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Sunday, August 29, 2021

“Elect Exiles” [Matt's Messages]

“Elect Exiles”

Lanse Evangelical Free Church
August 29, 2021 :: 1 Peter 1:1-2

Your Bible might just naturally open to the Psalms. For a year now, we’ve been bouncing around the Songbook in the center of our Bibles, studying the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. So it might be a little strange to go back to studying a letter in the New Testament. Letters are written differently than songs! And you read them differently, as well.

But I thought as we started a new school year, it was probably a good time to change over what we are focusing upon in God’s Word.

I don’t expect to spend a full year in 1 Peter like we did in Psalms, but it is worthy of our focus and attention today.

I prayed a lot about and thought a lot about what to study next, and I finally landed on 1 Peter. I believe 1 Peter speaks to the church in our current moment in ways that we need to hear. Some encouraging and some challenging. I hope to both encourage and challenge us from 1 Peter every single Sunday of this sermon series.

I actually have preached through 1 Peter one time before for this church. It was exactly 20 years ago. Strangely enough, it was right about the same time the US military invaded Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Twenty eventful years have now gone by, and I believe that the message of God’s Word in 1 Peter is even more relevant for us today, if that’s possible.

We’re only going to make it through the first two verses this morning, but you will see that there is a full spiritual meal in just these two verses.

If this was an email, we wouldn’t be getting very far past the headings at the top:

Who wrote it.
To whom it was written.
And a basic Christian greeting.

But there is so much in here!

Let me read these two verses to you, and then we’ll get into the details together. I’ll be reading today from the 2011 update of the New International Version. And, you’ll notice the title of this message is found in two e-words right next to each other in verse 1: “Elect Exiles.”

Those are two very important words that tell us who we are and where we are. 

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”


Two weeks ago, I did NOT get lost in New York City.

It would have been easy to get lost in New York City. Have you ever been there?

That’s a big city with a lot of streets and a lot of people and a lot of big tall buildings.

My wife and son and my brother’s family went up to the top of Rockefeller Center. “The Top of the Rock.” I’m not a big one for heights, so I myself stayed down on the street at the bottom of “The Rock” and went for a walk. I was supposed to try to find a place for us to eat lunch.

And did I get lost? No, I did not. (Though maybe it would have been a better story!)

Why I didn’t I get lost? Because I had a phone with me with GPS and Google Maps.

And I had my bluetooth earpiece in, and it actually gave me directions of where to go. “Turn left on 5th Avenue. Turn right on Broadway.” That sort of thing.

If I looked at the little screen, there was actually a little moving dot on a map that told me, “You are here.”

So I did NOT get lost.

Now, imagine waking up on the street somewhere in New York City with NO phone in your hand, and not only do you not know WHERE you are, you don’t remember WHO you are.

Think about how disorienting that would be.

No wallet either. No identification. And no trustworthy memories.

You don’t know WHERE you are, and you have forgotten WHO you are.

And so you try to piece it all together. 

And you ask other people on the street who you are.

And you ask some people on the street where you are.

And they begin to look at you funny. And some of them take advantage of you and tell you the wrong things. Just imagine. How disorienting!

I think that life itself can be like that. Even for Christians. We can lose our bearings. We can lose our orientation. We can lose track of where we are and even who we are–which will cause us no end of problems.

So the Apostle Peter’s first letter is a wonderful gift to us because it is a Word from God that tells us WHO WE ARE, WHERE WE ARE, and EVEN WHOSE WE ARE and therefore HOW TO LIVE.

1 Peter is wonderfully orienting.

It’s like that moving map on your phone. 

This is you, and this is where you are, and here’s what to do next.

Now, not everything Peter tell us is fun and exciting. I don’t like everything that Peter tells me about myself or where I am or what to do next!

There is a lot in here, for example, about suffering. I don’t want to suffer, but Peter says that suffering is normal for followers of Jesus. “Don’t be surprised.”

And there is a lot of other stuff in here that I don’t necessarily feel much like doing most of the time.

But at least I’m not lost.

Because I read 1 Peter, I know who I am and where I am and how to live accordingly.

Does that sound good?

I hope so. Let’s get into 1 Peter, and I’ll try to show you what I mean.

The letter begins by identifying the author. Verse 1.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ...”

It’s from Rocky himself. The Apostle who was named Simon that Jesus renamed “Peter,” the original “Rock.”

Remember him from our study of the Gospel of Matthew? Peter’s probably most people’s favorite disciple from the gospels because he’s so loud and forward and relatable, right? You’ve gotta love Peter. 

We loved him so much, we named one our sons after him!

Well, this Peter is all growed-up now. And he is not just a disciple. He is an apostle, an authorized representative speaking authoritatively for Jesus Christ Himself.

This is a Word from God. It is not just Peter’s opinion. This is a Word from God that tells us who we are and where we are and how to live accordingly.

The very next words in verse 1, tell us not just who was to get this letter, but WHO WE ARE and WHERE WE ARE. V.1 again.

“To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia...”

Peter wrote this letter to God’s elect exiles.

To be “elect” means to be chosen. When you have an election, you are choosing someone for something.

