October 9, 2016
Well, we are less than one month away from the presidential election. That’s pretty scary! Not one major newspaper has endorsed Donald Trump. That’s never happened before. Even some major nespapers have endorsed the Libertarian candidate, Bob Johnson, even though, he’s really bad on world events.
We tend to put our hope in people who are running our government. We think our elected officials are going to make all things better. Yet, often times, and this is no slight on anyone, we sit back and wait for the good to happen, we don’t get involved. We have these hopes and high expectations. Then we complain. The bottom line is our hope rests in these people.
But our hope really needs to be somewhere else. Our hope needs to be in Jesus Christ. He is our only hope. I believe Jesus is the only hope for the world. We’ve been talking about the love of Jesus and we are slowly turning to look at the Heart of Jesus. What was Jesus about? Why should we believe in Him. What does God offer that other gods don’t? We’re going to look at that and more over the next few weeks.
We’re going to start by looking at Psalm 96. The Psalmist tells us ~
1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Sing to the LORD, bless His name; tell of His salvation from day to day.
In other words the entire planet is supposed to sing to the LORD. Notice the word LORD is in all caps. This isn’t a typo. This is how the word Yahweh is translated into English. Yahweh, means “I Am Who I Am,” or “I Will Be who I Will Be.” This is how God referred to Himself when Moses asked God what He shall be called at the burning bush. Using Yahweh or LORD is different than just saying God. It is the sacred, but also the personal name of God
Yahweh is the only God.
This psalm calls the people of God to sing a song to God as he showed Himself to Moses — the great I Am. Why should we sing to Yahweh? The answer is in verse 4:
4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. The I AM!
You need to understand something. In the ancient world, there was god competition. Consider the gods of Egypt. Each god had a different responsibility, and they all had to work together to make the world function. For example, Nut was the goddess of the heavens. Her husband was Geb, god of the earth. And Shu, Nut’s father, was the god of the air. Shu had to hold up the sky to keep it from crashing into Earth. They each had authority over different things, and somehow they’re all related. There were over 28 major gods. And as you move from one dynasty of Pharaohs to the other, or as you move from upper Egypt to lower Egypt, these gods and goddesses merge and split and divide and combine. It’s truly dizzying.
And this list changes as you move past the Egyptian culture and get into Greek cultures. In Greek culture, it’s Zeus who has authority to send rain to the earth. He holds the lightning in his hands. But if you’re on a ship in a storm, you pray to Poseidon, the god of the sea. If you wanted your crops to grow, particularly your grapes, you might go to the temple of Dionysus. Different gods for different needs.
What happens with Yahweh is this: Monotheism. God says: No, I did it all. There’s only one God. I have authority over everything. It’s my world, and you’re in it. This is the voice that Moses heard at the burning bush: “I Am Who I Am. I am the one who has authority over heaven and earth and authority over everything in between.”
Verse 5 picks up this same thought ~ 5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
Another way we could translate that word for idols is nothings: “For all the gods of the peoples are nothings.” Think about what an ancient idol is? In Isaiah 44 we read this about idols ~
9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame.
10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing?
11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. – Isaiah 44:9-11
Someone took a chunk of wood and chiseled it into some god. People bowed down and worshiped this piece of wood. Then when they were done with it, they used that same piece of wood to cook their food. Their idols were worthless, as are our idols that we hold onto today.
About 1,000 years before the time of Jesus, King Solomon built a temple. The idea behind a temple in the ancient world is that the farther in you go, the closer and closer you get to the statue of the particular god whose temple it is. If you go into Solomon’s temple, you go through the courtyard, and the first major room is called the “holy place.” After the holy place, you have the “holy of holies.” It’s there you’re supposed to find the statue of your god, but in Solomon’s temple you don’t.
Instead, you find – – the ark of the covenant. Literally, it was the box of the binding agreement. There’s not a statue of the God of Israel inside the ark. Instead, there are the 10 Commandments, and the 10 Commandments begin,
3″You shall have no other gods before me.” Why? Because there aren’t any other gods. The second commandment is:
“4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.”
