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Balm Psalms: Week 4

Mosaic Boston

Religion & Spirituality

Audio Transcript: Good morning. Or for us here today, good afternoon. My name is Andy. I'm one of the pastors here at Mosaic, along with Pastor Jan and Pastor Shane. This is a prerecorded service. We are meeting online right now this Sunday, because the temple where we meet has plans and preparations for one of their great annual holidays. So, we are meeting online. We look forward to seeing you next week. Thank you for just being flexible, after a long season of being flexible. But we pray that the Lord would continue to work profoundly through the mediums of technology that he's given to us. Today, we are continuing. Before I go into that, if you are new to Mosaic, you can still sign one of our connection cards. You can click on a link and fill one out. If you want to learn certain information about the church, the body here, our values, community groups, fill that out. We want to get to know you. We will follow up with you. Please do that. But today, we are continuing in our series, Balm Psalms. We've been going through this series through the Psalms, talking about how the Psalms are like balm for our soul. They're soothing. They meet us. They give us words to our deepest and strongest emotions in the Christian walk. Additionally, they drop balms of truth for us. Today, we're going through Psalm 22. Growing up, my mom used a lot of skin products. And some skin products, you just have to use over and over and over again for days before they make a difference, before they improve your condition, before they improve that cracked skin. Psalm 22 is one that you really have to spend time with. You have to meditate on. If you don't know, this is the Psalm that is typically referred to on Black Friday. Good Friday, excuse me. On Good Friday. And on Good Friday, we typically read about the afflictions of Jesus Christ, as he approaches the cross, and he's on the cross. Often, the pastors, preachers will spend time quoting Psalm 22. Psalm 22 is the most quoted Psalm, most quoted, most alluded to Psalm in the New Testament. This is a crucial Psalm in the history, in God's redemptive history. And so, just want to delve right into it. The best way to really take in this Psalm is to read it by yourself. Meditate on it. Spend time with it. Go back and forth in between the New Testament and the Old Testament. When you spend time with that, you see this is a Psalm written 1000 years before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Before crucifixion was even invented, crucifixion is predicted here. There's a lot of debate when you dig into the commentaries. Does this prophesy? Was David functioning as a prophet when he wrote the Psalm? Yes, it should be blatant. It should be obvious. You should read this Psalm with me right now, and think that you're in the New Testament. Today, I'm not going to exposit it. It's a little too long for me to take you through all 30 or so verses in one sitting. I want to pull out a crucial theme that is a part of this text. Would you please listen as I read the word of God? Psalm 22. "To the choirmaster, according to the Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. "Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted. They trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued. In you they trusted and were not put to shame. "But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me. They make mouths at me. They wag their heads. 'He trusts in the Lord, let him deliver him. Let him rescue him, for he delights in him.' "Yet you are he who took me from the womb. You made me trust you at my mother's breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. "Many bulls encompass me. Strong bulls of Bashan surround me. They open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax. It is melted within my breast. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws. You lay me in the dust of death. "For dogs encompass me. A company of evildoers encircles me. They have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. "But you, O Lord, do not be far off. O you my help, come quickly to my aid. Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog. Save me from the mouth of the lion. You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen. "I will tell of your name to my brothers. In the midst of the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him. All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel. For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. "From you comes my praise in the great congregation. My vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied. Those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever. All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. "All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship. Before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him. It shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation. They shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it." This is the word of our Lord. Please pray with me. Heavenly Father, we praise you for this text. We praise you for just the details that you have laid before us to show the lengths, the depths that you went, that Jesus Christ endured, to preserve your name and provide a means of salvation for us. Lord, we praise you for your holiness. We praise you for working for your great name, and inviting us into relationship you with great compassion. Heavenly Father, we pray right now. Use this time of worship together to give us a grand vision of you, in all your glory and all your holiness. Give us a healthy fear. Shake us to the core, that we may worship you properly. Holy Spirit, please be with us. Correct and sharpen our hearts, as we delve into your word. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen. If you know the tiniest bit of Christianity, you'll know that the Bible claims that God is holy. You might have distant memories of singing Holy, Holy, Holy. Lord God Almighty, if you grew up in the Protestant church. If you're from a Catholic background, you might be triggered by the word holy, to think of first holy communion. If you like history, you might think of Holy Wars. Sadly, some of you, many of you, when you hear the word holy, you might only think of ways that you've sinfully used it in a profane manner at a time of exasperation. Whatever your association with the word holy, if you've been in the church for any amount of time, the word has probably become commonplace to you, a common part of speech, something you encounter a lot in God's word, and hear and say in prayer in small groups. But when we think about the word holy, the sad reality is that a lot of us in the church don't understand God's holiness. And we downplay its importance in our lives. That's wrong. Isaiah 6:3 is a passage that highlights the importance of God's holiness. The prophet Isaiah, at the time of his calling, he receives a vision from the Lord, sitting on his throne in all of his glory, with seraphim, these heavenly beings on either side of him. One seraph calls out to the other seraph and says, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory." We can't speed past the repetitive nature of holy made here. It wasn't sufficient for the seraph to say, "God is holy." The seraph had to use the word holy three times to capture the depth and breadth of God's holiness. In Hebrew culture at that time, to say something twice was to make clear that this was really important. The listener here should focus in upon hearing something repeated twice. To say something three times was to attach supreme, superlative importance to something. In all of scripture, the only quality of God that is mentioned three times in succession is holy, holy, holy. Isaiah says, God is not simply holy or even holy, holy, He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, justice, justice, justice. It does say that he is holy, holy, holy. And that's not enough. The whole earth is full of his glory. When we think of holy, holy, holy, it's supposed to stretch the boundaries of our intellect, stretch the boundaries of our imagination, whatever you think of when you hear the word holy, hear that God is holy, you need to know that God is in an entirely different category of holiness. He's much holier than you ever thought he could be. When we think here, holy, holy, holy, it's meant to humble us with the realization that God is different from us. That God is infinitely greater than anyone and everyone who has ever lived, who has ever existed. This is essential to know that God's holiness is the crucial feature of his being. The crucial essence of his being when we come to Psalm 22. When we come to Psalm 22, we're walking on holy ground. Charles Spurgeon, a great preacher, pastor once said, "We should read Psalm 22 reverently, putting off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture, it is this Psalm." Why is it holy? In seeing the grave detail, we see the length that God went to preserve his own holiness, by pouring out his wrath for the sins of man on his own son. Perhaps more than any other piece of scripture, the holiness of God is on full display in Psalm 22. His ways are altogether different. He himself is altogether different. Today, I want to talk about God's holiness. I just want to clarify even further, what is holiness? What is God's holiness? Why does God's holiness matter? How does God's holiness provide comfort? I'll go back and forth to this more topical connection with the text. What is holiness? The word for holiness comes from the Hebrew word qadosh, which means to cut. To be holy means to be cut off, to be set apart from everything else. It means to be in a class by oneself, a cut above the rest, when we think of great athletes, great artists, great figures. Qadosh has another layer of meaning. I mean, to be holy, qadosh means to be entirely morally pure, in every way possible, at all time. Often, holiness is cut short in its definition. It's defined by using only one aspect, one of the aspects that I just presented, but we have to include both. To say that God is holy is to say that his holiness occupies a place of power and moral purity that no one else has ever had before, or where no one else has ever sat before. We therefore don't have anything that we can compare him, as a frame of, compare God's holiness to as a frame of reference. Because there's no metaphors, there's no similes, there's no comparisons that quantify what God's holiness is in relation to us. God is altogether different. He's altogether pure. To say that he is holy is synonymous with saying that he is God. Psalm 2, we touched on this in recent weeks, it taps into this. "Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 'Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.' He who sits on the heavens laughs. The Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 'As for me, I've set my King on Zion, my holy hill.'" It's folly to think, for rulers of the nations to think themselves, think of their thrones on a similar level of God in his holiness. First Samuel 2:2 proclaims, "There is none holy like the Lord, for there is none besides you. There is no rock like our God." Exodus 15:11 asks, "Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?" To clarify even further, God's holiness is not just a feature. I