Psalm 16 Utmost confidence in my Safe Place!

Where do you find confidence?  When everything around is in turmoil, when life gets, overwhelmingly, loud and there is a constant demand for your attention where can you find some peace?

Do you have a safe place?   This is a question those who are on the spectrum need to have an answer to.  They need a safe place to regain confidence when melt down is imminent.  A safe place to go when the stims of life have turned an otherwise healthy environment toxic.  But they surely aren’t the only ones who need to know where their safe place is.  Even King David the writer of this Psalm spoke of his safe place.  The place where he turned and found renewed confidence and inner peace to carry on.

This Psalm of David has no specific point in history for us to look up.  No heroic battles won, or near death escapes for the King of Israel.  It is simply a declaration of what David knew to be true.  So, if you have your Bible or app along you might want to turn there and follow along.  Each version has its nuances so follow along in which ever version you prefer.  We’ll look at each verse this morning out of the NIV and the NLT and see if we too have discovered David’s safe place.

Psalm 16 (NLT)

David begins,(1)   Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.”   You and I know that God is a person not a place.  So clearly David isn’t suggesting otherwise here?  Yet repeatedly David has taken refuge in His God.  Psalm 7:1, “O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me…” (NIV).   Psalm 11:1, “In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain” (Psalm 11:1 (NIV).  David’s confidence was clearly in the Lord, he rejected the idea that refuge was to be found elsewhere.

As I wrote that, I suddenly found myself thinking of the refugees out in Summerland that Sylvia and Renee mentioned a while ago.  If you remember, after escaping war-torn Syria, enduring horrendous living conditions, they sought refugee status in Canada.  And like winning the lottery they were granted visas and sponsored by caring Canadians.  Then they traveled to the other side of the earth, looking for a safe place to raise their family. Looking for a refuge.

And as they settled in Summerland it surely looked like safe refuge for them.  But then, as we have often seen as of late; when the vacancy rate of rental properties dips below 1%, and prices of those few remaining rentals increase with demand, these refugees had the house sold from under them.  At the point S&R asked us to pray for them, they had two months to move and it was causing great inner turmoil for them.

They thought they had found refuge in a house but it was sadly temporary.  Yet David clearly expressed much confidence in his Refuge, his safe place.  A confidence that seemed unmoved by circumstances.  David, “(2) …said to the LORD, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.”   David’s Refuge was found in the same place that S&R asked us to pray for those refugees.  In fact, God was the source of everything good in David’s life.  Can we pray for better refuge than that for them?

In verse 3 David thanks God for that which God has blessed him with.  (3) The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”

The Godly ones!  Did you notice that?  Psalm 84:10 says, A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked” (NLT)

The day I began to write this message Rika went home to her Refuge.  She had lived a long and sometimes difficult life but in the end, there was no doubt how godly she had grown.  Like some versions of your bibles, the word godly and saint were interchangeable.  Rika was a delight to be around even though she was feisty at 97, there was no doubt that Jesus was her Refuge!

David delighted in the saints because of Who their refuge was.  He didn’t worship them, but he sure admired them.  Called them heroes!  They were the people he enjoyed being around the most.

I hear sad things at times out of the mouths of people who call themselves Christians.  Like when they say they prefer the company of the ungodly.  In fact, they’d rather be out with the ungodly than be with the godly at church.   I just shake my head.

How is that possible I wonder?  How is it that a professing Christian finds more in common with the people who find nothing in common with the one whom they profess to be their Refuge?  What does this really say?  Are they truly whom they claim to be?  Or have they never actually met those “godly people” …David’s “true heroes”?

Seriously if you would rather keep the company of the ungodly that says more about you than you think.  I know you will likely come back with “but Jesus hung around with “tax collectors and sinners”, “prostitutes” and shady characters”.  “And He was God in the flesh. If it was good enough for Him it is good enough for me”

But really?  Did he hang out and party, cursing and carrying on like them?  Enjoying what they enjoyed and doing what they did?  Worshipping what they worshipped?   And did those people carry on doing the ungodly things they had always done once they had been with Jesus for a time?    His record is spotless how about yours?

Delitzsch writes, “The expression of his abhorrence attains its climax: even their names… he shuns taking upon his lips” (1:224: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.)

David said, Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods. I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods” (Psalm 16:4 (NLT).   Basically, he said, “I’m not with them, I’m with the godly ones.” He taken a stand.  Which doesn’t mean he thought he was perfect like you and me!   Clearly there is a line that you and I ought not cross even as we try to bring the ungodly folks that come into our lives to further a relationship with our Lord.  But it does mean he’s all in.

