ďThe Christian Mind:ProvidenceĒ††††††††††††† Psalm 33†††††††††††††††† August 12, 2012

 

SI:Weíre spending the rest of the summer in the Psalms.

Iím choosing Psalms that are unfamiliar to us.

†† Psalms we donít know well and tend to skip over.

 

The great benefit of the Psalms is that they show us the truth

†† worked out in a believing heart and mind.

Dr. Robert Rayburn, who Iím leaning on heavily, put it this way:

†† ďThe Psalms are a repository of doctrine, but doctrine processed through the heart and turned

†† into prayeróthe best kind of doctrine there is!

 

Iím calling this series:The Christian Mind.My focus is going to be:

†† How the Psalms enable us to develop a Christian mind, a Christian worldview,

†† by taking truth and turning it into prayer and praise.

††

In Psalm 6 we saw how a believer should think about tears and suffering.

†† And turn those prayers into praise

In Psalm 26 we saw how a believer should think about himself, self imageó

†† that we are, at the most fundamental level righteous people.

†† We saw how that should shape your prayers.

Several of you told me this week that Psalm 26 was very encouraging to you.

†† Gave you a fresh look at yourself in Christ.

 

Psalm 33 is another encouraging Psalm for believers.

†† Itís about Godís work in this world.

 


 

INTRO:There are a couple of political websites I like to read,

†† particularly the Drudge Report and National Review Online.

But I sometimes get so worked up by what I read,

†† that I have to go on a news fast for weeks or months..††

I have to make myself quit reading all political news and commentary.

†† If someone gives me a newspaper, I read the sports section.††

†† If Iím in the car, I listen to oldies from the 80s rather than talk radio.

 

With the November election just three months away, everything is kicked up

†† a notch, and I find myself worrying about the future of our Republic,

†† and worrying that I and my children are living through the end of the

†† American experiment, and worrying about attacks on religious liberty.

I respond by just tuning out for a while.My stress level goes down.

†† I figure all I can do is pray and vote.

 

That might sound silly to you, worrying over the fate of America,

†† but thatís the nature of life in this world.

We often find ourselves worrying over big thingsó

†† not just politics, but all sorts of forces that are larger than ourselves,

†† economic forces, biological forces, psychological forces.

We worry, we imagine a gloomy future, the worst case scenario.

†† And yet we are small and powerless in the face of these forces.

Iím sure that all of you have big things that you worry about.

 

Psalm 33 is an answer to those worries because this is a big Psalm.

†† Itís glorious.Itís grand.Sometimes we need to step back from our worries

†† and our immediate concerns and personal troubles and look at the big picture.

This Psalm lifts you over the affairs of nations,

†† over the march of generations,

†† even over the processes of nature.

It lifts you right into the throne room of God and it says:

†† Sing joyfully to the Lord, praise him, and shout for joy.

And it declares over and over that God has not only created everything,

†† he is guiding and directing every event, every process for his own glory,

†† and for the good of his people Israel.

 

Whatís this Psalm about in one word?Providence.

Godís providence is his sovereign direction of everything,

†† for his own glory and for the good of his people.

Every event, big and small, unusual and ordinaryó

†† even the decisions and actions of people, good and bad

†† even your decisions and actions, are planned, guided, and used by the Lord.

 

Providence is not fate.Itís not saying:What will be will be.

†† Itís not being a Pollyanna and saying the sun will come up tomorrow.

†† Until the bottom falls out and your realize youíve been living in a dream world.

Itís not even the conviction you often hear people express that there must be

†† a reason for what they are going through, a reason they donít connect to God.

Providence is Godís active, personal directing and governing of all things

†† for his glory and the ultimate good of his people.

†† God has a sovereign plan, and then he works it out in history and in our lives.

 

What overcomes worry over the big things?

†† Itís when you trust God and worship him for his providential guidance of all.

 

Letís look at this Psalm and providence under three headings:

†† 1.Providence and Godís Creation

†† 2.Providence and Godís People

†† 3.Providence and Godís Praise

Will see in this, the way to overcome worry.


 

MP#1Providence and Godís Creation

The Psalms starts by connecting Godís providence with his creation.

