Thank You At Your Service (Psalm 100)

What makes a Thanksgiving meal? This week, some of you were able to enjoy special items that only come out once a year. Others had to endure traditional horrors that issue from the kitchen. Americans love Thanksgiving. When it comes to the feast we usually go big. 20% of all the turkeys eaten each year nationwide are eaten on that one day. At the Thanksgiving table, the average American eats upwards of 3,000 calories.

These last few years, between COVID and spiking food costs, maybe Thanksgiving dinner looked a little different for some folks. Or maybe you are the kind of person who wants to go non-traditional each year. One way or another, we had to think through what makes a thanksgiving meal.

In ancient Israel, there was a prescribed meal that individuals could bring to the Lord as an act of thanksgiving. It was known as the ‘peace’ offering or the ‘fellowship sacrifice,’ and it had some interesting features. First, it wasn’t just the burning of an animal on the altar – it was to presented with unleavened cakes, mixed with oil and leavened bread. And it was an offering that you would share with the Lord. With the burnt offering, the whole animal was put on the altar. With a sin offering, part of the animal was burned outside the camp, some of its blood was sprinkled here and there, and the fat was dealt with on the altar. But the thanksgiving offering was a meal you shared. The Lord would ‘consume’ a portion on the altar, the priests would be given some, and then the offerer would take the rest to enjoy with his family or any other ritually clean person.

This special act of worship even had a soundtrack provided in the book of Psalms. It’s Psalm 100. Many Psalms are full of thankfulness, but this is the only one identified specifically for the giving of thanks. Though it was the accompaniment for a ritual in the Lord’s House, it is by no means limited to the tribes of Israel. It’s a song given to all the world, inviting us to consider God, to be reminded of His love toward us, and then to praise Him with joyful thanks. But it doesn’t only tell us to do it, it shows us how we can. It shows what makes a thanksgiving offering to the Lord.

Psalm 100:1 – A psalm of thanksgiving. 1 Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to the Lord!

We can’t imagine all nations unified in one heart, worshipping God. Mankind today is too divided. We see, in our own nation, the fracturing effect of sin and selfishness and pride. But this verse reminds us that, one day, all will be reconciled by the power of Jesus. In His Kingdom, all the nations of the world will flow to the Mountain of God to worship Him, in Person, in His house. Instead of shouting at one another, we will shout with one another. That day is coming. For Christians, this verse is a prophecy and a keepsake. Since we know we will receive this coming Kingdom, the book of Hebrews tells us to apply Psalm 100 now and to do so with thankfulness and worship.

The first direction we’re given is to “shout triumphantly to the Lord.” Now, on average, we’re a more conservative and reserved group. But there are times when we shout, right? In times of exhilaration or anticipation. We shout on roller coasters or when a home run sails over the wall. Imagine going to a concert where one of your favorite bands are playing. It would be strange if the lights dimmed and the band walked out to silence. When they enter, the crowd erupts in excitement and praise.

God has made each of us with personalities and peculiarities, but He gave us emotion on purpose – because He is an emotional Being. God’s desire is that we be enthusiastic when we worship Him. Not for show – not to draw attention to ourselves – but that our worship be lively in our hearts. The Bible Knowledge Commentary puts it this way: “[We] are not to be subdued in [our] praise to Him.”

When we gather, the attitude of our hearts should be one of anticipation and triumph because we are coming into the presence of God Himself. Because we have been ransomed by Jesus, saved from sin and death. Because our Lord is the One Who will, one day, wipe away every tear from our eyes. By Him we are victorious over sin and suffering and struggle because our God is true and He is alive and He is with us. For individuals, the thanksgiving sacrifice was a freewill offering, just as you are freely gathered here today and the spiritual thanksgiving offering begins with a mindset of anticipation and triumph and enthusiasm for the Lord.

Now, this can be the attitude of our hearts any time, but when Christians gather together there is a wonderful, unique ability for us to praise God and for Him to minister to us. Joseph Benson writes:

“In all acts of religious worship, whether in secret or in our families, we may be truly said to come into God’s presence; but it is in public worship especially that we enter into his gates, and into his courts, as expressed [in] Psalm 100.”

Psalm 100:2 – 2 Serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

To worship God is to serve Him. That’s not the only way we serve God, of course, but bringing an offering of thankful praise to God is an act that He delights in. Singing is serving! We’ve all had to learn to bring certain things with us when we go out, right? Depending on where you want to enter, you have to think, “Do I have my mask? Do I have a vaccine passport?” When we come into the assembly of God’s people, this verse would have us ask, “Do I have my glad and joyful song?”

It is often difficult to feel joyful. We are hurting. Those around us are suffering. We have shortages and concerns and pressures and fears. God knows these things. So how could He be so callous as to ask us to be glad? Is He some cosmic Marie Antoinette who is ignoring the real problems we deal with? We know that isn’t true.

Psalm 56:8 (NLT) – 8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

The Bible shows us that our sufferings, though unpleasant, are immensely useful when it comes to forming us into the people God wants us to be, in demonstrating the power of God to a lost and dying world, and in personally drawing us nearer to God. To give way to joy in the midst of sorrow is one of the greatest abilities of the Christian life. Beaten and bleeding, fastened in agonizing stocks, we listen in as Paul and Silas sing praises in the dark. The world was changed because of it.

Verse 2 also helps us to remember something tender and precious: We come before God with joyful singing because that’s what He is doing for us.

Zephaniah 3:17 – 17 The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in his love. He will delight in you with singing.”

Now someone might ask, “How can I be happy to worship in this way if it is an obligation?” Well, first of all, the choice is yours. The Lord calls us to this life and this mindset for our good, but He will not force us. But maybe you came in today thinking, “Lord, it hurts so bad, I just can’t be joyful.” The Lord understands. He loves you. And He invites you to worship Him gladly all the same. Think of it this way: If you were being asked to dig a hole all day, it would seem a chore. But what if you were asked to dig a hole alongside those who love you the most and that, at the bottom of that hole you knew you would discover a priceless treasure? I imagine we would happily take up the shovel.

Psalm 100:3 – 3 Acknowledge that the Lord is God. He made us, and we are his,—his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Worship is more than just a feeling of exuberance and gladness. To be true it must find its source in Who God is. That pumpkin pie you ate had more ingredients than just pumpkin filling. In this verse we move from the heart to the head. We are to acknowledge Who God is, who we are in relation to Him, and what His intentions for us are. We can’t worship rightly or effectively unless we know the truth about God. This is why Church worship that is purely emotional without proper theological content or understanding is ultimately unsatisfying. If it’s all about our feelings or eliciting a certain kind of behavior from the congregation, then it won’t be on target, because the aim is wrong. The Lord must be the focus because He is God and He is to be the object of our adoration.

Of course, the unbeliever says, “there is no God.” Or, “I’m god.” Or, “It doesn’t matter if there is a god.” But this is a matter of supreme consequence. We must pause and acknowledge not only that God exists, but Who He is. He is the Creator – and therefore Owner – of all things. It’s His breath in your lungs. It is by His grace that the sun rose this morning and our hearts keep beating (more than 5,000 times before our service is over). This God has called out to us – all the people of the earth – and He has invited us to know Him and follow Him and give ourselves to Him.

Why did God make us? He didn’t have to. He wanted to. He made us as special creations – exceptional above any other creature – so that He might love us and so that we might commune intimately with Him. He made use to be His chosen people and so that He could adopt us into His family. We are His. And the Bible, page after page, shows that He is our Maker, our Master, our Father, our Redeemer, our Friend, our King. And, as this verse says, our Shepherd.

We’re a lot like sheep. We’re not too smart, not too strong, we like to group up, and we need to be cared for. By the way, research shows that we are getting dumber as a species. But that’s ok, because we have a Good Shepherd Who knows how to care for us – One who has made it His business to lead us to green pastures, still waters, places of rest and growth. Sadly, we all, like sheep, have gone astray. That’s what sin does. It drives us from this loving Shepherd. We’ve gone our own way. But that’s why Jesus came – to pay the penalty for the wrongs we’ve done, to stand in our place and receive the punishment for our rebellion against God. He died and rose again and now He is our Shepherd, gathering us and tending us and carrying us in the folds of His garment. You belong to God. He looks at you and says, “You are Mine!”

Psalm 100:4 – 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name.

You can’t just go to the houses of ‘important’ people. There are lots of rules when visiting the White House or the Vatican. J.K. Rowling was in the news last week because some activists posted her address online. J.K. doesn’t want you coming to her house! Now consider what God has done. The King of kings has flung open the doors to His house and invited all the world to come in.

But who may enter? David asked that question in Psalm 24. The answer: The one who has clean hands and a pure heart. That presents a problem. Because there is none righteous, no not one. But, in addition to opening up the way into His house, God has also taken it upon Himself to give us cleansing. In Isaiah 1 God says something dramatic and astonishing. He says, “Come, let’s settle it. Though your sins are scarlet, I’ll make you white as snow.” It is accomplished by the power of His grace through the blood of Jesus for those who will believe and receive His salvation. When we approach Him in faith and obedience He will take us, poor and wretched as we are, and He will clothe us in His garments of salvation, His robe of righteousness and thereby we can enter into His presence unafraid and undefiled. Knowing what God has done, how could we not rush in with thankfulness and praise?

Verse 4 shows that once in, our duty is not to try to prove ourselves before God or work to keep the robes He’s freely given us. Our duty is simply to receive from Him and worship Him and love Him. Charles Spurgeon writes, “So long as we are receivers of mercy we must be givers of thanks.”

The proper, spiritual thanksgiving meal includes blessing His name. It’s not just that we’re generally happy to be alive, or generally thankful that God exists, but that the focus of our praise be God Himself and His holy name. The Name of Jesus, which is above every other name in greatness and power and authority. His name is “perfumed poured out.” At His name, demons tremble and are subject and there is salvation is no other name, but in the name of Jesus – a name which means Yahweh is Salvation. His name is Emmanuel, which means God with us.

As we come into the Lord’s presence we should fill up our thoughts with Who God is and what He has done. His power does not abate. His greatness does not diminish. His Kingdom will never end. And His love will never fail!

Psalm 100:5 – 5 For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations.

We’ve heard again and again that God is love, but what would it matter if the quality of His love was lacking? Don Juan was a fictional character who devoted himself to “loving” many women, right? Or we see famous womanizers today, who – in some sense – have a great capacity for what they might call love. But it’s an impure love – a love of self. That is not how God loves. His love is faithful. It is characterized by mercy and loyalty and acts of deliverance. He has bound Himself to us with this love, not because of what we can do for Him but because of His desire to lavish us with His salvation and help and kindness. This love is the standard by which we measure goodness and compassion and affection. And, in reflecting on it, our hearts should well up with thanksgiving.

In 1875, Christina Rossetti wrote a poem titled, In The Bleak Midwinter. Speaking of our Lord, Jesus Christ she wrote:

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him, Give my heart.

This is what we can offer when we gather together to be in God’s presence: Hearts that are full of thankfulness and understanding of what God has done. Psalm 100 shows us that one way we can give our hearts is through singing together the praises of our King. No longer do we have to cart in sheep or bulls. Now we are able to bring melodies in a banquet of worship, knowing that as we sing to Him, He sings over us. Knowing that every hurt, every sorrow, every fear will one day be dealt with, because our Lord, our Shepherd, has overcome them all. And now we can live life in His presence, as members of His house, full of strength because of the joy He has given us.

I Gotta Have More Cymbal! (Psalm 150)

Songwriters call it “staggered.” It’s when a song is arranged so that it starts with one vocalist or instrument, then adds more vocals and instruments gradually.

Behind Blue Eyes by The Who is a good example. It starts with a single guitar… Then a single vocalist comes in… Then more and more vocals…
Then the bass… Then another guitar… Then 2:20 into it, the full band.

Metallica’s Enter Sandman and In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins are similarly staggered.

If you’re much of a classic rock fan, you can probably think of a few songs that start calm, but build, then at a certain point, you gotta crank the dial to full as they bring it. Stairway to Heaven, for example.

OK, you’re a fan of Country Music. The first staggered song that comes to mind: The Gambler, by the late Kenny Rogers. It opens with some finger picking… Then vocals… Then there’s some kind of percussion that sounds like a combination of a wooden block and dripping water. Instruments continue to build after that until the full band joins in.

Psalm 150 is staggered, and it builds:

It opens with what reads like a vocal solo in verses one and two.
In verses three through five, no less than eight instruments are introduced one-at-a-time, and some of those are plural.
The last verse is a turn-the-dial-to-full volume involving “everything that has breath.”

We’d expect nothing less from the closing psalm.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Your Praise Is Possessive As God’s Plan For You Builds, and #2 Your Praise Is Progressive As God’s Plan For You Builds.

#1 – Your Praise Is Possessive As God’s Plan For You Builds (v1-2)

The psalms are songs. We may not have the sheet music; but we must remember that they are songs.

In our commitment to teach verse-by-verse, we are driven to exposit the psalms as we do the historical books, or the Gospels, or the Epistles. If we do that with psalms, we are cheating ourselves.

Songs tend to elicit emotions and feelings. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired to feel by a psalm. In fact, we should get emotional.

If Psalm 150 doesn’t elicit strong feelings, we’re not doing it justice.

Psa 150:1  Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament!

The final five psalms begin and end with “Praise the LORD,” i.e., “Hallelujah!” It’s good to be reminded that “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

There is going to be a lot of praising in our future. We won’t be sitting around playing harps, doing nothing. It’s more like everything will be so truly awesome that praising the LORD will be a constant. There’s a scene in chapter five of the Revelation where “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” of angels break out in praise, followed by “every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them… saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

In our psalm, the people of God were gathered at His “sanctuary,” probably the Second Temple.

Around 586BC, King Nebuchadnezzar’s troops destroyed the first Temple – built by Solomon. They were held as captives in Babylon for 70 years.
The Second Temple was built by Zerubbabel and others after the Jews returned from captivity. It is sometimes called, Zerubbabel’s Temple. In New Testament times, Herod was remodeling Zerubbabel’s Temple into the magnificent structure most of us think of today. It is sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple. But Herod’s Temple is still considered to be the Second Temple.

(If you’re counting, the Temple that we read about in the Great Tribulation will be the third).

The Temple in Jerusalem was the real estate on the earth that God had prescribed in order to meet with Israel. Concerning the Ark of the Covenant that would be placed in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, we read in Exodus, “And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel” (25:22).

I’m sure you’ve been to a music concert of some sort. The audience listens excitedly to the performance.

If the psalms have taught us anything, it is that in the sanctuary, the people were not an audience. They were participants.

Today, in the Church Age, there is no physical Temple. “Sanctuary” has a different meaning. At least two, in fact:

Jesus makes His sanctuary in the individual believer. In First Corinthians 3:16 we read, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Jesus also makes His sanctuary among His people collectively. In Second Corinthians 6:16, speaking of the gathered believers, the apostle Paul said, “For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.”

