Tag: Psalms

Hallelujah Chorus!

Psalm 150

Unlike Handel’s Messiah, crescendo of Hallelujah Chorus ends Part 2 with Part 3 to follow. This one comes at very end, the closing Doxology to complement opening Beatitude. Has a sense of growing intensity, increasing volume, rising to grand finale, Hallelujah! Also serves well to anticipate the big grand finale, when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:10-11 Is no coincidence that we hear great multitude and twenty-four elders and four living creatures setting stage for Marriage Celebration of the Lamb with repeated “Alleluias” (Rev. 19).

In strict sense, this psalm not a hymn of worship and praise. Is a call to worship and praise – instruction about worship with 10 imperatives + open and close Hallelujah. We are instructed – who is to be worshiped; where we are to worship; what the themes of our worship should be; the legitimate means of worship; finally, who should worship.

Play audio – Hebrew Tehillim 150, Yitzchak Fuchs

A. Focus of worship v.1a, 6b

Yah!

shortened form of Yahweh – no question that it is Yahweh who is to receive praise even though not identified again until end

not simply enough to refer to God, especially in pluralistic culture; was not enough for Hebrew children living in Egypt

Ex. 3:13-14 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them? …Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

when worship of numerous deities either tolerated or practiced, must be explicit which God, calling by name when necessary

e.g., can’t listen long to WRJ without figuring out references to God have in view the God of the Bible; that’s on purpose!

not just America’s God, Christian God, the one Baptists worship – is the one true God revealed in his word the Bible that we must worship – is also good reminder for us who should have our attention

El

first time El appears in OT, Abram and Melchizedek priest of El Elyon… God Most High

Gen. 14:19-20 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.

most common name for God used in Job, often also in Psalms – the strong one, mighty one: his power and strength in view

this is the one God of all who can do things – especially in Job’s experience, the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of all cosmos

worship is not first and foremost about the worshiper

emphasis is on giving, not getting – giving praise, giving glory to God because he deserves it and he commands it

it is Yahweh after all, self-existent God who relates to his people on basis of covenant that he established

no question, God will give to his people all that is required by his covenant; real question… will his people give to him all he requires

“To give the least particle of his honour to another is shameful treason; to refuse to render it to him is heartless robbery.” CHS

B. Places of worship v.1b-c

sanctuary

depending on time of writing, had either tabernacle or Temple in mind – the one place set aside for corporate worship

now that Gospel has come to Gentiles, proper worship no longer limited to one place – God can be rightly worshiped world-wide

yes, God is omnipresent; but… is still right and proper to worship him in “set apart” places – qôdesh – designated for specific holy purpose

so… we God’s people gather in sanctuary, we should… praise God – not be entertained, not be spectators, should be active participants in praise

applies to whatever place is set aside for worship – private home, storefront, cathedral – first priority to be praise

mighty heavens

and as we said at beginning – God is to be praised in the real sanctuary, not just the earthly copies

Heb. 9:24For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;”

certainly all those present in heaven now are praising God; their numbers continually being added to by departed saints

thrilling concept given in Heb. 12:22-24 – when we worship God together in spirit and truth, we are by faith present with angels and spirits of just men made perfect, and Jesus our Mediator

so, praising God in earthly copy of true sanctuary is to contribute to praise of God in heavenly sanctuary

C. Themes of worship v.2

his acts – what God has done

3500 years ago Moses said: “O Lord GOD, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours?” Deut. 3:24

Creation, Flood, Babel, Exodus, Wilderness just the beginning of God’s display of greatness; has continued to present, no indication God plans to stop

besides, NT gives record of “all that Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1), all that Holy Spirit began to do in church

all that displays God’s power – his works of creation and providence – are subject for praise

the biggies get our attention: ones just mentioned + Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost; are other daily examples

each time person delivered from harm, from sin is cause for praise; same for evidence of God’s gracious governing affairs of natural world, world of men

each time new discoveries made about God’s creative genius – e.g., “new” planet, size of Neptune (10x mass of earth), 15,000 year orbit

“Batygin and Brown inferred its presence from the peculiar clustering of six previously known objects that orbit beyond Neptune. They say there’s only a 0.007% chance, or about one in 15,000, that the clustering could be a coincidence. Instead, they say, a planet with the mass of 10 Earths has shepherded the six objects into their strange elliptical orbits, tilted out of the plane of the solar system.” Science Magazine

his attributes – who God is

God’s exceeding/surpassing/abundant/excellent greatness applies to more than just power – refers to all his attributes, character

WLC 7 What is God? A. God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.

whenever God displays any of his perfections, is cause for praise: his sufficiency in our need; his presence with his children; his wisdom, justice, mercy, grace, patience – all deserve our praise

“If we were always careful to make our worship fit and appropriate for our great Lord how much better should we sing!” CHS

D. Means of worship v.3-6

instruments

cue the orchestra! all sorts of instruments with varying uses and volumes

wind: trumpet (shofar, ram’s horn), flute (perhaps pan flute or panpipe)

strings: lute (guitar-like), harp (10-stringed in some cases), stringed instruments

percussion: timbrel (tambourine), two kinds of cymbals

played by all sorts of people (Goldingay, Psalms)

priests – trumpet, used for call to worship and celebration (Josh. 6:8; 1 Ki. 1:34, 39)

Levites – lute, harp, cymbals (2 Sam. 6:5; 1 Ki. 10:12)

lay-people – timbrel, stringed instruments, flutes (Judg. 11:34; 1 Sam. 18:6)

dance and voice

“In ancient Israel religious fervor and celebration often found expression in dancing. Such dancing consists of circle dances—men with men and women with women.” Barrick

dancing in OT described as taking place outside the Temple – praise not limited to sanctuary, is expected out in world too

no one is left out, no legitimate means of expression restricted from use – includes all, skilled and unskilled, leaders and congregation… in the sanctuary and in the world

E. Worshipers v.6

two ways of reading: “let everything that breathes praise the Lord”; alternatively, with “every breath” or “all of one’s being” praise the Lord Segal

implied by categories of praise and instruments used that everybody should be involved; explicitly stated in verse 6

whole tone of psalm – its instruction and conclusion – praise is inclusive and wholehearted: everyone contributing, with vigor and energy and enthusiasm… loud and joyful and genuine… for all the world to hear

Perhaps our African brothers and sisters have it more right – word constantly on their lips is “Hallelujah!” Their equivalent of the brave Baptist “Amen”, used with lots more freedom. Would be a good practice for us to develop – to be quick and free and vigorous with praise of our God.

 

Saints’ New Songs of Joy

Psalm 149

Obviously God’s people are to be singers – this one is #149 after all! Too many exhortations / commands to praise and sing to be ignored. Being able to carry a tune is secondary, having heart that sings is of first importance. Remember what Jesus said:

Luke 6:45 “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

And another thing – way too many who profess Christianity who have faces on upside-down (visual aid). Too quick to pull mean face, complaining face, something other than joyful face – ought not to be. Think about Paul and letter to Philippi focusing on joy – 15 explicit references to joy/rejoice. Was a subject on Jesus’ mind during final hours – 7x in John chapters 15-17. Speaks of “joy no one will take from you” (16:22), prayed his followers would experience “his joy completed in themselves” (17:13).

5 Hebrew roots (14 forms), 4 Greek roots (7 forms) translated joy or rejoice. Each blessing / gift from God a new reason for praise and joy, should prompt new verse added to song of joy. May this psalm be a good incentive to renewed joyfulness as people of God. Are three songs here: song of victory (1-4), song of rest (5), song of vindication (6-10).

