ďOur God Is In HeavenĒ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† August 31, 2014
SI:† Weíve studied eleven Psalms this summer, this will be the twelfth and last.
I got curious to know how many of the 150 Psalms Iíve preached on in different
†† segments over the years and this will make 51.† So we have 99 more to go.
Maybe next summer weíll dip back into this hymnbook of the OT church.
The one Iíve picked for today is a good one.
†† Itís a big Psalm, very grand in its scope and majestic in its languageó
†† but at the same time it very pointed and contemporary.
It will convict you of your sin and make you want to sing praise to God
†† at the same time.† So letís give attention to Godís inspired Word.
INTRO:† On September 12, 1683, the King of Poland, John Sobieski
†† defeated the Turkish Army that was besieging Vienna.
It was a victory of enormous historical significance because it saved
†† European Christianity and European civilization from Islamic domination.†
It dealt such a blow to Islam that for the next 300 years, it was relegated to a minor
†† role on the world scene.† Only in our day has it started to rise again.
What does that have to do with Psalm 115?
†† After that historic victory, the king and his army sang this Psalm:†
†† ďNot to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory.Ē
On February 23, 1807 the British House of Commons passed a bill
†† banning the transport of slaves throughout the British Empire.
It wasnít the full abolition of slavery, but it was the first major political victory
†† that would eventually lead to the abolition of slavery.
That landmark bill passed because of 20 years of tireless leadership
†† by William Wilberforce.† That evening he wrote in his journal . . .
†† ďNot to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory.Ē
On June 18, 1956, Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators,
†† a man Billy Graham said had personally touched more people for Christ
†† than anyone he had ever known, lost his life while rescuing a drowning girl.
When the distraught and weeping eyewitnesses of his drowning came
†† and told his wife Lila that he was gone, she said:
†† ďBut our God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases him.Ē
I could go on, there are many other famous examples of Psalm 115
†† being quoted or sung by Godís people at momentous turning points.
Let me tell you about just one more.
In the summer of 1802, a very smart and very ambitious young man
†† was getting ready to attend Brown College in the fall.†
He wanted to make a name for himself in politics
†† and there was every reason to believe that he would make a name for himself.
But he got sick that summer and was in bed for about a month recuperating.
†† In the quietness of bedroom, one Bible verse began to intrude on his mind:
†† ďNot to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory.Ē
And he had to admit that his ambition for politics was for his own glory.
†† He decided to give it up and seek Godís glory. †Who was that young man?
†† Adoniram Judson, pioneer missionary to Burma, Bible translator,
†† one of the greatest missionaries the American church has ever produced.
This may not be a Psalm that you are very familiar with,
†† but it has had a tremendous grip on the hearts and imaginations of
†† believers through the ages.† So it ought to be one that we know and love too.
What is Psalm 115 about?
It is a grand contrast between the true and living God,
†† the maker of heaven and earth and idols made by hands of men.
It is a call to Godís people to flee from all idolatry,
†† and to worship and serve and love the Lord our God.
John Calvin said that the human heart is an idol-making factory.
Even as believers, our hearts and minds are creating idols every day.
†† We worship things besides God
†† and turn to them for the help and blessings that God alone can give.†
Thatís really the common thread that connects these stories Iíve told you.
†† Each one is about a believer who pushed back against idolatry.
King Johnís temptation in that day of victory was to make an idol of his
†† military might, and for his soldiers to trust in their strength of arms.
William Wilberforceís temptation was to make an idol of politics and strategy.
Adoniram Judson realized he had made and idol of his brilliant mind and ambitions.
And Lila Trotman pushed back hard, even in her grief, against the idol of self-pity.
Instead, each of these believers, by the power of the Holy Spirit and
†† by the inspired words of Psalm 115 worshipped the true and living God.
And in so doing, they became great, humble people who we admire
†† because of the Christ-like spirit that worship produced in them.
But what if each one of them had instead given in to idolatry,
† †and allowed the idol-making factories of their hearts to take over?
†† What kind of people would they have become instead?
Thatís the question that brings this Psalm home to each of us.
So letís look at it more carefully under just two headings.
