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August 16, 2020 8:00 am
The evangelical church of today has largely abandoned true biblical worship. The theology of our hymns has been replaced by feel good mantras meant to satisfy man more than to please God.
Welcome to the Bible study our a radio and Internet broadcasts with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically.
The state in which the modern day church finds itself in its worship cannot be changed overnight.
But there is a cure if man will look for it in the place where true worship has always been found. The Psalms join Dr. Boyce as he teaches through Psalm 136, which has been called the great Hallelujah, a psalm that gives us the reason we are to worship the Lord.
A disaster like the one that has overtaken the evangelical church in regard to its worship is not going to be cured overnight.
We should make a beginning. And one good place to begin is with a study of the Psalms Solms or after all, the chief worship vehicle of the people of God throughout history in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. In fact, it's only in relatively recent times that they have been somewhat eclipsed by the hymns, choruses and praise songs that become so popular in the church of our time. So that's what we're going to be doing here in these Sunday mornings as we move on now toward the end of the Psalter. We've been studying these songs for years. We have come in our study today to soar. One hundred and thirty six and all of these last songs in one way or another really have to do with worship. We began with saw one hundred and thirty five Psalm that is marked at the beginning with those key words that we're going to find. Now many times as we get toward the end. Praise the Lord in Hebrew it's two words hollow and yea but we've combined it into one word in English. Hallelujah.
And this occurs often there in Psalm 135, as we saw even in the psalm before it, that ends the songs of a cinch. But then again and again. And finally, as we got toward the last block of five songs, beginning with saw 146, we find that those are the words that both begin and end each of the selections. Now, the song that we're going to study today, Psalm 136, doesn't actually have the word hallelujah in it.
And yet it is called the Great Halaal or the great praise song by the Jewish people, because, of course, that is what it is. It's called a prey's psalm, indeed, the great praise song, because it constantly rehearses God's goodness in regard to his people and encourages them to acknowledge and praise him for his love and faithfulness.
The words that take the place of hallelujah in this psalm are the words Hodo Yarbo, which in the new an international version as translated as give thanks to the Lord. You'll notice that they occur three times there at the beginning, at the start of each of the first three verses. If, thanks to the Lord, give thanks to the God of Gods, give thanks to the Lord of Lords, and then it comes in again once at the very end in verse twenty six, where we read give thanks to the God of Heaven.
So it's a way of showing that this is what the psalm is really about. It's a psalm of Thanksgiving. The words are probably to be understood even in a more prominent position than that, because they would rightly and have to be understood, even if not spoken, begin each verse. Because what the song lists for us is the reasons why we should give thanks to God. Every verse virtually tells us one of the reasons, and I suppose that it might have been written that way if it weren't for the fact that the chorus, which is the words his love endures forever, is repeated after each verse in order not to make it unduly repetitious.
The words give thanks. A car only at the beginning and the end. But they have to be understood. Now, the first verse of the psalm sets the tone for everything that follows because it says Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
If you ask the question, why should I thank God, why should I praise God? The basic answer is because he is good, although that is actually the basic meaning of the word God. God is a shortened form of the phrase the good, and so God is the good God. He is supremely good. And that's why we should praise him on these first three verses are really an echo of a verse back in the Pentateuch in Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 10 17, says the Lord, Your God is God of Gods and Lord of Lords. The Great God, mighty and awesome are three titles for God. There Jehovah translated The Lord and God of Gods and Lord of Lords. Those are the three names for God that occur in these three verses of the song. Give thanks to the Lord, give thanks to the God of Gods, and give thanks to the. Lord of Lords, now it tells us that God is mighty and the next verses are going to elaborate that because it begins to show us that we see the might or the power of God in nature. And yet not only do we see the power of God in nature, we see the goodness of God in his creation, too, which is a way of saying that all these mighty acts of in creation, all the things that we see about us, are intended by God, not in an indifferent way where you and I are concerned, but they are actually concerned for our benefit. We remember when we go back to the Book of Genesis and after each step in the creation, God looked at what he had made and said, it is good. It's good because God is good and because everything that God does is good. You want to know what real goodness is? Really enjoy it. You have to get to know God.
