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Sunday, October 20, 2019

“Great Are the Works of the Lord!” [Matt's Messages]

“Great Are the Works of the Lord!”
Celebration Sunday 2019
October 20, 2019 :: Psalm 111

I fully intended to go back to Matthew 23 this morning. That’s what I said we’re were doing last Sunday, and what I studied all week, and what I woke up even yesterday morning still planning to preach on today. 

I had thought that the message of “woe” that Jesus has for the scribes and the Pharisees was a little bit of a strange fit for Celebration Sunday and all that we have planned to praise God for today, but I didn’t have any other idea, and we had just gotten back into Matthew together last week! So I assumed it was Matthew 23.

But yesterday morning, I made my coffee and opened my Bible to read the very next thing in the Psalms. (You know I’ve been studying the Psalms all year long.) And the very next Psalm was Psalm 111. And I read it, and I said, “Thank you, Father. That’s it. Right there. That’s what we’re supposed to look at tomorrow at church.”

So, I switched gears, studied Psalm 111, and got ready to share it with you.

Psalm 111 is hymn of praise to a faithful God Who does great works.

So it’s perfect for us to study together on Celebration Sunday.

When we celebrate the great works God has done in our church over these last 127 years.

You need to know that, in the Hebrew, Psalm 111 is written as an acrostic poem.

That means it follows the Hebrew alphabet.

After the Hallelujah of verse 1, each line for all 22 lines, starts with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Aleph, beth, gimel, daleth, and so forth.

If it was in English, it would be the ABC’s of praising God for His great works.

The author of this song has taken great care to thoughtfully compose it. There is order and intentionality and a lot of careful thought put into this sacred composition.

And behind that insightful author stands the Holy Spirit Who inspired the whole thing and gives to us today a song that we can sing and pray and use to guide our thoughts about the Lord.

Psalm 111 is a gift from God to use to shape our relationship with Him.

In just a few minutes, we’re going to take our annual church family photo,

We’ve been doing that for the last 20 years. You can see them all hanging in the hallway down from the ladies’ room across from the Prayer Room. Check ‘em out!

What’s bittersweet for Heather and me this year is that we have no kids in the one from 1999, and then we basically added one child each year through 2004, and they grew and grew and grew, but now in 2019, we are starting to have pictures with one less kid. We’re down to 3 in this year’s picture because Robin has moved out of state. I wonder how many we’ll have next year?

I love this tradition we have had for the last two decades because it not only reminds us who we are but whose we are. We stop and thank God for what He has done in our midst each year.

I love seeing the new people. If you are new, you are invited up here to get your picture taken with the rest of us. If this is your first Sunday, we want you up here!

On Celebration Sunday, we snap a picture, and we say, “Praise God for His faithfulness to Lanse Free Church for all of these years! He has done great things.”

Well, Psalm 111 is not a snapshot. It’s a song.

But it does the same thing. It’s a song about how the LORD has done great things.

Verse two begins, “Great are the works of the LORD,” and I think that makes a fitting title for the whole Psalm.

“Great Are the Works Of the Lord.”

I want to make three points of application as we work our way down through this Psalm together. Three things that we should do because we’ve read Psalm 111 and got it into our hearts.

#1. PRAISE THE LORD IN PUBLIC!

Listen again to verse 1.

“Praise the LORD. I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.”

We don’t know who wrote this Psalm. It might have been David, but it doesn’t say.

Whoever it was was not afraid or ashamed to get up in the council of the upright and in the assembly and praise the Lord.

“Hallelujah!” he says.

And he declares his intention to “extol the LORD.”

Which means to give thanks to the Lord.

To say how awesome the Lord is.

To recount the ways in which God is worthy.

And he declares that he’s going to do this v.1 “with all my heart.”

He’s not going hold anything back.
He’s not going to worry about respectability.
He’s not going to worry what others think of him.
He’s just going to praise the Lord.

And he’s going to do it in public!

“I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.”

In our age and terms, that means “I’m going to get up and praise the Lord at church.”

Not just in private.
Not just out on his own.
Not just out in the woods somewhere.

But with other people.

He’s going to say, “All glory be to Christ our King.”

And I think this is here as a model prayer for you and me.

We’re not just supposed to say, “Oh, that’s interesting. I’m glad to hear that this guy gave praise to God at church.”

We’re supposed to do what he did and give praise to God in public.

The “council of the upright” might be a more intimate group. It might be a Link Group or a Sunday School Class or a Bible Study or a Prayer Meeting.

But “in the assembly?” That’s probably everybody. All of the people of God gathered together in public to praise God.

And this guy says, “I’m going to praise God there!”

Are you willing to praise God in public?

You are here, I know. And that’s a good thing.

Are you praising God in public? Or are you just letting others do it for you?

Are you willing to stand up and to speak up and extol the LORD?

