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Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem November 7, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in David, Jerusalem, Kingdom, Peace, Psalms.
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Psalms 122

I would like for you to imagine with me that we are on our way to the Temple to celebrate our God. As we came out of our houses, though we are surrounded by troubles, we make known to each other through singing Psalm 120 that we know He has heard our prayers. As we approach the walls of Jerusalem, we look to the hills and we remind each other through Psalm 121 that God is our helper.

As we enter into Jerusalem we pull out an old psalm, Psalm 122. It was written by the king who made Jerusalem his capital, King David. As we look at the city and sing this psalm we are reminded that we have a heritage and it is in this city, in Jerusalem. We recognize, however, that the dangers we left outside of the gates are lurking outside, waiting for the chance to destroy Jerusalem’s peace. So we begin to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

A. If we pray for Jerusalem, what are we praying for? Often I have heard conservative, evangelical Christians refer to the Middle East conflict and use these words, “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” in order to encourage people to pray that the modern nation of Israel would not be wiped out by its enemies. However, when we compare our vision of the world with God’s, one should soon recognize that our vision is too small. As we study this psalm and compare to Scripture we can come to understand what it is that God would want us to look for when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

1. We are praying for the kingdom of God to remain established on this earth (verses 3-5). “[Bob Pierce, the found of World Vision] was an unlikely man to found and lead such a large organization. He didn’t have much education, he butchered the King’s English, and he lacked many social graces. In fact, he called himself a second-rater. When asked the secret of his life, he said that in his early years as a Christian he had prayed like this, “O God, I give you the right to change my agenda any time you like—and you don’t have to inform me in advance. Amen’” (told by Ray Pritchard, see http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/2007-10-26-The-Hardest-Prayer-You-Will-Ever-Pray/). That is one way to pray for the kingdom of God to remain established on this earth.

2. We are praying for people to rejoice in the presence of the Lord (verses 1-2). Notice that verse one does not say “go into the house of the LORD” but rather “go to the house of the LORD.” Even King David himself could never enter into the tabernacle but David had learned long before he became king what it meant to be in the presence of the Lord. In fact he had danced in the presence of the Lord after that God had given His armies great victories. When we pray for the peace of Jerusalem we are praying for God to give the victory over His enemies, which results in our rejoicing.

B. If God is the one who defeats the enemy, if He is the one who established and keeps His kingdom here on earth, if He is the one who makes joy possible; how then should we who pray for Jerusalem put feet on our prayers (verse 9)? In David’s case he purposed in his heart to build a temple but we don’t need a temple anymore. The book of Revelation tells us that in the New Jerusalem there is no temple nor light in that city for Jesus is the temple and light of the city. He provides all, yet there is something we can do to put feet on our prayers.

1. We work to accomplish God’s plan for physical Israel. What is God’s plan for Israel? That they be saved. That they turn to their Messiah, Jesus Christ, who they had crucified under the leadership of the religious rulers of the day. We must not neglect the opportunity to reach any person with the gospel but it is especially true that we should try to reach those who brought to us by God’s plan, Jesus Christ, the righteous.

2. We also work to accomplish God’s plan for spiritual Israel. As for as giving people the gospel, this is identical to the above point except that it is expanded beyond evangelism and missions. God desires us to build each other up as the body of Christ. Ray Pritchard once said, “Some of us need to decide to make the church the social center of our lives. Not the worship center. It’s already that. Not the Bible center. It’s already that. Not the religious center. It’s already that. The social center. The center, the hub around which our life revolves and rotates. That’s what the church was in the beginning. The church was the social center. Things have changed now. Today we center our lives around our work or the schools our children attend. We throw everything we’ve got into work, or we throw everything we’ve got into school activities. I am challenging you to change the focus of your life and to let the church be the center of your social life. If you will do it, it will be strength to you, and to your family, and to your children, and to your children’s children, and to the third and fourth generations. If you will dare to do that, you will never, ever regret it” (http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1998-10-08-Our-Mutual-Covenant/).

C. When is the prayer for Jerusalem answered? Spurgeon perhaps gives us a hint when he wrote in his Treasury of David, “If we may not say ‘Peace at any price,’ yet we may certainly cry ‘Peace at the highest price.’” The peace of Jerusalem already exists. It was provided by the Prince of Peace when He died on the cross to reconcile us to God. “He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (Second Corinthians 5). I know that Jesus is coming back and the king will sit on His throne, not in heaven, but in Jerusalem but the victory is already one, joy is already possible, the peace of Jerusalem is a present reality now.

My Help Comes from the LORD October 23, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Faith, Psalms, Shepherd.
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Psalms 121

“Six thousand men under the command of General French were detailed by [the Confederate general] Hood to take the [supply post of Altoona Pass, Georgia protected by fifteen hundred under General Corse of Illinois]. The works were completely surrounded and summoned to surrender. Corse refused and a sharp fight commenced. The defenders were slowly driven into a small fort on the crest of the hill…At this moment an officer caught sight of a white signal flag far away across the valley, twenty miles distant upon the top of Kennesaw Mountain. The signal was answered, and soon the message was waved across from mountain to mountain: ‘Hold the fort; I am coming. W. T. Sherman.’ Cheers went up…and under a murderous fire, which killed or wounded more than half the men in the fort…they held the fort for three hours until the advance guard of Sherman’s army came up [and] French was obliged to retreat” (from Al Smith’s Treasury of Hymn Histories).

A. There are often times when we need help. Remember that your help comes from the Creator of the universe (verses 1-2). These people on their way to the temple, perhaps from outside of Jerusalem had begun in Psalm 120 by calling to each other expressing confidence that God would answer their prayer. They recognized that they were surrounded by trouble and that they needed help. They looked at the hills that surrounded Jerusalem and recognized that the God who created those hills was their helper.

1. Hills were often associated with gods. When you read of high places in the Bible it is often associated with local gods. It was in such places that sacrifices were made and these places were often associated with idolatry.

2. A great God makes a little hill great. “Persons who travel to Israel are often disappointed to find that Jerusalem is not located on the highest mountain in the area…In the ancient world mountains were considered to be the homes of the gods. So Mount Olympus [for example]…was felt to be an especially holy place. Here God is saying that there is really only one ‘holy mountain,’ the place where he, the sole Creator of the universe, has chosen to place his name” (from John Oswalt’s commentary on Isaiah).

B. Remember that He watches over you all the time (verses 3-6). Sometimes I ask myself if I really believe this. Sometimes I act as if God is out to lunch, that he is asleep.

1. There is, however, evil all around us in the form of temptation and persecution. It does not matter whether it is day or night, sun or shadow, heat or cold, there is in this world all matters of danger and we need to be aware that we desperately need the Lord watching over us.