We’re not an audience when we are gathered as the church. By our very presence, we are expected to be participants. Pastor Chuck Smith used to say that we are the choir.

Corporate worship should not be a performance. The worship team is here to lead us into our singing so that, all together, we are praising Jesus.

“Praise Him in His mighty firmament!” can be translated, Praise Him in the heavens.” The psalmist’s thoughts became elevated beyond life on the earth. He became aware that he was standing in the presence of Almighty God… In the specific place on earth that the LORD chose… Surrounded by the universe.

Think of it like this. David once sung, “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:4).

It was that same awareness that all the universe, and the earth in it, and the Temple on the earth, was created with the sole purpose of God having a relationship with me; with you; with whosoever will believe on Him.

Nonbelievers think it is ignorant and arrogant to suggest that the earth has that much significance in our vast universe.

That is largely because they scoff at, and immediately dismiss, special creation. When you approach Genesis as literal history, given to us by God (Who was there), you see that creation was necessary so that He could make man in His image, and walk in a loving relationship with us.

Is that arrogant? I’d say it was romantic.

How many songs are there about what you’d give to the one you love if only you could?

Your Song has been covered by many artists:

I don’t have much money, but boy, if I did,
I’d buy a big house where we both could live.
I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do.
My gift is my song and this one’s for you.

In All I Have to Give, the Backstreet Boys sing, “I wish I could give the world to you but love is all I have to give.” Not very original, but you get the idea.

Well guess what? God IS in a position to give the world to us. His love for us is extravagant. Why wouldn’t He create a universe for us?

Have you watched It’s a Wonderful Life this season? Trying to convey his love for Mary, George says to her, “What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word, and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”

The word I’m using to convey all this is possessive. It’s a word that can carry a negative connotation. But not if you are in love. As a romance word, it is endearing. It suggests a healthy desire to keep and protect the one you love.

Psa 150:2  Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!

We might be tempted to think of “His mighty acts” as the parting of the Red Sea for Moses; or the day the sun stood still for Joshua; or the global flood in the days of Noah. Mighty acts indeed!

In the context set by verse one, His “mighty acts” would be His redeeming the human race by His plan to come into the world as the God-man to die in our place on the Cross. When you think about them, the flood, the Red Sea, halting the sun, were all performed by God for one purpose: To further His plan to provide the world with the Savior, Jesus Christ.

What a great start to this last psalm. The people of God were in the one place in the entire universe where the presence of God was revealed to them in a mighty way.

Wherever we are, gathered together, collectively, we are that place in the universe where God manifests His presence in mighty ways.

Jesus is possessive of us. We ought to be possessive of Him. We do it by not allowing anyone, or anything, to distract us from our beloved Bridegroom.

#2 – Your Praise Is Progressive As God’s Plan For You Builds (v3-6)

I think it’s safe to say that You’re a little bit Country, and I’m a little bit Rock n’ Roll.

Musical styles… Musical instruments… Song selection. Christians are never going to agree. And it doesn’t seem Christians want to agree to disagree.

Can we take our cue for corporate worship from the psalms? Even if we wanted to, it would be hard. Biblical Archaeology Review noted the following:

There are no ancient music notations to inform us on the music arrangements of psalms. What’s more, even though the collection of Biblical psalms as we know it from the Hebrew Bible was established quite late, the oldest psalms were likely composed already in the 14th century BC, from which we have no adequate documentation from Israelites themselves. We do not possess depictions of people performing psalms. The Bible does not tell us much about how psalms were originally performed.

God has wisely not prescribed any single liturgy. We have freedom to worship Him in new ways, with new songs.

We can say, from Psalm 150, that just about every instrument available was employed.

Psa 150:3  Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp!
Psa 150:4  Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Psa 150:5  Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals!

Before we move on, I should say something about “Praise Him with… dance.” Every few years, dance gets reintroduced into worship, usually at an influential church. It’s mostly what you’d call ‘interpretive dance,’ a soloist or a troop praising God through their movements.

The Hebrew word for “dance” used here is machol. Since it’s a Hebrew word, in a Jewish context, let’s let a Jewish resource explain it to us:

The Bible doesn’t tell us what their dancing looked like exactly, but early Jewish literature presented the machol as a circle dance. The 16th century Jewish sage known as the Maharal of Prague explains that in a circle every person faces God, who is in the center, equally and divinely connecting to Him from all sides. At all Jewish simchas (festive occasions) such as weddings, or bat mitzvahs, and many of the Jewish holidays, you will see Jews cheerfully dancing in circles with arms tightly locked as brothers.

If you want to dance at church – lock and loop. You can use the ga-ga pit. We can rename it the Machol Pit. You can do a Machol Minuet… Or a Machol Moonwalk.

I don’t think the list of instruments in Psalm 150 was meant to be exclusive. The psalmist meant to convey that any and all instruments could be used in praising the LORD in song. Stringed or wind or percussion – properly arranged to bring attention to the LORD – use them.

One of our guiding principles here at CalvaryHanford is to recognize the gifts and abilities of the believers who decide to lock arms with us (so to speak). With regards to those who lead us as the choir… If there were no guitar players, but there were piano players… We’d be piano-led, because that’s God’s gifting to us.

If there were no musicians at all, we’d sing a cappella.

We do have some basic, bedrock ideas about style:

We prefer contemporary choruses over hymns; it’s just who we are. We were a result of the revival historians call the Jesus Movement. One of the questions we asked and answered was, “Why should the devil have all the good music?

We like order rather than chaos, so we don’t open-up Sunday mornings to the congregation sharing their individual spiritual gifts.

We can’t be sure that this psalm was staggered, starting with vocals then adding instruments one at a time, then more instruments, crescendo-ing with “loud cymbals” and “clanging cymbals.” But I’d like to think so.

Psa 150:6  Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!

I read somewhere this week, “Every breath is the gift of God and praise is the worthy response we should make for that gift.”

Derek Kidner noted that the literal phrase is, “Let all breath praise the Lord.” Then he commented, “His glory fills the universe; His praise must do no less.” .

John Trapp wrote, “We have all as much reason to praise God as we have need to draw breath.”

G. Campbell Morgan said, “The one condition of praise is the possession of breath, that is to say, life received from Him must return in praise to Him.”
Albert Barnes said, “Let a breathing universe combine in one solemn service of praise.” He was thinking ahead to eternity when the universe will have been redeemed and restored by God’s plan for it. Praise will be the vey air that we breathe.

There’s a lyric in a song by Chicago that captures a sense of what our praising God on earth is like: “Only the beginning of what I want to feel forever.”

What do I mean, your praise is progressive? Simply that you grow in praise as you make progress along God’s plan for your life. Every up, every down, and all that is in between, can further your awe at the wonder of His love for you.

Every morning you awake, God’s mercies are yours to experience in news ways. Every blessing, every buffeting, takes you deeper into His love for you.

You don’t just make progress on your path. You make progress in knowing Jesus.

When I was a young believer, Pastor Don McClure quoted Psalm 103:7, “[God] made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.” He pointed out that Israel knew of God, through His works. But Moses knew the ways of God – His heart, His purposes, His character. He had progressed.

If you want to know the ways, and not just the works, of God, start by embracing grace. If you’re going to err, err on the side of grace. Read the Bible with grace in mind, not law. Prefer the spirit of the law, not the letter of it.

Here’s a gauge: In your Christian walk, and in ministering to others, do you emphasize what you must do for God? Or do you emphasize what God has done for you?

Thus ends the Book of Psalms. Alexander Maclaren said, “Psalm 150 is more than an artistic close of the Psalter: it is a prophecy of the last result of the devout life, and, in its unclouded sunniness, as well as in its universality, it proclaims the certain end of the weary years for the individual and for the world.”

We sing a song here, Golden City. One of its lyrics is,

Soon your trials will be over
Offered up by mercy’s hand
A better view than where you’re standing
A doorway to another land

F.B. Meyer said, “Your life may resemble the psalter with its varying moods, its light and shadow, its sob and smile; but it will end with Hallelujahs! if only you will keep true to the will and way and work of the Most Holy.”

The Prince’s Died (Psalm 146)

When Nick Fury wanted to know how Loki used the Tesseract to turn “two of the sharpest men I know into his personal flying monkeys,” Captain America perked up.

Having been frozen for 70 years, Cap (that’s what we call him) was understandably ignorant of most of the pop culture references being made by his fellow Avengers.

When Fury mentioned “flying monkeys,” Thor said, “Monkeys? I do not understand.”

An excited Captain America blurted out, “I do! I understood that reference.”

In another of the films we see the page of a notebook on which Steve Rogers keeps a to-do list of pop culture he needs to get caught-up on. Things like disco, and both Star Trek and Star Wars.

I’m guessing almost everyone here ‘gets’ the flying monkeys as a reference to The Wizard of Oz. That’s quite an achievement for a book published in 1900, and made into a feature film in 1939.

Here are a few more references from Oz still in common use today:

“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
“Lions and tigers and bears, O my!”
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
“There’s no place like home.”

The “We’re not in Kansas anymore” line is so iconic that it was #4 on a list of the top 100 movie quotes of all time that was compiled in 2005 by the American Film Institute.

One critic noted, “The list of television series that haven’t borrowed the line might be shorter than the list of those that have.”

When you use an iconic pop culture reference, everyone familiar with it ‘gets’ it.

Something like that is going on in Psalm 146. To really ‘get’ Psalm 146, we need to remember something about Second Temple Hebrew culture. It is this:

The Old Testament prophets had more to say about the coming Kingdom of God on earth than anything else.

Psalm 146 describes, among other things, a time during which there will be no poverty, and no physical handicaps, e.g., blindness.

These are iconic phrases. A Jew would recognize these as referring to conditions that will prevail on earth in the future Kingdom.

We need to read Psalm 146 looking ahead to the Kingdom. Only then will it comfort us in the present, rather than confuse us.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 The Coming Kingdom Provokes Praise, and #2 The Coming Kingdom Provides Perspective.

#1 – The Coming Kingdom Provokes Praise (v1-2)

Pop culture references only work when we share a common background.

I find that out a lot when I share a sermon title, or a reference in the study, that no one gets.

Before we get to iconic, Kingdom phrases, the psalmist – and we don’t know who he is – sets the scene. It’s praise.

Psa 146:1  Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
Psa 146:2  While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

The five psalms that conclude this great hymnbook are known as the Hallelujah Psalms. They begin with “Praise the LORD” and end with “Praise the LORD,” which is, of course, “Hallelujah.”

“Halel” means praise, or tell someone that they are very great.
The “u” means all of you!
“Jah” most Bibles translate as “LORD” with four capital letters.

The psalmist mentions the “soul.” He meant to elevate our thinking to living for eternity. Our bodies will die, and corrupt in the grave (or worse). But our soul will go on.

In verse two, the psalmist says he will praise the LORD both “while I live,” and “while I have my being.”

“While I live” sounds like his life on the earth.
“While I have my being” sounds like after life on the earth ends, on into eternity.

Now and forever, he would praise the LORD.
Praise would permeate his life.

I’ve noticed that at either end of the spiritual spectrum, praise can cease:

In times of blessing, we drift from the Lord, not sensing our need.
In times of buffeting, we find it hard to praise Him, since we sort of blame Him.

We have a couple of praise choruses that nail this:

“Blessed Be Your Name.” Every blessing You pour out, I’ll turn back to praise; When the darkness closes in, Lord still I will say, Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
“Trust in You.” When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move, When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through. When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You, I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

“Hallelujah” means all of me telling the LORD He is very great; and that implies doing it all the time.

Ever play charades? Think of your daily life – language and body language – as a kind of worthy charade, in which people can easily guess that you are a believer whose life is dedicated to all-the-time Praising the LORD.

#2 – The Coming Kingdom Provides Perspective (v3-10)

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said of the prophets, “It was their theme song. They sound like a stuck record, saying over and over that the King is coming, the Kingdom is coming, and great blessings will be on this earth.”

The prophets made much of the coming King and Kingdom.
John the Baptist announced the King was on scene.
Jesus offered the Kingdom.
The disciples expected Jesus to establish the Kingdom. It was a constant theme in their thinking, and in their questioning the Lord.

When John and Jesus talked about the Kingdom, the Jews knew exactly what they meant, with little explanation.

The Kingdom isn’t an allegory for something else. We mean a literal reign of Jesus over the current earth, sitting on David’s throne in Jerusalem.

Looking back, we must acknowledge that the prophecies of the Bible that have been fulfilled were done so literally.
Looking forward, we must acknowledge that the prophecies of the Bible that have yet to be fulfilled will be done so literally.

We more commonly call it the Millennial Kingdom, or the Millennium. In the Revelation, in chapter twenty, we’re told no less than six times that the Kingdom will last one thousand years. In Latin, “thousand” is millennium.

Just to be clear: There will be a visible Second Coming of Jesus to the earth to establish and reign over the Kingdom for a millennium.

For the remainder of the psalm, the psalmist assumes a future perspective as he lives in the present.

(Or should we say, “the palmist?).

Psa 146:3  Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.

“Princes” are anyone in a position of authority.
“Son of man” indicates the princes are merely men.

This doesn’t mean leaders are to be disregarded as unimportant. It serves as a reminder to not lose sight of the future King of kings. For a Jew, it meant keeping Messianic hope alive.

Our hope is a little different. The Jews rejected Jesus, and therefore rejected His offer to right then and there establish the Kingdom. Jesus ascended into Heaven, promising to return and establish the Kingdom.

The time in between Jesus’ ascension and Second Coming – our time – is the Church Age. We have our own iconic phrases, e.g., “In the world you will have tribulation,” and, “Our light affliction is but for a moment.”

Our hope is to be resurrected or raptured; and that event is imminent.

This is a good word for us, having just come through an election. Rather than apply it for you, I’ll just ask this: Mediate on the words, “Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.” Let the Holy Spirit use them to bring you peace in these weird, turbulent times.

Psa 146:4  His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.

Leaders have their plans. Some of them are good, beneficial, or are at least they are meant to be. FDR’s New Deal; JFK’s New Frontier; LBJ’s Great Society… All meant for good.

Hitler’s Final Solution was a plan, too; a hideous, satanic plan.

Those leaders have perished. Their plans perished with them. MAGA seems on the brink of perishing, giving way to Build Back Better. It, too, will perish.

The LORD’s plan cannot fail. By His providence, it will play-out just as prophesied from Genesis through the Revelation. He came; He is coming.

Psa 146:5  Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God,

“Jacob” means the Jews; the nation of Israel. The story God tells throughout the Bible centers around the nation He established through Abraham, from which the Messiah would come to save and bless the world.

God – the almighty God; YHWH; Jehovah. He is the only One who can save and sanctify and glorify you. He must therefore become “the LORD [your] God.”

Psa 146:6  Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that is in them; Who keeps truth forever,

“Keeps truth forever” can be translated, is faithful forever. God created the universe, and put man in a beautiful Garden paradise. Adam and Eve ruined it. But God promised, immediately, to fix it. He has revealed how He will do that in the Bible. He’s been faithful up til now; He will be faithful to the end.

