Friday, April 19, 2019

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

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Peace and healing
Sermon by Duurt Sikkens


Good morning dear people.
Will you turn with me to Psalm forty two. I am going to read two verses from it.
The heading above this psalm is: “To the choirmaster, a Maskil of the sons of Korah”.
 
“As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God. My soul thirsts for god, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?”
 
This psalm, as we can read in the heading, is a maskil, or in other words a teaching psalm. I like that, because that means there is a lot tolearn from it, and so I’d like to share some thoughts with you which I learned from this psalm.
 
The writer of this poem does not live in Palestine. He lives outside its borders, far away from Jerusalem, in a foreign country, and against his will. Verse six tells us something about this.
He is in an area to the north of his homeland, the country where he really belongs.  And all he really wants, is to be back in his homeland, because the place where he is, is anevil place, and there is nothing good to be found there.
He longs to be back in Jerusalem, because that is where it is good. THAT is where you can find peace and healing. In the Bible, the north  is always an image of a place whereevil comes from.
 
So why is he so far away? Well, he may have beenexiled, or deported. Whatever the reason, he certainly doesn’t WANT to be there, but he IS, and he longs to be back in the temple, in the city of his homeland. That’s why the title “homesickness” that we find above the psalm in some Bibles is so apt: he is literally sick, because he has lost his home. The place where youmost want to be, you have lost. You are not at home. And so he has become sick from being in exile. Think of the prodigal son. He was homesick too. All he could think of was : “If only I were at home again”.
 
And here  the poet is comparing his soul to a deer who is longing for water. In the original Hebrew text it says that the soul longs for the river beds. And that helps us to understand better what he means.
 
There is, you see, a very remarkable text in Psalm 104: “God makes the springs gush forth in the valleys, in the river beds.” Just think about it. A river bed has become dry. God sees that, and He thinks: that needs a spring, so that the river bed will become full of water. And so He makes a spring.
Here in this psalm the river bed is an image of a human being, and we have all received a spring. 
So you no longer have to keep going to the spring to draw water when you are thirsty, you are the spring, and you are full of water. God made that possible. That spring is an image of the holy spirit. The holy spirit has made Jesus a spring, because the spirit is from God. God is THE source of all things, and then Jesus was given part of that. Let’s put it like this. I never thirst any more, I am never longing like a deer for water. You ARE a source of water.
 
During the feast of the tabernacle in Jerusalem Jesus went and stood somewhere among all the people there, amidst the market sellers and party goers, and he said: if anyone is thirsty let him come to me and streams of living water will flow from  within him (John. 7:34) All the people went quiet. Then one says: yes, he must be right, he is a prophet, and the other says no. that can’t be right. Well whatever. As soon as you start to proclaim the word of God, you get a conflict of spirits. Those for, and those against. But Jesus, our leader, our example, proclaimed this at the feast of the Tabernacle. He proclaimed that everyone could have streams of living water flowing from within them. So you could say that every person is in fact a river bed. Every person. Because God has directed his eyes to the whole of mankind, and everyone who receives the spirit becomes a source, from which water flows.
You see, you live in the spiritual land of the promise, the kingdom of God. The land of the promise, that is the land of the spirit of God. That is where God lives, shall we say. He lives in the people who believe in Him and have received his spirit.
 
There are,  however, a lot of different levels of faith among believers. For example, there are those who live outside the promised land. They have no share in God’s spirit, but they are homesick. They don’t believe much. They believe that there is a God, and they hope, that when they die, they will go to His kingdom.  Their faith is something like that. They have no further spiritual longings, often because they have been put under pressure or made to doubt. You see it often in the headings above death notices in the newspaper. They speak more ofhope than of certainty. And that is really all there is to their faith.
 
I once saw an interview with a cardinal. The man who interviewed him had a very good question: He said: “How does it all end for you”. Then tears came into the cardinal’s eyes and he said: “Lord have mercy on me.” And I thought: the Lord already did that, a long time ago, at Calvary. Dear friends, read in your Bible two Corinthians chapter six verse eighteen again .”I will be a Father to you, and you shall by my sons and daughters, says the Lord almighty”.
 
Then there are believers who do live in that promised land. They have more insight into the kingdom of God. They talk about that kingdom and understand a little more about it. A remarkable example: The murderer on the cross next to Jesus says to Him: “When you come into your kingdom will you remember me?” and Jesus says to him “come with me”! Isn’t that wonderful. Yes, this murderer, he believed in the forgiveness of sins and wrong doings, and the possibility of entering that kingdom of God. “Come with me” Jesus says. So he became, you could say, the first small plant in paradise. Maybe just a small piece of moss, but it was there. Wonderful isn’t it?
 
