The Purpose of Work

I. Introduction

Welcome back, everybody. I think it feels weird to see people again.
We’re still not back to normal, though. Diane & I were blessed during this lockdown. I was able to work from home, and I got an extra hour of sleep because I wasn’t commuting and we saved on gas. But at the peak of the lockdown, 43 million Americans filed for unemployment. People that I reached out to last year when I was looking for work are now reaching out to me.

I’ve returned to work at the office, but we’re at 25% capacity with the rest still working from home. Maybe you’re affected. Maybe you’ve been furloughed, maybe you’ve filed for unemployment. If you haven’t, it’s likely you know somebody who has.

Which I find amazing that God has a word for us today to talk about work. Our key scripture today, Ecclesiastes 9:10,

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

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We’re going to take this verse apart and put it back together, but first, let’s talk a little about the book of Ecclesiastes. Most theologians attribute the writing to Solomon, who, blessed with more wisdom that anybody in history, found wisdom provided no meaning to life or any comfort.

Whatever we have here on earth, we see from a limited perspective, and only God’s perspective will give us true wisdom and comfort. The book begins in verse 1:2 with

Meaningless! Meaningless!

And ends in verses 12:1 and 12:13,

Remember your Creator.
Fear God and keep His commandments.

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In between these two verses, man can find comfort and meaning to life. And in between these two verses, the book of Ecclesiastes talks about “work” frequently. Our work can be frustrating and sometimes feels meaningless. Why are we working? What are we trying to accomplish? Will it mean anything after I’m gone? In between “Meaningless! Meaningless” and “Remember your Creator; Fear God and keep His commandments, Ecclesiastes 9:10 has a lesson for us about the design of work, the dignity of work, and the delight of work.

II. The Design of Work

So Ecclesiastes 9:10 begins with,

“Whatever your hand finds to do…”

Let’s face it, it’s really hard to do nothing. If you were at home during the lockdown, maybe you started feeling a little stir-crazy.

We are designed by God to do work. God created us in His image, and God is a creative and working God. God creates. We, too, are creative beings, designed to create and designed to work. The capacity for work is part of our DNA. The ability to work is part of our DNA. The mentality to create and to work are part of what it means to be a human made in the image of a working and creative God.

When God created humanity, God’s very first command to Adam was to get to work. Genesis 1:26-28,

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Get to work, Adam. And in Genesis 2:15,

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

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Get to work, Adam. You have to read another 10 verses before Eve, his helper, makes an appearance. And the Fall of Man is still another chapter away. So before marriage, before family, before sin of man ejected Adam from the Garden of Eden, God created man to work. Adam tilled the ground, managed the garden, named the animals, and was appointed steward over God’s creation. Get to work, Adam. In working, we are practically demonstrating the image of God on earth.

“Whatever your hand finds to do…”

The phrase “your hand” represents our capacity to work, but also our individuality. And the phrase “finds to do” means there is always something that we can do. We are to be good stewards of this earth and contribute to the flourishing and development of this world. It is in our DNA to do something.

But we’re not all cut from the same cloth. We are not a cookie cutter design. I am different from Chris. And Tony is different from everybody.

We, by our design, are uniquely created for a specific type of work. God not only created us with the capacity to work in general, He also created us to complete certain types of work in particular. God designed each of us with different abilities and personalities. We are not the same. We do not all have the same serial number. Rather, God made each of us unique for our unique work.

This means that God did not design everyone to be a teacher or a preacher. God did not design everyone to be a car mechanic or a counselor. Instead, God designed people to be engineers, lawyers, teachers, anesthetists, IT technicians, accountants, geologists, dentists, and writers. For humanity to truly have dominion over all of creation, God endowed different types of people with the unique ability to govern over, serve in, and contribute to virtually every area of life.

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Each one of us is attracted towards an area of work that we are particularly equipped to accomplish. We each have God-given strengths, skills, leanings, passions, and spiritual gifts that naturally lead us into one ‘profession’ or ‘vocation’ or ‘work’ over another.

