Prayer as Praise – Psalm 103

The final message in our 21 days of prayer and fasting

Find the rest of the messages in this series here.

 Highlight Video

 Sermon Video

Sermon Audio

Sermon Notes

Last week I told you that when the Jews celebrate passover, some of them read the Song of Solomon. Today, I’d like to begin by telling you that when the Jews celebrate Pentecost they read the book of Ruth. Passover celebrates the rescue from Egypt and the passing over of the death angel, Pentecost celebrates when God met with the people at Mt Sinai. After the passover Pharaoh let the people go, then he changed his mind. He rides out on chariots and chases the Israelite into a trap where they are stuck between the Egyptians, the mountains, and the Red Sea.

God splits the sea and gives them safe passage across on dry land and when Pharaoh’s army chases after them the sea collapses on them and drowns them… God has not only rescued them, he’s killed their pursuers. The people praise God and dance and then God brings them to Mt Sinai. This is the setting of the message Pastor Eric preached to us a few weeks ago-

It was about the Jews at Mt Sinai, not Lord of the Rings… The Jews look back at this time as the time that God who had rescued them then established a convenient with them and then told them all about himself, how they would be his people, and how they would worship him…

The Feast of Pentecost celebrates when God met with them and gave them the Torah. For this reason, some Jews will stay up an entire night during Pentecost to read the Torah, the books of the law- honoring the truth that God gave through divine revelation to Moses and the Jewish people… The symbolism in reading the book of Ruth seems to be that the book of Ruth is a story of how one woman, a refugee out of a foreign land is redeemed by the Lord.

God works through the story of her life to bring her to a new husband how provides for her and her mother in law, the widowed mother of her late husband…It’s a story of how God took a ragamuffin and cared for her and provided for her and gave her life incredible meaning because she becomes the great grandmother of King David and an ancestor to Christ.

This woman, an unknown pilgrim and person of poverty is listed in Matthew’s record of Jesus’ family tree. The Feast of Pentecost is the celebration of God working through the not so neat details of rescuing the Jewish people, not just from the Egyptians but from themselves.

Not only freeing them from the literal bondage and slave owners, but the bondage and slavery within them…That’s the story of God’s work in each of us, we are not only saved form the punishment of our sin and the judgement we deserve, we are saved from ourselves, we are saved from our brokenness.

This is what’s on the Psalmist’s mind when he writes the song in Psalm 103. He’s singing about a God who has saved him fully, totally, and in the broken details, through the messy parts of the story, God has still been at work…

Let’s read verses 1-18 of Psalm 103 together.

Earlier we view a video of highlights from this past year. A video of great things from last year…

  1. There’s no way to include everything God did,  because there’s not enough time and because we don’t even know about most of it, much less catch it in a photo or on film.
  2. There’s a lot of mess that couldn’t be captured either…

There are a lot of things that didn’t go well, a lot of moments that we’d be happy to leave in 2018 and not bring up again… I don’t watch much sport center anymore because we don’t have cable, but the other day I was in a restaurant when my favorite segment came on. Once a week they put together a not top 10. Every night they put together a top 10, but once a week they put together a not top 10. A not top 10 for us in 2018 would probably include:

When the church van ignition suddenly stopped working during break the chains… when so many people had to leave the church retreat to go to ballgames or because they got sick that we canceled the 2nd day and sent everyone home early…When the VBS decorations couldn’t make it here and in the middle of a visit from my parents and my brother and his family I had to take the church van on our visit to my sister so I could pack up and bring back all of it…When the T-shirt order for the 8k was so late I was still standing in the shop downtown watching the guy finish them while people were showing up to pickup their stuff…When the computer in the sound booth had a midlife crisis during the candle light service causing Abby to have to start her special song 3 times.

In the midst of all that, God was working too.

In the funerals, the tough phone calls, the counseling sessions that didn’t go great, and the people who just dropped off the face of the earth and left me on “read” God was working and God was still good. God was faithful when we weren’t.  God was good when this world was awful.

It would feel disingenuous to talk about 2018 as all good, all rainbows and sunshine since we lost so much in 2018…

But I love the end of this passage and I’d like to focus on it to set the stage for the beginning…

13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;

I think one of the reasons I like the Not Top 10 so much is because it is a reminder that the superstars we pay good money to watch on the court and on the field are human too…

They make bloopers too… They make far fewer than we do…

We’d all end up on the Not Top 10 every week if there were cameras trained on us as much as they are focused on these professional athletes, but still. These moments are great, because for the moment, they are human…

God doesn’t need a reminder that we are human.

He knoweth our frame. He remembers we are dust.

He pities us like a father pities his children.

Lincoln shut his finger in a door again this week.

Nicole facetimed with me so I could try to reassure him.

I’m not sure I lifted his spirits much, but he broke my heart.

Poor guy. I wanted to reach through the phone and swap finger with him for a bit, until the pain went away…

God knows we are dust, and he reaches down.

That’s what this praise is about.

Bless the Lord, O my soul:

and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities;

who healeth all thy diseases;

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction;

who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things;

so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

This is a song that early slips into a prayer.

I hope there are moments in our worship where you aren’t quite sure if you’re really singing or praying, or maybe you’re straddling the fence between the two… you’re doing both.

We’ve been focused on prayer for the past few weeks and I’m asking you to keep praying and fasting with me for this next week…

But let’s not our prayer only be marked by what we want…

Last week I encouraged you to spend time in prayer because you love God, today I want to encourage you to spend time in prayer because we ought to say thank you!

God has given us so much and none of it was deserved.

Nothing God has given you was because you deserved it, unless it was punishment….

3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities;

4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction;

who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins;

nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heaven is high above the earth,

so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

If you’ve been saved from your sin, you’ve got reason to praise God!

Victor Frankl realized in the Nazi concentration camp that the germans could take everything from him, but they couldn’t take his joy, they couldn’t take that from him, Frankl could only give it…

No matter what happens, no matter if the weather is bad, or our bodies fail, our plans fall apart…

We have reason to praise God.

Are you thankful God has saved your soul from destruction?