Description / Transcription
What’s going on, family? Bow your heads with me in prayer. Let’s go to the Lord.
Holy God, we come before You this evening and we worship You as our great king. With confess that some of us, maybe many of us, are weary going throughout the day, but Lord, would You just recall to our minds the beauty that we get to worship You, that with get to come here tonight and brag about Your goodness. Lord, we need You. Lord, I need to, and I ask that You would speak through me, that You would use this time to exalt Your name because You are worthy. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Turn with me to Psalm 134. Psalm 134 is the last of the series of 15 psalms in your Bible, each having the title the Songs of Ascent. The idea behind the collection of Psalms of Ascent is that pilgrims were going up, travelers would sing these songs on the road as they would gather together to Jerusalem and they would actually sing these songs on their way back.
This particular scene in this psalm is of pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem for one of the three major feasts of Israel and now they are departing back, early in the morning. They’re trying to leave in the dark so they can kind of beat the heat.
With that, I want to read the psalm and jump right in. We have a lot to talk about and very little time. The psalm reads:
“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the Lord!
May the Lord bless you from Zion,
He who made heaven and earth!”
The pilgrims, the commentators believe that the pilgrims actually, and these journeymen, they would actually, these first two verses, were shouted out as they were leaving to head back home from their time in Jerusalem, and then what would happen is actually they think that Psalm 3, not 100% sure, but they think Psalm 3 is actually the priests and the Levites who stand day and night and the worshipers, that’s them responding to these pilgrims, so it was kind of like a little cadence. Like “praise the Lord”, “praise the Lord,” so that’s how it was. It was this beautiful song and cadence was shouted back.
What I want to do is I want to start with looking at this concept of “behold,” kinneh, right? It’s like saying Kenneth Peterson’s name but toward the middle getting tired, kinneh. This should be taken as “take heed,” “recognize,” “be on your guard.”
Why? Because in Psalm 134 it’s clear that every believer is called to minister and serving of the Lord. So the question is “behold all you servants of the Lord.” What is he asking you to do? He’s asking you to bless the Lord.
Now when I think of blessing something or someone, I think of a greater kind of blessing, a lesser. Now that’s not what’s happening here, we know that God is infinitely greater than all, so that can’t, that’s out. Right? That can’t be what’s happening here. What’s happening is more the sense of intelligent volition. You can actually bless the Lord.
Think about it. The way you can bless the Lord is by doing and being who God has called you to be and do.
Let me give you an example. How does, through this question, how does a rock or the moon or the sun or a tiger, bless the Lord? How does it worship the Lord? By being a rock. The way a rock brings honor and praise to God is by being what it is called to be. So a rock literally sits on a beach or sits on a mountain and it’s kind of, right, praise the Lord, hallelujah, it’s being itself by actually being a rock. So is a tiger, or a whale.
What’s interesting and what’s amazing about our great God is He allows us, unlike any other creature, because we bear His image, to bless Him in a way of intelligent volition. The rock has no choice. The moon has no choice but to be the moon. But you and me, we can actually choose to bless God or not worship God. So the way we are able to worship Christ, the way you bring honor and praise to God, the way you’re able to bless the Lord, is when you in the midst of a world that asks you to settle for fake things, that asks you to serve yourself, to worship yourself, that asks you to give in to your own desires, to choose all these other things, when you in the midst of all that noise continually say, “No, instead of that, I’m going to choose to honor You, Lord. I’m going to choose to pay heed to You, Lord. I’m going to choose to listen to You, Lord,” that brings Him blessing.
Think about it as a parent. Right, fam? I mean, what, what, okay. We want our children to obey us whether they like it or not, for sure. Right? But isn’t it something really beautiful, not when your child just does what you say, but when they anxiously want to please their mommy and daddy? That blesses you. When they say I can choose to do these things but I choose to honor you.
