Thursday, August 16, 2018

“He’s got the whole wide world in His hands”

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Psalm 62: “Truly my soul, wait thou only upon God”
 
 
I would like to read Psalm sixty two verses five and six with you today. It says there: “My soul, wait only upon God; for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defence; I shall not be moved.”
 
I am sure this is a verse you have all heard before, especially the older people among the listeners. Maybe for the younger people it is new.
 
In the Dutch translation the verse begins with the word “Verily, or truly” to indicate the importance of the words that follow.
 
And it is not just the words that are important, but the emotions you experience when hearing these words: “My soul, wait only upon God. For my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence: I shall not be moved.”
 
It is wonderful to experience the world that lies behind these words.
 
That is also my prayer at this moment, for myself and for you, that the holy spirit will touch our hearts, so that you don’t just hear words, but that a whole new spiritual world will open for you, so that you can experience what it feels like when you have true fellowship with God. That is my prayer: “Lord help me to speak and the listeners to hear. Touch our hearts.”
 
It was quite understandable that David uttered these words, because He was in a very vulnerable position. His life was being threatened, and he was afraid that he would be murdered. If you read through Psalm sixty two, then you get to know the circumstances that prompted this prayer.
 
And so David begins to address his soul. And the soul, that mirrors your very being. When you feel good, when you are happy. Or maybe exactly the opposite. When you are hurt and disappointed, then that feeling is in your soul, in your heart, in the depth of your being. It is a part of you that is very private and personal, which others must respect, and which is an integral part of you. It is that part of you which makes you what you are, whether boy or girl, man or woman.
I am Simon, and there is something unique in me. That uniqueness is  what my wife loves about me, and that’s why we love each other. 
 
In every human being there is a principle of good. The centre of every human being is good. And that centre is called the “soul” or the “heart”. It was God’s idea, and that was the way he planned it. God created us like that, with a soul. That distinguishes us from Him, and from the angels, and also makes us quite different from the animals. It is the most precious part of our human life, our personality. And it is what God loves about us as individuals. Peter expresses it in some beautiful words, when in his first letter he says: “Let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
 
Sometimes I try to explain it like this. You have an outward appearance, an outer being, that we all can see. But you also have an inner being: spirit and soul, and the soul, the heart of your being, that is surrounded, if all is well, by a gentle and quiet and precious spirit. And if you have been baptised with the holy spirit, and I hope that is the case for all who are listening, then this spirit is also enveloped in God’s holy spirit, hidden in God. Isn’t it wonderful that a person is created like that. That your inner being is enveloped by your spirit, and also by the holy spirit. And that it exists in your body and is alive. It’s good to be a human being. Don’t you agree?
 
Jesus is really saying: “The worst thing that can happen to you, is if something happens to your soul, if your soul is damaged. That is the worst thing that can happen to you”.
That’s why it’s important for us to surrender our lives to the One who said: “I am the good shepherd. Your soul will find rest with me. I am the one who has all power in heaven and on earth”. Jesus is Someone with whom your soul is safe. Today and in the future, until eternal life with God.
 
It is really a conversation that David is having with himself. He is calling himself to order, addressing himself, his life. It is good to  practice doing this. But do it together with the holy spirit, through which the Father makes Himself known to you.
 
Another translation of this verse puts it like this: “Search for rest my soul, only by God”. This sounds a bit like the words Jesus spoke:  “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest”.  Listen to God, turn to Him. Turning you heart to God doesn’t mean turning to the great cosmos, or the void of outer space. Neither is it introspective, looking into yourself to find something there.
 
