Online Text Sermon - God Rules the Waves, Psalm 93 vv.1-5
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||God Rules the Waves|
|Text||Psalm 93 vv.1-5 |
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The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved. Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea. Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O LORD, for ever (Psalm 93, 1-5).
In this Psalm we are taught concerning three things. First of all we are shown 'a picture of God'. Then we are shown 'a picture of this world'. Then we are shown 'something which brings the two together' - they are contrasted. The Psalmist, at the end, states some practical applications of this picture he gives, of the difference between God and the world. Let's look at this picture.
1. A picture of God
2. A picture of this world
3. Something that brings the two together
1. A PICTURE OF GOD
It begins, as I say, with this description of God: "The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved. Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting" (Psalm 93, 1-2). It is a picture first of all, of God Himself.
We are not allowed to make pictures of God. The second commandment forbids images or idols, paintings or statues of God. That is why we must not, also, make a picture of Christ, because He is a divine Person. That is why it is superstitious to have statues of the Virgin Mary and the baby child in her arms. We are not to make any representation of a graphic kind or visual kind of any of the three Persons of the Godhead. But the Word of God does give us pictures of God: pictures in words; and here is one of these great pictures in words concerning God. It is very evident that the picture portrays God as a great king. We have the language here of kingship. God is the King of the world; the King of the universe, and the language of kingship is mentioned here. We are told that he is clothed with majesty. Kings wear royal robes - do they not? - ermine, velvet and other extravagant materials. God is clothed, said the Psalmist, with majesty; that means with Godhood, with greatness. He is elevated beyond all thought and He reigns, the Lord reigns. That is a function of a king. He has a kingdom: all the universe is God's kingdom and He reigns over it - over heaven and earth, and even over the devils in hell. He has a sceptre in His hand and a throne on high; His dominion is from everlasting to everlasting.
The Bible refers to God as the 'King of kings and the Lord of lords' (1 Timothy 6, 15; Revelation 19, 16), to show us that all other kings and all other lords are subject and subordinate to God. His is total and absolute Lordship and control. He is over all; He has no rivals. Why does the Bible give us this picture? Why does the Bible spend so long telling us about God - not only here, of course, but everywhere? The Bible is full of pictures of God - pictures in words - and they all dovetail exactly together. It's the same picture repeated over and over again. His dominion is an everlasting dominion: His power is infinite and His control is perfect. Jesus Christ our Saviour says these very things with illustrations in the chapter I read of Matthew 10: the "hairs of your head are all numbered" (verse 30). We don't take that sufficiently seriously, do we? Not a sparrow falls on the ground "without your father" (verse 29). Do we really believe that? Do we believe that the footsteps of a righteous man are "ordered by the Lord?" (Psalm 37, 23)
I suppose, more than most of you, I have occasion to be reminded of that, because yesterday we were nearly involved in a very serious accident on the road. As we were going harmlessly along another car careered at great speed right across our side and I very nearly had to go off the embankment to avoid him. Two seconds, and we would have been - not in a grave, but in a state of death. The hand of God is on all events, great and small. The Lord reigns over everything! Every aeroplane in the sky - He's holding it up. The very breath we draw - is from Him. The food we eat is - from Him. He puts it in our mouth though we don't realize it. The grass that grows - every blade - is numbered by Him. The rain, hail and the snowflakes that come down - He knows exactly every single drop as though it were the only one. Scientists tell us that no two snowflakes are identical; their crystal formation is different. How on earth can it be? But we're dealing with God! with infinite power, infinite skill and wisdom.
I was holding a little baby in my arms recently and its toes - we don't usually look at the toes of a little child - but the toes are so tiny, so exquisitely small, and perfectly formed, like little cherries on the end of its feet. The skill of God! We couldn't make such things! Little spiders, and ants, their feet and their legs are so efficient, they move so quickly. If you tried to fix one of those on it you'd make a mess of it - we couldn't do it; we're so clumsy! Everything God has made is wonderful. God reigns over all.