Letís look at this verse by verse.It tells us first that he made the world, vs. 6

†† ďBy the Word of the LORD were the heavens made,

†† their starry host by the breath of his mouth. . .

†† He spoke and it came to be;

†† He commanded and it stood firm

And then it tell us that he governs the world he made:

†† ďThe LORD foils the plans of the nations,

†† He thwarts the purpose of the peoples.

†† The plans of the LORD stand firm forever,

†† the purposes of his heart through all generationsĒ

 

Creation and providence are two facets of the same reality.

†† The world and all that is in it and all that happens in it is the work of God.

†† Both nature and history are under his control.

God rules this world because it is his, he made it.

 

This is expressed in a very interesting way in verse 7.

†† ďHe gathers the waters of the sea into jars,

†† He puts the deep into storehouses.Ē

First line can be translated:ďHe gathers the sea as into a heap.Ē

 

Whatís that a reference to?What event?

†† The Hebrew reading this Psalm, or singing it in church, would have recognized

†† a double meaning in that line, a double reference.

God gathering the sea into a heap, putting the deep into storehouses is creation

†† language.It brings to mind Genesis 1.God made the dry land, and he established

†† a boundary for the sea.Itís a reference to Godís work of creation.††

 

But God gathering the sea into a heap had another reference in the Hebrew mind.

†† It brings to mind the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus.

As the Israelites were fleeing from the Egyptians, the Lord parted the waters

†† and made them stand up in a heap, so they could pass through and be saved.

 

The point is:God can part the waters of the sea because they are his waters,

†† he made them, so they are under his control and are guided by his will.

And if mankind is also made by God, then we are also under his control

†† and guided by his will.

 

Now, as you all well know, this is a major point of contention in our time.

†† The debate over origins.Creation vs. Darwinism.

†† Is the world and all that is in it created by God or a product of chance?

Darwinists claim that in this debate they are the only ones guided by reason and

†† science, donít let that fool you.

 

They are fundamentally guided by desire to be free of Godís providence, control.

†† And the first step to getting there is to argue that God didnít make the world.

Richard Dawkins once said that biology is the study of complicated things that give

†† the appearance of being designed for a purpose.He gave away too much with

†† that definition.As much as admits that he will not take the evidence at face value.

Why?Because he fears and hates the thought of Godís providence.

 

But what the unbeliever fears and hates, we rejoice in.

†† The Psalmist praises God for making the world because that means every part

†† of his creation, big and small, the purposeful and seemingly randomó

†† are all under his providential guidance.

 

There was a man named Felix of Nola, a church leader, who lived in Naples, Italy

†† during the third century.When the Roman Emperor Decius began to

†† persecute the church, Felix was on the list to be arrested and put to death.

He fled into the countryside when the soldiers came for him.

†† They were hot on his heels and he found a little cave and crawled inside.

He began to pray, asked the Lord to protect him.

 

When he looked up from his prayer, saw a spider had begun to spin a web across

†† the mouth of the cave.He said:Lord, are you mocking me?

†† I need a wall across the mouth of this cave to keep soldiers out, not a spider web.

But a short time later, when the soldiers came by, he heard one of them say:

†† He canít be in that cave, thereís a spider web across the entrance.

Later, when Felix was telling that story he said:

†† With the Lord a spider web is a wall, and a wall is a spider web.

 

Thatís a wonderful story of Godís protection, but itís an even deeper illustration

†† of the connection between creation and providence.God made spiders.

†† He directs them to spin their webs according to his good pleasure.

How do you look at creation?Do you think of it only as being governed by the

†† laws of nature?Of course there are natural laws, but they were established by

†† God and he directed them for his glory.

That story of Felix of Nola leads us perfectly to the next point.

MP#2Providence and Godís People

Psalm 33 tells us that not only does Godís providence extend to all he has made,

†† his providence has a particular focus.Heís governing all things for the good

†† of his people.That means everything that happens, everything for your good.

The way Psalm 33 expresses this is by showing Godís providence at work

†† on one of the biggest stagesóthe rise and fall of nations.

This is why I started the sermon talking about politics and electionsó

†† because thatís what this Psalm focus on.

