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Our God in the Heavens
Psalm 115 – June 7th, 2020

Introduction

We’re here!

Giving online, box in the back of the room…

Marriage retreat – End July. Speaker is Craig Cabaniss. register https://sgcapex.org/news-events/marriage-retreat

Church survey this afternoon. Send out 5 names. Tell us what you think of each, pick #1 and #2, tell us why. This will help the elders decide. Some chance will tweak the final choice just a bit, but probably not too much.

After the service we’ll be dismissing through these doors my right and left. Fellowship in the backyard. Thank you for your patience in this season.

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I landed on this Psalm because all that’s coming together this morning. On one hand this is our first time meeting together since March 7th. Praise God!!

On the other hand, there’s COVID-19 and the killing of George Floyd. Hundreds of thousands protesting throughout the world. Global events. Dominating the news cycles.

What our nation needs is revival. A move of God to change hearts across this land.

Christ and Christ alone destroys the dividing wall between people. Just like he destroyed the dividing wall that separated us from God.

But these are massive changes. These are times where we feel our need for God.

That’s where Psalm 115 speaks.

Psalm 115 calls us to trust the Lord but also invites us to glory in him. It’s about faith when God’s actions aren’t clear. When people are tempted to ask, “Where is God in this?” No specifics. But we’re familiar with that question.

This psalm is part of the Hallel psalms 113–118 that were sung annually as part of the Passover meal, possibly even as far back as when Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples (VanGemeren, EBC, 719).

Last week Matthew Henderson organized a hike to the top of Grandfather Mountain. There’s something about being 6000’ up, where you can see 50–100 miles, that brings perspective. To get there you’re climbing over rocks and boulders, through crevices, not sure if you’re North or South, sometimes not sure if you’re going up or down. But then you get to the top and you can see. You know where you are, where you’ve come from, where you’re going.

This Psalm is like that. It’s getting to the top of the mountain to look around and see where you are. Get your bearings. See the horizon. Remember who you are.

Leslie Allen:

Psalm 115 is a stirring lesson to the people of God in every age concerning survival in an alien, hostile environment. It teaches the necessity of rising above life’s questions and paradoxes on God-given wings of prayer and faith. The reality of a relationship with God imparts strong resistance to rival human ideologies and creates a hope so certain to believing hearts that its prospect can already induce praise.
Leslie Allen, Psalms 101–150[1]

“A hope so certain…induces praise.” Yes!

Main theme: A call to trust our God in the heavens.  (1) Our True God; (2) False Hopes; (3) True Faith.

Prayer

I. Our True God

Read 115:1–3.

The context of the psalm is a season in which the reality or goodness of God is being questioned. Ps 115:2 gives voice to the questioning. We don’t know the specific circumstances. But this line of questioning is common throughout Israel’s history—and all history.

Memories of God’s power feeling distant—God of the Exodus, God conquering Canaan, Deliverance from Babylon.

For us, God who raised Jesus. Converted us. Beginning to feel distant.

Where is that God? That’s the taunt. That’s the nagging question. Where’s God?

This question sets the stage for the psalm. Psalmist takes that question and goes to the top of the mountain to look around.

Nations might question where God is, but the Psalmist is certain— Ps 115:3.

That’s our God! This is one of those drumbeats we hear across the whole biblical record. Our God is the sovereign King!

We see this at creation. He speaks and things come into existence:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Gen 1:1–3)

We see this in the triumphs and disasters of the people of God:

I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things. (Isa 45:7)

We see his sovereignty working all things even in our salvation:

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:11–12)

Jesus, too, demonstrates he is God in his control over nature:

And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. (Matt 8:26)

We see it in the work of the Holy Spirit who calls us from death to life:

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

His providence is there taking even the hardest and darkest parts of our lives and somehow bringing good out of it:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)

It’s like the process of diamond mining. That process takes a lot of dynamite and blasting and tedious labor. Eventually you end up with ore that’s got diamonds in it. Through more crushing and scrubbing you separate the diamond from the ore. Eventually you end up with a precious jewel.

Rom 8:28 reminds us that God is in the business of mining diamonds in our lives. He’s even using hardships and failures and all that’s undesirable in our lives to “work together for good.”

The Psalmist adds his own voice to this. What is God doing? Ps 115:12–13.

Remember: Takes some of that sovereignty and dedicates it to us. Remembers us! In his almighty providence he “remembers” us.

