The Purpose of Freedom

I. Introduction

Two hundred and forty years ago, our nation was in bondage. Made up of 13 colonies of the British Empire, the colonies were governed by rules from far across the sea. Twelve years prior to that, the British and the French were in a great race to colonize the Americas, leading to a great amount of tension. In 1754, the British, under the command of 22-year old George Washington, ambushed a French patrol and set off a war against the French. There were about 2 million British colonists and only 60,000 French colonists, so the French enlisted the help of the native American Indians. This French and Indian War lasted 9 years before the British finally defeated the French, and the French ceded control of all of land east of the Mississippi River to the British.

This was an expensive war, and the British felt the American colonies should pay the brunt of the expenses. The British levied higher taxes against the 13 colonies to pay off the war debt, and also imposed other rules that were very inconvenient, such as if the British felt the need to guard your town, you were required to house British troops in your home at your own expense.

The colonies had no say in these taxes. But of particular irritation was the monopoly given to the East Indian Tea Company. No tea could be imported to the colonies directly; instead, The British imported tea to Britain, marked it up 25% to pay for war debts, then sold it to the Americas. In 1773, the Sons of Liberty raided a shipment of tea and threw it all into the Boston Harbor with the rallying cry of “No taxation without representation.”

Three years later, in 1776, the Thirteen American colonies declared their independence from Britain.

II. Independence

What does it mean to be independent? The dictionary defines independence as “freedom from the control, influence, support, or aid of others.” When the young American Colonies rebelled against the British, they wanted representation, they wanted a say in their own fate. They wanted to govern themselves. Others were not going to dictate their day-to-day lives; the colonists were going to choose their own way.

From a historical perspective of developing countries, this was unique. It had never been tried. No country had ever attempted self-governing rules. No country had ever tried a system where the governed were also the governors.

But in the history of mankind, this attitude is hardly unique. The ultimate authority is the God who created us, and we (the creation) have always wanted to govern ourselves.

It seems like every time I teach a lesson, I go back to Genesis 1:1 again. But today, in a fantastic improvement over that record, we’re only going back to Genesis 2. Verses 16 & 17,

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

And man joyfully obeyed and enjoyed a sinless and holy relationship with God the Father. And that lasted maybe a day. After that, we decided we wanted to govern ourselves, and we ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We said to God, “You are not the boss of me.”

III. Bondage

When we ate, we rebelled. We looked to our rebellion and said, “See? We are free to do what we want. We don’t allow anyone – including God – to tell us what to do.” We believed that this rebellion was the same as independence which was also the same as freedom.

But these three words are not the same. Yes, we rebelled and declared our independence from God. But were we then free? What did we gain by rebelling from God?

In our rebellion, we decided to go our own way. In our rebellion, we decided on our own not to follow God’s plan. Since God is holy, and God’s plan is holy, our rebellion is… unholy. It is a sin. Our sin separates us from God. In the Old Testament, Isaiah laments this rebellion in Isaiah 63:10 –

Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.

In other words, our sin nature, passed along from the first rebellion of Adam all the way to us, vexes the Holy Spirit and makes us enemies of God. We saw this rejection of God in 1 Samuel 8:6-9 when the people of Israel – people supposedly free since they had rejected God – demanded somebody to rule over them. It seems they recognized they needed somebody to lead and guide them, but they just didn’t want that somebody to be God –

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

In 1 Samuel 15:23, our rebellion is described like this –

For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.

Our rebellion against the Lord doesn’t lead to freedom. Our rebellion makes us enemies of the Lord. Rebellion aligns us with forces that oppose God. As enemies of the Lord, we become family with a relative we don’t really want, but we share a common goal with him. John 8:44, Jesus tells us who we are when we are in a state of rebellion –

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Yuck. I don’t like this family. So my rebellion against the Lord didn’t lead to freedom, it led to sin. To oppose God’s plan, I have to align myself with the devil, and I am in bondage to this sin because I am rebellion. I cannot escape sin because I am in rebellion which is sin. Instead of freedom, I am in bondage. I am in bondage to sin. In John 8:34,

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

And in Romans 7:14-15, Paul recognizes this bondage –

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

We all sin. We are in bondage to that sin. We’re going to look at 2 verses that describe just how awful the rebellious bondage to sin looks to our Lord. First, let’s look at 2 Timothy 3:1-7 –

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

In that description, I see my own bondage to sin, and I see that our great United States of America has rushed from independence into bondage to sin. From “loving ourselves” on social media like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, to “loving money” and our fascination with pop culture and the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Allowing men to use women’s restrooms if they “identify” as a woman and then brutally verbally bashing those who are trying to promote a chaste and safe public restroom experience. Over a half-million abortions every year because having a baby is inconvenient. In my lifetime I’ve seen this nation go from prayer in schools to prosecuting people who pray in schools.

And our national fascination with sex. How much of the internet is related to porn? A study from Columbia University estimates Psychology today estimates as much as 20% of all web traffic and web searches are related to porn.

Our nation is in bondage to sin, and we celebrate it and put it on the internet for everybody to see.

Romans 6:16 also points out that ultimately we only have 2 choices –

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Our rebellious sin nature is a trap. We are stuck in our sin nature and we cannot free ourselves. Romans 1:24 says that God eventually gives us over to the sinful desires of the heart. There is no middle ground. There is no “mostly obedient” state. Giving to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army or the Star of Hope or tithing to the church cannot save us if there is one little speckle of disobedience in us. And this verse tells us that we are either trying our very best to find God’s will in our lives, or we are not.

