Grace Bible Church
The Faithfulness of God – Psalm 98
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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 30, 2011
The Faithfulness of God
Today is our Annual Celebration and Business Meeting. The Business Meeting will follow our Morning Worship Service which will then be followed by lunch – I hope you have planned on staying for both – but our Annual Celebration has already started. The Psalms are full of directions about praising the Lord, and we have already been doing that in the songs we have been singing – which is one of the ways in which we are to praise the Lord. The Psalms also direct us to praise Him with our mouths in speaking (Psalm 35:28), with our bodies in playing various musical instruments (Psalm 150), with lifted hands (Psalm 63:4), bowed knee (Psalm 95:6) and even with dancing (Psalm 149:3). We praise the Lord in a normal manner or even with a loud and joyful noise (Psalm 33:3). We are to praise the Lord when we are alone or with others (Psalm 34:1-3), in the congregation (Psalm 26:12) or among the heathen (Psalm 96:3). We give praise in the morning (Psalm 57:8), at all times (Psalm 34:1) all day long (Psalm 113:3) as long as you live (Psalm 104:33).
Who is to give praise the Lord? The sinner cleansed by God (Psalm 51:14-15); the upright in heart (Psalm 32:11) and all who fear the Lord (Psalm 22:23). But it is not just man who is to praise God. The angels and all the hosts of heaven (Psalm 103:20-21); all the kingdoms of the earth (Psalm 68:32) and everything that has breath (Psalm 150:6) is also to join in the praise.
Why do we praise the Lord? For His character and His works. His character includes His Power (Psalm 21:13), holiness (Psalm 30:4), righteousness (Psalm 25:28), greatness (Psalm 48:1) lovingkindness and truth (Psalm 57:10-11) and goodness (Psalm 106:1). His works certainly include His general work as the Creator (Psalm 146) and awesome works within it (Psalm 66:3f), but more specifically, His work toward His people. This includes what are generally described as His wonders to the sons of men (Psalm 107:8f) and specifically His hearing us (Psalm 28:6), His various promises (Psalm 56:9-13) which give us hope (Psalm 71:14), His judgments (Psalm 119:164), justice (Psalm 101:1) and His salvation (Psalm 71:5). Psalm 145 describes God’s goodness to men and Psalm 146 His help to man.
This morning I want to examine a few of these themes in more detail as found in Psalm 98 and then conclude by giving an overview of some of the many reasons we can praise our Lord for His goodness and faithfulness to this local church in 2010
Please follow along as I read Psalm 98, and then we will look at it in detail.
(A Psalm.) 1 O Sing to the Lord a new song, For He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him. 2 The Lord has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
4 Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises. 5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre; With the lyre and the sound of melody. 6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord. 7 Let the sea roar and all it contains, The world and those who dwell in it. 8 Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the mountains sing together for joy 9 Before the Lord; for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with equity. (NASB)
This Psalm breaks down into three parts all of which are related to God as the Divine Warrior. The Psalmist leads the choir of Israel in praise of Him as Savior in verses 1-3. The Psalmist leads the choir of all people in praise of Him as King in verses 4-6, and the Psalmist leads the choir of all nature in praise of Him as Judge in verses 7-9.
Praise the Divine Warrior-Savior
Neither the author or the timing of when this Psalm was written are known. It is simply titled, “A Psalm,” and it is the only Psalm titled this way. That in itself suggests that this particular Psalm was meant to be somewhat generic. While many of the Psalms are not titled, those that are titled have more information often designating such things as the author, the occasion of it being written, or directions for its use. In addition, the invitation to “sing to the Lord a new song” is based on the fact that the Lord has “done wonderful things.” There are many wonderful things the Lord has done in the history of the nation of Israel that would fit the description given in these verses, though that description would narrow it down to the more dramatic interventions by God to rescue Israel from some situation.
