29 Oct Living From The Heart (The Psalms) – Episode 5
Have you ever asked whether God hears your prayers, whether He hears the prayers of all people? On Episode 5 of Living From The Heart, we talk about how the Sovereign answers prayers.
INTRODUCTION: This is one of the fascinating parts of our culture, as we continue to invent religions, we continue to come up with new ways and new views of God. It’s really quite interesting to read how people invent religions all the time. You didn’t invent this religion; Christ found you.
EASLEY: Every person asks, “Does God hear our prayer? Does God answer our prayer? Does God listen to all the prayers of all the people?” If you remember the scene from Bruce Almighty, where Bruce becomes God as it were, all the prayers come inside his head and he puts them in Post It Notes that overwhelm him. Then he decides to have them come in through email and he answers all of them, “Yes.” Ludicrous, but illustrative of how in the world does the Sovereign hear our prayers? 1) We know that God is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, meaning He is everywhere; He is all powerful; He knows all; He is so far beyond our human comprehension. We have a God that hears. One of the fascinating parts of the Psalms is how many of these are prayers. In fact, in a sense they are all prayers; they’re all petitions of some kind. Some are complaints, laments, some are praise Psalms and some are thankful Psalms and some of the Psalms that were written were Psalms for the inauguration of a King. Well, we have been looking at Psalms 65, Living From the Heart, a series that was originally presented at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove. Psalm 65 is a prayer and in the first portion of the Psalm, the Psalmist is stressing that God hears, forgives, and blesses the Worshipper. Let’s think about our own prayers. Too often we have a very specific thing that we are asking God to do and when He doesn’t check the box and answer it the way we pray, does that mean God isn’t hearing or listening, or answering? Or perhaps are we praying in the wrong fashion?
MESSAGE: There’s three aspects of Yahweh’s character in these first four verses.
1) He hears prayer. Calvin says, God can no more divest Himself of the attribute of hearing prayer than He can of being. The Psalmist underscores this: God hears our prayer. Look at it. There will be silence before you and praise in Zion, O God, and to you the vow will be performed. O You who hear prayer, to you all men come. Now this is the idea that every time we pray, He hears. Now there’s always this question: Does God hear the prayer of the non believer? Well, that’s not the point of this Psalm. The point of this Psalm is everyones going to pray. I think there’s an eschatological picture here because obviously the evil don’t pray. Men who hate Yahweh don’t pray; men who hate Yahweh Elohim’s people, certainly don’t pray, but it says all men. I don’t think we can expunge this one with a grammatical issue. I think He’s saying there are those who pray to me in Zion the way I prescribe the vow and everybody else is going to pray too, and eventually they will. Marvin Tate says, “There can be little doubt. All flesh and the context in the Psalm refers to all mankind. The coming of all flesh to God may well be read with an eschatological thrust. In other words in the end, in that final day, all men will acknowledge Him, all men will bow, some willingly, and some unwillingly. Psalm 116 says, I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.
When I was recovering after my second surgery I was supposed to walk everyday and there was ice and snow in Illinois at that time. I would take my son Devin with me, and one day I said to him, “Devin if you fall and I fall we’re in big trouble.” I would just kind of scootch along these roads thinking, this is really stupid; I just had back surgery and I’m walking on ice. What is wrong with this equation? So as I walked, and I tried to walk most days, I would memorize Scripture and I memorized Psalm 116. I don’t know how you memorize but I say each word of the verse. I say, I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my supplications. I love the Lord because He hears. I love the Lord. That’s the way I do it. So halfway through the Psalm, I got the first few verses down cold. The last ones I always forget. Maybe I should memorize them backwards. (Laughter). As I memorized the Psalm, the first two verses are the ones that just overwhelmed me. The Psalmist is saying, God always hears my prayer. That’s what He’s saying in Psalm 65. What He says in Psalm 116 is just because He hears me that should be a good enough reason for me to pray. I mean think of this. My prayers are typically because I want to do something. Now I’m not trying to puppet Him. In reverse, if I pray enough Lord you come through for me. If I learn the lesson of pain, will you take it away? That’s the way my brain works. Okay, we have this test Lord and You want me to learn certain lessons in this test. Hurry up and learn me Lord. I want to be done with this test. I’ll learn it. Just teach it to me. I don’t like this in between stuff. Just give me the goods. He just seems to smile. It doesn’t work that way, right? The older I get the more complicated the answers seem to be. The older I get I should be wiser because God has been with me. David says, I’m going to pray. Just because I know He hears me. It’s pretty amazing. 1) He hears our prayer.
