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.

Slide5.JPG

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.

Slide7.JPG

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.

Slide10.JPG

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.

Slide13.JPG

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.”

Slide18.JPG

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’.”

Slide19.JPG

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!

Slide21.JPG

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.
Slide2.JPG
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.
Slide3.JPG
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.
Globe_Spin.gif
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.
Slide7.JPG
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.”

Slide10.JPG

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.
Slide20.JPG
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.”
Slide25.JPG
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.
Slide26.JPG
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.
Slide27.JPG
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.”

Slide34.JPG
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!
Slide35.JPG
To God be the glory.

God Knows Us Intimately

I. Introduction Psalm 139

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

Warren Wiersbe had this to say about Psalm 139,

Slide2

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

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

II. God Knows Us Intimately – We Cannot Deceive Him

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

Slide3

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slide4

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

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

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

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

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

Slide5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slide6.JPG

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

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

Hebrews 4:13 puts it this way,

Slide7

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

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

IV. God Made Us Wonderfully – We Cannot Ignore Him

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

Slide8.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

a. Evolution vs Creation

Slide9

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

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

Slide10
Those other stupid cells – by which I mean, other people crafted in God’s image – have been with us since the Garden of Eden. God asked Adam if Adam ate the forbidden fruit, and Adam immediately through Eve under the bus. “Eve gave it to me, that’s why I ate some of it.”
Adam blamed Eve. Eve of course, blamed the serpent, and the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on.

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

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

Slide11

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

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

Slide12
Between wars, terrorism, genocide, we humans have become efficient and ruthless at trying to eliminate the human race. And each and every one of those deaths is a soul that God fashioned with love and kindness.

b. Abortion

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

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

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

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

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

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

c. Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

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

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

Jeremiah 1:5,

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

Genesis 9:6,

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

Psalm 127:3,

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

Ephesians 2:10

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

How much does God value us?

Slide16

John 3:16,

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

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

V. God Judges Righteously – We Cannot Dispute Him

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

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

Slide17.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VI. Conclusion

Slide18.JPG

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

Slide19

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slide21

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

To God be the glory. Amen.

Our Protector

I.      Introduction

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

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

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

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

II.      We Need His Protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

III.      Protection from Within

David goes on in verse 3-4,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slide10

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

Slide11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ever heard this silly prayer?

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

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

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

          IV.      Protection from Without

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 141, verse 5-6,

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

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

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

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

Verse 7,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verses 9-10,

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

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

            V.      Conclusion

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

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

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

To God be the glory.  Amen.

His Faithfulness

I.      His Faithfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

II.      God’s Promise to Israel

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

Psalm 146:1-2,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

III.      Son of Man, Son of God

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

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

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

In the beginning, God.

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

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

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

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

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

IV.      God’s Promises Fulfilled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What promises has God made to us about our future?

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

V.      Trust in God, not Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VI.      Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Slide18To God be the glory.  Amen.

The Creator

             I.      In the Beginning

In the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw the light was good.  God separated the light from the darkness, and there was evening, and there was morning, and there was the first day.Slide2

And God said, “Let us separate the water below from the water above, and the space between shall be called “sky.”  And there was the second day.Slide3

And God said, “Let dry land appear.”  And God gathered the waters and called them “seas.”  And God caused vegetation and plants and trees to grow and produce fruit with seeds.  And there was the third day.Slide4

And God created sun and the moon to mark the days and years, and made the stars in the sky, and there was the fourth day.Slide5

And God created the fish and the birds and filled the water and the sky with living creatures, and God blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply.  And there was evening, and there was morning, and there was the fifth day.Slide6

And God created living creatures, wild animals and livestock and all the creatures across the earth.  And God said, “Let us create mankind in our image, in our likeness, so they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and the livestock and the wild animals and all creatures that move along the ground.  And God blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply.  And God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Slide7

And there was evening, and there was morning, and there was the sixth day.

          II.      God’s Creation

How often do we stop and consider all that God has made?  Psalm 19:1,

The heavens declare the glory of God;

    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Slide8It’s not as though we have to travel to the ends of the earth to see His creation, or book a plane ticket to the Maldives or the Himalayas or New Zealand.  We only have to look up to see the glory of God.

Everyone who looks up on a clear night sees the heavens and the multitude of stars.  Unless you live in Houston, then you may have to travel outside of the city to see the stars.  But when you see the stars, we cannot help but realize how magnificent our Creator is.  Most of the lights we can see are actually suns, and each sun potentially has its own planets orbiting around it just as those in our solar system orbit our sun. With a high-powered telescope, the number of suns becomes innumerable – billions, trillions?  I checked the NASA website to try and find the number of stars in the universe, and found a few numbers.

