Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Sermon: Psalm 100 Why Worship?

I want to ask you a question, and the question is this: Why have you come to church tonight? And as I ask that question, there might be lots of different answers that you could give. Maybe it’s because you’re in church every Sunday, either here or somewhere else. It’s part of your regular routine. Or maybe you’re here because you were told that you had to come along tonight, whether you wanted to or not. Or you came because you wanted to see the Baptism, to be part of Harry’s special evening. So whether you’re here for some of those reasons or for some other reason, you are very welcome here tonight.

In each of our services we focus in on a particular reading from the Bible, and tonight our focus is on Psalm 100, which you’ll find on the service sheet. And in that Psalm, we find the answer to the question why we would want to come to church; why we would want to worship God.

But first, before we come to the ‘why’ of worship, we find the ‘what’ of worship. In verses 1-2 we are told what to do when we come to worship. Now, maybe you’re not used to the Church of Ireland, and you can’t get over how many times we stand up and sit down, but in those opening verses we’re told what to do:

‘Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.’ (1-2)

Do you see the active words? Shout! Worship! Come before him! Now, we haven’t had much shouting already - maybe that will come when Harry is baptised. But it’s meant to be loud - and also joyful. It’s shout... for joy; worship... with gladness; coming before him ... with joyful songs. Sometimes Christians are thought of as the frozen chosen, as people who are miserable, and dour, but that shouldn’t be the case. We should be singing with joy and gladness - this is the what of worship.

And it’s all directed toward ‘the LORD’. When you see the word LORD in capital letters, it’s speaking of God as the one who makes promises and keeps his promises, the God who is always the same. So that’s who we worship - but did you notice who is meant to be doing the worshipping? The what is to shout and worship and sing joyfully; but who should worship? Is it just for a few people? Only men or only women? Only rich or only poor? Only older people or only young people and then you grow out of it? Only people in the UK or only people in Africa? Well, look again at verse 1: ‘Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.’

The call to worship goes out to everybody, to all the earth. As the first hymn put it: ‘All people that on earth do dwell.’ So if you live on earth, if you are alive tonight, then you are called to worship the LORD. You’re called to shout and sing with joy and gladness. Will you answer the call?

And why should you worship? We see that in verse 3:

‘Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.’

Why should we worship? Because God is God (and we are not). But notice that there’s another something we’re to do there - ‘know.’ We come to worship God because we know that God is God. And as we come to him, and sing to him, and worship him, we are reminding ourselves of how great God is. And how is he so great? Because he made us.

Tonight that’s obvious as we celebrate the birth and safe arrival of Harry. In another Psalm, king David talks about how God ‘knit me together in my mother’s womb.’ And so we rejoice in God’s gift of life, in the person that Harry is already and is becoming every day. God made us, and we are his (or as the footnote suggests, God made us, and not we ourselves.

God made each of us, has given us life and breath and everything else, and so we are God’s people. We are the sheep of his pasture, under his care and keeping. The Lord is our shepherd.

Do you see why we should worship? Because God is God, and has made us, given us life. That should be reason enough - the very fact of our existence should cause us to worship. But the Psalm doesn’t stop there. Rather, the why of worship leads to even more worship, to the what of worship all over again. Look at verse 4:

‘Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.’

It tells us to ‘enter’ his gates and his courts. This Psalm was written when the temple was in Jerusalem - the place where people came to worship God. But the temple doesn’t stand there any more; there’s just the wailing wall left of it. So does that mean we all have to go to Jerusalem? Or how does that work if there’s no temple any more?

The thing is, though, that God still has a temple on the earth; he has a dwelling place, but it isn’t made of brick or stone. Rather, it’s made up of people - people who love Jesus, who worship him and follow him. The church is the temple of God, the place where God dwells - not this building, but the people who meet inside. So for us to enter God’s gates and his courts is to be with other Christians, to join together in worship, to give thanks to God and to praise his name. To worship is to say ‘thank you’ and to praise God’s name - his character.

Later on in the service, I’ll use Harry’s name when I baptise him. And from here on, Harry will be getting a name for himself - he’ll be building some kind of reputation as he goes to nursery, and school, and work and whatever else he does in life. And people will know him - that Harry Harper one - they’ll know his name, his reputation, his character.

