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January 5, 2020 6:00 pm
There are five verses from Psalm 66. It will make up the content of my sermon this evening and I want to read those to you and then will begin if you were paying attention to the him the day and what we sang together this evening. You probably picked up a theme acquire the hymns that Greg chose force to sing, but it begins in verse 80, bless our God, you peoples and make the voice of his praise to be heard who keeps our soul among the living, and does not allow our feet to be moved for you. Oh God have tested us. You have refined us as silver is refined, you brought us into the net you laid affliction on our backs. You have cause men to ride over our heads. We went through fire and through water but you brought us out to rich fulfillment. My concern tonight. In this sermon is to help you interpret all of life but on this first Sunday of 2020 to help you particularly interpret last year and to have a prism or paradigm to interpret what is going to transpire in your life in the new year. I hope you would agree with me that a sermon designed to help in that way is going to be beneficial to you tonight. I was struck as I was reading over in Exodus after 33 of what is recorded in an conversation between the Lord and Moses and Moses receives from God. This encouragement that he had found favor and had found grace in God's sight. In response to that good news. Moses has a prayer he has a request of God and he says this. Show me your ways that I might know you and us. I have thought about that and meditated upon that I find that to be very insightful and a very appropriate prayer for all of God's people. Obviously we want to know God and we want to know them better and that's why we're here tonight and that's why we give ourselves to the reading of Scripture in the disciplines of the Christian life. We we want to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We want to know God. One of the means that God is given for us to know him is to know his ways, is what Moses said, Lord, help me to know your ways that I might know you and to the degree that we know God's ways, to that degree. It will help us in our pursuit of knowing God and to the degree that we do not understand the ways of God. It will frustrate us. It will make it more difficult for us to know God in our pursuit of him. There are things that have happened in your life. In this past year that I cannot explain to you the ways of God. In particular, the God did this for this specific reason, but I think before us tonight is a passage of Scripture that will answer that question in some broad ways that I think will be very helpful and I believe this is a passage to hold onto to interpret life in God's dealings with us as we live life that he's ordained for us in this coming year. So that's where I'm going with this message, and I have four headings and let me give them to you. Number one, a call to praise number two a rationale for such praise. Number three the explanation of God's activity in the lives of his people and number four.
The goal of God's activity in the lives of his people. A call to praise his. I read the entire song you saw that theme. It began in verse one make a joyful shout to God, all the earth, sang out the honor of his name, make us praise glorious.
The first two verses, but verse eight says all bless our God, you peoples and make the voice of his praise to be heard good theology should always lead to good doxology. It should fuel our worship we have something to sing about folks we have cause to rejoice in our God to praise him in my interaction with people who come to visit here at church, not all the time, but often I hear this comment about our gathering people say man I know what it is. Whether it's the acoustics of what it is but what people look the same in this church and we do because we have cause the same God has thrown our hearts.
God has redeemed us. He has saved us. He's done so much for us and how can you not praising the psalmist in Psalm 34 verse three says all magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together may not. That is a call to worship. That is a call to praise all magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together is how do we do that how we magnify the Lord how to make God bigger. Well, we can't but in the statement I think is the explanation.
Oh, magnify the Lord will know what a magnifying glass is right, magnifying glasses, a something that we get in. We get the interest.
The object of our interest and we put it under the magnifying glass and does that object get bigger know it's the same as it was, but the magnifying glass allows us to see in greater detail and clarity what it is a were examining. And when we say all magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together.
What were saying and when we come together is. Let's examine a portion of God's word. Let's get on the magnifying glass. Let's look at it carefully and as we do. God is magnified in our in our presence and our gathering and it fuels our worship, all magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together. So here's a call to praise all bless our God, you peoples and make the voice of his praise to be heard and then what's going to follow from verse nine down through verse 12 are seven statements concerning God's activity before I deal with them under the headings that I gave to you.
Let let me let me point them out to you just I want you to be able to identify the identify them with me in the Scripture. So let's look at seven statements that the psalmist makes about God. Verse nine contains two of them who keeps our soul among the living.
Talking about the activity of God. This is something God does.
He keeps our soul among the living. Number two. He does not allow our fee to be moved number three for you.
Oh God, have tested us. You following me.
That's the third one that keeps our soul among the living. Number one he does in a lower fee to be moved number two God tests us. Number three you have refined us as silver is refined, God is in the business in the process of refining his people. Number five, verse 11, you brought us into the net talk about what that means but that's the fifth statement concerning God's activity number six you laid affliction on our backs as number six number seven you have cause men to ride over our head.
Seven statements about God's activity now may go back to my headings. The first heading was a call to praise.
