Tag Archives: glory

The City of God is great! — Psalm 48

The City of God is great! — Psalm 48
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 9, 2017

Some of the things man has made can cause one to wonder: “How in the world did they do that?” Such things are Angkor Wat which is a huge temple complex covering 402 acres in Cambodia, the city of Petra that was carved out of the rock in southern Jordan, the huge sky scrapers like the Tokyo Sky Tree or United Arab Emirates’ Burj Khalifa tower. Then there are the Super Tree structures of Singapore that look like massive trees from another planet.

As great as the works of man are, God is greater. The psalmist writes a poem about the City of God, Zion. Some think he is referring to Jerusalem or perhaps a heavenly city yet to be erected. I happen to believe it is both. In a beautiful rendering he gives us a grand picture of the City of God Jerusalem and the future heavenly city we will enjoy as well. He sings of her condition; God’s relation to her; his love of her; the utter terror Zion is to her enemies, while she is the everlasting joy of those who love God! Let’s see how the City of God is great…

READ: Psalm 48

Why would we want to know how great the city of God is anyway? One of the main themes of a lot of end of the world scenarios in movies is there are always a few people trying to get to a place of safety; whether it is an area, island, military base, or city. The Psalmist writes that…

I. The City of God is great because of her protection! (Vv. 1-8)

Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain. It is beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth. Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King. God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress. When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together, they saw her and were astounded; they fled in terror. Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor. You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish shattered by an east wind. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever. Selah

1. The Psalmist begins his poem by relating what a lot of biblical writers do by stating, “Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise”, but why does he write what he does? He tells us not so much why but rather where God is great and the idea is one of rule or reign. We see that God is great and worthy of praise “in the city of our God, his holy mountain”. We learn in another Psalm that God “has set his foundation on the holy mountain” and in fact that “the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” (Psalm 87:1-2 NIV) God’s city is his holy mountain which is descriptive of his strength and power. But the Psalmist begins to veer away from describing earthly Jerusalem and begins to wax poetic concerning God’s heavenly city. So wonderful is this city of God’s that “It is beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth.” It was the joy of the world because it is God’s city where he dwells, where his word is expounded and heard, and where his holy temple is! And “Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.” But here is the key to what the Psalmist wanted his listeners to understand, that when “God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress.” God is the one who makes the city great, powerful, and secure. In fact, “When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together, they saw her and were astounded; they fled in terror. Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor.” So powerful and mighty is God’s city that her enemies are “destroyed… like ships of Tarshish shattered by an east wind.” Was this especially true of Jerusalem? Nope, even though it had a continuous fresh water supply from the Gihon Spring which flowed along Hezekiah’s Tunnel to the Siloam Pool. Jerusalem had been overthrown quite a few times. But God’s enemies could never overthrow what his city stood for: his presence and power. And this truth is reflected in his stanza, “As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever.” The City of God is great because of her protection!

EXAMPLE: Now God is not a genie or good fairy who grants our wishes. He is not a wizard with a staff who stands in front of an oncoming demon declaring, “You shall not pass!” The Psalmist makes it plain that God is great because of whom he is and because of who he is he protects those he loves even in our darkest moments. King David would sing, “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest–I would flee far away and stay in the desert; Selah I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.’” (Psalms 55:4-8 NIV) Like the Psalmist we can find rest in the shelter of God. The City of God is great because of her protection!

Few things in life last. Warrantees expire, guarantees fail, and promises are sometimes unkept. Is it any wonder then that so many are skeptical of God who promises protection in a world full of broken promises? And yet his promise of protection never fails those who trust him. We discover that…

II. The City of God is great because God is always there! (Vv. 9-14)

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love. Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness. Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments. Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels that you may tell of them to the next generation. For this God is our God forever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.