And when I baptise Harry, I’ll also use God’s name. Harry will baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And what is God’s reputation? His character? Why do we praise his name?

We see that in the last verse of the Psalm. Here’s the why of worship: ‘For the LORD is good and his love endures for ever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.’

We worship God because of who he is and what he is like. The LORD is good. All of the time. He doesn’t change, he is always the same, and always good. But more than that, his love endures for ever - it never runs out, it never stops, it never comes to an end. His love is constant towards us, and even higher and wider and deeper than your love for little Harry. The love that you have for him is like nothing compared to God’s love for you.

In fact, God loved you so much that he gave you Jesus, who came into the world to die on the cross for you; he came to open up the gates so that we can come to God. You see, our sins were a barrier, separating us from God. God is good, but we aren’t. But Jesus came to take away our sins, to bring us to God, to bring us home. And he did it because he loves us so much; with this love that endures for ever.

And because God is good, and he loves us, he is also faithful - he keeps his promises; he doesn’t change his mind. And his faithfulness continues through all generations.

It’s because we know who God is and what God is like that we can come to him in worship. It’s the reason why we meet every Sunday morning and Sunday evening here, and why Christians around the world worship Jesus. The question is: will you join us as we worship? Will you give your life to follow the Jesus who gave his life for you?

That is our prayer for Harry tonight - that he will grow up to know the goodness, love and faithfulness of the Lord Jesus, and that he will follow him all his days. And it’s our prayer for each of us gathered here, and for everyone in all the world - that you and they and everyone will worship as we shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth; because of the why of worship - God’s Godness, his goodness, his love and his faithfulness.

This sermon was preached in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday evening 25th August 2019.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sermon: Psalm 24 Guess Who?

We’re coming towards the end of the summer holidays, and by this stage, the boys and girls might be glad to be going back to school, to have something to do! There are only so many exciting daytrips to do; and only so many really sunny days to be playing outside. So what do you do on a rainy day? If you manage to keep them off their computer games or iPad then you might resort to the old classic boardgames. At some point over the summer we’ve played Monopoly, Frustration, and the cardgame Uno. But there’s another classic game that I used to love to play: Guess Who.

You probably know how to play it, but just in case you don’t, here’s how it works. You have a lineup of people in front of you, and you’re trying to work out which of them the other player has on their card. So you have to ask yes or no questions to narrow it down and then, finally, to ‘guess who’ is on their card.

Now, I’ve brought it along today, because I thought it would be good to remind ourselves of how it works. But rather than just playing it on this little board - it would be too small for everyone to see what’s happening - I thought we could play real life Guess Who? So I need a volunteer.

I’ve got the name of someone on my card here, and I need you to ask me yes or no questions to see if you can guess who I’m thinking of. So, if you’re able, please stand up, until you’re eliminated.

[Play Guess Who?]

Well done! We started with the whole church, and after ... questions you were able to guess who it was. Now, why did we play that game this morning? It wasn’t just for a bit of fun, and something to fill in some time during the sermon. We played guess who because that’s what’s going on in the Psalm that we’re looking at today. If you look at Psalm 24 on your sheet (or p. 555 in the pew Bibles), you’ll see that the word ‘who’ comes up a whole lot of times.

Look at verse 3: ‘Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?’

That’s the question the Psalm is asking today. Who is it that can come near to God? Who can stand in his holy place? Who is good enough for God? Can you guess who?

All over the world, people are trying to do just that, in all sorts of different ways. By following all sorts of religious rites and rituals, people are trying to be good enough for God - if I go on pilgrimage enough; or if I pray every day; or if I give enough; or if I fast from food enough. Perhaps you have a bargain with God - if I do this, then, God, will you accept me?

Or maybe, if you think you’re not good enough, then you have someone else in mind. I might not make it, but surely so and so would. They’re far better than I am. They’re good at being good. Someone like the Pope, or the Archbishop, or the Dalai Lama. The thing is, though, that our good isn’t good enough. Can you see what the answer to the guess who question is?