So you can bless the Lord. That’s how we bless the Lord. He says in the Scriptures, “Come bless the Lord, all you servants who stand by night in the house of the Lord.” The concept “bless,” “berakah,” means the act of making a binding verbal pronouncement of good. Now this is important. So when He’s talking about this concept of bless, He’s saying it’s when, it’s making this verbal pronouncement of good. This is so important because the Bible spends so much time talking about praising and blessing. In fact, think about it, the whole book of Psalms, we have a book that’s about how do you sing and pray and bring worship to God. This is really important to the Lord. He gives us this whole book about worship.
The psalmist says you these people here and what they’re doing, these pilgrims calling out blessing and the Levites calling it back to them, it seems like these are the people we are to be. It seems like He’s giving us these imperatives, but I want to be clear here, family. We have these imperatives and we’ve sung them here, bless the Lord, praise the Lord, and what I don’t want to do and what seems that the posture of the Bible here is not for me to just sit here and tell you, “God wants you to bless the Lord, God wants you to praise the Lord, so just do it,” because embedded, and don’t miss this, embedded in these texts here are some inferences. It’s not that you and I without any kind of heart, we just bless the Lord because He wants us to, there seems something that’s very embedded here and it’s very important that we’re going to dive into, and that is God is assuming, we need to assume, that these men who were standing at night at the gates, that these pilgrims who are joyfully shouting in the middle of the night to bless the Lord, that they have something. They have thankful hearts.
You praise something, or someone, when you are happy with it. You cannot praise unless you are thankful. It is hard to be an ungrateful, unthankful, inconsiderate, praising saint. It don’t even make no sense. Right?
Thankfulness and praise are tied together in such a way, a thankful orientation, thanking God, I want to propose to you is actually the launching pad to this concept of blessing, that without a thankful heart you can’t worship the Lord.
Let me prove it to you. A few verses. Ephesians chapter 5. Very famous verses. Turn there real quick. The Scriptures read, “Give thanks always and for everything to God for the Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” You see that?
1 Thessalonians, chapter 5 verse 18, family. The Scriptures read, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God and Christ Jesus for you.”
Why am I bringing this up? This is so important that we, before we continue to talk about blessing, well, how does one bless a person? With thankfulness. We’re hardwired. This is how God has made you. He’s made you to appreciate thankfulness, right? So you can detect it. You appreciate when someone recognizes that something’s been done for them and then they recognize and they say, “Thank you.”
Right? You’re hardwired like that. And that’s why it grieves you… If your kid is ungrateful, it grieves you. But even more, you ever have somebody over and their kids are ungrateful. Right? You have someone in your kitchen and you offer them something and the kid just grabs it and walks off. You’d be like… Why is that? We’re hardwired to want people to realize and recognize when you have done something for them, to say, “Thank you.”
I remember, if I can just confess to you as the family of God, one of my pet peeves is when I’m driving and if there’s a lot of traffic, I’m driving, the Lord ___ every once in a while allow me to be a Christian and be filled with the Spirit and I’ll let somebody in, you know? You know, you’ve got things to do and every once in a while I’m like, okay, Lord, I’m filled with the Holy Ghost, I see this person needs to get in, so I’m, “Come on in, come on in.” Right? Now, what do you want back? All you want, you see the brother, all you want [gesturing] All you want is acknowledgement that man, I hooked you up. Right? I put skin in the game. You were out there. Tell me, all, let’s be honest, right. Am I the only Christian here? When you let somebody in and they just drive like, “You were supposed to let me in,” and you’re just like [sound effect], right?
Why is that? I’m convinced, I’m recapitulating my great Lord. It’s like I recognize thankfulness and when someone’s unthankful, it just, man, it just does something to us.
He says, “Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who stand by night in the house of the Lord.” If that’s the way, if we get that upset when we think we’ve put skin in the game, think about the Lord. In your life, moment by moment, day by day, He has shown you that He’s put skin in the game by providing for you, giving to you, doing things for you, and what do you do? Do you give Him the nod or do you keep going like, “Of course, of course you should have done that.”
