Second Reformed Church

Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: "Rich in Years"

Rich in Years:  Finding Peace and Purpose in a Long Life by Johann Christoph Arnold is an inspiring and refreshing read.  In a time when we routinely murder our children, disrespect our elders, find no use for the elderly, and despair of our futures, Arnold offers a call to joy and hope in the elder years.

In the forward and introduction, Arnold touches on the enthusiasm – the joyful hope inspired by God – that can be found in persons who have lived long lives and testifies to his own reliance of prayer in his life.

The eleven chapters are portraits of people who have lived long lives.  Each one is shown as being a vital part of the family and community and having a life of hopeful joy in being an elder person.  Arnold does not deny the troubles that can plague the elderly – Arnold is in his seventies, himself – but he shows how they do not need to diminish the peace and purpose one can find in long life.

Arnold is a pastor of the Bruderhof – an intentional Christian community.  This is not a theological tome which takes sides on denominational differences, but looks to the Scripture, the testimony of the great cloud of witnesses, and hymns to show that persons in their elderly years can and should be able to find peace and purpose in God, despite any infirmities.

I recommend this book for study and reflection – it is correctly categorized as inspiration:  young people may read this and learn the value of the elderly and come to seek them out for their wisdom and knowledge and to participate with them in their latter days.  Adults can come to find hope and comfort about their parents and grandparents and see them not as a burden, but seek to find ways to incorporate them as they are able and skilled in the family and community to which they belong, rather than shuffling them off to an institution.  And those who are living long lives, whether infirmed or not, and especially those who feel lost and abandoned, will find purpose in peace as they are inspired by these testimonies and seek to pursue God in His Word.

This work could well be used as an introductory study to a consideration of what the Scripture says about the place of persons of all ages in the family and community and as an inspiration to reach out across generational lines and learn to value each other.


 [This review appears on my blog and at Amazon.com.  I received a copy of this book free from Handlebar Publishing for review.]

"The Holiness and Sovereignty of God" Sermon: Psalm 97

“The Holiness and Sovereignty of God”

[Psalm 97]

March 30, 2014 Second Reformed Church

            This week, Bill Gates said that he thinks God is probably a figment of our imagination, yet science has provided no explanation for the existence of the world, so, it’s ok to believe in God, but, he said, he didn’t see how belief in God would affect how a person lives his life (http://www.worldmag.com/2014/03/bill_gates_no_scientific_explanation_for_how_the_world_came_about).

            Does believing in God matter?  Does it make a difference?  Does it matter if we believe in the True God or just make one up for ourselves?  Do we live our lives any differently from others if we believe that there is One God Who is Holy and Sovereign over everything?

            The author of Psalm 97 – who is not named – certainly thought so.  And, as this psalm is part of the Word of God, we may also say that God thinks so.

            In the four sections of this psalm, we find:

            First, the Holy and Sovereign God brings joy and removes evil.

            Second, the Holy and Sovereign God puts false religions and their followers to shame.

            Third, the Holy and Sovereign God causes His followers to rejoice and worship.

            And fourth, the Holy and Sovereign God preserves and delivers His followers.

            First, the Holy and Sovereign God brings joy and removes evil.

            “The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!”

            The name that is used for God in our text, which is translated “LORD,” is the name, YHWH – that most holy Name of God that the One True God gave to Moses to identity Himself to His people – the Name which means, “I Am Who I Am.”  And the word that is used for “reigns” indicates a universal kingship – and it is in the present tense – the LORD reigns now.  So the psalm begins with this declaration that the One True God – the God Who delivered Israel out of the hands of Egypt by His Mighty Right Arm – is the Sovereign King – the Universal King – the Ruler over everything that is.

            Because that is true, everyone and everything ought to rejoice – God being the Universal King and Sovereign is the greatest reality that could possibly be.  Everyone ought to rejoice in this Truth – from Jerusalem – to the farthest reaches – the coastlands.  God, our God, the One God, is completely in control and ruling over everything that is – rejoice!          

            Nothing happens by chance or accident or luck – all comes from the Sovereign Hand of God according to His Will.

            “Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.  Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around.  His lightnings light up the world;    the earth sees and trembles.  The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.”

            The first readers and singers of this psalm would have thought back to the Exodus as they read and sang this passage – remembering how God met with them in the wilderness and at Mount Sinai gave His Law:

            “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up” (Exodus 19:16-20, ESV).

            God met with Israel surrounded by clouds of thick darkness as a warning and a protection to them that they were in the presence of the Holy God Who cannot tolerate sin or evil in His Presence.  The clouds and darkness and fire and sound was to cause them to fear – to consider who they were – standing before the Holy God Who is Sovereign over all.

            This God is the God Who sits on the Throne with a foundation of righteousness and justice.  That means that God rules in righteousness and justice.  Everything that God does is righteous and just.  The words here tell us that everything God does is ethically right, and everything God does is legally right.  And, of course, we are holding up God’s Law for the definition of what is ethically and legally right.  Everything that God does and declares and commands are in line with what He has stated to be ethically and legally right.  God never sins – God always does what is right – and we who believe ought to rejoice in that – we can always count on God to do what is right.

