Psalm 128: Blessed!

Big Idea: Everyone who fears and obeys the LORD can expect the LORD’s blessing: born in the soul, running through the life, and extending beyond the grave.

Introduction: A Song of Ascents. = This is a short psalm/song, which very well may have been sung by families and friends as the traveled from their homes and villages “up” to Jerusalem to celebrate at the religious festivals there.

I.          Blessing for those who fear and follow the LORD 1

 1 How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways.

A.        …who fears the LORD 1a

Fear = a type of constant attention and regard, marked by reverence.

B.        …who walks in His ways 1b

II.         Blessings described… 2-4

A.        Contentment in your hard work 2

2 When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, You will be happy and it will be well with you.

B.        Joy in marriage 3a

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine Within your house,

  • Like a fruitful vine =
  • Literal:  a grape vine, the source of food, wine, shade/comfort, and medicine.
  • Metaphorical…
    • National joy and prosperity: Joel 3: 18 And it will come about in that day That the mountains will drip with sweet wine, And the hills will flow with milk, And all the brooks of Judah will flow with water; And a spring will go out from the house of the LORD, To water the valley of Shittim.
    • Personal contentment and comfort: 1 Kings 4:25 So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.  Wine stands for harvest abundance at the end of a long, dry summer: It “gladdens the heart of man” (Psalm 104:15).
    • Marital joy: physical intimacy and joy:  Song of Solomon, John 2: 1-10, etc.
    • Such a wife described in detail:  Proverbs 31: 10ff = independent, free, equal, valued, possessing a public life, trusted partner.

C.         Delight in your children 3b-4

Your children like olive plants Around your table. 4 Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the LORD.

  • Olive plants = food, fuel, wealth.  12 years from planting of the seed to first harvest year.  Lives for centuries, bearing fruit the whole time…

III.        Blessing Pronounced 5-6

A.        “May you receive God’s favor from heaven!” 5a

5 The LORD bless you from Zion,

  • The LORD bless you from Zion, = From (within) Zion = Both literal and symbolic meanings, but is clearly the place where God is, in heaven.

B.        “May you see the blessing of God on earth!” 5b

And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

C.        “May you leave a legacy!” 6a

6 Indeed, may you see your children’s children.

  • Indeed, may you see your children’s children.  = grandchildren.
  • This is about more than simply living a long life—it is about a legacy.

D.        “May you know peace/shalom!” 6b

Peace be upon Israel! = Peace be upon Israel! = shalom

Application to us at Grace Bible Church today:  The War Against Blessing… and the Way To Blessing

1.         The WAR against blessing: We often fight against the very blessing we crave.

A.        We want to enjoy the fruits of our hard work, but often become too busy working to enjoy what we earn!

B.        We want strong, healthy marriages, but are tempted to misuse or neglect our spouses.  Crooked views of Christian marriage—

  • The pragmatic model…marriage as a means to an end; to provide a strong partnership for gaining more wealth, success, etc., apart from relational desire and opportunity.
  • The religious model…marriage as a religious statement; existing in order to obey God’s “command” to be “fruitful and multiply” = having many, many children; pressuring wives to stay at home, not encouraging girls to excel and grow, but instead training them to treat males with a feigned, unhealthy deference. This model presumes that God’s “be fruitful and multiply” means, “Have lots and lots of babies!”
  • The hierarchical/patriarchal model…  Christian men dominating their wives and children, acting like “little lords” in their homes, denying the basic God-given independence and intelligence of their wives. (cf. Prov 31)

C.        Our unrealistic desires for perfect, well-behaved children can rob us of the simply, matchless enjoyment of our children.

2.         The WAY to blessing: how we can best allow God to do the wonderful things in our lives that we desire.

A.        Fear and obey the LORD as best you can.

B.        Learn to treasure the important things in life: your home, your marriage, and your children.

C.        Trust that your Father in heaven really does have good plans for you, your marriage, your family, and your future.

  • Rom 8   32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

What We Believe: Maranatha! 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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Purpose of Paul’s writing this section: To comfort some beloved fellow-Christians who were confused, worried, fearful, and grieving the deaths of their Christian friends and family.

I.          A Question and Answer: What about those who have died believing in Jesus?  13-17

A.        Question: What will happen when Jesus returns for His church? 13

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.

B.        Answer—the fate of those who have died: There will be a return, a resurrection, a rapture, and reunion 14-17

1.         Jesus will return with the souls of those who have died “in Him” 14-15

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

2.         Jesus will resurrect all those who have died “in Him” 16

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

3.         Jesus will rapture living saints to Himself and to the resurrected saints 17a

17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up

4.         Jesus will reunite all people who have trusted in Him—to Himself and to each other 17b

together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

The Rapture is one of the most controversial theological doctrines of our faith—God suddenly swooping in to deliver people before a time of divine judgment doesn’t set well with our present culture’s feelings and inclinations:  But, it isn’t outside of God’s character to do so.  He can “snatch up” whoever He wants, when he wants…  Enoch (before the judgment of Flood (Gen),  Lot (before the judgment of God fell on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen), Israel (before God judged Egypt (Exod), Rahab (snatched out of Jericho before the invasion of the Hebrews), Elijah (taken in a “flaming chariot” to heaven, before the great invasions of Israel by her enemies).