2. He never leaves you or forsakes you. “Around the year 1870 the song ‘O How I Love Jesus’ was new and very popular. It seemed that wherever folks sang, you would be sure to hear it at least once in a service – sometimes several times. At the time, [Philip] Bliss was compiling his first Sunday School songbook which he entitled ‘The Charm.’ Because of its popularity, Mr. Bliss wanted very much to use [the song] but when he wrote the owner of the copyright, he was refused permission to use it, for the owner felt it would hurt the sale of his own books…In the days that followed, Mr. Bliss often thought of the incident and then one day the thought suddenly dawned upon him. ‘It is important that I love Jesus, but it is a greater and a more wonderful truth that He loves me!’… When he came to the breakfast table he said, ‘Lucy, the Lord gave me a new song early this morning and here’s how it goes, ‘I am so glad that the Father in Heaven tells of His love in the book he has given…’” (told by George C. Stebbins to Al Smith, Treasury of Hymn Histories).

C. Remember that He not only handles our day-to-day and material lives but also that which is more important, the eternal and our spiritual lives (verses 7-8).

It is interesting that our shepherd provides for us in a dry and thirsty land spiritually. Philip Keller in his classic, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, writes, “It is not generally recognized that many of the great sheep countries of the world are dry, semi-arid areas. Most breeds of sheep flourish best in this sort of terrain…But in those same regions it is neither natural nor common to find green pastures…Green pasture [do] not just happen by chance…Green pastures were the result of clearing rough, rocky land; of tearing out brush and roots and stumps; of deep and planting special grains and legumes; of irrigating with water and husbanding with care the crops of forage that would feed the flocks…green pastures are essential to success with sheep…”

The word we live in is a dry and thirsty land. It is lacking in truly spiritual nourishment. Wherever you turn there is nothing spiritually or eternally satisfying in this world. We need the green grass of heaven here on earth. How do we get it? We can’t. We need help when in danger. We need eternity when in this temporary land. Did you come looking for something eternal this morning or did you come looking for an emotional or religious fix? That will not satisfy. You need to turn to the one who will never leave you or forsake you and depend on Him for the spiritual and eternal help you need. He may or may not bless you physically and temporally in this world. That will depend on His will. All, however, who trust in Him will be helped, kept, and preserved in this world and into the next one forever.

Next in series: Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122)

The First Song of Ascent: Psalm 120 October 16, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Peace, Prayer, Psalms, Temple, Testimony, Worship.
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Psalms 120

This is the first of the Songs of Ascent, psalms that were sung or recited as the Jews made their way to the Temple of Yahweh to worship the LORD their God. This psalm seems to be a strange one to begin with since it certainly seems to be a downer. There is no denial here of the difficulties of life, however, almost half of the psalms, over sixty of them, are like this psalm, a lament.

Often when times get difficult people don’t go to church. They have the idea that you have to feel positive about life to worship God. This psalm reminds us, however, that even when life is miserable you can worship God. Perhaps you are going through a rough time this morning. If so, then this psalm is for you now. The rest of us will need it next week, so we will listen also.

A. Did you begin your morning by testifying to someone that you are anticipating God’s deliverance (verse 1)? These people are on their way to celebrate the Lord’s blessings or perhaps to have their sins from the past year atoned for. The first phrase here is something like, “Nobody knows the trouble I see…nobody but my Jesus.” He is going to deliver. I’m not sure how but he will deliver.

One of the reasons we have a greeting time is so that you can express your relationship with God to each other. Do you take advantage of that opportunity? When you check your email in the morning, do you drop a note to someone expressing joy that God will answer prayer in your life? Does your family hear you sing or listen to songs on Sunday morning that express confidence in God’s working?

Jack Hayford gives four reasons why we should be expressive to each other in our worship of God.
a. “It challenges the culture.” The world believes that religion is a private matter. To openly express your faith to others “….[is] one way to witness to the world about the new and full life that Christ offers.”
b. “It nurtures humility. Many times our emotional reserve is but a fearful quest to retain control of our lives…Expressive worship prevents spiritual arthritis…in the body of Christ.”
c. “It creates a climate of warmth and acceptance. When you develop an expressive atmosphere, you cultivate the spirit of fellowship, which creates a climate for evangelism.”
d. “It fosters commitment. Rather than encouraging people to be placid observers, passing judgment on what is said and done, expressive worship demands participation and , therefore, commitment” (quotes from Hayford’s “Strategic Reasons for Expressive Worship,” Leadership, Spring 1994).

B. Did you spend time yesterday asking for the Lord’s deliverance (verse 2)? This prayer is quite specific, “Deliver me from lying lips and deceitful words.” There are some of you this morning that are being attacked by the spoken word. Perhaps you know this to be true or perhaps you merely suspect it to be true. Either way, you fear the arrows of the wicked word, being burned by the hot coals of the lie. Turn to God in prayer.

C. Are you wondering about how God might deliver you from the situation (verse 3-4)? Steve Harper of Shepherd’s Care in Lexington, Kentucky tells of “a student in [his] theology of prayer course stopped [him] after class one day. ‘My cancer has come back,’ he said. He was a young man who had undergone treatment for a brain tumor four years earlier, and the therapy appeared successful. The tumor had disappeared. ‘I’m in seminary to become a preacher,’ he said, ‘and it looks like I’ll never get to be one.’ He asked me to tell him if he had heard God’s call correctly.’ Prayer is often linked with profound questions about the will of God and the mystery of suffering. Such issues force us into a position of humility. I could not answer his question with any final authority. Nevertheless we talked that day about how deeply the will to live is ingrained in all of us, and I prayed with him for his complete healing” (Leadership, 1994).

D. Are you longing for God to make all things right (verses 5-7)? The Psalmist was not among friends. He was dwelling among pagans from Meshech (in Asia Minor) and Kedar (in Arabia). He was longing and waiting for God to deliver him from this situation. What can you do while waiting for the answer that you know is coming to arrive?

a. If someone is shooting arrows at you or throwing hot coals at you avoid that person if possible.
b. In extreme situations if you can find someone to help, go to them. David went to Jonathan for help against Saul. I’m not talking about revenge but rather legitimate help.
c. Don’t take it personally and don’t shoot arrows and throw coals back at your enemy. “Never wrestle with a pig. For one thing you will become dirty; second, the pig will love it; and third, he plays be a different set of rules” (from When You’ve Been Wronged by Erwin Lutzer).
1. Your character must correspond to that of God’s, a lover of peace (verse 7a)? A lover of peace is not threatened when others have more influence, control, or power than they have. A lover of peace does not seek revenge when removed from a place of power or position. A lover of peace does not desire for someone else to “get what’s coming to them.” A lover of peace does not go around seeking for sympathy or seeking to make another person look bad.

2. Your actions must correspond to those of God’s, a maker of peace (verse 7b)? We need to be strong in the Lord and stand against falsehood. That was the point of 2 Timothy; yet that book reminds us that we should be gentle. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The last phrase of this psalm makes it clear that the one being slandered desired peace and spoke words of peace to those who wanted to war with him.

E. When you cannot make peace, turn to Him who can. “Few preachers have experienced the kind of criticism that Spurgeon did…More than one writer expressed doubts that Spurgeon was even converted? His sermons were called ‘trashy,’ and he was compared to a rocket that would climb high and then suddenly drop out of sight!…Hearing slanderous reports of his character and ministry week after week could have led him into defeat; but he fell to his knees and prayed, ‘Master, I will not keep back even my character for Thee. If I must lose that, too, then let is go; it is the dearest thing I have, but it shall go, if, like my Master, they shall say I have a devil, and am mad, or, like Him, I am a drunken man and a wine-bibber’” (from Walking with the Giants by Warren Wiersbe).

