Sunday, January 24, 2021

“Hear My Prayer, O LORD” Psalm 86 [Matt's Messages]

“Hear My Prayer, O LORD”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
January 24, 2021 :: Psalm 86

Yesterday, I said to Heather Joy, “Psalm 86 does not want to be preached. It just wants to be prayed.”

Psalm 86 is not easily captured in a sermon. It does not follow a logical progression of thought, a series of rational propositions: A, B, C, 1, 2, 3.

No, Psalm 86 follows an emotional progression of thought. It is meant to be sung and especially prayed directly to the Lord.

Psalm 86 is a favorite of Heather Joy’s and mine. Nearly thirty years ago, we picked Psalm 86 to be “our psalm.” Not that it’s particularly romantic or anything. We just wanted to have a psalm that we, as a couple, could and would return to again and again and again. A psalm that we owned and that owns us. Heather and I have probably read it several thousand times together, especially at bedtime.

Psalm 86 is a personal prayer of King David. It’s the only prayer by David in the third book of the Psalter, and it’s highly personal.

When you read it, it’s like tuning in to the personal prayer time of another person.

Have you ever listened to somebody pray in private? They are pouring out their heart to the Lord, and you are just a fly on the wall?

That’s kind of what Psalm 86 is like. Like we’re sitting out in the surveillance van listening in to a bug that was planted to eavesdrop on a man’s personal prayers.

But this man published his personal prayers for us to pray, too.

And King David wrote and prayed this prayer in one of those (many) times when he was in trouble. We’re going to see that David is under attack. He’s gotten himself (again) into a spot of trouble.

Where do you typically turn when you get in trouble?

There are all kinds of options:

Ourselves. Self-reliance.
Family.
Friends.
Worry.
Escapism. Running away from our problems.
Our saving accounts.
Our social media accounts.
Our government.

Where do you typically turn when you get in trouble?

Well, King David turned to the Lord in prayer.

He just pours out his heart to the Lord, and he asks for a lot! We’re going to see that he asks for a lot of things. In just 17 verses, King David asks for a long list of things. Though many of them amount to the same thing, different ways of asking for the Lord to help him and save to him from these enemies. There are a lot of psalms like this!

I took the title of this message from verse 6 where David just comes out and says it: “Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.”

“Hear my prayer, O LORD.”

That doesn’t mean that David thinks that Yahweh hasn’t been listening.

David is asking the LORD to not just hear his prayers, but to seriously consider his requests. To pay special attention, turning His divine ear to what David is asking for in the day of his trouble.

And David fully expects to be heard.

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There is so much here in Psalm 86. We will only begin to scratch the surface. I know! I’ve read it thousands of times.

Let’s take the first seven verses together, and I want you listen as I read it for two big things.

First, for the urgency in his voice. The plaintive cry for help. David is in trouble, and you can hear it in his voice. And the other main thing I want you to listen for is why David expects to be heard. Why? 

“A prayer of David. Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.”

Do you hear the urgency in his voice?

How many times does he ask basically the same thing?

“Hear me.
Answer me.
Guard my life.
Save me.
Have mercy on me.
Bring me joy. [That’s an interesting one, isn’t it? Not just rescue but rejoicing.]
Hear my prayer.
Listen to my cry.
Answer me.”

Would you be ashamed to pray that way? Maybe a little sheepish, to repeat yourself like that?

Don’t be. This is in the Bible to show us how to pray.

And David prays and prays and prays.
He asks and asks and asks.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD!”

What did you catch about why David expects to be heard?

I’m going to say it this way. First of three points this morning of how we can pray like David. Three summary prayers of this prayer:

#1. O LORD, HELP ME BECAUSE I AM NEEDY AND I AM YOURS.

You can feel how needy he is. And he says it in verse 1, “Hear O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.”

"I can’t do it on my own."

David recognizes that he doesn’t have the resources to deal with his problems on his own. He’s in trouble, and he’s coming up short.

But! He belongs to the LORD. Look again at verse 2.

“Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.”

That is not saying that David has earned his salvation by being devoted as if he’s achieved something.

No. He’s saying that he belongs to the LORD. He is faithful, devoted, committed to Yahweh. The Hebrew comes from the same root word as “hesedthat word to describe God’s loyal love for us that we’ve seen again and again in the Psalms.

He’s emphasizing that he belongs to the LORD. Next phrase in verse 2. “You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.”

That language of “your servant” runs through this psalm: verse 2, verse 4, verse 16.

He’s not trying to say that he deserves God’s help. He’s saying that he and God are in a covenantal relationship so that David has committed himself to God and God has committed Himself to David[!]so that David’s problems are God’s problems, too.

Isn’t that amazing?!

That’s why he keeps praying, and why he keeps expecting God to answer.

Now, that does not mean that David believes that God must give him exactly what he asks when he asks it. That’s not how prayer works. God has not committed Himself to David like that.

But He has committed Himself to David, and He is a gracious God.

Did you catch that in verse 5? It’s not just that David is needy, but God is good. V.5

“You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.”

That’s Whom we pray to!

How much more should you and I pray today when we know how deep is the Father’s love for us?!  How we are joined to Him through God the Holy Spirit?! And how gracious He has been to us through the death of God the Son?!

We are needy, and we are His.

I think that verse 5 gives us a hint that David knows that he is, at least, at some fault for the predicament he finds himself in this day.

This trouble may not be of his own doing, but he may have done something to contribute to it. That’s why he needs God to be forgiving and good. That’s why he needs mercy.

That good for us, too, isn’t it? I mean, sometimes, I fail to pray for my problems, because I know on some level I caused them.

I got myself into this trouble, and I think I have to dig myself out.

But David says, “You are forgiving and good...in the day of my trouble I will call to you for you will answer me.” 

