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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:I will proclaim God's perfections!
Text:Psalms 40:9-10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Praise
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-12-18
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 34:1-3

Hymn 28:1-3

Psalm 40:1-3

Psalm 40:4

Hymn 10

Scripture readings: Hebrews 2, Psalm 40

Text: Psalm 40:9-10
 

* 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,

In his book People of the Lie, psychiatrist Dr. Scott Peck tells the story of a woman named Charlene.  In one of their sessions, Charlene complained about life being meaningless.  So Dr. Peck asked her, “What does your religion hold to be the meaning of life?”  To that, Charlene responded that she wasn’t a Christian and just believed in love, not meaning.  Dr. Peck had seen Charlene enough times to know her history.  He knew she’d been raised in a Christian home.  So he asked, “But what do Christians say as to the meaning of life?”  Let me quote Peck from here:

“We exist for the glory of God,” Charlene said in a flat, low monotone, as if she were sullenly repeating an alien catechism, learned by rote and extracted from her at gunpoint.  “The purpose of our life is to glorify God.”

            “Well?” I asked.

There was a short silence.  For a brief moment I thought she might cry – the one time in our work together.  “I cannot do it.  There’s no room for me in that.  That would be my death,” she said in a quavering voice.  Then, with a suddenness that frightened me, what seemed to be her choked-back sobs turned into a roar.  “I don’t want to live for God.  I will not.  I want to live for me.  My own sake!”

The only thing that’s unusual about Charlene is the violence with which she expressed her views.  Otherwise, her refusal to live for God’s glory is a common position.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we all know there’s a bit of Charlene in all of us.

To deal with that, Psalm 40 wants to turn us inside out.  Our human nature always wants to go Charlene’s way:  “I want to live for me.”  But Psalm 40 points believers outward.  My life isn’t about me.  That’s not why God created me and put me on this earth.  I’m here for him.  Realizing that is actually the path to my own blessedness too.  Living for God is truly living a fruitful and meaningful life. 

Psalm 40 speaks of God’s mighty acts of deliverance.  Then it also models how believers respond to those mighty acts.  Verses 9 and 10 are our focus and we’ll see how the Holy Spirit leads us to say, “I will proclaim God’s perfections!

  1. So King David said
  2. So King Jesus said
  3. So we say

We don’t know the exact circumstances in which David wrote this psalm.  There were certainly many instances where God did do the kinds of things described in verses 1 and 2.  Just as one example, think of when King Saul was pursuing David.  He had this crazy obsessive desire to kill David.  In 1 Samuel 23, we read of how Saul was so close to catching him.  David and his men were on one side of a mountain and Saul and his men on the other side.  Just in the nick of time, word came to Saul that the Philistines had invaded the land.  Dealing with the Philistines was more urgent than killing David.  In his providence, God delivered David from “the pit of destruction.”  God had promised that David would be king and God fulfilled his word.   

In verse 5, David notes how God had multiplied his “wondrous deeds and thoughts toward us.”  God is incomparable.  Then he says, “I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” 

In verses 9 and 10, we read that David did exactly that.  In verse 9 he says, “I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation…”  When it comes to who God is, there’s good news to share and David heralded it to God’s people gathered in worship.  It’s good news of deliverance.  The Hebrew word the ESV translates as “deliverance” might also be translated as “righteousness.”  It’s a word referring to the way God stands by his word.  He made a commitment and he righteously kept it.  God’s righteousness is one of his attributes, one of his perfections.  It’s a perfection that serves for our blessing.  Since God is righteous, we can depend on him to always do right, and that includes keeping his promises. 

In verse 10, David builds on that.  He has spoken of other perfections of God, and they’re all related to the first one, God’s righteousness.  There’s God’s faithfulness – his trustworthiness.  There’s God’s salvation – the way he rescues those who trust in him.  There’s his steadfast love – his merciful and kind loyalty to his people.  All of these beautiful things about God have been heralded by King David in the midst of God’s people gathered for worship, “the great congregation.”  As David did that, you can be sure the result was yet more praise for this great and awesome God.

David was highly motivated to proclaim God’s perfections.  After all, he’d been delivered and he was filled with gratitude.  He loved God and wanted his fame to be spread.  His heart was on fire with passion for God. 

Nevertheless, he was faced with a temptation.  The temptation was to restrain his lips, to hold back from proclaiming God’s perfections.  People might think he was over the top, too radical or extreme.  The temptation was to just hide God’s deliverance in his heart.  He could just appreciate it in his heart without having to announce it, couldn’t he?  People might think he was a religious nut.  The temptation was to conceal God’s steadfast love and faithfulness from everyone.  Some of the power of this temptation has to do with the fear of man, worrying about what other people think.  Some of the power of this temptation may also have to do with laziness.  It’s just easier to avoid gathering together with God’s people for worship.  Even when you gather, it’s just easier to not have to put the effort in to speak, to proclaim, to herald.

