“Where’s the Bless?”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
God our Father,
Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all that is:
Thank You for calling us to faith,
for planting Your Word in our hearts,
and for delivering us from our sin.
Thank You for calling us to Your service,
for giving us the ability to read Your Word
and share this good news with others. Through Christ, our Savior, Amen.
Last Thursday, I was stunned, by what I read on Social Media – and I couldn’t believe it. The President of the United States of America resorted to expletives to describe a whole continent of people.
Now, I’m not a complete idiot, I know that people in power might have a “dark” side, and a mouth that would be embarrassing if accidentally used in the wrong place. Right? Every father learns to watch his language when they hear their children cuss. Those who are old enough have heard the tapes kept by President Nixon 45 years ago have heard a man in Office say things that deserved a severe bar of soap!
But what our current president said on Thursday was shocking. And the Spokesman-Review, surprisingly, printed every word of it! And it wasn’t just the “filthy language”; it was the filthy opinion of the people!
I was forced, in wonder, to ask: Where’s the human dignity? Where’s the presidential poise? Where’s the self-respect? Where’s the respect for humanity?
I do not want that to be the topic of our worship experience … but neither can it simply be ignored. Sometimes we are caught off guard by the way things start … but we expect something by the end, right?
Remember that 1980s Wendy’s TV commercial with the three old ladies lifting the top bun of a hamburger, and the littlest old lady shouts, “Where’s the beef?”? It started with a big bun, and ended with a tiny burger. Wendy’s promised that that would never be the way their hamburger story ended!
Last week we read from Proverbs 1:7 which tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Fear the Lord? Be terrified of a loving God? That is the start of the story: The fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of knowledge.” But fear is not what we usually think of when we think of knowing God! So, today’s Sermon: “Where’s the Bless?”
We just sang these words … do they not fill us with fear? We sang:
He knows my name. (yeah, but I just wanna be anonymous)
He knows my every thought. (even the thought I had this morning when I was cut off in traffic? Even the
thought I had when I read the transcript of President Trump’s undenied words? That scares me, a
But the song continues: He sees each tear that falls, and He hears me when I call! (There’s the Bless!)
Listen to these words from Psalm 112. Psalm 112:1-10 ….—-
1 Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands.
2 Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.
4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
5 Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.
6 Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.
7 They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
9 They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.
10 The wicked will see and be vexed, they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing. (NIV)
Fear of the Lord is where we start! He is Almighty God, Creator of the universe! Fear is the only reasonable response to hearing His voice, to knowing His perfectly holy character, power, authority, and expectations of those who follow Him!
But fear is not where the story ends! The Psalmist here writes: Blessed are those who fear the Lord! And then, in a one phrase word-picture, he tells what it means to fear the Lord: “those who find great delight in His commandments!”
If I don’t fear the Lord, then I don’t even have the beginning of what I need to have to know God. And if I claim Christianity as my source of my strength, the hope of my faith, but I don’t delight in His commandments, then what right do I have to pray, what right do I have to expect God to hear me, to listen, what right do I have to hope for a blessing?
We are, therefore, forced to ask ourselves whether or not I fear the Lord, whether or not I delight in His Word, in His expectations, in His beatitudes of Matthew 5’s Sermon on the Mount. Do we? Do you?
The Psalmist says that we will be blessed. Those who fear God (who know Him, who acknowledge that He is all-powerful, holy, sovereign) and who also believe His promise to deliver them from God’s righteous wrath and judgment will be blessed. That is what God has promised!
After the promise comes a list of the blessings we might expect. But the promise of blessings is conditional on our “fearing God”. This is not the same as having to earn the blessings – the blessings are a free gift from God, to all who receive His Son and believe in His name. But the condition is that we do that!
It’s like when your best friend gives you a gift – it’s yours for free. You need do nothing to deserve it. Your friend loves you and wants you to have the gift. But … if you do not accept it, if you do not receive the gift, you can’t have it. God’s blessings are completely unearned, but they are not ours just because God gives them. Do we delight in His commandments? Do we fear the Lord? Have we received His Son, do we believe in His name?
Blessings are ours.
But look at those blessings:
- Wealth and riches
- Hope and joy
- Goodness and confidence
- And afraid of nothing this world might bring us – poverty, sickness, loneliness – afraid of nothing from this world!
Our lives of faith, of delighting in God’s commandments reveal themselves with our generosity for those around us who are in need – including people from countries like Haiti and “those countries from Africa”! Including the homeless and downtrodden, including the drug-addicted and even the drug-dealers. Steadfast in trusting the Lord!
God’s commandments reflect His perfect intrinsic holiness; and our inability to keep them reminds us why this holy God is to be feared! But perfect obedience is not what required! “Delight in His commandments” is what is required – and that simply means that we receive the gift of salvation through Christ’s work on the cross!
We fear God because of who He is! But we need never fear His presence or His power because His wrath and judgment has been turned aside at Calvary!
The fear of the Lord then remains a great blessing. Knowing that Jesus died for my sins, in my place, reminds me that God is, indeed to be feared (He takes sin seriously), and yet He is absolute love (of which the cross is our constant sign).
And now that my sins are washed away, I can actually obey God, knowing that He is pleased with my pitiful efforts because I am accepted in the person and work of His Son.
Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a grace-filled place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.
Riddlebarger, Kim; “The Blessings of Fearing God”; TableTalk; January 2018; Pp. 20-23.