 “LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine” Psalm 16:5 (NLT) David has things that are dear to him.  He’s not some ascetic monk living in the wilderness.  The truth is God has given that once shepherd boy a kingdom full of things that his heart desired.  Fancy clothes, horses and chariots and clubs and swords….  Gold and silver and precious stones, even land!   “The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!” (Psalm 16:6 (NLT).  He possesses much but it doesn’t possess him.  He doesn’t worry about leaving it to go and do what God is calling him to because he knows that God gave it to him and will keep what he needs for him.

How does he know this?  Well, David gives us a clue in verse 7.   “I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7 (NLT).  That’s a personal relationship with the almighty that David is getting at.  A relationship that he clearly cherishes.  His counselor is the creator of everything and he acknowledges his reliance on the God who guides.

I don’t know about you but I know I have times when my days are hectic and so full that time to think things through just doesn’t happen.  And Like David I have experienced those times when I finally go to sleep and sure enough in the middle of the night the answer suddenly comes.  I try to get up and write it down.  Or I’ll make a note beside my bed on the tablet.  Cause sure enough I’ll forget it by morning.

Now I can ask other Pastors, and talk with smart people, even Google answers when I need to know something but trusting God as your counsellor – is the safest place to go to and the safest to listen to.

David was that confident.  He was so confident in his safe place that he wrote, I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me”
Psalm 16:8 (NLT).   Put your confidence in man, and even the most loyal one will eventually fail you or not be there when you need him.  Trust in technology and you’ll find out quickly when the power fades how poor a safe place that is.  But when you have a friend who sticks closer than a brother, now you’re in your safe zone.   Now your confidence has a resting place.

I think David surprised himself with his declaration in verse 7 because in verse 8 he writes, “No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety”
Psalm 16:9 (NLT).   With God, right beside you, what have you to fear?  Yet I find, as I wander at times, that the assurance the David proclaims doesn’t hit home.  And in those times, I don’t sleep so well.  I may toss and turn all night long…ever been there?  David is doing more than instructing us and giving God praise in these verses.  These things he writes are for instructing his own heart, telling it what the truth is.  Not accepting the counsel of the wicked, or giving into fear and superstition. He reminds himself where His refuge is found and he instructs his heart to go to his Safe place when even death threatens to rob him of his peace.

He thanks God that,God will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave” Psalm 16:10 (NLT).     David didn’t want death to be the end of it all.  And now he knows that the best is yet to come! But at the time he wrote this do you think he understood the resurrection?

I’m aware that the Apostle Peter used these very verses in Acts 2:23-25 as he spoke of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, our Safe Place confirmed according to Paul.  Peter looking back confirms what David spoke in faith, looking ahead.

He was told by the prophet Nathaniel; the account is found in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, that David’s legacy would live on through his children.  But was it more than a spiritual resurrection as they call that?

Nathaniel said to him, “(12) When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, (euphemism for dying or death.  David did know that like his fathers he would die.)  Nathaniel goes on to say, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, (this would be a physical, blood line descendant) and I will establish his kingdom.  (And we know that Solomon, David’s son did carry on as King of Israel).  Nathaniel goes on to say, (13) “He shall build a house for My name,  (Still speaking of Solomon.   Solomon’s Temple is a historical, traceable fact of history…you can read all about it.  It happened as the prophet predicted.) Nathaniel predicted, “He shall build a house for My name,  and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever”. (David was told about a throne that will last longer than a man lives.  Forever. One of David’s descendants’, Jesus Christ, His Kingdom would last forever.   Jesus – the son of David, the Son of God whose body never saw decay nor did it stay in the ground!  Because on the tird day He rose from the dead in accordance to the scriptures.  Jesus would literally live forever! )   But wait for it…).     Nathaniel speaking for God goes on to say, (14)  “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, (15)  but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you”
2 Samuel 7:12-15 (NASB).   This king would suffer taking on the sins of the world, being corrected by man’s devices, beaten and hung on a cross to die, but unlike Saul who went to the grave, whose body did decay this son of David would continue to reign under God’s protection and refuge and history confirms this too.  But wait for it… Nathaniel then says, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever’2 Samuel 7:16 (NASB).  Jesus rose bodily from the dead, “did not see decay” ascended to the right hand of God, the place of absolute authority and reigns forever.