If one of our fears is that we’ll be forgotten about. In this life we’ll be alone. Or Abandoned. Perhaps b/c of our past.

He might have a million spiritual children to keep track of, but he doesn’t forget about any one of us.

Bless: However things appear, God is dedicated to blessing us. Not always in ways we prefer. But he is working blessing into our lives. “He will bless us.”  Nothing will be wasted in our lives. He will use all of it.

Why do we need to hear this right now, this week, at this time?

At times God’s work isn’t obvious. At those times, hear these words of faith.

II. False Hopes

Our lives are filled with false hopes. It’s so common to put your hope in a cause, a person, a job, a marriage, and then it all comes crashing down. This psalm calls out the nations around Israel whose “false hopes” are the false gods they worship.

Read Ps 115:4–8.

“The nations say, ‘Where is their God?’” (Ps 115:2). Their confidence is in what they can see.

They mock the people of God for worshiping a God they can’t see. They boast of the gods they CAN see.

Those gods they can see are gods they’ve made. Ps 115:4–8 are a devastating critique of these so-called gods.

First, they’re man-made (Ps 115:4). Precious metals maybe, “silver and gold.” But still only the stuff of earth, the stuff we can control and manipulate.

You want a god who depicts power? Great, give him the head of a lion. Do you want one who speaks gentleness? Great, make it into the shape of a deer.

Us—we don’t use metal and jewels to make statues to worship. But we put our “TRUST” in false hopes: Job, President, Spouse, Children, Money, Success, Reputation.

When those things disappoint us, it can be like our whole world collapses. Why? Because it was a false hope. A good thing that we elevated too high.

God gives good things. But these aren’t meant to be our ultimate trust. He is to be our trust.

False hopes are man-made. But also powerless—Utterly unable to do anything at all (Ps 115:5–7).

They have all the body parts of something that’s alive but no LIFE. No POWER.

Derek Kidner,

The pagan’s pride in what he can see, and his contempt for what he cannot (which are modern attitudes as well as ancient), are flung back at him. A God too great to tie down to any image or even to earth itself, who is not the prisoner of circumstances but their master, is a God to glory in. And He is our God, not in the petty sense in which the heathen have their idols—all their own work!—but in the personal bond of “steadfast love and faithfulness.”…It is one of the places where Scripture, like the child in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, takes a cool stare at what the world does not care to admit. 
Derek Kidner, Psalms 73–150[2]

WARNING: The psalm reminds us that relying on these false gods affects us. Bowing down to these false gods and false hopes changes us. Verse 8 is a sobering reality.

But useful: Even these lifeless idols help us to see our God:

  • The idols have mouths but can’t speak
    • Our God has no mouth — but he speaks!
    • In creation! In his Word! In Christ! In our conscience! Through the Spirit
  • Idols have eyes but are blind
    • Our God has no eyes — but he sees!
    • He sees what’s happening to us. He’s aware. He knows the details of our lives, not just the big picture. But he also sees the big picture and not just the details.
  • Idols have ears but can’t hear
    • Our God has no ears — but he hears!
    • He hears our 3am prayers. Our 9am rants.
    • Our mid-day grumbling. Our unspoken longings.
  • Idols have hands and feet but can do nothing
    • Our God has no hands or feet — but he “does all that he pleases”!
    • He’s at work in our lives.
    • He’s not just a spectator but fully engaged, fully involved. He’s all in.

Why do we need to hear this right now, this week, at this time?

The things we can see don’t possess the real power and the real hope for change and revival.

It’s Who we can’t see who has all the power, who is worthy of all hope. That’s not natural for us.

III. True Faith

In this third point we want to hear the Psalmist calling us to respond. Psalm 115 isn’t just a theological statement. It’s a CALL TO TRUST! TO WORSHIP!

Hear that in the 1st and last verses:

  • “To your name give glory!” (Ps 115:1)
  • We will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!” (Ps 115:18)—Hallelujah!

We desire this not for our own sakes. But for God’s!

Charles Spurgeon,

In these times, when the first victories of the gospel are only remembered as histories of a dim and distant past, sceptics are apt to boast that the gospel has lost its youthful strength and they even presume to cast a slur upon the name of God himself….We may not desire the triumph of our opinions, for our own sakes, or for the honor of a sect, but we may confidently pray for the triumph of truth, that God himself may be honored. Charles Spurgeon, The Treasure of David[3]

We want people to see his love, his truth. For him to receive glory.

