Sermon: Psalm 63
Where Is Our Satisfaction?
August 6, 2017
Pastor Dennis Elhard
Have you ever been really thirsty? I mean really, really thirsty! So thirsty that that is the only thing you can even think about. Apparently this is true of those who find themselves in a position of extreme thirst – nothing else matters anymore. Life becomes all about finding a drink of water. I have never been to that point of thirst, but I think it would be a most desperate and dangerous situation. The body can go a long time without food, but not without water.
The psalm we are going to consider this morning was written by David when he was in a state of thirst – quite possibly physical thirst, but for sure spiritual thirst. His soul was as parched and barren as the desert that surrounded him, and he was longing for God. Why had this happened? Where was God in all this? But as he works though his situation, his feelings, his faith, he finds his confidence in God restored. What this psalm can teach us is this: Those who thirst after God will find their satisfaction in him.
The subscription to this psalm is one of the few that link the psalm to an historical event – “A psalm of David – when he was in the desert of Judah.” From the scriptures we know that there were at least two times David found himself on the run in the desert. Once when King Saul was trying to kill him, and another time when he fled from his son Absalom and his attempted coup. Commentators are divided on which event this psalm represents, and it all hinges on the word “king” in verse 11. If this is David’s third person reference to himself (which I agree with), then David was a king only when his son attempted to overthrow him.
So if this is true, here is the context. Absalom had been estranged from David because of the sordid events that had taken place in his father’s family. Absalom had murdered his half-brother Amnon in revenge for Amnon’s rape of Absalom’s sister, Tamar. He had fled from David for three years before returning to Jerusalem and reconciling with his father. But Absalom was ambitious and clever guy, who devised a plan to switch the people’s allegiance to him and usurp his father’s throne. When David heard that Absalom had managed to capture the majority of the army and the nation to his side, he fled Jerusalem with those still faithful to him and headed south-east through the Desert of Judah towards the Jordan River. So here we find David, on the run, tail between his legs, lower that a snake’s navel!
Imagine this scene. It is the middle of the night. The king stands in the door of his tent looking out over the landscape. The light of the moon casts its shadows on a stark and empty land. David is sad, confused and lonely. His soul is as barren as the portrait before him. God is a million miles away – or so it seems. His throat is dry and his spirit is even drier. The Lord has been his rock and his strong tower – where is he now? His own son has run him out of town! Out of his desperation flows a poem and then a melody – and a song is born to comfort his soul. The ancient preacher John Chrysostom testifies that, “It was decreed and ordained by the primitive fathers, that no day should pass without the public singing of this psalm.” It has a long history of importance in the liturgy and worship of the church. So let’s look at it more closely:
First: Restless in the desert (vs.1). As was just pointed out, David’s physical location in the desert of Judah provides the analogy for the condition of his soul. He’s not merely restless; he’s dying out there for a drink of spiritual water. He begins with “O God, you are my God,” this is not just “a God” but “my God.” He has a relationship that is personal with this God, and he “earnestly” seeks him. The root of the Hebrew word here denotes the time before sunrise, the morning dawn, or the breaking of day. The KJV translates this as "early will I seek thee." The idea being conveyed here is that the psalmist would pursue God before all else. First and foremost in his life, he would seek God, and he would seek him earnestly – zealously (passion).
His soul thirsts for God, and not only his soul, but also his body (flesh) longs for God. In other words, his whole person is longing for the Lord. David yearns for fellowship with the Lord like the one who thirsts for water in a desert. His surroundings provide the perfect backdrop to the barrenness of his soul – a place that is dry and weary with no sign of water. The desert of Judah is a hostile place – especially in the summer – and we think we had a dry summer! (Pictures) It is desolate without hardly a green thing to be seen. “However, the implication is that the longing which this desolate spot arouses is only the surface of a much deeper desire.”
Have you ever experienced a thirst for God like David is expressing here? Have you been in a dry place spiritually where you needed to sense the presence of God? Pray this psalm! Usually it is the difficult circumstances in our lives to get us to that point of need – as was the case in the life of David – kicked out of the palace by his own son and on the run and restless in the desert.
Second: Recalling the sanctuary (vs. 2-5). The main body of the psalm provides the means by which the David satisfies his thirst for God.
“I have seen you on the sanctuary (holy place), and beheld you power and glory.” In this barren land, David begins to recall his powerful encounters with the Lord and sweet times of worship in the sanctuary back in Jerusalem. The Hebrew word “beheld” was often associated with some sort of vision. It would suggest that David is recalling a vision or some experience he had in the tabernacle in which he had an encounter with God that dramatically revealed his power and glory. He is longing to be in that place of fellowship and worship again.
In fact, these verses are full of the language of worship. Notice the verbs: “my lips shall glorify you; I will praise (bless) you; I will lift up my hands; my soul will be satisfied; I will praise you with singing lips.” Recalling his times of worship in the presence of the Lord in the sanctuary begins to inspire David to begin to rise above his circumstances.
