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Genesis 3:15.  “The first promise of hope.”

Nov. 29, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship The One who was sitting on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new!”…  The One on the throne said to me, “It is finished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End…    Be strong and brave. Don’t be afraid of them and don’t be frightened, because the Lord your God will go with you. He will not leave you or forget you.” Revelation 21:5a, 6a; Deuteronomy 31:6 (NCV)

Hymn: #124 “Come, Thou long expected Jesus.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee.  Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art, dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a king.  Born to reigh in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring.  By thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone, by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.

    

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent, which comes from the Latin “adventus” and means “coming” or “arrival”, takes place over the four Sundays before December 25.  Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of Jesus.

     2020 has been, at best, a strange year.  “Social distancing” entered our vocabulary and altered our interactions.  Even our most significant times together had to change: Celebrations of birth and marriages and the ability to grieve together in sickness or death.

     The 2020 Advent season begins with strong recommendations that we don’t have anyone beyond our immediate household in our home for the next 3-4 weeks.  What is our Christmas going to be like if these restrictions need to remain in place through December?  It wouldn’t surprise me, if some people decide to cancel Christmas this year – If we can’t do it Right, we won’t do it at all! 

     How about you, are you going to cancel Christmas?  The Christian’s response is to remember that Christmas is more than a celebration of family – it is about celebrating the coming of Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise of hope to humanity.  The Apostle Paul tells us about this good news from God: “2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures—3 concerning his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 1:2–3a (CSB).  Why did Jesus need to come?  To answer that question and also understand our current crisis, let’s start at the beginning, Genesis 3.

     Genesis 3 begins with a choice that the first humans needed to make.  Whose word would they believe as truth, God’s or Satan’s?  Satan came in the form of a serpent to tempt them to do the one thing God had told them not to do because it would result in death.  Satan raised doubts about God’s goodness & truthfulness – “You won’t die! It’s not that he’s protecting you from death, he just doesn’t want you to be like himself.”

     Adam and Eve decided to reject God and chose to live independent from their creator.  As a result they and all of creation faced the consequences of their choice: pain, suffering, sickness, and death.  Covic-19 is just one of countless illness that have afflicted mankind ever since. Yet within the judgment God spoke on the Serpent was a hint of hope, God had not given up on us! “14 So the Lord God said to the serpent: Because you have done this, you are cursed more than any livestock and more than any wild animal. You will move on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. 15 I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:14–15 (CSB).

     What is the good news here?  The focus in verse 14 on the animal seems to change in verse 15 to the one controlling the animal, Satan.  In v. 15 God is promising he will act (I will), as a result, a descent of Eve’s will have the ability to defeat Satan hold over us!  This ‘hope’ in the curse of the serpent was remembered and then recorded by Moses.  This is the first promise that God will send us a saviour!  Generations to come wondered who that would be. 

     The Gospel of Luke records that God’s messenger, an angel made the news public by announcing it to a gathering of shepherds the night Jesus was born: “10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10–11 (NIV).

     The Savior has been born – this is Good News?  Jesus was born, lived, taught, was crucified and rose on the third day, conquering death.  Satan struck his heel on the cross, but was struck a blow to the head.  The penalty of sin has been paid; death will no longer separate followers of Christ from God for eternity.  Join in the angels’ song: 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”” Luke 2:14 (NIV).  

     However, death still stocks us.  Sickness, hatred and the effect of sin still remain.  What has happened?  Fear not, God’s plan is still unfolding.  The Scriptures make it clear that the Christ will return as king, defeating sin, death and Satan once and for all (Rev. 20:10, 14).  This is our reason to hope!  We follow in the footsteps of those who take God’s Word as truth and walk in faith that he will keep his promises (see Hebrews 11).

     This brings us back to Advent and our promise keeping God.  Advent is not just about celebrating the birth of a baby in a manger 2000 years ago. It is a time to reflect on the “big picture” of God’s plan.  This passage reminds us that the good news announced by the Angels in Bethlehem had been planned by God long before.  Our advent focus has tended to be on Jesus’ birth, but for most of the church’s history that was considered only the first advent.  The season of advent also calls us to prepare for Jesus’ return, his second advent.  How are we to do that?  I read this statement about Advent: ‘The season of Advent in the Christian calendar anticipates the “coming of Christ” from three different perspectives; three perspectives?  What is this third coming of Christ which Advent calls us to prepare for?  This third advent is essential if Jesus’ birth and return is to have true significance to us.  It is “the coming of Christ in our hearts.”  Accepting Jesus personally, within your own heart!

     From the moment we fell into Satan’s clutches, God has been preparing to secure our freedom.  Have you asked Jesus to forgive your sins and committed to him as your life’s leader?  Listen to God’s Word as recorded in Romans’ 10:9-10, 13 9 If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved. 10 For it is by our faith that we are put right with God; it is by our confession that we are saved.” 13 As the scripture says, “Everyone who calls out to the Lord for help will be saved.”” (GNB).   

     This is why we can’t cancel Christmas!  This is the gift we have to share with everyone – the truth that God hasn’t given up on humanity.  The inner darkness so many people are experiencing makes the light of God’s love expressed through Christ all the more attractive.  Those of us between Jesus’ first and second coming who daily experience his advent within our lives are to share the hope of Christ with all we meet.  Listen as Paul continues in Romans 10:14 & 15: 14 How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? 15 And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord? The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news.” Romans 10:14–15 (CEV).

     Yes some of our Christmas traditions will change this year.  Phone and video calls may replace our Christmas gatherings, but the true reason for the season hasn’t changed.  In fact, the message of the good news of Jesus’ coming is needed more than ever.  Explain why you can’t cancel Christmas: God has seen our needs, heard our cries and has draw near – Now is the time to ask him to come into your life and give you his peace.

Closing song: The light of the world is Jesus (vv. 1,2). https://youtu.be/ACLntTuo8mQ

Verse 1 – The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin; The Light of the world is Jesus; Like sunshine at noonday His glory shone in The Light of the world is Jesus.

Chorus:  Come to the Light, It’s shining for thee; Sweetly the Light has dawned upon me; Once I was blind But now I can see; The Light of the world is Jesus.

Verse 2 – No darkness have we who in Jesus abide, The Light of the world is Jesus; We walk in the Light

If we follow our Guide, the Light of the world is Jesus.

CCLI Song # 4855332 Nathan Partain | Philip Paul Bliss © Words: Public Domain. Music: 2003 Partain, Nathan. For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction:  20 The God of peace brought the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus, back to life through the blood of an eternal promise. 21 May this God of peace prepare you to do every good thing he wants. May he work in us through Jesus Christ to do what is pleasing to him. Glory belongs to Jesus Christ forever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20–21 (GW)

You may also visit:  https://esterhazybaptistchurch.podbean.com/ to listen to a recording of the message.

Psalm 134 – “Come, Bless the LORD.”

November 22, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church

Call to Worship:  “A psalm of thanksgiving. Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to the Lord! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Acknowledge that the Lord is God. He made us, and we are his— his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name. For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations.” Psalm 100 (CSB).

Hymn: #2 “Come, Thou fount of every blessing” (click link for music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfXOUTaONoI)

Hymn: #4 “How great Thou art” (click link for music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IA5F9KC5eEM)

 

      Today we are looking at Psalm 134, the last psalm in the 15 song hymn book called “The Songs of Ascents.”  While the pilgrims of Israel on their way to the Temple in Jerusalem may have literally been ascending to Mount Zion as they sang these songs, we have also been ascending towards God as we have looked at each of these psalms in order.  Psalm 120 begins with a change of heart.  Perhaps the attaining of a long held dream has left us empty and unsatisfied.  Our goal has been met, but the inner meaninglessness remains.  Now we realize the sacrifices and compromises were for nothing!  What am I doing here? This is not where I want to be! I feel like I’m in a distant land, a self-serving, “dog eat dog” way I life I want nothing more to do with. I then do the only thing I can think of the will change things, I cry out to God for help – and he answers me!  Psalm 120 begins our journey back to God. 

      Rev. S Conway in his sermon on Ps 134 gives this helpful overview:  Ps. 121 tells of God’s continual preservation of his people; Ps. 122, of the joy and delight realized in the worship of the Lord; Ps. 123, of waiting continually upon God in times of trouble; Ps. 124, of deliverance from fierce foes; Ps. 125, of experience of God’s guardian care; Ps. 126, of the joy of God’s salvation; Ps. 127, of the Lord alone being our sure Keeper; Ps. 128, of God’s grace and goodness sweetening the home; Ps. 129, of afflictions many, but of preservation in them all; Ps. 130, of God’s blessed uplifting; Ps. 131, of the soul kept in the peace of God; Ps. 132, of the prosperity of the faithful [Church]; and Ps. 133, of [her] the blessings of unity; and now in Ps. 134 there is, as there well may be, the command to bless the Lord. What a long list it is of mercies, and help, and deliverances, and blessings unspeakable! If people will look back along their lives, they too will bless the Lord.[1]

      Listen to Psalm 134: “1 Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord. 2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. 3 May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 134:1–3 (NIV).

      The original setting for this psalm is not certain.  The call to praise the Lord in vv. 1 & 2 may have been given by priests who served during the day to the Levities who were responsible for the Temple grounds during the night.  Their work is mentioned in 1 Chron. 9:26-27 & 33 “The four full-time guards were Levites, and they supervised the other guards and were responsible for the rooms in the temple and the supplies kept there. They guarded the temple day and night and opened its doors every morning.” 1 Chronicles 9:26–27 (CEV).  “The Levite family leaders who were the musicians also lived at the temple. They had no other responsibilities, because they were on duty day and night.” 1 Chronicles 9:33 (CEV).

      In verse 3, the servants of the Lord on the night shift respond with a version of the priestly blessing on the speakers in vv. 1 & 2 as they depart: “May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.”

      One can see how this psalm would be a fitting song for worshippers at the Temple after joining in the evening prayers and before leaving for their nearby lodgings.  It may also be that this was sung as they were leaving the Temple at the completion of a festival.  James Boice, in his commentary says: “As they leave the city, they are encouraged to know that the priests will be remaining behind to represent them at the temple and so they will be worshiping God there continually.”[2] 

      Let’s take a closer look at the meaning of this psalm and its application for us today.  The best place to start is to ask: What is the main theme of this passage?1 Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord. 2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. 3 May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 134:1–3 (NIV).

      We could answer: “The Lord, praise or worship.”  The theme is clearer in Hebrew text through the use of the same word in each of the three verses. Let’s look at another English translation of the Bible which translates the Hebrew word the same all the way through this psalm.  Here it is in the NRSV translation: “1 Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! 2 Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord. 3 May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.” Psalm 134 (NRSV).  Did you hear the repeated word?  It is “bless”.

      “Come, bless the Lord.”  There is a chorus based on this psalm that we used to sing in young peoples, and I used to wonder “How do I bless the Lord?”  Have you wondered that?  How do we bless the Lord?  When I think of blessing someone I think of wishing them wellness, contentment or happiness –   clearly God is not lacking in anything, so my definition needs adjustment!

      The problem is that our English word “bless” is used to translate two different Hebrew words.  The definition I just used of “bless” is for a Hebrew word that is used in Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,” (NIV).  This “blessed” is also translated as “happy is…” and describes the sense of well-being that comes when we are living in tune with God and experiencing his blessings.  The word in Hebrew is only used of people and never for God.

      The second Hebrew word translated as “bless” has the idea of kneeling or bending down, which is the appropriate attitude to have when approaching God.  When it is directed towards God, carries the idea of submissive praise as in Ps. 134:1, 2.  Mark Futato in his commentary on this psalm says: To bless the Lord is to confess our ultimate dependence upon him for all that we are, do, and have in this life. [3]

      Now, what does this word mean when the blessing is from God as in Ps. 134:3?  When this word refers to God, it pictures Him as bending down, getting on our level and sharing himself with us.  “May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.” (NRSV).  The one who spoke all that is into being, is not far away, but has come among us to bless us!  This is the gospel, the good news; that God has come to us, understanding our struggles and our needs – the WORD became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14)!

      What should be our response?  We bless the Lord / we praise the Lord as the ultimate source of all blessings. Paul in Ephesians 1:3 writes: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (NIV)

      How can we apply this passage to ourselves?       We can apply it literally – when we are up during the night or cannot sleep, we can also praise the Lord for his grace, mercy and love to us; just as we would do during the day.

      We can apply this passage missiologically.  At times when I cannot sleep, I pray for our missionaries and our fellow Christians on the other side of the world.  Perhaps the Lord is inviting me to pray because of a need they are experiencing!

      We can apply this passage personally. 

There are times life which seems very dark. Psalm 134 tells us to praise God in life’s dark moments also. Charles Wesley’s hymn, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” was probably inspired by an earlier hymn entitled, “O That I Had a Thousand Voices,” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cr4r6DQHytI) by Johann Mentzer who pastored a church in the village of Kemnitz, Germany (1696). Most of his parishioners were poor serfs whose hard work benefited their wealthy masters. Mentzer’s heart went out to his people, toiling in poverty and trouble, and he often counseled them to praise the Lord whatever the circumstances. One evening as Johann returned from a Bible study he grew alarmed at a frightening red glow in the sky. Hurrying onward, he found his own home ablaze. It had been set afire during his absence. As he later inspected the ruins, he was disturbed and downhearted. It was then that a serf reportedly tapped him on the shoulder, saying, “So, Pastor, are you still in the mood for praise and thanksgiving?” Johann offered a silent prayer, and at that moment, his whole attitude changed. It seemed to him that a Christian’s praise to God should be louder than the sound of the tongues of flame that had just consumed his home. The next day, he composed this hymn: “O that I had a thousand voices/and with a thousand tongues could tell/of Him in whom the earth rejoices/who does all things wisely and well.” [4]

Conclusion: If you can’t sleep at night, get up and bless the Lord. If you find yourself working for Christ in a dark area, learn to praise the Lord in the darkness. If you’re facing difficulty right now, try praise and thanksgiving.

      We are able to praise the Lord because he has poured out his blessings on his servants!  Thank you Lord.  Come, let us bless the Lord!

Hymn: #76 – O for a thousand tongues to sing (click link for music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Bm0b1745vA)

Benediction: “‘May the Lord bless you and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’” (Numbers 6:24–26, NLT)

[1] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Psalms (Vol. 3, p. 276). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 107–150: An Expositional Commentary (p. 1167). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Futato, M. D. (2009). The Book of Psalms. In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (p. 401). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[4] Morgan, R. J. Nelson’s annual preacher’s sourcebook. 2005 Edition. (144–146). Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

 

You may also visit:  https://esterhazybaptistchurch.podbean.com/ to listen to a recording of the message.
 
Psalm 133.  “In harmony for God.”
November 15, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

 

Call to Worship: 1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the Lord’s house.””  3 Proclaim with me the Lord’s greatness; let us praise his name together!” Psalm 122:1; 34:3 (GNB).

Our God reigns (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px_MIcIwLEw)

Verse 1 – How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him Who brings good news good news, Announcing peace Proclaiming news of happiness, Our God reigns our God reigns.

Chorus – Our God reigns our God reigns, Our God reigns our God reigns.

Verse 2 – He had no stately form He had no majesty That we should be drawn to Him. He was despised and we took no account of Him, Yet now He reigns with the Most High.

Verse 3 – Out of the tomb He came with grace and majesty, He is alive He is alive. God loves us so see here

His hands His feet His side, Yes we know He is alive.

CCLI Song # 8458  Leonard E. Smith Jr.  © 1974, 1978 New Jerusalem Music  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

 

Take us to the river (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6zfXz4wXTw)

Verse 1 – Take us to the river, Take us there in unity To sing a song of Your salvation, To win this generation for our King. A song of Your forgiveness, For it is with grace that river flows, Take us to the river, In the city of our God.

Verse 2 – Take us to Your throne room, Give us ears to hear The cry of heaven, For that cry is mercy, Mercy to the fallen sons of man, For mercy has triumphed, Triumphed over judgement by the blood. Take us to the throne room In the city of our God

Chorus – (For) the Spirit of The Sovereign Lord Is upon us. This is the year of the Lord. (2x)

Verse 3 – And take us to the mountain, Lift us in the shadow of Your hands.  Is this Your mighty angel Who stands astride The ocean and the land?  For in His hand Your mercy, Showers on a dry and barren place. Take us to the mountain In the city of our God.

Ending – Take us to the river, In the city of our God. Take us to the throne room In the city of our God.

CCLI Song # 2607692 Robin Mark © 1998 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

 

Psalm 133 A song of ascents. Of David. 1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” Psalm 133 (NIV).

     Psalm 133 is the second last of the 15 psalms of ascent which were song by Hebrew pilgrims on their way to one of the three great annual festivals to the Lord.  Imagine the people are nearing the end of their journey to Jerusalem, to worship the Lord in the Temple.  The last Psalm, 134, focuses on the Lord and ministering in His presence.  This psalm, 133, celebrates their time together.  They have sung songs of repentance, songs of lament, and songs of praise to the Lord, all while worshipping together.  As they approached the Temple, I imagine there were some farewells spoken to their new friends – “This has been good! May the Lord bless you and have a wonderful festival…”
     Perhaps you have experienced this kind of closeness after a church retreat or a conference. Maybe you’ve had the thought, “I wish it could always be like this” – confirming what verse 1 says: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”  Psalm 133 tells us about unity.  Unity is pleasing. Unity is beautifully refreshing and unity is life giving.
     Unity is wonderful; however, is this kind of harmony easy? Truthfully, unity is something that we struggle with, even within our own families!  The Bible is honest about humanities struggles to live in harmony after sin entered the world. The first murder occurred when Cain killed his brother Abel.  Jacob’s dysfunctional family led to Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery out of hatred & jealousy.  At one point even Jesus’ brothers criticised him, saying he was crazy! “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” This IS worthy of celebration because clearly, it doesn’t just happen!
Let’s take a closer look at Psalm 133:

1.  Unity is Pleasing (v. 1).   How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (NIV)

In the Hebrew, this verse begins with an emphatic cry, which is not in most translation: “Look” to draw our attention to what’s coming! The NASB does translate this word, using “behold” “ Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1 (NASB95).  In the very first breath we see unity is something worth celebrating!
     The Hebrew word translated “good” in verse 1 is “tob” and it is also used in verse 2 where the NIV translated it as “precious,” linking these two verses.  It is interesting to note that this word “tob” – is the very same word which is used in the creation story of Genesis 1, to express how God felt about what he had made: “And God saw it was good.” (Gen 1:9, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).  In Genesis 2 we see there is one thing which is not good – for man to be alone (2:18).  We were made to be in a relationship with God and with one another!   How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (NIV)

 

This brings us to our second point:

2.  Unity is Sweet-Smelling. (v. 2)   It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.
     It is suggested that the repetition of the word “down” in this verse and the dew falling in v. 3 is to remind us that unity is something which comes down to us as a blessing from God.
     The oil poured on Aaron, the first High Priest is likely the anointing oil used for the priests. It was a unique combination of spices that was only worn by them.  In a crowd you might smell the presence of God’s representative, a priest, before you saw him!
     Jesus didn’t use the image of us as having a fragrance, however he did use the word pictures of us being like salt and light, in order to to call us to impact our world and draw people’s attention to God being with us:  “You are the salt of the earth…“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13a,14,16 (NIV). Thirdly we see:
3.  Unity is life giving (v. 3)  It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.
     Unity is not only described as being as pleasant to experience as a wonderful fragrance, it is also as valuable and refreshing as having the dew of Mount Herman, (the tallest mountain in the region at almost 10,000 feet) fall upon the much drier area of Mount Zion.  This word picture is to remind us that as water brings life to the desert, so unity in Christ brings life to relationships.  Remember, Jesus promises that as believers unite in prayer, he is there.  Matthew 18:19-20 (The Message)  When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”

 

     In Acts 1:8 Jesus said to his disciples: “You [all of you collectively] will be my witnesses.”  We have been given the privilege of bringing the life giving good news of Christ to the world!  God plans for us to work together in his strength to bring people back to God. Unity in Christ brings his  presence and his power!
     Notice the final sentence of this psalm, v. 3b: For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.  At first it may seem that the phrase “for there” refers to Mt. Zion.  However, remember the writer has been using similes in vv. 2 & 3a (precious oil & dew) to try to describe how wonderful unity is among God’s people.  As this psalm ends, we are told that unity among the people of God brings his blessing, now and in the life to come!  Thank you Lord!

Application:

     Psalm 133 is a celebration of unity, but is it realistic for us in our fragmented and divided world?  Some people have concluded that Psalm 133 is too idealistic so they worship God alone.  They say they love the Lord, but they don’t love the church because it has hurt or disappointed them.

     Eugene Peterson in his reflections on this psalm addresses this issue directly: “God never makes private secret salvation deals with people.  His relationships with us are personal, intimate, but not private.  We are a family in Christ.  When we became Christians, we are among brother and sisters in faith.  No Christian is an only Child.
      But, of course, just because we are a family of faith does not mean that we are all one big happy family.  The people we encounter as brothers and sisters in faith are not always nice people.  They do not stop being sinners the moment they begin believing in Christ… Some of them are cranky, some of them are dull and others a drag.  But at the same time our Lord tells us that they are brothers and sisters in faith.  If God is my father, then this is my family.” (pp. 169-170)
      However this idea of unity “must not be treated as something to put up with, one of the inconvenient necessities of faith in the way that paying taxes is an inconvenient consequence of living in a secure and free nation.  It is not only necessary; it is desirable that our faith have a social dimension, a human relationship: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (p. 171).
      “So the question is not, ‘Am I going to be part of a community of faith?’  But, ‘How am I going to live in this community of faith?’” (p. 170.  Eugene H. Peterson. “A long obedience in the same direction.” 1980, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois)
     Key to answering that question correctly is to answer it Biblically!  We need to remember that since our unity is God’s idea, we need to look to him for the wisdom and strength to live harmoniously.  Jesus prayed that we would be united as he and the father are united; so he is not talking about a superficial unity, listen to his prayer: “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” John 17:11b (NIV).  Our unity is to be modeled after that between the members of the Trinity!  While this may feel impossible for us, since it is God’s plan, we can be sure that it can be done in his power and under his direction!
     Unity is a blessing which comes down from God, yet we are not passive participants, we must do our part to live in unity with each other.  How are we to do that?  We are to love one another!  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 (NIV).  For those who wonder what love has to do with living in unity, listen to 1 John 4:20 “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (NIV).
     It’s not surprising if some of you are wondering what love has to do with unity.  That’s because we think of love as a warm fuzzy emotion and forget how the Bible defines it.  Listen to how 1 Corinthians chapter 13 describe love, remembering that Paul wrote this a church that was struggling with unity.  The love that Paul is describing is a love that nurtures unity.  Here it is from the Philips translation: If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all. If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing. This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails. Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. (PHILLIPS)  This is the love we need to show one another in order to build unity!
     Clearly we don’t need to be convinced that unity is a good thing; the question is how can we achieve it?  Listen to Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (NIV)  Notice the similarity between this list and 1 Cor. 13’s description of unifying love.  God has not left us to struggle on our own, His Spirit, when allowed freedom to work within us, produces these unity building characteristics.
     Where God’s people dwell together in unity it’s a good and precious thing.  It is sacred, it is refreshing and it is blessed by God.  Unity is God’s idea and can only be accomplished in his strength through his Holy Spirit.  How do we do it?  Deepen your relationship with God and with the people of God! 

Closing Song: Bind Us Together (click link for music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuhIBLp5aHM)

Chorus – Bind us together, Lord; Bind us together with cords that cannot be broken.  Bind us together, Lord, bind us together, Lord: Bind us together with love.

Verse 1 – There is only one God, There is only one King.  There is only one body; That is why we can sing.

Verse 2 – Made for the glory of God, Purchased by His precious Son.  Born with the right to be clean, For Jesus the vict’ry has won.

Verse 3- You are the fam’ly of God, You are the promise divine.  You are God’s chosen desire.  You are the glorious new wine. 

CCLI Song # 1228 Bob Gillman. © 1977 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing). For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6 NIV).

You may also visit:  https://esterhazybaptistchurch.podbean.com/ to listen to a recording of the message.

Psalm 132.  “Live today, remembering and hopeful.”

November 8, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name. For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations.” Psalm 100:4–5 (CSB)

     We are continuing our look at the Psalms of Ascents, with today’s examination of Psalm 132.  The psalms gathered to form this collection call us to continue to rely on God. Why do we need to be reminded to keep growing spiritually?  Because our “world’s system” is not focused on pleasing God, and certainly not on acknowledging him as the leader of our life.  The world tells us we need to be our life’s leader, the individual is king – “it’s all about me.”

     I want to look at a couple of assumptions from our world system that we need to be aware of or they will weaken our spiritual maturity.

     The first is the idea of living for the moment.  “Just be in the moment.”  While most of us enjoy spontaneity in life, and stores count on it for increased sales, we are talking about something else.  This call to “just live for the moment” means to stop thinking about the past or worrying about the future and just enjoy “right now.”  Yes, it’s not healthy to get stuck in the past or to only dream about the future; yet ignoring both and focusing only on the emotions of the moment could lead us to make choices without considering the costs or consequences.  It becomes a repackaging of the phrase “If it feels good, do it!”

     A second assumption is “You have to do what’s best for you.”  All of life is to be evaluated by how it impacts you as an individual.  “How is this going to make me feel?”  “How is this going to help me?”  “How will doing this benefit me?” 

     What you would you think of a pollster who issued a report on how Canadians felt about a new show, only to find out they interviewed only one person who hadn’t watched the whole show?  We would have been given inaccurate, incomplete and misleading information!  That is what we are doing when we base our conclusions on prayer, giving, God’s forgiveness, eternal salvation etc., on our own personal findings.  To get a more complete picture we need the experiences of others – brothers and sisters in the church and the centuries of experience provided by our biblical ancestors and especially God’s Word.

     Psalm 132 shows mature obedience as a lively, adventurous response of faith that lives in the present, but is also grounded in historical fact and reaches upward to a promised future based on God’s Word. 

     Psalm 132 is the longest of the Psalms of Ascent.  The first half is a prayer remembering the oath David made to the Lord and the second half recalls the oath the Lord made to David concerning his descendants.  Listen to Psalm 132:

“A song of ascents. 1 Lord, remember David and all his self-denial. 2 He swore an oath to the Lord, he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob: 3 “I will not enter my house or go to my bed, 4 I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, 5 till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.” 6 We heard it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar: 7 “Let us go to his dwelling place, let us worship at his footstool, saying, 8 ‘Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. 9 May your priests be clothed with your righteousness; may your faithful people sing for joy.’ ” 10 For the sake of your servant David, do not reject your anointed one. 11 The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath he will not revoke: “One of your own descendants I will place on your throne. 12 If your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever.” 13 For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, 14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it. 15 I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food. 16 I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy. 17 “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one. 18 I will clothe his enemies with shame, but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown.”” Psalm 132:1–18 (NIV).

Psalm 132:1-10A prayer remembering David.

  1. 1-5 Remembers David’s deep desire to honour the Lord with a proper dwelling place.
  2. 6-9 Is designed to remind the Israelites of story they knew well, of when David moved the Ark of God from the countryside of Jaar (Kiriath Jearim) to Jerusalem, their new captial.
  3. 10 Builds on the thought introduced in v. 1, but with greater detail. The Lord is asked to recall David’s passion for God, so the Lord will not reject the ‘anointed one’ – a reference to the Davidic King. This verse leads into the next section.

Psalm 132:11-18The promise made to David and his dynasty.

  1. 11-12 God promised David he would place one of his descendants on the throne, and if David’s sons are faithful to obey what God has said and taught them, their sons will also reign.
  2. 13-16 The Lord confirms that Jerusalem is where He will rule from and as a result will bless the city and its residents. “16 I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.” I am reminded of the words of 1 Peter 2:9. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (NIV)
  3. 17-18 God’s promise to David will be fulfilled through his anointed one. We know this promise came true in Jesus! The horn mentioned in v. 17 means strength and represents the king who will rule.  The Lord’s enemies will be humbled (v. 18) as he is glorified!

     What can we learn from psalm 132?  We can see that God’s promises to David have been fulfilled in Christ Jesus:

     The promises of Psalm 132:11–12 are heard in the words of the angel spoken to Mary: Luke 1:30–33. “But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”” (NIV)

     The promises of Psalm 132:17–18 are declared in Zachariah’s song of praise when, after the naming of his son, John, his speech is restored: Luke 1:67–71. “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us” (NIV)

     Let me urge you to resist the tendency to treat this like it is ‘old news’, because this is great news!  It wonderful to be reminded that God kept a promise made to King David approximately one thousand years before the birth of Jesus, in David’s birth place, Bethlehem! 

     As we read Ps 132 we rejoice that the Messiah has come and yet we know we have more promises to look forward to, in this passage and others.  Our faith is not just about what happened in the past.  Our faith is anchored by the fulfilled promises of the past and it is energized by the future and what God has promised is awaiting those who trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord.

     This psalm is a great reminder of what is required for our Christian faith to grow and mature. If we simply live for the moment or just focus on ourselves and what we have experienced we doom ourselves to repeat mistakes of the past.  Living without an understanding of history can cause us to chase fads, and life becomes a huge puzzle which can lead you to feel like you are walking through a mine field, not know where it’s safe to step next.  Living without knowledge of God’s future promises of hope can make life bleak, rutted and hopeless. Many people today are asking: “What’s the point in life, why go on if this is all there is?”

     Psalm 132 cultivates the memory of God’s faithfulness and nurtures the hope for the future, which leads to mature obedience.  Christian, if you want to mature in your Christian life, you have to know your Bible and those who interacted with God before you.  Spend time reading it and reflect on what you are reading.  Look for lessons from history.  Look at God’s interaction with the people in the Bible.  Also listen for God’s promises – notice when they are answered – what does this mean for us?  Notice too, if there are promises still to come – is this a promise to look forward to?

Closing song: #406 “My hope is in the Lord” (vv. 1,2,4)

Benediction: Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.  1 Corinthians 16:13, 14, 23. (RSV)

 

You may also visit:  https://esterhazybaptistchurch.podbean.com/ to listen to a recording of the message.
 

John 12:23-26; Psalm 131.  “Humble obedience.”

November 1, 2020. Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: Psalm 9:1–2. “I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.” (NLT)

Song: #105 “He Is Lord” (click on link for music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZ0XrNqrKVA)

Verse 1:  Emptied of His glory, God became a man, to walk on earth in ridicule and shame.  A Ruler yet a Servant, a Shepherd yet a Lamb, a Man of Sorrows agony and pain.

Chorus:  He is Lord He is Lord, He is risen from the dead and He is Lord.  Ev’ry knee shall bow, Ev’ry tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Verse 2:  Humbled and rejected, beaten and despised, upon the cross the Son of God was slain.  Just like a lamb to slaughter, a sinless sacrifice, but by His death His loss became our gain.

Verse 3:  Satan’s forces crumbled, like a mighty wall.  The stone that held Him in was rolled aside.  The Prince of Life in glory was lifted over all, now earth and heaven echoes with the cry.

CCLI Song # 1515225  Claire Cloninger | Linda Lee Johnson | Tom Fettke  © 1986 Curb Wordspring Music (Admin. by W.C.M. Music Corp.)  Curb Word Music (Admin. by WC Music Corp.)  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

      Our journey through the Psalms of Ascent started out with receiving correction in Ps. 120 where we saw it is good to be told when you are heading off track.  As we continued through these psalms we were encouraged to stay on course by those who came before us.  Their examples proclaimed that the Lord IS faithful to keep his promises so do not give up or lose faith, regardless of how bleak the circumstances may appear.

      Last week we saw that Psalm 131 dealt with spiritual maturity.  We are to come into God’s presence, not with pride or presumption for self-serving reasons, but in trust that God knows what he is doing and his ways are best.

      Today, being the first Sunday of the month, I want to focus our thought on communion and look at our Lord Jesus as he drew into the Father’s presence, knowing his crucifixion was only days away. 

      The Gospel of John, chapter 12 begins with a clear time and location reference:  It is only 6 days before the Passover, only 6 days before Jesus breaks bread and shares the cup with his disciples, telling them to remember his death until he returns.  Then in the pre-dawn hours Jesus is arrested and found guilty of crimes they deem worthy of crucifixion – He claimed to be the Son of God.

      John 12:1 tells us that when Jesus arrived in Bethany he is guest of honour at a dinner along with his dear friend Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  Lazarus’ sisters are also there: Martha is serving and Mary honors Jesus by anointing him with 500 ml of pure nard, a very expensive perfume worth a year’s wages.  Her extravagance draws the criticism of Judas Iscariot and the praise of Jesus.

      The next day is the event we refer to as the Triumphal entry.  When Jesus approached Jerusalem, his followers and other Passover travellers placed him on a donkey and began to shout out 13b Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  It was only after resurrection Sunday that Jesus’ disciples realized this moment had fulfilled Biblical prophecy!

      John tells us in 12:17-19 that the incredible response to Jesus’ arrival for the Passover greatly disturbed the Pharisees.  They are quoted in verse 19 as saying: “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him.”  John highlights this statement to introduce what happens next.

      In verse 20 some Greeks (Gentiles, pagans) who had come to worship at the feast, approach one of Jesus’ disciples requesting to meet with Jesus, “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’” John 12:21b (NIV). We don’t know anymore about that request, except that John focuses on what Jesus said to his disciples: “Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” John 12:23 (NIV).  What’s the connection between the request and Jesus’ response?  From this point forward, the followers of Jesus would come to see that God’s plan in sending Jesus was not only to offer salvation to the Jewish nation, but to the entire world – all of humanity.  The interest of these Greeks was a sign to Jesus that another prophetic promise was coming to pass – God was drawing the gentiles to himself! “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  Something big is about to take place, something great.  We lean in, along with the first disciples, wondering what that will be.  Listen carefully, this is very important, but not what most of us expect or want!     John 12:24–28. “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”” (NIV)

      The illustration Jesus uses in verse 24 is easily understood and visualized – it is common sense, when applied to wheat, barley or corn; but it takes on a whole different application when applied to human beings!  Jesus is not only foreshadowing his death and resurrection, as we see in vv. 27-28, but he is also speaking to us, those who wish to be his disciples (vv. 25-26).  Jesus has repeatedly taught his disciples about humility, that those who wish to be greatest must be the least, like a child.  In John 20, this now includes be willing to let go of their life, according to what this world says is important.  I am reminded of Psalm 131 and its picture of a contented weaned child.  This is a picture of someone who has released themselves to God’s care, rather than demanding they get their own way.

      As we prepare to celebrate communion and remember our Lord Jesus’ death, we remember that his death was an act of submissive obedience to the will of his Father.  In doing so, Jesus honours his Father and is himself glorified.  His willingness to face death, take the shame and the pain and the punishment that we deserved, breaks the power and grip of sin and opens the door for us to receive eternal life.  Jesus’ submission to death, like a seed, has produced a harvest of which we who have accepted him as our sin forgiver and life leader are a part! 

