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“Jesus said to her, ’Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.’ ” John 2:4

Very early in his ministry Jesus, together with his disciples, was invited to attend a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. Three days into the feast Jesus’ mother approached Jesus and told him that they had run out of wine.

For a host to run short on any provision for a feast was considered highly irregular and a serious breach of hospitality, some might have even considered it an ill omen for the the future of the bride and groom.

Mary was a relative of the family and had assisted in preparing for the wedding and feeling some responsibility in the matter, and at the same time wanting to promote her son in the eyes of the people, came to Jesus and told him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus’ answer was, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”. The concern Jesus was, in his reply, primarily answering was Mary’s desire to promote Jesus as the Messiah, not the shortage of the wine. This is evident from what Mary does next.

She turns to the servants for the feast and tells them, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

And Jesus then tells the servants to fill six large water pots with water and then to take some of the water to the master of the feast.

When they had done this they found that somewhere between the well and the master’s cup the water had changed to wine.

Mary wanted Jesus to use the occasion to promote himself in the eyes of the people but Jesus knew that it was not the time to make that kind of declaration. Jesus’ purpose for the majority of his ministry was to declare the Heavenly Father’s love, to tell what it meant to be a child of God, and to invite people to be a part of God’s kingdom. It would be at the very end of his ministry that Jesus would stop being shy of announcing himself as the Messiah and that would be because by then his time had come.

Friends, I believe that the time has come for God’s people to proclaim with gladness and boldness the nearness of Christ’s return in glory. I believe that part of what we’re waiting for is for God’s people, and that’s us, to do the work he’s called us to do and that when we do this we’ll begin see even more signs of Christ’s return fulfilled.

Jesus knows when the time is right. He knew two thousand years ago in Galilee and he knows today. The question is will we believe and, in believing, will we obey his call to preach.

“Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?”  He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).”  John 1:38–39

The apostle John writes that on that day after Jesus was baptized he returned to where John the Baptist was. When John the Baptist saw him he said to the two disciples that were with him, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

These two disciples then followed Jesus, who seeing them following him asked, “What do you seek?”

To which they replied, “Where are you staying?”

And Jesus’ answer to them was, “Come and see.”

In today’s world the disciples’ question to Jesus might seem strange but it wasn’t strange within their cultural context. You see at that time there weren’t any schools of higher learning that a student could enroll in. If a person wanted learning they had to find a teacher and ask him to instruct them and if he agreed they would follow him for a time. So when the disciples asked Jesus where he was staying they were telling him that they wanted to follow him so that he could be their teacher and when he answered with the invitation, “Come and see.” He was telling them that he was willing to be their teacher and that they were welcome to follow him and learn from him. 

For those wanting to know more about Jesus today, his answer is still the same, “Come and see.  I will be your teacher. You’re welcome to follow me.”

It used to be that in Europe and North America most people, whether they wanted to know Jesus or not, believed that God was real and that Jesus was his Son and our Savior. But today things are different. People are far more prone to doubt what they don’t understand and question just about everything else. The result of this is that there are today a large number of agnostics or professed atheists in the western world. 

To the agnostics questions and the atheists objections Jesus invitation is the same as it was to the disciples, “Come and see.”  “Words and explanations might not clear up your misunderstandings and questions but I’m inviting you to come and spend time with me, to see what I do and to hear everything I say. Come have a relationship with me and learn of me.”

Jesus doesn’t offer things as proof of who he is; he offers himself. I believe that still today the best invitation we can give to the inquirer or the skeptic is, “Come and see.”

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” John 1:29–31

John the Baptist was where he was, doing what he was doing, preaching what he was preaching because of Jesus.

Though he’d never seen him, so he didn’t know what he’d look like, and he’d never even heard his name, so he didn’t know anything about him personally, John knew what Jesus would do and he’d been told that he would be able to recognize him because he would see the Holy
Spirit descending and remaining upon him.

John had been called to preach a message calling the people to confess their sins and cleanse their hearts in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. As an outward symbol of their repentance and God’s cleansing John called them to be baptized in the waters of the Jordan River.

But without Jesus John would have been no different from any other preacher or prophet God had sent. Every other prophet had a message. Every other prophet endeavored to live a life dedicated to God. Every other prophet played an important part in the working of God’s plan for the people of Israel. It was Jesus, who he was and what he would do, that made John’s work and ministry stand out as being special.

It occurs to me today that it’s still Jesus, who he is and what he’s doing, that gives every Christian his or her purpose, meaning and identity today.

Why do you do what you do? Is it because of Jesus? What purpose are you working to fulfill? Are you accomplishing what your accomplishing because you’re working to help Jesus fulfill his purpose in the world?

