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Sunday, November 08, 2020

“Sun and Shield” [Matt's Messages]

“Sun and Shield”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
November 8, 2020 :: Psalm 84

I picked Psalm 84 for this Sunday because of the way it talks about God in verse 11.

The whole psalm is a beautiful song of longing for the presence of God in genuine worship, but verse 11 is just glorious!

If you don’t have it memorized already, you should start today. It says, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

Isn’t that wonderful?!!

A sun and a shield. That’s the double image that pops out to me.

The Lord is a sun and a shield.

Is there anything more glorious and life-giving in our world than the sun?

In this world, the sun is our greatest source of light and life. It illuminates everything. So it’s an image of guidance and truth and beauty. And it provides energy and warmth to us.

We are headed into that dreaded season here in North America when the sun is not out very much. Praise the Lord for the sun we’ve experienced this last week! But as winter approaches, it’s going to get dark faster and longer. And that will just make the sun even more precious!

“A sun and shield.” There you have an image of protection. Of safety and security.

The windshield in your car. Have you ever had a rock fly up and take a dent out of your windshield while you’re driving? And what do you think when that happens?

“I’m so glad that wasn’t my head it hit! I’m so glad I have a shield.”

Safety, security, protection.

A sun and a shield. That’s what this song says the LORD is.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

That’s the second to last verse. But I wanted you to know where it’s all going as we dive into verse 1. It’s all headed to that glorious word picture to describe our God! A “Sun and Shield.”


Let’s look together at verse 1. Psalm 84, verse 1.

“For the director of music. According to gittith. [Just like Psalm 8 we saw earlier this Fall. A musical term.] Of the Sons of Korah [those guys again, that intergenerational family of worship leaders, the Sons of Korah!]. A psalm. 

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” 

Psalm 84 has a lot in common with Psalm 42 that we looked at about a month ago.

They are both beautiful songs of the Sons of Korah that express a deep longing for the presence of the living God.

Psalm 42 is more sad and almost gloomy. The psalmist there is downcast and seems to be in prison and unable to make it to the temple.

Psalm 84 is less gloomy and more glorious. My guess is that this psalmist can get to the temple, at least some times. It might even be written by the same psalmist at a different point in his life. He was at least part of the same family, and he felt the same way about the temple.

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” 

This guy intensely loved the temple in Jerusalem. 

That word “lovely” in verse 1 could translated “beloved.”

How beloved is the Lord’s dwelling place!  

Now, of course, we know (and he knew!) that the Lord is everywhere (omnipresent), not just in Jerusalem. Not just at the temple.

But, back then, the Lord had put His name on Jerusalem, and the temple was the earthly symbol of His presence. It was, back then, His home. His earthly headquarters.

So this psalmist longed, not just for a building, but to be near the Lord Himself in a special way. Especially worshipping with others.

He was irresistibly drawn to be in God’s presence.

That’s what he’s singing about.

And he is even jealous of little birds that got to be in the temple when he wasn’t!  Look at verse 3.

“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young–a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.”

I think he’s envious! Because the temple courts are open, birds can fly in and live there. And he wishes he was one of them! In the temple, 24/7. 

V.4 “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Selah”

Just think about that!

I think here he might be talking about the priests who have apartments in the greater temple complex. They basically live on site.

How blessed they are to be right there!

Or there every day because they pretty much live at work.

And they can be ever praising God. Just think about that! Ever praising God.

So, when I read Psalm 84, I have to translate it into our New Covenant context. We don’t have a temple in Jerusalem any more. So this psalm is not about (for us!) going to the temple. That’s Old Covenant. We have to process it through our New Covenant reality.

And when I read Psalm 84, it raises spiritual questions for me about my heart.

So I want to share those questions with you as we work at applying this psalm to our lives today in 2020. Because I want to sing Psalm 84 with my life. I want this to be the song of my life.

I want to be, spiritually speaking, where this psalmist is. Don’t you?

Here’s the first application question for us today:

#1. DO I YEARN TO BE NEAR THE LORD?

Do I long to be close to Him?

This guy is almost falling over, he feels it so much. Look at verse 2 again, “My soul years, even faints,  for the courts of the LORD; my heart (insides) and my flesh (outsides) cry out for the living God.”

Do you feel that in your heart?

I don’t mean do you feel close to the Lord? That feeling comes and goes. I’m talking about what your heart wants. Does your heart, does your soul yearn to be near the Lord?

To worship Him. To know Him better. To walk with Him. To dwell with Him. To be with Him. To be (verse 4), “ever praising Him.”

That starts with daily personal worship. Because we are temples, now, right. The Spirit of God lives in each of us believers.

But it’s more than that. The temple now is not a building but it a church. The New Testament says that the people of God are being built up into a temple together.

So when we gather, we are the temple.

When this church comes together, we are the temple.

Doesn’t matter if we are inside or outside (or even on Zoom), we as a church are the temple, the beautiful place where His glory dwells.

Do you yearn to worship with God’s people?

I worry about people who feel ambivalent about church. They can just take it or leave it.

Now, there are good reasons to stay away from church gatherings for a time including staying safe from COVID-19 and keeping others safe from COVID-19.

But gathered worship should be a hard thing to give up.

It should always be what your heart wants.

Where your heart points. Like a compass pointing north.

Your heart should be pointing at church.

Your heart should long to be worshiping God with the people of God.

That’s where blessing is!