            And one thing that God is doing and will continue to do and complete on the last day when He comes to restore the Creation – is to remove evil.

            God sends down fire and burns up evil – in the sense that evil will be punished for being evil.  All sin and evil-doing must be punished, because God is Holy.  This punishment in the life of a believer is discipline; this punishment in the life of the non-believer is judgment.

            God sends down lightning which lights up the whole earth – exposing what has been done – what our motivations have been – what evil has been done in the darkness – it is being and will all be exposed.  As Peter wrote, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10, ESV).

            When the LORD of all the earth returns, the mountains – all the inanimate objects in the world – will have the good sense to melt away before His Glory.  And God will remove evil and sin from the Creation and subject it to its rightful due.

            We remember the oft-quoted text about that day, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4, ESV).

            Let us rejoice in our Holy and Sovereign LORD for bringing joy to we who believe and for the promise to remove all evil and sin from the Creation, in accordance with His righteousness and justice.

            Second, the Holy and Sovereign God puts false religions and their followers to shame.

            “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.  All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods!”

            The heavens proclaim the righteousness of God in the fulfillment of His Promise to send a Savior to make God’s people right with Him again.  For the moment after the Fall, God declares in our hearing:

            “I will put enmity between [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, ESV).  The plan to reveal God’s Righteousness is revealed in the results of the first sin – God’s plan to glorify Himself before all of Creation in sending a Savior.

            Isaiah prophesies both about the First and Second Coming of God the Savior:

            “A voice cries:  ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.  And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5, ESV).

            The Righteousness of God was proclaimed from the heavens in Jesus being born – God Incarnate – to glorify God in the salvation of all the people that God gave Him.

            Our salvation will be complete as the heavens proclaim the righteousness of God in sending Jesus the second time to gather all the elect from the four winds of heaven and to fully establish His Kingdom by removing all sin and evil and their effects and bringing the New Jerusalem to the resorted Creation.

            “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations” (Isaiah 66:18-19, ESV).

            As the Gospel is proclaim from Jerusalem to the coastlands and all throughout the Creation, God is glorified, His Righteousness in the Work of Salvation is made known to all people, and all those who believe rejoice in it.

            But those who worship a false god – an idol – and continue to do so in rebellion against the One True God will be put to shame, as the rock and pieces of wood, and base metals have the good sense to bow before their God and Creator.  On that day, all those who refuse to believe will be shamed as they are made to bow before the One True God and suffer His Righteous Judgment for their sin.

            Third, the Holy and Sovereign God causes His followers to rejoice and worship.

            “Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice,             because of your judgments, O LORD.  For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.”

            Who is Zion?  Zion is Jerusalem – all those who believe in the Savior God sends.  Zion is the Church – the whole company of all those believers throughout time and space who believes in the Savior God has sent.

            What have we heard?  What do we hear?  We hear the righteousness of God.  We heard the justice of God.  We hear the judgments of God.  We hear what God has done in the past – in our lives – promised in the future – and the psalmist calls on us to be glad!  To rejoice!

            If we believe in our hearts in the Savior that God has sent for all those who will believe, then we are saved from the Wrath of God against our sin – Jesus has taken that penalty on Himself for us – He has become a curse before God and punished for all of our sin.  As Paul wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’— “ (Galatians 3:13, ESV).

And not only that, we have been given His Righteousness – our account has been credited with His perfect keeping of God’s Law.  As Paul wrote, “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26, ESV).  So, through Jesus, we are right and righteous with God, and we are welcomed into His Kingdom – that is reason to be glad and rejoice, is it not?

            We have reason to rejoice and be glad because God – in His Judgment – in his Justice – will bring His Wrath down on all sin and evil that has risen up against Him and give all those who have committed it and never believed that just punishment of Hell for their reward.

            And we may wonder:  are we being told to rejoice and be glad that there are people suffering in Hell?  The answer is, “no.”  Yet, we hold in tension with the idea that we should never rejoice in people suffering Hell – much less should we ever wish someone should spend eternity there – but we should be proclaiming the Gospel and calling all people to repentance and belief – yet, we do rejoice that God is Holy and Just and Sovereign and He will not wink or allow sin to slip through, but He will give just punishment to all sin and evil.  We do not rejoice that there are people suffering for their sin in Hell, but we rejoice that God is Just and Righteous in His punishment of sin and evil.

            In opposition to those who worship false gods, the psalmist lifts up our God, the One True God, the Holy and Sovereign God, and praises Him for His Attributes – God is the Sovereign, Most High, God – there is none other more true, more holy, more great, more life-giving – so we thank our God – so let us praise Him and lift up our voices to proclaim His Gospel in joy!

            And fourth, the Holy and Sovereign God preserves and delivers His followers.

            “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!”

            How do we respond to knowing this God?  By hating evil and pursuing righteousness and holiness.  We are to spend our lives fighting against sin and evil and proclaim the One Holy and Sovereign God Who Alone provides salvation for all those who will believe – that, Mr. Gates, is how the belief in the True God changes a person.

