prayers as incense, as an evening sacrifice.  And while offering tithes or service or other offerings to the Lord are sacrifices, nothing is as pleasing to the Lord as turning our hearts to Him and seeking His will.

III.      Protection from Within

David goes on in verse 3-4,

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
To practice deeds of wickedness
With men who do iniquity;
And do not let me eat of their delicacies.

You know, we often cry out to the Lord to save us, but often we are our own worst enemies.  We eat too much, and then ask the Lord to help with our weight.  We sit in front of the television night after night, then ask the Lord to grant us the health that normally comes from exercising.  We say hurtful things to someone, then ask the Lord to repair our relationships.  We need the Lord’s protection from our own selves so that we do not corrupt ourselves.

First, David asks the Lord to keep watch over the doors of his lips.  I know this would be highly unusual, but have you ever said something you regret?  Ever?  I know, it’s a surprise to me, too.  But in this world, our flesh does not always obey the will of the Spirit, and we sin and go against the will of God.  And our tongues are the worst offender.  No wonder David prays for the Lord’s help to keep his mouth shut.

Let’s look at James 3 and see what the Lord says about our speech.  James talks about how small the tongue is, but also how powerful it is.  James 3:3-5,

Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.  Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.  So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.

We want our heart to be right with God, and God sees our inner beings first, but what we say, what comes out of our mouth, reflects who we are.  What we say reflects exactly who we are in Christ and where we are in our spiritual growth.  It’s more important than service or tithing or teaching.  Jesus says it this way in Matthew 15:18,

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.

If you ever catch yourself gossiping, slandering somebody behind their backs, saying crude or vulgar things, remember this:  If it came out of you, it must have been inside you.

In the Psalm, David goes on to pray that the Lord will not only seal his lips, but also seal his heart.

Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
To practice deeds of wickedness
With men who do iniquity;
And do not let me eat of their delicacies.

Let’s discuss something uncomfortable about the human condition:  sin is fun.  It must have an appeal to it, or people wouldn’t be drawn to the bondage of sin.  Let’s look for a second at what we call the Seven Deadly Sins.  This list has its roots in Proverbs 16, then refined by monks in the 4th Century, and finally listed in the form we know now in 590 AD by Pope Gregory I.  The Seven Deadly Sins are:

  • Lust
  • Gluttony
  • Greed
  • Sloth
  • Wrath
  • Envy
  • Pride

Each of these seven deadly sins takes a gift from God and perverts it into a sinful desire.  Which of the Seven Deadly Sins am I tormented with?  Why, all seven of them, of course.  The only one I haven’t committed yet this morning is “sloth,” but that’s only because I haven’t gotten around to it.

Slide10

Lust: God provides beauty to demonstrate His majesty, and it is right to desire the good things that God desires.  But lust converts the enjoyment of beauty into a primal urge of disobedience.  It is considered the easiest sin that can be done within one’s own mind.  According to Henry Edward Manning, an English Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1800’s, the impurity of lust transforms one into “a slave of the devil.”

Slide11

Gluttony: God provides food for nourishment, to fuel our bodies in service to Him.  And Christ calls us not to live for ourselves alone, but to love and serve one another.  But gluttony worships the created food and not the Creator of the food, and places our own wants above the needs of others.

Slide12Greed:  God promises to provide for all of our needs, and remind us that our security is in Him and that we should trust Him to provide for us.  But who hasn’t fantasized about winning the lottery?  Greed says I do not need to depend on God, I can rely on the world to provide all my needs.

Slide13Sloth: The Lord wants us to be diligent, to be His hands and feet for the church, but not rely on our strength.  We are to rely on the Spirit within us.  If we pervert that virtue, though, we let God do everything without participating at all.  The word “sloth” is originally from a Latin term that means “without care” and demonstrates a laziness in mental, spiritual, and physical states.

Slide14Wrath:  Jesus set an example of righteous anger when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers at the temple.  The moneychangers were taking what was meant for God and profiting from it.  But when we are angry, it is rarely righteous.  We get angry because we didn’t get our way.  In many ways, it is the opposite of love.  Wrath is hate.

