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2nd Sunday of Advent – Peace! – Isaiah 52:6-10

2nd Sunday of Advent – Peace! – Isaiah 52:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 10, 2017

Last week we spoke of how the Messiah would be called by the names of Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. There were those who incorrectly thought that the Messiah would bring about the end of war or that everyone would find bliss. Interestingly, there are those in our day who still have misconceptions of who the Messiah is and the peace he brings.

Isaiah introduces us to a Messiah who would bring peace to all mankind. He begins these verses by calling the nation of Israel to “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised (ungodly) and defiled will not enter you again.” Jerusalem’s pagan conquerors — the uncircumcised and defiled — would never again invade and pollute the holy city after the Messiah came. This is part of the peace he would bring when he came. Let’s discover this morning of the Second Advent, the peace of God!

READ: Isaiah 52:6-10

The world today thinks that peace comes from the absence of conflict that it can be obtained through gain or government, but Isaiah teaches us that…

I. The peace of God comes from Him alone! (v. 6)

Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.

1. God’s people would be freed from their chains, never to be enslaved again! Isaiah prophesied, “For this is what the LORD says: ‘You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.’” (v.3) No amount of money could pay the debt they owed! The Israelites did not fully understand that the enslavement God saw His people under was the rebellion of sin and that they could never buy themselves back without the blood of a sacrifice! No amount of ransom could buy them back from their enslavement to sin, only the blood of the Lamb would! This is why the writer of Hebrews would state, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and in offerings, you were not pleased… Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:3-7 NIV) God would ask them, “And now what do I have here?” He answers his question by relating, “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock, and all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.” (v. 5) while we may be shortsighted, God’s view is much longer. The Israelites willingly sold themselves into slavery for a pittance and those who enslaved them mocked God as a result! They refused to listen and repent. Yet, God’s plan all along was to redeem all people and his desire was that they would know how it occurred and who was responsible when happened! Isaiah is told by God, “Therefore my people will know my name; therefore, in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.” When the peace of God came, all people everywhere would know who brought it about. This is why the angels rejoiced singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV) The peace of God comes from him alone!

EXAMPLE: Daily Bread’s Les Lamborn writes, “During the Christmas season, we wait. We wait in traffic. We wait in checkout lines to purchase gifts. We wait for family to arrive. We wait to gather around a table filled with our favorite foods. We wait to open presents lovingly chosen. All of this waiting can be a reminder to Christians that Christmas is a celebration of waiting for something much more important than holiday traditions. Like the ancient Israelites, many are waiting for Jesus” the peace of God. Isaiah teaches us that the peace of God comes from him alone!

God made the first move when he came as a baby. A star would appear marking the way, angels would proclaim him, and shepherds would witness to what they saw. Isaiah teaches us that…

II. The peace of God would be proclaimed! (Vv. 7-8)

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.

1. Here is a wonderful picture of rescue. The enemy has surrounded the city, they are encamped around the walls and there is no escape and it seems as if no one is coming to their rescue. Thousands upon thousands of the enemy’s troops are assembled and just when they are ready to step forward to fight, there comes a cry from one of the watchmen on the wall of the besieged, “Look! Look to the mountains there is where our help comes from!” And all eyes strain to see a lone runner from the foothills headed to the besieged and the enemy parts for him like the waters of the Red Sea for Moses. Isaiah declares, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Notice that the deliverance is not brought about by a larger army, more advanced weaponry, or a master general but by the beautiful “feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation”! And what is this message of salvation they proclaim to those waiting for rescue and to the camp of the surrounding enemy? “Your God reigns!” As wonderful as the return of Israel from their Babylonian captivity, what utter joy will there be when the Messiah finally comes to Zion and proclaims, “Your God reigns!” Now, dear child of the King, you are the messenger of the Messiah in our besieged city, our occupied territory, and surrounded nation. You are the one with beautiful feet to proclaim the peace of God, you are the one running from the mountains bringing good news that that he alone reigns! “Listen!” Isaiah commands. “Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.” Those entrapped can rejoice, because “When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.” Israel would see their Messiah coming to them, but some would not care or would refuse to hear him when he came. But whether they wanted to believe it or not he would come. And, they would see it with their own eyes. The peace of God would be proclaimed!

EXAMPLE: Isaiah was a watchman; Nahum was a watchman, and various men in various ways prophesized announcing the coming of the Messiah, the light of the world. John the Baptist was the last “who was sent from God… He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:6-11 NIV) And, now the last command the Messiah has given his watchmen on the wall who look to the mountains is, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”! The peace of God is to be proclaimed!

What joyous news, what a wonderful truth to proclaim, those enslaved and those surrounded by the enemy can be freed forever! Isaiah teaches us that…

III. The peace of God brings salvation! (Vv. 9-10)

Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

1. Over and over we find Isaiah telling the people to “burst into song” to “rejoice” because God would hear their cries for help. Isaiah tells them, “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” In the midst of standing in the ruin of their lives and the rubble of their city, the embattled and surrounded Israelites were to “Burst into songs of joy together”! How could they do such a thing? God has already “comforted his people.” In fact, the important message is that God has already “redeemed” bought back Jerusalem, meaning all of Israel. This is why John the Baptist’s papa, Zachariah, would break his silence by singing, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people!” (Luke 1:68 NIV) Isaiah wrote, “All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing.” (Isaiah 14:7 NIV) Matthew would understand and reiterate Isaiah’s words by reminding us, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 4:16-17 NIV) The promise Isaiah proclaimed is the fact that God Himself would “lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” God would show the entire world his power and ability to bring salvation through his Messiah. It is summed up in the majestic wonderful words of John, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus would say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) The peace of God brings salvation!