‘Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands...’ (3-4)

Imagine that we’re all standing again, in this new game of Guess Who. And the first requirement is clean hands. So have a look down - are your hands clean today? You’ve washed them after you’ve been to the bathroom. No obvious dirt on them? Have they been clean all week? Not involved in any wrongdoing? Never caused harm?

We might still stand for that, but what about the next bit? ‘He who has clean hands and a pure heart...’ We can see your hands, but we can’t see your heart. We can’t, but God can. He can see what’s on the inside - what we’ve been thinking about; what we’ve been dreaming about; what we focus on when no one else is around. And the truth is that none of our hearts are pure.

If it was guess who, then we’re all down and out. We don’t have a pure heart. We do lift up our souls to idols - by putting other things in the place that God deserves; and we do swear falsely. Everybody here today fails to meet the standard. None of us can, by ourselves, come near to God. And that’s true of everybody in the whole world, all 7.7billion of us. As we heard in our first reading: ‘If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand?’ (Ps 130:3)

We’re thinking about board games today, but for a moment, I wonder if you can remember the gameshow that used to be on TV - Bullseye. If the team failed to win the final round, and missed out on the mystery star prize, then Jim Bowen would have said: ‘Look at what you could have won!’ In verse 5 we see what was on offer for anyone who could come near to God:

‘He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Saviour. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.’

Blessing and vindication were on offer. But we can’t make it. We can’t do it. We can’t come near. But before we get too disappointed, the Psalm continues by asking ‘guess who’ all over again. The command comes in verse 7 to ‘Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.’

Someone is approaching; someone has fulfilled the entry requirements; someone does have clean hands and a pure heart. And it’s a bit like a knock knock joke. So verse 7 is the knock knock, and the answer comes in verse 8: ‘Who is this King of glory?’ Who’s there? Who is it?

‘The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.’ (8)

And then the sequence repeats again knock knock, who’s there? ‘The LORD Almighty - he is the King of glory.’ If you look closely, you’ll see that the word Lord is in capital letters. That’s the name for the promise-making, covenant-keeping God. And so we see that God himself has come down to earth, has become one of us, has lived the perfect life with clean hands and a pure heart, fully devoted to God, fully obedient to everything God required, and never spoke falsely. And his name is Jesus.

Who can come near to God? Who is the King of glory? It’s Jesus. He obeyed so fully that he died on the cross to take away our sins. All the things that disqualified us? Jesus has dealt with them. As Psalm 130 continues: ‘If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.’ (Ps 130:3-4)

Jesus has opened up the gates of heaven so that we can join him there. The blessing and vindication that he has received from the Father is shared with us as well. And that’s what he offers to you today. Jesus has won the victory over sin and death and hell. And he invites you to join him in his holy place. You just need to ask him to forgive your sins, and to receive you in.

So who can come near to God? Who is good enough for God? Only Jesus - but he makes us good enough by cleansing our hands and our hearts, and sharing with us his blessing. Who will come to him today? Will you?

This sermon was preached in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday morning 25th August 2019.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Sermon: Psalm 95 Worship and Warning

A few years ago, I went on a stag do to do some go karting. As you can imagine, when fifteen fellas get together, there’s plenty of competition, lots of chat about who’s going to win. When the races started, I was more like someone out for a Sunday afternoon drive compared to some of the boy racers - some had even brought their own helmets and gear. But the thing that stood out that day was the time before the racing started. We were gathered in a wee room, and the owner gave us a short talk. First of all, he welcomed us and told us to have fun, but then came the second thing - the warnings. We watched a safety video, and had to sign the disclaimer, that if we were injured it would be our own fault. Welcome and warning, side-by-side.

It’s what we find in Psalm 95, in these very familiar words. There’s a welcome - a call to worship; and a warning, and you can’t have one without the other. So let’s dive in, to see how the welcome of worship of the warning of worship sit together. And first, the welcome.

I wonder if you’ve ever received a summons to serve on a jury? The letter arrives in the post, and you are obliged to turn up on the day, whether you want to or not. Is that how the opening words of verses 1 and 6 come across? ‘Come’. Here’s a summons, you have to do this, you have to come along to worship, whether you want to or not? Now, maybe some Sunday mornings or evenings it might feel like a struggle to get up, and you could think of a million and one other places to be. But that’s not the sense of the call to worship.

