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When we hear a favorite song, things start to happen. At the stoplight we begin to bob to the beat, we tap our hands on the steering wheel, or we hum along with the melody. When the chorus comes around we involuntarily find ourselves joining in with the hook. Music is powerful in that way.
Our sermon reading for today is a song. King David composed it to be used in worship. This song is about another song, the one which God plays for the whole world to hear.
Just like a song played by a master musician, God’s song is powerful. It elicits a response from those who hear it. “When God Plays, the World Sings”. When God plays the song of forgiveness, the world is filled with joy. When God plays a song of power, the world is filled with awe. And when God plays the song of providence, the world is moved to thankfulness.
Psalm 65 (NIV)
For the director of music. A psalm of David. A song.
1 Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
to you our vows will be fulfilled.
2 You who answer prayer,
to you all people will come.
3 When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.
4 Blessed are those you choose
and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.
5 You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,
6 who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
7 who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
and the turmoil of the nations.
8 The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.
9 You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it.
10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
11 You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
13 The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing.
God’s song of forgiveness was heard by Adam and Eve right after they sinned for the first time. God promised that one of Eve’s descendants would crush the power of Satan and set sinners free from our damning sins. (Genesis 3:15)
Even before Jesus suffered and died to set sinners free from hell, people were already responding to God’s promise of a Savior. David knew well the promise that God had made. It moved him to write,
“When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions” (Psalm 65:3 NIV).
The first response to God’s song of forgiveness, is joy. God saw our sin and immediately provided a way of forgiveness. A way of forgiveness that we have no part in earning. That sounds odd to us human beings. When we sin against other people, we usually have to fix the mess ourselves. We have to own up to what we’ve done, apologize, and earn our way back into that person’s trust. But God responds to man’s sin by saying, “I will fix this, because you cannot. I’ll send my Son to suffer and die in your place. Through Him you’ll be declared innocent.”
Since we know salvation is completely finished by Christ, Christians look for something else to do, and we find praise. David writes,
“Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled” (Psalm 65:1 NIV).
David paints a picture. It’s like there’s a huge choir that is ready to praise God on Mt. Zion. They’re prepped and ready to begin a song for God, and they’re waiting for Him to come to the Temple. With the phrase, “Praise awaits you”, David makes us think of that moment after the choir piece has been introduced, and the singers are drawing in breath to begin their song.
God’s song of forgiveness is what moves us to sing praise to Him. And one way that we praise God is through obedience to His commands.
God’s song of forgiveness draws people in from across the globe to join His choir. Forgiveness in Christ brings us into the house of God where we sing His praise and are filled with all sorts of inward, spiritual blessings.
If we find that we’re not moved to sing God’s praises, its probably because we haven’t heard His song, or have failed to appreciate how precious His gift of forgiveness really is.
The world trains us to think of physical things as most desirable. A nice home, a fun vacation, a new gadget to play with. But the richest possessions on this earth are not those which we can take in hand. The inner, spiritual blessings that come with Christ’s forgiveness are far better.
Through faith in Christ Christ we have relief from the guilt that sin lays on our minds. We have peace, knowing that God loves us, and is watching over our lives with care. We have confidence, knowing that God’s Word can guide us to the wisest course of action in any situation.
It isn’t the things we find at the mall that lead us to a satisfying and joy filled life, it’s the things we are given in God’s house. It isn’t the things WE put on the outside that complete us, it’s the things GOD puts in our hearts.
If God’s message of forgiveness is a song, it’s a song that turns a unexpected phrase. It’s a song that sounds different than anything we’ve ever heard before, but is sweeter and more welcome than any of our other favorites. The Gospel is a gentle, welcoming melody.
But God also plays a song of power to get the world’s attention. In the middle of Psalm 65 David paints a picture of God’s complete sovereignty over the world and it’s inhabitants.
David says that God makes MOUNTAINS. Only the most adventurous people attempt to climb the world’s highest mountains, and often they die in the attempt. But in the beginning, God formed these mountains with His own hands, like a child molding Play-Doh.
David says that God stills the ROARING SEAS. Man make giant ships that travel across the Atlantic and the Pacific like a fleet of scurrying bathtub toys. When the hurricane threatens, all we can do is hunker down behind the wheel and hope our vessel will hold. But God has the power to make the angry ocean as still as a glassy lake at the break of day.