EXAMPLE: There are folks who read the last chapter first when they start a new thriller. They may think that it takes the anxiety out of reading. So it is with Christians because we know the end of the story, we can be messengers of peace in the midst of utter chaos, calm in the face of disaster. We are to experience peace under pressure. Kingdoms may fall, friends may falter, churches may fold, oceans may rise, and mountains may crumble, but we can be at peace. How do we maintain such composure? By remembering that the “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV). In fact, just as Isaiah wanted the Israelites to be comforted that the Messiah would come, Jesus reminds us, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelations 22:20 NIV) Today could be the day! The peace of God brings salvation!

Conclusion:

The peace of God comes from Him alone!
The peace of God would be proclaimed!
The peace of God brings salvation!

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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1st Sunday of Advent – Hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7

1st Sunday of Advent – Hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 3, 2017

In seminary we used to tease one another with a little ditty that went “My hope is built on nothing less than Scofield’s notes and Moody Press”. Of course this is a takeoff from the old hymn however it makes one think about what their hope is built upon. Christmas is based on hope and the celebration of the first Advent, the coming of the Savior, the Messiah, of the world! As believers, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But we also wait eagerly for the Second Advent when Jesus returns!

A large part of our lives center around anticipation. The enjoyment in many of life’s events is built on the fact that we have time to anticipate them. Whether it is Christmas, vacations, trips, or sporting events, all grow in value because of the hours we spend looking forward to them. Now imagine the anticipation of the salvation the hope of mankind coming to earth. That is what the first Sunday of Advent is all about, our expectation and hope! Let’s discover why…

READ: Isaiah 9:2-7

Salvation would not break forth until it had become utterly dark along the horizon of Israel, according to Isaiah, “In that day… if one looks at the land, he will see darkness and distress; even the light will be darkened by the clouds.” (Isaiah 5:29-30 NIV) It is always darkest before the dawn and we discover that…

I. The hope of the Messiah would bring light to a darkened world! (Vv. 2-3)

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

1. We are often introduced to a myriad of end of the world scenarios, from fiery asteroids crashing into the earth to killer zombie viruses. Yet few in our day notice the spiritual darkness that has engulfed the world. It is the same spiritual darkness that was overwhelming Israel. Like the spread of darkness by the Dark Lord Sauron in The Lord of the Rings written by Tolkien. We find in the pages of Scripture that whenever mankind neglected their God, spiritual darkness spread. But now, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” The veil is torn in two! The darkness is pierced by the rising sun! Gandalf, in The Lord of the Rings tells the embattled at Helms Deep, “Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East!” Noticed again that Isaiah prophesied, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light”! John wrote, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world!” (John 1:9 NIV) Jesus related, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21 NIV) Isaiah saw that the light of God would return to spiritually dark Israel, and in fact, “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” While those who loved God had been reduced to a remnant, they would be “enlarged” and their “joy” increased. They would rejoice again! The hope of the Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!

EXAMPLE: As a child, I began to fear the darkness. Part of the problem was my brother Ed who loved to whisper frightening scenarios to me after we had crawled into bed. But it was also because I could not see what laid in wait in the darkness. Now isn’t it interesting that Scripture tells us that the ungodly love darkness “instead of light because their deeds” are evil. And, in fact, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” I loved to have a flashlight as a kid that I could turn on to make sure there was nothing out there that could harm me. Light does that. It exposes anything that tries to hide in either the darkness of sin or a darkened room! With great anticipation Isaiah longed for the first Advent when the hope of the Messiah would bring light into a darkened world!

David would cry, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psalms 51:3 NIV) Mankind has always struggled with sin. Jesus reminded us, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20 NIV) But, now Isaiah tells us…

II. The hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin! (Vv. 4-5)

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

1. No one could have believed for even one second that the weak, ineffective, and subservient Israelites would pose any kind of threat to the more powerful Midianites. Yet, God did just that and in fact did it through someone totally unexpected! The future deliverance, which the prophet here celebrates, would be the counterpart of the Egyptian enslavement. Then, the whole of the great nation of Israel was redeemed, whereas now only a small remnant would participate in the final redemption! Isaiah compares it to the day when Gideon broke seven years domination of Midian over Israel. And, it would occur not with a great army, but with a handful of resolute warriors, strong in the Lord (Judges 7)! It was God “as in the day of Midian’s defeat” who “shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, (and) the rod of their oppressor.” He did it through the One whom he will send. This would be a supernatural work of God! So complete will be the act of God sending his Messiah to ease our burden of sin that, “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” We see that all the trappings of the oppressor are heaped into a pile and set on fire; and, as they blaze up, the freed slaves exult in their liberty. Even the blood-drenched cloaks have been stripped from the corpses; they are tossed on the heap, and, saturated as they are, they burn! So complete is the victory that even the weapons of the conquered are destroyed. Our conquering King has been manifested, that he might annihilate the powers by which evil holds us bound. His victory is utterly complete; by his power and might the hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!