But in the power of the Holy Spirit, David resisted the temptation to shut up.  But it wasn’t hard for him.  In my family, when I was growing up, if someone sneezed, then someone else would say, “Bless you.”  It had no meaning, it was just something you said.  But you said it reflexively, you had to say it, you were compelled inwardly to say it.  You couldn’t help but say it.  Similarly, because of the Holy Spirit living in him, David couldn’t help but be there with God’s people for worship, couldn’t help but proclaim God’s perfections.  No temptation could stop him, no temptation did.

Sadly, in other instances, David was overcome by temptation.  Sometimes it was pretty ugly.  When he saw beautiful Bathsheba bathing, he had to have her.  Scripture says he “took her.”  He didn’t invite her or lure her.  She was forced; she had no choice.  The prophet Nathan compared David’s sin to stealing, killing, and eating an innocent lamb.  You see, David was tempted not to only commit adultery, but tempted to sexually assault Bathsheba and he did.  Then he covered it up by organizing her husband’s death.  How was David proclaiming God’s perfections in any of that?  David was rather like Charlene from the introduction.  Rather than living for God’s glory at that moment, he was saying, “I want to live for me!” 

David was God’s anointed King.  He was supposed to be a leader and an example.  But he was so inconsistent, horribly inconsistent.  Because he was a sinful man, David could never be the ideal Messianic king consistently proclaiming God’s perfections with both his lips and his life.  While David wanted to glorify God by doing his will, he couldn’t do it with any degree of steadiness. 

So you might be tempted to read Psalm 40 with some degree of cynicism because of its author and his hypocrisy, his sins.  But before you write it off, you need to remember that David wasn’t ultimately writing about himself.  The Holy Spirit was leading him to write in a prophetic way about Jesus Christ.  Psalm 40 is perfectly fulfilled in King Jesus. 

Verses 7 and 8 of the psalm are directly quoted in Hebrews 10.  The words are put right on the lips of Jesus.  It says, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said…”  And then follows Psalm 40, verses 7 and 8.  Christ is the one who had been prophesied to come as the perfectly obedient human being.  Jesus came to live a perfect life in the place of David and in the place of every other believer.

We read from Hebrews 2.  That chapter doesn’t quote from Psalm 40.  However, it does quote similar words that appear in Psalm 22, “I will tell of your name to my brothers, in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”  Those words echo our text in verses 9 and 10 of Psalm 40.  Christ is the perfect fulfillment of those words too.  He perfectly proclaimed God’s perfections with his lips and with his life.  According to Hebrews 2, this happened after his suffering and death.  He proclaimed the perfections of God in the great congregation. 

That happened after Christ’s resurrection.  Scripture tells us of how he met with his disciples, not only the inner group of the eleven, but also the broader group of disciples.  In fact, 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that after his resurrection, Jesus even “appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time…”  That’s a “great congregation.”  When he appeared to all those people he proclaimed to them God’s perfections.  He showed how God’s righteousness had worked salvation from sin and death.  The risen Christ showed how God had been faithful to all his Old Testament promises for redemption.  He revealed God’s steadfast love, mercy, and loyalty like no one else ever before him.  Jesus was the greatest herald of the good news of God ever.

Then, before he ascended into heaven, Jesus sent out his disciples to go and do likewise.  Christ sent them to proclaim the perfections of God revealed in the gospel.  One of the first places they did that was in the “great congregation.”  In Acts 3, we read of how Peter and John were preaching in the temple in Jerusalem.  They were preaching where God’s people had gathered for worship.  They announced God’s righteousness, his faithfulness, his steadfast love in sending his Son Jesus Christ as the Saviour of sinners.  Having spent all that time with Jesus, having witnessed his love, having seen what he did at the cross, and how God raised him from the dead, they were highly motivated to speak. 

However, just like with David, there was a powerful temptation to NOT speak.  Jesus was considered to be public enemy number one by the Jewish religious leaders.  When Peter and John spoke about Christ, they were arrested and put in prison.  They were told to shut up about the gospel of God’s perfections in Christ.  They were threatened.  There was a real possibility that they could lose their lives by proclaiming God’s perfections.  The stakes were high.  But what did they say?  In Acts 4:19-20, we read:  “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”  Just like David, just like their Master Jesus, they couldn’t seal their lips.  They couldn’t hide what God had done.  They were compelled to speak.  They absolutely had to.  It was because Christ was living in them through his Holy Spirit.  He gave them the power to resist the temptation to avoid harm by not speaking. 

