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“If We Learn Anything from History…” A sermon from Psalm 78 May 31, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Falling Away, History, OT Preaching, Psalms, Religion, Sermons.
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It seems to be a cliché. It has been repeated so often. “If we learn anything from history, it is that we learn nothing from history.” The purpose of this psalm, however, is that every generation should learn from the history of God’s people in the wilderness. The beginning of the psalm tells us generally that we need to learn that God made a covenant with His people and confirmed it through many miraculous works. Yet the very people who saw those works rebelled out of fear against God. What then can we really learn from that generation? One of the lessons that we can learn is that rebellion against God’s covenant demands will not hinder His mercy.
Seeing the works of God does not prevent rebellion (verses 12-20). Now it should. That is the whole purpose of this psalm. The remembrance of the works of God should prevent rebellion and bring people to repentance. So often, however, it does not. This is something that our Lord Jesus the Christ taught on quite often. The religious leaders of His day saw the mighty works that Jesus did yet rebelled against His Messiahship. That is actually what lay at the heart of the unforgivable sin, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. They saw the works of God yet rebelled against the works of God. Even the common people who followed Him and saw the works that He did were no better. Jesus said about the people of the towns where he performed most of his recorded miracles that if those miracles had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah, those towns would have repented.
Awareness of the works of God often precedes a fuller revelation of God (verses 12-16). Notice that many of the works of God preceded the covenant, the giving of the Ten Commandments, the official establishment of Israel as God’s chosen nation. These verses relate five different miracles or sets of miracles that God performed for them beforehand: (1) He sent the ten plagues upon Egypt (compare verse 12 with verses 43-51 or Exodus 7-12), (2) He parted the Red Sea (compare verse 13 with Exodus 14), (3) He led them by a cloud during the daytime and by a fire during the night (compare verse 14 with Exodus 13:21-22), and (4) He supplied them rivers of water out of the rocks in the desert (compare verses 15-16 with Exodus 17:1-7), which by the way was the second time in the matter of weeks that God has miraculously supplied this new nation with water.
“But…” They saw all of these miracles and yet continued to complain the whole way. They complained against Moses while in Egypt (Exodus 5), they complained against him when it looked like they had been led by the cloud and fire into a dead end at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-12), and they complained both times before God miraculously provided water (Exodus 15:24 and 17:2-4, 7).
Rebellion against God sometimes escalates after reception of a fuller revelation, in this case, after they had received the covenant (compare verses 17-20 with the incident in Numbers 11, the incident in Exodus 16 is a separate incident). Asaph says that this rebellion against God was greater than what had happened earlier. They had during the period of a year seen many mighty miracles. They had complained much but now they went beyond complaining. They tempted God. They had tempted God before but this time they were making demands of God according to their own fancy. Look at Numbers 11:4-6, “Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!’” Asaph adds in verses 19-20 an interpretation to their words. This is the testing of unbelief. They saw with their eyes but when God did not meet with their expectations, they began to complain and rebel and turn against God.
How many of us have complained in unbelief? It is possible to complain in belief. It is possible to question, even to doubt, but in that doubt continue to have confidence in God and His word. This is not what happened here. These people have begun the process of rejecting God. He has made them His people but they have decided that God is not good, that God does not know what is best for His people. If God cannot provide them what they want then they will complain about His provision for their needs.
This is often where we see the reality of faith or the heart of unbelief revealed. When God does not meet our expectations, do we continue to trust Him? Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” That is the difference between faith and unbelief. Where will you stand when the tough times come.
Rebellion while seeing God’s works results in judgment (verses 21-33).