RAPTURE:  “RAPTIO” (Latin) =  “harpazo” (Greek) = “to snatch up, carry away.” = In NT, derivatives of the word are used to describe:

…a thief carrying off a person’s property

…a bird snatching away a seed that had been scattered by a sower

the desire of the crowds to “take” Jesus by force and make Him king,

…a wolf coming to a flock of sheep and “snatching one of them away

the inability of anyone to “snatch” out of the hand of the Lord those whom the Father has given him,

…the Spirit of the Lord “snatching” Philip away from the Ethiopian eunuch and transporting Philip miles away to the city of Azotus,

…a Roman officer rescuing Paul “by force” from an angry mob of Jews

…of Paul being “snatched” up to “the third heaven” by the Lord when he was converted to Christianity.

II.         Comfort concerning Christians who have died 18

 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Remember Me! (Luke 23:32-43)

If you would like to hear this sermon in audio, please click on “Grace Sermons,” and find it by date, 4.14.13.)

Big Idea: It’s ALWAYS too late to be good enough for heaven, but NEVER too late to get in.

Context: Crucifixion amidst mockery 32-38

1.         Two criminals were led away and crucified alongside Him. 32-34

32 Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. 33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. 34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

2.         Crowds stared on and rulers mocked Him 35

35 And the people stood by, looking on.And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”

Sneering = derivative of the ideas of looking down the nose at.  We might say, “Even the religious leaders were looking down their noses as Jesus as He hung…”

“…the Christ, His Chosen One…”  They unwittingly used the very terms of description found in OT texts that would have assured them that Jesus certainly COULD NOT “saved Himself”! = Isa 53: 4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.  5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.

3.         Soldiers and their government mocked Him with cruel drama and irony. 36-38

They mocked him by the play-acting 36-38

36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” = “sour wine”: the cheap, crude wine the soldiers probably kept close by was an ironic substitute for the highest quality wines served to kings in their palaces.

The government of Rome mocked His claim to be the Messiah 38

38 Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” = A look at all of the gospel accounts reveals that this inscription was actually produced in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, so no one would miss the clear message of Rome:  “This is what happens to those who challenge our king!”

Two Criminals and Christ Jesus 39-43

I.          The first criminal hurled abuse at Him, and remained lost 39

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”

Hurling abuse = lit, blaspheming.  Blasphemy is the railing, offensive, accusatory speaking out against somebody, mostly in the Bible, it is to do so towards God Himself. 

II.         One criminal sought eternal life from Him, and was saved 40-43

A.        He realized his own guilt 40-41a                       

40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds;

B.        He recognized Jesus’ perfect innocence 41b

but this man has done nothing wrong.”

C.        He requested that Jesus grant him eternal life 42

42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”

And He was saying = (Imperfect Active Indicative = continuous past action) = the criminal was repeating, “Jesus, when you come into your kingdom…”

The repentant criminal’s statement in verses 40-42 is packed with significance.  It provides much information concerning the criminal’s new beliefs and hopes about himself, and Jesus:

–He had experienced a radical change of heart regarding Jesus; from being a fellow-blasphemer, mocking Jesus as He was nailed to the cross, this criminal became shocked and fearful at the words of his fellow criminal.

–He had a new, chilling certainty of his own guilt and just punishment for his sins (crimes).

–He was insistent, repeatedly seeking Jesus’ attention and favor.   He understood the stakes, unlike the other criminal, who continued to blaspheme, the Lord.

–He appealed to Jesus personally, calling Him by His village name, the name His mother and father gave Him—Jesus.  “Remember me” = keep me in Your mind and thoughts, plans and actions.

–He believed Jesus would rise from the grave.  “When you come into Your Kingdom…”  Remember: NO ONE survived crucifixion!

–Finally, he believed that Jesus had the power to save, although He was dying before their very eyes…  John 19:32 The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first man, and of the other man who was crucified with Him;  33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs = Jesus died first, before the two criminals.

He received the promise of eternal life from Jesus 43

43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

“Today with Me” = This is the hope of the believer in death—immediate presence of Jesus; no shadowy land of waiting, no “soul sleep” for thousands of years, no crossing of any mythical River Styx, etc., but instead, the immediate presence of Jesus in Paradise.

Application: What do these verses teach us about the Savior Jesus?  

1.         People really do change their minds about Jesus! 

The thief on the cross seems to have begun as a part of the larger group who were mocking Jesus—but at some point he changed, and became a believer, a worshiper of Jesus, and was saved!  WE must remember and hope, that people really do change; often suddenly and inexplicably, and in the midst of the most terrible mocking of Christianity, and Jesus Himself.

2.         Jesus never changes in His mind about saving all people who simply trust in Him.  

Although He was challenged to “come down” and “saved Himself,” self-salvation was never really an option to Jesus—He came to seek the lost, and to save them.  The cross was/is the saving work that Jesus came to do!  Nothing can dissuade Jesus from His unconditional understanding of, and commitment to, His passion to save people today!

3.         Assurance of salvation is found in simply trusting the promise of Jesus to save, NOT in acting like a saved person.

Today, there many who ask, “How can I know I am saved from sin and judgment,” and too many well-meaning leaders and teachers who provide those people with lists of do’s and don’ts to keep—all based on the behavior of the Christian.  This is looking into the mirror to find something that simply isn’t there—self-worthiness of heaven.  But the criminal on the cross couldn’t do anything to “prove” his faith, or gain assurance of it!  He simply had to trust in Jesus’ promise, and that is the wonderful pattern we must follow today.  Don’t look in the mirror for assurance of your salvation—you won’t find it, and if you do, you’re fooling yourself.  Look to the third Man on the cross, the one who did NOT deserve to be there!