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Those who fear God live! — Psalm 49

Those who fear God live! — Psalm 49
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 2, 2017

Wikipedia relates that “‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the ‘inalienable rights’ which the Declaration says has been given to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created to protect.” The writers, the signers, and those who fought for our freedoms believed passionately in these inalienable rights for all people. At the core of this belief was their reasoning that God created mankind for more than servitude and it came from the notion that even nations ruled by kings should fear God.

Today’s America has taken the notion of personal freedom to the extreme that it is a free ticket to do any ungodly or immoral act and excuse it as a personal right. They would do well to remember the spiritual law involved that you reap what you sow in life. The Psalmist here teaches us that those who fear God live; let’s discover what he says about this…

READ: Psalm 49

Many in our day think they can rewrite the laws of God to fit their particular perversion in order to excuse it as sin. The Psalmist reminds us that…

I. Those who fear God listen to godly wisdom! (Vv. 1-6)

Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike: My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding. I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle: Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me–those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

1. Sometimes it is hard to gain the attention of those you are speaking to and so sometimes you have to do something to shake people up so they will listen. The Psalmist does that here by including everyone in his pronouncement: “Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike”. He tells them by a command of sorts to “hear” and to “listen”. The first refers to actually intelligently understanding what is being spoken to those who are willing to be taught by the words he is speaking! The second refers to giving an ear or to someone who harkens to the sound of his voice like one would to a herald or a town crier who goes about saying “hear ye, hear ye!” or like a child who listens to the voice of their mother calling them home. Notice that the Psalmist’s announcement is for “all you peoples…who live in the world…both low and high, rich and poor alike”. Why should anyone listen to him? “My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding.” There are few things or folks worth listening to in this world of fake news and made up headlines or exaggeration. Yet he would “turn [his] ear to a proverb; with the harp [he would] expound my riddle”. It is like Jesus who told and taught his disciples “many things in parables”. (Matthew 13:3 NIV) Like Benjamin Franklin with Poor Richard’s Almanac or Thomas Paine’s Common Sense who both used humor and pity sayings to teach deeper truths, the Psalmist does this as well. He begins, like any good orator, with a question: “Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me–those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?” He expected an answer probably in the form of question itself; more than likely: “How in the world could you not fear evil days, wicked deceivers, or the ultra rich?” For the Jews of his day only those who were well off could scoff at these things, certainly not a common person! The Psalmist wanted his listeners to know that those who fear God listen to godly wisdom!

EXAMPLE: Benjamin Franklin wrote that “Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” But he also had a deep faith in a Creator who gave all things. He was not a believer per se but a Deist, someone who believed in a higher power. Later in life he held stronger views on God and especially Jesus and confessed his faith, contrary to what many theists and atheists would have you believe about Franklin. He would write, “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” The Psalmist knew this several thousands of years before Franklin. He understood that those who fear God listen to godly wisdom!

One of the attractions that drew people from all over the world to America was that you could become whatever you could in America through shear hard work and tenacity. However, far too many have forgotten where their lives come from. The Psalmist teaches us that…

II. Those who fear God remember where their lives come from! (Vv. 7-13)

No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him–the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–that he should live on forever and not see decay. For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. Selah

1. With his very next words, the Psalmist writes such an important lesson that the world today would do well to heed it. “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him”. Is this true? For the Hebrew of this era it was and it is why Jesus’ teaching was so astonishing because everyone knew “the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–that he should live on forever and not see decay”. These words were never forgotten by the Jews and so when Jesus came and taught one could live forever through faith in him, it was astounding! Perhaps we have forgotten life is costly. This is why the framers of the Declaration of Independence included the phrase “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. It establishes three inalienable rights which the Declaration states that have been given or endowed to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created by the same God to protect. Life is costly and yet things are not as costly, “For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others.” What you so dearly hold on to right now and think so precious probably will be sold in a garage sale, trucked away to the Salvation Army, or dumped in the trash! In fact, even those who are wealthy, famous, or powerful in this life will soon learn that “Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves.” What good news then is that while “the ransom for a life is costly” Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”! (Matthew 20:28 NIV) You see the Psalmist knew what a lot of folks forget, namely dead is dead and once you are dead you are the same as all other dead folks! That “man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish.” He is not teaching about how you or your pets end up eternally but rather more like the morose teachings of Ecclesiastes who lamented, “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 3:19 NIV) “This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.” However, the tacit implication is that those who fear God remember where their lives come from!