The Scripture says “all you servants of the Lord.” If anyone should understand thankfulness or God’s greatness, His goodness toward us, this text is saying “all you servants of the Lord, bless.” Why? Because if anybody should understand it, it should be us, us Christians, those of us who experience God’s grace. That’s why this is so important, family, because I’m convinced and I’ve seen this that ungratefulness, a complaining orientation, literally short circuits your worship to God.
So our assumptions that we see these beautiful saints, blessing God, this, no, it’s not because of their cultures, it’s not because they just felt like they should do it, it’s not because God said a psalm to do it, I’m convinced to have those guys in the middle of the night shouting back and forth blessing is because inherent was a grateful heart.
Let me prove it to you. Deuteronomy chapter 6. Look what God says in His Word – No one should be more aware of God’s kindness than us, the people of God. I think that’s what he’s saying to the people here, just a reminder, he’s saying just recognize, verse 10, chapter 6 of Deuteronomy. Listen to this text, I love this text here – And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that He swore to your forefathers, the Scriptures read to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you with great and good cities that you did not build and houses full of all good things that you did not fill and cisterns that you did not dig and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant, and when you eat and you are full, verse 12, then take care lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Doesn’t that sound like a God who’s saying, “Can you remember that I put a lot of skin in the game? Don’t you forget what I’ve done and be ungrateful.”
Everything. This text just reminds you and me, and we know this as believers, why should we be grateful people? Why should we have an orientation of thankfulness which leads towards blessing God? It’s because we realize that God has given us everything, that He’s central in your life, that He’s done everything for you, starting with getting you up this morning.
You go, well, look, the Lord gets me up every morning. You want Him to miss a day?
These pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem in worship. They had their time. They leave in worship. We have the priests still there. The song continues in verse 2. It says, “Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord,” the Scriptures read. Lift up your hands. It’s this position. Right?
We have lift up your hands in two ways. Right? You could have the sense of surrender, when you think about it, right? If I say, “Give me all your money,” you don’t put your hands in your pocket. Right? You show that you don’t have the power, that I have the power. You put your hands up in surrender. Right? Lord, You are everything, You’re all powerful.
But also we hold our hands up in a sense of reception, of Lord, You are our sustainer, You are my provider, I count on You.
So lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord as the Scriptures read.
This is interesting. As a believer, I look at our world today and I’m just blown away, especially for young people, to live in this world that’s so about… I mean, we were always selfish but I’m amazed at the extreme narcissism today. Right? That is so counter-Christian, because the believer in himself, look at this, to worship God is in essence to declare that it’s not about you, it’s about Him, and He deserves all the attention, and the world tells you the total opposite, that everything’s about you. You should be taking pictures of yourself all day, you should be staring at yourself and your friends all day, you should… Everything’s about what you need to get, what you deserve, if anything happens slightly wrong I need counseling because… It’s everyone’s fault but you. This whole world has now pointed the center, you are the center of the universe and the Scriptures speak absolutely against that.
This disposition is different. I say that because you see Satan’s trying to trap you and me, this worldview, this world system is trying to dupe us. But family, it’s not new. This ain’t new.
Turn to Genesis. It’s not new. This disposition that this world wants you to have about me, ungratefulness, a lack of thankfulness, is not new. Genesis chapter 2. Look what the Lord says. A very famous passage – the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it and the Lord God commanded the man, saying you may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.
Now look at that. You’ve got Satan saying, “You know what? God just doesn’t want you to be like Him. You’re not going to die if you eat that fruit. You’re not going to die if you eat from that tree.”
You know what’s interesting to me about this whole journey, the Fall, is that Satan, even Adam, the focus is on the one tree they couldn’t eat from. We never talk about the thousand trees they could eat from. Well, E, aren’t you being a little… No, look at the text. The author’s intention was for you to see that the distinctive disobedience fueled by ingratitude is what caused the Fall. You know why I say that? The author says “every.” You see that? The author tells you from the jump, “Hey, there was a lot of trees in the garden, just to let you know. It wasn’t a 1:1 ratio. It wasn’t the tree of good and evil and the other tree and you kind of… No. The Lord tells you, gives you two things. First, he lets you know they’re in the garden, and usually when you’re in a garden, it’s not just one or two things, but he says “every.” That lets you know there was at least two other trees. Okay?