God’s anger results in judgment (compare verses 21 with Numbers 11:1-3) but that did not stop the complaining (Numbers 11:10). Why? Because they did not believe (compare verse 22 with Jude 1:5).
It is important that we understand the problem, not only so that we can understand the consequences but also the solution. The writer of Hebrews 3:12-13 warns us to look among ourselves as a church and warn one another of unbelief. There may be those among us who are in danger of seeing the works of God through the teaching and the testimony of this and falling away. If they do, it will be because they have a heart of unbelief but we are not helpless. We need to warn them daily. It does not matter if they think we are a pain. It is of no consequence if they hate to see us coming. Their eternal destiny is at stake. Do you understand that this is one of the reasons the church exists? We are not to take it lightly when people seem to be drifting away. Code red goes into affect when we find a heart of unbelief among us. We call, we teach, we plead, we visit, daily. Why do you think that the verse about “…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…” is in the book of Hebrews? We have a responsibility toward each other that involves more than keeping programs going. We have a responsibility to encourage one another to stay in the faith for we never know when there might be someone among us who has a heart of unbelief.
Still, God’s merciful provision did not stop (verses 23-25). He continued to supply but unbelief refuses to be satisfied with God’s blessing but rather refuses to trust that God knows best and starts complaining.
God’s concessions to humankind’s cravings can result in further judgment (verses 26-29). God once again gave them meat. He had done this before at the time that He had first given them manna almost a year before (Exodus 16:13) but this time God outdid Himself. Numbers 11:31 says that so many quail were driven in by the winds from the seas to the south and the east that as far as you could walk in one day in every direction there were quail a cubit deep, that is three feet deep on the ground. God said, “I am going to give you so much quail that after a month you will be sick of it” (Numbers 11:19-20). The least that one gathered of the quail was somewhere between sixty and seventy bushels (Numbers 11:32).
The worst, however, was not the overabundance (Psalm 78:30-31). Those who had craved meat, they cooked it and took a bite and before they finished chewing, before they could swallow, God began to strike them down dead with a plague. Asaph characterizes those who God struck down as those who craved meat and those who were the stoutest and strongest in Israel. God struck at the heart of the rebellion.
In spite of this, people with a knowledge of God continue to rebel (Psalm 78:32-33). We have come full circle from verses 9-11. Why did the Exodus generation die in the wilderness? Unbelief. The sin of lusting after the food of Egypt was serious but it was actually just a symptom, a symptom of unbelief.
Young person, the world is so enticing to you. You may be just waiting for the time when you can get away from mom and dad and away from the church and embrace the cucumbers of this world. If there is no pull against that lust, which we all experience, which every believer fights against, if there is nothing in you that says, “No, I am going to obey God.” Then let me speak very openly with you, you have a heart of unbelief and you need to be saved through faith in Christ before God says it is too late.
Your rebellion is not too much for the mercy of God to overcome (Psalm 78:34-39).
Even when people appear to turn to God, they may still have a heart of unbelief (Psalm 78:34-37). Notice that even when these people turned back to God, they were still plagued with a heart of unbelief. That generation continued for forty years in their unfaithfulness. Even when they changed their mind and decided to obey God’s original command, God said, “No, do not go! It is too late;” but they went anyway. They would say, “God, we are going to obey you now;” but they never did. They lied to God and perhaps even to their own selves.
God’s mercy abounds despite the weakness and sinfulness of humankind (Psalm 78:38-39).
Ephesian 2:4 says, “But God, who is rich in mercy…” Now what does it mean when it says that God was merciful to these people and forgave their sin. It is here that we understand that Asaph is speaking of the nation of Israel. Once, God said to Moses, I am going to destroy this people and start over with you. But He did not. Why? Because of the covenant He had made with this people.
Is that not the way it is with us. We promise God that we will do better but we often do not. But God is rich in mercy and because of His covenant, His new covenant through Jesus Christ, there is remission of sins, there is forgiveness.