First, they qualify the answer by saying “observable” universe.  Due to the speed of light, we can only see 13.7 billion light years.  Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is a typical size of 100 billion stars.  Given what we can see, there are around 10 billion galaxies.  Multiplying these numbers -stay will me, we just read in Genesis that we were to go forth and multiply, so that’s what I’m doing.

Multiplying these numbers gives an estimate of 1000 billion billion stars, or 1000 quintillion.  That wounds like one of those made up numbers kids make up.  I plugged some numbers into a calculator for fun, and found that if you made a stack of 1000 quintillion pennies, you’d have a stack of pennies that would go to the moon and back.  261 billion times.

Psalm 8:1,

O LORD, our Lord,

How majestic is Thy name in all the earth,

Who has displayed Thy splendor above the heavens!

 

Slide9God has said in Isaiah 45:12,

“It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it.

I stretched out the heavens with My hands.

 

Slide10.JPG

God placed the heavens right over our heads and declares that when you see this, you are without excuse.

And not just the heavens, God made the earth.  God has amazing math skills when it comes to creation.  Or maybe He created the heavens and earth to declare His glory, and then created the laws of gravity and other forces to suit His creation.

Our earth has been created so finely tuned in cannot be an accident.  We are just the right distance from the sun with a near circular orbit, so the earth’s temperatures are relatively stable throughout the year and from year to year.  The earth tilts slightly so that we have seasons, the earth heats and cools through the year instead of baking to a crisp on one end.

We have an unusually large moon, bigger than some planets.  Scientists believe it was formed when a planet the size of Mars crashed into the earth during formation.  A direct collision would have annihilated the earth; a glancing blow would have formed rings like Saturn, so the collision was perfect.

This collision also stripped away much of the earth’s atmosphere.  Venus is a much smaller planet with less gravity, but it has a very thick atmosphere.  Below that cloud cover is a runaway greenhouse effect and the surface is a dry desert with temperatures of 800°F.  Earth is larger should have a thicker atmosphere, but scientists think that same perfect collision that formed the moon also created the perfect atmosphere.  Thin enough and at the right density to allow water in all three phases of solid, liquid and gas necessary to maintain life.

The perfect moon tugs at the earth, creating tides that scrub the waters clean.  That collision also helped create a somewhat lopsided earth with land on one side and seas on the other.  Without this, the earth would be more uniform and almost certainly entirely covered by water.

The earth turns at the perfect speed.  If the earth spun faster and we had 8 hour days, wind speeds on the earth would approach 500 mph.  If the earth spun slower, the earth temperature extremes would be far higher with 200°F days and -200°F nights.

The center of the earth is made of a large and heavy metallic core which gives is the largest magnetic field of any of the planets, which creates the Van-Allen radiation shield which protects life on earth from harmful radiation.

The planet Jupiter is our biggest planetary protector now.  Most large planets are closer to the sun, sweeping away planets like earth and Mars and Venus.  Ours is outside the earth orbit at the perfect distance to deflect and sweep away meteorites.  Without Jupiter, scientist estimate up to 10,000 times the number of large collisions of meteorites which would destroy life.

Slide12Romans 1:20,

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

And life on earth is based on carbon compounds that depend on water in a liquid phase that only exists in a very narrow temperature and pressure range, which happens to be exactly what we have on earth.  Sometimes Hollywood or Star Trek will hypothesize life based on something else like silicon, but that’s unlikely because silicon doesn’t form long molecular chains, with or without water.  And life is amazing, far too amazing for “evolution” to be the sole theory for development.

Slide13Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  We all grasp this problem immediately, and there’s no clear answer except God’s creation.  The egg has no purpose unless there was a chicken before and a chicken after, yet the chicken could not exist unless there was an egg.

Or human design.  Ever heard the term “irreducible complexity?”   If we take something simple like a mousetrap, we know the mousetrap was designed and built for a specific purpose, to catch mice.

Slide14.JPGIt’s made of 5 parts, and each part performs a specific function.  If you take away a part, like the spring, it could be a paperweight, I suppose, but it won’t catch a mouse.  We also know that a mousetrap doesn’t naturally form over time; it is created for a purpose.

Here is a human eye diagram:

Slide15

It has a great many parts, all specifically designed.  None of the parts make sense by themselves.  Also, the eye itself has no useful function unless it is attached to a brain inside a head attached to a body.

