12.14.2008 Psalm 91 - Interpreting God's Promises
14th December 2008
Lord, thank You for this day and our worship time – the opportunity to gather together to hear Your word. In a diverse group – Your Holy Spirit understands each need. You know how to meet those needs …use my words and this worship time to meet the needs of each person here.
This is my last week on The Psalms. We got through very few of the 150 in the last 5 weeks!
Next week will be our “Christmas Sunday” service – and then Christmas Eve – and then a Post-Christmas message – and then I’ll start a series on the Book of Acts – that will run some length of time – I promise it will be over by Palm Sunday.
I’d like to step back – Cindy and I have been talking about Psalms and promises in God’s word – and some things she reminded me of – If you were to look at the Scriptures that Jesus read – it was divided into The Torah, or The Law, - the second ‘book’ would be The Prophets, and the third book - The Writings – Psalms, Proverbs, etc – we call it Wisdom Literature – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes (some throw Daniel in there, I don’t know why – he seems like a prophet to me - maybe he was really wise.)
The purpose of Wisdom Literature teaches us to live in harmony with God and His word on a daily basis. That is the thrust of the Wisdom Literature. There is a focus on living the blessed life in Scripture. The theme could be said to be this: blessings come to those who live in harmony with God and His word.
Have you ever listened to one of those commercials where you can make x,000/month if you just call this number – or lose x pounds if you take this pill – but then there is the disclaimer – “actual results may vary – in fact, most who try this will lose their shirt!”
With the Wisdom literature, there has to be a disclaimer – sometimes our reality doesn’t feel like we are living the blessed life. Prosperity, health, well-being – they don’t always come our way! This is not the definitive work on this subject – I don’t think anyone has that! But here are some principles to get you started:
Wisdom Literature is GENERAL TRUTH. It will not be specific to every individual.
Honor the Lord with your wealth so that your…vats will be filled with new wine.
Pastors sometimes get up and say – if only you tithe…If you are in need – if you do this, your vats will overflow…
But that is not always true – there are a lot of people who tithe and honor the Lord with their wealth – whose vats aren’t overflowing!
Let’s look at an example:
Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!" 3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper, And from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. 5 You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; 6 Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; [But] it shall not approach you. 8 You will only look on with your eyes, And see the recompense of the wicked. 9 For you have made the Lord, my refuge, [Even] the Most High, your dwelling place. 10 No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent. 11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. 12 They will bear you up in their hands, Lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.
There are a lot of promises in this passage. Many have been claimed and people have not seen them come true, in fact, have seen the opposite in their lives.
In understanding promises –
First, many promises are context specific. What is this a promise for, in its context? It is messianic – it is what will happen with Jesus. There are general promises in this passage – throughout Scripture, there is a sense that God is our protector. That is true and will always be the case. There are many scriptures that tell us He protects us and acts that way in our lives, but that is not an absolute guarantee for every individual and every situation. The promises of God are not meant to be that way.
C. Everett Koop – surgeon General a long time ago – His son was mountain climbing – and a boulder hit him and he fell 400 feet to his death. The son was a Christian – and earlier that morning he had written in his journal – “He will not allow your foot to slip” – sometimes we take these promises for children – or fruitfulness – in reality, in general, we live according to God’s plan and there are blessings that come into that. If you live according to God’s plan financially – or health-wise, in GENERAL, you will prosper – but that does not mean you won’t go broke or get a life-threatening disease. We need to understand these promises in the light of the whole of Scripture.
Wealth – you are reading in the O.T. – and there is a verse – by diligence, you will become rich. That is generally true – people who work hard can earn money – but if you think it is about you and you becoming rich, you need to balance that with God blessing the poor. Underneath these promises are truths about God that are always really.
God is always our protector, provider, healer – but we need to understand them in light of the entire scope of Scripture. There needs to be an assurance of God’s character, but then the understanding of living in a fallen and corrupt world. The promises will SURELY be fulfilled in the end. In heaven, you will not strike your foot against a stone, or be in want, or lack wealth, or lack health. Even the promises to Israel have never been completely fulfilled. At times we get tastes of them – because God is trying to push them to the kingdom. If all God’s promises were fulfilled in this world, we would not crave His future world. This life is a blip on the screen – but it is an important one because it determines where we spend the next one.