I’m not saying that time spent caring for personal and family needs is wasted or that every moment and everyday needs to be dedicated solely to the work of saving the world. Both John and Jesus spent time everyday getting food and water this tells us that other tasks are also at the very least peripherally important.

But John knew that the Savior was coming and this gave him his focus, his purpose and his mission.

We know that Jesus is coming soon. Like John we also know that the people need to be prepared to receive Jesus. So like John Jesus, who he is and what he is doing, needs to become what makes us special and what gives us our purpose in this world.

“Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1:22–23

John the Baptist knew who he was that’s why he said what he said and did what he did. He appears to have been very intentional about fulfilling the calling that God had placed upon him.

Do we know who we are? Do we know what purpose God has called us to fulfill?

Just as surely as God had a purpose and plan for John the Baptist he also has a purpose and a plan for each and every man, woman and child. Many are confused when it comes to God’s purpose for their lives. They don’t know what purpose he has for them and they don’t know how to find out.

I believe that God is trying to clearly communicate his plan to each person and the key to learning it is to first learn to listen to the Holy Spirit as he speaks to you. I find that the key to recognizing the Spirits leading in our lives lies in our willingness to be obedient to what he prompts us to do. The more we accept his leading and follow his directions the more our hearts and minds are tuned to focus in on his voice. But if we frequently or consistently reject or ignore his promptings these actions train us to tune his voice out which makes following his directions nearly impossible.

If we’re new to following the Lord or are in the beginning once again of learning to listen to the Spirits leading in our lives the path forward is the same. It all begins with scripture. God has given us his word so that we can know what his will for us is. The Holy Spirit is present speaking to the heart whenever God’s word is read and if we’ll listen to his word and obey his instructions our minds will become more and more sensitive to discern the promptings of the Holy Spirit as he works in our lives directly.

But it takes studying God’s word for ourselves to deeply develop this skill in our lives. While reading what others have written and listening to the sermons others have to preach has their place they can never take the place of you connecting with God by getting into his word for yourself.

John the Baptist had spent much time in scripture. His answer when asked who he was is a recitation of the words of the prophet Isaiah. It’s also clear that this connecting with the word had grown into a direct connection with the Holy Spirit.

God wants to build in you what he had with John. While he has a different purposes for each of us, he has no favorites. He loves us with an immeasurable love and he wants to be actively involved in each of our lives.

So will you listen to his word? Will you learn to listen to his voice?

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12–13

Christian writer and speaker, Ty Gibson writes about the day in which his mother told him that the man he’d grown up believing was his father was not as being a day that set him free to become someone different that he’d ever thought possible.

You see his step father was highly abusive and he hated that but at the same time he felt trapped because he believed that if this man was his father then he was somehow destined to become just like him.

But when the day came and his mother told him that his real father was a different man, a kind man, a loving and gentle man, this revelation set him free to become like his true father and not like the one he’d always known.

Spiritually we have two fathers which we can chose to emulate. On the one hand we have our Heavenly Father, and John 1:14 says that the one that is born of him is “full of grace and truth.” On the other hand we have the choice of remaining sinful as we continue to follow the path of our father the Devil. The apostle John describes the Devil as being a murderer and a liar and those who identify with him become just like him.

There are many people in the world today that really have no desire to identify themselves with either God or the Devil. They just want to be their own man or woman. But scripture reveals to us that there is within each of us a need to be connected to God or, if we reject him, someone else and there’s only one other choice besides him. So if we don’t choose Jesus we’re by default choosing the Devil.

Everyone truly born of God and dynamically connected to him becomes transformed and they begin to become like him. What is he like? He’s full of grace and truth. It’s hard to completely describe what being full of grace and truth is like but John, in his first letter to the Christian Church, says that while , today, we don’t know what we going to be like if we continue to follow Jesus that ultimately “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1John 3:2

Friends, I pray that everyday as you wake up that you would choose Jesus; that you would reach out to your Heavenly Father and say, I choose you, I love you and I choose to become like you. Make me just like Jesus, full of grace and truth.

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

“That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.”  John 1:6–11

Jesus when he came to this earth came with all the frailties and limitations to which all people are subject, except in one way; he was not infected with the contagion of a sinful nature. He did however bear the mark of the effect of several thousand years of deterioration from sin on his physical body. As a result he was like us in physical strength and stamina, potential for illness, and appearance. It was only in his spiritual nature and bent that he differed from us. While we naturally are attracted to and, in fact, are inclined to sin Jesus had no inclination to sin and rebellion; to him these things were repugnant. 