Slide15Envy: God calls us to be compassionate toward others, and to be satisfied with the lot God has provided to us.  But envy says, it isn’t enough for me if somebody else has more.  I want what they have.  Envy is probably the second sin in the bible, as Cain slew Able, envious of the Lord’s favor.

Slide16Pride:  The father of all sins.  Christ demonstrated what it meant to serve with humility, even though as Lord of the Universe all things will bow before Him.  Yet Christ humbly washed the feet of His disciples.  Pride says I am too important to be humble.  Pride says I need not bow before God when it is I who deserves praise.

Protect me, Lord from myself.  I am full of sin and malice and evil thoughts, and the only way to overcome these seven deadly sins is to continually fill myself with the Holy Spirit so there is no room for anything except Your will.

The Seven Deadly Sins are everywhere.  Even on Gilligan’s Island.Slide17

  • The Skipper: Wrath. I thought he might be gluttony, but the skipper solved every problem with anger.
  • Gilligan: Gluttony. Ate everything he could and would do things he knew wasn’t right for a coconut cream pie.
  • Ginger:   She was constantly using her sex to try to manipulate others.
  • MaryAnn: Envy, always wanted what Ginger had.
  • Thurston: Greed. Everything was about the money.
  • Howell: Sloth. I never saw her lift a finger to do anything, ever.
  • Professor: Pride. His intellect made him better than everyone else on the island.

Another theological insight from Gilligan’s Island is that you can sing Amazing Grace to the theme song.  Just sayin’.

Another island I’m reminded of is the one on “Lost.”  Ultimately, regardless of who we hurt in this life, who we fail, the tasks we botch or refuse completely, there is one judge, the Creator, our Father in Heaven.  Some sins are against others or against ourselves, but all sins are against our Father and He alone has the authority and ability to judge us for what we have done and what we haven’t done.  I know that if there was a possibility that I could lose my salvation, I would have done it already a dozen times or more.Slide18

Ever heard this silly prayer?

Dear Lord,
So far I’ve done all right.
I haven’t gossiped,
Haven’t lost my temper,
Haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent.
I’m really glad about that.

But in a few minutes, God,
I’m going to get out of bed.
And from then on,
I’m going to need a lot more help.

The Lord protects me from myself; my salvation is secure, my security is in Him.

          IV.      Protection from Without

What were we studying?  Oh yes, Psalm 141.  So after David prays to the Lord to respond quickly and to protect him from his own sinful self, David then prays for protection from external enemies.  Let’s continue with Psalm 141, verse 5:

Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me;
It is oil upon the head;
Do not let my head refuse it,

When my sinful self has taken control of my life, I am thankful I have Christian friends and family that will “smite me in kindness.”

This is probably one of the most important functions of the church, to strengthen one another in Christ.  I have a secular job as an engineer, and it’s in a diverse group of people, those with faith, some without, many with a different faith.  I’m blessed that I work with so many Christians, but it’s not the same as church.  I like what it says in 1 Corinthians 14:26,

What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification.

Each one of us has a role that only we can fulfill.  And when you fulfill your role and I fulfill my role, we build each other up so that the world outside may not tear us down.

Psalm 141, verse 5-6,

For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.
Their judges are thrown down by the sides of the rock,
And they hear my words, for they are pleasant.

There is no doubt that David was praying for his enemies to be dashed against cliffs.  Unlike David, though, Christians have the Holy Spirit living within us, and Jesus tells us we are to love our enemies.

But let’s keep in mind that we reap what we sew.  Those that are hostile to the love of God often find themselves at rock bottom before they will consider that a superior God rules the universe.  I know someone who considers themselves a Christian, but you cannot tell from their lifestyle.  I used to be just like them.  And I know, and David gives me an example here, that it’s ok for us to pray for their difficulties, if that difficulty eventually leads toward God’s will.  I don’t pray for them to be thrown against a cliff, of course, but I sometimes pray that their dependence on others will fail them so they learn to depend on the God they say they trust.