1. Right away the Psalmist affirms that the Lord Almighty (the Lord of armies) had made his city secure. And interestingly it isn’t because of some vast army or military strength; it was due to something else entirely. The Psalmist did not think the city could withstand any physical attack but rather it could withstand anything man could throw at it because it was where God dwelled with his people! Being close to the Lord and in his presence is the source of comfort for God’s people. John in his final book writes of his vision of the City of God that, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (Revelation 21:22-23 NIV) The Psalmist understood this and sang, “Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” God’s city was beautiful and powerful and caused his people to think on his presence and to speak with him daily because God is there it is his temple! And like God’s name is known in the land, his “praise reaches to the ends of the earth” as well. It reminds me of the angels the Prophet Isaiah saw who sang together, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3 NIV) Therefore everyone knows that God’s “right hand is filled with righteousness” and for the reason of who God is! He always judges correctly without prejudice. In the light of this glorious truth we learn that “Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of [God’s] judgments.” Few, if any, cities of man can boast of the same greatness simply because of the impartial judgments that are enacted within its boundaries. As David would sing, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” (Psalms 19:7-10 NIV) Therefore one could feel safe and secure within the City of God. In fact the writer challenges his readers to “Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels that you may tell of them to the next generation.” The City of God is great because God is always there!

EXAMPLE: As a child I would find comfort in the arms of my mother or in the steady hands of my Dad. And so it isn’t surprising that we find in the words of King David his relationship with God was comforting too. He would sing, “You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalms 139:5-10 NIV) He understood what this Psalmist did as well, that the City of God is great because God is always there!

Conclusion:

The City of God is great because of her protection! The City of God is great because God is always there!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes, Uncategorized

The Way of the Lord! – Psalm 19

The Way of the Lord! – Psalm 19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 25, 2017

In Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” the Queen of Hearts asks Alice where she comes from, Alice tries to explain that she is trying to find her way home. The Queen retorts, “Your way? All ways here are my ways!” We have all known folks who radiate the notion that “It’s my way or the highway!” And this might pass muster if you are an infant, toddler, or preschooler but it gets old and very tiring from an adult. Yet many live their lives this way. Perhaps they need to reconsider their way of life and consider the way of the Lord instead?

Here in this Psalm we discover the ways of the Lord are truly magnificent. In fact in many ways they are quite indescribable and incomprehensible. The Psalmist David tries his best to describe for his listeners the way of the Lord. Let’s discover what he sings…

READ: Psalm 19

As amazing as some of things mankind has created none of it compares to the creation of God. The Psalmist David teaches us that…

I. The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands! (Vv. 1-6)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.

1. Within the next couple of months, our area will experience a total solar eclipse; a heavenly event only seen a few times in a person’s lifetime and extremely rare. When the ancients saw such phenomenon some thought some evil disaster would occur, however, others like the Hebrews saw it as a manifestation of the creative wonders of God. This is why the Psalmist David writes that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Both the starry skies at night and sunlit days declared and proclaimed God’s creative work because “Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” In fact the writer understood that the whole world experienced God’s handiwork, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Therefore in his understanding there was no excuse for people not knowing there was a Creator; a God who made everything they saw in the heavens at night or saw in the sunlight by day! All they had to do was look up! From dawn till dusk a person could see God’s creative work for “In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.” Just as the sun burst forth in the morning and seemed to all of sudden appear like a rejoicing bridegroom or a runner ready to run his race we can see the work of God in the sun running its race across the sky each day! All of creation, all mankind had a front row seat to this heavenly spectacle as “It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.”  Truly for the Psalmist David the way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands!

EXAMPLE: Just as artists sign their works, use the same brushstrokes, or leave their fingerprints in the paint; or as sculptures that use certain chisels or polishing techniques that leave telltale marks on the statues they carve, we can see the signature of God in the things he has made. From the atoms that are the building blocks of everything there is to the most complex life form we see the signature of God in his creation. The Psalmist David simply looked to the heavens and saw that they declared God. The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands!