      Today, as we prepare to celebrate communion, remember, this is Jesus’ table.  He is the host, he is present, and it is our Lord’s Table.  Where do you stand with him?  John 12:26 says “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (NIV)  Are you following Jesus?  Are you allowing him to wean you off of your self-centred attitudes, to focus on loving and loving others with the same intensity you love yourself? “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.”  Are you following Jesus?  Are you serving him?  Are you going where Jesus is at work around you?  He will provide what you need if you step out in faith with him.

      Jesus’ understanding of being glorified turns the world’s definition on its head!  It is not about making oneself comfortable or famous or powerful, it is about doing the Father’s will.  Will you join Jesus in using your life to glorify God the Father?  Let’s close this time by saying the prayer our Lord taught us to pray:  “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Song:  #106 “Praise Him! Praise Him!” (click on link for music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRHedB3pRB4)

Verse 1:  Praise Him, praise Him, Jesus our blessed Redeemer, Sing O earth His wonderful love proclaim. Hail Him, hail Him highest archangels in glory, Strength and honor give to His holy name.  Like a shepherd Jesus will guard His children, In His arms He carries them all day long.

Chorus:  Praise Him, praise Him, tell of His excellent greatness, Praise Him, praise Him, Ever in joyful song.

Verse 2:  Praise Him, praise Him Jesus our blessed Redeemer, for our sins He suffered and bled and died. He our Rock our hope of eternal salvation, Hail Him, hail Him Jesus the Crucified.  Sound His praises Jesus who bore our sorrows, Love unbounded wonderful deep and strong.

Verse 3:  Praise Him, praise Him Jesus our blessed Redeemer, Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring.  Jesus Savior reigneth forever and ever.  Crown Him, crown Him Prophet and Priest and King.  Christ is coming over the world victorious, Pow’r and glory unto the Lord belong.

CCLI Song # 40409  Chester G. Allen | Fanny Jane Crosby  © Words: Public Domain. Music: Public Domain. For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: “Now I am putting you in the care of God and the message about his grace. It is able to give you strength, and it will give you the blessings God has for all his holy people. Acts 20:32 (NCV)

 
 

You may also visit:  https://esterhazybaptistchurch.podbean.com/ to listen to a recording of the message.

Psalm 131.  “Measuring your spiritual growth.”

October 25, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship:6 What offering should I bring when I bow down to worship the Lord God Most High? Should I try to please him by sacrificing calves a year old? 7a Will thousands of sheep or rivers of olive oil make God satisfied with me? 8 The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.”” Micah 6:6, 7a,8 (CEV).

Hymn: #213 “Because He lives” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sm2wLKZoGPY)

Verse 1: God sent His Son they called Him Jesus, He came to love heal and forgive. He bled and died to buy my pardon, An empty grave is there to prove My Savior lives.

Chorus: Because He lives I can face tomorrow, Because He lives all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living Just because He lives.

Verse 2: How sweet to hold our newborn baby, And feel the pride and joy he gives. But greater still the calm assurance, This child can face uncertain days Because He lives.

Verse 3: And then one day I’ll cross that river, I’ll fight life’s final war with pain, And then as death gives way to vict’ry, I’ll see the lights of glory And I’ll know He lives.

CCLI Song # 16880  Gloria Gaither | William J. Gaither  © 1971 Hanna Street Music (Admin. by Gaither Copyright Management)  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

      How does one measure growth?  For most children its all about their height, they can see they are growing by the changes in their height.  Some of you may have had or still have a spot in your house where you measured the growth of each child or grandchild.  As kids get older, they love to measure their growth compared to their parents (I’m taller than mom!). 

      Now some kids think that when they reach a certain height or age that they should be able to do exactly what their siblings or friends got to do at that age.  However, parents know that physical height or age does not determine a child’s maturity.  For that parents are measuring different things.  For example, one would be your willingness to obey.  That means following instructions even if you do not “see the point” or how it will benefit you.  Another gauge of maturity is knowing when to take age appropriate responsibility and when to check with your parents.  A third indicator of growing maturity is your willingness to cooperate with others and encourage them to do the RIGHT thing.

      We will come back to these thoughts later, but today we are looking at how to measure our spiritual growth.  How do you know if you are maturing in your Christian life?  Is there a ruler somewhere we can stand next to and check?  Is it how many times you’ve read through the Bible?  Is it the number of times you attend church in a year?  Or how long you pray each day?  The number of doors you knock on?  The things you don’t do because you are a good Christian? {By the way, whose list should I follow? There are so many opinions!}

      In the 1960’s Fritz Ridenour wrote a little book on Romans for Bible study which he entitled “How to be a Christian without being religious”.  The author agrees that Christianity is a religion, but he defines “religious” as us trying to reach God, find God or please God through our efforts in the hope He will respond with grace and mercy. 

      Christianity, on the other hand is God reaching out to us and our responding to His grace, mercy and love by receiving His forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  The religious person is trying to win God’s approval through their actions and sacrifices.  A Christian realizes that they cannot earn God’s approval, but they can receive it from Him as a gift given through the sacrificial death of Christ Jesus on the cross for our sins.

      So, how can we measure our Christian maturity if not by our outward actions?  Let me suggest you have a talk with God about the attitudes of your heart.  For example, your willingness to obey God’s instructions, or knowing when to check in with Him about something or your willingness to cooperate with others while encouraging them to do the right thing.  This morning we are going to observe how to do that by “listening in” on someone as they reflect with God on their spiritual growth.  Listen as I read Psalm 131.  “A song of ascents. Of David. 1 My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. 3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.” Psalm 131 (NIV).

      Psalm 131 is the 12th of the 15 psalms of Ascent.  Psalms 120 – 134 were likely sung by those on their way to one of the three great annual festivals to the Lord held in Jerusalem.  Charles H. Spurgeon in his three volume commentary on the Psalms said that Psalm 131 “is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.  It speaks of a young child, but it contains the experiences of a man in Christ.”  Let take a look at this psalm.

Verse 1 – My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. (NIV)

      At first glance you might think that this verse is the introverts dream verse – I don’t need to get involved in life!  Yet this verse is not about avoiding the challenges of life, it is about facing life with the right approach: A God focused attitude.  This begins by joining the psalmist in avoiding two common sins of life; pride, and presumption!

      Pride undervalues other people in the attempt to boost your own value.  The answer to pride is found in Jesus’ example as told in Philippians chapter 2: “Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves.  Care about them as much as you care about yourselves and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought:  Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God.  He gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us.” Philippians 2:3–7 (CEV).

      The second sin the psalmist draws our attention to is presumption, “my eyes are not haughty”.  This is a feeling of contemptuous superiority over others.  Presumption is when one overvalues themselves.  This causes us to be hard to live with, and easily offended when we think we have not been treated as highly as we deserve!  Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3 (NIV).

      The psalmist rejects pride and presumption in his own life by keeping a proper perspective on his God – “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” (Ps. 131:1b).  This sounds like Job 42:3b after Job is confronted in chapters 38-41 with how little he (we) know about our world:  “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” Job 42:3b (NIV).

      The psalmist realizes like Job, there are countless things he does not understand and determines to stop second guessing God.  How about you?  Have you learned to stop second guessing God?  How can we do this?  By following Jesus’ example by constantly checking with the Father and the following his plans to begin with!  Are you obedient to God’s will?  This is a sign of spiritual maturity.

Verse 2 –  But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. (NIV)

      This is a beautify, intimate picture of peace that the psalmist gives us.  Does this describe you?  Do you draw into God’s presence to enjoy him and see life from his perspective?  Or are you only going to him when you are hungry for what you want from him: “Here’s my list – satisfy me!”  Knowing when to act and when to wait is a sign of relationship and maturity!

      This psalm reminds us of Jesus’ object lesson in Matthew 18:1–4 “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (NIV)

      The writer uses an easily understood illustration to picture an inner change that his soul was growing into.  The image of weaning includes with it a growing willingness to trust God with my life.  I will trust that He will provide what I need, when I need it as opposed to me fusing, crying & demanding He do something right now!  This theme of God’s tender care for His people is seem throughout the Bible: Deuteronomy 1:31 “And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.” (NLT)

Isaiah 46:3–4 “Listen to me, descendants of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born.  I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (NLT)

The Psalmist is sharing the peace Paul describes he came to learn – Philippians 4:11–13  “I am not complaining about having too little. I have learned to be satisfied with whatever I have.  I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kinds of conditions. I know what it means to be full or to be hungry, to have too much or too little.  Christ gives me the strength to face anything.” (CEV)

Verse 3 –  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. (NIV)

      How do you know if you are maturing in the Lord?  Check to see where your focus is and what you do about it: “O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.”  Are you sharing the hope you have found in the Lord with others and encouraging them in their journey back to him?  This is another sign of spiritual growth.

      Where are you now in your relationship with the Lord?  Close?  Distant?  Whose wisdom are you trusting in right now?  Is there something God is weaning you away from?  If so, do not fuss; he has something better to take its place – himself!

      Put your hope in the Lord:

Not in yourself, your plans, or your goodness (v. 1)

Not in God’s blessings & gifts (v. 2)

But in Him, in the Lord alone (v. 3)

      We tend to evaluate our spiritual maturity by what we do.  This psalm reminds us that maturity is seen in how we respond to life’s temptations and trials.  The psalmist had learned not to focus on personal accomplishments and status, but to find quietness of soul in trusting oneself to God’s care. 

Closing Song: #347 “Be still my soul” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDNxo_aIZQw)

Verse 1: Be still my soul the Lord is on thy side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide; In ev’ry change He faithful will remain.  Be still my soul thy best thy heav’nly Friend Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Verse 2: Be still my soul thy God doth undertake To guide the future as He has the past.  Thy hope thy confidence let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last.  Be still my soul the waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Verse 3: Be still my soul the hour is hast’ning on When we shall be forever with the Lord, When disappointment grief and fear are gone, Sorrow forgot love’s purest joys restored.  Be still my soul when change and tears are past, All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

CCLI Song # 96910  Jane Laurie Borthwick | Jean Sibelius | Kathrina Amalia von Schlegel  © Words: Public Domain  Music: Public Domain  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394 Benediction: “‘May the Lord bless you and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’” (Numbers 6:24–26, NLT)

Benediction: “‘May the Lord bless you and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’” (Numbers 6:24–26, NLT)

You may also visit:  https://esterhazybaptistchurch.podbean.com/ to listen to a recording of the message.
 

Please NOTE: Since we have a guest speaker next week there will be no sermon from Pastor Robert emailed or posted for the Oct 18 service.

 

Psalm 107:1-32 “The secret to a thankful heart.”

October 11, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “Shout praises to the Lord! He is good to us, and his love never fails.” “You should praise the Lord for his love and for the wonderful things he does for all of us.” Psalm 107:1, 8 (CEV).

Hymn #564: “We Are So Blessed” (click on link for music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh-FRgBB06Q)

Verse 1: We are so blessed by the gifts from Your hand, I just can’t understand why You’ve loved us so much.  We are so blessed, we just can’t find a way or the words that can say, thank you Lord for Your touch.

Chorus: When we’re empty You fill us ’til we overflow, When we’re hungry You feed us and cause us to know; we are so blessed, take what we have to bring; take it all ev’rything, Lord we love You so much.

Verse 2: We are so blessed by the things You have done, the vict’ries we’ve won and what You’ve brought us through.  We are so blessed, take what we have to bring; take it all ev’rything, Lord we bring it to You.

Bridge: More than ever before, Lord, I love You. More than ever before, Lord, I love You. More than ever before, Lord, I need You.  More than ever before, Lord, I want to tell You, I love you now more than ever before. (Repeat)

Ending: We are so blessed, take what we have to bring; take it all ev’rything, Lord we love you so much.  Lord we love You so much.

CCLI Song # 15991 Gloria Gaither | Greg Nelson | William J. Gaither © 1982 River Oaks Music Company (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) William J. Gaither, Inc. (Admin. by Gaither Copyright Management) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

     Today is Thanksgiving Sunday yet it has been such a strange year because of Covid-19 that one may not even feel like giving thanks.  Times of celebration such as weddings, birthdays and anniversaries have had to be drastically modified.  Times of grief have had to pass without the usual coming together of family and community for mutual support. Is it realistic to give thanks in the midst of times like these?  Today we turn to Psalm 107 for answers.  It deals with four difficult situations.  In each case, when the individuals finally choose to call out to God for help, he does help, and thankfulness is the appropriate response. The ability to give thanks is ultimately based on our choices. Today we will look at Psalm 107 for some of the secrets to having a thankful heart.

The 1st secret to a thankful heart is to celebrate the Character of God.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1 (NIV)

     We give thanks because Our God is good and he is loving. God’s character is seen throughout this psalm; he is the God who responds to his people’s heartfelt prayers: vv. 6, 9, 14, 20, 29.  Notice that God’s character is celebrated by his people: “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,” Psalm 107:2 (NIV). Redemption means a change of ownership from one person to another after the payment of a purchase price. It also has the idea of “ransom” referring to paying for a slave or a prisoner under the sentence of death.  The loving character of God is highlighted in Romans 5:8. God the Father has already paid the cost of our sin in sending Jesus to die in our place (“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8 NIV). We only need to accept our need for his forgiveness and submit ourselves to his leadership.

     Note also that this psalm is not intended to be a ‘solo’ piece; it is to be sung by the full choir of God’s redeemed people, giving praise to God for his loving goodness demonstrated to his people.  Ephesians 1:7 also celebrates God’s character: “Through the blood of his Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures because of his overflowing kindness.” (GW)

The 2nd secret to a thankful heart is to focus on the essentials of life vv. 4, 10, 17, 23-27).

     This psalm gives four different situations which forced people to reconsider what was most important in life.

     First there are the travelers attempting to cross a desert wilderness to find a place for them to settle (v4).  They are homeless, lost, helpless, hungry, thirsty and at the point of death.  When they called to the Lord he led them to a place of safety (v.7).  Asking for directions and help takes humility.  Humility is good, for God loves a humble heart!

     The second picture we have is of people who were determined to follow to their own wisdom, despising that found in God’s word.  Just as the Book of Proverbs warns, they find themselves in the darkness & gloom of a prison of their own making.

     The third situation mentioned are people, who because of their foolish, rebellious choices have become sick and find themselves at the point of death. Though not all sickness is a direct result of sin, some sinful activities lead to vulnerability to deadly illnesses.  Choices they felt would give them life need to be rejected, because they instead brought them to the point of death!

     The fourth situation is of merchant sailors who are in a huge storm which leaves them and their vessel of valuable cargo tossed about completely helpless. Calamities have a way of highlighting our frailties and refocusing our priorities.  We find that those things which we once were vital to bringing us happiness lose their significance.  Knowing the difference between necessities and luxuries helps one to be thankful for the basic joys of life itself.

     Remember that in Jesus hope is found for all who are trapped in the dangers and despair mentioned in this psalm. For those who have lost their way in life, Jesus is the good Shepherd and the Way (John 10, 14). For those captive in sin’s prison, Jesus is the one who gives ‘freedom to the prisoners’ (Luke 4:18). For those who are sick, Jesus is the great physician. For the helpless in life’s storms, Jesus is the one, who calmed the storm with a command: ‘peace, be still’ (Mark 4:39).

     Alford ‘Butch’ Summers, 30, was buried under tons of rubble when a Joplin, Missouri, hotel collapsed while he was working there as a welder. He said “There was no warning. All I could remember was all of a sudden, blam! It just collapsed.  No warning. There was no way of warning anybody. Everything was dark…

     “Did I panic? Oh, there was a time when I thought I might not make it. But I just kept pounding the pipe and praying a lot and hoping. I mainly lay down and prayed. I did an awful lot of praying. I prayed to Jesus, because He was the only one I knew could get me out of this. I’m not much of a religious man, but if anyone could get me out alive, it had to be Jesus.” (Fort Worth Star Telegram, Nov. 16, 1978, p. 3a).

     Three and a half days after the collapse of the hotel, Summers was rescued from the two-foot-high cavity where he had been trapped. From his hospital bed Summers said, “I don’t know how long I was there. All of a sudden the world caved in one me.” When the world caves in on you, as it did on Butch Summers, or as it did on the people described in the Psalm, we cry out to the Lord in our distress and He does hear us. The secret of thanksgiving is partly discerned when we have faced trouble and realize that all things are not equally important. When the basics of life are provided, it is time for great thanksgiving.

A Third secret to a thankful heart is to – Focus on the source of our help vv. 7, 14, 16, 20, 29-30

     Although ‘Butch’ Summers said he was not much of a religious man, he did know the source of help. He knew that if ‘anyone could get me out alive, it had to be Jesus.’ The people of Israel understood, as this Psalm so clearly shows, that God was the source of their strength and deliverance. He had brought them out of bondage, He had led them through the wilderness; He would bring them finally, safely home. If we are to be thankful, we must remember who the source of our blessings is; the Lord!

     A man, who had been an atheist, explained how he came to believe in God, this way. As he thought about the beauty of the dawn, the glory of the birth of a child, the love in the eyes of his wife; he didn’t know who to thank. On reflection, he had to admit to himself that this astonishing joy of life was so magnificent that nothing less than a God could have made it possible. This came from his desire to say thank you.

The fourth secret to a thankful heart is to practice the habit of gratefulness (vv. 8, 15, 21, 31).

     Did you notice in this psalm that after every time God saved his people there is a call for them to give thanks?  In Luke 17:12-19 we read the story about the ten men with leprosy that Jesus healed, but only one came back to him to say thank you? We can be just as careless with God’s blessings and not take the time to say “thank you” for all he does for us each day.

     In 1860 a boat sank in Lake Michigan, and of the 393 passengers only 114 survived.  In the midst of this immense loss, there was a story of amazing bravery and selflessness. A young man, Edward Spencer, swam out 17 times, each time bring some else to safety. After the seventeenth time he became delirious from the strain and had to stop. As a result of that night Spencer became sick and was confined to a wheelchair. Some years later, on Spencer’s birthday, a reporter asked him his most vivid memory of that heroic date in his life. His answer? “I remember that not one of the seventeen returned to thank me.” (Proclaim, Oct. – Dec. 1978, p. 30).

     Without thinking, we too can be ungrateful.  We need to think, we need to take time and choose to be grateful.  Psalm 92:1 reminds us: “It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, 0 Most High” (NIV84).  Hebrews 13:15 says: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (NIV84)

     As I draw this message to a close, remember how Psalm 107 begins: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.” Psalm 107:1–3 (NIV).  The secret to a thankful heart begins with being one of the redeemed.  We need to ask ourselves, am I one of the redeemed?  Have I acknowledged my sin and need of God’s help?  Have I asked Jesus to be my sin forgiver and the leader of my life?  If you cannot count yourself as one of the redeemed: Admit your sin to God. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died in your place and rose victorious over death. Commit to following Jesus as your life leader.

     If you have accepted Jesus as your sin forgiver and life leader then you should thank God and tell others that God IS good and how you have experienced his enduring love.  It may be helpful to recall that according to Romans 1:21 a mark of the unregenerate heart is that “they neither [glorify God] as God nor [give] thanks to him.”

     The secret to a thankful heart is to: Celebrate the character of God, remembering his goodness & love towards us. Focus on what really matters in life, instead of what won’t last. Remember that your help comes from God. In addition, be willing to take the time to reflect on God’s goodness and say thank you. As you look back on the tough times of our life look for God’s unfailing love in all the twists and turns your life has taken, and give thanks.  Psalm 107 concludes with these words: “Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.” Psalm 107:43 (NIV).  As we do, we can turn every day into Thanksgiving Day regardless of the circumstances.  “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Ps. 107:1 (ESV)

Hymn: #563 “Count your blessings (click on link for music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YinABKpI_JM)

Verse 1: When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost Count your many blessings, Name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Chorus: Count your blessings, Name them one by one; Count your blessings See what God hath done; Count your blessings, Name them one by one; Count your many blessings, See what God hath done.

Verse 2: Are you ever burdened with a load of care?  Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?  Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by.

Verse 3: When you look at others with their lands and gold, think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; Count your many blessings, Money cannot buy your reward in heaven, Nor your home on high.

Verse 4: So amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all; count your many blessings, angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

CCLI Song # 40416 Edwin Othello Excell | Johnson Oatman Jr. © Words: Public Domain  Music: Public Domain.  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: Go forth joyfully. God is with you. Bring peace and hope to all you meet. And may God’s eternal love shine through you always. AMEN.

You may also visit:  https://esterhazybaptistchurch.podbean.com/ to listen to a recording of the message and during the week of Oct. 4, 2020 by calling our Dial-a-sermon number 1-306-985-9001 (this is a Regina number and long distance charges may apply).

 

“John 17 – Jesus’ prayer”

Oct. 4, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church

Call to Worship: “The Almighty himself will be your treasure. He will be your precious silver! Then you will take delight in the Almighty and look up to God. You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows to him.  You will succeed in whatever you choose to do, and light will shine on the road ahead of you.” Job 22:25-28 (NLT)

Hymn: #66 To God be the glory (https://www.hymnsite.com/baptist/tbh004-to-god-be-the-glory.shtml)

1.  To God be the glory, great things He hath done; So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, Who yielded His life an atonement for sin, And opened the lifegate that all may go in.  (Refrain)

Refrain:   Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear His voice!  Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice!  O come to the Father thro’ Jesus the Son, and give Him the glory, great things He hath done!

2.  O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood, to every believer the promise of God; the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.  (Refrain)

3.  Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done, and great our rejoicing thro’ Jesus the Son; but purer, and higher, and greater will be our wonder, our vict’ry, when Jesus we see.  (Refrain)

CCLI Song # 23426 Fanny Jane Crosby | William Howard Doane © Words: Public Domain Music: Public Domain For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use. All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

 

     Today on the first Sunday of the month, we will pause from our study of the Psalms to reflect on communion, a time to remember our Lord’s death and what it means to us.  On the night Jesus was betrayed he told his disciples to remember his death in this way until he returned.  Afterward he spent considerable time preparing them for what was coming.

     The Gospel of John records that after Judas left the upper room gathering to carry out his plan to betray Jesus (Jn. 13:31), that Jesus taught his disciples to the end of chapter 17.  In John 18:1 Judas arrives and betrays Jesus to those who arrest him.  In the 4 ½ chapters prior to chapter 18, Jesus prepares his disciples for what is coming by explaining:

–       He will be leaving them: “I will be with you only a little while longer” (13:33)

–       About heaven: “I go, to prepare a place for you” (14:2)

–       His return: “I will come back and take you to be with me” (14:3)

–       The coming of the Holy Spirit: “Obey what I command, and I will ask the Father and he will give you another counselor…the Spirit of Truth” (14:15-16)

–       Being fruitful: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (15:15)

–       Being persecuted by the world: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (15:20)

–       Finally, he prayed for his disciples in John 17.

     This morning we are going to look at this prayer of Jesus, the longest of his recorded prayers.  Bible scholars have noticed “a very interesting parallel between this and the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9–13, with only one element (“forgive us our sins”) omitted:

Our Father in heaven // “looked up to heaven … Father” (17:1a)

Your name be kept holy // “give glory back to you” (17:1b)

Your Kingdom come // “gives eternal life” (= “kingdom” in John) (17:2)

Your will be done on earth // “on earth by completing the work” (17:4)

Give us today the food we need // “All who are mine belong to you” (17:10)

Don’t let us yield to temptation // “protect them by the power of your name” (17:11)

Rescue us from the evil one // “keep them safe from the evil one” (17:15)[1]

     You might assume that this would be a gloomy prayer since Jesus knew he was going to be arrested and crucified.  However, just before Jesus begins this prayer he says to his disciples: ““A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”” John 16:32–33 (NIV).  Jesus knows his disciples are going to leave him, yet he is at peace because he knows his Father is with him.  He also encourages the disciples to find the peace they will need in him, because he has overcome the world!  The prayer of John 17 comes as Jesus is anticipating fulfilling the plan and purpose his Father had for him which leads through his being lifted up on a cross to die, in order make our forgiveness possible.  Let look at his prayer.

1st Jesus prays for the completion of his mission (Jn. 17:1-8):

1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. 6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.” John 17:1–8 (NIV)

     Jesus begins this prayer by praying for himself, but not in the way we typically pray for ourselves, which is to avoid hardships.  When Jesus says “the hour has come” he is referring to his death.  John 7:30 & 8:20 tell of Jesus escaping attempts on his life because “his hour had not yet come.”  William Barkley says: “By going to the Cross Jesus showed that there was nothing that the love of God was not prepared to do and suffer for men, that there was literally no limit to it.” [2] Rather than pray to avoid the cross, Jesus asked that he might be glorified through his sacrifice, that in doing so, the Father will be glorified in giving eternal life to all who follow Jesus.

     Notice Jesus’ definition of eternal life; it does not begin at death; rather it is to know God and Jesus Christ right now!  Eternal life begins when you put your trust in Jesus as the one sent by God the Father to be your sin forgiver and life leader: John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” (GNB).  John 5:24 “I am telling you the truth: those who hear my words and believe in him who sent me have eternal life. They will not be judged, but have already passed from death to life.” (GNB)

2nd Jesus prays for his disciples (Jn. 17:9-19):

Let’s begin by looking at verses 9-12

9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” John 17:9–12 (NIV)

     N.T. Wright tells an interesting story to illuminate this section: In the newspapers recently a mother was punished by the courts. She had left her two young children entirely by themselves, while she went off for a foreign holiday with her new boyfriend. (The father, it seems, was nowhere to be found.) It is hard to believe that a mother could do such a thing. One wonders what she thought she would find when she got home. Tragically, such things happen in our world today.

      But supposing she herself had had loving parents who were only too glad to look after the children while she was away? That would have made all the difference. She could have entrusted the little ones to them, safe in the knowledge that they would care for them as much as she did. One can imagine a mother in that situation giving her parents detailed instructions as to how each child should be looked after, not because she didn’t trust her parents to look after them but because she did.

      What Jesus now prays grows out of the fact that he is going away. He is entrusting the disciples to the father he has known and loved throughout his own earthly life, the father who, he knows, will care for them every bit as much as he has done himself. [3]

     Jesus prayed that the Father would protect his disciples so they would remain unified, one as Jesus and the Father are one (17:11).  When we think of asking God for protection, we might think of freedom from pain, hardship, and persecution, yet Jesus has just told his disciples to expect these things for following him (15:18-16:6).  Jesus’ concern is his disciples to remain united, and for that all of us NEED God’s help!

     John 17:13-19 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” John 17:9–19 (NIV)

     Verse 13 tells us that Jesus prays this prayer for our benefit, and that we may share in his joy.  How can there be joy in knowing what is coming, for it is the cross!  Ah, Jesus is saying, soon you will look beyond the cross to the empty tomb.  Then you will see death has lost its sting, sanctification is possible through the truth of God’s Word and eternal life is available to all humanity.  This is the reason for joy!

     This section concludes with Jesus asking his Father to watch over his disciples.  N.T. Wright says: What Jesus has already done for them is to ‘keep’ them in the father’s name (verse 12) and to give them his word (verse 14). In other words, when he now entrusts them to the father, this won’t mean a sudden change, like a mother entrusting her children to someone of whom they’ve never heard and whose house will be run on quite different lines to their own home. He has already taught them, so to speak, the table manners appropriate for the father’s house. In praying for them now, he is simply praying that what he has begun, the father will gloriously complete.[4]

     Jesus is not asking for his disciples to be taken out of the world, rather that the Father protect them as they continue Jesus’ mission of proclaiming the Word of Truth.

3rd Jesus prays for his future followers (Jn. 17:20-26):

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”” John 17:20–26 (NIV)

     Jesus’ mission for those who come to believe in the Gospel message preached by the disciples is also based on unity.  Paul explained this in Colossians 3:11 “In the new life there is no difference between Greeks and Jews, those who are circumcised and those who are not circumcised, or people who are foreigners, or Scythians. There is no difference between slaves and free people. But Christ is in all believers, and Christ is all that is important.” (NCV). This unity comes through believing in Jesus through the Gospel message (vv. 20-21).  How does Jesus illustrate what this harmony is to look like?  By pointing to the unity between the Father and the Son, one of love and humble service!  All of us are also united with the God head.  This unity of heart and purpose from such a diverse group of humanity will confirm to the world that Jesus was in fact sent by the Father!

     This prayer of Jesus teaches us to begin with ourselves, “Lord, make me a vessel of your grace to those I meet” and then grows to include reaching out to the whole world.  When Jesus prayed this he prayed for you, and for those who will hear the gospel through us.  May we work together in unity to glorify God through our lives!

     When Jesus was preparing to go to the cross, he was praying for his disciples.  He knew what they would be facing in the days, months and years following his death and resurrection.  As you eat the bread and drink the juice, remember what your Lord did for you, and what he prayed for you!  Depend upon him for all you need, for in him IS all you need!

Closing Hymn: #446 I will serve Thee (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiWJma2uhUA )

I will serve Thee because I love Thee, You have given life to me; I was nothing before you found me, you have given life to me.  Heartaches, broken pieces, ruined lives are why you died on Calvary; your touch was what I longed for, you have given life to me. (repeat)

CCLI Song # 14040 Gloria Gaither | William J. Gaither © 1969 Hanna Street Music (Admin. by Gaither Copyright Management) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. 6 He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:5–6 (NLT).

 


[1] Osborne, G., Philip W. Comfort. (2007). Cornerstone biblical commentary, Vol 13: John and 1, 2, and 3 John (p. 242). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[2] Barclay, W. (Ed.). (1975). The Gospel of John (Vol. 2, p. 206). Philadelphia, PA: Westminster John Knox Press.

[3] Wright, T. (2004). John for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 11-21 (pp. 94–95). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

[4] Wright, T. (2004). John for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 11-21 (p. 96). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Visit: https://esterhazybaptistchurch.podbean.com/ to listen to a recording of the message.

To hear this week’s sermon over the phone call: EBC Dial-A-Sermon – 1-306-985-9001, long distance charges will apply.

Psalm 130.  “Out of the depths.”

September 27, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “Wait with hope for the Lord. Be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Yes, wait with hope for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 (GW)

Hymn: #89 “Our Great Saviour” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nx9B6qaAvg0)

Verse 1 – Jesus what a friend for sinners!  Jesus lover of my soul; Friends may fail me foes assail me, He my Saviour makes me whole.

Chorus – Hallelujah what a Saviour!  Hallelujah what a friend!  Saving helping keeping loving, He is with me to the end.

Verse 2 – Jesus what a strength in weakness!  Let me hide myself in Him; Tempted tried and sometimes failing, He, my strength my vict’ry wins.

Chorus

Verse 3 – Jesus what a help in sorrow!  While the billows o’er me roll, even when my heart is breaking, he, my Comfort, helps my soul.

Chorus

Verse 4 – Jesus what a guide and keeper!  While the tempest still is high, storms about me, night o’er takes me, He, my pilot, hears my cry.

Chorus

Verse 5 – Jesus I do now receive Him, More than all in Him I find, He hath granted me forgiveness, I am His and He is mine.

Chorus

CCLI Song # 4925358 Dave Williamson | John Wilbur Chapman | Rowland Hugh Prichard © Words: Public Domain  Music: 2006 Curb Word Music (Admin. by WC Music Corp.)  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

     We are continuing our look at each of the 15 Psalms of Ascents. These psalms were collected and likely used during the three great annual festivals in Jerusalem as the people remembered and celebrated what the Lord had done for them.
      As we look at Psalm 130 today, notice that it contains within itself a song of ascent.  It begins with the singer helpless in the depths of despair. It ends with confident praise in the Lord’s enthusiasm to save all who will call on him for redemption. 

     The question which may be on many of our minds is “How did he do this, how did he find freedom from his despair?”  We have this question because we understand the hopelessness that comes when we find ourselves feeling like we are going to go under.

     Contrary to what we may have been lead to believe; despair, hopelessness and tragedies are not exceptions for an unlucky few.  They are the normal consequences of living in a sinful fallen world, with sinful fallen human beings.  So how do we deal with it?  In Psalm 130 the writer doesn’t pretend everything is ok, keeping his suffering to himself.  As a person of faith, he acknowledges his struggle, calls on God and waits for his word in hope.  Let’s take a look at this psalm.

Psalm 130 — A song of ascents. 1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; 2 O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. 3 If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. 5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. 7 O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. (NIV84)

1.  Crying for help.  Psalm 130:1-2
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
     I’ve referred to “the depths” of verse one in an emotional sense, as being in the depths of despair.  “In Hebrew being in “the depths” refers specifically to being caught in dangerous and deep waters, a powerful image for a people who were largely land-based and not at all seafaring.”[1]  Psalm 69:1-3 describes someone who is struggling in the depths: Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.  I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.  I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Psalm 69:1–3 (NIV)
     The Psalmist is a situation where self-help is of no help, we cannot help ourselves.  Everyone gets into the depths and reaches a dead-end, but not everyone chooses to reach out to God. Someone wrote with a marker on a “Dead End” sign the words: “What isn’t?” To some people, every road is a Dead End.  Some will try to mask their pain with drugs or alcohol.  Others surrender to the pit, thinking it is hopeless to fight it.  Here the psalmist tells us where to find hope.  We need to cry to God for a way out of the depths. When we reach bottom, it is there that we realize our need for mercy and call on God to reach down and rescue us from our troubles

2.  Asking for forgiveness.  Psalm 130:3-4
If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

     These verses seem to be in answer to those thoughts of doubt that pop into one’s head.  Does that ever happen to you?  “Lord help me,” You cry.  Then comes the thought – “Why would He help you after what you did!  This trouble is the consequences of your sin!  You are getting what you deserve!” Stopping here and believing this thought, would leave us hopeless in the depths.  Yet in these verses the psalmist shows us a better way.  He reminds himself of God’s character and God’s promises. 
     Verse 3 sounds like what the Apostle Paul says in the book of Romans 3:23, “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard,” (NCV).  Yet the Lord does not treat us as our sins deserve (Ps. 103:10), for he is merciful.  In Exodus 34:6 we read of what the Lord said of himself as he revealed himself to Moses: “Then he passed in front of Moses, calling out, “The Lord, the Lord, a compassionate and merciful God, patient, always faithful and ready to forgive.” (GW).
     Verse 4 says we can count on the mercy of God – “But with you there is forgiveness”.  Romans 5:8 confirms this: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (NLT).  God’s forgiveness is unconditional, and undeserved. Forgiveness is for all who want it and who ask God to forgive them, and when you do, He will, the record of your sin is gone!  God stepped in and paid our debt – why?  John 3:16“God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.” (NCV)
     What is our response?  Verse 4, says: “therefore You are feared.” Or as the latest NIV says: “But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” Psalm 130:4 (NIV).  One of the goals of God’s forgiveness is the restoration of our relationship with him.  To fear the Lord involves our walking in his ways (Ps. 128:1).  He forgives so we may leave the paths of destruction and follow him. When we truly understand God’s forgiveness and the cost of it, in sending Christ to the Cross, may we respond with brokenness and humility, as we bow in awe before God!  There is no presumption here. There is no flippancy here. We deserve judgment, yet as we seek forgiveness through the saving work of Jesus, we receive mercy.  Like the returning prodigal son, we are staggered by the grace of the Father who welcomes us home as his dearly loved child (see Lk 15:11ff.).

