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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Preached At:
Title:Psalm 91 Part 4 - Actively Loving a Loving God
Text:Psalms 91:14-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Mercy

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

TH 32 - Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Psalter 303 - Christ Our Priest-King
Psalter 261 - The Victories of Jesus Christ
TH 649 - More Love to Thee

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

God created the universe. Comets have tails nearly 15,000 km long. But their vapor can fit into 1 tablespoon. The sun can fit 1.5 million earths and 4 million moons. Alph Centurii, our closest star, is about 30 billion km away, and 5 times larger than our sun. The star called Betelgeuse is 1,500 quadrillion miles away - still in our galaxy. It’s so big, that if it was in our solar system, Jupiter would be inside it. And there are half a trillion galaxies. And he did all this by speaking - God said let there be light, and there was.

He’s powerful. What do you need - wisdom? opportunities? money? health? assurance? joy? As the Most High and the Almighty, he owns all things and can give them. And what is more, he has you in mind. He can help and provide all things for you. Why? He is your Lord.

But why does God care for us? Why we are special to him? Why would he even care for the Israelites, slaves he redeemed from Egypt, who after a short while started to murmur and complain, and threatened to return back to Egypt? Why would he care for us? We aren’t always grateful, we forget him, and sin against him. Why does God love us? It’s only because of Jesus.

Noah and his family escaped the flood. Why? The ark. Isaac escaped slaughter. How? The ram. Israel received food in famine through Joseph. The Israelites were spared because of the Passover Lamb. Rahab escaped destruction because of a red string. Israel beat Goliath because of David. And only because of Jesus, does God save us from our sins. Because God loves Christ, he loves us. That’s why he delivers and protects us. And promises that no evil thing will befall us. Why? Because of Christ.

We come to our last message on Psalm 91. Today, we want to see that remarkable theme - God’s love for us because of Christ, and our love for God because of Christ. There are two points in this passage. Firstly, we see God’s promises to Christ and his people. And secondly, we see Christ’s love and the love of his church towards God.

Firstly, God’s promises to Christ and his people. In these verses, we see a total of 8 promises, all beginning with the word “I will.” But before we look into them, let’s see the identity of the one who receives these promises. In the first thirteen verses of Psalm 91, it is the Psalmist who does the speaking. Moses, if he was the author. And he spoke about God - I will say of the most High, he is my refuge, my fortress, in him will I trust. But now in verses 14-16 it is Almighty God who does the speaking. And he also uses the word “I”. I will deliver, I will set him on high, I will deliver him, etc. 

But there is another person that is neither Moses or God. This person is referred to as “he” or “you.” In verse 1, Moses says, assuming it’s Moses - he that dwells in the secret place of the most high abides under the shadow of the almighty. Who is the he? And then this person is also referred to as you. In verse 3, surely God shall deliver thee or you from the fowler. Verse 4 - God shall cover you with his feathers, under God’s wings, you shall trust. Who is the he and you?

They are the same person. There is a person who makes God his refuge, a person who dwells in the secret place of the most high. And according to verses 14-15, there is a person who sets his love on God, a person who knows the name of God, who calls on God’s name. We’ve already seen that it is Christ. Firstly, the devil already applied this Psalm to Jesus. Angels shall bear you up, he told Jesus. And secondly, it can’t really be humankind. The Bible says in John 3:19 that “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” No one by themselves will love God. Romans 3:10-11 - “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” No one by themselves will seek God.

Thirdly, it’s Christ because this is what he did in his life. He set his love on the father. John 14:31 says, “But that the world may know that I love the Father; as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.” He loved God and expressed it through obedience. He also needed God - his life was a life of prayer. Hebrews 5:7 says while he was on earth, he prayed and pleaded, with a loud cry and tears, to God who could rescue him. Because Jesus loved God and called on God, God answered him. 

So these promises of God are directed at Christ. Because my Son loves me, verse 14 - I will deliver him. And he did. When Herod wanted to kill Jesus, Joseph took the family to Egypt. When his childhood friends in Nazareth brought him to be stoned, the Bible tells us that he walked right through the crowd. He was saved from the fowler’s snare.

