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No matter what, preach the gospel! – Philippians 1:12-17

No matter what, preach the gospel! – Philippians 1:12-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 10, 2018

What is important in your life? I mean to the point where you would be willing to leave your home, family, friends, and do what you knew was the most important thing in the world. For some it is sports, some it is music or writing, for others it might be acting or art but for the believer who has given their life to Christ everything should revolve and focus on him who gave everything for them.

For Paul life was Jesus and Jesus was life and this is why for Paul in his life he considered it the greatest thing in the world to preach the gospel. He gave up family, friends, and everything in life to follow him and following him meant telling others about Jesus’ mission and message. Therefore for Paul it meant that no matter what, preach the gospel! Let’s find out how Paul encouraged others to do the same…

READ: Philippians 1:12-17

Someone once said that “The most important thing you have to realize in your life is: knowing your self-worth and by knowing your self-worth you would finally get to know what you deserve. And then you’ll be able to work for what you deserve.” Paul understood his self-worth. He wrote, “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8 NIV).  For Paul it meant…

I. Preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen! (Vv. 12-14)

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

1. A lot of folks think things happen in life through happenstance but when it is something bad they immediately want to blame God but Paul never did. He knew things happen for a reason and not by mere accident. And for the believer Paul knew that things happen in life for one reason only: to further the gospel. This is why Paul writes, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Paul was being persecuted for his faith and especially for his preaching the good news. In fact, he was in prison for doing just that! Now he was held captive under house arrest waiting for his trial in Rome, held prisoner under false accusations by the Roman government for telling others the gospel. However far from discouraging Paul it only reinforced in him the providence of God in a Christian’s life. In fact Paul’s imprisonment became a means for him to testify about Jesus! And Paul writes that “As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” Evidently those back in Philippi were concerned for Paul but he was enjoying every moment! Paul was not discouraged at all because his imprisonment meant that from the Roman guard to those in the household of Caesar was now hearing for the first time the gospel of Jesus! Paul the prisoner had a second affect as well, “Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” His persecution made others bolder in sharing their faith! Life for Paul was all about Jesus and that meant preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen!

EXAMPLE: Christians can be a contrary crowd believing that Jesus is the only means of salvation but only sharing with those they feel comfortable with. A group of teenagers visited a home for the elderly in Montego Bay, Jamaica, one young woman noticed a lonely looking man at the end of the room. He appeared to have little left in this world but a bed to sleep on—a bed from which he could not move because of his disability. She began to share the story of God’s love for us. Responding to his interest, she explained the wonder of Jesus’ sacrificial death for us. “It was hard for this man, who had no hope and no family,” she recalled, “to understand that Someone he’s never met would love him enough to die on the cross for his sins.” She told him more about Jesus—and then about the promise of heaven (including a new body) for all who believe. He asked her, “Will you dance with me up there?” She saw him begin to imagine himself free of his worn-out body and crippling limitations. She helped him pray a prayer of forgiveness and faith. When she asked him if she could get a picture with him, he replied, “If you help me sit up. I’m a new man.” Paul believed in preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen!

People do things in life for different reasons: Some out of pride or for praise; some from a sense of duty while others do certain things because of guilt. Paul knew that…

II. Preaching the gospel is an act of love! (Vv. 15-17)

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.

1. Paul was not stupid. He knew that not everyone who was preaching the good news did so because they loved the Lord like he did. He knew they did it for varying reasons and he writes, “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.” Just like today there were those who wanted to make a quick buck off of anything that was new and that folks were attracted to. During Paul’s day it was usually the latest fad in spirituality. There were those like the cults of today whose founder’s only want fame and fortune. Then there were those who sadly while even within the church itself sought personal recognition or they thought they were in some kind of a competition with Paul. Paul did not care as long as the gospel was correctly preached! So he wrote, “The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.” How sad there were those within the church whose only desire was to outdo Paul or to bring Paul down in some way. Their reasons did not concern Paul because he was happy that Jesus was preached! Make no mistake he disliked factions within the church and wrote the Corinthian church, “For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:4-7 NIV)” For Paul preaching the gospel is an act of love!

EXAMPLE: Lee Geysbeek of Compassion International told about a woman who had the opportunity to travel to visit the child she sponsored. She decided to take the child, who was living in abject poverty, to a restaurant. The boy ordered a hamburger and the sponsor ordered a salad. When the food came the boy surveyed the scene. He looked at his huge hamburger and over at his sponsor’s small salad. Then he took his knife and cut the burger in half, offered it to his sponsor, rubbed his tummy, and asked, “Hungry?” A child who had next to nothing his whole life was willing to share half of what he had with someone he thought might need more. This child can be a good reminder the next time we meet someone in physical, emotional, or spiritual need. As followers of Jesus, our faith in him should be mirrored through our actions. We encounter people in need every day; some simply around the corner who need of a warm meal or a kind word. What a difference believers can make by doing good and sharing their faith. Paul knew that preaching the gospel is an act of love!

Conclusion:
Preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen! Preaching the gospel is an act of love!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 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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Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!

Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 11, 2018

My Mom used to play mind games with us kids when we did something bad. A lot of mothers do this. Here’s what I mean: Right in the middle of scolding us over our bad behavior, she would innocently ask, “Don’t you love your dear old mother?” Or she would declare, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” It was a form of psychological warfare to get a response from us and to have us think about the consequences of our actions. It’s called guilt.

Malachi is kind of like my mother. His message is for God’s wayward children. Didn’t they love God? Didn’t God love them? If that were true, then why were they acting the way they did? Had they gotten spiritually soft? God’s chosen people had gotten so lackadaisical about their faith that they forget what their relationship to God meant! Malachi’s message from the Lord is to illicit a response from his people. Malachi’s message applies to us as much as it did for the spiritually lax Israelites. They needed to be open to God and what did for them. The same is true for us today, let’s discover how…
READ: Malachi 1:1-5

Malachi ministered in the fifth century BC, about 100 years after the Persian King Cyrus had issued the decree which permitted Jews to return from exile to Judah. Life was not easy under the political rule of Persia. Both the priests and the people were violating the stipulations of the Mosaic Law regarding sacrifices, tithes, and offerings. Much like today, their hope in God’s promises had dimmed, as evidenced by their intermarrying with nonbelievers, divorces and general moral apathy. They needed to respond to God’s love. Malachi teaches us that…

I. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message! (V. 1)

An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.

1. One man’s message is another man’s burden! Malachi had a spiritually heavy message he had to share with his people. The word Hebrew mas-saw’ (burden), which this book begins, sets kind of a somber mood. The NIV translates this word as “an oracle”. The word comes from the Old English language of the middle ages. We now think of an oracle meaning a person like a priest or priestess who gives out kind of obscure advice that kind of sounds meaningless unless you are “wise” enough to interpret it. This is not the idea here from Malachi. In the prophetic books the Hebrew word mas-saw’ introduces messages of a threatening nature and this gives the prophet’s entire message a sense of anxiety and foreboding. Something he had to say but did not necessarily want to. It became a burden. Contrary to many modern religious pundits God’s messages are not always welcome and can often be sinister in nature! Especially if we know how we have been acting and we know how we should be responding! Notice that this spiritually heavy message was from God Himself: “The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi”! Traditionally Malachi, “My messenger”, has been viewed as the last prophet of the Old Testament period before John the Baptist, whose ministry Malachi predicted (Malachi 3:1). Nothing is known of his family and he is not mentioned by name elsewhere in the Bible. However, his message is so personal and intimate that the contents clearly indicate it was written by an actual person. Malachi was God’s voice speaking a heavy message to God’s spiritually lax people. Using a series of questions and answers, Malachi engages his listeners in a debate many would have rather ignored, but God’s people from all ages need to respond to Malachi’s message!

EXAMPLE: My Dad always knew when I wasn’t listening to him when he was getting after me. I would let my eyes kind of glaze over and roll back in my head. Perhaps the blank expression on my face also gave me away. My father knew I wasn’t listening to him and he would confront me about it by declaring, “Young man, you haven’t listened to a single word I said to you!” I would try to play innocent, but we both knew better and the clincher would be when he would say, “All right, tell me what I just said to you.” He wanted me to respond appropriately and I knew I was in real trouble when he would finish by telling me, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” This is kind of the way God deals with Israel through Malachi. Our sin and its consequences often hurt us more than it does God. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message!

We can forget that while God is love, his love demands a response from us. Not that we can earn his love because God indeed always does love, but that we need to realize that when we fail to respond the way we should to his love we are rejecting what he has done for us! Malachi reminds us of…

II. Our failure to respond to God’s love! (Vv. 2-5)

“I have loved you”, says the LORD. But you ask, “How have you loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD–even beyond the borders of Israel!”