David makes a very important statement in verse 3 – “your love is better than life.” David is being pursued by men who will kill him if they capture him – he is well aware of that. So he is declaring that live or die, the Lord’s love is greater than his possible fate. Every Christian who is persecuted must make this decision. Is God’s love better than my life? Will I sacrifice myself for him and for his love? Or will I deny him when push comes to shove.
David vows that he will praise the Lord as long as he lives, and in his name lift up his hands. “To lift up the hands to heaven was to give the body its share in expressing worship.” “And his praise is not nor will be hidden or silent prayer, but a public display that involves spoken testimony, physical gestures, and joyous singing.” Notice also, the change in the condition of the soul from verse 1. From being dry and thirsty, David’s soul will be satisfied with the choicest of foods (fat and marrow – rich; recalling feasts).
Worship and praise brings satisfaction to the soul. As David recalls his sweet times of worship in the past, he is inspired to worship the Lord even in this difficult place and anticipates his time back in the sanctuary with the Lord feasting before the holy place. The antidote for the spiritual desert is to recall times of worship where the Lord has met you before, and to renew your resolve to worship right now – no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in. Those who thirst after God will find their satisfaction in him.
Third: Remembering in the night (vs. 6-8). We’ve all had times of sleeplessness – where we are wide awake and staring at the ceiling. The psalm seems to suggest that this is David’s experience as well – he is not restfully sleeping but fitfully worrying. However, he uses his anxiousness to think, probably meditate on the Lord (murmur, mutter). In the ancient world the night was divided into three watches of four hours each – “through the watches” would suggest he is awake for a good portion of the night. But what he meditates on is very important – he remembers the times that God has been his help, his firm foundation, in the past. And because of that truth, he “sings” in the shadow of God’s wings. This metaphor of the shadow of wings is used often in scripture and is consistently related to issues of care and protection. David has experienced God’s protective covering many times in his past, and as he meditates on them he is strengthened in his present circumstances. Matthew Henry writes: “David was in continual danger; care and fear held his eyes waking, and gave him wearisome nights; but he comforted himself with thoughts of God. The mercies of God, when called to mind in the night watches, support the soul, making darkness cheerful.”
In a final affirmation, David says: “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” The Hebrew word translated as “clings” means to “cleave,” “hold fast,” and is the same word used in Genesis to describe the marriage covenant. Notice again the progression of the soul in this psalm, from thirst, to satisfaction, to clinging to God. But at the same time as David clings to God, God is holding up David with his right hand. One commentator asks: “Who’s holding who here?” As David holds fast to God, the Lord is also holding him up.
Fourth: Reassurance of victory (vs. 9-11). While the theme of these verses takes a sharp turn, they follow the logical progression of the psalm. Out of a desperate thirst for God, David recalls his powerful experiences of worship in the sanctuary and remembers at night the many times God has helped and protected him. This brings him to a new place of reassurance in God’s protection and victory over his enemies. Those who seek his life will be destroyed and go down to the recesses of the earth. And with a couple of pretty graphic images, David claims his enemies will be “given over” to the sword. The Hebrew for “given over” is much more gruesome – literally their lives will “spill out” or “flow” onto the handles of the sword, and they will become a fine meal for wild dogs.
“But the king” (vs.11) – if this is David’s reference to himself, is a phrase that suggests a reassertion of his calling and anointing. His confidence has returned, his kingship reaffirmed, and victory will be secured. So the king will rejoice in God, all those who trust in God will praise him, while the mouth of liars – all the enemies of God and David - will be silenced!
. Those who thirst after God will find their satisfaction in him. Here are some questions to ponder. What am I trying to find satisfaction in? Do I seek God above all other earthly pursuits? Is the love of God better to me than all of life? Would I say yes to that question if my life was on the line?
We also learn from this psalm how to quench our thirst for God when our soul is barren from trying times. We recall the sanctuary – and the times God revealed himself to us in worship, and we remember in the night (dark times) the many times he has helped and protected us in the past. “Memory encourages faith and shows us the faithfulness of God in our lives.” And so in the same way, as Jesus extends to us the elements of the Lord's Supper He says, "Do this in remembrance of Me"
If you’re struggling right now and feel like you are in a spiritual desert, maybe take the advice of the ancient church fathers, and make a commitment to pray or to sing this Psalm every day for a month (no day should pass)... Let it comfort your soul as it did King David’s, and you will find your satisfaction in God.
Sermon: Psalm 73
August 13, 2017
Pastor Dennis Elhard
A writer tells: “A missionary family was visiting my aunt and uncle. When the missionary children were called in for dinner, their mother said, ‘Be sure to wash your hands. Get the germs off.’ The little boy scowled and said, ‘Germs and Jesus; germs and Jesus. That’s all I hear, and I’ve never seen either one of them’!”