EXAMPLE: Today the Federal debt has become an enormous financial burden that many simply ignore. Each citizen’s share of this debt is horrendous. And it increases every day by $3 billion! It is a huge burden on us and future generations because it is an added tax to everything we buy and will affect how we live. Fewer college graduates will get jobs because there are fewer people retiring in order to survive, fewer companies hire because they have to pay off their share of taxes, and therefore goods and services increase for the same reasons. Incomes and retirement are reduced as taxes increase. It is a debt we can never pay that we had no say in what we owed! The sin debt of Israel and the entire world was enormous and could never be paid by all the sacrifices that could ever be made! Rejoice! By His power and might the hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!

The promise of God would take an unexpected turn as his promises often do. This is why I often chuckle over those who think they have the return of Jesus all figured out, especially when Jesus remarked, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36 NIV) This is why it was so amazing when Isaiah prophesized thousands of years beforehand that…

III. The hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man! (Vv. 6-7)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

1. Here is a wonderful amazing truth: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” The Savior of the world, the Messiah, would be born a babe and all of God’s government would be placed squarely on his tiny shoulders! Do you understand the significance of these words? Can you grasp their meaning for all mankind? God’s messengers would share with scruffy shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12 NIV) There it is, amazing isn’t it? But more than that, “he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, (and) Prince of Peace.” Four beautiful names describe him for us; He will be an exceptional teacher, the embodiment of our powerful God, reflecting His eternal nature, which brings the peace that surpasses all understanding! Now, Isaiah did not fully realize that Jesus would be the One who would fulfill all of this during his first advent, but it will come about that “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” God’s promise to David would come true! God would rule and reign through his Messiah! How and why would God do this wonderful thing? Isaiah says, “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” It would be done because God joyously chose to do it! How totally marvelous that the fulfillment of God’s promises is found in a tiny babe, wrapped in swaddling, lying in a manger! Isaiah’s promise that the hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man is complete in Jesus Christ!

EXAMPLE: Jesus related, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:48 NIV) “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12 NIV) “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58 NIV) “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11 NIV) “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25 NIV) “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV) “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) The first Advent is the celebration of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise that the hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man, Jesus Christ!

Conclusion:

The hope of the Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!
The hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!
The hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man!

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 is our teacher! – Psalm 25

God is our teacher! – Psalm 25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 10, 2017

I walked over to her and knelt down to ask her why she was crying. All the other kindergartners were having a great time running and playing with one another, only she was sitting all alone and tearful. She looked up at me with tear-stained cheeks and lamented, “Oh, Mr. Lee no one wants to play with me!” I asked, “Did you ask anyone if they would play with you?” “No”, was her reply, “I just knew they wouldn’t want to!” I went to the nearest group of girls and asked them, “Would you do me a favor?” And they all responded they would, so I asked them if they could use another person in their group to play with and of course they could and soon she was playing with her newfound friends.

Sometimes we can feel all alone in whatever self-imposed predicament we have placed ourselves. It is good to know therefore that God has provided for us during these times when we need someone to come along side of us and teach us to step outside of ourselves. Here in the Psalm of David we learn that God is our teacher, let’s discover what that means for our lives today…

READ: Psalm 25

It is often hard for the young to ask for advice or help. It is part of our prideful nature to want to do it ourselves without relying on anyone else. David understood that…

I. God teaches us as he guides us! (Vv. 1-7)

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.

1. Who should believers spend time with? Of course our immediate answer is, “God!” However, what does that mean? Is it a quick solution, wishful thinking, or a way of life? Rather than just being a regurgitated formula or mantra David sings, “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.” It is to God that David gives his most intimate secrets to because he knows he can trust God with them. And in his insecurity he cries to the Lord, “Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.” In doing so he reminds himself that “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame”. God was David’s vindicator. He defended David and so he sang “but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.” David would have his prayers answered and his needs met; but the key David knew was in how he actually walked with God and is why he would sing, “Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” David knew that in order for him to enjoy God’s company he had to remain in his presence. So, David asks God to “show” him his ways, “teach” him his “paths” and to “guide” him in his “truth”. This is both a dangerous and intimate thing for David to do. David is seeking to know God more personally. And so in this David prays three times for God to remember: “Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.” We all want God to remember his love and compassion for us and to forget all about our sins and wrongdoings. David understood that God teaches us as he guides us!

EXAMPLE: In the comedy movie “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) writes for a women’s magazine. She agrees to write an article about everything a woman does wrong in a relationship so she can write more serious things. She meets Ben (Matthew McConaughey). Andie works hard to drive Ben insane and make him break up with her, but Ben continues to stick around in hopes of making her fall in love with him. Andie gets Ben knocked out in a movie theater by talking aloud while watching a chick flick, rapidly moves her things into his apartment, acts overly possessive and sensitive and clingy. No one wants someone who is clingy; you know what I mean. Someone who always needs your attention always needs to be reassured that you “love” them and someone who is always suspicious of any other friendships you might have. God is not the clinging type nor should we be in our relationship with him. Rather we should follow the Lord because we trust him and honor him with our trust. It is called faith. God teaches us as he guides us!