misspoke a couple of minutes ago, it's not just a feature of who he is or what he does. His holiness is not just one of many other attributes that sets him apart from all other beings. God's holiness is the essence of who he is. Everything God thinks, desires, speaks, and does is an expression of his holiness. Therefore, God is holy in every attribute and every action. He is holy in power. He is holy in justice. He is holy in awe. He is holy in mercy. He is holy in grace. He is holy in sovereignty. He is holy in wisdom. He is holy in patience, holy in wrath, holy in faithfulness, holy in compassion. He's holy even in his holiness. So why, point two, why does this matter? If you're anything like me, you're probably thinking, "I kind of get it. I think I can define how he's holy. But what does this mean for me? How does this doctrine impact my life?" First and foremost, the holiness of God is at the center of the redemptive narrative of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's at the center of scripture. It is the holiness of God that brings us to this moment, highlighted in Psalm 22, that points to Jesus Christ bearing the wrath for man's sin on the cross. Without the holiness of God, there'd be no moral law to which every human being is responsible. Without the holiness of God, there would be no divine wrath, as depicted graphically in Psalm 22, against man's sin. Without the holiness of God, there would be no need for a perfect son sent as an acceptable sacrifice, as atonement for the sins of man. Remove God's holiness from our doctrine, or remove it from the life of the church, remove it from the speech of mankind, and it all boils down to your sense of right and wrong. Really means nothing. Your sense, your desire for justice means nothing. Our sense of these things, it stems from God's holiness. God has imputed to us some of, communicated to us some of his attributes. As image-bearers, we know, we have it written on our heart what is right and wrong. And so, we can't ignore God's holiness. Some people come to Christianity and they say, "I want to learn about God." They want to read. They want to study. They want to do the apologetics. They want to engage in argument. But they don't want to confront God's holiness. They think they don't need that. You can't come to Christianity without confronting God's holiness. It's at the center of the story. So, how does God's holiness provide comfort? Want to read from Psalm 22 again. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The famous words that Jesus Christ spoke while he was hanging on the cross. "Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel." In a moment that seems so out of control, that seems so evil, where wrong seems to be rewarded and right seems to be punished, where God seems to have abandoned the Psalmist, abandoned Jesus Christ, it's the recollection and the love of the holiness of God that allowed the Psalmist, that allowed Christ to persevere through the crucifixion. This is the first thing that he says in that feeling of forsakenness, that feeling of abandonment. With the utterance of "my God, my God," in the midst of this excruciating trial, Christ still views God the Father as God. He doesn't lash out against God. He doesn't shake his fist at him. He does not revoke his faith in the Father. He does not seek his own vindication in the moment. What he finds refuge in, what he seeks, what he proclaims first and foremost is, "Yet you are holy." It's the holiness of God, and leaning into that, in this moment, that allows the Psalmist, that allowed Jesus Christ to stay faithful and persevere through the most despairing of moments. Jesus Christ, thinking about his father, his holiness, knows that God is far bigger in his holiness than the circumstances that he faces. A.W. Pink, theologian says, "Never did divine holiness appear more beautiful and lovely than at the time our Savior's countenance was marred in the midst of his dying groans." This Christ himself acknowledges in Psalm 22. When God had turned a smiling face from him and thrust his sharp knife into his heart, which forced that terrible cry from him, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me," he adores this perfection. A lot of theologians take time to argue, he had the whole Psalm in his mind. What the Psalmist knew when he wrote this, what Jesus knew and believed with the eyes of his heart, was that in every situation that he was in, in the care of his sovereign and holy father. In our lives, it's the same. Every situation you have been in, every situation you are in, the situation you're in right now, every situation you will be in is under the sovereign control of the holy God. It often doesn't seem this way, but it is true. Because God is holy, what he does is always right. What he says is always true. Whatever he wills is just. Whatever he promises, he will always deliver. In year 2020, do you believe this? Psalm 22 teaches us in verse 1, in our perceived forsakenness as Christians, perceived abandonment, God is holy. Furthermore, Psalm 22, verse 1, when God seems far away, "God, you've called me to this task yet I don't feel like you're showing up," he is holy. When he doesn't seem to answer your prayers, the groanings of your heart, he is holy. Verse 2, when you're crying and anxious, but still get no answer, God is holy. Verse 6, when we're stomped on like a worm and scorned and despised, God is holy. Verse 7, when you're mocked, God is holy. Verse 8, when accused of wrongdoing, God is holy. Verse 12, when the people of power look down on you, he is holy. Verse 13 to 15, when your body is sapped of all strength, when you feel like you're reduced to a lifeless heap of