This Psalm teaches us two things: have confidence that God will hear and act according to the character of God. Neither is dictated by the circumstances. Both are necessary not just when going to church but every day of our lives.

Thanksgiving and Prosperity November 27, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Prosperity Gospel, Psalms, Thanksgiving.
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Psalm 30

From Max Lucado’s When God Whispers Your Name: “We push back from the Thanksgiving table and pat our round bellies. ‘I’m satisfied,’ we declare. But look at us a few hours later, back in the kitchen picking the meat from the bone…

As a child we say, ‘If only I were a teenager.’ As a teen we say, ‘If only I were an adult.’ As an adult, ‘If only I were married.’ As a spouse, ‘If only I had kids.’ As a parent, ‘If only my kids were grown.’ In an empty house, ‘If only the kids would visit.’ As a retiree in the rocking chair with stiff joints and fading sight, ‘If only I were a child again.’”

God blesses us and yet we are not content. This psalm, however, describes a man who was not only content but thought he was self-sufficient. This man is David. We will see though that God brought him low and then lifted him up and that through being brought low and lifted up he learned thanksgiving.

A. God has lifted us up out of certain doom (verses 1-5). “Lifted up” here is the word used for drawing water out of a well. David found himself at the bottom of the well surrounded by enemies. He could not rescue himself and there was no one there to help him.

The plight of each individual is much the same. It does not matter whether you are king or beggar, preacher or prostitute. Each of us is doomed. We are surrounded by our enemies: sin, death, hell, Satan, the ungodly world in which we live, fear, doubt, suffering of many kinds, and darkness, which is ignorance of all that is godly as well as separation from God. That is the list of those with whom we are sharing the bottom of our well.

Then Jesus came…

a. He came to deliver us from death. Hebrews 2:14-17 says, “…He Himself … [became human], that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage…that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

b. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

c. He will deliver us from this evil world. “Our Lord Jesus Christ…gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever.” (Galatians 1:3-5).

B. God prospered us and then left us to our own devices (verses 6-7). Patrick Morley tells how that he “grew proud, not in [open] arrogance, but in subtly looking down on others, commending [himself] for superior accomplishment. One day God decided to get [his] attention…He put the business on its back. It was the best education and the most spiritually rewarding time of [his] life.”

The same thing happened to David. He had killed Goliath and had become a great military leader. He had fought overwhelming odds and won repeatedly. He had become a skilled manager of men. God prospered him and then allowed him to fall prey to his own success. We do not know the exact occasion but God began to multiply David’s enemies. David needed to be driven back to the understanding that he needed God.

As Anne Ortlund in My Sacrifice, His Fire wrote, “…I discovered that God’s leash wasn’t too tight-my heart was too proud! I thought I ‘deserved’ more; my self-image had greater expectations, and that attitude was the very grease on which I slid into self-pity, discontent, ungratefulness, misery.”

C. We committed ourselves to His worship (verses 8-10). Does God need us to worship Him? No, He is the Almighty whether we recognize it or not. You see, the purpose of worship is evangelistic. If what we do in here does not make a difference out there, then what we have done in here is not worship. For too many Christians, the church service is a spiritual comfort food.

Tim Keller, a pastor in Manhattan, in an interview years ago said, “I worship…when I realize I’ve been trusting in my own abilities, not the sovereignty and goodness of God. When I put my affections off the other things I’ve been trusting in – which is why I’m anxious – and put them on God…the truth will affect my emotions – and my will.”

D. God gives us joy so that we might glorify Him (verses 11-12a). God has not blessed us because we deserve it. God has not blessed us because we value religious freedom. God has not blessed us because we are democratic. God has not blessed us because we send missionaries. God has not blessed us because we tithe. God has not blessed us because we support Israel. God has not blessed us because we oppose abortion. God has blessed us for this reason alone, “So that we might glorify Him before others.”

“A man was standing behind a woman at the check-out counter of a local grocery store. He was well-dressed and his facial expression was quite stern. The woman glanced back at him a time or two as she finished unloading her basket. Finally, unable to restrain herself any long, she asked the serious-looking gentleman, ‘Excuse me, but do you happen to be a minister?’ ‘No, I’m not,’ he replied. ‘I’ve just been sick for a couple of weeks.’” (from Chuck Swindoll in Living Above the Level of Mediocrity).

E. Let us glorify Him in thanksgiving this week (verses 12b). God has saved you from a horrible pit. He has washed you from your sin. He has convicted you of your pride and brought you to salvation. You are committed to following Him. He has given you joy unspeakable and full of God. This thanksgiving, let people know from what God has saved, that you are committed to Him and nothing or no one else, and that you rejoice in Him.

Next week: “Preparing for the Dawn” Luke 1:67-80

Seeking God’s Favor After Sinning March 12, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Adultery, Confession, David, Depravity, Faith, Forgiveness, Hope, Mercy, Psalms, Religion, Repentance, Second Samuel, Sermons, Sin.

Seeking God’s Favor After Sinning
2 Samuel 12 with Psalms 51 and 32

David was entrusted with God’s people. In His disobedience to God, He betrayed God’s people. What we sometimes forget is the awful cost of betrayal. There is an emotional cost. When you read John’s Gospel carefully, it seems that a huge part of the emotional turmoil exhibited in the Garden of Gethsemane had to do with his knowledge of the betrayal of Judas.

Many of you today feel betrayed. Some of you have so often felt betrayed that you have deep scars on your soul. If you have been betrayed, then understand this sermon touches on those events in which you were betrayed.

There is, however, hope and healing. The path to hope and healing, however, is not an easy path. I do not want to mislead you and tell you that this one sermon will answer all your questions and solve all your problems. What I desire is that we begin our path through the valley of the shadow of death together. It will not be easy. In fact, our path begins with the destruction left behind by sin.

I. Sin is destructive (2 Samuel 12). It starves the malnourished and leaves the helpless unprotected. Sin is like a whirlpool pulling all those close by under the water. Sin leaves its victims with no where to turn. Sin, like Satan goes about as a roaring lion, seeking who He may devour. Yes, sin is destructive eternally in the lake of fire but it is also destructive physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in this life, right now.

a. One of the reasons sin is so destructive is that when I sin, I do not care about others (2 Samuel 12:1-6). You see sin is manipulative, coercive, controlling, and predatory. Look at David’s sin. David in this case did not care who he harmed.

That is the point of Nathan’s parable. Nathan did not even address the lies David told and the murder David ordered. He simply points out that the sinner, in this case, David, did not care about the welfare of others. He did not care about his kingdom, he did not care about his family, and he did not care about his army. All he cared about was self.

Let me at this point say something very important. When I say these things, I know what I am talking about. I am an experienced sinner. I wish that I could tell you that I would never sin against you but my forty-six years have taught me this much. I sin when I am selfish. Sometimes my sin is acceptable to those around me and sometimes it is not but it is always selfish.

