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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Give to the LORD glory and strength!
Text:LD 47 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Worship
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-10-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 66:1,2                                                                                     

Hy 7:1,4  [after Nicene Creed]

Reading – Psalm 29; Belgic Confession Article 2

Ps 46:1,2,4,5

Sermon – Lord’s Day 47

Ps 29:1,2,3

Hy 84:1,2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, sometimes we use words for which we don’t really know the meaning. We talk about “climate change” or “gender identity” just because everyone else is. But if someone asked us to actually define those terms, we’d have a hard time.

Also when it comes to the language of our faith, we have this problem. For here too, there are words that everyone is using. We hear them mentioned in sermons. We read them in the Scriptures. We come across them at Bible study. Words like “atonement” and “covenant” and “sanctification.” Beyond a vague sense of what these words mean, we might not be able to say much about them.

One particular word in this category is something we say almost every day. We even say it while we’re doing a very important activity, while we’re praying to God. The word is this: “hallowed.” As in, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your Name.” What does that really mean? What are you doing when you “hallow” something?

My dictionary tells me this, “Hallow: verb; to make something holy, to honour something as holy.” Well, we can scratch meaning #1 off the list: We know that God is holy already; He doesn’t need us to make His name holy. But to honour Him as holy—that sounds better. As we begin our prayer, we are asking that God would be recognized and honoured for who He is, that He would be glorified as the holy Lord.           

For God is set apart in his glory, unique in his majesty and surpassing greatness—so much so that He is being constantly praised by the angels in heaven as “holy, holy, holy.” This is the extraordinary God we’re allowed to call upon, and the God who commands us to hallow his Name. “Sanctify, glorify and praise me,” says the LORD, “Glorify me in your prayers, and in all your life.” Let’s consider how Jesus teaches this in the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, and in Psalm 29, on this theme:

Give to the LORD glory and strength!

  1. the voice of the LORD
  2. the cry of his people

           

1) the LORD’s voice: When you meet some people, one of the things they want to do is give you their business card. “Call me,” they say, and there on the card is all the contact information that you could ever want. And on that same business card—or maybe on their LinkedIn profile—is their official position and credentials. This fellow’s a mortgage broker with a degree in finance. This one’s a real estate broker with fifteen years of experience and who’s been a top producer six times.

Point is, these people want you to know them. They put themselves “out there,” because they want you to see that they’re qualified, that they’re the ones you should ring for business. That’s a normal movement: when we know someone’s qualifications or his credentials, that inspires confidence, and we just might turn to them for help.

So it is with God: knowledge inspires trust. You won’t have any confidence in God, if you don’t really know God. You won’t turn to God, if you don’t have a sense of what He can do for you. Therefore in our activity of hallowing of God’s Name, this needs to come before anything else. As the Catechism says, “Grant us first of all that we may rightly know you” (Q&A 122). We’ll only honour God’s Name, or trust Him, when we see how impressive God is!

And for us that’s not an optional exercise. There’s no excuse for failing to hallow. For there can be no question about God’s accomplishments or integrity. The LORD has left us his “calling card,” if you will, He’s given us access to his profile. We can know God very well, because God speaks to us.

Now, mentioning God’s speaking makes us first think of the Bible. The Bible is often called “the Word,” after all—it’s an expression from God’s own mouth, words breathed out by his Holy Spirit and written down for us by the hand of human authors. In the Word, God speaks to us at length, and He unfolds so many different aspects of his glory.

But there’s another testimony that God has given, another “Word” He has spoken. And that is the “Word” of creation. We’re probably all familiar with the opening of Psalm 19, where David writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork” (v 1). He says that there’s a speech going on whenever we walk outside, a continuous heavenly sermon all about the majesty of the LORD: “Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge” (v 2).           