 
When David speaks these words, then he knows what He is talking about. He knew God personally, had had fellowship with Him. Samuel had anointed him with oil, and from that moment on he had tasted and experienced the direct working of the holy spirit in his life. And what he found worst, what he found most difficult, and was most afraid of, was if he noticed that the holy spirit had withdrawn from him, that the holy spirit was not there. He says this in Psalm 51 verse 13, where he confesses his sin, his adulteration with Bathsheba, and asks for forgiveness. Then he shouts out: “O don’t take your holy spirit away from me, I can’t bear it if there is no contact between You and me. If I cannot have fellowship with you.“
 
This text also says that you can only find real rest and peace with God. The immense great God, who through the holy spirit, through Jesus, is himself in our midst. He is an ocean of unlimited life and dynamic on the one hand, and immense peace and quiet on the other.
 
If you take time to think about these words that David spoke, then you discover a person in fellowship with God. A human creation that is aware of his Creator. A child that has an encounter with his Father, a disciple who is sitting at the feet of his Master.
 
 
There is one very moving example of this, that took place at the last supper, when Jesus was taking the last supper with his disciples, and they lay at the table, as was the custom in those days. They have a meal together, and they lay at the table, and one of the disciples, it is said, John, lay against the bosom of Jesus. He just lies there against him, with his head on his heart.
 
What a moving description of a disciple and his Master, of how a human being can be in close contact with his God; with his head against His heart. That must have been a wonderful feeling, despite the circumstances. Despite what is happening all around you, and despite what you sometimes feel in your own heart -  unrest, moodiness, strange voices. With all this resounding in your head, just lie against the heart of the Master. The soul that turns quietly to God.
 
This stillness can include being silent. When you realise that God is your Creator, and become aware of how great He is, when you taste his love and see and realise how great God is, then you can become completely still in his presence.
 
God can also be silent. It says so in Zephaniah chapter 3 verse 17:  “He will be silent in his love”. And that silence is charged with positiveness,  like the energy and the warmth of the sun.
The quietness in the fellowship with God, in the contact with Jesus Christ, is always coupled to hope. To the idea that ‘something is going to happen, something is coming’.
 
You have all seen mothers with their babies in their arms. And those sweet faces that look up in wonder at their mother, while their head goes immediately to the breast to see  if there is any milk to drink. That’s their life line. I remember one of those wondrous gazes when I had one of my own boys in my arms.  Such a wonderful look. And that small child, in its parents’ arms, (I am taking for granted that the family situation if a good one) – a child growing up, close to its parents’ heart always depicts something of expectancy, even if it is not actually spoken out loud.
 
A child expects its parents to look after it, to equip it for its future, and knows instinctively: they are the ones I must look to for guidance and help in my life. But also for the means and opportunities. They are going to guide me through this life, and help me to make a success of it. They will stand by me and encourage me. Every child has a right to parents who will pray for them all through their life, even after they have left home. Parents who will always be interested in what they are doing. That is what a child may expect and hope for.
 
Just as we know for sure that we are God’s creation, and also a new creation through Jesus Christ, and may look for guidance and help to God our Creator, our Saviour and Master. In our fellowship with Him, even here and now, there is an ‘expectancy’ that He has our life in His hands. That He will give us strength and wisdom and encouragement, and so guide us through our life. He, who has all power over everything and everyone, who is the Head of the Church.
 
You can compare it to the disciple who looks up to His Master, while he lays with his head close to the master’s heart, resting, trusting. And if your heart is close to the heart of the Lord, then you are in just the right place, because then you are also near enough to hear what He has to say to you. Then you are like a disciple whose eyes follow His master’s hands to discover where He is leading you, what He is asking of you, where He is sending you.
 
There was ONE woman (In Matthew chapter fifteen verse twenty seven) she didn’t really belong, she was a heathen, but even so she came to Jesus full of expectations. She looked to Him for help. And she had learned something from the dogs. She had seen them: even if they weren’t actually given anything to eat by their masters, they were still allowed to have some of the leftovers. And her faith and expectations were rewarded by Jesus with a powerful deliverance and healing of her daughter.
 