1. An appropriate response to love is devotion! Malachi brings the claim of God’s love for Israel (1:2a)! God had always loved Israel. In fact, he could have chosen anyone else but he chose Israel. The Lord’s claim over Israel was vindicated by two considerations. His love expressed in his free choice of Jacob and his rejection of Esau. Yet, like a spoiled child, Israel questions God! “How have you loved us?” What a question to ask! God had deliberately decided not to follow the law of choosing the eldest son Esau over the younger brother. Instead God chose, out of love, Jacob! While Jacob had his deceptive faults, we soon learn Esau was willing to give up and cave in to his own natural sin rather than follow God. The Hebrew words here for love and hatred do not refer to emotions but rather actions. How can a child question a parent’s love when it is shown so dramatically? Yet, spoiled Israel did. Can we be like that as well? Yes! God has loved us and shown his love through Jesus. The vindication of God’s love claim is given: “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” He is expressing his past relationship with Israel and Edom and also his historical and present dealings with these people. This then provides the second consideration which vindicated God’s claim of love. Israel needed to consider what her lot would have been like if she, like Edom, had not been elected to a covenant relationship with Yahweh. God restored Israel and not Edom. In fact, God would turn Edom’s “mountains into a wasteland and leave his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may try to rebuild, but God would not allow it. They would be called A Wicked Land, as opposed to God’s Holy Nation. God tells spoiled Israel that if she doesn’t believe it, “You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’” Israel was guilty, just like Edom, and perhaps just like we often are of failing to respond to God’s love! What about you this morning, have you failed to respond to the love of God?

EXAMPLE: I remember my mother giving me the parental curse. It goes something like this: “One of these days I hope you have children just like you!” While God’s declaration through Malachi isn’t quite like this, it is similar in that he tells Israel, “You dare question my love after all I have done for you? Let me tell you something, Buster, there will come a time when you will see my love with your own eyes and recognize it for what it truly is!” That time would come through Jesus. Paul says not only will spoiled Israel ultimately recognize God’s love, but every wayward child of God will: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)” We can be guilty of failing to respond to God’s love in our lives!

Conclusion:

Perhaps you have forgotten just how much God loves you or like Israel did, you may question God’s love. Let me remind you that God loves us with an everlasting love. The spiritual message of Malachi is just as valid this morning. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message and not be like spoiled Israel who failed to respond to God’s love!!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 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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Remain true! — 1 Timothy 6:1-10

Remain true! — 1 Timothy 6:1-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 28, 2018

We truly have no idea what slavery is like unless we personally have been enslaved. We can theorize, emphasize, and philosophize about it but until we have experienced for ourselves we have no real clue what it means to be enslaved. It was and is one of the most horrendous things humans can do to one another. Christianity played a huge role in the abolition of slavery throughout the world. It still exists where the evil of mankind is allowed to go unchecked. Gangs, Islam, and socialist nations that rule through fear and intimidation we find enslavement still exists.

When Paul wrote about slaves he was in no way endorsing the ungodly practice; instead he knew that those who were masters and those who were slaves that had been changed by Jesus Christ needed to practice a new way of life that reflected their change. Paul’s desire was that no matter what a person’s circumstance in life that they would remain true to their faith in Jesus. Let’s see what he wrote Timothy…

READ: 1 Timothy 6:1-10

Paul understood Christians should act like Christians. What a concept, right? Jesus taught “no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:37-39 NIV) Paul taught…

I. Christians remain true by respecting Jesus! (Vv. 1-2)

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.

1. The “new wine” of the Holy Spirit living within the believer will spill out and splash all over others! Jesus taught “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 NIV) He did not say that it depended upon how we felt or the circumstance of our lives. So Paul writes those who were slaves in Timothy’s church that “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect”! Why was this so important to Paul? Wasn’t slavery horrendous and weren’t all people seen as free before the Lord? Yes, but Paul knew that the focus should be on honoring God “so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered”; so much so that while we are all “one” in Christ “Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers.” Their position in life may not have changed but their relationship to the Lord had. Even though their masters were now “brothers” in the Lord they were still slaves, and as slaves they as believers were “to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them.” This holds true for the employee and employer of our day. A Christian’s position in life should honor Jesus. While in our day we can either quit a believing boss who is not living for the Lord or we can stay and show others how a true believer is to serve no matter what the boss does! Slaves of Paul’s day did not have the choice to simply quit; they would be tracked down, resold, imprisoned, or if lucky just flogged! Yet as a believer they were to first honor the Lord with their lives. “These are the things” Timothy “was to teach and urge” on his church! Christians remain true by respecting Jesus!