            Paul writes to Timothy:  “But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity’” (2 Timothy 2:19, ESV).

            Believing in Jesus, God the Savior, we trust Him for our salvation, and we seek to fight against sin and evil – that still remains in us – and that which is in the world.  We begin by fighting by the Power of the Holy Spirit – turning away from temptation – recognizing Christ and His salvation as being worth more than all the fleeting pleasures of sin combined.

            When we are tempted to lust after someone’s body or stuff, we must cry to our Father and ask God for help to turn away and refuse the temptation.  When we are tempted to steal – whether things or time or ideas – etc., we must cry out to our Father and ask God for help to turn away and refuse the temptation.  When we are tempted to lie about people or ourselves to get what we don’t deserve, we must cry out to our Father and ask God for help to turn away and refuse the temptation.  Whenever we are tempted to do something God has forbidden or when we are tempted not to do what God has commanded – we must cry out to God for the help that we need – for the way of escape that God has promised us – so we have no excuse:  “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV).

            We are very concerned about other people’s sins, but we are not as diligent with our sins as we ought to be:  “you who love the LORD, hate evil!”  We have to find out ways to short-circuit those temptations we are most likely to follow into sin.  Seek help from God and from fellow Christians that you trust.  We are to bear one another’s burdens – we are to seek each other’s good – we are one body – seeking to become the holy people that God has called us to be – and so we shall.

Notice, we are told to hate evil – so we are to hate the evil that others do – we are to confront it – but we are never given instruction to take vengeance.

            Paul explains our hope as we seek to not follow temptation into sin:  “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

            “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:15-25, ESV).

            Our hope is in our God and Savior, as the psalmist continues:

            “He preserves the lives of his saints;   he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.  Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.”

            God preserves the lives of all those who believe in the Savior.  What does that mean?

            God cares for His people.  God watches over His people.  God protects His people.  God makes sure that each one of us fulfills our purpose in life – especially to the end of glorifying Him.  God prays for us:  “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:9-12, ESV).

            When we are told that God preserves His people, it does not mean that we will be healthy, wealthy, and wise – that is a heresy of the so-called “prosperity preachers.”  What we are promised is that we will have all that we need for this day, and God will not allow us to fall so into sin that we are eternally lost – we who believe shall never commit the unforgiveable sin – we shall never commit apostasy.

            God delivers us – in sense that Israel was delivered from Egypt and Babylon – so, we are delivered from our sin and its wages if we have received Jesus as our Savior.  God may deliver us from things we dislike or prefer would not happen now and then, but we are promised that we will suffer for Christ as Christians, and then be delivered – as Peter explained:

            “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:8-11, ESV).

            We are preserved through this life and delivered from sin and its wages.

            The response to the good news that God has not left us alone and dead in our sins is to be filled with joy – and rejoice – and to be thankful – showing our thanks to God in the way that we live and through our proclaiming the Gospel.

            “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!”

            Let us pray:


            Almighty God, we rejoice and give thanks that You are the One True God.  We thank You that You can be trusted and will never change.  We thank You that You are Sovereign over all of Creation and that You will preserve us and deliver us to the end, putting to shame and judgment all sin and evil and those who continue in them.  Help us to follow after You.  Stir up our desire to seek after holiness.  And continue to form us into the image of Your Son.  For it is our joy to see You glorified.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Historical Wisdom

When Bulstrode Whitelock was embarked as Cromwell's envoy to Sweden, in 1653, he was much disturbed in mind, as he rested at Harwich the preceding night, which was very stormy, as he thought upon the distracted state of the nation.  It happened that a confidential servant slept in an adjacent bed, who, finding that his master could not sleep, at length said: --

"Pray, sir, will you give me leave to ask you a question?"

"Certainly."

"Pray, sir, do you think God governed the world very well before you came into it?"

"Undoubtedly"

"And pray, sir, do you think that he will govern it quite well when you are gone out of it?"

"Certainly."

"Then pray, sir, but do you not think you may trust him to govern it quite well as long as you live?"

 To this question Whitelock had nothing to reply; but turning about, soon fell asleep, till he was summoned to embark.

-- G. S. Bowes, in Illustrated Gatherings, in The Treasury of David, vol. 2, 201.

Reformed Wisdom

"Every revelation of God must also be an obvelation; there must be a veiling of his infinite splendor if anything is to be seen by finite beings." -- Charles Spurgeon, Psalm 97:1, The Treasury of David, vol. 2, 195.

