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Thanking God in Hard Times. Psalm 75:1-10.
October 8, 2017

There are a lot of reasons why it seems odd to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Not only does it seem that we just finished summer, but also in regards to what is going on in our world. We have witnessed tropical storms, earthquakes, terrorist acts and so many instances of suffering. For those who face challenges in their personal life, it just doesn’t seem to make sense to be giving thanks. For those who have been spared these particular difficulties, we wonder if it is appropriate to celebrate with so much suffering.

 

Yet, even when we live in a world of terrorism, crime, injustice and suffering, we can still give thanks because of the God who is sovereignly over all this. He can be praised because He is righteous and just. At the end of Psalm 74, the appeal has been made for God to rise up and defend his own cause (Ps. 74:22–23). In Psalm 75 the theme of judgment occurs, even in the midst of giving thanks There is no certain indication within the psalm of the historical setting, though the use of ‘Do Not Destroy’ in the title suggests it was composed in a period of impending danger for God’s people. The most probable date is the Assyrian siege of 701 bc. The language of this psalm borrows from earlier songs, especially the song of Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1–10). Authorship of this psalm is attributed to Asaph, a chief musician in Solomon’s temple (2 Chr. 5:12). It may come from him or from a guild of singers named after him. Commentators identify the form as a hymn of praise, or a mixed form of praise and prophecy or a prophetic liturgy. It seems unnecessary to speak of mixed forms, however, when God addresses those who address Him (Williams, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1989). Psalms 73–150 (Vol. 14, p. 33). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.)..

 

We can praise God and give Him thanks because He is in control of these apparent chaotic situations. For the people of God, we are not at the mercy of the evil that is around us. Regardless if we suffer ourselves or see the suffering all around us suffering is not the end of the story. Psalm 75 is a prayer of thanksgiving to God before the event even takes place! (McGee, J. V. (1991). Thru the Bible commentary: Poetry (Psalms 42-89) (electronic ed., Vol. 18, p. 143). Nashville: Thomas Nelson)

 

With confidence on the the righteousness and justice of God, we are able to be “Thanking God in Hard Times”. For the people of God this is seen in 1) A Communal Thanksgiving (Psalm 75:1), 2) A Careful Thanksgiving (Psalm 75:2-5),  3) A Contemplative Thanksgiving (Psalm 75:6-8), and finally 4) A Certain Thanksgiving (Psalm 57:9-10).

 

We are able to be “Thanking God in Hard Times” through:

1)                  A Communal Thanksgiving (Psalm 75:1) 

Psalm 75:1 We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. (ESV)

The opening song of thanks and praise is related to both the sense of the immediate presence of God with the people and to the knowledge that He has acted on their behalf in a mighty way in the past. This verse sets the context of the psalm in the worshiping community and shows by example part of the nature of worship. God has established his name in the place of worship (Deut 12:5, 11), and it is foundational to His relationship with his people (Exod 3:13–15). We thank the Lord for all He has done and we tell others about His wonderful works. Though God wants us to bring our burdens to Him and seek His help, worship begins with getting our eyes of faith off the circumstances of life and focusing them on the Lord God Almighty.( Wiersbe, W. W. (2004). Be worshipful (1st ed., p. 244). Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries.)

 

Please turn to Revelation 4 (p. 1030)

 

There is no better way to give thanks to God than corporate worship. Giving thanks to God is central and an eternal aspect of worship. Presently in the throne room of God, it is the function of the four living creatures which exhibit features of cherubim (full of eyes; lion; ox; man; eagle) and the seraphim (six wings; “Holy, holy, holy”) glimpsed by previous prophets (Isa. 6:2–3; Ezek. 1:10, 18).( Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2470). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.)

 

Notice this function of worship and thanks:

Revelation 4:8–11And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”  (ESV)

 

Name’ Psalm 75:1 is used in a way similar to Exodus 23:20–21, where the Lord declared that his name was in the angel who was being sent before the children of Israel. ‘Name’ is simply the revelation of God’s character. ‘The Name of the Lord’ occurs as a title for God in Isaiah 30:27. God’s name represents His presence. The history of God’s supernatural interventions on behalf of His people demonstrated that God was personally immanent. But OT saints did not have the fullness from permanent, personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that we enjoy as New Covenant Saints (cf. John 14:1, 16, 17; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19) (MacArthur, J., Jr. (Ed.). (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed., p. 808). Nashville, TN: Word Pub.).

