Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Psalm 19

Now, I’m fairly confident that not many of us here this morning would describe looking up into the sky as a spiritually enriching experience. Yeah, we might look up to the sky for practical reasons – you know, before we go out, we might take a quick look out of a window to see if we needed to bring our sunglasses or an umbrella! Or we might appreciate the sky on a bright sunny day, or even wake up early in the morning to watch the sunrise, because it’s beautiful. At other times, well, the sky is the sky, the sun is the sun – they’re just there and we don’t take much notice of them.

But did you know that apart from just having practical value and aesthetic beauty, the skies are also jam-packed and overflowing with theological significance. So much so that David cannot look up to sky without meditating on the Lord and worshipping Him.

Look at v1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Through King David, the singing prophet of Israel, the Holy Spirit tells us some deep and profound truths about creation, in particular the heavens, or the skies and all that is in them. He tells us that they are preaching a sermon!

It’s a 24-hour sermon – v2 “Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” And it’s a universal sermon – “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

In other words, whether people are asleep or awake, in Plymouth or anywhere in the four corners of the earth, a sermon is being preached to all by the heavens. It’s a sermon that we cannot escape from yet… most of us probably never realised this. Until someone pointed out this Psalm to me, I never knew. This is because we've been blinded, deafened, even deadened, to this sermon by sin.

But the aim of this Psalm is not to make us feel guilty or to condemn us for being ignorant. Not at all! Instead, its aim is to tell us that creation IS preaching a sermon to us and like the rest of Scripture – look at vv7-8 – Psalm 19 aims to revive our souls, make us wise, enlighten our eyes to see what creation is telling us – to enable us to hear this heavenly sermon so that our hearts may be filled with joy.

So what exactly do the heavens have to say about the glory of God? David points us to the sun! vv4-6 – In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun… which is like a bridegroom coming forth from its pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run its course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.”

So as the sun rises from the east and makes its daily journey westward we are to think about a champion bridegroom! We know who this is, don’t we? The fact that we’re talking about the sun and a champion bridegroom is a massive giveaway! And we’ve just sung – “Sun, moon and stars in heaven cry, ‘Jesus is Lord!’”

We’ll just stick to the sun this morning. In our reading from Luke Chapter 1, Zechariah, that’s John the Baptist’s dad, he’s full of the Spirit and describes Jesus as the rising sun from heaven. And do you remember the last verse of that Christmas carol, Hark the Herald Angels sing? “Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace, Hail… the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in his wings.” Here’s a bit of plagiarism by Charles Wesley! He nicked it right out of Malachi chapter 4v2! And in Revelation 1v16 – John sees a vision of Jesus and wrote, “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”

And just in case we’re not quite sure that Psalm 19 has Jesus in mind, let’s just turn to another Psalm where there’s a fuller description of this champion bridegroom. Please turn to Psalm 45 with me.

Do you see the title? It’s a wedding song. Let’s see who the bridegroom is – v1, he’s a king who is blessed by God – v2, he’s the most excellent of men – vv3-4, he’s victorious… A champion bridegroom! Aha! But there’s more… vv6-7 [Read]. Do you notice? This champion bridegroom is God AND he is also blessed and anointed BY God! God blessed and anointed by God. It’s Jesus the Divine Bridegroom of the Church – blessed and anointed by His Father! And if you’re in any doubt about this, check out Hebrews 1:8-9 – These words in Psalm 45 are spoken by the Father about the Son.

So back to Psalm 19 each day as the sun rises from east to west, it’s preaching Christ to us! When we look up to the skies and see the sun making it’s journey, we’re to think of Jesus, or more specifically, to think of Him as our divine champion bridegroom.

Each day the sun rises to drive away the cold darkness of night, and gives life and warmth to all creation. In the same way Jesus is the victorious king who rises to fight, defeat and cast away all the darkness of this passing world. He has fought and defeated the enemies that were too strong and mighty for us – enemies who have conquered and completely enslaved each of us – sin, the world and the devil! But Jesus has freed us from them.

Yeah the darkness did their best to snuff Him out – by nailing Him to a Cross! And for a while it did seem as if darkness had won as all creation went dark for three hours! Yet just as we witness every morning – the darkness gave it their best shot but has failed to overcome the Light of the World. For the first time in the whole history of humanity, darkness had failed to conquer and devour one of us.

And when you consider the Cross – it’s amazing that Psalm 19:5 says that Jesus rejoices to run his course! What was it that possibly compelled Jesus to go on this journey that took him to a God-forsaken death? I mean a death that drank the full fury of God’s wrath and still Jesus rejoices to run his course? Why? For what? For us – His bride – you and I! We are the joy that was set before Him that enabled Him to endure the cross, and scorn its shame, because He delights in us and rejoices in us.

