Living Life From the Heart – Part 2
|By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2007|
|Looking at Psalm 65: The song of harvest blessing; the bounty of the Savior. I have called it responding to God’s generous blessings that we too often overlook. The psalm is going to remind you and me to look at God’s generosity, to look at His blessings in your life and not to overlook these things.|
This message was recorded at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. Through the ministry of The Cove we’re training people in God’s Word to win others to Christ. It’s our goal to develop Christians who experience God through knowing Him better, knowing His Word, building godly relationships and helping others know Him. We trust that this message will strengthen your walk with God and help you experience Him right where you are.
Good morning! What is the most important word in the Old Testament? Hessid. What are some of the types of classification of psalms? Thanksgiving, we’re going to look at one of those today. Praise, lament, imprecation (imprecatory), messianic, desperation. What did we look at last night? What was one of the aspects of that psalm? We’re going to look at it later today too. Royal psalms. What’s the book of Psalms called in the Hebrew Bible? Tehillim. Do you know what tehillim is from? Halal. Halal sounds like hallelujah. Halal is one of the most common words in the Hebrew psalter. And tehillim is the plural. An “im” ending on a Hebrew word typically means many or more or multiple. Elohim, He is one God, but He is the God. So the “im” ending is a little bit of a hint.
So how do we get from tehillim to Psalms? If you were to ask an orthodox Jew the name of the book of Psalms they might even not know the word Psalms. The Septuagint is a Greek rendering of the Hebrew Bible. The Greeks translated the Hebrew text into that. So if we took the Hebrew text and translated it into English; the Greeks translated it into Greek, and that became known, the corpus of literature. There’s not one Septuagint, there’s many. And the Septuagint word is psalmos, which was the closest word they could come up with, not tehillim, but the word mizmor. So when you read the word “psalm” in your English Bible it has nothing to do with the book of Psalms. But we have endeared the word in our English language and we call them the Psalms because it means a collection of songs, a collection of rejoicing, but it’s a long way from the word tehillim which is what the Hebrews would call the book of the psalter.
They are classified into enthronement, lament, praise, prayer, worship, imprecatory, royal, monarch songs, inaugural songs, and we’ll look at a couple of those today. I went back last night and pulled up some of the history that I had forgotten to mention last night, but it was interesting rereading it this morning. You know what the Monastic period was; when people left the ordinary call of life and they went and lived in cloisters in monasteries. So the idea was, we’ll get away from the world. We won’t be distracted by wiles and temptations of the world and we’ll devote our lives to God and to Christ. And, you know, what they do now is they raise German Shepherds and make wine and stuff like that. But early on they used to really worship God in these monasteries.
Well, the Monastic period was a terrible failure. But what they tried to do in these Monastic structures was to order their entire day around worship, prayer and praise. Back in Gregorian and Roman times they took the Psalms and put them into chants. Many of the monasteries would go through the entire Psalm collection each week. And there were morning psalms and evening psalms, many of them extrapolated from the Hebrew Bible just like we do, like last night—we should have look at an evening psalm, we looked at a morning psalm last night—so we could envision them singing that. And you might even envision it in your imagination in those stone grottos with a bunch of men in odd clothing singing these beautiful chants of these psalms. So there’s a rich history of the psalms in the Catholic and Christian traditions throughout time.
In the fifth century St. Maurice, he taught Charles the Great, he was his like private religious tutor, and he made him recite the psalms every day. So 150 psalms; I don’t know how long that would take. It takes me a little over an hour and half to read it if I just read at a clip, and that’s a fast read. And I don’t get much out of it reading it that quickly. So how you recite it in a course of a day is not, I don’t understand.
Gennadius I, the patriarch of Constantinople during 458-471, would not ordain anyone who didn’t have the complete psalter memorized. The Bishop of Icona, a man named Resticus, had known the Psalms by heart and when men would come to him for ordination he would quiz them, and if they didn’t have comprehensive knowledge to be able to answer any section of the Psalms he would not allow them to be ordained. And by the second council of Nicaea, which is 587 or so after Christ’s death it became canon law if a priest candidate couldn’t recite the whole Psalms he couldn’t be a priest. And they wouldn’t let a bishop go up the ranks unless he could continue a demonstration of the text. So the Psalms of course have a rich marked history.
Now we talked a little bit about some structure, just a little bit last night. What were some of the structural cues I gave you? Parallelism. Where’d the parallel come from? Right there. What else? Three kinds of parallelism. What was the big one I showed you? Chiasm. What was the point of a chiasm? Memorization, a structural tool. What was the point? The point is in the middle. So you have like A, A prime, B, B prime, C, C prime, D, D prime, E; so the point of the Psalms in the middle. And those structures are very common in the Psalms, not only in the whole psalm, but often in just little sections like verses 1-3 you’ll see a chiastic devise if you look for it.
We talked about lovingkindness being the most important word in the Bible. What were the two things that God is lovingkind toward? His covenant promises and His chosen people. God loves to be loyal to His covenant promises and His chosen people.
Let’s look at Psalm 65. Psalm 65 is a public hymn of thanksgiving. Some have called this a harvest psalm. I have never taught the psalm before. It was fun to prepare for it, and I thought how fitting, during this time of year when soon we’ll see pumpkins and squash in great quantities come on the shelves, and we’ll all buy them and put them on our stoops and then we’ll throw them away in a few weeks. I don’t understand it, but we do it, nonetheless. So this is the harvest season.
Some various titles for this psalm: The song of harvest blessing; the bounty of the Savior. I have called it responding to God’s generous blessings that we too often overlook. The psalm is going to remind you and me to look at God’s generosity, to look at His blessings in your life and not to overlook these things.
Derek Kidner, if you’re a person who buys books of the Bible to help you study, the two best little tools you can use on the Psalms are by Derek Kidner. They’re little tiny volumes. They’re not these big massive commentaries. Derek Kidner teaches at Cambridge University at Histon. He is a brilliant wisdom literature scholar and he wrote these two little tiny books in the 70’s on Psalm 1-72 and 73-150 and they are extraordinary. What he says in two pages I couldn’t say in a year. He just has the ability to synthesize the message down to just these little exquisite paragraphs. And if you want to get into your Psalms study and you do this in your devotions get Derek’s little books and go through them.
Quick story; I like to write authors that have ministered to me. And years ago in 84 or 85, I wrote Dr. Kidner a letter. Now, in those days we didn’t have email and I used an aerogram. Aerograms were these lightweight international things. You could fold them and seal them and it was like a fixed rate. And so you have to write real neatly inside. I wrote him an aerogram and I thanked him for his ministry and how much he meant to me and I just loved his writing on the wisdom literature. And he wrote me back. And one of the questions I asked him was, I said, “Do you have any sermons on tape,” because you know we like to listen to sermons. “I’d love to hear some of your sermons on tape.” And he wrote back, typically Brit, he wrote back in his letter, “Thank you for your kind words. Regarding tapes, I have no knowledge of any such things,” signed, Derek Kidner. I still have that aerogram somewhere. And I’ve written him over the years ensuing and I get about the same kind of response. But I love Derek Kidner and hope one day before glory to meet him. He’s a brilliant Hebrew scholar.
He writes “This psalm, a stanza as fresh and irrepressible as the fertility it describes, puts every harvest hymn to shame. We almost feel the splash of showers, the sense of springing growth about us. Yet the whole psalm has a directness, whether it is speaking of God and His temple courts or of His vast dominions, or among the hills and valleys which His very passing wakens into life.” It’s just, God just moves across something and it comes alive and that is a great depiction of the psalm. H. C. Leupold writes, “We venture the claim this is the most eloquent and beautiful description of God’s blessing that He bestows on fields and meadows.”
Now, we think we’re fairly sophisticated people. We have, to me, the two greatest blessings God has given to man are the person and work of Jesus Christ and air conditioning. The South could not exist if it were not for air conditioning. Houston could not exist if it were not for air conditioning. Baton Rouge could not exist if it were not for air conditioning. And when we see our technological advances, the microwave, the digital technology, there’s certain pieces of technology here that are extraordinary and we grow accustomed to them. We think we’re so sophisticated, but we really aren’t. And ancient man and woman had the same worries, the same fears, the same concerns, the same joys, the same expressions. And in some ways they were far, far less encumbered than we are. So when we read these hymns of antiquity don’t think we’re so much more sophisticated. In fact, I hope you’ll see that what they found joy in ought to reframe our perspective. We ought to learn to see some pretty basic joy in life like the Hebrew of the ancient world did.
Well, let’s look at the psalm. Let me begin first of all by reading the first 4 verses of Psalm 65: “There will be silence before You, and praise in Zion, O God, and to You the vow will be performed. O You who hear prayer, to You all men come. Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions, You forgive them. How blessed is the one whom You choose to bring near to You to dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.”
Now the first part of this psalm is that God hears and forgives. Our God hears and forgives. This is a psalm of blessing God for His generosity to us. And the psalmist begins by acknowledging that, God, You hear our prayers, You forgive my sins and You bless us lavishly. Now, this is an unusual phrase because it begins with this idea of silence. “There will be silence before You, and praise in Zion.” And of course, as Americans we rush right over the word “silence.” Some of your Bibles might say “await,” that praise awaits You, or praise is due to You. And both those are legitimate renderings. I like the word “silence.”
There’s another comprehensive set of commentaries that are huge by Keil and Delitzsch, two German scholars who lived in the 1800’s. And Dr. Delitzsch writes, “Silence is praise.” We don’t think about the idea of being silent as being an aspect of praise. Silence is what? It’s expectation. Silence is rest. Silence involves awe. Some of you are in the military or have been. I had a number of tremendous experiences in the military, and I got to attend a seminar called “The National Security Forum” in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago. And it was a huge auditorium, three or four times the size of this, completely full of men and women who were, many on their way to be officers. And they’re talking and buzzing and it’s all a real, you know, a raucous environment. And then a young Lieutenant walks in and as soon as he does it goes quiet. And then here’s the General behind him and everybody stands up and it’s dead quiet. And he goes, “Oh, sit down, sit down, sit down,” and everybody sits down. But there’s a silence when the General walks in the room.
If you’ve had the educational experience of being at a trial, maybe as a juror, when the judge walks in the room, you be quiet. There are certain things in life we just intuitively know, shh, be quiet. Someone of respect has come into the room.
Now I don’t know if you’re comfortable with silence. Last night, I love what Marty did. In fact, when Marty started this I thought, oh no, this is not going to work. Remember what he did? He said, “Some of you just stand up and give a little, you know, shout out, we might say.” And I’m going, oh, these things never work. They never work. They never work. They never work. Some person’s going to soliloquy; you watch it. Some person’s going to get up and preach a sermon; you watch it. And he gave good instructions and the Spirit of God controlled you. And I was over there in tears hearing God’s people bless God. I was moved, and there was a silence about that. He’s just playing, makes it look so easy, and he led us in worship. It overwhelmed me. Interesting how worship does that. But the hardest part is waiting for that first person to say something, right? You die a thousand deaths. Will anybody say something? I also noticed that the women outnumbered the men about 5 to 1 in the comments. That’s another subject!
But, again, Derek Kidner writes, “Sometimes the height of worship will be to fall silent before God in awe.” Sometimes you’ve just got to be quiet. Now I don’t know if you’re like me, if you have the gift of gab, God bless you. It’s a terrible thing and you like to hear yourself talk, and that’s the worst thing in the world. And you hope God gives you children who love to listen because otherwise it’s miserable. But as I get older, you know, when I realized how much I talk is when I’m around someone who talks more than me. And you can ask Cindy this. I’ll say, “Do I talk that much?” And she’ll say, “Hmmm, no,” which means almost. And sometimes you get around people that just, they don’t breathe. They just talk. It’s like they’ve got an extra air pump in there. And some of it’s fine and mostly entertaining.
But why are we so uncomfortable with silence? There’ll be silence before Yahweh. Praise is becoming, but the psalmist in an unusual passage says, “Be silent.” There is an aspect of worship that stands in awe that is quiet in awe as the young men in Job’s time put their hands over their mouth. They were speechless when they hear him speak; he was so wise and powerful. There’s times when you read the Word of God in the morning or you’re overwhelmed by the beauty of your surroundings, or your cup of coffee looking out your window, or your prayer closet and you’re just quiet. It’s a wonderful rare thing I think for most believers. The psalmist is calling on Israel to Zion in verse 1. This is the place the vow will be performed. Zion becomes synonymous with the worship center of Yahweh Elohim. It is the place He puts His name. You can only worship where He puts His name.
How many of you have been to Israel? Did you go to Tel Dan, the Dan tel? If you remember Dan tel you walked in the wilderness, you walked over some rocks; it was muddy and green. You felt like you were out in the jungle if you went to Tel Dan. Tel Dan is one of my single favorite sites because not only is it much like it was in antiquity, when you come to the area on the north of Tel Dan that borders Syria and Jordan, you can, on a clear day, you can see Syria and Jordan over to the far east, you know the far east.
There’s a steel structure that the antiquities have built that is a square box that would be about the size of the altar complex that was put in Dan that was illegitimate. And we know archeologically this is the very place Rehoboam and Jeroboam; remember your biblical history, and instead of making people go all the way down to Zion to worship we’ll put a temple complex here so we’ll collect the dues basically and not send people to worship at the place. God didn’t want that there. And as the kingdom is split it shows an illustration of worship is split. God’s worship is ruined. You will worship Me where I tell you and only where I tell you to worship Me, and that will be in Zion.
If you’ve been to Israel when you go down to the Sea of Galilee there’s an area on the north part of the sea where you go and there are a bunch of stones of antiquity. They were there in Jesus’ day. These rocks were there in Jesus’ day. And there’s one particular stone that has a picture of the ark with two wheels on it and a cart. You don’t move the ark with wheels. You move the ark with poles. And in just a few years after Christ’s coming, syncretism leaks in and you roll it around. You build temple complexes after the kingdom splits. No, you only worship Him where His name is. The psalmist says Zion is where the vow will be performed because that’s where God puts His name.
I want you to notice the second person pronouns in this list, and these again, are just observations you make when you read your Bible. Look at the number of times they occur. “You,” verse 1, verse 2, “O You who hear prayer, to You all men come.” Verse 3: “You forgive them. How blessed in the one You choose to dwell in Your courts, Your house, Your holy temple.” And what I literally do is take a pencil and I circle these sections, because the way this structure is, this is about God. And He’s vertical, You, Your, You, and you’ll see at other times, I, me, my, and they’ll talk about other people. So the psalm is taking on a vertical nature, You, You, You; be silent before You. You’re the One who forgives our sins. Then the psalm will flatten. It’ll talk about the evil and the wicked, then he’ll talk about himself. These are very easy to pick up when you study the Psalms.
There’s three aspects of Yahweh’s character in these first four verses. Number 1: He hears prayer. Calvin says, “God can no more divest Himself of the attribute of hearing prayer than He can of being.” The psalmist underscores this, “God hears our prayer.” Look at it: “There will be silence before You in Zion, silence before You and praise in Zion, O God, and to You the vow will be performed. O You who hear prayer, to You all men come.”
Now the idea that every time we pray He hears. Now there’s always this question: does God hear the prayer of the non-believer? Well, that’s not the point of this psalm. The point of this psalm is everyone’s going to pray. And I think there’s an eschatological picture here, because obviously the evil don’t pray. Men who hate Yahweh don’t pray. Men who hate Yahweh Elohim’s people certainly don’t pray. But it says, “all men.” I don’t think we can expunge this one with a grammatical issue. I think he’s saying there are those who pray to Me in Zion the way I’ve prescribed the vow, and everybody else is going to pray too, and eventually they will. Marvin Tate says, “There can be little doubt, all flesh in the context of the psalm refers to all mankind. The coming of all flesh to God may well be read with an eschatological thrust.” In other words, in that end, in that final day all men will acknowledge Him. All men will bow, some willingly and some unwillingly.
Psalm 116 says, “I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my supplications, because He’s inclined His ear to me; therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.” When I was recovering after my second surgery I was supposed to walk every day. And I shared with someone this morning, she was sharing with me that she slipped on black ice and broke her ankles, and it’s been a long, long hard recovery. After my back surgery I was supposed to walk and there was ice and snow in Illinois at that time. And I would take my son Devin with me and I said, “Devin, if you fall and I fall we’re both in big trouble.” And we would just kind of scooch along these roads going, this is really stupid. I just had back surgery and I’m walking on ice. What is wrong with this equation?
