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Saturday, 23 July 2016

Psalm 85 Memories, Faith and Forgiveness

When I led the weekly worship service at a local nursing home a couple of weeks ago, I talked about memories and how they can be both good and bad, depending on the memories. I talked about how Joshua told representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel to take 12 stones from the Jordan River and make a monument after the Israelites entered the Promised Land. This monument was intended to help the Israelites remember God’s faithfulness to them during the forty years that they wandered in the wilderness.

The writer of Psalm 85 also talks about memories. Memories give us hope. For example, people who are grieving the loss of a loved one are often comforted by their memories of their loved ones. Memories let us recall with gratitude what God has done in the past, and they give us the hope that God will do good things for us again in the future. That makes our present sorrows and sufferings bearable.

Psalm 85 is a community lament. God was not pleased that his people were unfaithful, and he showed his displeasure. The people repented and asked God to forgive them. The six verbs-been favourable, brought back, have forgiven, covered, taken away, turned down-highlight God’s redemptive work in Israel’s history. God’s gracious dealings with Israel in the past justify the hope that He will once again show grace and forgiveness. The psalm closes with the confidence that God will forgive his people. 

The psalmist also urges us to make sure that our repentance is genuine. He urges us not to make the same mistakes that caused God’s displeasure. The word mercy literally means “lovingkindness” or “steadfast love.” It is a powerful word used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe God’s unconditional love and His covenant commitment. God’s promise of salvation is available to everyone who believes in him in faith, but that provision is not automatic. It only comes if we repent and turn to God in faith.

God’s judgment is the result of his righteousness and our sins. There will never be any reconciliation without repentance and forgiveness. Reconciliation was made possible by Christ’s death on the cross. Since he bore our sins and our punishment on his shoulders, we can come home to God. His wrath has been lifted, but it will return every time we sin. Every time we repent, God will forgive us, but that does not give us a license to sin.

Spiritual revival involves getting right with God and returning to a place in our lives where we can delight in God and celebrate his goodness, love and mercy. It will rescue us from the penalty of sin and the urge to practice our sins.  

Jesus is like water. Both can go where we can’t go. Throw something against a wall, and it will hit the wall and drop. Throw water on a wall, and the water will spread. Jesus is the same. He is a spirit who is not limited by an earthly body. He enters our souls and quenches our spiritual thirst just like water quenches our physical thirst.

There is a spiritual thirst in the world today. Both the world and the church need revival. They need to heed the words of the old song, “That Old Time Religion”:

 Give me that old time religion
 Give me that old time religion
 Give me that old time religion
 It's good enough for me

 Makes me love everybody
 Makes me love everybody
 Makes me love everybody
 It's good enough for me

 It has saved our fathers
 It has saved our fathers
 It has saved our fathers
 And it's good enough for me

 It was good for the prophet Daniel
 It was good for the prophet Daniel
 It was good for the prophet Daniel
 And it's good enough for me

 Give me that old time religion
 give me that old time religion
 Give me that old time religion
 It's good enough for me

 It was good for Hebrew children
 it was good for Hebrew children
 It was good for Hebrew children
 And it's good enough for me

The church needs to have the same impact that the church in the first century AD did. We and the church need to pray, evangelize and give faithfully of time, talent and treasures.  

We need revival daily even thought we may say to ourselves, “I’ve confessed, tried and failed so many times. Revival doesn’t last.”  Someone said the same thing to evangelist Billy Sunday in the early 1900s. He made the point that since personal revival wasn’t a permanent end to temptation, sin and failure, times of revival weren’t important. The man complained to Billy Sunday that revival just doesn’t last. Billy Sunday just smiled and replied, “Well, a bath doesn’t last either, but it’s good to take one occasionally!” Daily revival is like a daily bath. Both get rid of dirt and grime. A bath gets rid of physical dirt and grime, and daily revival gets rid of the spiritual dirt and grime called sin. When we are restored, we can rejoice at having been restored and forgiven. At the same time we can anticipate with joy the fulfillment of prophecy and our promised salvation.

We can’t do anything to earn our salvation except repent and accept God by faith. Salvation is a gift from God that was paid for when Christ died on the cross. When God forgives us, we will know that God keeps his promises. God’s mercy and righteousness will always triumph over sin and death. Lovingkindness, righteousness and peace are characteristics of God, and they are also characteristics of our eternal, heavenly home.

Bibliography

1.      Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN; Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 762-763)

2.      Houston, David: “Old Time Religion.” Retrieved from http://www.metrolyrics.com/old-time-religion-lyrics-david-houston.html

3.      ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.

4.      Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 14: Psalms 73-150 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1989; pp. 108-113)

5.      MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)

6.      Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010, pp. 785-787)

7.      Pastor Greg Laurie, “Revival is Personal.” Retrieved from www.harvest.org

8.      Joel Osteen, “Ask to Hear Him Better.” Retrieved from www.joelsoteen.com

9.      Dr. Stephen Davey, “Taking a Bath-Daily!” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com

10.  Dr. Billy Graham, “Does God Give Up on a Nation That Turns Against Him?” Retrieved from www.billygraham.org

11.  The Rev. Margaret Leichester-Stoddard, “Bible Study, Proper 12 (C)-July 24, 2016.” Retrieved from http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/07/11/bible-study-proper-12-c-juolu-24-2016/

 

 

 

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