Now, the first places goodness of God is seen as in his creation.
And this is the first thing the psalm mentions and versus four through nine. And it's also what we confessed first and the words of the Apostles Creed. We say, I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth. So we confess that God has been good at making the world out. There is a tremendous difference there between the way Christians think about the world and the creation and the way the world thinks about it. The unregenerate world doesn't know God or acknowledge God. And therefore, when it comes to dealing with God's creation, it does either one of two things either. On the one hand, it barrels down to creation itself and worships it. We have a form of that in the paganism of the past, but we have an equally insidious and pernicious form of that in self worship in the present, because we ourselves are part of the creation. On the one hand, the world does that, or on the other hand, it takes advantage of creation, treats it as a built value at all, something simply to be exploited for the benefit of mankind. Some people today are very concerned with that.
And so we have this home movement to oppose it in the name of ecology. Now, in contrast to those two errors, the solemn shows us the right way to go. It invites us to look at the world, the way God looks at it and recognize that it's good and it's beneficial and it's for our benefit. Everything God makes is good. There are few consequences of this for the way Christians ought to look at nature and it's worth thinking about them. Number one, we should be thankful for it because that's what I saw. One hundred and thirty six is doing and some expressions of Christian thought.
The only things that have any value at all are the things that are invisible. And we don't want to minimize that because it is the invisible things that last. Even heaven and earth is going to pass away according to the teaching of our Lord. It's the invisible things that remain. But that doesn't mean that heaven on earth doesn't have value now. And so we are to be thankful for it while we have it. The second thing is that we should delight in nature. That's related to being thankful for it, but it goes a step beyond it. Sometimes when we think about the creation, we think of it chiefly as an argument for the existence of God. Creation requires a being of infinite power and wisdom to abate it. And therefore, when you look at creation, you ought to believe in God. Well, that is true. Of course, we should delight in creation even more than nature worshipers because we see beyond the creation to the God that made it and we really delight in God.
And then thirdly, we should treat nature responsibly. If God has made it and has a purpose for it, as he does for all things, it doesn't mean that we can't use nature in a responsible way. You can still cut down a tree and use the wood of the tree to make a house. But it does mean that you don't cut down the tree just for the fun of cutting down the tree. Christian approach to nature should involve some kind of careful examination of the things that God has made. Their purpose and so on. And so Christians should do that well. God is good in nature. Now, the second section of the psalm as even more important versus ten through twenty four, because here this almost is thanking God for his specific acts toward Israel. You just run through the verses. You'll see that he is thanking God for his deliverance of the people from bondage in Egypt verses 10 through fifteen or leading them through the desert to the borders of the Promised Land. Verse 17 for his defeat of Israel's enemies. Specifically, Cy Horne, the king of the AMA, writes the blog, The King of Bacon, who oppose them verses 18 through 20. And number four, his final settling of the people in their land versus 21 through 24 now are equivalent for that is thanking God for the way he has delivered us from sin. And let us undo our own land, which is the company of his people within the church.
I said earlier that the psalm follows parallel lines to what we confessed together in the words of the Apostles Creed. We begin by acknowledging God as the creator of heaven and earth. But pretty soon we get to the second article and we begin to talk about his work of salvation for us in Jesus Christ. And so we recite together, I believe, in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under puncher's pilot was crucified, dead and buried. He descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. All the Ministry of Jesus Christ, the great heart of the confession. And the third article goes on from that point to talk about how the Holy Spirit applies, the benefits of that salvation to us.
Speaking of the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
Now, as I say, that is our equivalent to this middle section of the song. The basic core of Christian teaching as gospel needs to be at the heart of our worship. We need to be thankful for it and we need to confess it together.