3.  Waiting on the Lord.  Psalm 130:5-6
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

     We counter despair with two words in verse 5: “wait” and “hope”. We respond to suffering by turning to God, not by denying our pain, and not by trying to fix things ourselves. The message to self-reliant people is: “You’re not the One who can fix it.” At the same time, there is no simplistic, quick cure offered. What is offered is a process. We are convinced that God is vigorously at work rebuilding our lives, cleaning up the mess we’ve made.  Because we’re sure of God and His plan, we don’t give up; we trust even though we don’t understand.
     The imagery of a watchman is one of hope that will not fail.  Night may seem endless, but morning is constant and its time is determined.  So too we can trust in God’s faithfulness and wait in hope.

4.  Encouraging others.  Psalm 130:7-8

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
     When you find a cure, you want to share it.  When you find hope where once there was despair, you want to share that too.  The psalmist now calls for the community to put their hope in the Lord, for in Him there is unfailing love and full redemption. 

     If we’re not eager to share the hope that has transformed us, I wonder if we fully understand the depths of our forgiveness. We need to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks concerning the hope that we have” (I Pet 3:15).
     We put our hope in the Lord because we trust God’s “unfailing love”. The Hebrew word for love here (hesed) means compassion and commitment. We can be assured that for the rest of our lives we will experience a constant overflow of his steadfast love.
     Verse 7 assures us that God has already provided salvation: “with the Lord is full redemption.” The word redemption (pada) means a change of ownership from one person to another after the payment of a purchase price. The word could also be translated “ransom”, usually referring to paying for a slave or a prisoner under the sentence of death.  How do we know that God is committed to giving us hope?  He has already paid the cost (Rom. 5:8).

     Abraham Lincoln went down to the slave block to buy back a slave girl.  As she looked at the white man bidding on her, she figured he was just another white man, going to buy her and then abuse her.  He won the bid, and as he was walking away with what the world called his property, he said, “Young lady, you are free.”

      She said, “What does that mean?”  He said, “It means you are free.” 

      “Does that mean,” She said, “that I can say whatever I want to say?”  Lincoln said, “Yes, my dear, you can say whatever you want to say.”

      “Does that mean,” She said, “That I can be whatever I want to be?”  Lincoln said, “Yes, you can be whatever you want to be.”

      She said, “Does that mean I can go wherever I want to go?”  He said, “Yes, you can go wherever you want to go.”  And the girl, with tears streaming down her face, said, “Then I will go with you.”

     Christ paid the price for us on the cross. He redeemed us from the kingdom of darkness and we are part of His family – how can we not go with him?  How can we not tell others about the hope we have found in him?

     In this psalm is an expectation, a hope that God will act and save.  But this expectation is not based on the assumption that we have earned the right of God’s help, for we cannot.  The hope we have for God’s help is based on: his mercy (v. 2), his forgiveness (v. 4) and his unfailing love which gives us full redemption (v. 7).  This hope is based on God’s character and His promises.  Where is your hope anchored?

     A Grandmaster chess champion was examining a painting in an art gallery. The artist had painted a match between the devil and an outwitted young man. The painting showed the two engaged in a chess game being played for the man’s soul. The man is in panic as the devil appears ready to make his final move. The painting was titled Checkmate. The chess champion stood observing the painting for several minutes, then smiled slightly. He turned to the curator and said, “I have good news for the man in the picture—he still has a move.”

      The father of lies has convinced too many people that he has placed them in checkmate, but the grace of God has provided us the hope that we still have a move. We can cry out to God; He will hear our cry for help; He will raise us from the depths.  Cry out to him and receive his help!


[1] Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 107–150: An Expositional Commentary (pp. 1138–1139). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

 

Closing Hymn: #404 The solid rock (vv. 1-4) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBfSH4dsWUw )

Verse 1 – My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Chorus – On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand – All other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Verse 2 – When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In ev’ry high and stormy gale My anchor holds within the veil.

Chorus

Verse 3 – His oath His covenant His blood support me in the whelming flood; When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.

Chorus

Verse 4 – When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found; Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.

Chorus

CCLI Song # 25417  Edward Mote | William Batchelder Bradbury  © Words: Public Domain Music: Public Domain  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction:  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NIV)

 

 

Visit: https://esterhazybaptistchurch.podbean.com/ to listen to a recording of the message.

To hear this week’s sermon over the phone call: EBC Dial-A-Sermon – 1-306-985-9001, long distance charges will apply.

Psalm 129.  “Persevere: Because the Lord is righteous.”

September 20, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “The stone that the builders tossed aside has now become the most important stone. The Lord has done this, and it is amazing to us. This day belongs to the Lord! Let’s celebrate and be glad today.” Psalm 118:22–24 (CEV).

Hymn #4: How Great Thou Art (music link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuqGMf4vSLI&list=PL6Cp-rbTHKx2bOPvPKE2r1avSehF1vN8Y&index=36)

Verse 1 – O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Chorus – Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art, how great Thou art!  Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee: How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Verse 2 – When through the woods and forest glades I wander and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees, when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur, and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze.

Verse 3 – But when I think That God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in, that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.

Verse 4 – When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!  Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, “My God how great Thou art”.

CCLI Song # 14181 Stuart Wesley Keene Hine  © Copyright 1949 and 1953 Stuart Hine Trust CIO Stuart K. Hine Trust (Administration: USA All rights by Capitol CMG Publishing, except print rights for USA, North, Central and South America administered by Hope Publishing. All other non USA Americas rights by the Stuart Hine Trust. Rest of World – Integritymusic.com.)  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

     We are looking at the 15 psalms of ascents, sung by those on their way to celebrate at one of the great feasts in Jerusalem.  Last week we looked at Ps. 128 & its theme of joy.  We saw that this joy is not dependent upon our immediate circumstances but is based on the faithfulness of God’s character. The Psalms of Ascents encourages the reader to look back and remember your great salvation, look ahead and realize what is awaiting you, and now in the present, to sow the seeds of your life, in faith, even during times of tears because of God’s assurance to us that there will be a joyous harvest!

     What does it take on our part to put our faith into practice and sow seeds even while it seems hopeless?  We will look at the answer to that today.  The remnant of Israel had it; the early church had it; and Christians throughout history have had it.  What is it? I am talking about perseverance and we will see it is the focus of Psalm 129.

     In my preparation I came across a few statements about perseverance to get us thinking:  God is with those who persevere. – Anonymous

     Henry W. Austin wrote, Genius: that power which dazzles mortal eyes, Is oft but perseverance in disguise. –”Perseverance Conquers All.”  For example: George Stephenson spent fifteen years to perfect the locomotive. James Watts worked for thirty years on the condensing engine, and inventing hard rubber cost
Charles Goodyear ten years of study, poverty and public ridicule.

      Cyrus Field crossed the ocean fifty times to lay a cable so men could talk across the oceans. Luther Burbank the plant wizard who introduced over 800 new plants, at one time personally conducted over 6,000 experiments before finding the solution.

      George Westinghouse was treated as a mild lunatic by most railroad executives. “Stopping a train with wind! The man’s crazy!” Yet he persevered and finally sold the air-brake idea.[1] – 4333 Famous Scientists

     This one might describe you: Today’s mighty oak, is just yesterday’s little nut, that held its ground. – Anonymous.  Persistence – listen for it in Psalm 129:

      Psalm 129: A song of ascents. 1 Since my youth they have often attacked me— let Israel say— 2 since my youth they have often attacked me, but they have not prevailed against me. 3 Plowmen plowed over my back; they made their furrows long. 4 The Lord is righteous; he has cut the ropes of the wicked. 5 Let all who hate Zion be driven back in disgrace. 6 Let them be like grass on the rooftops, which withers before it grows up 7 and can’t even fill the hands of the reaper or the arms of the one who binds sheaves. 8 Then none who pass by will say, “May the Lord’s blessing be on you. We bless you in the name of the Lord.” (CSB)

     Verse one begins with a singer making a statement that sounds like he is talking about himself, until he invites his listeners to join him, then it becomes clear they are referring to the people of Israel. In verses 1 & 2 we see that while “most nations tend to look back on what they have achieved, Israel reflects here on what she has survived.”[2]  2they have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me.”  The phrase “from my youth” likely refers to Israel’s time of slavery in Egypt and then the countless events which have followed.

     James Boice in his commentary on this psalm says: The Jews are the longest-enduring distinct ethnic people on the planet. They have been slandered, hated, persecuted, expelled, pursued, and murdered throughout their long existence, but they have survived intact. In fact, many are now back in their own traditional homeland of Israel. They are a brilliant, talented people, but survival has been their chief achievement.

      Near the end of the last century (19th) Frederick the Great, the king of Prussia, was having a discussion with his chaplain about the truthfulness of the Bible. The king had become skeptical and unbelieving, largely due to Voltaire, the famous French rationalist skeptic. He said to his chaplain, “If your Bible is really true, it ought to be capable of very brief proof. So often when I have asked for proof of the inspiration of the Bible I have been given some enormous volume that I have neither the time nor disposition to read. If your Bible is really from God, you should be able to demonstrate the fact simply. Forget long arguments. Give me the proof of the Bible’s inspiration in a word.”

      The chaplain replied, “Your Majesty, it is possible for me to answer your request quite literally. I can give you the proof you ask for in a single word.”

      Frederick looked at the chaplain skeptically and asked, “What is this magic word that carries such a weight of proof?”

      The chaplain answered, “‘Israel,’ your Majesty.” Frederick, the story goes, was silent.

      The intent of the chaplain’s argument is what Psalm 129 describes, the survival of the Jews in spite of centuries—even millennia—of persecutions, thanks solely to the sovereign will and protecting presence of God. Nothing else can explain the Jews’ survival.[3]

     Verse 3 uses the metaphor of plowing a field to describe the deep wounds on their backs as Israel is lashed by her enemies.  This graphic picture of suffering flows into the thoughts of verse 4.  3 Plowmen plowed over my back; they made their furrows long. 4 The Lord is righteous; he has cut the ropes of the wicked.”  The “plows” have disabled, releasing them from their oppressors.  The righteous Lord has kept his Covent with Israel and rescued them. 

     Verses 5-8 are directed at all who hate Zion.  While it is true that Zion is another term for Jerusalem, it reminds us that this is the city where the Lord God chose to reign from on earth.  Hatred for Zion is in fact hatred for the Lord!  Verses 6-8 continues to use an agricultural theme, by picturing the fate of those who hate Zion as some withering, fruitless grass which is not worthy of the effort of harvest and thus not worthy to receive the traditional harvest blessing.  Those who hate Zion, who fight against God, will find their efforts fruitless, they will not dominate Israel forever, but rather be disgraced.

     I began this message by saying that perseverance is what is required on our part to turn our head faith into a “faith that sows even while weeping,” even when things are hard or seem hopeless.  This kind of perseverant faith is one of the marks of discipleship; a “stick-to-it-iveness” that refuses to stop trusting that God will persevere in the end, because you are in His hands.  Horace Mann is quoted as saying “Patient perseverance in well doing is infinitely harder than a sudden and impulsive self-sacrifice.”

     Remembering the truth of verse 4 is key to our “stick-to-it-iveness.”  We are to remember that no matter what is being done to us:  “the Lord is righteous”.  The picture of the withered fruitless grass on the roof top is a reminder that the evil which seemed so strong, so unstoppable – will not gain victory over me because my Lord is righteous.

     We seem to so quickly forget this truth.  If we see a problem – job loss, sickness, relationship loss, persecution… as certain to destroy us, it has already begun to achieve its desired effect.  If we start to doubt God, His promises & His character then the enemy has succeeded without “firing a shot!”

     The Bible’s answer to this is to remember Romans 8:38–39I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord! (CEV)

     Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from God’s love – not bluster, not persecution.  2 they have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me!

     On April 18, 2007, three Christians in Turkey were killed for their beliefs. One of them was a thirty-five-year-old pastor.  Five young men had expressed an interest in the Christian faith. But they brought more than questions. They brought guns, knives, ropes, and towels.

     The attackers brandished their weapons and told them to pray the Islamic prayer of conversion.  When they refused, the torture began and lasted for an agonizing hour. Finally, with the police pounding on the door, they sliced the throats of the victims. The last word heard from the office was the cry of an unswerving Christian: “Messiah! Messiah!”

    There are Christians throughout the world this very day facing persecution and death because of their faith, but they refuse to give up.  Their lives declare boldly Psalm 129 verse two “they have not gained the victory over me!”  Pray for them, and claim this truth & desire for godly perseverance for yourself.

     I was out in my backyard at noon and heard the United Church chimes begin to play a hymn. As I listened the words of that tune which was drifting over the town came to mind, it was “Jesus is Lord of all.”  For me, that is the message of Psalm 129.  With everything that The World, The Flesh and The devil can throw at me, none of it will change this truth – Jesus, IS Lord of all!  Millions of Christians have gone to their death rather than deny this truth, because they made it personal! This Jesus, who is “Lord of All” has become MY Lord as I invite him into my life and follow him. (#359) 

All my tomorrows, all my past, Jesus is Lord of all. I’ve quit my struggles; contentment at last, Jesus is Lord of all.

All of my conflicts, all my thoughts, Jesus is Lord of all. His love wins the battles I could not have fought, Jesus is Lord of all.

King of kings, Lord of lords, Jesus is Lord of all; all my possessions and all my life, Jesus is Lord of all.

     Before I conclude, I have you ask you:  Have you made this personal?  Have you asked Jesus to be “Lord of all” in your life?  Christian, are you allowing Him to be the “King of kings and Lord of Lords” in your life?  Until you do, you will struggle with being able to stick with your faith when life’s pressures grow: 2 they have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me!  You cannot do this in your own strength!  Let Jesus be Lord, trust Him with your life, and then no matter what comes at you, you will be able to sing the words of our closing song: “It is well with my soul.”

Hymn #493 “It is well with my soul” (music link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dpkhg6Y2U_A)

Verse 1 – When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows Like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, It is well with my soul.”

Chorus – It is well with my soul, It is well, It is well with my soul.

Verse 2 – Though Satan should buffet, Tho’ trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded My helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood For my soul.

Verse 3 – My sin – O, the bliss Of this glorious thought, My sin – not in part But the whole, Is nailed to the cross And I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul.

Verse 4 – O Lord, haste the day When my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back As a scroll, The trump shall resound And the Lord shall descend, “Even so” it is well With my soul.

CCLI Song # 2648266 Horatio Gates Spafford Public Domain For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and in his grace gave us unfailing courage and a firm hope, encourage you and strengthen you always to do and say what is good.” (2 Thess. 2:16-17 GNB).



[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 997). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

[2] Tyndale OT Comm. On Psalms vol. 2., pg. 444).

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Psalm 128. “How to be happy.”

September 13, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.  He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. Psalm 145:18–19 (NLT)

Opening Song: “10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzMjfXFwijo

Chorus – Bless the Lord O my soul O my soul, Worship His holy name. Sing like never before O my soul, I’ll worship Your holy name.

Verse 1 – The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning, It’s time to sing Your song again. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me: Let me be singing when the evening comes.

Chorus –

Verse 2 – You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger, Your name is great and Your heart is kind. For all Your goodness I will keep on singing, Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.

Chorus –

CCLI Song # 6016351 Jonas Myrin | Matt Redman © 2011 Atlas Mountain Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

     What does it take to be happy?  What kind of answer would you get if you asked that question to the people you work with? How about to your friends or family members?  Material things and social or economic position can provide short-term joy, but lasting happiness which is not dependent on circumstances comes from somewhere else.

     Today we are looking at Psalm 128 and it deals with the question of how to be happy.  Listen to Psalm 128 from the New Revised Standard version:  A Song of Ascents. 1 Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways. 2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. 4 Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. 5 The Lord bless you from Zion. May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. 6 May you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel! Psalm 128 (NRSV)

     What is the Psalmist’s answer to the question “How can we be happy?”  He says in verse one: “Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.”  It sounds strange to our ears to hear that fear can bring happiness, so we obviously need to understand what is meant here by the “fear of the Lord”.  A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament says: To fear God means to acknowledge His superiority over man, to recognize His deity and thus respond in awe, humility, worship, love, trust, and obedience. The fear of God, “properly understood, was no mere ‘attitude,’ [it] involved the full range of humanity’s response to the deity.” Such response to God results in wisdom, in wise, skillful living.” [1] 

     Verse 1 is saying that relating to God correctly brings happiness (blessing).  The 1st appropriate action is a holy reverence, described in verse one as fear or as the CEV translates it: respect.  Millard Erickson in his book “Christian Theology” explains the need for reverence in our relationship with God:  Although there are love and trust and openness between us and God, we are not equals. He is the almighty, sovereign Lord. We are his servants and followers. This means that we will submit our wills to God; we will not try to make his will conform to ours. Our prayers will also be influenced accordingly. Rather than making demands in our prayers, we will pray as Jesus did, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” [2]

     The 2nd appropriate action to take towards God, which leads to happiness is to walk in his ways or as the latest NIV says to “walk in obedience to him”.  It’s important not to miss this!  This means taking God’s Word seriously and putting it into practice in your daily life through your actions, words and attitudes.  Sadly, studies show that many Evangelical Christians aren’t doing this and don’t live any differently than their non-Christian neighbours.  This explains the lack of blessing and subsequent frustration that they are experiencing in their life.  When we “walk in His ways” we are confirming that we get who God is! 

The story is told about a Sir Leonard Wood who once visited the King of France and the King was so pleased with him he was invited for dinner the next day.

Sir Leonard went to the palace and the King, meeting him in one of the halls, said, “Why, Sir Leonard, I did not expect to see you. How is it that you are here?”

“Did not your majesty invite me to dine with you?” said the astonished guest.  “Yes,” replied the King, “but you did not answer my invitation.”

Sir Leonard replied, “A king’s invitation is never to be answered, but to be obeyed.” [3]

If we truly ‘get’ who God is, isn’t it natural that we would believe He knows what He is talking about and obey His word?

     What is the consequence of having a right understanding of God and walking in obedience to his ways?  Verses 2 & 3 answers this question by listing some specific blessings.

     First there is the blessing of finding personal satisfaction and sufficiency through your hard work and the promise that you will get to enjoy it.  Ps. 128:2 “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.” Those who honour the Lord through obedience will find they are not working in vain. We are reminded of the words of Psalm 127:1-2a — Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil”. Psalm 127:1–2a (NRSV). Clearly any labor which ignores the Lord’s principles will not bring the lasting satisfaction you seek.  Work blessed by the Lord will! 

     Verse 3 uses agricultural terms to describe the peace and hope someone who walks in the ways of the Lord bring into their home.  3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.  The psalmist tells us, you become a blessing to those around you, especially those closest to you.

     The opposite effect is seen in the story about a rice farmer who inherited a field.  The 1st year he watched as the water covered his field and gave him an abundant harvest. He was troubled however; as he noticed that the water flowed from his field onto his neighbour’s field making that field just as productive as his own.  So the next year he cut off the flow of “His” water into his neighbour’s field, but his field remained flooded and his crop was ruined.  The lesson is that withholding a blessing not only harms the other person, it also damages us.  It is more blessed to give than to receive. 

     In verse 3 notice how the man with a reverent and obedient attitude towards God impacts his family.  His wife is pictured as a fruitful vine, implying the bearing of children, but even more is involved.  Husbands, this passage is saying that your faithfulness to your heavenly Father is a blessing to your wife.  This enables her to be fruitful with all the gifts and abilities that God has given her; an example of this is the women described in Proverbs 31.  In the Hebrew, the writer emphasises that this happens “Within your house” – this means she is secure, at peace and happy to be YOUR wife!  You have heard the phrase “Happy wife, happy life.” Husbands, here is the biblical way to achieve that.  You set the example by fearing the Lord, and walking in his ways.  Your obedience to God blesses your wife!

     Not only will your wife be blessed and a blessing, happy in your home, you will see your children as a blessing.  Verse 3 pictures children as olive shoots – you are excited by their potential, what they can become.  Don’t you love to see the green shoots sprouting out of the ground in the spring as you look across a farmer’s field?  There is life, growth, potential for the future.  Through the family that the Lord blesses, the godly person derives both present and future joy and blessings.

     Verse 4 affirms that the promise of blessing given to the individual in verse 1 will in turn bless the family:  “This is how the Lord will bless the person who fears him.” (GW).  Now, what if you are not married?  The promise of blessing remains.  As you give God the proper place in your life and live in obedience to Him, you will find satisfaction in your efforts and see that you bring peace, life and growth to your relationships.  Happiness doesn’t come from the outside or from things, it comes from understanding – I am loved by God and He is pleased with my love for him and how I show that love with my obedient actions.

     Verses 5 & 6 are a prayer for a broadening of God’s blessing on the person who fears him and walks in his ways.  The Christian Standard Bible describes the end-results of the Lord’s blessing from Zion: May the Lord bless you from Zion, so that you will see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life and will see your children’s children! Peace be with Israel.” Psalm 128:5–6 (CSB).  Zion was considered the home of God on earth, explaining why the blessing was coming from there.  The outcome of the Lord’s blessing was the prosperity of Jerusalem and to see your grand children as well as peace/shalom upon the nation (Israel).  The circles of blessings keep expanding to touch a city, future generation and even countries!  How is this happening?  It begins with a choice that you and I make to take the Lordship of Jesus Christ seriously in our own lives.  Have you asked Jesus to forgive your sins – is he your sin forgiver?  Next, is he your Lord – your life leader?  He needs to be in charge, this is essential! Jesus in Matthew 7:21 says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who does what my Father in heaven wants. Matthew 7:21 (GW).  What is it that our Heavenly Father wants?  Psalm 128:1 expresses it in a blessing:  “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.” Psalm 128:1 (NIV).  Walk in reverent obedience to him!

     So how do you get in on this blessed life?  There are no tricks, no luck required – simply choose to submit your life to Jesus as your sin forgiver and life leader and begin the life of obedient faith.  Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.

Hymn:  “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYrTqBioaZ4

Verse 1 – Come Thou fount of ev’ry blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above; Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it, Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Verse 2 – Here I raise mine Ebenezer; Hither by Thy help I’m come; And I hope by Thy good pleasure Safely to arrive at home.  Jesus sought me when a stranger

Wand’ring from the fold of God; He to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.

Verse 3 –  O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be!  Let Thy grace Lord like a fetter, Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee: Prone to wander Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, Lord take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.

Prone to wander Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, Lord take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.

CCLI Song # 108389 John Wyeth | Robert Robinson © Words: Public Domain Music: Public Domain  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

 

Benediction:  “‘May the Lord bless you and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’” (Numbers 6:24–26, NLT)

 

[1] Zuck, R. B. (1991). A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 215). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology, p. 318. ©1985 Grand Rapids, Mi. Baker Book House.

[3]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). #3929 King’s Invitation To Be Obeyed. Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workersGarland TX: Bible Communications.

Visit: https://esterhazybaptistchurch.podbean.com/ to listen to a recording of the message.

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Psalm 127.  “What are you working for?”

September 6, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” Psalm 89:8, 15 (NIV).

Song: “He’s everything to me” (click link for music & words: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqME-xBIY-k)

In the stars His handiwork I see, on the wind He speaks with majesty, Tho’ He ruleth over land and sea; What is that to me?

I will celebrate nativity, for it has a place in history; Sure, He came to set His people free; What is that to me?

‘Til by faith I met Him face to face, And I felt the wonder of His grace, Then I knew that He was more than just a God who didn’t care, that lived away out there and, now He walks beside me day by day, Ever watching o’er me lest I stray, Helping me to find that narrow way, He’s everything to me (repeat 2x’s)

     “What are you working for?”  As we go through life, our answer to that question might change.  When young and asked by a puzzled friend What are you working for?” We might say because our parents made us.  As a teen, when working at a fast food restaurant, we might say it was to get experience.  Eventually the answer becomes: to pay for school, then to pay off school, then to pay off a car, a house, trips, retirement, cars, more trips, treatments… It never seems to end does it? There always seems to be a need to seek satisfaction in something more!  Today we are going to consider how to find enduring purpose in our life & work.

     We are continuing our look in the book of Psalms at the 15 songs of Ascents – today our focus is on Psalm 127.  This psalm is attributed to Solomon.  This may be since King Solomon wrote part of Proverbs and psalm 127 contains thoughts about sensible godly living which are like those found in Proverbs. 

     Psalm 127’s attention to work today is especially appropriate since tomorrow is Labor Day.  Listen as I read Psalm 127 from the New International Translation: “1 Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. 2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves. 3 Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.”  Psalm 127 (NIV)

     At first glance some may erroneously conclude that Psalm 127 is warning about the folly of working too hard.  Tales abound from our local potash mine about those who hold firmly to this belief about the foolishness of hard work!  However, this psalm does not speak against hard work, rather it is warning us about allowing work to become how we try to give our life meaning!

     Psalm 127 is not about being lazy or about over working; it is about how to experience fullness in life through all that you do, including your work.  The Hebrews called this “Shalom” – peace, the absence of harm and the presence of tranquility with prosperity. 

     Key to understanding Psalm 127’s focus is the very first word “unless” and it is used twice in verse 1.  “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”  Unless what?  Unless you involve the Lord in your quest for shalom – fulfillment and peace, you will discover you are laboring in vain, whether constructing a house or defending a city. The phrase “in vain” appears twice in verse 1, and begins the second verse where it tells of someone working from first light ‘till night only “to eat the bread of painful labors” (NASB95) or “anxious toil” (ESV).  “In vain” is translated “useless” in other Bibles, meaning the activity is not producing their desired results.  Why do people build houses, protect their communities or toil to earn a living?  In the long run, it is a longing for peace and security – shalom in life.  Psalm 127 says people trying to find this peace without involving God in their lives are laboring in vain – they will not find what they are seeking.  However, v. 2b tells us that those whose hard work is grounded in their relationship with the Lord will not be left awake and anxious at night but will sleep peacefully.  They are confident the Lord knows what they need and rest in his shalom.  We are reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew 6:31–33 “31 So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (NLT) 

          Verses 3-5 appear to change the subject from work to children, but in fact these verses illustrate the shalom that comes from giving God and his kingdom first priority in one’s life.   Eugene Peterson says of these verses: “In contrast to the anxious labor that builds cities and guards possessions, the psalm praises the effortless work of making children. Opposed to the strenuous efforts of persons who, in doubt of God’s providence and mistrust of man’s love, seek their own gain by godless struggles is the gift of children, born not through human effort, but through the miraculous processes of reproduction which God has created among us.  The example couldn’t have been better chosen.  What do we do to get sons?  Very little.  The entire miracle of procreation and reproduction required our participation, but hardly in the form of what we call our work.  We did not make these marvellous creatures that walk and talk and grow among us.  We participated in an act of love which was provided for us in the structure of God’s creation.[1]

     The New American Commentary sees the mention of children in this passage as also showing hope for a future that intense labor cannot give.  Speaking of verses 4 & 5 it says: “In vv. 4–5a the image of the arrow is used to elucidate (explain) how children provide significance for the parent. For the ancient warrior the arrow was a primarily offensive weapon intended to be used against a long-range target, in contrast to weapons such as the sword or the spear that were used for short-range battle. Arrows are propelled by the strength and according to the aim of the archer. Similarly, children can extend the influence of a parent beyond what the parent can do personally.[2]

     Eugene Peterson adds this thought in reflecting on Psalm 127: Jesus leads us to understand the psalmist’s “son’s” in terms representative of all intimate and personal relationships.  He himself did not procreate children, yet by his love he made us all sons and daughters (Mt. 12:46-50)… By joining Jesus and the psalm we learn a way of work which does not acquire things or amass possessions but responds to God and develops relationships.  People are at the center of Christian work.[3]

     For all of us, with or without children, Psalm 127 is a reminder to invest in people as our priority, not things – all the while focusing on following the Lord.  Remember the words of Deuteronomy 6, expressing our love for the Lord and his laws was to be part of our day from morning till night.  “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Deuteronomy 6:7 (NLT).  

     Remember, God is not opposed to hard work.  In the very first book of the Bible, Genesis we see God is at work.  He is at work in creation, redemption, compassion, comfort and salvation through Jesus Christ.  Our study of God’s Word is to understand Him and learn how we can work in the name of Jesus towards those things which he tells us will give life eternal meaning.

     The Apostle Paul reminds us that our “work” isn’t what saves us: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8–9 (NIV).  However, because of the saving work of God within him, Paul worked to honour God with all his strength – not to earn grace, but because he had received God’s grace!  In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul writes: But God’s kindness made me what I am, and that kindness was not wasted on me. Instead, I worked harder than all the others. It was not I who did it, but God’s kindness was with me. (GW)

     God’s work within us makes all the difference! “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” Psalm 127:1 (NIV). Who is constructing your house?  You or is the Lord guiding the direction of your life?  Is Jesus the Lord, the leader of your life?  Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.  Live for the Lord today, and make honouring Him through your work today and everyday your goal!

Hymn: #43  “Great is Thy faithfulness” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D6mqh_jLLI&list=PL6Cp-rbTHKx2bOPvPKE2r1avSehF1vN8Y&index=27)

Verse 1:  “Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Chorus: “Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!” Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided— “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

Verse 2:  Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Verse 3:  Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Songwriters: William M. Runyan, Thomas O Chisholm, Eric Allyn Schrotenboer  © Warner Chappell Music, Inc. For non-commercial use only.

Benediction: So, then, brothers and sisters, don’t let anyone move you off the foundation ⌊of your faith⌋. Always excel in the work you do for the Lord. You know that the hard work you do for the Lord is not pointless. 1 Corinthians 15:58 (GW)

[1] Peterson, pp. 105-106 “A long obedience in the same direction. Discipleship in an instant society.”  Inter Varsity Press, 2000.

[2] Estes, D. J. (2019). Psalms 73–150. (E. R. Clendenen, Ed.) (Vol. 13, p. 481). Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.

[3] Peterson, p. 106 Ibid.


 

 

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Psalm 126.  “The God who restores.”

August 30, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “12 Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your faithful love so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days.” 16 Let your work be seen by your servants, and your splendor by their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish for us the work of our hands— establish the work of our hands!” Psalm 90:12, 14, 16–17 (CSB).

Song: “Give thanks with a grateful heart” (Instrumental) (Click on link to hear:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JENnvQiCpjI)

Verse – Give thanks with a grateful heart. Give thanks to the Holy One. Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ His Son. (repeat)

Chorus – And now let the weak say I am strong. Let the poor say I am rich, because of what the Lord has done for us. (2x)

Verse –

Chorus – (3x)

Ending – Give thanks, give thanks

CCLI Song # 20285 Henry Smith © 1978 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music, David C Cook)) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394


Introduction:

     How do you deal with an impossible situation in your life?  I usually try everything I can think of and then resort to sharing my woes with others.  Some don’t want to hear about my problems.  Others try to encourage me by telling me of those who survived far worse, this rarely helps me.  A few wise counselors will hear me out and then say: “Now, can you tell me of a time when your life when you made it through a hopeless situation?”  While my answer to that question may not come immediately, it can begin a process of healthy reflection.

     Today we are looking in our Bibles at the seventh song of Ascents, Psalm 126.  Let me suggest that you imagine a setting where after listening to the details of a dire situation, a wise counselor has just asked the author of this psalm, “Can you tell me of a time when you survived a helpless situation?  How did you feel then?”  After getting a response the counselor then asks, “How does remembering that time make you feel about your current situation?  How are you going to respond to it in light of your past experience?”  Now let’s read Psalm 126:  “1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. 2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” 3 The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. 4 Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. 5 Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. 6 Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” Psalm 126 (NIV).

I.  Psalm 126 in its context:

     The psalm begins by recalling the nearly indescribable joy that was experienced when the Lord intervened on behalf on Zion.  We are not sure of the specific event in mind, although a likely setting is the return from Babylonian captivity. 

     Verse 1 is a picture of a 180 degree change of emotions.  That they said at first thought they must be dreaming, suggests their ability to return to Zion had been seen as impossible.

     Verse 2 describes the delight they experienced was expressed with uncontrolled laughter and songs belted out in joy!  This verse also celebrates that their return to Zion was recognized by the gentile nations as a great work of the Lord on their behalf. God received glory among the nations through this incredible act of mercy.

     Verse 3 brings the psalmist into the present, as he affirms God’s continued goodness, The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.  It’s important to see that the psalmist avoids the temptation to get stuck in the nostalgia of the past. Instead he uses God’s amazing work in the past to remind his listeners that the Lord continues to do great things for them now, and this gives them joy right now!

     Verse 4 – after placing his situation in the context of God’s caring, powerful hand, the psalmist presents his request – his prayer.  “Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev.”  He uses the same phrase as in v. 1 “when the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion.”  In faith he is calling out to God for his restorative blessings once more.  The word picture he uses “like streams in the Negev” is a description of the renewing that water brings to the dry deserts of Israel’s south.  The NLT says “Restore our fortunes Lord, as streams renew the desert.”

     The first halves of verses 5 & 6 give us a glimpse of how desperate their situation was.  Usually sowing was a time of optimism and hope, for they were planting a crop which would provide food.  However, something was taking place that made sowing seem like such a hopeless cause that the farmer is bawling while sowing the seed.  Clearly the risks seemed much greater than the expected results.  One would have to conclude from these verses that although they sowed, a harvest was not expected and to actually be harvesting would have felt like they were in a dream!

     This psalm encourages them to not let their discouraging circumstances and the resulting tears stop them from doing the right thing.  They are to call out to God (v. 4) then use the resources they have to do what they can and leave the results to God.  Verses 5 & 6 promises that when this is done: the one who sobbed while sowing will be singing songs of praise and the weeper holding a bag of seed will become a rejoicing reaper holding an arm full of sheaves. 

     Verses 1-3 are likely describing the response to when the Persian king Cyrus II, after defeating Babylon, issued a decree restoring the Jews to their homeland.  It’s important to remember that Jeremiah had prophesied that this would happen. Many who followed him sowed tearful prayers to the Lord for that day to come and after 70 years, it did!

II.  An Application of Psalm 126 to us:

     With Covid-19 continuing to limit our interactions, we find ourselves in a time of uncertainty and this is causing frustration and anxiety for some of us.  As a church family it may feel like we are losing our connection with one another and our community.  This form of relational solitary confinement is wearying for many.  How are we to respond when it feels like there is nothing we can do?  Psalm 126 gives us a model to follow.  The ultimate Wise Counselor, the Holy Spirit of God reminds us to recall those times when God helped us through impossible situations.  Clearly the Lord was with us, and he hasn’t changed – he is still on our side.

     Psalm 126 calls us not to give up on today by remembering God’s amazing acts in the past and anticipating further blessings in the future.  The ultimate act of restoration that any of us can experience was accomplished through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave.  Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5 describes the transformation this way: “1 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.  4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” (NLT).

     When you accept Jesus as your sin forgiver and follow him as the leader of your life, everything changes – you are free from sin’s prison!  Your relationship with the Lord has been restored and you have moved from death to life!

     Don’t let the tears from a current hardship stop you from sowing – from doing what you can, what you know you should for the Lord – sow even with tears.  I was reminded of what Jesus said and prayed shortly before his arrest and crucifixion:

34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”” Mark 14:34–36 (NLT).  Jesus was tearful, crushed with grief, yet still wanting to see the Father’s will accomplished – he was sowing with tears to reap a harvest with joy.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us: “2 We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (GW).