And the third commandment: 7″You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” He commands: Don’t throw my name around as if it were nothing, because I am the Creator of heaven and earth. I have authority over heaven, and I have authority over you. Yahweh says to have no other gods because there are no other gods. The gods of the nations are nothings.
Some people may interpret God’s commands as too exclusive. But listen to this song about singing: it doesn’t exclude; it invites. The door is not locked, but thrown wide open. It calls people to come in. This is where verse 7 picks up:
7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Look at the end of verse 8 . . . COME INTO HIS COURTS!
But what you have here is an invitation to the family of nations. Those of you who are in Egypt and are worshiping Isis, ascribe to Yahweh the glory due His name! Those of you who are in Phoenicia and worship Baal, ascribe to the LORD — the I Am — His authority over heaven and earth! He invites you.
This series is called The Heart of Christ because Christ constantly invites us. He goes to get some water one day from a well, and there’s a woman there who’s been married over five times, and He invites her into conversation about where real life can be found. There’s a tax collector named Matthew and another tax collector named Zacchaeus, and Jesus invites them into His company. Jesus constantly invites people.
It’s a theme throughout the Bible. It’s one we often miss. God invites us into a relationship with Him. I spoke about it last week. We have a personal relationship with Christ. We have that intimate relationship with God, through the Spirit of God. But we are also called to have a shared relationship, one that is based on community.
It’s part of the heart of Christ. It’s what He wants for you and I. Jesus tells us to come into His courts. Not the courts of Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton or Bob Johnson or anyone else.
God wants you to know Him. To experience the power of His presence, His grace, His love, His power and courage. It’s all available.
But here’s the thing, we have to turn to God. In our world, it’s all too easy to turn to the world for all we need. It’s too easy to become like the world and not fight for what we believe is true according to the Word of God and grace of God. We give in, we submit to the inanimate idols that are out there.
They are things like – – – –
Power Greed Sex Money Control Anger
Work Success Food Image Fame Possessions
So often, we want these more than a relationship with Christ. We want this more than community within the body of believers.
I want to come back to what we might say is one of the most memorized and known passages of the New Testament. It’s really an invitation ~
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.
This is an invitation to come into a relationship with God. It’s a call to you and I to put aside all of the trivial things we fight over. It’s to come to a belief . . . and I really mean this . . . it’s a belief that God really, really did send His only Son for you. He sent Jesus to leave the place of perfection.
Have you ever been somewhere, or had some moment in time where you thought this is perfect. I don’t want this moment to end. You felt it couldn’t get any better. Yet, that’s the relationship that Jesus had in heaven with the Father and the Spirit. There was an interflowing of one into the other. A constant flow of love, a love that could not be broken.
Yet, God broke that for you and I. He broke it so we would realize there is an invitation waiting for us.
For God so loved the world – – – and that world includes you. You are part of that world God created. God so loves you, that He gave – – – He sent His one and only child, His beloved Son, Jesus, so you could be invited to the great banquet . . . to the amazing party so you could have the promise of eternal life. Yes, you’ll die someday, but your spirit, your soul will never die. You will go from this life to eternity with God.
Because you see, this invitation to you is so cool . . . because understand this . . . you’re a sinner! I am a sinner! That’s not the cool part!!! God could have easily said these people are not worthy of me – – – they are not worthy of my Son, but . . .
AND here’s the cool part . . . God said to Himself . . . that’s all the more reason I need to send my Son. I don’t want any of these folks to not have the opportunity to know me. So, I’m going to do it. I know they are going to mess up, they are going to sin again and again. But, I called them, I invited them to know me and love me and have a relationship with me.
I invited these people to be loved, empowered, filled with courage, to know true grace, true forgiveness. These are my kids and I want them to come to my party! My heart bursts for my people. My heart grieves for my people. My heart is exploding with amazing love and hope; power and strength . . . for my people!
Come to me! Come . . . I invite you to come to me! And you will experience all that you long for!!