flesh, when you thirst and feel like death, God is holy. Verse 16, when enemies of God's people, these dogs surround you and harm you, God is holy. Verse 18, when your garments and belongings are taken, he is holy. Verse 21, when he rescues you, he is holy. Do you believe this? Ted Tripp says, you have to preach this message of God's holiness to yourself over and over again. Evil is not in control. Injustice does not rule. Corruption is not king. Satan will not have victory. God is, and will always be worthy of your trust, for this one reason. He is holy. We might not get to see it in this life, but with his holy might, God will defeat every evil thing that has inflicted pain and brought upon every difficulty injustice. And this form of despair will eventually deliver us to a world free of all that is wrong, forever. So, when we as Christians, when we don't find comfort in God's holiness, there's something wrong. There's something going on. The message of Psalm 22, of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is that Jesus Christ was forsaken by the Father, so that we who are in Christ would never be forsaken by him. Second Corinthians 5:21. "For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God." Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." There might be times that we don't feel like we're children of the holy God. We don't feel that he's holy and in control. In these moments, these are feelings, not truth. We need to reject those feelings. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. Who can understand it?" And in this flesh until Jesus Christ returns, our own heart can condemn us. Satan condemns us. The world condemns us, but we can't trust those feelings, whatever the source or the cause. We need to fight feelings with faith. Ephesians 6:16, 18, "In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication." We need to fight condemnation with conviction like the saints of old. Hebrews 11:1. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Though it might appear that God is not with us in the bleakest of moments, we trust that he is. We trust that with him on our side, we're never in the wrong place or the wrong situation. Though we might face temporary injustice, he will eventually bring full justice. One day, we will reign with him in full holiness and splendor. Where does this conversation, this discussion of the holiness of God lead us? What direction should encounter with God's holiness lead us? To praise and celebration. This is the end, the turning point of the Psalm, Psalm 22, verse 22. "I will tell of your name to my brothers. In the midst of the congregation, I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him. All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel. For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. "From you comes my praise in the great congregation. My vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied. Those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever. "All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. "All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship. Before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him. It shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation. They shall come and proclaim his righteousness to people yet unborn, that he has done it." No, we encounter God's holiness, and we praise and worship him for it. Ironically, when we're in the valley, when we're in despair, when we feel like God has abandoned us, we feel like we're falling apart or becoming undone, but it's an encounter with God's holiness that truly causes us to become undone. In God's holy presence, we lose all sense of pride, all reasons to boast in ourselves, the desire to keep on living for our own glory. With our creatureliness and our sin exposed by our holy God, we really see our need for our Savior. We see the impossible gap between ourselves and the Father, and finally understand that the Son who was forsaken by the Father is the only way to bridge that infinite gap. We celebrate God's holiness because when God reveals it to us, the purpose is not to get us to run from him in hopeless terror, but to run to him to find grace for all of eternity. We receive God's offer of grace and we praise him. We lead lives of worship and praise and mission for his glory. A classic prayer called The Valley of Vision praises God for his holiness, and really captures those trying moments, when we see his holiness most clearly, like this moment on the cross. The Valley of Vision. "Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, thou has brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights. Hemmed in by mountains of sin, I behold thy glory. Let me learn by paradox, that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells, the brighter thy stars shine. Let me find thy light in my darkness, thy life in my death, thy joy in my sorrow, thy grace in my sin, thy riches in my poverty, thy glory in my valley." Please join me in prayer. Lord, we pray. Give us the vision of Jesus Christ. Let us see you working, for your glory, for your holiness, out of deep love for us, in the valleys, in the moments of despair. Lord, we pray, give us a grand vision of you moving, of you running, pulling the strings of life, guiding the world, all for your glory. And Lord, while we wait, let us run with praise. Let us celebrate your holiness. Let us proclaim it with joy, and invite others into it. Lord, I pray, honor our lives, honor our faithful efforts to you, especially when we don't have strength to walk forward without your help. I pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen.

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