"Believing God"

Join us at 7 PM, D.V., as we continue our discussion of R. C. Sproul, Jr.'s book and whether we believe the promises of God.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Queenly Wisdom

"I walk manie times...into the pleasant fields of the Holye Scriptures where I pluck up the goodlie greene herbes of sentences, eate them by reading, chewe them up by musing, and laie them up at length in the seate of memorie...so I may the lesse perceive the bitterness of this miserable life. "   -- QUEEN ELIZABETH I 

Thank you, Diane Tremper, for the quote!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Banner of Truth

Only two months until Banner of Truth -- register now!  http://banneroftruth.org/us/events/2014-usa-ministers-conference/

It'll look good for you if the rapture occurs while you are there!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"The Holiness of God and Worship" Sermon: Psalm 48

“The Holiness of God and Worship”

[Psalm 48]

March 23, 2014 Second Reformed Church

            Is there a place that you have been or seen – either natural or man-made – that just takes your breath away and makes you worship God?  Is there any place so striking to you – so awe-inspiring – that you are compelled to lift up your hearts and worship?

            Many of you know that such a place for me is the beach:  when I am on vacation, I love to go down to the beach early in the morning when hardly anyone is there and stand in the surf of the ocean.  And as I stand there and feel the ocean and its pull and see and hear the critters around me and look out into the vastness of the ocean, as the sun rises and gold dances across the sea and the foam crashes down around me, I know God is there and I am compelled to pray and praise and worship God.

            Do you have a place like that?

            This morning, we are looking at another psalm written by “the sons of Korah.”  And they would direct our attention to the city of Jerusalem, when David’s palace and the Temple of Solomon were standing in the city.

            In the four verses of the psalm, we see:

            First, God is to be worshipped as our security in His city.

            Second, the nations fear God and His city.

            Third, God is worthy of worship in His city.

            And fourth, God is our eternal hope in His city.
            
            Let us consider the holiness of God and reasons to worship Him:

First, God is to be worshipped as our security in His city.

“Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God!  His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.  Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress.”

Jerusalem is situated on top of a mountain in what was the northern end of the Kingdom of Judah.  It was surrounded by walls about forty feet tall and eight feet think, with battle towers all around and guarded gates on three sides.  The fourth side of Jerusalem is a cliff that is inaccessible. 

So picture coming upon Jerusalem, a city set high atop a mountain, surrounded by high walls, backed up against a cliff, and surrounded by guard towers – it was an impressive sight – and virtually impenetrable.  The only way the Babylonians managed to conquer Jerusalem was to starve the people out over a two year period – they could not conquer it by military force.

Inside Jerusalem, you would have found well-built homes, and the massive palace of David, and the even larger and more impressive, Temple of Solomon – with its stone and ivory work, wood and gold, carvings, ornaments, cloth-work – largness and gold flickering and colors abounding.

And if there was any doubt after seeing the city and the Temple dedicated to the God of the Jews, the author of this psalm tells his readers and singers that the greatness of the city, the beauty of the city, the holiness of the city – its being dedicated and set apart to God, indicate how great and beautiful and holy the God is Who is worshipped there, and it gives us reason for why we ought to worship this God.

God, as the architect of the city is to be praised for the wonder of the design of the city – it being built in such a secure location – on top of a mountain where all could see it from afar – known as a wonder of the ancient world, it inspired all who saw it and gave them joy to behold it.

That is not to say there were no enemies of Jerusalem – we will see that there were – but it is an indication that the worship of God – believing in Him and His Word – His salvation – would be seen and rejoiced in by every nation and people.  Salvation proceeds from God and His city and He is worshipped and praised and glorified for it.

Yet, Jerusalem prospered as the city of God because God protected and maintained His people.  Yes, there were guard towers all around and they were situated in a beautiful and militarily secure spot, but, ultimately God was their safety, God was their fortress, God was their protection in His city.

Similarly, God is to be praised and worshipped as the architect of the New Jerusalem in which God brings a holy people that He has made to be His glory.  We are already part of that holy city, despite it not being here yet in all its fullness – we are in the Kingdom of God – and we are the Temple of God.  When New Jerusalem comes in all its fullness, there will no longer be a physical temple, but God Himself with His people is the Temple in the city.

And God is to be praised and worshipped for building up His Church and for being her protection.  God will not allow the Church to fail to complete her mission and God will not allow one of His people to be lost, but is gathering us in to be received into the New Jerusalem, where we will worship God in His Holiness and have security and joy like never before.

As John described it, “Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

“And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life” (Revelation 21:9-27, ESV).

The glorious city of Jerusalem is fulfilled in the New Jerusalem.  And the same One God is the architect and protector of the city – His chosen people.  Thus, He is worthy of worship.

            Second, the nations fear God and His city.

“For behold, the kings assembled; they came on together.  As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic; they took to flight.  Trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in labor.  By the east wind you shattered the ships of Tarshish.  As we have heard, so have we seen        in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God, which God will establish forever.”

            As we said and here is explained in greater detail, the city of Jerusalem was protected by God, personally, as the Holy God, and physically in the architectural genius of its construction.  Armies came against Jerusalem, and the same awe that drove some to receive salvation from the Holy God of Jerusalem would cause others to fear and despair and panic and retreat from Jerusalem, as though they suddenly went into labor, pain came upon them in heart and mind, because they knew it was a lost cause.

            Jerusalem suffered attack at times, but only fell under the discipline of God.  No nation ever defeated Jerusalem or the God Who protected Jerusalem, except God let them fall into captivity for their sin as discipline that they might repent and return to God.