I ask, then, this question: Why does God tell us this? Why do we have this picture? The answer is: because the way we think about life is related entirely to our view of God. Our happiness is related to our view of God. I think you could say there are four views of God; or, at any rate, four views you can have of the world connected with God:
One is what we call humanism. Humanism means that man is really in control of his own affairs; it is man who rules and who is in control. That always leads to great unhappiness. Humanism is a miserable outlook on life. A humanist can only be a pessimist. This is why so many people who were called modern poets when they went into the trenches in the First World War: they came back depressed and their poetry is full of depression. The culture in which we are now living is full of depression because people are basically humanists. If they're not humanists then they're what I'm going to call believers in the great 'power'. That is to say, the latest fad and fashion - that the world is controlled by 'the power'. You don't watch television programmes of that sort any more than I do, but that's apparently the phrase, the 'in' phrase: 'the power is in control', the 'power'. They're not meaning God, they're meaning the devil: some dark power. No wonder people are miserable, and hopeless. If they think the 'power' of the devil is really what controls this world, of course people are going to despair; of course they're going to commit suicide and rush into drugs and excess of drink. If this world is controlled by some blind power, of course people are miserable.
The same could be said of fatalism, which is the third one. Fatalism is: that over everything that happens there's a blind fate, a blind power which nothing controls but itself only. Fate, they say, is what controls this world. I say it again, no wonder society is miserable. If they think that the world is controlled by fate, or by Satan, or by man, there's no alternative but to be miserable, and hopeless, and depressed. "Let us eat and drink" because "tomorrow we die" (1 Corinthians 15, 32). That's the inescapable conclusion of those who hold these false views of life; but thank God the Bible tells us the truth! The Lord reigns!
I mention, very quickly, fours ways in which God reigns, according to the Bible. God, according to the Bible, reigns: in that He created the world out of nothing in six days. We mustn't bury that fact. People may not find it very agreeable or congenial, but that, undoubtedly, is what the Bible says - out of nothing, by His power, in six days - God made the heavens and the earth and all the fullness: because He reigns! He is King! He is Lord! He is clothed with majesty! He is from everlasting!
The second way in which God reigns is in day by day events. You may not realise this but every single thing about your life is controlled and overshadowed by the goodness of God. Even the unbeliever is controlled by the goodness of God, in this life: 'common grace' we call it. He is looking after His creatures.
The third way in which God reigns is in the way He leads men and women to a knowledge of Himself - we call it 'salvation'. God is directing people's lives; even when they don't want Him, He is bringing them to know Him. We had a wonderful story illustrating this in the Ministers' Conference. A dear friend of mine in America who's a very fine Christian came from a home where there was nothing. He's now a multi-millionaire. It's a story of rags to riches. More important than the wealth is that he became a great Christian early in life and he had a brother who didn't want to become a Christian. This is a story which is interesting to me now. This brother came home and discovered that the man that I have first referred to had become a Christian - deeply religious. Oh, he didn't want this, so he couldn't possibly live anywhere near this brother, who was so deeply devout; so this brother of his got a job on the other side of America - a thousand miles away - on a building site. The building site involved climbing up scaffolding and going onto the top of the roof to do some woodworking or something. When he was hammering away with his nails, and sawing away with his saw, another man who was also working up there came up to him. He said, 'Excuse me, could I interrupt you for a moment with your hammering?' 'Yeah, what do you want?' he said. 'I want to tell you about my Saviour,' he said. The man said, 'Oh no, don't say I've come all this way to find another of this kind.' You see the sovereignty of God! This man couldn't get away from the Gospel! Eventually he became a Christian. The Lord is sovereign over our lives! He reigns and rules!
You read again the life of the great John Newton, the slave dealer. He had a most 'charmed life', as we would say. God was looking after him wherever he was, and when he looked back, as a Christian, he could see for himself that God was totally in control of his life. He's as much in control of yours, and mine.
