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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:For God's deliverance from troubles we create for ourselves, thank him for his steadfast love
Text:Psalms 107:10-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-07-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 5

Psalm 111:1,5 (after God's law)

Psalm 142:1,2,5,6

Psalm 107:5,6

Psalm 146:1,4,5

Scripture readings:  Deut. 28:45-51; Deut. 30:1-10; Rev. 3:14-22

Text: Psalm 107:10-16 (begin reading at v.1)

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


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Psalm 107 speaks of four different kinds of troubles.  The first one, in verses 4 to 9, has to do with being lost in the desert, hungry and thirsty.  The trouble we’re looking at today has to do with bad choices in life.  We’re in a bad place, spiritually speaking, and then we create trouble for ourselves with our sinful choices.  Have you ever done that?  I know I have.  I know others who have too.    

Back in Canada I knew a brother who had quite a dramatic story along these lines.  He’d grown up in a Christian family.  He was a member of a Canadian Reformed Church.  But his heart was far from God.  He didn’t believe in Christ.  At 22 years old, he wasn’t living like a Christian at all.  One summer day in 1987 he went to a party at a cottage a couple of hours from his home.  He got well and truly drunk and then got in his car to go home.  He lost control and ended up in the hospital for weeks afterwards with a severed spinal cord.  When he finally came home from the hospital, he was a paraplegic.  He’s spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, unable to walk.  He created quite the trouble for himself.

There are all kinds of troubles we can cause for ourselves.  But God’s people can be thankful for his kindness when he delivers them from these troubles too.  That’s the message of God’s Word to us this morning:  For God’s deliverance from troubles we create for ourselves, thank him for his steadfast love

We’ll consider:

  1. Our disloyal covenant breaking
  2. God’s loyal covenant keeping

Our passage begins with some of God’s people sitting in darkness “and in the shadow of death.”  When you look elsewhere in the Bible, you find that these images are connected with certain ideas.  Darkness and the shadow of death speak about judgment and curse.  There are two well-known examples of that in Scripture. 

The first is with the Exodus from Egypt.  The second-last plague on the Egyptians was darkness for three days.  The Holy Spirit tells us that it was “pitch darkness,” and “a darkness to be felt.”  It gave advanced warning of the death that was to come with the final plague.

Can you guess what the other example is?  I’ll give you a hint:  it’s in the New Testament.  While Jesus was hanging on the cross, there were three hours of supernatural darkness over the land.  Jesus suffered our judgment and curse in the dark.  The light of life was completely removed from him so it could be restored to us.

So when we read in our passage about darkness and the shadow of death, there’s nothing accidental about this.  These terms are connected to God’s judgment and curse.  And closely linked to that in verse 10 is the idea about being in affliction, being imprisoned.  And in verse 12, those imprisoned are also subject to hard labour.  Why do people end up in prison?  It’s because they’ve done something wrong and they’re being punished for it.  Prison is the natural consequence for wickedness.

In verse 11, the Holy Spirit tells us the exact nature of the wickedness in this instance.  It’s rebellion:  “they had rebelled against the words of God.”  This is important to consider closely.  This line tells us that there’s revelation from God.  God has given us words.  Those words have been written down in Scripture.  Some of those words are promises.  Some of those words are commands.  It’s the commands being referred to here.  God has told his people to do some things and not do others.

Then it says they “spurned the counsel of the Most High.”  That tells us about the seriousness of what’s happened here.  The One who gives his Words, who gives his law, isn’t just anyone.  He’s the Most High, which is to say: the King with infinite majesty.  If you spurn the counsel of such a King, you’ve lost your mind. 

But that’s exactly what these people did.  The infinitely majestic King, the Most High had given them his counsel, but they slapped him in the face.  God had brought them clear words of revelation about how they were to live before him, but they rebelled.

In Scripture there are two kinds of law-breaking.  There’s a law-breaking that takes place unintentionally, through ignorance or by accident, through weakness.  For example, imagine an Israelite who goes off on a long journey and he loses track of the date.  The Passover comes and he’s supposed to observe it, but because he doesn’t know what day it is, he fails to keep it.  It’s unintentional.   