So when David said confidently, For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.  You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever (Psalm 16:10-11 (NLT).  If this was written after Nathaniel’s prophecy, David already understood that he was of the lineage of the coming Messiah and spoke of the joy of being in God’s presence with his son forever.   Is that cool or what!  No wonder he had such confidence!

Romans 8:10-11 says, “(10)  And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. (11)  The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:10-11 (NLT).

Make this your safe place and you can never be shaken!  Amen?

Psalm 6 – Remember – No Pain – No Gain? How Depressing!

“Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you” (Deuteronomy 32:7 (NIV).

 

I don’t know how many times I need to hear this lesson but seems that the Lord brings it up again and again.  Remember no pain, no gain!  Perhaps I’m hard of hearing or slow to learn but His Love never fails, it never gives up, and it never runs out on me.  So why is it that when pain comes I sometimes get so depressed?

And I’m not just talking about those days when I’m feeling lonely or blue.  You ever have those days? Those days come and go for everyone I’m told.  Nor am I talking about those times when I’m grieving the loss of someone close.  Everyone experiences a little depression when grief and loss comes.

No, I’m talking about those dark episodes that linger and seem like they will never end.  Those days where it seems Simon and Garfunkel take control of my thoughts with “hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again”, and even when I pray, seems all I hear are “sounds of silence”.  Have you ever been there?

Those times when like David says in this Psalm, I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears” (Psalm 6:6 (NIV).   It’s in those times that we especially need the Soul Care of Scripture and the skillful hand of our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of David, to bring us back to truth and emotional health like only He can do.

Now I have no idea where you are at as I’m writing this.  In fact, I don’t even know where I will be emotionally, on the day that this sermon is written for.  But the day I began writing was April 18th and I had been downstairs half the morning with God’s Kitchen talking with many people who were, without a doubt, in desperate need of the Soul Care that comes from hearing and understanding these very Scriptures.  From, “Remembering the days of old; considering the generations long past. Asking your father and … your elders, to explain to you” just how they coped with misery (Deuteronomy 32:7 (NIV).

In Psalm 6 David deals head on with those “sounds of silence” and the fears that he has gone past the point of no return with God’s patience.    I know it’s not a cheery feel good start for our Summer in the Psalms, Soul Care but sometimes life’s like that.  And you have to deal with it!  And in those times, knowing how David worked his way through the darkness may bring us the light we need to see that there are better days ahead.

So if you have your Bible’s along let’s go through Psalm 6.

Ok so my sound effects can use a little help.  But I hope you have caught that this is a Psalm of someone deeply in pain and clearly depressed because of it.   Yet David is also genuinely repentant, even sorrowful for what he owns as his fault for the situation he finds himself in.  In fact, he not only owns it he accepts that he had it coming because of his choices.   David is showing integrity.

“This Psalm is commonly known as the first of seven Penitential Psalms… (The other six are Psalms 32, 38, 51, 102:1-7, 130, 143)” (The Treasury of David.)  Each one expressing a genuine time of heartfelt repentance by one who has messed up perhaps Royally messed up again.  We’re not talking oopps I let the f-bomb slip past my lips.  Some of these Psalms were written after dark and major transgressions in the life of the Psalmist.

Take for instance Psalm 51, which was written after David had an affair with Bathsheba and then David ordered her husband to the front lines to be killed.  David did this to cover up his sin because Bathsheba became pregnant as the result of their affair.

Psalm 6 is harder to pin down as to what brought on the need for such sorrowful words.  Some scholars believe that David grew gravely ill and was near death when he cried out:

“O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath (Psalm 6:1 (NIV).

Stop for a moment and imagine. What might it look like for the Lord to disciple you in His anger or wrath?  Would it look like this?

 

The finger of God reaching down and suddenly you’re toast!  A pile of ashes with wafers of smoke.  Sometimes, I don’t think we quite understand the extent of the power of His wrath.  Trust me you do not want to get God angry.  But wrath isn’t the verb of the sentence.   Still, maybe your idea is more like this picture?

 

This kind of wrath…when your cup of inequity has reached its limit on high and your sins flow from heaven like burning sulphur, levelling everything in their wake.  A rebuke so strong that even a slight act of rebellion gets swallowed up because of the heinous nature of sin.

Lot’s wife was severely disciplined for looking where she ought not. And to this day the once fertile land of Sodom is uninhabitable.

“O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath (Psalm 6:1 (NIV).