Honesty with God is important because he already knows what we’re up to anyhow. Why anyone would try to fool God is beyond me and here in his psalm David sings that…

II. God teaches us through our confession! (Vv. 8-14)

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

1. As David walked with God he began to understand certain characteristics about God. It is kind of like when newlyweds learn one another’s habits and they learn to love the other person because of them. David learned that “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.” David had ample opportunity to learn about God’s grace and in so doing he learned that God “guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” Like many of us David had to learn humility. Jesus taught that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:3-6 NIV) Those who want to walk with God must learn what he desires and what he desires is all of us; those who can honestly sing with David, “All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.” Therefore we learn along with David that humility is the key to intimacy with the Lord and it begins with open and honest confession, “For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.”  So, like David, we need to ask, “Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD?” It is the one willing to confess their pride and sinful condition. Then God “will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land.” It is never easy to confess our own sinful condition but it is a must if we desire to walk intimately with God yet if we do the outcome is wonderful because “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” God teaches us through our confession!

EXAMPLE: Confession is the place where God meets us at our most vulnerable. If we are not open and honest with him he cannot work in our lives. I find it hilarious when I work on the playground that after watching as one child picks on another child or does something they know they are not supposed to do, when confronted they try to deny it. Sometimes it doesn’t matter even if I tell them that I was watching them the whole time as they did the deed they still try to deny that it wasn’t them. I wonder what God thinks of us when we try to deny or lie to him instead of openly confessing our sins? David related here that God teaches us through our confession!

Have you ever known someone who depends solely on what they learn in books but have no real common sense? Head knowledge is good but heart understanding will truly fill in the cracks for spiritual wisdom. It only comes, David sings, when we understand that…

III. God teaches us to depend on him alone! (Vv. 15-22)

My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you. Redeem Israel, O God, from all their troubles!

1. Do you blame others when things go south in your life? How do you respond when you are faced with a tough situation? Do you blame God? David poetically shares with us how he responded: “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” David knew that only God could “Turn to [him] and be gracious to [him]” when David was “lonely and afflicted.” We can be like David when things go terribly wrong; he laments “The troubles of my heart have multiplied” and asks God to “free me from my anguish.” What was troubling David? He asks God to “Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me!” The psalm of David strongly links the prayer for deliverance and guidance to confession of sin. God’s teaches us that this is what he requires. Though God seems not to regard David’s prayer, faith does not fail, but renews his prayer, confident that God will still hear and save him. David continues by asking God, “Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.” The reference is to all the dangers which encompassed him, whether arising from his foes or his own sins. David’s prayer is therefore asking that the divine protection he needs might be balanced with the danger he faced; that he might not be destroyed, either by his enemies or by the sins which he had committed! David had learned that his “integrity and uprightness” were the only things that would “protect” him “because” his “hope is in” God who is both. However David was not just thinking of himself, he knew his actions carried consequences for the nation he ruled because he was supposed to lead it with “integrity and righteousness”. So, his final stanza is a prayer to God to “Redeem Israel… from all their troubles!” David learned that God teaches us to depend on him alone!

EXAMPLE: Feelings are not the same thing as faith. Paul would write, “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3 NIV) I have often been baffled by women who can instantly tell when another woman is hurting, come along side of them for understanding and help but not have a clue as to how to solve their own messed up lives! Peter would write about faith this way: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV) David would sing, “Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you”; David learned that God teaches us to depend on him alone!

Conclusion:

God teaches us as he guides us! God teaches us through our confession! God teaches us to depend on him alone!

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 is our judge! – Psalm 50

God is our judge! – Psalm 50
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 27, 2017

“Man, are you gonna get it when we get home!” my brother yelled at me as we ran as fast as we could to the house. I had been roping and branding the dog (more about that in a bit) and he had caught me. And being the kind, law-abiding, and honest person that he was he threatened to “tell Mom.” Well, the race was on to see which one of us would get home first because we both knew that judgment day was coming and Mom was the judge.

Judgment is coming for the entire world but few give it even a moment of their time or thought. We discover here in the Psalms one written by Asaph a leading Levite musician who teaches us about God is our judge. Because God does not treat us as robots, slaves, or machines but rather he allows us to make our own decisions and to either be blessed or suffer the consequences of our choices. Let’s find out what it means that God is our judge for our world and us today.

READ: Psalm 50

“Come back here so I can give you what you deserve!” my mother declared as I stayed hidden under the porch with the dog. I knew what I deserved, the dog knew what I deserved, and certainly my father would shortly know what I deserved; but deserving something and receiving it are two different things. The Psalmist teaches us that…

I. Our judge will be God himself! (Vv. 1-6)

The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people: “Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Selah

1. Asaph understands who God is and immediately calls him “The Mighty One, the Lord” (ale ‘ĕlôhı̂ym, the yehôvâh) and he knew that when he spoke you had better listen! Evidently he had either seen or heard from the Lord and wanted to share what he had experienced. So he related that God “speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.” God was entering his courtroom for judgment. God was in judgment over all creation even “From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.” He has the right to judge because of who he is. And in fact while we may think we can do whatever we want when we want to Asaph reminds us that when “Our God comes” he “will not be silent” and like “a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.” Literally God consumes like a mighty wildfire everything because of his holiness! He alone “summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people” and proclaims: “Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” God of course is referring to the Israelites who willingly circumcised themselves and sacrificed their best in order to set themselves apart from all other nations for God alone. Our sacrifice was and is confirmed by Jesus’ own blood and sacrifice; therefore we are made his own with God in him! As Hebrews reminds us, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14 NIV) The Psalmist reminds us that our judge will be God himself!