And these precious people to whom Peter was writing were God’s elect. People whom God had chosen.

He’s going to say some more about that in verse 2. It’s a glorious and comforting truth. It is incredibly orienting to know yourself as in God’s chosen people. God’s elect.

It’s not as encouraging, perhaps, to see yourself as an exile.

To see yourself as displaced and outside of your homeland.

Peter says that he is writing to these chosen people who are exiles “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia...”

Those are places in modern day Turkey.

You might want to look at a map in the back of your Bible this afternoon and find “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” Those were the names of regions in what we call “Asia Minor.” Not Asia as in China and over there on the Pacific. This is Asia Minor, where modern day Turkey is. Northern and Western Turkey. 

And these 5 Roman provinces are kind of in a circle on the map. Perhaps the circle in which the letter would have been circulated as it made its way to the churches? Or maybe just a circle in the mental map in Peter’s mind as he thinks about where he wants this letter to land.

There were Jews in all of those places in the first century. All of those places were mentioned as sending locations for Jews present on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Perhaps those people got saved that day and went back to their homes with the gospel and planted littler churches. We call the dispersement of Jews in the world the “diaspora” which is the Greek word here behind the NIV’s “scattered.” So these could have been Jewish Christians scattered among the Roman provinces.

Or it could have just been Gentile Christians scattered in those same places maybe even scattered out from Rome where Peter probably was when he wrote this. We don’t know for certain.

We do know for certain that Peter wanted them to think about themselves as exiles.

Or if you have the 1984 New International Version, as “strangers in the world.”

Now, the believers that Peter was writing to might have been literal exiles living outside their true homeland, but I’m certain that Peter was making a point not just about their location on the map, but their own self-identity as followers of Christ.

Because he’s going to hit this idea more in this letter. In verse 17, he’s going to call them to live their lives as strangers, as foreigners. And what did we see in our brand new memory verse this morning? Peter urges them “as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires...” Same word “exiles.”

This is their Christian identity. They are elect, and they are exiles.

And so are you and I.

To God’s elect, exiles in Lanse, Grassflat, Drifting, Winburne, Kylertown, Allport, and Morrisdale. Elect exiles.

What does that mean? Especially, practically speaking. What does that mean for us?

Let me give you some shorthand.

#1. ELECT.

That means that you are very loved. You are very loved.

Here’s the other one:

#2. EXILE. 

That means that you are very displaced. You are very displaced.

Let me talk a little bit more about that second one first because it’s the one that’s not so pleasant.

To be an “exile,” like this verse says, means that you are very displaced.

You are living somewhere that is not your homeland.

It’s your home at this point, but it’s not your homeland.

The NET Bible has "to those temporarily residing" and a footnote saying, “to those living as resident foreigners." That's really helpful. (NOTE: I had mistakenly quoted this as being the CSB in the live version and video version. CSB actually has "living as exiles.")

So you are not a tourist. You have come to live somewhere, but it’s not your homeland. It’s not your heartland. You are not a citizen of this place even though right now it is your temporary home.

Do you get the picture?

My mind goes to these precious Afghan refugees that have gotten on a plane and been shipped to somewhere else, perhaps Qatar and then taken through the US State Department’s rigorous vetting process, and then brought to the US. Perhaps they get off a plane in Sacramento, California where a lot of Afghan refugees have been resettled by Christian groups like World Relief that Heather and I support [the closest WR regional office is in Rochester].

And these precious people made in the image of God and coming from a war-torn homeland have to adjust to a completely different place, a different language, a different way of life, while probably their hearts are longing and worried about what is going on back “home.”

They are living in a home but not their “home.”

That’s how you and I are supposed to live as followers of Jesus Christ in this world.

This world is not your home.

You are not at home.

Do you feel that? Do you know that? Sometimes I think we need reminded.

I think that Christians often can lose their bearings and begin to believe that this world is their home. And this culture is their culture. And this country is their country. And this particular political party is their political party. This sports team is their sports team. This biological natural family is their family.

And we get too comfortable.

We begin to take on the values of this world, this culture, this country, this political party, this sports team, this natural family. We begin to look like and talk like and act just like the rest of the people in the world.

And we begin to find and place our identity in things of this world instead of in Christ. We make our major identity markers our culture, our country, our party, our sports team, our family, or whatever, our brand (Marvel or DC!).

But those are not our home.

America is not our home if we are Christians.

We are just “resident foreigners” wherever we are.

Now in the case of the Afghans, some of them will eventually get to American Citizenship which for them will be a wonderful thing. Because their homeland is not heavenly (right now), and it’s okay and even good for them to become true citizens of the new place they live. 

But that’s not our case. We are supposed to think of ourselves not as refugees but missionaries. Not as citizens but as ambassadors of our true homeland.

Does that make sense? Do you see what I’m saying?

We are to see to ourselves as very displaced. Exiles. Continually temporary resident  foreigners.

A year ago, we saw the same basic idea pop up in Philippians chapter 3. Remember “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ...” He is our king.

Now, we do live here in America. And as “resident foreigners,” so to speak, we are called to live for the good of our current home even if it’s not our true homeland.