God’s anger?  What would David have remembered, or learned from the elders about God’s anger?  He could have thought about the time when the ground open and swallowed 14000 rebellious people and everything they owned…

Numbers 16:31-35 tells us: (31)  … the ground under them split apart (32)  and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. (33)  They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. (34)  At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” (35)  And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense” (Numbers 16:31-35 (NIV).  I don’t suspect David had that event in his mind as he laid on his sick bed.

Maybe your imagination of verse 1 took you more in this picture’s direction? 

David would have heard from his father and been taught by the elders of that time when Miriam was so rebellious. How her rebellion angered the Lord who showed great restrain I might add.  After a strong rebuke from the Lord she suddenly was stricken with leprosy (cf. Numbers 12:3ff).    That sickness was indeed a discipline from the Lord! There was a clear cause and effect.  It was immediately evident to all who were there when it happened.  This wasn’t a sickness that came on over days, months or years.  The moment the Lord finished speaking she went from fair skinned to leprous.

I stress this because a lot of sickness is blamed on God that is clearly organic.   Even some types of depression.   A chemical imbalance can cause the mind to drift into darkness and despair.   The depression may not be spiritual in nature at all.  And if it is simply a chemical imbalance all the casting out of demons and prayers of repentance of sins will do for you is cause more despair and depression, even greater anxiety because God’s seemingly lack of compassion may even seem punitive.  Until the chemical imbalance is rectified, or God chooses to supernaturally rectify it, the darkness of despair will remain.  Good News! God has given some to be Doctors and Chemists and allowed mankind to find out about those chemical imbalances and God has given knowledge of treatments that can radically alleviate the chemical imbalances.  This too has been in answer to prayer! Yes even science can be an answer to prayer!

Which doesn’t negate the fact that sometimes God does rebuke and discipline people, physically, biologically, powerfully at times.  What we can learn from any of these wrathful passages is that when God is rebuking you in His anger or disciplining you in His wrath, you know it.  Miriam had no doubt Who caused her sudden case of leprosy.  It didn’t start as a speck and spread slowly, it came along with a verbal rebuke so the lesson was understood.

If David was sick, as some suggest, he certainly could look back to all he had learnt of God’s anger and wrath and begin to worry and fret that his current situation was about to go from bad to worse. David knew that he wouldn’t stand a chance if God disciplined him in anger or wrath.  So he cried out for mercy.

Remember, no pain no gain.  It wasn’t that David wanted to get away with the sin he was being disciplined for, he just didn’t want God to be angry or wrathful when he was being rebuking David.  And so, David begins this prayer appealing from the knowledge of Who God is, and the understanding of What God could do appealing to His compassion.

(2)  Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. (3)  My soul is in anguish.”

David was hurting deeply.  Physically hurting and in much pain, but also in great mental anguish.

Physical pain wears you down on all levels!  Because you can’t do things you used to do psychologically that may lead you to believe that you are worthless.  Mentally you struggle with those doubts and that self-worth and left unchecked that can spiral into depression.  So, let’s nip that at the bud, shall we?

No more pain!  Yup, that’s the answer, right?  Get rid of all pain.  If David hadn’t felt bones in agony he wouldn’t have had mental anguish and his life would be rosy, right?

Unfortunately, the avoidance of pain usually leads to other issues.  In fact, ask any addict what got them hooked, and if they know themselves at all, they will tell you the pain that lead to addiction.  So get rid of or somehow mask the pain, because pain is bad! Right?

Pain is actually something to thank God for.

leprosy caught

I know, you are likely thinking,  “What is this sicko pastor talking about. Pain is something to thank God for?”  Bear with me for a moment.

Many years ago, as I was beginning my journey with Christ, I read a book called, “The Gift Nobody Wants” by Phillip Yancy and Dr. Paul Brand.  They’ve since changed the title to “The Gift of Pain”.   I guess they wanted people to want to buy a book about something nobody wants.

Dr. Brand spent much of his career helping people with Leprosy.  And he came to the understanding that pain is actually a gift that helps us know when something is wrong or hurting so that we could actually do something about it.  Without pain one gets into much trouble, as Dr. Band learned from those with Leprosy.

In Moloka?i, Hawaii stands a grave to a Saint named Father Damien, one of only a few people in America to be officially Sainted by the Catholic Church.  Father Damien was a compassionate and caring priest who personally cared for the needs of those with Leprosy.  This at very great person risk back in those days I might add.

As you can see from the picture above the risk was genuine.  He eventually noticed, after pouring scalding hot water on himself and not even flinching, that he had contracted the disease and some time later he died from leprosy.

