The Fourth Sunday in Lent March 2, 2008
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
157, 354, 769 (TLH alt. 498), 800 (TLH alt. 54)
In that day you will say: “O Lord, I will praise You; though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’” Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And in that day you will say: “Praise the Lord, call upon His name; declare His deeds among the peoples, make mention that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done excellent things; this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
Which travels faster: good news or bad news? On which do we reflect more: the positive or the negative? There might not be any scientific answer for this, but it seems that in the world in which we live, we are overwhelmed by bad news. The unofficial slogan for the news media is, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Even in our lives the emotional high of joy doesn’t seem to last as long as grief.
When we gather around God’s Word we hear some bad news about ourselves. We hear about sin and its penalty. However, it is key to note that as Christians the good news trumps the bad. When we review God’s hand in our lives we will be lifted up. No matter what your personal situation is today, there is reason to praise your God. This is done I. In Personal Reflection and II. In Public Proclamation. As we glorify our God today, may the Holy Spirit open our hearts and strengthen our faith.
When you have some time alone to think, that can be good or bad depending on what your focus is. The Lord gives us some positive things to reflect upon beginning with the fact that His anger has been turned away. When a fellow human being is angry with you, you can take on a couple of different attitudes. You can either retaliate anger for anger, or you can try to appease that person and work to get rid of the anger.
If you have God angry at you and you decide to return anger back at Him this is fruitless. If you want vengeance against God because you think that He has wronged you what good will that do? It’s like a gnat trying to kick over a lion. What about the appeasing route? We can try groveling before God, but that will not turn anger away from a God who demands justice. When we have crossed the line of sin God has a right to be angry with us.
Praise God that you may say, Your anger is turned away and You comfort me. While you could not have turned God’s anger away, it still has been done because He turned it onto His Son. You have a relationship with God because He poured out His wrath on Jesus. When you are in Christ God is not angry with you. It sometimes seems that He is working against us, but that is not true. That is what Satan would like us to think. God comforts you because He looks upon you in love.
You also may praise God because “God is my salvation. I will trust and not be afraid; For Yah (Jehovah), the Lord, is my song; He also has become my salvation.” [v.2] These words were first said by Moses after the children of Israel had crossed the Red Sea (cf. Exodus 15:2). With the Egyptian army on one side and the Red Sea on the other they had no solutions for rescue. Looking to themselves they found hopelessness. After seeing the mighty hand of God they recognized Him as their strength, song, and salvation.
We become miserable when we feel that there is no way out of a situation. It’s very discouraging, to say the least, when you are trapped. You lack control. You make the same mistakes over and over again. You hurt the ones whom you love. You are fooled by Satan. You look around and find yourself between a rock and a hard place. You see no way of getting rid of your sin. You don’t feel worthy to be involved with God.
I will praise My God for He has become my salvation. Swallow that pride and know that you don’t have the answers. You don’t know all the right questions to ask. Yet God has taken care of your rescue. When your trust is in Him you don’t need to be afraid. The situation is under control.
But the Lord can be counted upon for more than just a one-time solution. “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” [v.3] The Lord is reliable for His continuing goodness. When we turn on the faucet we expect water to come out, but what if the well runs dry? This is not a concern with our God and His goodness. We read the words of Jesus in John 7, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). The Lord has placed the Holy Spirit in you to live in your heart. He supplies you with all that you need. If you feel tapped out, could it be that you’re turning to the wrong source? I will praise my God because He brings me refreshment!
These are a lot of thoughts to chew on and we rightly meditate and reflect upon what our God has done for us. There is also the natural progression that this does not all remain internal, but that praise for our God would also go outwardly. When we are proud of people whom we know we’ll say, “That’s my boy!” or “That’s my cousin!” But for some reason we do not say very often in a positive way, “That’s my God!”
As much as we are in the information age, there is a lack of correct information about our God. It is important, therefore, that we proclaim the truth outwardly. It is important that we “Praise the Lord, call upon His name; declare His deeds among the peoples, make mention that His name is exalted.” [v.4]
We glorify Him as our Creator—consider the great deed of creation. The wisdom by which nature functions and the way in which our bodies work is amazing to behold. As Spring comes around we take for granted that we can plant seeds in the ground and raise crops.
Consider the great deed of redemption—you no longer belong to sin, but instead God has claimed you as His own.
Consider the great deed of sanctification—even now the Holy Spirit is working to separate you from sin.
Even if everybody knew these things about God we would do well to praise Him. How much more so when there are surprisingly few people in the world who know these basic facts. What percentage of people in the world do you think gives God credit for creation? What percentage of people knows how sins are forgiven? What percentage of people acknowledges that the Holy Spirit is the one who called us to God. Make mention that His name is exalted!
We take the opportunity in public worship to acknowledge that God has “done excellent things.” [v.5] People may know how important or unimportant praising God is to you by where you are located during time of worship. We gather together not just to learn or to encourage one another, though these are vital reasons for public worship. We wish to join our voices to praise God. When Sunday mornings are set aside to publicly praise God this will speak volumes to your neighbor. When you take extra time during Lent to praise Jesus for His work on Wednesday nights this is also a way of acknowledging that God has done excellent things. When your activities are influenced and contoured to honoring God’s will people will take notice.
If you do not take the time acknowledge the excellence of God you are, in fact, giving glory to another. That’s idolatry plain and simple. The word spread quickly of the Israelites’ miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. Whom else but God would they praise? Whom else would we praise for our rescue and for all the good things that we have been given? No one but God deserves that praise.
We publicly proclaim the glory of God’s name because He is among us. “Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!” [v.6] What more could you ask than having God among us, not only when we get to Heaven, but even while we’re living on this earth? There are certain places that we’d rather not go. We can become snotty and not want to associate with certain people. Yet the Lord who is so far above us says that He will be among us. In this way we know that He will watch out for us and protect us.
This good news that we are hearing today should not have a shelf life. It should not be a distant memory put into a scrapbook and forgotten about for years. The joy that God presents to you can in fact supersede any bad news that may come about. Day after day, no matter what else is going on in our lives, each one of us can say with meaning, “I will praise my God!” Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.