A. song of victory v.1-4 mercy

all sorts of speculation when this song was first “new” – some say David penned, others Nehemiah; since not specified, is useful for people of God in every period

is likely that particular event of deliverance from Israel’s pagan enemies prompted writing – has relevance to that and similar

heathen armies not only enemies in world – more significant are enemies of our souls and our deliverance from them

some psalms have clues in superscription about their use: “to the chief musician” “song for the Sabbath”; “for teaching”; “a contemplation”; “with flutes”, “with stringed instruments”

all psalms certainly for use of the church, not all necessarily to be sung in church; same true of modern “Christian” music

no superscript on 149, however is direction given in body of psalm: v.1c – Sing… “in the assembly of saints”, iow, in church

is consideration for saints, holy ones that structures psalm: v.1, 5, 9 – saints are to gather and sing, saints are to rejoice, all saints will be vindicated

who are singers: saints, Israel, children of Zion, his people, the humble – says a lot about who should be filling seats on Sunday

church worship service primarily for benefit of God’s people – they praise God, God speaks to his people, they respond to him

routine part of corporate worship – songs of praise that emphasize God’s deliverance (4b), leading his people to victory over enemies

“New mercies demand new praises.” Plumer New songs require new hearts! – professional singers do not please God – must be more than lip-service, worship and singing must come from sincere heart

even if songs don’t have new words, the old words should evoke new songs from heart as we remember new mercies/victories

singing new song of joy that pleases God requires intelligence (1-2)

our Maker designed us with both intellect and emotions – expects us to use both when we praise him

truth is… probably don’t get balance right most of time; which one predominates depends: culture, denomination, personal circumstances

when worshiping/praising corporately, can still individualize it – verse 1 of song: which mercies have we (corporately) / I (individually) enjoyed this week? how have I/we learned to rely more on his grace?

need to have brain engaged to do that, can’t mindlessly sing along with rest of congregation and praise God from the heart

to rejoice in the King – must recognize God at work in the world, know him and his ways well enough to see his fingerprints

singing new song of joy that pleases God requires fervency (3-4)

for Jewish people: involved dance, musical instruments – movement, intensity, energy that gave further expression to sung praise

demonstrated worship and adoration of God, their joyfulness in him with all their being in culturally relevant way

exact form it takes today should be informed by NT forms of worship and cultural expression – within those parameters, demonstrating “great warmth of feeling”

B. song of rest v.5

“Let the godly celebrate in triumphal glory; let them shout for joy on their beds.” HCSB – three ways: rest from daily labors, Sabbath rest, everlasting rest

worship, songs of joy not limited to sanctuary – should extend to all of life, especially “down time”; that we have rest from labors is strong display of God’s grace

same is true of rest / security from enemies – results of Fall could have been much worse, including round-the-clock labor

could also have meant no relief, no security from enemies in this life at all – sleeping soundly w/o fear gracious gift from God

daily rest from labor points toward weekly Sabbath rest, “down payment” on our everlasting rest – further reason for songs of joy

Sabbath another gracious gift – keeps us from being workaholics, reminds us we don’t get to heaven by works, intended as blessing: Sabbath made for man, not man for Sabbath (Mark 2:27)

Sabbath should be high point of our week… for both soul and body – nourishment for soul, rest for body, recalibration for all areas of life

see Hymn 767 For All the Saints v.1,4 – those who have gone on before have already begun to enjoy saints’ everlasting rest

Heb. 4 makes clear there is still rest ahead for people of God (4:9), is incumbent on us to be diligent to enter that rest (4:10)

promise of that rest enough all by itself to make us joyful, keep us praising God 24/7; time spent weekly in presence of God and his people (here and there) fuels our praise and joy for what’s yet to come

C. song of vindication v.6-9 justice

here’s where it gets tricky – what is best interpretation and application of v.6-9; has been misused in past to justify violence in name of Christ… we mustn’t do same

several things to consider as we try to avoid error: who gets the glory, what is weapon of choice, what is point of the conflict

who gets the glory

don’t forget the inclusio: Psalm begins and ends with Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! – focus throughout on God as One receiving glory

“Let the high praises [exaltation, HCSB] of God be in their mouth” – is God being praised… because is God fighting the battle

clear from one end of Bible to other the real Warrior is God – 200+ in OT, called “Lord of Hosts”, “Lord of armies”

e.g. Conquest of Canaan not story of how Hebrew army prevailed over all the rest – Judg. 2:7 “And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel.”

weapons of choice

“praises of God” and “a two-edged sword” – given nature of conflict, no other weapons are effective… and is not just a NT thing

immediately after Fall, God himself identified conflict – enmity between Serpent and woman, between followers of Satan and Jesus… iow, primarily spiritual conflict

fast forward to Joshua, Judges, Kings – conflict between rival armies, right? wrong! was between people of God and enemies of God, and same conflict persists today

yes, those battles had real huiman casualties, but they were symptoms; pagans who trusted God were delivered (Rahab)

only weapon that has been issued to us: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17)

truth needs no defense, only needs to be proclaimed; everyone w/o exception knows basic truth – existence of God, basics of right and wrong

problem not that world doesn’t get it, is that they have “suppressed the truth” by distorting or denying it

our task as soldiers of Christ: bring truth out into the open; truth all by itself will unmask Enemy’s deception

we must be careful to use right weapons in right way and leave results to God

shouldn’t try to repackage truth to make it palatable in order to get better results – will not be truly effective

hardened sinners will not be persuaded no matter how we present truth until God works from inside out

is power of God accompanying truth of God that makes it effectual in changing hearts and minds of both sinner and saint

point of the conflict

“Worship and warfare go together” – Wiersbe Satan doesn’t want our stuff, he wants our worship

remember, tried to con Jesus into worshiping him; if will do that, certainly will go after Jesus’ followers, and anyone else

God’s truth will ultimately convict all of God’s enemies, including Satan – and is God himself who carries out their sentence

there are those who will switch sides: by our proclaiming truth and work of Holy Spirit, battle for souls will result in victory

expression of triumph – not ours, the Lord’s

when that Day comes, God will put us on display as trophies of his grace, evidence of his truth and saving power

will be clear to all that those on side of Christ made right choice, followed right truth, God did good thing when he saved them

D. praise the Lord v.1a, 9c humility

all begins and ends with praise… directed to God who deserves all our praise and worship

would behoove us to get in good practice now – day is coming when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:10-11

By God’s grace we will be among the number of saints who willingly bow the knee and confess Christ is Lord to the glory of God.

Praise Him, Heaven and Earth

Psalm 148

“It is a song of nature and of grace. As a flash of lightning flames through space, and enwraps both heaven and earth in one vestment of glory, so doth the adoration of the Lord in this Psalm light up all the universe and cause it to glow with a radiance of praise. The song begins in the heavens, sweeps downward to dragons and all deeps, and then ascends again, till the people near unto Jehovah take up the strain. For its exposition the chief requisite is a heart on fire with reverent love to the Lord over all, who is to be blessed for ever.” CHS

Cambridge Bible Commentary: “Verses 1-6 correspond to Gen. 1:1-19, the creation of the heavenly bodies, while verses 7-14 correspond to Gen. 1:20-2:4a….It would not be unfair to describe the psalm as a version of Gen. 1 suitable for use as a hymn.”

Three categories – the heavens, the earth, his people; four questions for each: where is praise to happen, who or what is to praise, how are they to praise, why in particular they should praise. We all know Sunday School answers: (1) everything that has capacity should praise God; (2) should use all faculties available to praise (hand, voice); (3) that God commands it is enough reason. Since have this psalm and more like it, those answers must not be exhaustive! Gotta be more to it than just Sunday School reasons. Especially when are singled out with 12 imperatives to praise!

A. from the heavens v.1-6

where?

from the heavens – whatever we see or know to be “out there” should be worshiping God, not the object of our worship

made explicitly clear in following verses – no created thing should be worshiped; rather, everything across full spectrum to give praise to God

in the heavens – praise not something we “outgrow”, not limited to this age or dimension/sphere of existence; is for everywhere, always

who?

Angels” / “hosts” – those who minister to God, minister for God: seem to be different classes of “angels” with primary duties

(1) attending to God, surrounding his throne – Garden of Eden, Isaiah’s vision, worship scenes in revelation

(2) on military duty – Joshua at Jericho (Josh. 5:13ff), Elisha and Syrians (2 Ki 6:17), Daniel’s messenger (Dan. 10:13, 20)

(3) ministering / announcing to God’s people – Joseph and Mary, shepherds, John the Revelator

Sun and moon” / “stars of light”

all the created bodies that fill the cosmos – stars, planets, galaxies – things we know about and ones we don’t yet

Highest heavens” / “waters that are above the heavens”

whatever else there is out there that occupies the rest of the cosmos, including other dimensions… like spiritual realm

how?

voices – rational beings with ability to communicate verbally must do so: angelic type beings use voices to direct hearer’s attention to God – clearest example, angels to shepherds

Star of Bethlehem – whether star was simply following pre-ordained cosmic moves or result of particular miracle, clearly served divine purpose as GPS for wise men

some say various stars and constellations are telling story of God’s redemptive work by their movements

obedience to his laws – from sub-atomic particles to entire galaxies, all obey not laws of nature or physics or matter, but laws God designed into them at creation

God also designed them specifically to “speak” of his glory and handiwork – Ps. 19:1ff

why?