But unlike those with leprosy David was in agony, physical, mental and spiritual agony.  His pain kept him up day and night and the lack of sleep combined with that intense pain caused him great mental anguish.

Those who have suffered like that can tell you that at first you feel that this is temporary and will go away.  But when it doesn’t, it’s hard to keep up hope and not slip down that slippery slope.

Again, this wasn’t the pain of a sore foot throbbing that wakes you up once and while that David’s crying about.  David’s cry “how long Lord, how long?”, tells us that this had knocked him down near the point of death.   In fact he says exactly that in verse 5 as he calls out to God,  “No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave?” (Psalm 6:5 (NIV)

Again, David isn’t being a drama queen here.  And he doesn’t accuse God of being sadistic in delivering the discipline that David felt was just.

Instead David calls upon God’s mercy, Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (Psalm 6:4 (NIV).

David reminded God of what He said about himself as His Glory passed in front of father Moses, “…God proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…” (Ex. 34:6-7).   David had remembered God’s unfailing love in the past.  He remembered what his father and the elders said about their God.  He knew the stories of deliverance as well as those of His wrath.

He knew that when they called upon God, even while in their rebellion, God not only disciplined them but He also delivered them.

David looked back to see what was ahead and he remembered God’s unfailing love.  And you can too!

Because Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday today and forever.  His promises are sure.  He is the faithful one so unchanging!  But if you sin…remember, “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…” (Ex. 34:7).  He loves you too much to let you continue to do those things that hurt you.  So, He’ll discipline you appropriately.

Solomon, wrote, (11)  My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, (12)  because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in”(Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV).

This pain had a purpose for David’s life.  And it is still fulfilling its purpose thousands of years later. But, Hebrews 12:11 says, No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).   No pain, no gain!

BUT only sicko’s like the pain!  Emotional pain like physical pain maybe necessary and even a gift that can tell us when something is a skew in our relationship with God and or our fellow man.  So even there, no pain, no gain!  But too much pain is simply too much!

David cried out, (6)  I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. (7)  My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes” (Psalm 6:6-7 (NIV).

David was human.  We all have our limits when it comes to pain.  Unless of course we’re leprous or too macho for our own good.  David cried mercy and our Heavenly Father knows when enough is enough.

As kids my older brothers and I liked to watch Stampede Wrestling on Saturdays.  And as brothers do we would occasionally wrestle as we watched.  We had a code word when we could stand it no more.  We would cry, “uncle”.   And most of the time the one with the upper hand would stop.  Not always, … but most of the time.  Sometimes it would be days before the sore muscles and bruises vanished especially when we refused, in our pride to cry, “uncle”.  Eventually I learned when enough was enough, at least while wrestling with my brothers.

David didn’t succumb to the temptation to curse God and die, or even crawl under a rock to die.  Instead, with all that was left in him, he cried out to God for mercy.

Now this Psalm could have ended with his cry.  It could have left us guessing what the outcome was.   But David himself tells us what happened next.  The battle briefly intensified for his mind and then it suddenly was over.

David said,(8) Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. (9)  The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.”

How did David know that the Lord heard his prayer?

I suspect it was the remembrance of past answers where God had delivered him that gave him confidence in this present darkness.  After all the God of his yesterday was still his God in the day of pain.

Like David, we too need to look back to how God was there for us to find hope for our future.  For the God of our past is present with us and will be with us for eternity.  He will never leave us nor forsake us, and we know He disciplines those he loves.

We see at the end of this Psalm that David suddenly had the strength to fight on and the confidence that the outcome would be victorious!

(10)  All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace” (Psalm 6:10 (NIV).   The God of his past gave David hope for his future, once more and again.  He had victory over the darkness.

As that great Hymn writer wrote, “The darkness will turn to the dawning and the dawning to noon day bright! And Christ’s great Kingdom will come on earth, the Kingdom of love and light.” (Lyrics: We’ve a story to tell to the Nations)

summer in the Psalms Soul Care

Psalm 1:1-6 Finding good direction for your life.

Every trail leads somewhere but do all those paths end up in the same place? And if not, just what happens when you find you’ve ended up on the wrong path?  What do you use to reset your direction?    Some people just follow the crowd, others set their own direction by intuition, while still others seem to have some sort of spiritual director guiding their way.  What about you?  We all need some direction at times.  It doesn’t matter if everything is going good or if the path we are on is rocky and we’re carrying a load.  But just where can we find good direction that brings us to a successful conclusion?