It’s more like a wedding invitation, a joyful welcome to come along, to be a part of something exciting, to be caught up in celebration. Come! And what is it we come to? Well, in Psalm 95 we have what I think of as a row of lettuces. You know that I’m not much of a gardener. The only thing I can grow is weeds. If I needed lettuce for salad sandwiches, I would buy it in the shop. But some of you are gardeners; you might even have a row of lettuces growing (if it’s the time of year for them - I don’t even know!). Do you see the row of lettuces here in Psalm 95? ‘Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation! Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.’ (1-2)

There’s our row of lettuces. And there’s another mini row in verse 6 - ‘let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.’ Here’s the welcome to worship, as we come together to worship. In these words we’re not speaking to God, our eyes aren’t on heaven as such; our eyes are all around us, urging and encouraging one another to sing, to make a joyful noise, to give thanks.

It’s like a sports team coming together on the pitch, cheering one another on, encouraging each other. We’re to be doing the same - encouraging those around us as we sing out; or being encouraged when we don’t find it easy.

Now why would we want to come together to worship? Why should we praise with loud singing? We’re given the reason in verses 3-5. Do you see the ‘for’ at the start of verse 3? Here’s why: ‘For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.’ As we encourage one another to worship, we recognise who God is - he is the great God, the God of gods, if you like. In fact, he’s the only God.

When Psalm 95 was written, the nations all around believed there were lots of gods and goddesses, each localised, each one in charge of something in particular. There would be the god of a mountain; of the sea; of a piece of land. Up on the north coast, there’s an example of this sort of pagan thinking. High above Magilligan Point, on the Bishop’s Road, stands a statue of ManannĂ¡n mac Lir. He was believed to be the Celtic god of the sea, so if you were going on a sea journey, you would sacrifice to him, to keep him onside.

But Psalm 95 cuts through all that. The LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. And here’s why (v4): ‘In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.’ Our God rules over all, because he made everything, and holds it in his hands. Here’s the reason why we encourage one another to sing and make joyful noise!

Perhaps you came today feeling as if you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. As we sing, praise and give thanks to our God, we’re reminded that we don’t need to carry the weight of the world - our God holds it in his hands. He’s in control. He doesn’t need a hand to hold it - he can do it all by himself.

Now in verse 6, the pattern repeats - another welcome to worship, as we speak to and encourage one another to worship, followed by the reason why. But notice that this time round it’s quieter. In fact, there’s no noise at all, unless you count a creaky hip or the wee sigh as you get down... ‘Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker’

You see, worship isn’t just loud singing. Worship is also bowing and kneeling before the LORD - recognising him as our God; submitting to him. And we do this together, urging one another to bow. Why would we surrender to him, bow before him, come humbly to him? Again, we have the reason, the ‘for’ - ‘For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.’

Even though God is great and glorious, reigning over all he has made, even so, he is not distant. He is our God, our shepherd king. He holds the world in his hand, and we are the flock under his hand, his care. He holds us as well.

So we have the call, the welcome to worship, and the reason why. But then suddenly, at the end of verse 7, we have the warning - a warning we still need to hear. You see, it’s not enough to worship. It’s not enough to be noisy and loud and then merrily go our way. As we worship, in singing and in bowing, we must also be listening, ready to hear and obey.

‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’ The warning for the people of God still stands for us, as the writer to the Hebrews makes clear - that even when we’re worshipping, we could still fall away, if our hearts become hard, if we refuse to listen and obey.

We’re presented with a case study from the history of God’s people. Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt, freedom from slavery, salvation through the Passover Lamb, escape through the Red Sea, where they arrived in the wilderness. It was here that disaster struck. The very same people who had trusted in the Passover suddenly refused to listen. Their hearts wanted to be back in Egypt, back in slavery. They feared for their lives because of a lack of water. They questioned whether God was really with them (Ex 17:7).

These were the people who had sung the songs of salvation; who were on the way to the promised land, guided by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, yet they refused to listen, refused to trust God any more. They (v8) hardened their hearts.