You can tell David loves his enemies; he wished for their failure, but he also wished they will heed his pleasant words for them to do what is right.

Verse 7,

As when one plows and breaks open the earth,
Our bones have been scattered at the mouth of Sheol.

David is saying that those who don’t trust in God will eventually come to nothing.  Their bodies return to the earth, bones scatter at the entrance to Hades.  Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14,

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Slide23Before we become believers, we are lost and don’t even know it, rudderless ships headed to destruction.  Among those that do not consider Jesus as their Savior, I see a great many destructive philosophies and odd beliefs.  One distant relative of mine believes we are descended from aliens and when she mediates she can sometimes see alien being projecting their auras into our plane of existence.  Another relative believes we are constantly reincarnated after death, and our next life depends on the good or bad we do in this life.  In other words, whether he makes good choices or bad choices, eventually he’s going to get a do-over.  And friends that don’t want to talk about it at all, that this life will just simply end, and we “check out.”

There are many ways to end up at David’s “mouth of Sheol.”  And only one way to eternal life.  No one comes to the father except through the son.  And that is why in verse 8, David says,

For my eyes are toward You, O God, the Lord;
In You I take refuge; do not leave me defenseless.

David focus his eyes on the one true God who is in control of all things.  With a focus on God, we have comfort that we do not worry about what the world may do to us.  When we contrast verse 7 with verse 8, we see the fate of the nonbeliever is destruction, but the fate of the believer is eternal safety and refuge from all evil.

Verse 7 is saying that the bones of those who ignore God will eventually rot to nothing because they have ignored Him.  In the meantime, I (David) am trusting in His guidance.

That last line, “do not leave me defenseless,” is from the NASB, but I’m not sure it’s a good translation here.  The Hebrew phrase literally translated asks God not to taking his soul, strip it naked, and abandon it.  I think the King James translation, “leave not my soul destitute,” is more accurate.

Verses 9-10,

Keep me from the jaws of the trap which they have set for me,
And from the snares of those who do iniquity.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
While I pass by safely.

And this brings us back to our trip to church this morning.  Genesis 3 tells us that, as a result of the fall of Adam, the land we dwell is cursed.  When we look at the horrible things that happen in this world, it’s easy to become frightened.  Terrorists in cars plowing through pedestrians.  Diseases that send people to hospitals.  North Korea still wants to nuke Guam.  I think that avoiding nuclear war in part depends on strong, dependable, and trustworthy world leaders like Kim Jon Un and Donald Trump.  That’ll keep you up at night.

            V.      Conclusion

God protects us from so many things.  He protects us from ourselves; He protects us from the sinful choices we make.  He protects us from evil from the world.  He protects us from the evils of our own sins.  He has given us every tool to protect us from the evils without and the evils within.  We equip ourselves with the armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-13,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Slide26The Lord’s protection always surrounds us, and always indwells us.  In the Lord may we find refuge, in the Lord may we find eternal life.

To God be the glory.  Amen.

His Faithfulness

I.      His Faithfulness

We’re going to spend some time in Psalm 146, so let’s get right into it.  Verses 1-2,

Hallelujah!
My soul, praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I live.

God is worthy to be praised.  But do we always praise Him?  Do we praise Him in all things, at all times?

I know all of you have perfect, content lives, full of joy and peace and abundant blessings.  Me, I’ve had a few struggles along the way.  Family relationships that soured, times in my life where finances didn’t seem to be working out, a couple of lost jobs.  Sickness.  Disease.  A death in the family.

My soul, praise the Lord, I will praise the Lord all my life.

I have to say that when I’ve had difficulties, I’ve not always turned to the Lord for comfort.  Sometimes my attitude is, well, God’s not helping the way I think He should.  Where else can I get help?