Created by the Command of the Lord (5)

God has both rights of ownership and rulership – owns because he made from nothing, rules by his own design

the kind of Being who could achieve this not only has rights, has characteristics that make him worthy of praise

Established and Sustained by the Decree of the Lord (6)

God deserves ongoing praise for sustaining power and provision – obvious in fact that “laws of nature” haven’t changed

our understanding/grasp has changed, underlying laws have not – why we can land a rover on Mars, calculate tides, create star charts for 2000 years ago, make chemical compoiunds, list is endless

B. from the earth v.7-13

where?

earth and heaven join together in praise of God – praise is from the earth, not confined in the earth: praise like other forms of communication have ability to reach beyond our sky

who?

You great sea creatures and all the depths”

virtually every layer of ocean has something living in it; many of creatures in deepest parts have never been observed by mankind

Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word”

atmospheric phenomena that can barely be predicted, much less produced or controlled by man are governed by God and carry out his ultimate purpose

routine occurrences just as much under God’s supervision as miraculous demonstrations at time of Exodus from Egypt

Mountains and all hills”

keep in mind: how mountains and hills got their shapes; variety of living/non-living things found at different elevations

also important – what is beneath the surface, whether dynamic or static: volcanos, fossils, precious stones and metals

Fruitful trees and all cedars”

whether of orchard or forest, all have purpose – to bear fruit for good of man and glory of God; fruit may be edible, aromatic, or utilitarian (firewood, lumber)

Beasts and all cattle”

creatures under sole care of God as well as those that have been domesticated

Creeping things and flying fowl”

whether clean or unclean animals, without regard for size or “significance” – by the time you get here, no creature or landform has been overlooked

” More base than reptiles, more insignificant than insects, are songless men.” CHS

Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and maidens; Old men and children.”

people from all walks and stations of life have this in common – praise of the Creator; some to set example, others to follow, all to join together in worship

bottom line here – all the things / places that have been perverted for worship must themselves give praise to God

how?

one example specific to v.7:

“One enduring mystery surrounds the most celebrated musical event in nature, the songs of the humpback whale. Before the singing can begin, the performers must give a master class in percussion. 40-ton bodies hit the sea with an ear-splitting crash and giant tail flukes thunder out a message to rival males. …With his mouth shut tight, shunting air back and forth through a larynx the size of a phone box, technically he’s humming, not singing. Whatever it is, it’s a voice that can travel thousands of miles, across entire oceans. …But does it have a purpose? “For a long time it was presumed that the singers were singing to attract females. But, there’s not a shred of evidence for it. We’ve never seen a female approach a male.” If they aren’t calling a mate, then why are they singing? Is it a way for males to size each other up? Could they even be making music for pleasure? The truth is that nobody knows. Scientists may one day find out the whole truth behind these extraordinary voices of the sea. But for now the private life of these ocean giants remains wonderfully mysterious.” Humpback Whales – BBC documentary excerpt; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oYIK6Bg6co

why?

He is exalted (13) – reminder of Jewish understanding: name not a label, name = person; God alone is at the top, sharing his glory with no other (Isa. 42:8)

is intentional component of God’s design that his creatures will praise him alone and… no one anywhere can justly claim ignorance – his glory is present in all his creation

C. from all his people v.14

where?

in the place of worship – yes, he’s everywhere, but… present in different way with his people when they worship him

who?

his people – his saints – children of Israel (Jacob) – those whom God is in covenant relationship with, iow people who are near

how?

adoration, thanksgiving, iow worship – nature of relationship God has with his people shapes their worship: he loves, they love; he provides, they thank; he reveals, they worship

why?

he has exalted the horn of his people – any victories / successes we have are result of God’s direct help and blessing

a people near to him – cause for praise with greatest personal significance: that anyone is near God is because God took initiative

God moved first, God did all necessary for our reconciliation, God makes all the moves… and we respond, God draws us away from old master and to himself

 

God Is Great, God Is Good

Psalm 147

More than any other group of people Christians should need little if any encouragement to praise. 38x in final 5 psalms strong exhortation to praise! Apparently still enough of our old bad habits hanging about still need multiple reminders. Wonder what John Calvin would think today:

he indirectly censures a sin which is all but universal of becoming wearied at the very mention of God, and counting it our highest pleasure to forget both God and ourselves, that we may give way to unrestrained indulgence.” Calvin, 1557

Mindset certainly more obvious in society at large now than 50 years ago, however basic human nature not significantly different – still fallen, motivated by sin and enslaved to it. The Christian though, a different story: no longer bound or blinded by sin. Still dealing with lingering effects of sin, ever-present need to “mortify the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13), to walk according to the Spirit, not the flesh. Summarized briefly Rom. 8:5 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”

Is somewhat a process (not strictly an event), each day making progress in Christ-likeness. Just like faith w/o works is dead (James 2:26), so faith w/o work is dead. Doing as God requires is work – not intended to be burdensome, but doesn’t just happen. Not expected to succeed in own power, yet must contribute all we can to growth in holiness. One of best helps we have: God’s Word… accompanied by God’s Spirit… and God’s people.

Warning: don’t cruise on by portions of God’s Word or principles found in it because they’re familiar. Especially ones that are there multiple times. It’s that way on purpose! Sandwiched between exhortations to praise in present psalm are reminders that God is great, God is good, God is good to us.

A. exhortation to praise v.1

it is good (1a)

is good to do – right and proper for God’s dependents to praise him; obedience always good; is good to exalt who/what is good

brings good to us – singing praise has significant effect on thoughts / emotions: shifts focus from temporal to eternal, from negative to positive, from inward to outward

praising God, esp. when Bible provides material, often reminds of other similar content: e.g., v.2 and Isa. 11:12-16; v.4-5 and Isa. 40:26-28; v.15-18 and Isa. 55:10-12; parallels with Job 38-41

it is pleasant (1b)

what gives pleasure, enjoyment – if mind is fully engaged in formulating praise, what can supply greater pleasure than thinking about God and reasons for praise

consider prominent theme in Revelation… angels, elders, living creatures, myriads of saints are doing what?? – praise integral part of what makes heaven desirable

it is beautiful (1c)

beauty: quality in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit

praise is good in itself, gives pleasure to one praising, is also source of enjoyment and edification to brothers and sisters

if praise is proper element of prayer, here is good reason for corporate prayer – mutual benefit of praising God together

B. God is great v.2-6

is good to praise God for various ways his greatness is evident; also good to think about how/when God has demonstrated greatness in one or more ways in your life, then praise specifically

he builds up (2a, 6)

perhaps immediately in view here: rebuilding Jerusalem, bringing people back from exile, rebuilding temple and commencing worship

is ongoing activity expressed: “is building”; Isaiah passage has far more than simple city in view, sees that as exemplifying Christ building his church

God does not sacrifice individual in his dealings with the group – He pays attention to true followers, the humble, deals with their enemies

he gathers (2b)

required power and greatness of God to restore exiles from foreign lands – God had to move Cyrus’ heart, later Artaxerxes

all w/o exception are outcasts from true Jerusalem; if to be any residents, God must be one bringing “back” from exile in sin

this whole concept should really lift our spirits: God not only is great, he uses his greatness for good of his people

yes, he uses means and we are among them; equally true that is God in Christ who is building up his Church against all opposition, is adding to his church daily

he heals (3)

regularly ask, then praise God for physical healing, and so we should; more essential to seek spiritual healing for particular people we know – family, friends

is the specific work / ministry of Christ to do this: Luke 4:21 “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

absolutely cause for praise when God displays his greatness in conversion of sinner and enemy into son/daughter and friend

he knows (4, 5b)

is Pluto a planet? a dwarf planet? God knows… for certain, along with its real name! yet, goes far beyond simple knowledge

God named them – he exercises sovereign authority over entire universe, from smallest to largest; absolutely everything does his bidding… w/o exception

he understands – means God can fit all the pieces together, of all created things, and himself: no limit whatever to his understanding

he is great (5a)

God is truly awesome – immense so that he fills all created space with his presence and power, at same time is completely distinct from his creation… no other being like him

have here in these verses material for praise, also “bullet points” for prompting further study

C. God is good v.7-11

repeated exhortation

sing with thanksgiving (7a)

proper response to recognition of God’s greatness: praise and thanksgiving; our response should be as frequent as God’s demonstrations of power on our behalf

sing with instruments (7b)

our best musical endeavors should be turned to praise – to extent instrument can honor God, it should

in present culture, e.g., should not need words to set music apart from what world chases; God deserves the best, what clearly points to him and draws attention to his goodness

he provides for his creatures (8-9)