2) He forgives sin in verse 3. The term forgive here is a different word. It’s not the word that you’d think. Who knows what Yom Kippur means? Day of Atonement. Day is Yom. Atonement. What does atonement mean? Atone, what does it mean to have sins atoned for? To pay for and forgiven are in there, but the word means to cover. Did anyone say that? I didn’t hear it? Okay, here’s some chocolate anyway. Wake up! (Laugher). So, it means to cover. The first time the word is used is in Genesis when Noah builds this boat. What does he do to it? He takes pitch and he covers it inside and out and that’s the first word occurrence the way it shows up in the chronology of the way we have the Bible. So He’s covering it over. The word as it’s used in its history means to cover things over and the atonement is a covering, so we say God covers our sins. But that doesn’t make sense because He can’t cover it over. It’s still there. So the word has a real problem as it’s used historically. It probably gets back to the word “ransom.” Think of it this way. Some of you still remember stores where you had credit on your name. I had a friend who had a haberdashery in Nacogdoches,Texas and he had a little box of 3 by 5 cards and people came in and put five dollars down. Then the store owner, Mr. McLean said, “Thanks,” and when they walked out, he pulled out there card and he wrote five dollars and the date and put it back in. He probably had several hundred thousand dollars of accounts receivable in this little box of cards and he didn’t care. He just liked to help people get their clothes. He had this little box of cards and people would come in and he would never say anything. I would be in the store and they’d put five dollars in and he would write it down. What was Dick McLean saying? I’ve got it covered. I got it covered. I’m not going to expect those people to pay me in full. Dick McLean would say, “I’m just giving it away. If they come back, great. If they don’t, great.” I remember asking him about it; he just smiled. He wouldn’t talk about it; he wouldn’t elaborate on it, but he was covering their debts. So the idea of covering over I think is a little bit of a poor rendering. The idea is: I’ve got it covered. I’ve taken care of that. The Mercy Seat is called the Seat of Atonement. It includes the idea of substitution and redemption of someone else is taking care of it. That’s what the word here, He forgives your sin. He atones for it. 1) He hears our prayer. 2) He forgives sin.
3) He blesses the one He chooses. Look again at verse 4 of Psalm 65. How blessed is the one whom You choose, and bring near to dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your Holy Temple. He hears our prayers and He forgives our sins and He blesses those He chooses. It is divine choice. It is not man’s choice that he researches all religions and decides, “Oh, I like this one the best. I’ll believe in Yahweh. I’ll believe in Christ.” He chooses us. Verse 4 says, He brings us near. He causes us to dwell. He satisfies us with goodness. I don’t know how many of us have wrestled with the idea that God chose you before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:13. That you had no right or merit of your own. You didn’t find Jesus; you didn’t discover Him on your own; it wasn’t something that one day you pulled it all together and said, “You know after my courses at the university about world religion, this is the one I like best.” This is one of the fascinating parts of our culture as we continue to invent religions, we continue to come up with new ways and new views of God. It’s really quite interesting to read how people invent religions all the time. You didn’t invent this religion; Christ found you. He interrupted your life. He came before the foundation of the world and He chose you and me. I don’t understand that, but I sure am grateful. Have you ever heard J Vernon Mcgee’s illustration? Best one I’ve ever heard. He said, There’s a giant arch and the arch has chiseled on it, Whosoever will. The offers open. The offer I believe is universal. Whosoever will comes to Christ. If He’s lifted up, He’s going to draw men to Himself. He’s chosen us before the foundation of the world. I don’t understand it at all. He chose Israel. He chose me. Whosoever will. Some day you say, “Okay, I trusted Christ; I believe; I walked down the aisle; I prayed the prayer; I embraced it: I took it by faith, however we sanction those words. We walk through the arch and we say, “We’re saved!” Then one day someone tells you about this election predestination stuff. Then you say, “No way! That’s wrong. That’s unfair. God couldn’t do that.” You look on the back of the arch and it says, chosen before the foundation of the world. Now what I think J Vernon Mcgee meant by that, was election and predestination have no application for the unbeliever. Election and predestination have no application for the unbeliever. Election and predestination only have application for the believer. The believer says, “Oh, I get it now.” I didn’t find Jesus. Jesus found me. And the Old Testament underscores the same theology, those who you choose. It’s not who we put forward. Who