Sin’s presence in the world stood, and still stands, as a tremendous barrier to the influence of God in the world. In order to give the Savior the greatest possibility of having an impact on the lives of even a few people God sent a prophet in advance of his messiah to prepare the way for him and the gospel he would offer to the world. 

What I find significant in our focus text is that the message proclaimed by Jesus and John was not the gift that was of primary importance to the people of the world. As important as the message might be it was only an introduction for that which was of primary importance.

Our focus text refers to this subject that was of primary importance with the expression “the Light.”  The apostle John, in theses verses, makes it very clear that it is Jesus that is the light. The apostle takes the time to make it clear that John the Baptist was not the light and then he comes back to Jesus, at this point referred to as the Word, and says that he “was the true Light which gives light to every man.”

The gift of love that God has provided is not words on paper or an address proclaimed from a mountain top. The true light that is the life and salvation for man that God has provided is nothing less than the divine Son of God, undiminished in his divinity yet incarnate in human flesh. Jesus is our Savior and he is our only means of salvation. 

Our sinful human nature is so blind to its own need and to the wonder of what’s been given to us by God that even stand face to face with Jesus, with a prophet boldly declaring his identity, we still don’t know him and we’re still most strongly inclined to reject him. 

But God doesn’t give up. He loves us too much. Even if only a few, scarcely more than two handfuls, believe and accept him the that’s where he’ll begin. 

And as the prophet foretold, a light begins to shine in a dark place. He still shines today and if we’ll accept him he’ll  come and dwell in our hearts and he’ll shine his light into the darkest parts of our lives as well. 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”  John 1:1–5

(Note: Because of the length of the book of Psalms I’ve decided to handle it in sections rather than all at once. I plan to return for the second section of the book of Psalms after completing the Gospel of John. )

Many people have wondered why John chose, in the first three verses of his gospel, to refer to Jesus, the incarnate Son Of God, as the Word. Was he just being poetic or was there a deeper significance to this reference?

Long before the New Testament era ancient Jewish scholars recognized that there is a logical difference between the omnipotent, infinite, all knowing God and even his communication of himself to us through the limitations of language and all other communication mechanisms. Their thought was that basically God is limitless in every way and everything else is limited in every way. 

To solve this logical conundrum Jewish scholars came up with the concept of “God’s word”, in the Hebrew and Aramaic their word for “the word” was memra, and in Greek it was logos. The concept of “the word” recognized the authority of divine communication while at the same time recognizing the inherent limitations of the method of communication. God through his word may raise our thoughts of him, his works, and his ways to the heights of the hills, the tops of the mountains, or even the stars but even at this the reality of who he is is far beyond us. 

In his book, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus, Vol. 2, Dr Michael Brown points our that in the Aramaic versions of scripture commonly read in the synagogues during the time of Jesus this concept of “the word” was utilized and the patriarchs Noah and Jacob are described making vows and covenants with “the Word of the Lord.”

So when John refers to Jesus as “The Word” what he’s saying is that in Jesus God has become more than merely a human being. He is limitless God clothed within the limitations of human flesh yet still retaining his divine limitlessness. While having been fashioned into the form of man he is still fully and completely God. He is in fact God most complete expression of himself as “The Word.”

Why would Christ do this?  Because he loves us. To help us know him and the Father. So that he could suffer and die to pay the penalty for our rebellion. 

God took upon himself all our limitations, yet without sin, so that you and I could be lifted out of our sin and drawn closer to his limitlessness. 

“I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.  He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.  He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.”  Psalm 40:1–3

The phrase talking about God lifting David out of the miry clay reminded me of a day when I was about five or six years old.  As I recall, my family, together with a number of other church members, were at a church members property helping with a building project. I don’t remember what the nature of the work for that day was but I do remember that the work was outside, that the ground was wet from recent rains, and that there was a lot of very sticky clay in the area we were working in. 

At my age I wasn’t really any help when it came to the actual work. I’m guessing that I and my brothers were more of a distraction for my parents when it came to getting work done than any help. So most of what I was doing that day was running around playing, attempting to stay relatively close to my parents, and trying to stay warm and dry. 

Toward the end of the work day I was really getting tired from all the running back and forth, and in my efforts to not get left behind my path led me right through a stretch of exposed, wet, and very sticking clay. It took about three or four steps for the soles of my shoes to become thickly covered with that clay and they went from being just a few ounces in weight to a few pounds, and for my already tired legs they felt like they weighed tons. 

I tried to scrape the clay off but it seems to like my shoes better than any rocks or sticks and the more I worked at it the more tired and frustrated I became and the farther away everyone got. I gave up on the clay and tried to run to catch up but with my tired legs and those clay coated shoes it was all just too much and I ended up just plodding through the mud sobbing with every step.

