Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 30, 2015
Open your Bibles to Psalm 8. Today we find ourselves stepping into a new light. Over the last several weeks we have been trudging through the Psalms of lament, and today, the cloud lifts and we find ourselves gazing into the brightness of God’s Glory and praising his name. So let us read our text today, pray, and dive into Psalm 8.
O Lord, Our Lord
In this Psalm you see that it has two identical bookends. Verse 1, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” and verse 9, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” These two statements appear to be ones of great excitement and praise of David. It is as if he is bursting at the seams to declare the majesty of God’s name.
As I have said for the last three Sunday’s these Psalms are windows into David’s heart. This heart of David is one which God declared to be a heart after His own. Today we see that David’s heart desired the name of God to be given its full recognition and honor. David desired the splendor and beauty and excellencies of God’s name to stretch across all four corners of this planet. This desire was not just a desire of David’s but it is also a desire of Gods. God's will is for his name to be great.
How do I know this? First of all, these words in Psalm 8 of David’s are also the words of the Holy Spirit, for all Scripture is God breathed. Therefore for David to declare it is to say that God declared it. This is supported by the author of Hebrews citing Psalm 8 in Chapter 2 of Hebrews, which we will talk about later. However, Psalm 8 is not the only place in the Bible where we see God concerned about His name. In fact, the Psalms are replete with concern for the name of God.
The next thing I want to draw your attention to is how David begins this Psalm, “O Lord, our Lord.” One would think this statement is somewhat redundant and therefore meaningless. However, that is not the case, for the comma represents a great chasm between two beautiful realities.
Let us begin by understanding the first part, O Lord. In Hebrew the first Lord is the word “Yahwey.” As we have discussed before, Yah-weh is the name of God that best summarizes his self-declaration of his name.
And when we continue reading Psalm 8 this is exactly what we find pouring out of David’s heart. Verse 1, “You have set your glory above the heavens.” Verse 3, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place.” David is overwhelmed by the work of God's hands and the weight of His glory.
When David peered into the sky he would have potentially seen several thousand stars. It is said that there are only approximately 9,000 stars that are visible to the naked eye from the planet Earth. However, this pales in comparison to the true reality of how many stars truly exist. With a pair of binoculars it is estimated that you could see 200,000 starts. With a small telescope you can see 15 million stars. Large observatories can see billions of stars. It is estimated that our Milky Way Galaxy consists of 400 billion stars. And because of the Hubble Space Telescope they estimate there are billions of galaxies. Therefore the estimate of stars is billions upon billions upon billions.
Why does God make the Universe so unimaginably big? Why does he put things in the sky that we can't even see, but we know are there? The reason is found in Psalm 19:1-2.
Oh but how seldom do we dwell upon the greatness of Yahweh? How little do we ponder the shear magnitude of a God who holds everything that exists by merely declaring it that it shall be. How often do Church's focus on the creature and not the Creator. Week after week preaching self-help sermons, and never once pointing to the Glory of God. Whether you recognize it or not, this is what your heart longs for, do dwell upon the fullness of your God. To worship him in all of his splendor and his glory.
And for those who long for authentic and powerful worship, the answer does not lie in old hymns or edgy contemporary music, nor does it rest in the hands of a polished worship leader. The catalyst to powerful worship lies in the revelation of a powerful God. This is why our worship will never compare to the worship that will take place in Heaven in the presence of God.
With majesty of God before our eyes, the second part whereby Daivd says “our Lord” found in verse 1 becomes all the more unfathomable. The second word Lord that is not all caps is ’ă-ḏō-nê-nū". It is the possessive of adonai, which means master, father, Lord.
To say that God is Adonai is to proclaim a posture of submission. It is to recognize God as Yayweh and to bend you knee and declare your allegiance to Him. It is to recognize His authority over all creation, the stars, the moon, the Sun, and you. It is to have your eyes open to your need to get into a right relationship with him.
But what is truly amazing is not our desire to get right with God, but his desire to allow us to get right with Him. And this is really what causes David to stand in awe. With such a high view of God, he cannot understand why a God of such glory has any interest in humanity, and not only humanity, but a sinful humanity. David is recognizing the infinite chasm that exists between who man is and who God is. The difference between us and God is truly unmeasurable. It is greater than our relationship with an ant. Yet our God cares for us. He not only cares, but his is intimately aware of who you are. He is totally invested in your life.