1.† The lure of idolatry.
2.† The cure for idolatry.
Credit where credit is due:† Sermon on Psalm by Dr. Robert Rayburn.
MP#1† The lure of idolatry.
Iíve preached about idolatry a lot over years, because of influence of Tim Keller.
Iíve listened to many of his sermons, and idolatry is a big theme of his preaching.†
†† He often says that biblically-speaking, our fundamental problem is idolatry.
He wrote a book a few years ago titled:† Counterfeit Gods.
In the introduction he says:
†† ďThe old pagans were not fanciful when they depicted virtually everything as a god.† They had sex gods, work gods, war gods, money gods, nation godsófor the simple fact that anything can be a god that rules and serves as a deity in the heart of a person or in the life of a people.† For example, physical beauty is a pleasant thing, but if you make it the most important thing in a personís life or a cultureís life, then you have Aphrodite, the beauty idol.† And you have people, and an entire culture, constantly agonizing over appearance, spending inordinate amounts of time and money on it, and foolishly evaluating character on the basis of it.† We may not physically kneel before the statue of Aphrodite, but many young women today are driven into depression and eating disorders by an obsessive concern over their body image.† If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.Ē
Keller makes a very helpful distinction
†† between what he calls deep idols and surface idols.
†† Iíve shared this with you on a number of occasions.†
Deep idols are when the deep motivational drives of our hearts become idolatrous.
†† He says there are four deep idols: Control, Comfort, Power, and Approval
Depending on your personality and experiences,
†† you are going to be drawn to a particular deep idol.†
†† Some people want approval, some people want power, and so forth.
Deep idols are hard to see, but they are always connected to surface idols.
†† Surface idols are visible and concrete things that serve the deep idol.
They can be literally be anything:† your children, money, your appearance,
†† your health, a political party, a romantic relationship, academic degrees.
People serve those things because in different ways they promise to get them
†† the deeper thing they wantóapproval, power, comfort, or control.
So, four different people might all have money as a surface idol,
†† but in each case, they worship money for different reasons.
One person wants money to get power over other people, another to get approval
†† from the people who matter, another to control the contingencies of life,
†† and the last one to provide comforts and pleasures to make life worth living.
Idols never deliver what they promise and they end up cursing us.
Thatís a whole sermon, and Iíve preached it before, and itís a good one.
But I want to go in a different direction with Psalm 115,
†† and consider an aspect of idolatry that I donít think Iíve ever addressed.
This is something I havenít given enough thought to personally.
†† I havenít fought against it like I should for myself and my family.†
What is it?† Iím going to call it the lure of the idolatrous image.
One of the big things this Psalm is warning us about is the power idolatrous
†† images have to draw our hearts into idol worship.
To really grasp this, you have to try to put yourself into the world of the Psalmó
†† the world of the Ancient Near East.
All the nations surrounding Israel worshipped their gods by means of imagesó
† †the Babylonians and Assyrians did, the Edomites, Moabites, and Egyptians did.
†† And closer to home, the Canaanites did.
Even after the Israelites conquered the Promised Land,
†† there was still a Canaanite presence.†
Canaanite idolatry was always a problem for Israel.
†† The Canaanites had their high places where they set up shrines with their idols.
What did these images of the Canaanite gods look like?
Archaeologists have found some of them.
†† Some are the image of a man holding a lighting bolt.
†† Some are bulls with prominent testicles.
†† Many of them are naked woman with big breasts.
The worship of Canaanite idolatry was surrounded by sexually charged images.
†† Modern American culture has been called the porn culture.
Well, Ancient Near Eastern society was also a porn culture
†† and the worship of its idols was profoundly pornographic.
Those idol images represented what the people wanted, what they hoped to get
†† from their gods, whether it was fertility, wealth, pleasure, sensuality, whatever.
†† All of those longings were represented by images made of wood, stone, or metal.
Now, hereís what you have to understand to really get this Psalm.
For Israelites, even as believers and worshippers of the true God,
†† those images were enormously appealing.†
Israelites wanted to look at them.† They wanted to view those images.
†† Their hearts were drawn to them and what they promised.