Now, the sad thing, of course, is that in much worship today, this very heart of Christianity, the gospel itself has been pushed aside. What has happened is that instead of confessing what God has done for us in Jesus Christ 2000 years ago, which is the gospel, the atonement made for our sins in order that we might be justified before a righteous God. Instead of doing that, our worship has shifted around to man centered interests. And so we think when we come to our services in our day, not so much about God and what God has done, but rather what has happened to us. Now, what happens to us is important matters to God. It certainly matters to us, but it isn't the gospel. And so when we come to worship God, we need to worship God for what he has done and not for the sake of our own experiences. I've noticed this change in evangelical worship services in recent years express chiefly in the way all the great traditional elements of worship have been pushed aside. I've mentioned it on other occasions, for example, prayer. It's inconceivable to me that something that is called a worship service can be carried on without any significant prayer. But sadly, that's exactly what's happening. I pointed out that there's always a little prayer at the beginning for some reason, and there is a prayer for the offering, which I well understand requires the supernatural power of God to get these cheap people to give their money. So the work of the church can go forward, but there are no great pastoral prayers. Whatever happened to them? Remember how we used to talk about prayer on the basis of an ax acrostic AICTE s A for adoration, C for confession, T for Thanksgiving and S for supplication. Well, that is just gone out. I have been in dozens and dozens of services where there is no prayer like that at all. Some times or something we have to ask God for. Mrs. Jones is sick. She's going to have an operation. There's no prayer really to deal with it. And so. I find it gets tacked onto the offering prayer because it's the only place that Mrs Jones can be prayed for. What ever are we doing in our churches if we're not praying?
How about the reading of the word of God? The reading of any substantial portion of the Bible is vanishing and the Puritan age.
The ministers read a chapter of the Old Testament, a chapter of the New Testament at every service. That's where Matthew Henry got that great six volume commentary that we find so valuable today. It wasn't the product of his sermons. It was a product of his Bible readings. That's the kind of thing that took place in Puritan services all the time today. We don't read the Bible. People don't know the Bible. Sometimes a few little verses find their way into a service, sometimes at the very beginning of the minister's sermon, as a pretext for what he's going to say.
But I've been in services where there's no reading of the Bible at all.
How about the exposition of the word? We have very little serious teaching of the Bible today. Instead, preachers are trying to be personable, to tell funny stories, to smile above all, to stay away from anything that might cause people to be unhappy with the church and leave it. People tell preachers to speak to fellow needs, not real needs necessarily. And this generally means only telling people what they want to hear. That's all utterly man centered, you see. And therefore it's not worship at all. How about the confession of sin? Who confesses sin today? Anywhere on dimensioned in the church in the context of a worship service? It's not happening. And the reason it's not happening is that there's so little awareness of God. In order to be aware of sin, you have to have some sense of God's holiness. And if we're not talking about God, we're not talking about the holiness of God. We're not talking about the holiness of God. We're not dealing with sin. Instead of coming to church to confess our sins and transgressions and ask forgiveness, we come to church to be told that we're really all right. We're good people. And that we don't actually need forgiveness.
Or how about our hymns?
One of the saddest features of contemporary worship is that the great hymns of the church are on the way out. I'm not so much concerned here with the music style kind of music, though. There is a relationship between the style of the music and the content. But I'm concerned mostly with the content of the hymns. The great thing about the old hymns is that they rehearse the Bible's theology and profound and perceptive ways and expressed it in memorable language. So it's stuck in the minds of people.
That's not happening with our contemporary music. Today's songs are mostly focused on our selves, our experiences, and not God. They reflect our shallow or our non-existent theology and do almost nothing to elevate our thoughts about God. Worst of all are those that merely repeat a trite idea over and over again. Sometimes the same word over and over again. Songs like that are not worship.
Really a mantra. They have more in common with New Age people than they do with the redeemed and worshiping people of God.
While the solms is meant to correct us from some of those errors, one striking feature of saw one hundred and thirty six is the way in which it works around at the end of the place at which it started out. Perhaps you've noticed that it begins with a call to thank God it ends the same way. And verse twenty five, backing up just a verse. It moves back to thoughts of a general benevolence of God to all people, not just Israel. All people benefit from creation, which is what the song started out with in versus four through nine. Here we're reminded that God gives food to every creature, not just to Israel. Now you'll find that elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus talked about it. He says God causes his Sunderer eyes on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous provides for all people. Paul is saying the same sort of thing. And Lystra Acts 14, where he reminded the Gentiles they are that God has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crumps in their seasons. He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. In each case, the goodness of God is given as a reason why people everywhere should acknowledge God and thank him. And yet, you see, the division is just at that point. The people of God are to do that because they know God. But those who don't know God do what Paul describes in the first chapter of Romans, although they knew God, that is that there is a God. They neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.