For David, however, he is amazed not just that God is involved with man, but that he uses man. This God who uses stars to speak of his glory, simultaneously uses man for the same purpose, to declare his glory. However, our declaration is unique in this universe. We have a special relationship with God, for it is only man who is created in the image of God. The sun, the moon, and the stars are not created in God's image, the angles are created in God's image. Man is the only thing that exists that is created in the image of God. We are the clay that best points to the Potter.
Having said that, because of our sin, this image bearing is marred, it is corrupted. Instead of using God's gift of dominion over creation for His glory, we use it for our glory. We exchange it. We trample the name of God, in order to exult our own.
One would think this would be the end of us. One would think that this awesome God who is unlimited in power would squash us like the cockroaches we are. There is no doubt that this is exactly what we deserve. God has given us the greatest gift in the universe, bearing his image, and we have trampled it under the feet of our sin. Justice demands our eternal punishment for rejecting an infinitely awesome God. So what did God do? He sent his Son, Jesus, into the World.
To deal with our refusal to live in accordance to God's design, God sent Jesus into the world. John 3:16. “For God so loved the World that he sent his only son...” Now what is amazing about this is how God sent His Son. God sent His Son into this world as a man. God took the two realities of Psalm 8, the greatness of God and the weakness of man and merged them together in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was both fully man and fully God.
Once again, I do not think we appreciate the magnitude of that reality, an infinite and Holy God humbling himself to put on skin. To be conceived, to be born, required to eat, sleep, and walk amongst a world that had rejected Him. Why would he do this? Turn with me to Hebrews 2.
And because of what Jesus has done in his life, death and resurrection as the God/man, God has raised him up and appointed him to be the heir of all things, so that at the sound of His name, every knee will bow on heaven on on earth. Verse 8, “putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
So where does that leave us? It leaves us right back to where David was, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 23, 2015
Open your Bibles to Psalm 7. We are continuing our series entitled “Summer of Psalms”. Today we will unpack yet another lament style Psalm from King David. As I work through each of these Psalms I continue to find it interesting that God regularly uses the struggle against the forces of darkness to reveal to us who He is. Instead of just saying that He is loving, just, merciful, and gracious, it appears that He wants to display these attributes against the wickedness of the world. For those who struggle with the question, why does God allow evil, perhaps this realization that God is best seen in comparison will shed some light on your question.
Another thing I want to mention before we begin today is to remind us what the purpose of God's Word is. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Today we will be equipping ourselves. Perhaps for the battle that will take place tomorrow morning at your work, or perhaps for the battle that will occur 20 years from now. So as we walk through our text today, be praying that God use Psalm 7 to strengthen your spiritual muscles so that you can be a true solider for Christ when the time comes, which some day it will, if not already. So with that said, let us read our text, pray and take a look at Psalm 7.
The catalyst behind Psalm 7 are the slanderous words of Cush. The introduction of Psalm 7 says, “concerning the words of Cush.” These words of Cush were causing problems for David. Who is Cush and what are these words, we do not know. Some people have speculated that Cush, the Benjaminite is actually King Saul, the Son of Kish, the Benjaminite, and David changes his name so that that he does not disrespect God's first King of Israel. As I briefly stated last week, King Saul hated David. His hatred towards David was out of jealousy and had no legitimate basis. If you read 1 Samuel you will get a taste of Saul's hatred of David and his zeal to kill him, and it is definitely in the realm of possibility that Daivd was lamenting the slanderous words of Saul when writing this Psalm. However, it appears that slanderous and venomous words against David were not limited to just Saul. It appears that David was constantly under a verbal attack by his enemies, and it appears that these words effected David greatly for he writes about them often.
However, to be fair, these slanderous words of Cush did in fact produce tangible trouble for David. The words of Cush caused real tension in David's life. It wasn't just words. Things became more difficult for David. For it appears that people appear to be believing the lies that are being spread about David and it is causing persecution. Presumably people were going from being passive to being pursuers against David due to the words of Cush. And when you think about it, this makes sense, for this is the purpose of slanderous, hurtful words, to cause people to take a position against the accused. Perhaps a good way to think about what David was experiencing was Cush inciting a mob against him. Whipping people into a frenzy causing them to grab their pitchforks and burning torches with a desire to put an end to David.