Not because I am so great, but because He is.

That’s where David goes next in verse 8.

“Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.”


That’s what David does right here in verses 8 through 10.

He gets his eyes off of his problems (as scary and unresolved as they were), and he gets his eyes onto the Lord.

He says that the Lord is incomparable and greater than all of the gods out there. [Small “g,” pagan gods which we know are really principalities and powers and demons. They can’t hold a candle to the real God.]

And David predicts a day when all of the nations, every tribe and tongue and people group gather before the Lord and worship Him.

Interestingly, the book of Revelation quotes Psalm 86 verse 9 in Revelation chapter 15, verse 4.

This is a picture of the end times, when every knee will bow and every tongue confess. David could see it coming.

Because He could see how worthy the Lord is of worship. V.10

“For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.” Capital “G.”  “The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

Here is our second summary prayer:

#2. O LORD, BE GLORIFIED ABOVE ALL AND IN ALL MY HEART.

Because that’s where David goes next. Not just glorified above all gods and before all nations, but in all of David’s heart. Look at verse 11.

“Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.”

If I was going to put forward a new Hide the Word verse for 2021, that’s what it would be.

“Be glorified in all of my heart.”

In the midst of all of his troubles, [His troubles are still there! They have not gone away. In the midst of all of his troubles,] David focuses his prayer on his own heart.

David doesn’t just want to be saved from his enemies out there. He wants to make sure that he is not taken down by his enemy in here.

“Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth”

That’s a great prayer. “Show me Your path. The course you want me to take, and I will truly walk it.”

“[G]ive me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”

It could actually translated, “Unite my heart.”

Bring all of the divided things in my heart together so that I fear You–which is the beginning of wisdom.

I don’t know about you, but I need this prayer. My heart can be so divided. Not with rebellious high-handed sin. But just distracted. Double-minded. Part of my heart going this way and part of my heart going that way.

I want to be wholehearted in my worship. Don’t you?

“[G]ive me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”

“Even if you don’t take away my problems (though please take away my problems! But even if you don’t...) unite my heart to bring you glory.

Verse 12. “I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.”

David knows that he has been saved. Time and time again. He has been.

He could be expecting it now once more. That’s possible. But I tend to think he’s just being thankful for having been rescued from death again and again.

And you and I have been rescued from eternal death because of the Cross and the empty Tomb. What great love! How much more should we glorify His name forever?!

Do you see how this psalm just wants to be prayed?

In the last section (verse 14-17), nothing has changed. The problem is still there, but so is David’s prayer and so is David’s God. Verse 14.

“The arrogant are attacking me, O God; a band of ruthless men seeks my life–men without regard for you. [I’m under attack here, Lord, from a gang of ferocious thugs who act as if you don’t exist. But I know you do! V.15] But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

Does that sound familiar?

I hope it does by now. David is quoting God Himself in Exodus 34. That time when He passed by Moses and declared His holy name? 

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

Just like in verse 5, this is Who God is. This is Whom we pray to!

If this is our God, then no wonder we expect good answers to our prayers. V.16

“Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant your strength to your servant and save the son of your maidservant [My Mom loved and served and belonged to you, too.] Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.”

Last summary prayer request:

#3. O LORD, RESCUE ME BECAUSE OF YOUR GRACE AND FOR YOUR GLORY.

That “sign” that he asks for in verse 17 might be just another way of saying, “Rescue me from the bad guys. That will show your goodness.”

But I tend to think he’s asking for a little preview of coming attractions. A little glimpse of how the Lord is going to work things out for David’s good.

I don’t think that most of the time we ought to ask for a sign for guidance. Should I turn right or left, Lord? Should I pick the orange or the green, Lord? Give me a sign!

But this asking God for a sign of His goodness.

I think that’s a request for a reminder that God is good. That God is Who He said He was in Exodus 34 and Psalm 86:15.

Lord, give me a little taste of your goodness so that I know that you will be bringing yourself glory.

My enemies are your enemies.

They have (v.14) no regard for you.

So, please turn things around so that they are put to shame and you get the glory.

Are you ready to pray like that?

I don’t know what your trouble is right now.

Maybe you don’t have any trouble right now.

If so, get ready, because that day of trouble will come soon enough.

And get ready to pray to this God above all gods who alone is God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Ask this God to give you an undivided heart to fear His name.

And to rescue you by His grace and for His glory.

Because you are needy and because you belong to Him.

Ask Him, “Hear my prayer, O LORD.”


***

Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 / Winter 2021

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 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132
16. "My Son" - Psalm 2
17. "Search Me" - Psalm 139
18. "Cleanse Me" - Psalm 51
19. "A New Song" - Psalm 96

Sunday, January 17, 2021

“A New Song” Psalm 96 [Matt's Messages]

“A New Song”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
January 17, 2021 :: Psalm 96

“Sing to the LORD a new song!”

Those are the opening words of Psalm 96.

“Sing to the LORD a new song!”

The psalmist (we don’t know who exactly it was though 1 Chronicles 16 tells us that these exact words were sung when King David brought the ark into Jerusalem so it might have been David or somebody who was writing psalms before David, the psalmist) summons his listeners to sing.

To sing to the LORD. Capital L-O-R-D which stands for Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel.

To sing to the LORD a. new. song.

What’s so new about this “new song?”

I’m glad you asked.

It’s new because it’s fresh. It doesn’t mean that you have to compose a completely different set of music and lyrics about the LORD–though that is a really good way to do it. I’m glad that there are brand new songs being written all of the time like the one we started singing together this weekend, “Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me.”

But there are lots of ways of singing a new song. Of being creative. Of being innovative. Of putting your praise in new, fresh ways.

Fresh words. Fresh tempos. New keys. New registers. New instruments.