did Israel choose to be their king? They wanted a king. They wanted to be like other nations, so God put Saul in front of them. He’s head and shoulders above all the rest and he’s an abysmal failure from the beginning. Then God says, “I’m going to show them how to do it.” Here’s the firstborn. Nope, nope, nope. Anybody else? Well, there’s one little teenager out in the field taking care of sheep. Bring him in here. He’s a sixteen, seventeen year old boy named David. He’s the one. Not as the world sees. I’m going to turn it over; I’m going to show you that God’s choice is different than man’s choice. The ultimate pivot of the choice of God vs. the choice of man was the event of Goliath. A Philistine comes out for forty days and forty nights and says what? “Choose a man to fight me. If he wins, we surrender. If I win, you surrender.” Eighty times, in the morning and in the evening, forty days, he said, “Choose a man. Choose a man.” You think Israel’s army heard, “Who’s the choice?” The choice is Saul. He’s the big one. He’s the big guy with the really nice armor and the really big sword because he’s the number one king. He’s in the tent and he’s scared to death. A snotty nose shepherd boy smelling of sheep, bringing some cheese and bread comes into the tent and says, “I’ll do it. Who are these Philistines, uncircumcised Philistines, who taunt the armies of the Living God?” What a depiction! A little runt and a giant. What’s the point? Choose. Choose. Choose. You chose wrong. I chose right and I’ll show you a little boy with a rock who’ll take out a giant. God’s choices always dismantle our categories. We’re not that good. So David in the Psalms says, Whom You choose to be in Your courts, Who You choose to dwell in Your houses. Sorry, I get a little worked up on that one. He hears our prayer. He forgives our sin and He blesses the ones He chooses.
Now there’s some profound blessings here. Just these three: To think that God hears my prayer. God forgives my sin and God has chosen me. If we stop there, we’d have enough. When you and I pray glibly and repetitively for a meal, has the Sovereign of the universe heard you? When Michael was so kind, as some of you had asked to pray for my back, I sat there reminding myself, the God of the universe is hearing this. When you pray for your son or daughter who doesn’t know the Lord, your grandchildren who have made choices and turns you don’t like, in your loneliness as a widow or widower, in the heartbreak to experience the cancer that you have, the heart troubles that you have, and you pray those glib prayers, do you know He hears you? He hears me? Even when I pray poorly, He hears me. He forgives me! I know some of you don’t sin anymore, but I sin all the time. ( Laughter). I sin every stinking day. I used to think, I wonder if I could live a day without sin? Then I started setting these goals: Can I live one hour without sin? That’s just stupid stuff, but that’s how my brain works. Can you live without sin? Can a man live, can a man be pure before God? Answer: No! But Christ is righteous before God. Christ does not sin and I’m in Christ so somehow in the Holy Spirit’s control, I am to be submissive to His will and His Word and I’m not to sin. Then I sin. But He forgives me. How glad I am! You know, as I’ve gotten older, I don’t act out on sins that often; I don’t steal stuff; I don’t do stuff; I’ve never had an affair; I’ve been faithful to my wife for twenty eight years. It’s not the stuff I do that I’m worried about; It’s what goes on between the temples in my brain that I’m worried about. It’s what I think that annoys me more! How about you? And God forgive me for my thoughts. You know what? He forgives. He hears. He’s chosen you. 1) God hears and forgives. 2) Our God is righteous and omnipotent. Verse 5, By awesome deeds you answer us. In righteousness, O God of our salvation, You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea; Who established the mountains by His strength, Being girded with His might; Who stills the roaring of the seas, The roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples. Let me just show you the parallel there because it’s easy to see. The roaring is twice and the tumult. Roaring, roaring, tumult. The sea, the waves, the people. It builds to a little bit of a crescendo. It’s not just the roaring of the seas God controls, He even controls the mobs, of the people, the roaring of the people. Verse 8, they who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy. 1) God hears our prayers. 2) Our God is righteous and omnipotent. Righteousness is one of these words that means everything and therefore it means nothing. What does it mean to be righteous? What does it mean for Yahweh to be righteous. It means that He corrects every injustice. Yahweh corrects every injustice. God is holy; He is ethical; His standards are perfect; He is never capricious; He never acts quickly; There’s no knee jerk response from God; God doesn’t get frustrated and destroy a bunch of people one day; God doesn’t get lonely, and tired, and angry, in the way we think of these terms. God always does the right thing by His ethical and holy standard.