The Slander of Christ
As I stated several weeks ago when we started our journey through the Psalms, it is important to remember that all Scripture points to Jesus Christ either specifically or generally. This is also true for Psalm 7. David is a type of Christ. By that I mean that he is a person in the Old testament that points to the greater person of Jesus. Commonly we call these types in the Old Testament shadows, meaning that they are not the true substance, but just bear the form of the true substance. So for David he is the shadow of the substance of the True King for Israel, Jesus. With this in mind, the slander and venomous words against David is a foreshadow of the slanderous and venomous words against Jesus. These words against Christ took on various forms, but here are some examples:
The slander against David paled in comparison to the slander against Christ. For David was a sinner, but Christ was the Spotless Lamb of God. He did not deserve one word spoken against Him. Having said that Isaiah 53:7 says this of Jesus:
The Slander of Christians
Now the slander of Christ did not end with his death, in fact it escalated. As the gospel spread, so did the lies, mocking, and blasphemies against Christ. These slanderous words against Jesus continue today. And not only against Jesus, but also His followers. We have become ridiculed by association. However, this is not a surprise. It was expected. Jesus warned his disciples of this reality.
Perhaps some of you have had firsthand experience with this reality, being called things like self-righteous, closed minded, judgmental, hypocrite, hater, bigots. I hate to be always preaching doom and gloom, but unless God causes another Great Awakening in America, it appears that mocking towards Christians will most likely increase, therefore if you have not yet been maligned, it may be something that occurs in the near future. And like David, these words that are hurled against us will most likely create difficulty for us in our lives. It is quite possible that more and more people will grab their pitchforks, light their torches and demand our lives. This is exactly what is happening in dozens of nations across the world, there is no reason that it won't happen someday in America.
The Christian Response
So if this is true, that we like David will have slanderous and venomous words spoken against us, how shall we respond? A good place for us to start is to see the world as David saw the world.
The first thing we see David do is to turn to the Lord. Perhaps this seems obvious, but for many of us I don't think we automatically do this, like we should. We have a tendency to take matters into our own hands and we respond to these verbal attacks with our flesh, and not spiritually. For David his problems were horizontal. By that I mean that he is struggling with a relationship between him and other men. People are speaking lies, people are believing these lies, and people are acting on these lies. Instead of David responding horizontally, and confronting Cush and these other evil doers, what does he do? He responds vertically. Meaning that he turns to God. David realized that the solution to his problem was not going to be found in his own hands or the hands of his counselors, or friends, but in God alone. He laid his burdens down at God's feet.
We must do the same. In the midst of persecution, our response is not to fight fire with fire. It is to seek refuge in the Lord. This must be our knee-jerk response.
2) Accept What we Deserve
The next thing that David did was he humbled himself before God, and gave God permission to give him what he deserved. He told God that if he was guilty, to give him his due punishment. What a risky prayer for David, for we know that David was a sinner, just like we are. So why pray this way? Because for David he had this inner desire for justice. He wanted to he held accountable if that was what was right. This is another example of how David was a man after God's own heart. David believed in justice, even at his own expense.
Sometimes, Christians are quick to claim persecution, when in reality what they are receiving is exactly what they deserve. For example, a Christian may be called a hypocrite, not out of persecution, but because it is true. Likewise, some Christians may be called unloving because they are truly unloving. Their is a saying in the they law that the best defense to slander is the truth.
Christians should be the first one's to admit when they are wrong, and deal with the consequences. Christians should willfully accept the consequences for the actions not matter how difficult. I saw a quote this week that stuck with me. It went something like this, “Hell will be full of people who think they deserve Heaven. Heaven will be full of people who know they deserve Hell.” Isn't that good? This is the mark of a true Christian, the knowledge of justice, fairness, and what we truly deserve.
3) The Lord Judges the Peoples
The last thing we see David do is to recognize his proper place in the midst of this persecution. Verse 8 David says, “The Lord judges the peoples.” David rightfully looked forward to the appointed time of judgment and laid down his burdens at the feet of God. David effectively let go of the situation and allowed God to be God. He trusted in God to make things right, to judge with the righteousness that only He has.