The fourth way in which God is in control is in the Day of Judgment. The righteous will be blessed in the Day of Judgment and the wicked will be punished in the Day of Judgment. God will see to that, and we can safely leave it in His hands.
2. A PICTURE OF THIS WORLD
We have a second picture at verse three. "The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea."
The first picture concerned God - His Lordship and Kingship. The second picture, which we have in verse three, concerns these floods. I must tell you what these floods are: it is a picture of mankind. God, here, compares the world of mankind to a sea, whose waves are forever rising and falling. Over and over again, three times (at least) we have this reference: "The floods have lifted up, O LORD"; "the floods have lifted up their voice"; "the floods life up their waves" - again, and again, and again. It is a reference to this world - humanity. Let me prove that this is what is meant.
I want to give you just two or three quotations from other parts of the Bible to show you that in the Word of God it is quite common to make an illustration from the sea and the ocean to humanity. Take these words from Isaiah, "The wicked," said Isaiah, "are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters" pour forth "mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked" (Isaiah 57, 20-21). You see the illustration? The wicked, he says, are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, always pouring forth their mire and their dirt. It's an illustration of humanity. Christ uses it in Luke 21. He says, at the end of the world there will be "distress of nations" on the earth. Now listen, "the sea and the waves roaring" (Luke 21, 25). You see the illustration? Distress of nations...the sea and the waves roaring. Or one more, from Jude verse 13. He talks about the wicked like this, in Jude 13: "Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame". It's very clear then, that what is meant in verse 3 (text) by the floods lifting up their waves is humanity, mankind, the world in which we live; which is similar to a sea for various reasons: it is so vast! The sea is a vast expanse of water; so the human race is a vast 'sea of faces'. We talk about that in English: 'a sea of faces', well, so it is; and humanity is never at rest.
When you switch on your radio tomorrow morning there will be some news. You never switch on the radio and the news reporter says, Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry I've nothing to say because there is no news today. Everything is fine; all the governments of the world are at peace; there's no war, no trouble, no murder, no theft; everyone is happy in the world. There never was such a day since Adam sinned. There's always news! Most of it is bad news! It's the sea of this humanity pouring out its mire and dirt and shame. Never at rest: sinful, unstable and insecure.
Here's a dangerous thing: the waves always challenge God. The way he puts it in verse 3: "the floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves." To put it simply, this picture means that mankind never stops challenging God. Although God is King, and Lord, and Sovereign over all, yet, the people of this world are forever challenging God; like the sea when it's in a roar, the waves frenziedly throw up their foam and their spray; it is a picture of what mankind is always trying to do: it is trying to challenge God. How does it challenge God? Well, it challenges His 'creatorship'. The world hates to think that we are nothing more than God's creatures. That's very offensive to man. That's why they invent ways of getting round it. No, no, no, they say, we're not created by God at all, that's an ancient idea which our great-grandfathers had in their ignorance. We are evolved from primitive slime; and they came from amino acids and all the rest of it. It was all a big accident. They're not quite clear amongst themselves as to how it all happened, but one thing they're confident of - there was no God! You see, the waves are challenging His creatorial power. They don't want Him to rule over them. They don't want His laws, the Ten Commandments. My, my, aren't they unpopular these days, the Ten Commandments. You'd think the Ten Commandments was just a load of nonsense the way people talk about them. My friends, could anything be more sensible? Thou shalt not kill, commit adultery. You're not allowed to ruin people's marriages, says God. Stick to the one you've got! and be content with him or her. Be faithful to one another! Could any advice be more sensible? No, no, people don't want it! They're challenging God in these ways: Why shouldn't I have a second woman? or a second husband? or a third or a fourth? So it goes on. But the Bible's commandments are wise, good, healthy and wholesome! Even the world, if it would tell you the truth (which it doesn't always want to do), it would admit that if only people would stick together and be faithful to one another, then there wouldn't be half the problems that the government has to pay billions of pounds every year to put right. Thou shalt not steal; Honour they father and mother; Remember the Sabbath day, and all the others. What is being said here is that the waves are forever challenging God: the waves lift up their voice, lift up their voice, against God.