I think that we all struggle at times with doubt. Since I can’t see him with my eyes, is God really there? Can I prove that God exists? I don’t believe all doubt is sin – particularly if the doubt comes from a heart that is truly seeking and openly questioning – God is not afraid of your/my questions. There is, however, a kind of doubt that I think is sin – it’s the kind that comes from a heart that is rooted in rebellion and hardened unbelief.
As we were returning from our trip to B.C., we happened to find a preacher on the radio who was preaching on this Psalm that we are going to consider today. He began his message with identifying four primary things that bring doubt into the Christian’s life. The one that pertains most to Psalm 73 is this whole question of suffering. Why is there so much suffering in the world today? If God is sovereign and could put a stop to it, why doesn’t he? And even more troubling to the psalmist – and probably to us – is why does it seem that so often the wicked prosper while righteous suffer? This is a consistent theme all through the OT scriptures – Job, Jeremiah, Psalms and Habakkuk. It is undeniably a troublesome scenario for us and one that is difficult to reconcile with our understanding of God – and it can trigger thoughts of doubt.
The Bible asserts that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. Is that not generally true, and is that not a basic paradigm of our belief (Proverbs)? What happens, however, when this “theory” is challenged by practice? Too often, it seems the opposite; we see it is the wicked who prosper, and the righteous who suffer. This is the very issue that the psalmist wrestles with in Psalm 73. So let’s look into it!
First: A case of serious doubt. (vs. 1-3 _Read) The psalm lists Asaph as the author. Asaph was a Levite who was one of the lead music and choir directors in the tabernacle during the time of David. He writes this psalm autobiographically, and relates a period of time in his life when doubt nearly caused him to lose his faith.
He begins the psalm with a general statement of what he believes now: He says, “Surely the Lord is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” But he has not always thought that, which he makes clear in verse 2. “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” He uses the imagery of losing his traction and foundation, and falling away from the pathway he was on. It was a slippery slope. He began to doubt God’s goodness and righteousness because of the inconsistency he thought he saw between what he held to be true and what he was experiencing.
This brought to Asaph a crisis of faith, and he frankly confesses the reason for his crisis of faith – envy! He was jealous of the apparent good fortune of the unrighteous – why are they getting all the good things in life? It’s interesting that he admits his doubting God is not because of the suffering of the righteous, but because of his envy of the prosperous.
How many of you have struggled with this? Why does this person who mocks God, who lives in selfishness and even debauchery, have everything they touch turn to gold? Why does it seem that the rebellious are often rewarded and live in opulence? Let me give you a modern example: Hugh Heffner, the founder and kingpin of the Playboy empire is 91 years old and remains in relatively good health. It is said that his net worth is in the range of 43 million dollars, and he lives in luxury in his Playboy mansions. And yet he mocks God, though he claims a Methodist background, he’s had sex with more beautiful women than I suppose he can even remember, and has promoted this lifestyle and philosophy of sexual license through his magazines and clubs for over sixty years. Apparently, his sinfulness has not hurt him too badly! I’m sure there are many other examples that could be cited. So what do we make of this seeming contradiction? Does it make you question God’s justice and righteousness? It did for Asaph.
Second: A complaint against the prosperity of the wicked (4-14). In verses 4-12, Asaph launches into a lengthy complaint to God about the good life of the wicked. (Read) He says, they have no struggles, their bodies are strong and healthy, they are free from the burdens that are common to others, and are not plagued by human ills.” Life for them seems to be a beach!
Because of their ease, they become prideful and violent. Verse 7 is very interesting (problems with Hebrew). The literal Hebrew translation of this verse is “their eyes bulge out with fat.” (Over-abundance – NLT – “These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for!”) One commentator says it this way: “The eyes of the wicked ever gloat upon the luxuries around them; and thus, they are bugged out from their fat and bloated faces, ever pompously surveying their possessions.” They also scoff and speak with malice, and with their tongues they instill fear in others by intimidation. In their arrogance, they ask, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?” Pretty brazen stuff. They do not deny his existence; simply question his awareness of their activity. In their pride they assume that God could not know their sin because they are getting away with it. His knowledge, then, must be limited.
Asaph summarizes his little rant with this statement: “This is what the wicked are like – always carefree, they increase in wealth.” This composite picture, while certainly an exaggeration, is supposed to prove that the wicked have everything and lack nothing. For the Hebrew mind, that is exactly the opposite of what should be.
He concludes his section of complaint with little nasty comments that reveal his feeling sorry for himself. Keeping his heart pure and hands clean in innocence have been in vain – all day he is “plagued” - as opposed to the prosperous who are not plagued with problems (vs. 5) - and is punished every morning. One commentator states – To decide that righteous living has been a waste of time is pathetically self-centered – because it is really asking the question, “What did I get out of it?” His complaining has hit rock bottom here – but isn’t this typically human?