And so as I walked, I tried to walk most days, I would memorize Scripture and I memorized Psalm 116. And I don’t know how you memorize, but I say each word of the verse. I say, I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my supplications. I love the Lord because He hears. I love the Lord,… and I go through; that’s the way I do it. So, you know, half way through the psalm I got the first few verses down cold. The last ones I always forget. Maybe I should memorize them backwards.
But as I memorized this psalm the first two verses are the ones that just overwhelm me. The psalmist is saying, God always hears my prayer. That’s what he’s saying in Psalm 65. What he says in Psalm 116 is just because He hears me that should be a good enough reason for me to pray. I mean, think of this. My prayers are typically because I want God to do something. Now, I’m not trying to puppet Him in reverse: If I pray enough, Lord, will You come through for me? If I learned a lesson of pain, will You take it away? That’s the way my brain works. Okay, we have this test, Lord, and You want me to learn certain lessons in this test. Hurry up and learn me, Lord. I want to be done with this test. I’ll learn it. Just teach it to me. I don’t like this in between stuff. Just give me the goods.
And He just seems to just smile. It doesn’t work that way, right? The older I get the more complicated the answers seem to come. But the older I get I should be wiser because God has been with me. And so David says, I’m going to pray just because I know He hears me. That’s pretty amazing.
Number 1: He hears our prayers; number 2: He forgives sin. In verse 3 the term “forgive” here is a different word. It’s not the word that you think. Who knows what Yom Kippur means?. Pardon. Day of Atonement. Day is yom. Atonement, what does atonement mean? Atone, what does it mean to have my sins atoned for? To pay for and forgiven are in there. But the word means to cover. The first time the word is used is in Genesis when Noah builds this boat, and what does he do to it? He takes pitch and he covers it inside and out. And that’s the first occurrence the way it shows up in the chronology of the way we have the Bible. So he’s covering it over. So the word, as it’s used in its history, means to cover things over. And the atonement is a covering, and so we say God covers our sin. But that doesn’t make sense cause He can’t cover it over. It’s still there. So the word has a real problem as it’s used historically.
It probably gets back to, someone said the word “ransom.” Because think of it this way; some of you still remember stores where you had credit on your name. I had a friend who had a haberdashery in Nacogdoches, Texas, and he had a little box of 3×5 cards, and people came in and put $5 down and Mr. McClain said thanks. And when they walked out he pulled out their card and he wrote $5 and the date and put it back in. He probably had several hundred thousand dollars of accounts receivable in this little box of cards. And he didn’t care because he just liked to help people get their clothes. And he had this little box of cards and people would come in and never be in the store and they’d just put $5 and he would write it down.
What was Dick McClain saying? I’ve got it covered. I’ve got it covered. I’m not going to expect those people to pay me in full. When I put it on that card and said you could have those clothes, before God, Dick McClain said, I’m just giving it away. If they come back, great. If they don’t, great. I remember asking him about it. He just smiled. He wouldn’t talk about it. He wouldn’t elaborate on it, but he was covering their debts. So the idea of covering over, I think, is a little bit of a poor rendering. The idea is I’ve got it covered. I’ve taken care of that. The mercy seat is called the seat of atonement. It includes the ideas of substitution and redemption that someone else is taking care of it. That’s what the word here “He forgives your sin,” He atones for it.
Number 1: He hears prayer; number 2: He forgives sin; number 3: He blesses the one He chooses. Look again at verse 4 of Psalm 65: “How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.” He hears our prayer. He forgives our sins and He blesses those He chooses. It is divine choice. It is not man’s choice that he researches all religions and decides, Oh, I like this one the best. I’ll believe in Yahweh. I’ll believe in Christ. He chooses us. Verse 4, it says He brings us near. He causes us to dwell. He satisfies us with goodness.
I don’t know how many of us have wrestled with the idea that God chose you before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:13, that you had no right or merit of your own. You didn’t find Jesus. You didn’t discover Him on your own. It wasn’t something that one day you pulled it all together and you said, “You know, after my courses at the university about world religion this is the one I like best.” This is one of the fascinating parts of our culture is we continue to invent religions. We continue to come up with new ways and new views of God and it’s really quite interesting to read how people invent religions all the time. You didn’t invent this religion; Christ found you. He interrupted your life. He came before the foundation of the world and He chose you and me. I don’t understand that, but I sure am grateful.
If you’ve ever heard J. Vernon McGee’s illustration, the best one I’ve ever heard. He said, “There’s a giant arch and the arch has chiseled on it ‘Whosoever will.’” The offer’s open. The offer, I believe is universal. Whosoever will, whosoever will comes to Christ. If He’s lifted up He’s going to draw them in to Him. He’s chosen us before the foundation of the world. I don’t understand it all. He chose Israel. He chose you. He chose me. Whosoever will. And someday you say, okay, I trusted Christ, I believed, I walked an aisle, I prayed the prayer, I embraced it, I took it by faith, however we sanction those words. We walk through the arch and we go, “We’re saved!” And then one day somebody tells you about this election, predestination stuff and you go, “Ain’t no way. That’s wrong. That’s unfair. God couldn’t do that.” And you look on the back of the arch and it says, “Chosen before the foundation of the world.”