            In the same way, God has established the Church, and when she stands on the Word of God Alone, the world trembles and flees.  The world is terrified of the Church because our God is the One, True, Holy God, Who Alone grants salvation to whomever He will.  We suffer attack by the world to prove the Power of God on our behalf and to discipline us for our sin.

            And this promise of the flight of the enemies of God’s Holy city is not just in the future, but now.  The psalmist reminds those who read and sing this psalm in verse eight, “as we have heard, so we have seen.”  We have the biblical record of how God has scattered His enemies and the promise of the ultimate putting down of God’s enemies.  The psalmist’s immediate readers knew of God’s destruction of a fleet of ships from Tarshish – and we have the present witness among all Christians of God scattering His enemies – nothing less that our being freed from slavery to the devil – and some have seen the enemies of God scatter in other ways.

            The Power of God and His protection of the Church are seen as we wield “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17b, ESV).  At the end of the book of Ephesians, Paul explains the armor of God that God has provided for us to use.  All of the pieces of armor are defensive weapons – things to keep us safe, except for the sword – which we are to use to wage war against the world.  And, as we just saw – the sword is not tricks, methodologies, and programs, but the Word of God.  We show the Power of God and we fight back the intrusions and attacks of the world by preaching the Word of God, the Word of God, the Word of God, and the Word of God Alone.

            Get it?  The Holy God has condescended to give us His Word in human language so we could know Him and His salvation and proclaim that Gospel to the whole Creation that all those who repent and believe would be received into the Holy City, New Jerusalem, forever, with our Holy God.

            How does God protect and preserve the Church?  How does God protect and preserve this church?  By our submitting to His Word Alone and by proclaiming His Word and the Gospel salvation contained therein alone.

            Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock [that is, Peter’s confession that Jesus is God the Savior] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, ESV).

            Notice, gates are a defensive weapon.  No-one has ever been attacked by gates – the gates of a city will not run after an army.  What Jesus is telling us – both in Paul’s description of the Sword of the Word and here – is that we are to take the Word of God and offensively attack the gates of hell, and they will fall.  We are not to allow lies to stand, but to strike them down by proclaiming God’s Word.
            
            As though to give us all time to think about this, the psalmist notes, “Selah,” which is believed to be a notation indicating an instrumental break.
            
            Third, God is worthy of worship in His city.

“We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple.  As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.  Your right hand is filled with righteousness.  Let Mount Zion be glad!  Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of your judgments!”

God is worthy of worship.  As the people in the days of  the sons of Korah, and as we consider how God has loved us – how God has loved us and loved us and never stopped loving any of His people – in the city of God, in His temple, in the sanctuary of our God, we join together in praise-filled worship.

In utter awe, John says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:1-3, ESV).

The kind of love that God has for us is the love that chose someone who hated Him and made him a son.  It is the kind of love that adopts an orphan out of the world and makes him the son of the King.  It is the kind of love that disciplines His son out of love and draws him back again and again as he strays away from his Father.  That is the kind of love that God has for all those who believe in Him.  We are His children now – we will always be His children – and He will always love us.  And on that final day, we will be like Him in holiness and purity.

As people receive salvation and become the children of God and proclaim His Word to the world, all the nations of the earth and all the peoples of the earth come to know the Name of God – they come to know Who God is – what His attributes are – His Holiness and all His other attributes, and how salvation is only to be found through Him.  And so, His praise reaches to the ends of the earth.  God is known and praised for the fame of His Name.

When the psalmist says that God’s “right hand is full of righteousness” in verse ten, he is telling us that God is faithful in preserving and defending His people.
            
           Indeed, let us rejoice and worship God for preserving His Church and all we who are part of it.  Worship is the correct response to God keeping His promise to preserve and defend His Church until the end.
            
            Fourth, God is our eternal hope in His city.

“Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever.  He will guide us forever.”

The psalmist tells his readers to observe the city carefully – to absorb it all and take it in so they will be able to tell the generations after them who will not see the Temple about Who God is, what He accomplished in the ancient city of Jerusalem, God’s promises, salvation, provision, defense, holiness, and how, because of all of this, God is worthy of worship.

They were to tell the generations that came after them about God and His glorious, holy city.  And the time came when the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s Temple – and the temples after it were never as grand, and now there is no physical temple at all.  So that physical element of God’s Holiness in the material world is no longer around.

As we consider ourselves as the Church, we are still called to remember and tell those after us.  Although we do not have the physical Temple in our remembrance, we have the promises of the New Jerusalem and the Temple Who is Jesus to be with His people forever in the restored Creation.

We are able – of our own memory – to tell those here and in the succeeding generations that God is the Holy God, He is King of Creation, the One God Who grants salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, Alone. 

We can point to the promises of God fulfilled throughout history and show how we trust and see His preservation of the Church.  We can explain the loving discipline of our Father, God, Who is making us into the Image of His Son, that we would be holy like Him.  We can explain how the enemies of God are defeated by the Word of God and how they will ultimately all be under His feet, so we have hope for a glorious future with Him and, thus, can endure whatever we suffer here for His sake in that eternal hope.