And everyone of us has struggled at some point in our life with the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” or “What is my personal calling?” We all want to figure out what our role and contribution ought to be in our short time on earth.

How do we our purpose for work? We can find our purpose at the intersection of 3 main things: our abilities, our affinities, and the affirmations of others.

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  • Our abilities refer to our God-given strengths, our gifts, personality, and skills.
  • Our affinities refer to our interests and what brings us the most amount of joy and energy.
  • And affirmation of others means that other people can testify whether our perception of our skill is an actual, substantial strength.

All three, working together, can help us draw out our purpose from our own guesswork. In other words, do what you do best for the glory of God.
God has specifically designed us – our abilities, affinities, and affirmations – to strategically position ourselves for the greatest impact for His glory. When we follow God’s design, our work will not only become more personally enriching, but our work is our witness and our examples of our excellent and creative God.

So the phrase “Whatever your hand finds to do,” are instructions, it reveals how we should evaluate ourselves, evaluate purpose so that we can enjoy work, serve others well, and contribute to God’s kingdom.

III. The Dignity of Work

In the second part of the verse, “do it with your might,” God challenges us always to do our best with the gifts He has given us. There is dignity concerning work.

There is value in work with the best we have to offer. The reason for engaging wholeheartedly is not simply because that is what we ‘ought’ to do. We should engage wholeheartedly as a response that work itself is a gift from God and a dignifying responsibility on its own terms. There is no work that is undignified.

We should not approach work because we’re threatened, or somebody may condemn us, but because all work is good.

Back in Genesis 1, every time God created something He called it ‘good;’ then He created mankind and called us ‘very good.’ God has selected us do work as He does, and when we manage His creation to His glory, it is a high and noble honor. Work is one way that demonstrate Christ within.

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So work is more than just our duty. It is a privilege. The only right response to the reality of work, and serving God in our work, is to expend our might and to give our best, which is an act of worship.

Work, then, becomes primarily a response of stewardship and faithfulness. However, when work becomes something different than a responsibility of stewardship and faithfulness, it decays and maligns everything else in its path. Hence the next part of our verse, “do it with your might.”

Our work should be done for the sake of work itself. Not for our own significance, not to make us important, not for other’s approval. Not even for money. A biblical view of work as the means to something else. Work well for work’s sake.

When work becomes a means to an end, when we are working for something other than work, we may find ourselves bowing at the feet of an idol. There is nothing wrong with financial stability, providing for your family, or approval from others. However, when we see our work primarily as a means to achieve these, we have ruined the very essence of what makes work beautiful on its own terms.

Sometimes when I watch an old movie, the mom brags to her neighbor that her son is a doctor or lawyer. Always a doctor or a lawyer. Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with being a doctor or lawyer. But 90% of the workforce should not be doctors or lawyers. And I’m pretty sure God did not create 90% of people to serve as doctors and lawyers.

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So, why the obsession to be a doctor or lawyer? It is because those two professions in our American society are associated with status, stability, and prosperity. Who would not want those things? And so, becoming a lawyer or doctor becomes the means to attaining status, stability, and prosperity.
So many then, who strive to be a doctor or lawyer, are sacrificing their God-given skills and passions to join a a profession they do not like or have no skills in, just because they feel like they must do so to attain the ‘good life.’ Not only do these people become embittered and finding no satisfaction in their work, but their God-given skills and passions are left unused and they begin to atrophy. People unhappy with their work also make those around them unhappy. In other words, instead of working for the dignity of work and to God’s glory, they work for themselves, and the design and dignity of work suffers. It was never intended to be for them after all. It’s all for God’s glory. God’s call is for us to “do it with your might” and not with or for anything else. When work is done with any other purpose or motive, it becomes defective and destructive.

Regardless of your vocation, there is dignity and purpose when seen in the light of God. It is not about the kind of work you do; it’s about how you do the work. With dignity as a Christ follower.