But there’s also a law-breaking that takes place with what Scripture calls “a high (or uplifted) hand.”  This is intentional, deliberate, self-aware breaking of God’s law.  You know what God has commanded, but you go ahead and disobey him anyway.  That’s the rebellion and the spurning of God’s counsel that we find here in verse 11.  For that kind of wickedness, there’s even greater accountability before God.  God treats it with greater severity when one of his people who know better slaps him in the face by rebelling against his infinite majesty.  Those who do this are going to be held personally responsible.

We have to see this within the framework of God’s covenant relationship with his people.  In his grace God has come to believers and their children and made a special relationship, a covenant.  In this covenant, God makes beautiful promises, but he also has expectations of us.  The main and most important thing of all is to believe his promises, to trust the good news of God as our God through Jesus Christ.  Following on from that, God also calls us to walk in his ways out of love and gratitude.  He calls us to be who we’re called to be, to be his people who believe in him as their Saviour and follow him as their Lord.

You see, these people in our passage, they weren’t your regular unbelievers out there in the world.  These were people who’d received the words of God.  They knew about God.  They were part of the people of Israel.  The males among them had been circumcised on the 8th day.  Blessed in so many ways, they rebelled against the one who had blessed them.  They bit the hand that fed them.  You have to see not only that it’s wicked, but that the wickedness is amplified by the covenant context in which the wickedness took place.  If you rebel against God’s infinite majesty apart from the covenant, you deserve severe punishment of body and soul.  But if you rebel against God’s infinite majesty within the covenant relationship, what you deserve is amped up exponentially.  It’s disloyal covenant breaking and it creates incredible trouble for us.

There are many different ways that can happen amongst God’s covenant people today.  But our passage suggests applications related to slavery and imprisonment in darkness.  You rebel against God’s words and you find yourself trapped and enslaved to a certain sin.  You’re a child of the covenant, baptized, a church member, and yet you’ve created this trouble for yourself by rebelling against God and getting yourself locked up in this dark sin. 

It can happen with addictions.  We live in a society where alcohol often flows freely at all kinds of social events and in the church it’s no different.  In this context, do you think it’s easy or hard to become an alcoholic, to become addicted to the point where you can’t even go one day without a drink?  Perhaps there’s someone here this morning who needs deliverance from this slavery.  If that’s you, keep listening. 

It can happen with pornography.  These days, it’s not even necessarily going to pornographic websites or video apps.  Sometimes it’s getting other people to send you pictures of themselves through apps like SnapChat.  And it’s not just a guy problem.  There are women who get imprisoned by pornography too and for them it can be even harder to get help.  The hole you’re digging for yourself just seems to be getting deeper and darker.  Going by statistics for pornography prevalence in churches, it’s fair to say that there’s more than one person here this morning that’s in this darkness, in the pornographic shadow of death, a prisoner to porn.  Whether you’re 10 years old or 14, or 24 or 48, whatever age you are, whether male or female, I’m not here to shame you.  You already feel the shame and the guilt.  No, I’m here to bring God’s Word which can help you, which can provide you with deliverance so you’ll thank God and praise him for his steadfast love.  But you need to hear the truth.

The truth is:  we rebel against God’s words.  He’s told us to have no other gods before him.  In other words, we’re to find all our comfort and strength in him.  We’re not supposed to have these counterfeit gods which enslave us, gods like alcohol or pornography. 

The truth is:  we spurn the counsel of the Most High.  Our wise God has told us about the foolishness of sexual sin and slavery to alcohol.  Please turn with me in your Bible to Proverbs 23:26-35 [read].  It’s there in black and white, brothers and sisters. 

You see, because we rebel against God’s Word and spurn his counsel, we create trouble for ourselves.  Alcohol catches up to you.  Alcoholism gets progressively worse.  It dissolves relationships.  It destroys your health.  You can lose your job.  You might lose your driver’s license or even worse maybe injure or kill yourself or someone else while drink driving.  Pornography too will destroy you.  It’ll destroy your ability to have a healthy view of the opposite sex, your ability to have healthy relationships.  Porn will destroy your ability to be a godly marriage partner to someone.  Enslaving sins always bring boatloads of trouble to our lives, and that extends far beyond alcohol addiction and pornography.  Any enslaving sin will do that and any sin can become enslaving. 