God leaves nothing to chance, even something that might look like it’s on auto-pilot… the water cycle, following nature’s laws

oversees from start to finish, including things that it leads to: clouds make rain, rain makes grass grow, grass feeds creatures

his providence is gracious (10)

does not provide for his creatures in anticipation of payback – cares for them because he is good; in fact, only way they could pay God back is with what he already gave

he is pleased with goodness (11)

faithful dependence on God what pleases him most – will be expressed in heartfelt worship; God has no competition in this picture: full reliance on God in context of covenant relationship

D. God is good to us v.12-20

third exhortation to praise

call to the church – “O Jerusalem, …O Zion” – is certainly right for individuals to celebrate and praise, God is good to individuals; is also good to the ‘group’, should be ‘group’ praise in response

he protects (13a)

God protects his people from unprofitable hardship – need not fear what man can do to Christ’s church, whether by false doctrine, false accusation, other hardship they may devise

he blesses with children (13b)

is God who must continue church for next generation; his first choice to work with: children already in the church

he makes peace (14a)

no secret, if there is to be any kind of lasting peace, must be kind God alone can bring… especially peace in midst of hostile world

he supplies abundantly (14b)

God doesn’t give his kids junk food, neither short rations – supplies what we need in abundance, material and especially spiritual

he governs “nature” (15-18)

poetic description of what Hebrews’ author summarized in 1:3 – the Son “sustains all things by his powerful word”

he gives his word (19)

more particularly his word of special revelation – without this, would be in complete dark about all the rest including redemption

all we need to know to rightly believe and behave found only in God’s word the Bible, an inestimable treasure

he treats us special (20)

has not given these privileges to everyone; has revealed spiritual truth only to his people by his Word and Spirit

God is great, God is good, God is good to us – we know that and are able to praise him properly because of his living Word sent to redeem us, his written Word given to instruct us, his Holy Spirit sent to enlighten and equip us. Hallelujah!

 

The Lord Rules

Psalm 146

Last 5 psalms, one of several series of Hallel’s in the psalter. Each of these begins and ends with “Hallelujah!”

The praise of this psalm confines itself to life on earth. In Psalm 147, YHWH is praised for His help; in Psalm 148 the rejoicing takes on a cosmic (all the cosmos) character; in Psalm 149 the church does the singing, and the doxology of Psalm 150 is for “everything that has breath.”” Schultz

Taken together, serve as powerful reminder of what character of our lives should be. How many times have you heard or said: “I just want them to be happy”? Happiness is fleeting and elusive goal when pursued as a goal. Doesn’t mean we can’t be happy, does mean Declaration of Independence sets up wrong ideal: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. When we pursue holiness and the One who makes us holy, happiness will be result. True happiness apart from God is impossible; with God at center, joy and happiness should/will be regular aspect of life.

Is right that consideration of worldview begins with theology: answering question “is there a God and what is God like?”. One answer (David Noebel): yes there is a God characterized by 3 R’s – relational, righteous, ruler. All three are essential… would not be happy place if any one were missing.

A. exhortation to praise v.1

directed to all (1a)

Heb. 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

what better way to stir up and encourage one another than by exhorting to praise God – natural bent to focus on seen, not unseen

requires effort to maintain proper focus, often helped significantly by “outside” perspective – brother or sister who sees more clearly, in a better place themselves

get discouraged easily if you’re only one cheering at ball game; entirely different level of enthusiasm when whole stadium involved, mutually encouraging

directed to self (1b)

sometimes it’s ok to talk to self, especially when encouraging self to do what is pleasing to God

can intervene in area of personal need sooner than Christian brother – may be aware of need before someone else

you are often first to know that attitude starting to shift, zeal for God beginning to slacken, praise less than fully sincere

B. commitment to praise v.2

apparently talking to self had desired effect – quickly followed by strong commitment, could even be taken as a vow to praise

while I have life (2a)

since God is source of all life, is only right that his creatures should use that life to praise him; applies to all people w/o exception

Rom. 1:20 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

failure to praise God is sin against him; so also is praise that is insincere, not coming from heart filled with love

requires thought and attention to maintain attitude of purposeful praise – spontaneous praise perfectly acceptable but…

between bursts of praise, need to keep up continuous praise at some level w/o vain repetition – cannot do it mindlessly

while I have existence (2b)

certainly primary time in view is this life; don’t forget, our existence does not end at death… nature of it changes

same is true of our praise – will not end at death, but it will change: no longer hindered by anything associated with sin-tainted life

Isaac Watts: “I’ll praise my Maker with my breath. And when my voice is lost in death. Praise shall employ my nobler powers: My days of praise shall ne’er be past While life and thought and being last, And immortality endures.”

C. focus of praise v.3-5

not in government (3a)

increasingly difficult when government grows in influence, assumes authority rightly belonging to other institutions

not talking about emperor worship like ancient Rome, modern N Korea; where do you look for security, who do you trust to meet your needs

princes cannot be trusted to do what is right, cannot even be trusted to do what they promise – sadly, plenty of that in recent experience

should not be trusted to manage our money well, teach our children well, plan our future well, steward our planet well

not in neighbors (3b-4)

may be blessed to have good neighbors, family members, friends (even Christian brothers and sisters) who have been granted good helping of wisdom

no matter how great their understanding, noble their motives, they have finite perspective and resources

are limits to what they know, what they can do – life is short, when their life ends, so do their plans… and maybe our security

big picture: best human resource available is still human resource, dependent on God for all things just like we are

but in the God of Jacob (5)

must keep firmly in mind: is God who uses means like government and neighbors to provide for his people

when government does get it mostly right, remember is God still who deserves the praise

Prov. 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

poster child: Cyrus, king of Persia – Ezra 1:1 “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:”

also the case with individuals we might receive help from: are tools God uses to meet our needs, God deserves praise

child of God must ultimately have confidence in Lord God – to do what is right using best means to deliver what is best at best time in best way

D. basis for praise v.6-10

God could, has exclusive right to, require obedience by fiat – because he says so, period; didn’t choose that way

gives ample evidence (not proof) of who he is, what he’s done, why he deserves obedience/worship/praise

creator (6a, 7a)

does it matter how we got here? isn’t it enough that we are here? not according to psalmist – significance begins with origins, doesn’t end there

“who made” = “who executes” = ‛âśâh: the One who brought about created order brings about justice for the oppressed

there is purpose and meaning because Creator has given it – blind forces of matter and evolution supply no significance

second, equally important: God the Creator appears hundreds of times in virtually every book of Bible; if no creation, then no part of Bible has credibility, authority

those who speak and write in Bible take as given that God created: no creation, they have no credibility

sustainer (6b, 9)

whatever God purposed at beginning, holds to that purpose forever – means he is attentive to needs of all his dependent creation

is ongoing work of Second Person of Trinity to “uphold all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3) – comprehensively includes all creation, specifically directed to good of mankind and especially his people

provider (7b)

graciously uses circumstances of everyday life to remind of need to praise: “gives food to the hungry“, not the well-fed

liberator (7c)

God can and does at times free those unjustly imprisoned; is always work of God to free those imprisoned in sin – Isa. 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”

healer (8a)

give lots of credit to physicians, procedures, prescriptions… rightly so; don’t forget real intelligence and power makes all possible

restorer (8b)

God doesn’t expect us to just suffer through this life; he lifts up discouraged, disheartened, overwhelmed, restoring their joy

lover (8c)

the kind of affection not merely declared, it is demonstrated – loves because he is love and it “colors” all he does

love sacrifices self in order to do what is necessary and best for other person – greatest demonstration in the incarnation

ruler (10)

by God’s design, there is supreme ruler over all – over rulers of this world as well as all creation; imagine chaos if that were not so

Is easy to get all exercised about the stuff of everyday life: on the news, appointment calendar, individual / family / church circumstances. Some of it we should get upset about – if it bothers God, it should bother us. All of it we need to view thru lens of Bible… that tells us who really is in charge, who it is we should / can safely trust. God rules wisely and well, gives us material with each breath to praise him.

I Will Extol You

Psalm 145

Jonathan Edwards, at ripe old age of 19, wrote out series of resolutions… 70 in all, and reminder to read them through at least once a week. First one reads like this:

Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

Resolutions these days, especially New Year’s ones, pale in comparison for substance next to Edwards’s. Same is also true often of resolve to accompany resolutions – either lacking or nonexistent altogether. Equally disturbing: make resolution, hang in there for few days or weeks, dismiss it as not worth the trouble. Not the way of it for inspired poet – put far too much thought and effort into composition to try it for a while, then give up.