We’re going to see that as we go further into 1 Peter. We are, in fact, supposed to be some of the best “citizens” that really-ultimately-non-citizens of a place can be! Paul was a Roman citizen himself. The one who said that our citizenship is in heaven.

But we are not supposed to get too comfortable. We are not allowed to make it our identity. Citizens are not what we are. We are exiles.

And...the world will make sure that if we’re doing it right, we can’t get too comfortable!

In fact, we will suffer.

These Christians were suffering, and we should prepare ourselves to suffer, too.

Because we are God’s exiles. We are very displaced. That’s where we are on the map. We are not at home.

But that’s okay. Because we are also God’s elect. We are very loved.

That’s who we are. We are very loved.

You are very loved.

Do you know that? Do you feel that?

You are very very loved.

Peter wants you to know not just WHERE you are on the map (not home), but WHO are you and WHOSE you are.

You are God’s elect.

Look at verse 2 to see just some of what that means!

Peter builds off of the words “elect” and “exile” to show in what ways we are elect and in what manner we are exiled. Look at verse 2.

Elect exiles “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”

Wow. Just wow.

Do you see how the entire Trinity is at work here?

You are loved by the Triune God. The Father, the Spirit, the Son.

You have been “chosen [elected] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

Here’s how loved you are. God the Father picked you.

You are chosen.
You are wanted.
You are known.
You are loved.

Now, some people have a hard time with the doctrine of election. That, ultimately, God does the choosing.


But most of the time when the doctrine of election shows up in the Bible, it is not a problem to be solved but a glorious truth to revel in!

You are chosen.

According to the foreknowledge of God the Father. It didn’t just happen. God didn’t just say one, “Oh my. Where did that one come from? How did she get in here?”

No, God knew beforehand, before you were ever born, that He was going to save you!

He placed His love on you on purpose. It’s no accident.

And you didn’t have to take the initiative.

The Father chose you beforehand for adoption.

He is not just God the Father. He is your Father God!

So, it’s okay to live in exile. Because your Father[!] knows where you live, and He’s there, too.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be away from home with this Father than somewhere I feel completely comfortable but apart from this Father!

And not just the Father, but the Spirit. Verse 2, elect exiles “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.”

“Sanctifying” is just a big word that means to be set apart. It’s another word for “being made holy.” Holy-fying something.

When we became Christians, we were set apart, consecrated by the Holy Spirit and now are being set apart, being made holy by that same Holy Spirit.

In other words, we are chosen to be different.

That’s going to be one of the major themes of this book.

You and I have been saved to live holy lives, different from the world around us.

That’s part of what it means to think of ourselves as exiles, as resident foreigners.

This world is not my home. I’m in it, but I’m not of it.

I’m American, but I’m not American.
I’m a resident of Lanse, but I’m not a Lanse-ien.
I’m a Mitchell, but I’m not a Mitchell.

Not when any of those things conflict in any way with my ultimate allegiance, my true homeland.

I’m not ultimately an American. I’m a Christian.
I’m not ultimately a Lanse-ien. I’m a Christian.
I’m not ultimately a Mitchell. I’m a Christian.

I’m different. I’m a resident foreigner. I’m an exile.

And I’m loved so much by God that His Spirit is making me holy like Him!

You are loved by the Triune God.

You are elect exiles, “for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood.”

We were chosen not just to spend eternity with Jesus, but to obey Jesus.

To come to faith in Him and follow Him with our very lives.

Have you done that? Have you chosen to follow Jesus?

Are you choosing to follow Jesus? Are you obeying Him?

Does your life look distinctly different from the non-Christians around you?

You are loved by the Triune God.

God accepts you just as you are but loves you too much to let you stay that way.

I learned that line 25 years ago, and it’s so true!

God accepts you just as you are but loves you too much to let you stay that way.

You have been chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ and “sprinkling by his blood.”

THAT’s how much you are loved! You are very very loved.

Jesus Christ’s blood seals the deal. It ratifies the New Covenant (see Exodus 34:3-8).

I think Peter is alluding to the ratification of the Old Covenant in Exodus 34 where there was a sprinkling of blood. You might want to read that this afternoon.

And Peter is saying that Jesus’ blood ratifies the New Covenant and saves us from our sins. It affects our adoption into the Father’s family and our consecration by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ.

That’s how much we are loved! You may be very displaced. But that’s okay because you are very loved. 

That’s what it means to be God’s elect.
It means that Jesus shed His blood for us.

“Redeemed how I love to proclaim it! / Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!”

Ok. Do you know where you are right now?
Do you know who you are right now?
Do you know whose you are right now?

You are God’s elect exiles.

And here’s what happens when you are. Verse 2.

The words here are so much more than a simple greeting: “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”

That’s what I want for me.
That’s what I want for you.
That’s what I want for Lanse Free Church in the Fall of 2021.

And that’s what I pray we will find as we study 1 Peter together in the weeks to come.

Grace and peace.