That vast sky, those circling planets, the radiant stars and moon, the brilliant sun—they all reveal the God who made them. Through their fine detail, through their sheer size, through their stunning beauty, the heavens are telling about God’s power and wisdom. Their order and orbits are witnesses to the Lord’s sovereignty over all, and his faithfulness to what he created. Everyone can see it, everyone can hear it: “There is no speech, nor are there words, where their voice is not heard.” Whatever your language, whatever your literacy level, you can hear creation’s song to its glorious Maker.

Listen to what the Belgic Confession also says about this testimony of creation, “[These things are] before our eyes as a most beautiful book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many letters leading us to perceive clearly the invisible things of God” (Art. 2). The holy God discloses Himself to us, in the book of Scripture, and in the book of creation.

What is most amazing is when you place those two books side by side. With the one we can make sense of the other, and gain deeper insight into the other. For Scripture teaches us to go out under the night sky and to consider the stars, or to bend down and admire the wildflowers. Go and listen carefully, and watch closely, and stand humbly—because this great God, the one who created and upholds all things great and small, this magnificent God is also your God and your Saviour, through Christ Jesus!

With that truth in mind, we listen to Psalm 29. For if anything resounds in this Psalm, it’s the “voice of the LORD.” David keeps telling us what we’re hearing not only when we open the Scriptures, but when we step out into creation: we are hearing the living voice of God.

Remember that the one who wrote this Psalm was definitely a man of “the great outdoors.” And he was outdoors, not for leisure and recreation, for a couple weeks of camping in the security of a camper-van. David had to be outside, month after month, tending the flocks and herds of his father on the hillsides of Judea. The writer of this Psalm had lots of time to meditate on the words of the night sky, ample opportunity to listen to “the voice of the LORD.”

And it wasn’t all peace and tranquility. When we think of the beauty of creation, we picture a blazing sunset over the gently swelling waters of the ocean. We picture noble mountain peaks, solid and reassuring. But when you’re outside all the time, not by choice but by necessity, you encounter the “other side” of creation. The time will come when that beautiful sky is ripped apart by a violent storm, when that calm ocean looks angry and threatening. Soon you will see how severe creation can be.

We can well imagine David the young shepherd boy, hiding in the shelter of a rock as massive thunderclaps crash and as rain pelts down. Such events were the most powerful forces that were known by the ancient peoples: violent thunderstorms, along with rattling earthquakes, and the raging sea. Confronted with such things, people trembled with fear.

And has that changed today? Today we might point to automatic weapons and guided missiles as powerful tools of death and destruction. Yet far more common, and still terrifying, and just as deadly, are those simple brute forces of God’s creation: the earthquakes and volcanoes, the hurricanes and the bushfires. Faced with these things, mankind still has to admit that he’s powerless, that he can do so little to defend himself.

David might’ve been trembling in the storm, but he’s also listening. For this is the voice of the LORD! It’s God’s voice “over the waters” (v 3). It’s God’s voice within the thunder. It’s the voice of the LORD “breaking the cedars,” even “the mighty cedars of Lebanon” (v 5). It’s his voice “shaking the wilderness” (v 8), and “stripping the forests bare” (v 9).

Hear how it’s simply God’s voice, doing it all—a voice of great power! Just like at the beginning of time, all God needs to do is speak, and it comes about. God issues his command, and a massive hurricane rolls toward Florida. God speaks, and the earth under Mexico rattles and rolls. God orders from his holy throne, and a tsunami rises out of the Pacific. “The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty” (v 4).

These are awesome displays of God’s holiness. There aren’t the peaceful creation scenes that we love, but these are scenes of violence and destruction. Yet David gets the message. He hears the voice, and understands that this is the LORD. This is his glory! God is showing his Name to be holy. “In all your works,” the Catechism says, “shine forth your almighty power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy, and truth” (Q&A 122).

