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4th Sunday of Advent – Love! – Psalm 118:1-4, 22-29

4th Sunday of Advent – Love! – Psalm 118:1-4, 22-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 24, 2017

Love is more than a feeling or a Hallmark® moment. Love is the most revealing and intimate attitude and action a person can choose to do. Love comes from the inner core of who we are. The Apostle Paul defined love by relating that “Love is patient…kind…does not envy…does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, [and] it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, [and] always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV) Of course he meant this as defined by Jesus who is the very definition and nature of love.

Here in the Psalms the writer paused to share with his readers what God meant to the Jewish nation and its people. Jeremiah the Prophet had reminded them that, “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’“ (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV) Psalms 118 is a Hallel psalm, a collection of songs sung at the great festivals of Israel such as Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles and other holy days. At Passover Psalms 113-114 were sung before the meal and 115-118 after it. Today, on this 4th Sunday of Advent we look again at what love truly is…

READ: Psalm 118:1-4, 22-29

Some have become cynical concerning love and it is because too many misunderstand what true love is all about. It is not the emotional rollercoaster ride of a Victorian novel or the shallow sexual connotation found in TV or movies. Instead I find it refreshing to discover that…

I. God’s love endures forever! (Vv. 1-4)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures forever.”

1. Immediately the Psalmist declares, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!” In what way is God so good that we could possibly give thanks to him? He knew something that some have forgotten, that God’s “love endures forever”! This is a bold statement by the writer but one he knew about personally. David, the writer of these verses had experienced the love of God even though he had not been vey trustworthy, loyal, or righteous before the Lord himself. However, David steps it up a notch by relating God’s love is not momentary, it continues on and on. It is long lasting and endures. It is not like the fickle nature of human emotion so many of us have experienced; temporary, brief, fleeting and contingent upon how we feel or how others treat us. This is a reoccurring theme for David and Scripture. We find this notion in Psalms 103:17; Psalms 106:1; Psalms 107:1; and Psalms 136:1 as well as 1 Chronicles 16:34! God told Jeremiah the same thing (33:11) and that in fact Jeremiah reminded the Israelites that “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’“ (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV) This is why he writes, “Let Israel say” and “Let the house of Aaron say”. And now in Jesus we find this love of God expressed for all to see and know! Paul would marvel, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:4-8 NIV) Now “Let those who fear the LORD say” because of Jesus, God’s love endures forever!

EXAMPLE: The term love in our day and age is often used as the answer for every ill known to mankind. However, this is a false notion because it is based on the idea that if we simply express our love by doing good things then we will have world peace, enough food for everyone, and climate change. The problem is that the love the world displays is dependent upon how one feels instead of the intrinsic eternal attribute of God. The Apostle John understood this and wrote, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:8-10 NIV) Let everyone know that God’s love endures forever!

The love of God as shown through the sacrifice of Jesus displayed for the world what real love is all about. Yet it did more than that because God’s love finished his creative redemptive work; this is why we discover from these verses that…

II. God’s love completes all things! (Vv. 22-24)

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

1. Jesus told the parable of a landowner who planted a vineyard. He rented it to some farmers and went on a journey and when it came time to collect the harvest, he sent his servants. “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third.” He sent another group of servants and the same thing occurred and finally the landowner sends his son, thinking “They will respect my son.” However they plot to kill him and take his inheritance for themselves and that is what they did. The whole sordid tale is about Israel and how it treated God’s prophets and finally his only Son. Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matthew 21:42-44 NIV) Jesus quoted this verse from Psalms. Jesus is the capstone that Israel rejected. The capstone was the final stone laid in place to hold together the entire structure of the roof or archway. John would write that “we know and rely on the love God has for us.” Why, because “God is love.” John knew that “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete (or is finished) among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment”. (1 John 4:16-17 NIV) Jesus’ love completed and finished the plan of God! This is why Jesus proclaimed as he died on the cross, “It is finished!” Complete is the final capstone of God’s grand design! And just as it was “marvelous” in the eyes of David, it is truly wonderful for our eyes to behold! “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” What David could only long for we now know for certainty; God’s love completes all things!