This piece of literature one of most technically involved pieces of poetry in psalter. Is an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with successive letters of Hebrew alphabet with only “nun” omitted. Poet used creative repetition to further structure his thoughts and expression, providing framework for our study. Rightly titled “A Song of Praise”, in its own right… and as introduction to remaining psalms. In the process, takes Paul’s exhortation and spreads it over entire timeline: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31 …forever and ever. Have unsurpassed example song of praise: how to praise properly, reasons we have for praise (greatness, goodness, glory, grace), encouragement that praise is contagious.

A. how to praise v.1-4

pick the right object

not 100% clear at outset, quickly obvious though who is being praised – the LORD, YHWH, the God who has a name

especially important reminder – in multi-cultural society where “God” means many things, make it clear who you are praising

1st commitment: I will extol – “elevate by praise; eulogize; praise; magnify” – iow, making God look good to others

plan as part of your day

praise something to be done continually throughout the course of each day forever – starts in this life and continues in next

to do that without “vain repetition” requires thought and awareness – paying attention to events and circumstances, actively looking for God’s fingerprints

pass the gift along

need to show the next generation: importance of praise, who deserves praise how / where to find opportunities/reason for praise

B. reasons for praise

1. your greatness v.3, 5-6

beyond comprehension (3)

God is great in his being and attributes: WSC 4 What is God? A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

can/should recognize and praise his greatness even though are unable to fully wrap minds around it

on display (5)

God doesn’t keep his greatness hidden – works of creation and providence there for all to see and meditate on: live life with head up, brain and heart engaged so as to properly praise

in power (6)

if God is source and sustainer of all things, then… not hard to find examples of his power – in nature, in caring for his people, etc, etc, and on and on

not only power of sun, volcano… God is power behind; what about invisible God parting Red Sea, manna, water from rock

2. your goodness v.7-10

kind (7a)

Eph. 4:32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.

even in discipline God is kind, not harsh – we tend to overdo…in both directions, indulgent or harsh; God defaults to kind

just (7b)

God always does what is right, as he sees it: from perspective of comprehensive knowledge and purpose; his goodness disallows injustice… in big picture

merciful (8a)

God not tolerant but he is patient – does not execute justice immediately; no one would survive that, instead is merciful to largest extent possible

loyal (8b)

“great in mercy” “great loyal love” (chêsêd) – nothing shakes God’s commitment to his covenant… even our breaking it (Hosea)

good (9a)

600+ words in thesaurus for good; here goes beyond scope of previous verse, extends from covenant people to all

“Kind; benevolent; humane; merciful; gracious; polite; propitious; friendly; well-disposed” – rain falls on just and unjust

compassionate (9b)

“There are several ideas attached to God’s deep, tender love: first, the unconditional election of God; next, his mercy and forgiveness toward his people in the face of deserved judgment; God’s continuing mercy and grace in preserving unrepentant people from judgment” TWOT

really only a summary of ways God demonstrates his goodness – not simply what God does, is an inherent part of who he is: God is love

3. your glory v.11-13

glorious kingdom (11a)

“Kingdoms of earth are glorious for riches, for extent of territory, for victories, for liberty, for commerce, and other matters; but in all true glories the kingdom of Jehovah excels them. …time, eternity, and all space are filled with the glories of God.” CHS

glorious power (11b)

consider just one example: power exercised every day to raise dead to life, particular kind of life: eternal! Eph. 1:19ff, adding living subjects to his glorious kingdom

glorioius majesty (12b)

hints at Jordan River, Mount of Transfiguration; more fully revealed: One in midst of lampstands, riding a white horse

glorious dominion (13)

dominion that knows no bounds whatever: time, space, size, diversity, quality; and… purpose of dominion is not only to display glory, but to bring glory to God

4. your grace v.14-20

holds up (14a)

weakness – meets at point of need, graciously picks up the fallen and continues to hold up; applies to various kinds of weakness: physical, emotional, moral

straightens up (14b)

weariness – lifts burdens that tax strength and endurance: overwhelmed, discouraged by circumstances or personal condition/need… 1 Pet. 5:7

provides (15)

no Deist perspective here – God intimately involved with his creation, providing for all his dependents “on a regular basis”

satisfies (16)

gives what we desire, not what we deserve, especially when we delight in him; note also – gives from open hand = abundantly

comforts (18)

“old” sense of word: God doesn’t leave us in world to fight through alone; graciously strengthens by his presence / providence

delivers (19)

nothing in us of our own doing or merit that warrants listening ear and response – is because He sits on a throne of grace

preserves (20)

don’t think it’s your genius that brings safely home to heaven – is God’s gracious preserving in spite of your genius

C. contagious praise v.1-2, 10, 21

I will (1-2, 21a)

personal commitment to ongoing attitude/life/expression of praise; if not at beginning, by end of psalm grasped idea that praise can/should be contagious… could have been purpose throughout

your works will (10a)

if people don’t praise, the stones will… Jesus (Luke 19:40); given full articulation by saints but all creation declares glory of God

your saints will (10b)

when you hear others praise, how do you respond? have a duty, praise by others encourages desire to add our own contribution

everyone will (21b)

“every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord”… and will continue through all eternity among God’s people

The Lord, My Rock

Psalm 144

Take perspective for a moment: Bible just collection of stories, some true, others fanciful. Heroes and villains living out their lives on world stage. Along comes an engaging writer, takes some truth, weaves in some imagination, creates larger than life figure and called him David. There on pages of his biography emerges the ultimate self-made man: youngest son of shepherd, older brothers conscripted in army but lacking courage, his one outstanding skill… deadly with a slingshot! Right time, right place, lucky shot with sun in giant’s eyes. Leverages that plus ability to attract a following of disaffected bounty hunters. Before you know it, rightful heir to throne is dead, then the king himself. Clear shot, David makes his move, has arrived at the top! New dynasty, house of David the one to carry on into future. David gets his statue, place in Jewish folk-lore, place of honor secure for all generations.

Except that isn’t how David tells the story, is it? In this psalm, David reflects on past, considers present, anticipates future. In each, central figure is God – God is one whose fingerprints are on everything. The one who has eyes to see true reality is thoroughly captivated by powerful God who surrounds us, the compassionate God who delivers us, the gracious God who blesses us. Compared to God and his greatness, even great man like David fades into insignificance. At same time, psalm is intensely personal: 24 uses of first-person pronouns. Not a picture of God-in-principle but rather God-in-personal-relationship… God who knows and is knowable… both transcendent (above and independent of the material universe) and immanent (present throughout the universe).

A. powerful God surrounds me v.1-4 past

psalmist states purpose first: praise for who God is and what he has done, core element of acceptable worship

what he has done (1)

God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called – Samuel anointed shepherd, not proven political/military leader

was God who oversaw training of shepherd to lead people; same story second chapter… first chapter Moses

God certainly uses means/instruments to bring about his purpose, at same time keeping his fingers intimately involved

is good thing – otherwise, just like old photocopier, something gets lost with each copy until becomes unrecognizable

btw, God still works same way today… and deserves the praise – God is the one constant, the Strong One and source of strength to do his will

who he is (2)

keep in mind: worth of our faith depends, not on its size or strength or stability, but on its object; key way to nourish faith: meditate on faith’s object, God

the more of our thoughts and vision and desires are filled with God, less room there is for all the junk of this world

lovingkindness/goodness/gracious one – “Lord, everything good in me is due to you. The rest is my fault.” Augustine

God loves, we love in return; anything good that we have from God flows exclusively from his grace, not our merit

fortress/stronghold – old saying, “man’s home his castle”; place where safe from external harm, whether human or natural

are enemies that can penetrate castle of human engineering; when God is our fortress, protected from all forces incl. spiritual ones

high tower – another view of safe place, this one inaccessibly high; important advantage: enhanced perspective of surroundings

view from the trench extremely limited, much different story from reconnaissance plane; some times God lifts us up nearer to his point of view, get to see broader picture of what he’s doing

deliverer – God frequently provides way of escape within our circumstances; may not require change of job, address, health, finances

shield – defense when things get hot, close and intense fighting; need great dexterity, strength and awareness of surroundings to use shield effectively… God is really great at it!

refuge/one I trust – God is only one we need as place of first resort, he can provide all necessary in all situations, without exception

authority – this is good one to remember in midst of endless political posturing, rhetoric and bad decision-making: “the powers that exist are appointed by God”

we have civic responsibility, yes, but… no one has authority unless and until granted to them by God himself; is true whether ruler gets it or not

in relation to man (3-4)

if man is speck on planet that is speck in the cosmos, how significant is he anyway? question those w/o biblical worldview ask

question psalmist asks: if man is speck on planet that is speck in the cosmos that transcendent Creator spoke into existence, why is he significant? …in relation to the Creator (not the cosmos)?