So, let us tell of the greatness of our God and Savior Who welcomes us as adopted children into His holy city, the New Jerusalem.

Let us tell of the beauty of our Savior, how He is the great King, Who is our fortress.

Let us proclaim the Word of God and His salvation and watch the enemies of God flee in terror.  Let us proclaim the Word of God again, bringing it to the gates of hell until they fall to the Glory of God.

Let us tell of the Sovereign Providence of God, Whose Hand guides everything that comes to pass, and trust that He is working all things to the good of those who love Him (cf. Romans 8:28).

Let us tell of His steadfast love – how He reached down into a world that hated Him and chose some, for Who He came to earth in the Person of Jesus, lived a holy life under God’s Law, died for the sins of all those who would ever believe, physically rose from the dead, and ascended back to His Throne where He Sovereignly reigns and is bringing the New Jerusalem to come.

Let us tell the world everything we have come to know about God and His salvation through his Word by proclaiming His Word alone.  And let it be proclaimed from generation to generation that this Jesus is our Holy God and Savior, worthy of worship, our God forever and ever.  Our guide forever and ever.  Amen.

Let us pray:


Holy God, we thank You for making Yourself known through the Creation and even through the creations of humans.  We thank You for choosing us to be Your children and for making us Your sons and daughters – sons and daughter who You love and protect and guide now and through the end of the age.  Empower us by the Holy Spirit that we would not fear, but take up the Sword of the Spirit and proclaim Your Word to the ends of the earth, until everyone knows You and sings glory to Your Name.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Believing God"

Join us tonight at 7 PM as we continue to look at R. C. Sproul, Jr.'s, book, Believing God, and consider whether we believe God loves those who believe salvifically in His Son -- and what that means for us.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reformed Wisdom

On Psalm 48:8 --

" In the second Council of Nice, the good fathers who sat there wrested this passage to prove that it is not enough to teach divine truth in churches, unless there are at the same time pictures and images for confirming it. This was a piece of silliness very shameful, and unworthy of being mentioned, were it not that it is profitable for us to understand that those who purposed to infect the Church of God with such a corruption, were horribly stricken with a spirit of giddiness and stupidity." -- John Calvin

Hello

Join us in welcoming our former organist and choir director back as our new organist and choir director!  Trevor H. Long, who served at 2nd until 2003, at which point he joined the Navy, has now returned and expressed his availability to play.  Join us for worship, meet Trevor and welcome him back.  Choir rehearsal is at 10 AM Sunday morning, followed by worship at 10:30 AM.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"The Holiness of God as Universal King" Sermon: Psalm 47

“The Holiness of God as Universal King”

[Psalm 47]

March 16, 2014 Second Reformed Church

            Who rules over us?

            The President?  The Congress?  The Governor?  The Mayor?  The Classis?  The Consistory?  The Pastor?  Your husband?  Your wife?  Your children?

            Who ultimately rules over us?

            Even if you are not a believer, the fact that you are in a church – and perhaps because you looked at the sermon title – I suspect most of us would say that God rules over us.  God is the Ultimate Ruler.  God is the Sovereign King over all.  The Holy God is the Universal King.

            Do we believe that?  Does it make any difference to us if we believe it or not?  Does it make any difference if it is true?

            We are told that the authors of Psalm 47 are the “sons of Korah.”  Other than that – which tells us very little, indeed, there is nothing in the psalm to put it in response to any particular event or time, so we turn to what the psalm itself says.

            The psalm consists of two verses, in which we see:

            First, all people of all nations are called to praise and thank God.

            And second, the Holy God is the Universal King.

            And so, let us turn to the first verse of the psalm, which comprises verses one through four of our text:

            First, all people of all nations are called to praise and thank God.

            And lest we say, “What about the atheists?”    Paul reminds us that everyone knows and believes that God exists:  “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:19-21, ESV).

            The psalmist begins:

“Clap your hands, all peoples!  Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”

The expression that is used in our text means all people, all nations, all of humankind – not one human who was or is or will be is left out of the instruction to praise and thank God.  This is a universal command to every human being.

What are we to do in thanking and praising God? 

The psalmist names two things:

We are to clap our hands – we are to use our bodies to praise and thank God.  And as we saw last week – we are all made differently – some people are very physical in expressing themselves, some people are not – and we are to love and work with each other’s ability to physically respond.  What we do should not be forced – but a natural response to God of praise and thanksgiving.  If it is not natural – as a believer, it is probably not real – not legitimate.

We are also to sing.  We are to sing vocally – using our voices to the best of our ability.  We are to singing joyfully – with true joy in our hearts as we respond to God in joy.  We are to sing universally – we are to all sing together in praise and thanksgiving to God.  And we are to sing constantly – there is no pause given for humanity to stop praising and thanking God in song.  Now, that does not mean that any one person has to sing constantly – we would not be able to do anything else – unless we live in a musical – but the praise and thanksgiving, expressed in song is to continue around the world day and night – as it will be when we are received into the Kingdom of God.