This is one of six Psalms in which a “new song” is part of the worship being encouraged. Two of them are written by David and the others are anonymous (Psalms 33, 40, 96, 98, 144 & 149). None of them are specific about the particular incident which is causing them to sing a new song. This idea of a “new song” then is not a response to something that has never occurred before, but rather either the composing of a new song as a response to God’s intervention (Psalm 144:9) or a change in song due to the change in situation and attitude (Psalm 40:3). A person who has had either their circumstances or their hearts (or both) changed by God can sing a different song that the person who remains entrapped in their circumstances without a change of heart.
The description of the “wonderful things” God has done includes three elements. First, God intervened into some situation Israel faced in a manner in which it was obvious that the victory gained was by His hand and the strength of His arm. There are a host of situations in Israel’s history that fit that description. Second, in the process of rescuing Israel, the Lord revealed His righteousness in a way that it was seen by the nations. This is narrower than the first requirement, but it did occur in Israel’s history quite a few times. Third, the action taken had to be prompted by God’s remembering His lovingkindness and faithfulness to the House of Israel. That is an often occurring reason for God’s hand to act on Israel’s behalf, so there are still quite a few situations that fit the requirements.
The first example that comes to my mind is God’s miraculous removal of Israel from its bondage in Egypt. It was prompted by God remembering them in their oppression (Exodus 3:7-8). It was done in such a way that even the pagan Egyptian priests recognized that the plagues were “the finger of God” (Exodus 9:19). It was also something that became well known to the surrounding nations. Consider what Rahab said to the Israelite spies in Joshua 2:9-11 about why she was hiding them. “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. 10 “For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 “And when we heard [it,] our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” Her knowledge came from the reports of what God had done and she recognized the righteousness in it which is why she was seeking a way for the lives of her and her family to be spared.
There are many stories throughout the book of Judges of God remembering His people as they cried out under oppression, of Him providing a miraculous victory and the story of it being spread to other nations. Judges such as Othniel, Ehud and Deborah & Barak. Gideon and the 300 with him conquering 135,000 Midianites (Judges 8). Samson defeating the Philistines over and over again singlehanded (Judges 13-16). Similar stories continue through the years of the Kings and prophets of Israel and Judah. Not just with the rise and establishment of David and his kingdom, but also the miracles under Elijah and Elisha. Hezekiah’s prayer and the resulting defeat of the Assyrian army under Sennacherib by an angel of the Lord that killed 185,000 in one night (2 Kings 19). Then there is the return of Israel back to the land after the Babylonian captivity. Leupold in his commentary, Exposition of the Psalms, insists that this was the event that triggered this Psalm since it was such a great wonder for no nation that had been conquered and deported had ever returned again to its land to reestablish itself. This wonder, like all the other wonders of God’s salvation of Israel, were done by the arm of the Lord as a result of Him remembering His people in His lovingkindness and faithfulness to His covenant with Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob. These actions revealed the Lord’s righteousness to the nations.
The theme of God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness are repeated over and over throughout the Scriptures not only as reflections on historical events, but also for future hope. God’s faithfulness is critical in having hope in the future. Being the all knowing, all powerful, eternal sovereign Creator is not enough to trust His promises. The Muslims assign these same attributes to their god and so he is able to keep a promise, but Allah is arbitrary and cannot be trusted to keep a covenant. He abrogates or nullifies an earlier declaration with a more recent one. According to Islam, you could be a perfect Muslim and Allah could change his mind at judgment and cast you away. That is why dying as a martyr in jihad is so attractive to Muslims since it is the only sure promise of heaven given in the Koran.
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not like that. The Lord God is faithful and immutable. He does not change and He will keep His covenants for He has both the ability and character to do so. We can look back in history and see this to be true and so praise Him for it as is done in this Psalm. We can also trust Him to continue to be the same way in the future and so can praise Him for what is yet to come as well, which this Psalm also does in its last stanza.