We look at that in verse eight, number nine. Here's a rationale for such praise. Verse nine who keeps our soul among the living. And as I thought about that meditated on that considered that who keeps our soul among the living.
It says to me, or it speaks to me and it ought to speak to us tonight that the most important thing about us is our never dying soul. That is the most important thing about anyone of us and that's where God's attention is focused is upon our soul. Why is that important. Why that is important is that we can be deceived. You can't see my soul. I can't see your soul I see you when I see you what OIC I see your physical attributes. I see your exterior. I see the veneer. I see the tent that your soul lives in and that's all I can see and if that's all I can see I might be deceived to think that that's all there is about you, but what God is saying is don't be deceived. That's not the most important thing about you. The most important thing about you is your soul and that'll help us as we live in go through life and move through the seasons of life and you heard the long list of prayer requests for those we love and are part of us and were concerned about what is happening. The outer man is wasting away is that it is at all what's happening we go and visit people you see them now not being immobile and I can't do it out of the chair and there, bedridden, and so on and so forth. Is this is that all there is no though the outer man be wasting away the what the inner man the inner man.
The soul is being renewed day by day and how do we know that because God said that's the way it is. That's what that's what he superintending.
That's what he's giving attention to. So this is because for praise. This is the rationale for our praise who keeps our soul among the living. I thought about that verse in the context of people who are getting toward the end of their earthly sojourn and are longing to go on to glory and want this travail. Diane that what is that verse say to that person who's in that tension wanting to depart and be with the Lord, which is far greater, far better who keeps our soul among the living God is sustaining us. It's in him we live and breathe and have our being. And as most of us have had the experience of caring on a vigil at the bedside of a loved one, and we wonder why this is taking so long, and what is God doing well what God is doing is he's keeping their soul among the living. As long as he wills it to be that way it'll be that way. So there's reason to rejoice, even when life is ebbing away. Even when the outer man is decaying to rejoice in the fact that God is keeping our soul among the living, is the first statement is made here about God's activity in this is again under the heading. A rationale for such praise.
Number two there in verse nine he keeps our soul among the living, and does not allow our feet to the moved glory hallelujah praise the Lord right if that doesn't fuel your praise and worship you don't understand what is being communicated here. Listen to the psalmist in Psalm 121 at a market that I'll find it quickly. I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help.
My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper.
The Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day nor by the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil, he shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and you're coming in from this time forth and even for evermore. Listen to how Peter speaks to this subject.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you and then verse five who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time that's cause for praise folks that the God who saves us is the God who keeps us he keeps our feet from stumbling. He keeps us from faltering, and it's a good thing he does because if he didn't, we would falter we would stumble, we would fall and even the Bible says, though the steps of a good man ordered by the Lord, and though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down for the Lord upholds him with his right hand. So even when we stumble and fall are God comes in rescues us, restores us, sets us back on the straight and narrow so-called praise and a rationale for such praise and what again is that rationale for praise the fact that he keeps our soul among the living, and number two that he does not allow her feet to be moved with that wonderful doxology in Jude now unto him was able to do what keep you from stumbling in the present you faultless bike before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. He's able to keep you from stumbling look to him, trust him in the hour of weakness in the hour of temptation look to him, trust him, believe him hold onto these promises, the number three. This is where were going to spend a good bit of time. The explanation of God's activity in the lives of his people. The explanation of God's activity in the lives of his people.
Verse 10 says for you. Oh God have tested us.
You've tested us in sooner or later he says you have refined us as silver is refined, you will God have tested us. I hear people say, from time to time, or ask a question what you learning in church and I'm not sure that that's exactly the way it needs to be understood because we don't learn in church what's implied with learning is the application of knowledge snow were hearing a lot of things are minded being stimulated were hearing truth, but the test of whether you learned it is whether you were able to put it in practice in the every day affairs of life. Okay.
That's why God tests us.
God tests us to see what were learning how well were learning and whether we are able to take what were hearing and apply to our lives.
Make that critical transition is it working for you is the truth of God transforming you is it changing you or is it just your guest, you got a head full of facts you got notebooks full of sermon notes and yet it somehow just hasn't translated off the page in the life you hear the question on reason, the issue on reason God is not interested in filling our heads with a bunch of facts and truth and knowledge, God's interested in transforming our lives with that truth and knowledge. So God has God is in the business of testing us the new international version says verse 10 for you. God tested us you refined us like silver. The ESV says it this way for you. Will God have tested us. You have tried us as silver is trying now. I've never engage personally in what is being referenced here, not superintendent and watched over this refining process. It's being referred to here, but God says for you.