Worst of all, our disloyal covenant breaking builds a wall between us and God.  We can have no peace with God when we’re living in sin and actively rebelling against him.  Living like that can’t bring you any joy in the Lord.  It’s a life sad, vain, and empty -- anticipating the horrible eternity which comes after this life.  Like it says in verse 12, you’ve fallen down and no human being can help you.  You’re trapped. 

If you see that, then verse 13 shows you what to do next.  You humble yourself before God and cry out to him from the midst of your troubles.  You’re desperate.  You need help.  You turn your heart away from your slavery and turn it to God.  In other words, you repent and express that repentance in prayer.  You go to God and ask him to save you from the trouble you created for yourself.  On the basis of what he’s done for you in Jesus Christ, you ask him to save and deliver you.

Just as he did for the people in our psalm, so he’ll do for you too.  He’ll deliver from distress.  He’ll bring you out of darkness and the shadow of death.  He’ll burst your bonds apart.  He’ll set you free from your slavery and imprisonment.  He’ll shatter the bronze doors and cut in two the bars of iron that hold you in.  God is a God who mercifully delivers in mighty, wondrous ways.  He’s done it for others in the past and he can do it for you.

In fact, in the covenant of grace he promises to do so.  God is loyal to his Word.  We’re fickle and we blow with the wind.  But not God.  God is always steadfast in his love, loyal to his covenant.  Because God is good in his nature, he can always be counted on to be loyal and loving. 

Now there’s an obvious way that gets worked out in our passage and a less obvious way.  Let’s first look at the less obvious way.  We read from a couple of passages in Deuteronomy earlier.  These passages were addressed to God’s covenant people in the Old Testament.  God warned that if his people would rebel against his Words and spurn his counsel, they’d cause trouble for themselves.  He would bring curse and judgment on them.  That’s in Deuteronomy 28.  That chapter even uses the language of imprisonment and slavery.  But all of that has to be read and understood in connection with Deuteronomy 30.  That’s where God makes clear why he brings covenant curse and judgment on his people when they rebel.  It’s because he still loves them.  Because he loves them, he wants them to return to a healthy relationship with him.  God doesn’t give up on his people.  He is loyal to them and therefore he pursues them, even if it requires harsh discipline.  His covenant loyalty leads him to care enough to try and get his people’s attention so they’ll repent and return to him.

You might think that’s all Old Testament and that God doesn’t interact like that with us anymore.  That’s why we read from Revelation 3.  There we find a letter from Jesus.  It’s a letter from Jesus to the New Testament church in Laodicea.  Our Lord Jesus uses the exact same kind of language, drawn from the Old Testament.  Jesus says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”  Because of his loyalty to his covenant, Jesus will reprove and discipline his church.  He’ll reprove and discipline individuals in the church.  It’s out of steadfast love, out of loyalty.  It’s not a sinful desire to destroy or dominate or manipulate, but a good, loving desire to see us flourishing within a healthy covenant relationship.

So when we rebel against God’s Words and create trouble for ourselves, those troubles have to be seen in this light too.  God is lovingly trying to discipline us and bring us back.  An alcoholic who gets diagnosed with cirrhosis, with liver disease, she’s caused that trouble for herself.  But in his steadfast love, God is also trying to get her attention and bring her to repentance.  The porn user whose wife finally gets fed up and kicks him out of the house until he gets help – he’s caused that trouble for himself.  But in his covenant loyalty, God is also trying to wake him up and get him to turn away from that sin and live in Christ.  God isn’t trying to destroy your life; no, he’s trying to save you.  Within the covenant, our gracious and loving God cares enough to intervene and do something rather than just let us go our merry way to hell.

Because we don’t often connect discipline with love, it can be hard to see our troubles as something good coming from God’s loyal covenant keeping.  That’s certainly not the case with the more obvious way this passage speaks of God’s loyal covenant keeping.  That has to do with the actual deliverance.  He sets the captives free.  He brings light into their darkness.  This is something he’s promised to do throughout the Bible and this is something definitely done for us in Jesus.  In Luke 4, when Jesus preaches at the synagogue in Capernaum, he read to them from Isaiah 61.  Isaiah 61 is about the Servant of the LORD who will come and not only proclaim liberty for the captives, but also bring it about.  And in John 8, Jesus announces that he is the light of the world.  Whoever follows him “will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  You see, it’s through Christ that God delivers or saves us from the troubles we create for ourselves with our rebellion and disloyalty. 

