Saturday, June 25, 2005

Sermon for June 26, 2005

Sermon - June 23 and 26, 2005 Ascension Lutheran Church Psalm 89

Title: Where are you?

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The text for our consideration today is Psalm 89. The Psalms are often overlooked, but today we will let this Psalm take us on a journey under the question: Where are you?

We just sang some excerpts from Psalm 89. Only portions of 6 verses of the Psalm were included, yet there are actually 52 verses in this Psalm. We will move on to consider the Psalm as a whole.

Answering The Question
Since the title of this sermon is a question, I am sure you are waiting for me to pose the question. So, here we go. Where are you? Perhaps you suspect a trick question. You may think I am asking what state of mind you are in. No, I am asking about your location. You could give a number of answers, such as Ascension Lutheran Church, Rochester, Minnesota, United States, Earth and so forth. Those are all correct. Now I will do what teachers do and ask you to give the best answer. If I ask you "where are you?," what is the best, most important answer you could give? The answer I am looking for is "I am in God’s house."

You don’t hear that phrase "God’s house" too often any more. If we went back a generation or two, it would be much more common to hear it. We see it used regularly in the Bible. The patriarch Jacob in Gen 28:17 said: "‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’" Jacob named that place Bethel, which means "house of God" in Hebrew. In Exodus 23:19, God commanded that offerings were to be brought, saying: "Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God." Late in Israel’s history, in Ezra 5:2 the phrase is still used: "Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem."

Psalm 84:10 explains the value we ought to place in the house of God. It says: "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked." The care we should exercise in coming to God’s house is explained in Ecclesiastes 5:1 "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong."

Application to You
Now consider this thought: you are in the house of God. Did you think about that when you walked into the building this eveningmorning? How about when you took your seat?

This is a special place. What sort of attitude should you have about coming into the house of God? That attitude will reflect what you think about God himself. The text from Psalm 89 helps us think about this attitude toward God. In Verses 7-13 we hear of the might and power of God. He should be respected and feared:

In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies. The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. You created the north and the south; Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name. Your arm is endued with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.

These verses help us see the attitude we ought to have – of fearing the power of God. He is to be feared above all things. He is more powerful than any other. He has a strong arm, which is a figure of speech, putting the concept of God’s power into human terms. He crushed Rahab, another name for Egypt, in the ten plagues and the Exodus of Israel.

God is the powerful founder and creator of the whole world - everything we see. The heavens and the earth. He created the directions North and South. He created everything from one end to the other end and He even created the ends.

The attitude of fear and respect of God is not a very popular attitude today. It isn’t often discussed that God is a awesome, mighty, powerful god who is ruler of the universe. Instead, God is turned into only a kind, gentle god. He is made to be like a little teddy bear. If we do that, we have missed an important aspect of God and our relationship to Him. He created us and He rules over us. We are obligated to obey Him in all that he commands and wishes. We are responsible to Him.

Check on Your Attitude
What is it like to come into the house of the ruler of the universe? What is it like to come into the presence of the most powerful being who exists?

What was your attitude when you came into this house of God this morning? Did you think about the fact that you were approaching the house of the highest, most important being in the world?

Unfortunately, each of us probably didn’t approach God’s house with an appropriate fear and reverence toward God. This is a sin. It is a violation of God’s will for us to not approach with the right attitude.

There are consequences for this sin. God requires justice be enforced. The sin demands a penalty. In Psalm 89, verse 14 it says "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne." God requires punishment for sin. He requires righteousness of we who are His creation. We are facing the penalty of the eternal punishment due for our sins. In verses 31 and 32, Psalm 89 says: "if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands, I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging." We are facing a hopeless situation on account of our sin. Verse 48: "What man can live and not see death, or save himself from the power of the grave?" Eternal death is what awaits us.

Here Comes the Good Gospel
Where are you?

You are in the house of God. This God has not left us without hope. The hope is expressed in Psalm 89. Verses 14-17 say:

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn.

These verses tell us that God requires righteousness and justice. Yet, it is the righteousness of God for which we praise Him, not our righteousness. "They exult in your righteousness." It is righteousness that is given to us. It is God’s faithfulness to us that provides His righteousness to us. Because of this righteousness we have the added benefit of being blessed. As we are taught of this righteousness that is given to us we learn to walk in the light of the presence of God. We are blessed. We thereby rejoice in the name of God because of the wonderful gift He gives us.

Now, how does this righteousness come to us? Psalm 89 teaches us about the answer to this question also. It talks about the promises made to the king in the line of king David of Israel. Verses 3 and 4 say:

You said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.'

Later, Psalm 89 in verses 19-29 continues to discuss this promise and show how the promise is fulfilled in the descendant of king David whom we call Jesus Christ.

Once you spoke in a vision, to your faithful people you said: "I have bestowed strength on a warrior; I have exalted a young man from among the people. I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him. My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him. No enemy will subject him to tribute; no wicked man will oppress him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries. My faithful love will be with him, and through my name his horn will be exalted. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers. He will call out to me, 'You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.' I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth. I will maintain my love to him forever, and my covenant with him will never fail. I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as the heavens endure.

Although these words could be seen to partly apply to king David, they are only fulfilled completely in Jesus Christ. His throne is the one that endures forever. All His foes are crushed. Only He can be understood as the firstborn of God, that is, the Son of God.

Suffering Son
Now Psalm 89 goes on to explain what needed to happen for Jesus to bring us God’s righteousness. The Father needed to reject or turn away from the Son on the cross. Starting at verse 38, the psalm says:

But you have rejected, you have spurned, you have been very angry with your anointed one. You have renounced the covenant with your servant and have defiled his crown in the dust. You have broken through all his walls and reduced his strongholds to ruins. All who pass by have plundered him; he has become the scorn of his neighbors. You have exalted the right hand of his foes; you have made all his enemies rejoice. You have turned back the edge of his sword and have not supported him in battle. You have put an end to his splendor and cast his throne to the ground. You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with a mantle of shame.

Our almighty God came to us and humbled Himself to the point of dying on a cross for our sins. He took our punishment on Himself and delivered His righteousness to us. Our sins have been forgiven.

He didn’t stop there. The psalm posed the question mentioned earlier: "What man can live and not see death, or save himself from the power of the grave?" The answer is: Jesus Christ can live and not see death. He did die, temporarily. He came alive again after dying on the cross. He saved Himself from the power of the grave. This is great news, because He can then pass this blessing on to us and grant us eternal life. We, too, are saved from the power of the grave. Death has been conquered.

We have journeyed through Psalm 89, starting with the appropriate fear of God in recognition of: His almighty status, our sins and our responsibility to Him for those sins. We then saw that God took care of our sins, our lack of righteousness, by giving us His righteousness. The plan to carry this out was through the descendant of king David, Jesus Christ. Jesus needed to suffer for us, to be rejected by the Father on the cross, as He took on our sins and died. He then gave us His righteousness and victory over the grave.

Where are you?

Hebrews 12 provides the appropriate conclusion to answer this question when it journeys from Mt. Sinai where the Law was given to Mt. Zion where forgiveness is given. Where are you?
You have not come to Mt. Sinai, a place to remain fearful. Hebrews 12 says (in verses 18-24):

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned." ... But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

May being here, where you are, in the house of God, cause you to rejoice all day long in the name and the righteousness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

In the name of Jesus. Kevin Buchs.


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