David also describes the turmoil of human politics. When the NATIONS of men rattle their sabers and arm their nuclear weapons, people worry and prepare for the worst. But God maneuvers the great political powers of the world to serve HIS purposes. He starts or ends their empires according to His plan.
Like a champion slugger stepping up to the plate, God sometimes even calls His shots. In the book of Daniel, God described the rise and fall of the Persian Empire, the Grecian Empire under Alexander the Great, and the Empire of Rome—all before they ever happened. In that same book, God also foretold the rise of a different kingdom. One that would begin during the time of the Rome, and would stand FOREVER. This was the Kingdom of Christ Jesus, the Kingdom of grace and forgiveness. As you remember, God’s Son was born under the reign of Caesar Augustus in the little town of Bethlehem, just as one of God’s other prophesies had foretold.
Wherever people see the power of God at work, they are filled with awe. If we aren’t filled with awe at the sight of God’s powerful deeds, it’s probably because we don’t appreciate how impossible these things really are.
Many of the so-called scholars of the world aren’t impressed by the works of God because they dismiss Him from the very beginning. They say that the prophesies found in Daniel MUST have been written AFTER these nations rose and fell, because no human being could have known these things would happen in advance. These scholars are unimpressed by prophesy and fulfillment because they refuse to believe God exists. Is it any wonder than these same “wise men” make a god out of chance and time? What else is left when you’ve painstakingly cut God out of the picture? All they hear of God’s song is noise. And so, sadly, they do not respond with praise and joy.
But God plays on anyway, reaching out to the doubters with another tune, one of tender providing. Toward the end of Psalm 65 David writes about how God waters and tends the earth like a giant garden. In response to His gardening, the world produces grain and flocks of such abundance that each year the world could be fed one and a half times as much food as it needs.
God does this quietly, with a soft and gentle tune. The drip, drip, drop of April showers fall on fields prepared for the growing season. Life nourishing water fills the troughs between rows of planted grain. The mist from above softens ridges of fields from China to Australia and everywhere in between. In the wilderness far from man’s houses the grass springs up for the deer. In the pastures of ranchland the flocks and herds give birth to more and more young. For the vegetarian, the carnivore, and the omnivore, there is abundant provision—all from the hand of the Lord. Like we read in last Sunday’s Psalm,
“The eyes of all look to you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (paraphrase of Psalm 145:15-16).
With His tender song of providence, God calls out to those who do not know Him. His song informs them of His character. He is the God who provides, both for the good and the wicked, in hope that they will all turn to Him for forgiveness and life.
As nature sings out to the God who made it through all its green growth and varied flowers, we are invited to sing along in a song of thanksgiving.
When you hear a true and moving song, it’s right to sing along. That’s what music is for.
When the Centurion at Christ’s cross saw Jesus give His life to redeem the world of sinners, He heard the song of forgiveness and added His voice, saying,
“Truly, this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39 NKJV).
When the angels of heaven witnessed God framing the world by, they heard God’s song of power, and added their voices. The book of Job tells us that at the creation the angels,
“…shouted for joy” (Job 38:7 ESV).
When the world gathers in the year’s harvest and notes how abundant it is, even the godless take a moment to reflect on all that they have been given. Together they sing a song of Thanksgiving.
How much more fitting it is that we who know much more of God’s character from His Bible, should sing His praises every time we hear His song. We aught to sing when we hear God’s song, whether it’s the tune of free grace and forgiveness in Christ, or the tune of God’s unlimited power and majesty, or the tune of God’s quiet and continual providence.
God doesn’t just play His song in order to make us join in. Like a master musician, He plays just because that’s who He is, and what He does. But all the same, His song does invite us to add our joyful voices.
First His song of forgiveness grips our hearts and moves them sing inwardly. We thank God for declaring sinners saints by the blood of His Son. Then, when the Gospel fills us up, that song begins to sound out from our mouths as we speak of His grace. Then the beat of the Father’s song finds it’s way into our life, moving us this way and that according to His choreography.
Don’t fight that song, dear Christians. Embrace its lines, and flow with its rhythm. Song and dance. That’s what witnessing of our God’s greatness and mercy is all about. Singing to the song of God, and moving to the rhythm of the same. Moving through life with one thought in mind – to do justice to the masterful music which comes from Him. To praise the God who made us, preserves us, and has saved our souls by His Son’s cross.
Music is for singing and dancing. And God’s song is for praising and living. When we hear it, let’s not ignore it, let’s respond with joy.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.