That’s a long list of divine credentials. God has infinite power, He has flawless wisdom, unfailing goodness, perfect righteousness, steadfast mercy, and eternal truth. Next to this great God, there’s no competitor. That’s even how David begins, by throwing down a challenge to all “the mighty ones” (v 1). Just who are “the mighty ones?” He’s probably referring to the gods of the surrounding nations, “the mighty ones” that were thought to do so much.

David pictures God among the gods: a heavenly meeting room, if you will, with the LORD surrounded by Baal, and Dagon, and Asherah, and Molech and so many others. These were the gods who were reputed to send the rain, and wealth, and military victory. The Canaanite god Baal was even called the “Lord of thunder,” for he was said to be the divine power that was animating every thunderstorm.

But in the presence of the true God, all pretenders must bow and give Him the glory. They must hallow his Name! “Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due to his name” (vv 1-2). David says to these so-called mighty ones: “Submit to God what is rightfully his! Confess that all glory and strength and honour belong to Him alone!” David sees that in the truest sense, God is holy—He is set apart, without comparison or competitor.

God in unchanging, so God’s voice still goes out from his holy throne. His word is spoken, and it is done. In this way, God is still busy humbling the gods of the nations. He still shames the false gods and ridicules the empty idols.

Do you see how the LORD humbles the nations and their gods? He does it by sending tornadoes and typhoons. He does it, with massive earthquakes and fiery volcanoes. But God also humbles the nations and their gods with an economic crisis, or war, or a new strain of disease. It can happen so quickly that a mighty leader is brought low, or an economy collapses, or a disaster strikes—and people are deeply troubled and left searching for hope. “In all his works,” the LORD shows that He alone deserves the honour and praise. Our God shows again and again that He holds this world in his hands, and that He is the only stability and only Lord.

By his works, God is reminding us that it’s not presidents or prime ministers who get things done. God is telling us that it’s not the United Nations that will put things on track. Our hope is not that some new technology will save us from disaster, or that the human spirit will deliver us from conflict. Don’t trust in the “mighty ones,” and don’t look to them for help. The LORD is telling us that He is God, and Him alone! “Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, give unto the LORD glory and strength.”

Beloved, just as David did, we have to learn to listen. Open your ears, and listen to the voice of the LORD in creation, and listen to his unmistakable voice in this world. Listen, for God is telling us about Himself. He is shining forth “in all his works” who He is as God.

And He’s also telling us to do some cross-referencing. God is telling us to place the book of creation alongside the book of Scripture. Place the two beside each other, and see that this awe-inspiring, wonder-working, miracle-performing God, is our God. This glorious Lord of the universe is our Father, and this great King of kings is our Saviour. The One who knows all the stars by name knows your name! You and I can depend on his power, and trust in his wisdom. You and I can find refuge in his grace.

 

2) his people’s cry: In eleven short verses of Psalm 29, we find the name of God almost twenty times. It’s all about the LORD! There’s almost no room left for anyone else. And that’s how it should be. God’s voice overpowers every other.

Yet there is a human voice here. It’s so brief, you might overlook it. In the midst of all that rolling thunder, breaking cedars, quaking mountains and shaking forests—in the midst of all the beautiful commotion of who God is and what God can do, his people respond. This is what the LORD wants, after all. He left his card, described his credentials, and He has encouraged his people, “Call me.”

That’s what they do. It’s in verse 9, at the same time that a mighty forest is being destroyed: “The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth, and strips the forests bare. And in his temple everyone says, ‘Glory!’” Just imagine that cry going up from a crowd in the temple courts. Maybe you’ve heard an audience do this before, at a sporting event or a concert, when everyone shouts out the same cheer—it can be impressive. This is what happens in the temple in Psalm 29: everyone cries out as one man: “Glory!”

Now, it’s actually a bit surprising, that this is all they say: “Glory!” After hunkering down for a violent thunderstorm, or after watching a video of a volcano erupting, we might use all kinds of words: “That was incredible. I felt that noise rattle in my bones. It was totally epic!”