Third: A clarity received from revelation (vs. 15-20). Many commentators see this psalm as thematically and structurally in two halves – with verse 15 beginning the second half. There does seem to be a turning point in the heart of Asaph in this verse. He moves from the focus on himself to God’s other children. He realizes that if he had expressed his thoughts and doubts to other Israelites he would have betrayed God’s children – especially as a worship leader in the sanctuary. He could have led many astray – so wisely he keeps his doubts to himself.
As Asaph wrestles with this dilemma between what he believed in theory and what he saw in practice, he says it became too “oppressive” (trouble, misery) to me – made him miserable. However, that was all changed when he entered the sanctuary – the holy place where there is worship of God. It was there in the temple of God that the ultimate truth was revealed to him and understanding came.
Let’s just extrapolate a little on this – this is the second Sunday we’ve seen reference to the sanctuary in the Psalms. Why is it so important for us to attend Sunday worship? We have at least part of the answer in these psalms. The sanctuary refers to the place where God is worshiped. In the OT, it was the place where the Ark of the Covenant sat and God was present – tabernacle (tent), temple. Today, the sanctuary is anyplace where God’s people, who have the HS living in them, gather for the purpose of worshiping God. We are “living stones” (1 Peter) who, when we gather together, become a temple to God. Listen to Ephesians 2: 21-22: “In Him (Jesus) the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together (living stones) to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” When we come together, like we have this morning, we build a sanctuary, a temple in which God dwells by his Spirit. The sanctuary then, is the place where God’s truth is told, where God’s power and glory are manifested, and where God is worshiped. It was the sanctuary that revealed God’s truth to Asaph, and a commentator says: “If we don’t hear the truth in our churches, where will we hear it?” Matthew Henry also writes: “The church must be the resort of the tempted soul.” Don’t run from church when you are struggling in your faith or in your life – run to it!
Asaph gained a new perspective on reality: there is a different destiny for the wicked than for the righteous. We are not told what happen to Asaph in the sanctuary, but somehow God revealed his truth to him, and his questions were resolved. He saw clearly the destiny of the wicked – they were the ones on slippery ground and destruction would come surely and quickly. They will be “completely swept away by terrors!” Not a pretty picture and we are not to gloat over the demise of the wicked – God doesn’t – but the justice of a holy God will be served. While they may be fortunate to live a life of luxury for a season, it is true that often when they fall, they fall fast and they fall hard. Whether they are in government, business, or the underworld, those who traffic in evil will often come to a quick and sudden end.
Fourth: An adjustment of attitude (vs. 21-28), In verses 21-22, Asaph has come full circle; he’s had an attitude adjustment and a change of heart. He realizes that in his embittered state, he was senseless (stupid) and ignorant – like a brute/dumb beast. And yet, God has never left him during his struggle with doubt – and we need to remember this. He has taken Asaph by the hand, has counseled him, and will ultimately take him into his glory.
This knowledge prompts Asaph to ask, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” You are my strength and my portion. (NIV Study) “Though he has envied the prosperity of the wicked, he now confesses that nothing in heaven or on earth is more desirable than God.” All of the wealth; all of the toys and bells and whistles of this world must not distract us from God Himself. “To have God is to have all.”
To finish, Asaph draws a comparison between those far from God and himself who is near. Those far away will be destroyed, as will those who are unfaithful (prostituted) to Him. But for Asaph, it is good to be near God – the prosperity of the wicked no longer matters. Here he rests his case and so must we. (Quote) “Since death is certain and only God stands beyond the grave, the day will come when God Himself will bridge the gulf between the theory of His justice and the practice of justice in this life. Therefore, in light of His final resolution, it is good to draw near to Him now, to rest in Him and then to speak of what He has done.”
In a world where the wicked seem to prosper more than the righteous, the believer's eyes must be fixed on God and his goodness. Here are some questions to think about:
- Do I envy the prosperity and possessions of the wicked?
- Do I ever doubt the goodness of God in my life?
- Do I ever doubt the need for the pursuit of righteousness in life?
- Do I desire God above all earthly possessions?
God, you shower unmerited blessings on those who are pure in heart. Keep us from envying the possessions of those around us. Grant us contentment with what you give us. It is good to be near you in your sanctuary because you are the strength of our heart and our portion forever. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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Sermon: Psalm 127
Homes Forged in Faith
August 20, 2017
Pastor Dennis Elhard
“A team of New York state sociologists once attempted to calculate the lasting influence of a father's life upon his children and those who followed in subsequent generations. In this study, two men were researched who lived at the same time in the eighteenth century. The lasting legacies that each man left upon his descendants stand as different as night and day.