So what Psalm 115 does to help Israelites is that it mocks those images.
Is says, idol images are stupid.† They are made by the hands of men.
†† They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot
†† hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot
†† walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Not only are those images stupid, people who worship them are stupid.
†† If you worship them long enough, the sensitive capacities of your soul
†† will be dulled and you will become stupid.
Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.
This Psalm was not written for Canaanites.† It was written for Israelites.
Listen Israelite man, listen Israelite woman, listen Israelite covenant childrenó
†† our God is in heaven.† He does whatever he pleases.† Heís real.† Heís alive.
†† He remembers us and blesses us.
So donít be lured by idolatrous images that capture your eye and
† †promise so many good things.† They arenít real.† They canít deliver.
They are dumb and people who fall for them are dumb.
Now, letís take a 3,000 year leap from this Psalm to our own day.†
†† Back then, people had to go to the high places to worship images.
†† But in our day, idol images come right into our homes.
We live in a culture saturated with imagesó
†† images much more alluring and convincing than crude wood and stone idols.
We have High Definition images.† Photo-shopped images.† Video images.†
†† Hollywood images.† Madison Avenue images. †Sexually-suggestive images.
†† And these images promise us everything our hearts desire.
They promises that if we have the newest phone or car, or the latest pill
†† or gadget or fashion, then weíll be happier and our lives will be better.
At the same time those images produce in us discontentment with what we have,
†† and a desire to spend more than we have, and to live above our means,
†† and to daydream about having more money.
The images of celebrity culture are always before us, and they claim to be the
†† pattern for true beauty, success and humor, and we canít take our eyes off them.
But as Christians, we canít be taken in by this.†
†† We canít allow ourselves to be captured by the idolatrous images
†† of the Canaanites who live all around us.†
So how do we resist the lure of idolatry?† Brings us to second point.
MP#2† The cure for idolatry.
What is the remedy for this terrible tendency that human being have,
†† and even Christians have, to worship what is not real and invest in false images?
Many good things could be said in answer to that question.
†† But Psalm 115 specifically teaches you to do two things.
You must mock idols and confess the majesty of your God.†
The Bible mocks idols in many places.† Read Isaiah 40, 44.† Habakkuk 2.
†† Look at Elijah on Mt. Carmel with prophets of Baal and Asherah, mocking them.†
†† Shout louder.† Maybe Baal is on a trip or taking a nap.
†† One Jewish commentator claimed should be translated, going to bathroom.
Why was Elijah mocking them?† For the benefit of the huge crowd of Israelites
†† gathered on the mountain.† To show them how stupid idolatry is.
And we have to do the sameóconstantly.
Idolatry is like professional wrestling.
†† The companies that stage wrestling are registered and licensed as entertainment
†† enterprises, because if they claimed to be a sport, they could be sued for fraud.
Nobody bets on professional wrestling.
†† But wrestling fans pretend it is real.
And they pretend so hard, they get emotionally invested.
†† They cheer, they scream, they groan when their wrestler is hit with folding chair.
†† And they get so caught up in the moment, that they forget itís fake.
Thatís a perfect picture of idolatry.† Itís fake.
And people know deep down that their idols arenít real.
†† People will say that money doesnít buy happiness.
†† They know life isnít really going to be content and peaceful if buy this or that.
But they act like all those things are real and like they will make them happy,
†† and they invest themselves in them completely.†
And there is a demonic aspect to this as well.† The Devil makes idols attractive.
†† He doesnít advertise by saying:† This thing might be fun for a while, but it will
†† destroy your soul and rot your mind and estrange you from your family.†
These images always depict the idol as liberating and fun and fulfilling.
†† Think of the pervasiveness of sexually suggestive images that surround us.
They are used to advertise every sort of product, and to promote entertainment
†† that we will watch, during which we will be subjected to more images.
You have to constantly point out the stupidity of idolatry whenever and wherever
†† you see it, especially you find it rising in your own heart.
You have to say to yourself:† This is ridiculous.† What am I thinking?
†† What will I possibly get for investing my hopes in this thing?
†† Stop this daydreaming.† Fix your mind on Jesus.†
†† Be a Christian for goodness sake.† Donít be stupid.†
Donít invest your emotions in what is not real and in what canít save.