     Follow the Lord’s will, sow your life’s seed, even in times of tears, knowing that He will bring a harvest and one day you will be rejoicing with Him as that harvest comes in!

     Let me close with words from the Apostle Paul, who endured great suffering for following Christ Jesus and yet focused on the harvest to come:

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. Things that are seen don’t last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen. (CEV)

          If you have accepted Jesus as you Savior and been forgiven of your sins, celebrate your freedom from captivity to sin.  If you haven’t made that decision yet, He is waiting in love for you, don’t delay any longer!

Hymn: “When God revealed his gracious name” by Isaac Watts (To tune of #76 “O for a thousand tongues” – here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vga38imC9Q)

1 – When God revealed his gracious name, and changed my mournful state, my raptures seemed a pleasing dream, the grace appeared so great.

2 – The world beheld the glorious change, and did thy hand confess; my tongue broke out in unknown strains, and sung surprising grace.

3 – The Lord can clear the darkest skies, can give us day for night; Make drops of sacred sorrow rise to rivers of delight.

4 – Let those who sow in sadness wait till the fair harvest come: They shall confess their sheaves are great, and shout the blessings home.

1 – When God revealed his gracious name, and changed my mournful state, my raptures seemed a pleasing dream, the grace appeared so great, my raptures seemed a pleasing dream, the grace appeared so great!

 

Benediction: “57 Thank God that he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 So, then, brothers and sisters, don’t let anyone move you off the foundation ⌊of your faith⌋. Always excel in the work you do for the Lord. You know that the hard work you do for the Lord is not pointless.” 1 Corinthians 15:57–58 (GW).

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Psalm 125.  “Secure in the Lord.”

August 23, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: Psalm 92:1–2. “How good it is to give thanks to you, O Lord, to sing in your honour, O Most High God, to proclaim your constant love every morning and your faithfulness every night,” (GNB)

Opening song:Great is Thy faithfulness” 

Verse 1 – Great is Thy faithfulness O God my Father. There is no shadow Of turning with Thee. Thou changest not Thy compassions they fail not, as Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Chorus – Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Verse 2 – Summer and winter and springtime and harvest. Sun moon and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness, to Thy great faithfulness mercy and love.

Chorus –

Verse 3 – Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth. Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.

Chorus –

CCLI Song # 18723 Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan © Words: Public Domain  Music: Public Domain For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

          Where do you look for your security?  Some people hope to receive security in their work.  Work is good, it was assigned to us by God from the very beginning (Gen. 2:15).  It can provide us with satisfaction and purpose when we see positive results, but it was not meant to replace God.  Some hope to get security through their relationships.  At our creation God encouraged marriage and family relationships, but they were not intended to replace an individual’s relationship with God.  People have looked for security in accumulating land, animals, businesses and money.  Today, stocks and bonds are classified as “securities” even though a dip in the stock market shows how insecure they ultimately are!

     Where can one find true security in a world where the strong take from the weak and the wicked take advantage of the righteous? Today as we look at Psalm 125, we’ll see that security is its primary focus.  In the Hebrew text, the word translated “trust” is the very first word of the psalm.  Psalm 125 describes those who trust in the Lord as “his people” (v2), “the righteous” (v 3), “those who are good… upright in heart” (v 4) and Israel (v5).  Those who trust in the Lord are contrasted with “the wicked” (v3), “those who turn to crooked ways” (v5a) and “evildoers” (v5b).  Let’s read the psalm:

Psalm 125 A song of ascents. 1 Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore. 3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil. 4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart. 5 But those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers. Peace be upon Israel. (NIV)

     The Psalmist in verse 1 clearly states where true security lies: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.”  The writer uses the simile “like Mount Zion” to express the security available to us as we trust the Lord.  The NLT says “Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.Psalm 125:1 (NLT). 

     Those who trust in the Lord can rest secure, they need not fear.  Is this true of you?  Have you asked the Lord to forgive you of your sin and accepted Jesus as the risen Son of God who died for your sins and in whom you put your trust as your sin forgiver and life leader?  If so, you are secure in his care!

     Imagine you were in a group of pilgrims, traveling to Jerusalem, and you have just crested the final hill and now you are looking down on the city and the surrounding area.  You see Jerusalem built on Mt. Zion, and surrounding it are higher hills.  To the east is the Mount of Olives – 66 meters higher, to the north, Mount Scopus – 76 meters higher, and to the west and south are other hills, all higher than Mount Zion.  So the city of Jerusalem is on a mountain which is encircled by other mountains giving it great natural defensives.  The writer in verse 2 uses another simile to remind us of the Lord’s encircling protection towards who trust Him.  As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.   

     We are secure because the Lord surrounds us, he is our fortress.  It is He protects us.  Our security is not based on our feelings, but on whom God is; and He keeps His promises!  The history of the nation of Israel is full of ups and downs.  Remember, just days after the victory of crossing through the Red Sea the Israelites want to return to Egypt.  Eugene Peterson writes: “All persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers.  We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.” [1]  When you find yourself feeling helpless and struggling, remind yourself of God’s protecting care:  Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (NIV).  In John 17:11, 15 Jesus prayed for us: “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.”   “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (NIV)

     As we read verse three, it may have been that the psalmist needed to remind himself of the truth of verse two during a time when Israel was being dominated by foreign powers.  In spite of the immediate circumstances, he knew evil would not rule them forever: “The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.”

     The key word is “remain.”  Evil is not permanent, nothing counter to God’s justice has any eternity to it.  The Apostle Peter learned to trust God and grow through his trials and share this with the church: 1 Peter 1:3–7. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (NIV)

     Next, in verse 4 the psalmist demonstrates what to do when faced with a situation beyond our control or understanding:  He looks to God and prays!  4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart. 5 But those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers.  Peace be upon Israel.  When things are out of your control, remember who is in control and bring your concerns to Him. 

Philippians 4:6–7 Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus. (GW)

     Being a Christian is not like walking a tight rope.  Psalm 125 says it is like sitting in the middle of the fortified city of Jerusalem, secured by the Lord Himself.  There will be doubts, there will be ups and downs and slips, there will times when evil seems to reign, but remember, you are secure in the Lord.  The psalm ends with the words: Peace be upon Israel.  In the context this can be translated “Relax.”  We are secure.  God is in control and as we come to Him through Christ Jesus the Lord, we are secure.  Are you at peace regardless of the circumstances?  You can be if you surrendered your life to Jesus, don’t delay.  Christian, if you are struggling to find peace in your circumstances – stop focusing on the circumstances and look up – see that you are surrounded and held by the everlasting arms of almighty God – you ARE secure in HIM!

Closing Song: I know who holds tomorrow 

(This video was uploaded in 2017 by David Hill who writes: This is a home recording of my wife Melinda. She died two years ago after a nine-month battle with cancer. During her struggle she repeatedly said that her life was in God’s hands. Anything He allowed to happen to her was for her own good. So she chose to focus on the things for which she was thankful. I put this together in her memory. I hope it will bring comfort to all of us, for we don’t know what tomorrow may bring. But we can choose to know One who will be with us no matter what happens.)

Verse 1 – I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day. I don’t borrow from its sunshine for its skies may turn to gray. I don’t worry o’er the future, for I know what Jesus said, and today I’ll walk beside Him for He knows what is ahead.

Chorus – Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand, but I know who holds tomorrow, And I know who holds my hand.

Verse 2 – Ev’ry step is getting brighter As the golden stairs I climb. Ev’ry burden’s getting lighter ev’ry cloud is silver-lined. There the sun is always shining; there no tear will dim the eye, at the ending of the rainbow where the mountains touch the sky.

Chorus –

Verse 3 – I don’t know about tomorrow, it may bring me poverty; but the One who feeds the sparrow is the One who stands by me. And the path that is my portion May be through the flame or flood, But His presence goes before me and I’m covered with His blood.

Chorus –

CCLI Song # 17982 Ira Stanphill © 1950 New Spring (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction:  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NIV)

Bonus Song: “He will hold me fast” 

Verse 1 – When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast. When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast. I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path, for my love is often cold, He must hold me fast.

Chorus – He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast. For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.

Verse 2 – Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast. Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast. He’ll not let my soul be lost, His Promises shall last. Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast.

Chorus –

Verse 3 – For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast. Justice has been satisfied, He will hold me fast. Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast. Till our faith is turned to sight, When He comes at last.

Chorus –

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[1] Eugene H. Peterson (p. 86)A long obedience in the Same Direction.  1980, IVP

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Psalm 124.  “The Lord is on our side.”

August 16, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: 1 Sing God a brand-new song! Earth and everyone in it, sing! 2 Sing to God—worship God! Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea, 3 Take the news of his glory to the lost, News of his wonders to one and all! 4 For God is great, and worth a thousand Hallelujahs. His terrible beauty makes the gods look cheap;” Psalm 96:1–4 (The Message).

Song: Still, My Soul Be Still – Keith & Kristyn Getty. 

Verse 1 – Still my soul be still and do not fear, Though winds of change may rage tomorrow.  God is at your side no longer dread the fires of unexpected sorrow.

Chorus – God You are my God, And I will trust in You and not be shaken.  Lord of peace renew a steadfast spirit within me, To rest in You alone.

Verse 2 – Still my soul be still do not be moved by lesser lights and fleeting shadows.  Hold on to His ways with shield of faith against temptation’s flaming arrows.

Verse 3 – Still my soul be still do not forsake the truth you learned in the beginning.  Wait upon the Lord and hope will rise as stars appear when day is dimming.

CCLI Song # 5469284 Keith Getty | Kristyn Getty | Stuart Townend © 2008 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

     Today we are looking at Psalm 124.  It is the fifth psalm of ascents, a group of 15 psalms, (120 – 134), which we believe were sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the three yearly festivals.

     It’s been suggested that these 15 psalms may form 5 sets of 3.  Generally the first psalm in the set is deals with some distress, followed by confidence in God and lastly, security in the Lord.[1]  Remember these psalms were likely read in close succession, not a week apart as we are looking at them.  You may want to try reading these psalms in their groups of three.   As we’ve seen:

  • Psalm 120 is a psalm of repentance I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.” (NIV)
  • Psalm 121 is a psalm of trust. I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from?” (NIV)
  • Psalm 122 is a psalm of worship. I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” (NIV).
  • Psalm 123 depicts the attentive service of those waiting upon the Lord for his mercy: 1 I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. (NIV)

     Psalm 124 is a psalm of thanksgiving for God’s protection.  The annual festivals brought the 12 tribes together to celebrate they were one people under God.  This psalm reinforces that truth as they remembered and celebrated that had it not been for God’s faithfulness they wouldn’t still exist!  The history of Israel is full of the stories of God’s saving mercy: giving old Abraham an heir, preserving Jacob’s family through famine, liberation from years of slavery in Egypt, safe passage through the Red Sea, preserved for 40 years in the wilderness, the conquest of Jericho and the rest of the promised land. Also during the time of the kings great armies overran the land and threatened to destroy them.  Again and again, against all odds the Lord has preserved Israel as His convent people.  The nation could say with confidence God IS on our side! 

     Let’s read Psalm 124: 1 What if the Lord had not been on our side? Let all Israel repeat: 2 What if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us? 3 They would have swallowed us alive in their burning anger. 4 The waters would have engulfed us; a torrent would have overwhelmed us. 5 Yes, the raging waters of their fury would have overwhelmed our very lives. 6 Praise the Lord, who did not let their teeth tear us apart! 7 We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free! 8 Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 124 (NLT).

     Psalm 124 begins with a worship leader calling for the people of Israel to imagine what their lives would have been like if the Lord had not been on their side.  Verses 2 & 3 speak of being attacked by those with burning anger.  Verse 3 describes the enemy’s desire as that of a wild animal with a voracious appetite.  We see something similar in Jeremiah 51:34 where the destroyer of Jerusalem, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is pictured as a serpent that swallowed them up.

     Verses 4 & 5 draws on the image of a flash flood, to describe the destruction their enemies sought to bring on them.  Those living in Israel’s dry, hilly land with its many wadi’s (ravines) were familiar with sudden flooding as a result of thunder storms. 

     Verse 6 praises the Lord, for preventing the teeth of their vicious enemy from tearing them apart!  Verse 7 pictures Israel as completely helpless before their attackers, like a bird in a trap, until the Lord broke the trap, freeing them!

     Verse 8 concludes this psalm with a declaration of trust in the Lord who made heaven and earth.  As creator of all, the Lord can do all that is needed for his people!  He is on our side!

     It is important for us to notice that this Psalm isn’t claiming that the Lord kept difficulties away from them, look at verse 2: What if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us?  They were attacked and feared for their very existence!  Their testimony is that they survived the worst and made it through, because it was the Lord who was on their side.  However, notice that this is not a psalm which focuses on the hazards, but rather on the help given.  The hazards are not the subject of this psalm, just the setting for this psalm. 

     Can you say the same thing about the “hazards” you have experienced in your life?  Sometimes we don’t like to reflect on our struggles and hardships, those times when we didn’t think we were going to make it.  Psalm 124 teaches us to review those hardships, while looking for the hand of God, for likely the situation could have been far worse.  What do you learn as you do that?

      Daniel Estes says: From Psalm 124 God’s people see that he uses yesterday’s troubles to build in them trust for today and tomorrow. They learn through the traumas of life that they can trust the Lord.[2]

     Eugene Peterson says on this subject:  Faith develops out of the most difficult aspects of our existence, not the easiest.  The person of faith is not a person who has been born, luckily, with a good digestion and sunny disposition.  The assumption by outsiders that Christians are naive or protected is the opposite of truth: Christians know more about the deep struggles of life than others, more about the ugliness of sin.

     A look into the heavens can bring a breathtaking sense of wonder and majesty, and, if a person is a believer, a feeling of praise to the God who made heaven and earth.  The psalm looks the other direction.  It looks into the troubles of history, the anxiety of personal conflict and emotional trauma.  And it sees there the God who is on our side, God our help.  The close look…into the …terrors, the flood’s waters and the imprisoning trap, sees the action of God in deliverance.[3]

          The theme of Psalm 124 – Do not lose hope, God is on our side, remember what he has already done for us – is reflected in Romans 8:31-32 & 35-39, listen to it from The Message translation:  “31 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? 32 If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?”  35 Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: 36 They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. 37 None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. 38 I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, 39 high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:31-32, 35–39 (The Message).

     Praise God – the Lord is on our side – can anything that comes against us ultimately succeed with the Lord at our side?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Isn’t that great news?  Doesn’t that change how you see the enemy’s attack?  The devil means to discourage and destroy you – the Lord allows him to try, because he knows as you trust in him, the trials will instead develop and strengthen your faith.  What the enemy means for evil, God uses for our good!

     Let me close this encouraging message with a sobering question.  What would it be like to face the things you have gone through without the Lord?  I’ve been with Christians who have been going through some of life’s worst experiences, and in the midst of their grief, they pause and say, I don’t know how anyone could go through this without the Lord?   The sad truth is people all around us are going through life without the Lord, without his comfort and guidance.  What can be done to help them?  That’s why we Christians are still here, and are going through life’s struggles alongside them.  Not only do our trials give opportunity for our faith to develop, they make us living examples of God’s faithfulness!!! 

     When the Lord gives us a point of connection with someone, possibly around a similar experience, we can share about the difference having a relationship with the Lord made in our life.  I remember seeing this happen in Japan.  Many churches there are small, Christians few, and I struggled with why the Lord would allow some wonderful Christian women to struggle with terminal cancer?  I stopped asking why, when after their deaths, others came to be baptized – some also with cancer, because of the Christian testimony of these ladies!  How did you survive?  The Lord was on my side!  Don’t be shy to share the Good News of what the Lord has done and is doing in your life!

Closing: “Today Tomorrow & Forever” – Sanctus Real – 

Verse 1 – Through every trial, through every circumstance, still Your mercy covers me.  Through every battle, I don’t have to understand, still I lift my voice and sing

Chorus – Today, tomorrow, and forever I will live for You. Today, tomorrow, and forever I will worship You.

Verse 2 – You have been faithful, You have been kind to me, You hold my future in Your hands.  When the world is shaking, the ground beneath my feet, You’re the solid rock on which I stand.

Bridge – I’ll worship You on the mountain and in the valley.  I’ll worship You in the calm and in the storm

Ending – Today, tomorrow, and forever I will worship You.  Oh I will worship You.  Jesus I worship You.

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Benediction: “10 The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.” 1 Peter 5:10-11 (The Message).


[1] Wilcock, M. (2001). The Message of Psalms: Songs for the People of God. (J. A. Motyer, Ed.) (Vol. 2, p. 220). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Estes, D. J. (2019). The New American Commentary: Psalms 73–150. (E. R. Clendenen, Ed.) (Vol. 13, p. 468). Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.

[3] Ibid, p. 74-75.

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Psalm 123.  “Living as a servant of the Lord.”

August 9, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: 1 I will sing forever about the evidence of your mercy, O Lord. I will tell about your faithfulness to every generation. 2 I said, “Your mercy will last forever. Your faithfulness stands firm in the heavens.”” Psalm 89:1–2 (GW).

Song: Make me a servant 

Make me a servant humble and meek.  Lord let me lift up those who are weak, and may the prayer of my heart always be: Make me a servant, make me a servant, make me a servant today.

CCLI Song # 33131 Kelly Willard © 1982 CCCM Music (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.) Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.) Willing Heart Music (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No1348394

     We are continuing our look at Psalms 120-134, the Songs of Ascents. Today we are looking at Psalm 123.  Let me begin by reading it:

Psalm 123.  A song of ascents. 1 I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. 2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy. 3 Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt. 4 We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant. (NIV)

     What do you do when something is not working properly or breaks down?  Most of us will look for help by calling the service department.  If the power is out here in a Saskatchewan neighbourhood, the people might gather on the street and ask if anyone called SaskPower on their cell phone? Yea, well, where are they?  When are they going to get here? What kind of service is this?  Our town of Esterhazy currently has very hard water and it is brutal on plumbing, especially hot water tanks – ours seem to barely last five years! When the hot water stops working or the tank starts leaking, you want a plumber right away; and the plumbers in our town give great service when we call!

     I tell you all this to ask this question.  Do we sometimes carry this attitude of expecting to be served into our relationship with God?  Do we treat God like a spiritual Mr. Fix-it whom we call to repair things using the “911 prayer line”?  If you look at your prayer requests lately, it may look like a “to do” list for God to come to your aid!  

     It seems at first glance that this is what Psalm 123 is saying as well – “Lord, I’ve got a problem, fix it.  We’re all overwhelmed with contempt; we can’t handle it any more – fix it!”  Yet, could it be that with our twenty first century perspective we have reversed the roles?  This psalm may not be about God serving us after all!  Let’s take another look.  1 I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. 2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy. 3 Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt. 4 We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant. Psalm 123 (NIV)

     The word ‘eyes’ is used four times in these first two verses.  What are the eyes looking at?  Their focus is on the hand of the master, the hand of the mistress and on the Lord.  The setting is that of offering service – the attentiveness of a slave and a servant to those they serve.  Although the word service isn’t used, this is a psalm which teaches us about service.  Like many of the psalms, the instruction is not through description, but by demonstration.  When I got a job at a printing plant, it began with me spending the day with the fellow whose job I would be taking over, he was moving to another position.  That day I learned what to do, by watching & learning from him, rather than reading a manual.  Psalm 123 is like that, we learn about service as we ‘watch’ the psalmist.

     First notice the posture of service.  God is not our servant, nor is he our equal.  Service to God begins with our upward look to God as we acknowledge that he is worthy of our service: “1 I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.  2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God”. The writer is not speaking of God as being distant and far away when he looks up to heaven, rather he speaks to God giving him honor.  The posture of a servant is to look up to God, in order to honor and worship Him.  

     In this psalm I learn that God is my Lord and He is to be the focus of my attention. This is what is to be learned from the example of the slaves and the mistress. My service to God is not about me being noticed or what I will get out of it; it is about obeying the Lord and honoring him.  Jesus taught us to pray with this same God centred attention: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hollow be Thy nameThy kingdom comeThy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9.

     The second element in our service has to do with expectations.  We have lifted our eyes to God in heaven; does that mean he is distant?  Verse two closes with the phrase “so our eyes look to the Lord our God.” The Lord is in heaven, yet we know he cares, for he is “the Lord our God.”  Although there is much about God that is beyond our comprehension, that doesn’t mean that God is unknowable to us.  As Christians we know that God wants good for us; for in grace, he does not punish us according to what we deserve.  Three times in this psalm there is the plea for mercy.  We know that mercy is something that God the Father is willing to give to us as we come to him through Jesus the Son.

     Eugene Peterson says: The word mercy means that the upward look to God in the heavens does not expect God to stay in the heavens, but to come down, to enter our condition, to accomplish the vast enterprise of redemption, to fashion, in us, his eternal salvation. [1]

     We serve a God who loves us and in mercy is working in us to shape us into the character of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.  As we look to God in faith we receive what we need: mercy.

     A third element in service is urgency.  The psalmist calls on the Lord for mercy because: “…we have endured much contempt. 4 We have endured much ridicule…”  The NASB says: 3 Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us, For we are greatly filled with contempt. 4 Our soul is greatly filled with the scoffing of those who are at ease, And with the contempt of the proud. Psalm 123:3–4 (NAS).  The Hebrew word we translate as “endured” or “greatly filled” contains the idea of something being saturated or filled to the brim.  The psalmist is saying that they have had it with contempt & ridicule and are calling out to God believing they will receive mercy.

      The psalmist lived at a time when the position of slave and servant were institutionalized.  It was how the world ran at that time.  In our day we no longer have institutionalized slavery.  Freedom is essential to us!  We must be free live where we want and do what we want, when we want to do it!  However, do you find that people are happy?  NO, we remain habitual complainers!  The weather is lousy; the government is worse; I don’t have enough money; I don’t have enough time; I can’t be myself, others are telling me how to live.  So how have we responded to our unhappiness?  We look for relief & escape – people are addicted to alcohol & drugs (I just need to relax or I need more energy); to compulsive work habits (I want to feel better about myself) and to obsessive consumption (More things will make me happy).  Do you realize what has happened?  We are not free! We are still enslaved, we have only traded masters! 

     Peterson says: “The Christian is a person who recognizes that our real problem is not in achieving freedom but in learning service under a better master.  The Christian realizes that every relationship that excludes God becomes oppressive.  Recognizing and realizing that, we urgently want to live under the mastery of God… ‘Speak Lord, for thy servant hears.’”[2]

     The final element of service we will look at today is that it is Sensible Service.  This psalm concentrates on our being a servant of God yet doesn’t mention the serving of others.  Does that mean it can be excluded?  A great place to answer that question is to look at the book of Romans chapters 12 -16 which begins in chap. 12:1 of the New International Translation with the words: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1 (NIV)

The Message translation says: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” Romans 12:1 (The Message).

The Contemporary English Version says it this way:  Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That’s the most sensible way to serve GodRomans 12:1 (CEV)

     Paul urges us to offer our bodies as our worship offering to God or as the CEV says, this whole life worship is “the most sensible way to serve God.” This is in keeping with the psalm’s emphasis on actual service, not just intention or desire. 

     Going back to Romans, in the verses & chapters which follow 12:1 it becomes clear that presenting ourselves to God as living sacrifices occurs as we use the gifts He has given us to serve others. In other words, this is the sensible way to serve God!

     If you are still trying to decide if this idea of servanthood really needs to have a place in your life as a Christian, let me remind you of the words and example of Jesus. 

Matthew 20:27–28. “and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” (NLT)

Luke 22:27. “Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.” (NLT)

Philippians 2:5–7a. “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.” (NLT)

John 13:4–5, 12–17. “So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.”  “After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” (NLT)

  • Servanthood begins with an upward look to God – It is not about me, but about my God.
  • Servanthood looks to God in faith expecting, knowing that in mercy He hears us.
  • Servanthood involves urgency, knowing that the Lord is our only hope and the only one we want to serve.
  • Finally servanthood is sensible service, done in our day to day living.  We serve our God as we follow the example of our Lord Jesus.

Closing songs: #1  Here’s a different “Make me a servant” song that was written for children, but it speaks to all of us – 

Verse 1 – Make me a servant, humble and kind, giving to others, not keeping what’s mine.  You, God of Heaven came wrapped as a babe; you lived in humility and showed me the way.  

Chorus – Make me a servant, Jesus, like you, help me show humility in all that I do.  It’s not about living just to please me, but it’s about giving as I have received!

Ending – Yes, it’s about giving as I have received!

3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3 (NIV).

#2 – Servant Song: 

Verse 1 – What do you want of me, Lord?  Where do you want me to serve you?  Where can I sing your praises?  I am your song.

Chorus – Jesus, Jesus, you are the Lord.  Jesus, Jesus, you are the way.

Verse 2 – I hear you call my name, Lord, and I am moved within me.  Your Spirit stirs my deepest self.  Sing your songs in me.

Verse 3 – Above, below, and around me.  Before, behind and all through me, your Spirit burns deep within me.  Fire my life with your love.

Verse 4- You are the light in my darkness.  You are my strength when I’m weary.  You give me sight when I’m blinded.  Come see for me.

Verse 5 – I am your song and servant, Singing your praises like Mary.  Surrendered to your spirit, let it be done to me!

Chorus 2 – Jesus, Jesus, let it be done to me!  Jesus, Jesus, you are the way.
Written by Sr. Marie Mcgargill

Benediction: The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:56-58 (TNIV)

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Psalm 122.  “Worshiping God.” 

August 2, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”” “Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!” “Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!” Psalm 122:1; 96:1, 4a (NLT)

Song: The name of the Lord 

Chorus 1 – Blessed be the name of the Lord!  Blessed be the name of the Lord!  Blessed be the name of the Lord most high!  (REPEAT)

Chorus 2 – Holy is the name of the Lord!  Holy is the name of the Lord!  Holy is the name of the Lord most high!  (REPEAT)

Verse – The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous run into it and they are safe!  The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous run into it and they are safe!

Chorus 1

Chorus 3 – Glory to the name of the Lord!  Glory to the name of the Lord!  Glory to the name of the Lord most high!  (REPEAT)

CCLI Song # 265239 Clinton Utterbach © 1989 Universal – Polygram International Publishing, Inc. (Admin. by Universal Music Publishing Group) Utterbach Music Publishing Company (Admin. by Universal Music Publishing Group) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No1348394

     Today we are looking at Psalm 122; the third psalm in the 15 Songs of Ascent (Ps. 120-134) which are thought to have been sung by those on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the three major yearly festivals.

     As we have seen, Psalm 120 commences our journey to God.  This journey starts with a frustration over life as we have attempted to craft it without God.  It begins with repentance, a turning away from that which is wrong and walking towards God for help.

     Psalm 121 is a psalm of trust.  When this life does not go as expected, a disciple is faced with the temptation to look for quick fixes instead of relying in the Lord.  Psalm 121 reminds us the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth watches over us, walks with us and will not let evil separate us from him.

     Psalm 122 brings us to Jerusalem. The rabbis referred to Jerusalem as the “navel of the universe”, and it is amazing that after so many years this ancient city still plays such a key role in modern life. Sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Jerusalem is still the destination of pilgrims from around the world as it was the destination of Israelites in ancient days.[1] 

     Psalm 122 begins with the words: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” They have gone to the city of Jerusalem, but their attention in on the Lord whose throne on earth is there; He is the focus of their journey.  Psalm 122 is a psalm of worship. 

     As diverse as the church is around the world, one thing you will always find present is worship.  The people of God enjoy gathering together to worship their God, not because they have to but because they want to. 

     The word “worship” comes from an old English word “worth-ship”, meaning that God is worthy and is deserving of our praise. Worship describes our response to the Lord who has revealed himself to us. When in our hearts we believe God is worthy and deserves our worship, then nothing will stop us from doing so; it’s simply a matter of our priorities.
     Worship can take many forms.  Of late, worship has come to be defined as singing. Singing is one way we can express our worship, but certainly it is not the only way, which is good news for non-singers!  We can express God’s worth-ship through our giving, our prayer, our reflection, our sharing, the reading & expounding of God’s Word and many other things. In essence, we worship as we give adoration, humility, submission and obedience to our God.

     Jerusalem, for a Hebrew, was the main place to worship.  In Jerusalem during the feasts, the great works of God were remembered and celebrated: God created you, God redeemed you and God provides for you.  It was also to Jerusalem that you went to offer sacrifice for your sins – a reminder of God’s grace and forgiveness.

     Jerusalem drew the 12 diverse tribes together into one people to worship their God as a united people.  In worship the same thing happens for us.  We come from many different back grounds and experiences and yet we leave those differences behind and come for the common purpose of worshipping our God together. 

     For the Christian, worshipping God helps give our life the balance it needs – it’s not all about me – I remember God’s grace & mercy, past,  present and future.  Theologian Karl Barth described Worship as “the most urgent, the most glorious action that can take place in human life”.

      Let me read Psalm 122 from the NIV:  A song of ascents. Of David. 1 I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” 2 Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem. 3 Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. 4 That is where the tribes go up— the tribes of the Lord— to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel. 5 There stand the thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David. 6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. 7 May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” 8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” 9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.” (NIV).

     The pilgrims were going to Jerusalem, for there they knew they would find:

1.  A place of safety.

3 Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. Psalm 122:3  (NIV)

3 Jerusalem is a well-built city; its seamless walls cannot be breached.” Psalm 122:3 (NLT).

     Jerusalem as the capital was the country’s principle fortress.  Jerusalem had strong walls, however the people recognized its true security came not from its fortifications, but from the Lord.

     How about for us now with Temple gone, where can one to look for the peace and safety of the Lord’s presence?  Jesus gave us the answer to that question in his discussion with a Samaritan woman in John 4:19-24: “19 “Sir,” the woman replied, “I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus told her, “Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.”” John 4:19–24 (CSB).

     God has made it possible for us to approach him directly, no matter where we are.  We can have a personal relationship with God the Father through His Son, Jesus; a heart to heart, spirit to Spirit relationship. How? Humble yourself and admit you need God’s help. Ask him to forgive your sins and receive Jesus as your sin forgiver. Surrender your will to Him as your life leader and the Holy Spirit of God will come to dwell within you; then you can experience the peace and security symbolized by Jerusalem through of the presence of the Spirit of God within.

     As I come before the Lord in acts of worship I claim his peace, because I know that even in life’s uncertainties he is still in control.  This pandemic did not surprise him; I am safe in his care no matter the circumstances.  The Apostle Paul shared how this truth guarded him with God’s peace, in Philippians 4:8-9 “6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6–7 (CSB).

     As we come to God in worship, recalling what he has done, is doing and will do; we can be secure in his peace.  Remind yourself, life is not about me, nor is this all there is; the Lord is in control!

     The pilgrims going to Jerusalem also knew they would find:

2.  A Place of Praise.

 “That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel.” Psalm 122:4 (NIV)

4 All the tribes of Israel—the Lord’s people— make their pilgrimage here. They come to give thanks to the name of the Lord, as the law requires of Israel.” Psalm 122:4 (NLT).

     The Lord had commanded that the Israelites meet together regularly, through the festivals.  The focus of these pilgrimages was to give thanks and praise to the Lord; not to ask for unity or prosperity.  Yet, these gifts were given by God over and above the occasion.  Pagan worship on the other hand is focused on doing what you think your god wants in hope of you getting what you want.

     What if you say, “I don’t feel like worshipping and I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”  What does the Psalm say?  Israel came because God in his law required them to gather to praise the Lord.  Likewise, we are to choose to worship, not because we feel like it, but because we should.  When we know something is the right thing to do, we do it, rather than wait until we feel like it!  If not, many meals would go unprepared, much laundry undone, and many red lights run – if we only did those things when we felt like it!  Worshipping God is the right thing to do.  As we begin to praise God for who he is and what is has done, we will discover the feelings will follow. 

     Finally, Jerusalem was seen as:

3.  A Place of Justice.

     Verse 5 describes Jerusalem as the place where “the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.” Psalm 122:5 (NIV).

     Jerusalem was not only the religious centre of Israel, but also its political centre where the Davidic kings reigned.  However, these kings were to rule as administrators of the Lord’s justice.  The divine King was the one the people ultimately looked to for justice.  We are reminded of God’s promise to David that one of his son’s would rule justly from his throne forever over all of creation, praise God!

     Eugene Peterson tells us: The biblical word judgment means “the decisive word by which God straightens things out and puts things right.”  The thrones of judgment are a place where the word of action is announced.  Judgment is not a word about things; it is a word which does things, “putting love in motion, applying mercy, nullifying wrong, and ordering goodness.  This word of God is everywhere in worship – from the call to worship to the benediction, we hear God’s word to us; in scripture, in prayers, in song (inspired by scripture) [2].  Every time we worship our minds are reminded of the acts of God, the Words of God, what God has said and what God has done.  Worship is the place where our attention is centred on these personal and decisive words of God.

     “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let’s go to the House of the Lord.’” (GW)  This Psalm is a beautiful reminder of what we receive as we draw near to the Lord in worship, whether that be in Jerusalem, Esterhazy or anywhere else: safety, praise and justice.  As you conclude your specific activity of worship, leave remembering that you are to represent your Lord wherever you are! 1 Peter 2:9 says: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (TNIV)  Worship him with the offering of your life today!

Closing Song: Come Thou Fount (I Will Sing) 

Verse 1 – Come Thou Fount of ev’ry blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.  Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above; Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it, Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Verse 2 – Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I come; and I hope by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.  Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wand’ring from the fold of God; He to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.

Chorus – How your kindness yet pursues me.  How your mercy never fails me.  ‘Til the day that death shall loose me, I will sing, oh I will sing.

Verse 3 – Oh to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!  Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee:  Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, Lord take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.

Chorus – (2x)

Ending – Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, Lord take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.  Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.

CCLI Song # 7072572 Chris Tomlin | Robert Robinson © 2016 S. D. G. Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) sixsteps Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Worship Together Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction:  The God of peace brought the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus, back to life through the blood of an eternal promise.  May this God of peace prepare you to do every good thing he wants. May he work in us through Jesus Christ to do what is pleasing to him. Glory belongs to Jesus Christ forever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20–21 (GW)

                                                                              


[1] Futato, M. D. (2009). The Book of Psalms. In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (p. 378). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[2] Peterson, Eugene H., A long obedience in the same direction.  Pg. 50, IVP

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Psalm 121 “Where to find help.”

July 26, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship“Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God!”  Psalm 43:3–4 (NLT)

Opening Song: “You’re worthy of my praise” 

Verse 1 – I will worship (I will worship).  With all of my heart (with all of my heart).  I will praise You (I will praise You).  With all of my strength (all my strength).  I will seek You (I will seek You).  All of my days (all of my days).  I will follow (I will follow).  All of Your ways (all Your ways).

Chorus – I will give You all my worship.  I will give You all my praise.  You alone I long to worship.  You alone are worthy of my praise.  

Verse 2 – I will bow down (I will bow down).  And hail You as King (and hail You as King).  I will serve You (I will serve You).  Give You everything (everything).  I will lift up (I will lift up) .  My eyes to Your throne (my eyes to Your throne).  I will trust You (I will trust You).  Trust You alone (You alone).  