Now when we think of America, and I love my country, perhaps more than I should sometimes and when I see America’s tumult with their loss, like this recent seven hundred billion dollar rescue, not bailout, rescue plan, I think what’s the truth? The O.J. Simpson hearing came in; the trial came in yesterday evidently. When I see these debated, I always wonder what really happened. What’s the truth? You ever wonder that? What’s the truth behind these things? Because we’re suspicious by nature, right? We know that lawyers are smart, and judges are swayed, and juries are swayed, and we’re all a fallen system. Wouldn’t it be nice if every single judge was righteous? Just think if every attorney on both sides was righteous. They’d never go to trial. It would sound something like this: “My client did it. What are we going to do? Let’s just save everybody alot trouble. He stole. She did this. He was a murderer. They’re wrong. They’re guilty. They’ll take whatever consequence you give them. Just save everybody alot of time and expense. Let the jury go home. Let’s just save the judicial system a lot of headaches.” How many trials should never go to court? Probably all of them,but nobody will admit blame. Nobody will say, “I’m wrong.” The law has become our God; I understand, if you’re in the legal world, It’s not about right and wrong, it’s about the law. This is a genius concept; it’s not about right and wrong. It’s not about did he kill this person, even though we have the videotape of him doing this. That’s not the issue. The issue is what does the law say? Now listen, this is Greco- Roman thinking because for the Jew, it wasn’t how man interpreted the law, it was what did God say? So for the law to judge righteously was to follow the literalness of the law. We get all upset and humored by the Rabbis adding laws to the law. No! They did exactly what you’re supposed to do. You’re not to take the case and say, “Well the donkey fell in the ditch and the Sabbath law says you’re not supposed to work on the Sabbath.” Is that work? So they’re trying to define very carefully when is it work on the Sabbath? Because that wasn’t specified in the law. Jesus comes along and shows them “Look, the law wasn’t intended to be the God.” The law was to show you, you couldn’t do it. I can fulfill the law. The law was a continual reminder of your failure and David got that, but this corpus of law that He’s talking about here is, we’re not judging. It’s man’s interpretation. We’re judging against God’s law and this is why He’s righteous because He always does what His law says. He’s partial to HIs own judicial system. We all want the righteous judge. Psalm 145:17, The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His deeds. Do we really believe that? When life doesn’t go the way I want it to go, is He righteous? The Psalmist, Hosea asked the question: Why do the wicked prosper? Habakkuk: Why do the wicked prosper? Why do the wicked succeed? Where are you God? Act! That’s the Psalmist lament and question. We have a righteous God. He’s not a cold hearted, clever prosecutor or a cold hearted, greedy defense attorney. He’s a perfect, righteous judge.
CONCLUSION: Let me ask you this. When you pray, would the answer to that prayer glorify and honor God? You see sometimes my prayers are purely selfish, more often than I’d like to admit. They are very selfish. Even if I’m praying for a good things, they can be more about helping me in my life. One of the biggest lessons I ever learned with prayer is, it’s not does God answer prayer, it is a relationship that we have with God. Prayer is a relationship not always a request. The time you and I spend in prayer is reflective of the kind of relationship that we have or do not have with Him. As you read the Psalms, and I hope you’ll continue reading and rereading Psalms 65, read it as a prayer. Stop at places. There is silence before a Holy God. it’s good to reflect on the Words of Scripture and to know He hears your prayer every time. As we began in Psalm 116 at the top of the program, I love the Lord because He hears my voice. Because He has inclined His ear to me. If God never did anything for you, but hear your prayer, would that be a good thing? He’s a perfect and righteous Judge. He always judges rightly. He cares for His own, if not in this life, you can be assured in life eternal. This is Michael Easley inContext.