You see that? The Lord was reminding you and me that, isn’t that us? The Lord wants to remind you and me that the propensity in the Christian life as a believer, if we’re honest, is for you to always, I see this happens to me, I see this I have to renew the mind of my kids, we always want to think about what we can’t have versus the myriad of things…
Again, they had a whole slew of trees, all kinds of fruit. But why can’t I have that one? See, you always holding out on me, God. You don’t want to bless me, Lord. See? You’re not good.
That’s the thing. Ingratitude, ungratefulness, what it does, it speaks against God’s character. What you’re really saying is God’s not good.
That’s why I’m harping on this complaining, ungracious spirit because God is saying, look, that in itself thwarts our worship. If you and I live our Christian lives, family, ungratefully, looking at what we can’t have, the biggest trick of Satan, being ungrateful, it derails, it derails our praise and worship.
Romans 1 says the exact same thing. I won’t read it all. I’ll jump right in the middle. You can look at the address yourself, 18 through 23, but look what he says. “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power,” talking about God, “and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,” talking about Himself, “in the things that have been made.” You can see God by even looking at the intricacies of a leaf, he’s saying, “so they are without excuse.” People are without excuse because you look around and you go, “There’s God. Look at what God did. Look what God did. Look how good God is.”
But look at what he says about the people. “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Thanksgiving, thanksgiving, it is tied to worship.
The trick that this world wants you and me to kind of slowly lull ourselves toward, no matter how old or young we are, is for you to lose sight of God’s goodness and start to rely on your devices to determine what’s good. When you lose sight of how grateful God is in your life, what happens is you begin to see other things as great and that’s idolatry. That’s idolatry.
The Scriptures say in verse 2, “Lift of your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord.” Then he goes on in verse 3, “May the Lord bless you from Zion.” So they, I love that you have the lay people saying, “Man, praise the Lord, we’re leaving, we’ll be back next year, but while we are gone, you just keep it hot. You keep worshiping, you keep singing, you stand at the gates night and day. You worship the Lord.” And they shout back, “Lift up your hands to the holy place,” sorry, “May the Lord bless you from Zion, who made heaven and earth.”
This is undeniable, a reference to our priestly blessing that we see in Numbers chapter 6 that we mentioned several times in our own local establishment, but I want to make a few points.
First I want to look at this whole concept of Zion. Okay, you hear this word “Zion,” it’s a location near the old city of Jerusalem, but it began to signify itself as the city of God. It also helps to remind the people of God throughout, especially in the New Testament, of the eschatological hope that we have of the next times of Christ when we are able, when He returns and takes us with Him.
Now let me just pause. As I’m sharing, and as we’re talking about ungratefulness, having an ungrateful disposition, maybe some of you are struggling right now. Maybe you’re like, “Look, I want to honor God, I want to be grateful, but there are things going on in my life.” I do not want to minimize our journey and the hardship of living a life for Jesus, of enjoying Christ. What I do want to do is I want to point you to the fact that God wants to remind you that in the midst of our circumstances, He’s good.
So even as I say that, we have this place of Zion here, and Zion, I love what he does here, he’s actually as it were kind of poking at pagan deities, because pagan deities found themselves being powerful within their location. Okay? So you had deities in particular places as it were and that’s where they would have their power.
Well, you notice what he says here, he says, “Guess what. God not only is going to bless you while you are here,” obviously they were blessed there, but he says, “God’s going to bless you from Zion.” See, the difference with God and all these other fake gods is God isn’t, He isn’t confined to a locale. Why? The credentials says because He made everything. See that? So he says, “God’s going to bless you from Zion. God blessed you here and guess what, pilgrims, sojourners, where you’re going, God can bless you there because all of this is the Lord’s.”
So he tells them, “May the Lord bless you from Zion.” He says, “He who made the heaven and earth.” Now, this again is a picture of what we’ve already read through in Genesis, “He who made the heaven and earth.” So we see right now he’s appealing to the fact of God being unique, the unique Creator, the unique God.