Turn in stillness only to God. Close the door behind you, pray to your Father in secret. Separate yourself from people, from situations, perhaps even from evil spirits. Then there will be hope and expectations. Not wavering, but strong as a rock. It is good to be with Him. He is as a fortress, so strong and unshakeable.
 
If you read Psalm 62 carefully, then you will see that David says these words twice, with one difference. The first time he says: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation; He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved”.
In this verse, verse one, things almost go wrong. I shall not be greatly moved, he says. He uses the image of a tottering fence. But he knows where to turn to for help. Where he should be to find strength. With God, and he says again in verse five and six, “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation”. and this time this confession of his faith in God makes him stronger and unwavering and so he testifies in verse 6 ‘and I shall not be shaken, I shall not be moved.’
 
Do you sometimes feel that you waver greatly. I thought it very subtly put. I thought, thank you Lord. The Psalms describe the feelings and situations so well that we humans can experience.
Jesus drew strength from the psalms too. He discovered Himself in them. He discovered who He was, the Christ. What God’s plan was for his life. Even the details of His suffering and death and resurrection.
 
Jesus read his Bible. He grew up with it. He identified himself with it. They were not just wonderful, encouraging words. They contained God’s whole plan. And He applied them to Himself. By talking to His Father in the quiet about the words that He read. That’s how He discovered that He was Himself that word. With his head close to the heart of God the Father, He learned and discovered God’s plan, and He grew in stature and understanding.
 
Later when Jesus is grown up and has started on the mission God had planned for Him, He still went regularly to places where He could be alone with God. When He is busy doing what God asked Him, going all over the country preaching, holding services, having talks, doing pastoral work, until late in the night………….all that work……still there were moments when He thought about Psalm sixty two, and withdrew to be in the quiet. That was wonderful. They had boats there, and you could sail on the lake in them. Wonderful if you can withdraw into nature, in the quiet, to be alone with God.
 
Sometimes He went up a mountain to be alone, to seek rest and quiet and be with God. He recognised the necessity of this, also for his disciples, and so He took them away every now and again. He took them out of their busy life and said: “come on. We are going somewhere quiet for a rest. It is important to find peace and rest”.
 
You know, when Jesus chose His disciples, all twelve of them, and called them to be with Him, the first thing He asked them to do, the first thing He said He expected of them, wanted them to do, was just to be with Him.  “I have chosen you to be WITH me”. He said . First and foremost to have close, personal fellowship with Me”.
 
If necessary Jesus used his authority to create that tranquillity, that peace.  Sometimes that happened when Jesus was delivering someone from evil spirits and they became uncontrollable. Then just ONE word of authority from the Master was enough to bind the evil spirit that was at work and bring peace and calmness, and even healing, instead of unrest and disorder. And then it became completely still.
 
There is the story of the man who was devil possessed. Jesus set the man free from the evil spirits and healed him, so that he became completely normal, and sat fully dressed at the feet of the master.
That’s what our Jesus is like: He is able to calm a mighty storm with two words “Be Still”. That is Jesus. He who has all power in heaven and on earth.
 
And when the disciples find they are not able to deliver people from evil spirits – there was a boy who was possessed of a devil and they couldn’t heal him – then what do they do? They go to Jesus to talk about it. “Lord, why is that? ”What are we doing wrong? What is going wrong?”
 
Or when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of heaven, and they have so many questions, then they go to the Master to discuss it with Him and to learn from Him.
 
If you let these words sink in to your heart and mind, then you will realise that somewhere there is a secret. Some sort of secret, and it’s to be found in fellowship with God, a real blessing for your life. In Psalm 73 verse 28 David shouts it out:  “As far as I am concerned, as far as my life is concerned, it is good for me to be near God”. He had many important things in his life, but one thing was more important than anything else:  “It is good for me to be near to God”.
 