EXAMPLE: Over the years I have heard couples say that they were incomplete without the other person and often they did not realize it until after they had met and then had to be apart. I came to this startling realization when I had to be away from Denise for the first time. I can tell you I was gald to be home again! I missed her tremendously. This has not changed and recently when I went to Montana I called her daily. God designed our most intimate relationship this way on purpose; it reflects, in a way, the relationship we are to experience with God. After we come to know Jesus as Savior we begin to understand that we were incomplete without Jesus in our lives. Interestingly as we look into Scripture we discover that God’s plan was deliberately designed this way. In fact, we discover that God’s love completes all things!

How wonderful to know that the love of God is not transitory and that it completes all things that exist. God’s love was to rescue us from sin; not just the affects but the consequences as well. His love restores our relationship with him! Here in this Psalm we learn that…

III. God’s love saves us! (Vv. 25-29)

O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

1. David immediately cries out, “O Lord, save us!” and then follows this cry with O Lord, grant us success!” He desired the salvation of his people from their enemies and success in battle against them, however, God had already planned something far more than a rescue or victory in battle — he intended to save those who trusted him eternally and have them triumph over death itself! David turns from asking God to praising him for the answer he already had in store for his people. So he declares, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.” It is the same cry that was proclaimed at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem by “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’“ (Matthew 21:9 NIV) “Hosanna” is from the Hebrew meaning “Save (us), we pray!” It comes from verse 25 here in this Psalm and the crowds may have put down palm branches because of the prophecy of this Psalm concerning the Messiah. “From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” Later, the Jews would wave their hands in the air as they recited this Psalm to signify their waving palm boughs as they praised God. When the Messiah came God’s light would shine on his people. It is therefore significant that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem they did not just wave their hands but also took up palm branches and laid their cloaks in his path. They honored him as Messiah! David’s final two verses signify how much he loved and honored God for the promise of the coming Messiah, “You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalms 118:28-29 NIV) David understood what we need to learn this day of Advent that God’s love saves us!

EXAMPLE: God’s love and compassion would no longer be fleeting; it would last forever. It would no longer depend upon how mankind followed his commands but rather would squarely rest on the promise of salvation through Jesus’ atonement. What rules and regulations could never do, the love of God displayed through Jesus’ willing sacrifice did for us! Paul would write, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 NIV) This is the promise of Advent, this is the fact that God’s love saves us!

Conclusion:

God’s love endures forever! God’s love completes all things! God’s love saves us!

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.

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God our helper! – Psalm 121

God our helper! – Psalm 121
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 23, 2017

From the movies and into the language fabric of American culture has been the question: “Who’re you gonna call?” and the answer, “Ghost Busters!” But who do you call when you need help in life? Some call their therapist, psychiatrist, minister, friend, or family member. Calling 911 isn’t going to help you answer the deep spiritual questions one has or some of the day to day problems one faces. So, who do you call to when you need help?

The Bible teaches us over and over that the believer is to be dependent upon the Lord and to go to him when they need answers in life. Sadly, few do unless only as a last resort. I have had thousands of conversations about relationships, finances, family problems, addictions, and fatal attractions and few have heeded the advice I have offered only to later respond that they wished they had. Once I was asked where I went for help and I remarked, “To God our helper.” Let’s discover what the Psalmist sings about this…

READ: Psalm 121

The Israelites were told over and over and over again to depend upon the Lord and not themselves, the pagan gods of the land, nor the worldly wisdom of the age. Yet they often failed to do so and suffered the consequences of their decision. Here we discover that…

I. God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world! (Vv. 1-4)

A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

1. The title “song of ascents” identifies Psalms 120-134 as a song to be sung when the Israelites “ascended” or “went up” to Jerusalem for their annual feasts. Four of these 15 psalms are ascribed to David but this one is anonymous. Jerusalem sat on a hill and the temple rose up on the highest point, so when the pilgrim went to worship God in his temple he would sing, “I lift up my eyes to the hills”. Like a scene from a movie of a besieged city looking to the hills for reinforcements against her enemies, we lift our eyes to the Lord! The believer is to look to the heights of the Lord for their help; not just in times of distress but in every situation! So, today, like the pilgrim of God ask yourself, “Where does my help come from?” Your answer should be immediate and direct, “My help comes from the Lord!” But notice why the Psalmist was willing to sing this? He knew that God, like we learned last week from Colossians, is “the Maker of heaven and earth”! The Christian knows and understands that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” and that “by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:15-16 NIV) Therefore he is sure and certain and he keeps us from slipping up in life, as the Psalmist sang, “He will not let your foot slip”! We forget Jesus told us succinctly, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7 NIV) This is not some “name it and claim it” heresy but rather the promise of the Lord God that if we walk daily with him he will walk daily with us! There is so much false advice and ungodly wisdom in the world today that it is good to know God will keep us from slipping up when we remain in him. The Psalmist realized this and reiterated that “he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep!” God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world!