The Second Coming of Jesus ends the seven-year Great Tribulation. At His coming, there will be human survivors on the earth. A judgment will take place. Nonbelievers souls will be consigned to Hades. Believers will remain on the earth, in their human bodies, to live in and populate the Kingdom.

The topics in verses seven, eight, and nine would be understood as referring to the coming Kingdom.

No Israelite would confuse them for conditions that could exist unless and until the Messiah had come.

Once we recognize these references are from the future Kingdom, we won’t be confused about why there are still blind people; or why there is poverty.

Remember: The current Church Age has its own characteristics.

Psa 146:7  Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners.

“Justice” will be characteristic of the Millennium. Isaiah said, “But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist” (11:14-15).
Poverty will be abolished. Jeremiah said, “Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, Streaming to the goodness of the LORD For wheat and new wine and oil, For the young of the flock and the herd; Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden, And they shall sorrow no more at all” (31:12).
Captives will be released: Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound…”

Psa 146:8  The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous.

Isaiah said: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert” (35:5-6). There will be no disabilities; all will be healed.

Doing what is right will permeate global society. John Walvoord summarized this, saying, “Taken as a whole, the social and economic conditions of the Millennium indicate a Golden Age in which the dreams of social reformists through the centuries will be realized, not through human effort but by the immediate presence and power of God and the righteous government of Jesus Christ.”

There is something here for your devotional life. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “All these classes of afflicted persons are meant to be regarded literally, but all may have a wider meaning and be intended to hint at spiritual bondage, blindness, and abjectness.”

In the Millennium, God will open blind eyes – physically. He’s not doing that now, not always. But we extrapolate from this future characteristic that God can heal another kind of blindness. He can open the eyes of the spiritually blind – freeing their will to receive Jesus.

Next the psalmist said, “But the way of the wicked He turns upside down” (v9). If it’s the Kingdom, where do “the wicked” come from?

Think of all the people who will be born to Tribulation survivors over a thousand years. I’m too dumb to do the math. But I do remember the math problem in which you double pennies everyday and after 31 days it amounts to over $10mil.

ANYWAY… Multitudes of the people born in the Millennium will reject Jesus as Savior. It’s incredible. Nevertheless, we read in the Revelation,

Rev 20:7  Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison
Rev 20:8  and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.
Rev 20:9  They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.
Rev 20:10  The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Rev 20:11  Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.
Rev 20:12  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
Rev 20:13  The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
Rev 20:14  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Rev 20:15  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Perfect conditions on the earth… Utopia, as it were… Can reform, but not transform, the sinner.

Psa 146:10  The LORD shall reign forever – Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!

Back to the present, but with a Kingdom perspective. The coming reign of the God of Jacob, of Zion, is assured. Not just for a thousand years, but “To infinity, and beyond.”

After the Millennium comes eternity. The apostle John wrote, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:1-2).

Jesus promised you, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).

To which we with Hallelujah’s! respond, “There’s no place like home.”

In gods They Trust (Psalm 115)

In 1859, before a crowd of 25,000 people, Charles Blondin stepped out onto a tightrope strung across Niagara Falls. He was one of history’s most famous ropedancers and that day in June was a master performance. Not only did he walk the rope, he also ran on it, sat on it, lay down on it, and somersaulted along it. He carried out an old-timey camera on his back 200 feet over the span and snapped a picture of the crowd. He even took out a small stove so he could cook an omelet, lowering it to passengers on the famous Maid Of The Mist boat below.

If we saw David Copperfield or David Blaine doing it today, we’d assume it was some sort of camera trick. But, Charles Blondin was the real deal. You can look at photographs of him performing some of these feats, including carrying his manager Harry Colcord on his back from one side to another.

It’s reported that, on one occasion, after carrying Harry across the rope, Blondin “turned to a man in the crowd and asked him, ‘Do you think I could do that with you?’ ‘Of course,’ said the man. ‘I just saw you do it.’ ‘Well then,’ said Blondin, ‘Hop on and I’ll carry you across.’ ‘Not on your life,’ said the bystander.”

Psalm 115 is a song about trust. It compares the gods of this world to the God of heaven and confidently declares that Jehovah is not only trustworthy, but generous and caring and giving attention to you. Though many scholars feel that the song was written during a time of national distress, by the time the music ends, any singer would have their hearts filled to the brim with joy and confidence and excitement about what God was up to and what was still to come – that God was going to continue His gracious, extravagant work in their midst.

But the Psalm gives us this image: While God’s people sing of His greatness, outside there’s a crowd of unbelievers mocking God and His people. After all, how could an invisible God do anything?

How do we respond to a world that ridicules faith in the unseen? More importantly, how can we hang the weight of our lives, full of very real difficulties and obstacles on a God we cannot see? Psalm 115 not only gives us assurance, but sends us on our way with it rejoicing, so that the phrase ‘In God we trust’ isn’t just some tired slogan, but something we apply to the steps of our lives.

We begin in verse 1.

Psalm 115:1 – 1 Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory because of your faithful love, because of your truth.

This song includes request for deliverance, excitement about God’s blessing in our lives and anticipation of our future eternity in heaven, but along the way we’re never to lose sight of the fact that it all comes from the Lord. He is the fount of all good. There’s nothing in us that merits what God graciously gives. It is He Who is Sovereign, it is He who deserves all glory.

We notice that they repeat that phase, “not to us.” Have you ever had someone say, “Thank you,” then when you say, “Oh, don’t mention it,” they stop you and look you in the eye and say, “No…thank you.” There’s a sincerity in this opening line. The singers truly want all glory to go to God. When a person gets saved, God does a work of conforming Christians to be like Jesus Christ, but we admit that there’s still a part of us that wants glory for ourselves. There’s a fundamental change that needs to happen in our minds. In fact, humans have been so ruined by sin that we need a new mind given to us – the mind of Christ. Right from the beginning of this moment of worship, the singers jettison any desire for glory and instead offer their hearts to the Lord alone.

The opening of the song also reminds us of God’s love and truth. These are not only aspects of who God is, they are demonstrations of His incredible generosity. It is by God’s mercy, His faithful love, that we are not consumed. It is by His revealed truth that we are set free from bondage to sin.

Some of you are contemplating retirement and what you’ll “do” once you’ve clocked out for the last time. We can’t fathom all the things God could be doing with His ‘time’ and power. What has He decided to do? He has decided to be God with us.

Psalm 115:2 – 2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”

Sometimes the world asks this question as a taunt and an insult. Sometimes it asks in anger and frustration, like when people say, “If God exists, why is there suffering?”

From our perspective there are two ways to think about verse 2. One is that it’s a prayer to God, asking Him to make Himself known in the world. In Acts 4 the disciples pray that God would do great and dramatic things in their midst so that the world would know that Jesus is Messiah. But we can also see verse 2 as a rhetorical question. Any objective observer has to admit there is a God outside our universe. One who designs. One who intervenes. One who revealed Himself when He came in human flesh. “[God’s] invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made.” We can see the miraculous work of providence in every generation and every place throughout history.

Here is the simple answer to the question, though:

Psalm 115:3 – 3 Our God is in heaven and does whatever he pleases.

There is a sureness in this declaration. God is not just some sort of force. He’s a Person and He is in charge. No one can outmaneuver Him. No one can overthrow Him. No one can hide from Him. No one can lay a hand on Him or remove Him from His throne. He does whatever He pleases.

What does He please to do? Again, we consider all that God could be doing right now and then examine what He says brings Him pleasure. The Bible says it pleases God to interact with us. It pleases Him to deal with the problem of sin. It pleases Him to watch sinners repent. It pleases Him to adorn His people with salvation. It pleases Him to be with you. It pleases God to hold every atom of the cosmos together by His power, to raise up kingdoms and put down kingdoms, to change times and seasons in order to accomplish His unstoppable plan of grace in our lives and in this world. While the world mocks and ignores, this is what God does.

So now, let’s look for a moment at their gods.

Psalm 115:4-7 – 4 Their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. 5 They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. 6 They have ears but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. 7 They have hands but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk. They cannot make a sound with their throats.

Modern man may see himself as much more sophisticated than these ancient pagans who bowed down to statues of silver and gold, but the gods they worship today are just as powerless. Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote:

“A man’s god is that for which he lives, for which he is prepared to give his time, his energy, his money, that which stimulates him and rouses him, excites, and enthuses him.”

Today, the gods of man are often possessions or systems that make promises of security or a better world, yet they are just as powerless as a statue made out silver that tarnishes or gold that melts.

In 2013, the US government spent $2billion to build, a website that promised a healthier future for anyone and everyone in America. Its performance at launch was so abysmal that only six people in the entire country were able to sign up on the first day. As a political idol, it was just like what’s being described in these verses. If your god can be stolen or conquered or crash or voted out of power, then what sort of god is that?

We can contrast the gods of this world with the God of the Bible through each point in these verses. Our God was not fashioned out of materials mined from the earth. He made creation from nothing. Our God does speak. He speaks life into existence. He speaks commands to His people. He speaks kindness to the undeserving. Our God sees everything. His eyes roam to and fro, with nothing hidden from His gaze. We’re told He never takes His eyes off of us at any moment. Our God also hears. He hears our prayers and our praises. He’s listening for us, even for our groanings. He hears cries for help and calls for justice. Hearing the cries of the needy, He brings comfort. Our God even smells! Our praises rise like incense to Him, bringing Him pleasure and the smoke of His wrath billows from His nostrils. His hand is mighty to save and is placed in loving care on each one of His people. His hands are open to receive us. With His feet He walks with us, lighting our way along the path. With His voice He comforts and supports, He roars in victory and with it He thunders His decrees. He speaks and it is done.

Psalm 115:8 – 8 Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them.

Ultimately, those who serve some other god end up the same: Tarnished, vulnerable, dead and wasted. If you’re not a Christian you’re headed for this same end. Looking back, it’s easy to say there’s no difference between Ra and Baal, Zeus and Ganesh. But the truth is, there’s no difference between them and any modern system that you’re trying to hang the weight of your life upon, not when it comes to your eternity. No difference between Vishnu and what men blasphemously call the almighty dollar. If your God is not outside time and space, you’ve got a real problem. Because this life will soon be over and you are going to stand before your Creator and be judged.

Psalm 115:9-11 – 9 Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and shield. 10 House of Aaron, trust in the Lord! He is their help and shield. 11 You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and shield.

James Montgomery Boice writes:

“If God tells us something once we should listen very carefully, because He is God. If He says something twice we should pay the most strict attention. How then if He repeats something three times? In that case, we should drop everything else we are doing, give our full attention to, study, ponder, memorize, meditate on and joyfully obey what God has said.”

Trust the Lord! In the Bible, to trust means that we are to boldly, confidently make God our refuge. To hang the weight of our lives on Him as Protector and Provider. To rely on His guidance for our courses and choices.

In Israel there were different levels of separation among God’s people that we see delineated here. You have the nation, the priests and then ‘God-fearers’ who weren’t ethnic Jews but had joined in with their assembly. And, under the law, there were distinct rules and privileges for each group.

Now, Jesus Christ has brought us into a new covenant. All those walls of separation and distinction have been broken down. Now we are, altogether, a family, a single generation of royal priests. It doesn’t matter if you work behind a pulpit or a pipe fitter. All have been unified in grace and purpose. Applying these verses, we are reminded that God is not simply to be acknowledged, but He is to be trusted. That He is the help we need for our nation, for our ministry, for our personal lives. And not only is He our help, He is our shield. In battle, it is the shield that sustains the blows, guarding the one behind it. Instead of you taking the impact from the sword or arrow, the shield does.

In How To Train Your Dragon, one of the Viking warriors is training young recruits in how to defend themselves against the attacks of their fire-breathing foes. He says, “Your most important piece of equipment is your shield. If you must make a choice between a sword or a shield, take the shield.”

With God as our help and shield, we don’t need to pay attention to the noise of the world. Whether it is mocking or threatening, we can persevere in confidence because our God is with us. And, as we saw in our study of Psalm 138, we need not be afraid of any foe, whether earthly or supernatural, because God is with us and for us and shields us with His limitless love and strength.

Psalm 115:12-13 – 12 The Lord remembers us and will bless us. He will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; 13 he will bless those who fear the Lord— small and great alike.

God had given the nation of Israel covenant promises for physical blessings. He will not cancel out those promises. But to us different promises are made. When God speaks to us about the blessings He intends for our lives as Christians in the Church age, they aren’t for physical health and wealth. Rather, the promises are spiritual and eternal in nature. We learn in the New Testament that God blesses His people with spiritual growth and the development of spiritual fruit by which we bless others and build up the Church. We’re told that God’s promises to bless us with wisdom and increased faith and expanding joy and a greater capacity to serve others and endure hardship and bring honor to God. We also find that God’s blessings for us include a future plan for us to inherit the Kingdom, to see God, and receive heavenly rewards once this life comes to an end.

God’s heart has not changed. As He remembers Israel, He remembers us. Jesus promised He would never leave us or forsake us. Instead, He busies Himself in a constant effort to accomplish His unbreakable promises. And those promises will not only be kept to a certain few who seem significant or important from our way of thinking, they will be kept to all, both small and great alike.

Psalm 115:14-15 – 14 May the Lord add to your numbers, both yours and your children’s. 15 May you be blessed by the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Scholars tell us that the language used here indicates that God heaps blessings on His people. Piles of them. The Lord isn’t stingy or withholding. He’s extravagant in His gifts and kindness.

There’s an important contrast here: The Israelites were all too familiar with the gods of Canaan which demanded people burn their own children in sacrifice. The same thing happens so often today. People sacrificing children on the altar of convenience or career. But then we see the God of the Bible, who loves you and your children. Who invites your whole family to be brought together in a life of hopeful faith, filled with spiritual blessings. A God who lavishes love on a thousand generations. He’s not some sort of God who is only effective at harvest time or in certain geographical locations. He’s not only effective for four years at a time. He is always powerful, always King, always working.

Psalm 115:16 – 16 The heavens are the Lord’s, but the earth he has given to the human race.

As we trust God and go His way, He then trusts us to steward the world. He has given it to us as a gift that we might enjoy it and live in it and use it, but along with that we have a responsibility to tend it as God would. He has shared dominion with us, because He is generous. We should approach our relationship to the physical world in a Godly way, which means prioritizing compassion toward people, not being needlessly wasteful, and cherishing God’s creation.

Psalm 115:17-18 – 17 It is not the dead who praise the Lord, nor any of those descending into the silence of death. 18 But we will bless the Lord, both now and forever. Hallelujah!

This is not suggesting soul sleep or that there’s no worship in heaven (much the contrary). It’s simply saying that, for this life, once we die, we no longer offer God praise on the earth. The opportunities and responsibilities for worshipping God, giving Him glory, doing His work and spreading His word are for the living. And so, the song ends with a loud call of “hallelujah,” which means “Praise the Lord!” We’re to be like all the people involved in passing the olympic torch and keeping it aflame. We are to see what God has done for us and turn around and bless Him back. Of course, we cannot do for Him what He has done for us. But we can turn back and bless Him with loving, obedient, joyful hearts, full of praise and confidence.