Psalm 139: 13-14,

For You formed my inward parts;

You covered me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Marvelous are Your works,

And that my soul knows very well.

Slide16.JPG

       III.      My Creation

My wife and I constructed a new patio in our back yard.  Here’s before I got started –

Slide17

And here is after:

Slide18

My wife and I worked hard over several weeks to create this, and we look at it and declare it is good.  And when I show the patio to others, I like hearing them say it looks good, and it’s a job well done, and I should be proud.

Let’s look at that last scripture again, Psalm 139:13-14 –

For You formed my inward parts;

You covered me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Marvelous are Your works,

And that my soul knows very well.

 

I am God’s creation.  It pleases God when I acknowledge His works and to praise Him for what He has done.

My patio is new, but eventually it will age.  I’ll begin to take it for granted, when friends come over they’ll be accustomed to seeing it there.  Instead of saying, “Hey Mike, good job on that patio,” they’ll be saying, “Hey, how about those Texans?”  Other than walking on it, we will barely acknowledge that it is there.   I will take it for granted.

How sad if we treat God’s creation that way.  He makes every day new.

 

          IV.      Worship of Our Creator

Since every day is a new creation, give should give praise and honor to God every day for what He has done, and never take for granted.  I may have made the patio, but God made the stone, God made the sand.  God made me, complete with eyeballs and my irreducible complexities.  Our study verse for today is Psalm 95, but much of the bible is a reminder to us to worship the Lord for what He has done.  Verse 1,Slide21

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!

Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

 

He is the Rock of our salvation.  For those who place their trust in Him, He fulfils His promises.  Our salvation is secure and we can depend on the Creator of the universe to provide for eternal life.  Many Christians operate in a mode of fear, that they are unsure of their salvation.  The Catholic church teaches that, depending on your state of confession and works in this life, you spend time in Purgatory working out the remainder of your salvation, a time which is shortened by the prayers of relatives.  This is unnecessary fear, for the Lord is our Rock and did not intend for us to guess if our works are sufficient.  1 John 5:11-13 scripture says,

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

 

The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Slide22.JPG

So that you may know.  We can have confidence that our salvation is secure.  It is not arrogance to tell somebody that I know for sure that I am going to heaven.  The God of the universe told me so.

Psalm 95 verse 2,

Let us enter His presence with thanksgiving;

let us shout triumphantly to Him in song.

Slide23

In one sense, we are always in His presence.  There is a time for private worship, but there is also corporate worship when we come together as a group to praise His holy name.  Worship in a group involves song, even if your name is Theresa and claim you cannot carry a tune.  Psalm 100 says all should make a joyful noise unto the Lord, and my singing is sometimes enthusiastic and joyful and sometimes it just sounds like noise, but God wants us to express the joy that is in our hearts with our mouths and sing His praises.

Verse 3,

For the Lord is a great God,

a great King above all gods.

Slide24

This is the epic truth that justifies our call to worship God.  He is the One and Only Deity, the First Cause, The First and the Last, Jehovah, Rock, Refuge, High Tower, Salvation, Most High, the Beginning and the Ending, the Creator and Sustainer of Everything in the Universe.  All of the man-made pagan deities are mere colonies of insects in comparison with the true God of Heaven and Earth.

Verses 4-5,

The depths of the earth are in His hand,

and the mountain peaks are His.

The sea is His; He made it.

His hands formed the dry land.

Slide25.JPG

It took me several weeks to complete that patio.  My back was sore, I scraped my knees and knuckles.  God made the universe and everything in it by speaking it into existence.  The universe is His, this world is His.  The skies and the oceans and the plants and the animals are His.  We are His.  And sometimes we think He is not there, or our sinful ways are hidden from Him, but Jeremiah 23:24 says,

Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the Lord; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord.

Slide26

Psalms 95:6-7,

Come, let us worship and bow down;

let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For He is our God,

and we are the people of His pasture,

the sheep under His care.

Slide27

Even those who claim to be atheists and adamantly declare themselves to be independent from Him belong to Jehovah God, and one day every knee will bow.  Some in respect and adoration, others by submission.

For those that seek Jesus Christ, we are His sheep and He is our Shepherd.  We are under His care; He makes us lie down in green pastures, and there is nothing else we need.

            V.      Conclusion

On the 7th day of Creation, the Lord rested.  He declared His creation was very good.  The Lord is Lord of all heaven and earth, and He is our Lord.