Now what I think J. Vernon McGee meant by that was election and predestination have no application for the unbeliever. Election and predestination have no application for the unbeliever. Election and predestination only have application for the believer because the believer says, “Oh, I get it now! I didn’t find Jesus. Jesus found me.” And the Old Testament underscores the same theology. Those who You choose, not who we put forward. Who did Israel choose to be their king? They want a king, want to be like other nations. So God puts God in front of them. They say he’s a head and shoulders above all the rest. And he’s an abysmal failure from the beginning. Then God says, I’m going to show them how to do it. Here’s the firstborn. No, no, no. Any more? Well, there’s one little teenager out in the field taking care of sheep. Bring him in here. A 16-17 year old boy named David. He’s the one, not as the world sees. I’m going to turn it over. I’m going to show you that God’s choice is different than man’s choice.
The ultimate pivot of the choice of God versus the choice of man was the event of Goliath. A Philistine comes out, 40 days and 40 nights and says what? Choose a man to fight me. If he wins we surrender. If I win you surrender. Eighty times—in the morning and the evening 40 days—choose a man, choose a man, choose a man. You think Israel’s army’s heard? Who’s the choice? The choice is Saul. He’s the big one. He’s that big guy with the really nice armor and the really big sword because he’s the number one king. And he’s in the tent and he’s scared to death. And a snotty-nosed shepherd boy smelling of sheep bringing some cheese and bread comes into the tent and says, “I’ll do it. Who are these Philistines, uncircumcised Philistines who taunt the armies of the living God?” What a depiction? A little runt and a giant.
What’s the point? Choose, choose, choose; you chose wrong. I chose right and I’ll show you a little boy with a rock will take out a giant. God’s choices always dismantle our categories. We’re not that good. And so David in the Psalms say, “Whom You choose to be in Your courts, who You choose to dwell in Your houses.” Sorry, I get a little worked up on that one.
He hears our prayer. He forgives our sin and He blesses ones He chooses. Now there are some profound blessings here. Just these three: to think that God hears my prayer; that God forgives my sin; and God has chosen me. If we stop there we’d have enough. When you and I pray glibly and repetitively over a meal, has the sovereign of the universe heard you? When Michael was so kind, as some of you had asked, to pray for my back, I sat there reminding myself the God of the universe is hearing this. When you pray for your son or daughter who does not know the Lord, your grandchildren who have taken choices and turns you don’t like, when your loneliness as a widow or widower, and the heartbreak of experience the cancer that you have, the heart troubles that you have, and you pray those glib prayers, you know He hears you. He hears me. Even when I pray poorly He hears me. He forgives me.
I don’t know, some of you don’t sin anymore, but I sin all the time. I sin every day. I used to think I wonder if I could live a day without sin? And then I started setting these goals: Can I live one hour without sin? It’s just stupid stuff, but that’s how my brain works. Can you live without sin? Can a man be pure before God? Answer, no. But Christ is righteous before God and Christ doesn’t sin. And I’m in Christ, so somehow in the Holy Spirit’s control I am to be submissive to His will and His word and I’m not to sin. And then I sin. But He forgives me. How glad I am. You know, as I’ve gotten older I don’t act out on sins that often. I don’t steal stuff. I don’t do stuff. I’ve never had an affair. I’ve been faithful to my wife for 28 years. It’s not the stuff I do I’m worried about, it’s what goes on between the temples in my brain that I’m worried about. It’s what I think that annoys me more. How about you? May God forgive me for my thoughts. And you know what? He does. He forgives. He hears. He’s chosen you.
Number 1: God hears and forgives; number 2: Our God is righteous and omnipotent. Verse 5: “By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation, You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and the farthest sea; who established the mountains by His strength, being girded with His might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.”
Let me just show you the parallel there because it’s easy to see. The roaring is twice and the tumult, roaring, roaring tumult, the sea, the waves, the people. It builds to a little bit of a crescendo. It’s not just the roaring of the seas God controls. He even controls the mobs of the people, the roaring of the people. Verse 8: “They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.”
Number 1: our God hears our prayers; number 2: our God is righteous and omnipotent. Righteousness is one of these words that means everything and therefore it means nothing. What does it mean to be righteous? What does it mean for Yahweh to be righteous? It means that He corrects every injustice. Yahweh corrects every injustice. God is holy. He is ethical. His standards are perfect. He’s never capricious. He never acts quickly. There is no knee jerk response from God. God doesn’t get frustrated and destroy a bunch of people one day. God doesn’t get lonely and tired and angry in the way we think of these terms. God always does the right thing by His ethical and holy standard.
Now when we think of America—and I love my country, perhaps more than I should sometimes; I love America—and when I see America’s tumult with their laws, this recent $700,000 billion rescue, not bailout, rescue plan. O.J. Simpson hearing came in, the trial came in yesterday evidently. And when I see these things debated I always wonder what really happened? What’s the truth? You ever wonder that? What’s the truth behind these things, because we’re suspicious by nature, right? And we know that lawyers are smart and judges are swayed and juries are swayed and we’re all a fallen system. Wouldn’t it be nice if every single judge was righteous? Just think if every attorney on both sides was righteous. They’d never go to trial. “My client did it.” What are we going to do? Let’s just save everybody a lot of trouble. He stole. She did this. He was a murderer. They’re wrong, they’re guilty. They’ll take whatever consequence you give them. We’ll just save everybody a lot of time and expense. Let the jury go home. Let’s just save the judicial system a lot of headaches. How many trials should never go to court? Probably all of them. But nobody will admit blame. Nobody will say I’m wrong.
And the law’s become our god. It’s not about, understand, if you’ve been in the legal world, it’s not about right and wrong; it’s about the law. This is a genius concept. It’s not about right and wrong. It’s not about did he kill this person, even though we have a video tape of him doing that. That’s not the issue. The issue is what does the law say? Now listen, this is Greco-Roman-Judeo thinking. Because for the Jew it wasn’t how man interpreted the law, it was what did God say? So for the law to judge righteously was to follow the literalness of the law.