EXAMPLE: If you look at many of our coins you will see the inscription, “In God We Trust”. The phrase appears to have originated in “The Star-Spangled Banner”, written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. The fourth stanza states, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our Trust.’” The Reverend M. R. Watkinson, in a letter dated November 13, 1861, petitioned the Treasury Department to add a statement recognizing “Almighty God in some form in our coins” in order to “relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism”. It wasn’t until the Civil War that one and two cent coins were inscribed. In 1865 Congress passed legislation to place the motto on all gold and silver coins. However on the 50th anniversary of the motto in 2006 Congressed affirmed “In God We Trust” as the United States of America’s national motto. Those who fear God remember where their lives come from!

In America we have problem with death. Unlike past generations who realized life was short, often took care of the elderly themselves, and where people often did not live past their sixties because of illness, war, and poor health conditions. The Psalmist reminds us that…

III. Those who fear God realize they are destined to die! (Vv. 14-20)

Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. Selah Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him. Though while he lived he counted himself blessed– and men praise you when you prosper–he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life. A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

1. We all face death and just “Like sheep [we] are destined for the grave, and death will feed on [us]”!  There is tremendous good news in the Psalmist’s message however, “The upright will rule over [the rich, powerful, or famous] in the morning”! In other words when God comes to finally judge the living and the dead while “their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions”, ours won’t and it will be like a fresh new dawn! The Psalmist was well aware that indeed “God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.” He had full confidence in God who loved him. Here dear little child of God is where we are to never forget those wondrous and amazing words of Jesus when he promised, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3 NIV) So, “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.” As one old preacher stated, “We are all lay on the same level in the grave, unless we stand with Jesus!” And sadly, “Though while he lived he counted himself blessed– and men praise you when you prosper–he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life.” But not those who trust in God instead. Remember Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV) and do not forget the words he told the weeping Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV) Dead is dead unless you know God in Jesus but “A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.”  Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!

EXAMPLE: Unlike past generations where people celebrated death and those who had died by annually setting aside a time to remember them; today we have such a problem with the idea of dying we make roadside pagan shrines to the dead hoping they somehow realize that we now care. But dead is dead. It may be a means to assuage our own guilt and fear of dying. However, the godly person has absolutely no fear of death because we know our destination because of the one we have trusted in. Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!

Conclusion:
Those who fear God listen to godly wisdom! Those who fear God remember where their lives come from! Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!
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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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Remember – Psalm 27