But…what is “glory”? In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass Alice argued with Humpty Dumpty about “glory.” Humpty Dumpty starts:

‘That shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents—
‘Certainly,’ said Alice.
‘And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!’
‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”‘ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”‘ Alice objected.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

We need to do better than Humpty Dumpty. Words do have meaning!

Two ways glory used in the Bible. First is something God possesses. Almost an attribute: “the glory of God.”

As in Ps 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” It is his radiant greatness. That majesty in him which shines out into all things.

But here in Ps 115:1 it’s the other main definition of glory. It is something that we give to him: “To your name give glory.” Let your name be praised. Let your name be exalted. Be lifted up above all things.

It is the same cry as the prayer of Jesus, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matt 6:9). Let the one name which rises above all other names be the name of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

That’s the heart-cry of the Psalmist in 115:18.

But this WORSHIP is paired with FAITH throughout the Psalm. Both are part of our response. True Faith in the True God.

See this in Psalm 115:9–11.

Worship and faith go together:

  • Faith is an act of worship.
  • Worship is an act of faith.
  • They’re inseparable.
  • You can’t worship without faith.
  • Faith will always overflow into worship.
  • Faith is the fuel of worship.
  • Worship is faith expressed.

In our darkest hours the greatest act of faith we can perform is to worship the Lord. To declare his greatness even in our darkness and devastation.

He is glorious! He is great! He is our God in the heavens who does all that he pleases! Whatever the news may say, whatever our disease-ridden body may say, he is great! He is worthy of all praise!

In this way the Psalm gives us the view from the top of the mountain:

  • Our past: We remember his work in the past! His deliverance! Christ!
  • Our present: He is here, he reigns from the heavens, working all things in wisdom and goodness!
  • Our future: He will bless us, he will remember us! (Ps 115:12–13)

It’s the John Piper concept of Future Grace. Faith is a confidence in God’s “future grace,” not just his forgiveness of us in the past. But his “grace” to us in the future. Piper says:

Faith has a profound and pervasive future orientation. To be sure, faith can look back and believe a truth about the past (like the truth that Christ died for our sins). It can look out and trust a person (like the personal receiving of Jesus Christ). And it can look forward and be assured about a promise (like, "I will be with you to the end of the age"). But even when faith embraces a past reality, its saving essence includes the embrace of the implications of that reality for the present and the future....When faith looks out and trusts Christ in the present, its saving essence consists in being satisfied in him now and forever....Faith is profoundly and pervasively future-oriented. There is no saving act of faith—whether looking back to history, out to a person, or forward to a promise—that does not include a future orientation.
John Piper, Future Grace

The cross is in our past. God’s forgiveness.

God’s presence is with us. Our present.

And he WILL remember us. He WILL bless us. Our future.

Conclusion

As we close, we want to think about having faith in God’s work in the past.

Traditionally, Psalms 113–118 sung at the Passover meal. That means there’s at least some chance Jesus sung this very hymn with his disciples the night he celebrated the Passover meal with them. Matthew 26:30, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mounta of Olives.”[4] There he was betrayed. Arrested. Later that morning put on trial and sent to his crucifixion.

To fulfill another of these Psalms — Psalm 118:22 —

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (Ps 118:22)

Because he was “rejected” he could become “the cornerstone.” That rejection showed the sinfulness of humanity in rejecting the very Savior sent from God. But it showed even more the amazing love of God for us:

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8).

"To your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love!"

Application: (1) Repent of false hopes. (2) Pray for faith. This season is a test, a temptation toward “fear” or “anger.” Let this Psalm point you to faith.

Prayer: “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Ps 115:1)

Amen.

 

[1] Allen, WBC (Word, 1983), 111.

[2] Kidner, TOTC, 405.

[3] Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Vol 3 (Hendrickson), 52.

[4] Derek Kidner, TOTC (Inter-Varsity, 1973), 401.

 

[i] This overview for the first century practice of the Lord’s Supper comes from D.A. Carson, “Matthew,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corporation, 1984), 533. Hughes Oliphant Old also provides assistance throughout (Worship: Reformed According to Scripture [Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002]).

[ii] Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed According to Scripture, 112.

[iii] ibid., 113.