 

The presence of God is invoked by praise and by recounting God’s wonderous deeds in the life of the community as a whole and of the individuals in it. His actions have formed and sustained the community in specific ways, and the memory of this activity in the past gives a solid basis for hoping for similar salvific intervention in the future. Praise actualizes the divine presence in the divine name (Tate, M. E. (1998). Psalms 51–100 (Vol. 20, p. 258). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.).Proclaiming God’s past deeds on behalf of His people also brings reassurance to the people in their present distress. The congregation that sings this is taking the stance of faith; certainly there are many times when God’s faithful people must simply await his timing and not give in to despair. (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1030). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.)

  • Thanksgiving does not wait for when we feel like celebrating. Today is a reminder that our greatest thanks must be for God Himself. He is the basis of everything else to which we should be thankful for. When we consider His regard for us, in no better way than seeing our redemption in Christ, then, like the death of Christ, there can often be a blessing that is behind the tears. But, when God’s people forget what he has done for them they soon lose touch with him, and vice versa (Lane, E. (2006). Psalms 1-89: the lord saves (p. 333). Scotland: Christian Focus Publications.).

 

Illustration: We express similar thoughts when we sing that moving hymn by Maltbie Babcock (1901): This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world: The battle is not done; Jesus who died shall be satisfied, And earth and heav’n be one.

Are you aware that God really is near at hand, that He is present in all that happens, and that nothing that ever comes into your life or happens to others is accidental? If you can see that and really believe it, it will transform all of life for you. You will never again be “under the circumstances,” as we say, but always above them. If you know that God is near, you should thank him for it. (Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 42–106: An Expositional Commentary (p. 626). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)

 

We are able to be “Thanking God in Hard Times” through:

2)                  A Careful Thanksgiving (Psalm 75:2-5)

Psalm 75:2-5 “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn; do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with haughty neck.’ ” (ESV)

 

In verse 2, God speaks decisively to his people of the fact that He will intervene at His chosen time. It is possible that the phrase rendered “the set time that I appoint” (mo‘ed) alludes to the heart of the festival, the solemn time, climax in the sacred calendar, when God purges and restores all for the new year. Such ceremony was seen as a time of God’s saving action indeed, and yet also a prefiguring of his ultimate salvation.( Eaton, J. (2003). The Psalms: a historical and spiritual commentary with an introduction and new translation (p. 273). London; New York: T&T Clark.)

 

He is the divine judge who calls all people to account. The history of redemption bears out the truth of God’s oracle of judgment. He is patient, but at His time he does judge. Though, (for a season) He may let wicked individuals and nations go unpunished and even the godly may pray for their deliverance for long periods of time, the Lord will suddenly introduce “the appointed time” for judgment. He is the great Judge-Ruler, who will not permit wickedness, evil powers, and the arrogant to undermine the foundations of his kingdom. Modern understanding of God’s judgment is mainly pejorative. This psalm proclaims that “God’s judgment” belongs in the place of praise-filled worship. It is, indeed, good news for the servants of God (Tanner, B. (2014). Book Three of the Psalter: Psalms 73–89. In E. J. Young, R. K. Harrison, & R. L. Hubbard Jr. (Eds.), The Book of Psalms (p. 605). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.).

 

That the earth and the inhabitants totters/shakes/quakes in verse 3 is a metaphor for the erosive effects of evil. Immorality undermines the stability of earth and society (cf. 11:3). In the experiences of the wickedness and arrogance of a Babylon or a Nazi Germany, the Lord proclaims that: “it is I who keep steady its pillars”. He graciously upholds his creation. The pillars (ʿammûḏeyhā) shore up the moral order, preventing his creation from collapsing (cf. 104:5).(VanGemeren, W. A. (1991). Psalms. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Vol. 5, p. 492). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.). This verse may well be applied to Christ. The world’s inhabitants were being dissolved by sin and destruction was threatened to the whole creation. Christ bore up the pillars and saved the world from utter ruin by saving His people from their sins. He upholds all things by the word of His power.” (Brooks, K. (2009). Summarized Bible: Complete Summary of the Old Testament (p. 126). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.)

  • We give thanks, not having much good fortune, or for our great ingenuity of preservation, but in acknowledging that it is God who preserves the righteous. We can “Thank God in Hard Times” for His work of preservation.