Then there is a group who live in the spiritual Jerusalem. Who are they? You can read about them in psalm eighty seven. They are people from all corners of the world. From Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia. Maybe you know this Psalm well. In verse 5 it says that they were born again. The spiritual Jerusalem is the mother city for all those who are born again. “You are a citizen of heaven” Paul says. And in that city there is a temple. That is the house of God. And who make up that house of God? They are the people who are baptised with God’s holy spirit, and who have given God a place in their lives. And if there is one thing that this poet in exile longs for, then it is THAT house. The house of God. Really what he longs for is for what we have here together in this church. Believers together.
The prophets all prophesied about this! About the kingdom of God that will be for ever. Think of the last verse of Psalm twenty three. “And I will live in the house of the Lord for ever”.  “They prophesied about US”, Peter says in one Peter one verse ten. “The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours, searched and inquired about this salvation”. These people often had a hard time. Why? Because of this. Because of the message they proclaimed. “It was revealed to them” – 1 Peter 1 verse 12 – “that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look”.  And so it’s not so much what I actually see here before me physically, with my natural eyes, but what I see happening here, in us, in the unseen world with my spiritual eyes.
 
The writer of this psalm says that he longs to appear before God’s face. What does that mean? When I was young, people used this idea to frighten me. “If you ever appear before God’s face then there’ll be trouble. Watch His face carefully”, they said, ”because if he looks cross then you will go to hell’. Something like that. And you know there are still lots of people being frightened like this. In Pentecostal churches too.
 
 
But this soul in exile longs to appear before God. And when that happens, something wonderful happens too, because then you see the face of your Father. “the Lord shall make his face to shine upon you” Moses says in Numbers chapter six verse twenty five. You come into the light.  You come into your own. Your own wonderful personality can be clearly seen. Your true identity. Your face in the face of truth. Literally it says in verse two of Psalm forty two; when shall I comein. So that means you have to take a step forward. That suggests a transition from one area into another. You leave one place and go into another. “I will keep your going out and your coming in”. God says in Psalm one hundred and twenty one.  Go, out of Egypt, out of the desert, and  into the promised land, into the temple. Go into. Do you have the courage to do that?
 
And then in verse two of Psalm 42 we read something quite remarkable. What it says literally in the Hebrew text, is even more wonderful. It says: “when can I go in and when can I meet faces of God”. Faces, in the plural. But surely…… there is only one God? And God is one? Yes, but He has so many colours, …….. let us call them faces. And I see faces of God here today too. Not what I see on the outside, but inside. And this poet in exile is hoping to meet us, shall we say, so that his identity will come to the surface, and will be seen, and that will happen to every man or woman on whom you cast your light. Tell them how God sees them.
“I’ll tell you who you really are” Jesus says, “Because your eyes are lamps”. And so here He compares the eyes of people with lamps. So shine your enlightened ideas about God on someone, and he will come into the light. What a wonderful opportunity.
 
In two Corinthians chapter three verse eighteen we read something lovely: “We shall all reflect the glory of the Lord”.  ALL, it says, we ALL, do you see that? So you reflect the love of God, and you show that love to another person, to christians in exile, to all those spiritual people living outside the boundaries of the heavenly Jerusalem. And so call to them: “Come into God’s house”.  
 
But tell me, are we really aware of the fact that we reflect all these aspects of God’s character. Are you aware of the fact that You are a light, and you ARE part of the Word of God. Here, today, you are all the living words of God, because you speak words of eternal life. So what is the poet longing for? To have what we already have.
 
In the New Testament there are three writers , James, Peter and the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, who focussed on the believers outside their own country. They call them believers in the dispersion, the Diaspora. These three wrote specifically to these people.
 
And the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says in chapter twelve verse 22: ”You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering and to the assembly of the first-born”. Who is meant here by you? Who have come to Mount Zion? These Hebrews, to whom the letter is addressed, and they have come to us, the city of the living God.
 
Then in verse three of Psalm forty two it says: “My tears have been my food day and night,” that’s how sad he was, how homesick.
In verse five he addresses his soul. ”Why are you cast down?” he asks. In the original text it says that his soul is being pushed down. there is a hand in your neck pushing you down, pressuring you, depressing you. It happens to you, just like that. It happened to this poet. He didn’t ask for it, but it just happens. How? Why? Not only because my soul is in exile. That is not the only reason. There is something else. Look at what is says in verse 3b. “while men say to me continually ‘Where is your God’?”
 
And again in verse ten: “they say to me continually, ‘where is your God?’ Do you recognise these menacing voices. Who doesn’t?
When you are with someone who is very ill, or someone who is mentally ill, you may hear the words in your mind, or maybe someone even says it out loud, ‘where is your God now?”
Then you hear the voices shouting, or maybe you even shout yourself in desperation: “God, where are you?” Jesus heard them shouting too, you know, while he was hanging there on the cross, innocent, but sentenced to death, with terrible physical pain, and then this spiritual pressure too. Someone shouts to him, “he trusts in God: let God deliver Him now”.
Look at verse ten. “As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me….”. Literally it says in my ‘bones”. And that’s certainly not the easiest place to stab someone to death. There are weaker places. But bones is in the Jewish tradition always parallel with your identity. Imagine that just for a moment everyone lost their bones, their skeleton. Then their body would just fall apart. And that’s why the bones are such a wonderful image of what supports you. Your identity. That holds you together. That makes you who you are. I think that is a beautiful image.
 