†† Those are the kinds of conversations you have to have with yourself every day.
And you must have those conversations with your children
†† until they are sharp-sighted enough that they can detect an idol immediately.
Not to be overly specific, but how do you watch TV with your family?
†† Do you just take it all in without comment?†
†† And let it soak into your childrenís eyes and minds without comment?
You canít do that.† You have to mock advertising enough for them to get it.
†† The world will not be filled with happy, loving people if everybody drinks Coke.
†† The values depicted in this or that show are wrong, silly, and empty.
There is a sanctified mockery of idols and images that Christians must cultivate.
Thatís the negative, the positive is you must confess the majesty of your God.
Back to Tim Keller for a moment.†
†† In his teaching on idolatry, he always says that dealing with idols in our hearts
†† is a two-part process.† He calls it repenting and rejoicing.
You have to identify your idols, repent of them specifically.
†† But then Keller always says that is not enough.†
†† If you stop there, still empty inside and you will just fill it with another idol.†
After you repent, you have to rejoice.† Find the specific way that Jesus Christ
†† answers and fills this deep thing you want, and praise him for it.
Psalm 115 has a similar two-part approach.
Itís not enough just to mock idols.† Even perceptive unbelievers can do that.
†† They can see through the images and know they arenít real.
†† But that alone does not deliver them from the power of idolatry.
†† There has to be something else to capture the imagination and worship of soul.
And that something is someoneó
†† Our God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases him.
†† Heís real.† Heís personal.† Heís not a shallow image to manipulate.
His majesty and power, his truth and wisdom, his grace and love in Christó
†† must be the focus of your heart and worship.
Throughout the Psalm, the covenant name for God is used.
†† LORD in all capital letters is the way English Bible translators signal that.
This is Yahweh, the name he gave to Abraham and to his people Israel.
†† Itís the personal name, the saving name.
And, of course, it is the name to which Jesus Christ is connected that affirms
†† his deity and his mission to save his people.†
Just look at one verse, verse 14.
May the LORD, Yahweh, our Savior Jesus Christ,
†† make you increase, both you and your children.
Increase.† Thatís how the Lord promises to bless you.
†† He is going to make you increase.†
He is going to increase your capacity for thought and joy and meaning in life.†
Heís going to increase your opportunities to serve and advance his kingdom.†
Heís going to increase in you the fruit of the Spirit, more love, more patience,
†† more gentleness and kindness and self-control.
Heís going to increase every material thing you need to pursue his plan for life.
And furthermore, he promises to make your children increase.†
He delights in pouring out his grace along the lines of generations.
†† No idols promise that.† Idols donít care about your children.
Canaanite idols sometimes required worshippers
†† to sacrifice their children in the fire.
And in our day, many a workaholic parent has sacrificed his or her children
†† to money or ambition.† And those parents have tried to fill the terrible
†† void in their childrenís souls by turning them into little idolaters themselves.
Here, let me buy you something you want because Iím not home enough
†† and donít talk to you enough.
But because the Lord is our God, and because we know his promise of increase
†† is given both to us and our children, we can teach our little children to sing:
†† Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
And that is worth more to a child than all of the idol promises of our idolatrous age.†
Confess the majesty of your God.† Confess glory of his love in Jesus Christ.†
Sing it to yourself, like those believers did who I told you about at the beginning.
† †Each one of them, in his or her own way, beat back idolatry with these
†† inspired words:† Our God is in heaven, not to us, but to you, O Lord be the glory.
CONC:† Remember the haunting words of this Psalm.
ďThose who make them will be like them.Ē
You donít want to be like and idol.† You donít want to be deaf and dumb.
†† You donít want to be stupid.† You donít want to be powerless in the day of God.
Idolatry, in every form, whether bowing down to images of wood and stone,
†† or images on the screen will destroy the soul.
But worship the Lord, the living God, the one who died for you and loves youó
†† and you will become a larger, deeper, wiser, better, more beautiful person
†† in every way.
You canít help it.† Because our God is real and wise and beautiful.
†† And those who worship him become like him.