Of Jesus’ hand-picked twelve disciples, one betrayed him and the eleven who remained were pretty ordinary, uneducated men. At Jesus’ Ascension, the number of his followers was 120. Today, there are about that many on Crown of Life’s membership roster. And today, about 1/3 of the world’s population declares allegiance to Jesus as Lord and Savior.
From such a small beginning has grown a kingdom that extends to all the ends of the earth. And this kingdom will never end, but will endure through all ages until the glory that never ends. How did that happen?
Jesus told his disciples many parables and each parable instructs how the kingdom of God works. The parable of the sower shows us how the word is received. The parable of the weeds teaches us that the kingdom of God isn’t identical to the visible church. The parable of the hidden treasure and of the priceless pearl tell us that the kingdom of God is our most valuable possession. The parable of the net teaches us to cast the net of the gospel and let the Lord take care of the results.
In our text for today, Jesus tells two parables: The parable of the Growing Seed and the parable of the Mustard Seed. He tells these parable so that we will Trust in the Word to Do Its Work.
Now both of these parables have to do with the growth of the kingdom. In the growing seed parable Jesus said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
What makes the kingdom grow? “Night and day, whether he sleeps or not, the seed sprouts and grows, though he doesn’t know how.” Just as the seed has a wonderful power to grow and produce a harvest, so does the Word of God. The Word of God has a wonderful power to be planted and then grow in the hearts of people and produce a harvest for the Lord.
Once the farmer gets his seed into the ground, isn’t he relieved? Aren’t farmers confident that once their seed in their fields they can wait for a harvest? In confidence in the power of the seed, the farmer begins to do other things while he waits. He drives around to see if others farmers have their seed in. They fix their machinery. They cultivate.
In the chapters before Mark 4, our Savior plants the seed of the word in Galilee, along the Sea of Galilee, in Capernaum. In Capernaum he planted the seed of God’s Word in the synagogue, and at the tax collector’s booth. He planted the seed publicly, and in individuals’ homes.
One morning Jesus got up early to pray by himself and when they found him he said, “Everyone is looking for you!” He said, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” He also prepared his disciples to continue the work that he started. “Come follow me,” he said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Follow they did. Plant they did. Read the book of Acts and you’ll see where Jesus’ disciples went to plant the word.
In this first parable Jesus talks about the kingdom of God spreading through the word, the powerful word. And before he ascended into heaven he said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus was confident his Word would work. The word has always worked. God said about his word, “My word will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” “Is not my word like a hammer that breaks rock into pieces?” “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword.” A double edged sword cuts in every direction. The disciples and apostles were confident too. “They preached the word wherever they went.”
“…the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain.”
If the word of God is so powerful, then why does the Bible collect so much dust? If we believe in the power of God’s Word, why is it so hard for us to witness the truth of God’s Word? If we are God’s children, and God’s children listen to the Savior in his Word, then why don’t we believe what God wants us to believe? Why don’t we obey the way God wants us to obey? Is the fault in me? Or it the fault in the Word? If we are trusting in the Word of God to do its work, then why is there so much pressure in visible churches to change their teachings so the kingdom can grow?
How amazing that this Almighty God comes to us for reconciliation. We doubt him and comes to us? We don’t believe him and he wants back into our hearts? After what Adam and
every week, but there was Eve did to him? After what I do to him every day?
God seeks us out and saves us with his powerful word. The Bible says that God’s Word saves our souls. James says that the Word of God “can save you.” (Ja. 1:21) Paul says that the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ who came to save sinners is the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” God’s Word reveals to us the righteousness that is ours in Christ. After revealing to us that there is no righteousness in us, the Bible assures us that there is righteousness earned by Christ, through his innocent suffering and death, that delivers the sinner. The Word of God has the power to save, because it tells us of the one who came to save us.