Friday, August 27, 2021

Fortifying Truth - Psalms

A sermon series on a selection of Psalms preached during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Fall 2020 to Summer 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
20. "Hear My Prayer, O LORD." - Psalm 86
21. "May All the Peoples Praise You" - Psalm 67
22. "A Wedding Song" - Psalm 45
23. "My Feet Had Almost Slipped" - Psalm 73
24. “Rejoicing Comes in the Morning" - Psalm 30
25. 'The Waters Have Come Up To My Neck" - Psalm 69
26. "Cast Your Cares on the LORD" - Psalm 55
27. "“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?" - Psalm 22
28. "You Will Not Abandon Me To the Grave" - Psalm 16
29. "He Will Rule" - Psalm 72
30. "Taste and See That the LORD is Good" - Psalm 34
31. "Since My Youth" - Psalm 71
32. "Your Statutes Are Wonderful" - Psalm 119
33. "The LORD Our God Is Holy" - Psalm 99
34. "Not To Us, O LORD" - Psalm 115
35. "Blessed" - Psalm 32
36. "Sit At My Right Hand" - Psalm 110
37. "Your Love Is Better Than Life" - Psalm 63
38. "Blessed Is the Man Who Fears the LORD" - Psalm 112
39. "If the LORD Had Not Been On Our Side" - Psalm 124
40. "Shout for Joy to the LORD, All the Earth" - Psalm 100
41. "You Have Raised A Banner" - Psalm 60
42. "Unless the LORD Builds the House" - Psalm 124
43. "Praise Be To The LORD My Rock" - Psalm 144
44. "Consider the Great Love of the LORD." - Psalm 107
45. "Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the LORD" - Psalm 150


Screenshots from Video Versions
Of Psalm Series During Winter 2021

Sunday, August 22, 2021

“Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the LORD” Psalm 150 [Matt's Messages]

“Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the LORD”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
August 22, 2021 :: Psalm 150

For the whole last year we have been studying a different psalm each Sunday, and bouncing all over the Psalter. And we’ve seen that the Psalms are songs, and that there are a variety of different kinds of Psalms with different moods and themes and keys. The Psalms aren’t just happy or joyful. Many of them are sad and mournful and full of lament. Some are full of questions. Some are full of wisdom. Some are long. Some are short. Some tell a story. Many are prayers directly to God but sometimes they are songs that we sing to one another, to encourage or to challenge one another.

But there is one key theme that runs straight through the book and gains steam as it gets closer to the end, and that the theme of praise. The Hebrew name for the book of Psalms is “Tehillim” which can be literally translated, “Praises.” The Book of Praises.

We’ve mentioned that the 150 psalms are divided into 5 big books of Psalms, and it turns out that each of the books ends with a praise. Psalm 41:13, Psalm 72:19, Psalm 89:52, Psalm 106:48, and then our Psalm for today, Psalm 150. And it’s the whole thing, not the just the last verse.

In fact, the last 5 Psalms–Psalm 146, 147, 148, 149, and 150–are each bookended,  beginning and ending–with the phrase, “Praise the LORD.”

Do you know what the Hebrew is for that?

“Hallelujah”

“Praise Ya!” Short for “Praise Yahweh.”

“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”

“Praise the LORD!”

And so the very last Psalm cranks that to 11! It’s very “Psalm-y” in that respect.

I count 13 times in just 6 verses that the psalmist calls everybody everywhere to praise God and is doing so himself at the very same time!

Have I ever mentioned that the ancient Hebrews liked to repeat themselves?
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”

Praise the LORD!

This is a song to end the book of songs calling for more songs of praise.

Today, I want complete our series on the Psalms and then move on next week to a book in the New Testament since it’s been a year.

But I urge you to never move on from the Psalms in your own life.

We may move on and closely study other parts of the Bible on Sunday mornings, but the Psalms are good for all of life. They give us a prayer language and a worship language no matter what is going on in our lives, good or bad.

And one of the things they teach us to do is to praise the LORD.

Verse 6, the very last verse of the Psalter says this, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”

And so that’s our title for our very last message in this series putting a cap on the book of Psalms with the last Psalm, Psalm 150.


We start in verse 1 where the songwriter begins his song with a call to praise the LORD wherever you are. Psalm 150, verse 1.

“Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.”

That’s three times in just one verse.

Hallelujah! Praise the LORD. Praise God!

#1. PRAISE THE LORD WHEREVER YOU ARE.

Verse 1 is all about location. “Praise God in his sanctuary.”

For the ancient Hebrews, that was the temple in Jerusalem, or the tabernacle. 

For you and me, the closest thing is the gathering of the church. Not a church building  but a church family gathering together to praise the LORD.

In other words, worship is essential!

In times of crisis and disease, we may have to find creative ways of doing it, but worship is absolutely essential.

The psalms cry out for us to do it. “Praise God in his sanctuary!”

And more than that. “Praise Him in his mighty heavens.” Literally, “In the expanse of his power.”

And when you put the two parts of the first line together, you’ve got worship in God’s earthly temple and worship in God’s heavenly temple, and that means worship of God anywhere and everywhere!

The stars in the sky and the sun in the sky stretch out there to lead us to worship.