Our Acts 242 Bible Study that meets on Wednesday night has been equipping ourselves to speak this reality to the lost. We are memorizing Hebrews 9:27 which says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” This Day of Judgment is one that we fail to speak of as often as we should. We are timid, we are weak, and we are failing to warn people of the wrath to come. Jesus did not hesitate to warn people of it, nor should we. It is day that every maligning and slanderous word will be made right.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 16, 2015
Open your Bibles to Psalm 6. Today we continue or series from the book of Psalms. Before we begin, I want to remind you that these Psalms are worship songs for the nation of Israel. Because of that we can this is God's hymnal, due to these Psalm being the inspired word of God. With this in mind, it is interesting how lament oriented these worship songs are. They are not necessary the upbeat dance mix that some Church's tend to use. Perhaps many of you have already noticed this, but many of these Psalms come from a place of brokenness. They are songs of desperation, and I find it interesting that God uses these times of brokenness to reveal himself. Today is another example of this. With that said, let us read out text, pray, and examine God's Word.
Once again we have before us a Psalm of King David; King David who defeated lions, bears, and Goliath; King David who had songs sung about him of killing ten thousands; King David who led a nation and secured it borders on all sides. King David who ushered in the greatest days of historical Israel. King David who was potentially the most manly man of the Bible, yet in today’s text we see a different picture of David. We see a man who is an emotional wreck. We see a man who says in verse 6, “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” The old adage of “real men don’t cry” does not apply to David, for he was a mess. What broke this seemingly powerful, successful leader of a nation down to a puddle of tears? It was the sorrow of his sin.
In verse 1 we see David cry out to the Lord, “rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.” David is acknowledging his wrong doing before the Lord. He knows he deserves God's correction, but is hopeful God's rebuke comes, not from God's anger, but from God's love. His hope was that he would be punished as a child of God, not an enemy of God.
We are not sure what sins were on the mind of David when he wrote these words, but we can all recognize that he was a sinner. As we have said he was an adulterous murderer. In fact it is interesting that he now sheds these tear upon a bed, for it was his bed that was a common venue for the sins of his lustful heart. His actions have now come full circle and his sin has become his sorrow. This Psalm is a window into David’s recognition that he deserves rebuking, that he deserves discipline.
Clarity in Brokenness
How did David get to this point of recognizing his sin? Staying within our text, it appears from verses 7 and 8 it is due to the pursuit of his foes, his enemies, and workers of evil. It is in the midst of this circumstance that he cries out.
Who were these foes, we do not know specifically, but we do know that David’s foes were many. In Psalm 2 David’s foes were the nations. In Psalm 3 it was his third son, Absalom. Perhaps in this situation it was King Saul. For those who are unfamiliar with the stories, King Saul passionately hated David. Saul spent the end of his days attempting to kill David at all costs. Or perhaps the foes David now speaks of are the schemes of Satan, the cosmic powers, the spiritual forces that stood against him and the nation of Israel.
No matter whom these foes were, David’s circumstances caused him to reflect upon his right standing before God. In fact, the brokenness of his life caused him to think about the afterlife. Look at verse 5, “For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?” Sheol is the residence of the dead. The New Testament equivalent is the word Hades. Everyone who died prior to Christ’s resurrection went to Sheol. Perhaps the best description of Sheol is by Christ himself in Luke 16 discussing the rich man and Lazarus. Upon Christ victory on the cross, the elect who had already died were taken out of Sheol and ushered into the presence of God. For us today, because we live on the others side of the cross do not go to Sheol, but into the presence of God, where we wait for the day of judgment.
For today, what is important is not the logistics of Sheol, but that David's starts to dwell upon death. I think each of us can relate to this to some degree. I commonly say that in brokenness there is clarity. And by that I mean that when tragedy strikes the insignificant things in this world fade away and you dwell upon things that truly matter, like eternity. We see this in our own lives and in the lives of others. We also see it Biblically.
The first person we tend to think of when thinking about suffering is Job. In the midst of his tragedies that many of us can't even imagine he cried to the Lord. But there are others. For example, Jonah in the belly of the whale said in Jonah 2:7, “When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.“ Then there is the thief on the cross, as he stared death in the face he cried out to Christ in Luke 23:42, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
When difficult time or even death comes knocking, our inner knowledge of God comes to the surface and in those moments we tend to recognize what is important in light of eternity and we cry out to God. Why is this? It is because the brokenness of this world breaks us, and in those moments we are humbled. And despite the pain, this is a good place for each one of us to be, humbled before the Lord.
Broken and Contrite
In perhaps one of David's most well know Psalms, Psalm 51, which is the Psalm he wrote regarding his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, he writes this in verse 17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
As we stated last week, God is a Holy, Holy, Holy and his power and his worth and his wisdom and his majesty is beyond our comprehension. Yet we so often approach him with arrogance our our breath, and when we do so we approach with great risk for Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” God desires us to approach him with a humble hearts. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
One way that God does this is through our circumstances. In fact, the apostle Paul knew this reality very well. In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul says this about the circumstances of his life, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.“ So just like David, God allow the circumstances of Paul's life to put him in a proper relationship with the Lord.