The Word of God also has the power to bring us to faith. “Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17) The Word of God has the power to nourish this faith. After assuring us that there is an inheritance in heaven waiting for us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Peter tells us that we “through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming…’of the last day.’ (1 Pe.1:5)
The Word of God has the power to work regeneration and new life. We are born of corrupted seed, born to die because we are born in sin. But Peter tells us (1 Pe. 1:23) “For you were born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” Imagine a holy God coming to damnable sinners like us and making us his children through the Word of truth. James 1:18 says, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth.” Jesus said, “The words I spoke to you are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63)
Is there enough time today to talk about the power of God’s Word to grant us the hope of heaven after this life? As crowded as our lives are, we his children still look forward to the blessed goal of our God-given faith. The Word of God not only tells us about this hope of heaven, but it also has the power to change our outlook on life, our point of view. Our home, our destination is heaven.
Finally, the Word of God is a source of strength for every issue of life. You sinned terribly? God saves mightily! The blood of Jesus his Son purifies us from every sin. You feel alone. God is with you and will never leave you. You feel overwhelmed. He tells you his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
And while a dying world yawns at the message we graciously granted life. While a dying world questions critically the truths of the Bible, we are granted life. While a rebellious world persecutes the believer, the gospel has the power to make that conviction even stronger in the face of persecution.
The growth of the kingdom comes through the word. Jesus was confident in His Word. Jesus preached and taught his Word. The disciples preached and taught his Word because they were confident in its power. And Jesus’ second parable talks about the incredible growth of the kingdom through the word.
In the parable of the Mustard Seed, Jesus says, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all the garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”
The mustard seed was the smallest seed in Jewish gardens, but it grows to 10 or 15 feet high. In America mustard plants don’t grow over four feet tall. All other plants were dwarfed by the mustard plant. Birds could sit on its branches in its shade. When this seed grows it grows fast and it can crack concrete.
The seed is the kingdom of God. Who would have thought that a boy born in such lowly circumstances would have a rule that extends over heaven and earth? Who would have thought that a handful of disciples preaching the good news of the kingdom of Christ would spread into a religion of followers on every continent and in every century?
While the world yawns and persecutes, the kingdom grows. While the church wonders why it doesn’t grow faster, the kingdom grows, inwardly and outwardly. Our own WELS has grown into a synod of 385,321 baptized members; and 305,558 communicant members, with 1,286 congregations, and 1,349 pastors, 1,594 teachers, in twelve districts. Our own WELS has 20 congregations which have signed services. All within the lower 48. We started with four pastors in Milwaukee in 1849 who wanted to start a synod. Did you know that today they are over 200 Lutheran synods in our world today? How did it happen? The word. The Holy Spirit using the word.
Worldwide our missions include 533 congregations, 86,502 baptized members, 132 preaching stations, 8 teachers, 146 national pastors, 17 student pastors, 197 national evangelists, 13 national vicars, 220 Bible Institute students, 145 seminary students.
We run one of the largest Christian prison ministries in the nation, distributing hundreds of thousands of Bibles and Bible correspondence courses to inmates across the United States over the last 20 years. I conducted a prison ministry for about six years in WI. Had a number of guys that came a revolving door of inmates who needed to hear about Jesus who heard about Jesus. Like others who do such work, my Bible Classes never made it onto any statistical report.
We support work in world mission fields like Malawi, Zambia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Albania, Bulgaria, Japan, Russia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, India, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. We also support mission work in the United States, Canada, and the West Indies.
Our congregations—either individually or as federations—operate one of the largest Lutheran school systems in the country with 324 Lutheran elementary schools; 403 early childhood ministries; 23 area Lutheran high schools; and Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis.
We maintain Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn., Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis., and two preparatory high schools: Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, Wis., and Michigan Lutheran Seminary in Saginaw, Mich., for the education of our pastors, teachers, and staff ministers.
One tourist in Israel said when he examined some mustard plants he found that a typical pod contained two or three seeds, rarely four. He determined one seed may have grown to become more than a hundred seeds. One species of brown mustard produced on average 250 times more than what was sown.
In Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed Jesus says that the Word that fell on good soil produced “a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Let’s remember whose seed this is. God’s.