We get all upset and humored by the rabbi’s adding laws to the Law. No, they did exactly what you’re supposed to do. You’re not to take the case and say, well, the donkey fell in the ditch and the Sabbath law says you’re not supposed to work on the Sabbath. Is that work? So they’re trying to define very carefully when is it work on the Sabbath because that wasn’t specified in the Law. And Jesus, of course, comes along and shows them, look the law wasn’t intended to be the god. The law was to show you couldn’t do it. Only I can fulfill the law. The law was a continued reminder of your failure. And David got that.
But this corpus of law that he’s talking about here is we’re not judging as man’s interpretation; we’re judging against God’s law, and this is why He’s righteous: because He always does what His law says. He’s partial to His own judicial system. We all want the righteous judge. Psalm 145:17, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.” Do we really believe that? When life doesn’t go the way I want it to go, is He righteous? The psalmist Hosea asked the question: why do the wicked prosper? Habakkuk, why do the wicked prosper? Why do the wicked succeed? Where are You God? Act! That’s the psalmist lament and question. We have a righteous God. He is not a cold-hearted clever prosecutor or a cold-hearted greedy defense attorney. He’s a perfect righteous judge.
I draw great comfort when I see the injustices of life. Cindy and I have a great heart for many of these international ministries. I know BGEA is doing things overseas. IJM is one that we’ve become familiar with in the last few years. And what they’re doing is extraordinary. And they’re fighting for justice. And there’s something in me that just says, yeah, I like that idea, justice. Where does that come from? It comes from being the people of God, if we believe God is right and just and there are right and just ways to do things.
And notice then he ties it in verse 5, “You answer us in righteousness,” meaning God always does the right thing in the right way, “O God of our salvation.” So the connection is He’s a righteous God, but He can still save us. How in the world can this happen? Because if He’s righteous He should destroy us. And this is where the power of Yahweh comes in and he mentions it in the next strophe. “You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth.” In other words, there’s nothing that escapes Your righteousness. You are the only one who can provide salvation; there’s no salvation apart from Him.
Now watch how he describes God’s omnipotence. Verse 5, awesome deeds; verse 6, establishes the mountains; verse 7, stills the roaring seas, the waves, the tumult; verse 8, You make the dawn and sunset shout for joy. Does any of those remind you of Jesus? He calmed the seas at least twice, didn’t He? He just said, “Be still.” And the poor disciples were scared out of their bejeebers—that’s in the Hebrew—Who is this that even the wind and seas obey? We saw it in the life of Jonah. We see it in the life of Jesus. When Ike and Gustaf came through I thought, you know, Jesus could just say stop. All man can do is, you know, throw sandbags and say run away. Jesus just says stop. That’s the kind of power this omnipotent God has.
It will be no surprise that the word “awesome” is from the word what? What’s awesome from? When you’re in awe of something what’s the emotion going on? Fear. It’s about fear. And when you’re afraid of something you stand in awe of it. And when you’re not afraid you just yawn and go back to sleep. Awe is a word of fear. God is not arbitrary in His power. When He does things like calm seas and the tumults of people He’s doing it for a reason. The Sovereign is always deliberate. The Sovereign always has intent behind His actions. And the psalmist is saying, when You do these things You’re displaying Your omnipotence. It’s not just, oh, isn’t this just a beautiful day? You’re showing something about Your character.
And the last strophe says that the dawn and the sunset shout for joy. Let me talk a little bit about the word “awesome.” The word “fear” and its cognates occur 320 times it the Old Testament. It’s a big theme for the Bible. People are afraid. What is the number one command in Scripture? Don’t be afraid. Who do you tell not to be afraid? Who do you tell not to be afraid? The fearful. Someone who’s afraid. Why did God tell Joshua over and over and over again do not be afraid? Why does He tell him over and over and over, do not be afraid? Because he’s terrified. You don’t tell someone who’s courageous and unafraid take courage and be strong. Joshua’s scared to death. Be strong, have courage. Be strong, have courage. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Angels show up, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Why? They’re terrified.
Now this is one of my huge pet peeves, and just because we’re friends I’m going to tell you. I hate when people use the word “awesome.” It’s awesome! It’s awesome! Have you seen Facebook? It’s awesome. Have you seen the new Mac? It’s awesome. Have you seen the new, what? It’s awesome. It’s so awesome, dude. It’s awesome. When I was in college we said “just really.” Those were the words we used. Lord, just really, would You, really just, just really help us to just really, just really, just really, just really, really, just really, just, you know. Do you remember that? Now it’s awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome.
Only God is awesome. The only person, the only being who should create a reverential fear is God. And much like we thought through it last night we should recover this awesomeness of who our Savior is. Many times in the Scripture people are awestruck. Deuteronomy 5:5 you remember when God speaks at the mountain and the people are terrified. And they say, “Moses, from now on, you go up there and we’ll stay down here. And you tell that God we don’t want to hear Him anymore. We’re happy for you to listen to Him and you come down and give us a report.” I think you and I would have been just the same. Maybe Caleb and Joshua were somewhere up on the mountain. Joshua certainly was, and I think they were not afraid. They were rare men, but everybody else was scared and terrified. Because when you come near holiness you’ll be afraid. The omnipotence and the awesome nature of Yahweh quieted crowds, quieted storms, calmed seas and when He came on the scene people were quiet.