II.      God’s Promise to Israel

I think Israel often felt the same way.    Way back in Exodus, Pharaoh oppressed the Israelites, forcing them into hard labor, and the bible said the Lord heard their groaning and remembered His promises.  The Lord sent Moses to Pharaoh and said, “Let my people go!” and sent 10 plagues to make His point.  And Pharaoh freed the Israelites, and Moses led them to the Red Sea.

Psalm 146:1-2,

Hallelujah!
My soul, praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I live.

Slide3But Pharaoh changed his mind and gave chase with his chariots, and when the Israelites saw the chariots coming, they were not singing a Psalm of praise like this.  If I read Exodus 14:11-12 correctly, the Israelites were a little grumpy.

They said to Moses: “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?  Isn’t this what we told you in Egypt: Leave us alone so that we may serve the Egyptians? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.

Slide4That’s a far cry from “My soul, I will praise the Lord all my life.”

The Lord promised Israel to save them and lead them to the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey, the land of Canaan or modern day Israel.  God promised this land forever to Abraham and his descendants.  And yet, even as the Lord was delivering on His promises, Israel was begging to go back into slavery at the hands of the Egyptians.  It is human nature to want to depend on other humans instead of supernatural dependence on a Living God.Slide5

Let’s look at our next verse, Psalm 146:3,

Do not trust in nobles,
in man, who cannot save.

This is the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation, do not trust in man.  Other translations are the NASB (“mortal man”), NIV (“human beings”), and King James, “son of man” which really confused me for a little bit.  Wasn’t Jesus the “son of man?”  And the King James is saying not to trust him with our salvation?Slide6

Well, obviously, that cannot mean that.  And then I went on one of those rabbit trails that distract me from the lesson, but I learned so much on this trail I thought I’d share it anyway.  And don’t worry, we’ll get back to Psalm 146 eventually.

First, let’s look at the phrase “son of man.”  In Psalm 146:3, the Aramaic phrase is “ben ‘adam” and it occurs something like 500 times in the Old Testament.  There’s another 100 or so uses of the Aramaic “bar ‘adam”.  Literally, it means “the son of Adam.”  But even that phrase is confusing, since “Adam” is both a person’s name and it means “man, human being, mankind.”  And “Adam” is also used as a verb in the Old Testament.  It means “to be rubbed red, to dyed red, to show blood in the face and turn rosy.”Slide7

Context is so important to understanding scripture.  Among serious Christian scholars, proper translation has been debated for centuries.  “Ben ‘adam,” literally the “son of Adam,” can apply to Seth, Adam’s offspring, or it can apply to all of us as the offspring of Adam.  When used this way, then “human beings” or “mortal man” is a good translation for us English speakers.  In fact, in the book of Ezekiel, God called Ezekiel “son of man” 93 times, and in this context, “son of man” just means “man,” a son of a human.

But then the book of Daniel, among other books, uses “son of man” like this in verse 13-14:

I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.

“Ancient of Days” is a name for God used in the Book of Daniel, and whoa, this verse is certainly not talking about the son of Adam or mankind.  It’s definitely not talking about you and me.    That’s clearly a messianic prophecy of the Second Coming of Christ.

I couldn’t stop there, so I followed the rabbit trail a little further to see what Jesus meant when he used the phrase “ben ‘Adam.”  Well, ok, the original gospels are written in Greek, so “ben ‘Adam” is not used, but “huios anthropos” is used, but that’s also translated “son of man.” Slide9

In Matthew 16:13, Jesus refers to Himself like this:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

This is probably a formal use of referring to Himself in the third person.  Apparently in the ancient Greek, “son of man” was a formal way of saying”I” or “me.”  This could have been the equivalent of saying, “Who do people say that I am?”  There doesn’t seem to be any messianic connotations in this verse, just a simple question.

But then when we get to Mark 14:61-62, Jesus has been arrested and brought to the high priests.

Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

Jesus said, “I am.  And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Slide10This is almost word-for-word from the scripture in Daniel 7 that we just read a moment ago, clearly establishing that “son of man” is a fulfillment of the messianic prophecy.  Jesus will rule in Heaven.