Oh, one more thing. The mustard plant is not a real attractive plant, especially when it gets brown. To me its scraggly and rough in appearance. But it’s the Lord’s illustration and parable. “…the seed sprouts and grows.” And when the mustard seed is planted, though it is the smallest seed Jews planted, “Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all the garden plants.” When Jesus left this earth visibly he left 120 followers behind. Today, in Fort Myers, there are that many at Crown of Life who believe in Jesus. Trust the Word to do its work. Amen.
2 Corinthians 4:13-18
Every sermon has a theme. And because the preacher wants his listeners to remember the theme, he will try to be creative. My theme this morning isn’t clever. It isn’t creative. It isn’t original. I took it word for word out of the text. “We Believe, Therefore We Speak.”
No apologies to the Apostle Paul for stealing his theme because it didn’t originate with him either. In our text, Paul was quoting Psalm 116. The psalmist composed these verses after he had gone through a time of great affliction: “The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow” (3). This time of trouble was followed by a great deliverance: “You, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling” (8).
And then the writer went on to express his gratefulness for God’s grace and mercy: “How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me” (12)? “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord” (17).
Paul knew exactly how the psalmist felt. He had been stoned. He had been flogged. He had been thrown in jail. And time after time, the Lord had delivered him. In spite of the troubles, in spite of the dangers, even in the midst of the most severe trials, Paul trusted in God. So he was proud to make the words of the psalmist his own: “‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ With the same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak” (4:13).
We feel the same way. Our faith is built on the same foundation. So along with the psalmist, and along with Paul, we say, “We Believe, Therefore We Speak.” Paul teaches us that 1. Death will give way to live. 2. Trouble will give way to glory. And 3. Time will give way to eternity. Since this is what we know and believe, we therefore, speak.
1. One of the things that can trouble Christians at a funeral, viewing a lifeless body and wondering how the lifeless body cnd possibly live again. Another thing that is troubling at a funeral is knowing that we all have to go through this process, unless Jesus comes before we go one by one. It’s a pretty harsh preaching of the law just to see a body in a casket. And the reason we die is that we are sinners. Sinners die. Sinners die because they deserve to die. “The wages of sin is death.” There would be no death if there was no sin. No one would die is he wasn’t sinful.
But Paul says that death will give way to life. And it already has. “We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence” (14).
Some of Jesus’ followers went to the tomb on Easter morning to give him a proper burial, but they never had the chance, because when they got the tomb they realized that his body wasn’t there. The stone was rolled away. The open tomb revealed and empty tomb. The angel explained why: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:6).
Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning, but our celebrations don’t stop there. And the resurrections won’t stop there either. “The one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus.”
How did Paul know that? How did he know that he wouldn’t just stay dead?
Paul put his confidence in the one who called himself “the resurrection and the life.” Paul believed Jesus when he said: “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26). Jesus’ promise was all the proof Paul needed to believe.
So, the body in the grave, or body which ashes have been scattered, is made alive when Jesus returns, the Bible says. The sinner dies, but because the blood of Jesus is the price God accepted for the guilt of the world, death is not the end of life. No, it is the beginning of life in heaven. So, we ache and cry at the loss of a loved one, but death is really the avenue to a better life with Jesus in heaven.
Paul couldn’t keep this good news to himself. He believed, and so he spoke. And this is what he had to say: “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” (15).
Paul didn’t go on four missionary journeys to satisfy his thirst for adventure. Paul didn’t risk life and limb to show the Lord how committed he was. Paul didn’t preach the gospel wherever he went because he liked to hear himself talk.
“All this is for your benefit,” he told the Christians in Corinth. He wanted everyone to know what he knew. He wanted everyone to believe what he believed. He devoted his life to preaching and teaching so that others would hear and believe and be saved.
T. “Therefore we do not lose heart” (16). We do not lose heart because death will give way to life. And we do not lose heart because trouble will give way to glory.
2. “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (16). Over time Paul’s occupation had taken a toll on his body. There were long nights and long hours. There were thousands of miles of travel. And then there were “the marks of Jesus.” Did people notice scars on his face from being stoned? Did people see bruises on his body?
On the outside Paul could be in pretty rough shape, but the inside was a different story. Sticks and stones were able to break his bones and skin, but they couldn’t touch his inner being. God’s Word renewed Paul’s faith day by day. God’s promises gave Paul the strength to meet the challenges of every new day. God gave Paul the conviction and the courage to say: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (17).