God wants us to live a life that honors Him and His word – that focuses on the next life. Along the way, some of us will experience tremendous physical blessing in our lives. But that should not turn our attention away from what we are really living for.
What if God speaks a specific promise to you in specific circumstances? When you are reading and a verse speaks specifically to your situation? I would say ‘Good! Claim it! God has done this in my life!’ But make sure it lines up with Scripture and is not your own wishing – but then allow God to be God and fulfill it in His way. Don’t set your mind on how that promise is to be fulfilled. That is what we tend to do – but maybe God has a completely different way of fulfilling it. It says all His promises are YES! In this life – they will be fulfilled in His way – and in reality, we don’t often understand that way.
Okay – a little background. Here are two key concepts to living the blessed life. I’ll talk more about the positive side – but rememeber that He will fulfill it in His way.l
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do [His commandments]; His praise endures forever.
Number ONE is the fear of the Lord. That you see over and over. It is the beginning of wisdom –honoring God and His word. The starting point is what is called – the fear of the lord. What does it mean? You have heard reverence and respect – but it begins with
Dread Awe Reverence.
When we think of dread –
Prov. 8:13 "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way, And the perverted mouth, I hate
The fear of the Lord is hating evil. If we live in evil, God hates that and those who walk in it will be judged. God will judge the world.
Ps. 22: 23 You who fear the Lord, praise Him; All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel
AWE - It is being stunned by Who God really is. Imagine coming to the Rocky Mountains for the first time, before the west was settled – Wow! There needs to be a dread of his holiness, but an appreciation of His greatness.
Ps. 111: 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do [His commandments]; His praise endures forever.
Hate evil! Understand His greatness! These move us into a reverence or respect that cause us to want to obey and do His commandments – because of Who He is – the person who fears the Lord has a desire to obey God.
Now, one other thing – We hate evil, we understand and appreciate God’s majesty – and in light of that walk in harmony with His and His word. When the Bible speaks of fearing God – it is in contrast to fearing Man. I think this is speaking – the person who fears Man cares more about what people think than what God thinks. A person who fears God doesn’t care what Man thinks.
In having this blessed life – if we are seeking the approval of others, we don’t have the ability to experience that.
Psal 118: 4 Oh let those who fear the Lord say, "His lovingkindness is everlasting."
When someone fears the Lord in a deeper way, he doesn’t run away – but comes to a deeper understanding of how much God loves him. By obeying Him – it leads us to a greater understanding of how much He loves us.
2nd key concept
Psalm 115: 11 You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield
The blessed life is the one that trusts in God. To live in harmony with God, we must learn to trust in Him. The word trust – faith – is difficult to get our hands on sometimes. We may not be a trusting individual? Yes you are! All of us trust something – the key is to trust in the right thing.
Ps. 44: 6 For I will not trust in my bow, Nor will my sword save me.
It is in NOT trusting in our sword or in our wealth. Now that we are going through this economic crisis, there is not as much to trust in.
Psalm 118:8 It is better to trust in God than in man or princes.
If we are trusting in anything but God, we are trusting in the wrong thing.
Ps. 37: 3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it
We have this concept of trust and obedience. Trust allows you to act in a way that is in harmony with God’s word. When you really trust, you will act in accordance with God’s ways.
Commit – a sense of submission to God’s will. I think that is the most difficult – it is allowing God to be God. Our tendency is for us to be God in our lives. Not to just make decisions – but to try to control.
Ps. 56: 3 When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee. 4 In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can [mere] man do to me?
He speaks of trust – and fear of the lord – but then there is this fear of people – just like the two cannot co-exist – so trust in the lord and worrying about what others might say or do cannot co-exist.
Ps. 130: 7 O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption. 8 And He will redeem Israel From all his iniquities.
I think the one thing to understand – the ultimate, final promise of God – God has promised to redeem us from all of our sins. That with the Lord is abundant redemption. There is no life, situation or circumstance where God cannot bring you back or redeem you. His redemption is complete and abundant for everyone in every situation. That promise for our lives is enough. It is hard to say that. But what God wants for us – to be able to say – He has forgiven me and saved me and that is all I expect or want. We can know and stand on that promise without question or doubt – and it is always true – it never fails. God can redeem all of us from all our iniquities because with the Lord is complete redemption.