Sin destroys trust because sin uses trust as a weapon. When trust is destroyed, it is then that people begin to lose hope. Without trust, how can you hope in friends, family, and church? Without trust, how can you feel safe? Without trust, how can you hope in justice? Would you trust David as your king, your husband, your father, your commander in chief? No. Yet you need those in whom you can trust. What do you do? Perhaps the one damaged by sin withdraws into a world they feel they can control. Maybe they put up an impenetrable front through which no one can break through. Or perhaps they simply walk away when trust is demanded.

But when I sin, I do not care about that.

b. When I sin, I show a lack of contentment with God’s blessings (2 Samuel 12:7-8). This is the second point of the parable of Nathan but this point is so important that Nathan explicitly emphasizes it.

“In Our Daily Bread, Philip Parham tells the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat.
“Why aren’t you out there fishing?” he asked.
“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman.
“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?” the rich man asked.
“What would I do with them?”
“You could earn more money,” came the impatient reply, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”
The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?”
“You could sit down and enjoy life,” said the industrialist.
“What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied.

Again, I speak from experience. When I sin, it is often because I am not content with what God has given me. I want more. I am not convinced that what I have is enough. I am not convinced that the resources, whether physical or emotional or spiritual, that God has given me are sufficient. It is in that moment that my heart becomes fertile ground for sin.

c. When I sin, I despise the wisdom of God and His Word (2 Samuel 12:9-10). I will refer to this when we celebrate the Lord’s Table. It is important for you and me as believers to realize that when we sin, it is because we despise God’s wisdom. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that He is God and we are not. When I sin as a believer, it is usually because I feel I know better than God does.

II. But repentance is possible (Psalm 51). The consequences of David’s sin were long-lasting. A daughter abused. A son murdered. Another son, Absalom leads a rebellion against his father in which not only is he killed but thousands of others die in a civil war. Those were some of the special consequences God visited on David and Israel. Yet there was repentance on David’s part and this repentance resulted in God’s blessing on God’s people.

a. No excuses are allowed (Psalm 51:1-6). David made it clear where his sin came from. He was born a sinner. Environmental factors played no role. He was the source of his own sin. That is why he begged for mercy. He could not wipe away the consequences. Neither could he eliminate an already done deed. He needed God to intervene. For God to intervene, David realized that there could be no excuses.

It is essential that we be honest with ourselves. We must acknowledge the destructiveness of our sin. It is only when we are honest with ourselves that we can truly repent.

b. A return to dependence on God’s mercy is demanded (Psalm 51:7-12). There used to be a saying, “The Devil is no friend of grace.” We forget so easily that healing is only to be found in God’s grace and mercy. We, each of us, are in the midst of spiritual warfare. We are defenseless against Satan, against the world, and most of all, against our own evil flesh unless we depend on God’s grace.

c. Repentance unlike penance focuses on loving God and others (Psalm 51:13-17).

One of the big dangers is that one admits to guilt but there is not change. Repentance demands a change. David repentance drives him away from his selfishness. John the Baptist tried to explain this when he preached on repentance in Luke 3:7-14. Penance simply says I am guilty and I will start doing good works. Repentance says, there is no excuse, I am sinful to the core but I will throw myself own God’s mercy and begin to live as He commands, “To love the Lord my God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself.”

d. Repentance of the individual brings healing to the congregation (Psalm 51:18-19). You see, each one of us is negatively affected by the sin of the other. That is clear. First Corinthians 12:26 says, “…if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” This psalm also makes it clear that true repentance in one of us, positively affects each one of us. Last week, Dale preached on forgiveness from Matthew 18:21-35. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus warns against the consequences of sin in verses 1-10. Yet there is hope in verses 11-14. Jesus wants to save the lost, protect the weak, revive those without hope, and nourish the starving. He does that regardless of whether the offender repents or not.

But what about the sinner? Not every sinner repents and Jesus threatens that one with punishment. But if he repents, Jesus will not cast him out and according to Matthew 18:15, we have gained a brother. It is of profit to each of you when I repent of my sin. How? Because then we are viewed as acceptable before God.

What is your sin? It is destructive to yourself and to all those around you. You need to quit making excuses and repent. You may need help being honest with yourself. You may need help on the road of repentance. God’s mercy is available and we extend our hand to help you.

I have spoken primarily to believers who have already trusted Christ. If you have not trusted Christ, you need to recognize that He paid the penalty for your sin on the cross. He died for you. You need to be honest also. You need to admit that you are a sinner and that you cannot save yourself. You need the mercy available through faith in Christ. Will you trust him today?

What does creation teach us about humankind (Psalm 8)? June 28, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Creation, Hebrews, Jesus, Messiah, Psalms, Religion, Sermons.

Lessons From Creation: What Is Man?
(Psalm 8)

THEME: Humankind is the Key Created Element in the Eternal Majesty of God

Introduction: This is a psalm of praise. When someone approaches royalty, they might say, “His Excellency” or “Your Majesty.” This is exactly what this psalm does. David prays to God but He does not say, “My Father” but rather in total submission to God bows before God and worships “His Excellency”, “His Majesty”, “the LORD his Lord.”