Let me try to land a plane here. Now notice, everything God created is good. We’ve already established that. If everything God created is good, then that means that if something in your life is not good, either Satan tampered with it or you did. Why? Because everything God does He does good, and He’s made good stuff.
Now the reason why I say that is because even as I try to implore and say, “Hey, I know that we all are on a journey and some of us are having deep struggles,” I want to remind and encourage you, even young people here, that if there’s something in your life where you feel like God is withholding from you, that you want and He hasn’t given to you, then it’s not good, because God is about providing good things.
I mention that because we’re in a world where we have duped ourselves in thinking that the definition of good is “if I like it, does it taste good, do I like how it feels, I like how it makes me feel.” That’s how we define good, whereas the Bible only talks about goodness from the concept of intrinsic value. Being good because it’s about what it does for the kingdom.
My point is everything in your life, anything in your life that has enjoyment, is different than things being beneficial. Okay? So we want to determine that good is enjoyment; God says no, good is beneficial.
Where am I going here? The reason why I’m saying this to you is because worldly people will measure goodness by those things. Do I like it? Is it fun? Whereas the Lord says, “Does it have benefit?”
I bring that up because, I want to go to James 1 for you real quick, if you could turn there. The Scriptures read, verse 17, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” Again, we’re talking about God’s goodness, we’re talking about what does it mean for Him to bless and be a blessing. “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers, every good gift and every perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
You hear that? Now some of your versions might say there is “no shifting shadow.” Guys, that’s a deep verse. You know why I know it’s deep? Because I’m looking at some of your faces and you’re like, “What does that mean?” That proves it’s deep. Right?
What’s happening here is to understand what he means by shifting shadows, we need to connect that to the Father of heavenly lights. So he’s starting the text, he’s talking about the astral realities that God has made, that God is the Father of the lights, He’s the Father of the stars, of the moon. Right? He orchestrates and allows things to happen in the heavenlies so that there is light and then there’s darkness and then there’s shifting of days so you have morning and you have night. He’s talking about that reality and in that reality, he’s talking about how He gets glory from the fact that He’s made the astral environment where there’s life, and when it does what He wants it to do, it changes and it moves and provides a night and a day for us and it provides the months and the years, and He says, “You see all those things? I’m the Father of those things. I’ve made those things but let’s be clear. I’m not like those things. I’m not like the things I make. Unlike those things, I don’t change.”
This is called the immutability of God, that His covenant promises, His character, His goodness, He is unchanging. The reason why this is important is we talk about having a thankful heart, is because a lot of times what happens practically in your life and in my life, is we have circumstances come, we have disappointments come in our life, and what happens is we start to say, “Well, God, why is this happening?”
Sometimes we know it’s so, and sometimes we honestly don’t know, “Lord, why is this happening? I’m trying to walk with You, trying…” and we don’t know what’s going on. Our inclination is to, as it were, in how we live life to blame God. I want to encourage you, family of God, that the Scriptures are telling us that when there is shifting, when there is turning, when you’re up and down in your life, don’t blame God, make sure you blame yourself, because He ain’t shifting, you shifting, I’m turning, you turning, but God is remaining the same. He’s continually being and doing what He said He will be and do.
A lot of times, and I’ll end with this, a lot of times to show appreciation during a special performance, maybe it’s a play or a performing arts of some sort, when people want to show their appreciation, people will clap. They’ll do applause. There’s different slang, give them their flowers, give it up, you know, that we use for individuals.
When you look at this text here and what God is doing, is he saying, “We should give it up.” When I think of my personal testimony, family, if I can go there, I remember distinctly two times in my life, in college, where I owed thousands of dollars to the Bursar and I was laughing the other day because I still don’t remember, how was that paid? I’m not trying to be a prosperity theologian, that’s not me. I’m just telling you to this day I still don’t know how those bills got paid. I don’t know what God did. But I know He did something, and you know what? I should give it up.