The very first psalm we studied a year ago was Psalm 8 in which King David talks about the heavens as God’s fingerwork, His handiwork, and it calls us to praise Him. “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Do you praise God wherever you are?

Secondly, do you praise God for what He does and Who He is? Listen to verse 2.

“Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.”

Here the idea is not just location but reason. It’s the why we praise Him.

#2. PRAISE THE LORD FOR WHAT HE DOES AND WHO HE IS.
 
The psalmist doesn’t just say that we ought praise God, but gives us good reasons to do so. And it’s like summary of all of the good reasons that we’ve seen for the last year.

Number one, what he does and number two, just who He is. V.2 again.

“Praise him for his acts of power...”

What are those?

Well, that’s about everything God does.

Creation, Redemption, Restoration.

Whenever I go away on vacation, I am led to worship just thinking about how big and awesome God is.

When we are in Cook Forest (you knew there would be a Cook Forest story, right?), I look up at the Milky Way, and I’m amazed that God made all of that in His mighty heavens.

But I also am amazed when I sit by the river and watch the water flow by.

And think God, didn’t just make all of this, but He knows the location of every fish in this river. Every duck, every water spider, every biting fly! Every bald eagle or hawk swooping overhead.

And those things are happening right now on the Clarion River. And He knows them all. I just watch them for a few hours for a week while eating my ice-cream on vacation. God sees all of them. And not just on that river but every river. And every ocean.

And then we went to New York City and saw all of the buildings and all of the vehicles and all of the people. On the subway, in the streets, on the river, at the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island.

And He knows and see all of them. Not just when I am there, but right now. And not just there but everywhere. Including Haiti and Afghanistan and Tokyo and Lanse, Pennsylvania.

It’s good for me to go away and think about how big God is!

Praise Him for His acts of power.

And not just for His creation and His omniscience, His knowledge of His creation, but also His mighty acts of redemption.

What happened on the Cross.

And what happened at the resurrection when Jesus Christ came back from the dead.

Praise Him for His acts of power.

“Praise him for his surpassing greatness.”

I love that! That’s not just praising God for what He does, but just simply praising God for Who He is.

He deserves it.
God deserves this praise.

I heard Ira Glass recently on This American Life on the radio wondering why God needs all of this praise. “What does God get out of it?” he was asking.

Because all of these psalms demand our praise. Why does God need our praise so much.

Of course, the answer is that God does not need our praise. He just deserves it.

When other people call us to praise them, they are needy and it shows.

But we’re the needy people, and what need is a God like this who does things like this and is surpassingly great like this.

And it’s we who need this praise! We NEED to praise Him!

Because He is worthy.

Hallelujah!

If verse 1 says WHERE to praise Him and verse 2 say WHY to praise Him, verses 3,4, and 5 tell us HOW to praise Him.

And that is with everything in us. Verse 3.

“Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.”

It’s the whole orchestra, isn’t it?!

It’s the whole band.

It’s the whole kit and kaboodle.

The psalmist calls for every kind of musical instrument to be broken out, dusted off, and put to use. Wind instruments, string instruments, percussion instruments.

They might have been a little different from our modern versions. The trumpet was made from a rams horn. The harp and lyre were like a big string instrument and a smaller one. Kind of like our harp or big standing bass guitar and then the lyre was like our guitars or mandolin or even a banjo. Though I don’t think they’ll be any banjos in heaven. (Just kidding!)

Why do you think the psalmist writes a song about how many instruments should be used to praise God?

I think he’s saying that we need to give it everything we’ve got!

Music, yes. Do it with excellence. 

But I also think it means noise.

This psalm leads me to believe that God wants us to get loud. Loud and strong.

To worship with noise. To pull out all of the stops. To throw in the kitchen sink.

To give it everything you’ve got.

#3. PRAISE THE LORD WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE.

I mean, he says to DANCE here!

When was the last time you danced in worship?

I’m not saying that we need to draw attention to ourselves. I’m saying that we need to throw our whole selves into it.

When was the last time you gave your all in worship?

If the LORD is worthy of all our worship, why wouldn’t we give Him all of our worship?

Praise the LORD with everything you’ve got.

And while you still can. That’s verse 6.

We’ve seen WHERE to praise the LORD, WHY to praise the LORD, HOW to praise the LORD, and the very last verse says WHO should praise the LORD.

And it’s everybody who still can. Verse 6.

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”

That’s everybody. That’s you and me. That’s every living creature to the degree that they can according to their sentience. 

We are called not just to worship God with our constructed instruments but with the greatest musical instruments every constructed, the human voice.

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”

Hallelujah!

I think that the reference to breath there is twofold. One is that it is about using our breath to praise God.

To lift our voices. To say, “Praise God!” And use our voices to sing, “Praise God!”

But I also think there is a warning there to praise God while you still can.

While you have breath.

Breathing is a gift, and it’s a fleeting one. [As we found out with our brother Pat Quick this last week.]

Take a breath right now.

That was a gift.

You aren’t promised your next one.

But you are called to use your next one to praise the LORD.

#4. PRAISE THE LORD WHILE YOU HAVE BREATH.

Don’t miss an opportunity.