I love the way the psalmist moves it from the abstract to the emotional when he talks about the dawn and sunset shout for joy. How many of us are suckers for a sunrise and a sunset? Is anybody not? When Cindy and I left O’Hara yesterday morning, we drove to the airport in the dark and when we were taxiing out of the airport Cindy says, “Look,” and you could see just this ribbon of orange and red off the edge of the East. And as we took off it was kind of soupy and mucky and rainy and foggy. And you get up about 20,000 feet and she nudges me, “Look!” I look out and it’s just white sun shining and clouds as bright as the day. I said, “You know, 30,000 feet puts a whole different perspective on everything. And right down there it’s still the same as it was a few minutes ago. It’s mucky and cloudy and overcast and humid, and up here it’s bright.” And we’re just suckers for sunrises and sunsets. You think there’s a theology behind that?
What the psalmist seems to conclude, there’s a universal appeal to the dawn and the sunset. They shout for joy. The next time you look, maybe tonight when you’re looking at the sunset, that’s creation telling us Yahweh, Jesus Christ; creation cannot not declare. When you go to the ocean and you stand by and you hear the waves crashing and the psalmist says, “The oceans shout for joy.” That’s what the oceans are doing. The oceans aren’t simply following the lunar cycle. The oceans are under the command of Yahweh Elohim, under His sovereign omnipotent control, and they’re doing what He designed them to do. And what they’re doing is they’re putting attention back on Yahweh because they say, “You’re just infinitesimal when you stand against the ocean of God.”
You’ve seen these aerial pictures of the hurricanes when they come through. If you’ve never seen these get your grandchildren to show you these pictures on the computer. These storms, they’re like a quarter of the size of the earth. My kids were saying, “Dad, why can’t scientist figure out a way to stop hurricanes?” I’m going, well, let’s see. Because we’re teeny, puny humans. Yeah, but we can do other things. You don’t get how big these things are guys. These things, the winds on these things are a quarter of the size of the earth. They’re huge. Well, can’t they like throw stuff in them? Forget it. I fail as a father. I can’t explain this to you. Job 38:12, “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning and caused the dawn to know its place?” Do you understand how puny you are against the omnipotence of God? And the sunrise and the sunset reminds us.
The recollection of God’s omnipotent leads the worshiper to know this. Since He has this kind of power He hears my prayer, and He forgives me. And look at the nature around me to remind me the awesome power of His salvation. How can you save somebody? Could you save somebody? Sure you could. What if somebody needed a liver transplant or a kidney? Sure, but you might die in the process, right. It happens. That’s true, and they’re going to die again. But you could save somebody. You could donate your organs and save some people’s lives. It just postpones it, but it’s nice. You want to keep people around for a while. I’d happily give my organs to my kids, happily. I’d give a kidney, not a problem. You can have it. In fact, I went through a process to do a transplant. It didn’t actually occur, but went through a process to do it. And when the doctor was telling me about all the things that could happen to me, he said there’s a 1% morbidity rate. I said, “What’s that mean?” He goes, 1 of a 100 people die in the surgery. I said “That’s not bad odds.” I looked at him and I said, “Well, can you do it?” He laughed and he goes “Well, that would be the objective.” I just wanted to know. You’re telling me the odds, I mean, you think you can pull this off or not? Let’s get that clear before we do this. You can save somebody, but you can’t bring them back from the dead. And that’s the 1 thing reserved for Messiah. Our only part in this is we die. His part is to bring life from death.
Number 1: He hears and forgives our prayers. Number 2: Our God is righteous and omnipotent. And let’s look quickly at God as our abundant blessing, verses 9-13. “You visit the earth and cause it to overflow.” Watch the “you’s” again. “You greatly enrich it; the stream of God is full of water; You prepare their grain for thus You prepare the earth. You water its furrows abundantly, You settle its ridges, You soften it with showers, You bless its growth. You have crowned the year with Your bounty, and Your paths drips with fatness. The pastures of the field, the wilderness drip, and the hills gird themselves with rejoicing. The meadows are clothed with flocks and the valleys are covered with grain; they shout for joy, yes, they sing.”
This last part gives the assurance that God is abundantly blessing the psalmist, the worshiper. If you look at this briefly, just look back at your text. Look at the verbs, “visit,” “enrich,” “prepare,” “prepare,” “water,” “settle,” “soften,” “bless,” “crown,” “drip,” on they go. This, these second person pronouns, the psalmist is saying this is what You do that we can’t ourselves do. Of course the references of Messiah come in verse 9. Remember when Simeon sees the baby Jesus he says what? God has visited redemption on His people. Visit is a very important Old/New Testament term because God has come to earth. He’s visited us and we see the double entendre in verse 9. “You visit the earth and You cause it to overflow.”
Israel’s needs and requirements were not stable markets. Israel didn’t need a $700 billion rescue plan. Israel didn’t need more oil. Israel didn’t need world peace or any of those types of things we worry about. Israel didn’t need to screen for terrorists. Israel needed a peace from their enemies. And God granted them that rest when they obeyed Him. But what did Israel need? Water. If you go to Israel today the number one issue in Israel, beyond the fact that they’re going to blow everybody up if they trouble them, the number one issue in Israel is water. You pick up a local paper in Israel while you visit there and you will read somebody talking about water. The Dead Sea is evaporating at an extraordinary rate. Probably in 50-75 years it will be gone. And, you know, ecologists, of course, want to fix that, so they want to go to the Mediterranean and pump sea water into the Dead Sea. Not a good plan. Not a good plan. And what they need is about, you know, 20 inches of rain, you know, every season for several years and low evaporative rates. Of course global warming is causing that to happen, so,… I’m teasing. I just believe God’s sovereign. That’s what I believe.