I. In his praise of the majestic Lord God, David beautifully points out that the key created element of God’s eternal glory is humankind. This psalm asks and answers the question, “How is it majestic Lord, that you are glorified in the weakness of humankind (verses 1-8)?”
A. You are already universally glorious (verse 1).
1. You, that is, your name, is excellent, is majestic in all the world around us (verse 1a). When God separated the waters on the earth from the sky with a word and gathered the waters into oceans so that dry land would appear, He showed His lordship over the earth. When with a word He caused grass and trees, savannahs and rain forests, gardens and prairies, with that one word He showed His excellency in all the earth. When with a word He put fish in the oceans and birds in the trees and animals on the land, God displayed His majesty and glory.
2. Lord, not only are you majestic in all the world around us but you are glorified in the created universe (verse 1b). Your glory, your majesty, your authority, your beauty is above and beyond the heavens. This universe of ours is beyond measuring, beyond comprehension but God is greater than this universe. It is His created domain to rule and to reign over.
B. God created mankind to create greater glory for Himself. This psalm asks the question, “God, do you need humankind to create greater glory for yourself (verses 2-8)?” Let’s think about this. If God had stopped with the creation of land animals on the sixth day of creation, would this universe be glorious? Absolutely! Would He still reign over His domain? Of course, but God’s creation went beyond creative power and glory but rather centered around humankind. Humankind is the focal point of God’s creation.
For example, when God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day of creation, for what purpose were they created? To give light to the earth. This is God’s perspective of the universe. It was all created for this seemingly small and insignificant ball of land and water.
For two hundred years, we have been taught differently. We have been taught that our sun is an insignificant star (“rather ordinary” according to Gary Edward Schnittjer in “The Torah Story”) “located in a remote area of the rather unexceptional Milky Way galaxy, which is one of billions of such galaxies.”# Schnittjer quotes one of the lead characters of the 1997 movie to illustrate this point, “If human beings are the only life in the vast universe, then it sure is a waste of space.” This psalm says just the opposite. It is the existence of human beings that give purpose to this universe in that they enhance the glory of God.
1. Silencing God’s enemies enhances His glory. (verse 2).
a. Strength out of weakness silences His enemies (verse 2a). Jesus quotes this verse on the first Palm Sunday when the learned religious rulers of His day wanted the “Hosannah’s” of the children silenced. In the context, David is speaking of humankind in general and the nation of Israel in particular. God has enemies and His enemies are powerful. Satan controls the rulers of this earth. He is called in Ephesians the prince of the power of the air. He is a mighty force. Now God could easily defeat Him with one word but He chooses instead the words of the weak. That is why Satan hates humankind and desires to deceive humankind, because He understands that God will defeat Him through the praise of our lips.
b. The illustration of ordaining strength from babies (verse 2b). When God cursed Eve for her part in their disobedience, He promised her that through her seed, that is, through a man, that Satan would be defeated. How was Satan’s mouth stopped in the book of Job? Through the integrity of one man. How were the Philistines brought to their knees? Through a young boy with a sling whose strength was not his own but the LORD’s. How were the God-hating Pharaohs and the Nebuchadnezzars of this world shown the glory of God? Through weak men made strong by the everlasting arm of God.
2. This is why God gives priority to humankind over the heavenly bodies (verses 3-8). God enemies are defeated through humankinds weakness. An observer would say that we are insignificant in comparison to the universe. It appears obvious yet God gives priority to us over the sun, moon, and stars. He gives us a glory that is above all creation.
a. Humankind’s earthly glory is the result of God’s care for us (verses 4-8). God does not pay attention to the heavenly bodies nor does He concern Himself with the animals and plants except as they relate to humankind. God could have saved the dinosaurs from extinction but He did not. He could have through His power saved hundreds of species of plants and animals from extinction but has not. Why? Because they are not the focus of His plans. Humankind is the focal point of God’s creation which is why we find Him caring so diligently for humankind and specifically for His people.
i. Is humankind worth remembering (verse 4a)?
ii. Is humankind worth tending to (verse 4b)?
iii. The assumed answer is “No”. “What is man that you remember him?” Mark Twain spoke for the modern man when he answered this question by saying that we are robots who simply go through life doing what we must do because we are in some way programmed to do that thing. Some, like the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and New Age adherents try to give us significance by proclaiming us to be gods or godlike in some way. The answer of David is this. When I look at God’s handiwork in the sky, there seems to be no significance in man to justify God’s dealings with him.
b. Humankind’s earthly glory comes from God’s gift to humankind of dominion over creation (verses 5-8).
i. You have made him a little lower than the angels (verse 5a). The angels are higher than us in rank. They are greater than us in power but only we have been given dominion over the earth.
ii. You have crowned him with glory and honor (verse 5b). I suppose it is not bad to be an angel. God created the angels for a great and glorious purpose but without the existence of man, one has to ask one’s self if the angels serve a significant purpose without man. Angels can sin but they will never be forgiven. Angels can do great things but they are never indwelt by the Spirit of God. I think it is likely that even the creation of the angels was directly connected with God’s plans for humankind. They are simply powerful and exalted tools, created as part of God’s redemptive purpose for humankind.
iii. You have given him dominion over your creation (verse 6a). When God created the heavens and the earth, He did not turn it over to an angel or a group of angels but rather to Adam and Eve. Physically and spiritually limited, God gave to them the dominion over the earth and the care of the garden of Eden. An angel was sent to block entrance to the garden and the tree of life to the very people who had been responsible for its welfare. What a glorious privilege they were given.
iv. You have put all animals under his feet (verses 6b-8). God could have named the animals but He gave that job to Adam. God could have tamed the animals but He left that for Adam and his descendants to do. “Under his feet”, however, goes much further than naming and taming animals. First, animals are just one example from creation of those things being subject to man. Secondly, this is the phrase used when one has defeated his enemies and they are submissive to him. Paul quotes this verse in 1 Corinthians 15, speaking of Christ’s victory over death. In the same way that death is submissive to Christ, creation is submissive to mankind.
v. We have not done very well with our responsibility. From Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden to the submission of the heathen to creation; from the unwise uses of our earth to the wicked uses with which man uses creation; in all of these things, we have shown that our sinful nature prevents us from ruling over the earth in wisdom.
II. God’s name is glorified through humankind in the person of Christ (verse 9). One man – Jesus Christ fulfills the expectation of God’s gifts (Hebrews 2:7).
A. His name is glorified despite humankind’s unworthiness. We have proven unworthy but God is worthy. Revelation 5:8-13 describes how the Lamb of God, the seed promised to Eve, the one made a little lower than the angels, when He had by Himself purged us from our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Father, so that all things would be under His feet (See Hebrews 1 and 2 also).
B. His name is glorified despite humankind’s abuse of His gifts. When Jesus was born of a virgin, He became one of those babes and sucklings referred to in verse 2. The world could not realize that the baby born in Bethlehem would be able to fulfill the expectations of God for the human race. Through Him God’s enemies are put to silence. Satan and His demons, death, sin, and hell are all defeated through Jesus Christ. Romans 5 shows us that Jesus Christ is the superior man, much more superior to Adam who gave us death through sin. Jesus, however, gave us righteousness through death, His death.

God created you for His greater glory. Every man, woman, boy, and girl sitting here today was the focal point of God’s creation. He has given us dominion over the earth. We, however, have failed and continue to fail and will continue to fail. There is a man though who descended from heaven to be born of a virgin, to live as a man, to die as a man, to bodily rise from the dead as a man, to ascend into heaven as a man, the Son of Man, the Son of God, God Himself. God’s glory is enhanced through Christ’s redemption of sinful man. He will save you when you put your faith in Him. Do it today!