How I wished someone would come and rescue me from the miry clay!

I don’t remember who it was that finally rescued me but eventually someone heard my crying and had sympathy for me and came and helped me clean my shoes and took my hand and walked with me till we caught up with everyone else. 

God’s like that with us. It’s true that sometimes life gets hard, and things get messy and sticky, and we feel like it’s all too much. But if we’re patient, and that’s the critical, and often most difficult part of the process, the part about being patient, we find that at just the moment when we’ve reached our limit our Heavenly Father is there to help us. Yes, we may be tired, and there may have been pain and tears, but his strength is there when we need it most and we find that we’re stronger and better able to go on because of the experience we’ve gained as we’ve struggled. 

O Father, thank you for letting us get wiser and stronger as we struggle, and thank you for being there to help us when it all becomes too much to handle. We love you. Thank you for loving us more. 

“Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them.” Psalm 39:4–6

One of the bitter sweet blessings of being a pastor is the opportunity I get to be with families and help them as they say goodbye to their loved ones that have died. The bitterness is inherent in all the pain and loss associated with death and dying. Sometimes the majority of the pain was wrapped up in the process and circumstances leading up to the death, like with those that pass away from a long battle with illness or some other condition. Other times the bitterness is in the death itself like in the event of a sudden death from and accident, or other unexpected reason for death.

Over the past twenty-two years I’ve been called on to help with deaths from agedness, accidents, cancer and other prolonged diseases, heart attack, birth complications, and suicide. All of these experiences have reinforced to me certain facts about life: the first is that it is precious, the second is that it is fragile, and the third is that it is fleeting.

It seems that when we’re young we’re not so conscious of the second and third realities of life. Sure, we know that some people die young and tragically but somehow we believe that we’re exempt, or immune, from these possibilities and, therefore, have all the time in the world. As for the preciousness of life, the first reality, I think that far too many of us take it for granted. Too late in life we learn to appreciate what a wonderful thing life is and as a result we squander or waste much of the opportunities and blessings we’re given when we were blessed with it.

In our focus text David suggests to us that the blessings of life aren’t found in busying ourselves in the accumulation of wealth and possessions. Of this kind of endeavor he says, “Surely they busy themselves in vain.”

When something is vain it’s empty our worthless. The mere gathering of wealth so that we can seek security, comfort, or pleasure is, for David, a waste of time and the life God gave us.

Verse seven reveals what the precious gift of our lives on this sinful planet are for. The words, “My hope is in you,” tells us that the finding and nurturing of a relationship with God, and a strong reliance on him, and a hope in the life and future he’s promised us is the purpose for which our lives have been give to us.

God is calling for us to find him, and to help others find him, that we might find in him the hope that gives light, and joy, and victory to our lives.

The hope of our lives is in Jesus.

“I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart pants, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.” Psalm 38:8–10

Psalm 38 is for all those people that have sinned and feel burdened, perhaps even overburdened, by the weight of the guilt of what they’ve done.

I’ve been blessed in that God has thus far been able to keep me from making those mistakes in my life that have hurt myself, my family, and others in ways that have been nearly impossible to overcome. Most people would look at my life and consider that the I’ve made good choices and avoided the worst of those mistakes common to people. And while all that’s probably true, if you’re playing the “Whose Made The Worst Life Decisions” game; it’s also true that when you consider that God’s called us all to do our best and not just better than someone else you realize that none of us have escaped spending way too much time on the path leading to regret. We’ve all wasted time and made more than our fair share of bad choices.

We can all relate to David’s prayer in verse one, “O Lord, do not rebuke me in your wrath.” When you already can’t stand to look at your own face in the mirror because of the guilt, and you’re afraid to look your friends and family members in the eye because you’re afraid of what you’ll see there, it’s too much to feel that God is distancing himself from you and rejecting you because of your sin.

Verse four details exactly how I’ve felt at times, “For my iniquities have gone over my head.”

It’s like the time before I’d learned to swim and I found myself in water too deep for me to stand in. There I was bobbing up and down just trying to get my next breath, too panicked to call for help.

Sometimes the guilt feels that way. You may be surrounded by people but you can’t call for help and all you can do is just keep trying to come up for air.

Psalm 38 doesn’t get us to the point where David is rejoicing in the comfort and peace he’s found in God’s forgiveness and acceptance. The closest we come to that is in verse fifteen, “For in you, O Lord, I hope; you will hear, O Lord my God.”

Some days the light reflecting from the hope we have in the salvation of the Lord is the only light we have midst the darkness of our guilt. Friends our hope in the Lord will never be disappointed. Once our guilt has fulfilled the purpose for which the Holy Spirit’s conviction inspired it we will once again walk in the freedom and joy of God’s untempered love and acceptance.

