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The King of Old

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Sermon on Psalm 74

Title:  The King of Old

Sermon Theme:  The King of Old continues to protect from the days of Old to the ones to come.

Goal:  to encourage the congregation to rely fully on the King of Old

Need:  At the end of a new year we are in need of the encouragement to rely on the King of Old.

Outline:

Introduction:  A time to mourn and wonder why.

  1. Our questions why
  2. Our desire of God:  Remember
  3. Our description of what is not right
  4. Our Questions again.  How Long and Why
  5. Our description of confidence in God
  6. Our desire of God:  remember and regard

Conclusion:  He is the king of old that is faithful to his covenant.  We can rely on him.

People of God,

          We can count down the number of hours we have of 2008.  Let me ask you, was it all it was cracked up to be on January 1.  How will you remember 2008?  In the global mind it will surely be remembered as the economic meltdown year.  Maybe Canada will remember it as a year of political turmoil and election overload. 

Personally, what was it for you.  A year of joys?  A year of new beginnings?  A year where God really used you for something amazing?

          Together we celebrate when there are years like that for many of us.

          But as years go by, perhaps there are more years for you that you think, I had to say goodbye to too many loved ones.  Maybe it was a year that you felt the burden of life.  Too many friends getting sick.  Too many.  Maybe you mark this year as one more of loneliness and wondering how many more of these God has in store for you.  2008 does not have to be a happy year.  As we come to the end of year, we together ought to lament with those among us who lament.

          Lamenting is something we don’t do too quickly.  We ought to be okay with whatever comes our way, right?  This evening, we will walk through the words of Psalm 74 to remember like Ecclesiastes says, there is a time to mourn, even in our looking back.

Read Psalm 74.

This Psalm is a difficult Psalm.  Different from the Psalms we know and love like Psalm 23 or the Psalms of praise like Psalm 150.  This Psalm is different.  But it is an important Psalm to make a part of our spiritual relationship with God through Christ.  Life in the Holy Spirit is not always happy go lucky.  Life in the Holy Spirit includes asking the tough questions of God and lamenting.

          The passage brings us through what a lament might be like.  It includes QUESTIONS.  Corrective Commands.  Complaints.  And Confidence.  We find these elements interspersed throughout Laments in the Bible.

          This Psalm begins with the tough questions.  Maybe they similar to the questions that lay heavy on your soul, just waiting to be expressed.

          Verse 1 says, 

Why have you rejected us forever, O God?

Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?

          A far cry from “the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” 

          Questions we might have felt during this past year might sound an awful lot like these.  Why are you tormenting me God.  Maybe we don’t feel punsihed by God.  But I know there have been times in my life where I have thought, well God are you getting back at me for something.  And we want God to do the same as the Psalmist asks for.  Remember… you love me.  You promised that.  I gave my heart to you.  Remember.  I believed.  I was faithful.  Remember that God. 

Why the rejection?  Why the anger?

The Psalmist is daring enough to lay out what he would expect to see from God to make things right again.  Verses 2-3 there are some key words for this Psalms.  The words are part of the next element of this Lament.  The Corrective Commands. 

It begins with the word rememberRemember your people of old.  The tribe of your inheritance, whom you redeemed.  Mount Zion where you dwelt.  Turn you steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.

          Something has this Psalmist crying out in agony aginast God.  Something bitter has him telling commanding him to come back to the people he promised to love.

The commentaries disagree about what event has this Psalmist crying out in lament.  Is it the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC.  Some say it was much later under the Persian ruler Antiochus about 100 years before Christ.  Whatever the situation, the Psalmist experiences such awful things that it makes him lament and cry out that God seems so angry against his people.

                   What’s going on to bring up these feelings of guilt and lament, this crying out to God.  Verse 4.    First there were Questions, then Corrective Commands.  Now the Psalmist lays out his specific complaints.  The evidence is all around.

4Your foes roared in the place where you met with us;

they set up their standards as signs.

5They behaved like men wielding axes

to cut through a thicket of trees.

6They smashed all the carved paneling

with their axes and hatchets.

7They burned your sanctuary to the ground;

they defiled the dwelling place of your Name.

8They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!”

They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.

9We are given no miraculous signs;

no prophets are left,

and none of us knows how long this will be.

