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Psalm 139:13-16; Mark 10:13-16
Promises of Grace: “The Breath of Life”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Lord Jesus, we come to You today hungering for Your Holy Spirit to fill us with Your power and love, with Your grace and mercy, with Your truth and wisdom. Fill that need today, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
There is an almost endless score of ways to illustrate the truth that to God your life truly matters. And that statement is true no matter whom I might be talking to. In the news over the last couple of weeks we have witnessed, and maybe even participated in, things like the “women’s marches” in cities all across this nation. Last weekend Spokane had a March for Life downtown. In mid-January there was the Martin Luther King March demonstrating the truth that all cultures and ethnicities’ lives matter. Yesterday some of us attended a meeting at Fourth Memorial Church where we heard stories about refugees and their lives.
But here’s the illustration that hit home for me. And I have been given permission to share this story, so I want to thank Jack Stewart for allowing me this privilege. The truth is, many of you could exchange Jack and Betty’s names with your own, or your parents, and while some of the details might be different the story really is the same story.
Jack and Betty are preparing to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in five months, and they have loved each other and supported each other and conquered life difficulties with each other for all those 70 years. And the only time they had been separated was during Jack’s days in the Navy…. Until this year. Jack had hip surgery on November 1 and had to spend almost two months in a care center while he was recovering; he came home in late December. And last Tuesday Betty was moved to another care center for her dementia. And when Jack shared the pain and struggle of that decision, which he believes is necessary and best for her, all I could hear was how much she mattered to him. It felt like he had the wind knocked out of him, like he had lost his breath of life.
We are halfway through this short series looking at some of the Bible’s teaching about God’s Promises of Grace; today we look at His promise of loving every human life.
Listen with me to King David’s words in Psalm 139 and then to the story about Jesus and the little children in Mark 10. Listen for how God places value on His people:
Psalm 139 ….—-
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
At the Thursday morning Bible Study we have been noticing a few examples of poetic beauty in the form called “chiasm”. That’s where a piece of poetry or literature is written with some ascending and descending parallel points, with a peak in the center that turns out to be the main point.
Psalm 139 is an example of this (many of the Psalms are). In English it’s not a perfect chiasm, but we can still catch the flow. At the near center of this Psalm is verse 14 – that’s what is printed on our bulletin covers, and what I included on your Sermon Notes page (along with the whole stanza that surrounds verse 14).
Some of you have already done this, but look at that stanza, verses 13-16, and circle all the places where the word “You” or “Your” is used. I count seven times in these 4 verses. In your opinion, what does this suggest about David (he was the author) and his attitude toward God?
[God is the Creator – responsible for life – intimately personal approach to creation – artistic – no accident/mistake – from conception to completion]
I know I just read this Psalm, and some of you listened without finding it in your Bibles to follow along, but notice the literary masterpiece this Psalm is. In four chiastic stanzas David articulates four amazing truths about God and how He values human life:
Verses 1-6 displays God’s omni-SCIENCE & AUTHORITY – His complete knowledge of everything, and of course, He creates everything! And His authority over His creation! In ten days we will hold our third Talent Show in the last 12 years, and some of you will present a piece of artwork or handicraft, and you will have full, intimate knowledge of it and authority over how it is to be handled, because you made it!
Verses 7-12 shows us God’s omni-PRESENCE & LOVE – He is everywhere. All the time. And His love for His people never diminishes!
Verses 13-16 (these are our verses today) reveal God’s perfect PLAN & PURPOSE for us – “all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before even one of them came to be!”
And the closing stanza, verses 17-24 (most pastors avoid these verses – they talk about David’s wish that God would just kill those that disagree with him, those who slander God’s good name, how much David hates them) – but then it closes with a prayer for God’s WILL & WAY to be in our hearts – “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts … if there is any offensive way in me, lead me into the way everlasting.” I see that as true confession, repentance, and seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness!
Who gives us the Breath of Life? God does! And as those created in His image, and as followers of His only begotten Son, it becomes our responsibility to find ways to honor all the human lives around us – especially those that suffer.
Look with me at this short story in Mark’s Gospel. Mark 10:13-16….—-
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
This is one of those stories that appears, almost identically, in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). And as you probably know, Mark is the shortest Gospel (by several chapters); but what might be a surprise is that he tells this particular story with more detail than any of the others. He includes one emotional response by Jesus and one behavioral response by Jesus that both Matthew and Luke leave out:
- In verse 14 we see Jesus’ emotional response to this story of the parents bringing all their insignificant little brats to Jesus while He’s in the middle of talking with important grown-ups! And the NIV says, “When Jesus saw this He was INDIGNANT!” One could translate that INCENSED! ANGRY! FED UP! And so He said, “No, no, no, no. You let these children come to me – do nothing that would get in their way! Remove every obstacle!” Why? Because, as Psalm 139 points toward, every one of these children are made for the Kingdom of God! You love them with everything you’ve got!
- And in verse 16 we see Jesus’ behavioral response: Jesus “TOOK the children in His arms, and placed His hands on them, and blessed them!” As Christians, that is a command to us to do likewise!
It does not matter who the other person is – God created him, God loves her, and God expects us to take them in our arms and to bless them – snot-faced, drug-addicted, foul-mouthed, from every tribe, tongue and nation, from every socio-economic background, from every political and even religious perspective – bless them and help them see they are created for God’s Kingdom.
Of course, before we can do that, we have to believe it about ourselves first – and then believe that God’s Promises of Grace extend to people different from me! God cares about your life – and God cares about every one of our neighbors, around the globe, just as much!
Gracious God, Grace-filled God, Grace-giving God, we recognize our own idolatry – self-sufficiency, simple lack of trust – and today we bow before You as the King of all kings, the Creator of the universe, the only One with the authority and the ability to actually conquer sin; and today, we choose to prioritize above all else Your Word and Your will for our lives, we want to experience Your power and love in brand new ways, and so we seek after Your Kingdom purposes and today we start to place our confidence in Your promise of grace. Show us Your love today, and help us to show Your love to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
McLaren, Ross, editor; Advanced Bible Study: Winter 2002-2003; Lifeway Christian Resources; Pp. 66-73.