 
 
“Turn quietly to God”. I want to show you another aspect of this. And that is the following. This quiet, this stillness, that Jesus is talking about, is not the same as being alone and lonely. Jesus says in John 8 verse 29: “God never left me alone. Whatever happened, because I have always done what He asked of me.” But His disciples did leave Him, in the most difficult stage of His life. He had known they would. “You will all leave me on my own” he said. And yet Jesus also says: “I am not alone, because my Father is with me.”
 
The only place where Jesus was really lonely was on the cross. When God had to withdraw, and the whole realm of darkness was focussed on Him. When, although it was day, it was literally dark as night at the place where He was. Forsaken of God He calls out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” The deep loneliness, bearing the sin of the whole world, forsaken also by the holy spirit, hanging there, completely naked on the cross.
 
He was, thank God, the only one who had to experience this deep feeling of loneliness and being forsaken, because He was the only one who could fulfil this role. The only One who could make it possible for people like you and me never to have to be alone, never have to be separated from God again.
 
 
Words fail to express this anguish of soul that Jesus must have experienced on the cross. You can’t begin to imagine how he felt. You can only feel a deep respect and wonder for Him who died there on the cross. That He was able to do this, that He was faithful to death. Our Jesus. He is so great. And so we worship and adore Him, and trust Him and have faith in Him. And surrender ourselves completely to Him. And say, whatever the circumstances: “Jesus, here I am. Here we are. What you did was so wonderful”.
 
That’s why He is the comforter, who can understand and share our feelings and emotions. He alone, He understands best.
I have learned not to say so readily to people, when talking to them about difficult situations, “I understand how you feel”. Because there are lots of situations and pain and sadness that I can’t understand. Someone who has lost a partner, for example. The only person who can begin to understand what this means is someone in the same position . And yet if you feel loved by God, you can share God’s love and warmth and protection by caring for the other person. Just as Jesus, with the compassion of the Father, comforted the sad and healed the sick, by sharing himself and all his riches with the people.
 
Many people are lonely. Many Christians too. In the worst cases some people even try to put an end to the loneliness by taking their own life.
Small children are often very lonely if their parents divorce; loyal and brave maybe, but still lonely. Or children in families where one parent has died. Don’t underestimate the impact that this has, not only on small children, but also on the teenagers.
Parents who don’t have a partner in life, or no longer have a partner. Young people who can’t find a partner to share their life. How lonely can people be. Or children at school. How lonely can you feel at work, in your life, in the church. How often do people feel shut out, whatever the reason may be. You may even feel very lonely right now.
David, the same David, says in Psalm 25 verse sixteen: “I am lonely and miserable”. King, prophet, he could have had anything he wanted. And still he experienced this loneliness.
 
And lastly there is a loneliness that is sometimes inevitable when you share in part of the suffering of Christ, for His sake.
 
Dear people, that’s not the quiet that God is talking about here. What does God say right at the beginning? He says: “It is not good for man to be alone”. That is a cry from God from deep down. Something He feels deeply about.
Later on you read that God is the “Father of the orphaned.” And it also says: “He prays for the woman who misses Her husband”. God, in His holy dwelling. God, who gives a home to the lonely, brings those who are lonely into the family of God. This is God’s heart saying: “It is not good for a person to be alone”. That is anchored so deep in His heart, it is such an essential part of his spirit, that when we are baptized in the holy spirit then that part of His spirit will comfort us. And when we are baptized in holy spirit and long for complete fulfilment, then His holy spirit fills our lives more and more until we are completely filled with His Holy Spirit, which makes our daily lives more stable, and has a strong influence in our lives. Then we will experience more, know more, feel more of His deep desire to have fellowship with us and comfort us. Maybe that is why the holy Spirit is also called the ‘Comforter’.
 
And if we live our lives, our daily lives, aware of the holy spirit in us, maybe then there will be moments that the holy spirit in us is touched by a child, or a brother or sister, so that we become aware of the loneliness in other people. Suddenly our eyes may be opened for the situation in which the other lives. And if you act on that, then you have a wonderful chance to offer a ‘home’ to the other. To comfort. To show God’s love. A heart that is friendly and hospitable. A house that is open for someone who is lonely or hurt.
 
