FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR
Words For Reflection:
“What is represented here (in Psalm 131) is not an early level (of simplicity) that has not yet been tested by life’s trials, but a new and higher level that has managed with difficulty to learn a simple lesson.” – Leslie C. Allen
For next Sunday:
Sermon Text: James 1:19-27
How Firm a Foundation - Adoration
Come, Holy Ghost - Adoration
The Gospel is Good News Indeed - Grace
Be Thou My Vision - Response
Build Me Solid - Communion
Doxology - Old 100th
The Bible Project:
As a way to help you grasp the over-arching story of the Bible, I am going to include each week a link to one of The Bible Project videos that summarizes in a few minutes one book of the Bible.
This week check out the summary of Romans 1-4 and 5-16.
If you are looking for help to read the Bible in a more regular way, you may findthis approach and this app helpful.
How does poverty in America compare with poverty in other parts of the world? A recent NY Times article attempts to wade into the difficult waters of accurately comparing America's poverty problem with the same problem in other countries. It's worth a read!
Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)
Prayer of Confession
Father, we confess that we do not live up to the family name. We are more ready to resent than to forgive, more ready to manipulate than to serve, more ready to fear than to love, more ready to keep our distance than to welcome, more ready to compete than to help. At the root of this behavior is mistrust and self-love. We do not love one another as we should, because we do not believe that you love us as you do. Forgive us our cold unbelief. Show us what it cost you to give up your Son that we might become your sons and daughters. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our only righteousness. Amen.
Words of Grace
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 3:2-3
Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)
Sermon Text - Psalm 131
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
1. The Soul in Motion (v. 1)
2. The Labor of Worship (v. 2)
3. The Wonder of the Son (v.3)
Psalm 131 is a short, but beautiful psalm about contentment. As such, Charles Spurgeon said that it is one of the shortest psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn. In just the three verses in this psalm, David guides God’s people in worship by showing them three things: first the natural condition of the human soul, second, the work that God’s people must undertake in response, and third, the means by which God’s people can undertake that work. We will use three simple points to label these three aspects: the soul in motion, the labor of worship, and the wonder of the Son.
The Soul in Motion. In verse 1, David says that his heart is not lifted up, meaning that his heart is not proud, that his eyes are not raised to high, meaning that he is not looking down on others, and that he has not occupied himself (literally, “walked”), in things too great or wonderful for him. In other words, he has not let pride settle in his heart and lead him into unattainable pursuits. What David illustrates in this verse is a constant motion inside the human person. In David’s case, his humble heart has led him to have humble eyes, which has led him to undertake humble pursuits before God. However, he says this because the reverse is also possible and often more natural. Pride in the heart, which is a love of oneself above anyone and anything else, does not just stay in the heart. It moves to the eyes, where we are led to compare ourselves with others to make sure we are not getting less than them. But this motion does not stop there either. Our proud hearts, and comparing eyes inevitably lead us into pursuits that are unattainable. In order to satisfy our pride, we pursue things like trying to be liked by everyone, maintaining control over our lives, security, and comfort. None of these are fully attainable for finite people to achieve in an infinite universe, and produce more anxiety and frustration than calmness and contentment. In sum, the point that David illustrates in verse 1 is that the human soul, or the focus of the human person, is not naturally at rest. It is always on the move, guided by the heart, seeking satisfaction.
The Labor of Worship. In response, David instructs God’s people in how they can counteract the constant motion of their own souls. He models for them the labor of worship. Worship is not simply the removal of discontentment before God. It is the act of fixing the heart on God Himself as a replacement for discontentment. The heart that is always on the move looking for satisfaction is directed to find satisfaction in only one place, in the God from whom all blessings flow. But how does David do this? In verse 2, David says that he has “calmed” his soul. The Hebrew word that he used means to make two uneven things even. It was often used in an agricultural sense to describe the leveling of rough ground to get it ready for planting. What David describes here is not a one time realization that contentment is found in God, but rather the long term labor of training His heart to worship God. Many of us often think that if we can just count our blessings, and come to a realization that we have everything we need, we will then just relax and be content. David, however, describes the opposite. He describes a long-term labor of working toward contentment in God through worship. With a soul that is constantly on the move seeking satisfaction, the soul must be constantly called back to the only place where satisfaction can be found.
The Wonder of the Son. At this point, many of us may actually be left more discouraged than encouraged by David’s posture. Many of us are worn out by trying to satisfy the longings of our own hearts, and the thought of more work just sounds exhausting. Many of us are not just discontent, but are really struggling with difficult situations in life that feel like they are crushing us. Our hearts can be so resistant to finding contentment in God when it seems like He won’t give us the peace in life that we long for. How can those of us in these situations undertake the labor of worship that we are called to? David was no stranger to hardship in life, yet he was able to write this psalm only because he belonged to a God who does wonderful and unexpected things for His people. As David refrains from occupying himself with unattainable things, he does so knowing that His God has revealed Himself as one who takes wonderful and unattainable things and lavishes them on His people. God had taken the smallest and most insignificant nation and made them the special people of the God who created heaven and earth. He saved them from the mighty Egyptians, after many years of suffering, with signs and wonders no one would have expected. He then took them to the most coveted piece of land in their region, and used them to defeat the much bigger armies that occupied it. David knew that though he may not always see God’s provision, He belonged to a people to whom God had attached wonderful promises.
The story of God’s people, however, did not end with the nation of Israel. At the right time God sent His only Son Jesus to walk the long ascent to Jerusalem to die for His people’s sins. As he walked that path and completely accomplished His Father’s will, His Father was delighted to put the entire universe under His feet. However, God sent Jesus to do this, not just so He could exalt Jesus. He did it so He could welcome all who would believe in Jesus, anxious and discontent though they may be, with the same honor and pride as He has for Jesus. Just as God gave everything He had to His Son in heaven, so is it His delight to give everything He has to all who come to Him as sons and daughters in Jesus. The gift of Jesus Christ to the world was an unexpected and glorious work of God. It was not what His people even knew to ask for. We often want God to do for us only what we want in our own wisdom, and are discontent when He does not do it. However, God has much more wonderful plans for us in store that we could possibly dream up, confusing though they may be. We can look to Jesus, in whatever situation we are in, and know that God will stop at nothing to do wonderful things for His children. With this truth, God’s children are empowered with the true antidote to discontentment. Not a forced contentment of our own making, but rather access to the throne of heaven, where we can go as the most delighted in sons and daughters of the King, and say, “Father, I believe, help my unbelief.”
Sermon Reflection Questions
- What stood out to you from these verses?
- What questions do they raise for you?
- Was there anything that bothered you?
- Where in your life is it hardest to be content?
- What unattainable pursuits do you find yourself coming back to again and again?
- How does God's wonderful plan for your life, evidenced in His giving His only Son for you, change how you relate to Him everyday?
Confession of Faith: The New City Catechism, 2017
Q. 5. What else did God create?
A. God created all things by his powerful Word, and all his creation was very good; everything flourished under his loving rule.
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.