The first man was Max Jukes, an unbeliever, a man of no principles. His wife also lived and died in unbelief. What kind of lasting influence did he leave his family? Among the 1,200 known descendants of Max Jukes were: 440 lives of outright debauchery, 310 paupers and vagrants, 190 public prostitutes, 130 convicted criminals, 100 alcoholics, 60 habitual thieves, 55 victims of impurity, and 7 murderers. Not exactly a distinguished legacy.
The other man studied was Jonathan Edwards, the noted Colonial pastor and astute theologian, arguably the greatest preacher and intellect America has ever produced. This renowned scholar was the primary instrument that God used to bring about the Great Awakening in colonial America. Jonathan Edwards came from a godly heritage and married Sarah Pierrepont, a woman of great faith. Together, they sought to leave an entirely different kind of legacy. Among his male descendants were: 300 clergymen, missionaries, or theological professors, 120 college professors, 110 lawyers, over 60 physicians, over 60 authors of good books, 30 judges, 14 presidents of universities, numerous giants in American industry, 3 United States congressmen, and 1 vice-president of the United States. There is scarcely any great American industry that has not had one of Jonathan Edward's descendants among its chief promoters. This was a legacy that lasts, one that honors and glorifies God.”
Psalm 127 brings a strong message on the house that God builds. For a Sunday on which we are going to dedicate three precious children, this seemed like a pretty obvious text of scripture to preach on. It’s a beautiful piece of literature, and offers a biblical perspective of the home. It is a part of a series of Psalms that are subtitled as “A song of ascents.” These are thought to be a collection of songs that the people would sing/recite as they journeyed to Jerusalem for one of the annual feasts. It is identified as a psalm “of Solomon” – so he is probably the author. (David – “for” Solomon) Many consider this a “wisdom” psalm, and it certainly does offer that. And most translations structure the psalm in two stanzas or sections, so they will form the basis of our outline this morning.
First: Unless the Lord (vs. 1-2). It’s apparent that the point of this section of this psalm is that all human effort that does not rely on the power and goodness of God is useless. All our efforts are in vain unless the Lord is in them. Notice the three time repetition of the words “in vain.” In fact, in the Hebrew they are at the beginning of each of the phrases. (Ecclesiastes)
A. In vain the house is built. Without the Lord’s involvement and oversight, the house builders work in vain. The building of a “house” can refer to the actual construction of a dwelling, or to the creation and raising of a family. In the OT it was a common metaphor to speak of a family as a “house.” The point is that God must do it, not that he is out there with a carpenter’s apron, but that he must be involved and consulted and inspire the construction. Without his involvement, all of our plans and efforts are ultimately in vain (worthless, false).
So the house here is the home. Raising a family is futile unless the Lord builds the house. A house that God has built is one where he is invited, where he is honored, where He is worshiped, and where lives are lived that are seeking to please him in every way.
B. In vain the city is guarded. Unless the Lord is the one watching over the city, there can be as many watchmen posted as possible, but there will not necessarily be security. A city is a collection of homes and businesses and in ancient times was often surrounded by a wall for protection. But even with all of our human efforts to make our places of living secure, they will only be secure if God is the one watching them. This is not to say that all of our efforts to make our home secure are a waste of time, but that those efforts alone will be in vane if we do not rely on the Lord for his protection. Charles Spurgeon said, “We are not safe because of watchmen if (God) refuses to watch us.” Our safety and security ultimately come from God, not from our own efforts to protect the city and our property.
C. In vain do you toil long hours. “In vain you rise up early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat -” This is what we call in contemporary language – “burning the candle at both ends.” Early mornings and late nights and little sleep, scripture is telling us that it is futile to work yourself to death – there is no lasting gain or ultimate purpose. Now this is not meant to “depreciate the importance of hard work, but that it is inferior to the higher way of life that begins with trusting the Lord in one’s work.” One commentary says: “Toiling speaks of feverish activity, rising before sunrise to begin working, coming home late long after the sun has gone down, working long hours to put bread on the table. Without time for God, their food only maintains people in their miserable existence.”
The pace of these workers suggests a high level of anxiety. In fact, the ESV translates this line as “eating the bread of anxious toil.” Since they don’t really trust in God, their labour becomes increasingly futile. On the other hand, the person who trusts in God, while working hard yet within certain set boundaries, lies down at night and sleeps well, believing God will give the increase. When they have done their best, they leave the results to God, and sleep peacefully. There is another reading of this phrase – the NIV has it as a footnote – “for while they sleep he provides for those he loves.” It really seems to fit the context better. The idea is that blessing comes to the faithful even while they sleep – God provides. Work hard, but work reasonably. Here’s another great quote from Spurgeon – “Often when we are doing nothing for ourselves God is doing most.” Spend some time meditating on that.
“The point here is clear: divine sovereignty overshadows human plans and efforts – over building, watching and toiling. It is not to discount human effort, but to emphasize that, apart from God’s intervention, it is vain.” Unless the Lord…build the house.