When we repent and return to God with faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit helps us to live in union with Christ.  As we look to Christ in faith, the Holy Spirit helps us to keep on turning away from sin.  He helps us so that enslaving sins become less powerful and eventually even powerless.  He can even help deliver us from the troubles we’ve caused for ourselves.  If we’re committed to living in union with Christ and daily repentance, he can heal those relationships we’ve broken.  He can transform us and restore us to our families and bring peace and joy into our lives.  There can be deliverance on this earth already from the troubles we’ve caused with our own sin.  But it doesn’t always happen and the Bible doesn’t promise it.  Sometimes the damage we’ve done seems irreparable this side of eternity and we have to accept that.  And the only one to blame for that is you.  You made the choice to rebel against God’s words and spurn his counsel and you have to live with the consequences.  God doesn’t owe it to you to fix all the troubles you’ve caused for yourself.  If he does, that’s wonderful.  That’s grace.  But he doesn’t owe it to anyone. 

What he does is promise in his Word that ultimately there will be deliverance from all the troubles we’ve created with our rebellion.  There’s forgiveness right now with your heavenly Father through what Christ has done on the cross.  Because of Jesus’ blood and death, you can be reconciled to God and you can have peace with him already now.  And not only that, but in his loving loyalty to his promises, God gave you a perfect substitute law-keeper in Jesus.  In his life on earth, Jesus was the perfect loyal covenant keeper.  If you repent and look to him in faith, you can be sure that God regards you as he regards his own Son.  Isn’t that comforting to know? 

Then ultimately there will be deliverance in the new heavens and new earth.  There’ll be no more darkness or shadows of death.  In the age to come, no more discipline of hard labour, no falling down with none to help.  In paradise, we won’t have imprisonment and slavery.  We’ll be free, gloriously free.  We’ll be living in the light of life for ever.

You see, there’s some wonderful good news in God’s Word here.  And the response it calls for from us is laid out with those familiar words, the refrain that we find throughout Psalm 107, “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!”  If we didn’t have God’s steadfast love, his covenant loyalty, we’d be in the worst kind of trouble imaginable.  But we do have it!  What an amazing thing that God has come to us to be our God.  We don’t deserve it, but yet here we are.  Doesn’t that grab your heart in gratitude?  Doesn’t that make you want to worship?

The brother that I mentioned at the beginning was brought to that place.  I remember him speaking at our church and he said that what happened to him wasn’t an accident.  Accidents are unpreventable.  Rolling your car over because you were drunk isn’t an accident – it’s preventable.  He was to blame for not preventing it.  He made sinful choices.  Yet he acknowledged that God’s hand was in it.  In his love, God delivered him from his troubles through it all.  No, God didn’t heal his spinal cord injury and allow him to walk again.  But through his troubles, God finally got his attention.  God brought him to Christ in repentance and faith.  He was delivered, saved, in the way that matters most.  He was led out of darkness and the shadow of death.  If that’s happened to you, thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man.  If it’s happened to someone you know, thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man.  God is faithful and good all the time.  AMEN. 

PRAYER

O LORD God, Most High King,

We give thanks for your steadfast love, for your loyal covenant keeping.  When we stray, you have promised to keep loving us through discipline.  You promise to provide forgiveness and reconciliation to humble, repentant sinners through Jesus.  In Christ you promise to change our lives and deliver us from the troubles we create for ourselves with our sin and rebellion against you.  Father, we confess to you that we are so often disloyal to you.  Sometimes it’s unintentional, sometimes with a high hand.  Sometimes it’s a once-off thing, and sometimes it becomes a pattern to which we become enslaved.  But we do pray for you to work in our hearts with your Holy Spirit so we always repent and look to Christ for forgiveness and restoration.  We do pray for anyone here who might be caught in a dark and enslaving sin like alcoholism or pornography or any other enslaving sin.  We pray that you would continue to love them – bow their hearts down and humble them so they see their slavery and call out to you for deliverance in Christ.  Father, we pray that more and more you would set the captives free among us through the gospel.  Please do so for the glory of your name, so that everyone would thank you for your steadfast love.




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

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