In fact, many times I pray for brokenness in people's life, not because I desire to people to suffer, but because I want them to have their eyes open to the realities of God. I want God to rip the things of this world out of their hands so that they dwell upon eternity, so that they dwell upon Him. I want them to walk in the valley of the shadow of death, so that they would feel the rod and staff of the Lord our Shepherd.
For David, this is exactly what happened. His circumstances that caused him to feel the weight of God's hand for his sin, also caused him to cry out to God in the midst of his pain. The proper posture before God was in fact achieved, and God was glorified through David's pleas. And we are told in verse 8 that God heard the sound of David's cries.
Now it should be noted that this does not always happen. Not everyone who stares death in the face repents and cries out to God. Some do and some don't. For example, two figures who dealt with brokenness wrongly were Pharaoh and Judas. Pharaoh, upon losing his first born son initially let Israel leave Egypt, but his decision was short term, for he pursued them to his death at the bottom of the red sea. Likewise, Judas, upon feel grief after betraying Jesus returned the money, but did not flea to Jesus, but instead fled to the grave by taking his own life. Why is this? Why does David cry out to God and find peace, but others do not? The answers lies in what type of grief you have.
However a Godly sorrow has a different effect upon the heart of man. First of all, Godly sorrow is not a product of circumstances, as I said earlier, it is a product of God. God is the one who places his hand upon your heart so that you feel the weight of your sins before a Holy God. There are several verses that express this reality. One example is when Peter is preaching to the Sanhedrin, a group that did not appear to feel any grief for their actions
Having said that, we must recognize that this gift, at times, comes through the instruments of his servants. When evil is on display, the role of the servant of the Lord is to gently correct, not to ignore the sin. It is through this correction that God's spirit may or may not blow into the person's life.
Servant's of the Lord
One fantastic example of this involves David himself in 2 Samuel 12, when the Prophet Nathan confronts David of his sin with Bathsheba.
Cornerstone, we are Nathan. We have been sent into this world to cry out repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. In the midst of evil and sin that so greatly surrounds us, we must not ignore it, but with gentleness correct the sinner, in hopes that God would give them a heart of repentance.
Without Godly grief, no one will find life. Repentance must occur before the truth of Christ can be received. So often Christians, due to their timidity, or lack of Biblical knowledge leave out the need for repentance when sharing the gospel. They leave out the wrath and judgment of God that hangs above the sinner. When you do this, disciples are not made, Judases are.
Let us be like John the Baptist who was sent to preach repentance, not the health and wealth Gospel. Let us heed the call and preach the true Gospel, let us be like Nathan who loved God and loved David enough to tell him the truth.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 9, 2015
Open your Bibles to Psalm 5. Today we are continuing our journey through the Book of Psalms. Before we begin unpacking our text, let me say something that I have said before, but it is good to remind ourselves of these things. The Bible is God's Word. It was written by God through the instrument of the hands of man. Because the Bible is God's Word, and God does not lie, the Bible is inerrant and infallible, or to say it another way, the Bible is true, and incapable of being untrue.
Many Christians would say Amen to the statement that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, at least until they read certain passages; for there are many text that may run afoul of humanities pre-formed, and wrong ideas of who God is and what are His purposes.
With this in mind we must recognize what the Bible is. It is the infallible and inerrant Word of God that has been given to us, so that we understand who God is what His purpose are. The reason God has given us this book of is to reveal truth about Him and His purposes. So when we read passages in the Bible that we don't like, the problem is not with the Bible, it is with our sinful hearts. We are the ones who must submit to what the Bible says, and not make God submit to us. This is the reason for infallible scripture, to correct our fallible minds.
With this in mind, let us read God's Word with the foundation that it is true, and then ask God to humble our hearts to receive his revelation, and then, and only then will we be able to benefit from the sanctifying Word of our Father.
As we can see, Psalm 5 is another Psalm written by King David. Up to this point we have focused on David being God's anointed King of Israel and we have also discussed the sinfulness of David, and its consequences. One thing we haven't talked about is the one thing that is commonly mentioned about David and it is found in 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22.