Second. Blessed the man. (vs. 3-5) The second part of the psalm shifts the focus – from the vanity of trying to build homes apart from God, to one of the primary blessings the Lord imparts to the home. It seems that Solomon now picks up again the theme he began the psalm with – building the house. What we see in these next three verses is the biblical perspective of children:
A. Children are an inheritance. (ESV) “Behold children (sons – NIV) are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Children are an inheritance that we receive from the Lord – something of great value – and they are also a reward. God gives children, not as a penalty, but as a privilege. They are to be received as a highly valued prize, never as a burden.
One of the reasons that we struggle with issues like abortion in this culture is because we have devalued children in general. Often children are seen as inconveniences, burdens and disruptions to our desires and life’s aspirations. We claim they are too expensive, require too much sacrifice, delay our career goals and even get in the way of our recreational pursuits. These all come out of a systemic selfishness. Scripture, however, takes an entirely different view. As Matthew Henry writes: “Children are God’s gifts, a heritage, and a reward; and are to be counted as blessings and not burdens: he who sends mouths, will send meat, if we trust him.”
B. Sons are like arrows – they offer strength and security. This is an interesting metaphor – comparing sons to arrows. Arrows are instruments of death used by warriors to defeat the enemy. How are sons like arrows? Children that are born when the parents are younger can be a great source of comfort and protection in their old age. Children offer security and help as the aging years of their parents march on. They can protect them from those who would prey on the aged. While the military imagery is somewhat difficult to reconcile – “such children protect their aging parents as effectively as arrows in the hands of a warrior.”
Consequently, the more sons the merrier! “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” - the more sons the greater the levels of protection and security. “They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” The city gate in the ancient world was the place where court was held and where much of the commerce took place. The man who comes before the court accompanied by a contingent of strong, strapping sons will not be as easily pushed around by his accusers. They are there to defend the honour of their father if he is slandered in public. The more sons, the stronger will be the father’s presence whether it be a confrontation before the court or in a commercial transaction. Children can and do play an important role in the protection, security and comfort for their aging parents.
So what is your view of children? Do you recognize that some of you own attitudes have been influenced by the culture? Are children always blessings - or just sometimes blessings? If we are willing to let this psalm influence our thinking/attitudes, the answer should be obvious.
( Quote) “In light of Psalm 127 we have a choice to make. We can either rely on our vanity or upon God's energy. We can either fool ourselves into believing that we can control things, or we can surrender our false sense of control to the living God. Here is the promise: if we make the surrender, God will build our house, God will guard our city, God will provide for our needs, and God will reward us with fruitfulness to the next generation. Is there really any choice to make? As we give up control, we will become emotionally and mentally healthy, to say nothing about having God's true perspective on our lives.”
We want to build homes that forged in faith. We want give the Lord our homes and trust him for his protection and blessing. We want to give up our futile attempts to control everything, and we want to see our children as blessings and as the amazing gifts that they are to us. We want to leave a legacy of faith and of godly living.
Today, we celebrate and desire to bless the new children that grace our congregation. We affirm their value and receive them as gifts from God. Their parents are dedicating them to the Lord, so that he would bless them and build their homes and watch over them. It is a solemn vow – a promise to bring them up in the faith – teaching and modeling Jesus Christ to them.
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Sermon: Ephesians 5:22-33
Submission? Love? Whose Idea Is This Anyway?
August 27, 2017
25 years. I find that hard to believe. What was life like 25 years ago?
The Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback was a guy named Kent Austin
Roy Romanow had just been elected Premier of Saskatchewan
Brian Mulroney was Prime Minster of Canada. There have been 5 different Prime Ministers since then, so there is hope.
My hairline and my waistline were inversely proportional to what they are now.
And Brendon Galger was getting ready to begin Kindergarten, and I know this because Lori babysat both Brendon and April, and I would have to pick her up from Maxine’s on Saturdays to go out on a date. Usually to a place called Indy’s, if anybody remembers that name.
I know that August is a bit of an odd time to preach a sermon about marriage. Usually, we tend to do this in February around Valentine’s Day. But since we were doing a renewal of our vows today, this has kind of been on my mind a lot. So today, I’m preaching about marriage.
Our scripture passage for today’s message is from Ephesians 5:22-33. I’ll be reading from the NKJV. This is Paul’s description of how the relationship between a husband and wife should be.
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body,[b] of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Now, before I unpack that passage of scripture, I think we need to back the truck up a bit and understand why it is that we should even pay attention to that. I mean, really, who does Paul think he is to tell us how to act within marriage? He was just a man, wasn’t he? And, so far as we know, he wasn’t even married. So, what authority does he have?
Well, the fact is that this passage from Ephesians is included in the Bible. As Christians, we believe that the Bible in its original form is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God. If you read the core values and the statement of faith for this church, you’ll see just how seriously we take the authority of scripture. That means that scripture, including this passage, has authority in our lives.