Isn't it a tragedy when the people of God who do know God and have been redeemed by God, the sun also like the Gentiles and unbelievers fail?
To thank him properly?
Well, I said I was going to come back to the last phrase. His love endures forever.
That's the believing worshipers response to all the things we've seen. God is good. Yes. And so we say his love endures forever. He's the mighty creator of all that we enjoy. Yes. Therefore, we say his love endures forever. He has redeemed us from our sin, brought us into the company of the people of God.
And we say, yes, his love endures forever. The word the Jews were love. That refrain is the powerful Hebrew term has said, which means covenant love the favor God chose to those with whom he's entered into a special relationship. Here it's translated sometimes steadfast love or enduring love.
And the reason for it is that God is a God of His word, among a reasons that we acknowledge as good as the fact that he is faithful and he is faithful and his love.
Let me give you a final story, one night in February and the year 358, the Great Church father Athanasius held an all night service at his church in Alexandria, Egypt.
Athanasius had been leading the fight for the eternal sonship and the deity of Jesus Christ, knowing that the gospel, indeed the very survival of Christianity depended upon it. But he had many enemies. At times, it seemed like everyone was his enemy. The government of the day, the other church authorities, he even devised a little phrase for describing what he felt himself to be doing. He spoke of Athanasius, Contre Mendham, Athanasius against the world one man.
He was right.
And we owe to some extent the survival of true theology to what he did, at any rate. These many enemies, quite a few who are opposing them for political, even more than theological reasons, marshaled the power of the Roman government against him. And on this particular night, the church was suddenly surrounded by shouting soldiers with drawn swords.
And people were frightened naturally, but with calm presence of mind, Athanasius stood up and announced the singing of him one hundred and thirty six. The solemn people were frightened, naturally, but with calm presence of mind. Athanasius stood up and announced the singing of him. One hundred and thirty six. The song this vast congregation responded, joining and thundering forth 26 times over his love and yours forever.
And the soldiers burst through the doors and came into the church with their swords drawn. They were intimidated at first by the singing. They were staggered by it. Athanasius kept his place and dismissed the congregation, and they faded away.
And then finally, he himself actually slipped away in the dark and escaped and was received into the house of his friends and went on to carry on the battle. A lot of people in Alexandria died that night, but the people of Athanasius, his congregation, never forgot that.
Although man is evil, God is good. God is good. His mercy and his love endure. Forever.
All of us want that kind of love. Why do we seek it everywhere else?
You're listening to the Bible Study Hour featuring the teaching of Dr. James Boyce. Unlike our fiscal imperfect love, the love of God is constant and unchanging. If you'd like to learn more about God's perfect and unconditional love, we have a free seat to offer you. It's entitled Enduring Love, and it's also by Dr. James Boyce. This gift is our way of saying thanks for listening. Give us a call at one 800 four eight eight, 1888. And we'd be happy to send you a copy of Enduring Love again. Our phone number is one 800 four eight eight 18 88. Have you ever wondered how you could play a part in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and the truths of God's word, our loyal listeners who pray for this ministry and supported on a regular basis are so important to us here at the Bible study hour without you. Dr. Boyce's messages would not be heard by a world in desperate need. You can make your contribution by visiting our Web site at the Bible study our dawg. You may call at one 800 four eight eight 1888 or if you prefer to send a gift by mail. Our postal address is 600 Edan Road, Lankester, Pennsylvania, one seven six oh one. Thank you. We appreciate you and all of our listeners and supporters.
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I'm Mark Daniels. Glad you checked in to cities. Would have a great effect on history. Babylon, the city of the world that would soon pass away, and Jerusalem, the city of God whose glory would endure forever.
Join Dr. James Boyce next time as he explores the two cities and the heartache of God's people as they remember their exile in Babylon.
That's next time. One. The Bible study our preparing you to think and act biblically.