          The pain even thousands of years removed from it can still come bursting off the page.  Can you imagine? The thought of the temple of God or the places of prayer around Jerusalem and Judah being destroyed.  Like machetes through the jungle, the barbarians chopped and hacked and destroyed everything.  How would we feel if someone came in and desectarted this sactuary.  Grafittied the communion table.  Destroyed the cross.  Scribbled in the Bibles and tore out pages.  We would be outraged. 

          But the Psalmist is pouring out his heart in wretched pain because to him it is a sign that God has abandoned them.  He has neglected the one thing God should do and that is live up to the standards of his covenant.

          Then these next verses are the climax of this Psalm. That point where the raw emotion erupts into more questions that act as a call to action for God.  Verse 10.

10How long will the enemy mock you, O God?

Will the foe revile your name forever?

11Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?

Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!

          Quit just sitting on your hands.  Do what you know you ought to do.  Destroy the enemies!  Restore your love for Israel!

          Today, isn’t that at the heart of many of our own struggles with the problem of evil in the world.  If there really is a good God in the world, why does he let so many bad things happen.  Or it’s probably more subtle of a thought for most of us.  Ahhh.  All the sickness and death and hurt.  Ugh…  And it pulls us down. 

Or maybe it is that tremendous from one moment of evil in our lives, like a sudden death.  In our grief, God where were you in this hurt.  Why did you allow this tragedy?  Instead of being like this, why don’t you get your hands out of your pockets and stop the evil and the sin and devil and death and all these things that you can snap your fingers and be done with.

          But what follows is the most powerful part of this lament.  We might have questions for God.  We might wonder why and how come and what’s yet to come.  But verses 12-17 show that even in the midst of the wondering a questioning, there still lies that grain of trust and assurance.  Moving through the questions, commands and complaints.  Finally Confidence in God.

12But you, O God, are my king from of old;

you bring salvation upon the earth.

13It was you who split open the sea by your power;

you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.

14It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan

and gave him as food to the creatures of the desert.

15It was you who opened up springs and streams;

you dried up the ever flowing rivers.

16The day is yours, and yours also the night;

you established the sun and moon.

17It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;

you made both summer and winter.

 

          The world might change on us from year to year.  As we look back at another year gone, we might not like what we have experienced.  But in our lament in difficulty, hopefully we can say like this Psalmist.  You are my king of old.  For us today that testimony is all the more true in Jesus Christ who reigns on that throne in heaven.

          Its amazing that so many people who grieve or who deal with tremendous loss of one kind or another can quickly say, “yes, we have it bad, but you know.  God was with us through it all.  Sure we questioned why.  But Jesus Christ never stopped showing himself to us through it all.”  In that I hear an even stronger testimony of what we hear in this Psalm.  You are my king from of Old.  You Jesus Christ were the ruler over the events of my life.  Good or bad.  You were the king.  And you are the king even yet if times are tough. You are my king from of Old.

          No matter what circumstance our life is in.  We can all claim that same confidence in Christ.  You are my king of Old.  You are my king from 2008.  You are my king from the toughest decades of my life.  You are the king of the generation of my parents and grandparents.  You are the king of history.  You are the king with the power of time and history.

          The pictures that are told in this Psalm are the Psalmists way of saying, God I know you continue to hold the power even today in the worst times.  Because you defeated Sea.  In Hebrew the Word sea here is not just a body of water.  It is The great God of chaos.  Yamm.  You defeated the Sea.  You defeated the Leviathan, the beast that partnered with Yamm, Chaos to create turmoil in the world.  Verse 15 is saying:  You separated the sea to create dry land with gentle streams.  Order amid the chaos.  You command the day and the night.  You are the king.  You set the seasons.  You control all things.  

        Even what I see as deplorable.  You still are the king.

          Then the Psalm continues with that important word again.  More commands of God.  In verse 18 remember what wickedness is happening in your world.  And then again, it says remember.  Have regard for you covenant in verse 20.

          As we lament during a difficult year.  As we know we will have times of lament in the up coming year.  We might question.  We might feel like God is sitting on his hands.  But in confidence we can look and remember that Christ is reigning on the throne.  He was with God in the beginning.  The world was made through him.  Without Jesus Christ, the King of Old, nothing would be made that has been made.  Jesus is the king of Old who does not forget his covenant.  He does not forget that his love is unconditional.  He looks at our circumstances and regards his covenant.

          The king of Old years and the king of new, the beginning and the end, the one who was and is and is to come promises that because you belong to him, not a hair can fall from your head without it being in his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

          Lament when the time past calls us to lament.  Praise Jesus Christ, that we lament to him as our king of Old. 

AMEN

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