he really has already answered, as much as can be – “My lovingkindness”, v.2: mankind in general, individuals in particular have God’s attention because of those he loves

genuine love not based on anything measurable – size, beauty, usefulness, significance; God loves because… he is love, more than that God has not revealed

given ways of thinking prevalent in culture, topic is especially relevant – basic level of significance comes from imago Dei

image is present from beginning of life onward – not added e.g. at birth, was defaced but not erased by sin in the Garden

if God has worth and significance, everything that bears his image does also… on some level, enough so that God purposed to restore it in those who are one with Christ

don’t have to understand much about circumstances, just recognize that it is powerful God who surrounds us who has brought us safely this far… and will bring us safely home

Psa. 34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

B. compassionate God delivers me v.5-10 present

plea for deliverance… now, in dramatic and earth-shaking way, for particular purpose – could almost take this as call for Second Coming except this life continues on afterward (v.12ff)

whether poetic figures of speech or what David really wanted God to do, bottom line request is this: “deliver me from evil-doers, my enemies, in such a way that they will recognize your greatness like I have”

not an unreasonable request – is in circumstance from which only God has adequate resources to deliver

since God has already showed love, can expect he will continue to do so; God is a Rock, unchanging in his character and purposes

situation seems dire, even life-threatening: mention made of surging waters (v.7) deadly sword (v.10) indicates urgent need for attention

almost a “no-brainer” prayer – asking God to do what is consistent with his character

God regularly demonstrates his power for people to see and praise – sadly many don’t recognize or acknowledge

God routinely delivers his people from their enemies, from overwhelming circumstances – sometimes they/we don’t realize it

God is committed to punishing evildoers and rewarding the righteous – it’s his nature to be that way: righteous, just, compassionate

praise and prayer directed to Yahweh, self-existent God who stooped to make covenant with his people

should expect when we ask God to provide what he has promised in his covenant that he will answer in affirmative

be careful, God not like diner jukebox – put nickel in, push right buttons, get song of choice played

God without fail keeps his covenant promises… not always in precise way we request or expect… but always in best way to carry out his good purpose

Ex. 34:6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”

since God is compassionate, his deliverance his way requires no unnecessary pain and suffering on our part

God is pleased when people praise

not making a deal (v.9-10), simply stating ahead of time how a good child responds to Father’s care

“One could say that there is one new song but this song has many stanzas. All of God’s redeemed will add stanzas to that song throughout eternity as they praise him progressively and continually for his mercy, love, and grace to the children of men in both the exodus from Egypt and the cross of Calvary.” Carl B. Hoch, Jr.

iow, our new songs of praise are more verses highlighting God’s ongoing work of redemption applied to his people throughout history

note: promise/vow v.9 is foremost an expression of faith in God, confidence that God will indeed deliver his child in need

C. gracious God blesses us v.11-15 future

dependent on God to meet needs in present, same dependence extends into future and hope for productivity

if covenant community is to continue, need progeny (12), provision (13), peace (14), praise (15)

just as true of the Church, God’s people, today as for ancient people – have same dependence, same needs

also have same God who is pursuing same agenda and final goal – God our Rock has plan A, never has and never will deviate from it

God blesses his people who are committed to following him, doing his work his way – God delivered his people from Egypt to Canaan, not a barren desert

is God who adds children to families and to Christ’s church – we have responsibility for our part… raising children God blesses us with “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” Eph. 6:4

God expects us to make most of resources he entrusts to us – good stewardship, managing wisely so as to promote his work: “lay up treasures in heaven” Matt. 6:20

also exhorted to insofar as possible “live peaceably with all men”; “pursue the things which make for peace” Rom. 12:18; 14:19

real true lasting peace begins from inside, shows on outside – results from being at peace with God, only by power of Gospel

Talking with funeral director – from his perspective, dramatic increase in level of hopelessness. Seen in frequency of “accidental suicide”, drug overdoses among twenty- & thirty-somethings. Does all he can to point grieving family members to source of hope. For those “whose God is the Lord”, who depend on “the Lord my Rock’, should never experience that kind of hopelessness. God’s design is that we would be “blessed”, “happy”, that our joy would be full because of who God is, what he has done in us, what he is doing through us, what he will do for us. Enables us to look beyond present circumstances that cause pain and sorrow, recognize the great treasure we have in Lord Jesus.

Praying with Passion

Psalm 143

Much wrong thinking about prayer both in culture at large and among professed believers. Has prompted meme: “Stop posting memes that say share and you’ll be blessed. God is not your fairy godmother, and that isn’t how it works.” More wrong ideas: I pray, God has to listen; I don’t see results, God must not be listening; I said it once, should be enough.

“The imperative necessity of importunate prayer is plainly set forth in the Word of God, and needs to be stated and restated today. We are apt to overlook this vital truth. Love of ease, spiritual indolence, religious slothfulness, all operate against this type of petitioning. Our praying, however, needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied, and a courage which never fails.” E M Bounds, Necessity of Prayer, Chapter 7

Now don’t get wrong idea from that – people have confused mix of ideas about power of prayer… I could feel the prayers; need to get as many people praying as we can -> more prayers = more power; can’t simply pray, must “cry out to God”.

God not fairy godmother, genie in a bottle, cannot be manipulated by prayer. God not obligated to listen to anyone… other than Lord Jesus, and those who come to the Father through him. So, when those who love the world get hurt by the world, cries to God fall on deaf ears. Now, God does not turn blind eye, deaf ear to their plight entirely – at some basic level God is committed to providing for his creatures. But… he does not hear their prayers like he hears those of his children.

Prayer, even when by dozens or hundreds, does not generate aura or force field here on earth or in heaven. If you felt something when all your friends prayed, was power and presence of God. Power in prayer belongs solely to God – role of prayer is that it is means God has appointed to prompt him to act. You ask and God will do… in his way and time according to his good purpose.

Remember James 4:2b-3a “You do not have, because you do not ask.You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly” So… we must ask, we must ask rightly (for right reasons), and at times importunately (persistently, especially to the point of annoyance). Jesus told story of importunate widow – Luke 18:1-8 – had specific purpose in telling: “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart”. Prayer is serious business – deserves thought, energy and persistence. iow, praying with passion – putting our hearts into it. David first explains why and on what basis he prays, then tells God what he expects in response.

Why

a. that’s the kind of God you are v.1

hear me, pay attention, answer me

no presumption – of course God will listen, after all I’m one of his kids; doesn’t come barging in, instead requests audience

addresses God by personal name, YHWH – “God sent me”, “what is his name?”, “I AM” – God in relationship

comes expectantly, confident that God who has covenanted with his people will be responsive to needs and requests

in your faithfulness, your righteousness

we think of faithfulness = keeping commitments, kinda like dependability; is accurate, but for God it goes beyond actions

God is faithful = steady, stable – responsive but not reactionary: responds to his people according to his eternal plan

God’s faithfulness also means: will always act according to his nature and character – should expect him to do what is right, just

makes a point regarding prayer – don’t bother ask God to do something contrary to his revealed will… answer will be no!

A. I need your grace v.2

already set this up in first verse: expectation of response based on God and his character, not merit of one praying

last thing we should want or ever pray for: that God would give us what we deserve; thank God he gave Jesus what we deserve, gives us what we don’t deserve

instead should plead for mercy, that God would not add consequences for sinfulness on top of pagan persecution

if God is righteous, no one living is righteous, what then? why bother, what basis for hope? only in a suitable substitute

given other psalms David wrote, not unreasonable to think he understood a lot; we have rest of story, know his name

side note: God graciously hears prayer of his children, does not always answer in way we expect – need to listen/watch closely

B. here’s my case v.3-4

harassment nothing new!! – persecuted = pursued, chased

“It is commonly used in a military sense, where one party pursues another with harmful intent. …Given the military imagery this term usually conveys, it may evoke powerful and threatening image. Only God can deliver from this type of persecution.” Mounce

pictures those in life who just won’t give up – may be individual, organization, not satisfied until have reached goal

keep up pressure, limit freedom, make simple existence increasingly difficult, suck life and joy out of intended victim

relentless pressure takes toll on strongest believer, often by God’s design

fighting against enemies takes strength and energy… eventually reach limit of human endurance, lose ability to resist

serious situation with few options, in fact only two – lay down and die (they’re gonna get him anyway) or cry out to God