EXAMPLE: Can you imagine being a Christian slave to a Christian owner? How about being a Christian slave owner who owns a Christian slave that runs away? Paul wrote a personal letter to a man named Philemon regarding such an issue. He began his letter by reminding Philemon that he Paul was “a prisoner of Christ Jesus”. It reminded Philemon that he was in prison, thereby enslaved, because of his faith. Christians remain true by respecting Jesus! Paul appealed to Philemon’s faith to treat Onesimus, his runaway slave, with the love of Christ. Paul was sending Onesimus back to Philemon but “no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother” in Jesus. Paul was willing to pay the cost of Philemon looking for Onesimus but Philemon needed to remember that they were both now followers of Jesus and that Christians remain true by respecting Jesus!

The love of Jesus should change our lives. He sacrificed everything to set us free form our bondage and enslavement to personal sin! Paul therefore writes Timothy that he was to remain true to the gospel and that…

II. Christians remain true by following Jesus! (Vv. 3-5)

If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

1. We have become so enamored with being liked by everyone and being accepting of everyone that we allow ungodly behavior to continue or we excuse it. While it is true we are to take care of the ungodly log in our eye before we try to remove the sinful splinter in a brother’s eye we can and are commanded to remain in Jesus! Jesus succinctly taught: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4 NIV) Therefore Paul told Timothy “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing.” Paul bluntly tells us that those who refuse to understand Jesus’ teaching are spiritually ignorant! Why, because Jesus’ teaching is not only “sound”, correct, and true it is “godly teaching!”! In fact those who continue to refute Jesus regurgitate ungodliness! They have an “unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result” in all kinds of ungodly behavior! Paul’s words are directed towards those who were Judaizers who wanted believers to follow Jesus plus Old Testament laws. Paul told them bluntly “that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16 NIV) Their continued teaching of false doctrines within the church resulted in “envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction” and not the unity and love of Jesus! Paul told Timothy that these were “men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain”! These ungodly men had ulterior motives to enrich themselves! Paul knew that Christians remain true by following Jesus!

EXAMPLE: Several ungodly examples of this kind of thing are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and Latter Day Saints. While wanting the world to think of them as “Christian” nothing could be further from the truth! However there also can be pastors who claim Christ but are blind guides that keep their congregation in the chains of spiritual slavery by telling them that only they teach the truth by corrupting the gospel or Scripture into their own twisted doctrines in order to aggrandize themselves. This is why it is so important for believers to know the Bible! Bible Study is important! Paul reminds us that Christians remain true by following Jesus!
Evidently there were those who claimed Jesus in Timothy’s church but were using their so-called faith as a means to enrich themselves! Kind of like many name-it-and-claim-it, blab-it-and-grab-it, Trinity Broadcasting Network types do nowadays. Paul reminds Timothy that…

III. Christians remain true by being satisfied! (Vv. 6-10)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

1. These are some of the best verses in the Bible and should be learned, remembered, and used by believers. We often forget that we live one life here on this earth and then we will either live eternally with God or separated from him. There are religions that teach you are to lose yourself and become nothing by becoming one with the whole in order to find bliss. Jesus teaches us that we are to remain who we are but to walk in him moment-by-moment. We are created individuals who are each special and unique to God but we live in a sin-tainted creation. When we come to Christ by faith we discover that “godliness with contentment is great gain”. We are to be content in him because “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it”. All that we treasure so much now means nothing once we die. Believers are to treasure up for themselves the things of God. Jesus taught for a reason: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)  Paul reminds us that “if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that”. Paul knew it depended up what your focus in life was and he did not want Timothy to fall into the trap of wanting “things”. Now having a good house, job, or income is not the problem – the problem is when we begin to focus our lives on the wrong things. Paul knew that people whose only focus was “to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” Money is neither good nor bad, it is simply a tool however “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” and in fact Paul relates that some “people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many [of the] griefs” in life they could have avoided by focusing on Jesus! Christians remain true by being satisfied!

EXAMPLE: In the old movie The Jerk with Steve Martin he is having an emotional fight with his wife and he claims he “doesn’t need anything” in life. Except as he leaves his house he begins to pick up an ashtray, a paddleball, a chair and other nonsensical items that he “needs”. We finally see him aimlessly wandering down the street still claiming that he doesn’t “need anything”! It is a perfect commentary on how many view their lives, including some believers. Paul understood that Christians remain true by being satisfied!

Conclusion:

Christians remain true by respecting Jesus! Christians remain true by following Jesus! Christians remain true by being satisfied!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 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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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!
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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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