Even more importantly, new intentions. Meaning it again in a new way. A deeper way. It could be the same exact words but now they truly mean something to you in a newly real way.

“Sing to the LORD a new song!”

I asked Heather Joy what that meant to her, and she said that we sing a new song that because God is infinitely worthy of our worship there is always something new in Him worth celebrating.

And we can always discover something new in Him worth celebrating.

This phrase, “A new song” comes up several times in the Bible especially here in the Psalms but also in the book of Revelation. And it’s almost always used when there has been some kind of a victory won which needs celebrating in a new way.

The LORD has won a new victory. Sing a new song!
There is new state of affairs in the world. Sing a new song!
The LORD has rescued His people. Sing. a. new. song!

Now, this does not mean that we should not also sing old songs. Of course we should. This Psalm 96 is an old song! And we should be singing it. 

2020 was a year to go back and sing the old songs we all remember. To cling to old truths, but in a new day and in a new way.

What we should not do is sing stale songs and pale songs and anemic songs.

The LORD is infinitely worthy of our fresh worship.

“Sing to the LORD a new song!”

Not just with your mouth, but with your heart, and with your life.


Listen as I read verses 1 through 3, and listen for the building repetition.

This Psalm is a lot like Psalm 93 that we studied back in September.

It has these repetitions to make you feel what it is trying to get across.

It’s exciting, and it builds to a crescendo. You can feel the enthusiasm grow, and grow, and grow.

It starts with a triplet of commands to sing. “Sing, sing, sing.” Verse 1.

“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”

You hear it?

Sing, sing, sing.
Proclaim! Declare!

And do you see how global it is?

This isn’t just a song for Israel. This is a song for the whole wide world.

“sing to the LORD, all the earth.”

This isn’t just for one nationality. This is for all of the nations, all of the people groups.

This is really a missions psalm. Telling us to tell the world how glorious our God is and what He has done in rescuing His people.

“Proclaim His salvation day after day.”

Now, for the Israelites that was their rescue from Egypt and all of the marvelous things God did for them afterwards.

But for you and me it’s not just that, it’s Jesus Christ and His life, and His miracles, and His teaching, and His death, and His resurrection, and His ascension, and His pouring out of His Spirit.

“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”

Sing a new song!

Do you sing?

Do you sing to the LORD in worship?
Do you sing to the LORD here at church?
Do you sing to the LORD on your own?

When you’re alone with Him?

If not, why not?

Let me say this: If you never sing to the LORD, you are being disobedient.

This is the Bible, and it says to you to sing.

You don’t have to sing like me. Loud and off key and often losing my place and forgetting the words.

You don’t have to sing loud enough for others to hear most of the time–though the New Testament does call us to “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph 5:19).

But if you never worship in song at least in your heart if you have had your voicebox surgically removed then I believe you’re being disobedient to God.

Don’t you think the LORD is worthy of your singing?

Now, don’t think for a second that you can sing worthy of the LORD.

Nobody can.

No human could but Jesus.

Don’t think for a second that you can sing perfectly worthy of the LORD.

But don’t you think the LORD is worthy of your feeble attempt at singing?

When we sing, when we truly sing a new song, something happens inside of us. The Lord gets the glory due Him, but it’s good for us, too.

It reorients our hearts to what is true, and beautiful, and good, and right, and excellent, and praiseworthy.

And He is infinitely worth it.

I see three main reasons in Psalm 96 WHY the LORD is worthy of our singing new songs to Him.

Here’s the first one. Sing to the LORD a new song because:

#1. HE IS THE GREAT CREATOR. Verse 4.

“For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.”

The songwriter sets up a contrast here between the gods of the nations and Yahweh, the LORD.

He says that the LORD is great and is most worthy of praise, but these other “gods” (small “g”) are not worthy of praise.

The LORD should be feared–which is an reverent, awe-filled, humble worship–“above all gods.”

Because they are just “idols.” And the word for “idol” here is not the generic word for “idol.” It actually means “worthless things.”
But it’s a play on words. It sounds like the word for God which is “Elohim,” but it’s actually the word “elilim” which means “worthless, useless, empty” idols. The ESV Study Bible says that this would be close to saying in English, “These mighty beings are mighty useless!” (ESV Study Bible notes on Psalm 96:4-5).

How do you get an idol? Where do they come from?

You make it, right? Idols are man-made gods. You have to make them.

But (v.5) says, “the LORD made the heavens.” The heavens!

He is the Maker! He is the great creator. Sing a new song to Him!

I’ve been getting up really early and going for a 4 mile walk before breakfast, and it’s just beautiful when it’s still dark. Especially after a fresh snow like we got on Saturday.

The stars shining. The moon was so big a few weeks ago! And I got to see the moon set. The moonfall. 
The other day I saw a coyote run through Lanse at top speed.

Everything we see was made by the LORD.

He is the great Creator. 

Why would we make our own gods?

In verse 6, the psalmist begins another crescendo of calls to praise. And in verse 7 there is another triplet, this time with the word “ascribe” which means to attribute something to someone else. And that’s exactly what he’s doing. Verse 6.

“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary. Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.”

Wow! If you don’t feel something there, there’s something wrong with you.

The songwriter wants us to recognize how majestic Yahweh is and to tell everyone about it.

He’s calling everyone everywhere, the families of nations, to recognize and attribute the proper glory to this ultimate Being.

To worship Him with a sacrifice (from the heart, like we saw last week). 

To worship Him in the splendor of His holiness.

Which means “in the splendid presence of the Holy One” (ESV Study Bible notes).

It means “in the full reality of His holy nature!” (Motyer).

We will never do that to the degree that He is worthy of.

But that’s not reason not to try.

Sing to the LORD a new song.