In today’s passage we see David praying in the morning. Verse 3 says, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” This sacrifice of David is a sacrifice of prayer. In fact, the Hebrew root word behind “I prepare a sacrifice for you” is the word “arak” which is most commonly used to describe laying out wood for a sacrifice. In fact this same root word is used in Genesis 22:9 when Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac, “When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order (arak) and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.”
So in the case of David, we see a ritual of morning worship, whereby David lays out His prayers before the Lord in anticipation of communion with him. This picture of morning communion with the Lord through prayer is not one exclusive to David. I love this quote by Martin Luther, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” And it doesn’t stop with Luther, listen to how Jesus began his day, one that was filled with more stress that we could ever imagine.
And when you do pray, do not make it only about the routine, so that it is robotic, whereby you go through the motions. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:7, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Your prayers must come from your heart. They must be authentic, just like David’s. He described his prayer life as one of groanings and cryings.
For me, I find it helpful to picture my children when they come to me with problems. My little Ezra is so precious. She has a heart just like her mother, which I cherish. She will come to me in the midst of her pain and she will be an absolute mess. She buries her face into my chest and just sobs, and I can’t understand a word she says, but my heart breaks for her. Why? Because she is really in pain. And her authentic crying has the capacity to move me into action to care and nurture her, and to give her the love she longs for.
And we likewise, must approach our God in prayer with this type of child like faith. Authentic. Raw. Humble. Dependent. And then when we do, we must likewise by like David and watch for the hand of our Father to move across the tumultuous waves of our lives.
Who are You Praying To?
However, the question rises, do we see God in the same way David sees God? When we pray, do we have the same vision of God as David? My guess is that we do not. My guess is that many of us have created in our mind, not the true understanding of God, but instead a comfortable understanding of God. We have in effect turned the Potter into the clay and molded him to our likings, to our sinful hearts. When we pray we are in effect praying to an idol, not the God who is.
Why would we do this? The simple answer is that we are fallen creatures. Sin has blinded us to the ultimate reality of the Universe, that being, who is God. We cannot see him for who he truly is. However, because we are created in his image, we have a knowledge that he is there, but we suppress the ultimate truth of His glory. It is as if we are in a dark room and we can sense a presence, we know that Someone is there, but we just can't make out who it is.
So if this is true, and it is, how are we to have a true understanding of this God, who we know is there, but cannot see? The answer to this question is revelation. The only way by which we know who we cannot see is by Him revealing himself to us. Once again, imagine yourself in a dark room, and you sense that presence of Someone, so you call out, “Who is there?”. Then out of the darkness you here a response,”I AM, here.” You then say, “Who are you?” The Person then begins to reveal to you, who he is. The only reason you are able to know the person who has been with you in that dark room the entire time is because that Person has chosen to reveal himself to us.
So how does God do this for us? Simple. The revelation of God is the Word of God. This is why the Bible exists. The Word of God is light shining out into the darkness of your life revealing to us who God is. The more you spend in God's Word, the more you will see of God.
John Calvin in his famous work, The institutes of Christian Religion said this about the Word of God, “For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any book, however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written, are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly.”
So to get back to our original question, how is it possible that we would have a wrong understanding of who God is, the answer is simple, we fail to put on our glasses so that we can see Him who stands before us.
The God in whom David cried out to is described in verse 4-6, “or you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. 5The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. 6You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.”
Is this the God you love? Is this the God you worship? Is this the God you pray to? A God who hates all evildoers? A God abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man? When you approach the Sovereign God of the Universe do you recognize that he does not delight in your wickedness, and cannot dwell with and form of evil? I fear for most of us this God never crosses our mind. Instead when we pray to God, we see God as a funny old grandpa that sees the sin of this earth of silly, funny, inconsequential, or no biggy. Let us be clear, this is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is zealous for righteousness.
The God of the Bible pays out the wage of death for sin, no matter how small that sin is. The God of the Bible is one who killed thousands if not millions of people during the flood for one reason, “
The God of the Bibles is the one who designed and created a little place that we know of as Hell. This place is described as eternal torment, utter darkness, a place that there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And this place exists for one reason only, to be the final destination for angles and people who have sinned against God and stand condemned before him. Let us be clear, Hell was not created to hold sin. It is a place created to hold sinners.