Especially out of concern of what other people might think.

Don’t worry about what other people think.

Praise God wherever you are.
Praise God for what He does and just Who He is.
Praise God with all you’ve got.
Praise God while you still can.

Hallelujah!

Listen to the whole thing:

“Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”


***

Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 to Summer 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
20. "Hear My Prayer, O LORD." - Psalm 86
21. "May All the Peoples Praise You" - Psalm 67
22. "A Wedding Song" - Psalm 45
23. "My Feet Had Almost Slipped" - Psalm 73
24. “Rejoicing Comes in the Morning" - Psalm 30
25. 'The Waters Have Come Up To My Neck" - Psalm 69
26. "Cast Your Cares on the LORD" - Psalm 55
27. "“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?" - Psalm 22
28. "You Will Not Abandon Me To the Grave" - Psalm 16
29. "He Will Rule" - Psalm 72
30. "Taste and See That the LORD is Good" - Psalm 34
31. "Since My Youth" - Psalm 71
32. "Your Statutes Are Wonderful" - Psalm 119
33. "The LORD Our God Is Holy" - Psalm 99
34. "Not To Us, O LORD" - Psalm 115
35. "Blessed" - Psalm 32
36. "Sit At My Right Hand" - Psalm 110
37. "Your Love Is Better Than Life" - Psalm 63
38. "Blessed Is the Man Who Fears the LORD" - Psalm 112
39. "If the LORD Had Not Been On Our Side" - Psalm 124
40. "Shout for Joy to the LORD, All the Earth" - Psalm 100
41. "You Have Raised A Banner" - Psalm 60
42. "Unless the LORD Builds the House" - Psalm 124
43. "Praise Be To The LORD My Rock" - Psalm 144
44. "Consider the Great Love of the LORD." - Psalm 107

Sunday, August 01, 2021

“Consider the Great Love of the LORD” Psalm 107 [Matt's Messages]

“Consider the Great Love of the LORD”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
August 1, 2021 :: Psalm 107

Do you want to be wise?

Not everybody does.

To be wise means to have skill at living.

To be wise means to know the right thing to do and to love the right thing to do in various life situations in our mixed-up broken-down world.

To be good at living life well.

That’s what it means to be wise.

Do you want that?

The very last verse of Psalm 107 explains the purpose of the whole song.

It’s a wisdom psalm meant to make its singers wise.

And the very last verse, verse 43, says, “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD.”

And that’s our title for today. It’s one sure way to grow in wisdom.

“Consider the Great Love of the LORD.”


V.43 again. “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things [the rest of Psalm 107 up above] and consider the great love of the LORD.”

To “consider” means to attend to something, to understand it, to discern it, to perceive it, to study it.

The wise person ponders, meditates upon, considers the great love of the LORD.

Now, what do you think is the Hebrew word behind “love” there in verse 43? After a year in the Psalms, we’ve seen this word that means steadfast or loyal love again and again and again.

What is it?

Hesed. That’s right.

And here it’s amplified in the Hebrew so the NIV has “great love” of the LORD.

The incredibly wonderful steadfast loyal love of the LORD.

Consider that!

If you want to be wise.

And what is the Hebrew behind the name of the LORD there? It’s capital L-O-R-D. Whenever you see that, you are looking at the covenant name for God in the Old Testament. What is it? Yahweh.

Don’t just think about great love.

Consider the great love of the LORD.

That’s what Psalm 107 does. That’s what it shows us how to do.

And in doing so, as we study it and sing it with our lives, we grow in wisdom.

We don’t know who wrote Psalm 107. It’s anonymous. It is the first psalm in Book Five of the Psalter which is the last major division of the Book of Psalms.

And it’s not just a Wisdom Psalm. It’s a Thanksgiving Psalm.

The psalm kicks off in the very first verse with a call to the people of God to give thanks.

And then it repeats it in verse 8.
And then it repeats it in verse 15.
And then it repeats it in verse 21
And then it repeats it in verse 31.

I might be repeating myself, but have I ever mentioned that the ancient Hebrews loved to repeat themselves?

Well, it’s true. The ancient Hebrews loved to repeat themselves, especially in their poetry, and this is beautiful poetry.

And it’s full to the brim with repetition.

This is repeated thanksgiving.
Repeated thanksgiving.
Repeated thanksgiving.

And I think we can learn from that, can’t we?

Repeated thanksgiving is one key way to consider the great love of the LORD.

And when you do consider the great love of the LORD as a repeated recipient of that  great love, repeated thanksgiving is the only appropriate response.

Let’s get into it. Psalm 107, verse 1.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. [We’ve heard that phrase before. It’s all of the Psalms. Give thanks to the [YHWH] for he is [Hebrew word? [tov]; his [hesed] endures forever. V.2] Let the redeemed of the LORD say this–those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.”

I’ve got four points of application this morning that I want to draw out from each of the points of the compass in this Psalm.

And here’s the first one:

#1. SAY THANK YOU.

Consider the great love of the LORD and then say thank you.

“Let the redeemed of the LORD say this–”

The thank you’s in this song are for God’s great redemption and rescue.