Now, specifically, why does Scripture have authority over marriage? This is a great question because a lack of understanding of the answer to this question has let to an extreme confusion in our society today, even in some churches who no longer respect the authority of scripture. They think that man gets to define what marriage is in any way we choose. The fact is that we can take our instruction about marriage from Scripture because Scripture was written by the One who invented marriage in the first place.
Turn with me if you will to Genesis chapter 2 verse 18. Beginning there, we read, And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”
Skipping down to verses 21 through 24, we read, 21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
23 And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
So, you see, God gets to define what marriage is because He’s the one who invented it in the first place. So He gets to make the rules for it. And He defined it as one biological man to one biological woman, and any other definition is just sinful man’s misplaced ideas, and it’s just wrong, plain and simple. And because God invented it, and He gets to define it, so He can instruct us in it. And that brings us back to the book of Ephesians. So let’s go back and unpack that.
Wives Submit to Husbands
Ephesians 5:22-24 says, 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Now, I’m going to say it again… I didn’t make the rules, I’m just reciting from the rule book, so don’t shoot the messenger.
So, what does it mean to submit? Ladies, does it mean that you are supposed to just be some kind of door mat, to be walked on and trampled on whenever your husband decides he’s going to lord it over you? Absolutely not. If your husband is treating you that way, then he is in error when it comes to God’s instructions about marriage, and I’ll be dealing with him in just a moment.
But for now, let’s talk about this word “submission” which seems to get some people all lathered up and ready to rumble. What is submission, anyway?
Well, when I tried researching this term in the context of Ephesians 5:22, I found all kinds of politically correct mumbo-jumbo that defined submission as anything but submission.
But I think Webster’s 1828 dictionary got it right when it defined the word “submit” in this way: To yield, resign or surrender to the power, will or authority of another.
There’s no shame in that. We all submit in one way or another. Here at LEF, I submit to Pastor Dennis. He is my boss. At my regular day job, I submit to a boss. That’s the way life is. Hierarchy provides order. It doesn’t mean that I am inferior to Pastor Dennis, or my boss at my other job. But without that hierarchy, there would be chaos. Verse 23 says that the husband is the head of the wife. I’m sorry, but that’s what it says. Anything with two heads is a monster. But men, just remember, that with leadership comes responsibility… this is not a license to be an ogre, and rest assured, you will be held accountable by God Himself, as we will see in just a little bit.
The other thing we need to note is that this is a direct instruction to wives. “Wives, submit to your husbands.” There is nothing conditional about this statement. It is what it is, and wives are to submit to their husbands because God commanded it.
The only exception to this that I could see is if the husband were to ask the wife to do something illegal, immoral, or in some way a violation of God’s law. For example, in Acts chapter 5, the high priest instructs the apostles that they were not to teach in Jesus’ name. But in verse 29, we read, 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
So, does this mean that the wife has no input into anything? Not at all. In my marriage, for example, I need Lori’s input and feedback. She is my helpmeet. Every decision I make is better because of her input. Sometimes we disagree, but her opinions always give me a different perspective to consider, and I treasure her for that.
So, wives, submit to your husbands, because it is God’s will that he be the head.
Husbands Love Your Wives
Ok, guys, now it’s your turn. Verse 25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
Husbands, love your wives. Period. This, too, is an unconditional command by God. It doesn’t say, “love your wives as long as she shows you respect.” It doesn’t say, “love your wives as long as she obeys your every order without question.” No, it says “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Remember the definition of love from 1 Corinthians? 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Men, do those things and you will be loving your wives.
Guys, Christ died on the Cross for the church. Are you giving yourself up for your wife? Do you love your wife enough that you would die for her? Do you love your wife enough that you would die to yourself for her? It’s more than just going to work to pay the bills.
I’m saying, are you man enough to carry her purse down the street in Langenburg in front of your friends if her hands are full? Are you willing to take the garbage out without being asked? Consider the One who was the greatest leader of all. In Mark 9:35, Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
I remember being at a Promise Keepers event in Regina back in 2002. Steve Masterson from Promise Keepers said something so profound that it has impacted my marriage ever since. He said, “How many of you men out there have young daughters?” I put up my hand. Masterson said, “Your little girl is going to grow up to marry somebody who treats them exactly the same way you treat their mother.”
That hit me like a ton of bricks. I have opened a lot of car doors over the years. I have learned that it’s ok to get wet in order to bring the car right up to the door when it is raining. I have learned to know when she is cold and give her my jacket. Chivalry is not dead. You think my daughters aren’t looking? Pity the poor dude who thinks he’s going to take my girls’ hearts without having to earn it. And folks, the bar is set high! And quite frankly, there are few feelings as good as seeing some other couple in a parking lot watching me open Lori’s door for her, and then the lady in the other couple just stands there with her arms crossed, not moving, while her guy looks at her and says… “what?”