Maybe you’ve seen this in a child. Their mum tells them to do something, and they say ‘no.’ And nothing will change their minds, not bribes, or threats. If you’re the parent, you only want what is best for them, but they just can’t or won’t see it. That’s how it was with God’s people. They hardened their hearts. They wouldn’t listen. And so, despite having seen evidence of God’s goodness and saving power up close and personal, they turned away, they have not known my ways.

We’re told that God loathed that generation. They were barred from the land of promise, the promised rest of the land of Israel. For forty years they would wander in the wilderness until that whole generation had died out (except for Joshua and Caleb).

Now you might be thinking, what has that got to do with us? That was thousands of years ago, far, far away. But Hebrews makes clear that the warning still stands, and all because of that word ‘today.’ Today, if we hear God’s voice, we can enter into that promised rest, a rest from labour, a rest that comes by trusting the promise.

And how do we make sure that we’ll receive the promise and enter that rest? It’s what we’ve seen in Psalm 95, and explained in Hebrews 3:12-13:

‘Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.’

Exhort one another. Encourage one another. Do it together - the welcome of worship, as we urge one another to worship our great God in loud singing and in humble submission. It’s so important that we are here for one another, not just for ourselves and what we get out of our time together. It’s why our prayer diary for today is to ‘look for opportunities to encourage someone as we gather as a church family today.’ If each of us are on the look out to encourage everyone else, then all of us will encourage and be encouraged. Perhaps before you leave your pew, you can pray for the people around you, in front, beside or behind. Perhaps you don’t need to dash off straight after the closing prayer. Perhaps you could share a word of encouragement with someone else on the way out.

We need each other. We can’t do it on our own. It’s why we’re called into the church, the family of God, the people of his pasture. We welcome one another to worship - singing to our great God; and bowing before our shepherd King. And this applies every week, but even more so today - today, if you hear his voice, if you are prompted to play your part, to step up, or speak up, or sing up, or pray up, then don’t harden your hearts. Don’t turn away. Enter his rest. Receive his grace. Submit to his word, as we seek to do that together.

This sermon was preached in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday evening 18th August 2019.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Sermon: Psalm 19 Declaring God's Glory

Have you ever seen a message in the sky? One time when we were on holiday, every so often you would hear the hum of a light aeroplane. And when you looked up into the sky, the plane was flying along with a message coming along behind it. There were adverts for shops and bars and restaurants and theme parks and even banks appearing in the sky. Or maybe you’ve seen some skywriting. That’s where a plane sends out some special smoke to form words visible from the ground - Happy birthday; or Marry me; or something like that. Messages in the sky.

In our Psalm today, David tells us that there are messages in the sky, but you don’t need a plane for them. In fact, you don’t need anything else, other than your eyes. You just have to look up. And what do we see when we look up? What is the message the sky is telling us?

‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.’ (1)

Whenever we look up, the heavens, the skies, are giving us a message. They are declaring and proclaiming something to us. They are telling us about the glory of God. They are showing that God made them - and that he is glorious.

And that’s the case whether you look up in the daytime or in the nighttime. When was the last time that you looked up at the skies? What did you see? Were you checking if it was going to rain - or if it was going to stop raining? Was that all you saw? Or did you see what they were trying to tell you?

You see, daytime or nighttime, they are always telling us about God: ‘Day after day they pour fourth speech; night after night they display knowledge.’ (2)

And yet, we’re so used to seeing the sky and the sun and the moon and the stars that we don’t really hear what they’re saying. Paul Hawken says this: “Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would become religious overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead the stars come out every night, and we watch television.”

Their message is continuous - day after day, night after night. And their message is international: ‘There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.’ (3-4)

No matter what language someone may speak, the heavens are speaking to them. No matter where someone may live, the skies are speaking to them. And they are saying: Look at the glory of God! Look at what God has made! Look and see and know that there is a God! He made all this!