Praise the Divine Warrior-King
In the next section of the Psalm, the invitation to praise the Lord expands to all the earth because the Lord is King. The praise is to be given with joyful shouting, singing and sounds of musical instruments. The lyre was a stringed instrument shaped like a “U” that could be plucked or strummed. It was sort of a hand held harp. The “trumpet” spoken of here is a long single stemmed horn while the “horn” or “coronet” spoken of here is the shofar, a twisted ram’s horn used as a musical device.
Joyful shouting, singing and music are consistent themes not just throughout the Psalms, which only make sense since the Psalms are hymns, but also in history, the present and the future. The first record of singing is the reference in Job 38:7 that the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy at the foundations of the world. Genesis 4:21 records that Jubal became the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe, so the invention of musical instruments had occurred no later than the fifth generation of humans. Israel’s history is full of singing and making melody to the Lord. Exodus 15 is the record of the song of Moses and the sons of Israel in response to the Lord destroying the Egyptian army that was pursuing them. They sang in the wilderness in praise of the Lord providing for them (Numbers 21:17). They used song to teach their children the history of the Lord’s work in their nation (Deuteronomy 31:19f). Such music and song continued through the period of the judges, kings and the return from captivity.
In the present, we are to use Israel’s example in speaking and teaching one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). While the Lord, the king is not physically present with us, He still provides for and protects us and has sent His Spirit to be with us to guide and teach us through this life. We have much to sing and praise the Lord about. In the future we will continue to sing the praises of the Lord along with all the other saints, the elders and the angels. We will even join in with singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb (Revelation 15:3) for then we will be in the physical presence of our king.
Praise the Divine Warrior-Judge
This future praise is the theme of the last stanza of this Psalm as all of creation is instructed to join in the praise of the Lord. This invitation extends to the sea and all that is in it and the world and all that dwell in it. The rivers are to clap their hands and the mountains sing or exult together for joy. The clapping of hands is a metaphor for the sounds of water clapping together in its movements and waves. I am not sure what sound the psalmist had in mind for the mountains shouting joyfully, perhaps it was the same as David expressed in Psalm 65:12-13 of the sounds of the life upon them, or perhaps it is something yet to occur that will be beyond anything we have experienced. Why are they to lift up their voice in praise? Because the king is coming to judge the world in righteousness and the people with equity.
Why would a coming judgment be a cause of praise and celebration? Because while judgment brings condemnation upon the guilty, it also removes the oppression of evil doers and restores the righteous to their proper estate. The scriptures are full of descriptions of the Lord pouring out His wrath upon the ungodly of this world at His return, yet that same judgment is the vindication of the righteous who are delivered from that coming wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Romans 8:18-25 describes the groaning of creation itself at present while it waits eagerly for its redemption that will come with the return of the Lord. Creation, along with us, longs to be free from the current slavery to corruption, and so we find here in this Psalm the joyful shouting and singing in anticipation of the Lord’s return to judge.
Yet there remains a hidden hope in this that I need to expose. The last verse of the Psalm states that the Lord will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity or uprightness. Revelation 20:12-13 states that the Lord will judge based on the deeds each has done. Paul warns in Romans 2 that God “will render to every man according to his deeds” (verse 6) and that “there is no partiality with God” (verse 11). How then can any man look forward to God’s judgment when every man has sinned against God and his or her deeds will condemn them? An appeal to conscience will not work for Paul makes it clear in Romans 2 that even the conscience condemns. There is only one way to look forward to such a judgment. You have to know the verdict will be in your favor before you go into court, and the only way to know that is to have the right advocate, the correct lawyer. That is the confidence that those who have placed their faith in Jesus’ Christ have because there “is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Jesus has paid the price of our sins in His own death on the cross with the result that we are can stand justified by faith before God, and beyond that, we are even adopted into God’s family. But if you have not repented of your sin to place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will stand before God to be judged according to your own deeds and they will condemn you. If that is your condition today, then don’t leave here today without talking with myself or any of our church leaders about how you can be forgiven and know that God’s promise of eternity in heaven with Him applies to you.