It's even done in the church, I'm afraid. Even some people in the church like to challenge God. It's really done by the Roman Catholic Church like this. If I were a Roman Catholic priest giving you the mass, ladies and gentlemen, I would have a little piece of wafer in my hand the size of a penny, a little bit of bread. I would say some words (used to be in Latin, it's now in English): 'This is my body' - 'hocus corpus meum' in the Latin - and then it would cease to be bread and begin to be Christ - His very flesh, no less - and it's the same with the wine. Of course, it's very flattering to me as a priest (if I were one) to think that I can get a bit of bread and turn it into God! That's what it's doing! It's making God into plasticy. And the priest has power to make God! Can you think of anything more horrendously blasphemous? It's also done, I have to say, by Arminians, who believe in 'free will'. They say, God is sovereign all right, but God is too much of a Gentleman ever to force anyone to become a Christian against their will. No, no, God doesn't do that. He never puts forth His power to make men Christians against their will. That's Arminianism. There's a bit of truth in that, but let me explain to you. We never become Christians against our will - that's a false notion. God puts forth tremendous power into our mind and soul and will in order to give us a willingness to become Christians. He makes us willing! Nobody becomes a Christian against their will; but when we become Christians it's in spite of our natural opposition to Him! It's because of the grace which makes us willing. We fall in love with Christ through grace given to us out of the riches of His sovereignty, power and authority.
That's the second picture: a picture of mankind. My friends, how true it is in this twenty-first century. It's as true today as the day when David wrote these words. Nothing has changed. No difference. You see how up to date the Bible is. Absolutely right. No wonder it is the Word of God and called the Word of God. And, no wonder in the last verse, here, the Psalmist says, "Thy testimonies are very sure" (verse 5), absolutely reliable, infallible, trustworthy. You can trust the Bible, my friends, you can trust it through and through. You can't trust anything else, but you can trust this book.
3. SOMETHING THAT BRINGS THE TWO TOGETHER
Thirdly, and quickly, on to my last point which is at verse 4. Here, in verse 4, the Psalmist brings these two pictures together: the picture of the God who reigns, together with the picture of humanity which is always foaming out with its waves and its loud voice. He brings the two, I say, together. Listen, verse 4: "The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea". It's obvious what he's doing: he's bringing together into one picture these previous two pictures - God and the world. I can prove it by one word: this word 'mightier', which is an adjective in the comparative degree. When you say 'mightier' you have to follow it with the word 'than', mightier than something; and when you do that you're comparing two things: you're comparing, here, God, and humanity. So, what he's saying is this. God reigns but the world is forever challenging God's reign and trying to dethrone Him. My friends, men would kill God very happily if only they could. Do you believe that? If you haven't believed that, then you're still deficient in your understanding of the Word of God. The Bible tells us, without any hesitation, that if men could only reach God and take Him by the throat they would gladly murder Him. They hate Him, for His sovereignty. The Bible makes that so clear. If you still doubt whether I'm telling the truth, go back and remind yourself what they did when He came into this world in the person of Jesus Christ His Son. What did they do? Did they roll out a royal carpet for Him, and say, Hurrah, the Son of God has come? - not at all. As soon as He was born they sharpened their swords and killed all the baby boys of Bethlehem in case one of them should turn out to be the Messiah who would reign. And, what did they do to Him when He was to be put on the Cross? They gladly nailed Him there with all the spite of their wicked hearts. They hammered home the nails; and not content with seeing Him on the Cross, they stood under the Cross taunting Him: Ah ha, they said, Come down, if you're the Son of God. They gloated over Him. That's the 'waves' raising their voice against God. Of course, it wasn't successful. They're doing the same today. How? Well, let me give you some examples.