Let us praise Him for who He is, His perfect and holy character, who rights every wrong and heals every pain, who declared his holiness with the very stars in the sky.  He created us to love and worship Him.

Let us do so with a joyful shout of adoration.

To God be the glory.  Amen.

The Lord is My Shepherd

             I.      Introduction – Why do We Pray?

First of all, I want to apologize for my absence recently.  It’s been a difficult month for me.  My stepfather was a warm, loving father who taught me much about the meaning of family and forgiveness, and he was also the first close family member to me that passed.Slide2

I learned much about prayer this month.  At the funeral, they handed out this card, and more than one Christian brother remarked to me that the verse on the card and the verse assigned to me to study this week are the same.  There are a total of 31,102 verses in the bible, yet God singled out 6 of them for me.

One of the questions I asked myself is, “Why do we pray?”  We’ve given admonishment before that God is not some sort of magic genie and we are granted 3 wishes, yet in the midst of our trials, we go to God and start asking for our 3 wishes.

Let’s look for a moment at Matthew 6.  In the verses leading up to the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gives us much instruction on prayer, but this verse in particular, verse 8, Jesus says this about prayer –

For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

And in Romans 8:26,

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.

In my case, sometimes I imagine the groaning of the Holy Spirit comes with an eyeroll of the Holy Spirit.  Groan, Michael never gets this prayer right, I’ll have to fix it for him.  Again.

So God, being perfect, knows what we need before we ask, and if we get it wrong, intercedes for us and prays for the correct thing.

So why do we pray?  When we pray for God to do something for us, knows in advance and corrects our prayers, so why do we pray?  Do we think our prayers are somehow going to change God, when it is God who is perfect and we are fallible?

When we pray and ask God to change, then we miss the most powerful aspect of prayer.  Pray doesn’t change God.  It changes us.  It brings us in line with God’s will, His plan, His desire.  Our goal in prayer should not be to put together some sort of compelling argument so that God will answer our prayer.  Our goal should be for God to bring us in line with His will so that our prayer and God’s will align.  When we are in line with God’s will and covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, we are seen as righteous before God.  And James 5:16 says the prayers of a righteous person is very powerful.  Not because we are powerful or even righteous, but because He is powerful.

          II.      Prayer through difficult times

When we are seeking the very face of God through our prayers, God is pleased with us.  In the Old Testament, the incense burned on the altar represented the prayers of the people, God tells us the prayers are a pleasing aroma.  David wrote a Psalm, essentially a prayer about prayers, where he wrote in Psalm 141:2 –

Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Slide4It’s important that we pray; if we look at the rest of James 5:13-18, James gives a lot of insight into the purpose of our prayers.

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.  Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord.  The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; yet he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land.  Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.

We’re not telling God anything that He doesn’t know.  But God wants us to acknowledge Him in all our ways, through good times and bad, through times of plenty and times of famine.

When Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer was given as a “model” prayer.  It was never intended to be mere words, quoted over and over; the same chapter two verses earlier, Jesus cautioned us not to let prayer become “meaningless repetition.”  Instead, God wants is to open our heart, go into our closet and have a private conversation.  Just God and me.  What do we ask for if God already knows?  The New Testament has many verses that tell us what God wants us to pray for.

  • Pray at all times —Ephesians 6:18
  • Pray for opportunities to witness —Ephesians 6:19
  • Pray for spiritual wisdom and understanding —Colossians 1:9
  • Pray without ceasing —1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • Pray for knowledge —Philemon 6
  • Pray for good conduct —Hebrews 13:18
  • Pray for wisdom —James 1:15
  • Pray for those who are sick/suffering —James 5:13-14
  • Pray for one another —James 5:16; 1 John 5:16
  • Pray for those who persecute you —Romans 12:14
  • Pray for good health —3 John 2
  • Pray without doubting —James 1:6
  • Pray with the right motives —James 4:3
  • Pray knowing God is listening —1 John 5:15-16

So we should be honest.  We should pray what is on our hearts.  And above all, we pray that it is not our will, but Thy will be done.

       III.      Pray in Life

Because if we’re honest, we don’t always like it when we don’t get our way.  This list above are all good reasons for us to pray, and answers to those prayers seem to be within God’s will, but then sometimes God is silent.  Or God says no.

Sometimes God says no when we pray about our finances.  Sometimes God says no when we pray about our health.  And some of the toughest prayers are when we pray about life itself.