 

Letís look at this by walking through verse by verse, starting in vs. 12

†† ďBlessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,

†† the people he chose for his inheritance.Ē

What nation is this?Is this the United States of America?

†† Maybe not America now, but America of an earlier time?

 

No, the blessed, chosen nation is Israel.And the church is the new Israel.

†† We are the blessed nation whose God is the Lord.

†† All who know God and love Jesus Christ.

†† The church is a nation crosses ethnic and national barriers.

Itís the nation God has his eye upon for blessing.

 

Then the Psalm affirms that God sees and directs the lives of every person.

†† ďFrom heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind,

†† from his dwelling place he watches all who live on the earthó

†† he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.Ē

Point about forming the heart is that his providence even extends to the motives

and affections of people, good and bad.

 

Then the Psalm describes the way God deals with the mighty, the proud, the

†† powerful who think that they are the masters of their own destiny, their own gods.

This is how he deals with the nations of this world.

†† ďNo king is saved by the size of his army; now warrior escapes by his great strength.

†† A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength, it cannot save.Ē

The point is that he will ultimately frustrate them, he will bring them to ruin.

†† His providence is set against them.

 

Then, finally, the Psalm focuses on Godís dealings with his people:

†† ďBut the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing

†† love.To deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.Ē

And thatís the big pointóthat Godís providence is directed for our ultimate good.

†† Itís described as the Lord having his eyes upon us.

God causes nations to rise and fall and in those great events

†† he has his eyes on his people to preserve and bless.

 

The two greatest stories of providence in the Bible are Joseph and Esther.

†† The Bible shows us in great detail the careful workings of Godís providence

†† to bless Joseph and Ester and to use them to save his people.

And all of that happens against the backdrop of powerful kings and great empiresó

†† Pharaoh and Egypt, Xerxes and Persia.

They were a threat to the churchóbut where are they now?

†† They are in the dustbin of history.And God continues to preserve his people.

 

Chen Min Lin grew up in a Communist home in Shanghai.

But he became a Christian and began to pastor three rural house churches

†† with a total membership of about 100.

In 1968, during the Cultural Revolution, he was arrested and sent to a prison camp.

†† Hundreds of thousands of other Christians arrested and vast numbers died in

†† brutal prisons.While Mr. Chen was in prison, wife and son died.

†† He witnessed many of his fellow prisoners being tortured to death.

He was given an assignment that was considered a death sentence.

†† He was sent to the prison camp cesspool.He had wade in sewage and shovel

†† human waste.Most prisoners eventually contracted diseases that killed them.

 

Of course he was horrified and repulsed.

†† But he noticed that because of the stench of the place, the guards left him alone.

†† He could do something that was forbidden in the campósing and pray aloud.

God preserved his health and Mr. Chen said the cesspool became his garden.Ď

†† There he could pray aloud for the church in China, especially his little church.

†† When he was given a reprieve from that assignment, he volunteered to continue.

 

After 18 years in prison he was released.

†† Some elders from his three house churches met him at the train station.

They took him to a secure location so that he could meet with his old congregation.

†† He was expecting 100 people, but was stunned by a crowd 5,000 believers.

†† He asked:Who has been your pastor these 18 years?They said:Holy Spirit.

As you know, the growth of the church in China is one of the great stories of Godís

†† providence in our time.The Lord has used persecution to grow a mighty church.

Itís a fulfillment of Psalm 33.

Where is Mao and is proud claims that he would destroy the church?

†† But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing

†† love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

As I said earlier, this Psalm focuses on the big picture, but I hope you see

that Godís providential care is so minute, and so precise, that it covers every

†† detail of your lifeóeven things as small as cobwebs.

And his providence extends to the bad things in your lifeó

†† even the sewage you have to wade through and the you-know-what you have to

†† shovel will be turned into gardens if you trust Jesus Christ.

 

That brings us to the great climax of this Psalm and third point.

MP#3Providence and Godís Praise

You might have noticed that Psalm 33 begins with a call to worship.

†† Just a quick rabbit trailóthis is how we begin our worship service, with a call

†† to worship.Itís a pattern established in Scripture that the service should begin

†† with a word that says:Hey, people of GodóWorship him!

