14th Sunday a. Pentecost — Vocal and Bold Praise (Psalm 145:1-14)

Theme:

With God’s Word we are armed to defy the evil one in our battle against him. Through this very Word, God’s righteous ways in Christ are revealed in all truth and received by faith from generation to generation. In Jesus, we are clothed with garments of salvation and like Paul we are then encouraged to become bold spokesmen and ambassadors of His Gospel and of His mercy. When we hear the Word of God and are shaped by it, we communicate godly wisdom and understanding to others.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.  Amen

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This morning you have on an insert in your bulletin the Psalm 145:1-14.  We are going to examine this Psalm.  But first, allow me to make a few comments about the Book of Psalms.  The Psalms, we know, date to long before the beginnings of the Christian Church.  However, Jews and Christians alike have made extensive use of the Psalms from ancient times to the present – which shows how truly timeless they are.

Take some time to examine the Services in Lutheran Worship (the hymnal), especially the orders of Matins, Vespers, Morning and Evening Prayer, and Compline.  These Services come to us from the Canonical Hours that have been observed by the religious orders for hundreds of years.  You’ll see that the Services make extensive use of the Psalms.  Jesus knew the Psalms and he quoted them often.  On the cross, as he suffered his heavenly Father’s judgment and rejection with our sins weighing heavily upon him, he cried out those wrenching, agonizing words from Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Martin Luther held the Psalms in high praise and he made much use of them – both in his personal life and in public worship.  His first university teaching assignment was to lecture on the Psalms.

Many of the early church hymns were psalm-paraphrases.  Today, in some Reformed churches only psalms and psalm-paraphrases are sung in public worship.

So what is a psalm?  It’s simply a song or poem.  Originally, the Psalms were meant to be sung (or chanted), usually to the accompaniment of a harp.  Many (if not most) of the Psalms address life experiences (or situations) – sickness, guilt, despair, persecution, loneliness, etc.

It has been said, I think correctly so, that no book of the Bible has seen more use throughout Christendom.  But let’s move on to the Psalm before us this morning. (Ps.145:1-14)

How many of you recall the song written and recorded by Simon and Garfunkle: “The Sound of Silence”?  If you’ll allow me to spin off of that song title, we are witnessing in this country what has occurred in many parts of Europe; a religious silence is descending over our country.

In the 1960’s a generation of young people turned off and rejected the traditional values, the morals and the religious beliefs of their parents and of mainstream America.  Eventually, this generation married and now they are raising children of their own.  As I encounter many of these children I’m troubled to note that many of them have had virtually no exposure to things spiritual or to anything having to do with God.  I recently heard one of these parents say she does not believe in religion, and she describes herself as a “secularist”.

The mention of God and of anything religious has been excised from many, if not most, of our public schools. In some one public schools it is forbidden to even speak the name Jesus (though oddly, in one, the name Allah may be spoken).  Several years ago one town in the Midwest tried (albeit unsuccessfully) to ban the display of Christmas decorations, even on private homes.

Look at some of the rulings that have been handed down in the courts.  More and more they are moving us away from the “freedom of religion” guaranteed in our Constitution toward “freedom from religion”  (a move that would establish secularism and atheism as the state religions – which is a clear violation of the Constitution).

If the psalmist could be with us this morning, how would he address this sound of ‘religious’ silence that threatens our country and seeks to silence God’s people?  Looking at the Psalm, it is immediately apparent that the psalmist is both vocal and bold in his praise of God.  Read with me verses 1 through 3.

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.

We can see from his use of the words “my God” that the psalmist has a close personal relationship with God.  Many people will tell you they “know” God.  After all, they can still recite the catechism they memorized as they were growing up.  The psalmist, on the other hand, walks each day with God.  His bond with God shapes his every thought and his conduct.  He’s aware of God’s presence and help in every day and moment of his life.

We see too that the psalmist’s relationship with God shapes how he sees himself.  He vows that he will praise his God “forever and ever.”  The world without God insists we have but a brief span of years to muddle through, and then it’s all over.  The Bible assures us that life is so much more.  The psalmist’s praise gives witness not only to his trust in God, but also to his faith in his own immortalityHe knows (and this is not simply wishful thinking) he will stand in the presence of God praising and extoll him for all eternity.

More than one religious skeptic has stated, rather cynically, that we create God in our own image.  There is at least a grain of truth in that claim.  Mankind can never be acquitted of the charge of oversimplification in defining God.   But here the psalmist praises a God whose greatness and whose ways are beyond our limited, finite comprehension.  God says:

 “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isa 55:9)

To the Corinthians Paul writes (here he quotes Isaiah):

“Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? (1 Cor. 2:16)

In the midst of suffering, Job asked God:

What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention?” (Job 7:17) 

The psalmist, too, is filled with wonder at a God whose “greatness is unsearchable”, yet whose only desire is to direct his ways and his greatness to our welfare and for our salvation.

