This week has been a tough week. Our beloved German Shepherd, Chief, had to be put down. At a young five years of age, he was in poor health. He was unable to stand or walk. He had lost all control of his bladder. We had fought so hard to save him for months, but it was a losing battle. There was nothing else that could be done. Tears were shed and we said goodbye. Our hearts were broken. Chief was just a dog, not like a human who is made in the image of God, but he was such a treasured part of our family. He will be missed.
However, this week inevitably somewhere a parent died, a child was lost, a spouse was taken, a baby was miscarried. This week people somewhere cried and said goodbyes to family members or friends. This week somewhere people received a phone call they never imagined they would receive. This week the truth was inescapable. All people, young and old, rich or poor, educated or simple... we will all face death.
Psalm 49:10 "For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others."
The fact is that we are all going to die. It is inescapable. There is no way around it. No one can buy their way out of death. They cannot buy the way of loved ones out of death.
Psalm 49:7 "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:"
We cannot ransom ourselves or anyone else with money or good works or religious deeds. Why? We are all in the same boat heading toward death, and we are all worthy of death because of our sin.
Psalm 49:5 "Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?"
We are all surrounded by our own iniquity. I cannot pay for anyone else's sin, nor can I free them from death's quicksand because I am facing the same fate. I am being dragged toward death just like you are. Why? We are sinners and the payment for sin is death.
Psalm 49:14 "Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling."
We cannot take anything with us either. All the pursuits of this world are vanity. When we are laid in the grave, those temporal pursuits will vanish.
Psalm 49:17 "For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him."
This Psalm seems sad and depressing, but their is hope.
Psalm 49:15 "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah."
There is but one hope. That hope is for God to receive us. That hope is for God to redeem us from the power of the grave. So how do we know if we are one of the ones who will be received? How do we know if we are one of the redeemed ones who will have victory over the grave?
We are one of the redeemed when we have turned from trusting our riches or our own righteousness, and instead trusted God's plan of salvation. God sent His Son to pay for our sins. Jesus died for us. We cannot give a ransom for ourselves or for each other because we are guilty, but Jesus, the sinless and perfect Son of God could ransom us with His own blood. If we have called out to God for forgiveness with a heart of repentance and when we have trusted in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as a payment for our sin, we become one of those who will be received by God. We become one of those that are called the redeemed. Death no longer has a sting to it because we will have victory.
The fact is that we are all heading toward death. But the question is are you ready? Are you one of the redeemed?
Everyday, thousands of people pass by our church. I wonder what they say? Everyday, thousands of people pass in front of our home. They know the foreigners live here. I wonder what they say. I wonder what our neighbors say to each other when we are not around. I wonder what they say when we pass by their shops.
We carry His name on us, so what they think of us will also impact their thoughts of God.
Jerusalem. Mount Zion. The city where God chose to place His name.
Psalm 48:2 "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King."
As people thought of Jerusalem, so were their thoughts of God. At the time this was written, people had a respect of God. They feared Him. As enemies or outsiders passed by, they would hasten their steps. They knew God was with the people of Jerusalem.
Psalm 48:4-6 "For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away. Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail."
We are Christians. Jesus's name is attached to us. People know it. But what makes a difference is when they know we have been with Him and He is with us.
Acts 4:12-13 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."
When people pass by us, do they fear and have respect because of our God? Have we carried the name of Christ in such a manner that they have something to respect? Are we spending time with Jesus so that His holy scent permeates our lives and His power is clearly seen working and moving in and through us? Are we living in such a way that people see Jesus and not us?
As people passed by Jerusalem, they weren't afraid of the military might. They were petrified of the fact that God was there and He was with His people. What do they see when they pass by me?
"Indoor voices!" I said it over and over again to our children when they were young. There is something about young children. When they get excited, their volume goes up to a feverish pitch. Sometimes their excessive volume is an irritation to me, but most times it actually makes me giggle. You can almost see their excitement and joy emanating from their bodies in waves of sound. It takes a while to teach them the time and the place for being noisy. (Especially when I sometimes am guilty, too! I get excited and my volume button goes up!)
Recently, we had a couple of younger children staying with us at our home. I found myself again saying that familiar command: "Indoor voices, please!" They would be quieter for just a few sentences, but then their excitement would build as they told some amazing and thrilling story. Their little bodies would wiggle as they continued talking and the tension began building. Before they knew it, their volume was once again on overload as they smiled, giggled, and of course shouted their story with glee. (Kids are way too much fun to watch.)