You know, Jesus didn't gain victory over darkness and say to us – look how great I am! Aren't I awesome? Well He is awesome! He’s the most excellent of men! But more so because He is so gracious and generous to us! He’s not won the victory for Himself. No the Divine Bridegroom has won this epic battle for us and He proposes to us and makes a vow that has been sealed with His blood! Like in all weddings He says to us “All that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you.”

But what have we got to give to Him other than our sin? What does He want from us in return?

Nothing! He’s done it all and made the offer before we even asked! Think about the sun. What does the earth do to benefit from the sun’s victory over the darkness every morning? Absolutely nothing! [It can do nothing to make the sun bring it's light to it!] The sun rises and the earth simply receives and enjoys its light and warmth. The sun never demands anything back! In the same way Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness demands nothing from us. He gives us all that belongs to Him, He gives us all of Himself freely. We only need to receive Him.

And in case you think you’re too evil, too wicked, too far gone, too messed up, for God to even consider loving you or saving you… again look at the sun. If you hate yourself, gaze up at the sun each day! Psalm 19v6 – It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from it’s heat. Or as Jesus Himself says in Matthew 5:45, His Father causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good.

Just as the sun shines its light and gives warmth to everyone and everything indiscriminately, so Jesus and salvation in him is for everyone. The Lord never ever refuses to save anyone – but just as people can retreat from the sun into the darkness, so they can retreat from Jesus and hide in darkness. But anyone, absolutely anyone, can always come out and bask in the love of Jesus.

And this is what it means to be a Christian. This is what it means to be a human being. To know and enjoy Jesus as our Bridegroom. As a friend of mine wrote on his blog recently – “The meaning of our lives is not to cower before our creator but to be wooed by our heavenly Lover.”

We’re all probably quite familiar with Jesus as King. And of course Jesus is King. I’m not denying that at all! But if we only focus on Jesus as King, and forget that He is also our bridegroom, then our understanding of Jesus would be skewed. We would find Him mighty, strong, powerful, great… but we might not find Him beautiful or lovely. We would be thankful for the things that He gives to us so freely… but we might not actually delight in Him. Or we would read the Bible looking for all the things that He wants us to do… but we won’t actually read the Bible because we want to spend time with Jesus.

Jesus is King. He is King but we are also His Queen, His Bride. He actually delights in me, in you. He enjoys us just as a husband enjoys His wife. Yes, of course there will be things to do in the family – but imagine if Steph and I only ever focused on the tasks we have to do – whenever we speak to each other, it’s only about doing the shopping, or cleaning the kitchen, or changing Ellie’s nappy, who to invite for dinner – It wouldn’t work, would it? Soon, resentment will creep in, or at best, there won’t be any real joy in the relationship. But that’s not how a marriage is supposed to work. Husbands and wives are also meant to love each other, enjoy each other, delight in each other, cry with each other, laugh with each other, cuddle up with one another, be intimate with each other!

Of course our earthly marriages don’t always work out perfectly – but our divine husband actually longs to and enjoys spending time with us. Jesus is not primarily concerned about giving us a list of things to do everyday. No… more than that, He longs to give Himself to us each day, to tell us that He loves us and to ravish us! And as Jesus tells us in John 5 – Moses and the other writers wrote about Jesus so that we may come to Him. And that’s why David finds that reading the Scriptures revived his soul and gave him joy, that’s why he tells us in v10 that they are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb, because Scriptures led him to His heavenly lover.

Have you ever read the Song of Songs? It’s one of the naughtiest bits of the Bible! It’s so naughty that a when I was in school, a Muslim friend actually argued that the Bible cannot be from God because it’s got such x-rated language in it! Surely that should arouse your curiosity!

But seriously… go back and read it! It’s an amazing allegory about Jesus and His relationship to the Church! Let’s just take a sneak peek at it. Song of Songs chapter 1. You see the headings in italics – the beloved is the Church, the one who is loved. And the lover is Christ, the one who loves. So it opens with the Church longing for Christ – v2 – “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth – for your love is more delightful than wine!” And zoom on ahead to Chapter 4vv9-11 – listen to what Jesus says to His bride, feel what He feels for you – “You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice! Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like that of Lebanon!” Go away and read the whole thing!

Well, it’s so easy to forget that Jesus loves us! But Psalm 19 has given us some extra ammunition! The sun reminds us of the true Sun who gives light and life to all! So… each morning, as you watch the sun rising – or if you like your lie-ins – as you pull open your curtains to let the sunlight into your room, remember Jesus who comes forth from His pavilion for you! Let Him draw you to Himself – run into His arms, open the Scriptures and find Him offered to you, enjoy His presence and let Him enjoy yours! And then, just as the sun warms the birds and they begin to sing – so will you find praise and song rising in your heart as it burns with Jesus’ love for you!

Jesus, the divine bridegroom who loves us! This is not despite the glory of Jesus, this is not because He hides His glory or sets it aside! No! This is the glory of God that the Sun proclaims to the whole earth each and every day, till He rises once final time, never to set again!

No comments: