He Has Done Great Things

Psalm 126

Could have titled this sermon “Pinch Me, I Must Be Dreaming”. Main characters had experienced such a change of circumstances, were having a hard time processing. And it was all good. Don’t know for sure what had caused profound sorrow (gloom, despair, agony). Perhaps as many believe, was end of Babylonian captivity, Cyrus’ decree. Yet that situation doesn’t seem to quite fit – element of surprise implied here that should not have been present then. But more on that later.

This #7 of Pilgrim Songs; as with last psalm, Zion plays important part. Song sung in the present while remembering the past and anticipating the future. Emotions expressed cover broad spectrum, positive and negative, pretty much like life!

A. remembrance v.1

remember when…? spoken like those who experienced deliverance from captivity first-hand, thinking back to what was like

might even be traveling same road, toward same destination, with same purpose in mind – worship together in God’s house

too good to be true, nearly impossible to believe was actually happening, weren’t certain they were awake and not dreaming

perhaps had that sort of experience – sudden change of circumstances that maybe weren’t even on the radar, or so radical

response? have a phrase for that, “totally blown away by…”; “never saw that coming”; and the like

but wait a minute – if this the Babylonian exile, God’s people, in captivity, weren’t they praying for deliverance? for God to move?

more questions come to mind: what about their faith? just going through motions, thinking they probably wouldn’t get answer

how about the math? didn’t they readJeremiah 29:10-14? Daniel did, he figured it out (Dan. 9:2), then he prayed…hard

was it something else that meant they were unprepared for God to move? two possibilities: #1 – fear they hadn’t fulfilled conditions

v. 13 – “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” – maybe too many missed that point

#2: low expectations – believed God would act but not the way he did; looking for one kind of solution, God gave another

2 quick helps: if you are praying, suspect #1, make sure it’s not true of you; as God gives opportunity, encourage others to do same

and… raise expectations, broaden, enlarge them; impossible to ask God to do more than he is able; when you ask for and expect bigger / more surprising work of God, will be looking for it and more apt to see it coming

B. response v.2-3

rejoicing – over-the-top unrestrained excitement and joy at God’s deliverance; can’t be contained, refuse to be quieted kind of celebration

Ezra 3:11-13 “…all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy,so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.”

when God answers any kind of prayer, should rejoice; especially when is something significant, maybe affects large group

recognize affirmation of others – in this case their pagan neighbors saw exactly what had happened and gave proper credit

not only when men see our good works, when they see God’s works will be compelled to give Him the glory

good place to stop for minute, be reminded of something: return from Babylonian captivity not a small event in Mid-East history

succession of several empires led up to it, including downfall of some: Assyria taken over 10 tribes, then along with Egypt soundly defeated by Babylonians; Babylonians then conquered Judah, along come Medo-Persians and Cyrus the Great

easy to look at movements of armies / empires, powerful / corrupt leaders, see only from human socio-political perspective

Christian needs to be at least as sharp as Israel’s heathen neighbors, see rise and fall of nations and people as God at work

just as true in 21st century world as one psalmist lived in – need to view world through lens of Bible, not other way round

return thanks

joy is big deal in NT… and should be big deal for Christian; Jesus used word “joy” 7x between Supper and betrayal!

joy is second in list of evidences that Spirit is present and active; Paul at least 16x in Philippians

no secret joy not something we generate on our own; is outward evidence of inward spiritual health, walking in the Spirit

one of greatest contributors to joy: great things God has done for us – he delivered his people from captivity in Babylon, they rejoiced… and praised

they had been through much hardship – Slough of Despond, Valley of Humiliation, Hill Difficulty – but God didn’t leave them there: graciously rescued them

important to see: their focus not on what they had lost or endured, was on what they had gained by God’s deliverance

would be irresponsible and dishonest to ignore trials – James says “count it all joy, brothers, when you fall into various trials”

just as God doesn’t abandon us to our difficulties, leave us to wallow in them, we shouldn’t stay there in our outlook

is equally irresponsible and dishonest to ignore God’s deliverance, starting with the big one: our deliverance from slavery to sin and Satan – that truly overshadows all the rest because result extends beyond this life