First of all, they're doing it with regard to the Lord's Day - Sunday, as they call it - the use and abuse of the Lord's Day. That's why there have got to be organisations like the Lord's Day Observance Society. You've got to have them. You've got to have a Society which raises up a word and a voice for God! I hope that you'll give it your full support whenever you can, and similar organisations. Commandment number four: "Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy" (Exodus 20, 8). You don't need me to tell you that it doesn't generally happen. What about the authority of parents - Commandment number five (Exodus 20, 12)? They're trying to stop parents even smacking children in their own home. There may be something good in that, mind you. Some parents go far too far. We're not called upon to hit our children on the head, or to throw them down on the ground. There are some parents who do that, and stab them with instruments, or burn them with cigarettes. We're not called upon to treat our children like that. But if our children do what is seriously wrong, the Bible says we are to correct them in a sensible way. It does them no harm to cry when they do wrong - no harm at all - if we act with restraint and parental responsibility as those who love our children. They're trying to stop that happening. It's really a defiance of God. The same is true with the multi-faith religion that's so popular today. Sadly, very sadly, even the Prince of Wales is on record as saying he would not like to be called Defender of the Faith, but the Defender of faiths - all of them: Islam, Judaism - they're all good enough for him, doesn't matter which one. That's not the Bible's view. God said there is only one religion, one way, one Saviour, one Gospel, one heaven, one Lord. The first three Commandments deal with this: Thou shalt have no other gods, no other ones beside Me or before Me. Thou shalt not make a graven image. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain (Exodus 20, 3-7). It's so obvious that what humanity is doing is challenging God.
I don't know if you've come across this in reading about the French Revolution, but the French people at the time of their famous revolution (round about the year 1798 and following), in those years they were sick of Christianity and they wanted a new religion. Mind you, I don't blame them for being sick of it, because what they saw of Christianity was sickening. It was the worst kind of Roman Catholicism and they were sick to death of it. The priests were rich, the people were poor, the church had terrific power and it was corrupt. But the people of France went too far. They tried to abolish Christianity; and they tried to make a new religion, called Reason - the goddess of Reason. They were looking for something better than Christ so they made this 'goddess of Reason'. They abolished Sunday as a Sabbath Day and they appointed a 'rest day', once every ten days or something. It didn't work. People were exhausted before the tenth day came. They couldn't keep it up. To show their contempt of the churches, the soldiers stabled the horses in the cathedrals and these beautiful French church buildings. Of course, it didn't last. People don't thirst after a goddess of Reason. They thirst for God, the true God, the real God!
What we're being told here is that the powers of this world will never, never, never succeed in dethroning God. He's like a lighthouse in the ocean, one of these great structures of solid stone built upon a rock. The waves may dash against God, and they might try to dethrone Him, but - no, listen to these words: "The Lord on high" - your God, my friends, and mine - "The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yeah, than the mighty waves of the sea" (verse 4). Shouldn't those words inspire us with comfort, as we go on in life? Nothing will dethrone God. Nothing will overthrow His power. Foolish mankind may dash against the bosses of His buckler, but they will never succeed - even for a split-second - in taking the reigns of sovereignty out of the hand of Jehovah - the living, true and great God!
I was a babe in the arms of my own beloved mother (who was not a Christian at the time). It was wartime in Manchester, with bombs coming down everywhere. She was on her own with me and she could hear the thud of bombs to the right and to the left. My father was working in a factory producing aeroplanes, so he was not at home. It was a lonely and terrifying existence for a young mother. She wasn't yet a Christian. She told me often, as a child, this story. She was under the table when shrapnel was coming through the tiles of the roofs of the houses. Whole streets of houses were damaged, and the German bombs came down as a string on top of them. You never knew who would be alive next day. In a panic of mind this word came to her: "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46, 10). She never was afraid again. Years later she came, by grace, to know this God for herself, and, I believe, eventually to die in the faith of the Gospel.