C. I look on your face v.5-6

even though thoroughly demoralized, can follow life-saving strategy – remember the old days… with particular purpose in mind

often when we reminisce, is about how good the old days were, desire to get them back… usually for own benefit

different picture here: remember old days and how good God was, desire to get back conscious awareness of God’s presence

retrospect here goes back beyond personal memory – talking about ancient days, going back to beginning

pondering / meditating on specific events and circumstances – when God was clearly working, accomplishing his purpose

e.g. Magnalia Christi Americana (roughly, The Glorious Works of Christ in America) – looking at God’s fingerprints in history

in 21st century, have huge treasury to draw from: all of Bible (not just portions of OT), all of church history to present

today’s church is incredibly impoverished by ignorance of its history and the Glorious Works of Christ in the world

highly significant result – thirst that only God could satisfy… with himself

meditating on God and his works incites to prayer and worship – essential ways we show a passion for God

this kind of meditation worthwhile at any time, under any circumstances, especially when life is difficult and overwhelming

What – specific requests

D. let me hear you v.7-8

I want evidence of your favor: I need to hear and see affirmations of your love and mercy

yes, worship God in spirit, fellowship with him on spiritual level; doesn’t make it wrong to ask for more tangible evidence

God understands we are sensory beings – he made us that way, he knows how best to encourage and lift our spirits

not idle request, to gratify curiosity or pride – has genuine need to be assured of right standing / favor with God

is logical follow-up to longing expressed end v.6 – to thirst for God that way and come up empty… situation is hopeless

devoted follower can and should pray for guidance, expecting God will supply it

trust/confidence is in God, thirst is for God, needs to be sure of directions to “find” God and have thirst quenched

listening for God’s voice, seeks wisdom to know right way through circumstances – not necessarily seeking way out, rather right way that will lead to blessing

sincere prayer communicates with God and encourages the one praying

say it out loud makes it more real – declaring trust in God reinforces trust in God, in part because God’s “spirit witnesses to our spirit that we are God’s children” Rom. 8:16

to speak and hear of focused thirst for God keeps attention on our need, fuels our good desire – builds up others when they hear also

E. help me follow you v.9-10

reporters / critics can say what they like about prayer not working: prayer is absolute life-line for believer… for all circumstances and needs

enemies are such that only God can effectively deliver; reason for that – at root they are spiritual, not simply physical

need for deliverance from enemies not simply to wide-open spaces where we can fend for ourselves – must be deliverance to God who is our shelter, protector, refuge

neat thing is: child of God can have perfect shelter in God while at same time surrounded by enemies

not bubble existence but filtered experience: only what God has decreed for our good reaches us

prayer really is for deliverance from hindrances to obedience, people or things that hold us back from doing right

and asking God to supply needed resources to be faithful: shelter, instruction, guidance

we acclimate pretty easily to what seems “normal”, think we can handle (at least some) on our own – reality is: need constant teaching/leading to know and do God’s will

all in view of God’s authority and character: you are God, you are good – you make rules, you can be trusted

F. I need life from you v.11-12

need not only more light to see the right way, need more life to follow it… for sake of God’s reputation

not asking for more because of earned merit – still consciously dependent on God’s character and mercy

in part to save my life, also for sake of your reputation… deal with enemies – one who is enemy of child of God is enemy of God

request not for vengeance, rather that God would act according to his righteous character and defend his people

if God really loves his children, is right to expect he will do all necessary for their well-being; also right for him to expect his children to give him glory when he supplies their need

Is natural for child of God to be overwhelmed at times with circumstances. Here another good example of how to deal: seek God’s help with troubles, then move on to seeking God’s help to follow. Take particular note of final phrase: “I am Your servant”. Faithful servant prays passionately that his Master would help him be faithful servant. For us, means looking to Jesus, praying in His name not our own, seeking his life and leading with energy and intensity.

“Cling to the faithfulness of the unchanging One, to the friendship of the loving One, to the strength of the Almighty One, and to the compassion and sympathy of the crucified One, and let your Jesus be all in all.” Octavius Winslow

Those Pesky Emotions

Psalm 142

Hardly anyone would deny people are emotional beings, some more so than others. Debate over how many basic emotions: some say 4, Aristotle 14. One psychologist identifies these 8: joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, surprise, and anticipation. Ok, start with 8, don’t always come one at a time – frequently experience 2 or more at once, adds up to 256 different combinations! Not only emotional, are complex beings!

Expressing emotions, being influenced or governed by emotions are different things. Both at work here in our Psalm – v.1-3 & 5-7 have similar tone, v.4 stands out from the rest. Is instructive to see how David dealt with his pesky emotions that threatened to overcome him. Starts out well, temporarily sidetracked, then finishes well.

Likely setting: David on the run from Saul; had final word from Jonathan, not safe to return (1 Sam. 20:35ff). Went to King Achish for protection, was recognized, pretended madness so as to escape (1 Sam. 21:13ff). Next stop: Cave of Adullam (1 Sam. 22:1-2), Philistine territory, near where killed Goliath. Series of caves outside town, provide refuge for David. Eventually, David’s family, others dissatisfied with circumstances joined David – 400 men in total. If this indeed the time of writing, likely composed between time of David’s arrival and when joined by others.

A. serious situation v.1-3

problem

distress

at one point asked Jonathan: 1 Sam. 20:1 “What have I done? What is my offense? How have I sinned before your father? For he is seeking my life!”

deeply pained by what he perceived as clear injustice – continually hounded, always on the run, allowed no peace… for no good reason

that overwhelms

circumstances totally beyond his ability to control or even manage – has neither the power nor authority to change anything

various forces arrayed against him way beyond his strength – particular force here a military one, applies to other kinds

bureaucracy, regulatory bodies, media… just for starters – no way the little guy can win

surrounded by enemies

even if one enemy, maybe two could be successfully resisted or avoided, they are too many… now he’s cornered

no obvious or visible way of escape from present circumstances; only two options: give up or look up

response

cry to the Lord (1a)

is a cry for help – how would you do that, with little voice or big voice? in serious trouble, need serious attention… now!

first action is right one: cry out to only one who can provide real solution to need; ok to “phone a friend”, God needs to be first on the list

plead for mercy to the Lord (1b)

request for God to provide relief – perhaps implied he is approaching limit of what he can stand, almost at end of rope

pleading that God would look on him kindly, favorably, treat him gently – take his limitations, endurance into account

pour out lament before the Lord (2a)

most complaining an outlet for discontent; here, telling God about truly unjust treatment, expecting God to act in response

declare before the Lord (2b)

common coping mechanism to deal with difficulty or pressure: “vent”; problem is venting to wrong person can make problem and attitude worse

David did right thing – “vented” to one who could do something constructive: equip the one venting, remedy the injustice

things start to change in v.3 – focus has been on God, communicating with him, stays there for first half, then…

expresses confidence that God is attentive to situation, actively involved in watching over him

then, begins to succumb to emotions – how do we know that? begins looking at circumstances instead of God, feeling overwhelmed and headed toward self-pity

B. no one else notices v.4

profound sense of aloneness

the bigger his circumstances loomed in his vision, more alone and isolated he felt; might have been before fam & friends showed up

can be surrounded by people, even friendly ones, still feel alone – “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / Nobody knows but Jesus / Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / Glory, Hallelujah.”

abandonment

even with friends nearby, can any of them make difference? change circumstances? reality of present need overshadows

anyone who could help is either absent or on other side; no one paying attention, no one advocating for change

despondency

spiral down even further – nobody can help, nobody will help, nobody cares enough to help – if no one else cares, why should I

vulnerability

where do you go from here? further down spiral of despair? perhaps into something really foolish? or the other option

C. God my only hope v.5-6

again… cry out to the Lord

would have been a good place for a Selah; wait a minute, think about what you’re saying – have both intellect and emotions in front seat but which sits where?

gotta make sure emotions don’t sit in driver’s seat too long; engage intellect, begin thinking again according to biblical principles

important concept: we have emotions but believer is not at their mercy; same for our thoughts/way of thinking

2 Cor. 10:5 “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – in this case, cry out to him for help

when get overwhelmed by situation, lose focus, get off track… get back on track by redirecting focus toward God

hope for

refuge / shelter

couple ways God could protect us: send us / direct us to a shelter or… be our shelter himself – God often does latter

simple shelter helps but… “God our shelter” makes it personal; tremendous storm, blankets not enough, child wants shelter of mom and dad, will rest in their care

inheritance / security

again, God could supply an inheritance to each of his children; instead, God has committed himself to be our inheritance

given a choice: stuff, even perfect stuff and lots of it, or God… no contest! no matter the situation or the time (this life, the next) God is all we need