The word for “troubles” carries the idea of “weight” or “pressure.” We talk about the gravity of the situation. “Troubles” is described as a heavy burden. But according to Paul our weights are light. And momentary.
Think of life as a scale. On one side is every sickness that made you feel miserable, every disease that took someone from you, everything that ever stressed you out, every problem that made you lose sleep at night, every time you struggled, every time you cried, every harsh word, every cold stare, each persecution, everything that you would label troublesome or burdensome in your entire life, and put it in that tray. You need a pretty big tray.
As God looks down into the pan, do you know what he sees? A feather. And do you know what’s on the other side of the scale? All the eternal glory that awaits you and I is put on the other side of the scale, and it is heavy. So heavy, it is impossible to measure. The arrow spins round and round. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (17).
Whenever Paul talks about bearing the cross, whenever he encourages Christians to bear up in midst suffering, he doesn’t say it could be worse. He doesn’t make an empty promise that everything will be okay. He doesn’t offer temporary solutions. He doesn’t suggest or promise quick fixes.
T. He looks beyond this life. He looks beyond this world. He looks ahead to the Last Day, the day when death will give way to life, the day when trouble will give way to glory, the day when time will give way to eternity.
3. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (18). Would you go back to a doctor is he said, “Now there is a spot on your lung, or your brain, but don’t focus on your spot.” I’m guessing you would rightly lose confident in such a doctor.
But this is what Paul is saying. It is very easy to focus all our attention on this world, but this world is not our final destination. This is a stop along the way. And so God does things to get our attention, to get us to lift our noses from the grindstone, to get us to look up. Not with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of faith. And Jesus is the lens that helps us see everything clearly.
With the perfect vision of faith, we can see a place where there is no more sickness and sadness. With perfect vision of faith, we can see all of our loved ones who died in faith. With perfect vision, we can see the places God has prepared for us in heaven.
The Bible is a big book, thousands of pages long. It can be intimidating, but at its heart and core it comes down to this. The Lord raised Jesus from the dead, and his resurrection guarantees our resurrection. Death will give way to life. Trouble will give way to glory. And time will give way to eternity. This is the hope we have. This is the hope we have to share. Along with Paul, we believe, therefore we speak. Amen.
This is a great time of year for a lot of people. School is out. The weather is warming up. Summer arrives officially next week. This is the time when people think about slowing down, if not slowing down, at least taking some time off…get out of the desk…get out of the office…get out of the house…take a vacation…enjoy a little diversion from what we do throughout the year.
We need to rest. People are not machines. We need time to recharge, rejuvenate and refresh ourselves. Sometimes you might think that if you didn’t work all the time, you would find yourself even more behind in your work, but in reality, taking a little time off makes you more effective when you work.
Jesus rested. Rest is godly. Rest was commanded in the Old Testament. This morning our text tell us: Get Your Rest. To understand our text we have to know what the history is that surrounds it. And then we talk about the kind of rest God wants us to have.
1. Observe the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. The Third Commandment deals with the Sabbath, which is the Hebrew word for rest. God wanted His people to get their rest – both physically and spiritually. In fact, He demanded that they get their rest and if they didn’t get their rest, it was a capital crime.
Why should they get their rest? Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. God is concerned about the well-being of his people. What this tells us is that God was concerned about the physical well-being of all His people. And not only the Israelites were to abstain from work, but this applied to their servants as well. One day a week they were not to work hard. God did not want his people exhausted from constant hard work.
Later in Israel’s history the Jewish people began to misinterpreted this command., as is shown in the gospel lesson. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had focused on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. The result of this was that they focused on what they were doing, instead of what God was doing for them, physically and spiritually, on the Sabbath.
They went to great lengths to determining what was work. And over time an exhaustive system of rules governing proper Sabbath observance was developed and put down in writing. Almost every conceivable situation was covered. Here are a couple of examples.