Verse 17 gives us one more thing to think about: It’s a way for us to judge whether we’re spiritually dead or not. To be spiritually alive means we not only believe God and trust Him, but that we are praising Him, blessing Him, diverting the flow of our lives to bring Him glory. Are you on an ascending path, leading to heaven or a descending road, leading to death?

All around us there is difficulty, darkness, not to mention the jeers of the unbelieving world. We can still be sure God is good, that He is with us and that we can trust Him.

When Charles Blondin invited his manager, Harry Colcord onto his back for what seemed an impossible journey, he gave his manager the following instructions: “Look up, Harry.… you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place be a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself.”

God invites us to rest securely in Him on this death-defying walk from shore to shore. He can do what no other god can. He can and will deliver us across. We want to be people who don’t simply watch with the crowd, but join Him in the fantastic, bringing Him glory through the offering of our lives. He’s ready to take us on and He can be trusted, both now and forever. Hallelujah!

The Bold And The Worshipful (Psalm 138)

Writers call them “time jumps.” It’s when the story they are telling jumps forward, or backward, in time.

The Christmas movie season is upon us. You will likely encounter a new or old version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. You’ll jump with Ebenezer Scrooge to Christmas past, and to Christmas future. The things Scrooge witnesses in the past and future radically change his life in the present.

Psalm 138 seems to have been written by David at his coronation, on account of which he worships the LORD, who had made good His promise to him.

The psalm has time jumps within it:

There is a time jump to the future. In verses four and five we read, “All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD, When they hear the words of Your mouth. Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, For great is the glory of the LORD.” I don’t think that happened during David’s reign. It hasn’t happened yet. It sounds like something that the Bible says will happen, in the Millennial Kingdom of God on the earth after Jesus’ Second Coming.

The psalm time jumps to the past. In verse three David spoke of a previous day “when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.”

David chose to utilize time jumps to underscore what he would say in verse eight: “The LORD will perfect that which concerns me.”

God had begun a great work in David in the past; God was performing the work in the present; He would perfect it in the future.

Same with us! “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

When you receive Jesus Christ, God saves you.

Everyday after that, He works to sanctify you – to make you more-and-more like Jesus.

At the resurrection and rapture of the church, your salvation will be complete as you receive your glorified body.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Jesus Will Complete The Work He Has Begun In You Despite Supernatural Opposition, and #2 Jesus Will Complete The Work He Has Begun In You Despite Human Opposition.

#1 – Jesus Will Complete The Work He Has Begun In You Despite Supernatural Opposition (v1-3)

God’s great work of grace in changing us does not go unchallenged. We can expect opposition. And not just from other human beings. As Nick Fury said, “We learn that not only are we not alone, but we are hopelessly, hilariously outgunned.”

We’re introduced to supernatural beings in the unseen realm in verse one.

Psa 138:1  A Psalm Of David. I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You.

The Hebrew word translated “gods” is elohim. Isn’t that the name of Almighty God? Turns out, “No,” it is not the name of Almighty God.

One resource says,

“The word elohim occurs more than 2500 times in the Hebrew Bible, with meanings ranging from “gods” in a general sense (as in Exodus 12:12, where it describes “the gods of Egypt”), to specific gods (e.g., First Kings 11:33, where it describes Chemosh, “the god of Moab”), to demons, seraphim, cherubim, and other supernatural beings, and even to the spirits of dead humans (e.g., Samuel in First Samuel 28:13). There are also frequent references to YHWH, the Almighty God of Israel.”

Satan, fallen angels, demons – these, too, are elohim. Any being who lives in the unseen realm is an elohim.

The Almighty God, the God of Israel, YHWH, is an elohim. But note: While YHWH is an elohim, no elohim is YHWH. They are created beings; subordinate beings. The Bible always makes it clear no other is like Him.

If you want more on this, check out our study in this series on Psalm 82.

Let’s return to verse one:

Psa 138:1  A Psalm Of David. I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You.

At his coronation, David’s heart was filled with praises, and this was just the song for the occasion.

Exactly who the elohim in the audience were is not specified. But since later in this song he refers to crying out, needing help, I think we can safely say that evil elohim were involved.

You’d expect interference against David and Israel. There are elohim at work behind the scenes of the nations of the world. Here are two references that bear this out:

The prophet, Daniel, was praying. The angel Gabriel was dispatched to give Daniel information about the Last Days. Upon arriving, Gabriel explained, “from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard… but the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia” (Daniel 10:12-13). A supernatural being, an elohim, was a “prince” assigned to Persia, and he sought to interfere with God’s plans and purposes for Daniel, and for Israel.

In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, we read that “Satan’s throne” was in the city of Pergamum (2:13). It may be a reference to an altar to Zeus that was there. But I see no reason not to take it literally. Elohim were headquartered there.

Satan has principalities and powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, in key positions behind the scenes of the nations to interfere with God’s plan in general, and God’s plan specifically for you.

If you stop there, it’s terrifying. In a battle with sinister elohim, by ourselves we are “hopelessly, hilariously outgunned.”

But we are not by ourselves, are we? Not by a long shot. God the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Greater is He that is in us than the elohim against us.

Psa 138:2  I will worship toward Your holy temple, And praise Your name For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.

The “Temple” wasn’t built in David’s lifetime. He was either referring to the Tabernacle, or time jumping to the future Temple.

The attribute of God that was especially on David’s heart when he penned this psalm under inspiration was “lovingkindness.” David mentioned it in connection with “truth.” God’s lovingkindness is a truth to be held despite any feelings to the contrary.

The LORD’s lovingkindness was just as true during the years of David’s exile as they were at his coronation.

All of God’s attributes are “truth” regardless my circumstances or experiences.

“You have magnified Your word above all Your name” needs a better translation. Derek Kidner writes, “The meaning of [this phrase] can only be that God has fulfilled His promise in a way that surpasses all that He has hitherto revealed of Himself.”

For a long time, more than a decade at least, God’s promise that David would be king seemed improbable, if not impossible. Yet here he was, despite all supernatural interference.

Does it seem strange that evil elohim would be in a heavenly audience hearing David sing? We get a glimpse of something like this in the beginning of the Book of Job. In the ISV, we read, “One day, divine beings presented themselves to the LORD, and Satan accompanied them” (1:6). Strange as it may be, there was Satan, in Heaven with other elohim.

Psa 138:3  In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.

David cried out, and God answered it by strengthening what we call the inner man. That strengthening of soul produced the boldness David needed in order to wait on the promises of God. Though he stumbled along the way, he never lost sight of the LORD’s lovingkindness.

The Bible indicates that Christians will one day rule and reign with Jesus on the earth. Right now, we seem more like David in exile, hunted down as fugitives by the malevolent supernatural beings in Satan‘s army. Pray that God grant to you strength of soul by his indwelling Holy Spirit. Be bold in believing His promises to you.

#2 – Jesus Will Complete The Work He Has Begun In You Despite Human Opposition (v4-8)

Our physical battleground isn’t in the unseen realm. It is at home, at work, out in the world at large. The world is currently held captive by the god of this world, Satan. Without the need for possession, he takes captive nonbelieving human beings, enlisting them to do his will to interfere in your life.

Some things defy explanation apart from supernatural interference. So many incredible, nonsensical, things are happening right now on account of COVID19. A California judge ordered San Diego to reopen strip clubs while the county carries on with its crackdown on churches. Don’t even try to figure out the logic.

There is something supernatural going on behind the scenes of a decision like that.

For the sake of argument, let’s say the governing authorities have no malice in targeting churches. Don’t you think that devils do have malice, and want to take advantage of this opportunity to close churches?

An early church father said, “Nothing ordinarily so repairs the soul, and makes a person better, as a good hope of things to come” (Chrysostom). David’s “good hope of things to come” began in verse four.

Psa 138:4  All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD, When they hear the words of Your mouth.
Psa 138:5  Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, For great is the glory of the LORD.

That’s gotta be future. I can’t remember a time in human history when “all the kings of the earth” praised the LORD. Or when all of the earth heard the Word of God.

That time is coming. At the end of the Revelation, the apostle John wrote concerning the New Jerusalem, “And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it… And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it (Revelation 21:24 & 26).

In Zechariah 14:16 we’re told, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” This happens after the Great Tribulation, after the Second Coming of Jesus.

It’s reasonable to ask, “How does hope of the future help me now?” Hold that thought…

Psa 138:6  Though the LORD is on high, Yet He regards the lowly; But the proud He knows from afar.

The “lowly” are believers who are being opposed.

The “proud” is our opposition.

The “proud” seem on top, in power. Believers are oppressed – sometimes with no end in sight. David was no stranger to this kind of treatment:

His own family excluded him when the prophet Samuel came to their house to anoint the next king of Israel.

His brothers mocked him when David expressed shock that no one would accept the daily challenge of Goliath.

King Saul threw spears at David, then chased him, seeking his life.

All the while, David held to the hope of the future God had promised him.

The “LORD” “on high” condescends to involve Himself against those who oppose us. Think of it: Almighty God is for you.

The apostle Paul boldly said, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).

Right after Paul said that, he rattled off quite a list of beings who are against us. What, then, gives us the victory now, not just in the future?

Psa 138:7  Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand Against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me.

The next time someone does asks, “How are you?”, tell them, “I walk in the midst of trouble.”

“I walk in the midst of trouble” could describe a believer pretty much any time. During times you might feel free from trouble, plans are being made against you by the ruler of this age’s accomplices.

“Revive.” It has a lot of possible meanings, including “preserved from the wrath of my enemies.” Your ultimate enemy was death. I say ‘was’ because death was defeated by Jesus as He died on the Cross, then rose from the dead. If you are in Christ, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

“To live is Christ” means, among other things, that everything He promises you is available. You have the Holy Spirit living in you, and you have every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. All that you require to live out your life in godliness is yours.

I asked you to hold a question – “How does hope of the future help me now?” Hope in your future revives you. It breathes new life in you by the Holy Spirit.

“You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me.”

Sorry lefties, but the “right hand,” in the Bible, is the power hand.

I like that I’m saved by God’s right hand, and that my enemies can easily be defeated by His left. It’s like He’s saying, “The LORD can beat my enemies with His right hand tied behind His back!”

Psa 138:8  The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

If the LORD “will perfect that which concerns me,” why ask Him to “not forsake the work of His hands?”

Do you have a project that you started but have yet to finish? Maybe you have no time; or you ran out of money; or you simply lost interest it it.

You are a project that the LORD started but has yet to finish. He has all the time, and unlimited resources, for Project Gene. More importantly, He cannot, will not, lose interest in me.

Albert Barnes said,

He will complete what He has begun. He will not begin to interpose in my behalf, and then abandon me. He will not promise to save me, and then fail to fulfill his promise. He will not encourage me, and then cast me off. He will complete what He begins. He will not convert a soul, and then leave it to perish. “Grace will complete what grace begins.”

When David said, “don’t forsake me,” he was expressing a proper impatience for the LORD to accelerate His work in his life.

Truth is, progress in making us, in molding us, is often interrupted not by the LORD, but by us. Charles Ryrie said, “ A Christian of longer standing may not be spiritual not because he has had insufficient time, but during the years of his Christian life he has not allowed the Holy Spirit to control him.”

David would example this in his life. After he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and arranged for her husband to be killed, he made no spiritual progress.

He would say of that time, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away by my groaning all day long. My strength was exhausted as in a summer drought” (Psalm 32:3-4).

David repented, and David was revived. He experienced that the LORD’s mercy endures forever. It means He won’t quit. He won’t give up on us. He will finish what He has started.

Some of you may have experienced this. You were walking with Jesus, in the Word, in prayer, in fellowship. You fell away. For weeks… months… years… decades. The moment you repented, the LORD’s mercy was abundant.

Paul, Peter, and John were guys who jumped time in their writing:

Among the time jumps in Paul’s letters, he described the day that Jesus will, “Present [the church] to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

Peter jumped to the future when he wrote, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (Second Peter 3:10).

John jumps in chapter four of the Revelation to show us the Great Tribulation, the Second Coming of Jesus, the Millennial Kingdom, and the New Jerusalem – and everything in between and after.

Peter does some time jumping to the past, talking about Noah and the global flood.

All of them apply their jumps to the present. Peter is a good example, saying, “what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (Second Peter 3:11).

Your hope in the future makes all the difference in your walk in the present. It revives.

We Tone The Night (Psalm 134)

Those of you who are old enough… Do you remember when you would go to a theater to watch a movie? Those were good times.

I especially liked the trailers. You know, the previews for upcoming movies. They preceded the movie, but that wasn’t always the case.
When movies were sent to theaters on film, the previews were added to the end of the reel; hence, trailers.

End credits are another story. They have gotten longer and longer over the years. Ten… Twelve… Sixteen minutes is not unusual. Why not leave? We are forced to watch them because the producers have added mid-credit and end-of-credit scenes.

Gang Boss… Gaffer… Grip… Wrangler… Best Boy. Who cares, beyond their moms? No one ever says, “Look – isn’t that the Gang Boss from Rogue One?” Instagram isn’t blowing up with Best Boy selfies.

These folks are absolutely essential to the movie. Without them behind the scenes, there would be no scenes.

Psalm 134 introduces us to some end-credit-like servants behind the scenes of the annual feasts. Look at verse one: “You servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD!”

We will see that this special unseen night shift included workers and watchmen.

Can we see ourselves in this psalm? Sure.

In First Thessalonians 5:6 we read, “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.”
In the Revelation, Jesus told us, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (22:12).

Don’t sleep; you’ve got the night shift and should watch and work, behind the scenes of the great drama unfolding, because the Lord is coming.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Are The Lord’s Behind-the-Scenes Worker, and #2 You Are The Lord’s Behind-the-Scenes Watchman.

#1 – You Are The Lord’s Behind-the-Scenes Worker (v1-2)

Those of you who are old enough… Do you remember when you could go to a magical place called Disneyland? Those were good times.

Over 1500 workers were employed on the night shift to get the park ready for the next-day’s guests.

The Temple in Jerusalem required a lot of night shift workers. It’s hard to be totally accurate about exactly what went on overnight. Both Jewish and Gentile sources are spotty at best; and they sometimes disagree on details.

We don’t need to know exact details. We only need to realize that there was a lot to be done. Whether it was the Feast of Passover & Unleavened Bread, or Pentecost, or Tabernacles, Jerusalem would swell with pilgrims coming to the Temple for the prescribed days of those festivals. The numbers of pilgrims is hard to calculate. At its lowest it had to be tens of thousands.

Sometimes at a large gathering, e.g., a dinner, the host will recognize the kitchen staff, or others, who “made it all possible.” That is essentially what happens in verses one and two.

Psa 134:1  A Song of Ascents. Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD!

As the returning pilgrims say, adios, to Jerusalem, we say, au revoir to the Songs of Ascent – Psalms 120 through 134. These going-up-to-worship songs, Israel’s festival playlist, end fittingly in 134.