Why?

“For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.”

This God is to be thanked and praised because He is the One God of Israel – YHWH – the One Who brought them out of Egypt; the One God Who makes salvation for His people, the Most High God, above Whom there is no other.  He is the One True God – the Creator, the Sustainer, the Savior, and the Judge – of everything that is.

And since He is that great, you show good sense in being afraid of Him – if you don’t believe in Him – and by bowing before Him and following Him in humble obedience if you do believe, because as the One True God, He is the Self-Appointed and Only King of “all the earth” – over all the created stuff in existence – including you and me.

Who would dare to raise a word against the God Who called all things into existence through speaking?  And who would dare to sin against the One God Who can grant salvation to His disobedient creatures?  And who is such a fool to go where angels fear to tread when God has chosen you and saved you through His Son, Jesus?  And who would not take comfort in knowing that the Creator King, the One True God, YHWH of Israel, is his God and King?

            Moses explained to Israel that they should not fear as they go into the Promised Land to conquer the other nations and take the land that God was giving them:  “You shall not be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God” (Deuteronomy 7:21, ESV).

            Similarly, we are told the right place to put our fear:  “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:4-7, ESV).

            The psalmist says that we should thank and praise God because “He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.”

            Israel would have understood this immediately, as they reflected back on their deliverance from Egypt and their coming into the Promised Land.  For example, when Jehoshaphat was going into battle against the Moabites and the Ammonites, we read:

            “Meanwhile all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you” (2 Chronicles 20:13-17, ESV).

            In looking back on their history, this and other examples served as reasons to praise and thank God – because in the salvation of God’s people, the battle of the Lord was the Lord’s battle.  God did not need the army of Israel to accomplish His purposes in securing Canaan for them.

            Similarly, all we who believe have reason to thank and praise God for preparing a home for us and for putting all our enemies under His feet:

                Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:1-4, ESV).

            And the author of Hebrews explained, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:12-14, ESV).

            In the end, we are told, “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15, ESV).

            God is to be praised and thanked for putting down our enemies – and for continuing to put down our enemies until all the enemies of the Gospel are put down under Christ’s feet, so that we will have a place with Him, and He would be praised and thanked and glorified forever.

            The psalmist also tells us that we are to praise and thank God for making us His people – especially through salvation:  “He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves.”

            Israel would have remembered that God chose the biological people of Israel to be His people – as Moses reminded them:  “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8, ESV).

            Yet, the psalmist more specifically points to those who have been saved by God spiritually – the heritage not merely being that of being part of the community, but part of the communion – not merely being born into the Church, but being those God loved to eternal salvation.

            As Paul explained, “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’” (Romans 9:10-13, ESV).

            And the answer to why is greater than our meriting salvation.  We are not to be thankful that God allowed us to do enough good to be part of His heritage – to be those He loves – no, we are told, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19, ESV), and “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV).

            We have the heritage God chose for us, and He loves us as His sons and daughters, because He was pleased to choose to love us and make us His own.  That is why we should praise and thank Him.

            So, the psalmist tells us that we should thank and praise God as believers in the Savior He sent, because God is the Holy God and Universal King, He has and will defeat all of His and our enemies, and He has secured for us a heritage and loves us because He chose us to be His.

            Between the first and second verses of the psalm, we have the word, “Selah.”  Scholars think that this is a notation for an instrumental break.  So, singers of this psalm would sing the first verse, there would be an instrumental break, and then they would go on to the second verse.

            In the second verse, we see more of what it means that the Holy God is the Universal King.

            “God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.”

            Worship in Israel was brought to order with a shout and with the playing of a trumpet – actually a ram’s horn – a shofar – and the same thing occurs today in synagogues around the globe:  the shofar is blown and the rabbi calls the people to worship with the Shema:  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, ESV).

            The image that the psalmist gives us is one of God calling the people to worship – God went up – to the Temple, which was on top of Mount Zion – and God shouted and blew the trumpet.  Whether any human being ever calls us to worship, because we know God as the Holy God and Universal King, there is a standing call from God to come together and worship Him.

            We see this prophetically fulfilled in Jesus’ Ascension:  “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:50-53, ESV).

            Jesus went up after giving what we call, “The great Commission” – to go and proclaim the Gospel to the whole Creation -- and the disciples’ first response was to go to the Temple to worship Jesus.

            On the Day of Pentecost, Peter explained that in Jesus’ going up, He resumed His reign as the Holy and Universal King:  “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33, ESV).

            Since Jesus is the Almighty God, Who now reigns from Heaven, He asked His Father to send the Holy Spirit to guide and empower all we who believe, and They sent Him.

            The response to God’s going up and calling all to worship is not unexpected:

            “Sing praises to God, sing praises!  Sing praises to our King, sing praises!  For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!”