“Tremble before him, all the earth.”

Why?  Because:

#2. HE IS THE UNSHAKABLE KING. Verse 10.

“Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns.’ The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”

Remember that was the message of Psalm 93? That picture of His unshakeable throne?

Psalm 93 began, “The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity” (vv.1-2).

Psalm 96 says, “Yep. Nothing’s changed. The LORD reigns. Yahweh is King.”

“The LORD Reigns. Tell the nations.”

I don’t know about you, but I need to hear that.

I’ve been pretty depressed this week. I have had so many strong feelings trying to process what’s going on in our country. I’ve been tempted to anxious thoughts, to fear, to anger, and outrage and even despair. I have even found myself this week sobbing more than once. I’ll just be honest with you.

I’m guessing that some (many?) of you are feeling similar things.

So, I need verse 10. “The LORD reigns.”

I need to be reminded, “The LORD reigns.”

His throne does not budge.

The answer for anxious thoughts, fear, anger, outrage, and despair is worship. True worship.

Sing a new song because the LORD reigns. He is the unshakable King. The immovable Ruler. And nothing will stop His kingdom from coming.

The words I’ve said to myself over and over again this week are, “Raise Your Gaze.”

“Raise Your Gaze.” Look up and see Who is actually reigning over this world.

“Raise Your Gaze.” “The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved...”

It feels sometimes like the world is coming apart, but it won’t come apart unless and until the LORD tells it to come apart.

We can’t move the world because we can’t move the throne.

The LORD reigns.

And that is good, good news.

The psalmist finishes that thought about the firm establishment of the LORD’s kingdom by saying, “he will judge the people with equity.”

That means that justice is the firm foundation of His throne.

He is not just the King. He is the Just King.

Which is the third and last big reason that Psalm 96 gives us to sing a new song. BECAUSE:

#3. HE IS THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE.

In verse 11, all heaven breaks loose! And all of the earth breaks loose, too, in joyful praise. Verse 11.

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.”

It’s lot like Psalm 98, isn’t it? The one that we focused on during Advent and Christmas Eve, the one that inspired Isaac Watts write “Joy to the World.”

“Fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy. Repeat the sounding joy!”

All of creation gets into the act.
Everything worships.
Everything sings. Even the trees sing!

I don’t know if that’s literal. It’s probably just poetic language, personification.

But what if it is literal? What if the trees someday actually sing?!

What if they already are, we just can’t recognize the tune?!

This is in the future tense. The psalmist says that this will happen when the LORD comes.

This is eschatology. This is talking about the return of Christ. It’s talking about the kingdom.

It doesn’t say when. We should be used to that by now. Jesus wouldn’t tell us when. We can’t expect the Psalm to.

But it does say that’s it’s going to happen, and it will be glorious!

And why does all of heaven and nature sing? (V.13 again)

“[T]hey will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.”

At first that sounds scary.

And if you are outside of Jesus Christ, it should scare you. Come in to Christ. Come in and put your trust in Jesus and what He did for you on the Cross.

But for all of us who are in Christ, this is very very very good news.

Because it means that Jesus is going to set everything right again.

That’s what judging the world in righteousness means.

It means that everything is going to be made right.

Hear me. Listen to me:

It’s not just that everything is going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay.

But it’s more that.

It means that everything, everything is going to be right.

Three points of application:

Because the LORD is the Great Creator, the Unshakeable King, and the Righteous Judge, sing a new song.

#1. Sing it to the LORD. 

He deserves it. Worship in the splendor of His holiness. If you don’t, you’re disobedient.

#2. Sing it to the nations.

Tell the world that Yahweh reigns. Go out in missions and do evangelism.

Tell the nations that the LORD reigns.

#3. Sing it to your own heart.

Remind yourself anew, afresh, every day, that the LORD reigns, and the Lord is coming to make all things right.

You know that button on your computer that looks like a circle with an arrow on it for reloading a webpage?

Sometimes it’s called the “refresh” button.

“Refresh, refresh, refresh.”

Do that to your soul by singing to the LORD a fresh new song.


***

Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 / Winter 2021

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 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132
16. "My Son" - Psalm 2
17. "Search Me" - Psalm 139
18. "Cleanse Me" - Psalm 51

Friday, January 15, 2021

Consider Trying Out a Different Worship Time?



Dear Church Family,

I’m looking forward to worshiping with many of you on-campus this weekend, but I do have a request for some of you to consider:

As your pastor, I’d like to see some of the families that have been attending the 9:30 worship service to consider moving over to worshiping at the 11:00am service.

The 9:30am service had over 60 people at it last Sunday (January 10), and a number of people who have been participating at that time then were not present. We were at about 70% of our safe capacity for this COVID-19 season. It might not feel like a lot of people, but it really is for our size room right now.
                        
If we keep growing (and I hope we will), we’ll need to place people in overflow seating or ask them to worship from the parking lot on 89.5 FM.

I know that many of you have liked the 9:30am service not primarily because it’s convenient or for your kids to take part in the children’s church ministry but because that’s where the most people are. It’s a great feeling to be together with a group!

So if 4-5 families all moved over (and there is room for you), we could experience that same group feeling at the 11:00am worship gathering as at the 9:30am. If we had 10 more people, 4 or 5 families try that out, that would be great and helpful.

There’s also room at the 8:00am service for anyone who wants to get up a little earlier and be a little more cautious. And you get out earlier too and have the rest of your Sunday to do whatever.

I’d hate to turn anyone away or go back to the reservation system, so please consider if a different service might work well for your family.

By the way, for those worshiping in the parking on 89.5 FM, we have a special vehicle version of the bulletin sitting in the breezeway. Drive through and pick one up or wave at one of us, and we’ll bring you one. It has everything in it, including the hymns. You don’t have to bring it back and turn it back in.