III.      Son of Man, Son of God

Jesus is both Son of Man and Son of God.  Mark 1 opens this way,

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

It dawned on me while studying how closely that phrase matches Genesis 1:1,

In the beginning, God.

Jesus was and is the fulfillment of God’s plan to save us from ourselves.  The Hebrew word “mashiach” is the messiah, the “anointed One,” used in Psalm 2:2 and in Daniel 9:25-26.  In Greek, it is the “Christ.”  (When I was young, I though “Christ” was Jesus’ last name.  Now I know it’s a title, “Jesus, the Christ.)  This term is applied to the future ruler, sent from God, who will sit on the throne of David forever.  Acts 3:18,

But what God predicted through the mouth of all the prophets – that His Messiah would suffer – He has fulfilled in this way.

The life and death of Jesus on the cross was not a secret or an accident, but the result of God’s divine plan that He revealed throughout the scriptures.  In the Encyclopedia or Biblical Prophecy, there are 127 Messianic predictions involving more than 3000 Bible verses.  We’re only going to examine 2000 of those verses today.

No, just kidding, but let’s look at a few specific prophecies that God gave us in the Old Testament:

  • The Messiah would be the seed/offspring of a woman and would crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15).
  • He would come from the seed/offspring of Abraham and would bless all the nations on earth (Genesis 12:3).
  • He would be a “prophet like Moses” to whom God said we must listen (Deuteronomy 18:15).
  • He would be born in Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2).
  • He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).
  • He would have a throne, a kingdom and a dynasty, or house, starting with King David, that will last forever (2 Samuel 7:16).
  • He would be called “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” “Prince of Peace,” and would possess an everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 9:6-7).
  • He would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, righteous and having salvation, coming with gentleness (Zechariah 9:9-10).
  • He would be pierced for our transgression and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5).
  • He would die among the wicked ones but be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9).
  • He would be resurrected from the grave, for God would not allow His Holy One to suffer decay (Psalm 16:10).
  • He would come again from the clouds of heaven as the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14).
  • He would be the “Sun of Righteousness” for all who revere Him and look for His coming again (Malachi 4:2).
  • He is the One whom Israel will one day recognize as the One they pierced, causing bitter grief (Zechariah 12:10).

IV.      God’s Promises Fulfilled

In the fullness of time, God brought forth His son that fulfilled these prophecies.  The prophecies were not a bunch of scattered predictions randomly placed throughout the Old Testament.  They were a careful and cohesive plan from God where each individual promise is interconnected into one grand plan.  When God makes a promise, God fulfills a promise.   The son of God, the son of man, was sacrificed for our sins, a ransom paid for our shortcomings, out of His mighty love for us.Slide14

God has proven He is trustworthy by fulfilling His promises, first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles.

God proves Himself not for His benefit, but for ours.  We, as humans, need proof.  We are flakey people, or at least some of my friends are.  I’m not.

And when one of our flakey friends lets us down, we lose a little trust in them.  If we loan somebody 100 dollars and they promise to pay us back, but then act like they never made that promise, we are not likely to loan 100 dollars to them, or anybody else for that matter.  The trust has been broken and we have little faith.

Some broken promises are more hurtful.  Broken friendships, broken marriages, broken trust makes us fearful or angry.

But God wants us to know that He is unlike any other friend.  When He makes a promise, He keeps a promise.  Even when He knows that you or I have already broken our promise to always attend church or always go to bible school or always be faithful or always pay our friend back that $100 so long ago and is too awkward to bring it up again, He is still faithful.  Even when we are unfaithful, He is still faithful.

And His love is so strong that we can have eternal life with Him, despite what wretched excuses we can sometimes be.

What promises has God made to us about our future?