Let me ask you this question...if you are doing it, are you doing it with all of your heart?

What are you holding back?

The Lord wants us to not be afraid or ashamed to praise Him before others.

And here’s what we’re supposed to praise Him for. V.2

“Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them.”

#2. PONDER THE WORKS OF THE LORD.

That means to “study them,” to search them out.

To turn them over and over again in your mind.

To think in your heart about the works of the Lord.

The psalmist says that those who delight in the works of the Lord ponder them.

I don’t think we can do that too much.

I don’t think we can ponder on what God has done too much.

I think, instead we do too little pondering on the works of the Lord.

When was the last time you sat down and made a mental list of all of the things the Lord has done for you recently?

We’re coming up on November and Thanksgiving season. That’s a great time to pause and ponder what God has done. Count your many blessings.

The psalmist says that God’s works, God’s deeds are great.

And he has some more adjectives to describe these words.

Alec Motyer says that this psalm is a “running rhapsody of Yahweh and his works.”

V.3 “Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever.”

They are not just great. They are glorious and majestic.

They are exalted deeds. They are above other deeds.

What has God done that is glorious and majestic?

How about creation? I’ll bet the psalmist was thinking about Genesis 1.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Wow! That’s quite a deed, isn’t it?

That’s glorious and majestic.

Think about everything that has been made. Everything in the known universe, and everything that we’re still discovering!

God made it all.

I think that’s glorious and majestic!

“And his righteousness endures forever.”

That’s a key word in this psalm. “Forever.” It shows up in some form in verse 3, verse 5, verse 8, verse 9, and verse 10.

This is a forever God.

What He does stands firm.

Here it’s His righteousness that is forever.

Friends, that is good news right there.

You do not want a god who is righteous today and potentially unrighteous tomorrow or a thousand years from now.

The only kind of a god who is fully trustworthy is One Whose righteousness is forever.

Ponder that.

That means He never sins.
He never makes mistakes.
He is never imperfect or at a loss.

He never does anything wrong.
He never leads anyone astray.

“There is of shadow of turning in Him.”

Praise God!

Everybody else will fail you.

I will fail you.

Whenever Pastor Appreciation Month rolls around, I feel great appreciation for the church family.

But I often think about my pastoral failures. Where I didn’t match up.

I think about some of the people whose pictures are on the wall across from the Prayer Room and who aren’t here today because I disappointed them in some way.

Everybody else will fail you on some level.

But not God.

“His righteousness endures forever.”

In verse 4, I think the psalmist turns from Genesis to Exodus. V.4

“He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate.”

Those last words are an echo of Exodus 34 when the LORD passed before Moses in the cleft of the rock. Remember that? What did the LORD say?

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness..”

God does all of these great works, not because we deserve it! But because He is gracious and compassionate.

He shows mercy to us.

That’s why these good gifts come to us.

And they are wonders.

I think the psalmist was probably thinking about the miracles God did when He rescued His people from Egypt.

The plagues, the Red Sea, all of the miracles in the desert. Wonders!

And the psalmist says, “Ponder that!”

Remember that.

Go back over it again and again so that God gets the glory and the credit.

Do you know what is the most repeated command in the Old Testament?

Anybody know?

“Remember.”

Remember.

That’s why we’ve set aside today to celebrate. To remember what God has done.

This church was founded in 1892.

And it was re-founded in 1965 by those 7 members who decided to keep the doors open.

That was almost 55 years ago.

And look at us today. Ponder that.

Remember that.

“He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate.”

One thing I’m especially grateful for this year, looking back, are all of the faithful women of this church throughout its 127 year history.

You might have noticed the display up in the foyer of women from across the EFCA who have had a historic role in shaping who we are and being used by the Lord in mighty ways.

That is a smaller replica of a display that was set up at EFCA One, the national conference, back in June.

Some of those women are familiar to us here.

Especially Elizabeth Anderson who was one of our missionaries for several decades.

We’re going to leave up the display for the next month leading up to the Ladies Tea with Jan Cone.

But the faithful women weren’t just out there, they have also been here all along.

6 of the 7 re-founding members of this church were women!

And I’ve had the privilege of knowing 4 of them.

Yesterday, I went through my files and made a list of faithful women of this church that I have had the honor of leading their funerals over the last two decades.

Here are some of their names:

Mabel Carlson
Marie Benton
Marie Wertz
Betty Pritts
Norma Dobash
Ann Kyler
Ann Neidrick
Dora Hampton
Brenda Plisco
Beatrice Johnson
Carolyn Dobo
Mary Shimmel

That’s just a few of them.

This church has been blessed with wonderful faithful godly women.

And there are many in this room right now.

I won’t embarrass them by calling out their names.

But we do ponder what God has done.

We recognize this as God’s gift to our church.

And we remember.

“He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate.” v.5

“He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.”

Now, we’re moving from Exodus into Numbers.