In Genesis 5, the descendants of Adam are listed.  At the age of 130, Adam had a son Seth, and Adam then lived till the age of 930.  Seth had a son Enosh when he was 105, and then lived to 912.   Enosh lived to 905, his son Kenan was just a young child at the age of 70 when he fathered Mahalel.  And so on until Noah; Noah was 500 years old when he fathered Shem, Ham, and Hapheth.

Slide7So why don’t we live until the ripe old age of 900 years?  Why do we die?

The length of our lives have been impacted by our sin nature.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve at the fruit from the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  And knowledge of Evil taints us; what we have seen cannot be unseen.  Part of the fall of man included this judgement from God in Genesis 3:22 –

The Lord God said, “Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.”

And Noah, at 500 years old, lived in such an evil, wicked world, that God brought forth a flood to kill all the evil.  After Noah, the Lord said in Genesis 6:3,

And the Lord said, “My Spirit will not remain with mankind forever, because they are corrupt. Their days will be 120 years.”

It seems to me that God has a purpose for death.  We have a deadline sometime in our life to accept the sacrifice of His son.  We don’t know when that deadline is, but it is surely less than 120 years.  And this limit is because of our own sin nature.  We are limited in days because of God’s mercy and protection from this fallen world.

So when my stepfather was moved to hospice last month, there were many days God interceded in prayer.  Maybe I overthinked it.  Overthunked it?  Do I pray for my stepfather to continue living so we can enjoy his company for a while longer?  Do I pray for his release from pain?  We loved him so much none of us wanted to see him suffer, yet we loved him so much we didn’t want to see him go.  And it was at this point, this fork in the road between two conflicting prayers of life and death I found myself, marked with tears of grief either way.  And I know that God answers some prayers the way we hope about health and life and death, but eventually death comes to us all, and we are marked for eternity by the choices we make.

I’m thankful the Holy Spirit intercedes with groans.  And eyerolls.  I know that God provides peace that surpasses all understanding, but I couldn’t figure out how to get from grief to peace.  I needed God’s guidance, I needed God’s comfort, and I realized the fork in the road wasn’t between life and death.  When I prayed for God’s will to be done, I realized the third option was not life, not death, but life everlasting.  There is peace knowing that Jesus Christ rescues us from death and gives us eternal life, and that I know I will see my stepfather again in heaven, where there is no pain and there are no tears to wipe away.

          IV.      Psalm 23, The Lord is My Shepherd

This life offers many challenges, and when we are younger, I think we believe we can win them all.  But age and experience teaches us that we cannot win over all our enemies, we cannot live without the impact of illness, we do not always feel blessed by abundance and opportunity, and grief and sadness will come to all of us.

Kind David had a full life.  We’re familiar with his childhood, full of braggadocio and power.  His faith was so pure that God enable David to bring down the giant Goliath with just a stone.

Slide10But his life had challenges, especially as he got older.  Despite David’s loyalty to King Saul, Saul kept trying to kill him.  David lived in caves for a while because David wouldn’t harm Saul, yet Saul would try to kill him.  Later, once David was king, his whole family had serious issues that dwarf what you or I face.  David’s oldest son Ammon raped his half-sister Tamar.  Tamar’s brother Absalom was David’s favorite, but Absalom was outraged that King David did nothing, so Absalom ordered the king’s servants to murder Amnon.  Absalom lived in exile and eventually organized a rebellion against his own father, King David.  In 2 Samuel 18:33, David cried out in heartbreak and grief, “O my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!”

We’re not sure when David wrote Psalm 23, but no doubt David had already experienced grief and heartache few can bear.  It’s only 6 verses, but they’re powerful verses.

Psalm 23,

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

Slide11.JPGSuch a beautiful prayer.  It speaks not just of our life now but our confidence in a life everlasting with our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s interesting to me that this Psalm is part of a Messianic trilogy.

Psalm Verse Time / Image Theme
Psalm 22 / The Good Shepherd My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The Saviours Cross Past His past death for His people
Psalm 23 / Great Shepherd Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; Hebrews 13:20-21 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him… The Shepherds Crook Present His present care and provision for His people
Psalm 24 / Chief Shepherd Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 1 Peter 5:4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. The Kings crown Future His future return for His people as the King of Glory!

Past, present and future.

Let’s look at Psalm 23 in a little more depth.

The Lord is my Shepherd.

The Lord.  Every word in the bible is important.  Jesus is Lord.  We sing songs about Jesus being our friend and our savior, and those are true, but he is also Lord.  The Lord’s name is Yahweh, sovereign, almighty, delivering Lord God.  When we seek comfort, begin by acknowledging that He alone is Lord of all.