We’re going to be studying Psalm 96 together this Sunday. I can’t wait to share with you.

See you Sunday!

-Pastor Matt

P.S. I also still want to encourage some of you to consider continuing to worship at home. We continue to be in the middle of major COVID surge in Pennsylvania. If you are in an at-risk situation and are not yet immunized, it may still be a time for you to keep your distance. We will miss you, but we'll also be glad to know you're staying safe!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

"Cleanse Me" -- Psalm 51 [Matt's Messages]

“Cleanse Me”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
January 10, 2021 :: Psalm 51

Unlike many of the other psalms that we have been studying together these days, we know why Psalm 51 was written.

We don’t know what was going on when many of these other psalms were composed. Sometimes we have big hints. Sometimes we have almost nothing to go on. And we’ve seen how that can be good–because those psalms can often have an immediate application.

But other psalms have a little superscription up at the top that tells us not only who wrote it but when and why that particular psalm was written.

And this one has a doozy. Psalm 51, verse 1. From the top:

“For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.”

This psalm is serious from the git-go.

It’s by David, and it’s talking about that time in David’s life when he abused his privilege as king and took what he wanted. He wanted another man’s wife, and so he took her. You can read the shameful story of sexual predation in 2 Samuel 11. And after he took Bathsheba, and got her pregnant, David arranged for the death of her husband. And for some time he was unremorseful and unrepentant.

And then one day the prophet Nathan confronted him with his sin.

Psalm 51 is a song that David composed about that moment, about that event!

Psalm 51 is David’s lyrical response to the prophetic confrontation of Nathan.

And how did he take it? 

Up until that point, not very well. Not very well indeed. And we shall see that he was suffering the painful consequences of his dis-repentance.

But Psalm 51 records the right response to righteous rebuke.

In Psalm 51, David is repentant, and he asks God for mercy and forgiveness.

In fact, he asks the Lord to cleanse him.


We said that a great prayer for the beginning of a new year (really, any time) is to ask the Lord (Who knows us, Who has us, Who made us, to ask the Lord) to examine us and put His finger on anything in us that doesn’t belong there, David said, “See if there is any offensive way in me...” Search me. Point it out. (Same David!) “Search me.”

Did you do that this week? Did you do that today? Did you ask the Lord examine you and show you any “offensive way” in you?

The events that happened at the Capitol this week have caused me to search my own heart and to evaluate my own life and ministry. Have I been doing enough as a pastor, as a Christian, to make disciples of Jesus Christ that believe the truth and not lies and who live lives that exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in public? I’ve been asking the Lord to make it clear to me what changes I need to make to be a more faithful pastor in these days. “Search me.”

And Lord has said to me that I have not been bold enough. I have been too silent at times especially when what I should say would not be popular among people I want to like me. I need to change. I need to speak up more.

How about you? You may not have taken someone else’s spouse or arranged for their murder or stormed the Capitol. I haven’t either.

But have you asked the Lord to show you where you have been wrong? To put His finger on any offensive way in you?

And once you’ve heard from Him, what are going to do with it?

David shows here in Psalm 51 why he’s called a man after God’s own heart.

Not because he never sinned, but because he humbled himself and repented and asked for cleansing.

“Cleanse Me.”

[EMBEDD HERE]

Listen to verse 1.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Notice how David makes no excuses. Notice how David owns his sin.

You can see it in his pronouns. “My transgression...my iniquity, my sin.” He goes on in verse 3, “my transgressions...my sin.”

There is no blame-shifting, no trying to fob it off as someone else’s fault. No pointing the finger at the other guy. No saying that he’s the real victim here. David owns his sins as his, and he pleads for mercy and forgiveness.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that because David’s speech is direct, that it’s a demand. “Hey, have mercy on me, O God, blot out my transgressions, wash away all my iniquity. Here, get this spot out, you.”

No. That’s not the right tune for this song.

Here’s how it’s sung. This is a penitential lament. His head is hung in shame.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

David not only uses multiple words for his sin; he uses multiple words for forgiveness.

“Have mercy...” “Blot out my transgressions.” That means erase them. Wipe them off the page.

“Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

He pictures sin as a terrible stain.

Have you ever gotten a stain on you clothes?

I do this all of the time. My wife likes me to wear an apron when we’re eating any kind of sauce. Oops. I got it on me. And I got it on my clothes. And it’s hard to get out. We’re always running to the sink to apply some water.

But this stain is much worse. It’s not a mistake. It’s a transgression. It’s a rebellion.

And that’s hard to get out, especially when you are dealing with a holy God. Verse 3.

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. [He feels the guilt. His sin confronts him every time he looks in the mirror. V.4] Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.”

Now, of course, David knows that he sinned against more than just God.

He sinned against Bathsheba. He sinned against Uriah. He sinned against Israel.

But most of all so that those others, terrible as they are, pale in comparison to sinning against God.

And there is no excuse. There is no defense.

David does not deserve clemency or mercy or pardon.

Notice this. David does not ask for forgiveness because of anything inside of him.

He is "guilty as charged, Your Honor.”

In fact, he knows that his guilt goes all the way down and comes out of who he is as member of the rebellious human race. Verse 5.

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”

He’s saying that he knows that he is thoroughly sinful. He is tainted by the original sin and this particular sin is not a one time surprise mistake. It comes from deep within where God desires truth and teaches wisdom–inside!

But David has sinned from his inside. 

He is sinful not just from birth but from the heart.

And he does not deserve cleansing.

So why does David think that he might get it?

Did you notice the reason why David asks?

It’s because He knows God’s heart.
It’s because He knows God’s character.
He knows He knows Who God is.