We’d like to believe there is a middle ground, where we can be good people and go to heaven. We’d like to have compassion on good people that aren’t Christians. Surely good people go to heaven? Isn’t that fair? Isn’t that nice? Since God is such a nice guy, surely He’d see it my way?
But that misunderstands God’s purpose in our lives. God loves all His children, and He wants what is best for us. And that means voluntarily giving up our own independent rebellion and agree with the Lord that His will is the best way, and ultimately is the only way. And God tells us that there is one way to gain the promised land, and everything else belongs to sin. Galatians 3:22,

But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

IV. True Freedom

So our rebellion gives us the illusion of independence, but in reality we are trading our allegiance. I pledge allegiance to God and His ways, or I pledge allegiance to our father the devil. There is no third option.

So here’s an interesting quandary. Can we be in bondage, and yet be free?

In the story of the Exodus, we start to get a glimpse of God’s purpose. What was the exodus? It’s the miracle of God leading His people out of bondage, out of slavery. And once the people were free, what did God do? He gave them the Ten Commandments. He set rules for that freedom.

We make a mistake when we confuse our independence with what we truly desire. We desire freedom. Freedom to follow our God-given passions and desires, to seek for God in all the wonderful places He designs for us, to seek His will and find that His plan for us is far, far better than our own independent plans.

Why should we trust this freedom to God? How many hairs do you have on your head? Is it 1000? 100,000? I have no idea. But this is how well God knows me: Not only does He know how many hairs are on my head, but he’s numbered them. 1, 2, 3, 4…. Luke 12:6-7,

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

A very good reason for trusting the Lord is that He knows me far better than I know myself. Should I continue to maintain my independence of God? I certainly have that choice; I can choose to be independent of my creator. But it turns out that is the same as the sin of rebellion, which means independence from God is bondage to the devil. Or I can be independent of Satan, and choose to be in bondage to God. I am in bondage either way.

What does this look like, being in bondage to God? Do I just follow the Ten Commandments? Do I just avoid the Seven Deadly Sins? Do I follow all 613 mitzvots?

Let’s go back for a moment to 2 Timothy 3:1-7 and look at what bondage to sin looks like.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

These things that bind us to sin are lovers of ourselves, lovers of money, proud and boastful and abusive and disobedient and ungrateful and unforgiving… and if I am honest with myself, I can see my own sinful nature in this description. These are the descriptions of the last days. It’s what the Father of Lies would call love. It’s a perversion of what God calls love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 –

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I don’t know how to do this. Not on my own. At least, not at the level necessary to meet the standards of a Holy and Perfect Lord of All. I’m going to fail.

So the answer to whether I have to follow the Ten Commandments or avoid the Seven Deadly Sins is… yes. All of them. And none of them.

You see, since God knows how many hairs I have on my head, He knows me better than I know myself. And even when I try to run, He knows me. Jeremiah 23:24,

Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.

God is everywhere I am. I cannot hide. Even in my rebellion and my so-called independence, I cannot escape. The Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins judge me and my shortcomings. They show me how I fail, they show that despite my own efforts, I’m going to fail at being holy. And that’s ok, because God loves me and has given me a solution. God has given me His Son.

We don’t just “stop sinning” by trying to stop committing the Seven Deadly Sins. Obeying the Ten Commandments doesn’t stop us from sinning. That is is “legalism,” that is trying to save ourselves by “works.” We stop sinning by recognizing that we are in rebellion, that our entire lives have been devoted to bondage in sin, remembering that there is no halfway decision, and then choosing to be bondservants of Christ. We choose to cease our rebellion against the Lord.

What about the Ten Commandments? The Seven Deadly Sins? These give us insight and direction as to what pleases the Lord. For those who have had children, if your child takes a cookie before dinner after you expressly told him not to, do you say, that’s it, I’m done. You’re on your own. Go outside and never come back. From God’s perspective, is our identity as His child dependent on whether we ate the forbidden cookie?

Of course not. We set rules for good behavior for our children. We discipline them when they are disobedient. We raise them, we forgive them, and love them. God does the same for us, and all our sins are forgiven when Jesus took them to the cross. We just have to choose to be in God’s family. Then if we are imperfect, if we only follow eight-and-a-half commandments, our Father still loves us.

In fact, that’s where our freedom comes from – being within the will of God, being a slave to His love, and recognizing His word protects us. Psalm 119:44-45 puts in this way –

I will keep on obeying your instructions forever and ever. I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.

So our goal then, is to recognize our rebellion against God did not lead to freedom. It just led to a different sort of bondage. This is where we once were, from 2 Peter 2:17-19 –

These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”

 

When we accept Jesus, then this is who we become from 1 John 1:12 –

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.

And when we are children of God, then there is no condemnation for falling short of God’s perfect will. Romans 8:1,

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

V. Conclusion

When mistake rebellion and independence with freedom, we wallow in a lifetime of sin. The rebellion against God results in death and misery and frustration. Or we can attempt to save ourselves by doing good, but the rules we set for ourselves are burdensome and joyless. Worse, we try to set rules for others so we can demonstrate how superior we are.

God’s way is to accept that we are powerless on our own and full of sin, but His Son will take the punishment for our rebellion so we can be slaves to righteousness and serve one another in love. It’s not rules imposed from the outside, but the power of the Holy Spirit from the inside that brings glory to God, peace and joy to us, and blessings to others.

There is a song by Watermark that I love, called “Captivate Us.” During the chorus, she sings, “Let every chain be broken from me as I’m bound by your grace.” Choosing to be a bondservant of Christ Jesus doesn’t restrict our freedom, but gives us freedom to be who God created us to be.

It’s like a train, a locomotive, intent on going its own way. And it jumps the track in search of independence. These train tracks are too restrictive, the train says. And when the train has fallen off the tracks, it’s powerless, it’s useless, it’s stalled. When the train is put back on the track, then the train is free to do what it was created to do.

This is the truth that brings glory to our Father in Heaven. John 8:32,

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

That is true freedom.

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.

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.