What we need to remember while under the weight of conviction is that it too is evidence of the presence of God, for it is God who gives it.

Whether in peace or conviction God is always near. Leading you, molding you, and loving you.

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Psalm 37:3–6

Has God promises that he will prosper the righteous person? Yes, he has. But in what way has he promised to prosper him? God has promised to prosper his righteousness and justice.

It’s very tempting to expect that God will reward the righteous with financial prosperity in this life simply because they’re righteous. But here’s one of the problems with that expectation. Every single person in the world is a sinner. That means that, regardless of who you are, you have a heart that is in some way stimulated by, and attracted to, sin. There are sinful things that you’re just naturally attracted to doing.

Let’s say that one of your besetting sins is greed, extravagance, and over indulgence. God has, in his mercy to you over the years, limited the amount of wealth and resources available to you so that he would have the best chance at winning your heart and teaching you the path of righteousness, and you’ve responded to him and you’ve spiritually prospered under his care.

How should he reward your faithfulness? By blessing you with wealth and property? Perhaps, if you’ve truly overcome you tendencies toward greed and extravagance, God might safely bless you in this way. But what is God to do if he knows that you’re not ready for such an outpouring? What is he to do if he knows that to give you such a gift would be to spiritually curse you and destroy all the progress he’s already made in developing in you the heart of Christ?

I believe that a God of love would continue to bless you with few possessions and limited financial resources so that he could continue to grow in you the faith and trust that characterized the life of Jesus.

Psalm 37 is a psalm in which God promises to prosper the righteous person, but if you carefully read this psalm you see that David isn’t promising that God will prosper the righteous with wealth, rather, he’s promising that God will prosper him with more righteousness.

As for his physical needs, David assures that God will provide for them all. In verse twenty-five David says that in his long life he’s never seen the righteous forsaken by God, or his children begging for bread.

It’s easy to be envious of the possessions of the wealthy and imagine how much happier and better off you’d be if you were rich. But possessions don’t give joy. That’s a gift of the Holy Spirit and it’s available only to those that let him into their hearts. So let him take control of your heart. Let him shape you desires, and then watch as he fulfills them.

“Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, you preserve man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 36:5–7

David’s life must have been one of continually changing and frequently unmet expectations.

I don’t know what he expected before his anointing but afterwards he must have expected some change in his life, some elevation in status. What did he get? A return to the sheep and his lonely vigil as he watched over them.

Then one day he gets to take food to an army camp where his brothers are stationed during the war season and what does he find? Strong, confident, faith filled men ready to defend the honor of God and his people on the field of battle? No. He finds faithless and frightened men shaking in their sandals before the taunts of a Philistine because they’ve forgotten the strength of their God. Even the king and his sons were hiding away in their tent.

After God gives him the victory over Goliath he must have expected a hero’s reception. But that expectation is crushed when Saul requires him to pledge himself to him, when he’s already secretly been claimed by God and has pledged himself to be his chosen, and when he refuses Saul he’s basically taken as a slave and not permitted to go home for more than a year.

But David accepts his new circumstances and serves Saul faithfully, playing his harp and fighting in the army and in everything he does the Lord blesses him. You’d think that faithful service would be rewarded with appreciation and trust, and it almost looked like it was going to be except Saul got it into his head that David was plotting against him and ordered him taken and killed so David had to run for his life.

Sometimes the path to the blessings God has for us is a rough one with unexpected obstacles. Faith and trust opens our eyes to see God’s blessings in the midst of the adjustments we have to make and the disappointments we have to cope with.

Our focus text tells us that David, in a life filled with unexpected changes in circumstance and fortune learned to see and rejoice in the constancy and generosity of God’s goodness and justice. God wants to give us the same faith and discernment that he gave David. All we have to do is ask him with a trusting heart and follow that with living a life of thankfulness and praise like David did.

O God, in the midst of this ever changing and uncertain world you are constant and your goodness is sure. Help us to see this everyday and to rejoice in the loving kindness to give.

“Stir up Yourself, and awake to my vindication, to my cause, my God and my Lord. Vindicate me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me.” Psalm 35:23–24

For many years David was falsely accused by King Saul of planning to take his kingdom and steal his throne. For this reason David was forced to live in the wilderness and hide.

The thing is, Saul was right when he said that someone was going to take the rule of the nation of Israel from him, but it wasn’t David that would take it away. And Saul was also right when he said that David would be the next king, but once again it wasn’t David who had made that decision or would take the steps to to make it happen.