When God Wakes Up… Psalm 78:40-72 June 7, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Judgment, Mercy, Psalms, Religion, Sermons.
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WHEN GOD WAKES UP (Psalm 78:40-72)
THEME: God’s Purposes in the Lives of Sinful Men are Eternal.
The idea for the title of this sermon is found in verse 65. This portion of Psalm 78 portrays a God who has forsaken His people. They have rebelled against Him, generation after generation. Finally, God says, you are on your own. After a long period in which it seems that God has forsaken His people, God wakes up. Not literally, we know that God does not sleep. He is always aware. Verse 65 says that God’s sudden action was as if God had just woken up. The next phrase makes it even more vivid. God’s sudden action is like a drunken giant, a man of war, roaring in wrath against His enemies.
These are images that we are too refined today to use but I want us to keep them in mind. God will accomplish His purposes and when it becomes evident that God is accomplishing His purposes in the lives of His people it will be with overwhelming power and might.
God shows both wrathful judgment and loving mercy in His dealings with men (verses 40-64). Before we look at the verses, we need to remind ourselves that God’s wrath and God’s mercy are always tied together. When God put Adam and Eve out of the garden, doomed to death; He promised that Eve would have a seed that would destroy the power of the evil one. When God destroyed the world with water, one man found grace in God’s eyes and eight people, Noah and his extended family, were saved in the ark. We see this truth set forth in the following verses.
His judgment serves the purpose of redeeming His people from the enemy’s enslavement (verses 40-51). Notice what Asaph writes (verse 42), “He redeemed them (Israel) from the enemy.” Specifically, God ransomed or redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. Now how did God do this? Did He give Pharaoh great riches in exchange for His people? Did He allow Pharaoh to conquer other nations and extend His political power as a ransom for Israel’s release? Now, the price Pharaoh had to pay was a terrible price. It was the price of judgment.
These judgment are described for us in verses 43-51. God began by turning the great Nile River and all the streams flowing into it into blood. As a result, the fish in the rivers died and the river stank. Exodus 7:18 says that the Egyptians would grow weary of drinking blood polluted by dead fish but Exodus 7:22-23 tells us that Pharaoh’s heart was not moved. The ransom price of judgment was not yet high enough.
Then God began to send other judgments. He sent a plague of frogs. This had to be a miracle because all the tadpoles had just died. Pharaoh began to bargain with God, “Pray to God to take the frogs away and I will let the people go.” But when suddenly the frogs died, Pharaoh changed His mind (Exodus 8:14-15).
When God sent the swarms of flies, Pharaoh came to the bargaining table again (Exodus 8:24-29), “Can’t you sacrifice to God in Egypt?” Moses said, “Nope.” “Well then, go but don’t go far.” Moses prayed to God, God took the flies away, and Pharaoh backed off of His offer again.
God sent hail and fire and frost to destroy the crops and the cattle left in the field. Pharaoh said, “I have sinned,” but when the hail stopped, he sinned even more by refusing to let God’s people go (Exodus 9:27-34).
Eventually, Pharaoh drove Moses out of his presence but when God brought locusts on the land, he begged for Moses to come and said, “I have sinned,” but when the locusts were gone, so was Pharaoh’s repentance and he did not let God’s people go (Exodus 10:11-20).
During all this time, there were four other plagues that God sent on Egypt and other ways in which Pharaoh tried to bargain but then God put His final offer on the table, the death angel, killing the firstborn of every house and in every stable in Egypt (Exodus 12:29) except for those who obeyed the command of God in putting the blood on the doorpost. Pharaoh said, there is no reason more to bargain. You may go. That is how God redeemed, ransomed, Israel out of slavery in Egypt. The price paid for God’s people was God’s wrath on Egypt.
His care serves the purpose of establishing His eternal possession (verses 52-55). These people were slaves. Why would God show such concern for them. Asaph writes that God guided them like a shepherd guides his sheep, protecting them from all danger, even to the point of destroying Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. Why? That God has show great judgment on Egypt and great love to Israel. Why?
I can imagine Asaph, the first time he sings this psalm before the people. He tells them that they are going to learn something life transforming. He reminds them of past rebellion against God. He reminds them of God’s mercy and judgment down through history. Then he takes his cymbals and gives a mighty clang and declares, “And He brought them to His holy border.” Then he looks around at the mountain on which the tabernacle sits and on which he is leading God’s people in their service before them and clangs the cymbal again and shouts, “This mountain which His right hand had acquired.” This is where God has chosen to meet with man. This is where God has place His name. This is the center of the universe. This is God’s home on earth forever. This land is God’s land and He has given it to us and established us in it. Can you imagine that? What a song service!
God’s purposes involve more than just judgment and mercy. God wants to dwell among men in glory. He accomplishes that purpose through His care for His people.
His temporary rejection of His people serves the purpose of calling them to repentance (verses 56-64). “Yet…” It seems that God’s purposes are frustrated. All the things that the first generation in the wilderness had done, they did also. They were like a deceitful bow. God’s aim was dead on but they missed the mark every time. Even their worship, their submission to God was polluted by their tendency to go their own way, going to high places instead of to the tabernacle to worship, taking images and saying this is Jehovah-God (verse 58). Even some began to worship other gods according to the book of Judges. Finally, God said, I have had enough. You are on your own.
So God in His anger forsook them. We have this recorded in the early chapters of 1 Samuel. The Philistines were coming against Israel. The leaders decided that if they had the ark of the covenant with them, they would win the battle. After all, that was the presence of God among men. When they went into battle, not only were they defeated but the priests, Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s sons were killed, and the ark was captured by the Philistines. When news came back, the shock of the ark’s capture caused Eli to fall of his seat and because of his weight, in falling broke his neck and died. The youth of the nation were destroyed in that battle. A generation of young men and young women bore the brunt of God’s wrath, just as happened with that first generation in Egypt.
The picture of what happened though is best told in verse 64. Suddenly, the ark was gone and the adult priests were dead. One of them, Phinehas, had a wife who was bearing a baby into the world as the word came of Israel’s defeat, the ark’s capture, and her husband’s death. She bore her son and named him, Ichabod, meaning “the glory has departed.” God has forsaken us, she recognized. There is no glory more in Israel. What an awful name. What an important reminder. When God forsakes man, there is no glory.
But then God woke up…
Now, God’s inactivity is simply the precursor of unrestrained intervention (verses 65-72).
His judgment is again decisive in its purpose (verses 65-66). The Philistines, after winning their mighty battle brought the ark into Ashdod, into the temple of their god, Dagon. The next morning, Dagon, the statute god, was face down, bowed in submission, in worship, of the unseen God of Israel. The set Dagon up and the next morning, not only was he bowed before the ark but his head and palms were broken off. Outside of the temple, God struck the men with burning tumors of some type, perhaps some type of debilitating hemmhroid. Everywhere they moved the ark, the plague of burning tumors followed. God brought them down in His anger toward them.
His choices are eternal in their purpose (verses 67-69). Shortly afterward, God made a choice. The leading tribe had always been Ephraim. It had been the biggest and strongest and most centrally located of all the tribes. It had received the birthright of the firstborn from Joseph. The house of God, Bethel was in their land. The tabernacle of Shiloh had also been in Ephraim. God said, I have picked out somewhere better, Jerusalem. The mountain there is where my name will become great and will be established forever. There is just one problem. Jerusalem is not even under Israelite control. The Jebusites live there and the mountain fortress city is strong. What will God do?
His servant will accomplish His purposes (verses 70-72).
Asaph has taken the people through a long history lesson. They know these stories. Now they know what it is that God is doing. God chose David. David brought the glory of God, the ark of the covenant back to Israel. David led his people with righteous wisdom. David put God back on the pedestal, where He belongs. Asaph is saying, “God knows what He is doing and He is doing it right! Set your hope in God, get your strength from Him! He will do as He has promised.”
Do you hope, do you get your strength from a merciful God. Yes, He is a God of judgment and yes, He is to be feared but for those whose faith is in God, there is hope in the purposes of God to redeem His people. He would redeem you also, if you will trust Him. Jesus said, “I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life a ransom for many.” 1 Timothy 2:5 reminds us that there is One God and One Mediator between God and man, the man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all…” You do not need to bargain like Pharaoh did. Trust Christ today!
Next week’s sermon: LESSONS FROM CREATION: WHO GOD IS AND WHY IT MATTERS (Romans 1:16-25)