Psalm 1 and 2 (the baptism links are thrown in for fun) August 11, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Body of Christ, Church Membership, Messiah, OT Preaching, Personalities, Psalms, Religion, Systematic Theology.
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For those who have missed the last two Wednesday nights, here is a little something that you might enjoy. Randy McKinion discusses the connection between Psalm 1 and Psalm 2. Come on Wednesday night, we’re studying Psalm 3

Here is an interesting series of exchanges on believer’s baptism and church membership. (HT:  Justin Taylor and Adrian Warnock)




How important is it that members be baptized believers? How important is it that teachers in the church be members? Should baptism be a requirement for church membership? How do we define the fellowship of local church? The practical application of these and other questions are discussed in the exchange. (By the way, I tend to agree with Grudem.)

How to know if God is revealing Himself (From Sermon Series on God’s Word) August 5, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Antichrist, Bible, Depravity, Deuteronomy, Eternal Security, False Doctrine, False Teachers, First John, Gospel, Hell, Holy Spirit, Jehovah's Witnesses, OT Preaching, Perserverance, Prophets, Satan, Sermons, Spiritual Warfare, Truth.


1 John 4:1-6 and Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:21-22 

Lying spirits exist and we are to test the spirits (verse 1). Now God has given us the final word but God has chosen to allow competition, to allow false spirits to speak their false doctrine through false prophets, to allow the lie to coexist on this earth with the truth.

It is not always easy to discern the false from the true. Just as counterfeit money is meant to be spent, false doctrine is intended by Satan to be believed and that means he must make it believable to the human mind and appealing to the human heart.  That is why it is of eternal importance that we look into God’s Word and find out how to determine the difference between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.


There are two passages in the Old Testament law in the book of Deuteronomy that discuss testing the spirits who claim to speak the truth. Now, it is easy to say that the Law was for then and not for today, for example in the law against eating pork which is also in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 14:8). We understand though that the law is more than the Ten Commandments and when Jesus said He came to fulfill the law He meant all of it, not just the moral code but also the civil and ceremonial aspects of the law. Not only that but as we saw about a month ago, “All Scripture is…profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). So how do we apply the Old Testament tests? By finding and investigating the timeless principles that apply to the subject of testing the spirits as taught in 1 John. (Ideas in this paragraph with thanks to Paul Lamey of Huntsville, AL.)

Test #1 –

If one part of the prophecy is proven untrue or inaccurate, then it is not of God (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

“Here’s a Help Wanted ad you may find interesting: Spokesman needed for international firm. No experience necessary, no education required. Must be between 20-85 years old. Full- or part-time…Will meet often with the CEO who will instruct brief you on what to say to the public. Important that you be able to move in all circles of society–from the highest to the lowest. Good vocabulary a must, ability to speak in colorful images a big plus…Unlimited opportunity for advancement…Must be willing to endure ridicule, persecution, slander, and occasional beatings. This job carries only one significant negative aspect: Make one mistake and you will be stoned to death….That ad describes the biblical role of the prophet…The test for a biblical prophet was 100% accuracy. Make one mistake and you would be stoned to death…(T)he Jews had a well-defined procedure for stoning. The victim was stripped naked, with hands bound, paraded out of town and placed on a scaffold nine feet high. The first official witness pushed the victim off the scaffold. The second witness dropped a large stone on his head and chest. Bystanders then pelted the dying man with the stones. The corpse was then buried in a special place along with the stone that inflicted the fatal blow. No mourning ceremony was permitted. False prophets had to be stoned. The Law commanded it…(P)rophecy was not a growth industry in the ancient Israel. It was a risky way to make a living. Today prophecy (and messages from God) is big business–and not nearly so risky.” (Thanks to Ray Pritchard)

(In fact, you can make the New York Times Best-Seller List and become a fixture there.)


Not only does a prophet sent from God speak the truth with 100% accuracy but he knows that his message is 100% accurate and does not try to hide that fact. When someone says that they have a vision or dream or message from God and they temper their claim with the possibility of human fallibility then I know that I need not be afraid of that person. God does not speak to every subject but to every subject that He speaks, He speaks authoritatively and without error.

Test #2 –

If the prophecy leads away from the truth, then it is not of God (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

Actually, this whole chapter deals with the seriousness of following anyone who would lead us away from the truth. In verses 6-10, if a family member attempts to lead away from the true and living God, they were to be stoned. In verses 11-18, if Israel heard that one of their cities had turned from following God, they were to go against it and destroy it with all its inhabitants, all its livestock, and to destroy everything in it. They were not to take anything for plunder. Obviously, we are not to apply the extreme measures that are commanded to the Israelites but we are to take this seriously.


How do we recognize the spirits (verses 2-6)? In other words, how does this apply today?