EXAMPLE: As much as we in our human frailty want and sometimes demand retribution we fail to understand what true justice is all about. When I piped up and chirped that my brother indeed deserved “what was coming to him” my father bluntly reminded me that he was the “judge and jury” and not me. In fact he reminded me that he did not appreciate a tattletale. In our day and age there are those who think that they will be okay with God cause they are “good old boys” and harmless. They think God is some kind old dude who sits in heaven and winks at their playful sinful condition. Nothing could be further from the truth. The one who summons both heaven and earth and comes like a wildfire or stormy tempest to consume our sin will pass judgment on all of us. In fact, our judge will be God himself!

All I had done was play cowboys and Indians. I know this isn’t very politically correct but in my day and age that is what we did. And as part of the game I had to brand my livestock and the only livestock I had was our boxer dog Duke. So I used a pair of sheep shears and clipped a huge LH on his right hand flank. After my mother had seen what I had done, she chased me under the house. Now how was I to know she would take such an offense at the innocent play of a young child? Here in this Psalm we learn that…

II. As judge God will examine his people! (Vv. 7-15)

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God. I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

1. God now turns specifically to his own chosen people; namely Israel and now us! His words now apply to believers as filtered through Jesus’ sacrifice. Let’s discover what he says. “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God.” What? You mean he is gonna speak against his own? Yes, but notice he is not going to hold us accountable for trying our best to follow him, “I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.” God understands when we do our best to try and follow him. He desires that we strive to be like Jesus but knowing we live in a sin-fallen world God knows we will not be perfect until we see him face-to-face. And God reminds his listeners that “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.” Just as he did not “need” the Israelites to sacrifice animals he knew they did it out of reverence and honor for him. We worship, pray, read his Word, and live for him in order to honor him because we follow him! Hey, if the Living God “were hungry” would he “not tell you, for the world is [his], and all that is in it.” Jesus told us the greatest commandments were to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31 NIV) This is truly what God desires and he asks, “Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?” The answer was of course; “No”. So what does God require? “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” As judge God will examine his people!

EXAMPLE: I think I am like a lot of folks who do not necessarily like going to the doctor. It isn’t because I do not like my doctor per say because he is a very nice person, however, I do not care for what he does. He asks really personal questions about my habits, weight, height, medications, and then he gets really physical and pokes and prods me and makes me feel utterly uncomfortable when I have to “bare-it-all”! Nothing it seems is hidden from his prying eyes! Well if you hate the doctor just wait until you see Jesus face-to-face! Talk about a complete examination! The Psalmist reminds us that as our judge God will examine his people!

“You wicked little boy!” my mother hollered. “Look at what you did to the dog!” Of course it would have sounded a lot more threatening if she hadn’t been laughing so hard when she yelled it at me. “Just wait until your father gets home and sees what you have done!” There it was, my dad would see the evidence for himself and I was hung out to dry. Here in this Psalm we learn that…

III. As judge God will examine the wicked as well! (Vv. 16-23)

But to the wicked, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you. When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face. Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue: He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

1. God is not forgetful as some would hope or think and in fact the Psalmist writes that he now turns his attention to those who thought they would get away with their ungodly lifestyle: “But to the wicked, God says: ‘What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you.’” You see there were folks in Asaph’s day who thought of God only in their own convoluted esoteric terms. You know like those in our day who declare “I believe in God!” but their lives are anything but godly. They literally leave God’s actual words behind them in the gutter where they tossed them. God is not mocked. He sees what our lives are truly like. “When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother’s son.” Kind of sounds like the vulgar, illicit, and abhorrent things folks do nowadays. Paul would say that “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness”… and that “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:18, 32 NIV) There are those who think that because they do not see God or hear his rebuke of their ungodliness that he does not exist, but he warns them, “These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.” To all those noble folks who think that by mocking and laughing at God’s people they were forgotten for what they did God answers them by stating, “Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue: He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” As judge God will examine the wicked as well!

EXAMPLE: I am reminded of when Jesus opened the eyes of a blind man and those who thought of themselves as godly but were in reality totally ungodly folks did not want to believe it. Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, meaning the Messiah, and it was he who had healed the blind man whom they thought of as sinful because of his physical condition. Well then being very indignant “Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say, this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’” (John 9:40-41 NIV) Jesus is returning and like Peter told the crowd “God appointed (Jesus) as judge of the living and the dead”. (Acts 10:42 NIV) And one day they will have to give an account of their lives to him! (1 Peter 4:5) The Psalmist reminds us that as judge, God will examine the wicked as well!

Conclusion:

Our judge will be God himself! As judge God will examine his people! As judge God will examine the wicked as well!
—-
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 brings joy! – Psalm 30

God brings joy! – Psalm 30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 13, 2017

George Weiss and Robert Thiele wrote the lyrics: “I see trees of green, red roses too; I see them bloom for me and you, and I think to myself what a wonderful world.” It’s a song everyone knows because it has been used over and over again in different movies. And it was made famous by the Jazz singer and musician Louis Armstrong in 1967. It goes on to say, “I see skies of blue and clouds of white; the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night, and I think to myself what a wonderful world. The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky are also on the faces of people going by. I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do, they’re really saying I love you. I hear babies crying, I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more than I’ll never know. And I think to myself what a wonderful world. Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.” The song hits home because it speaks of the wonder of the world, God’s creation, and the joy that it all brings.