EXAMPLE: You can by hiking boots or walking shoes with treads designed to give you better footing in rough places; you can purchase cork or felt-soled waders to help you navigate the moss and algae-covered rocks while fishing; and you can buy simple flip-flops to protect your feet while using public showers in gyms or at the swimming pool. But what can we depend upon to keep us upright in a sin-filled world that offers so much trash for advice? The Psalmist reminds us that God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world!

A good parent doesn’t hover over their child but they remain watchful throughout the child’s life. When they are younger they help them to stay safe, look both ways, and to say “please”, “thank-you”, and “you’re welcome”. We discover that like a watchful loving parent…

II. God helps us by watching over our lives! (Vv. 5-8)

The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

1. God is not a nag. He does not scold you, berate you, or remind you of your mess-ups. He is not some angry old grump or judge watching and waiting for you to mess up just so he can discipline you back into line. It was truly liberating for me to learn that rather than an angry God that the God of the Bible was a loving God who loved me even before I was born and knew every step I would take in life! He loved me so much that he provided for my salvation from sin’s judgment! Rather than a judgmental narrow-minded bigoted deity, he is my helper, redeemer, and friend. The Psalmist reminded his readers that “The Lord watches over you”; not as a nag but to be your “shade at your right hand”! He is the one we can depend upon to shield us and lead us in a corrupt world and to keep us safe and secure. Shade was an important part of life during the Psalmist’s time. The Israelites looked for it as they traveled to Jerusalem to worship; shepherds sought it out to rest in during the heat of the day; and all wanted the protection of the snug roof over them at night — so he sings to those who are seeking shade and shelter, “the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night”. It does not matter the time of day, the season of the year, or what phase of life you are in, God is with you; right beside you, shading you and protecting you, “The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” I truly like that. It is refreshing to know that a loving God cares enough for me to remind me that he is with me always, through every stage or up and down of life. The Apostle Paul asked and age-old question when he queried, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Like the Psalmist even Paul was “convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39 NIV)  God helps us by watching over our lives!

EXAMPLE: One of my favorite hymns is “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”. It speaks of how God loves us and watches over us just as he does each tiny sparrow like Jesus reminded his disciples, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NIV) The Psalmist reminds us that God helps us by watching over our lives!

Conclusion:
God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world! God helps us by watching over our lives!
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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.

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Today’s Thoughts, Psalm 8:1-9

March 20, 2008
by Pastor Lee Hemen

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalms 8:1-9)

Today is my birthday. Nothing fancy, just me and my wife celebrating over a couple of nice t-bone steaks. We even did it big time and went to Wal-Mart to buy towels for our bathroom. I know, I know, you are thinking “Wow! What a over the top life you live, Pastor!” Whatever you may think, I had a fantastic birthday. You know why? Each day I am reminded of just how majestic God truly is. I can see it in the heavens He created, hear it in the laughter of His children, or when I experience it in the love of my family and friends. But most of all in the fact that the Creator of the universe loved me enough that He chose me to be one of His own. What more could I want or desire than that?

Today was indeed great. I had a friend buy me lunch, got to tease his son who is learning the restaurant trade, and I not only got those steaks cooked by my lovely wife, but I also got a card from my daughter that proclaimed me the “greatest Dad who ever lived!” Now, I ask you what more could any reasonable person want or need in life than these? I just have to sing like David did:

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalms 8:1-9)

Can you? Oh I pray you can.

NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety. This devotional will follow Morning by Morning by C H Spurgeon. You may use it however you desire.

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