But the Psalm 29 worshipers know the truth of Ecclesiastes 5:2, “God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.” They are humbled by God’s majesty, humbled by the works of his hands. They know that human speech just can’t capture it, that any human response is going to be inadequate. So these worshipers simply bow in his presence, and they tell of the majesty that is God’s alone: “Glory!”

What are they doing? They are hallowing God’s Name! They honour the LORD as holy. They acknowledge that God’s is the glory and strength, God’s is the goodness and righteousness, God’s is the mercy and truth. They worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. For David, for these temple worshipers—and for us—the mighty deeds of God inspire humble and heartfelt praise for his Name.

For we know God as Lord. We know Him as Father. We know that His absolute and everlasting rule is carried out on our behalf. We know that even though He’s exalted in majesty, He still thinks of us, his little children. We know that in all his self-sufficient glory, this God is yet committed to our salvation, and devoted to our blessedness.

This indeed, is the crowning comfort when so much in this world seems changing and uncertain. There are storms. There are disasters. There are famines. And not just on a global scale, and not just to the poor people who live far away—these are the things that can happen to us. In our lives, there can be a deep distress because of poor health. There is the anxiety of financial hardship. There can be a time of great unrest in your family. A period when everything is shifting, when it feels like the very soil beneath our feet is shaking. There can be times when the waves are pounding your head, day after day.

Even then, this is the voice of the LORD. This is God, issuing his good commands from heaven. For all things come to us not by chance, but by his will. This is the Triune God, fulfilling his perfect plan for our lives. And we might tremble with David while that storm rages and the rain pelts down. We might tremble, but we do so, resting in the shelter of the Rock!

For we know that it’s our God who is directing all things. We know that just as suddenly as we were plunged into this trouble, so quickly God can pull us out of it. God simply has to speak, and we’ll be saved. And even if He doesn’t restore us, we know that our God is faithful. This God has promised to go with us, and He never breaks his Word.

So what is our response? How do you echo Psalm 29? When you hear the voice of the LORD, be sure to confess it: “Glory to God!” When you see the handiwork of God in this world, and in your life, and in his Word, then hallow his Name! Give Him praise and honour.

That’s how the Psalm ends. After listening in on the heavenly council of God among the gods, after watching the weather patterns sweeping across the globe, after monitoring the currents of the seven seas and the shifting of the plates underneath the earth, we zoom in. We zoom in on a very small nation, on an insignificant people. It is the church.

And we see that God hasn’t forgotten them. In his upholding of the entire universe, not once has God neglected this nation that He chose for Himself. For David writes this as a last word, “The LORD will give strength to his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace” (v 11). Do you see the two gifts that God will always give us? Strength and peace. It’s everything we need: strength for the road ahead, and peace with God up above. Strength to endure, and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ. We belong to Him, and we’re precious to Him.

So this again is our response: We all cry “Glory! Glory to God!” Today on the Lord’s day, this is what we do: We worship God. But then when we go home, and when we begin a new week of work and study, we need to keep echoing those words. “Glory to God alone. Glory to God in everything I do!” Such is the kind of prayer that Jesus teaches us, “Grant that we may so direct our whole life—our thoughts, words, and actions—that your Name is not blasphemed because of us but always honoured and praised” (Q&A 122).

Because if you really know God, then you need to stand in awe of Him. If you know God, then the first purpose of your life needs to be hallowing his Name. If you really know God, then your first concern must always be this: How can I bring glory to this almighty God? And how can I do so better? How can I use my gifts for Him, and my opportunities, and my time, and my possessions, my body and my brain, my heart and my soul—how can I, more and more, bring glory to God, and hallow his Name?

Beloved, let’s do nothing to win the praise and compliments of other people. Do nothing out of custom or tradition, or just because it’s expected. Let’s do nothing to serve ourselves, and let us shun all the false gods of this world. But let all the glory be reserved for the one true and living God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To Him be the glory, today and forever!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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