Series: Songs of the Soul

Psalm 143

Sermon Passage: Psalm 143

How do I pray when spiritually assaulted? How do I prepare beforehand?

Psalm 143 is a prayer of David when his soul was being assaulted. He says his enemies pursued him. "I don't have enemies," you might say, "so how can I pray this?" You do have an enemy and you are in war. Your sin assaults you and threatens to cause destruction in your life. You sin is a constant enemy you fight against that will capture your heart. However, if you are saved, you're on the winning side. Satan and his demons pursue the faithful to tempt them into further sin, but God is our divine warrior.

How we pray reveals our view of God. It reveals how much our heart is inclined toward wonder and trust of God. When we're in the midst of assault, we sometimes don't see a clear way to get out. We become hopeless and despair. In verse 3, David says he feels as hopeless as one stumbling in the dark or as one who is already dead. In the midst of despair, my soul is so depleted that I can't remember the last time I felt spiritual nourishment. In verse 4, David says his heart is numb with despair.

What is our response in this situation of despair? Do we blame those who have caused our situation? Do we sulk in bitterness and self-pity, saying "poor me"? David doesn't. He turns to his memory of all God has done for him. He turns this into praise. Bitterness and self-pity are easy as they are self-affirming and prideful. We want to see ourselves as martyrs or heroes. But God is the hero in our story. David remembers God's past blessing and turns this into trust of God's present and future goodness. This response isn't natural. Self-pity is natural. This response is a habit, a second nature, that we cultivate to affirm our trust in God.

Only in Christ do we have the ability to have hope in despair, joy in tears, and trust in God when all else is stripped away. Our aim in this life isn't to get what we want or leave our kids with more than we had but to get God! We pursue wonder, trust, and praise in him. Growing in joy of God is our only goal and all else can be stripped away. When is the last time your heart skipped a beat because you remembered you have God? We pursue more and more joy in him through training our heart as the Psalms train our hearts to meditate on the wonder of God and taking joy in him alone. All else can pass away and we still have this joy because we are aware of God's love and grace that he continually shows us.

It is okay to ask for your situation to get better, however, but there's a catch. David says in verse 9 that his joy isn't in relief from his situation. He already has his joy. He turned to God and declared his joy in the midst of trials. We don't ditch God as soon as he delivers us. David asks for God's continued presence to teach him (verse 10). Further, his motive in asking for deliverance isn't his own comfort but that God should show himself glorious as his grace overcomes darkness. God's grace creates a story in David's life that he tells others to call them to praise.

In trials, David prays more for internal change than external change. His goal is not relief but joy in praising God. What if your goal in trials was not deliverance but to turn more and more to God, asking him to teach your heart to delight in obeying him?

Psalm 139

Sermon Passage: Psalm 139

SERMON NOTES

You cannot grow in love for God without growing in knowledge of God. It's hard to love someone we don't know well. How do we grow in knowledge of God?

In Psalm 139, the psalmist draws us into big thoughts of God. He leads us into awe of God similar to the wonder a child has for its father. When they go for a walk, it is joy enough for the child to walk with its father. The child is blissfully trusting of his father as he leads the child. The child is ever joyful and does not worry about obstacles in the path, for the child is confident that his father will help him overcome every hardship.

This psalm leads us to contemplate God's knowledge, presence, and craftsmanship. These big thoughts of God grow our knowledge of him and consequently our love for the God we know.

The psalmist praises God for his knowledge. God knows everything about me, even more than I know. Imagine a conversation with someone who knows our every motive, everything you will ever do, and every time you deceive yourself. This is an overwhelming amount of info. It is mind-boggling. Or, as the psalmist says in verse 6, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it."

God knows your sin better than you do, but he is still patient with you. You know the sins of your close family and friends better than anyone else. How patient are you? God's attribute of being all-knowing is coupled with his attribute of patience. God knows the sin you have committed and will continue to commit, yet he is not annoyed, frustrated, or impatient that you don't understand and haven't changed yet. He is patient.

The knowledge of God is comforting in another way as well. The fact that we cannot hide from the Spirit or say, "Nobody understands what I'm going through." Not only does God know, he knows it better than you and he leads you through it (vv. 10-12). Our dark times are well lit to God. We cannot see a way forward, and the path ahead is dark. Yet, for God, he knows what is ahead and sees the path clearly. He leads you through hit as a father leads a child or as someone leads the blind through obstacles. Meanwhile, there is no need to fear that our Father will not successfully lead us through.

In fact, God not only knows the path ahead, he created it! Before you were even conceived and born, God knew your entire life (vv. 13-16). We rely on God in hard times and come out on the other side praising God (vv. 17-18).

As we become more intimately acquainted with God, we love the things God loves and hate the things God hates. When someone offends God, we are offended. We do not seek vengeance or hate our enemies instead of loving them. Verses 19-21 declare that God's friends are my friends an God's enemies are my enemies. IT declares that God's glory and honor are more valuable than even their life. The psalmist does not declare that he will act against God's enemies. He says that he anticipates God's justice. However, God is not only patient with you, he is patient with his enemies. This Psalm is only complete as we read Jesus later saying that he loves his enemies and that we should too (Matthew 5:43-48). In fact, he saved us while we were still his enemies (Romans 5:8).