The people who give thanks are “the redeemed.”

That’s the people who have been bought back and brought back by the Lord.

Bought back and brought back by the Lord.

They are the rescued.

It seems from the poetry of this song that it may be about the exiles of Israel whom God was returning to the land.

Remember how at the end of the Books of Kings, the people of Israel and Judah had been conquered and then sent into exile in Assyria and Babylon?

Well, after the Lord’s time of discipline for them was over, He began to return some of them from exile back into the land. Really from every point on the compass.

And it was a great rescue.

Just like the Red Sea Rescue in Exodus, the return from Exile in Ezra and Nehemiah was a wonderful moment in salvation history when God brought His people back.

In fact, return from exile itself is another beautiful picture of what salvation means.

Now next, the psalmist sets out four beautiful pictures of rescue for us to consider.

They are very different, and they are also very alike.

The songwriter paints four different pictures, but he frames them, he frames all four pictures in almost the exact same way.

He repeats himself.

And he repeats himself for emphasis, and so that we see and consider in each picture the great saving love of the LORD.

Now, some people try to figure out in each of these pictures what was the story behind each of these pictures. Like when did this particular part happen? And that’s a good thing to try to discern, because I’m sure the LORD did things like these four rescues in Israel’s history.

But I tend to think that these are poetic storytelling to paint four vivid lyrical pictures of what it’s like when the LORD does His saving thing.

Let me show you what I mean. Let’s look at the first one. It’s in verses 4 through 9.

Each word picture is about a different group of people who were rescued by the LORD. Verse 4.

“Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle.  They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away.”

So you see, that could be the wilderness wanderings of the Book of Numbers. It kind of sounds like it. Or it could be those who were in exile, kicked out of the Promised Land, and having trouble finding their way back.

Or it could just be a graphic description of what it feels like to be rescued by the LORD whatever the historical situation.

These folks were, in a word, lost.

But then they cried out to the LORD. Listen for that phrase to be repeated again and again and again and again in Psalm 107. Verse 6.

“Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.  He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.”

Hooray! They cried out to Yahweh, and he saved them!

He got them into a city, maybe Jerusalem. And He got them settled down.

And make no mistake, it was the LORD that did it!

They were rescued by Yahweh.

And what should they do about it?

Say thank you. V.8

“Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love [hesed] and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

That’s what He does!

“Consider the great love of the LORD.”

That’s how He operates.

He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

And that’s not all. He also rescues prisoners. Look at verse 10.

“Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. [They deserve this. Notice that they are in a dark prison because of their sinful rebellion. Perhaps this is literal prison. Perhaps it is what Babylon felt like to them. V.12] So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help.”

Do you feel it?

So then what happened?

Verse 13 repeats verse 6.

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.”

Woohoo! He rescued them!

Yahweh was the one Who put them in jail in the first place, and now He’s busting them out.

What is the proper response? V.15 repeats verse 8.

“Let them give thanks to the LORD for his [hesed] unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.”

Do you see the pattern?

The people are in trouble. Sometimes, because they deserve it.

But then they cry out to the LORD and He rescues them, and then they should give Him thanks.

Say thank you to the LORD. Say it again. And then say it again.

“Let the redeemed of the LORD say this!”

“Consider the great love of the LORD.”

And say, “Thank you!”

Third picture of rescue. This one is hauntingly sad. Look at verse 17.

“Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death.” 

These people did not want to be wise.

They were wise in their own eyes. They became fools which in the Bible is a moral category not an intellectual one. They chose wickedness. They chose rebellion. They took their own path. 

And the consequence was sickness and approaching death.

And they had brought it upon themselves.

This was, in the words of one commentator, I read this week, “self-inflicted” harm (Derek Kidner). And today we might think of those who get themselves addicted to drugs (also an insight from Derek Kidner).

Though there are many other ways to do self-damage.

They are many other ways to be so self-absorbed that you bring disaster on your own head.

These people were at the end of life when you don’t care about eating any more and your staring at the gates of death.

But, remember! This is a story of rescue, this is a song of redemption. Verse 19 repeats verse 6 and verse 13.

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.”

Do you feel it?

They had one foot in the grave, and the LORD raised them to health once again.

Did they deserve it?

No way!

Were they rescued anyway?

Yes, they were.

“Consider the great love of the LORD.”

That’s what the LORD does. That’s Who He is for His people.

And how should His people respond? V.21 (Same as verse 8 and 15.)

“Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.”

Let’s make that application point #2.

#2. SACRIFICE AND SING.

“Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.”

Those are Old Testament pictures of worship. Worship in sacrificial offerings that say, “Thank for saving me, redeeming me, through this blood.”

And worship in singing. “Songs of joy.”

Like this one. Psalm 107 is the kind of song that we should be singing.

Or “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it. Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child and forever I am. Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Redeemed, redeemed, His child and forever I am.”

Don’t just say, “Thank you.” Sing, “Thank you!”

From your heart.

If you have been redeemed, you should sing.

The fourth and last picture of rescue is the climate opposite of the first one, but it’s still a group of people in desperate trouble. In the first one, they were in the desert. In this one, they are on the Mediterranean Sea. V.23

“Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits' end.”