  • The Bible is to give us hope.   (Romans 15:4-6)
  • Hope of eternal life is based on God’s promise.  And God cannot lie.   (Titus 1:1-3)
  • Our hope is laid up for us in heaven.   (Colossians 1:3-4)
  • Hope is eagerly waiting, with perseverance, for the redemption of our bodies, even though we do not see them now.   (Romans 8:23-26)
  • Our confidence of a better and enduring possession in heaven will be richly rewarded.  We must wait and rest in this hope until Jesus comes.   (Hebrews 10:34-39)
  • Earthly things are a vain hope for safety.  God watches over those who hope in His mercy.    (Psalm 33:17-22 )
  • God is good to those whose hope is in Him.   (Lamentations 3:25-26)
  • Jesus’ resurrection gave us a new birth into this living hope, to obtain an inheritance that will never perish.   (1 Peter 1:3-6)
  • Jesus is our hope.   (1 Timothy 1:1, Colossians 1:26-27, Romans 15:12-13)

V.      Trust in God, not Man

Ok, that’s enough of that rabbit trail, let’s get back to Psalm 146.

Hallelujah!
My soul, praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I live.

Do not trust in nobles,
in man, who cannot save.
When his breath leaves him,
he returns to the ground;
on that day his plans die.

We trust not in mankind, but our hope is in the Lord.  Man’s promises are fleeting and cannot be trusted because one day our final breath will come and our work here on earth is done.

That doesn’t mean that we should not trust one another.  It means we do not place our trust in the promises of man.  But as the children of God, we are the hands and feet of God’s work here on earth, and we strive to be trustworthy and emulate Jesus Christ within us.  And that means we trust one another, but place our trust solely in Jesus.  God uses people like you and me to accomplish His will.

That, by the way, is my constant prayer every time I sit down to prepare to teach.  Do not place your trust in me; one day, my final breath will come.  Until then, I am a flawed earthen vessel, prone to failure on my own.

But when I sit down to study, I pray for the Lord to use me faithfully, to find something worthy in me than He can use to bring all glory to Him.  Tony and Dr. Young are right to pray for us to get out of the way, because we are weak but He is strong.  Y’all know I’ve been distracted the last few months, but my usual strategy for studying wasn’t helping this time.  For the last 3 weeks as I pondered Psalm 146, I had no idea how I was going to build a lesson.  My first reading, all I got was, “yay, trust in the Lord but not in man.”  And then I drew a blank.

But Saturday morning, just before I sat to study, I learned again that the lesson was for me.  I was again trusting in myself to put together a lesson, but I’m a son of Adam, I am a member of mankind, and the whole point of the lesson was to trust in God, not man.  Trust in God, not myself.  Let the Lord speak, talk to my heart and direct my words, and I pray only that God will use me as He sees fit to accomplish His will.

I was reminded of another Psalm, Psalm 121, when I realized I was leaning on my own understanding yet again.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Slide17You, too, should pray to get out of the way of the Lord who works within you.  You, too, are a flawed earthen vessel, but you are also a beloved and eternal adopted child of the living God with His very presence within you.  Your help does not come from your own strength, but the strength of the one who dwells in you.  If you and I can only get out of His way, then He will use us to demonstrate how good He is and to bring glory to Him.

VI.      Conclusion

So, except for my rabbit trail about the Son of Man, I learned a little more this week about trusting in the promises of God.  This world has a lot of pain and trauma, and as people, we’re to blame that we live on ground that God cursed because of our disobedience.

People will let us down, but God never will.  The government will let us down, but God never will.  Our family will let us down, but God never will.  Our friends will betray us like Jesus’ friends betrayed Him, but Jesus’ is faithful to keep His promise.

We pray for God to work His will in our lives to fix problems or to heal illness, and God promises to give us something even better.  He promises eternity with Him.  So even though people may let us down, we can trust in the Lord who never breaks a promise, is always faithful to His word, and promises that we have an eternity in heaven in the very presence of Jesus where there is no pain, no tears, not suffering.  Whatever chaos reigns in our lives, we know that all things work together for those who love Christ Jesus.  And that is a reason to rejoice today in the day that the Lord hath made.  Again I say, rejoice.

Hallelujah!
My soul, praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I live.

Slide18To God be the glory.  Amen.