Praise to Our Faithful God
For the remainder of our time this morning I want to briefly point out God’s faithfulness to this local body of believers in 2010. While it is our responsibility to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us in both our spiritual gifts and physical provision, we recognize that all of it is God’s work in and through us. Let me begin with the most obvious item in our annual report and then move to what are actually the more significant revelations of the Lord’s lovingkindness, faithfulness and righteousness to us last year.
I received a lot of reports and talked to quite a few pastors that had significant financial problems last year, so much so that many cut back on their ministries and one I know of is facing a serious question of whether they can keep their doors open this year. Now in saying that, I am not in anyway suggesting the Lord is not faithful to them, for He is. We have been through similar financial hardships and the Lord brought us through them to become even more dependent on Him with a resulting better ministry. Since we are stewards of what God provides, we kept our spending down throughout the year to match the giving which was below budget by 12% at the end of the third quarter, but jumped in the fourth quarter so that we ended the year a little over 3% above budget. When the designated giving is included, all we can say is praise the Lord! We not only met all our financial obligations, carried out a full ministry over the year, but went well beyond even that with nearly $3,000 given toward designated missions. The difference between income and spending will allow us to tackle some capital projects this year including replacing the boiler at the parsonage.
While finances are important, and we praise the Lord for His generous financial provisions to this church, finances are only a small part of assessing ministry and God’s faithfulness to us. The more significant issues are ministries. The Great Commission is to make disciples by going, baptizing those that respond to the gospel, and teaching believers to walk in obedience to Christ. Again, we are to be responsible stewards in using the spiritual gifts God has given to us, but it is God that is accomplishing His work through us. How then have we seen God at work in ministries here in 2010?
One assessment that is often used for that is attendance at the worship services since that is usually where the most people are affected. However, raw numbers do not tell much of the story since in a case like this church, the average attendance has remained fairly constant even though we have had families move away or leave for some other reason. The Lord has seen fit to bring in new people about the same rate as others move away.
Attendance numbers also do not assess the number of people who hear and are affected by the pulpit ministry of this church. Like any pastor, I am very grateful for the privilege of preaching week to week, and I am very glad I was able to finish our study of 2 Peter and begin our study of Colossians with a series of messages warning about false teachers in between. I also admit that I want those messages to be heard by as many people as possible, and the number of people affected by them multiplies with our CD and Internet ministries. I don’t know how many people hear the audio recordings of the sermons since one CD can be heard by multiple people and I do not track audio downloads from the website, but I do know that Sandy used hundreds of CDs last year. I also know that there are over 500 sermons posted as either text notes or audio files or both on the website and that traffic has more than doubled to averaging about 250 hits per day with 62,314 visits last year and 126,155 pages viewed with an average visit of just under 2 hours. It has become a resource for people all around the world that can understand English, and since English is still the major trade language, we have people using it from Asia, the South Pacific, Africa, the Middle East, Europe as well as North and South America. The web site is accessed even by those in Islamic nations and other countries often closed to missionaries. How amazing is our God that he is enabling a this small church in New York to have a teaching ministry that reaches around the globe!
Another part of our pulpit ministry includes special speakers and training up men from our own church to preach. In 2010 we had three missionary speakers and five of our own men including David Harris and Randy Ryan that gave their very first pulpit sermons.
Our outreach also continued to expand in 2010. The Evangelism Committee continued in their regular activities including setting up tables at the annual Picnic in the Park in the village and Wappinger’s Town Day, but this year they also added cooperation with other like minded churches for mutual help including working the booth at the Ulster County Fair. We were challenged by Pastor Pete Mothershead in his Balanced Evangelism seminars in October to be more effective in our outreach training and ministries.