As we root for God's justice, the psalmist doesn't say, "I'm sure glad I'm not like 'those people,' your enemies." Instead, he knows that evil still remains in himself. We are not heroes. Christ is. The psalmist tells God, "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" (verses 23-24). The psalmist wants nothing more than to have God overcome evil in him so that he will glorify God more. He knows that he is the result of God's grace and patience. In confidence that God leads his children through obstacles, he asks for God's leadership all the more.

Psalm 126

Sermon Passage: Psalm 1262 Chronicles 36:11-23

SERMON NOTES

The Psalmist begins in verse 1 by referring to the Lord's restoration of Israel. What is this restoration? Through their disobedience Israel invited calamity upon themselves. God used this calamity to discipline them and remind them of his call to obedience. After disciplining them through calamity, the Lord restored them (See also 1 Chronicles 36:11-23).

The most significant restoration of Israel came after the Babylonians had captured them, exiling them from their land. After a time, the Lord moved the rulers of Babylon to allow Israel to return to their land and rebuild. This was as shocking as if ISIS decided to fund a Christian church planting movement. This is jaw-dropping. It's as if a friend unexpectedly offered to pay for your two week vacation or if you suddenly received a large inheritance from an unknown relative. "Pinch me. I'm dreaming," you might say. Or, in the words of the Psalmist in verse 2, "Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy."

In the same way, as we grow to love God more and become aware of the plight God saved us from, we too are filled with laughter and shouts of joy. God has saved us from eternal punishment. In the future, we will now enjoy an eternity of joy in God's presence!

But what do I have today to rejoice about? Heaven is all fine and good, but it's difficult to let that future prospect cause a "laughing out loud" response today.

What you have now is victory in Christ. You have a reason to live and have joy even in hard times. Our complaints are like a spoiled child who gets everything he wants on Christmas but still complains that one toy is not his favorite color.

The Psalmist cries out for restoration even while in the deserts of Negeb (verse 4). Even in the midst of trial or dry times in our lives, we should call out for restoration. The psalmist doesn't just passively wait, however. In verse 5 he says that the desert times in our lives should be filled with work. We should be sowing seeds that will bring about change and restoration. The desert doesn't bloom if nobody is planting. 

Our response to our trials sows seeds that will bear fruit in the future. What kind of seed are you planting? Are you responding in bitterness, impatience, faltering faith, neglected Bible reading, anger, frustration, despair? If these are the seeds you sow, then they are the only fruit you'll reap. You'll grow more bitter and have a future filled only with more bitterness. However, if instead you respond to suffering with shouts of joy to God that even in the midst of trail you are joyful for his graciously saving you from eternal punishment, then you will have joy in suffering and bear fruit of future joy. If in trials you seek only the satisfaction found in Christ rather than the satisfaction found in the comfort of getting out of your current situation, then you will be planting seeds of joy that will produce the fruit of lasting joy. When you are in hard times, respond not with bitterness, grumpiness, and frustration. Respond instead with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control.

Working for joy in hard times is difficult. That is why the psalmist says, "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!" You may complain that it's impossible to plant in the desert, that it's impossible to be joyful in your situation. "You don't know what I'm going through." Tell that to the guy who has a truck full of fruit and has made the desert bloom. If you respond in joy, love, and grace in your current trial, God will turn your trial into a reason to rejoice, a story that you will tell to everyone about God's joy that overcame darkness.

Psalm 116

Sermon Passage:  Psalm 116

SERMON NOTES

How do we get better at loving God and people? 1 Corinthians 13 says that everything we do is meaningless without love. We can learn from the Psalms, which train our affections.

In Psalm 116, the psalmist expresses anxiety over experiencing suffering. What was his response? He calls on the name of the Lord. This is significant. Calling on the name of the Lord appeals to his character. What is the result of God's character being invoked? Verses 5-6 display's God's response. He is gracious and righteous, merciful and preserves us. He provides salvation and rest for our souls. The Lord's response contains bountiful blessing.

Notice that God is gracious AND righteous. How much grace do we give people before our grace runs out? How much grace can God show your enemies and the wicked before we question his righteousness? "It isn't fair," we might say. "They don't deserve it!" Neither do we. Nobody does. God is patient even with the wicked.

Likewise, when we see pain and suffering around the world, next door, or in our lives, will we call God stingy and unrighteous? God is righteous and gives grace according to his plan, not yours. God is patient and righteous even with you.

We agree that God is righteous and gracious when thinking about it in the abstract, but we don't really believer our theology until it gives us rest. God HAS dealt bountifully with us, and if we forget that it is because we forget how wicked we are and how righteous God it.

No one and nothing will satisfy my current affliction like God. There is no one you can call on but the name of the Lord, appealing to his gracious and righteous character. All else leads to further emptiness.

The Psalmist is overjoyed at the bountiful rest and blessing he has been given by God. He asks what he shall do in thanksgiving. His response to life's abundant blessings and life's afflictions is the same. He calls on the name of the Lord. When trials pass, we might think, "Why do I need to call on the name of the Lord now? I don't need anything." The psalmist, however, knows that we need God in every moment, even during abundance.