It was not lawful to boil an egg on the Sabbath. It was not lawful to climb a tree or swim or dance. It was lawful to pick up a chair, but it was not permissible to drag the same chair along the ground because it might produce a rut. Here’s a good one: Women were not allowed to look in the mirror on the Sabbath because they might discover a white hair and attempt to pull it out.
It had to be exhausting to try and figure out how they could or couldn’t rest. Why would a person who claims to be a child of God go through so much effort to rest? What happens when you work when you’re supposed to rest? You don’t get your rest.
These manmade rules were designed to keep people from violating the Sabbath. But these manmade rules distracted from the true meaning and purpose of the Sabbath. What happens though, when the focus is taken off God?
In the gospel, you have the religious leaders accusing the disciples for breaking Sabbath because they harvested grain when they shouldn’t have. Today, you get people who say, “I go to church. I gave an offering. I’m not perfect, but at least I’m here. I do more than most people do.” brought my envelope. I may not be perfect, but at least I’m here. And as long as I do what I’m supposed to, as long as I do just enough, as long as I do a little more than the person next to me, then I’ll be okay.” If you are concerned about putting in your hour, or if you’ve ever compared yourself to others, you have taken God out of the picture and put the focus on you…That’s not the rest God has in mind for you.
A focus on the sinner is poison for our souls. It’s sweet poison, but its poison. It tastes good going down, it feels good to focus on myself, but in the end the poison of focusing on myself can only kill. Everyone tastes this deadly poison. The person who never went to prison says, “At least I’ve never gone to prison.” Can you imagine what the prisoner says, “At least I know my sin.” And we all are dying because of our sins.
Even preachers have this trouble. In Montana, we had Bible Class and Sunday School at 8 and worship at 9:15. I was usually out of church by 11 a.m., which meant one thing. I was grilling by noon: my boys have always loved burgers on the grill. So I’d change clothes, and ride my bike to the closest grocery store. When you walk into church at that time you walk in with Christians wearing their Sunday best. On many Sundays I would get looks like: He didn’t go to church. He’s not dressed like us. Here’s where I focused on myself: I was just waiting for someone to say something to me and if someone did I could say, “I just preached on the epistle lesson for the Second Sunday in Pentecost. What did you preach on?” I never found rest in comparing myself to someone else.
There is an antidote for this poison. Jesus. He actually gave us to the Law so we would see what we have in him as our Savior. And this one who established the law that we could never keep has also kept the law in our place.
Jesus observed every Sabbath. In fact no one ever preached like Jesus, taught like Jesus. Jesus proclaimed the prophesies of the Old Testament as he preached in the synagogues. Jesus proclaimed spiritual truth in the form of parables. Jesus also fulfilled every prophesy about him: born of a virgin. He would come out of Egypt. He would be sold for 30 silver pieces. He would be pierced. He was be assigned a grave with the wicked. He would rise again. He would ascend into to heaven. And because he did, Jesus has provided true rest, spiritual rest, and eternal rest.
You don’t have to wonder if you have gone to church enough in your life—if Jesus did it for you. You don’t have to wonder if your guilt is gone—if Jesus has won your rest. You don’t have to worry about what will happen when you die—Jesus kept every law, including the Sabbath, so you can rest. You don’t have to wonder what God is thinking about when it comes to you—he speaks to you in His Word.
From the book of Exodus we learn a second reason God had His people keep the Sabbath had to with the fact that He created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Israel was to observe the same pattern in their lives as God did in Creation. But it was more than mere imitation; this is the day they were told to "keep holy." In other words, they were to set this day apart and make it special. This was the day that was to be devoted to reflecting on God and His Word. This was the time set aside for public worship and praise. They were to rest from the physical so they could concentrate on the spiritual.
The Sabbath requirements were only for the people in the Old Testament. The Sabbath laws do not apply to us New Testament believers. The Sabbath pointed to Christ, and because he has come, the Sabbath is no longer needed.
But the principle behind this command still remains. God wants us to spend time with him and His Word and enjoy true refreshing spiritual rest. “Come to me all you are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." You don’t have to wonder if you’ve done enough to get into heaven. You don’t have to wonder if you will stand before God and give an account for sins, Jesus already did that. You don’t have to doubt if your sins are forgiven—Jesus rose again and lives.