“It is something to have Jehovah for our refuge, but it is everything to have him for our portion.” CHS

deliverance / rescue

is ok to tell God how we feel: I need your help, I need you to listen because I’m really discouraged; then expect answer

make specific requests: deliver from situation / circumstances that are keeping captive, perhaps hindering proper worship

only God has sufficient power

most of the time: those who persecute us are stronger than we are; always true when we consider true nature of conflict

2 Cor. 10:4 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

God alone can supply adequate weapons, effectively direct their use against spiritual opposition

D. God, the one I worship v.7

plea for deliverance has particular object – not for personal benefit, instead for freedom / opportunity to worship

that I may give thanks

emotions that were so quick to run down spiral now firmly headed up to praise – doesn’t wait for deliverance to begin

final lines of psalm expression of confidence in God, the expectation God will hear and answer his prayer

important: when thoughts and speech go in right direction, emotions will follow… if we persevere

that I and my brothers/sisters may praise

is good to give public testimony of God @ work – opportunity every Sunday, prayer requests and praises

is significant element of worship to encourage others to praise God along with us – shared joy is always best

So… when those pesky emotions make their presence known, what to do? Follow David’s example, go to God and lay out your troubles… honestly… and respectfully. Ask for his help to deal with difficulty. Express your emotions to God, both positive and negative. Ask for his help to maintain right attitude. Then do your part to focus on God, not circumstances. When focus shifts in unhelpful direction, ask for his help and re-focus. Above all, do everything in your power depending on God to do what pleases him in all things.

Facing the Giants

Psalm 141

Keep Paul’s exhortation 1 Thess. 5:17 “pray without ceasing” in mind – our present text a pretty good example of that in practice.

Movie “Facing the Giants”:

“In his six years of coaching, Grant Taylor has never had a winning season. Even the hope of a new season is squelched when the best player on his Shiloh Eagles decides to transfer schools. After losing their first three games of the season, the coach discovers a group of fathers are plotting to have him fired. Combined with pressures at home, Coach Taylor has lost hope in his battle against fear and failure.”

More giants to face than fear and failure, many have characteristic of icebergs – 10% visible, 90% hidden. Appear small, maybe manageable at first, then grow to overwhelming size. Usually do not come singly, often gang up in groups to overpower Christians especially when vulnerable.

Once again David shows by example how Christian can live victoriously. Had experience at young age facing a giant, one that had completely demoralized Saul’s army. In fact, 1 Sam. 17:10-11, 24 “And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid… And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid.”

David’s response: 1 Sam. 17:37, 45 And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

Gives us clear example in text how he dealt with 5 other Giants: Discouragement, Desire, Pride, Anxiety, Self-Reliance.

A. Giant Discouragement: seek God’s help v.1-2

first things first – forward thinking and preparing, line up resources before Giants show up; focus attention before distraction

incense offered twice daily, accompanied tending the lamps – morning and evening, beginning and ending the day

indicates prayer a regular habit, not afterthought – attitude of prayerful dependence shaped thoughts and actions 24/7

offering incense a privilege, altar positioned immediately before entrance to Holy of Holies, closest possible to God’s presence

no mention at beginning of psalm what the difficulty was; instead, begins with cry for help

request for immediate response… both to hear and act – come close, listen close

pleads that prayer would be acceptable and accepted – implied… a desire to know / sense Father’s approval and aid

when you have strong confidence God has your back, and keep that assurance at forefront, what Giant can possibly intimidate?

remember David and Goliath? “This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you.” v.46

was power and might of God-on-his-side that kept David from discouragement and fear like everyone else

discouragement can cause us to give up the fight – leads to hopelessness, makes vulnerable to other Giants

usually (for the Christian) means no longer focused on greatness of God; looking instead at size of problem

when God is near, we are in tune with him, all obstacles / challenges / opposition shrinks in comparison

does not relieve of responsibility / need to seek God’s help with other Giants

B. Giant Desire: avoid temptation v.3-4

desire gets expressed in many ways – most obviously in words and actions, especially when desires are sinful

typical habit is to talk first, then act… hence need for speech filter

words like bullets – can do lot of damage and… once you pull the trigger, you can’t get them back

huge temptation, one encouraged by large segment of culture, say whatever is on your mind… don’t hold back

can get speaker into big trouble when responding to others or about others without proper care and thought

not a new problem, remember Adam – already in trouble with God, mouth got him in deeper

same will happen to us… if omniscient Guard not on duty –

desire for revenge – we’ve been hurt, tempted to respond in same way; desire for injustice to be righted – treated unjustly, tempted to overdo response; desire for different circumstances – life is hard, tempted to complain

bad thing about words – have power to provoke others to wrong response, get them in trouble with God too

more important, words not greatest problem – are symptom of deeper issue: thoughts/desires out of sync with biblical principles

need God’s protection from wrong desires, desires for wrong things, temptation to desire wrong things

in fallen unregenerate condition, desires always tend in wrong direction – even if desire right thing, is for wrong reason

regeneration doesn’t remove problem, just reduces and enables us to deal with what’s left… with God’s help

being born again doesn’t change allure of many wrong things; need God’s help to resist that, too

then there’s trick of rationalizing – not the one sinning, makes it all right; e.g., enjoying movie with gratuitous violence

C. Giant Pride: take correction v.5

this one often the toughest to overcome; truth is probably cannot count on final victory in this life… just when you think, you get it!

definitely need God’s constant help to receive correction with right attitude – helps to think right going in

prayer is that God would purposely send correction… from friends not enemies, from the righteous, brother or sister

God can / does use all sorts of experiences to achieve correction and sanctification; easier to receive when from someone who loves us, has as motive our growth in godliness

requires humility – neither over-estimating or under-estimating our self; recognizing gifts God has given, also areas needing help

acknowledging areas that need work should be accompanied by willingness to receive correction/instruction and make application

usually not a strong point for most people – much more receptive to the help we ask for, on our terms

prayer includes request for God’s help with right response – good request any time, especially when pride might interfere

even Paul, near end of life, did not think he’d arrived; must keep focus on Christ, not fellow-travelers

praying without ceasing keeps eyes on right standard, reminds of dependence, keeps pride at bay

helps us remember God’s purpose – his glory and our good; our request should be: do whatever is best for me

D. Giant Anxiety: leave results to God v.5c-7

if are walking in the light, walking as Jesus walked, what does future hold? especially when surrounded by evildoers

short answer: we don’t know, not even what next moment holds

James 4:13-15 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”;whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

sing the song “I Don’t Know About Tomorrow”, is really true even though we plan

our job – live each moment in full dependence on God, doing his will to best of our ability, trusting him for outcome

pray for evildoers to be thwarted, stopped, defeated… and keep pressing on in God’s strength

God’s intention for us to be used up in his service, holding nothing back, following principles he has given

here’s what we need to remember: have no way lf knowing what is in tomorrow, but… know who is there

God who is already present in every tomorrow far greater than Giant Anxiety present in our today

Bible also makes perfectly clear who commander is in war against evil: Josh. 5:14 “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped”

same Lord Jesus still Commander, will continue 1 Cor. 15:25-26 “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.”

if Giant Anxiety is enemy of God’s people – he steals their joy – he is one whom Lord Jesus will utterly overthrow

Q & A for us same as for Joshua – whose side are we on? the Lord Jesus? have nothing to fear, then, no need to be anxious

E. Giant Self-Reliance: walk by faith v.8-10

this one gets regular feeding and watering from many sources, big one being secular worldview

one or two “successes” make it real easy to depend on self rather than God… quickly joins forces with Giant Pride

if Giant’s greatness diminishes next to God’s, same is true for our own – when eyes are on God, see ourselves more clearly

best defense against Giant Self-Reliance: keep eyes firmly fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:2), depending on him to provide for needs

direction – when eyes are on right goal, will follow right path to get there… since Jesus always leads us right

note to self: make sure other “directions” you hear match up with ones from God, Jesus, Bible

shelter – who/what do we rely on for shelter: things of our/man’s design or of God’s?

need to maintain proper distinction between provider and means – God can work without means, most times does not

walking by faith requires confidence in Provider, not the means he uses – job, pension, health plan, investments, skills

discernment – two sides of same coin: dependence / responsibility; depend on God’s guidance, watch your step

yes, rely on God to guide us rightly but not puppets – must do our part to avoid traps and snares

when eyes are filled with Christ and his truth, will have perfect filter in place to recognize error, deception

deliverance – even when do our best to walk right, live in broken world… at risk of walking into trap unawares

just like mouse can steal bait from trap, God can deliver us from trap – we walk through unharmed, God springs it shut on wicked who set it

Can do far better than simply “face the giants”. Can overcome them through regular posture of prayer and dependence on our King and Commander in Chief – Lord Jesus.