Yet praise and exultation is not only for the ears of those who celebrate this God.  Look with me at verses 4 through 7 In the Psalm.  In these very verses the psalmist stresses the importance of passing the faith to another generation.  Let’s read them together: (vss.4-7)

One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

In recent years there has been a change in thinking about how we should educate our children.  We’ve seen the emergence of “early childhood education” and the introduction of preschools.  Many factors have contributed to this change, but I’m reminded of verses in the Scriptures that instruct us to “train up a child in the way he should go,” (Prov. 22:6) and Paul’s admonition to fathers to “bring up (children) in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4) 

Here (in the Psalm) the importance of parents teaching their children is apparent.  The home sets the pattern for the child’s entire life.  Certainly, the importance of God in their lives should be paramount.

I taught for several years in the Lutheran Schools in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  There the guiding principle was that the school serves only as an extension of the home.   It is the “duty” of every believer in each successive generation to add their chorus to the voice of the psalmist.  And despite threats, intimidation and court rulings, nothing should silence us.

In the last few years the Celtics, the Red Sox and the Patriots have all won championships in their respective sports.  As expected, each time there was celebrating in the streets of Boston.  Here the psalmist describes the God about whom he has such great reason to celebrate.  He is the God whom you and I have so much more reason to celebrate than a mere sporting event.  Let’s read verses 8 through 9:

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.

Have you ever watched one those “infomercials” on late night TV?  Many claim they have the “secret” – to achieving job success, to accumulating wealth, to improving strength, health and vitality, etc.  And they’re more than ready to reveal their “secrets” – for a sum of money (of course!).  But the message of the Scriptures is that God’s love, his care and his concern for the whole world IS NO SECRET, AND IT IS FREE!  We see this in his work of redemption.  Hear the apostle Paul.  He writes:

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Rom 3:23-24)

When God declares: “Your ways (are not) my ways” (Is. 55:8) this is most especially true of His way for redeeming the world.  Man’s way says everything has a price tag attached to it.  We have to pay for it.  God’s way says it is already paid for (with the life and blood of Jesus Christ).  What you and I cannot afford (were it for sale) God offers freely to everyone.  In Christ Jesus alone there is forgiveness and salvation.

This is also true of God’s work of creation and preservation.  Hear Paul again:

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32)

Here is perhaps the best demonstration of an argument from the greater to the lesser.  God was willing to sacrifice his own Son for you and me.  Everything else we need, he also freely and abundantly provides.

But what if we were forbidden to celebrate this God?  I mentioned the Midwest town that tried to ban Christmas decorations.  There are forces at work in this country who are trying to silence the Word of God and Christ’s people. (Their intent is to silence you and me.)  But look again at the Psalm.  Let’s read together what the psalmist says in verses 10 through14:

 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your saints shall bless you
They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak
of your might,
so that all men may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.
The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving
toward all he has made.
The LORD upholds all those who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.

The psalmist is unmistakably clear, the efforts of those who would silence the followers of Jesus Christ will fail.  Psalm 148 cries out:

“Praise the Lord…..Praise him sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars.  Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.  Let them praise the name of the Lord.” (Ps. 148:1-5)

And Psalm 98 jubilantly exclaims:

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth…..Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.  Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing for joy.” (Ps. 98:4, 7-8)

Jesus answered the Pharisees who wanted to silence his disciples:

“I tell you….if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  (Luke 19:40)

Not only men, but as the psalms and Jesus declare) even the very creation will raise its chorus of praise to God.

This doesn’t take into account the countless number of redeemed who will raise their  anthems of praise in Irrepressible joy and thanksgiving (gratitude).  John describes one of his visions.  He writes:

“I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count….And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb’”.  (Rev. 7:9)

Even those who dismiss God’s gifts and his saving goodness, those same people who seek to silence the saints of God will, finally, be compelled (albeit reluctantly)  to praise his Son.  As Paul writes:

“Therefore God exalted (Jesus) to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

But to you and to me (his saints) has been given the singular honor and privilege of making known the saving message of his kingdom so that others may be drawn to enter it, and celebrate this God with us.

So, let us pull everything we’ve talked about together.   As we’ve seen this morning (1) The psalmist is both vocal and bold in his praise of God.  (2) He stresses the importance of passing on the faith to future generations. (3) He describes the God he celebrates, the God who reveals himself (a) as our Creator, (b) as our Sustainer, and as (c) the Redeemer of all men.

Finally, the psalmist expresses his confidence that the efforts of those who would silence God’s people will fail.

To those who seek to silence us we boldly respond with Peter:

“We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Act 4:20)

As I reflected on what the psalmist is saying to us this morning I thought of the words of a contemporary hymn:

The news that Jesus died
to pay the debt of all sin
Cannot be kept inside,
It must be told to all men.
I’ll shout it from the mountaintop
;
I want my world to know
;

The Lord of love has come to me,
I want to PASS IT ON
.
  (Pass it On, vs.2)

Don’t be silent but boldPraise your God; celebrate your God; and share your God.

In Jesus’ Name – Amen

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