This type of talk makes us feel uncomfortable. We don't like to see God this way, but this is the way David saw God in the morning as he laid his troubles before Him. As he approached God in the morning, the focus of David was on the Holiness of God. It was as if David when walking into the presence of God was like Moses walking up Mount Sinai with its lightning, thunder, clouds, smoke and trumpet calls. It was as if David when approaching God was like Isaiah, in Isaiah 6 when he saw God high and lifted up with Seraphim worshiping him so powerfully that it shook the foundations of the Temple. Who when being in the presence of this awesome God cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). It was as if David was like Peter in Luke 5:8 that upon seeing the Glory of Christ, “ fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” It was as if David was like Paul who in Romans 7:24 who cries out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
In my opinion, we, myself included, have a small and distorted view of God and his passion for his Holiness. God is totally serious about his glory. He will not be mocked. If you continue to chose to rebel against the righteous God he does not just hate the sin and love the sinner. He hates the evildoer, and He will not hesitate to send any of us to Hell.
Jonathan Edwards, a man who I will never hold a candle to, but I grow to love more and more as I read his works wrote a famous sermon that is credited to sparking the Great awakening. It is entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. In that sermon he says this: “The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready to string and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.”
This is the God in whom David prayed to. But thankfully for David, and for us, that is only one side of the coin of who God is. For if it was, David, and I, and all of you would have a very painful eternity.
God of Steadfast Love
For God is not just a God who hates evildoers, he is also a God who has steadfast love.
This is how David starts his morning in prayer, dwelling upon the Holiness of God and the abundance of his steadfast love. To say it another way, David begins each morning praying the Gospel to the God of the Gospel. With this understanding, you can start to see how David was a man after God's own heart, not that he was perfect, but that understood that the only means by which he had any chance with a Holy God was to seek refuge behind the shield of God's love.
So what was the effect of this type of mourning prayer? Verse 11, “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy,” How many times have we seen this? Over and over and over again, God continues to reveal to us that joy springs from the fountain of Jesus Christ. As we stated last week, we spend our days seeking joy in empty things, let us instead have hearts like David and start our morning in prayer dwelling upon the steadfast love of our Lord in the face of Jesus Christ.
This week I heard a quote form John Piper who said some thing to the effect of understanding our depravity is crucial for our joy because every day that we don't wake up in Hell is a good day. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Open your Bibles to Psalm 4. Today we are continuing our summer journey through some of the Psalms. Today we are examining another Psalm written by King David. We have a lot of ground to cover, so lets get right to work by reading our text, praying, and then turn our ears towards God.
I thought the best way to approach this Psalm was to start with the problem that seems to be expressed. I believe the main problem is located in verse 2.
The Hebrew word for vain in Psalm 4 and Psalm 2 is “riq” which means empty, no purpose, worthless, vanity. Having said that, David takes it upon himself to define what he means by these vain words and calls them flat out lies.
For David, these vain, empty, worthless, lying words are causing for him distress and even anger. The reason there is so much strife in David’s heart over these lies is because people are tripping over themselves for this vain words and are actually seeking after these lies. People are pursuing and buying into the deception and worthlessness of what is being said. To use a phrase that I use way too much, the people of Israel are thirsty for and drinking the Kool-Aid.
Exactly what these vain, empty, lying words are, we are not sure. David does not tell us specifically, but we can get a sense of what it may pertain to by looking at verse 5.
Unfortunately, this problem of trusting in vain, empty, lying words was nothing new for Israel. This was the core of their problem since the beginning of their nation. From the moment they were freed from the slavery of Egypt, the people of Israel were easily persuaded to put their trust in something other than God, their Deliverer The people of Israel would begin to complain or give their opinion as to what Israel should do and these grumblings would spread like wildfire throughout the camp. At one point they bought into the lie that it would be better to be slaves in Egypt than to be God’s chosen people.
The pursuit of vanity was an ongoing problem for the nation of Israel. They were constantly chasing after things that were outside of God’s will. In my daily walk through the Bible this week I was in 1 Samuel 12 and I read these closing remarks by the prophet Samuel at the moment of transition from Judges to Kings. This is what Samuel warned the people about in 1 Samuel 12:21-22.
The Problem of Vanity Today
However, we should be fair, and recognize that we are no better. In fact, we may be worse. We are a people who frequently seek after vanity, who believe the lies, who turn aside after empty things. Things like spiritualism, humanism, materialism, and even nationalism. With each one of these “isms” comes a promise of peace, enlightenment, success, satisfaction.