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Psalm 148 B.E.G.I.N. with Praise

 

Ah, it’s summertime in Penticton.  For some that means it is time for golfing, going to the beach, camping, and other adventures with God into the great outdoors.   As I was planning and praying what this summer series should like I thought, hmmm… another summer in the Psalms perhaps?

Truly, the Psalms have become for me much soul care and even more.  I can’t help but commune with God as I read and study this portion of Scripture.   So to spend a quarter of our yearly church calendar preaching and teaching from them seems good to me.  And I especially enjoy when you give me specific Psalms to go through.

So if you have a favorite Psalm that we haven’t gone through in the last couple of years let me know after the service and I’ll work them in over the summer if I possibly can.  You can also email me or put a note in the offering or for those watching online you can use the chat box next to the video.  But feel free to let me know which Psalms have impacted you and maybe even in a sentence or two say why they have.  And together we’ll hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to our church.  So this summer let’s do this journey together.

Slide2

As I prayed about what to call this summer series our yearly focus of Give to God the Glory –GtGtG seems fitting but the more time I spent communing with the Lord the more the sub-focus of B.E.G.I.N. seemed to shape my direction.

B.E.G.I.N. with Praise.  Bringing Every Gentile Intimate News with praise.  That’s what the Psalms can do.  Though the various Psalmists have moments of grief and sadness in their lives it seems that they chose to continue to praise God and somehow those heavy burdens seem to get lighter.  And in time as they journeyed down life’s path they grew in wisdom on how to avoid many of the pitfalls found along the way.

Slide3So this year not only will we focus on the Psalms but also some Proverbs during the summer series.  Perhaps we can glean some of that wisdom without having to experience all the pitfalls along the path.   Then we can B.E.G.I.N. with Praise and Wisdom.

I realize the connection may not be immediately evident, yet these two characteristics of the Christian life develop together and often feed off of each other.  And in my observation, God uses both the praises of His people and the wisdom they have been given to draw others into an intimate walk with Him.

Today we’ll begin in praise looking at Psalm 148.  This Psalm is part of the “hallel” collection, which includes the last 5 Psalms in the Bible.  They are labeled so because of the Hebrew word that both begins and ends the passage.  That word is transliterated ‘hallelujah’ in the English and more often than not translated, “praise the Lord”.   So let us B.E.G.I.N. to Praise the Lord as we read this passage and see if we can find some wisdom for our journey.

“Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights above.  Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts.  Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars.  Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.  Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.  He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away.  Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,  lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding,  you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,  wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds,  kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth,  young men and maidens, old men and children.  Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.  He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the LORD” Psalm 148:1-14 (NIV).

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Hallelujah, Hallelujah! What a magnificent sunset Lord!  And just when I needed it too!  My photo assignment on Facebook for that week was “Sunset”.  And God gave me a beauty to shoot.  The sky erupted into a song of praise for our Lord.  It was a ten minute solo that was sure to make even a pagan go wow!  And then as quick as it came on darkness filled the sky and I waited for a night shot as Gail said there may be aroha borealis that night.    The rest of that week we were sopped in with rain but for that moment it seemed like the clouds and the sun just said ‘hallelujah’.  And so I echoed the sentiment and praised the Lord as a snapped a dozen or so shots.  

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Lately Lynda and I have been doing more back country road trips.  We hop in the ford head down some dust roads around our area. This shot is from high up the Anarchist, in the new sub division called Sasquatch.    It overlooks the Canadian / US border towns of Osoyoos and Oroville.  You can just see the praises going up to God can’t you?   Ok…so it’s rain coming down but if you use your sanctified imagination you can get the picture. 

I‘ve been struck once again by the amazing beauty that God has placed all around us.  I don’t know about you but I can’t help feeling blessed living in this part of the world. 

Pastor Scott coined a phrase that we use a lot around Grace, he said that we in Canada have “won the birth lottery”.   But did you know as Christians in Canada we have won more than the birth lottery, we have been given a double portion!  We have won the rebirth lottery!   Not only do we live in the greatest place on earth but we have been given grace to live in the present with eternity in our hearts!  God is truly awesome!  Worth of all our praise! Amen? 

The Psalmist, who some scholars attribute to David but most others attribute to anonymous, has narrowed the focus for this Psalm to one purpose.  It is the purpose and calling of every human being and all off creation too.   When we get this one right in our hearts our world with all its foibles fade into their proper places.   