While happiness is a momentary thing in life — more than a room without a roof or simply being the truth — joy is an inner quality of life. Far too often folks confuse joy with momentary happiness and when the clapping stops they then struggle to maintain their happiness. The Psalmist David sings to us what joy is and where it is found; let’s discover what he wrote about the fact that God brings joy…

READ: Psalm 30

What could be more joyous than dedicating a new building for the Lord? I remember years ago we decided to rededicate this old wooden building to God and we walked around it, prayed, and praised God for it. We did this because of what God had done through us as a church in paying off our loan. We learn from David that…

I. God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from! (Vv. 1-3)

I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.

1. David immediately sings “I will exalt you, O LORD” meaning that he will lift up God’s name to anyone who would listen. Lifting up the name of the Lord should be a common practice for the child of God. I know I remember my parents and how they raised me, then should we not therefore remember our Heavenly Father and how he too has raised us up as well? In fact notice that David sings “for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me”! We far too often get comfortable in our walk with the Lord and begin to forget just what we were pulled out of and saved from. For too many it is more of a stroll with God like being pushed in a baby stroller because we never learn to actually walk with him but rather like spiritual infants we just lay back and try to enjoy the ride! But David remembers what God pulled him out of: “the depths” and from his “enemies”! Now you may not think you have very many enemies because for your way of thinking the word “enemy” denotes someone who seeks to destroy you like North Korea or something. But remember Peter wrote that “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV) and Jesus referred to the Devil as our “enemy” who sows seeds of weeds among the wheat. (Matthew 13:39) The world is full of the Enemy’s wisdom, wiles, and wit. He seeks to destroy you and to take away your joy in the Lord. Yet David knew where he could immediately turn to: “O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.” It is God alone who heals us through Jesus! In fact it is God in Jesus that “brought me up from the grave” and “spared me from going down into the pit”! Never forget that it is Jesus who brings true joy because of what he brought you out of! God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget being out on the jetty at Ilwaco, Washington as a young boy fishing with my brother-in-law. He warned us not to go out to the end of the jetty and to always keep our eyes on the ocean for “sneaker waves”. And of course being a ten-year-old boy I knew what I was doing and did not listen to a single word he said. I climbed out to the end of the jetty and neglected to watch the ocean. A huge wave washed over me engulfing me. I grabbed a hold of a boulder as I was being swept out to sea. I was completely frightened and then these hands reached down and dragged me out of the swirling waters and pulled me to safety. It was my brother-in-law. I never forgot from that day on to watch the ocean no matter how calm it looks because I never forgot what I was saved from. God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from!

When I am saddened by what life throws my way I know I can go to my sweet little wife and she will gently kick me in the pants and say, “Straighten up! It only lasts a moment!” She has a deft way of helping me to remember that while my happiness may be fleeting, God’s joy is lasting no matter what the circumstance. David reminds us that…

II. God brings joy that lasts! (Vv. 4-7)

Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

1. Whether it is a good root beer drinking song or a rousing traveling song sung at the top of everyone’s lungs in the car while traveling to some vacation destination it is always good to have others join in and sing with you. This is why singing in church, whether you can sing or not, is so important. It creates intimate spiritual fellowship with one another and with the Lord who you are there to worship. Over and over we are reminded in Scripture to “sing to the Lord”! This is why David tells his listeners to “Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.” I am baffled when Christians do not sing to the Lord. Is life so horrible you do not have a song to sing to God? I sing to the Lord all the time. Ask my wife. It doesn’t have to be hymns or just Christian contemporary radio tunes because God is also pleased when you simply make music to him from the inner joy in your heart that overflows to him! Why would David want others to join him? Because he knew God’s “anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime”! And shouldn’t believers sing all the more loudly because we have the everlasting joy of Jesus? (You betcha by golly Mr. and Mrs. Saddiface.) In fact David gives us one of the most endearing stanzas in the entire Bible when he eloquently reminds us that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”! The sadness of sin’s darkness lasts only a short while but the enduring joy of the Lord comes at the break of a new day and lasts forever! WOW! David knew that in a world where anything could happen to anyone at anytime and living in a world of sifting sand that “When I felt secure, I said, ‘I will never be shaken.’” He understood that God was his secure foundation, his rock of ages, and his steadfast mountain: “O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm”! As life went well David knew God was there but he also knew that when things went pickle barrel in life; when God “hid” his “face” and he “was dismayed” God was there as well. David could trust in God and he knew where his joy came from! God brings joy that lasts!

EXAMPLE: People love those dollar stores where supposedly everything within them only costs a dollar. When I was a kid they were known as the 88 Cent Store or the 99 Cent Store or Woolworth’s! Anyway these places are filled with all kinds of junk that only lasts for a little while because that is how it is made so you will come back and by more junk, right? Yet I can remember being a little kid and being given a quarter, which was a lot of money way back during the dinosaurs, and going into the store to buy something. I would take my time to make sure that what I bought was exactly what I wanted and that I could play with it for a while. I remember buying a wind-up car for ten cents that lasted only a day and it broke. I cried. As I wailed away my dad patted my shoulder and in his great fatherly wisdom said, “What do you expect? It was only a dime!?” I am so glad that David reminds us that God brings joy that lasts!