Psalm 47 isn't saying, "Indoor voices, please!" It is saying, "Turn the volume up, you guys! It's time to praise!"
Psalm 47:1 "O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph."
Does God excite you? When you and I sit and think about the God we serve, it should create a rise in volume as if we were children getting excited about a story we want to tell. Maybe we have lost our "praise voices" and opted for "indoor voices" because we have forgotten to dwell on the goodness of God. We have forgotten to think about the attributes of our Father. We have neglected meditating and studying about how amazing our Saviour Jesus is. We have lost our song. We have lost our shout. We have opted for polite indoor voices when He is worthy of our excitement-driven noise.
Psalm 47:5-7 "God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding."
Enduring a major earthquake was difficult, but the most devastating and frightening part of it was not buildings falling, people screaming, and the horrible rumbling. Those things were scary, most certainly! But the most frightening thing was more fundamental than that. It took a while for my mind to begin processing it. The most frightening part was the ground which had been stable and secure my whole life was moving and no longer dependable. From the moment I was born, the earth beneath me was steady and sure. I walked with confidence on it from the day I learned to walk. I jumped, skipped, hopped, rolled, ran, and crawled on a firm foundation of dirt, grass, and rock miles deep and seemingly impenetrable. But on April 25, 2015, the truth that I had believed my whole life was shattered and revealed as a lie. The ground could indeed move and shake violently. It is difficult to explain the mental and emotional strain I endured trying to process this new fact. The human mind will struggle to comprehend such a radical notion. Such challenges are what create things like PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder.) And, yes, our family still deals with PTSD.
Psalm 46:1-3 "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah."
The truth is that even the earth beneath our feet is unreliable for safety. We cannot count on it. The mountains move and shake. They can be removed. We experienced that, too, as we saw landslides that wiped out entire mountain sides, covering and burying entire villages. (These verses in Psalm 46 never meant so much to me as they do now after the earthquake.) But we don't have to fear. Why?
Man's kingdoms can be shaken, removed, and destroyed.
Psalm 46:6 "The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted."
Man often acts like he is invincible, but no matter how strong the military, no matter how strong the government, no matter how strong the economy, and no matter how strong the people, any country is vulnerable. Any country and people can be removed. A simple shake of the ground... a devastating storm... a cunning enemy.
But God's kingdom?
Psalm 46:5 "God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early."
God is stable. His kingdom is unmovable. His throne is impenetrable. Unlike the day when my trust in the ground beneath me was shattered, the reliability of God will never change. That's what makes Him the best refuge and help in our times of trouble. He is unchanging and immovable. That's why we can be still... that's why we can run to Him in confidence. When we stand upon Him and His truth we are standing on a firm foundation that will never be shaken. It will never be moved. It is even more solid and trustworthy of a foundation than the very earth we walk upon.
Psalm 46:10-11 "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah."
I love the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. My husband and I have been privileged to go there twice. It is an exquisite mansion, and its splendor and beauty is captivating. It is grand and breathtaking. But I have a confession. When I went through the Biltmore House both times, I not only enjoyed the charm of its expensive furnishings and history, but I also looked for reminders of its temporary nature. I loved the massive curtains, but I also noticed where a few were worn or slightly faded. I loved the wallpapers, but I also noticed there were occasional spots where the paper was beginning to curl at the corners. I loved the paint, but there were places where paint had begun to chip and peel. As magnificent as this house is, it (like everything else on the earth) is a temporary kingdom. It is fading. It requires an enormous amount of effort for its upkeep and yet it is a losing battle.
In Psalm 45, David is captivated by the majesty of God. He is focused on God as King. His words describe the Lord's power, royalty, majesty, and sovereignty. His speech indites (gushes in words) the matter of just how regal, righteous, and pure God the King is.
Psalm 45:3 "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things."
I was captivated by the splendor of a place that was fading and faltering-- a place that would one day fall away and its temporary nature showed through in spots. David was captivated by the eternal, unfading, unfaltering King whose kingdom would never decay and fall away. His throne will never chip, crack, peel, or crumble.
Psalm 45:6 "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre."
Though we may find a sense of beauty, wonder, and awe in earthly abodes that fade away, let us never lose our sense of awe in the King and kingdom which will stand in all its perfect glory forever. Let us take time to ponder and meditate upon His glory and majesty.