Will God have tested us.
You have refined us as silver is refined silver to be valuable has got to go through a refining process is not found in its pure state.
It's found with a lot of impurities and there is a process of intense heat that the silver or has to be subjected to an order for the impurities to be removed and God is saying, you and I are like that is his people. There's a lot of impurities in our life and God has got to turn the heat up in our lives in order to remove those impurities from that which is precious. The silver and that's what is being referred to here God is refining us. I hesitate to say this because I've said it so many times but I know the press are some who haven't heard me say this, but it's something to hang onto because it it it least it crystallizes in my mind this critical activity of God that's being referred to here, and it's this statement, the refiner that is God is never far from the furnace never far from the heat. When his goal, you and me are in the fire. He's never far from the pharmacies never far from the heat wise that encouraging because our God's not capricious, she's not just he's not interested in just bringing harm and difficulty into our life for no reason, and there are impurities in our lives in order to remove those impurities God has to bring heat. He's got to bring difficulties got to bring pain is got to bring discomfort into our lives and he's knows just how much heat how much difficulty how much pressure to bear in order to accomplish what he's trying to do and he's not going to know how you and I are sometimes the older we get, the more inclined we might be to this we turn the stove on and we get busy doing something else and it's only when we smell something that is not good remember all.the God is never that way folks, God never goes all I turn the heat up on Joe and I forgot how he's a crispy critter.
I I've burned them alive.
II torch team know guy if we can get in our heads that God is this refiner and he is meticulously controlling the heat and the circumstances of our lives. He's got intent on what he's doing. There's the impurity that he wants to remove in order to do that.
He's got to bring heat and pressure upon us, and only when that's accomplished in the impurity rise to the surface and can be removed. Does God get on to other activities in our lives, but that's an important activity that is being referred to of God's activity now. I should've mentioned this earlier. I forgot to. We don't know who wrote Psalm 66 it's most likely not David because the heat, the Psalms, David panned he's acknowledged at the beginning, it most likely wasn't David could have been ASAP could have been someone else, but if someone with an historical account of the people of God in the in the coming through the Red Sea and all of that. So it's got a historical context.
You notice there in verses six he turned to see in the dryland they went through the river on foot.
There we will rejoice in him.
He rules buys power forever.
His eyes observe the nations. Obviously, the nation of Egypt do not let the rebellious, exalt themselves, will he certainly did in the case of Egypt, so there is a there is a historical context here. I was reading recently some letters of Samuel Rutherford and Christmas afforded us downtime and just it's enjoyable just to be able to read things you have an interest in that don't necessarily artwork in terms of sermon preparation so on and so forth.
But I was reading some letters of Sandra Rutherford in this is what Samuel Rutherford said about this season of life that we refer to theologically as sanctification, he says, quote, sanctification is the stormy North Side of Christ. Sanctification is the stormy North Side of Christ was he saying well I didn't have access to and asking, but I think what he saying is that that sanctification is the hard part of the Christian life.
There's nothing easy about putting off sin and mortifying sand and saying no to sand and fighting the world the flesh and the devil did nothing easy about that sanctification is the stormy North Side of Christ, get a nephew that lives in Minnesota. He works for Smithfield as a CFO and my twin sister and her husband have made many trips to Minnesota to see their grandchildren in the sea. Pat Pat and it's in.
It's interesting to talk to the butter trips to Minnesota. How cold was it well was 29° below zero.
What did you do what you think we did. We stayed in a house that's as I when I sufficient how deep was the ice I got an order took me to it was 2 foot to get through the ice to fish but anyway get this picture sanctification is the stormy North Side of Christ. It's it's the climate of Minnesota as opposed to Florida okay that's what he's getting at is difficult is challenging so were examining the activity of God hears. It's given to us for you. Oh God have tested us. You have refined us as silver is refined. Keep that in mind when he comes.
When difficulty comes when when hard times, don't.
Don't be wonder what is God doing you got it. You've got the word of God to help you understand what God is doing.
He's refining you he's testing you. Okay, what else is he say you brought us into the net while you brought us into the net. The picture is here is of the wild animal that is entrapped ensnared in a net. Tell a story to illustrate this, but I don't have the time to do that and you get that you get the imagery here, but only to see who who's involved in this. You brought us into the net mean God got in the business of ensnaring us and trapping us and in and in one year.
When an animal Scott Internet, the more they struggle to get free.
Guess what happens, the more ensnared they get get ensnared to the point where they just are exhausted and if you ever walk up on an animal that Scott Internet and they have been able to free themselves. They're very docile because they their energies gone. They been trying to free themselves and their friends there.