Verse 14 also says that God would set him on high. The Hebrew word speaks of a high city with walls, safe against attacks. God protected Jesus throughout his earthly ministry because his time had not come. No one could touch him. As John 7:30 says, “no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.”

Verse 15, God will answer him. When Jesus prayed, God always answered. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus prayed that the people would believe God sent him. God answered that prayer by raising Lazarus. That was a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. And when Jesus cried out at Gethsemane, God answered and sent angels to strengthen him for the cross.

Verse 15 - God would be with Christ in trouble, he would deliver him, he would honor him. Now, Christ had no greater trouble than the cross. When he was taken from the garden and questioned and condemned, and brought outside the city and crucified; while the wrath of God was upon him, like darkness over Egypt when the firstborn was judged; when Jesus felt that wrath of God and cried my God, why have you forsaken me; we know that God was still with him. Because Jesus himself could say at the end of suffering - into your hands, I commend my spirit.  God was with him. And God delivered him by resurrecting him; honored him by giving him all authority; and raised him to his right hand. God gave him long life and salvation - a life that never ends, and victory over his enemies.

But why did God do this for Jesus? What motivated God? God was pleased with Jesus Verse 14 says that Jesus set his love on God. God loved that Jesus loved him. At his baptism God said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Jesus acknowledged the Father’s love - “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.” It is also because the Son was obedient - “the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.” Because God was pleased with Christ, he made promises to Christ. And because we are in Christ, these promises are made to us. Christ is our red rope, our ark, our lamb, our Joseph, the son of David. Because of his shed blood, we are saved from the flood of God’s anger. We are delivered.

But now secondly, we see Christ’s love and the love of his church towards God. These promises are for Christ who loves God. And all those who are in Christ should love God. And Christ loved God. What kind of love was this? It was a loyal love.

The Hebrew word used for “love” here is unusual and rare. The word is used to talk about tying things together with thin strips of cloth. It speaks about cleaving together, or attaching something to something. For example, this is used to speak about putting a saddle on a horse or a plow to an ox; or oxen to one another. This is the kind of love that God has for his people - it’s a loyal love. Here’s how the word is used. Deuteronomy 7:7 - “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the LORD loved you.” Deuteronomy 10:15 - “Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.” By using this unusual and rare word for love, God was saying that he was loyal to his people. What this means, is that Christ was loyal to God. It was a binding, loyal love that he had. And because of that, Jesus was fiercely obedient to God - even to go to the cross. John 14:31 says, “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.”

But Christ not only loved God, he trusted God. Christ knew God, he called upon God in his need, verses 14-15. Hebrews 5:7 tells us, while he was on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to God who could rescue him from death. Why? It’s because he knew God. Jesus said - “even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father.” “I know Him, because I am from Him.” Psalm 9:10 says, “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee; for thou, Jehovah, hast not forsaken them that seek Thee.” Christ trusted God, even though he would go through the severest of sufferings.

Now, the key to understanding this Psalm is to understand to whom these promises were given. Many preachers - especially during this pandemic - claim that this Psalm teaches that Christians won’t get COVID. Or that Christians won’t die from their illnesses. That’s remarkably short-sighted. If only you love God and trust him, you won’t fall sick. But the fact is, Christians die from their illnesses. They go through great suffering. So the key is to know that these promises are primarily given to Christ. God would deliver Christ and set him on high. Why? Because Christ loved God and trusted him. But how does this Psalm apply to me?

There are plenty - and wonderful applications. Firstly, if we are saved, if we are in Christ - then all these promises are for us. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen.” So even if we don’t love God perfectly or trust or rely on him perfectly - Christ did. And because of him, we have the protection and deliverance of God. Christ is our ark, our Joseph, our David. We are loved in Christ.

Secondly, we must understand how these promises apply to us. Some may be confused. If God promised to deliver Jesus, then how could he die? If god promises to deliver us, who are in Christ, then how could we suffer? Now, remember this - Jesus was delivered many times when he was earth. He was protected, his prayers were answered, his life was preserved. It’s the same for us - God protects us with angels - even though we don’t see them. But let’s not be so short-sighted. The promises of the Psalm are far more glorious than just a healthy and wealthy life on earth without trouble. God is not so short-sighted as we are. God looks at our earthly life as only a mere shadow of a better life to come. And Jesus came to this world to help us realize there is something better. 