The pilgrims pause to recognize those “servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD!”

In the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles, in chapter nine, some of the general duties of workers in the Temple are listed. Let me read you an edited passage:

The gatekeepers were assigned to the four directions: the east, west, north, and south… in this trusted office were four chief gatekeepers; they were Levites. And they had charge over the chambers and treasuries of the house of God. And they lodged all around the house of God because they had the responsibility, and they were in charge of opening it every morning… Now some of them were in charge of the serving vessels, for they brought them in and took them out by count. Some of them were appointed over the furnishings and over all the implements of the sanctuary, and over the fine flour and the wine and the oil and the incense and the spices. And some of the sons of the priests made the ointment of the spices. [Some] of the Levites… had the trusted office over the things that were baked in the pans. And some… were in charge of preparing the showbread for every Sabbath. [There were] the singers… Levites, who lodged in the chambers, and were free from other duties; for they were employed in that work day and night.

The “gatekeepers” were the watchmen we will discuss in our second point. Notice some of the additional duties: Treasury security guard, those charged with the vessels and implements, those who oversaw the furnishings, perfumers, and bakers. It isn’t an exhaustive list. There was plenty of additional work to do.

Let’s see if we can make a biblical application to the church. The Jews attended the annual feasts. There were seven altogether, but only three were required.

We know that all seven of the feasts pointed forward to Jesus:

Jesus was the final Passover lamb, the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world. He died on the Cross exactly when the lambs were being slain in the Temple.
Passover included the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It pointed to Jesus’ sinless life (as leaven is a picture of sin in the Bible), making Him the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

• First Fruits pointed to Jesus’ resurrection as the first fruits of the righteous. Jesus was resurrected on this very day, which is one of the reasons that Paul refers to him in First Corinthians 15:20 as the “first fruits from the dead.”

• Pentecost occurred fifty days after the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and pointed to the great harvest of souls and the gift of the Holy Spirit for both Jew and Gentile, who would be brought into the kingdom of God during the Church Age. The Church was established on this day when God poured out His Holy Spirit and 3000 Jews responded to Peter’s great sermon and his first proclamation of the Gospel.

• Trumpets was the first of the fall feasts. Many believe this day points to the rapture of the church when Jesus will appear in the heavens as He comes for His bride, the church. The Rapture is always associated in Scripture with the blowing of a loud trumpet (First Thessalonians 4:13-18 & First Corinthians 15:52).

• The Day of Atonement points to the Second Coming of Jesus when He will return to earth. That will be the Day of Atonement for the Jewish remnant when they “look upon Him whom they have pierced,” repent of their sins, and receive Him as their Messiah.

• The Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths) points to the Lord’s promise that He will once again “tabernacle” with His people when He returns to reign over all the world.

When we meet on the first day of the week, following the custom of the early church, it be like celebrating all four feasts that were fulfilled, and the three that will be fulfilled.

When the Lord died on the Cross, one of the miracles that accompanied His accomplishment was that the veil in the Temple, that kept the Ark of the Covenant out of view, was torn from top-to-bottom.

It forever signified that access to God was immediate and for everyone through Jesus Christ. It communicated that everything preceding the veil was now done away with. All the sacrifices and ceremonies were fulfilled in Jesus.

The gathering of the church to celebrate Jesus requires behind-the-scenes work and workers. Let me ask you this – not to burden you, but to make a point. Can you name all of our Children’s Ministry workers? I can’t!!

Yet they have prepared all week to minister to children Jesus desires would come to Him.

Back to our psalm… Verse one mentions those who by night stand in the house of the Lord. The passage we heard from Chronicles specifically mentioned “singers… the Levites, who lodged in the chambers, and were free from other duties; for they were employed in that work day and night.”

As I mentioned, details are spotty. But from these two passages I think it safe to say that there was singing in the Temple all through the night, every night.

Why not? We know that the earthly Temple was patterned after the Temple in Heaven (Hebrews 8:5). In the Revelation, in Heaven, we read that there is constant worship singing.

Commentator Derek Kidner wrote, “The Temple was never left without… Levites, to… sing praises in it.”

Should we form choirs that sing 24/7 while we are not having services? It’d be hard to fill some slots.

Not necessary IF we obey the apostle Paul’s exhortation that we each, “[speak] to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). It is an example of what we mean when we say that everything is fulfilled in Jesus. The constant worship in the Temple is replaced by constant worship in our hearts.

Psa 134:2  Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD.

A quick word regarding lifting your hands, and worship posture in general. A good rule to follow when you feel led to express worship in a more physical manner is this: Do not disturb. Will your movement disturb others, distracting them? Will it call attention to you, instead of to the Lord? In First Corinthians 14:32, in a passage about orderly worship, the apostle Paul said we can control ourselves; and we should, for the sake of others.

The bakers were baking for the LORD; the perfumers were perfuming for the LORD.

In the church, we are told, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).

That’s great – until you start to think that what you are doing for the Lord is menial, or that it doesn’t matter. If it is service for the Lord, and it is done as unto Him, it cannot be menial, and it does matter.

In one of the great movie sequences of all time, Daniel Russo was given three tasks:

Wax car.
Paint fence.
Sand floor.

Mr. Miyagi gives him very explicit instructions about how to perform each task. “Wax on; wax off.” Daniel despairs, thinking what he is doing has no connection to karate.

Until Mr. Myagi takes him through the sequence. “Show me wax car… Show me paint fence… Show me sand floor.” The repetitive motions had become second-hand reactions and functioned as defensive blocks.

I think sometimes the Lord says to us, “Show Me clean toilet.” “Show Me wash feet.”

#2 – You Are The Lord’s Behind-the-Scenes Watchman (v3)

Somewhere during our study of the psalms we mentioned that many are antiphonal. Loosely defined, that means they are written so that the singers are responding to one another.

In Psalm 134, it seems verses one and two are the good-bye recognition of the pilgrims directed to the night shift. That makes verse three the response of those tireless, mostly anonymous workers.

Psa 134:3  The LORD who made heaven and earth Bless you from Zion!

As if they had said, “We will lift up our hands and bless the LORD; now go in peace, and may God shower down his blessings upon you!”

The “heavens” is the universe God created. In it is the earth upon which He placed mankind.

In all of that created universe, in all its splendor and wonder, on the earth… “Zion,” Jerusalem, is arguably the most important geography. It is the spiritual center. It is the place God chose to dwell among His people in the Ark of the Covenant, in the Holy of Holies, in the Temple.

All “blessing” comes from God and thus, in a sense, it comes from “Zion,” from Jerusalem.

Jesus died on the Cross at Calvary just outside of Jerusalem. He was buried; He rose from the dead there. When He comes again, in His Second Coming, it will be to Jerusalem. He will rule over the world on David’s throne in Jerusalem.

The future seven-year Great Tribulation is a time when God will be dealing especially with the Jews; and much of it will focus on Jerusalem and the Promised Land.

Let’s talk specifically about the night watchmen at the gates. We have the most agreed upon information about them. One reliable source, the Jewish Encyclopedia, says the following:

A strict watch over the Temple was maintained, the guard being composed of three priests and twenty-one Levites. The Levites kept guard as follows: One at each of the five gates of the mount entrances; one at each of the four corners within the mount enclosure; one at each of the five important gates of the courts; one at each of the four corners within the court; one at the Chamber of Sacrifice; one at the Chamber of Curtains; and one behind the Holy of Holies. The captain of the guard saw that every man was alert, chastising a priest if found asleep at his post, beating him with his staff, and sometimes even punishing him by burning his shirt upon him, as a warning to others (Midrash i. 1).

The info about shirt-burning comes to us through what is called midrash, which is ancient Jewish interpretation of the Scriptures.

The watchmen – they didn’t know when their captain might visit their posting. Other reliable sources explain that the napping watchman would puff-up his outer garment as a pillow to rest his head upon. Caught napping, his captain would burn his puffy-shirt.

Watching, staying awake, not slumbering, are all exhortations given to us as believers in the Church Age. We’re the watchmen, the watch-women, the watch-children.

Our Captain is Jesus. He could come to resurrect the dead believers of the Church Age, and to rapture we who are alive, at any moment.

If He needs to chastise me for slumbering, I know that Jesus only chastens those He loves, for our own good.

Commentators see a devotional insight in Psalm 134. They compare the night watches with afflictions, sufferings, troubles of all kind.

I came across a quote attributed to C.S. Lewis that is appropriate. “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

When you find yourself in a difficult night watch, be encouraged by Paul and Silas singing praises while in the disgusting, dismal, dreadful, dank, deep, dirty, dreary, dark, Philippian dungeon.

Transform your troubles into a sanctuary in which you bless the Lord.

Human history is a drama being played-out. It’s been called The Romance of Redemption. God’s love was spurned by our original parents. But they had no idea the length, the breadth, and the depth of His love. He would redeem them, restore them.

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. The drama is one story, told in 66 books, that progressively reveals how God sent Jesus to woo us back to a relationship with Him.

There are a kind of end credits in the Bible. It’s the Book of Life. If you’re saved, your name is found written there.

If you die in your sins, without Jesus, your name won’t be found in the Book of Life. It will appear in other books, pertaining to the lost.

Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
Rev 20:15  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

The Lake of Fire, and an eternity of conscious suffering, need not be your end-of-credits scene.

Running Down The Hair Of My Chinny-Chin-Chin (Psalm 133)

I doubt that most of us have ever heard of Jason Kiley – despite the fact that he was 2019’s US National Champion.

Or the 2019 World Champion, Lucio Battista (who, BTW, is an American).

They were the freestyle champions in the annual national and international beard & mustache competitions. Among thousands of competitors, their beards were voted the hairy-best.

Beards are back in a big way. Proctor and Gamble has publicly blamed the beard for slumping sales of shaving products.

Like everything else, beards & mustaches are a COVID19 public health concern. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has suggestions for those with facial hair. It’s a chart illustrating proper mask placement with thirty-three styles of facial hair.

I have to stop and read you a few of the beard styles they list: French fork… Garibaldi… Chin strap… Balbo… Van Dyke… Hulihee… Walrus… Tooth brush… and Zappa.

You bearded guys might want to check it out. (You bearded ladies, too, I suppose).

Beards can affect history; at least one beard did anyway. According to,

Abraham Lincoln’s beard is now an indelible part of his image. Lincoln decided to grow out his whiskers in part thanks to some well-meaning advice from a young supporter. In 1860, 11yr-old Grace Bedell wrote Lincoln a letter that said in part: “I have yet got four brothers, and part of them will vote for you any way, but if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you. You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.”

Lincoln thus became our nation’s first fully-bearded president. Following Lincoln, our 18th, 19th, and 20th presidents were fully bearded. As far as I can tell, after them there were presidents with only partial facial hair.

I might need a fact-check on this, but it seems that Taft, #27, was the last US president to sport any significant facial hair.

A bearded man is prominent in Psalm 133. Let’s read it through, and meet this person.

Psa 133:1  A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!
Psa 133:2  It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.
Psa 133:3  It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing – Life forevermore.

Surveying the crowds of pilgrims jammed into and around Jerusalem during one of the annual feasts, David was impressed by their “good” and “pleasant” “unity” as they “dwell[ed] together.”

The LORD was going to inspire David to turn what he beheld in that moment into a psalm. The Holy Spirit whispered to David, “What you are seeing, compare to the oil running down Aaron’s beard, and the dew on Mount Hermon.”

Thus this precious chorus comes through time to us. Gathered together, in unity, is still God’s blessing for His saints.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Dwelling Together In Unity Is A Sight For You To See, and #2 Dwelling Together In Unity Is A Scent For You To Diffuse.

#1 – Dwelling Together In Unity Is A Sight For You To See (v1)

I have a hard time with an abstract concept like “unity.” It’s hard for me to get a handle on it. I’m therefore thankful for what David did in Psalm 133.

He gave us a visual presentation of unity.

Ever give a PowerPoint presentation? You could present Psalm 133 with three main slides:

The twelve tribes attending a feast.
The High Priest being anointed for service.
Mount Hermon in the background.

We will fill it out more, but here is the nutshell version:

Israel was a diverse nation of twelve tribes spread out all over, and outside, the Promised Land. Three times annually they were invited to journey to Jerusalem to gather together and celebrate one of the feasts.
Their High Priest wore a breastplate with twelve stones on it representing each of the twelve tribes. He stood in the line of Aaron, as one of his descendants, anointed by the LORD to represent Israel.
In the background was majestic Mount Hermon. If we can trust the commentators, they say this tallest mountain was blanketed with heavy dew.

The priest & the people beautifully, visually, depicted Israel as one man, standing before the LORD to receive His blessings, poured out from Heaven like the abundant morning dew on Mount Hermon.

Unity was a snapshot David could “behold” in that moment. It was a unity all Israel could “behold.”

We can “behold” unity even more than David did:

We are described in the New Testament as being “in Christ.”
We are described as being members of His one “body.”
We are described as being stones in His earthly Temple, fit together as one building.

Jesus is described as our Greater High Priest. He carries us upon His heart – proven at Calvary, on the Cross where He gave Himself as a Substitute for your sins.

Our ‘Mount Hermon’ isn’t a place; it’s a Person, the Holy Spirit, by whose living water rushing into and through our lives we enjoy abundant spiritual blessings.

There are a lot of ways we could approach a talk about “unity.” Whatever else it is, in this psalm, unity was God’s people gathered together to worship the LORD as prescribed in God’s Word.

Same with us. As we gather together to worship Jesus as prescribed in the Word, we are “one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord.” We are a visual of unity for ourselves and others to see.

Psa 133:1  A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!

Psalm 133 is the next-to-the-last of the psalms (or songs) of ascent sung by the pilgrims going up to Jerusalem.

The spiritual unity David could visualize was something that ought inspire the Israelites to aspire to in practice. They were one; they ought to act like it.

Here is another way of putting it: They could (if they chose to) “dwell together in” relational “unity” with one another. They could be kind to one another, forgiving one another, preferring one another. They could get along. Could and should. So can we – only more so.

Dwelling in practical unity is “good” and it is “pleasant.”

The word “good” can be rendered better, best, and bountiful.

Unity is better than contention and strife.
Unity is best for everyone.
Unity’s blessings are bountiful rather than meager.

Dwelling in relational unity is “pleasant.” It may sound selfish, but the idea here is that you experience delight rather than difficulty. You’re not distracted from worshipping and serving the Lord.

The apostle Paul exhorted us,

Eph 4:1  … to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,
Eph 4:2  with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,
Eph 4:3  endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Unity is our default position. It is part of being a Christian. Jesus unites us as His body, as His building. Our practice can either maintain unity, or it can undermine it.

The qualities Paul listed are not exhaustive. He is essentially saying, “Act like a Christian should,” then reminding you of a few characteristics. You can act like a believer on account of being in Christ, and of His Holy Spirit being in you.