Some of you in this room tonight know what I'm talking about. It is been an act of mercy that God is ensnared. You got is trapped you.
God has subdued you and another way he's wrestled you to the ground. There you are. You been wrestling trying to get free of him and you can't and it's God's intent for you to just submit to to submit to him to yield to him. Your trapped and I don't know the particulars of who fits this metaphor, but if you do fit this metaphor you can stand up and say let me let me tell you, I've been there. I will tell you this illustration because I think it helps clarify and bring clarity to what Woodward front understand here number of years ago, Gabe was working at Chesapeake Farms up in Chesapeake Maryland studying a free range Whitetail deer herd and he was tranquilizing deer in putting radio collars on them to study their movements, particularly during the breeding season and he was targeting large mature books and CWD chronic wasting disease was affecting the upper age class of the deer herd up there, so he was studying that and what he needed was a neutral site in order to compare the lab work he was doing with a neutral site, so he may contact with the Kings ranch in Texas anybody was a deer hunter has heard of the king's ranch. The gate called me one day. This is eight or 10 years ago. He says would you like to go to the Kings ranch with me. I said is a 4 pound Robin fat is a being green is Robert Rector would say. So I went with him and it was their fall roundup and there was a man in a helicopter that would fly over the low terrain in Texas where the deer were living in the deer would be running in this man had helicopter and he had skills in it was a man in the helicopter with a 36 rifle that is. He shot it, it projected the net and would entrap an ear and there were people that were part of the chase team and then were people that were part of a what they call it Valley.
They measured the deer and they did this and that the deer they put a radio collar on and that first day we were there. That man that was shooting that net out of the helicopter shot 34 times and he ensnared 34 dear he never missed which was absolutely amazing to me using deer run right there in that they're not easy to do. Anyway, that image comes to my mind. Now here's the thing gate was tranquilizing, his deer while he processed his dear. He measured his deer and he put in your tag and importance collar on and taxes they don't tranquilizing deer. The deer's and it caught in this net and if you're in this chase team.
Your job was when you heard that shot you to get to that dear as quickly as you could get that net untangled from him and hold and take take three of his legs and tied up like a cow and wait for the process team to, and they would process the deer with his dear guess what he not real happy about humans and real happy about being held down by human. They're dangerous.
That's why we are folks when God God never misses when he comes to subdue and You and his net. The good thing is got a wise and gracious purpose in doing that is merciful in doing that, but this is God, you have refined us as silver is refined, you brought us into the net.
Next you laid affliction on our backs. You laid affliction's affliction on our backs and again I think a historical reference here is to the slavery of Egypt and notice it's not the Egyptians laid affliction on our backs, God laid affliction on our backs.
This is correct theology. This is understanding that God is the first cause and everything you laid affliction on our backs. Notice the you have cause men to ride over our heads. God is allowed for sanctifying purposes.
God is allowed, men to mistreat his people to speak ill of his people.
You've cause men to ride over our heads. Not a pretty picture. They are in a highway. And there's the motorcar coming across and run over you, God's cause death. You say will, for what purpose, what is God doing, why would he do that. Why was Joseph, sold by his brothers in the Egypt. Why were the prophets treated like they were why was Isaiah courting tradition sawn in half. Why was Jeremiah thrown into the dungeon and carried off the Egypt why was Daniel put in the lion's den. Why was Stephen stoned to death.
Why was our Savior treated so terribly.
Remember soon as he was born. Soldiers came from Herod, the killing, God rescued him soon as he preached his first sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth, his home town. They marched into the brolly hill with Rome over. Had it not been for his supernatural power to walk through in the midst of that all of that, he would've been killed before he had even begun his ministry and then we know he suffered what he suffered on the cross of Calvary. Yes, he is cause men to ride over our heads. The choir sang the refrain of the number they saying is got a saying you are precious in my sight. The question for us to think about is if we are precious in God's sight and why the floods why the fire. We asked that question only got them trying to be faithful to you on trying to serve you and trying to live for you and thing in this. What why you never asked that question knots where we are right we we wrestle with that will. Here's why this is the explanation you know the account of the disciples, they found themselves on the Sea of Galilee. The boat on the get there. Jesus was trying to get away from the demands of the crowd and he said to them, get in the boat were going to the other side in and in and in obedience to the Lord's command that got in the boat and in the course of getting from one side of the Sea of Galilee, to the other. The storm comes up that threatens their very life. You say wow. That's what you get for obeying the Lord God had something in mind right and what are some of the options. What are some of the things that God can do and does do when we find ourselves in the storms of life will there are times where God speaks to the wind and brings a call and what we did we would bless God we worship God, we give testimony in the goodness of God. God called the storm God brought relief when did he do that. All he did that when they are lives were in peril. They thought they were going to die. Member Shadrach me shack in a Bendigo that were thrown into the fiery furnace. What how did they get there by being faithful to honoring the Lord by telling the king okay we will not worship your image in our God is able to deliver us, and even if he doesn't deliver us, we will not bow is what they said thrown into the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar had had a soft spot in his heart so he thought. You know what they probably could stand this on. He I'll turn the heat that we needed no turn heat up times seven. He's going to ensure that he is will is accomplished.