Get your rest—take a trip to Calvary and see divine blood shed for your sin. Get your rest—open up the Psalms and pour out your heart to the Lord, and then, refreshed, wait for his deliverance. Get your rest—open up your Bible and see Jesus keeping the Sabbath. Get your rest—see Jesus’ love for the Word of God is your love for the Word of God, through faith in Jesus.
God wants you to have that rest for your souls. He told Isaiah “Comfort, comfort my people…Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.”
Perhaps you didn’t take what you feel is enough time in God’s Word this week and your conscience bothers you. God hasn’t withdrawn his message of forgiveness. It’s still there for you to read and find rest in. Perhaps you were a bad example for your family this week. The Lord has taken that sin and thrown it into the depths of the sea where it cannot be found. And you may have another opportunity to be a good example this week.
Get your rest. Will there ever be a day where you won’t want this rest? Will there ever be a day when you won’t need this rest? And for us Christians, every day is a Sabbath. The Sabbath provided God’s people with an opportunity to recharge their physical, and more importantly, their spiritual batteries. The Word of God provides us believers today that rest, here on earth, and forever in heaven, is found in Jesus. Get your rest. And enjoy. Amen.
There are some weeks when pastors struggle with their sermons. They study the text. They wrestle with the text. They ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance. But no matter how much they pray, no matter how many commentaries they consult, no matter how hard they try to make their creative juices flow, it can be a struggle to come up with a theme that is drawn from and leads to a deeper understanding of the text.
This is not one of those weeks. As soon as I sat down to read Psalm 150, the theme literally jumped off the page. The same word is repeated thirteen times in six verses, and the same phrase is repeated at the beginning and at the end of the psalm.
In Hebrew, it’s a word that you might recognize: Hallelujah. A simple translation of Halleluia is this command: PRAISE THE LORD!
“Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.”
Praise God in his sanctuary, which roughly translated means “holy place.”
For the Israelites the “holy place” was the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was where God’s people came to worship. The temple was the place where the priests offered daily sacrifices. God-fearing Jews considered the temple to be God’s dwelling place on earth.
For similar reasons we sometimes refer to this church building as God’s house. This is where we come to worship God. This is where God comes to us in his Word and sacraments. This is God’s sanctuary, or holy place.
But God cannot be contained in a box, even a really big box with beautiful stained glass windows. God fills the heavens. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), and God wants his people to do the same. Praise the Lord. The Lord wants his people to praise him wherever they are, in heaven and on earth and every place in between.
Why we should praise God: “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness”.
You won’t have any problem finding examples of God’s power as you read the Bible. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. That word for create is to create out of nothing. Then in response to man’s wickedness God destroyed the world with a flood. In response to man’s refusal to fill the earth, God introduced different languages. God allowed a 100 year old man and 90 year old wife have a baby. God used the sale of a little brother, Joseph, to bring about good for a world in danger of starvation due to a famine. God moved Joseph to understand that he was in charge and so Joseph could forgive his brothers and be a blessing for his brothers. That’s just a handful of examples, and I we haven’t even exhausted the book of Genesis. God gives his people many reasons to Praise the Lord.
And the greatest thing about God is that the greatest thing he ever did didn’t appear to be all that great when he did it. Two thousand years ago God the Father sent his one and only Son down to earth. He didn’t come down in a blaze of glory. He didn’t come with an angelic entourage. He came in humility. He came to serve. He came to die.
When Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb, there were no signs of life. There were no signs of victory. On Good Friday anything that looked like power or life was buried, hidden behind a stone that was rolled in front of Jesus’ tomb. But power and life was revealed just a couple days later. On Easter Sunday Jesus demonstrated his power over death. On Easter Sunday Jesus showed his triumph over sin. On Easter Sunday, as he appeared to people, the Bible tells us that he had just went and proclaimed his victory to the spirits in prison, that is hell. This was no trick, or illusion. Jesus died, but he became alive.
Do you remember how Jesus’ disciples reacted when he appeared to them? They bowed down and worshiped him. They praised their living Lord. And because he still lives, because he lives triumphant from the grave, because he lives eternally to save, we want to praise the Lord too.
