Theme: Rejoicing is the natural response to confirmed hope.
Purpose: Validate those who are stepping out into deeper waters with the Lord.
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say ‘rejoice.’ “
This is the cute little children’s chorus I learned in church many years ago. It was a round. The antiphonal part went: “rejoice, rejoice, and again I say rejoice.”
It was a happy tune. When I sing it, I picture myself in the choir loft on a sunny Monday afternoon with a dozen or more children trying hard to focus, moms waiting in the wings for choir practice to finish, and a middle-aged dedicated choir director with bright eyes and expressive face mouthing the words and maybe even adding hand motions to get us into the swing.
As we begin this psalm, one would be inclined to presume that this is the setting for this joyous hymn: in the temple, children in attendance, maybe preparing for a program of some sort.
But as I read down to the bottom of the psalm, I’m not convinced. Listen to the last stanza:
Vss. 20 – 22
“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
“Please don’t stop loving us, Lord, our hope is in you.”
Can you hear the haunting tone? Let me paraphrase:
“You’d better deliver, Lord, ‘cause we’ve put all our eggs in this basket!”
Yes, he’s rejoicing.
Yes, he’s convinced of God’s unfailing love.
Yes, he’s dedicated his life to God!
But no, he’s not sitting in the temple wiling away the hours in some harp workshop!
I think he’s on a bluff on the outskirts of Israel overlooking the Philistine army.
I think he’s got a lost sheep in one hand and a sling in the other waiting to fling it into the head of the lion that’s staring him down 20 feet away.
I think he’s out in deep waters and doesn’t have much to hang on except the trustworthiness of his Lord and God.
“Our soul waits for the Lord. He is our help and shield. … We trust in his holy name.”
Somebody’s life, or pet project, or loved one, or main occupation, or survival is on the line and the overriding question emerges to the surface:
“Can I trust the one in whose hands I’ve put my life?”
“Is the Lord trustworthy?”
We all know the ‘right’ answer to that question. Yes, of course.
But when you have no income, when your reputation has been ripped away, when tragedy has struck, or when you’ve begun a bold new daring venture on faith alone, who cares what the ‘right’ answer is? The only answer that matters is the REAL answer: can I trust my life to God?”
Because if I can’t, let’s not pussyfoot around. There’s too much at stake.
Can YOU trust YOUR life in God’s hands?
Does the Lord have enough of a track record in your life to be given this responsibility? Does he cut the mustard?
Nevermind what he did for Israel, or Jesus, or Paul, or anyone else? Will he come through for me?
Some of you may know that at 7:00 p.m. every night my alarm goes off. It has been a reminder to pray for a childhood friend of our family, Scott, age 47, who up until last week was fighting a battle with cancer. He lost the battle last week. I’ve kept the alarm on now to remind me of his widow, Allison.
And I think about Allison, a devout Christian, who must be getting up each morning to her quiet time with the Lord with three burning questions:
1. Is God really in control?
2. Can I really trust this big book sitting on my dresser?
3. How do I know he’s looking out for ME?
In my opinion, these are the same exact three questions that King David is asking as he writes this psalm.
How do I know this? Because trusting God in these three areas is its basic content.
Is God really in control?
What evidence do I really have?
Vss. 6 – 9
Let’s see: he made the heavens; he put borders on the ocean.
As much as we freak out about volcanoes and earthquakes and tsunamis and forest fires, you have to admit that 99% of the time in 99% of the earth, things are really quite ordered and structured. Meteors haven’t destroyed this planet, the atmosphere hasn’t collapsed, ice hasn’t enveloped the crust, its path around the sun is very predictable.
Things are under control.
That’s the God who has MY life in his hands.
If he has the whole world in his hands, that includes me.
Did you know, If Earth did not have a strong and relatively stable magnetic field, we'd all be fried by cosmic rays and solar storms.
Our Lord isn’t bragging about this; he’s not stuffing it in our faces: “you see what I’ve done for you and your terrestrial ball?”
A simple ‘thank you’ is all he asks.
I am in good hands with whoever created this planet.
But can I trust His word?
What evidence do I really have?
Vss. 10 – 12
It’s a fact of history: nations, regardless of political system, who have been fair in their courts, taken care of the poor, and provided equally to all its citizens . . . do well!
Godly policies lead to health and prosperity. They just do.
After years of tedious research, sociologist Bob Woodberry has made a startling discovery: there is a statistically-verifiable link between the impact of non-state-supported Protestant missionaries working in colonized lands across the world over the last 200 years and the current level of political democratization – and it’s DIRECTLY proportional.
Those now-independent states that had the greatest influence from these early pioneers show greater education, more literacy, and less tyrannical governments per capita than their non-missionized counterparts.
Anticipating the pushback, Dr. Woodberry ran all sorts of scenarios and factored in all possible factors to create a thesis that is proving beyond refutation.
Sure, you can argue different interpretations of Scripture. You can take a verse here or a verse there and develop all sorts of half-baked hypotheses.
But taken as a whole, when fed into your personal life or the life of a nation, Scripture breeds goodness. It’s a reliable source of hope and life.
But if you don’t believe me, trust Google! Or Bill Gates! Or PBS. They all sound impressive.
Last but not least, . . .
How do I know he’s looking out for me?
Vss. 16 – 18
King David has been around the battlefield long enough to observe that all the military equipment in the world can’t guarantee the Lord’s favor.
Didn’t Vietnam sort of teach us that?
Here’s one of the most celebrated and decorated war heroes of his time, someone who would have first-hand experience to know what really makes the difference arrow-to-arrow, shield-to-shield, helmet-to-helmet.
The single most reliable factor is what? Whether one trusts in God or not?
Tell that to the Pentagon.
How do I know the Lord is looking out for me when the circumstances don’t confirm it?
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
"You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during
the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one
set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most,
you have not been there for me?"
The Lord replied,
"The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints,
is when I carried you."
God MUST be in control.
His Word has to be trustworthy.
I KNOW he’s looking out for me.
Creation declares it.
History proves it.
Testimony after testimony verify it.
And after going over the evidence, King David is ready to write his psalm.
And where does he begin?
When you’ve confirmed your hope in the Lord, there’s only one place to begin: rejoicing!
What else do you do when you know in your heart you have a Good Shepherd?
What other response is appropriate when cared for by a Big God?
Rejoicing befits the righteous.
And not just mundane hum-drum chanting of random melodies:
But with the use of multiple instruments
Playing with skill and excellence
Singing . . . wait for it: NEW songs!
If it is music meant to honor such a great God, it ought to be creative, imaginative, and well-crafted.
I don’t know what odds you’re up against.
I don’t know what sort of faith it might take to trust God in your situation.
But based on the evidence, based on the consistent, year in and year out dependency on the grace and favor of God through the centuries, I’m declaring to you today that you have a reason to rejoice.
Regardless of what foes surround us, we can sing with confidence:
“Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.”