Some of you in this room may say, “That is not me. I don't struggle with any of those isms.” However, I would bet that many of you are falling pray to some of these things without even realizing it. Many of this “isms” masquerade as angels of light, and each one of those “isms”, manifest themselves in hundreds if not thousands of different ways. For example, spiritualism: you may think that peace comes from yoga, simplicity, or being in nature. For humanism, you may believe happiness is success, wealth, comfort, or academic achievement. For materialism, you see shopping as an escape, or you spend most of your times dreaming about your retirement. For nationalism, you think the answers to America's problem lie in the right political party and you spend you nights watching fox news.
For each one of these “isms” there is a false belief that the pursuit of these things will satisfy us. But if there is one thing that history has proven to us, each one of these things is fleeting and none of them deliver. Buying into these things is the equivalent of buying snake oil. The sad thing is however, that instead of waking up from our drunkenness with the things of this world, we instead order another round, and buy into the next trendy thing, once again hoping that it will quench or soul’s thirst.
Vanity of Vanities
As I traced this idea of vanity through the Bible this week, I found it interesting how frequent I found it. I mentioned to you that Samuel spoke of it upon the transition to the first King or Israel, Sal. Then David speaks of it in Psalm 4. But it does not end there, for King Solomon took the idea of vanity to a whole new level. This is how he opened the book he wrote, Ecclesiastes:
Why did God allow Solomon to live like he did with no hindrance to his lustful desires? To show us that unlimited money, stuff, intelligence and sex does not produce in us happiness. Our hearts were wired for something better. So what is that something better? Turn with me to Revelation 3:17. These are the words of Jesus.
Jesus tells us plainly that trusting in the things of this world is foolish; for the true reality of who we are is that we are wretched, and nothing in this world is designed to remove our wretchedness, or satisfy our deepest needs. The answer is not found in the world, but found in the one who upholds the Word, Jesus Christ. At the core of who we are is our sinfulness. As David said in verse 1, our righteousness does not come from our 401k, it comes from God. We are called to reject, or repent, the vanity of materialism, and enter into communion with Jesus Christ, for this alone has eternal value for our lives.
Set Apart for God
For David this communion with Christ can be found in verse 3. It is found in those who the Lord has set apart for himself. The godly. It is those who through Christ, God has transferred from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of His beloved Son, and Kingdom that we long to live in.
Those who are in set apart, or holy, before the Lord are those who have been given salve for their eyes and they see the reality of the meaninglessness of the things of this world, and see the lasting treasure that is Christ, and cry out to Him. Thereby turning, and placing our trust in Him.
These are people like Disciples John and James who upon being called to follow Jesus we are told in Matthew 4:21 “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” And Matthew who upon being called to follow Jesus left his tax booth. And Peter who stated, in Luke 18, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.“ And Paul who upon his conversion on the Damascus road realized that all of his life he was pursuing futility and states in Philippians 1:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him.”
Each one of these followers of Jesus placed their trust in Jesus. They trusted in who he was, what he did, and what he promised. They were freed from the emptiness of this world, and saw through the lies of Satan and chose the only path that their hearts truly yearned for.
Set Apart for Joy
These men no longer sought the vanity of this world, but instead the renounced all that they had and followed Jesus. They were called out of the world, and set apart for God. Was this easy? No. There is a cost to following Jesus. Jesus describes it as picking up your cross daily. He describes it as dyeing to self, and laying down your life. The Christian life is a life of sacrifice. Each day you are called to throw off more and more weight and sin that clings to you. This was true for the disciples, and this is also true for you. Some would then say than what good is it to follow Christ. Look at verses 6 and 7.
We must see thee lies of the world for what they are…lies. We must not buy the snake oil of Satan when comes selling the vanity of this world. We must recognize the reality that the things of this earth will soon pass away, but our Kingdom in Heaven is a lasting one. We must see the foolishness of building bigger barns to store our unprecedented wealth, and instead use what God has given us to store up treasures in Heaven.
We must rid ourselves of these weights and seize the treasure that is Christ is eternal. It is only Christ that will give us peace. Understanding that we are made to find satisfaction in God alone. Until you have the eyes to see this you will continue to be deceived by the lies of Satan and the things of this world. You will wake up day after day after day unsatisfied, empty, without purpose, without meaning, without joy.
Let us not be Israel, who did not heed the warning of Moses, Samuel, and David, and who eventually found themselves enslaved once again. Let us trust in God, and live the life of freedom as his children.