James sums it up quite clearly in James chapter one verse twenty seven; “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”.
That shows us what Jesus is like. He understands our weaknesses. Can you imagine a more beautiful image, a more beautiful way of Jesus connecting with us, with our lives. That he understands and shares your feelings and emotions through the holy spirit in you.
 
You may experience a moment of extreme loneliness while out for a walk on your own, and then you can call out to the Lord and suddenly feel God’s nearness, as if a bridge has been built between you heart and His, and all your loneliness finds its way over the bridge to His heart, and you can continue on your way, albeit with tears, thanking God. This is how our Jesus is to those who stay close to Him. He is always so near, so involved in your life, so full of love and inner compassion for those who love Him. That’s all that is necessary. That’s all you have to do. Love Him.
 
That’s why David says in Psalm sixty two verse nine: “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him.”
When the bridge is built, pour out your heart to Him. God is our refuge. Thank you. And Jesus Christ is the great Comforter. Jesus, who understands. He says: “I will come to you”.
And it is good for our image of God and of Jesus to realise, that when He comes to us, he doesn’t start by pointing out all our faults, which we of course have made, but when He comes to us, the first thing we will feel is comfort. My head against His heart.
 
A good teacher doesn’t start teaching immediately he comes into the class. First he creates calm and quiet. He makes you feel at ease, and then he starts to teach. That’s what Jesus is like. I want to learn from Him.
 
“All these people who are threatening me”, David says to God, “You will take care of them for me.  It is your problem, not mine”.
“For God alone my soul waits in silence.”
 
And in that peaceful atmosphere, that silence, the Father will teach you about His love for you. He draws you near to Him. That does you good, and it does the Father good too. He wants to be with you, in fellowship with you.
 
Brothers and sisters, the Lord is nearby. So you can approach Him, go to Him. But sometimes Jesus does it the other way round. Then he takes the initiative. Do you know what He does then? He simply comes closer to you. And then something happens.
He did that straight after his resurrection. You can read about it in Matthew chapter twenty eight verse 16. He came to his disciples. And do you know what happened then? Some fell on their knees and worshipped Him. And some doubted, some of his own disciples! Do you know what Jesus did then? “He came closer”. He went to them and stood before them with the same love and compassion for those who worshipped, as for those who doubted. And He said: “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth”. He ignores their doubts, and he expresses His faith in them when he says, “You are all going to go into the whole world and preach the gospel, and baptize and teach, and I will be with you, all the days of your life, I will not leave you alone”. Wonderful, isn’t it?
 
And so dear people, Jesus also comes near to you, now, at this very  moment, and he is so near that you can touch Him, approach Him, open your heart for Him. And He is the great comforter and the one who can bring peace into your life.
 
I read a commentary on Psalm sixty two verse 1 in a diary written by an English preacher from the nineteenth century by the name of Spurgeon. Verse 1 says: “Await God, from him comes my salvation” and Spurgeon says: ”What a blessed way to live, truly waiting only for the Lord.” That should be our attitude, today and every day.
Waiting for an opportunity, waiting to be used in his service, waiting with a sort of blissful expectancy and hope. And be satisfied. If this is my attitude then I am in the best possible place. Like a servant waiting expectantly for his master, or a child for his father. I pray the Lord that He will help us to be like this today, and tomorrow, and the day after. And if we sometimes lose that feeling, then resort to a text like this. Turn to the Word of God. The Lord bless you.
 
Let us pray:
 
Father, thank you for the quiet that we can experience in your presence. For the rest and peace we find there. That is because of your love for us. It is so good to hear these words of love from you. It is so good that you let us know that you are also so happy with OUR love. You and us together, we continue our lives, in fellowship together, full of expectations.
 
Amen