Look back at verse 1.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love [according to your hesed, His steadfast love, like we learned about in Psalm 136, His loyal love for His disloyal people v.1]; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

David hopes to be forgive because He knows that God is a forgiving God.

He is a holy God. But He is also a merciful God.

Remember Who He told Moses He was in Exodus 34? “[Yahweh, Yahweh], the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” 

That’s why David has the audacity to ask for cleansing. Verse 7.

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

I have three points from this psalm. Three short prayers that I hope provide application of this song to our lives today.

#1. CLEANSE ME.

Ask the Lord, like David does, after you see your sin to cleanse you. To wash you. To take the stain of your sin out so that you heart is whiter than snow. Not your skin, but your heart.

Say to God, “Cleanse me.”

Now, hyssop was a generic word for a number of plants in the ancient world but especially a family of plants that had hanging leaves that absorbed moisture. They were kind of like plant version of a sponge.

And in the Old Testament (you can read about this in Numbers 19 and Leviticus 14), hyssop was used to sprinkle water and even blood on unclean people and things to make them ceremonially clean.

And, in fact, it was with the hyssop plant that the Israelites painted the blood on the doorframes of their homes in Egypt so that the Angel of Death would pass over them and not take the life of their firstborns.

David is using that image to ask God to similarly pass over him. To forgive him. To wipe out the stain of his sin. To expunge his sin from the record. To give him a good soul-scrubbing. To cleanse him so that his soul is whiter than snow.

We’ve gotten some snow recently, haven’t we? It’s so pretty. So bright when the sun shines on it. And it lifts your heart. Not like the snow a few weeks later that’s all melty and dirty. Like a fresh new snow.

Only God can do that.

What David was asking for was big. The sin was against God. The forgiveness must come from God, too. And so must the cleansing.

David pleas with God. Verse 8.

“Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. [He’s been feeling it. He may not have shown it on the outside, but he was hurtin’ on the inside. In fact, the nation was hurting because he was hiding. David asks for God to undo all of that and turn it all around, providing joy again. V.9] Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.”

“Cleanse me.”

Have you prayed that recently? That’s a great prayer to begin a new year. And also a new day. And to end a day with, as well.

“Lord, cleanse me.”

But David doesn’t stop there. David asks for even more. Because he knows he needs it.

He asks the Lord, number two.

#2. CHANGE ME. V.10

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

David knows that he doesn’t just need forgiveness. He needs a renewal of his heart.

He needs not just a restoration of relationship with the Lord, but a desire to please God, a burning desire to obey.

He asks God to not just forgive him for the past but to empower him for the future.

Not just a clean-slate, but a whole new chalkboard. V.10

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

That word translated “create” is the word for “create!” as in God creating the heavens and earth. It’s a miracle.

This is something that only God can do.

David asks God to breathe a new and steadfast spirit within him. To change his heart so that he wants the right things and does the right things.

God’s gotta do it or it won’t happen.

And the opposite is unthinkable. V.11 

“Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.”

King David has seen what it’s like when the Spirit is taken from the king. It happened with his father-in-law.

God took his Spirit from King Saul. You can read about it in 1 Samuel 16.

How scary for the anointed king to lose his anointing!

David is asking for the exact opposite. He’s asking for God’s Holy Spirit to invade and control his life. And to change his own spirit. V.12

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation [of your rescue of me!] and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Change me.

Have you prayed that prayer this year?

Most of us, most of the time, do not want to change.

“This is the way I am. Take me or leave me.”

“You do you. I’ll do me.”

But David says to the Lord, “Change me. Give me a steadfast spirit. Give me a willing spirit. Give me an eagerness to be the person you want me to be.”

That’s a dangerous prayer. But it’s a really good one.

In verse 13, David changes the song up a little bit.

He is still asking for forgiveness, but now he tells God what he (David) will do if and when he is forgiven.

Now, let’s be clear: he’s not bargaining with the Lord.

He’s not saying like, “Have I got a deal for you. You forgive me, and here’s what you’ll get in return!”

But he is saying that he’s serious. That he’s committed to change. That if the Lord does forgive, then it will change everything for David.

You see how this is a model of repentance for us today? Verse 13.

“Then [when I’m forgiven] I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.”

I will teach other sinners how to repent! And some of them will!

Here’s an amazing thought. He’s doing it right now as we study Psalm 51:13! V.14

“Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.”

He’ll give testimony. He’ll sing his testimony. He’ll tell others how amazingly gracious the Lord is!

And he’s doing it. Right now. Right here as we read his song.

“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”

Here’s my third and last point, number three.

#3. I WILL WORSHIP YOU.

Cleanse me.
Change me.
And I will worship You.

I will live my life as worship of You.

Have you prayed that prayer yet this year?

You’ve got to do it from the heart. Verse 16 says that it can’t be just an outward show. Verse 16.

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Now, David doesn’t mean that God didn’t ask for sacrifices. Of course, He did. 

But David knew that the blood of bulls and goats wouldn’t do anything for forgiving him if he didn’t also bring a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart to the Lord.

It’s gotta be real.

But if it is real, then God will forgive and even give blessing. Verse 18.

“In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem [strengthen God’s people]. Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you [because they’re brought with the right heart!]; then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

King David says, “Cleanse me. Change me. And I will worship you, and so will all of Israel. There will be true worship, and we will experience your hand of blessing once again.”

Yes, David expects to be forgiven.

And the Bible tells us that he was.

Not because he was so great or even because he was so humble.

But his repentance was real, and God’s grace was greater than all his sin.

Of course, you and I no longer worship with whole burnt offerings or bulls on an altar. We have a greater sacrifice that has been made on our behalf.

When we are repentant, like David in Psalm 51, we know that our cleansing comes from the blood of Jesus Christ.