CCLI Song # 487976  David Ruis  © 1991 Shade Tree Music (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.) Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

      Why do some… people, find it hard to stop and ask for directions?  “I hear” it is because they don’t like to admit they are wrong, that they don’t know the way and are lost.  To have to admit we are wrong can be embarrassing and humiliating and so, foolishly, we often avoid it.  Yet there are times when finding out we are wrong can result in relief – for it means we can stop doing something that just isn’t working!

     Eugene Peterson gives an example of such a situation in his book “A long obedience in the same direction.”  Peterson was trying to remove his lawn mower blade, first with a wrench, then he added a 3 foot pipe, finally he was banging on the pipe with a rock.  His neighbor looked over the fence at his torment, and suggested that he had had a similar lawn mower, and had discovered that the bolt which held the blade in place was treaded in the opposite direction.  

      When Peterson tried turning the nut in the other direction, it came off.  He was glad at the moment to be told that he had been wrong; it saved him from frustration and failure.  There was only one way to do it.  As hard as he tried turning it the other way, it would not loosen.  God knows about life, and that life is like that – there is a way that works, and everything else only brings frustration for wasted effort.[1]

     Psalm 121 is like that neighbor who tells us, that we are going about our Christian life in the wrong way, and then shows us the right way.

     Psalms 120 through 134 are in a subgroup within the Book of Psalms called the Psalms of Ascent.  These songs, written by various authors, were collected together and sung by pilgrims on their way up to one of the three great worship festivals held each year in Jerusalem.

     Last week we saw Psalm 120 expresses frustration with the world’s lies and deceptions.  We have repented – said ‘NO’ to the way of life that ignores or rejects God, and started our pilgrimage journey of faith in Jesus Christ.

     Our rejection of the world’s system with its lies and deceptions led us to turn our back on it and return to God.  However, some of us may have the left the world with the impression that we were also leaving its troubles and struggles behind as well.  But no sooner do step out on the road of faith than we trip and fall hard.  We may think: This is not what I was expecting!  I thought God was going to clear all life’s obstacles out of my way!  We pick ourselves up and look around for someone to help us.  “I lift my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from?”  Psalm 121 is written to those who would look for their help in the wrong places or try to do it themselves, and as a result are ignoring God.  Let me read Psalm 121.

Psalm 121:1-8   A Song of Ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From whence does my help come?  2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  3 The Lord will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber.  4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  5 The Lord is your keeperthe Lord is your shade on your right hand.  6 The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.  7The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore. (RSV)

     In looking to the hills the traveler may have been concerned there were thieves and robbers present or the hills may have been seen as a place to hide for safety.  Some suggest they were seeing Mount Zion in the distance, we are not sure.  

     A traveler in Palestine 2500 years ago looking up to the hills would have had many sources claiming to offer “help”:  Pagan shrines to Baal, Asherah, sun priests, moon priestess – all inviting people to engage in worship and receive protection from evil – from the demons in the rocks, to protection from the sun god or to keep the moon god from driving you crazy (moonstroke – from which we get lunacy).  A traveler in trouble would have been aware of their offers of help.

     However a look to the hills for this kind of help will end in disappointment.  Psalm 121 rejects the worship of nature, a religion of stars and flowers, and looks to the Lord who made nature, the heavens and earth.  Help comes from the Creator, not from the creation.  The god Baal was known for wild drunken parties and one of the principle jobs of his priests was to wake him up when someone needed his attention (cf. Elijah).  The Lord, Our Creator is always awake:  He will not slumber.    

     Psalm 121 is a rejection of looking to that which has been created for help (self-help; others, things, drugs etc.) and instead call of dependence upon the Lord God, creator of all, for our help and strength.

     Six times in Psalm 121, God is referred to with the personal name LORD (Yahweh).  Six times He is described as our keeper or the one who watches over us – it is the same word and means to guard or protect.  The frequent repetition in this short psalm of these two terms highlights the Lord’s concern in a very personal way.  Listen to Psalm 121 from God’s Word Translation: 1 I look up toward the mountains. Where can I find help? 2My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let you fall. Your guardian will not fall asleep. 4 Indeed, the Guardian of Israel never rests or sleeps. 5 The Lord is your guardian. The Lord is the shade over your right hand. 6 The sun will not beat down on you during the day, nor will the moon at night. 7 The Lord guards you from every evil. He guards your life. 8 The Lord guards you as you come and go, now and forever.” Psalm 121 (GW).

     The Lord is not distant and uncaring, rather, He is present every step of your journey; keeping us from evil.  Nothing can separate you from God’s call and purpose.  Psalm 121 isn’t promising that when we become a Christian we shall no longer experience troubles or hardships, but rather that we will not be alone, the Lord will walk with us through them.  In fact, life’s trials will strengthen our relationship with God as we draw the strength to go through them, from Him.

          This is the message of Romans 8:28,31,32  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (NIV)

      Psalm 121 makes it clear that God’s interest in us is constant.  He will watch over your coming & going both now & forevermore.  The Christian life is not an escape from the realities of life.  The Christian life is walking with God through all that life brings.  Christians travel the same roads, breath the same air, pay the same prices, and are subject to the same pressures and fears as everyone else.  The difference is, in each step & each breath; we know God is with us.  We are preserved by God, we are ruled by God, and He promises He will keep our life!  

     When you face trouble, where do you look for help?  The Creator of the heavens and the earth – is your keeper.  Also, remember this – this is not a message just for big problems – Psalm 121 reminds us that the same faith works in the little things of life.  So don’t give into the temptation to turn to your own “home remedies” for the small stuff, the God who spoke creation into being in Genesis one, is also the God who guards you from evil – both now and forevermore!  Look to Him!

Closing song: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” 

Verse 1 – A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe – His craft and power are great, And armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.

Verse 2 – Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus it is He – Lord Sabaoth His name, From age to age the same and He must win the battle.

Verse 3 – And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, For God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.  The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him – His rage we can endure, for lo his doom is sure: One little word shall fell him.

Verse 4 – That word above all earthly powers, No thanks to them, abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours Through Him who with us sideth.  Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also – The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still: His kingdom is forever.

CCLI Song # 2184098 Frederick Henry Hedge | Martin Luther | Tommy Walker © Words: Public Domain  Music: 1997 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Songs (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction:  May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NIV)

This is the beginning of a new series from The songs of Ascents, Psalms 120-134.
Check for our sermon podcasts at: Podbeam

Psalm 120.  “Our journey back to God.”

July 19, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church. 

Call to Worship:  “What should I bring before the Lord when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves?” “Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6, 8 (CSB).

Song: Be still and know 

Verse 1 – Be still and know that I am God (3x)

Verse 2 – I am the Lord that healeth thee  (3x)

Verse 3 – In Thee O Lord I put my trust  (3x)

Verse 4 – Be still and know that I am God (3x)

CCLI Song # 583265 Lee Herrington | Tom Fettke © Words: 1992 Curb Word Music (Admin. by WC Music Corp.) Music: 1986 Curb Word Music (Admin. by WC Music Corp.) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights eserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

     We are going to spend some time in the book of Psalms, which is the hymn book of the Bible, specifically with a collection of psalms known as “The songs of ascents” found in chapters 120 to 134. 

     We are not certain why these songs, written by different authors with a variety of themes were placed together.  Some feel “a song of ascents” referred to the tune or style of music.  I am following a common view that these songs were collected into a ‘chorus book’ to be sung by the pilgrims on their way up to one of the three great annual festivals held in Jerusalem. 

     In the spring, there was the Feast of Passover as the people remembered God how saved them from slavery in Egypt.  Early summer fifty days later was the Feast of Pentecost where they renewed their commitments as God’s covenant people.  In the fall, they celebrated God’s harvest blessings during the Feast of Tabernacles. At that time they built shelters and remembered they had once been a wandering people without a country until God led them to this land he had promised to their forefathers.

     Psalm 120, is the first of 15 Psalms of Ascents (120-134).  We aren’t certain who wrote it.  Some feel it was written by King David as he lamented the time Doeg the Edomite, told King Saul that the priest Ahimelech had helped David escape, leading to the slaughter of 85 priests and their families.  Other commentators say that this psalm comes from the opposition Nehemiah experienced as he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem following the Babylonian exile.  Although determining the author of this psalm is difficult, what is clear is that the emotion it expresses crosses the centuries into our own.  Let’s read it. 

Psalm 120 A song of ascents.

1 I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me. 2 Save me, Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues. 3 What will he do to you, and what more besides, you deceitful tongue? 4 He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom bush. 5 Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek, that I live among the tents of Kedar! 6 Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. 7 I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” (NIV).

     At first glance Psalm 120 is surprising since it was clearly written as a very personal psalm. Yet, it was later seen as the perfect song to behind this special collection. It’s not the hymn that many of us would choose to begin our journey to Jerusalem, yet we will see that it is a song that really needs to be sung first on our journey back to God.  A good question to ask ourselves is:

How do we humans begin our journey to God?

  • Have you ever thought about that? 
  • What led you to God? 
  • What brought you to the point where you were willing to begin the journey to approach Him? 

     What is it that motivated the Psalmist?  Look at the 1st verse:  “1I call on the LORD in my distress” – Does that sound familiar?  Often it is the times our distress that causes us to give up on our own efforts and instead call to the Lord for help. 

What is the psalmist experiencing? (vv. 2-7)

2 Save me, Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues. 3 What will he do to you, and what more besides, you deceitful tongue? 4 He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom bush.” Psalm 120:2–4 (NIV).

     He is struggling with those who say one thing and do something else, then deny making their promise. This is hurtful in a personal relationship, but in a business or community connection lying lips and deceitful tongues can be financially devastating and life threatening!  Who can you trust to confide in?  The wisdom on the street says to survive you have to respond in kind, but is that who I want to be?  In verses 3 & 4 the psalmist remembers that God will punish these sins “in kind”. Ps. 64:3 & Prov. 25:18 describe the words of the wicked as being as devastating as lethal arrows.  Wood from the broom tree makes high grade charcoal – Prov. 16:27 & James 3:6 describe evil words as deadly fire.

     The psalmist may not want to join in the evil practices, but he sees it all around him!  5 Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar!  6 Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. 7 I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war. Psalm 120:5–7 (NIV).

     It seems his circumstances have finally become too much for him and he’s beginning to see them for what they are!  Meshech is the name of a far-off tribe along the Black Sea in southern Russia and Kedar is an Arabian Desert tribe.  Apparently, both of these tribes had reputations for being barbaric.  Today we might paraphrase these thoughts by saying: I live among hoodlums and thugs!   

     By now it is becoming apparent why this psalm, with such a personal message, speaks to each one of us.  This life I thought would give satisfaction has left me emptier than ever.  Often it is moments such as this that cause us to cry out to God for help when we realize how low we have sunk.  The distress that begins and ends this psalm comes from a realization that we have been lied to.  We are told:

–   Human beings are basically good.

–   The world is a pleasant place.

–   We are born free, and if we are in chains now, it is someone else’s fault, and we can correct that with just a little more intelligence, a little more effort and a little more time.

     Yet, from birth we have been taught to compete, to demand our rights and no one seems to know how to live in healthy relationships.  The whole world seems restless, looking for a fight.  Even so, we still believe the lie that things will get better.  A cure will be discovered, the economy will improve, the right book will be written to help you…  But what do we do when things don’t get better?  We complain, resentment builds up, anger takes root and violence erupts.  Why?  Because we have believed the lie that what we are experiencing is unnatural and not how things should be! Advice is all around us: Change your circumstances to change your life! Change your job, move away, or go on holidays!

     What the Psalmist discovers in Psalm 120, is that the first step towards God, is a step away from the world and the lies which point to solutions which exclude God.  Saying NO to the world’s lie and YES to God’s truth is described in biblical terms by the word repentance. Repentance is the beginning of our journey to God.  It is the point where we cry out to God for help and say: “I’ve had it with the world and its lies and empty promises.  Lord God, I need you.  Help me.”

     Eugene Peterson in his book “A long obedience” says this about repentance:

     Repentance is not an emotion.  It is not feeling sorry for your sins.  It is a decision.  It is deciding that you have been wrong in supposing that you could manage your own life and be your own god; it is deciding that you were wrong in thinking that you had, or could get, the strength, education and training to make it one your own; it is deciding that you have been told a pack of lies about yourself and your neighbours and your world.  And it is deciding that God in Jesus Christ is telling you to trust.  Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, or thinking the same old thoughts.  Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.[1]  

     This is where the Christian life begins, with an admission of our total need for God’s help.  We to be saved from this world, we need a Saviour!  The good news if that He is here and He is Christ the Lord.  How about you?  Have you finally gotten to the point where you will give up on the world and its promises of short-cuts and easy answers to life?  Are you willing to say NO to the world and the lie that you can make it without God?  The sooner you do (and no one knows how much longer we have), the sooner you can begin the pilgrimage to God and with God. 

     The journey to God begins with a moment of clarity, of coming to your senses when you realize that where you find yourself is a place of death, not life!  Verse one says: “I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.” Psalm 120:1 (NIV).  This is how the journey to God begins – call on the Lord and he will answer you!

Closing song:Just as I am” 

Verse 1 – Just as I am without one plea but that Thy Blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God I come I come!

Verse 2 – Just as I am and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, to Thee Whose Blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God I come I come!

Verse 3 – Just as I am though tossed about with many a conflict many a doubt, fightings and fears within without, O Lamb of God I come I come!

Verse 4 – Just as I am Thou wilt receive wilt welcome pardon cleanse relieve; Because Thy Promise I believe, O Lamb of God I come I come!

CCLI Song # 23206 Charlotte Elliott | William Batchelder Bradbury © Words: Public Domain Music: Public Domain For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17 


[1] Peterson, pp. 25-26. A long obedience in the same direction.  Discipleship in an instant society.  1980.  IVP

For sermon podcasts: Esterhazy Baptist Church Podcasts

2 Samuel 11-12.  “Sin – the illusion of self-sufficiency.”

July 12, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Opening Hymn: I Stand Amazed (My Saviour’s Love)

Verse 1 – I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned unclean.

Chorus – How marvelous how wonderful!  And my song shall ever be: How marvelous how wonderful is my Saviour’s love for me.

Verse 2 – For me it was in the garden He prayed not My will but Thine, He had no tears for His own griefs, But sweat drops of blood for mine.

Verse 3 – He took my sins and my sorrows, He made them His very own; He bore the burden to Calvary, and suffered and died alone.

Verse 4 – When with the ransomed in glory His face I at last shall see, ‘Twill be my joy though the ages to sing of His love for me.

CCLI Song # 25297 Charles Hutchinson Gabriel © Words: Public Domain Music: Public Domain For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Call to Worship: “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” Psalm 89:8, 15 (NIV).

     Today we turn our attention to 2 Samuel chapters 11 & 12.  King David has now come to the place where many of us in 21 century North America “live.”  Life is predictable and pleasant.  I can pretty well “run” the day to day things all by myself!  For David the thorny problem of the Ammonite uprising is being handled by general Joab.  Last year their mercenary allies were defeated (2 Sam. 10), this year their country has been taken and their capital city Rabbah is under siege.  Their defeat is just a matter of time (2 Sam. 11:1).  Like most kings, David’s presence isn’t required until the city is about to fall, he should be busy with other things. 

     Yet David allows himself just a little liberty, after all, he is the King!  Just a little peak from the roof top.  Just a few minutes watching.  Just want to know her name.  Just a friendly meeting.  Just one night together.  David allowed himself to be enticed by temptation, which leads to sin, which leads (as we shall sadly see) to death!   

     David gave into the temptation we all face – to let down our guard for a moment and “just let yourself be king of your life for a day.”  But you say, “David was king, he could literally do whatever he wanted, when he wanted, couldn’t he?”  Well, yes, but no!  As a king David’s word was law.  However, as Israel’s king, David was in a covenant relationship with Israel’s true ruler, the Lord God.  David and his subjects had agreed to live under the terms of the covenant made long before under Moses & Joshua.  But now, just for an evening, David is ignoring the commands of God and living to please himself – what harm can come from that?

     A number of weeks after coveting another man’s wife (breaking the tenth commandment – Ex. 20:17) and committing adultery (breaking the seventh commandment – Ex. 20:14), David gets a brief message from Bathsheba, the women he slept with – I’m pregnant!  David is now faced with a choice.  He must own up to his sin of adultery with the wife of one of his top officers. Uriah the Hittite is included in the list of David’s thirty chief men (2 Sam. 23:39) and so is Bathsheba’s father, Eliam (2 Sam. 23:34) whom also happens to be the son of David’s top advisor Ahithophel (2 Sam. 17:23)! Oh my, there must be a less embarrassing option?  Instead of owning up to his sin, David’s solution is simple; bring Uriah back for a report.  While he’s here he’ll sleep with his wife, everyone will assume he’s the father; and this will be all behind me!  However, Uriah turned out to be a more honourable man than his king. He refused to be with his wife while is brothers in arms were apart from their wives.  David’s simple solution had failed.  It won’t be long before Bathsheba’s pregnancy becomes obvious and the truth will come out, so David writes a letter for Uriah.  However, this letter is not a confession of David’s sin to Uriah; it is a letter to be given to commander Joab ordering him to put Uriah in a situation where the Ammonites will kill him in battle!  The general follows his king’s orders and Uriah and others died while battling at the gate of a city they have locked down under siege – a needless waste!

     David’s little sin of lust has grown to murder (breaking the sixth commandment – Ex. 20:13)!  Does David finally confess?  No, there’s still a bit more to his cover-up.  After the widow Bathsheba has completed the expected days of mourning, the “benevolent” King David takes her into his own home to care for her!  Now, this mess is taken care of his life can get back to ‘normal’.  This is what we read in 2 Samuel 11:26–27. “When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son.”  But there is one more sentence in this last verse of chapter 11.  It reads: “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.” (NIV)

     Chapter 12 begins with the words: “The Lord sent Nathan to David.”  We met Nathan the prophet in chapter 7.  Nathan tells David a story of a greedy, self-centred man who takes and eats a poor man’s pet lamb rather than use one from his own flock.  David as a former shepherd is outraged at such heartless cruelty.  As David passes judgment on the rich man, Nathan, beginning in verse 7, reveals to David that: “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” 2 Samuel 12:7b–9 (NIV) The Lord knows everything that David has done!

     Remember, this isn’t happening the day after David slept with Bathsheba or the week after Uriah’s death.  A baby has been conceived and born – it has been at least nine months that David has been hiding this sin!  It is the Lord who confronts David through sending Nathan.  David has refused to own up to his sin and now in the King’s court the truth AND GOD’S Judgment come out for everyone present to hear!  God doesn’t do this to embarrass, he knows sin grows in the shadows; it must be exposed and judged.

     Nathan now begins to give God’s judgment on David: 2 Samuel 12:10. “Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’” (NIV).  Sin shows contempt for God’s Word (v. 9) and for God (v. 10)!  Do not treat sin lightly!  There is no sin that is “not a big deal” for the sinner is despising God and His Word!

     The Lord’s judgment continues in the following verses and David confesses that he has sinned against the Lord – and offers no excuses.  He is told the Lord has taken away his sin and he will not face death, but his new born son will die.

2 Samuel 12:11–14. ““This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”   “Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”” (NIV)

     2nd Samuel chapter 12 closes with David defeating the Ammonites.  Then chapters 13-20 tell us one story after another of strife within David’s kingdom as a direct result of strife within David’s household!  These events have been included in the bible to teach us how terrible, deadly and far reaching the effects of sin is!   

     Here’s a lesson someone learned as a child:  During my early childhood I had a fiery temper which often caused me to say or do unkind things.  One day, after an argument had sent one of my playmates home in tears, my father told me that for each thoughtless, mean thing I did he would drive a nail into our gatepost. Each time I did a kindness or a good deed, one nail would be withdrawn.

     Months passed. Each time I entered our gate, I was reminded of the reasons for those ever-increasing nails, until finally, getting them out became a challenge.

     At last the wished-for day arrived—only one more nail! As my father withdrew it I danced around proudly exclaiming, “See, Daddy, the nails are all gone.”  Father gazed intently at the post as he thoughtfully replied, “Yes, the nails are gone—but the scars remain.” [1]  David had been forgiven – Psalms 32 & 51 tell of David’s experience, but the scars remained – on his family and on his country.

What can I do about the temptation to sin?

     Temptations to sin are all around me, is there really anything can I do?  Well, that depends…on you – how serious are you about not giving into sin?  If you are serious about living a God honouring life then you will start by admitting the problem starts within me.  James 1:14–15. “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” (NLT)  This should lead you to realize you need God’s help.  Jesus also faced temptations, but he did not sin (Heb. 4:14-16) – go to him for your help.  Ask Jesus to be your sin forgiver and follow him as your life leader. 

     1 Corinthians 10:3 tells us that temptation is something we all experience, but that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.  More good news is that he will always provide a way for us to endure it – so watch for it. 1 Cor. 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (NIV)

     Jesus taught us ask God the Father in prayer to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (MT. 6:13).  When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness he taught us by example how to resist temptation (MT. 4:1-11).  We must know God’s Word and put serving and honouring him above all else!  The devil offered Jesus the freedom to look after his own needs, receive the acclaim of people and rule the nations; all for only bending the knee to him.  Jesus refuses by reminding himself of what God’s Word says about each area of temptation.  Prepare yourself to be tempted!  Develop and grow your relationship with God.  Spend time with him in prayer and reflecting on his Word.  Use your Bible concordance and prepare yourself with verses from the bible on those areas you know you can be enticed, such as: pride, greed, lust of the flesh, envy, gossip, jealousy…  Ephesians 6:10–13. “Finally, let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong. Put on all the armor that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil’s tricks. We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm.” (CEV)

     Finally, stay away from bad influences.  The old joke still has a lot of wisdom: Doctor, I broke my arm in two places – Well, stay away from those places!  Don’t choose to put yourself in situations or with people where you know you will be tempted, think ahead.  Proverbs 4:14–15. “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.” (NIV).  Proverbs 3:5–8. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.” (NLT)

Closing Hymn: Grace Greater than our sin

Verse 1 – Marvellous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!  Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Chorus – Grace, grace God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within.  Grace, grace God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Verse 2 – Dark is the stain that we cannot hide, what can avail to wash it away.  Look there is flowing a crimson tide, Whiter than snow you may be today.

Verse 3 – Marvellous infinite matchless grace, freely bestowed on all who believe!  All who are longing to see His face, Will you this moment His grace receive?

CCLI Song # 31690 Daniel Brink Towner | Julia Harriette Johnston © Words: Public Domain

Music: Public Domain  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope by grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good work and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17. (CSB)

Bonus song – Cochren & Co. –  Who Can? 

Intro – Who, who, who can love me like you do?

I can be prone to wander. Too full of pride sometimes. Don’t make it easy to love this heart of mine. I can get so distracted, Caught up in doubt and fear, but every time I think you’ve left me, You’re still right here.

Chrous – Who, who, who can love me like you do? I’m a mess, I confess, but you carry me through. Who who who can calm my weary soul?  When I’m lost and alone Thank God that I know, Who can.

Only you can hold my head up Only you can set me free Only you can break the grip that sin had on me. And I know I don’t deserve it, But that’s why you call it grace. You covered a debt that I could never repay.

Chrous

Bridge – Even when I’m hard to hold you stay faithful You’ll never let me go.  Even on my darkest day you light my way.  Forever I will say. Only you only you can.

Chorus

Written by Michael Cochren, Bryan Fowler and Christopher Stevens (C) 2020 Maison de Emack / Michael Cochren Music Company (ASCAP) / Relwof (SESAC) / So Essential Tunes (SESAC) / Hot Mess Music International / Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)

[1]Tan, Paul Lee. #4971 The Scars Remain in Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers. Garland TX : Bible Communications, 1996, c1979

For sermon podcasts: Esterhazy Baptist Church Podcasts

2 Samuel 7 – Overwhelmed by Grace.  July 5, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship:  “You know me, Master GOD, just as I am. You’ve done all this not because of who I am but because of who you are—out of your very heart!—but you’ve let me in on it. This is what makes you so great, Master GOD! There is none like you, no God but you, nothing to compare with what we’ve heard with our own ears.” 2 Samuel 7:21–22, (The Message).

Song: Your grace still amazes me 

Verse 1 – My faithful Father enduring Friend, Your tender mercy’s like a river with no end.  It overwhelms me covers my sin.  Each time I come into Your presence I stand in wonder once again.

Chorus – Your grace still amazes me.  Your love is still a mystery.  Each day I fall on my knees, ‘Cause Your grace still amazes me.  Your grace still amazes me.

Verse 2 – O patient Saviour You make me whole.  You are the Author and the Healer of my soul.  What can I give You, Lord what can I say?  I know there’s no way to repay You, only to offer You my praise.

Bridge – It’s deeper, it’s wider, it’s stronger it’s higher.  It’s deeper, it’s wider, it’s stronger it’s higher.  Than anything my eyes can see.

CCLI Song # 3262500 Connie Harrington | Shawn Craig © 2001 Ariose Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) PraiseSong Press (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Little Cricket Music (Admin. by Words & Music, a Division of Big Deal Music, LLC) Remaining portion is unaffiliated. For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.   CCLI Licence No1348394

      When Saul is rejected by God as Israel’s king for refusing to submit to God’s instructions, God indicates the heart of the individual he will choose as the next king is what is important.  

1 Samuel 13:14. “But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”” (NIV)

1 Samuel 16:7. “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”” (NIV)

     In 1 & 2 Samuel as we follow David, the one chosen by God to replace Saul, we catch glimpses of his heart for God:  As a young man willing to fight the warrior Goliath, believing the Lord God will enable him to defeat the Philistine; and later as a man on the run, yet still seeking God’s direction in his decisions.  Certainly David is not flawless, as his first attempt at moving the Ark of the Lord in 2 Samuel 6 demonstrated, however, he doesn’t give up, learns from his ignorance and succeeds in moving the Ark to Jerusalem.

I.       Another glimpse of David’s heart (vv. 1-3).

     2 Samuel chapter 7 is a continuation of David’s desire to honour the Lord as Israel’s true ruler.  The achievement of peace mentioned in 7:1 come as a result of battles recorded in upcoming chapters (8, 10-12), yet the writer of 2 Samuel wants us to see chapters 6 & 7 as closely linked.  Peace has come upon the land and David is no longer sleeping in tents, yet the Ark of the Covenant, representing the Lord God still is!  Israel’s true ruler deserves better than a tent, and David, in reverence is moved to do something about it!  David consults with a prophet of the Lord, Nathan and is given the ok.  However, that night, the Lord gives Nathan a message to take back to David.

II.      The Lord’s answer to David (vv. 4-17).

1.  David is reminded who is really in charge! (vv. 5-7)

2 Samuel 7:5–7. ““Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’” (NIV)

     As the Lord tells David he hasn’t required or asked for a house of cedar, he also reminds David that he has been active among HIS people, nonetheless.  Israel’s previous rulers were leading under the Lord command, as HIS shepherds

2.  David is reminded who has been directing his life! (vv. 8-11a)

2 Samuel 7:8–11a. ““Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.” (NIV)

     The Lord next reminds David that he has been guiding him from the pasture to peace in the palace and will continue to make his name great.  The Lord is also granting peace and a home for his people Israel to live in safety.

3.  The revealing of God’s plans for David (vv. 11b-16)

2 Samuel 7:11b–16. “‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ ”” (NIV)

     In the Hebrew the word house “beth” (as in Bethlehem – house of bread or Bethel – house of God) has two meanings.  It can mean a physical building or it can refer to people, family or descendants.  In these verses the Lord uses this word play to tell David that he is going to build a house (dynasty) for him, and that David’s son would be the one to build a house (temple) for the Lord.

     The Lord’s words that David’s house and kingdom will endure forever before him continued to stir in the hearts of the psalmists and prophets who pointed to God’s promised Messiah (Isa 9:7; 16:5; Jer 23:5–6; 33:15–16).  The Gospels tell us that Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary is the promised one.  Matthew 1:1. “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:” (NIV)

Luke 1:30–33. “But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”” (NIV)

III.    David’s response (vv. 18-29).

     Upon hearing God’s answer to his plan, David goes and sits before the Lord in humble reflection.

1. Who am I?  (vv. 18-24)

2 Samuel 7:18–24. “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said: “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human! “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant. “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.” (NIV)

     When you spend a life time becoming who you are, it is good to stop and reflect.  David realizes that his journey from the pasture to the palace is all because of God; it’s all been a gift from him.  And to think that there are yet even greater gifts to come – David is left virtually speechless!  All he can do is praise God – there is no one like you – notice he uses the phrase “Sovereign Lord” seven times in the NIV. 

2. Yes Lord, do it!  (vv. 25-29)

2 Samuel 7:25–29. ““And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established in your sight. “Lord Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”” (NIV)

     David closes his time with the Lord by agreeing with the Lord and declaring that his will be accomplished – Yes Lord, do it!

3. He prepared for the building of the temple (1 Chron. 22-26, 28:1-29:20) 

     There is a final response of David which is recorded in 1 Chronicles, chapters 22-26 and 28 & 29.  David wasn’t to build a temple for the Lord; that was for his son to do.  However, that didn’t stop David from doing everything in his power to assist in the preparations.  Treasures from military conquests were dedicated to the Lord (2 Sam. 8:9-12) and David gave from his personal wealth and also encouraged his leaders to do the same (1 Chron. 29).  David developed details plans for the temple & its fixtures (1 Chron. 28) and organized the Levites & priests for service in the temple (1 Chron. 23-26) to avoid tragedies as happened earlier with Uzzah.

IV.    Lessons for us.

1. Who am I?

     Have you accepted God’s offer of his son Jesus as your sin forgiver and life leader?  If you have, he has changed your life FOREVER!  In humility sit before your God and reflect on the priceless gift of salvation that has been extended to you through the Son of David, Jesus the Christ.  Thank God for his guiding hand on your life from birth to right now.  Marvel that the Lord has saved you, not only for this time on earth, but promises you will be with him in eternity!  Who am I?

2. Yes Lord, do it!

     Live a life aware of God at work in and around you.  God does not live in a house of stone, rather he dwells within his people by his Spirit (Jn. 4:21-24).  He is building you and I into a spiritual house to the praise of his glory (1 Cor. 3:9).  We are the church; be the church of Christ to your family, friends, neighbours and community.

3. Live with a focus on God’s plans.

     David planned for and gave to the temple, even while knowing he wouldn’t live to see it built.  Are we willing to support or dream for those things which God can use in the lives of those we may never meet?

     Let me close with some thoughts from the Preacher’s Commentary on 2 Samuel 7:  David’s spirit is revealed in the fact that he was willing to lay foundations on which others would ultimately have the privilege of building. The world has too many people who won’t plant trees unless they are going to be around to eat the apples. The church needs more people who are planning and praying with the future needs of the church in mind. There are many things we would like to do and can’t, but all of us can be a part of laying the foundations for the future of our children.

      The Scripture indicates that God blesses not just the things we do but the things we would like to do. God blesses our intentions. When the temple had been built and the ark was being brought to its new home, Solomon made a speech in which he told how God had blessed his father David because it was in his heart “to [build] a house for My name” (1 Kings 8:18). This is an early reminder that God’s interest is not just in our actions but in the interests of our hearts. The kingdom needs scores of people who fill their minds with things they would like to do for God.[1] 

     Live your life with a focus on seeing God’s plans come closer to fulfillment, rather than living just for yourself.  Like David, you will find yourself overwhelmed by the grace of your loving Lord!

SongWho am I? 

Verse 1 – Who am I that the Lord of all the earth would care to know my name, would care to feel my hurt?  Who am I that the Bright and Morning Star would choose to light the way for my ever wand’ring heart?

Pre-Chorus – Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done.  Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who You are.

Chorus – I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow, a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind.  Still You hear me when I’m calling, Lord You catch me when I’m falling, and You’ve told me who I am.  I am Yours.

Verse 2 – Who am I that the eyes that see my sin would look on me with love and watch me rise again?  Who am I that the voice that calmed the sea would call out through the rain and calm the storm in me?

CCLI Song # 4196651  Mark Hall  © 2003 My Refuge Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)  Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.   CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction:  “Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.” Psalm 72:18–19 (NIV).


[1] Chafin, K. L., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1989). 1, 2 Samuel (The Preacher’s Commentary, Vol. 8, p. 260). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.

For podcasts of the sermons go to: Podbeam

2 Samuel 6:1-15.  “Doing God’s work God’s way.”

June 28, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church. 

Call to Worship:  “I am the high and holy God, who lives for ever. I live in a high and holy place, but I also live with people who are humble and repentant, so that I can restore their confidence and hope.” Isaiah 57:15(GNB) 

Song: “You Are My All In All.” {Music link – 

Verse 1– You are my strength, When I am weak, You are the treasure That I seek, You are my all in all.  Seeking You as a precious jew’l, Lord to give up I’d be a fool, You are my all in all.

Chorus – Jesus Lamb of God, Worthy is Your name.  Jesus Lamb of God, Worthy is Your name.

Verse 2– Taking my sin, My cross my shame, rising again I bless Your name, You are my all in all.  When I fall down You pick me up, when I am dry You fill my cup, You are my all in all.

CCLI Song # 825356 Dennis Jernigan. © 1991 Shepherd’s Heart Music, Inc. (Admin. by PraiseCharts Publishing, Inc.)  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  all rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

We are continuing our look at main characters in the books of Samuel, focusing on David in 2nd Samuel chapter 6.  In chapter 5 David was anointed King by the elders of Israel (v. 5).  David’s next step is to conquer the Jebusite fortress of Zion and which he renamed Jerusalem. Jerusalem, situated along the border between Judea & Benjamin, but belonging to neither tribe would serve as his new capital to unite the country.

When the Philistines learn that David is trying to unite Israel based out of Jerusalem, they come up the Rephaim Valley southwest of Jerusalem to attack him.  David consults the Lord and with His help, overwhelms the Philistines in two major battles (1 Sam. 5:17-25)

After defeating the Philistines, David decides to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  The Ark was a wooden box covered with gold inside & out, made during the time of Moses according to God’s instructions.  Inside the Ark were the two stone tablets inscribed with the 10 commandments that Israel agreed to follow as they made their covenant with the Lord God.  On its lid were two cherubim, angelic beings with their wings spread out over it.  The Ark was considered God’s throne on earth and the Lord’s presence would appear over it.

1 Chronicles 13:1 tells us David consulted with his military leaders, and then suggested to the rest of the country that the Ark of God be moved to Jerusalem.  David then brought together 30,000 men to join him in escorting the Ark from Baalah of Judah to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:1)

The Ark was being moved to Jerusalem with great celebration – there was singing, music, dancing and great praise. This all stopped when the Ox pulling the new cart which held the Ark stumbled.  As the Ark shifted, one of the men guiding the cart, Uzzah, reached out to steady it and when he touched it, he died (2 Sam. 6:6-7).   David became both angry and afraid of the Lord and decided to take Ark no further.  It was brought to the home of Obed-Edom, a Levite and left in his care. 