“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 78 (part one of three) A Sermon on the passage we are memorizing this year May 17, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Psalms, Religion, Scripture Memorization, Sermons.
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Theme: Hope is the reason we should learn and teach about God’s work about God’s covenant with His people.
This is the fourth year in which I have challenged you to take a specific passage of Scripture to memorize. In connection with this challenge to memorize Scripture, I have preached a series of sermons from those passages. This year we will be looking at Psalm 78, memorizing verses 1-11.
Scripture memorization is a spiritual habit. The purpose of spiritual habits is to develop our discipleship. The strength of a believer’s dedication to discipleship is measured by his habitual acts (adapted from Pascal).
This morning as we took the morning offering, we had the opportunity to practice such a spiritual habit. Jesus said according to Luke 14:33, he who “…does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” When we receive the offering each Sunday morning, we have the opportunity to forsake all that we have and to give some of it to the Lord. While tithing does not guarantee discipleship (salvation does that), it is invaluable in developing our discipleship as it relates to our money.
Another spiritual habit has to do with our relationships. In the upper room, Jesus said according to John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” Joining a church is a commitment to loving one another. Regularly attending its meetings is an important part of maintaining that love. In other words, the strength of a believer’s dedication to discipleship in the area of relationships is measured in part by church attendance.
There is one other main area of discipleship. In addition to demanding our possessions and our relationships, Jesus Christ demands our time. Again in the upper room, Jesus said according to John 15:7-8, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” So prayer is a spiritual habit that demands our time. Both private and public prayers fit into the category of spiritual habits that develop our discipleship in the area of time. That is why we set aside time for prayer at 9:15 a.m. every Sunday morning. We are developing our discipleship.
There is another group of spiritual habits that are necessary if we are going to give God our time. They are centered around the Word of God. In John 8:31, Jesus tells those Jews who said that they believed in Him, “If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed.” It is necessary that you follow the Word of God and to do that you must know and learn the Word of God and Scripture memorization is an excellent way to learn the Word (some of the ideas above with thanks to Rick Warren).
With all of these habits, people make excuses. “I cannot afford to give, I am not a people person, I do not like to pray, I cannot memorize Scripture.” Let us be honest with ourselves and say, “Being a disciple of Christ is not worth what is demanded of me.”
Although this psalm is not about Scripture memorization per se, this psalm should help us to understand the worth of being a disciple who gives his time to learning the Word through Scripture memorization. I trust that you will endeavor with me and my family over the next three months to memorize these eleven verses together as a church.
Now let’s get into the why of Scripture memorization.
Every generation is responsible for the knowledge of future generations (verses 1-6). The writer of this Psalm is Asaph. Asaph was appointed by David to lead the music when tabernacle worship was established at Jerusalem. His musical specialty was the cymbals. He wrote of number of psalms and took the psalms of David and used them in worship (See 2 Chronicles 16:4-8 and following). In fact, the first psalm he was given, a variation on Psalm 105, was very much like this one in its purpose, presenting publicly to the people the history of the salvation of God’s chosen people.
This is the responsibility of God’s people, God’s church, as a group (verses 1-4). These verses underline that even though the parents have the primary responsibility for teaching children the Word of God, the people of God also bear an important complementary responsibility, that is: (1) to remind believing parents of their responsibility, (2) to supplement the teaching of the parents, and (3) to assist where parents cannot or will not fulfill their responsibility. This psalm was written and used directly for the first of these two purposes and would certainly be useful in fulfilling the third.
This is why I challenge you to not only memorize Scripture but also that you lead your families to memorize these verses with you or that you partner with other believers so that you might build each other up in your discipleship. We as a church are responsible to teach each other Scripture and corporate Scripture memory is a way in which even those who have no teaching talent can help others to learn the Word of God.
This is the responsibility of all people who have a knowledge of God (verse 5). Not every person who was given the Ten Commandments followed God. We will see later that most did not. God still, however, held them accountable to teach their children about the covenant which God had made with them. Their spiritual inadequacies were not excused and neither will ours be an excuse before God. If we know the truth we are responsible to teach it even if we are not perfect in following it ourselves.
This is a responsibility our children should learn from us (verse 6). As you can see, every generation is responsible not only to teach God’s truth but to encourage that generation to teach the next one. We are so shortsighted. We forget that we are responsible to pass down a spiritual heritage to our children. If you do not make memorizing Scripture, knowing the Word of God a priority, then your children will also not make it a priority and your grandchildren will grow up ignorant of the truth of the Word of God.
Why was the word of God scarce before the days of Samuel? Israel had forsaken and not taught the knowledge of God and after a few generations, the truth taught by Joshua and faithfully kept by his generation, the generation that had taken the Promised Land, was forgotten and forsaken.
The knowledge we should pass down is God’s covenant with His people (verses 5-11).
What is God’s covenant with His people (verses 5-6)? The covenant mentioned in these verses is the covenant of Moses. It contains the Ten Commandments, the moral code, the laws of sacrifices, the laws of purity but all of these things are based on the relationship that God established with Israel. He chose them. Although they agreed to the covenant, God was the one who determined the conditions, the blessings, the curses, the laws, all aspects of the covenant were given by God. It was not a negotiated agreement.
When Jesus died, He established a new covenant through His death. The conditions and the expectations of this new covenant, like the first were given by God. What is this new covenant?
Hebrews 9:26a-28 tells what the new covenant is. Jesus, who “…has appeared to put away sin (that is the guilt of sin) by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ (that is, the Messiah) was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” That is the new covenant in a nutshell. That is the miraculous work of Christ, whereby He established for us a new covenant for forgiveness of sins.
The confirmation of God’s covenant by His miraculous works gives hope to believers (verse 7). Hope in the Bible rarely if ever means wishful thinking. This particular word is actually the word for “flanks.” It is referring the strong group of thigh muscles that not only enable us to walk but to stand erect and strong. Where does our strength and confidence come from? It comes from the Lord. Scripture is a book filled with God’s works and most of the Bible is in some way involved in the works of God. When we memorize Scripture and we teach our children to memorize Scripture, we are strengthening those spiritual muscles that can give them confidence in God, helping them to stand in this evil world, enabling them to climb the highest mountains and to descend into the lowest valleys without falling. That is the great value of memorizing Scriptures. They give you the tools to confirm Christ’s new covenant with you and through that confirmation comes spiritual confidence and obedience.
Inattention to God’s covenant and His miraculous works results in mutiny during difficult times (verses 8-11). If we do not as a church, emphasize knowing the Scriptures, specifically memorization, what might happen to the new generation?
Confidence in God and obedience to His Word will be lacking. In these four verses, we have a synopsis of the rebellion of Israel at Kadesh-Barnea. It was time for Israel to invade and possess the Promised Land after over a year of seeing the confirming works of God in Egypt, at the Red Sea, in the wilderness, and at Mount Sinai. They had seen the works of God but because of their unbelieving hearts, they feared the enemy more than they feared God and rebelled against His command to possess the Promised Land. As big a mistake as their complaining about lack of water and food and as big a mistake as the golden calf was, this was the test to see if they had learned their lesson and they failed because they did not put their hope in God, they did not find their strength and confidence in Him but rather looked at themselves and saw their weakness and rather than turning to God, they rebelled against Him.
They mutinied. God’s chosen people refused to submit to His will. They refused to keep the covenant He established for them. They forgot His works. The point here is not if you memorize Scripture, you will never sin, you will never backslide, and your children will always be saved. The point is this, these people forgot what they knew. How much harder will it be for the new generation to enter into the new covenant with God if they do not know the works and words of God? It is impossible.
Why is the next generation rejecting God? They do not know His works because no one has taught them who Jesus is and what He has done. We as parents and we as a church are responsible to teach them. We need every tool we can muster. The confidence and strength and hope of the next generation is in how well we do our task of teaching them the truth. Join with me this summer in memorizing Scripture and teaching the new generation and new believers the new covenant and the confirming works of that covenant.