He’s talking about the manna, isn’t he?

How the Lord provided food for them in the wilderness.

In the desert!

Every morning, there it is. We’re not sure what it is. “Manna” means “What is it?”

But it was good and nourishing. It was daily bread.

This is why we pray before meals and give thanks for our daily bread.

Because this meal is a gift from God.

This meal is one of His works.

Think about that. Ponder that.

Have you ever thought about what it takes to get a meal on the table?

I often say that Heather is a miracle-worker for what she cooks up for us and puts on the table.

But the ultimate miracle-worker is God because that little meal is one of His great works.

Every single little meal is one of God’s great works.

Ponder that. Remember that.

And ponder this. God “remembers his covenant forever.”

There’s our word “forever” again.

A covenant is basically a set of promises.

So this is saying that God is a promise keeper, and He always will be.

God always keeps His promises. Forever!

The psalmist was probably thinking about the Abrahamic Covenant.

But we also know about the New Covenant, don’t we? In Jesus’ blood.

We’re getting close to that in the Gospel of Matthew.

I’m so glad that the LORD remembers His covenant forever, aren’t you?

Ponder that for a second.

What if God forgot?

What if God forgot His promises?

“Oh yeah, I meant to do that. I did say I would. But no, I forgot. Sorry.”

How terrible would that be?!

Do you see what we’re doing here?

We’re just going back over what God has done. Rehearsing it.

And pondering it in our hearts.

So that praise comes out of our mouths. V.6

“He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations.”

He’s gone from Exodus to Joshua, hasn’t he?

God has promised His people this land, and He gave His people this land.

He remembers His promises and displaces the Canaanites. V.7

“The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.”

So they are not just great, and glorious and majestic and gracious and compassionate and powerful.

They are faithful and just.

And His “precepts” or principles or laws “are trustworthy.”

What the Lord tells us to do is not reckless or guesswork.

It is trustworthy and true.

That’s why the Psalmist in Psalm 1 delights “in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Because everything God tells us to do is trustworthy and true. V.8

“They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness.”

There isn’t not just forever, but for ever and ever!

God’s steadfastness is unchanging, it never gives up, it’s not fickle, it’s not limited.

And the second part of that line says that His precepts are done in faithfulness and uprightness.

Now, that might mean that we are supposed to do them in faithfulness and uprightness, and that would be right and good.

But it might also mean that God keeps His own precepts in faithfulness and uprightness. That’s a concept to ponder, isn’t it?

And verse 9 brings it home. The grandest work of God to ponder. V.9

“He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever–holy and awesome is his name.”

Redemption is freedom for a price.

Freedom for a price.

For the psalmist, that redemption was death of the firstborn and the Red Sea Rescue and the sacrificial system.

But for Christians, we know what the real and true redemption is.

It’s the blood of Jesus Christ.

It’s the Cross of Christ.

That’s where the Abrahamic Covenant was brought to fulfillment.

And that’s where the New Covenant was brought to fulfillment.

The Cross is where the eternal covenant was brought to fulfillment (Hebrews 13:20).

Ponder that!

Ponder what happened at the Cross!

Our church is not about our church.

Our church is about the gospel.
Our church is about the Cross.
Our church is about Jesus Christ.

“Holy and awesome is his name.”

Have you trusted in Jesus Christ as your own Lord and Savior?

As your own King and Rescuer?

Jesus has provided the ultimate redemption through His blood.

And He has come back to life to give life to all who will trust in Him.

“Holy and awesome is his name.”

In the last verse of this song, the psalmist urges all of us to do the next logical thing.

If we have truly pondered Who this God is and What great works this God has done, then we will choose to fear and follow Him.

#3. FEAR THE LORD AND FOLLOW HIS PRECEPTS. V.10

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.”

There’s a choice out there.

It’s the choice we learned about back in Psalm 1 at Family Bible Week.

Do we turn right or turn left?

Do we take the path of righteousness or the path of wickedness?

It all comes down to our hearts.

Do we fear the LORD or do we despise Him?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

It’s the beginning of living skillfully and rightly in God’s world.

And it’s the beginning of following God’s ways.

There is so much blessing there!

I wish I had time to take you Psalm 112.

Read it this afternoon!

This next Psalm is the sister psalm to Psalm 111.

It begins where our Psalm leaves off.

It’s all about the blessing of being that man or that woman who does verse 10 who fears the Lord and follows His precepts.

Read it this afternoon and see if you don’t want follow the Lord just because you did!

I want that blessing for me.

And I want it for you.

And I want it for all of Lanse Free Church.

Let’s choose today to humble ourselves in the fear of the Lord and follow His precepts.

The psalm ends where it begins and goes from 1 to infinity.

“To him belongs eternal praise.”

Forever praise.

Praise unending.

“Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me”

“To him belongs eternal praise.”


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