1 John 1... “the blood of Jesus, [God’s] Son, purifies us from all sin...If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (vv.7b &9).

Have you been cleansed by the blood of Christ?

No sin is too big. One of the reasons why I’m glad we know why this psalm was written is because we see how serious David’s sin was, and yet he was forgiven.

If you have never trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, your Rescuer and King, I invite you to do so now.

His blood is more precious and powerful than any sin that you have committed.

Own your sin. Turn from your sin. And trust in Him.

Ask Him to cleanse you.

And if you are already a follower of Christ and the Lord is putting his finger on an “offensive way” in you, turn from that sin right now, as well.

Ask Him to cleanse you.
Ask Him to change you.
And promise now to worship Him with your very life.

Because there are still worship sacrifices that you and I make today:
Romans 12:1, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Hebrews 13:15, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.” 


***

Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 / Winter 2021

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 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132
16. "My Son" - Psalm 2

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Sunday, January 03, 2021

“Search Me” Psalm 139 [Matt's Messages]

“Search Me”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
January 3, 2021 :: Psalm 139

Last week, way back in 2020, Joel Michaels said that Psalm 139 was his favorite Psalm. And that got me thinking about how appropriate Psalm 139 would be for us to focus on for the first Sunday of this new year.

Psalm 139 ends with this prayer request: 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Isn’t that a great prayer?

So, the title for today’s message is “Search Me.” And that’s not a snide remark like, “I don’t know! Search me!” No, it’s a prayer for God to look into our hearts and to see what is truly there. It’s an invitation for God to know us as we really are and to move us to become who He wants us to be.

Do you see how that’s a great prayer to begin the new year?

“Search Me.”

How did King David get to the point where he could and would ask God to search him in that way?

So 2021 is now upon us. Who knows what this year will bring? I sure don’t.

None of us could have predicted the events of 2020, so maybe prognostication should not be our focus as the new year dawns.

I’m certain that 2021 will have more blessing in it for God’s people. And there are some key things I’m praying for–including the return to close fellowship in-person with other believers. I want shake hands and hug at church! I want to sing shoulder to shoulder with you and not worry that I’m putting you at risk. I want us all to be together and partake of the Lord’s Supper and have a big old fellowship meal in the Fellowship Hall. And I believe that may come in 2021. Lord-willing, it will.

But I’m also sure that 2021 will have more trouble in it for God’s people. Trials and difficulties, some of them bewildering, perhaps more bewildering than last year. I don’t know.

The bigger question is not what is going to happen to me in 2021, but what kind of person am I going to be before God in 2021?

Will I be faithful?
Will I be trusting?
Will I be obedient?
Will I be loyal?

What kind of a person am I going to be before God in 2021? That’s the question.

“Search me.”

And an even greater question, more importantly still,:

“What kind of a God will God be in 2021?” 

Psalm 139 has wonderful answers to that question.


Psalm 139, verse 1.

“For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.”

We don’t know much more about the context of this prayer–many scholars believe that David has been accused by someone else of being unfaithful to the Lord, and he is seeking vindication here. I’m not sure if that’s true. 

I’m not sure at all what the historical setting was for this Psalm. As we’ve been learning in this series, sometimes, it’s better not to know those details because the application feels even more immediate to our lives now.

Regardless of the setting, it’s a psalm of Kings David meant to be sung by others like you and me and applied to our lives today.

David ends the Psalm by asking God to search him, but he begins the psalm by stating that he knows the LORD already has searched him. V.1

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.”
Point #1 of 4 this morning.

#1. YOU KNOW ME.

David can end up asking God to search him, because he already knows that the LORD has already done so. You know me.

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.”

That word for “search” means “to examine.”

In our computerized world, we use the word “search” all the time these days. Often, we set a computer going to find some piece of information that we lack. We “google” things nowadays. Right? The ubiquitous “search bar.”

But this is not an impersonal search for a trivial piece of information. This is being known. This is being examined. This is a Person taking a close look at another person. It’s more like a trip to the doctor than putting a query in a Google search bar.

“God, You have checked me out. You know me.”

David is amazed at how well God knows him. V.2

“You know when I sit and when I rise;”

Up or down. You know it.

And not just what position I’m in. What I’m thinking!

“...you perceive my thoughts from afar.”

God is a mind-reader. V.3

“You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”

Whether I get up and head out on a walk in the morning or come home and go to bed, you know all of my doings. My patterns. My ways.

And this is not just impersonal information. It’s not just that God has a database of factoids about me. He knows me. He is familiar with my ways.

Many of you have pets. Do you know the ways of your pet? If you come home and your pet is nowhere to be seen, do you have a good idea where they could be found? You know the ways of your pet. Their comings and goings and habits. It’s not just that you could look it up in an Encyclopedia. “This is what cats generally do.” You know this pet and how he or she acts. You are familiar with their ways. 

How much more is God familiar with our ways? He knows us better than we know ourselves. V.4

“Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.”

Sometimes my wife knows what I’m going to say before I do. I thought I just came up with that sentence, but Heather was way ahead of me. Not necessarily because we think alike, but because she knows me.

How much more does God know us! Do you see how personal this Psalm is?

David is saying, “You know me.” Completely. And not just as a bunch of facts but personally, intimately, deeply, truly, relationally.

You know me. V.5

“You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

“I just can’t grasp how much you know me, God!”

David is filled with wonder that he is known in this way.

Does that same truth fill us with wonder today?

Most people desperately want to be known. I think that’s one of the major reasons for much of what we see, for example, on social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

People are saying, “Know me! I’m putting myself out here. Know me!”

You are known! By the One that matters the most. V.6

“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

#2. YOU’VE GOT ME.

That’s what David was saying in v.5 with “You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.”

You’ve got me. I’m trapped!