As I close, three things in verse 5: the three important things of life.
I think that's the way I would put it. The Psalmist, you see, is telling us now what are the important things of life? In view of all that's gone before, in this Psalm, what can we single out in our world in which we live as being permanent and important? He tells us, I think, three things.
First of all, the Bible: "Thy testimonies are very sure." There's where our strength should be put. Dear friends, let it be said of you and of me, that our meditation is in the law of the Lord, day and night (Psalm 1, 2). We can't be reading our Bible literally every moment, we have work to do, but we can, in every spare moment of life, be like the needle of the compass that's goes pointing north; our minds return to the truth; we look at life through the truth; we get back to the Bible in our churches, in our fellowships, in our homes, in our worship and on our own. The truth of God is what occupies our minds. "Thy testimonies are very sure." Let us make the Bible our constant study and our eternal delight - because it is faithful. The picture the Bible gives of God is true. The picture the Bible gives of mankind is equally true. You will be blessed with happiness if you take this biblical view of life to yourself: "Thy testimonies are very sure."
The second thing which is vitally important for us to concentrate on, is this word: holiness. "Holiness becometh thine house." In the light of everything we've said in this Psalm we must study to be holy men and women. The holier we are the happier we are because holiness and happiness always go together. They are the two sides of the same coin. Holiness means likeness to God; and the more like to God we are - inevitably - the more happiness we have, because God will pour joy upon our hearts! "Grow in grace," says the Bible, "and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3, 18). The more you and I honour God, the more He will honour you, and me.
The third and final thing which is important is: God's house: "Holiness becometh thine house, O LORD, for ever" - the worship of God. People will never be happy when they ignore the worship of God. They cannot be. How could they be? They're leaving the great matter of life aside! When you look at the Old Testament - take Abraham as an example - what did he do? We know his story. He lived in Ur of the Chaldees, and he was called by God to leave Ur and come to Canaan. Whenever he stopped travelling, what did he do? He didn't build a football pitch or something to amuse himself with. What did Abraham do? He built an altar. The first priority of life, he built an altar of stones to worship this great and lordly King of Heaven (Genesis 12, 7; 12, 8; 13, 4; 13, 18). That's the emphasis he had. Same with David, the writer of the Psalms: it is God whom he praises everywhere; whether he was looking after sheep, or going against Goliath, or into battle, or being crowned, or whatever it was, David was always lifting up his holy hands - to God. Above all, what about our blessed Saviour Himself? Even as a child, at the age of twelve. There are children here the age of twelve or perhaps older than that. Maybe you say to yourself, but all of what the minister says today is to do with grown up people, not me, I'm just a child. Take Jesus, at the age of twelve; He went to the Temple for the first time, in Jerusalem (Luke 2, 40-52). His parents were there, His mother and His foster father; and then they went a day's journey home, thinking He was in the company. When they discovered He wasn't there they were very afraid, and they went back to Jerusalem, looking high and low for Him - a child of twelve in a city the size of Jerusalem, with a million people or something in it - where do they find Him? Not amusing Himself on a sports field. Not even amusing Himself in the library like a genius studying all the books but, in the Temple of God - worshipping. His mother and father came and looked for Him. Why were you afraid, he said, Did you not know I must be about my father's business (Luke 2, 49)? The great, the glorious God, I'm about His business.
So, my friend, as we close today, let us take comfort and assurance from this. The waves may lift up their voice, even these two thousand and first year century waves; they may lift up their voice. They may now do it by email or the Internet as well as the television and all these wonderful modern inventions; but He that sits on high is mightier than the noise of all these voices, and all these waters.
God's truth will stand when men will fall. His kingdom will come! Christ will return! The dead will be raised! The Judgment will take its place according to His will. Let us, therefore, believe in this Saviour, to the saving of our own souls.
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