In verse 5, the psalmist turns from the priests to the pilgrims and says that they know where blessing is. Verse 5.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. [literally, “highways are on their hearts.” As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”

These people yearn to be near to God.

They set their hearts on the highways that lead to the temple in Zion.

And they gain strength as they go.

Now, we don’t know what the Valley of Baca is. It seems to be a play on words, not a geographical location. It’s either the Valley of Weeping or the Valley of Balsam, so an arid dry location. Either way, it’s tough sledding to go through there, but the picture is that as these faithful pilgrims pass through the valley, the Lord blesses them with life-giving water, with rain, with flourishing. And they get stronger for it.

You might think that the more wearily trudge on and on trying to make it to Zion, the harder it will get, but these folks find that they get strength upon strength until they reach the Lord’s home.

They’re marching to Zion.
Beautiful beautiful Zion.
They’re marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God.

And that’s where blessing is! “Blessed are those who strength is in you.”

That’s fortifying truth!

Do you yearn to be near to the Lord?

Do you yearn for heaven?

Because that’s the ultimate experience of nearness to God!

That’s the ultimate Zion!

Heaven is the ultimate temple.

Our church gatherings are a just a foretaste of the nearness of God that is coming one day.

Do you long for heaven?

I hope you’ve set your heart on that pilgrimage.

Because if you do, you’ll gain strength as you go.

Here’s the second question of application:

#2. DO I ASK THE LORD FOR HIS FAVOR?

I have never noticed verse 8 until studying it this week.

In verse 8, the psalmist all of a sudden tosses up a prayer request for his king. Look at verse 8.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. Selah

Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.”

I think he’s praying for his king, which was probably a son of King of David, a Davidic king.

Here, the king is referred to as a shield, one who protects the nation. And he’s called the Lord’s “anointed one” or messiah.

Remember when David was anointed by Samuel?

The psalmist prays for his king. He asks the Lord to look upon the king with favor.

Because he knows that as the king goes, so goes the nation.

So, this is a prayer for favor.

Have you prayed for favor? For God’s grace and mercy and blessing?

He is not saying that this king deserves it. He’s just saying that he needs it and if he’s blessed so will his people be.

Do I ask the Lord for favor?

And not just for kings, but also for presidents.

I have begun to pray for the next president of the United States which from all appearances will be former vice-president Joe Biden.

As I have prayed the last four years for President Donald Trump, I will pray for Mr. Biden. I will not pray that all of his policies get enacted. I don’t think they are all good. And I did not pray for all of Mr. Trump’s policies to be enacted. I didn’t think they were all good.

But I did pray for favor on him, and I will pray for favor on a new president, as well. Because I will pray for favor on our nation. 

Not because we deserve it, because we certainly don’t. But because we need it, and our God is a gracious God.

But that’s just America. Which is a very small thing in the grand scheme of things. We are just a footnote in the big story.

The bigger story is how God showed His favor to His Anointed One with a capital A. Favor to His Messiah with a capital M. The Lord Jesus Christ. He was dead and buried, and the Lord raised Him back to life!

And if God would show that kind of favor to Jesus, then I can also ask Him for much smaller prayer requests of the things that concern me today.

Now. We are getting that glorious verse 11. “Sun and Shield.” But first, verse 10.

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

You see how the psalmist hasn’t quit?

He still longs to be in the Lord’s presence.
He still yearns to be at the temple.

There is nothing better!

He would rather be standing on the threshold of the temple, with no shelter, maybe getting rained on, a lowly doorkeeper than live in luxury with the wicked.

Than live in the penthouse with the godless.

There is no place he’s rather be than near to God!

Is there a place you’d rather be than near to God?

Again, this is not just about “going to church.” But I think there’s an application there.

Would you rather do just about anything than spend time worshipping God with the people of God?

Or are you willing to sit in your car, sit under a tent, wear a mask or a face-shield, give up your warm bed on a Sunday morning, gather your family around the dining room table, do whatever it takes to get near to God?

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere...”

And what about heaven? Better is a thousand years in God’s presence than just one anywhere else.

This guy knows where it’s at. This guy knows where the blessing is.

This guy knows how good he has it. Do we?

That’s our last application question:

#3. DO I KNOW HOW BLESSED I AM?

Why does he think the temple is so great?

It’s because of the One who lives there! V.11

“I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”

A sun and a shield!

Light and life and safety and security.

Guidance and protection.

Joy and delight.

“Favor and honor.”

“No good thing.”

I almost titled this sermon, “No Good Thing.” But that sounds negative.

It says, “...no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

We get everything!

This is November. Thanksgiving is coming.

What are you thankful for? It came from God.

Whatever you’re thankful for, it came from God.

And He will make sure that you get every good thing as you walk with Him.

By the way, “Blameless” doesn’t mean perfect. It just means real. It means genuine. It means that you are on the path of wisdom and righteous and faith and obedience. You aren’t on the other path. You’ve repent of your sins and chosen the path that leads to life.

You are trusting in the LORD.

And that’s the path of blessing.

V.12 “O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”

Happy is the one.

Forever happy and blessed.

Do we know just how good we have it?

Do we know how blessed we are?

If you have the Lord, you have a sun and shield!

Forever and ever. You have a sun and a shield.

At the very end of the Bible, in Revelation 21, the Apostle John recounts his vision of the End, and he says, “I did not see a temple in the [heavenly] city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”

That’s how blessed we are and how blessed we will be.

Forever and ever.

The Lord is our sun and our shield.

***

Fortifying Truth - Fall 2020

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 84

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