God had, through the prophet Samuel, made the judgement and told Saul that the kingdom was taken from him and would be given to another that would be more obedient that he was. Not long later God would also send his prophet to the town of Bethlehem where he would seek out and anoint David, the youngest son of a man name Jesse, to become the next king over Israel.

David himself had determined that he wouldn’t do anything to undermine Saul’s authority. Since God had chosen him, he would allow God to also complete his plan and to give him the throne at the right time and in the manner of his choosing.

Still Saul made his accusations and sought to capture and destroy David. Rather than fight back David called out to God for protection and vindication. For years this went on until the time was right and God removed Saul and his sons and gave the throne to David.

Vindication, as it’s used in Psalm 35, is when we’ve been cleared of blame or suspicion. It took years for God to clear David’s name but in the end God rewarded his patience with a throne.

We’re not innocent of the wrong we’ve been accused of, but Jesus, by his own sacrifice, has done what is required to cleanse us of the blame we’ve earned and set us right before God. Like David patience and long suffering are required as we wait for the fulfillment of the promise but one day Revelation 3:21 will be fulfilled and God will call us to sit with him on his throne.

We must trust that God is working his plan for us. He is faithful. He will complete it.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34:1–3

About six years ago I and my family moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut and in a little church in Waterbury I developed a friendship with a man named Wilbert Jones. I’ve enjoyed many friendships with church members over the years, some e friendships have crossed the boundary of friendship and have entered the realm of family. Wilbert was one of those special friendships for me.

Many times people hold back or put off telling others how they feel about them and how important they are to them, but Wilbert was one of those people that tried not to leave things that needed to be said unsaid. About once a month, sometimes more often, as we were greeting each other at church or when we were saying goodbye at the end of a service Wilbert would hug me and look me in the eye and say, “Pastor, you know I love you.”

When Wilbert said those words it felt to me like my grandfather, or my father, or my brother was saying them and I grew to look forward to hearing those words.

Wilbert had something else that he would say that I’ve never heard anyone else say. He”d be talking about all the things God was doing: caring for him and working his will in the world, and he would suddenly exclaim, “I’m so proud of my God!”

How often do you hear someone say that? “I’m so proud of my God!”

Psalm 34 is all about David boasting in the Lord. As you read those verses you can hear the pride David has for God in every verse.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”

Too often we’re silent about things that ought to be something we’re continually talking about. Everyday we experience God’s grace as we enjoy his blessing and benefits. Everyday his protection shields us. Everyday we are provided for from the bounty of God’s storehouses. Everyday he gives us evidence that true happiness, prosperity, and joy come to us only from his hand. Everyday his goodness gives us reason to renew our praise.

Today let’s let the world know just how proud we are of our God.

“Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.  Praise the Lord with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.  Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy.”  Psalm 33:1–3

There are two main ways in which a group of people can worship the Lord together: one is to pray together, and the other is by singing and making music. I’ll admit that there are other ways in which we can worship God as a congregation but these two are the most common due to the fact that they are the easiest and most natural for us. Our focus text, and indeed, the Psalms by their very nature, focuses on worshiping God in music. 

A few years back I decided to conduct an experiment on myself to test what kind of impact writing songs, particularly spiritual songs, had on a person’s spiritual walk. What I discovered was that the writing of music forced me to experience scripture differently than just reading and thinking about it alone. Many times when we meditate on scripture it’s easy to think only about specific verses or phrases but when you’re putting the words of scripture to music you’re compelled to think about how everything fits together, how one part supports and compliments another and builds to a specific point and you try and harmonize with that syntax as you compose the music. This process often takes days to get right and during that whole time the mind is continually coming back to the words of that passage and the words of scripture take root in the heart in a ways that’s very different from when they come in as words alone. 

There’s a similar kind of difference in our worship and our interaction with God’s word when we sing and pray together. It’s a powerful experience to make beautiful music in a congregation of people, whether it’s just a few people or even a few thousand. We’re forced by the very nature of the music to listen to one another as we sing the words and melodies and add in the harmonies and this unites the congregation, if only for the duration of the song, in a way that it may not be at any other time. There are times when this congregational unity, as we’re singing the truths of the Bible, can add a layer or depth of insight that solo experiences with scripture are unable to give. 

God deserves the best worship, praise and service we can give him. I try not to pay attention too closely to what other people are doing when we’re singing in church but it’s impossible to not see that many people are not engaged when it comes to participating by worshipping God as we sing. It saddens me. So many opportunities to experience unity with each other and a connection with God are lost simply because we’re not willing or interested in making the effort. 

I know not everyone has equal skill or ability when it comes to music but those are not most necessary ingredients when it comes to congregational worship. Far more important are our presence, our interest, and our enthusiastic effort. And these are things we all can give if we will. 