Do you feel it?

You’re supposed to feel it.

I don’t know when this might have happened. The Ancient Hebrews were not ancient mariners. They didn’t go to out sea very often.

And the merchants in this song were wishing they had not gone to sea. They weren’t singing shanties. They were holding onto the rails for dear life.

We don’t know if they had done something to deserve it, like Jonah perhaps.

All we know was that they were in trouble, and then...verse 28 repeats verse 19, which repeats verse 13, which repeats verse 6.

“Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.  He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.”

What a picture of salvation!

Do you feel it?

“Consider the great love of the LORD.”

He rescues the starving lost, the guilty prisoners, the self-damaging, and the desperate at their wits-end.

That’s what He does!

“Consider the great love of the LORD.”

And when you do...verse 31 repeats verse 21 which repeats verse 15 which repeats verse 8.

“Let them give thanks to the LORD for his [hesed] unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.”

Let’s make that application point number three.

#3. SPEAK OUT.

Don’t just say “thank you” God or sing “thank you” to God.

But tell other people about how God has rescued you.

“Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.”

Get it out there in public.

God’s great love is too great to keep to yourself.

To not give your testimony is a crime.

Tell your church and tell your community how the LORD has rescued you.

Who was the last person you told your story of salvation to?

Who is the next person you need to tell?

Because this is what the LORD is like!

He is the God of great reversals.

He is the God of turnarounds and transformations.

He is the God who flips everything upside down when He comes to save His people.

The song ends by reveling in God’s transforming turnaround power. Listen to verse 33.

“He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there. [That’s a sad story. Like at Sodom and Gomorrah, He turned their beautiful place into an ugly one in His justice. But! Verse 35.] He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; there he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle. [He’s the God of turnaround and transformations. Verse 37.] They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest; he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herds diminish.”

But then the song turns sad again because Israel rebelled. Verse 39.

“Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled by oppression, calamity and sorrow; he who pours contempt on nobles [that’s God] made them wander in a trackless waste [of exile]. [But I’ll bet that “then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress!” V.41]

But he lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks. The upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths.”

Do you see what the psalmist is doing here?

He’s saying this is what the LORD is like.

And even the wicked in their injustice will one day have to admit it.

The LORD loves to rescue His people in the most dramatic turnaround transformational way.

He redeems them. They are bought back and brought back to Him.

He flips everything right side up again.

Not that they deserve it.
Not that we deserve it.
But because He is so amazingly gracious.

And there is no greater example of the LORD turning everything around from desperate to delivered than what the Lord Jesus did on the Cross.

At the Cross, Jesus leads the lost to a city and satisfies their souls.
At the Cross, Jesus breaks down the gates and brings the prisoners out of the darkness.
At the Cross, Jesus forgives foolish rebellion and heals sin-sick souls and lifts them up from the grave.
At the Cross, Jesus stills the scary sea storm to a whisper and guides His people to a haven of rest.

Have you come to Jesus at the Cross?

If you have not, then the message of this psalm to you is the message of verse 6 and verse 13 and verse 19 and verse 28.

Cry out to the LORD in your deepest trouble, and put your hope in Jesus, and He will bring you out of your deepest distress.

And for all of us who have been rescued like this, the fourth and last application point is for us:

#4. SEE AND REJOICE!

That’s from verse 42.

“The upright (true believers) see [this salvation] and rejoice.”

They don’t miss it. They see it.

In fact, they ponder it and study it and consider it.

Because they know that this will make them wise.

And they want to be wise.

The upright see what kind of gracious turnaround transforming flip-everything-right-side-up rescuing God the LORD is.

And they rejoice.

And they give thanks. Verse 43.

“Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD.”


***

Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 to Summer 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
20. "Hear My Prayer, O LORD." - Psalm 86
21. "May All the Peoples Praise You" - Psalm 67
22. "A Wedding Song" - Psalm 45
23. "My Feet Had Almost Slipped" - Psalm 73
24. “Rejoicing Comes in the Morning" - Psalm 30
25. 'The Waters Have Come Up To My Neck" - Psalm 69
26. "Cast Your Cares on the LORD" - Psalm 55
27. "“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?" - Psalm 22
28. "You Will Not Abandon Me To the Grave" - Psalm 16
29. "He Will Rule" - Psalm 72
30. "Taste and See That the LORD is Good" - Psalm 34
31. "Since My Youth" - Psalm 71
32. "Your Statutes Are Wonderful" - Psalm 119
33. "The LORD Our God Is Holy" - Psalm 99
34. "Not To Us, O LORD" - Psalm 115
35. "Blessed" - Psalm 32
36. "Sit At My Right Hand" - Psalm 110
37. "Your Love Is Better Than Life" - Psalm 63
38. "Blessed Is the Man Who Fears the LORD" - Psalm 112
39. "If the LORD Had Not Been On Our Side" - Psalm 124
40. "Shout for Joy to the LORD, All the Earth" - Psalm 100
41. "You Have Raised A Banner" - Psalm 60
42. "Unless the LORD Builds the House" - Psalm 124