Tuesday, March 15, 2011

God's Works: What is Our Response to Be?

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Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, March 13, 2011

Psalm 111:1-10, “Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. The works of the LORD are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them. His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and full of compassion. He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant. He has declared to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of His hands are verity and justice; all His precepts are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”

How am I, how are you to respond to the work God is doing in this world, and in our lives?

For two weeks now we have opened up this intriguing passage and examined the subject of the work or works of God. In alphabet, acrostic fashion the psalmist has walked us through this subject, pointing out to us the facts. He has reminded us that when God does something, never mind what men think they can do! When God does something, something like an earthquake and a tsunami, what He does is off the charts! It is without comparison. Verse two says it like this: “the works of the Lord are great!” Verse 4 indicates that the works of the Lord are wonderful. That means that they cause your mouth to drop open and exclaim, “wow!” And, then verse six adds what we already know from the devastation of what we call 'natural disasters', earthquakes and tidal waves, and what we ought to know from watching Him work to SUPER-naturally bring someone out of darkness, out of the darkness of their sin and guilt and despair into the joy and light and hope of His salvation. Take a look, verse 6, adding to what we've already noticed in verses 2 and 4, verse 6 reminds of what ought to be obvious to all of us, when God works, when He does something, whether it be in the natural realm – in His creation – or, whether it be a work of what the Bible calls 'new creation' in Christ Jesus, what kind of work is it? How best is it to be described? Verse 6 – it is best to be described as a POWERFUL work! A display of God's unlimited strength!

How am I, how are you, to respond to the work God is doing in the world and in our lives? That's the question of the hour, the direction toward which this psalm, reading it, investigating it, teaching and preaching it must lead us. How are we to respond?

Before we answer that with at least 3 specific directives derived from this text, allow me to point out again to you the 'atmosphere', the overall 'mood' and 'tone' that ought to permeate these responses on our part, and with which the psalm begins and ends.

We've seen it before, in our previous lessons, but keep it in mind with me, will you? When God works, when He does something - verse one, first line, very first words – what should our response, I mean our automatic reply and reaction to it be? 'Praise ye the Lord!' 'Hallelujah!' Oh, not a flippant or frivolous or even sarcastic expression of praise. 'Oh, yeah! God did something, alright! Praise the Lord! Bah, humbug!' No, rather, the 'atmosphere', the attitude, if you will, of the child of God, as he or shee stands back and watches what God is up to should always, ultimately be, that of praise! 'Praise ye the Lord', the psalm begins with those words, and, in effect, it ends with those words: 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom', a dropped jaw sense of awe and reverence before the One, the only One, whose name – think of it – is 'Holy and Awesome', entering into the everlasting praise offered up to the One who does all these great and wonderful and powerful things, what better response, what more appropriate response, what wiser response can there be than to 'praise the Lord', to praise Him?

What are we to do, how are we to respond, when God does something? With in this 'atmosphere', this context of praise, the psalm offers three specific steps you and I ought to take in light of what God does and has done.

Number one, the psalmist urges us to STUDY, to diligently seek out so as to grasp, what God is up to, what He is doing. “The works of the Lord are great,” the text says, “studied sought out by all who have pleasure in them.”

Now, right off the bat, our first thought about this suggestion, this directive to study, is something like: 'Study?! I gave that up a long time ago! I mean, I graduated, got my diploma and everything, why do I need to STUDY anymore?'

Well, before we delve into this too far, let me ask you a question: how many of you like to be 'in the dark'? I mean, when some friends or loved ones of your are conversing about something, and you walk up and start to join in, all of the sudden you realize, “I don't have any idea what they are talking about! I'm in the dark about this subject!” How many of you would rather be 'in the know' than 'in the dark'? You - study what God is up to? Me – seek out what God is doing? You understand why the psalmist urges us to STUDY what God is doing, don't you? So that you might know and be 'in the know' when it comes to the work and works of God.

By the way, you realize, don't you, that when God works, He works primarily in one of four areas, in one of four ways. He works sovereignly - powerfully - with respect to His creation... And, He works sympathetically, in great pity and compassion, to HELP and to SAVE. Furthermore, He works SINLESSLY, out of His perfect righteousness when He judges, when He enters into judgment. And in all of those areas, in all of those ways, what does God do? He shows us His superiority, from His lofty position as the Creator and King of the universe, when He works, marvelously and yes, mysteriously, He proves that His ways, His thoughts and plans are higher and greater than ours!