David then gives us one example of what God has made. He looks up and considers the sun. Now, maybe you were camping over the summer, and you pitched your tent in the campsite. It was somewhere to sleep at night. And so David says at the end of verse 4: ‘In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.’ (4-6)

Every morning the sun rises, it comes out of its tent (as it were), and the sun runs across the sky, from the east to the west. Those pictures of the bridegroom and the champion are pictures of glory and strength and joy. And the sun shines on everyone. Nothing is hidden from its heat.

Everyone benefits from the sun’s heat. And everyone can see the skies. But are you hearing what they’re telling you? Are you hearing the declaration of God’s glory; the proclamation that God made it all? God has revealed himself in the creation he has made. Romans 1 tells us that God’s eternal power and divine nature are on display so that people are without excuse. And yet we suppress the truth. We ignore God’s glory; or we explain it away as a process of random happenings.

Natural revelation is enough to tell us that there is a God. But God has gone further. He has also given us special revelation - he has spoken and revealed himself in his word, the Bible. And it’s there that David goes next.

In a series of six sentences, David delights in God’s word. Look at verse 7: ‘The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.’ Now, maybe when you read that you think, how does law revive the soul? But the word law refers to the teaching, the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. And in those books we find who God is - how he has revealed himself to the people of Israel. And the other words he uses - statutes, precepts, commands, fear, ordinances - they all show us what God expects of us.

And do you see how the Bible is described? It is perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure and sure (and altogether righteous). In the Bible, God’s word, we see the glory of God. We get to know God. And as we do so, we find that our souls are revived, we are made wise, we receive joy-filled hearts and light-filled eyes.

God’s word is precious - so precious, in fact, that it is worth more than gold, much fine gold; and it is sweeter than honey from the comb. Is this how we think of our Bibles? Precious and sweet? Or something that sits on a shelf, or hides in a cupboard?

We don’t just read the Bible to become Bible quiz geeks. When I used to go to BB Camp there was always a Bible quiz on the Sunday night. There was great competition to see who would win. But much more important than a Mid-Ulster Battalion medal, the Bible reveals God himself. The Bible speaks, telling us of God’s glory - giving both warning and reward (v11).

The heavens tell of God’s glory. The Bible tells of God’s glory. And yet, we find ourselves out of tune, out of step with the universe. In so many ways, we fail to meet what God requires of us. As Romans also tells us, we all ‘have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ It’s the arrow that misses the mark. David mentions errors and hidden faults and wilful sins - things we don’t mean to do, as well as things we set out to do.

What are we to do? David calls out to God for forgiveness. He asks for mercy for his past, for the things he’s done wrong. And he asks for grace for his future, to be able to change:

‘Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.’ Sometimes we’re not even aware of what we’ve done wrong. But God will even forgive those things. And he will keep us:

‘Keep your servant also from wilful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.’

So how is this possible? How can David be so sure that God will forgive him and change him and keep him? How can we be sure of those things too? It’s because he knows who God is. In that last prayer in the last verse, he knows that the LORD is two things: ‘my Rock and my Redeemer.’ God is the rock solid one, the one you can depend on, the one you can build your life on. Why? Because he is also our Redeemer, the one who rescues us from our sin, the one who has paid the price to bring us back to him, the one who took our place by dying on the cross - taking our record of wrongs and making it his own and taking his record of righteousness and making it ours.

When the Lord is our Rock and our Redeemer we can repent, turn around, and find ourselves in tune with the universe.The heavens declare God’s glory. The law of the Lord declares God’s glory. And now we see that David desires God’s glory. Having turned from sin, his desire is to please the Lord. The last verse isn’t just a nice wee prayer before a sermon. It’s a prayer for every moment of every day, that we will live for the glory of God.

Just as the heavens speak of God’s glory, so our prayer is that the words of our mouths will also point to God’s glory. Just as the law of the Lord performs heart surgery on us, reviving the soul and rejoicing the heart, so our prayer is that the meditation of our heart will tend to the glory of God. It’s as we admit that often our words and our thoughts aren’t in tune with God’s glory that we can be mindful of the need to change. David asks, prays, in this verse, as he sums up the whole psalm, that God’s glory will be his supreme purpose. Will you make this your prayer today, this week, this month?

Let’s pray it together now.

This sermon was preached in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday morning 18th August 2019.