In a world where so many are searching for something and often finding they have not been told the truth it is refreshing to find that God’s words are steadfast and true. The Psalmist David writes that…

II. The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions! (Vv. 7-11)

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

1. Not every child is perfect but almost every mother sees their newborn as such. Why is that? I believe it is simply because most every mother instantly falls in love with their child. By their sheer devotion they accept their child completely, utterly, and without hesitation. Faith is a bit like this. It is the individual’s willingness to utterly accept what God has revealed to them. Until one does, they can never ever fully understand or know God’s word. This is why the Psalmist David wrote that “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.” We are imperfect but God’s law is and can restore us completely when we follow its ways. In fact, “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” God’s laws, his ways are not complex, confusing, or hard to understand; one simply follows God wholeheartedly and loves others as he loves himself! “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.” Some of the simplest folks I have known have been truly the wisest and happiest because they adhere to this one godly precept. For the Psalmist David God was not unknowable or a concept and neither were his laws; they gave him insight, light in a sin-darkened world, and a way to view reality as it truly was and so “The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” He knew that when one drew near to God they would be awed by his presence and humbled by the experience because “The fear (the awe) of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.” This is what reminds us who we are and whom we are to worship and is why there was no question of doubt in his mind that “The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.” David could absolutely trust in the law of God, his statues, precepts, commands, and ordinances. And as he did they became “more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they [were] sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” The Psalmist David had come to know God intimately by walking with him moment by moment in following his ways and in doing so he had learned that “By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions!

EXAMPLE: I have found a wondrous consistency in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that I did not find in any other spiritual work I ever read. The Koran, the Vedas, Book of Mormon, or other works seemed shallow, simplistic, disjointed, and totally fabricated. While there are those who will declare that there are also inconsistencies within Scriptures it is usually because they are like someone who looks at a sweet little child’s work of art and can only see the mistakes instead of the heartfelt joy, the beauty of creation, or its simple reliability. No wonder so many folks have not discovered what the Psalmist David did, that the way of the Lord is discovered in his directions!

Much of the psychological, emotional, and spiritual problems the world faces are because the world’s view of morality has been drastically skewed. The Psalmist teaches us that…

III. The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin! (Vv. 12-14)

Who can determine his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

1. Unless a person is willing to look at and acknowledge their own imperfections they are not being honest with themselves or others and certainly not with God. It can be difficult to do. This is why the Psalmist David asks, “Who can determine his errors?” And if course the answer is “no one can.” We are to narrow in our view of ourselves. Yet if we are willing to honestly look at ourselves and truthfully admit our sins we can be the people God desires. This is why the Apostle John would write, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:8-10 NIV) So the Psalmist David immediately confesses, “Forgive my hidden faults.” These were the sins he tried to hide from God but knew he could not yet he had deceived himself into thinking he could! Kind of like we do. Yet he took his condition one step further by requesting, “Keep your servant also from willful sins” because his whole desire was that “they not rule over me.” He did not want his headstrong nature and stubborn sin or anything that was unconfessed to rule or reign in his life! We often try to make excuses for our ungodly actions but this man wanted to be fully free from any guilt in order to follow God. He knew that if he was honest about his ungodliness then he would “be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” In thinking about the wondrous works of God and his simple yet beautiful precepts the Psalmist David realized his own evil nature. He would write in another Psalm, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” (Psalms 51:1-4 NIV) And so it is here we find him praying, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Because like Paul, David knew that “it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:10 NIV) The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!

EXAMPLE: I find it humorous when a believer is caught in their sin and they blame circumstances, others, or try to justify their actions in that they deserved to commit this sin in this instance! I often want to blurt out, “Don’t you hear yourself?” For all of his faults David was willing to do whatever it took to restore his relationship with the Lord. And here in this wonderful Psalm about God’s creation David teaches us that the way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!

Conclusion:

The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands! The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions! The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes, Uncategorized