 

A different form of reassurance is given to the boastful/proud in verse 4. They need to realize that they can try and exalt themselves against God, but all their pride and boasting will come to nought. When God warns: “the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn”, the “horn” is a symbol of strength (Job 16:15; 1 Sam 2:1), power (1 Sam 2:10; Lam 2:17), dignity, and glory (Pss 89:18, 25; 92:10; 132:17). In Ps 132:17 and Dan 7:7, 8, 24, horns represent kings. Yahweh lifts the horn of the Davidic king (Ps 89:18, 25), of the faithful worshiper (Ps 92:11), and of (or on behalf of) his people (Ps 148:14). Exalting one’s own horn is synonymous with haughtiness and arrogance. Cutting off the horn (Jer 48:25; Lam 2:3) is a humiliating judgment: power and arrogance are overwhelmed and brought to nothing. (Tesh, S. E., & Zorn, W. D. (1999). Psalms (p. 66). Joplin, MO: College Press.)

 

Please turn to Romans 1 (p. 939)

 

The arrogant are described in verse 5 as having: ahaughty/stiff/outstretched neck’ which speaks of pride or arrogance. God’s declaration is directed to the wicked, calling for the cessation of their boastful displays. A “haughty/stiff/outstretched neck’” and proud speech are marks of an insolent and rebellious person, not one who is bowed down in submission to the Lord (Deut. 31:27; 2 Kings 17:14; 2 Chron. 36:13; Jer. 7:26) (Wiersbe, W. W. (2004). Be worshipful (1st ed., p. 245). Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries.).

 

A central boast of the unbeliever relates to a failure to be thankful:

Romans 1:18-25 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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. 21 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. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (ESV)

  • Unfortunately thanksgiving for most is being thankful that they were able to achieve so much, or just being lucky. People know (v.19) the truth about God’s provision and sustaining which is revealed through what can be seen. They know this (v.20). Their failure to honor God (v.21) and give thanks to Him for their common blessings is the height of folly (v.22).

 

Illustration:It is not hard to think of examples of the outpouring of the wrath of God against those who have excelled in doing evilPharaoh reacted to God’s command to let his people go by saying, “Who is God that I should obey him?” Nebuchadnezzar endeavored to set his throne and kingdom above him whose throne and kingdom are for ever and ever. Herod listened to the adulations of his degenerate admirers: “It is the voice of a god and not of a man.” Coming nearer to our own time, we have read of how Adolf Hitler gazed at a picture of himself riding proudly on a white horse, a picture which bore the blasphemous title: “In the Beginning was the Word.” Then in a voice that deliberately mocked Christ, the eternal King, he exclaimed, “I am providence.”

But Pharaoh and his hosts are swept to destruction; Nebuchadnezzar becomes a companion of “the beasts of the field”; Herod is devoured by worms; and Hitler becomes a suicide.Those that walk in pride God is able to abase.” “He shall cut off the spirit of princes; he is terrible to the kings of the earth.” “All the horns of the wicked will I cut off.”

Surely, “the One enthroned in heaven laughs” at such arrogance and will in time terrify the wicked “in his wrath” (Ps. 2:4–5). (Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 42–106: An Expositional Commentary (pp. 628–629). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)

 

Although it is a horrible picture of judgment, the righteous can give thanks to God that ultimately, justice will be done.

 

We are able to be “Thanking God in Hard Times” through:

3)                  A Contemplative Thanksgiving (Psalm 75:6-8)

Psalm 75:6-8 For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs. (ESV)

 

The first part of verse 6 mentions ‘east’ and ‘west’, using two out of several terms common in Old Testament Hebrew for these points of the compass. A Jew could search in any directioneast, west, or the desert (south, Egypt)—and he would never find anybody who can do what only God can do. Why is north omitted? To look in that direction would mean seeking help from the enemies, Assyria and Babylon! (See Jer. 1:13–16; 4:6; 6:22–26.) (Wiersbe, W. W. (2004). Be worshipful (1st ed., p. 246). Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries.)

 

No one from north or south, east or west, can usurp the place of God. As verse 7 emphasizes, it is God alone who is the judge and deliverer, and he acts sovereignly to bring either judgment or deliverance.

 

The ‘Cup’ in verse 8 stands for God’s judgment (as does ‘wine’ in Ps. 60:3), and God is pictured as putting the cup to the lips of the wicked until they drink it to the last dregs. The prophets repeatedly use the same imagery for the concept of God’s wrath (Isa. 51:17–23; Jer. 25:27; 49:12; Hab. 2:15–16). The Lord Jesus Christ drank the cup for us (Matt. 26:36–46), but those who refuse to trust Him will drink the cup of judgment to the very dregs.( Wiersbe, W. W. (2004). Be worshipful (1st ed., p. 246). Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries.)