The Psalmist says that the death of saints is precious to God. "I thought we were asking deliverance from death." Your bad situation can stick with you all the way to death, and this is not failure. You don't need deliverance from physical death or discomfort. In the midst of suffering we call on God's name to thank him for saving us from offending him. Because of his grace, we can experience the joy of salvation and relationship with God even in the midst of suffering.

When the cares of this world compete for you attention and affection, renounce comfort and the pursuit of these things. "No, you have not saved me and provided rest and joy in suffering like God has!" It is wrong to wait for joy at the end of trials, hoping it will come some day. Joy is found today in calling on the name of the Lord because he is gracious and righteous to save us and bless us bountifully in the midst of suffering. He has given us himself. If you don't feel the weight of that blessing, they your next step is to realize what wickedness and self-destruction you have been graciously saved from and are still being saved from.

Psalm 130

Sermon Passages: Psalms 130

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
2 O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
    that you may be feared.
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is plentiful redemption.
8 And he will redeem Israel
    from all his iniquities.

Psalm 115

Sermon Passages: Psalms 111Philippians 3:8

SERMON NOTES

God is in control and does as he pleases, not as you please. The psalmist taunts idolaters telling them that their gods are only carvings and can't do anything. They made their own gods because they wanted ones that served them.

Nobody ever makes up a god who disagrees with them. They (and we) want self-serving gods:
You will only make idols that look like you.
You become like your god.
We expect out idols to give us something only God can. We pursue comfort, fulfillment, a sense of purpose, security, or anything else that only God can give. Stop waiting for your idols to bless you. Only God does, and he does no matter what your past contains. He blesses all his children.

Then we take his blessings for granted. We gain a sense of entitlement saying that we deserve ours, hoarding our blessings, or doubting God once he takes them from us. He didn't have to give them to us in the first place. We begin pursuing the gifts over the Giver, making them the idols we serve instead of God.

God's blessings are not our help and shield, our sole source of joy and satisfaction. Only God himself is that.

What will we do with the stuff God has given us? Will we use it to pursue and glorify him or will we use it to build an idol?

Psalm 111

Sermon Passages: Psalms 111; Philippians 3:8

SERMON NOTES

How does salvation change our emotions, affections, and passions? Psalms train emotions by appealing to every emotion and situation we have and teaching us how to respond in a godly way.

Why do we struggle to pray? We praise, petition, and thank God, but what do we do when we don't feel like it? How do we thank and praise God when we don't get what we want and we don't like the situation he's put us in?

Psalms are God-breathed art to train our emotions and train our prayers. Many of us don't stop long enough to meditate (think deeply) about God. When we do pray, we start blathering and don't stop to listen. We don't have ears to hear God. We burn our time on social media. Even if we don't, we find other things to burn our time. We have spiritual ADD and don't STOP to meditate on God. The Psalms are beautiful God-inspired meditative reflections of people who STOPPED to listen, reflect, and express their love of God.

In Psalm 111, we see King David beautifully meditating on God. This psalm is written an acrostic in the original Hebrew language. This was for the purpose of helping people remember it. For us, that means whatever it contains is worth remembering and reflecting on. King David was the king of 6 million people. He was busier than you. Still, he made time to stop, meditate on God, and write the longest book in the Bible.

The Psalm begins by mentioning community worship. In community, we see others worship God and are inspired to do so ourselves. The psalmist continues by rehearsing all the awesome things God has done in order to thank and praise him. He meditates and reflects on the things God has done for his nation and for him personally. What has God done in your life?

Delighting in God is the psalmist's theme in verse 2 and beyond. He delights in the thought that everything happens exactly how God wants it to. How many different things had to happen perfectly to bring you to salvation, both in your personal life and in history? Delight in those works. This should lead you to praise (verse 3). There are all kinds of evil in your past, difficult circumstances or sin. Nevertheless, God can never be blamed and charged with error, according to the psalmist. God never says, "oops." When everything is a mess in your life, the only thing that is certain is that God is good. The psalmist bases his response to circumstances on the character of God. His emotional reaction is a response to God's character of goodness and not his own loss or benefit.

God gives us signposts along the way to remind us of his good character, such as the Lord's Supper, watching baptisms, sermons, corporate worship, and the accountability relationships of mutual discipleship. If you are looking for miracles to see God's work, just STOP and think about your own life. Don't just intellectually agree that God is merciful and gracious (verse 4). Stop and contemplate it. All your blessings are undeserved. Think about how God did not create a plan of grace and redemption for fallen angels. They didn't get a second chance but you did. Jesus did not miraculously heal everybody he came into contact with. He passed by many but healed some. God could have passed you up, but he graciously saved you instead. "This is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). God does not owe you anything.

God also does not need to explain himself to you. Our consuming thought should not be trying to understand why everything happens. All we need to know is that God is good, he is in control, and his plan is better than yours. His plans are always good and always succeed (verses 7-8).

The goal of the Christian life is not to get a better version of yourself but to get God, loving and delighting in him.