Three months later after reports that the keeper of the Ark was being blessed by its presence, David feels it is safe to try to bring the Ark to Jerusalem.  This time it is moved without incident.  What changed?  This time the Ark was carried by Levites rather than placed on a cart and pulled by an ox!  What’s the difference?  The difference is this is how God had instructed that the Ark be moved in the first place (Numbers 3:29,31; 7:8-9)!

The first time the Ark of God had ever been on a cart was after the Philistines had captured the Ark in battle.  After they began to get sick, in fear they sent it back to Israel on a cart hoping the illness would stop (1 Samuel chapter 4 – 6).

The Ark had been designed specifically to be carried.  It had rings on the side where carrying poles were placed, and it was to be transported on the shoulders of the Kohathite Levites (Numbers 4:4-20).  It was covered from sight and only the priests could to touch it as they were preparing it for transport (Ex. 25:14-15; Num. 3:30-31; 4:15; 7:9).  There is no record of King Saul visiting the Ark, and it seems people forgot how to treat it.

The book of 1 Chronicles chapters 13 & 15 also has the account of David moving of the Ark of God. In 1 Chronicles 15:13, David states what they had done wrong: “It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.” (NIV)

What David was trying to do was good.  He wanted The Lord God to rule in the new capital city of the country.  He himself wanted to be close to God, and he wanted his people to join him in worship of God.  This was a great desire.

God created all of us with what has been called a “God shaped vacuum,” which only he can fill. This realization that there is someone beyond us has lead millions of people to satisfy their spiritual emptiness through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Reflecting on who God is and what he has done for us, should lead us to want to express our thanks to him.  This response to his amazing love and grace can and should be expressed in specific actions and our life goals. 

What can we learn from this event in 2 Samuel 6?

1.  Enthusiasm + ignorance = leads to death.

David wanted to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, but it seems no one thought to check if there were specific instructions as to how the Ark was to be moved. However, God had told his people how the Ark was to be treated specifically to avoid such tragedies; ignorance of those facts was no excuse!  This suggests not only had the Ark been neglected, but so had God’s Word (The Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible Moses complied). May this serve as a word of caution to us not to ignore God’s Word!  Enthusiasm plus ignorance leads to death. Proverbs 19:2 confirms this.  It says: “Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes.” (NLT)

People may be passionate about seeking God, but if they search in ignorance, they are still lost and still in trouble. Don’t ignore God’s Word!  Christian, as powerful as the urge to “just do something” might be, never act without consulting with the Lord.  Remember, He is already at work all around us, and he is waiting for us to be willing to join him in what he is doing.

What is the answer?

2.  Enthusiasm + knowledge = leads to joy.

David saw what happens when you don’t do things God’s way, even if done in ignorance.  He had been so focused on the end goal, getting the Ark to Jerusalem that he rushed and didn’t check with God.

When David was informed by God’s Word, he could plan and organize with certainty, knowing what God required, and this brought great joy.  The journey to Jerusalem then became an opportunity to praise God!  Following God’s way makes all the difference!

God has explained in His Word how we can live a life that pleases Him, beginning with putting our faith in His Son, Jesus as our sin forgiver and life leader.  Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” (NLT)

Don’t let your focus on the ‘end goal’ blind you to the importance of the process involved in getting there.  How we do what we are called to do is important, because WE represent the Lord God Almighty.  It is not only the task or the destination which is important to God, but how we accomplish the task or reach our destination.  As we strive for the goal of the upward calling, to reach heaven, the Lord wants us to learn and to represent Him well, all along the way!

Let me leave you with some important questions to ask yourself:

-1-  Do I know God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ?  Is he my sin forgiver and life leader?  This is a step you dare not skip or rush for the sake of your eternal soul! Where do you stand with God?

-2-  Am I doing God’s work?  If I am one of his people, I belong to him.  Am I representing him?  Am I going about my day conscious that I want to service Him or am I focused on doing my own thing?  How am I serving him?

-3-  Am I doing God’s work God’s way?  Am I doing what He called me to do, the way He wants me to do it? 

Sometimes we find it easier to give God our money than ourselves and our time.  With people, some of us would rather leave a tract than take the time to listen and share.  In those times, send out a silent prayer – “Lord, what is Your plan for this moment?

Although it wasn’t required, David decided that every time the Levites had taken six steps, a sacrifice would be offered to God.  This meant the whole way to Jerusalem became a time of thanking God for his mercy and grace!  Don’t let yourself become so busy doing things for God that you don’t take time to praise and thank him for who he is what he is doing! 

Are you using your daily journey with the Lord as an opportunity to worship him?  Praise him with your whole life, for your whole life!  Because of what Jesus has done for us as our sin forgiver and life leader we can now come into God’s presence without fear!  Ephesians 3:10–12. “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” (NLT)

Hymn:Take my life and let it be” {Music link: 

Verse 1 – Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee.  Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love, at the impulse of Thy love.

Verse 2 – Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.  Take my voice and let me sing, always only for my King, always only for my King.

Verse 3 – Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee.  Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold, not a mite would I withhold.

Verse 4 – Take my love my Lord I pour, at Thy feet its treasure store.  Take myself and I will be ever only all for Thee, ever only all for Thee.

Verse 5 – Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee.  Take myself and I will be ever only all for Thee, ever only all for Thee.  

Ending – Take myself and I will be ever only all for Thee, ever only all for Thee.  

CCLI Song # 1390  Frances Ridley Havergal | Henri Abraham Cesar Malan  © Words: Public Domain

Music: Public Domain   For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.   CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:5–6 (NLT).

For sermon podcasts 

“David’s Lament.” 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27.  July 1, 2018.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Main characters in the books of Samuel: David about to become king. 

Call to Worship:  “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:1416 NIV)

Opening Song: Amazing Grace (My chains are gone) – 

Verse 1:  Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.

Verse 2:  ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.

Chorus:  My chains are gone I’ve been set free.  My God my Savior has ransomed me, and like a flood His mercy rains, Unending love amazing grace.

Verse 3:  The Lord has promised good to me. His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be, As long as life endures.

Verse 4:  The earth shall soon dissolve like snow. The sun forbear to shine. But God who called me here below, will be forever mine. Will be forever mine. You are forever mine.

CCLI Song # 4768151 Chris Tomlin | John Newton | Louie Giglio © 2006 sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Vamos Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No. 1348394             

     The end of 1 Samuel records the crushing defeat of Israel’s army and the final end of King Saul.  He died by falling on his own sword, knowing three of his sons were dead and his army scattered.  The book of Second Samuel begins with a record of David’s response after hearing the news of Saul and his sons’ death.

      2 Samuel 1:1, 17–27  “After the death of Saul, David returned from his victory over the Amalekites and spent two days in Ziklag.”   “Then David composed a funeral song for Saul and Jonathan, and he commanded that it be taught to the people of Judah. It is known as the Song of the Bow, and it is recorded in The Book of Jashar. Your pride and joy, O Israel, lies dead on the hills! Oh, how the mighty heroes have fallen! Don’t announce the news in Gath, don’t proclaim it in the streets of Ashkelon, or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice and the pagans will laugh in triumph. O mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor fruitful fields producing offerings of grain. For there the shield of the mighty heroes was defiled; the shield of Saul will no longer be anointed with oil. The bow of Jonathan was powerful, and the sword of Saul did its mighty work. They shed the blood of their enemies and pierced the bodies of mighty heroes. How beloved and gracious were Saul and Jonathan! They were together in life and in death. They were swifter than eagles, stronger than lions. O women of Israel, weep for Saul, for he dressed you in luxurious scarlet clothing, in garments decorated with gold. Oh, how the mighty heroes have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies dead on the hills. How I weep for you, my brother Jonathan! Oh, how much I loved you! And your love for me was deep, deeper than the love of women! Oh, how the mighty heroes have fallen! Stripped of their weapons, they lie dead.” (NLT).

     2 Samuel 1:19-27 is a beautiful song of lament given by David upon the death of King Saul and his son Jonathan, David’s close friend.  While this lament was first given spontaneously out of great grief, we see from verse 18 that David intended that it endure and be taught to his tribe.

     If all we knew of David was that Saul was his king and that Jonathan was his friend, you might find nothing unusual about this lament.  However we know King Saul considered David a threat to his throne, and he was obsessed with capturing and killing David.  Things got so bad that David & his men finally had to seek refuge among the Philistines, foreigners who often raided Israel to keep it weak.  David’s decision to look for safety among those whom he had fought in battle tells us how relentless Saul’s pursuit of David really was.

     We can understand that David would grieve the death of Jonathan his dear friend, but it is almost beyond belief that he could show respect for the man who separated him from his wife, his parents and his country simply out of paranoia!  Most people would respond to hatred aimed at them, with hatred in return.

     According to studies mentioned in the article “Fighting fire with fire;” our typical response to rudeness is rudeness!  Yet, studies show that rudeness doesn’t stay just between the two “combatants.” Trevor Foulk, who researches organizational behaviour at the University of Maryland, likens rudeness to the common cold: It’s contagious.  “When it comes to incivility, there’s often a snowballing effect. The more you see rudeness, the more likely you are to perceive it from others and the more likely you are to be rude yourself to others,” he said.    …In a 2016 study, Christopher Rosen, an organizational scientist at the University of Arkansas, tracked employees over the course of their work days. He and fellow researchers found that individuals who experienced a perceived insult earlier in the day would later strike back at co-workers. Using psychological tests, the researchers linked that reaction to lowered levels of self-control.

      “When someone is uncivil to you, it forces you to spend a lot of mental energy trying to figure out what’s going on, what caused the rudeness, what it means,” Rosen said in an interview Monday. “All that thinking lessens your capacity for impulse control. So you become more prone to be rude to others… People in a way ‘pay it forward.’”  …two studies in 2015 and 2017 found that doctors and nurses in neonatal intensive care units who were scolded by an actress playing the mother of a sick infant performed much more poorly than those who did not — even misdiagnosing the infant’s condition.

      “The results were scary,” one of the authors told the Wall Street Journal. “The teams exposed to rudeness gave the wrong diagnosis, didn’t resuscitate or ventilate appropriately, didn’t communicate well, gave the wrong medications and made other serious mistakes.”

      Researchers have struggled in vain to come up with ways to stop the spreading effects of rudeness. Those who studied the hospital neonatal staffs, for example, tried having the doctors and nurses write about their interaction from the perspective of the rude mother. Doing so made no difference. [1]

     Now in David’s case we are dealing with something far beyond rudeness!  However, if being treated rudely can affect us to the extent that it impacts our ability to function normally, how was David not completely consumed with hatred, let alone able to respectfully mourn Saul’s death?  We could conclude David is either very strange not to hold a grudge or we could place him on a pedestal because he is extraordinary and that’s why God chose him.  The benefit of either of these choices is that they free us from having to examine our hearts and ask why we struggle to forgive those who wrong us.  It feels safer for us to say: “I can’t do that because I’m not like David!”  Yet, if he wasn’t born this way or instantly given the gift to forgive, how was David able to write the lament of 2 Samuel 1?  I feel David’s times hiding in the deserts from Saul taught David to trust God’s ways over listening to his gut or the guidance of others.  A look at some of psalms makes it clear he didn’t bury his pains and fears within, but instead he took them to God and processed the frustration he was feeling (eg. Psalms 54-57, 59).  As he wrote, he was reminded that the Lord was with him, was aware of his situation and would at the right time, rescue him.  I’m not suggesting David was perfect, but in this situation, he is modeling something that followers of the Lord God are called to do.

     Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount said: “You have heard people say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.” But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends.” Matthew 5:43–46 (CEV). 

     Clearly Jesus expects us to forgive not only those who haven’t earned it, but also those who actively mistreat us!  As we know, this is NOT the way we are wired!  How can we do that?  Colossians 3:12–15 provides the answer, we are to remember whose we are and what he (the Lord) has done for us:  “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” (NLT). 

     The Apostle Paul tells us that we, who have responded to God’s invitation and received his forgiveness, are to forgive others just as the Lord has forgiven us!  It’s clear that David’s response to Saul is to be our ‘normal’ response, not the exception – “forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”  Many of us struggle to remember if we go to the store without our shopping list, but it is amazing how good our memory can be when it comes to recalling personal offenses against us, but this is not what God wants for us.  Listen to verses 12 & 13 from the Message Translation:  “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.  Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.” Colossians 3:12–13 (The Message).

     As we remember how quickly and completely our Master forgave us, we see an even greater injustice than David had with Saul. In our case, we the created said to the sinless creator, I don’t believe you are good, truthful or trustworthy and I will do whatever I feel is right!  Eventually humanity took Jesus, the only Son of God the Father and put him to death.  You and I deserve God’s judgment, but because in love Jesus willing laid down his life in our place we are offered forgiveness and grace!  Romans 5:6–8 says:  “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV).

     In the fore mentioned Newspaper article, researchers continue to struggle to provide us with solutions to being offended:  Rosen… suggests: “When you experience incivility, it’s important to take a step back and not act on your impulses. Do things that help you recover your ability to self-regulate, like exercise or taking a break,” he said.

      At the same time, he acknowledged, “Our research shows people are often not even aware of their reactions and the way they spread negativity. So some of these recommendations for how to stop it are easier said than done.” [2]

     Easier said, than done, what an understatement!  The truth is you cannot find the ability within yourself to forgive someone fully and completely.  You must learn to first trust that God’s ways are best for you, and then ask him to teach you how to forgive someone else just as Christ forgave you.  As you submit to Christ’s guidance you will begin to find release from your prison of unforgiveness and also stop hurting those around you. Let us put in to practice the words of Colossians 3:13 “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (NLT).

Closing Songs:

 Verse 1: Forgive our sins as we forgive, You taught us Lord to pray. But You alone can grant us grace, To live the words we say.

Verse 2: How can Your pardon reach and bless the unforgiving heart, that broods on wrongs and will not let Old bitterness depart?

Verse 3: In blazing light Your cross reveals the truth we dimly knew.  How small the debts men owe to us, how great our debt to You.

Verse 4: Lord cleanse the depths within our souls, and bid resentment cease.  Then reconciled to God and man, our lives will spread Your peace.

CCLI Song # 5772593  Rosamond Eleanor Herklots | Thomas Ravenscroft  © Words: 1969 Oxford University Press  Music: Public Domain  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.   CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Verse 1:  It’s the hardest thing to give away, and the last thing on your mind today, It always goes to those who don’t deserve.  It’s the opposite of how you feel when the pain they caused is just too real; it takes everything you have to say the word: Forgiveness, forgiveness.

Verse 2:  It flies in the face of all your pride, it moves away the mad inside, it’s always anger’s own worst enemy.  Even when the jury and the judge say you’ve got a right to hold a grudge, it’s the whisper in your ear sayin’ set it free.  Forgiveness, forgiveness, Forgiveness, forgiveness.

Chorus 1:  Show me how to love the unlovable.  Show me how to reach the unreachable.  Help me now to do the impossible.  Forgiveness, forgiveness.  Help me now to do the impossible.  Forgiveness.

Verse 3:  It’ll clear the bitterness away; it can even set a prisoner free.  There is no end to what its power can do.  So let it go and be amazed, by what you see through eyes of grace.  The prisoner that it really frees is you.  Forgiveness, forgiveness.  Oh forgiveness, forgiveness.

Chorus 2: Show me how to love the unlovable.  Show me how to reach the unreachable.  Help me now to do the impossible.  Forgiveness.  I want to finally set if free.  Show me how to see what Your mercy sees; help me now to give what You gave to me.  Forgiveness. Oh forgiveness.

Ending: Forgiveness, forgiveness, Forgiveness

CCLI Song # 6423944  Matthew West  © 2012 Songs of Southside Independent Music Publishing (Admin. by CURB / Word Music Publishing)  Songs for Delaney (Admin. by Downtown Music Publishing, LLC)  One77 Songs (Admin. by One77 Songs c/o Kobalt Songs Music Publishing (ASCAP))  Remaining portion is unaffiliated  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.   CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction:  “May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!” Romans 15:5–6 (The Message).


[1] William Wan, Washington Post, June 26, 2018, 10:36 AM EDT as in the June 26, 2018 National Post.

[2] Ibid.

ntent

An audio recording of this message is available at: Esterhazy Baptist Church Podbean Channel

Lessons from the deserts of 1 Samuel 23 & 24.

Main characters in the books of Samuel: David in the deserts.

Call to Worship:  Psalm 5:7–8. “Because of your great mercy, I come to your house, Lord, and I am filled with wonder as I bow down to worship at your holy temple. You do what is right, and I ask you to guide me. Make your teaching clear because of my enemies.” (CEV)

Opening song:Whole World” by Jonny Diaz – 

Verse 1: Who makes the sun rise up at dawn and run through the afternoon? Who keeps the light of a distant star reflecting off the moon? Who waters earth with summer rain and brings the winter wind? Who makes the flowers fall away and spring to life again?

Chorus: It’s the Lord our God Almighty and it’s all at His command. He’s got the whole world in His hands

Verse 2: Who hears our cries of hunger and gives us daily bread? Who looks inside our longing hearts and fills the emptiness? Who’s a comfort to the broken And Who makes them whole again? Who has the power to reconcile the soul of every man?

Closing: When it seems that sun is setting on all the dreams you had, and the prayers that you offer up

They get no answer back.  When the weight of this whole broken world’s too much for you to stand and you’re dying for the kind of peace that you can’t comprehend.  You sang it as a little child and you still can, He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hands.  CCLI Song # 7022228 Andy Gullahorn | Jonny Diaz © 2013 Centricity Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) The Gullahorns Music (Admin. by Me Gusta Music LLC) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

     Last time we saw David, the whole country was celebrating that God had defeated the Philistine Goliath using a young shepherd and his sling!  David continued to be used of God to win difficult battles against the better armed Philistines.  David was showing his countrymen what he had experienced while he was with his sheep, the Lord is the All-powerful God who guides and protects those who put their trust in him!

     After God enabled David to defeat Goliath, David’s popularity grew, but so did Saul’s jealousy of David.  Saul felt that only he, as king, should be the people’s hero and he sees David as a threat to his reign.  Soon David finds himself wanted by Saul as a criminal.  Most of the country is now afraid to have anything to do with David because of Saul’s anger and his many spies.

     David’s life has been thrown into confusion.  He has done nothing wrong, what has happened?  The Lord is taking David through the desert, a time where David will learn lessons about himself and God that only come through these times of testing.  These are lessons that we too will need to learn in order to grow more like our Lord Jesus in our character.  Let’s look at some of these lessons as we join David in the deserts of 1 Samuel chapters 23 & 24.

I.  THE DESERT OF ZIPH – (23:14-20) David learns to depend upon God’s strength.

A.  David’s situation:

     Chapter 23 begins with David being directed by God to save the town of Keilah from Philistine raiders. This was a dangerous mission, but the Lord gave David and his men success.  One would assume that David would be appreciated for his bravery; however King Saul makes plans to surround Keilah and capture David.  When David asks the Lord, he is told the people would surrender him to Saul, so he is forced to leave hoping to find safety in the desert of Ziph.

     Verse 14 tells us that Saul was relentless as he searched for David and his men day after day.  Imagine how frustrating this must have been for David and his men, after all, they had done the King of Israel’s job by saving the town from Philistine raiders! What a discouraging time it must have been.

     How do you feel, when you are innocent but you are falsely accused, and many assume that you are guilty?  It’s both frustrating and emotionally tiring, yet David and his 600 men must be constantly on the move (v. 13) trying to stay hidden from Saul and his troops.  It is during this time of discouragement in the desert of Ziph that the Lord sent Jonathan to David, to encouragement and help him “find strength in God” (v. 16).  Jonathan can’t change Saul’s mind, but he reminds David of God’s promises to him, and Jonathan pledges his allegiance to David as the next king!  Remember, Jonathan is Saul’s son, heir to the throne, this is incredible support!

B. What do we learn about God?

     God knows what each of us needs to learn through trials and what each of us can handle.  David faces the harsh ugliness of Saul’s jealousy, but God doesn’t allow Saul to lay hold of David.  The Lord sends Jonathan to remind David that God’s plan for him will ultimately succeed, so he is not to lose hope but to keep relying on God’s strength.  God does not leave us to struggle on our own, but always has ways of reminding us that he is still with us in the midst of the trial.

C. Application for us:

     In those times when life seems unfair and spinning out of control, we need to learn to depend upon God’s strength.  We do this by getting our encouragement from Lord – through his Word or his people.  Jonathan reminded David of God’s faithfulness and his promises to David.  We need to claim the promises God’s of presence and protection from his Word rather than only focusing on our current problem.

  • Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)
  • A psalm of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 (NIV)
  • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
         Do not let fear overwhelm or paralyze you and keep you from going to God.  Find the source of your fear and give it over to God.  Claim God’s promises of protection and then commit your life to Him, in order to grow in your trust and love for Him.

II.  THE DESERT OF MAON – (23:19-28) David learns to trust God and His timing!

A.  David’s situation:

     King Saul is told by residents of Ziph that David is hiding in their area.  Saul is delighted and asks them to uncover David’s hiding places.  Saul then sets out to trap David, and was closing in on him.  Saul and his army were on one side of the mountain and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away and stay out of sight.  Just as it seemed that David would be caught, Saul took his men left!  What happened?  God changed Saul’s plans.  The king received a message that the Philistines were raiding the country and he had to go and stop them.  In this desert situation, David had run out of options; his skill could only get them so far, but God stepped in.

B.  What do we learn about God?

     God allows David to exhaust all his evasive tactics and realize that he is going to get caught, unless God does something, and he does!  God allows this to happen in order for us to learn to rely on him, we don’t know as much as we like to think!  God works in ways far beyond what we can imagine.  David learned to trust God and his timing!   

C. Application for us:

     We will all have our desert of Maon times when we run out of ideas and have no where left to turn.  We may begin to ask ourselves: Where is God?  Does He have any idea how desperate my situation is?  Does He care?

     I can’t speak for you, but for me, this is a time for me to wake up and learn to stop relying on my own resources.  I’ve only made things more difficult for myself by not fully trusting in God’s timing, resources and care in the first place!  It is one thing to say I trust God; it is another thing to choose to do it, when “the pressure is on.”  Truthfully, this is when it really matters; it must be my actions and not just my words that show my obedience to God!  We need to trust God, that His timing is best.

     Are you in a desert of Maon time?  Do you need to learn to trust God and his timing in your life?  For many of us this covid-19 virus is trying our patience and our frustration is building.  Could it be that God wants to use this time to teach us something personally, and corporately as a church family?  Definitely this is the case because God never misses an opportunity to refine us for the better.  Perhaps the Lord wants to teach you draw your peace & purpose from him and not other people or activities?  Perhaps the Lord wants you to learn to enjoy time with Him, growing in His Word.  Perhaps the Lord wants to teach us the importance of “being the church” through our care for others, rather than just “going to church.”  What is the Lord trying to teach you?  Are you willing to learn?

III.  THE DESERT OF EN GEDI – (24:1-22) David learns to do things God’s way!

A.  David’s situation:

     David is in hiding, this time 3000 elite troops are looking for him!  As soon as Saul finished dealing with the Philistine threat, he is back trying to kill David.  Yet in chapter 24, the tables are turned, it is now Saul who is vulnerable.  Saul is alone in the very cave that David is hiding in.  “Kill him” some of his men whisper, “obviously God has given you this opportunity to end this misery for all of us!” 

     We see that David is tempted because he sneaks over undetected and cuts a piece off of Saul’s robe.  But then David is convicted that he is wrong.  David realized this was not an opportunity, but a test; a test of his character.  It seems he ask himself the question “Is this how I want to become king?”  David decides that if God wants him to be king, then God is going to have to remove Saul from the throne, David is not going to do it through murder!  Listen to part of what he said to King Saul:  1 Samuel 24:11-13  “See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life.  May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.  As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.” (NIV)

B.  What do we learn about God?

     We learn that we better not presume to know God’s plans without checking with him.  God is testing David’s heart – checking his motivates and his willingness to stand up to pressure from others.  When we see an open door that offers us a way of escape that seems out of character with God – you can be sure God didn’t open that door!  It is not a door to freedom; it is a door to a cell called sin.  The Bible makes it clear, God does not tempt us to sin (James 1:13). 

C.  Application for us:

     The desert of En Gedi reminds us that God is sovereign and we need to learn to trust His way of doing things by following His timing and His ways!

     David faced a temptation that we often face; the temptation of taking a short cut. However, there are no short cuts to obeying God’s will – you either obey or you don’t.  Jesus showed us this as he faced the devil’s temptations to act outside of God’s plan by trusting in God’s Word (Matthew 4:1-11).   Continue being faithful, day by day, learning in the process that God’s ways are best.

     Are you willing to do this?  To trust God and not take matters into your own hands?  Trust that God’s ways are best, that he knows what he is doing and learn to depend upon him.  Are you learning through your desert times?  I’ve found that if I don’t learn and apply the lessons the first time, Lord will have me take that “class” again until I get it – so now I try to pay more careful attention!  Use those times when things seem out of your control to remind yourself and reaffirm that God is in control of your life.  You know that He hasn’t forgotten you, so don’t act like He has!  Remember, stay away from the short cuts and do things God’s way!

Closing Songs: “Teach me Thy Way, O Lord” 

Teach me Thy Way, O Lord, teach me Thy way! Thy guiding grace afford—teach me Thy way! Help me to walk aright, more by faith, less by sight; lead me with heav’nly light—teach me Thy Way!

When I am sad at heart, teach me Thy Way! When earthly joys depart, teach me Thy Way! In hours of loneliness, in times of dire distress, in failure or success, teach me Thy Way.

When doubts and fears arise, teach me Thy Way! When storms o’er spread the skies, teach me Thy Way! Shine thru the cloud and rain, thru sorrow, toil and pain; make Thou my pathway plain, teach me Thy Way!

Long as my life shall last, teach me Thy Way! Where’er my lot be cast, teach me Thy Way! Until the race is run, until the journey’s done, until the crown is won, teach me Thy Way.

In The Hands Of The Potter – Casting Crowns – 

Verse 1: I still remember when I heard You call me by name.  I’d follow You anywhere knew I could trust You in anything.  But now sorrow beats down on me waiting for You to come through.  I’m all alone with my questions I’m dry and cracked open, And I thirst for You.

Chorus: And as I fall apart Come flood this desert heart, Fall like the rain Living Water.  And I know Your way is best, Lord help me find my rest, And I’ll be the clay In the Hands of the Potter.

Verse 2: My world is spinning my life seems so out of control.  Nailed scarred hands tell the story of love that will never let go of me.  Through the sunshine or rain I know where my hope is found.  What You started in me I know You will complete from the inside out.

Bridge: My world is breaking me, Your love is shaping me, And now the enemy is afraid of what You’re making me.  When my world is breaking me Your love is shaping me, And now the enemy is afraid of what You’re making me.  My world is breaking me Your love is shaping me, And now the enemy is afraid of what You’re making me.  CCLI Song # 7121817 Jonathan Smith | Mark Hall © 2018 My Refuge Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Hickory Bill Doc (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) So Essential Tunes (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: “16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and in his grace gave us unfailing courage and a firm hope, encourage you and strengthen you always to do and say what is good.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 GNB).

Main characters in the books of Samuel: “David is introduced.” 1 Samuel 16 & 17.

Pastor Robert’s Podcast

Call to Worship: “11 The Lord is our protector and glorious king, blessing us with kindness and honour. He does not refuse any good thing to those who do what is right. 12 Lord Almighty, how happy are those who trust in you!” Psalm 84:11–12 (GNB).

Opening song: “Found in you” – 

IntroAh ah ah ah ah ah

Verse 1We’re reaching out to welcome You God.  Fill this place again with Your song.  Flood our thoughts with wonder and awe. Give us a greater glimpse of a never changing God

Chorus(Sing) (‘Til) – All we want and all we need is found in You, Found in You.  Jesus ev’ry victory is found in You, Found in You

Interlude(Ah) ah ah ah ah ah

Verse 2Open wide our hearts now to Yours. Ev’ry fear bow down to Your love, that we would see like never before. Give us a greater glimpse of a never changing God

BridgeAnd in Your presence there is freedom, In Your presence we are made whole.

CCLI Song # 7005969 Andi Rozier | Jason Ingram | Paul Baloche © 2013 Integrity Worship Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music, David C Cook)) Leadworship Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music, David C Cook)) All Essential Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) HBC Worship Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Jingram Music Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Open Hands Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) So Essential Tunes (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Song: Unstoppable God  – 

Verse 1I wish I knew when this mountain, in my way is gonna move.  Hope it’s okay to tell the truth.  Sometimes the doubt starts to win.  Yeah I’d be lying if I told you I was anything but weak.  Right now my struggle is all I see, but I’m not giving in, my story will not end in defeat.

Chorus(‘Cause) Nothing can stop an unstoppable God.  He’s not afraid of impossible odds. This is the promise that I’m standing on, nothing can stop an unstoppable God.

InterludeThis is the promise that I’m standing on, nothing can stop an unstoppable God.

Verse 2I will not listen to the lie that says it can’t be done. I know my war’s already won, And I’m claiming victory, ‘Cause I know who’s fighting for me.

BridgeWhere does my help come from. Where does my help come from. My help comes from the Lord.

CCLI Song # 7129887 AJ Pruis | Chris Rohman | Dustin Lolli | Matthew West © 2019 1978 Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Bluehouse Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Caelum Terra Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Fair Trade Tunes (Fair Trade Music Publishing [c/o Essential Music Publishing LLC]) Combustion Five (Admin. by Me Gusta Music LLC) Third Story House Music (Admin. by Me Gusta Music LLC) Highly Combustible Music (Admin. by One77 Songs c/o Kobalt Songs Music Publishing (ASCAP))  One77 Songs (Admin. by One77 Songs c/o Kobalt Songs Music Publishing (ASCAP))  Two Story House Music (Admin. by One77 Songs c/o Kobalt Songs Music Publishing (ASCAP)) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. CCLI Licence No. 1348394        

     Before we begin our look at the young David in 1 Samuel chapters 16 & 17, it is important we remember what took place in chapter 15, God’s rejection of Saul as Israel’s king.  Saul refused to follow God’s specific directions; instead he rationalizes and blames others for his decisions.  When Saul finally admits he HAS sinned, he can’t undo his choices.  Saul begs Samuel to stay, even tearing his robe in the process.  Verse 30 reveals why: “Saul said, “I did sin, but please honor me in front of the leaders of the army and the people of Israel. Come back with me, so I can worship the Lord your God.”” 1 Samuel 15:30. (CEV)  Saul was concerned with what everyone would think of him if Samuel didn’t come to their celebration!  Notice it still didn’t cross Saul’s mind to execute the defeated king as God had ordered, so Samuel did it!  Samuel left Saul, never to go to see him again; these were dark days for Israel.  Israel had a king, just like the other nations; a man who acted independent of God’s directions whenever it best served his personal goals!

     This leads us to chapter 16, which shows us how David was chosen to be Israel’s next king.  Notice who initiated the search, verse one: “The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”” 1 Samuel 16:1 (NIV).  Samuel hadn’t spent days pleading for God to do something; it’s the Lord who gets Samuel moving, because he’s already chosen the next king!  While Samuel is mourning God is moving! 

     Do you know what?  Nothing has changed; it is still the same for us today!  We may be mourning and in despair over the conditions we see around us, but even the bleakest of times can’t stop God from working out his plan.  Remember, 2000 years ago when the Romans were attempting to convert the Jews to their pagan culture, God was at work!  From the wombs of an old woman and a young virgin he brought forth the messenger and the long awaited Messiah to forever change the world!  When things look at their worst, don’t give up, your God is at work!

     Now back to 1 Samuel 16.  When it looked like the cycle of the judges was going to repeat itself again under Saul, we see that God is working out his plan through a young man named David.

  1. The Lord sees David’s heart – 1 Samuel 16.

     As you read of Samuel’s assignment to anoint the next king, notice that the Lord is not done teaching his prophet, and through Samuel he teaches us!  The Lord told Samuel the town to go to and even which family, so couldn’t he have just given him David’s name?  Of course he could have, but Samuel (and us) needed to learn the lesson that a person’s outward appearance isn’t what determines their eligibility to be used by God; it is the individual’s heart!  1 Samuel 16:6–7 “When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”” (NIV). 1 Samuel 16:10–13 “Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.” (NIV).

     Wow, David wasn’t even invited to the ceremony by his own father, yet he was the one God had chosen as Israel’s next king because his heart was right.  What is meant here by heart?  Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines heart as: The inner self that thinks, feels, and decides. In the Bible the word “heart” has a much broader meaning than it does to the modern mind. The heart is that which is central to a person. Nearly all the references to the heart in the Bible refer to some aspect of human personality.[1]

     In the rest of chapter 16 we learn from others that David was known as a skilled musician, brave and that the Lord was with him (v. 18).  In chapter 17, after we are introduced to the dilemma created by the Philistine army and Goliath, we finally get to hear David speak and begin to get a glimpse of what God saw in his heart.

  1. We see David’s heart – 1 Samuel 17.

     Chapter 17 is a study in contrasts between Saul and David.  The Spirit of God had left Saul and he is fearful.  The Spirit of God has come upon David and he is outraged at Goliath’s insults against the Lord God.  Saul tries to motivate a warrior to fight through offering him material rewards.  David is motivated to fight by a desire to restore God’s honour and demonstrate God’s power.  Saul offers David his own armor in an attempt to match Goliath’s armor.  David chooses to leave room for God to help and offers the skill God had helped him with before, his sling.  Some wonder if David was being reckless in facing Goliath with only a sling.  The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary offers this thought: Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.” If a farmer waits for 100 percent certainty in planting and reaping, he will never do either. Just as the farmer must take some risk in order to accomplish his task, so the work of the Lord’s Kingdom often requires people to risk failure, with the result that they experience the Lord’s power in their lives. That is precisely what David chose to do by going against Goliath armed only with five stones, his staff, and his sling.[2]

     Now a question we should ask ourselves is, “How could David do this?”  There were men all around him with far more life experience.  First of all, let’s remember this is not a story about a man’s courage; it is about our God, His strength and a man’s faith in the all powerful God!

     Yet where did David’s faith come from?  David had developed a relationship with God that was real, practical and loving.  How?  First, David had grown up hearing the stories of the Almighty God.  Stories about:  Abraham, Moses and the Exodus (we used to be Egypt’s slaves you know…), Joshua and the conquest of the land (see those stones by the Jordan, they were taken out of the river during the flood season because the Lord has stopped the river and we walked across to take the land; and look – there are the remains of Jericho…), The Judges (God remembered us and saved us from our enemies even when we had forgotten Him).  No doubt David knew these stories of God’s power.

     David also had also heard the family stories, his great grandparents were Boaz and Ruth.  Finally, David’s faith was also based on a loving relationship with the Lord God developed through the trials he faced (cf. James 1:2-3).  All these things gave David the courage to stand before King Saul and say: The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” 1 Samuel 17:37 (NIV)

     Notice that David’s faith is not in himself and his own abilities, but in God.  David is not bragging about himself, he is bragging about God.  “The Lord protected me then and He can handle Goliath!  He will give us the victory!”  David carried this assurance onto the battle field when he faced Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45-50).