 

Please turn to 1 Corinthians 15 (p. 962)

 

All these pictures of triumph over foes are merely precursors to the triumph over the universe’s greatest foe: sin and death. It is this enemy to which the wrath of God is poured out and the deliverance from this enemy to which the saints are to be most thankful.

 

Notice the description of this enemy and the thanksgiving deliverance that follows:

1 Corinthians 15:50–57 50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55  “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)

  • A much as we would properly give thanks for health, relationships, provision, employment and so many other things, they would all be for not, without the victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.  

 

Illustration:In 1636, amid the darkness of the Thirty Years’ War, a German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to have buried five thousand of his parishioners in one year, an average of fifteen a day. His parish was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster. In the heart of that darkness, with the cries of fear outside his window, he sat down and wrote this table grace for his children: “Now thank we all our God With heart and hands and voices; Who wondrous things hath done, In whom his world rejoices. Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath led us on our way With countless gifts of love And still is ours today.” Here was a man who knew thanksgiving comes from love of God, not from outward circumstances.( Larson, C. B. (2002). 750 engaging illustrations for preachers, teachers & writers (pp. 578–579). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)

 

We are able to be “Thanking God in Hard Times” through:

4)                  A Certain Thanksgiving (Psalm 57:9-10).

Psalm 57:9-10 But I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. 10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up. (ESV)

 

The song of praise that began the psalm is repeated at the close, though now it is not the communal (‘we’) but the personal (‘I’). It may well be the king who uttered these words. In contrast to the arrogant oppressors (‘But I …’), the psalmist will constantly sing praises to his God. It is surprising the number of times in the Psalter that God is called ‘the God of Jacob’ (20:1; 24:6; 46:7; 76:6; 81:1, 4; 84:8; 94:7; 114:7; 132:2, 5; 146:5). This is either to recall the special relationship between God and Jacob, or else a reminder that he is still the God of Jacob’s descendants. The psalmist thinks of himself as sharing in the execution of God’s judgment on the wicked, but he knows that at the same time the righteous are going to be exalted. For us today the principle remains valid that ‘whoever exalts himself will be humbled’ (Matt. 23:12). True worship centers on the Lord and not on us, our personal problems, or our “felt needs.” We praise God for who He isHis glorious attributes—and for His wonderful works (Cf. Ps. 44:1–8; 77:12; 107:8, 15). (Wiersbe, W. W. (2004). Be worshipful (1st ed., p. 244). Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries.)

 

Which leads us to Luke 18 for our conclusion. Please turn to there now. (p. 877)

 

Lest you come to the end of our consideration of thanking God, that all He is looking for is going through the motions of thanks, consider Luke 18. Here, Jesus makes it very clear about looking carefully at your thanksgiving. Unfortunately, much of what passes as thanksgiving is self-congratulatory. This is not truly thanking God.

 

Jesus explained it like this:

Luke 18:9–14 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (ESV)

  • The audience addressed by the parable (probably Pharisees) had an unrealistic sense of self-worth (see note on Matt. 5:20). Falsely confident of their own righteousness, they treated others with contempt. The five “I’s” in this passage reveal the egocentricity of the Pharisee. Rather than thanking God for what God has done for him, the Pharisee arrogantly brags to God about his own moral purity and religious piety. The tax collector depended on God’s mercy and as a result received God’s gift of righteousness and was pronounced justified (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1994). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.).

 

Psalm 75:9–10 is the expression of praise from an individual who declares his trust in the Lord. He expresses confidence in the same Redeemer who, according to Job’s testimony, “lives, and at the lastwill stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). Ultimately, this one is Christ, the righteous One who conquered death and now rules at God’s right hand (Heb. 1:3; 8:1).( Robertson, G., & Ware, B. A. (2013). Psalms. In B. Chapell & D. Ortlund (Eds.), Gospel Transformation Bible: English Standard Version (p. 722). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.)

When we come together bearing the name of Christ, and publicly give thanks for His wonderous works, we testify to the greatness of God’s name. We actually and most accurately properly bear the name of God in our identity, for our praise of thanksgiving magnifies God and honors Him.

(Format Note: Some base commentary from Harman, A. (2011). Psalms: A Mentor Commentary (Vol. 1–2, pp. 567–570). Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.)

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