I have often reminded you that all the material things you now hold dear now will be sold at garage sales, given to the Salvation Army, tossed in the trash, or placed in someone else’s storage shed until they have to get rid of it. And here in this Psalm of David we are reminded that it isn’t things that bring us true joy but rather…

III. God brings joy when we remember him! (Vv. 8-12)

To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.” You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

1. All through this Psalm David’s focus is on the Lord and again he sings to remind us that “To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy”. It is only God who can give us mercy when we sin. It is because of his wonderful love that he came as Jesus that we could have eternal life in him. The Apostle Paul would later remind us that “we were by nature objects of wrath… But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:3-5 NIV) David in his honest singing to the Lord asks God, “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?” David is asking honest questions that many have asked of God; basically “Why would you do this to me? How can I worship you through this hardship?” Like the rest of us while David knew God loved and cared for him, he sometimes struggled that God would punish him or would allow bad things happen to him. You know, “why do bad things happen to good people?” Eliphaz the Temanite in the Book of Job asked Job, “Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise man benefit him?” (Job 22:2 NIV) Of course he was making the case that God did not need anyone even Job and wanted Job to repent of any sin he might have forgotten. Yet we all ask this of God at some point in our lives. We forget that life is tainted by sin. All creation is. Bad things will happen to good people until we see Jesus face-to-face! Paul would ask, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” and then he would remind his readers that nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Jesus! (Romans 8:31, 35 NIV) David knew this as well and this is why he also continued to sing, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.” David remembered that while we may waver in our faith God never wavers in his love for us and so he finishes his song by singing, “O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” God brings joy when we remember him!

EXAMPLE: Happiness is fleeting but real joy is learned in life. Joy can be hard work. Too many think that once they are married then everything will be sweet singing birdies and rose petal strewn paths. Anyone who has been married for more than a couple of years will tell you it is a lot of hard work, consistency, love and forgiveness. It is a lifetime commitment and not a momentary made for TV moment. I knew this startling fact for the first time when the sweet darling girl I married put her hands on her hips and demanded I begin to “use the clothes hamper instead of the floor” for my dirty clothes and that I should actually “rinse” my “dishes and put them in the sink” instead of “leaving them for” her “to pick up”. Then I learned that I could not “fix” her moods by simply doing something, I had to actually listen and let her work it out as I supported her. Was it tough for a bachelor to learn? Yep. And there were times when I wondered what I had gotten myself into just as she did as well. But the true joy of marriage took hold when I realized we were both in it for the long haul as partners, lovers, and friends. David teaches us this about God in this Psalm as well. Happiness is fleeting but God brings joy when we remember him!

Conclusion:
God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from! God brings joy that lasts! God brings joy when we remember him!
—-
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 listens! — Psalm 40

God listens! — Psalm 40
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 6, 2017

“Are you listening to me?” was one of my mother’s favorite questions to ask me when I was younger. She wanted to make sure I understood what she had just told me to do; however there were times when as a young person I wished my parents would have listened to me as well. All young people go through this kind of stage in their life. In fact senior adults often express how younger folks do not always listen to them because they think they are too old, senile, or something. Isn’t it good to know then that the believer has someone who always listens to them no matter what age they are?

The Psalmist David knew and experienced God intimately. In our day and age there are a myriad of books, articles, and seminars that try to help Christians to experience God intimately. David gives us some good advice and examples as to just how God listens to those he loves. Let’s discover what he writes this morning…

READ: Psalm 40

Patience was not my strong suit as a young person, it was something that I had to learn and in fact I am still working on in my life! Yet we discover that those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength and soar like eagles; running and walking without growing tired. David related that…

I. God listens to those who wait! (Vv. 1-5)

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

1. If patience is a virtue, few of us have it. Yet David writes that he “waited patiently for the Lord”. The idea is one of being silent, listening, and waiting for God to respond no matter how long it takes. When David did this he discovered that “he turned to me and heard my cry”. Far too often we do not have the tenacity to wait patiently for anything in life and then we wonder why we do not experience God as we think we should. For David this was very real occurrence because when he waited on the Lord he sang that “he lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire” and then God “set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand”! Have you ever felt in life you were bogged down by the filth of the world or the desperation of life? David did. But God listened to David and gave him a rock to stand on. God has given us Jesus the solid Rock that no earthly wind or rain can wash away! In fact God went further and “he put a new song in [David’s] mouth, a hymn of praise to our God”! When we are willing to wait on the Lord he gives us firm footing in life, a place to stand in a slimy mud-filled pit of a world. He gives us a new song to sing that influences those around us and “Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” because of our patience in waiting for God to speak! David would sing, “Blessed” happy “is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn to aside to false gods” like worldly wisdom, philosophies, or manmade concepts but instead to a listening God who loves and cares for him! David understands who has his life in the palm of his hand, who listens to his prayers, and who responds and so he sings, “Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” David learned as we need to as well that God listens to those who wait!