III.     Application.

     Clearly the Lord sees and knows our heart.  What does he see in your heart?  Other people as they spend time with you, especially when under stress, will get a glimpse of your heart; what do they see?  The heart represents who we truly are, what we really believe in our core.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us:  “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (NIV) 

     Jesus warned us of the danger of having an unguarded heart in Matthew 15:18-20 “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ ” (NIV).  What can I do to ensure or improve my spiritual heart health?  The remedy, Jesus tells us is to focus our heart on God.  Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Matthew 22:37 (NIV)

     The focus of our heart, of our life makes all the difference.  Saul was focused on what was best for him and so he bowed to pressure from those who we wanted to keep happy, rather than obeying God.  David was focused on what was important to God.  We see this in 1 Samuel 13:14b: “the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”(NIV).  The heart represents who we truly are, what we really believe at our core.  Put your faith in Jesus and choose to put God first in your life, then his love will grow in your heart and change it.  David was someone after God’s own heart, is that your desire also?  Begin to show it through your obedience to God.

Closing:Today Tomorrow & Forever” – Sanctus Real – 

Verse 1 Through every trial, through every circumstance, still Your mercy covers me.  Through every battle, I don’t have to understand, still I lift my voice and sing
Chorus – Today, tomorrow, and forever I will live for You. Today, tomorrow, and forever I will worship You.
Verse 2 You have been faithful, You have been kind to me, You hold my future in Your hands.  When the world is shaking, the ground beneath my feet, You’re the solid rock on which I stand.
Bridge I’ll worship You on the mountain and in the valley.  I’ll worship You in the calm and in the storm
Ending Today, tomorrow, and forever I will worship You.  Oh I will worship You.  Jesus I worship You.

http://www.ccli.comCCLI Licence No. 1348394

Bonus Song: “One day” – Cochren & Co. (A needed reminder to us for these days!) 

Verse 1One day there’ll be no more waiting left for our souls.  One day there’ll be no more children longing for home.  One day when the kingdom comes right here where we stand. We will see the promised land, Oo

Verse 2One day there’ll be no more lives Taken too soon.  One day there’ll be no more need for a hospital room.  One day every tear that falls will be wiped by His hand. We will see the promised land, Oo

Chorus –  Hallelujah. There will be healing from this heartbreak we’ve been feeling.  We’ll sing in the darkest night ‘Cause we know that the light will come And there will be healing. Hallelujah

Verse 3One day there’ll be no more anger left in our eyes.  One day the color of our skin won’t cause a divide.  One day we’ll be family standing hand in hand, and we will see the promised land.  We will see the promised land.

Verse 4One day every knee will bow every tongue will confess.  One day when our tired and weary bones find their rest.  One day when the power of evil’s brought to an end.  We will see the promised land.  We will see the promised land.

CCLI Song # 7130583  Bryan Fowler | Matt Armstrong | Michael Cochren  © 2019 CentricSongs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)  Peanut Line Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)  RELWOF (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)  So Essential Tunes (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)  Maison de Emack (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)  Michael Cochren Music Company (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.   CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:16–21 (NIV).

[1]Youngblood, Ronald F.: Bruce, F.F. (Hrsg.): Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary : An Authoritative One-Volume Reference Work on the Bible With Full Color Illustrations. electronic ed. of the revised ed. of Nelson’s illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995

[2] Vannoy, J. R. (2009). Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1-2 Samuel (Vol. 4, p. 170). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Main character’s in the books of Samuel: Saul, part 3 – his demise. 1 Samuel 16 – 31.

May 31, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Pastor Robert’s Sermon

Call to Worship: “Sing joyful songs to the Lord! Praise the mighty rock where we are safe. Come to worship him with thankful hearts and songs of praise. The Lord is the greatest God, king over all other gods.” Psalm 95:1–3. (CEV)

 

Song: All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name  

Verse 1 – All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ name Let angels prostrate fall Bring forth the royal diadem And crown Him Lord of all Bring forth the royal diadem And crown Him Lord of all

 

Verse 2 – Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race Ye ransomed from the fall Hail Him who saves you by His grace And crown Him Lord of all Hail Him who saves you by His grace And crown Him Lord of all

 

Bridge – Lord of all, you are Lord of all.  Lord of all, you are Lord of all.

 

Verse 3 – Let ev’ry kindred ev’ry tribe On this terrestrial ball To Him all majesty ascribe And crown Him Lord of all To Him all majesty ascribe and crown Him Lord of all, and crown Him Lord of all, and crown Him Lord of all.

CCLI Song # 2660093  Edward Perronet | John Rippon | Oliver Holden | Paul Baloche  © Words: Public Domain  Music: 1998 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music, David C Cook))  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.   CCLI Licence No. 1348394

 

     Today is our final message on King Saul – his decline.  1 Samuel ends with the sad conclusion of Saul’s life.  The Philistines mount another attack against Saul’s army, and win a clear victory.  When Saul is wounded and surrounded, knowing three of his sons have been killed, Saul takes his own life.  What a sad end to a man who showed such potential, what happened?

     1 Samuel chapters 16 to 31show us Saul’s decline after he turned his back on God, to go his own way.  In these chapters we see that Saul’s insecurities begin to reemerge; only now they are king-sized!  When David steps forward to defeat Goliath in the strength of the Lord; Saul now has a focus for his insecurities! 

     In 1 Samuel chapter 18 we see the source of Saul’s jealousy, David.  He begins to imagine the nation will want David to be their king rather than him (1 Sam. 18:8).  We also the results of this jealousy; it eats away at him and in the end causes even Saul to conclude that he has acted as a fool (1 Sam. 26:21).

     The ancient Greeks told the story of a swift athlete who came in second. He stood at the finish line, as the crowd cheered – not for him, but for the winner. The second-place finisher had to stand there as they brought the victor’s crown and the other prizes. He had to stand there as congratulatory speeches were made in the victor’s honor. And he had to walk through town to reach home, hearing nothing but the name of the winner on the lips of everyone he saw.

     The victor had a great statue erected in his honor, right in the center of town. The second-place finisher had to see it every day of his life, and he came to think of himself as a loser. The envy and jealousy began to take charge of his soul until he could accomplish almost nothing from day to day. Why hadn’t he been the winner? Why hadn’t he been able to find within himself those two or three strides that separated the champion from the chump? Every night, as sleep eluded him, he crept out into the darkness and made his way to the victor’s statue. There he chiseled away a few more bits of stone from the foundation. Each night the great marble figure became weaker.

     But one night he got more than he planned for. He chiseled away one more bit of stone, and the massive athletic figure cracked loudly and slid forward. The great marble champion crashed down on the little man with the chisel, and death came instantly. The athlete had been crushed by the very image of the man he’d despised.

     Some would say the man with the chisel didn’t die in that one crashing instant, but by tiny increments. It was the weight of jealousy that ultimately destroyed him, day by day, thought by thought. It transformed the soul of a proud champion to a cheap chiseler, someone who would scrape away at the good fortune of someone else.  That’s the deadly poison we know as jealousy. [1]

     Jealousy is what we see growing in King Saul in 1 Samuel chapter 18.  First we see the cause of his jealousy in verses 1-9.

 

  1. The cause of jealousy (vv. 1-9)

     David gets greater praise than Saul after the victory over Goliath, “Saul has killed his thousands and David his tens of thousands” (v.7) and this causes Saul to become angry!  These emotions are the results of Saul’s own insecurity. He was worried that people would want David to be king instead of him (vv. 8-9).  However, everyone should have remembered that it was God who deserved all the credit for the victory over Goliath and the Philistine army!  But as we’ve previously seen, Saul enjoyed the spot light of fame a military victory brought and hated the fact anyone else might get more credit than he.  Jealousy grows in the fear of having something important to you taken away, in Saul’s case, not being the centre of celebration; lead to worry he might lose his reign!  As we see in the rest of chapter 18, jealousy nurtures these fears and produces dangerous results that only amplify the situation:

 

  1. The results of jealousy (vv. 10-29)

     We may try to convince ourselves that jealousy & envy are no big deal, just an inner feelings that no one else will even know about, but is a big deal as the Bible makes clear:  Proverbs 14:30. “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.” (NLT).  We see that Saul’s jealousy of David led to:

  1. Violence – In v. 11 Saul threw his spear at David, hoping to pin him to the wall, but he missed him twice!
  2. Manipulation – vv. 12-13, 17, 21. Saul wanted David to marry into his family so he could exert control over him. He also gave David dangerous assignments, not because he wanted success, but he was hoping David would be killed in battle, but instead God gave David victory and his fame grew!
  3. Irrational Fear – vv. 12, 15, 29 we read that Saul was afraid of David, even though David carried out his orders successfully and remained loyal. Sin clouds the mind and darkens the heart.
  4. Broken fellowship with God (vv. 28-29). Saul realized the Lord had left him and was with David (vv. 12, 28).  However, rather than returning to the Lord and renewing fellowship, Saul grew more violent, more fearful, and more focused on trapping David, all to the detriment of his kingdom.

     Sin can never be taken lightly, it is a rejection of God’s right to rule in one’s life and a declaration of independence from God!  Sin always has consequences; this is why God tells us to flee from it.  Living independent from God doesn’t make one free, it puts a person in a cage of their own making; a cage of uncertainty, insecurity, fear, envy, jealousy and mistrust.  All these things isolate the individual from the very people they care for or want to impress.  We see this happening with Saul, first with David, then even with his own children (Jonathan & Michal).

     It is only after David reveals to Saul for a second time that he has chosen not to kill him when he had the opportunity that Saul admits to his folly.  1 Samuel 26:21. “Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.”” (NIV)   In 1 Samuel 13:13, the prophet Samuel had told Saul that he had acted foolishly in rejecting God’s instructions, now years later, Saul finally agrees.  One acts as a fool by disobeying God’s commands.  The Bible tells us in Psalm 111:10: “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!” (NLT) In this sense, fear means to respect and obey.  Jesus tells we show God we love him, through our obedience to his commands:  John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.” (NLT) {cf. Jn. 14:21, 23; Ps. 103:17-18; 1 Jn. 5:3; 2 Jn. 6}. 

 

  1. What can you and I do about jealousy and envy?
  2. Renounce jealousy as a sin.

     Take jealousy seriously, it is not a simple character flaw it can hurt and destroy others and it will hurt and destroy you.  Cain destroyed his brother Abel in jealousy, and he also destroyed his own life in the process.  It has been said that Envy shots at others and wounds herself.

     The Bible condemns jealousy as a sin and so must we.  In Galatians 5:20 it is listed with: “idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions” (NIV).  Paul included envy as a sign of the debased mind describing those who are: “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.” (Romans 1:29b NIV).  Scripture tells us to: “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” (1 Peter 2:1 NIV)

  1. Rekindle God’s love in your heart.

     Marvel at the love of God, that He would send His only Son Jesus, to die on the cross for your sins, while you were still a sinner, still at your very worse!  Amazing love!  How can it be?  1 John 4:9-10 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (NIV)

     1 Corinthians 13:4 tells us that love does not envy.  Love and envy cannot exist in the same place.  Through reading the scriptures and time in prayer we can experience the life changing love and presence of the Spirit of God again in our heart.  Earlier we looked at Galatians 5:20 and saw jealousy included as an act of the sinful nature that we still struggle against.  What is the remedy?   Look at Galatians 5:22-26 – living under the power of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit begins with love!  22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!  24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.  (Galatians 5:22-26 NLT)

  1. Reaffirm God’s goodness to you.

     Why are you struggling with jealousy & envy? At the root of envy is the assumption that God hasn’t given you everything you need, so you crave more.  What if we lived our lives with the assumption that God had given us all that we need, and His presence is always with us, whom need we envy? “Because the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything that I need.” (Psalm 23:1).  Philippians 4:19a “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need” (The Message)

     When you begin to sense jealousy trying to take root in your mind, begin to do a blessings inventory.  Count, one by one all the things that God has blessed you with – name them or write them down; write your own Psalm.  Too often we only focus on what we don’t have, rather than what we do have.  A time of thanksgiving is a wonderful herbicide for the weed of jealousy.

  1. Remember your rival in prayer

     Jesus commanded us to pray for our enemies: Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (NIV).  Pray for them daily!  This will be the opposite of how you feel, but since it is what God asked you to do; ask him to help you, and He will work a change your heart as you do. 

 

     Saul refused to fully submit to God’s authority over him and this opened the door to jealousy in his life.  Are you struggling with something listed in Galatians 5:20?  “Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions” (NIV) Renounce it as sin.  Rekindle God’s love in your heart and submit yourself anew to him as your sin forgiver and life leader.  Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you and work in you to produce fruit in keeping with his presence within you: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22–23a (NIV).  

     Reaffirm God’s goodness to you by reviewing how he has supplied all you need.  Finally, with God’s help and guidance, pray for those you struggled with, asking that him to change your heart towards them and give you his heart for them.

 

Closing song:  Change my heart O God.  

Chorus – Change my heart O God, make it ever true.  Change my heart O God.  May I be like You.

 

Verse – You are the Potter, I am the clay.  Mould me and make me, this is what I pray.

CCLI Song # 1565.  Eddie Espinosa.  © 1982 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music, David C Cook)).  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.    CCLI Licence No. 1348394

 

Benediction: “14 I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will bless you and be kind to you! May God bless you with his love, and may the Holy Spirit join all your hearts together.” (2 Corinthians 13:14 CEV).

 

[1] Jeremiah, David. Slaying the giants in your life. Page 188-190. © 2001 W Publishing Group, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Hi everyone.  On Sunday, May 24th we will continue our look at Saul, this week focusing on lessons from chapters 13 – 15.  In this short audio I encourage you to read 1 Samuel 13:1-15 and consider four questions.

Pastor Robert’s Podcast

 

Sermon for May 24, 2020

Main character’s in the books of Samuel: 1 Samuel 13 – 15. Saul, his fall.

May 24, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Pastor Robert’s Sermon

Opening Song: He Knows My Name – 

Verse 1I have a Maker, He formed my heart.  Before even time began, my life was in His hand.

Chorus – He knows my name, He knows my every thought.  He sees each tear that falls, and hears me when I call

Verse 2 – I have a Father, He calls me His own.  He’ll never leave me, No matter where I go.

CCLI Song # 2151368. Tommy Walker. © 1996 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Songs (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.). For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. CCLI Licence No. 1348394

     In 1 Samuel 9-11 we are introduced to Saul, the man who would become Israel’s first king.  Saul was an impressive looking fellow who came from an important family within the tribe of Benjamin.  However, Saul’s interest and ability to lead a country only seems to surface when he is confronted with a national crisis and then relies on the Spirit of God to direct him (chap. 11).  After the Lord gives victory over the Ammonites, Saul is reconfirmed as king (11:15) and it seems he has settled into the role of king.  Yet by the end of chapter 15, things have changed and God has rejected Saul as king.  What happened to Saul?

     There are two incidents which lead to God’s decision.  Let’s take a look at them and see what we can learn about Saul, God and then some applications for ourselves.

  1. 1 Samuel 13:1-15.

     Saul and his son Jonathan provoked the Philistines overlords by attacking their outpost at Geba.  Saul then called nation to arms, because he knew the Philistines would react.  The Philistine response to was to send a large intimidating army, this caused many of the Israelites to go into hiding.  Meanwhile, Samuel had instructed Saul to gather his troops and wait for his arrival in seven days.  When day seven came without Samuel, Saul offered up burnt and fellowship offerings (13:9).

     Samuel arrived just as Saul had finished (13:11-14), asking what have you done?  Saul explained his actions by listing three problems: his men were leaving, Samuel hadn’t come, and the Philistines were gathering and one observation: he hadn’t sought the Lord’s favor.  So, Saul offers up the burnt & fellowship offerings.  Saul defends his actions by making the excuse: “somebody had to do something, so I did!” The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary points out: The issue at stake was whether Saul would be a king under God, or a king in place of God (de Jong 1978:97). Was he a person who was prepared to wait on the Lord in complete submission and trust, no matter what the circumstances might be, or was he someone who viewed himself as above the word and law of the Lord?[1] 

     Samuel’s blunt response tells us something about God.  He is not looking for excuses or actions, he is looking for obedience (13:13).  Saul has acted foolishly in not obeying the Lord’s commands.  The consequence of Saul’s failure to obey is that his reign will not result in a dynasty.  God has chosen someone else for that.  We don’t read any response from Saul, but we are told he left with about 600 men.  Some Bible commentators suggest this figure is to remind the reader of Gideon.  God had him use only 600 men to defeat a much larger force.  Perhaps Saul’s disobedience robbed he and the nation of seeing God work another impossible victory!

  1. 1 Samuel 15:1-35.

      In this second incident, Saul is leading the country in another battle, this time against the Amalekites, to the south in the Negev.  God wants Saul to carry out judgment on the Amalekites for their attacks on Israel as they were leaving slavery in Egypt (Exodus 17).  God had foretold their complete destruction for their actions (Ex. 17:14).  Saul was to destroy every living thing just as God had commanded with Jericho (Josh. 6) and Ai (Josh. 8).

     Saul was successful in battle; however Saul and his men spared the king and the best of the animals (1 Samuel 15:8-9).  As this was taking place the Word of the Lord came to Samuel, telling him that Saul had turned away from him and rejected his instructions (15:10-11).   The next morning, Samuel went to meet Saul, but was told he’d gone to Carmel (not the mountain, but a place 8 miles south-southeast of Hebron, in Judah) to set up a monument in his own honor, and then gone to Gilgal (15:12).  This gives us a glimpse of Saul’s focus concerning the recent victory!

     When Samuel meets up with Saul, Saul is in good spirits and seems confident in what he has done.  “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”” 1 Samuel 15:13 (NIV).  Samuel responses with: ‘the sound of captured animals says you haven’t!’  Saul then tries to convince Samuel that these choice animals will be offered to God as sacrifices – God’s plans just got a little adjustment!  When Samuel isn’t convinced (v. 19), once again Saul gives excuses: “The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”” 1 Samuel 15:21 (NIV).  Even though Saul knew better, he went a long with the soldiers’ suggestion.  Samuel’s response tells us that God wants us to obey him, not develop a cleaver “work around” as we try to appease him and still get our own way.  “Obedience is better than sacrifice.”  Samuel makes it clear that Saul’s actions are the equivalent of rebellion (v. 23)!  As Samuel tells Saul that the Lord has rejected him as king and given the kingdom to a neighbor, Saul finally stops making excuses and now he starts confessing that he has sinned (v. 30).

What are we to learn from this?

     Clearly, God wants our obedience!  Doing good things for him (animal sacrifices, money sacrifices, time sacrifices…) cannot take the place of our obedience – living as God asks us to!  Our actions, as devoted as they may seem, are worthless if they don’t come from a devoted heart.  A devoted heart is a heart that longs to know and do the things of God out of love, and not obligation!

     Why do we find it so hard to obey God?  Why do we find it so easy to give into the pressure from others?  The specific answers to these questions are as varied as we are, yet looking at someone like Saul can give us some general answers.

     When we first meet Saul in 1 Samuel 9 & 10, neither Saul nor some who knew him seem confident in his leadership abilities (9:21; 10:21-22, 27).  However, a victory over the Ammonites (chap. 11) has the people singing Saul’s praises (11:12-15) and the nation gathers to reaffirm Saul as their king.  Perhaps the following thoughts went through Saul’s mind: ‘So this is what it feels like to be a hero!  This is what it feels like to be king!  This is what it takes to finally be appreciated!’  It is clear from 11:13 that Saul understood that the Lord had given him the victory.  Yet, as time goes by it seems that Saul takes on more of the responsibility for attaining the victories and increasingly takes credit for them as well!  It is his reputation which is at stake, so he has to come up with a solution (13:11-12; 14:24b – “before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” NIV).  In chapter 15 we see that Saul gave into pressure from his men to keep the best of the captured animals.  15:21 tells us that Saul also erected a monument honoring himself for the victory!  What is going on in Saul’s life?

     It seems that Saul is doing what many of us do: gaining significance from what we do and how people respond to us. To keep waiting for Samuel as more and more men are leaving might make Saul look like a weak leader – even if those were God’s instructions.  To insist his men abide by the Lord’s commands to destroy every living thing among the Amalekites might have made Saul unpopular with his men.  How can an unpopular king lead?  Who will follow?

     Many of us can identify with the tendency to be sensitive to the approval of those who matter to us, this is quite normal.  But, how do I stick to my principles when my peers do not hold those same principles?  What do I do when they are pressuring me to ignore what God’s Word clearly says I should do?  We’ll all be better off if you’d go along with your boss’ under the table scheme, what’s the problem? 

     One problem with trying to gain your significance from others is that people are inconsistent and manipulative!  You are only as good to them as your last action!  Your other problem in following the opinions of the crowd is, what do you do about God’s plans for you?  In Saul’s case we see, the choice he made, cost him the very thing he compromised his principles in the hope of maintaining – his kingship!  Not only did Saul loose his kingdom, in rejecting God’s authority over his life, he lost his relationship with God, what a foolish choice!  Jesus’ words of warning come to mind: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” Mark 8:36 (NLT).

     How is it possible to find stability when we live among such fickle, self-centred people (ourselves included)?  We need to find our significance, not in what we do but who we are, and who God says we are as we return to him as our sin forgiver and life leader.

     We need to begin to understand the depth of God’s love for us and gain our significance from how he feels about us!  Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you” (The Message). Psalm 139:1–3 “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.” (NLT).  We need to realize that God’s love is not something we can earn, we can’t; it is a gift that he offers us that we need only to receive.  Romans 5:8. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)  Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV) Join with Paul in delving into the depths of God’s love: Ephesians 3:14–19. “When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (NLT)

     As we shall see as we look at David, he is chosen to replace Saul as king because he has a heart that pleases God.  As we can hear from David’s Psalms, he had a love for and a confidence in God that was secure in the assurance of God’s love for him.  What about you?  Are you secure in God’s love for you?  Have you invited Jesus to be your sin forgiver and the leader of your life?  Jesus came so we could have a renewed relationship with God (John 3:16).  Augustine said: “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”  Do you want to understand you significance?  Take up Paul’s challenge and dive into the depths of God’s love (Eph. 3:14-19).

     The importance of gaining our significance from God means we won’t compromise our faith to please the whims of others – because we are secure in our significance!  In looking ahead to the life of David, in 1 Samuel 30:21-25 we see David is under tremendous pressure from his men to compromise, but he refuses even though nerves were frayed.  David risked the disapproval of the majority to do what is right, because he knew his leadership was based on God’s choice or him, not those the Lord drew to him.

     Obviously it is too late for Saul to change, but it is not yet too late for you and I.  What is the condition of your spiritual heart?  A heart devoted to God longs to know and do the things of God out of love for him – in response to God’s love.  We love because God first loved us.  Spend some time in prayerful reflection this week: whose opinion do you follow to for your significance?  If God’s Word and God’s ways are not the foundation for your choices, what needs to change?

 

Closing Song: “You get the glory” – Jonathan Traylor 

Verse 1 – This is so heavy and it’s bringing me to my knees, I’m crying out Lord I need You now, to come and see about me.

Verse 2 – Why is this life so hard, why do You seem so far?  But if this cup won’t pass, help me to stay steadfast, Let Your will be done.

Chorus – You get the glory from this, You get the glory from this, No matter what I have to Go through in this world, As long as You get the glory from it. (2x)

Verse 3 – This is my cross to bear, This is my story to tell, That no matter what I’ve gone through, I’ve been tried and came out true, So let Your will be done.

Chorus

Bridge – Tribulation, persecution, my affliction, You get the glory from it.  In my weakness, in my brokenness, in the crushing, You get the glory from this.  On the mountain top, in the valley low, You are in control.  You get the glory from this.  On my good days, on my bad days, I will still say, You get the glory from this.

Ending – You get the glory from this; please get the glory from this, No matter what I have to go through in this world, as long as You get the glory from it.

CCLI Song # 7150365. Jonathan Traylor. © Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing). God Sent Music, LLC (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing). For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.   CCLI Licence No. 1348394

 

Benediction: “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5–7 (NLT)

[1] Vannoy, J. R. (2009). Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1-2 Samuel (Vol. 4, p. 124). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Robert Moss

In preparation for Sunday’s message (May 17), on Saul’s call found in 1 Samuel 9-11, here is a short audio message.

Pastor Robert’s Podcast

I trust God is using his Word as recorded in 1 Samuel to speak to you.  I’ve attached an audio file with a bit more to think about as we prepare to begin looking at Saul as found in 1 Samuel chapters 9 – 11.

Please let us know if there is something as a church we can help with for pray for,

Pastor Robert’s Podcast

Main characters in the Books of Samuel: Saul. 1 Samuel 9 –11.

May 17, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Pastor Robert’s Sermon

Call to worship:  “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” “Proclaim the Lord’s greatness with me; let us exalt his name together.” “Those who look to him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.” Psalm 34:1, 3, 5 (CSB).

No One Like Our God 

Verse 1 – Hallelujah chains are broken, Your death has spoken life to us, And ev’ry accusation all our condemnation Silenced at the Cross.

Verse 2 – Hallelujah free salvation, The burden of a world so lost.  Lifted from our shoulders carried by the Saviour’s Passion at the Cross.

Chorus – There is no one like our God.  There is no one like our Saviour.  How great is Your blessing, How great is Your love.  There is no one like our God.

Bridge – Never has there been, Never will there be, A God like You who came down in mercy.  Never will there be A greater hope than this, There is no one like our God.

CCLI Song # 7042469 Ed Cash | Jonas Myrin | Matt Redman © 2015 Alletrop Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Atlas Mountain Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Said And Done Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)  worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.   CCLI Licence No. 1348394

     Ever notice how popular the stories and movies with fairytale style, “happily ever after” endings are?  From Disney to cowboys to adventure movies, even our Sunday School stories – we love it when everything works out for the ‘good guys’ in the end.  It’s interesting this genre is so popular considering most peoples’ lives are not like that.  This desire for happy endings may be one reason the books of Judges and Samuel are not that widely read in the Bible.  However, it is encouraging that these books are in scripture, because they show the Lord interacting with real, human beings that we can identify with. 

     So far in 1 Samuel, we’ve seen the pain of a barren Hannah fade as the Lord blessed her with children.  We’ve witnessed the fall of the arrogant and prideful, but also the tragedy a nation endured because of following sinful leaders.  We have seen Hannah’s child of promise, Samuel, grow into a faithful prophet and judge, only to be moved aside by the desire for a king like everyone else has.  Perhaps you can identify with doing your best, yet being passed over or downsized!

     Today in First Samuel, we are beginning our look at Israel’s first king, Saul.  We will take the next three weeks to look at Saul’s life, beginning this week with “His Call” as seen in chapters 9-11.  Stop and read 1 Samuel chapters 9-11 now.

I.  A Look at Saul and his call.

          In chapter 9 verse 2 we are introduced to Saul.  Saul means “asked of God.”  The root of this word was used in chapter 8:10 where the people asked for a king.  Upon reading Saul’s name, a Hebrew reader is reminded that Saul is the ‘people’s choice’ as they asked for a king.  This idea is further reinforced as we continue reading in 9:2 “…Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others.” 1 Samuel 9:2 (NIV84).

     When you read about Saul, especially in chapter 9, what is your impression of him?  In this chapter we are able to listen in on a number of conversations.  What kind of person does Saul seem like to you?  He may look kingly, but does he act like king material?  He isn’t entrusted with the greatest of responsibility (he’s sent with a servant to look for three lost donkeys).  He doesn’t seem that persistent (he wants to call it quits even before his servant – 9:5-6).  He doesn’t seem that organized (he doesn’t bring any money, but fortunately his servant does – 9:7-8).  He can’t be that interested in religious or national affairs since he doesn’t know the longtime judge Samuel lives nearby or even what he looks like (he asked Samuel if he knew where the seer’s house was 9:6, 18).  Finally, Saul’s response to Samuel praise of he & his family is “Why are you saying such things to me?  Our family is the least of everyone.”  Does he seem ready to be a king to you?

     Now, it is not usual in the Bible for God to choose a reluctant or fearful leader.  Perhaps it is this realistic appreciation of their weaknesses and limitations that make an individual more apt to depend upon God for their strength than themselves.  Clearly, the spot light of leadership, with its applause and power, can quickly dry up a person’s humility!

     So how could Saul, this seemingly insecure fellow ever be ready to become Israel’s king?  God took care of that with careful attention to his call.  This passage once again reminds us of a major theme in the books of Samuel: God is sovereign.  Did those donkeys just happen to wander off?  No, they were part of God’s plan to bring Saul and Samuel together.  Notice, the Lord told Samuel what time the next day to expect a man from the tribe of Benjamin!  This would be the person Samuel was to anoint as leader over God’s people (9:15-16).  This explains how Samuel had a catered meal, with invited guest all ready for Saul’s arrival.  As Samuel saw Saul the next day, the Lord confirmed that Saul was the one (9:17).  Samuel knew Saul was God’s choice, how was Saul prepared for all this?

     While the dinner was nice and the anointing was necessary, the details of who Saul would meet, what they would say and give him, affirmed to Saul that God was behind this (10:2-8).  We are told that “As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day.” 1 Samuel 10:9 (NIV).

     1 Samuel 10:17-27 records how Saul was revealed to Israel as God’s choice for them as king.  While this is taking place Saul’s insecurities flare up again and God’s help is needed to determine where he is hiding. Yet none of this seems to matter to the crowd when he is introduced as God’s chosen. The people are delighted when they see him standing a full head taller than anyone else, impressive – ‘he looks like a king’ (Now we have a king like the other nations!  10:23-24)

     In chapter 11 Saul begins as a reluctant leader, going back home to work in the fields. Yet when a national emergency develops, guided by God’s Spirit, he proves to be a good leader.  In addition he stops those who want to avenge his honour and rightfully keeps the focus on God giving him the glory for the victory (11:13)!

     Clearly Saul is not the one dimensional character he is often made out to be.  He may look like a king, but he is not a natural born leader and he struggles with insecurities.  However, God clearly has chosen him to lead, and has shown Saul that, when he is guided by God’s Spirit, he can lead God’s people.

     What about us?  How do we know what we should do for God?  Some who think themselves leaders fail miserably when try to serve God and others who don’t see themselves as leaders refuse to even try.  We are mistaken if we think God is primarily interested in the work we do for him (remember, he spoke everything into being out of nothing – he doesn’t need us to get things done).  God wants for us and others to see the difference that a loving, dependent relationship with him can make in a life, all for his honour and glory!

II. Hearing from God today.

     So here’s a question you may have:  “How will I know what God wants me to do?”  Henry Blackaby & Claude King do a great job answering this question in their book “Experiencing God.”  Let me remind you of a few key things.  God desires a loving relationship with you, so be assured he is reaching out to communicate with you. God speaks to believers at this time through the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit who was sent to help us after Jesus’ ascension (John 14:16,17a, 25-26).  The Holy Spirit uses the Bible, prayer, circumstances and other believers to speak to you.  You grow in your relationship with Him as you spend time in his Word, the Bible.  Read the Bible, reflect, study and meditate on it, pray about it, and most importantly, with God’s help begin to live it – do what God’s Word says.

     As you read, listen to the Holy Spirit.  Is he prompting you to make any adjustments?  Talk it over with God in prayer, write it down and start making any needed changes in your life.  As you go about your day, look for God at work around you in your circumstances and conversations.  Ask the Holy Spirit to use the Word of God to give you perspective on your circumstances and conversations.  Also don’t ignore what may seem like a small task (writing a note, calling or giving someone a helping hand) God uses these to train and prepare us for larger responsibilities. 

     Are you willing to let God work through you today?  Remember, it is not about what you can do, but what God can do through you as you depend upon him.  Listen, trust and obey what he tells you.

Benediction: “13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV).

Closing Song: Trust and Obey – Big Daddy Weave

Verse 1 – When we walk with the Lord, In the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way.  While we do His good Will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey.

Chorus – Trust and obey, For there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.

Verse 2 – But we never can prove the delights of His Love, Until all on the altar we lay, For the Favor He shows, For the Joy He bestows, Are for them who will trust and obey.

Chorus –

Bridge – Lord I love You, Please help me to trust and obey.  (2x)

Verse 3 – Then in fellowship sweet, We will sit at His Feet, Or we’ll walk by His Side in the way.  What He says we will do, Where He sends we will go, Never fear only trust and obey.

Chorus – 2x

Bridge – 3x

CCLI Song # 4807902 Daniel Brink Towner | John Henry Sammis | Michael Weaver  © Words: Public Domain Music: 2006 Weave Country (Admin. by CURB / Word Music Publishing)

Curb Word Music (Admin. by WC Music Corp.)  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

 

Pastor Robert Moss

God bless you today,

Pastor Robert

Here’s a short audio message in preparation for the message on Sunday from I Samuel chapters 7,8, & 12.

Podcast

I also mention today’s Our Daily Bread Devotional reading.  If you don’t have a copy of this devotional, they are available at the church and also online at: Our Daily Bread Ministries is also great source for Bible studies and encouraging videos.

May 10, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Main characters in the Books of Samuel: Samuel. 1 Samuel 7.2 – 8.22; 11.12 – 12.25.

Call to Worship: “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.” Psalm 96:1, 4, 6 (NIV).

Song: “You Are My All In All.” 

Verse 1– You are my strength, When I am weak, You are the treasure That I seek, You are my all in all.  Seeking You as a precious jew’l, Lord to give up I’d be a fool, You are my all in all.

Chorus – Jesus Lamb of God, Worthy is Your name.  Jesus Lamb of God, Worthy is Your name.

Verse 2– Taking my sin, My cross my shame, rising again I bless Your name, You are my all in all.  When I fall down You pick me up, when I am dry You fill my cup, You are my all in all.

CCLI Song # 825356 Dennis Jernigan. © 1991 Shepherd’s Heart Music, Inc. (Admin. by PraiseCharts Publishing, Inc.)  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  all rights reserved. CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Happy mother’s day to all the mothers! God’s riches blessings on you!  During the current covid-19 pandemic there has been well deserved appreciation given to all the unsung heroes who keep our essential services running.  Moms, we can to recognize you for being true unsung heroes!  You constantly give of yourselves, not only day after day, but year after year!  May you find the strength to continue, not in guilt or obligation or will power, but through drawing from the Lord God who is constantly giving of himself of us!  The Apostle Paul found the Lord’s strength when he gave his weaknesses to the Lord, so may we.  “9 and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. 10 Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (The Message).

These are powerful words from Paul, but they are easier said than done.  Delighting in weakness, insults and hardships are not something our culture teaches us to do.  Which brings us to our look at the prophet Samuel, in 1 Samuel.

We last saw Samuel in chapter 3.  After the Lord called him as a boy, he grew up and was recognized by the country as a prophet of the Lord.  Chapter 7:2-16 introduces us to Samuel some 20 years later.  The people of Israel have been mourning the loss of 34,000 men (fathers, sons, brothers…) and the relocation of the Ark of God to Kiriath.  They are now willing to respond to Samuel’s call to rid themselves of their foreign gods and return to the Lord.