Loved ones, as we take all this into our own lives here and now, this proclaiming of God’s perfections is something that takes place here every Sunday.  Think about it.  It goes way beyond what the minister says from the pulpit.  We all together proclaim God’s perfections when we begin our worship service with the words of Psalm 124:8, “Our help is in the name of the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.”  Every Sunday we’re proclaiming God’s perfections with our psalms and hymns.  We’re not only singing to God, we’re also announcing to one another who God is and what he’s done.  Every time we profess our faith with one of the creeds, we’re proclaiming God’s perfections together in the great congregation.  In fact, in my congregation sometimes I’ll even read Psalm 40:9-10 before we profess our faith.  It’s a great passage reminding us of what we’re doing when we profess our faith – we’re proclaiming how great God has shown himself to be in the gospel.

It was something David was compelled to do.  It’s something Christ was compelled to do.  It’s something his apostles were compelled to do.  Do you feel a compulsion to do it?  I mean, do you feel this powerful inner urge to be in church twice every Sunday, to be in the great congregation to proclaim God’s perfections here with your brothers and sisters?     

Praise God if you do.  But what if you don’t?  What if proclaiming God’s perfections in the great congregation doesn’t help get you up and going on a Sunday morning or afternoon?  Listen, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have the Holy Spirit.  It doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t working in your heart.  We have to distinguish here between unwillingness and inability.   I once knew an old, old brother who lived across the street from his church.  He eventually got to be so old and so frail that he could no longer even get across the street on a Sunday.  He wanted to, the Holy Spirit gave him that desire, but he was unable.  The best he could do was have his bed facing the church.  So you could have the desire, but there could be something beyond your control holding you back.  But the desire is where it begins.  The desire is something God works in our hearts with his Holy Spirit.  If that desire isn’t there, that’s a problem, and that’s something we need to pray for.  Pray and ask God to give you the desire to proclaim his perfections in the great congregation with your brothers and sisters every Sunday, every service.  The temptations that David experienced or that the apostles experienced in this regard aren’t the same as ours.  But our God is the same.  The Holy Spirit is the same Holy Spirit.  He can give us the power and strength to resist whatever temptations there may be to keep our lips sealed, to keep our mouths from proclaiming God’s perfections as we gather for worship each Sunday.

Like David, we’re all sinful human beings.  David was inconsistent.  And so am I and so are you.  There can be times when we’re holding back, when we’re hiding and concealing, rather than proclaiming.  Maybe there are times when our lips are moving and the words are being formed, we’re doing the external thing, but it’s not really coming from our hearts.  That’s not the way things should be.  But remember that you have perfection in Jesus Christ.  Remember that he fulfilled these things perfectly on your behalf, in your place.  When he suffered and died on the cross, it was also to pay for all those times when you’ve held back from proclaiming God’s perfections.  His sacrifice is more than enough to cover that too. 

And when you see that, you’re again led to see God’s deliverance, his righteousness, his steadfast love.  Our Father doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, but he graciously grants forgiveness.  Then we’re motivated to come back to these verses from Psalm 40 and let them revive our aspiration to follow Christ our Master and how he fulfilled these words.  Jesus never failed to proclaim God’s perfections, I’ve experienced God’s perfections in Jesus, and now I want to be like my Saviour.  I want to proclaim like he did. 

Loved ones, all of this is about living out the design God put in place for us from the beginning.  Our Creator’s design is that we live for him, that we live for his glory.  This morning, as we’re gathered here for worship as God’s congregation, we’re all doing what we were created to do.  Here we do it imperfectly and inconsistently.  In Christ, and with the power of his Holy Spirit we can and we will progress.  And someday we’ll be perfected.  Someday you and I will proclaim God’s perfections in the greatest congregation ever:  the congregation of all the glorified saints who’ve ever lived.  Let’s start living that out right now.  Right now say it with me in your heart, “I will proclaim God’s perfections.”  AMEN.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Who can compare to you?  Your righteousness is unparalleled, the way you keep all your commitments and promises.  Your salvation is peerless, the way you’ve delivered your people from the consequences of their sin.  Your steadfast love amazes us, it’s beyond all comparison.  O God, we are in awe of you.  Your word calls us to live for your praise and your glory always.  We confess that we do this imperfectly and inconsistently.  We look again to Jesus our Saviour who did these things perfectly and consistently on our behalf.  We look again to Christ and his sacrifice on the cross to cover all our imperfections and inconsistences, all the times we’ve failed to proclaim your perfections as we should.  Please help us with the Holy Spirit to also live in Christ, to live as his disciples.  Please strengthen us to resist every temptation to live for anyone or anything other than you.  Give us power with your Spirit to say ‘no’ to living for ourselves.  Help us all to dedicate our lives to your glory, whether we’re in the worship services or anywhere else.  O God, you have created us for your glory, and you alone are worthy of our total love and consecration.  We praise your Name through Christ our Saviour, AMEN.                  




* 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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