C. renewed desire v.4

repeated thought from v.1 – there was praise for past blessing, here plea for future blessing; you restored our well-being before, now restore again even more

strong desire expressed here, both in pleading and also emotions described next; def not casual “when you get to it” request

significant error present in evangelical circles: wrong to have desires, shouldn’t want anything, just be content with what God gives

sounds a lot like Buddhism, 4 Noble Truths – “The First Noble Truth often is translated as “Life is suffering.” …The Second Noble Truth teaches that the cause of suffering is craving or thirst (tanha). We continually search for something outside ourselves to make us happy. But no matter how successful we are, we never remain satisfied.”

not what the Bible teaches! problem not with having desires, problem is often with object of desire and approach to satisfying it

psalmist, and singers, expressing strong desire for more of God and his hand of blessing – You’ve blessed us tremendously, do more

God had done great things – had experienced first-hand God’s delivering power, like prisoner who is set free unexpectedly

had also enjoyed great blessing, in their case the God-directed generosity of pagans: free gifts of neighbors, return of Temple utensils, vast sums on numerous occasions (Ezra 1-2, 6, 7; Neh 7)

was by no means enough – was as if they had a taste, a sample of God and his goodness, craved abundant full course meal

were not content to live off one helping – God blessed once, good for life; God delivered from hard circumstances, don’t want any more of his help/goodness

NOT! one helping only whetted appetite for more; not satisfied with conversion, wanted ongoing abundant blessing; not satisfied with deliverance from hard circumstances, wanted more blessing

hard circumstances could be physical (e.g., cancer), emotional (e.g. depression), financial…

greatest desire here for what is clearly and unmistakeably God’s hand at work in life, present and blessing

seeking a flood

one that overwhelms

Aharoni writes of the streams in the Negev: “These usually dry wadis collect water on rainy days from vast areas. The situation is also aggravated by floods from the desert mountains and southern Judah. For a day or two or, more frequently, for only a few hours they turn into dangerous torrents”. NET Bible

no request for “showers of blessing” here, looking for a flood; God’s might hand was wonderful, want more and more

God is pleased to answer prayer for more of him – more reason to praise, more gifts to use for his glory, more understanding of him and his ways, richer experience of his powerful yet tender care

one that brings life to parched land

important point: not a request for more simply for sake of having/experiencing more; is request that God would fill up empty stream beds with life-giving water

unless God contually replenishes (aka, sustains) life, things die – natural world, human life, spiritual vitality

D. reward v.5-6

gotta expect work – psalmist / singer not expecting God to do everything so people chill out, kick back and reap all benefits

gardening requires significant labor… throughout the season, not just at planting (sowing) time; without all aspects of work, cannot expect good harvest

but here’s the thing – all the best labor with best seed on best ground doesn’t guarantee harvest; requires much beyond human control, what is solely God’s doing

Christian does initial work anyway without being able to see results, trust God to do his part, expect abundant harvest

farmer/gardener must sow in confidence that labor will be rewarded; if not, why bother, what would be point, better off doing something else with better “guarantee”

compare seed with sheave – think about things we plant: corn, squash, beans, tomatoes; 1 seed per plant produces how many!?

time of famine – 4:1 or less seed ratio; 1 for seed, 1 for horse, 2 left for family; one who sows anyway, even though uncertain of harvest, God will reward abundantly

conditions at planting time don’t relate directly to harvest – may be time of sorrow, difficulty, much opposition (not gonna work)

notice context: pleading for God to bless (restore fortunes), to provide what he must (rain to fill streams), then go plant

putting James’ teaching into practice – living faith works; confident pleading in faith accompanied by doing work we know is ours

God has done great things in the past – recorded in his Word, history books of our nation, personal diaries and writings of relatives. If his Word is true, we believe it is, he will do great things in future. Perhaps greatest thing of all is coming – our full and final salvation, restoration of created order, etc. What about now? Do we believe God can do / is doing great things now?

Much to cause sorrow in present world situation, far away and near at home. True of things in world at large, also true of Christ’s church. If God can still do great things, we should be pleading with him to do so. And expecting him to respond. And… we need to be doing the work we know we’re supposed to. Doesn”t matter whether we’re talking about Planned Parenthood or Supreme Court or ISIS or error and drift in the church. God can still do great things. How about UPG’s and unreached neighbors and unreached family? God can still do great things.

Our task: plead with God that he bless us again, “restore our fortunes”. Then use every legitimate means at our disposal to work toward a good end and his glory. Do so confidently that if we do our part in planting and cultivating, even when hard, we’ll harvest with rejoicing. God will give us reason to rejoice when we trust him.

 

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