Saturday, November 20, 2010
Sermon Notes for Sunday of Fulfillment, November 21, 2010
Fortress of Silence
November 21, 2010
Last Sunday we explored the Psalmist’s exhortation to ‘make a joyful noise to the Lord’. Today we are reversing course, listening to the Psalmist say, ‘Silence!’ We need this word, for like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, we are inclined to speak up when we should shut up!
However, it isn’t simply the Psalmist who tells us that there is a time to be still, just as there is a time to make a joyful noise. God himself speaks through the Psalmist and says words reminiscent of what he had said so long ago to Israel on the banks of the Red Sea: At that time he had said, “Stand still and see the salvation of God”. Moses stretched out his rod and the Sea parted and Israel was delivered.
Now the Lord speaks once again to his people and encourages them with his promise of help: “Be still and know that I am God”
As if to emphasize the point, this Psalm is written with three pauses – a ‘selah’. The first is after v3, the second after 7, and then in closing, v.11.
• Selah – Change Pitch; Pause to Ponder
This Psalm appears to have been written just after Jerusalem had been delivered from certain destruction at the hands of the Assyrians. Isaiah and Chronicles record how the enemy came and surrounded the city of Jerusalem, sending King Hezekiah a letter telling him to surrender, telling him in fact that God had sent them to take the city. Hezekiah and the leaders of Judah spread the letter our before God and ask what to do. It’s a hopeless situation. There is no escape and there is no defense that can withstand the size and strength of the onslaught. As Hezekiah is praying, Isaiah the prophet sends him a message from the Lord promising deliverance. That night, the Scriptures say, a destroying angel from God killed 185,000 soldiers of the Assyrian army. In the morning, seeing the dead, the Assyrian General decided that going home would be a better course of action.
There’s a theological term for this kind of thing: monergism. It means the working of one. Synergy is a partnership, a ‘working together with’, and there are times when God calls us into his gracious work, working is us and through us in a synergistic way. There are other times when God works on his own, apart from us, but for us and our good, and ultimately for his glory.
This is the case when we are the weakest, the most vulnerable, and helpless, the times when we know we are not in control and can make no contribution; coming to these places is a hard mercy, but essential to knowing and following the Savior.
• The myth of control and contribution
I. Selah – God is With Us in this World – Psalm 46:1-3
A. Stand still and see!
B. Faith as Resting Trust
• My faith for salvation has Christ as its object, and I rest in him.
- Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.
- We are all the crucified thief, and in our shame and on the cusp of death we look to the Crucified One for Life.
II. Selah – God is With Us in the Church – Psalm 46:4-7
A. Luther’s Great Fortress
B. The Spirit’s Streams and the River that Flows from God
• John 7:37-39
III. Selah – God is With Us in Our Trials – Psalm 46:8-11
A. Come and See
B. There are physical, emotional, psychological, political, financial, ecclesiastical disasters that come upon us all. What will we say in the face of such afflictions?
• “And Job bowed low and worshipped.” – Job 1:20
We can be still because we belong, body and soul, to the One who was silent as a lamb before its shearers, the One who did not answer Pilate but kept silent in the face of false accusation. God with us – Immanuel – the Word made flesh was Silent, and his stillness was very Loud and Clear. Out of the stillness of his communion, the silent places of trusting his Father, came the great cry from the cross, “It is finished!”
We clamber about for something to add to this finished work. Be still!
We talk incessantly of the threats the enemies of the Gospel pose. Be still!
We encounter disaster and fear the future. Be still!
Know that He is God – the God who delivered Israel, and raised his Son from the Dead. This God, the Living God, is with us and in you, and greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. Cease from your labors and rest in the everlasting arms. Realize you are not in control and offer him the course of your life as his own rightful prize for the blood he shed for you.