ďSing joyfully to the LORD you righteous, it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

†† Praise the LORD with the harp, make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.

†† Sing to him a new song, play skillfully and shout for joy.

 

And then, after that call to worship is this magnificent presentation of Godís

†† providence which we have studied.His providence in creation.

†† His providential care for his people in the rise and fall of nations.

Then notice how the Psalm ends, it ends with more praise.

†† But this time itís not a call to worshipóItís Godís people sayingó

†† Lord, we worship you.

ďWe wait in hope for the LORD, he is our help and our shield.

†† In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.

†† May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

Let me ask you a question:Do you hear any worry in those words?

†† Any fear?Any fretfulness about powerful forces and an uncertain future?

Not at all.Does that mean that the person who wrote this Psalm and those who

†† have read it and sung it through the years were free from worry?

Of course not.We praise God for his providence in the midst of our worries,

†† in spite of our worries, in answer to our worries.

 

You canít control your feelings, but you can make every effort to focus your

†† thoughts on the truth.And you can preach to yourself that the Lord is in control,

†† whether he seems to be or not.And you can praise him for it.

Someone put it this way:

†† ďGod is working behind the scenes, hidden from eye.He is working behind the scenes for the

†† good of His people.God is at work in the tapestry of your life even though the bottom has

†† fallen out and dreams have shattered.God is involved in the day to day events of your life to

†† accomplish his purposes.When loved ones die or when relationships end and it seems that

†† maybe we have been abandoned by God, rest assured that God is still working in our lives.Ē

 

I love that image of the tapestry.You look at the back and itís a jumble of threads.

†† Thatís what the world seems, and sometimes your life seems that wayó

†† a jumble of bad, good, and insignificant.

But then you turn it over, and see that the master weaver has been at work.

 

Someone else said this about Godís Providence:

†† ďThis is why we can be quietly confidentónot because we know exactly what God is doing in

†† this unpredictable world, but because we know that what is unpredictable to us is already

†† predicted by him.He has written his purposes for us in his own book and numbered our days

†† before one of them was given birth or saw the light of day.Ē

 

I had a friend in our Florida church who loved pithy sayings.

†† He loved simplifying, and trying to boil things down to the essence.

One time he said:I think Iíve figured out a way to put the whole message of the

†† Bible in four words.Tell me what you think.Are you ready?Here it is.

†† Jesus says, ďTrust me.Ē

Thatís pretty good.It covers a lot of ground.

 

Where is Jesus in Psalm 33?Where is he saying:Trust me?

Heís certainly the Lord, the Creator, the Master of history, the Lord of the Nations.

†† As the eternal Son of God, he governs all things from the right hand of the throne.

But remember Jesus also came to earth.And as a man he seemed to be caught

†† up in the political forces of his day, and ground down by the powerful.

But in fact, all of his suffering was ordained by God.

†† His crucifixion and everything surrounding it, his betrayal, his beatings,

†† and mockery and isolation were all part of Godís sovereign plan to bring

†† salvation to the world.

 

So when you really doubt that good can ever come from what you are going

†† through, and when are fearful that evil will prevail, look at the cross,

†† and the resurrection, and believe that God is in control.

There are some of you here who donít trust Christ.

†† You have not given your life to the Lord Jesus.

You havenít bowed your knee to him and come under his Lordship.

†† Without Jesus, you have no hope in this life.

†† All things will not work out for good in your lifeóthey will work out for bad.

The wonderful promises in this Psalm are only for the people of God.

†† Apart from Christ, you will be swept along by powerful forces,

†† frustrated and hopeless, until you die and stand before the judgment seat of God.

And in that day, horses and armies will not save.

 

Now is the day of salvation.Jesus says, Trust me.

†† Iíve lived in history and Iím Lord of history.

Trust him with your life, body and soul.Bow to him.

†† Tell him, Lord Jesus, I give myself completely to you.

†† Do it now.Do it today as we pray and come to the Lordís Table.

 

And you will leave Godís house this morning knowing,

†† knowing for sure, that you are in Godís hands, and he is working everything

†† for his glory and your good.