But anyway, they’re worried about water. The ancients were worried about water too. There were three kinds of water, living water, water that was contained, and cisterns. The best water is living water. Cistern water is the worst water. And anywhere you go in Israel you’re going to see the attempts from Herod and the aqueducts that he built to bring water into the city or to go to Masada, the top of David’s stronghold, you’ll see these huge cisterns. They’re dry today, but you’ll see these huge cisterns where these poor mules and people had packed water, and pour them up with these filthy,… hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, because you can’t live without water. You can live without air-conditioning. It’s tough but you can do it. But you can’t live without water in a dry and arid land.
I’ve been over to Israel, I don’t know, eight or nine times now, and spring a year ago we went, and we took a very small group, Cindy and I did. And it was the most verdant I’d ever seen Israel. It was the most overwhelming spring. When we got off the buses you could smell the orange blossoms from blocks away. Anyone buy Jaffe oranges? A Jaffe orange is an Israel orange from Jaffe, from Joppa. When Jonah went to Joppa instead of Nineveh; that’s the same geographic area, Jaffe oranges. And so every time you eat an orange think of Jonah. But that’s where those oranges come from. And if you have not smelled an orange blossom it’s the most spectacular perfumed fragrance. We got off the buses and all the flowers were blooming. We went to the Judean wilderness and it had a haze of green on it. I’d never seen green in the Judean wilderness. The one difference is they had water that spring. Can’t live without water and all these things.
Two quick stories. Went down last summer from Chicago down to Peoria, Washington County. Any of you from Washington County? You know the area down there? Beautiful country. And we’d had a lot of rain that spring, and when you have seen corn in its height after a spring rain, there’s nothing more beautiful. I mean, these variations of green in all hues of green and those golden tops. It is the most extraordinary thing. And I went to see my friend down there, and I said, “Man, I’ve never seen corn like this,” and he said, “I can’t remember when we’ve had such a good rain.” For all man’s technology, all his chemicals, all his nitrates, all of his sprinkler systems, you can’t reproduce God’s good rain. And the earth responds to this.
As I was studying this passage, Gustaf was hitting and Ike were coming in. My parents were in Houston, they were without power for about two weeks. And I talked to them every day; they’re 81 and 85 and they were talking about the debris and the rain and the water. I went to pick up a friend on September 13 at the O’Hara Airport, and there were 6 ½ inches of rain that day. And the air; if you know O’Hara, the luggage goes to the bottom. It’s like a basement. It was flooded so they wouldn’t let people go get their luggage; all of them were floating I guess, you know. But anyway, it just shut down the airport. And I thought 6 inches of water and we’re immobilized. We’re so sophisticated we can’t handle a little rain. We can’t handle a little wind. But when the wind and the rain come at the right time, Israel shouts for joy. Creation shouts for joy. Are your needs and mine really that different?
Couple of quick lessons. Number 1: silence, practicing the art of silence is not something mystical and new age. It is a good way of worship. If you didn’t see it, you’ll notice verse 1 of the psalm speaks of silence and the last verse of the psalm speaks of shouting. There’s a time to be silent in worship. There’s a time when creation shouts. I would argue you’re not going to hear creation shout if you’re talking all the time. You have to be quiet. Psalm 62:1 “My soul waits in silence.” Psalm 62:5, “My soul waits in silence only for God.” On and on they go.
Number 2: we are welcomed to worship. You and I are welcomed to come to worship. He hears your prayer. He hears my prayers. He forgives us. He welcomes us to worship. Write down in your notes Hebrews 10:19-25. Maybe you can look at that in your interaction time, Hebrews 10:19-25. We are welcomed to worship by the new way.
And lastly, when you and I,… and again, you may be better than me. I’m not saying that condescendingly. You may be better than me, but I worry tremendously about our country. I worry tremendously about our freedoms, our economy. I think it’s going to get worse and worse and worse. It’s not because I’m a pessimist. It’s because in my view of biblical theology is it’s going to get worse and worse and worse until Christ returns. That will make you warm and filled today. But I think it’s going to be horrible. I think the economy is going to continue to struggle. I think morality is going to continue to decline. I think we’re in for the worst years of our memory.
Now God’s sovereign and the gospel’s good news, but when I get all spun up about this stuff I take my mind back to antiquity and I go, all they needed was good rain and Yahweh’s protection. They didn’t have IRA’s. They didn’t have investments. They didn’t have tax shelters. They didn’t have lake houses, mountain chalets. They didn’t have anything that you and I have to have to feel secure. They had Yahweh. And if it rained they were delighted and the world shouted for joy. The complexities of life have gotten a little more intricate, but the reality hasn’t changed. He’s sovereign, He’s omnipotent. So when I fight off discouragement about the media, when I fight off discouragement about I don’t want to be Chicken Little, but I don’t want to be Pollyanna either; I want to be a wise believer who counts his blessings, is grateful for what I have. And I look at my life of 51 years and by many standards in this room, I’m a young pup, and if that’s your perspective of me, you’ve got even more mileage to look back and see how good He has been, how long He has carried you. Yes, life is full of really hard things, but you’re here today, you’re here today. He loves us. He hears our prayers. He forgives us. He is omnipotent and creation shouts that at us.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we love You. We thank You that You are the Sovereign. Forgive us when we don’t count our blessings, when we become so fixated on bailouts and trials and terrorists and uncertainty of who will be our next president. You’re sovereign and we’re not. Help us to live that way. In Christ’s name, amen.