See, some of us in here, we’re wealthy and you think it’s because you were smart on your business deal, but if you really knew that the director Jesus had that beautiful play in His hand and you were one step away from losing all your money and God was just kind, you would give it up.
There’s older people in our church right now who are sadly losing their health and yet God has allowed them to live to see their kids, to see their kids grow up, to see their kids’ kids grow up, and to see their kids’ kids and meet their great-great-grandkids. You should give it up.
There’s individuals in this room right now, I talked to a college student today, and I know junior high students and high school students alike, I’m sure of this, the brother said to me, “Eric, I don’t know how I got this grade on this exam, because I shouldn’t have got it.” I see some heads nodding. See, you should give it up.
I can go on and on about what God has done in my life and you can go on and on about what God has done in your life, and I’ve talked with people in our local body who have cancer and by God’s grace it’s not terminal and they’re getting treatment and things are getting better. They should give it up.
I can go on, over and over, and talk about how God has gotten me through certain things. You can think about the exploits of God in your life. I just want to propose to you that God is worthy to be praised. He is worthy to be blessed. Why? Because of what He has done for you in your life. But I want to propose to you, if you have an unthankful, ungrateful disposition, it will literally short-circuit who you are in God, that God wants you and I to get past our personalities. He wants us to get past our disposition and He wants the praise due to His name. He deserves all honor and glory, so the Scriptures say, “Come bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord.” He tells us to lift up our hands.
Guess what. He says we ought to give God praise. God alone deserves all the glory, all the thanksgiving, and what I’m proposing to you and me, and I have some homework for us, is that you and I, if we increase our thanksgiving and we decrease our complaining, and we ask the Lord to kind of open our eyes so that we might build the hearts of these sojourners and these priests and Levites, that we will want to bless the Lord, not just out of an imperative, but out of a deep heart of thankfulness and gratitude because we’ve seen what God has done in our life. Not only will your complaining decrease, but He will change your life.
Do you know why I know He will change your life? Because by necessarily you decreasing your complaining and increasing your thanksgiving, what you’re doing is your casting down the idols and you’re becoming the worshiper that God wants you to be. Remember, you worship and it’s fueled through thanksgiving.
So what I want as the homework for you is to ask the Holy Spirit, as you go through life in this next week, and moments come where you want to complain, or throughout the time, ask our holy God, “Lord, remind me and give me a disposition of reminding me of who You are and what You’ve done. Just remind me, Lord.” Wait a minute, but God’s been good there.
Every one of us has a praise story. Every one of us. Guess what. If you can’t think of one, the best one you’ve got is the fact that you and I had the audacity to think we could be our own God and then guess what God did. He should have killed us all, but instead what He did, the Bible says that even though yet while we were sinners, He sent His Son Jesus Christ to come and live a life that we could not live to be murdered and to die a death that we could not die and to rise again from the dead and to draw us to Himself and by His grace to make us His children to receive God, be reunited with our Maker, and to live the life He’s called us to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
So if you can’t think of nothing, remember the Gospel, that Christ our Lord has been given to us, undeservedly.
For those who are new, or if that’s the first time you’ve heard that hope that this Christ Savior has come to save us, and He has given us His Son who makes us alive again, and you want to learn more about that, I would love to talk to you about that. We have many elders here who would like to talk to you as well. Don’t leave here if that’s the first time you’ve heard that, the reality of who Christ is. I would love to share more.
Family, give thanks to the Lord because He blesses us and He is worthy to be blessed.
Let me pray for us. Bow your heads, please.
Lord, Lord, thank You, thank You for all that you’ve done and who You are. We worship You, as my brother said earlier, we worship You with such broken worship, but Lord, we come to You and we ask Lord, would You be exalted. We are thankful that we are yours. Lord, we confess and we will tell You, Lord, that we are sorry for constantly looking at opportunities and ways to not recognize Your goodness, Lord, to complain. Lord, we ask that You would forgive us and allow us to be saints that just like the priests and the Levites and these journeymen, that will bless You, Lord, and that we’ll experience Your blessing. Would You give us that grace, In Jesus’ name. Amen.