As the Israelites gather to rededicate themselves to the Lord, the Philistines arrive to attack them.  Rather than scatter in fear, the people listen to Samuel and cry out to the Lord for rescue.  While Samuel offers a sacrifice on their behalf, the Lord sends the Philistines into a panic with loud thunder (cf. 1 Sam. 2:10 – Hannah’s prayer).  This enables the men of Israel are able to defeat the Philistines and push them out of their land.  Samuel is now recognized as a judge over Israel (7:15).

The Lord wanted his people to walk with him and depend upon him for their well being – not a standing army.  This way, those who did attack them would come to know that Israel’s God is the one true God.  Eventually nations would be drawn to Israel to learn about God {this is prophesied: Isaiah 2:2-4; and we see moments in scripture when this happened: 1 Kings 4:34; 10:1 (Queen of Sheba); Acts 8:27}.

How do we react in a crisis?  Usually unexpected troubles cause us to resort to our instinctual responses (the real us).  In 1 Samuel 8, Samuel is approached by the elders of the country asking him to change the way they are governed.  They don’t like the way things are heading and they want new leadership.  They remind Samuel that he is old, and inform him that his sons are not walking in his ways.  They propose that Samuel appoint a king to lead them “as all the other nations have” (v. 5).  What we learn later in chapter 12 is that the elders were worried about attacks from the Ammonite King Nahash (12:12), whom Saul defeats in his first battle as king (11:1-11).  The elder’s desire for a change of leadership was motivated by a perceived threat and their decision to handle it like the countries around them – Let’s have a king to lead us!  However, that is not how Israel had handled previous threats (remember 1 Sam. 7:10-11; 1 Sam. 12:6-12 gives a summary of how God delivered them).

Looking back at 1 Samuel 8, the elders aren’t wrong to be concerned, but they don’t come seeking an answer or asking God to save them – they come with their own plan!  “We want a king, like the nations around us.”  Samuel doesn’t like what he’s hearing, but he takes it to the Lord in prayer.  It may surprise us to hear that although the Lord knows it is he who is being rejected, he tells Samuel to listen to the people, but to warn them about the king they are seeking.  It is interesting to see that Samuel’s warning, in describing what a typical king would do for them, is all about what a king would take from them!  By the end of his list (8:11b-17), the people would be back to being slaves, just like they were in Egypt.  Yet, they continue to insist they want a king, this time adding that they want a king who would lead them and fight their battles.  Apparently they were done leaving everything in God’s hands and wanted a king to take change of their national defense!

Samuel goes back to God with the people’s reply to his warning.  The Lord tells Samuel to give them a king (v. 22) and Samuel sends the people home.  1 Samuel chapters 9 & 10 describe how Saul was chosen and anointed as Israel’s first king.

We should note that Israel having a king is something that was foretold would happen in prophecy (Gen. 17:6, 16; 49:10; Num. 24:7, 17, 19; Deut. 17:14-20; 1 Sam. 2:10).  So why was Samuel so insistent that the elders where making a mistake?  The king was meant to be subservient to the Lord by walking in obedience to him (1 Sam. 12:14), not living off the people and doing as he pleased (as the kings of the surrounding nations did).  It was the kind of king and the reason they wanted a king right now, which was the problem. The elders, rather than calling upon the Lord to save them, looked to the pagan nations for the solution to their problem.

Yet why did the Lord say “yes” to their request?  Why did he give them what they wanted knowing it wasn’t what was best for them?  For the reason that the Lord is not a tyrant, he warns them, but he doesn’t force his will on them.  Twice Samuel has warned the people that asking for a king to lead them was wrong.  In Chapter 12, during Samuel’s farewell speech, the Lord even sends thunder and rain during the dry season, to demonstrate his displeasure with their choice; and finally the people get it!  “19 The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”” 1 Samuel 12:19 (NIV).

One might ask “Why didn’t the Lord scare them before they chose Saul as king?”  God has given us a free will.  Yet notice what Samuel says to the people in verse 20: “20 “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.” 1 Samuel 12:20 (NIV).  Samuel seems to be saying to the people: May your renewed awareness of your weaknesses cause you to lean on the Lord and serve him with your whole heart.  Israel was meant to be different from the surrounding nations, so it would be clear to all that it was their God who provided and protected them.  Doesn’t this sound like what Paul describes in 2 Cor. 12:9-10?

How about you and I?  How do you respond under pressure when we feel weak?  Do you resort to trying what everyone else is doing?  Do you consult the experts on TV and check the web?  Or are we consulting first of all with our God – Lord, what would you have me do?  We are facing uncertain times right now.  We all hope this virus will be over soon so “life can get back to normal,” but normal may not come for a long time.  Rather than wishing for tomorrow to arrive today, ask the Lord for his strength for today.  Then ask the Lord “What would you have me do today?  What can I do for you Lord, today?  How can I represent you Lord, today?  How can I let my light shine for you Lord, today?”

Go to him in prayer with those questions.  “8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV).

With our current required social distancing, many of our efforts may not be face to face – however, we have many ways to encourage others.  Is there a verse or a song the Lord has used to encourage you – why not share it?  Have you been blessed with enough to share – why not share it with someone in need?  Can you get the mail or groceries for a neighbour who can’t leave the house?  Uphold one another in prayer as you draw your strength from the Lord.

Closing song: It Is Well With My Soul – by Matt Redman

Verse 1- Our scars are a sign of grace in our lives, And Father how You brought us through.  When deep were the wounds and dark was the night, the promise of Your love You proved.  Now ev’ry battle still to come, Let this be our song

Chorus 1– It is well (it is well), With my soul (with my soul), It is well it is well with my soul.

Verse 2- Weeping may come remain for a night, But joy will paint the morning sky.  You’re there in the fast You’re there in the feast.  Your faithfulness will always shine.  Now ev’ry battle still to come, Let this be our song.

Chorus 2– It is well (it is well), with my soul (with my soul), It is well it is well with my soul, Trust Your ways (trust Your ways), Trust Your name (trust Your name), It is well it is well with my soul, (It is well it is well with my soul my soul)

Bridge- You lead us through battles (You lead us through battles).  You lead us to blessing (You lead us to blessing).  And You make us fruitful (And You make us fruitful).  In the land of our suffering God, It is well it is well with my soul

CCLI Song # 7043170 Beth Redman | Matt Redman © Said And Done Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.   CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: “With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine. To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20–21 (NCV).

Please keep in touch,
God bless,
Pastor Robert

Main characters in the Books of Samuel: 1 Samuel 4-7.1 – The Ark of the Covenant.

May 3, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

 

Call to Worship:  “1 The Lord is king! Let the nations tremble! He sits on his throne between the cherubim. Let the whole earth quake!9 Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain in Jerusalem, for the Lord our God is holy!” Psalm 99:1, 9 (NLT).

 

Hymn #262: Holy, Holy, Holy 

 

Verse 1 – Holy holy holy!  Lord God Almighty!  Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee; Holy holy holy!  Merciful and mighty!  God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

 

Verse 2 – Holy holy holy!  All the saints adore Thee, Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea; Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee, Which wert and art, and evermore shalt be.

 

Verse 3 – Holy holy holy!  Though the darkness hide Thee, though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see; Only Thou art holy there is none beside Thee, Perfect in power, In love and purity.

 

Verse 4 – Holy holy holy!  Lord God Almighty!  All Thy works shall praise Thy name

In earth and sky and sea; Holy holy holy!  Merciful and mighty!  God in three persons, Blessed Trinity.

 

CCLI Song # 1156. John Bacchus Dykes | Reginald Heber. © Words: Public Domain. Music: Public Domain. For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com. CCLI Licence No. 1348394

 

 

     We are continuing our study of the main characters in the books of Samuel.  Today we are looking at 1 Samuel 4:1 – 7:1, and our main character is “The Ark of the Lord’s Covenant.” What?  You may think, “Wasn’t the Ark of the Covenant a small gold covered box that contained the Ten Commandments?  Yes, that’s the one!  God’s instructions to Moses on its construction are found in Exodus 25:10-22.

     How can the ark be a character in these chapters?  On the cover of the ark were two cherubim (angelic beings) facing each other but looking down toward the cover with their wings outstretched.  The Lord had promised Moses that he would come above the ark between the two cherubim and meet with him (Ex. 25:22).  Thus we see, the main character in these chapters is in fact the Lord God.

 

  1. Let’s look at the response of the Israelites and the Philistines to the Lord God, as represented by the Ark of the Lord.

     Surprisingly, the responses of the Israelites and the Philistines are surprisingly similar.  This is an indication of how far Israel had slipped from the teachings of Moses.  The ark is treated as a talisman or a good luck charm.

     In 1 Samuel 4:1-5, we see that Israel has lost a battle with the Philistines and 4000 were killed.  When the elders pondered why the Lord allowed them to be defeated, they decided to call for the ark to be brought, to lead them into the next battle to ensure their victory.   Notice, that instead of asking the Lord why he allowed defeat and then acting on his answer (As was done in Joshua 7:4-12), they came up with their own answer to their defeat.

     The result of Israel’s failure to 1) Consult with God; 2) deal with their personal, corporate and institutional (priesthood) sin led to greater disaster.  30,000 are killed along with Eli’s two sons (a sign that the prophecy on Eli’s family was genuine) and the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the victorious Philistines. It appeared that God had been defeated and was taken away from his people and his land.  Chapter 4 closes with the words: “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:22b (NIV).

     1 Samuel 5:1b–2a (NASB95) tells us that the victorious Philistines “took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it” to the temple of their god Dagon. The repetition “took the ark…and brought it…” is intended to emphasize that the Philistines believed the ark, Israel’s God, was completely under their control.  From Israel’s response of great sorrow at its loss (4:12-22) and rejoicing at its return (6:13-16), it would appear the Israelites believed the same thing – God was gone!

 

  1. What do we learn about God?

     A quick look at 1 Samuel 4-6 might lead one to conclude that God is harsh and fickle.  He didn’t show up to help his people in battle (4:1-12), but he did show up to afflict the Philistines for taking the ark.  Then he killed 70 Israelites as they celebrated the ark’s return, apparently they didn’t treat it properly!

     As you read these chapters, it is important to remember that 1 Samuel 4-6 is only a brief record of some of the Lord’s interaction with Israel.  This passage needs to be understood in light of the covenant the Israelites made with God 300 years earlier (cf. Ex. 19-31; Deut. 28).  At that time they agreed the Lord would be their God and they would be his people.  Israel became a monotheistic people, worshipping only one God.  Their relationship with God would bring his blessings and protection.  If they failed to keep their agreement, God would withdraw his blessing and protection in order for them to realize their sin. 

     Keep in mind as you study these chapters that the Lord God is holy.  Holiness is defined as: “moral and ethical wholeness or perfection; freedom from moral evil. Holiness is one of the essential elements of God’s nature required of His people.”[1]  Holiness also means separate from the ordinary or profane.  God in making a covenant with Israel called them to live lives separate from sin.  The sacrificial system gave them opportunity to acknowledge their God was holy and called them to live holy lives.  Their relationship with God was to be part of their daily lives.  The books of Judges and Samuel show us that when the Israelites started adding other gods to their worship, life quickly deteriorated.

     In these chapters we see that God is not our servant.  He will not be manipulated or minimized.  The Israelites think they can cause him to fight for them, but they are wrong and suffer the costs because they won’t face their own sins. 

     The Philistines assume their control of the ark means they are in control of Israel’s God. However they will see he is in control and not willing to dwell among those who worship idols!  First their god Dagon is found prostrate on his face before the ark of God.  The next morning, again it is on the ground in front of the ark, this time it symbolically powerless – with hands & head severed from its body.  Secondly, we see any time a Philistine city dared to try to lay claim to the ark of God, it experienced sickness and rats.  Finally, in surrender the rulers of the Philistines sent the ark back to Israel along with offerings of gold.

     The ark is miraculously returned to Israel and stops at the priestly town of Beth Shemesh (cf. Joshua 21:13-16).  Their celebration turns to mourning as 70 men die for treating the ark disrespectfully, something Levities of all people should have understood.

     The answer to the question asked by the townsfolk in 1 Samuel 6:20 is the key lesson we are to learn from these chapters:  “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God” 1 Samuel 6:20b (NIV).   King David gives us the answer in Psalm 24:3-4 “3 Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.” Psalm 24:3–4 (NLT).

     In 1 Samuel 7:1-2 we read that the ark spent the next twenty years at Kiriath Jearim.  During this time we see the people finally began to get the Lord’s message to examine their hearts: “2 It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the Lord.” 1 Samuel 7:2 (NIV84).

 

  1. What are we to learn from this passage?

     An overarching purpose of these chapters is to cause each of us to ask the question “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?”  God calls his people to be holy, and when they refuse, he holds them accountable in the hope they will repent and return to him.  Not experiencing immediate consequences from sinful behaviour does not mean it was inconsequential – you are damaging your relationship with God and risking your relationship with others.  What will you do?  Repent of your sin and change your behavior or you will slide deeper into sin and face certain consequences. 

     This passage should lead us with gratitude to the foot of Jesus’ cross where the forgiveness we need is found.  Then we can rejoice that the veil of the temple torn in two, we are no longer separated from God, we may now can enter into his presence forgiven by the blood of Jesus.  May we also pause at the empty tomb where we see our Lord has conquered sin and death, and because he lives we too shall live!  May we join with Thomas in declaring in words and actions that Jesus is “My Lord and my God!”

     In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gave us a brand new covenant, a new agreement based on his death on our behalf, as we accept him as our sin forgiver and life leader.  We cannot be holy without his cleansing and without depending upon his help – this must be a daily choice!  We are to give up our old way of handling life ourselves and follow God’s directives.  When we fall short, we are to confess our sin and depend upon Jesus to overcome that temptation. Let me close with the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:15-24 which tells us how God wants us to live: 

     “15 God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. 16 He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

     17 And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. 18 They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. 19 They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. 20 But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! 21 My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. 22 Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, 23 a life renewed from the inside 24 and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” Ephesians 4:15–24 (The Message).

    

Closing song: #195 “Nothing but the blood” 

 

Verse 1- What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus; what can make me whole again?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

 

Chorus – O precious is the flow that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

 

Verse 2 – For my pardon this I see, nothing but the blood of Jesus; for my cleansing this my plea, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

 

Verse 3 – Nothing can for sin atone, nothing but the blood of Jesus; Naught of good that I have done, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

 

Verse 4 – This is all my hope and peace, nothing but the blood of Jesus; this is all my righteousness, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

 

CCLI Song # 21332. Robert Lowry. © Words: Public Domain. Music: Public Domain. For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com. CCLI Licence No. 1348394

 

 

Benediction:  “23 May the God of peace himself make you holy in every way. And may your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 ISV).

[1] Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

1 Samuel 1 – 4. “Eli and sons.”

April 26, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship:  “1 Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! 2 Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore! 3 From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!” Psalm 113:1–3 (ESV).

Opening Song:  Sing To The Lord – 

Verse 1 – Sing to the Lord, Give thanks for His greatness.  Sing to the Lord, Give thanks for His grace.  His mercy is new today, Abounding in every way To all He has made.

Verse 2 – Sing to the Lord, Give thanks for His favour.  Sing to the Lord, O people of God.  We’re so precious in His sight, He chose us before our life Even began.

Chorus – Lift up your voice and tell of His goodness, For He is perfect in all of His ways.  Join in the song that is sung Over all of the earth, Lord You’re an amazing God.

Verse 3 – Sing to the Lord, Give thanks for salvation.  Sing to the Lord, All you who are saved.  For once we were dead in sin, But now we’re alive in Him And reigning with Christ.

Verse 4 – Sing to the Lord, Give thanks for His kindness.  Sing to the Lord, O children of God.  The Spirit’s available, He’ll help us prevail through all That life throws our way.

Bridge – Sing sing sing; Sing sing sing; Sing

Verse 5 – Sing to the Lord, Give thanks for His power.  Sing to the Lord, His kingdom is here.  Let’s humble our hearts to Him, Be ready to meet Him, As we call on His name

CCLI Song # 4723237  Lou Fellingham | Mike Busbee | Nathan Fellingham  © 2005 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)  The Livingstone Collective (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

     Today in our study of 1 Samuel we are turning our attention to the High Priest Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas.  What can we learn about them as they are mentioned in the first four chapters of 1 Samuel?  Secondly, what do we learn about God as we observe his interaction with them?  Finally, what are lessons for us to apply as we look at Eli and sons?

What do we learn about Eli and sons?

     Chapter one tells us that Eli’s sons, Hophni & Phinehas served as priests at Shiloh – no further details.  This chapter leaves us with a generally positive impression of the High Priest Eli.  While he first assumes Hannah is drunk as she is praying, when he realizes his mistake he quickly corrects himself.  Eli’s blessing on Hannah asking God to grant her request gave her great peace.  In time her prayer is answered and she gives birth to Samuel.

     Chapter two begins with Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for his answer to her prayer (2:1-10).  As you read through her prayer, notice how personal and descriptive it is as she speaks about the Lord.  When you see the word lord in the Bible written “Lord” (capital ‘L’ with the letters ‘ord’ in small capitals) this is translating the proper name for God – “Yahweh” (also translated as “Jehovah”).  Hannah uses the word “Lord” (Yahweh) eight times in her prayer of praise to God!

     It is therefore a complete shock to finish with Hannah’s intimate prayer only to read next that Eli’s sons, the priests, “had no regard for the Lord.”  This literally means “They did not know the Lord” or “they never gave him any thought.”  In fact the Bible tells us they were “wicked men.”  The fat of the offering was reserved for the Lord and was to be burned (Lev. 3:16).  God had specified which parts of the sacrifice were for the priests (Lev. 7:31-37) but Hophni & Phinehas did as they pleased. 

     Their sin was threefold: (a) They took any part of the meat they wanted (2:13-14).  (b) They took the meat before it had been offered to the Lord (2:14-15).  (c) They took it by force.  In taking what didn’t belong to them from the sacrificial offerings, from both the peoples & God’s portion, the priests were declaring their dissatisfaction with God’s provision for them.  Are we doing the same when we refuse to share what God has given us with those in need and return the tithe to him as his portion?

     As we continue in chapter two we see Eli’s sons were not only corrupt in their religious behaviour but also in their moral behaviour (vv. 22-25).  Although this was public knowledge, Eli, did not remove them from office, but merely rebuked their behavior, which they ignored.

     Eli then received two detailed prophecies from God declaring judgment on his sons, himself and his descendents for their sinful behaviour and his failure to act – “you honor your sons more than me” (2:29b).  Eli doesn’t make excuses, but rather than seeking forgiveness and repenting of his sin, he responds with cold acceptance “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes” (3:18).

     Eli is a tragic character.  He failed miserably in preparing his sons to take over the priesthood and does not hold them accountable for their sinful behaviour.  Yet, he is a key influencer in Samuel’s life:  Before his birth; Training him at the temple; Teaching him to respond to God’s voice and to speak God’s Word truthfully & entirely.  While Eli’s sons are tumbling toward certain judgment, Samuel is growing in favor with God and with men (1 Sam. 2:26).  In Eli and his sons we see a vivid example of the reversal of fortunes Hannah describes in her prayer.  The humble, though poor are honoured by the Lord, and the wicked, though prosperous are judged and silenced.

What do we learn about God?

     We see that no one is above God’s authority.  He held the High Priest Eli and his sons responsible for their sins.  The lack of immediate judgment does not mean God has overlooked sin; rather he is giving opportunity for correction and repentance. 

     We see God responds to his people, even during a time when his voice was uncommon.  Eli could not help but see this!  God answered Hannah’s prayer with the gift of a son that Eli would see daily when we worked at the tabernacle.  God also blessed Hannah with other children in answer to Eli’s blessing.  God spoke to Eli through an unnamed prophet (1 Sam. 2:27-36) and a boy – Samuel.  God’s judgment on Eli’s failure to restrain his wick sons would shake the whole country. 

     The death of Eli’s two sons on the same day would confirm the validity of the prophet’s message that Eli’s family would one day lose the privilege of being priests.  Part of this prophecy was fulfilled when King Saul ordered the killing of the priests for helping David (1 Sam. 22:11-21).  The prophecy was completed when King Solomon removed Abiathar as priest for his role in a coup attempt (1 Kings 2:26-27).

     We learn that God takes obedience and sin very seriously.  While the book of Judges shows the Lord calling the nation into account turning away from him, here in 1 Samuel 1-4, we see the Lord also holds his priest accountable for their sins.

     It is important for us to understand that the laws
God has given us (10 Commandments) are a written expression of God’s character.  Millard J. Erickson in his book “Christian Theology” explains it this way:

     “The law is something of a transcript of the nature of God.  When we relate to it, whether positively or negatively, we are not relating to an impersonal document or set of regulations.  Rather, it is God himself whom we are obeying or disobeying.  Disobeying the law is serious, not because the law has some inherent value or dignity which must be preserved, but because disobeying it is actually an attack upon the very nature of God himself.  Thus, legalism – the attitude that the law is to be obeyed for its own sake – is unacceptable.  Rather, the law is to be understood as a means of relating to a personal God.”[1]

     In today’s text we also see the goodness of God.  As God is preparing to deal with the sin of Eli’s family, he is also readying a new judge, the prophet Samuel to lead his people.

     We learn that God is sovereign, he is in control.  This “means we are able to live in the assurance that God is present and active in our lives.  We are in his care and can therefore face the future confidently, knowing that things are not happening merely by chance.  We can pray confidently, knowing God hears and acts upon our prayers.  We can face danger, knowing that he is not unaware and uninvolved.” [2]

Lessons for us from Eli & his sons:

     We must take sin seriously in our lives and deal with it because God takes sin seriously!  Parents this also means seeking God’s wisdom to deal with sinful behaviour in our children while they are under our care.

     What is sin?  Is it bending or ignoring a rule, because that may seem fairly harmless. After all “aren’t rules made to be broken?”  At first, sin may appear too small to be significant (like a virus).  Does it really matter if I don’t do it exactly like God asked?  Shouldn’t he be satisfied I’m doing this much – after all, look at everyone else!  Taking a piece or two of the offering that wasn’t designated for the priests may not seem like that big a deal, but claiming independence from God is!  Soon the virus of sin spreads and our hunger to satisfy ourselves independent from God grows to the point where our ‘self-talk’ is justifying things we would have never considered doing before!

     Sin is dealing with discontentment in my own way, instead of bringing it before God and allowing him to fill my emptiness.  Eli’s sons were dissatisfied, missing something, and so was Hannah, but here’s the difference.  Hannah goes to the Lord and seeks his help for her emptiness.  The sons of Eli take matters into their own hands in looking for satisfaction, and do what seems right in their own eyes (cf. Judges 21:25).  While Eli’s sons think they’ve got what they wanted, it came at the eventual cost of their lives. 

     Hannah, in submitting to her Lord finds herself blessed beyond anything she could imagine.  Not only five more children, but her first born is used by God to turn people’s hearts back to God. 

     This contrast between Hannah and the sons of Eli is not simply a reversal of fortunes; this is an example of reaping what you sow!  Paul’s words in Galatians 6:7–9 certainly confirm what we see in today’s text:  “7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (NLT)

     How can we live a life which pleases God when we live in a culture which says: “You can do whatever seems right in your own eyes”?  We must look to God for the help we need, for we cannot do this through our own efforts.  God desires to be in a renewed relationship with you and he himself has made that possible.  John 3:16 tells us “16 “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.” (NCV).

     God the Father sent his son Jesus, to bear the consequences of our sin, and now the Holy Spirit of God dwells within and empowers all those who have accepted Jesus as their sin forgiver and life leader.  Have you?  Who are you living to please?  What kind of seeds is your life planting?  Are there sins you need to confess?  Turn away from them and to God.  Take some time to prayerfully reflect on your life – can you see God’s guidance?  Thank him for his presence. 

Possible closing songs:    #457 “I will sing of the mercies.”       “Father me” – Paul Oakley

Benediction:  “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts; Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  (Colossians 3:15a, 16a, 17 NRSV)

I will sing of the mercies – 

 

Chorus – I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever, I will sing I will sing.  I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever, I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.

Verse – With my mouth will I make known, Thy faithfulness Thy faithfulness.  With my mouth will I make known, Thy faithfulness to all generations.

CCLI Song # 23316  James Henry Fillmore Sr. © Words: Public Domain  Music: Public Domain  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Father Me – 

 

Verse 1- You have loved me with such perfect love, Fathered me with such a tender touch.  Your faithfulness surrounds my soul, Your mercy lifts my head.  How could I repay all You have done

Chorus – Father me, Faithful Father, Father me.  No one else could ever be, The perfect Father God to me.

Verse 2 – You now clothe me with Your righteousness.  Hide me in the shadow of Your wings, And even in my darkest days, Your light will guide my way.  Hallelujah to the King of grace.

CCLI Song # 4709866.  Paul Oakley  © 2005 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

[1] Erickson, Millard J.  Christian Theology, p. 803. © 1987. Baker Book House Company.

[2] Erickson, Millard J.  Christian Theology, p. 388. © 1987. Baker Book House Company.

1 Samuel 1:1-2:21.  Hannah.

April 19, 2020.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14 NIV)

Praise You in the Storm

 

Verse 1:  I was sure by now, God You would have reached down, and wiped our tears away.  Stepped in and saved the day.  But once again I’ll say amen, and it’s still rainin’

Pre-Chorus:  As the thunder rolls, I barely hear You whisper through the rain, I’m with You.  And as Your mercy falls, I’ll raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away

Chorus:  And I’ll praise You in this storm, and I will lift my hands for You are who You are, no matter where I am and ev’ry tear I’ve cried, You hold in Your hand, You never left my side.  And though my heart is torn, I will praise You in this storm

Verse 2:  I remember when I stumbled in the wind, You heard my cry to You and raised me up again.  But my strength is almost gone, how can I carry on, If I can’t find You?

Bridge:  I lift my eyes unto the hills, Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth

 

CCLI Song # 4543620. Bernie Herms | Mark Hall. © 2005 My Refuge Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing). BanaHama Tunes (Admin. by CURB / Word Music Publishing). Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC). Curb Word Music (Admin. by WC Music Corp.). For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com. CCLI Licence No. 1348394

 

Let me encourage you to read today’s text, 1 Sam. 1:1 – 2:21.

We are going to look at 1 & 2 Samuel, by examining the main characters: Hannah, Eli & sons, Samuel, The Ark of the Covenant (The Lord), Saul and David.  We are going to be looking at these characters through the lens of the major themes of 1st & 2nd Samuel: Divine Sovereignty; The Rise the King in Israel (The Lord’s doing); and The Reversal of Fortunes (The Lord blesses the humble and judges the proud).[1]

As we look at 1st Samuel, it is important to place it in the context of the time of the Judges (about 1380-1050 B.C.).  Judges 2:10–17 introduces this time period with these words:  “10 After a while the people of Joshua’s generation died, and the next generation did not know the Lord or any of the things he had done for Israel. 11 The Lord had brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and they had worshiped him. But now the Israelites stopped worshiping the Lord and worshiped the idols of Baal and Astarte, as well as the idols of other gods from nearby nations. The Lord was so angry 14 at the Israelites that he let other nations raid Israel and steal their crops and other possessions. Enemies were everywhere, and the Lord always let them defeat Israel in battle. The Lord had warned Israel he would do this, and now the Israelites were miserable. 16 From time to time, the Lord would choose special leaders known as judges. These judges would lead the Israelites into battle and defeat the enemies that made raids on them. 17 In years gone by, the Israelites had been faithful to the Lord, but now they were quick to be unfaithful and to refuse even to listen to these judges. The Israelites would disobey the Lord, and instead of worshiping him, they would worship other gods.” (CEV)

 During the three hundred years following their entrance into the Promised Land, the descendents of Israel began to worship other gods.  Yet as we saw in the book of Ruth, God still had some who followed Him.

1st Samuel begins by introducing us to another family who is still worshiping the Lord (yet not without their troubles).  1 Sam. 1:3 tells us of their faithfulness to worship “The Lord Almighty” (also translated as “the Lord of Hosts” or “the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”)  Interestingly, this popular designation for God (used 260 times), is used for the first time here! [2]

I trust you’ve read today’s text, which focuses primarily on Hannah. In this sermon we are going to examine the text to see what we can learn from Hannah, What we can learn about God, and What we can learn and apply to ourselves.

  1. Who is Hannah?
  • If you’ve read ahead, you know she is the mother of the prophet Samuel the last & greatest Judge of Israel.
  • If you didn’t look ahead, you would say: She is a NOBODY!  She is a married woman without children!  God had closed her womb, that’s why her husband took an additional wife! Hannah likely struggled with feelings of judgment from others and abandonment from God.  Because of this, she is…
  • A woman in pain – deep emotional & spiritual pain. Her husband’s other wife treats her cruelly as a rival and taunts her about not being able to bear children.

Judges 1:10 shows Hannah’s pain “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.” (NIV84).  The New American Commentary says: Hannah wept and prayed to the Lord “in bitterness of soul,” a phrase used elsewhere to characterize the psychological pain experienced by one who has been deprived of a child through death (cf. Ruth 1:13, 20; 2 Kgs 4:27; Zech 12:10) or who is experiencing great personal physical suffering (cf. Job 3:20; 7:11; 10:1; Isa 38:15). Relief from this sort of pain is never pictured in the Hebrew Bible as coming from a human being; in each case divine intervention was the only remedy. Wisely, Hannah also went to the Lord for help.[3]  Thus we see, Hannah is…

  • A woman of faith. Hannah takes her pain to the Lord in intense prayer.  Going to the Tabernacle to worship as a family was meant to be a time of celebration.  When Hannah is cruelly taunted, she resists the urge to hide away and instead takes advantage of her location to seek God.  She goes in prayer, with tears and a broken heart – not giving up on the Lord, even if he seemed silent.  In doing so, Hannah was acknowledging that God was still in charge (sovereign) and she would continue to seek his intervention (rather than the fertility gods others were worshipping).

As she pours our her heart to God, Hannah makes an incredible sacrifice: “And she made a vow, saying, “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”” 1 Samuel 1:11 (NIV84). 

Can you imagine, after receiving the one thing you have been longing for your entire married life, to promise to give this child back to God?  It reminds us of the action of the father of the nation of Israel, Abraham (Gen. 22).  Hannah is a woman of deep faith. She is also:

  • A woman of integrity. When God blesses Hannah & her husband with a son, she keeps her word to the Lord and literally gives him to the Lord after he is weaned!  How many of us would have looked for an escape clause in our vow to the Lord or put off keeping our promise?  Hannah’s prayer, in chapter 2:1-10 is one of three prayers in 1 & 2 Samuel that highlight God’s sovereignty over all human history and foreshadows what is to come with Saul and David.

Hannah & he husband continue to visit and support Samuel as he grew up at the tabernacle (1 Sam. 2:18-21).  How wonderful to see that the Lord honoured her vow by blessing them with five more children! You can’t out give God!

Hannah’s fulfillment of her vow blessed Israel with a great prophet and she was able to have more children.  Consider this: When we renege on our commitment to the Lord because we think we may have “over promised” we are robbing ourselves and others of God’s best plans for us!

  1. What do we learn about God?

While his “chosen people” to reach this world had failed to heed his warnings (cf. Deut. 11:13-21) and were facing the consequences, God had not given up on his plan to send the world a redeemer. 

We learn that God is at work in this world and that he works through his people.  Already in 1 Samuel, we are reminded of the sovereignty of God.  The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary sums it up this way:  Samuel was born not by might nor by power, not by the will of man nor by the will of the flesh, but according to the Lord’s will. In fact, it is the Lord who is at the center of the entire narrative. It was the Lord who had closed Hannah’s womb (1:5–6); and the Lord who remembered her (1:19); and Hannah confesses at the end of the chapter that it was the Lord who had granted her request (1:27). It is clear that the Lord is faithful to his people when they are ready and willing to submit to him in faith, obedience, and worship. It is Hannah who personifies these qualities.[4]

It was clear to Hannah & her husband Elkanah, that Samuel was a work of God.  God had closed Hannah’s womb, so at the right time, there would be no doubt that the child she bore was a sign from God.  In Hannah we see God lift up the weak and humble to show his mercy and strength. 

  1. What we can learn and apply to ourselves?

Are you struggling with something outside your capacity to change?  What are you doing to deal with the pain?  Some people will complain and let bitterness rule their life.  Some try to deaden the pain through various methods of self-medicating (legal & illegal).  Some try to fill their lives with activities & distractions (how are you handling this time of self-isolation?)  Yet, none of these things will change your situation.

What CAN we do when we can’t do anything?  Follow Hannah’s example.  Don’t give up on life!  She didn’t let deep disappointment infect her with toxic bitterness (which pushes people away). Note that Hannah’s husband found her loveable & loved her deeply, even as she was struggling (1:5,8).

Hannah doesn’t self-medicate, as Eli wrongly accused her of doing.  Obviously this meant the opportunity was there, yet Hannah refused to take it.  Instead she went to “The Boss,” The Lord, the only one who could change her situation and poured out her heart to him and left it in God’s hands.

What about you?  God IS in control.  Have you, will you, humbly rest in his care?  Keep following his ways, trusting they are the best, even though you can’t see the ending.

Hannah’s story reminds us that God is concerned about us (the individual), and his plan for us, as we learn to trust him, goes far beyond ourselves. 

Psalm 40:1–4. I patiently waited, Lord, for you to hear my prayer. You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit full of mud and mire. You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm, and you gave me a new song, a song of praise to you. Many will see this, and they will honor and trust you, the Lord God. You bless all of those who trust you, Lord, and refuse to worship idols or follow false gods.” (CEV)

Benediction: “20 Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20–21 (CSB).

This could be the theme song for this series:

Sovereign Over Us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EufaligPigU

 

Verse 1:  There is strength within the sorrow

There is beauty in our tears

And You meet us in our mourning

With a love that casts out fear

Verse 2: You are working in our waiting

Sanctifying us

When beyond our understanding

You’re teaching us to trust

Chorus:  Your plans are still to prosper

You’ve not forgotten us

You’re with us in the fire and the flood

Faithful forever perfect in love

You are sov’reign over us

Verse 3: You are wisdom unimagined

Who could understand Your ways

Reigning high above the heavens

Reaching down in endless grace

Verse 4:  You’re the lifter of the lowly

Compassionate and kind

You surround and You uphold me

And Your promises are my delight

Bridge:  Even what the enemy means for evil

You turn it for our good

You turn it for our good

And for Your glory

Even in the valley You are faithful

You’re working for our good

You’re working for our good

And for Your glory

(REPEAT)

Ending:  Faithful forever perfect in love

You are sov’reign over us

CCLI Song # 6011370. Aaron Keyes | Bryan Brown | Jack Mooring. © 2011 Jack Mooring Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing). Meaux Jeaux Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing). Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing). worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing). For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com. CCLI Licence No. 1348394

[1] Vannoy, J. R. (2009). Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1-2 Samuel (Vol. 4, p. 22). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[2] Vannoy, J. R. (2009). Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1-2 Samuel (Vol. 4, p. 44). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[3] Bergen, R. D. (1996). The New American Commentary 1, 2 Samuel (Vol. 7, p. 68). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Vannoy, J. R. (2009). Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1-2 Samuel (Vol. 4, p. 45). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

John 3:16 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.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.