STUDY God's works! To be 'in the know' rather than 'in the dark'! Study them, diligently search them out – why? For the sake of getting a degree or diploma to hang on the wall? For the sake of 'wowing' everyone as the 'What God is Up to 'Expert'? No! When my car is broken, I look at a repair manual – no, actually, I call in my sons who can read and understand those manuals! When my car is broken, I pull off the 'everything you always wanted to know about broken cars but were afraid to ask' book and devour it from cover to cover, right? No! I grab the REPAIR manual, the How-to book – you know why? So that I can get the old jalopy running again!

STUDY God's works – why? For the sake of gaining knowledge, understanding, wisdom, verse 10, that I can use in my everyday life!

How am I to respond, what are we to do, in light of what God is doing? Number one – we are to study, to seek out the meaning, the significance and even the personal apply-it-to-my-life lesson to be derived from it. But, why? Why would we want to do that? The purpose yes, is to be 'in the know' rather than 'in the dark'. But, look again at what drives or ought to drive that pursuit. Once again, verse 2, “the works of the Lord are great, studied, diligently sought out by all who have pleasure in them!”

A teacher or professional educator has suggested that a student learns best, what he loves most! I think that's the point of the psalmist here, don't you? You want to know, I want to find out what God is doing, why? Because we DELIGHT in what He's up to. We love what He's doing!

Sorry, Ladies, I don't mean to hurt any of you great cooks' feelings, seeing that you like to try out new recipes on us fellows. But, listen – when it comes to studying, food, right guys? When it comes to studying, searching out all I can find out about what you serve up on my plate, my delight, my love points me toward steak and potatoes, not toward eggplant casserole!

Why do we study God's works? What drives us to do so? Remember what the Teacher told us, we learn best what we love most... “The works of the Lord are great, studied – sought out – by all those who take pleasure in them!”

There's a second response, a fitting and appropriate response we should make, in light of what God is doing, and that is the one mentioned in verse 4. Take a look with me, will you please? The psalmist writes, beginning at verse 2, the works of the LORD are great, they cause your jaw to drop! Next there's verse 3, “the work of the LORD is honorable and glorious, majestic and splendid. Then, last of all, there's verse 4, which says of God's work and works, that what He does, what God is up to is wonderful, made up of one marvel after another. So, how am I to respond to all of those marvels? Verse 4 – I am to remember them.

Now, again, we have to stop and evaluate what is being communicated here: the wonderful works of our great and gracious God, we are challenged to REMEMBER them. How? Why? You know, at first glance, what I perceive the psalmist telling us to do, is to kind of sit back in our rocking chairs with a good cup of coffee, thinking about the 'good ole days' until we fall asleep. 'Nothing like remembering what God has done for me!'

Now, while there's nothing wrong, and actually, a whole lot that is right about good memories guiding your thoughts about God and His work, listen, I think what the psalmist has in mind here is a lot more active and alive than just simply leaning back in the rocking chair and drifting off into the sweet dreams about God's goodness.

Rather, I believe that what he has in mind for us here is what he states in a similar passage over in Psalm 105. It's one of those 'photo album' psalms. One of those passages where God's poet pulls out the pictures and begins to tell the stories of what God has done for His people.

Psalm 105:1-6, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face evermore! Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth, O seed of Abraham His servant, you children of Jacob, His chosen ones!”

When the poet wrote those words – and the words of our text Psalm 111 – he didn't plan on us rocking away into sleepy-land! No! He intended for us, as we think of what God has done for us, to TELL somebody about it! Yes, pull the children and grand-children, mom and dad, husband or wife, grandpa and grandma around and make God - not Barack Obama, not Charlie Sheen, nor even the price of gas and an earthquake and tidal wave in Japan – gather your friends and loved ones around and make God the talk of the town! Remember, we've got to remember, what God has done for us, and study, diligently seek out, what He is doing in this world and in our lives – why?

One more response, one more way to reply to what God is up to. Verse 10 – the wisest decision you and I could ever make. Do you know what it is?

Response number three, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, a good understanding (I like the way that is put there, don't you?) have all those who DO His commandments! What is the third, final, and I believe, the most fitting response of all that we can make to what God is doing?

Out of a humble, surrendered heart, we can OBEY, we can DO what He commands! We can, we should, we must, act wisely and reverently in keeping with what He has done and is doing for us!

Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord, with all of my heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. The fear of the Lord is the beginning – the chief part - of wisdom, a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever...”

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