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Psalm 32:1–2

When a sin is unconfessed and unforgiven it seems to never goes away. There always seems to be a reminder of that mistake or infraction popping up at unexpected times and you’re never allowed to forget it and move on. 

I remember one time I made a mistake, it was no big deal, no one was hurt, no one was out any money, but I was embarrassed and I lied about what had happened. It seemed like every few months for the next several years someone would bring up that incident and I would have to confirm some part of the lie I’d told, which made me a liar all over again. That unconfessed mistake and lie seemed to have immortality. It just wouldn’t die and passed into the sea of forgetfulness. 

By contrast there was another accident I had where people were hurt, I was hospitalized, and there was a financial loss for multiple people. I didn’t make any attempt to cover up any part of the accident and, while I’ve never forgotten what happened, there hasn’t been near the pain and frustration over it. For the most part other people don’t bring it up. I’m the one that tells the story when it gets told and I haven’t had to carry around years of guilt over it. 

What was the main difference between the two events as regards to my experience with guilt?  The one that was confessed most quickly had the least amount of guilt and the shortest path to healing. 

David talks about confession’s contribution to the freedom of forgiveness in Psalm 32. He begins the psalm by effusively proclaiming the benefits of being forgiven and the follows with a description of the internal torment he felt during the time when he attempt to hide his sin.  But as soon as he determined to confess his sin to God, as soon has he stopped hiding his transgression behind a veil of deceit, freedom came and that internal torment was gone. 

David ends his psalm by counseling us to not be like a horse that has to be bridled and guided or led in order to get where it needs to go. Instead let’s be teachable and gain understanding and then use the knowledge we have. When it comes to confession and forgiveness the wicked have many sorrows because they try to hide their sins, but those who trust in the Lord have mercy because they’re quick to come to God and don’t hide their sins from him. 

Thank you God for being a God of great forgiveness. Wash my fears and embarrassment away in the knowledge of your love and mercy and make me humble and willing to quickly come to you in confession when I do wrong. 

“For You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me. Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength. Into Your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.”  Psalm 31:3-5

Psalm 31 is a Psalm of hope and trust in God in the middle of great trials from those plotting against you, and it’s to this Psalm that Jesus’ thoughts turned as he breathed his final breathe while hanging upon the cross. 

You see the cross wasn’t part of Satan’s plan for Christ. Satan was doing everything he could do to try and induce Jesus to abandon his plan, to reject dying upon the cross, and to leave us unredeemed. It was his hope that by doing so he could force our loving Father into admitting that there was no remediation for sin and cause him to decide to give us life in spite of the presence of sin.  He believed that if God could be forced to admit that love could not conquer everything that God would be forced to let all sinners, including himself, live. 

So ever since Christ was born Satan had been endeavoring to drive him away from his plan to sacrifice himself to save us. In the wilderness as Jesus was tempted by Satan the devil’s intentions became clear in the third temptation. Satan has just shown Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and now he says, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

In this Satan is presenting Jesus a trap, and you and I are the bait.  Satan is telling Jesus that there’s another option to getting us back. All he has to do is bow down and worship the devil. But in doing so Jesus would not have gotten us back as spotlessly washed, fleshing redeemed children. He would have gotten us back as unrepentant, unreconciled sinners. Yes, he would have gotten us back but in doing so he would have lost the battle to destroy sin forever. 

Psalm 31 is a prayer of trust and praise for God’s ability to protect and save us from the traps of the Devil. As Jesus felt is life slipping away he cried out one last triumphant answer to all the trials Satan had besieged him with his entire life, “Father, into your hand I commit my spirit,” and he died. 

One last time the Father had kept him from falling for the Devil’s trap. One last time he was victorious over his enemy’s plotting. Jesus in his dying was victorious over Satan and because he was we, and all creation, are saved from the dominion of sin. 

O God, we praise you for your salvation. O Jesus we worship you for your steadfast love for us. You are our Savior. You are our redeemer. You are worthy to receive honor, and glory, and power, and dominion, forever and ever. Amen. 

“Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.  For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:4-5

Why is it that when we’re in a state of happiness and things are going well that we know that it’s not going to last but when we’re in a state of despair and things are going from bad to worse that we think it will be that way for the rest of our short lives?

This isn’t a new thing. The wicked in Isaiah’s day believed this way and it was reflected in their saying, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”, Isaiah 22:13.

I know it’s true that life is uncertain and frequently difficult but a big part of the uncertainty is the fact that frequently good things happen and blessings are given to us, often times more often and in greater quantity than the difficulties. Just as surely as we know that the times of peace, pleasure and rest will come to an end we can also be sure that the times of pain, sadness and toil will be ended as well. 