I think that’s why Jesus’ bones were not broken when he hung on the cross. I think it’s moving. He never lost his identity, He remained true to himself throughout. No matter what they did to him, He remained himself. It’s possible you know. Not to lose your true identity; to remain true to yourself however much you have to suffer sometimes. How many people have been so ill or suffering from such spiritual oppression that they have called out: “However am I going to get through this?”
And then to remain true to yourself, to keep your identity, that means a battle, spiritual warfare, because satan wants you to lose your identity. Especially yourdivine identity.
And that is to be able to walk freely, without blame, because Jesus was without blame, and that every veil, every obstacle between you and God has been removed. THAT is what Jesus and his Father have done. The devil doesn’t want that, he wants you to lose your divine origin. He wants you to give up. To lose face, or actually to lose the face in which God recognises himself, and to have that covered, so that it can no longer be seen, and so that you can no longer reflect Gods glory.
 
Your soul can be in exile like that. Your identity stolen, and that also means: you are no longer you, no longer the person you really are. People who know and love you, theyknow what you are like, but your soul is imprisoned, like a bird in a cage. You have no peace, you don’t feel at home, and you can’t spread your wings.
And if you have lost your homeland, then it hurts, and is painful and you become sick, homesick. And it can destroy you. 
 
Then the poet says in verse four: “I pour out my soul” and in the original text it says: “I pour out my soul IN ME”. 
 
In me! Is that the right place to do it? Well, if you have no one else to pour it out to, then I’m afraid you will have to try and save yourself, and that is not easy. It is awful if you don’t have a brother or sister to talk to.
 
In Psalm thirty seven verse five there is the well known text: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and he will act”.
A different translation says: “Disclose thy way to the Lord” And the Hebrew text says: “Entrust your way to the Lord”. Commit your way to the Lord and trust Him. That suggests that there is someone there who will listen. But if you think to yourself: “I will do it, together with the Lord”, then you’ve got it wrong. Because youve got spiritual brothers and sisters. But are they to be trusted? Are WE trustworthy? Can we be trusted to leave the story of our brother or sister intact, to leave our brother and sister themselves intact. Are we that trustworthy?  
 
If you have the courage to entrust your soul to someone, someone who you know will respect your trust and keep your confidence, then that helps. It is a relief to talk about things. You begin to feel better. Ready to listen to others, that’s how God is, and if you are like God, then you are ready to listen and help others too. You are trustworthy and worthy of their confidence.
 
Another example. Two roads meet in the desert, in your desert. You are in your desert, or you are still not in your homeland. And then someone comes along. He is looking for you. For you. That moves you, doesn’t it. Your way, his way. Your life, His life. He is looking for you. He gives you a hand, you give him a hand, and then you go out of the desert together. Two courses of life become one. That’s beautiful. Then you receive healing. Your inner turmoil disappears if you can entrust yourself to someone, and talk to them in confidence. And then you receive healing. Many of us have done that. Have had the courage to do that, and I know it doesn’t always turn out as we hoped. But it is always meant well, and done with a good heart.
 
And then you see someone heal, their inner being heals. You see it.
Verse eleven, the last verse, says something remarkable. It is also the last verse of Psalm forty three. It says in the original Hebrew text: “Hope in God, for he is the salvation of your countenance, of your face”.  He saves your face, your identity. You will never lose face with God! On the contrary, you get it back.
 
So let people see you. Have the courage to let Gods light shine on your character, and then He will let you see who you really are. What do you think of that!
There is a text in the Bible: “Your husband is your maker”. And ‘make’ also means ‘repair’ or ‘heal’. And if anyone knows how a person should be, then it is God. He is your ‘maker’ so He is also your ‘restorer’.
You never lose your face, your ‘you’, your soul, your pure and very own personal identity, who you are. You are restored, and no longer in exile. I’ve seen it happen to several people here. That  is what gives us comfort and peace. It comes from fellowship with the Father. And in the same way you can come into the light, so that your real self can come to the surface. That is the new covenant that Jesus made, a renewed relationship with the Father.
 
Think about it. You become a new person through this fellowship, through this renewed relationship, this new covenant. Everything in you is restored and made whole. Jesus can say to his Father, when he points to us: Behold, I make all things new.  I start IN the person, because the separation between good and evil beginsin the house of God, in you. That’s where the separation begins, between what is good for you, and what is not good for you. So the text in one Peter chapter four verse seventeen that says: “So the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God” actually means that the time has come for separation to begin. God is going to separate you from the things that are not good for you, and lovingly restore you to the beautiful person you are.
He is going to bring out all the good things in you. And then God’s being will be reflected in your face. The more your own identity is restored, the more precious you are. The more you can reveal of God. And then hesitantly, emotionally, but very clearly, you can say: “I AM, because that’s your Father’s name too.
 
AMEN
 
 
Let us pray:
Lord, we pray that we may have the courage to believe that God will bring our true identity and our real selves to the surface through people who love us. That we will return from exile and receive peace and healing for our soul.
 
Amen