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The Psalm begins and ends with “Hallelujah” – it’s a command not simply a statement.  A call to the heart to do something it may not at that moment feel like doing.  It insists a firm choice be made and not just thought about. The Psalmists cries, “praise the Lord!”  Make the choice. When you do it’s like rain in the dessert land!  Out of that dry ground will spring even more reasons to continue to praise the Lord.

In Psalms 146-150 the Psalmist is saying look around you!  Look at what God has created and give Him Praise!   Like a conductor leading the choir, the psalmist is purposely calling all of heaven to bear witness by joining their voices together in that song of praise.  It is the highest and holy calling of all of creation. And it gives us a glimpse into what Heaven is all about.

In Isaiah chapter 6 we see another glimpse of heaven.  I should interject that this is one of the few glimpses into heaven that God has given mankind.  Beware of those false images painted by people who supposedly died and came back to tell us what heaven is like.  

Those images are purely imagination and likely not at all reality.  We know this because they seldom make mention of and more often than not conflict with what the Bible has clearly shown that heaven looks like.  So don’t run out and buy the latest ‘true story’ about someone who died and went to heaven and back expecting to find ‘divine revelation’.  Expect imagination and lots of creative license and you won’t be sucked in or disappointed by their biblical misrepresentations.  But know this too, Isaiah, a proven prophet of the Lord, was invited to receive this revelation of what truly happens in heaven. 

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And he wrote about what he saw in the temple of the Lord: “Above God were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.  And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”  At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:2-4).  Seems this praise fest was profoundly loud and apparently had a great bass section that shook the whole temple! 

The angels around the throne were doing exactly what the Psalmist was inspired to ask of them.  They were praising God for what He has shown throughout creation.  

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The moon, shining stars, and those things we see in the upper atmosphere and beyond were all created to show forth the glory of the Lord.  They were not created to be objects of our worship.  But rather to remind us of whom we worship.  In case you missed it week before last Gail caught this meteorite flying through the heavens.  And this spring we saw that the sky was alive with praise.  You can almost see the angels dancing can’t you?  

All this that we can see in the heavens did not happen by chance.  All of it brings praise to God who “commanded and they were created” (5).   It was “He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away” (6).   God the intelligent designer like no other, that’s who we are to “hallel”.   The angels announced to Isaiah “the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3)

Likewise, in verse 7 the Psalmist said you don’t have to look up to see something to praise God for just look around.  And there too, if we open our eyes, we can see God’s creation waving in praise, and if we listen closely we may even hear their song. 

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When I was in Hawaii, I swam with the sea monsters.  That’s what the NASB calls them here in Psalm 148.  Sea monsters! Those majestic beasts!  I was diving in about 30 to 60 feet of water off the coast of the Big Island at Kapua Bay.   It was a gloriously beautiful Hawaiian day.  So I was already praising the Lord for this tremendous blessing He provided.  I had much to praise God for in just being there.  But that day was full of so much more to praise the Lord for.    

It was that day I had lead my friend Lynn to know Jesus and frankly I didn’t think that the day could get any better. 

I was so filled with the joy of the Lord as I swam along gazing at the tropical fish and sea turtles around me.   But my heart nearly burst as I heard those sea monsters songs cry out in praise to the Lord.  And I might have soiled myself just a little when I noticed how close they were!  Yikes!  Those whales are huge!  But my God is so big so strong and so mighty…and He created those monsters too!  Their songs from the deep brought even more praise from my lips. I even praise the Lord some more now as I look back and remember that day.

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But less we think it is only during the mountain top experiences of life that we can praise the Lord the Psalmist in verse 8 also suggests that even the storms in life bring Him praise. 

Now I don’t know about you but I really enjoy a good lightning storm.  I think they are better than the finest fireworks shows man can come up with.  But to be perfectly frank I’m not that fond of cloudy or rainy days! The kid in me wants every day to be suitable for at the beach playing in the water and on the slides.  Hot sunny days with enough cool water to increase the joy…those days I find it easy to praise the Lord. 

Yet if we can learn to praise God throughout the storms in our lives then there is nothing in all of nature that can separate us from God’s love.  However, being able to PTL as we watch a lightning storm or see hail pummel the vineyard maybe easier than when we are standing in the path of the storm and we are witnessing its destructive power especially on the ones we love.

I suspect for Michael Schultz (the Pastor at the Lutheran Church) it is difficult to PTL as he watches his young son battle with cancer, and all the awful treatments that seem to make Davis sicker yet.  But let me read to you just a portion of his blog.  This dated just before Easter 2014.