The Spirit of truth identifies…

…Jesus as God and man (verse 2). Any person or any group that denies that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man is not of God. The Bible is very clear. One of the reasons that we have started studying together the book of Colossians in the adult and junior high and junior aged Sunday School classes is the vital importance of this doctrine. If Jesus is not God then Christianity is a lie and if Jesus is not man then Christianity is a lie and the Bible is a lie. I do not have a problem with the Jehovah’s Witnesses refusal to celebrate birthdays. That is not an eternal issue. I do not have a problem with their refusal to salute the American flag. That is not an eternal issue. I do not even have a problem with their refusal to take blood transfusions. I think they are wrong and that it is an unfortunate belief but that belief will not send them to the lake of fire. I do have a problem though with their refusal to acknowledge Jesus Christ as God, not a god, but Jehovah God Himself. That is why I fight for the Virgin Birth. If Jesus was not Virgin Born, He was not God. That is why I fight for the Bodily Resurrection of Christ. If He did not rise bodily from the dead then there is doubt that He was really man. He was and is both. That is also why it is so important that we hold to the Bible as given by God without error. If the Bible is in error in any area, then how can we trust what it says about Jesus Christ and the message in verse 2 about Jesus Christ is only to be found in the Bible?


The Spirit also identifies the redemptive work of Christ as sufficient for eternal salvation (verses 9-10). I understand that John is not addressing this directly but it is addressed in other places in the Scriptures: the first half of the books of Romans, the epistles to the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the books of 1 Timothy and Titus, the book of Hebrews. I am saying that it does matter what we believe about Christ’s saving work.

The word “propitiation” here means to appease God. We are sinners, we deserve the eternal punishment of the lake of fire but Jesus Christ came and died to appease His Father. That is the good news that we are to believe. If you believe that salvation comes any other way than through Jesus Christ alone, you are in the trap of the spirit of error. If you believe by being good you can satisfy God, then you believe the spirit of antichrist. If you believe that trusting Christ and being baptized to wash away your sins, then you are trusting a ritual. Paul said in Galatians of such rituals that they make the crucifixion of Christ of no effect. Either Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was sufficient or it is not. If you believe the Church provides you appeasement before God, you are trusting the doctrine of the world. If you believe that the Lord’s Table which we partook of earlier in this service will impart God’s saving grace into your life, then you are trusting the doctrine of a false spirit. It is through Jesus Christ alone.

Acts 5:12 says that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. He does not need my help, He does not need your help, and he does not need the help of any ritual, good deeds, or organization. He is capable through His death alone of saving us and according to these verses, He does this because He loves us.

The Spirit of error… (verse 3-5).

…contradicts in some way the Spirit of truth (verse 3a).

Why?  Because the spirit of error is of this world (verses 3b-5). This is not a new phenomenon (verse 3b). Since time began, Satan has been lying to humankind. Although it is true that as we get closer to the end, evil men will get worse and worse, it is a matter of degree and not of quality. The quality of the counterfeit is always bad. Some are more effective in their deception than others but counterfeits are always a lie.


Believers in Christ have protection within them from false prophets (verse 4). In 1 John 2:18-27 we find specifically what he means by this verse. Some have asked me, what happens if I quit believing in Jesus Christ. According to these verses that will not and cannot happen. If you quit believing in Christ it is because you never truly believed in Him. I am not talking about doubts. I am not talking about those who give up in frustration and quit trying to live for Christ. I am talking about those and the text is talking about those who teach the truth and then turn their backs on it and attempt to drag others with them on their path. That is what John is addressing here. We, however, are protected. We are protected because we have the Holy Spirit living within us. We are protected because we have the truth in us.

The world has no protection from the false prophets because they think just like them (verse 5). This is an awful thing to think about but the Bible plainly teaches that the natural mind follows after the lie of Satan. The lie appears in all kinds of forms but every form is deadly. Which will kill you a bullet through the heart or a knife through the heart? So it is with the lie of Satan. There is no hope unless they are awakened by the Holy Spirit and believe the truth of the Word of God concerning Jesus Christ.


When someone clearly sees and rejects the truth we know that they are not of God (verse 6). If you are here this morning, you have heard the truth. Did you understand it? If you understood it, have you accepted it or rejected it? If you have accepted it, how are you going to react when you hear the lie? That is our invitation this morning.