Remember, Adam and Eve lived in a garden with trees and rivers with eternal life on earth. They sinned, were cursed, and were kicked out of that garden, into a sin cursed world. That sin cursed world was nothing in comparison to that garden. But that garden was nothing in comparison to paradise in heaven. Jesus left that paradise in heaven to come to this sin cursed world. And on earth, when he found refuge with God praying in a garden, he was kicked out of it, tried and cursed, and died on the cross. Why? So that he can bring us to a better place. Even the great universe he created with all the wonderful stars and galaxies are nothing compared to the new heavens and earth when God recreates all things.

In fact, all thing on earth is a picture of the better reality in heaven. We have life here, but eternal life in heaven. We have riches here, but everlasting riches in heaven. We have health here, but a glorified body in heaven. We have wisdom here, but we shall know all things in heaven. Even the tabernacle with its ever burning lamp stand, table of bread, ark of the covenant with angels’ wings - these were all pictures of heaven. There, there is no night but an eternal day; there’s a table with the marriage supper of the lamb, where God’s throne is surrounded by angels. Even Eden was a picture of heaven - that eternal garden, where there is the tree of life and rivers running through it. So the promise was for Jesus in this life, but especially in the life beyond. This is why he had to die. So that the promise for us in the life to come would be ours because we are in Christ. 

Thirdly, we should expect suffering - even to the point where we are not delivered here on earth. God made these promises to Christ - but Christ still suffered and died. That’s because the promises are not without qualification. While we will ultimately be delivered from the pestilence of sin and death, suffering and earthly diseases will harm us. They may kill the body, but not the soul. 

When the wife of Presbyterian pastor, Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, died of cancer in her 30s, she left him behind with 3 young children. He chose to preach at her funeral service. As they drove to the service, a large truck passed them and blocked the sun. Barnhouse asked his daughter - “Dear, would you rather be run over by this truck or by its shadow?” Naturally she replied, “the shadow; because it can’t hurt you.” Barnhouse replied - your mother has not been destroyed by death; but by the shadow of death.

So just as Christ suffered, our union with Christ means that we will also suffer and go through the shadow of death. The servant is not above the master. If he suffered, so will we. But it’s only the shadow of death. So while we go through it, we can as Christ did, pray to God with loud cries and tears. 

Fourthly, if we are in Christ, we will love God. How do you know that you are a Christian? You love God. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. Just as Jesus set his love on God, if we are in Christ, we will set our hearts on God. Jesus love was evident in his obedience. He was loyal to God. 

Yes, our love may grow cold - like Peter who denied Christ - but he was restored. Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Yea Lord you know that I do. Feed my sheep. And we love only because he loved us. We can only be loyal, because we see his loyal love on us. Let us do the work of love, and continue to turn to God from idols to serving a living and true God. And if we are in Christ, this Psalm teaches us to trust him. To call upon God as Christ did.

Dear congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ - these promises of God are for us through Christ. For each one of you in him. He cares for the church of Christ because we are his son’s people - we are his children. As we remember God’s preserving hand on our church, do we not remember difficulties in these 39 years? But the church still proclaims Christ. If we look at the church of Christ over the last 2000 years, and even before that since the days of Adam - has it not grown and been sustained? And while she has gone through her dark days where only 7000 remained faithful; or most of the visible church was under great darkness, yet the Lord revived his people. 

Let us trust this God - the almighty creator that can provide for the people he loves. He has after all given the Lord Jesus Christ - how shall he not, along with him, give us all things? Do not fear, but trust. The God who created the stars and the galaxies by his word, gives the word of his promise to you. Believe it.

Sermon Outline:

1. The Promises of God to His Beloved

    A. The “I Wills” of God

    B. God’s Motivation and Reason

    C. The Identity of the Beloved

2. The love of the beloved toward God

    A. The kind of love we should have

    B. The need for God by the beloved

    C. Are we in the beloved?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Mark Chen

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