#2 – Dwelling Together In Unity Is A Scent For You To Diffuse (v2-3)

When we first relocated to Hanford in 1985, we noticed the area had its own peculiar fragrances:

There was (and still is) Dairy Smell, a sort of manurey, methane scent.
There was, seasonally, Garlic Smell, from the seed plant as you’d drive along the 198 entering or leaving town. I love the smell of garlic in the morning.
The aerial defoliant sprayed by the crop dusters has that distinctly sickly-sweet aroma of death.
The tap water smelled like rotten eggs. So did you after showering.
The holy anointing oil had a more aromatic scent. As it was poured upon the high priest, the fragrance would diffuse into the surrounding air.

Psa 133:2  It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.

Did they really pour so much oil on Aaron’s head that it ran down through his beard and onto his garments? Seems so. Another reason I’m glad we aren’t under the Law.

Aaron had a beard. On the CDC chart, I’m guessing it was a Bandholz – a beard “attached at the mustache and allowed to grow freely.” Think David Letterman, if you’ve seen him recently.

There were lots of bearded Bible characters: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses. In fact, it’s hard to find ones without beards.

David sported a beard. We know that because in one episode he feigned madness, “and let his spittle fall down his beard.”
Ezekiel wore a beard, as we see in this passage where God has him to shave part of his hair and beard, as a symbolic gesture showing the shame that would soon come upon Jerusalem.
Jesus was bearded. Describing the sufferings of the Savior, Isaiah wrote, “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting” (50:6).

Jewish men could be shamed simply by cutting their beards:

“So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half the beard of each and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away. When it was told David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return” (2 Samuel 10:4-5).

Should Christian men sport beards? Our answer in this New Testament Church Age of grace is that it isn’t mandatory.

A.W. Tozer talked about the anointing oil in a devotional. I quote him:

Going back into the Levitical priesthood, we discover a ritual of an anointing with a specially prepared holy oil. Certain pungent herbs were beaten into the oil, making it fragrant and aromatic. It was unique; Israel might not use that formula for any other oil. When a priest was set apart and anointed, the oil was a vivid type of the New Testament anointing of the Holy Spirit. The holy anointing oil could only be used for the anointing of men with special ministries – priests and kings and prophets. If someone went near an Old Testament priest, he could say immediately, “I smell an anointed man. I smell the holy oil!” The aroma, the pungency, the fragrance were there. Such an anointing could not be kept a secret.

The passage of Scripture that brings this to us in the Church Age is found in Second Corinthians 2:14-16: “Now thanks be to God who…through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life.”

Bob Hoekstra said,

This spiritual aroma of Christ impacts every person we meet. For those who are enjoying life in Christ, Christ’s fragrance in us draws them to seek abundant measures of that life which they have already entered. This spiritual scent also influences those who do not yet know our Lord. They are dead in their sins, and this aroma makes them more aware of their deadness, more aware of their need for Christ. When this fragrance is emanating from our lives, we are not the cause. God is the active agent, working in and through us to bring forth this heavenly scent.

Jesus uses us as His diffusers, to give off a heavenly scent that is “smelled” by believers and nonbelievers.

Fragrances are achieved by carefully mixing together certain substances. The priestly anointing oil was made from myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, cassia, and olive oil. They weren’t to add or subtract from the recipe.

The fragrance we give off isn’t something you can smell; it’s spiritual. I wonder, however, if the things we add to, or subtract from, our lives changes the fragrance of Jesus?

Christians sometimes add things that they consider to be spiritual, but which are nothing more than the flesh seeking to do the work of the spirit:

Take a whiff of legalism. It is a term Christians use to describe emphasizing a system of rules and regulations for achieving both salvation and spiritual growth. It’s a deadly odor, a stench.
Take a whiff of license. In the Bible, liberty is the freedom to do right. License is the freedom to do wrong. Our salvation is not a license to sin. It is a deliverance from sin. When liberty turns to license, it first gives off an intoxicating aroma that numbs our senses. Then it turns to the stench of our flesh.

Likewise, we can subtract things from our walk with the Lord. Talking to God, reading His Word, gathering with his people, sharing the good news, are all things that we can overlook.

Psa 133:3  It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing – Life forevermore.

9,232 feet above sea level. It’s the star of the Hermon mountain range. We noted earlier it is famous for its ‘heavy’ dew.

What does dew, do? According to one source, “Though the Mediterranean climate of Palestine had no rainfall from May or June to September, it had dew. Dew was important in the summer and a supplement to rain. Zion was therefore a place of fertility which even in the rainless season has an abundance of dew, like that of mighty Hermon to the north.”

Verses two and three are what scholars call parallelism. They make the same point in two different ways. Oil runs down… Dew runs down. Both indicate abundant blessing from ‘above,’ in this case, from Heaven.

It also communicates how potent the anointing oil was. It may only be a few ounces running down on Aaron, but spiritually it is more like all the heavy dew running down from Hermon.

“For there the LORD commanded the blessing – Life forevermore.”

“There” is Zion, and Jerusalem in particular. It was and it is His city. In Psalm 132:13-14 we read,

Psa 132:13  For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place:
Psa 132:14  “This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.

God “commanded the blessing” encompasses the whole Old Testament revelation of God’s redemption of lost humanity. To save mankind, God instituted substitutionary sacrifice. A slain lamb could temporarily take your place. Over time, God chose Abraham to father a new nation. Then He gave that nation a detailed system of substitutionary sacrifice. It was housed in Jerusalem, in the Temple. Then He sent Jesus, God-in-human-flesh, to be the final lamb Who takes away the sin of the world.

Salvation – “life forevermore” – emanated from the Temple in Jerusalem to the rest of the world. If you wanted to know God, you traveled to His Temple, to see His chosen people.

In the future, after the resurrection and rapture of the church, and after the seven year Great Tribulation, Jesus will return in His Second Coming to… Jerusalem. He will rule the earth sitting on David’s throne. Salvation will emanate from there. the prophet Zechariah wrote, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (14:16).

Any decent beard expert will tell you beardcare involves washing your face and applying beard oil.

From the moment we are saved, Jesus is at work making us “holy, cleansing [us] by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

He gifts us with the Holy Spirit – our anointing oil.

When someone comes near me (or to you), do they get a whiff of something spiritual?
Or do we smell more like food rotting on our unkept beards?

I quoted Tozer earlier, saying, “If someone went near an Old Testament priest, he could say immediately, “I smell an anointed man. I smell the holy oil!”

Let’s put our names in there, with these changes: “If someone went near Gene, he could say immediately, “I smell ______.”

Fill-in the blank.

The Psalm That Never Ends (Psalm 136)

As children we’re much more comfortable with constant repetition than we are when we get older. Kids will watch the same movie over and over again. They like to have the same books read to them again and again. It’s true with songs, too. I’m sure most of us can think of a time when our parents had to put a moratorium on 99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall or The Wheels On The Bus or This Is The Song That Never Ends. Remember that song from the old Lamb Chop show? By the way, you can go on YouTube and watch a video that loops that song for 10 hours straight. 3.2 million views so far.

But our interest and even tolerance for repetition starts to fade over time. Sometimes we just tune it out. Like all those lists of prescription drug side effects or when you’re at an amusement park or on an airplane and they go over the safety stuff. “I’ve heard it once, I don’t need to hear it again.”

Repetition has long been an issue of debate when it comes to worship styles in the church. One of the criticisms that has been around for decades is that many modern worship choruses are too repetitive and, therefore, are not as legitimate, meaningful or spiritual as densely worded hymns.

Like most debates of that nature, it does no good to make a sweeping generalization. Some of the worship offered in the Bible is very repetitive. The most pointed example is in Revelation 4 where we see angelic beings constantly singing a three line song over and over, never stopping day or night.

Another example is set before us this morning. Psalm 136 is a unique and important song but it is very repetitive. 26 times the same line is repeated. Not only that, but a lot of Psalm 136 is actually a repetition of what you find in Psalm 135! If we’re not careful, we might come across this lovely song but start to think of it as those disclaimers we hear on commercials. “Just get through it and on to something I can connect with.”

But God’s Word contains no waste. There’s no fat in the Psalms. This song has been recorded and preserved and delivered to us because it is God’s opinion that we need it. There are some times when repetition is welcome and necessary. I, for one, am glad that the Miranda rights are explained each time it is necessary. Or think of chest compressions during CPR. There’s no thought of getting annoyed at that repetition. There’s no number that’s “too many” in a situation like that.

In Psalm 136 there’s something God wants you to repeat to yourself and to the world at large over and over again: That His faithful love endures forever. As the song is sung we’re taken from creation, through history and on into eternity. But, after each phrase we’re reminded again: His faithful love endures forever. Your translation may have the word “lovingkindness” or “mercy” instead of love. The term being used is the Hebrew word “hesed.” Hesed is a kind of personal, affectionate love that is covenantal in nature. It’s not just about someone liking someone for a time or having a friendliness toward another person. It is a love so deep and so active that it brings two parties into a living relationship, full of promises and tenderness and kindness. It’s a relationship where a stronger Person protects a weaker person, not just out of duty or obligation, but out of a faithful generosity. That is a glimpse of how the Bible describes God’s love for you. This devoted love of hesed is one of the most important terms and ideas in all the Old Testament. It is strong and gracious and everlasting and it is directed toward you.

Psalm 136 is not only meant to proclaim the greatness of God but also to remind us of many of the aspects of God’s love and to remind us that, no matter what we face, God’s love is sure and is in operation in our lives.

The song opens by calling us to celebrate God’s goodness.

Psalm 136:1 – 1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His faithful love endures forever.

In the worship services of Israel, it’s believed the priest would say the first half of each verse and then the Levitical choir or the congregation of the people (or perhaps both) would sing the refrain “His faithful love endures forever.”

From the start we’re reminded that God is good. Whether sung after a triumph or in the middle of exile, Psalm 136:1 remains the same. God’s goodness and compassion rests on all He has made.

Commentators often cite this quote of Charles Spurgeon which puts God’s goodness in perspective:

“He is good beyond all others; indeed, he alone is good in the highest sense; he is the source of good, the good of all good, the sustainer of good, the perfecter of good, and the rewarder of good. For this he deserves the constant gratitude of his people.”

We’re heading into the Thanksgiving season. Maybe you have a tradition of going around the table and offering something you’re thankful for. What we’re invited to do here is more than that. To “give thanks” in verse 1 means a specific gathering to sing together as God’s people. It means to worship with raised hands. Have you ever wondered why people sometimes raise their hands while they sing worship songs? It’s a Biblical activity.

To give thanks means to “make a public confession of the attributes and acts of power of [God].” This is yet another reason why it is essential for the local church to come together and not just gather, but sing together. God commands it and He deserves it. How could we not respond in thankful praise, knowing how good He is? Imagine you leave here and are hit by a car. A stranger comes up, keeps you alive through CPR, tends to your wounds, pays your bills till you are well, then writes you a check for a million dollars. Would you refuse to thank him? That hypothetical isn’t even close to what God has done for us in saving us from our sin and bringing us into His family.

The question is: Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good? You do so by trusting in Him. If you have not taken refuge in His salvation, then you don’t know about His goodness. But He is ready to receive you today if you, by faith, turn from your sin and believe in Him.

After a call to celebrate, we’re shown some of God’s character.

Psalm 136:2 – 2 Give thanks to the God of gods. His faithful love endures forever.

When comparing the God of the Bible to the gods of all other cultures and religions, we have a lot to be thankful for. Those gods are in competition with one another. Those gods can often be corrupted or bought off. They are impatient and cruel. They make sport of human beings. Not so our God, the One true God. He has no rival in strength or generosity. There is no worry that He might ever be defeated or incapacitated in any way. No new contender will ever arise and take His place.

Psalm 136:3 – 3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.

Not only is God God, He is also Lord. Meaning He is the Ruler of all things. He is the Master. He decides and it is done. And His decisions flow from His unending love. If you are a Christian that means that God has bought you back from the Devil, who was your master. The Lord paid with His own blood. And now this good and loving Master gives you freedom in His Spirit. He’s brought us into His household where we’re able to share in our Lord’s joy. In Him there is no reason to fear, no condemnation. Instead the Psalms say goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives.

Most of you have had both good bosses and bad bosses. Think of how much that matters in your day to day life. Now let us consider that on the far greater level, Satan was our master. His purpose was to kill, steal and destroy – to ruin us in every way. Now, in Christ we have a Master who emptied Himself, took the form of a servant and died a horrible death so we might have a chance to be saved from that ruin. There’s so much to be thankful for.

From God’s character, the Psalm now turns to consider His acts in creation.

Psalm 136:4-6 – 4 He alone does great wonders. His faithful love endures forever. 
5 He made the heavens skillfully. His faithful love endures forever. 
6 He spread the land on the waters. His faithful love endures forever.

Often when we think of God’s “wonders” we jump immediately to the miraculous signs recorded in the Bible. But in view here are the fantastic marvels of creation. Look in any direction. Use a telescope or a microscope and see what He’s done. Job says “He hangs the earth on nothing.” Colossians 1 tells us that He “holds all creation together (ESV).” Did you know that scientists estimate that there are more atoms in a single drop of water as there are stars in the universe?

The universe God created is not just large, it is skillfully made. It’s meticulously fine-tuned for a specific purpose: To sustain life that He might place human beings on the planet earth, show them His love and so everywhere they look they can see a testimony of His power and grace. From the land you stand on to the rotation of the earth, it all declares God’s glory, but it is meant to be a stage on which we can live so that we might know God and receive His love. None of His creative work is slip-shod or haphazard. And He keeps all of creation in balance in order to accomplish His purposes in your life.

Psalm 136:7-9 – 7 He made the great lights: His faithful love endures forever. 
8 the sun to rule by day, His faithful love endures forever. 
9 the moon and stars to rule by night. His faithful love endures forever.

I don’t find myself often being thankful for the sun, especially not during our Valley summers. But think of what God has provided for us out there 93 million miles away. This bright star that brings us light and warmth. It causes the plants to grow, gives us vitamins that we need. It boosts our serotonin and reduces our stress.

If I take the sun for granted, I am even more thoughtless of the moon. At the breakfast table the other day we got into a discussion with the kids about what would happen if we had no moon. There’s actually some research on that question. First of all, without electricity or fire, the night would be so dark you wouldn’t be able to see your own hand in front of your face. The earth would spin much faster, meaning our days would only be between 6 and 12 hours. And the tilt of the earth would become unstable, eventually leading to either no seasons at all, or wildly extreme seasons that would threaten life.

Our God has been amazingly generous in His meticulous design. He did it all to show you His love.

The Psalm now turns from creation to conquest in verses 10 through 22.

Psalm 136:10-12 – 10 He struck the firstborn of the Egyptians His faithful love endures forever. 
11 and brought Israel out from among them His faithful love endures forever. 
12 with a strong hand and outstretched arm. His faithful love endures forever.