            We notice that the readers and singers of this psalm are called and call others to sing praises to God – and that call is repeated five times.  We may remember that in Hebrew, to emphasize something, they repeated it – so Jesus said, “truly, truly,” and God is sung of as “holy, holy, holy.”  Here we are told to “sing praises, sing praises, sing praises, sing praises, sing praises” – a rather extreme repetition to emphasize the great importance of praising One Who is worthy of praise.

            Perhaps the psalmist repeated this because we are so forgetful to give thanks – we’re good at asking for things, but not so good at giving thanks – perhaps even worse at giving thanks to God for being God – for being worthy of thanksgiving and praise – showing what about God is worth being thanked.

            Here, the psalmist gives us two reasons to be ever vigilant in our praising of God:

            First, He is our God.  The psalm repeated shows us that God is above, above, above – and worthy of worship due to the God He is – He is the God Who has chosen and made us to be His people.  He is the God Who has promised to give us a home and a life with Him.

            Second, He is King over all of Creation.  He is King not only of Israel, but of the Gentiles – the non-Jews.  He is not just King over those who believe in Him, but of all people and all creatures and the entire created order.  Everything that exists does so for His praise – and He is King over all.
            
             So all people and all of Creation is bid to join together in praise of God
            
             Then the psalmist continues on telling us about this God and why He is worthy of praise:

“God reigns over the nations;”

Daniel said, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.  He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him” (Daniel 2:20b-22, ESV).

After God punished King Nebuchadnezzar for his sin, he said, “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’”  (Daniel 4:34-35, ESV).

And during Jesus’ trial before Pilate, we read:  “So Pilate said to [Jesus], ‘You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin’” (John 19:10-11, ESV).

Who is Sovereign?  Who is the Ultimate Ruler?  If we are doing what’s right and we are servants of God, the King, is there any reason to be afraid of human rulers?  John Knox, the Scottish Reformer, said, “A man with God is always in the majority.”

One thing to note is that the word “reigns” used in our text implies a reign that continues from the past and into the future.  Unlike any other ruler, God’s reign was and is and will be.  We’re told something of this when Jesus told the Jews, “’Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.’” So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’” (John 8:56-58, ESV).  In this text, we have Jesus’ assertion that He has always been alive, and that He is God – “I am” – which is the Name that God gave Moses for God.

“God sits on his holy throne.”

This God that we give thanks and praise to is not just any god, but He is the Holy God Who sits enthroned and reigns in holiness.  God and His reign are absolutely pure and unstained in every way.

As Isaiah saw the seraphim singing before the throne of God, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  (Isaiah 6:3b, ESV).  And against we see the repetition – “holiness” is given the highest emphasis of the attributes of God – if God is nothing else, God is Holy.

“The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham.”

The word “peoples” means “the nations” – everybody who is not a Jew.  So, we see the psalmist recognizing that God brings non-Jews into the family of God.  God makes non-Jews who believe children of Abraham.  They are ingrafted into the family of Abraham.

Paul uses the imagery of branches being grafted into a vine to explain how it is that God has received non-Jews into the Kingdom – into the family of Abraham:  “Then you will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (Romans 11:19-22, ESV).

So, God is the King of the Jews and the non-Jews – God is the King of everyone.  God is the Holy Universal King.  All humans and all of Creation sit under the Holy Sovereign Rule of God.

And that is how we who were not born Jews are allowed to come into the Kingdom through Jesus Christ:  “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6, ESV).  Through the Gospel, all people are called to believe and repent, and God has chosen people from the Jews and the non-Jews to receive the call and believe and repent – to receive salvation through Jesus.

“For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!”

God is Holy.  God is the Universal King.  And the psalmist ends by concluding that God is the Sovereign Military Leader of the Creation.  God is high and lifted up and worthy to be followed and hoped in because He has all the military strength – it’s all His.

That’s why we shouldn’t worry about humans blowing the planet out of the sky.  Jesus said He is coming back to this earth.  Therefore, it is not possible that we will blow the planet out of the sky.

It also tells us that we shouldn’t be afraid of human military powers coming against us or our country, because God can stop them, if He wills to do so.  Remember in the Garden of Gethsemane, “While [Jesus] was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.’ And he came up to Jesus at once and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you came to do.’ Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?’” (Matthew 26:47-54, ESV).

Twelve legions of angels would have been about 70,000 angels.  Jesus was telling Peter that all the power and all the military might in Creation belong to Him as God.  The issue was not who had the bigger army; the issue was Jesus being exalted and completing the salvation of His people through His death, resurrection, and ascension.  So, it had to be.

So, God is the Holy and Universal King Who has all authority and all power and all military might, and if we believe savingly in Jesus, He is our God.  We can trust Him.  He will bring everything to pass as He has purposed.

And then we are right back to reasons to praise and thank Him, are we not?

So, let us pray:


Holy, Universal King, our God and Father, we thank You for being the God Who is Sovereign, the God Who can be trusted, the God Who saves us, the God Who gives us hope, the God Who is worthy of all praise and thanks now and forever.  Help us to show the world Who You are, no matter what our circumstances are or what they may look like.  And we ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.