Is.  Jesus is my shepherd right now.  Yes, he was there in the past, and yes, He will be there in the future, but Jesus is the great I AM.  He is here now within our midst.

My.  Jesus is personal.  He’s not a figurine hung on a cross in the front of a church.  He is not an abstract idea of goodness, He is not simply a long dead teacher or morals.  He is Mine, and I am His.

Shepherd.  Jesus is our shepherd, and we are His sheep.  What’s interesting about sheep is they are 4D.

  • Dumb
  • Dirty
  • Defenseless
  • Dependent

They are dumb; if there was a school for farm animals, sheep would be dropouts.  If there is a wire fence, they will get their necks caught in it, not just today, but tomorrow, too.  Their wool smells like you’d imagine a wool coat would smell if you left it in the rain, they have no ability to defend themselves, they have terrible eyesight, they are fearful skittish creatures that are prone to wander and get lost.  No wonder we need a shepherd who will provide for us, protect us, guide us, and wash us clean as snow.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Don’t get confused; David isn’t saying, “I don’t want a shepherd.”  The word “want” here means “needs.”  If the Lord is my Shepherd, then there is nothing else I need.  The Lord Jesus is all sufficient, and I place my trust in Him.  There may be trials of all sorts ahead for us, but the Lord uses everything for good, and I will trust in the Lord to provide everything I need for the day he has given me.  Everything will be ok.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;

When our bodies are tired, we put them to bed.  A nice comfy bed and a soft fluffy pillow, and we rest.  The Lord does this for our soul, if we only let him.  If we follow the Lord, our soul can be still and know that He is God.  When we rest in Him and leave our troubles with Him, He restores our soul.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

God’s word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.  He teaches me to be righteous so that I may bring Him glory.  I cannot do this on my own, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  If I am following my Lord’s direction and letting Him guide my path, then the Lord receives the glory due to Him.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

This world is not the valley of life.  This world is the valley of the shadow of death.  Death comes to us all, no more than 120 years and for most of us a lot less.  My hope alone is in Him so that one day I may walk in new life.

I will fear no evil;
For You are with me.

David has changed pronouns; in the first three verses, David talks to God in the third person and refers to him as “he.”

But when you are surrounded by evil, God is not a distant third party.  We can talk to Him directly.  David talks directly to God, saying, I have nothing to fear for my hope is in you.  You surround me, you comfort me, you love me.  And if you are for me, then who can be against me?

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

The Hebrew word here translated “rod” can also be translated as rod, scepter, and weapon.  It is not a “walking stick.”  A shepherd’s rod is about two and a half feet long with heavy pieces of iron embedded on the end, like a mace.  The rod is the shepherd’s primary offensive weapon for protecting the flock from enemies, whether the threats are wild animals or human thieves.  When used as a weapon, it is intimidating and deadly.

Slide14The rod and staff mentioned in Psalm 23:4 represents God’s defense and His divine guidance.  His rod is used to drive off our enemy, Satan and his minions.  God’s staff is used as guidance to us, to lift us back on the pathway after we fall.  The Lord protects me from my enemies, and rescues me from my own mistakes.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

God provides everything I need, despite the efforts of Satan to undo me.  In fact, God provides an abundance for me so that my cup runneth over and I can provide blessings to others.  Even though he is my Lord and my Savior, God treats me as an adopted son and an honored guest.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;

If you trust in the Lord, then no matter how far you stray, the Lord follows you with goodness and mercy.  The Hebrew word used for “follow” is the same word used when Pharaoh “followed” Israel across the Red Sea.  It doesn’t mean goodness and mercy follows from a distance.  God is actively pursuing us daily.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

            V.      Conclusion

God knows our lives.  He knows us before we are born, He knows us through our final destination.  He actively pursued us and rescues us.  And while goodness and mercy may actively follow me, one day I am going to slow down enough so that he catches me, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Forever is a very long time.  It’s far longer than the 120 years allotted to us.  Our prayers bring us in line with the spirit of the Living God who comforts us and provides for all our needs; he is our shepherd, and there is nothing we shall want.  I know that my stepfather dwells in the house of the Lord, and one day, I too, will dwell there, for Jesus promises there are many rooms in His mansion, and one day he will come back for me.  No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.

I’ll leave you with these two verses from our hope and future in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 7:17,

for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation 21:4,

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

The Lord is my Shepherd.

To God be the glory.  Amen.