Our supported missionaries also continue to reach out for the cause of Christ around the world. We were privileged to have the Plodenics with us for much of May and June while they raised support here in the Northeast for their on going work at Christ’s Seminary in South Africa. They invited David Harris to go back with them for an internship with Samaria Mission and he will be in South Africa through June 2011. And while death’s are always sad to report, the home going of our missionaries JoAnn Coyle and Earl Poysti are clear demonstrations of God’s faithfulness. Both lived full lives in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. Earl’s ministry legacy lives on in Russian Christian Radio.
Ministry to the local community here continued in multiple ways. David Harris led the Christian Club at Dutchess Community College and I spoke there and a Orange County Community College. Several of our folks held worship services at Elant and other nursing and elder care facilities. I gave invocations at the Wappinger’s Flag Day and Veteran’s Day Ceremonies as well as at the Dutchess County Legislator. We had an effective Vacation Bible School with 59 children attending and nearly one third of those children coming from unchurched homes last year. They are the ones we want to reach the most with that outreach ministry. This was Jessie Scalice’s first year as the VBS director, and she is already thinking of ways to make this year’s VBS even better.
God’s faithfulness is also seen in our various on going discipleship efforts. In addition to personal discipleship in which 16 men and about half of the women in the congregation have participated, there are also our group discipleship efforts. The classes I teach on Monday nights – New Testament Survey and Hermeneutics in 2010 – are for the purpose of not just basic Bible knowledge and skills, but in training up people to serve. The Lord has blessed us with a lot of servants. We have had 17 people involved in teaching our various Sunday School classes, and Children’s Church had seven husband – wife teams, one mother – daughter team and one team of friends rotate the teaching month by month. Our Awana ministry has 12 adults and several teens involved and now runs from 3 year olds to Jr High with between 40-50 kids attending each Friday night. Mark Klare was the Awana Commander for five years before moving over to become the High School Ministry Director and Ed Colón became the new Commander. The High School ministry has concentrated on solid teaching while still having some fun and socialization. All the graduating young men taught at least one Bible Study. G.I.R.L. Time continues to train seven Jr. High age girls in godliness and practical skills. Men’s and Women’s Bible Studies also went well in 2010. The men are now rotating the teaching in order to further their training in taking on responsibilities as men.
Our music ministries are another area in which the Lord has been faithful. Though there always seems to be constant change in our various “praise teams” as people come and go, we continue to have multiple teams to share both the responsibility of leading in musical worship and multiply the training opportunities for our younger musicians. We had 26 people involved in some aspect of our music ministries including musicians, singers, equipment operators plus the Joy Story Choir. We stress training up people for ministry so we do include those who are young and still learning their instrument, but that is how you train them for a lifetime of service to the Lord.
The Lord has blessed our effort to disciple people as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and to serve Him. It is for that reason that while other larger churches struggle to find people to work in their programs, we have a church that desires to serve the Lord. As I scanned our directory I could list some significant ministry involvement for about 60% of the adults and 65% of our teens. The Lord is at work among His people.
Finally, God’s faithfulness is seen in His mercy. Three people that stand out in my mind as receiving God’s mercy in 2010 are Dick Burlingame that despite the medical ups and downs he had he was able to sing on Christmas Eve; Grace Ramac that she had been able to worship with us once again after all the medical treatments she has had in her battle with cancer; and Jack Scalice’s father, who has not only responded so well to the treatments for his cancer, but more importantly, finally came to understand his own need for Jesus Christ and repented of his sins and placed is faith in Jesus for salvation.
God has been faithful in the past. He is faithful in the present. He will be faithful in the future to keep all of His promises. I look forward to His return, but should He tarry through this year too, I look forward to what He will accomplish through His people here at Grace Bible Church. All praise to our faithful Lord!