And guys, a word of caution in case you think that God doesn’t take this seriously. Flip over to 1 Peter 3:7. Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
I’m telling you right now, that if you don’t treat her with love… if you don’t cherish her like a daughter of the King, then even the effectiveness of your prayers is at risk.
Guys, get a copy of the book, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, and learn how to love your wives. Ladies, that’s good reading for you, too.
So love her, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.
Washing by the Word
Ok, next up, verses 26 and 27: husbands are to sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Men, YOU are to be the spiritual leaders in your home. YOU are to wash her with the Word. YOU are to help her be holy and without blemish. YOU are to establish the spiritual habits like praying before meals. Like family devotions. And if you aren’t doing any of this yet, then the place where you need to start being the spiritual leader in your home is to be the spiritual leader of YOU. Read the Bible. Get into the Word and learn how to apply it in your life. Develop a habit of prayer. And get rid of any habits or behaviours that separate you from God. The spiritual well-being of your wife and your family is YOUR responsibility, guys. And there’s no point arguing with me about it. You will never have to stand before me and be accountable. But you will stand before God. And you will take accountability before Him.
There are a lot of women who do a fantastic job in this area, but the truth is that the responsibility for the spiritual health of the family belongs to the husband.
Love Her As Your Own Body
Now we come to verses 28-30. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body, of His flesh and of His bones.
Men, we need to consider that our wives are an extension of ourselves. Our wives are not the enemy. Turn with me to Ephesians 6:12. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Who is the enemy? Not our wives. The devil is the enemy. He hates our marriages, he hates our families, and he hates us. He would like nothing better than for husbands and wives to hate each other.
The fact of the matter is, when we love our wives (and I mean love as in doing something about it, not just feeling the emotion of love), when we love our wives, we are loving ourselves. As the saying goes, Happy Wife, Happy Life. I know that’s pretty simplistic, but the reality is that when we make sure that the deep needs of our family members are satisfied, our quality of life improves as well.
Leave Mom & Dad… One Flesh
Ok, I’m running out of time here, so we need to move along. Verse 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
This is actually a direct quote from Genesis 2:24, which we’ve already heard today. Men, we are to be the heads of our own homes. Focus on the Family has an entire section on their website dedicated to helping marriages survive their brushes with in-laws. Now, nobody in their right mind would intentionally sabotage their children’s marriage, but the reality is that Focus on the Family wouldn’t need this section of their website if it wasn’t an issue. Husbands and wives, set healthy boundaries that your parents are not allowed to cross. And parents of married children, you need to be respectful of your child’s marriage if you want to leave a legacy of blessing.
And the two becoming one flesh? Besides the basic biology that proves that out, I heard a great analogy of this, again at a Promise Keepers event many years ago. Imagine two sheets of plywood. Take the strongest wood adhesive that you can get and literally paint it onto one of the sheets of plywood so that it is completely covered. Then, put the sheets of plywood together and secure them with many clamps.
Come back a week later, and try to separate those sheets of plywood. You can’t. Not without inflicting severe damage on both of them. For all intents and purposes, they are now one.
Christ and the Church
Verse 32 - 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
I am talking about Christ and the Church. Marriage is to be an illustration of God’s love for the Church. Hierarchy; submission; love; sacrifice. It’s all there.
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Christ refers to himself as the Bridegroom.
In Matthew 25, Jesus compares himself to a bridegroom in the Parable of the Ten Virgins.
Revelation 19:9 Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’”
Folks, Christian marriage is supposed to demonstrate to unbelievers the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. I have to ask myself: Both inside and outside of these doors, what do people think when they see and hear Lori and I interact? What do they hear when we are talking about each other when we are apart? Is your wife, “the old lady”, or “that battle-axe?” Is your husband, “the old goat,” or worse? What testimony does our marriage display?
Love and Respect
Finally, in verse 33, Paul summarizes his instructions by saying, However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Love and respect. Is that really what it comes down to? When you boil it all down, that’s a pretty clear statement. I’d recommend the book “Love & Respect” by Elmer Eggerichs. Dr. Eggerichs does a great job of really fleshing out this thought.
I want to conclude with this: nobody here can change the past. I can’t, and you can’t. I’ve made mistakes in my marriage, and perhaps you have as well. Maybe your marriage seems so far gone that you think it’s too late. Maybe divorce has already occurred, or maybe you are widowed and it’s too late to change the course of your marriage. I’m not here to be your judge. My intent today was to strengthen existing and future marriages. My prayer for you is that you take heart in Romans 8:1, which says Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Jesus Christ has the power to forgive, the power to heal, and the power to make all things new. If you are here today and you don’t have a personal relationship with the One who can save you and your marriage, then please come and speak with Pastor Dennis or myself after the service. We would love to have the chance to pray with you.
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