Remember – Psalm 27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 28, 2017
A lot of folks misunderstand the differences between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. Veteran’s Day is when we honor all those who have served in the Coast Guard, Navy, Army, Air Force, or Marines; while Memorial Day is the day to remember those who died in the service of their country. It is good to remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives so we could enjoy the freedoms we do.
David was willing to sing about how he remembered how God had protected him and kept him. David first expresses confidence in the Lord in spite of his enemies who threatened him. Yet, in the midst of remembering suddenly David’s mood changes and he anxiously prays that God would not forsake him. Because the Lord was his basis of comfort and hope, he remembered to wait for the Lord. The psalm is one of remembering whom we can trust to rescue us. Let’s discover what David wrote…
Over and over military men and women who faced imminent death during a battle have shared that their thoughts often go to their families and their faith. David shares with us that…
I. We need to remember who saves us! (Vv. 1-4)
Of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
  1. This is a Psalm “of David” and he begins by sharing that “The LORD is my light and my salvation”. He continues by stating that because the Lord is his light and salvation “whom should I fear?” When God has your back David knew no one has anything to fear. In fact he could sing that “The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?” David knew he had nothing to fear even “When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.” God was his stronghold in life. David realized what few do in our day that he could completely trust and have confidence in God alone. Any fear he had was worthless because of his relationship with God his enemies would stumble and fall. In fact he continued by writing, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” God was his fortress and David understood the security during times of war were extremely important, especially to one who was on the run from a stronger foe as David was with king Saul. What joy to have David’s confidence! Yet even in times of war, battle, and in the midst of his own fear David longed for something more. “One thing I ask of the LORD,” David continues, “this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” David knew what was important in life as many a soldier has discovered. We need to remember who saves us!
  EXAMPLE: Aragorn, the leader of men in the movie “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”, encourages his troop with these words: “I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight!” He was trying to instill courage in them in the face of a great enemy. David sang the same kind of words to himself as he remembered the Lord. Like David we need to remember who saves us!
Nowadays the military goes to great lengths to keeps its soldiers safe with bullet-proof vests, armored vehicles, and unmanned drone aircraft. David reminds us that…
II. We should remember who protects us! (Vv. 5-10)
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD. Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
  1. David knew exactly who kept him safe and describes that protection in three ways: “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” God kept him in his “dwelling”, hid him in the “shelter of his tabernacle”, and set him “high upon a rock”! When God keeps one safe David knew that only “Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me” and while safe in God’s “tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.” The tabernacle of God was a safe haven where one on the run could go and be protected. David certainly knew the true Source of his security and the power of prayer, he cries out “Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.” As a soldier he knew deception would not work with a God who sees, hears, and knows everything. Yet if he sinned, God would not answer and David again confesses, “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, LORD, I will seek.” Perhaps he needed God’s assistance quickly and felt that God wasn’t listening and so he confesses, “Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper.” David understood the honesty of prayer, of conversing with God under no false pretenses. David knew that God’s protection only came when he honestly and openly was truthful with the Lord. And he understood it was in God alone he could trust and find refuge in times of trouble. Therefore he laments, “Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” How wonderful to know we live under grace whereby our prayers are always heard and we always have God’s protection! We should remember who protects us!
  EXAMPLE: On Memorial Day it is good to remember those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms. While many of us did not go to war, they did and gave their all for us. Do you know of someone who gave everything as a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine? We should never forget their sacrifice for us. While David was a shepherd who became a great military leader and king, he never forgot where his protection came from. We should remember who protects us!
Training is an important part of becoming a good sailor, soldier, crewman, or aviator. Just as being able to do one’s job in the midst of a physical battle is important, David reminds us that…
III. We should remember it is God who teaches us! (Vv. 11-14)
Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
  1. While David remembered who saved and protected him, he also understood that God was the one who taught him how to be the man of God he became. In this song of remembrance David sang, “Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.” As a shepherd he often went after lost and wandering sheep among the rocky crags and trails. He understood the necessity of being sure footed. And he also knew that if he allowed himself to forget who he needed to follow, he would be lost. His enemies would triumph over him and sin would have its way. Again he asks God, “Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.” These words sound similar to what Jesus may have prayed when faced with his enemy’s false accusations during his illegal trial at the hands of the Jewish leadership. There were those who falsely accused David of wanting to murder King Saul and take his throne by force, and nothing could have been further from the truth. David tried his best to honor God in a difficult situation and therefore sings, “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” He had faith that if he remained true to God, God would see him through his difficulties. And so he ends his Psalm with his own encouragement to “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Far too often when life gets difficult we want to run ahead of God make our own way or decide for ourselves what we think is best without ever asking God! Shame on us! This would be a great verse for some of us to memorize; to wait for the Lord’s guidance, to be strong in him, and take heart that God is with us! Like David we should remember it is God who leads us!
  EXAMPLE: Those who went off to war for us came from various backgrounds; farmers, high school graduates, students, teachers, doctors, lawyers, salesmen, postal workers, fathers, husbands, wives, mothers, and friends. All went through training in order that they would or could survive the battles they would face. In their training they learned to follow orders, work as a group, and face insurmountable odds. They learned to follow their leaders while facing death. David’s life was in jeopardy everyday and he feared for his life and the lives of those who followed him. David learned that God was the one to follow and he never forgot this. We should remember it is God who leads us!
Conclusion:
We need to remember who saves us! We should remember who protects us! We should remember it is God who leads us!
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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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