How can these judgments possibly show God’s loving mercy? In fact, the story of the Exodus does show many important aspects of God’s love. First of all, that He is mindful of the suffering of His people. He knows every single thing that every single one of us is going through. And He will do whatever is necessary to rescue us from our foes. Second, though His love is everlasting, He is not blind to sin and injustice. He will judge those who refuse to acknowledge Him and receive His mercy. Because the wages of sin is death, both for nations and for individuals. All along the way, God repeatedly gave Pharaoh and Egypt the chance to do what was right. In the end many Egyptians did leave with the Israelites and were received with welcome. This example demonstrates that God will never force His powerful, everlasting love on anyone. You must choose whether you will accept it or reject it. And it’s a choice between life and death.

Psalm 136:13-15 – 13 He divided the Red Sea His faithful love endures forever. 
14 and led Israel through, His faithful love endures forever. 
15 but hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea. His faithful love endures forever.

We talked about the meticulously fine-tuned nature of God’s creation. But throughout the Bible we see that it still gives way to His command. The wind and the waves still obey Him. More importantly, though death is one of the most ‘natural’ things of all, one day He will say “Rise.” And the grave will yield to Him and we will live forever with our Lord.

Psalm 136:16-20 – 16 He led his people in the wilderness. His faithful love endures forever. 
17 He struck down great kings His faithful love endures forever. 
18 and slaughtered famous kings—His faithful love endures forever. 
19 Sihon king of the Amorites His faithful love endures forever. 
20 and Og king of Bashan—His faithful love endures forever.

One of the greatest marvels of God’s love is that He remains faithful even when we do not. Those wilderness years were marked by complaining and rebellion and disobedience and disbelief. And yet, God endured with them. We have our own share of shortcomings, missteps, doubts and failures. God will not cast us off. His love for you does not ebb. It’s always at high tide.

Something else to consider from this recounting of Israeli history: They had been delivered from bondage in Egypt, the world’s greatest military power conquered by God. But, you know what? There is always another enemy. Another king coming in opposition. Maybe from the Amorites. Maybe from Bashan. Luckily, God is enough to bring us through. We’re headed into an election this week. The world wants us to be afraid, one way or another. As Christians, we don’t hang our hopes on the outcome of one battle. There’s always another ahead, anyway. Instead, all our hope is in our Lord and His perfect love. He is our Refuge and Shepherd and we can trust wherever He leads us.

Psalm 136:21-22 – 21 and gave their land as an inheritance, His faithful love endures forever. 
22 an inheritance to Israel his servant. His faithful love endures forever.

The story of Israel is a story of God keeping His promises. He will still keep His promises to them because His love endures forever – for them and for us. His promise to you includes a heavenly inheritance, priceless and unspoiled by thieves or economic downturns. It’s more than a monthly check, it is an eternal Kingdom of blessing and glory and reward. Today, we have the chance to add to that inheritance as we serve God and glorify Him through our lives and worship. As the Israelites were invited to cultivate the land of Canaan, we are invited to join the Lord in His work and receive a rich future reward for what we’ve done when the Master returns.

From conquest, the Psalm now turns to God’s love in the midst of present crisis.

Psalm 136:23-24 – 23 He remembered us in our humiliation His faithful love endures forever. 
24 and rescued us from our foes. His faithful love endures forever.

The song has talked in cosmological terms and historical terms. Now it becomes personal. “Our” and “us.” Our hurts. Our struggles. All that God has done and all that He is capable of still applies to you and me. His love empowers us to overcome temptation. His love empowers us to be of good cheer, even in the face of humiliation. His love still overcomes, still makes a way, still works its generosity toward God’s people all over the earth. He is still a Redeemer and Rescuer.

Psalm 136:25 – 25 He gives food to every creature. His faithful love endures forever.

In theology there is something known as ‘common grace.’ Meaning that God, because He is so compassionate, allows the rain to fall on the wicked and the good. The sun shines on Christians and non-Christians alike. Everyone here, whether you belong to Christ or not, is given the perpetual gift of breath and a beating heart. That is a lavish generosity. But are you a member of His family? Only through faith in Jesus Christ can a person find refuge and forgiveness and salvation. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life and no one goes to the Father but through Him. You may enjoy God’s common grace today, but it will all be a waste if you aren’t born again.  If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. God has love for you, more than you could possibly know. Don’t refuse it today.

Psalm 136:26 – 26 Give thanks to the God of heaven! His faithful love endures forever.

Have brought us through thousands of years of history and into our own present experience, the song ends as it began: Calling us to praise and worship and thankfulness for God’s unfailing love. In this closing verse we’re reminded that there is an eternal future waiting for us. Heaven is just as real as earth. In fact, those who will spend eternity there will be more alive, more whole, more overjoyed than any of us has ever experienced in this life.

At awards shows, sometimes the acceptance speeches are full of mechanical thank-yous to various production companies and staff. But sometimes you see the winners overcome with excitement and emotion at what they’ve just received. They talk about feeling unworthy and so lucky to lay hold to such an honor. Maybe you’re not facing some sort of great foe or adversity or fear today. Think of the incredible gifts God has given. Consider the powerful, generous love of God and allow your heart to overflow with thankful praise.

But maybe you’re not in a time of wonder. Maybe you find yourself more in a time of humiliation. Maybe you’re afraid of what’s going to happen in your life or in our nation in the coming days. Maybe you feel like you’re caught between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea, seeing no way out of some trouble you’re in.

I was reminded of that iconic scene in How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The Whos down in Whoville woke one morning to find their homes ransacked and vandalized. Everything they had been so looking forward to had been robbed from them. What happened? The Whos came together to sing. A somewhat repetitive song, but one profound enough that it melted the heart of their sworn enemy.

That’s a trite comparison to make. But it shows how much more is intended by Psalm 136. Whether we find ourselves standing in awe of the wonder of God’s majesty, or just wondering how we’re going to make it through today, the same truth rings out: His faithful love endures forever. And we should get to singing. Because that refrain, that promise, isn’t a vain repetition. No, it’s more like the powerful waves that lap on the shore, hour after hour, day after day. That soothing sound of constancy and strength. From the beginning and to the end of all things, God’s love is faithful toward you. And as we sing His praises, our hearts are fortified, our perspective is calibrated and a testimony of His life-saving grace goes out to all the world. This Psalm, known as “The Great Hallel” in Jewish tradition, has been called “The Psalm that never ends.” We can keep singing it in our hearts and in our gatherings from now through eternity because God’s love never ends. Let’s give thanks and get to singing.

Returners Of The Lord’s Ark (Psalm 132)

“Tell me a little about yourself.”
“What are your biggest weaknesses?”
“What are your biggest strengths?”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

If you’ve recently had a job interview, those might have been among the questions you were asked.

Employers sometimes ask weird questions, to see how you handle yourself:

“Can you tell me 10 things you could do with a pencil other than write?”
“If you were a kitchen appliance, which kitchen appliance would you be, and why?”
“Why are man-hole covers round?”
“What is your gun noise?”

According to a group called The Interview Guys, more-and-more employers are asking, “What are you passionate about?”

It’s a great question to ask ourselves as believers in Jesus Christ. Before we ask and answer it, we might want to take a look at someone in the Bible who is an example of godly passion.

That someone would be King David. You’re not called “a man after God’s own heart” unless the LORD is your one, first, great passion in life.

The LORD was David’s passion, AND there was something in particular that he was passionate about. That “something” was returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, and installing it in a magnificent Temple. It is expressed in verses three, four & five:

Psa 132:3  “Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house, Or go up to the comfort of my bed;
Psa 132:4  I will not give sleep to my eyes Or slumber to my eyelids,
Psa 132:5  Until I find a place for the LORD, A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

The “dwelling place” of the LORD was the Ark of the Covenant. It’s mentioned by name in verse eight and called God’s “resting place” on the earth.

David’s Ark-in-the-Temple passion was the background and context for our psalm. Reading it gives us the opportunity to discuss our own passion for Jesus.

I’ll organize my comments around two questions: #1 How Do You Express Your Passion For Jesus?, and #2 How Does Jesus Express His Passion For You?

#1 – How Do You Express Your Passion For Jesus? (v1-7)

In the Arcade on Main Street in Disneyland, USA, there used to be a machine called the Love Tester. You’d squeeze a handle and it would gauge your passion from below cold to red hot.

I don’t know what being passionate looks like in your life. There is no ‘passion meter’ by which to gauge. As we use the word “passion,” don’t think being overly-emotional or underly-emotional means anything. Be yourself.

Psa 132:1  A Song of Ascents. LORD, remember David And all his afflictions;

We’re almost to the end of the fifteen so-called “Psalms (or Songs) of Ascent,” Psalms 120-134. They were the play-list for Israelites journeying to the Temple in Jerusalem to attend the annual feasts.

It is important we ‘get’ what the psalmist means by David’s “afflictions.” Otherwise we will miss the impact.

“Afflictions” is not referring to things like his many years as a fugitive, on the run from the murderous King Saul.

“Afflictions” is not referring to things like the rebellion and attempted coup by his own son, Absalom.

No, David’s “afflictions,” in this psalm, have entirely to do with what we read about in verses two through four. They were the hardships accompanying the return of the Ark that caused him discomfort of soul.

The “Ark” we are talking about is the ark that Indiana Jones found in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It was the centerpiece of the Israelite’s wilderness Tabernacle after they left Egypt. It was a smallish box with the Mercy Seat as its lid. It was kept hidden in the Holy of Holies… In the Holy Place… In the Tabernacle. The very presence of God on earth was there.

(BTW: Psalm 132:8 is the only mention of the Ark in the Psalms).

It isn’t necessary to our study, but any mention of the Ark arouses curiosity as to where it is today. It is believed that the prophet Jeremiah took and hid the Ark prior to the Babylonian captivity. Then it fell out of history.

Some say it is hidden in a chamber under the ruins of the Temple.
Others say it is in a small church in Ethiopia.
We know that it is in storage in Hanger 51 in Nevada. Why would Steven Spielberg lie?

The Ark was at Shiloh for nearly 400 years. It was captured by the Philistines, who put it in their temple to Dagon. The statue of Dagon collapsed and God sent a plague upon them. The Philistines kept trying to rid themselves of the Ark. It finally made its way to the house of Abinadab.

David sent for it. What happened was unexpected:

2Sa 6:5 Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals.
2Sa 6:6  And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.
2Sa 6:7  Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.

I’d say that if your passion for the LORD got someone killed, it would fall under the category of a hardship that afflicted your soul.

David would get the Ark to Jerusalem, only to be afflicted once again. David had what can almost be called a compulsion to build the Ark a magnificent Temple. He shared it with the prophet Nathan and got immediate two thumbs-up from him. God sent Nathan back to tell David that he would not be the one to build the Temple.

The one thing David was most passionate about, and the Lord said, “No.”

Psa 132:2  How he swore to the LORD, And vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob:
Psa 132:3  “Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house, Or go up to the comfort of my bed;
Psa 132:4  I will not give sleep to my eyes Or slumber to my eyelids,
Psa 132:5  Until I find a place for the LORD, A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

This is a poetically powerful way of saying, “I won’t rest until it is done.” It conveys that your whole mind, heart, soul, and strength will be engaged in it. Whenever you’re not doing other necessary things, you’ll be working on this. All your waking hours, into many late nights, will be dedicated to it.

But wait: Didn’t God tell David that he would not build the Temple to house the Ark? He did indeed; but that only fueled David’s passion. If he couldn’t build it, he could plan for, and provide for, it to be built after him.

One commentator said:

Wearied with a stormy life, he might well have left it to others to care for the work which the prophet had told him that he was not to be permitted to begin. But not so does a [passionate] man reason. Rather, he will consecrate to God his leisure and his old age, and will rejoice to originate work which he cannot hope to see completed.

Talking to his son, Solomon David would say:

1 Ch 28:9 As for you, my son Solomon…
1Ch 28:10  Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it.”
1Ch 28:11  Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the vestibule, its houses, its treasuries, its upper chambers, its inner chambers, and the place of the mercy seat;
1Ch 28:12  and the plans for all that he had by the Spirit, of the courts of the house of the LORD, of all the chambers all around, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries for the dedicated things…

It goes on to describe the gold, the silver, all the resources that he had accumulated for the project.

Psa 132:6  Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah; We found it in the fields of the woods.

“It” was the somewhat-lost Ark.
Psa 132:7  Let us go into His tabernacle; Let us worship at His footstool.

In Isaiah 66:1 we read, “Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?”

The LORD cannot be contained in an earthly Tabernacle or Temple. Nevertheless, He condescended to be present in glory in the Ark, and to meet with Israel there.

If you were a Jew, could you only worship God in the Tabernacle?

When David got the inspiration to write, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1), or “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3-4); He was probably not in the Tabernacle. Do you think he was worshipping God?

You could worship anywhere, anytime… But gathering together at the place God’s presence was promised in a special way was essential.

You know what I’m going to say next. How much more essential is the gathering of the church. If one more person tells me, “The church is not a building,” to argue that our meeting together is non-essential, I’ll snap. When we meet, WE ARE THE BUILDING.

Solomon built the Temple. He wrote this psalm commemorating his dad’s passion.

You didn’t have to ask David what he was passionate about. He would tell you; or you’d see it for yourself if you were around him.

Your passion for Jesus may be a life-long pursuit. More likely, it will express itself in different pursuits as the seasons of your life change.

Something you must factor: You will suffer “afflictions” as you pursue your passion for the Lord:

Like David, there may be serious setbacks akin to the death of Uzzah.
Like David, you may never see the realization of your passion. Solomon did build it, but David had no assurance he would. Solomon turned out to be a prodigal, which I’m certain would have broken his heart.

Afflictions can make you want to question your choices, or to quit. But in another important way, they prove your passion. Things may not work out exactly as you’d hoped. Don’t lose heart. The Lord sees your heart. He sees the passion regardless the result.

I mentioned the Love Tester. Think of any afflictions as God squeezing your heart, to gauge your passion. You’re not very passionate if you give up easily; or if you don’t see the results you hoped for. You can remain red hot.

#2 – How Does Jesus Express His Passion For You? (v8-18)

Herein is love:

Jesus is the Second Person of the tri-une God Who set aside the prerogatives of His Deity to become the God-man, God-in-human-flesh.
He did that because God so loved the world He was not willing that any perish, but that all would be saved.
Jesus died on the Cross, taking upon Himself the sins of the world.
By the power of the Cross, Jesus draws all men to Himself.
He is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.
He likens His relationship with believers to a marriage in which He is the Groom and we are the bride.
While we are engaged, He is away preparing our mansions in a great heavenly city, New Jerusalem.
While we await His promised return to take us home, He has given us God the Holy Spirit as an engagement ring – promising us He will never, not ever, leave us or forsake us, and that He will most assuredly finish the work He started in us.

As we encounter the rest of Psalm 132, we can see some of the ways the LORD expressed His passion for Israel… And for us.

Psa 132:8  Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength.

We read in Exodus 25:22, “There I will meet with you… on the Ark of the testimony, I will speak with you.”

Psa 132:9  Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, And let Your saints shout for joy.

This is a snapshot of Israel worshipping. A little bit of Heaven as they raised voices to the LORD.