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times “serve” is used. Discuss with your parents how you can serve the Lord.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. The Psalms give many directions on praising the Lord. List out some of what they teach about who, how, when and why we should praise the Lord. Is Psalm 98 based on a specific event? Why or why not? What is meant the invitation to sing a “new song”? What three elements must be present for an event to qualify as one of the “wonderful things” the Lord has done in Psalm 98? What are some of the events in Israel’s history that you think might qualify as one of the wonderful things? How is the Lord God of the Bible different from the Muslims’ god, Allah, in terms of faithfulness? Is Allah trustworthy? Why or why not? Is the Lord God trustworthy? Why or why not? Briefly trace the history of music in the Old Testament. How should music be used in the present in the worship of God? What role will music have in the future? All creation is invited to praise the Lord because He is coming as judge. Why would the Creation by joyful about this? What will be the basis for the Lord’s judgment of people in the future? How can man avoid that condemnation and actually look forward to the Lord’s return and His judgment? Are you ready for His return? How have you seen God’s faithfulness in your own life in 2010? In the life of your family and friends? In what has occurred at Grace Bible Church last year? What do you desire for the Lord to do in 2011? How are you serving Him?
The Faithfulness of God – Psalm 98
The Psalms are full of directions about _____________ the Lord – who, when and how
We praise the Lord because of His _______________ and His works
Praise the Divine Warrior-Savior
Title = “A Psalm” indicating it is at least somewhat ______________
The invitation to praise is based on the Lord having done “____________things” and He has done many!
A “__________” is either a newly composed song or a change in song due to a change in situation / heart
The description of “wonderful things” includes
* God’s intervention by the ______________ of His hand and arm
* The intervention revealed God’s _________________ to the nations
* The intervention was prompted by God’s _____________His lovingkindness & faithfulness to Israel
The book of ____________ has many stories of such wonderful things – Gideon (Judges 8)
The kings and prophets have many such stories – _______________ and the Assyrian army – 2 Kings 19
The return from _____________
The theme of God’s lovingkindness & ___________occur throughout the Scriptures – historical & future
Allah is ____________and cannot be trusted to keep a covenant abrogating earlier decrees with new ones
The Lord God is _______________ and immutable and so can be trusted to keep all of His promises
Praise the Divine Warrior-King
The invitation to praise the Lord expands to all the ____________ because the Lord is King
Joyful shouting, singing & music praising God are consistent themes in history, the present and the ____
Praise the Divine Warrior-Judge
All of ____________ is instructed to join in the praise of the Lord
Judgment brings condemnation of the __________ and restoration of the righteous to their proper estate.
The Lord’s return will bring His wrath on the unrighteous, but the righteous will be ____________
Romans 8:18-25 Creation itself longs for the Lord’s return and ________________ from its corruption
Conscience and deeds __________ every man as sinful
There is now _____condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus – He has payed the sin price for them
Praise to Our Faithful God
Finances: We have been good stewards, and God has supplied abundantly
Attendance: has remained level even though people have moved away or left
Pulpit ministry: Audio CD’s and our Website multiply the impact of messages around the world
New men are being trained to preach and teach.
Outreach: Expanded to include cooperation with other churches – and the Balanced Evangelism seminars
Supported Missions: David is exploring missions as a career – Jo Ann Coyle and Earl Poysti called home
Local Ministry: Ministries at local Community Colleges and Elant Care Facility
Vacation Bible School: Averaged 59 children with about one third coming from unchurched homes
Personal Discipleship: Sixteen men and about half of the women have completed One-to-One Discipling
Christian Education: Sunday School has involved 17 teachers and Children’s church nine teaching teams
Awana: Now from age 3 – Jr. High and involves 12 adults & several teens as leaders with 40-50 kids
High School Ministry: Concentrates on solid teaching – yet still has fun. All graduating young men taught
G.I.R.L. Time – continues to train Jr. High girls in godliness and practical skills
Men’s & Women’s Bible Studies: Encouraging, teaching, admonishing, training in godliness
Music Ministries: Involved 26 people including young musicians learning to serve
People who serve: ~ 60% of all adults and 65% of teens are involved in some ministry
God is faithful in His mercy
God is faithful in the past, the present and will continue to be faithful to fulfill all His promises
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