Michael writes, shortly after his son had an operation to remove cancer from his liver, “… for now I just want to highlight the amazing job the surgical team did, and to point out the extraordinary skill and work the surgeons and all the support team have and do. I wouldn’t wish medical trouble on any child, but if any child has to go through it, BC Children’s Hospital provides the highest level of care. We heard that when we first came down here, and we’ve certainly seen that be true for us.

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Thanks for making it this far with me …, and Easter blessings to you all. “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!” “Alleluia!”(http://michaelschutz.com/blog/2014-04-22/back-at-the-bedside).   

“Alleluia!” That would be the Greek word for “Hallelujah”.

So Michael, even after months of trials and heart wrenching moments walking along side of his very ill son, is still able to “praise the Lord” to bring “hallel” for what God has blessed him with in this storm of life.  

Perhaps that’s why the Psalmist reminds us that even the storms of nature ring out praises to God. 

In fact it seems as though the Psalmist was reading the creation account found in Genesis 1-2 and realized that every created thing we can gaze upon brings praise to its creator.  

Slide13By Verse 11 the psalmist is bringing it home.  He is calling upon those in authority, “kings, princes and rulers” together with those they lead, “men & maidens, both young and old” (12): “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens” (13).    

God alone is to be exalted.  Yet somehow we often fail to remember that.  We worship that which is created rather than He who created it.  We give to men praise that is fit for God alone. We honor man’s accomplishment and forget Who it was that inspired them to that greatness.

The Creator is so far above the creation is He not?  God is more valuable than anything we can behold.  Nothing in all of creation compares in value to knowing the Creator.  Without Him is all just passes into obscurity. 

Humanly speaking we get that concept… at least somewhat.  Go to the art gallery and you’ll find that pieces by certain artists are worth infinitely more than by other artists.  But why is that? 

 Slide14What makes a landscape by Ansel Adams any better than a picture I took with my cell phone?  I mean really…is it his full frame camera?  His excellent lens?  Maybe his subject matter or layout that gives is its worth?

Yet his pictures still get more recognition and praise than mine ever will.  Not only that but if you had, by some good grace, in your photo collection an original picture by Ansel, you would have an object valued between $8,000-$50,000 USD. 

As long as provenance can be established; so long as you can prove it was truly a picture by Ansel, you would have something of real monetary value.  And this is simply because of the photographer’s name. Ansel’s reputation and the fact that he pressed the trigger and he produced it or in essence he created it makes the photograph worth something.  So humanly speaking we somewhat get the concept that the creator is above the creation because Ansel’s works regardless of the quality of the individual images are worth something simply because they are Ansel’s.  People in know can tell the difference and can praise the merits of owning an Ansel.  The Psalmists calls upon those who should be in the know, “kings, and leaders”  those who have been blessed with much to lead the praise.

So far, the Psalmist has shown us that all of creation ought to be seen as that which brings praise to its Creator but as he brings this psalm to a close he turns his focus to those that have “won the rebirth lottery”.  Those of us who are double blessed as Christians as I said in the beginning, regardless of where we live or our station in life.

Slide15The Psalmist wrote, “He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the LORD” (14).

Not only is God worthy of praise for being higher than His creation but especially because of His covenant relationship with His chosen people.  If you are one of His chosen people you my friend have been given something of infinite value. 

In raising a horn for them, the Psalmist is speaking of a mighty deliverer.  A King, in fact the King of kings.  God has given His chosen people the King of kings to lead them in this song of praise. 

Moses wrote, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” Deuteronomy 4:7 (NIV). 

We Christians, more than all of creation, have something to give praise for.  We are the people close to his heart.  God has chosen us for intimate relationship with Him through this horn that was raised up. 

In those days when the battle was won the victory was announced with the blast of the horn.  It showed who ultimately had the strength to win. But it was usually followed by loud praises and shouts from all the people.

That horn is Jesus Christ. He became “the praise of all His saints” when he defeated Satan on the cross.   His victory bought us our freedom.

Slide16We can look back through 2000 years of history and actually see that praise well up over and over again. 

The fact is, every new believer gives God praise for Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of their sins that came through His sacrificial love restoring us to a covenant relationship, making us Israel; a people close to the Father. 

We are truly double blessed.  We were not only created to bring God praise but we were chosen to lead the world to do the same.  For we have been chosen by God to Bring Every Gentile Intimate News with Praise so that all of creation can choose to join with us and praise the Lord.    Hallelujah? 

Amen!

Blessings!

Pastor Blake