But how? How do we praise the LORD? That’s a good question and this is Psalm 150’s answer: “Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals” (3-5).
The first musical instrument mentioned is the trumpet, the ram’s horn that was traditionally blown by the priests. Next on the list is the harp and lyre, instruments that were commonly associated with the Levites. The rest of the ensemble, tambourines and strings and flutes and cymbals were played by the people.
As we survey this grand orchestra we see a great diversity of musicians and musical instruments. There are professionals and amateurs. There are worshipers and worship leaders. There is a place for everyone. Everyone can praise the Lord. Every person was created to praise the Lord. In fact, the psalm concludes with that very thought: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD” (6).
A couple of years ago, there was a concert, during which time those present were invited to join in singing the Halleluia Chorus.
After the concert, one of my old pastor friends, a real jokester, said, “So, Martin, did you praise God by joining in the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus, or did you praise God by NOT joining in on the Hallelujah Chorus?”
What he said was obviously a joke. But that thought has been expressed by other people. They don’t know much about music. They don’t think that they can sing. They might be intimidated. They might be embarrassed. And so they don’t participate.
The devil enjoys that silence. He doesn’t want us to praise the Lord. He wants us to forget why we have so many reasons to praise the Lord. Satan doesn’t mind if we use God’s name, as long as we use God’s name in vain. He tempts us to use our voices to curse and swear and lie and deceive. And every time we do, he smiles.
But the devil dreads a singing Christian. Whenever we sing God’s praises, every time we gather in this sanctuary and celebrate the forgiveness we have in Jesus, he can’t stand the noise.
When you realize what God has done: rescued from the fires of hell; lost and now found; headed for eternal glory. How can we not praise God? Or how can a child of God turn up his nose at certain songs, or hymns? That praise can be expressed many different ways, but we are reminded today 13 times in this one psalm to Praise the Lord.
“Praise the LORD.” The one God from eternity, who always existed, who never didn’t exist makes himself known as our Father. That the Father created this spectacularly beautiful world, that the Father continues to sustain this beautiful world. That the Father continues to bless us with the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the very air we breath: Praise the Lord. Is that enough reason?
On top of that, because mankind didn’t appreciate the Father, but rebelled against a loving creator and provider, the Father determined to send his Son to be our Savior. And that the Savior, who is also eternal, along with the Father, equal in majesty, equal in glory and honor, set aside all that to be born of the virgin Mary, to suffer and die at the hands of sinners. How many of us would say, “Sorry Father, but they’re not worth it.” Jesus didn’t say, “They are worth it.” He came to make us worthy. That the Son reconciled a sinful world to the Father, that the Son took away every sin you’ve ever committed, that the Son ascended into heaven because his work of redemption has been completed, isn’t that enough reason to Praise the Lord?
Why stop there? How about praising the Lord for the gift of the Holy Spirit? To know Jesus as Savior, to know the Father as a loving God and not some harsh judge, to have your consciences cleansed from guilt: yes to be given the gift of the Holy Spirit: does this not deserve our praise? Praise the Lord.
There is one God. The Lord our God the Lord is one. The Lord is one, turn to me and be saved. And yet there are three persons. Three distinct persons, one God. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. The Father punished the Son. The Son died for humanity’s sin. The Holy Spirit produces faith to believe it. There is one God. Three persons, one God. And yet only the Son died. The Father did not die. The Son died. God died, but on the Son and not the Father and not the Holy Spirit. Does it matter that we cannot comprehend this? No, we are called to Praise the Lord.
All three persons were active in the creation of the world. The Father created through his Word, the Son. The Spirit was there in Genesis 1:2 as he hovered over the waters.
All three person of the Trinity activity sought your salvation. All three persons of the Trinity came together when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13-17). Jesus went down into the water. The Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove. And the Father’s voice came down from heaven.
All three persons were present at your baptism. The Father who created you was there. The Son who redeemed you was there. The Holy Spirit who made you holy through the washing with water and the Word was there.
Because of who he is. And because of what he has done. Halleluia. Praise the Lord. Amen.