Now I don't know if you've ever thought much.
I know you thought some but it's good to see you stop and think about when we get to heaven, where you have all the time in the world. They nobody's going to be in a rush. There's no agenda, there's only going to be one agenda is going to be worshiping the Lord but in the context of that were going to be interacting with some of the saints from the Bible. Can you imagine walking up to Shadrach me shack in a Bendigo and say you know what is you think about your life.
What's the highlight of your life.
You know what they might say I don't know what to say but I would think me despite be in the top five anyway. The fiery furnace.
The fiery furnace. Why is that so memorable to you. Well, because who was with us in the fiery furnace was one like the Son of Man was seen walking in the fire. So if we had our choice, what would be our choice as were were were looking for the easy life. That's the way were hardwired so we had our choice would say will I want Christ with no trial we can have it that way, here's your choices. No trial like were talking about here the superintendent by wiseguy for your sanctification. No trial like this, but that life without Christ. You want that where you want this life that were talking about that's full of difficulty in firing wind and things that threaten your life that with Christ. See that's that's the that's the blessing of this he's with us. He said he never leave us nor forsake us in that's cause for rejoicing. And then we come to what I refer to is the divine, but the divine, but we looked at a called appraiser rationale for such praise. The explanation of God's activity in his people and the number for the goal of God's activity in the life of his people and what is it notice again verse 12 you've cause men to ride over our heads.
We went through fire and through water while I know we probably will contemplated our demise are part two from this world. We don't get to write our exit strategy right when I get to determine when we leave this world, but if I could determine my exit strategy.
Here's two things that would not be. I want to drown and I want to burn up around want to die in a fire and I will lose my life in the water. It says here.
We went through fire and through water and as we've gone through fire and water are God's been with us. That's what the choir sang about tonight.
We went through fire and through water but but here's the divine. But you brought us out to rich fulfillment.
You brought us out to rich fulfillment. Listen to the NIE, the ESV says yet you brought us out to a place of abundance, a place of abundance. You brought us out to rich fulfillment. What what it was he was referring to this as this is God saying this is God's goal. This is why God's doing all that he's doing is it's it's as as as documented here for us. In order for this purpose, to bring us out to rich fulfillment to an abundant place and its what it's the character of holiness formed in us.
It's Christ likeness being formed in us. It's being transformed from 1° of glory to the next. That's what God is doing. That's God Zane. He brought us out into rich fulfillment. Now it's no it's no it's not fun it's not enjoyable going through it, but we ought to be able to rejoice in what God is accomplishing in us by taking us through it. Character development were trusting God were knowing God. Now it's what's helpful now is to think as we walked through this passage to go back up and think again about here's a call to worship verse eight and here is the rationale for such worship.
What is it again in verse nine he keeps our soul among the living, and he does not allow our fee to be moved were not to understand that in a vacuum would understand that promise in the context of what he's describing God doing in our life.
God can keep your feet from falling when he's exercising you any other man to accomplish his will. Because if you are a Christian you say fully on this. Don, this is what it means to be a Christian. I sign up for this. That's what we would say, but what where we were back to where I started. Remember what Moses prayed Lord God says you have found grace in my site, Moses says Lord, show me your ways that I might know you any Christian every Christian wants to know the Lord in a deepening way in the way we do that is to understand his ways. Here are his ways recorded here in the pages of Scripture. What is he do he tests us.
He refines us at times for our own good. He brings us into the net delays affliction on our backs.
He chastens his children he causes men to ride over our heads. He brings us through fire and water and then he brings us out and do rich fulfillment.
Praise them for doing selfless Brown prayer. Father, we thank you tonight for being such a marvelous God, awesome are your ways, you're worthy of our praise. You're worthy of our devotion.
Thank you for revealing your ways to us that we might understand what it is you're doing in us and in your church as we understand what you're doing and understand your ways. Give us grace to sweetly surrender and submit in the trust you and the believe that this is ultimately for your glory and you also have are good in mind because this passage of Scripture to bear fruit in our lives for our good and for your glory. We pray in Jesus name, amen