As Mark Lowry likes to say, and I paraphrase, “Nothing comes to stay. Everything comes to pass.”

Many times the difficulties we experience are the result of our own bad choices and the seeming absence of God’s presence in our lives is the distancing he’s let us experience so that we would better appreciate his presence and not demonstrate our indifference to him by taking him for granted. 

Our focus text tells us that experience has taught David that God doesn’t punish us forever, “For His anger is but for a moment…”.  Discipline is a temporary measure designed and calculated to result in correction. David knows that God’s anger doesn’t reflect his attitude toward us, that’s why he writes, “His favor is for life…”  God’s purpose isn’t for us continually languish in our guilt and grief. True, genuine conviction will result in sorrow, repentance, and confession but once these have done their work and achieved their intended result that state of being is to be replaced by the joy that comes with forgiveness and transformation.  “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

O God, author of joy and all happiness worth having. Thank you for the times of difficulty that you’ve given to correct and change me according to your purpose. And I thank you that life is not always one continual experience of difficulties followed by trials, but that we experience blessings and joys interspersed all throughout our lives. 

“Give  unto the Lord, O you mighty ones, give unto the Lord glory and strength.  Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”  Psalm 29:1-2

It’s curious but I’ve just realized that we don’t often praise God for his strength, might, and power. I wouldn’t say that we never praise him for his power but it does seem that other attributes seem to get recognized much more frequently. 

Just thinking back to the last worship service at church I recall people talking about God’s wisdom and knowledge, his love, care and attentiveness, his goodness, righteousness and holiness, his dominion and sovereignty, but I don’t recall anyone, even myself, ever mentioning God’s might and power. 

In scripture there are numerous events where the might and power of God are clearly demonstrated, not the least of which is the first event of scripture, the account of creation. 

Friends, we need to celebrate the might and power of God.  We can’t afford to take it for granted. If we do we’re endanger of forgetting God’s strength and losing confidence in Him when it comes to the many challenges we encounter where we’re required to rely on God for his strength. 

As a child I remember often talking about how strong God is. One children’s praise song has these words, “My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.”  And the beloved song Jesus Loves Me contains the words, “Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong.”

David spends nearly the whole of Psalm 29 celebrating the majesty of God’s strength and power. It seems like everywhere he turns, David finds something that speaks to the might of God. We too need to frequently look for reminders that the God we worship is strong enough to handle whatever people, the world, or the devil can throw at us. 

I challenge you to take a few minutes today to read Psalm 29, it’s only eleven verses it won’t take long, and then take the time to write down a few of your own examples of things around you that demonstrate the the strength and power of God. 

I’ll close by writing a few of my own. The light of the sun gives heat that drives away the ice and snow; it bakes clay into bricks as hard as rock.  The power of the sun’s rays moves the water from the lakes, rivers and seas and in the clouds rains it down upon the earth.

O God, you have power over the sun, the wind and the water, and I praise you and worship you for your glory and strength. 

“To You I will cry, O Lord my Rock: Do not be silent to me, lest, if You are silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.” Psalm 28:1-2

Everyone from time to time, goes through periods in their life when it feels like their prayers don’t get any further away than the ceiling of their prayer closet and it feels like God doesn’t hear a thing they say.

I think David must have been going through a time like this when he wrote the first few verses of Psalm 28. Other of the Psalms give indication of a similar experience at other times in his life.

At times I’ve wondered why it’s necessary that we go through these times where it feels like we’re all on our own as we fight through the struggles life throws at us. What I’ve learned is something that David seems to relearn many times as he writes his psalms and that’s that we can’t trust our feelings to accurately communicate God’s nearness or his involvement in our lives. We can only trust his promises.

What does God promise us? “I will always be with you.” “I will ways hear you.” “ I will always be willing to help you.”

The difficulty comes when the help we need is more disciplinary than comforting, or when the help we need is best given when we learn our lesson by going through a series of troubles rather than being protected from them.

David, himself, learned the trust necessary to face Goliath by first having to face the attacks of a lion and a bear, and so it may be for us. The trials we, apparently, face on our own today may be part of God’s school of faith teaching us to not fail in our trust in him when we’re called to meet even bigger troubles in the future.

Learning to use the faith God’s given us isn’t something that comes naturally. Doubt, distrust, anger and fear come much more easily.

So how do we hold to faith when we go through these times where God seems to be silent?

Take the time to do what David does so often in his psalms. Tell your frustration to God. Tell him how important he is to you and how much you rely on him. Recall his promises and the ways he’s been your help and protection in the past. Quite often just doing this will open your eyes to see God’s hand quietly working in the present and will awaken your faith to more completely trust in him.