There is no escape from behind–no back door.

And there is no escape from before–you’ve arrested me. You’ve laid your hand on me.

It’s not clear whether or not David wants to escape from God. Perhaps, that feeling of being known also gives him a touch of the willies and fosters an urge to escape. Or maybe he’s just saying that even if he wanted to get away, he knows that he can’t. Either way, there is no. hiding. from the Lord. V.7

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

There is no getting away from God. He is everywhere.

If verses 1-6 were about God’s omniscience, verses 7- 12 are about God’s omnipresence.

But it’s not just that God is there and standing around like some absent-minded professor.

“Oh yes, he’s here, but he’s not all here.”

No, this is saying that God is present. He is relationally with David wherever David would run to.

The sky? Check.
The ocean floor? Check.
Flying at the speed of light? He’s there.
On the other side of the world? He’s there, too.

You can’t get away from God.

You can run, but you can’t hide.

Not even the darkest place. V.11

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

For the God who is light, there is no place that is dark.

What’s the upshot of that?

Well, at first, it might not seem like good news. Who wants inescapable supervision? Somebody watching you all of the time? Kind of sounds like prison.

But David knows that it is good news. V.10 again.

Wherever I am, “...even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

“Hold me fast.” I’ll tell you wants inescapable supervision: sheep do. Or at least if they don’t want it, they need it. Sheep need a shepherd.

You and I are needy people, and we need a good shepherd to keep a guiding hand on us all of the time.

It’s so good to be able to say, “You’ve got me.”

Start your prayers in 2021 off with that phrase.

“Lord, you’ve got me. I know that I can’t get away from you, and that’s  such a good thing! I’m yours.”

Because...

#3. YOU MADE ME. V.13

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

This is how deep this relationship goes: David knows that he is the Lord’s creation.

God is not just omniscient and omnipresent. He is the Creator. The Maker. God didn’t just come to know David over time. He has known David all along, from the beginning. Because He made him!

This is the verse that we quote every January around Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. And that’s right. It’s all about that. It’s all about how God is intimately involved in making us. He designed us. He designed each of us personally, and that bestows a heaping measure of dignity to every human life.

But David is saying something even more profound. He’s saying that in making us, God knows us and has every right over us. V.15

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place [the womb]. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

I think that David uses the image of “the depths of the earth” to describe the most hidden place that he can think of. The womb was, for David, the most hidden place a person could be live on earth. But God saw into the womb. God was there, and God was directing that new life.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”

David just lives in amazement.

He can’t hardly believe how fearfully and wonderfully he is made, and he can’t hardly believe how sovereign God is over his life, and he can’t hardly believe how deep and long and wide are the thoughts of God.

Thoughts that make and create. Thoughts that are so awesome they cannot be numbered!

Now, scholars are divided over what that last sentence in verse 18 means.

“When I awake, I am still with you.”

Does that mean that David has been exhausted by these innumerable thoughts and then wakes up at that point? Or does it go back to the first section and mean that even in the mornings when David gets up, there is God? Some scholars even think it means awakening from resurrection. Even when we come back from the sleep of death.

Any way about it, the point is “I am still with you.”

There He is! There God is. God is not absent. God is present.

And I am with Him.

Now, how “with Him” am I?

How with God am I? He’s all here, but am I all his?

I think that’s the point of the next four verses. For many of us, these four verses feel like an intrusion. Like they don’t fit. But they flowed very naturally for King David. V.19

“If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.”

Now, we tend to stumble over these verses because they can seem so far from our Lord Jesus’ command to love our enemies.

And there is something new about our Lord’s command that at least modifies what is going on here in these verses.

But the emphasis here is not on personal hatred of those who are our enemies. The emphasis is on loyalty to God over against those who are His enemies. David is saying that he does not side with those who side against God.

“Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?” 

Another way of saying it would be to say, “I am not on Satan’s side. Not one bit.”

I’m on the LORD’s side!
I’m on Yahweh’s side.
I don’t identify with the enemies of God. I hate them.

Do you see how that works?

It’s not saying that we shouldn’t love our enemies. God loves His own enemies!
But there is a right way to love our enemies and even a right way to hate them.

If the choice is between loving them and their ways or loving God and His, then we side with God every time.

In other words, David is saying:

#4. YOU CAN COUNT ON ME.

How’s that for a declaration for 2021? I’m going to be on the Lord’s side!

“You can count on me, Lord. You know which side of the battle You will find me on.”

I know that you know me.
I know that you’ve got me.
I know that you made me.

And so...I’m yours. I’m completely yours..

So, yes, go ahead–search me. V.23

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Go ahead, Lord.

I know. that you already know. what you’ll find.

Search me. Know my heart.
Test me. Examine me.
Listen to my thoughts.

Some of them, I admit, are very anxious. Not just anxious in general, but anxious about 2021. 

And if I’m really honest? Yes, I’m anxious about You, too, God. 

Lord, sometimes You worry me. Sometimes, I feel like I want to escape, to hide, to get out of Your gaze.

But I know there is nowhere to go. And when I think about it the right way, I know that there is no place I’d rather be than. with. You.

Make this your prayer as you step into the new year:

“Search me. Lord, You can see for Yourself that I love you and am loyal to you. I am on your side. In 2021, you can count on me. “See if there is any offensive way in me...” and if there is, I turn away from it right now. Point it out to me. And change me. Lead me in the way everlasting. Put me on the path of righteousness that you have marked out for me."

"Search me.”


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People with exceptionally long memories might remember when I preached Psalm 139 on the cusp of 2014 with the same title and many of the exact same words.  I'm thankful that it's all just as, if not more, true and relevant today.

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Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 / Winter 2021

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 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132
16. "My Son" - Psalm 2

Saturday, January 02, 2021