IV. The Delight of Work

Our scripture verse then says,
“for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in [death].”
Your translation may say “sheol” as a location for death.

So I have news for you. You’re going to die. You have an expiration date. So do I. Eventually, you and I are going to run out of the one precious resource we cannot replenish: Time.

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Time is a limited resource. We all desire more of it. We wish we had more time in a day to finish that project. We wish we did not have to sleep as much so that we could maximize our productivity. And so our available time limits our capacity for accomplishment and completion. It humbles us, and it sobers us up to realize that we may never get to finish it. Time marks the end of our work, and the end of our lives.

This is a short life. Once we’re dead, whatever happens in Heaven and the glory we shall see when Christ returns, this life is over. Rather than doom and gloom, the calamities in this life enrich us, they challenge us, they are God’s way of getting our attention, they are opportunities for us to grow and to show the world that, regardless of the calamities, the hardships, the pain and suffering, that we are enjoying our limited life. Our life gives us the chance to choose our eternal destination and to share the joy of living as a child of God to others that do not yet know the Lord. We live out our limited life in the hope of continuing in our eternal life.

And it is our eternal life which we should value. The time is so short, and eternity goes on, well, forever. That’s the definition of eternity, and our lives continue through eternity, compared to this very short time here on planet earth. So why am I not afraid of Covid-19? Because Covid-19 can only change my expiration date on earth. If I depart early, I begin eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ sooner.

Jesus said in John 9:4,

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

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I once went to an estate sale my wife had organized for an elderly couple. They had collected years and years of Asian art, sculptures, beautiful furniture, but in their last few years they decided to move into assisted living, limited space, and it was time to relinquish their material possessions. At the estate sale I couldn’t help but notice that all this art, loaded with their memories was being sold for pennies on the dollar. All these memories, once this couple was gone, were meaningless. We can’t take it with us, and we leave almost nothing behind.

The message is that we live in a world plagued by frustrations towards the completion of our goals, aspirations, and work. But in God’s economy, when our work is done with hearts and hands bent on God’s Kingdom and eternity, our work means something, whether it was completed in this life or not. Without God and eternity, all things ‘under the sun’ simply have no meaning or lasting impact. But with God and eternity, even our smallest efforts matter and carry into eternity. Our work means something to God. This knowledge ought to give delight, that what we do, when done for the glory of God, pleases Him and we will understand that in eternity.

In Timothy Keller’s book, “Every Good Endeavor, he writes the following:

If this life is all there is, then everything will eventually burn up in the death of the sun and no one will even be around to remember anything that has ever happened. Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavors, even the best, will come to naught.
Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever. That is what the Christian faith promises. “In the Lord, your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

How can we truly delight in our work? It comes from the assurance that God values us and our work; and in the Lord, our labor will carry into eternity. He infuses our work with meaning and eternal significance in a way that we simply could not on our own. Only the Christian is privileged to enjoy his or her work in this way. And in light of this, we can rejoice.

V. Conclusion

God works, and therefore, work on its own terms is a good thing. It is a glorious extension of His attributes. And when God created us in His own image, He made us both agents of work (giving us the capacity for work) and regents of work (entrusting us with the responsibility to work). Work is part of what it means to be human. God has in store a certain design, dignity, and delight for us in the privilege of working.

When we do not work, we simply become less than what God designed us to be. If work according to God’s design is humanizing, then not working at all or not working according to God’s design is dehumanizing. As Christians, we realize that our work is not our ultimate worth, stability, security, or satisfaction. Christ is. Under this framework ‘under heaven’ our work, becomes redeemed to being what it was always meant to be all along: work.
When we live according to God’s will for work, we will find God’s unique design for work, His special dignity in work, and His particular delight for us to enjoy within work. His plan truly becomes our purpose. Let nothing deter you from the work God has for you. Do it with joy, with gusto, with purpose, and love.

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To God be the glory.

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.