EXAMPLE: I learned a lot from my father about fishing. One of the first things he taught me was patience. If I sat quietly by the stream or by the lake and watched intently my bobber or the lure I was using I would be rewarded for my steadfastness. He would tell me about how to fish the swirls, behind the large rocks, and riffles in a stream. How to look for the concentric rings of fish as they surfaced for food and how to lay a lure or fly just right in the water so as not to scare the fish but to attract them to my hook. He taught me to keep my shadow from falling onto where I wanted to fish and to be silent. He taught me to listen to the flow of the water, the songs of the birds, and the quietness of the woods. He taught me patience. David teaches us that God listens to those who wait!

What we focus on in life says a lot about who we are. For the believer their focus must be on the Lord; we are to “seek fist” his “kingdom” and his “righteousness” and then we will know him better; Jesus’ words not mine. In fact we learn from David that…

II. God listens to those who desire him! (Vv. 6-10)

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.

1. We live in a world of hustle and bustle. We think therefore that God wants us to “do something” for him instead of waiting on him. It is a matter of what we desire in life. Are we focusing on ourselves or on him? Too many in David’s day had begun to focus on what they could do for God instead of what God truly desired from them. David correctly understood this and sang, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire… burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.” God did not need these offerings especially from those who were really focused on something else instead of him! And so curiously David sings, “But my ears you have pierced”. The meaning is twofold: First, slaves had their ears pierced with an awl by their owners to signify their slavery; David was referring to his willingness to be bound to God. Secondly, David felt that he only heard God when he was in a right relationship with him; when his ears were “pierced” so he could truly hear what God was saying to him! This is why David tells God, “Here I am, I have come”. He was ready, willing, and able to listen to God. Because David listened to God he knew God had a plan for his life. David came to hear what God had in store for his life and so he sings, “I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” One cannot hear God’s voice until they are ready to give themselves completely over to the Lord; to sacrifice themselves and become totally God’s. Then it becomes easy to “proclaim righteousness in the great assembly” because for those who know God understand he listens to them! David could not “seal” his “lips” nor could he “hide” God’s “righteousness in [his] heart” in who he was. God was fully a part of David’s life and not some secondary occurrence he was exposed to once in a while. David was not a nice guy who tried to love God, he was a guy who loved God and became the man God desired and so he spoke of God’s “faithfulness and salvation”. In fact, David never concealed God’s “love” and “truth from the great assembly”. David learned that God listens to those who desire him!

EXAMPLE: In an old country and western song by Tom T. Hall he relates the ungodly philosophy of a scrawny old cowboy who tells him that life is about “faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money”. Sadly this is what many in the world truly think life is all about. They live life full throttle earning more money, living for the moment, and for the thrill instead of for the One who created them in the first place. God is either a far off concept or a curse word for them. They have never heard his voice because they have drowned it out with the desires of the world. Yet if they were willing to have their ears pierced so they could truly listen they would hear his voice calling them. David discovered that God listens to those who desire him!

Honesty is the best policy but many while they desire it from others do not practice it themselves. We live in a world of deceit and therefore we cynically expect politicians to lie to us, the media to distort the truth, and even family and friends to conceal hidden motives. David teaches us that…

III. God listens to those who are honest with him! (Vv. 11-17)

Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me. May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The LORD be exalted!” Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.

1. We all want God when we want him. This is something I have learned in my 40-plus years of ministry and 32 years of pastoring: When things get bad, which they always do in life, we cry out to God whom we have not thought about before. As one old pastor said, “We get real about God when life gets real with us.” We find David being totally honest with God. He understood that God cannot hear those who come to him with false motives or pretenses. He desires all of us. So David sings, “Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me.” More than anything David desired God but David knew he had sinned and so he confesses to the Lord, “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” David is being straightforward in his prayer to God. He was suffering the consequences of his sinful life and so he cries to the One who can truly rescue him, “Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.” David did not experience the grace of God we as believers now enjoy because of Jesus. God, the Holy Spirit, comes to seal us and stay with us forever but David did not have this intimacy of grace we now enjoy. So he asks for God’s protection: “May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!’ be appalled at their own shame.” In this we discover that we can be very real with the Lord in our conversation our prayer just as David was. David needed to be rescued from his predicament. From his sin and those who sought to do him evil and so he willingly turns to the One who listens. Yet David also desired that those who were willing to seek the Lord would “rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, ‘The LORD be exalted!’” David wanted to be rescued but he also desired that those who sought to do him ill would know the Lord as he did. And finally David the King and commander sings, “Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.” God listens to those who are honest with him!

EXAMPLE: Recently I took a camping trip to Montana with my son-in-law and grandson. It was a blast. Not only did we see all kinds of wildlife but we swam in an ice-cold river, experienced nature, and cooked our food out-of-doors. Yet one of the things that I will always remember is going down to the river after dark and looking up at the night sky. Without the light pollution of the cities we could see the Milky Way in all of its glory. As I stood there looking up I experienced a moment of unsettlement. I realized just how miniscule I was compared to the universe God had made. Yet I wanted to shout for joy when I realized that this awesome God who created all of the stars and galaxies speaks to me intimately! I was humbled and confessed to him that I was unworthy of such love. We learn from David that God listens to those who are honest with him!

Conclusion:

God listens to those who wait! God listens to those who desire him! God listens to those who are honest with him!
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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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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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