We could spend all morning talking about being “clothed with righteousness.” Nutshell version: If salvation were like clothing, without the Lord, we all are clothed in filthy rags. When you believe God, He exchanges those garments for a robe of righteousness that represents that you are in Christ and can stand in His presence.

The church is not Israel. But like Israel, God’s presence is manifested in a special way when His church meets together. We – collectively – are His Temple on the earth. As we used to sing,

He is here, He is here,
He is moving among us
He is here as we’ve gathered in His Name

Psa 132:10  For Your servant David’s sake, Do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.
Psa 132:11  The LORD has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: “I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body.

This is poetic language to express that God promised David that his future descendant would be the “Anointed,” i.e., the Christ.

Psa 132:12  If your sons will keep My covenant And My testimony which I shall teach them, Their sons also shall sit upon your throne forevermore.”

If the kings of Israel had obeyed the LORD, they could have enjoyed their kingdom on earth until the Savior came to establish His kingdom. The promise that the future kingdom will come remains regardless Israel’s rebellions. They made true, free will choices.

Psa 132:13  For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place:
Psa 132:14  “This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.

It’s gonna happen. There will be a Second Coming of Jesus to rule over the whole earth, in righteousness. Jerusalem will be His capital.

You might be noticing that in verses fourteen through eighteen, the LORD answers Solomon’s prayers, one-by-one, from verses eight, nine, and ten.

Psa 132:15  I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread.

“Abundantly bless” can be translated, “blessing I will bless.” It is a strong affirmation, meaning that he would certainly do it; that every needed blessing would be imparted.

Jesus has abundantly blessed His church with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. He gives the church gifted men, and all saints individual gifts.

The “poor with bread” is a phrase that can signify provisions for a journey. It’s another way of saying He abundantly blesses. Pilgrim, everything necessary for living a godly life, in pursuit of Jesus, is available to you.

Psa 132:16  I will also clothe her priests with salvation, And her saints shall shout aloud for joy.

“Salvation” can be righteousness. Exactly what Solomon prayed for in verse nine, God will do.

Psa 132:17  There I will make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed.

The burning “lamp” is a figure from the furnishings of the Tabernacle. Here it signifies the continuation of David’s dynasty. The “Anointed One,” first David, then his descendants, and eventually Jesus, will be triumphant. The “horn” was a symbol for powerful rulers.

Psa 132:18  His enemies I will clothe with shame, But upon Himself His crown shall flourish.”

It continues the clothing analogy. Nonbelievers can be described as dressed in shame for their unforgiving sin. They cannot enter it in their filthy rags.

I submit this word etymology for the sake of accuracy:

The English word passion referred to Jesus’ suffering long before it evolved other meanings. The Latin passio means “suffering.” Its first recorded use is in early Latin translations of the Bible that appeared in the 2nd century AD and that describe the death of Jesus. After that it began to develop broader meanings. The first new senses in English referred to martyrdom and physical suffering or affliction, and by the 13th century, passion was being used to refer to any strong emotion.

We can say that Jesus’ “passion,” His suffering, was for you.
We can say that you are the passion of Jesus.

When you stand in the Lord’s presence, after the resurrection and rapture of the church, it won’t be an interview. Jesus won’t ask you about pencils, or kitchen appliances, or man-hole covers. He won’t want to have you demonstrate your gun noise.

It will be a review; an evaluation. I think a lot of it will have to do with passion with which you served – not the results you achieved.

Don’t let the hardships that afflict your soul discourage you.

Don’t Worry, Baby, Being Weaned Will Turn Out Alright (Psalm 131)

He was a fearless shepherd. He said of himself that “[I] used to keep [my] father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock,I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it” (First Samuel 17:34-35).

He was a fierce warrior. His victories were celebrated in a song in which it was said that while King Saul had slain thousands, he had slain tens of thousands.

He was a phenomenal musical talent – inventing instruments and writing songs and psalms. We call him, “The Sweet Psalmist of Israel.”

He was a faithful king, ruling over a united Israel.

He was in fellowship with the LORD, Who identified him as a “man after His own heart” (First Samuel 13:14).

Those are some of the ways we see King David of Israel. How did David see himself? Look in verse two: “Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2).

Didn’t expect that.

Psalm 131 is the third shortest psalm. In many commentaries, it is taught along with Psalm 130. Not for thematic reasons, but because it is so brief.

It’s brevity should cause us to pay even closer attention. I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Do You Want To Be Weaned Or Still Weaning?, and #2 Do You Wait Like You’re Weaned Or Still Weaning?

#1 – Do You Want To Be Weaned Or Still Weaning? (v1&2)

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Two-hundred seventy-two words; took two minutes to deliver.

Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech – seven and one-half minutes.

“I have a dream today” was delivered by Martin Luther King in seventeen minutes.

Some of the greatest speeches in history were the briefest. There is a saying in standup comedy that “a tight five is better than a sloppy fifteen.”

Arguably the greatest talk ever given, the Sermon on the Mount, can be delivered in twenty minutes.

Charles Spurgeon related this story: “An old preacher used to say to a young man who preached an hour, ‘My dear friend, I do not care what else you preach about, but I wish you would always preach about forty minutes.’ ”

He also said, “Brevity is a virtue which is within the reach of us all.”

David was inspired by the image of a weaned child. It perfectly communicated what he wanted to say. It was powerful enough that it could almost stand alone, needing little more to drive it home to hearts. He showcased it using a few carefully inspired words.

Psa 131:1  A Song of Ascents. Of David. LORD, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me.
Psa 131:2  Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Here comes my disclaimer for today. Psalm 131 is not a teaching on how or when to wean a child. It’s not addressing the breast vs. bottle debate. I am not going to give my advice. If you are a nursing mom with an opinion, do not approach me.

Four things to immediately note:

In his comparison, David assumed that a nursing infant is fussy, anxious, determined to get his or her next meal, with strong cries.

It is a positive step of growth to be weaned. At least once in the Bible it was celebrated as an important passage in life. In Genesis 21:8, we read, “So the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned.”

You should rather be a weaned child of God rather than remain an infant.

Being weaned, in the spiritual sense, is something the child of God can do for himself or herself. David said, “I have calmed and quieted my soul.”

Can we talk about those seven words for a moment? “I have calmed and quieted my soul.” I cannot think of better counsel for the times in which we are living.

COVID19, the SCOTUS hearings, the November 3rd election… The anxiety & noise can definitely interfere with our walk with the Lord.

Law enforcement is under attack. Do you know who cops shoot more than anyone else? Themselves. In 2019, 228 current or former officers died by suicide, compared with 172 in 2018. New York and California top the list.

More firefighters die at their own hands than in the line of duty.

Military suicides are up more than 20% in the COVID19 era, and they were already very high.

COVID19 has brought an increase in cases of spousal abuse.

Secular experts in many disciplines are warning of increased mental illness and suicides over the next several years as a toll from the government’s extreme COVID19 mandates.

Can we really say, “Calm and quiet your soul?”

If David could say it… We can say it. Yes; absolutely.

We can say it because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. His resurrection seals the deal. He is the Savior of all men potentially; and definitely for those who believe.

Believe in Him and you are justified by God. He sees you in Jesus, just-as-if-you’d never sinned. God the Holy Spirit comes and indwells you. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is on-board in order for you to live a transformed life. You become a new creation; old things pass away, and all things become new. Your life is no longer your own – and that’s a very good thing.

You are set free to serve Jesus by discovering spiritual gifts He gives, and performing the good works that He has prepared ahead of time for you to discover.

When you sin (and you will), He is faithful and just to forgive you your sin, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Where sin abounds, His grace much more abounds.

You have the Word of God, the Bible, in which you receive instruction in righteousness. Everything you need to live a godly life is in it.

Whatever you read you are enabled to do by the power of the indwelling Spirit.

So, yeah: You can have “calm” and “quiet” if your soul is right with God by receiving Jesus.

It starts there. You must be saved. If not, we can certainly talk about things that can contribute to mental wellness like diet and exercise and moderation. We can hold debriefings to mitigate PTSD. We want to maintain a relationship with those nonbelievers who are hurting.

But it’s all a bandaid on cancer without the Savior.

Let’s read verse two again:

Psa 131:2  Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Our immediate response is, “Tell me how.” We want the steps.

It doesn’t matter how many steps there are so long as they are clearly marked out. Seven promises; forty-days of purpose. There are so many programs to choose from; so many suggested methods to implement and follow.

Christians are right when we say, “Christianity is not a religion; it’s a relationship.” But we default to “religion” whenever we follow programs.

If you want some sort of relational guidelines, I will suggest two things:

One – The Book of Acts says this: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (2:42).
Two – Look at it from the point of view of what Christians seem to do naturally: Pray, attend church (fellowship), read the Bible, and tell others about Jesus.

David doesn’t tell you how he calmed and quieted his soul. He tells you something far more important: He tells you that you CAN do it. Believe it and learn how from Jesus as you walk with Him, obeying Him, submitting to Him, trusting Him.

“Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me.” In our parenting, Pam and I followed a pretty strict schedule, and that included nursing. The kids didn’t like it at all. They let us know that they didn’t like it.

They let the neighbors know they didn’t like it. If you could hear their cries close to scheduled feedings, you’d think we were waterboarding them. A few times, we nearly cracked under the pressure.

I know what you’re thinking. What kind of a monster lets a baby cry? I say, “They are the monsters!”

Little ones want that milk. As cuddly-cute as a nursing baby is, with its occasional ooing and goo-gooing, it only wants and wants and wants.

It seeks only its own satisfaction. The baby don’t care you are exhausted to the point of being disoriented. Got milk? Gotta have milk. Gimme milk.

The “weaned child with his mother” is a different creature altogether. It’s like night and day. There are no outbursts of tortured cryings in order to be fed. There is calm; there is quiet.

David was experiencing this calm, this quiet. It wasn’t because nothing was turmoiling around him. We don’t know when he penned this, but most of his life’s seasons are enough to cause anxiety just reading about them. He was letting you know it’s possible, spiritually, to live in the eye of the storm. He said it was your choice.

Verse two is the theme and inspiration of this psalm. From there we now reach back to the opening verse, and (of course) forward to verse three.

Psa 131:1  A Song of Ascents. Of David. LORD, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me.

One of the fifteen songs sung on annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem, this one strongly encouraged Israelites to enjoy their visit as a time of rest and refreshing.

And that’s your decision. In your circumstances, you can act like a weaning child, crying, fussing, whining. Or you can realize you are a weaned child of God. You can know the calm and quiet rest in your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

David said, “My heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me.”

These aren’t the steps you take in order to be weaned. These are results, not responsibilities.

We can see them as four characteristics of the weaned child of God.

Typically we’d look at these one at a time, and take a stab at defining them. I think it would be better to see them in action. Since David was speaking, we can look back into his life for an example.

David certainly could act like he was still a baby. But there were times you see him as the weaned child of God.

Saul was the first king of Israel, chosen by the people mostly because he could dunk. He was “tall Saul,” described this way: “As handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else” (First Samuel 9:2).

He quickly proved himself a poor choice. God sent the prophet, Samuel, to anoint a young David as the king. For about thirteen years, Saul treated David as a fugitive, seeking to murder him.

On one occasion, when Saul and his men were chasing-down David, the king stopped, and went into a cave to relieve himself. He was unaware that David was hiding deeper in the cave. David’s men came to the conclusion I would have come to: “Then the men of David said to him, “This is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you’ ” (First Samuel 24:4).

Then this happened:

And David arose and secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. Now it happened afterward that David’s heart troubled him because he had cut Saul’s robe.
And he said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.” So David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way (v4-7).

You can find all four of the characteristics from our psalm in that story. And a lot more. AND – It’s not the only time David spared Saul’s life.

Now, a ‘baby’ David might have demanded his own way, and killed Saul. A weaned David could not.

The answer to our question is, “Of course I want to be a weaned child of God.” Then be one. You “calm and quiet your soul.” It’s a one-step program.

Seem too easy? It’s admittedly easier said than done. Nevertheless, David did it; and that means you can, too.

#2 – Do You Wait Like You’re Weaned Or Still Weaning? (v3)

What is called an hour, but only lasts 45-50 minutes, and usually takes place once a week? “The Therapeutic Hour.”

It is pretty standard among psychiatrists, psychologists, marriage and family counselors, and the like. It seems to have carried over into the church when there is counseling.

One professional said, “There does not seem to be a consensus on exactly when the ‘therapeutic hour’ was established, but it has remained the industry standard.”

One reason has nothing to do with any empirical data. It has to do with your insurance. It is how they base their reimbursements.

You can read Psalm 131 in under 25 seconds. Let it ‘read’ you this way:

Start, as we did, with verse two as a reminder you can be like the weaned child – calm and quiet.

Next, judge your actions and reactions in your circumstances by the characteristics listed in verse one.

Finally, go about your business focusing on hope.

A quick word about judging yourself. It’s easy to convince ourselves we do not have a haughty heart, or lofty eyes; that we are not concerning ourselves with great matters, or with things too profound.

Jonah was absolutely, totally backslidden. Yet he was sound asleep in the storm that threatened to sink the boat he was on; that threatened to kill the captain and crew.

I suggest that you let the Lord lead you to a passage of Scripture, preferably a narrative story, and ask yourself, “Who am I in this story?”

Both Jonah and Jesus slept in storms. Which are you? You can be completely in the right, but be reacting like the brother of the prodigal son.

You get the idea. When I am asked to meet with folks, I ask them if the Lord has given them any verses. I try to listen for the Lord to give me something from the Word for them. It could take a therapeutic hour. It could take 20 seconds.

After spending time with the LORD, David gave his counsel to Israel:

Psa 131:3  O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever.

“Hope in the LORD” is the certainty that He will keep every promise; that He will never change; that He can never, not ever, forsake you. Little things like that.

It is the certainty that to live is Christ, and to die is gain. It is knowing that to be absent from your body is to be present with the Lord. It is knowing we shall not all die, but that we will be transformed in the rapture.

It is understanding that the wicked will be raised to a judgment followed by eternal, conscious punishment.

David said hope was “from this time forth.” Forget the things that are behind you.

If you’ve fallen, get up and get back in the race, looking to finish strong. Go and sin no more.

Be sober; be vigilant. Preach the Word in season and out of season.

“Forever” is the last word. It’s a great word to meditate upon.

Do you ever have problems with your computer, or tablet, or smart phone? A lot of the time all you have to do is restart.

If I’m injured, ill, afflicted, assaulted, discouraged, depressed, overcome, overwhelmed, and the like… The word “forever” is the restart. I’m gonna live forever, free from all that, and every other struggle and suffering. I’m going to a place where everybody knows my name. I won’t cry anymore.

The Bible describes our lives as a vapor that appears for a moment, then is gone. But we’ve seen that brevity can be profound, as in the speeches of Lincoln, King, and FDR.

We don’t have the luxury of remaining nursing infants. Let’s go forward weaned, calm and quiet, waiting in hope for the Lord.