An Easter Prophecy from the Psalms (Easter Sermon 2009) April 12, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in David, Easter, Jesus, Psalms, Religion, Resurrection, Sermons.
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Where Was Jesus After His Death? Did Jesus Really Die and Rise From the Dead?

Often I am asked questions about what happens after death. Not because I have actually been dead. I cannot speak from experience. The Bible, however, does give us answers. When one dies they are either with God or in a place of torment, depending on whether they had faith in Christ. The Bible, however, does not always speak so specifically. It often, both in the Old and New Testament speaks simply of the place of the dead. That is what we have here in this psalm.

This is important because twice after that Jesus had risen from the dead and returned to His Father, His disciples used this psalm to show that David had prophesied the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What this psalm is prophesying is not that Jesus went to Hell during the period between His crucifixion and revelation. In fact, Jesus tells the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus fully expected in death to be with God His Father.

What this psalm prophecies and what Jesus’ disciples taught is that Jesus was truly dead. His death was not faked. Someone else did not replace Him in the tomb. Neither did he simply pass out and through the coolness of the tomb revive and push the giant rock out from in front of his grave and go out of the tomb. Jesus truly was dead. His Spirit was with God but His body was without question, dead.

In this prophetic psalm we can see why this important.

I. The answer to this question determines whether we can trust God to preserve us from danger (verse 1). Although the exact danger is not specified in this psalm, it clearly involves the danger of death and likely involves the loss of the throne of David. To us, who see political change every eight years and frequently more often that does not seem to be a big deal but the throne of David was different. God had promised that the Messiah would come through David’s seed on the throne of Israel. For David and his throne to be overthrown would mean that God is weak and cannot keep His promises. It would mean that there is no hope in this world for the future, that humankind is doomed to the death and destruction that we are constantly bringing on ourselves and each other.

If, however, God’s guarantee goes beyond even death, then who can stand against it. What power on earth can conquer death? None. But if God guarantees that even in death, His promises and His protection are sure, there is no better guarantee than that.

Remember, before David there had never been a resurrection from the dead. There were legends and myths but no verifiable resurrections. David was confident though that the protective power of God reached even beyond the grave. That is total protection.

Today we understand that David was prophesying of Jesus Christ. Today we now know that total protection is available only in Jesus Christ. Only He can deliver from death, sin, and the lake of fire. This protection is available though because Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Dr. David Seamands tells of a Muslim who became a Christian in Africa: “Some of his friends asked him, ‘Why did you become a Christian?’ He answered, ‘Well, It’s like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions and you didn’t know which way to go, and there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and one alive. Which one would you ask for directions?’” We hear a great deal these days about which religion is the right religion. How do you know which religion has the truth? Here’s a simple way to answer that question. Find the religion whose founder rose from the dead. That’s the one you need to follow. (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon, “A Tale of Two Men”;




II. Was Jesus really dead? Did He really rise from the dead? The answer to this question is not only important because it guarantees total protection but also because it determines who God will keep from danger (verses 2-4).
A. God delights in the saints who God has made good (verses 2-3, 4b). This total protection is not available to everyone. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not good news to everyone but rather to a specific group of people. This psalm tells us who these people are:
These people are made good by God. We are not talking about innate goodness or that everyone has a little goodness in them. The Bible makes it clear that there is none good. If you look back just two psalms to Psalm 14:1-3 we see this same David’s evaluation, of mankind, “There is none who does good, no, not one.” David recognizes that any goodness that He might have must come from God.
Where then does goodness come from? By becoming a saint. You do not become a saint by doing good but rather become good by being a saint. Now the “saint” simply means one who is made holy, someone who is set apart by God to a unique position. In other words, we do not make ourselves to become saints, neither can someone or some organization make us saints. That right is reserved by God alone.
So, if goodness comes from God alone and sainthood comes from God alone, how do we put ourselves in a position to receive this goodness and this sainthood? Do not forget, this question is very important. The answer to this question determines who receives total protection from God in this life and in the life to come. The answer is illustrated for us in the last half of verse four. Those who God protects from death, those whom God promises resurrection and eternal life, those who God makes good, those who God makes saints are those who commit themselves to the one true and living God.
We live in a day when people believe that it does not matter what god you serve as long as it works for you. If it makes you feel better in this world then it must be okay. We might exclude those who commit terrorism for their faith from this all encompassing umbrella but that is clearly illogical. To them, what they are doing is moral and for us to condemn them is to set ourselves up a gods, determining right and wrong. Who are we to take such a lofty position.
In fact, to make ourselves, whether individually or as a society as the final arbiter or judge of good and evil is to forsake the God of the Bible and serve another. God says, follow me and no one else, not even, especially not even yourself.
Jesus Christ made it clear that He is the God of the Old Testament when He proclaimed Himself the Son of God, when He referred to Himself as the LORD. It is faith in Him that makes us good, that makes us saints, that guarantees total protection from death, sin, and the lake of fire.
Multiple sorrows or wounds are for those serving another god (verse 4a). This is the only negative phrase in this psalm but how horrible of a phrase it is. One sin, following another god, not lying, not murder, following another god; but the consequences are painful, sorrowful, multiplied, and by implication in this chapter, eternal.
God’s working in the saints results in good (verses 5-11). The last half of this psalm expresses David’s confidence in God. There are at least three reasons why David has confidence in God.
1. The saint has an abundant inheritance (verse 5-6). We have already mentioned the importance of David’s inheritance. Through his seed comes the promised Messiah. When Jesus Christ was crucified, they put a sign over His head that truthfully said, “Jesus Christ, King of the Jews.” Christianity goes beyond forgiveness of sin but makes the saint an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. His abundant eternal inheritance from His Father is ours also through faith in Him, His death, His burial, and His resurrection. Everything over which Jesus has authority, we share in that authority in Him.
2. The saint has God’s personal care (verses 7-8). Again, David speaks of His personal faith in God and speaks of the assurance that God’s presence never leaves him. God is personally interested in David’s situation. Why? Remember verse 3? God delights in His saints. This is not a promise that there are no hard times. David’s life itself is evidence that this world can be a tough place but David was confident that God would never forsake him nor leave him.
3. The saint has an everlasting hope (verses 9-11). Our hope is eternal. This is the message of Easter. Not even death can destroy our hope because the one in whom we hope, Jesus Christ, conquered death through the power of His Father.
In verse 7 David blesses God for His counsel and instruction in the midst of His troubles. You may bless God also today. Turn to Jesus Christ, the resurrected Son of God and He will give you counsel, He will instruct you in the ways of righteousness and He will do it according to the last word in this psalm, “forevermore.”
IN TWO WEEKS: Proverbs 4:1-14 – From Father to Father to Son