Skip to comments.The Rev. Johann Vanderbijl: "The Hope of the King"
Posted on 03/27/2006 5:55:53 PM PST by sionnsar
Here is another tremendous sermon from Fr. Johann Vanderbijl of the Anglican Church of St. George the Martyr in South Carolina, titled "The Hope of the King" and based on Psalm 90:
March 26, 2006 4th Sunday in LentMay we indeed remember that Christ Jesus alone is our Deliverer from the bondage of sin and death--and that He has done just that, no matter how lost in the wilderness we may feel. The hope we have in Him is an objective reality that we can stand on--His grace. My thanks to Fr. Vanderbijl for another remarkable sermon.
- Galatians 4:21-31
- St. John 6:1-14
The Hope of the King
The South-Western African country of Angola was once a very wealthy Portuguese colony. It was rich in minerals such as gold, copper, tin and diamonds, but more importantly, Angola was rich in oil. Consequently, when the cry for freedom from colonial oppressors reached her borders, there were many foreign countries willing to help her attain "independence", including the late great U.S.S.R. and Cuba. So-called Civil War broke out suddenly and violently. Those who were Portuguese escaped to Portugal, but many had married into the indigenous population and had to leave wives and children behind. These "war widows" and "orphans" fled south to Namibia (then South West Africa), often with little more than the clothes they had on and a few trinkets of their once peaceful life, as well as a few valuable to be used as bribes along the way. They were often promised the world and given nothing. But one such war widow used to help us in our efforts to feed the refugees in what was supposed to be a temporary refugee camp. Her home was a corrugated iron sheet shack, with a few wooden boards for windows and doors held together with bits of wire and rope. One evening, as we sat around her tiny table, she pulled out a precious memory a well-worn photograph of her house on her farm in Angola. It was a large, spacious, beautiful home, very much like the old Southern Plantation homes, and as we stared at the fading photograph in shock and sadness, she spoke of her hope to return one day. For all we know, she never did.
Now, I'm telling you this sad story so that we can all cry and some of us can get their mascara smudged and runny no, I've told you this story because this is where we are in our overview of the Psalms. In Book I, Psalm 1, we saw the standard set for the ideal king a man meditating on God's Law day and night so that he might rule over creation as God had originally intended and then, in Psalm 2, the spotlight was turned onto the Davidic Monarchy God had set His king upon His holy hill in Zion. But in Book II, we saw that this Monarchy shared the same basic flaw with the rest of humanity. We watched David, the king described to be a man after God's own heart, not only commit adultery, but also heap deception upon deception until plans to cover up his sin turned into murder. From this point on, the Monarchy began to crumble and, in Book III, we saw the eventual demise of the king as his people were led into exile under the Babylonians. In Psalm 89 we heard the anguished cry of a nation without a future they had lost it all, their land, their king and, perhaps even their God. And now, they who were once in bondage and yet who had been delivered, found themselves in bondage once again.
So, it should come as no surprise to see that Book IV starts with a Psalm of Moses the great leader in God's deliverance of His people from bondage in Egypt.
And thus this Psalm introduces the theme for Book IV that of hope in the restoration of the Monarchy and consequently the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.
The theme of Psalm 90 itself is basically a call for the reader to consider the fragility and brevity of this life in the light of God's sovereignty and eternity. Moses, the author of this Psalm, was a great man, chosen by God to lead His people out of Egypt into the Promised Land and yet, he never did cross over the Jordan. Those who left Egypt were miraculously delivered through the Red Sea, and miraculously sustained in the desert, and yet all but three died in the wilderness. The Davidic Monarchy was established for eternity and yet Israel had been sent into Exile and the king's house was largely defunct. But although God had disciplined Moses and those of the Exodus, His promise to the Patriarchs were fulfilled through their descendents who did cross over the Jordan, together with Joshua, Caleb and Eleazar the High Priest. Thus those who edited and compiled the Book of Psalms placed this Psalm here at the beginning of the section dealing with hope in spite of discipline and disaster. One generation or two might never see the return to the Promised Land, but a remnant would return and God's promises would yet be fulfilled. This Psalm was, in many ways, served as an old faded photograph of the home to which they so longed to return.
Shortly before his death on Mount Nebo, Moses pronounced a final blessing upon Israel. Echoes of some of the words in that blessing can be found in the Psalm. "The eternal God," he said, "is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, 'Destroy!'" No doubt, the intention was for the reader of the Psalm to recall the words of that final blessing so that the connection between God's promise to Israel then and God's promise to Israel now were the same. He thrust out their enemies once before He would thrust them out once more. As always, their hope was not to be found in Man their hope was not in the strength of Man Man had failed even the best of them Moses, Aaron, Miriam, David No, their hope and, indeed, their security was in God Almighty.
The Psalmist portrayed Man as a creature of dust no doubt an image taken from the opening chapters of Genesis he was formed out of the dust of the ground and he will one day again return to the dust of the ground. We often take ourselves far too seriously we think more of ourselves than we should we fear Man, when we really should fear God. Think on this: Where are some of the greatest men and women of history today? Where is Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Nero, Lenin, Hitler, or Stalin? They were greatly feared in their day but where are they now? We may soon be asking, where is Osama Bin Laden although some are already asking that question now, aren't they? The Psalmist likened Man to a sleep that is over in a night to grass that is cut down and withers in an evening. We think that we will live forever on this earth, but we are but a breath away from eternity but to God even a millennium is like a day or one of the watches of the night.
In verses 7 through 11, the Psalmist explored our mortality against the backdrop of God's judgement of sin. Because of sin, Man was driven out of the Garden because of sin, Israel was expelled from the Promised Land because of sin, Mankind was cut off from their Creator from their only source of life and thus Mankind was subject to death and decay. Our days are filled with toil and trouble because of God's penalty for sin. Our sins are ever before Him as He knows all and sees all even into the very depths of our soul. But the words of the Psalmist are not bitter rather they express a calm and sober realism. We are all destined to die our life-span is brief because we live as those under judgement.
So, there is no hope in Man as Man is sinful Man is dead Man is fragile. No, our hope, like the hope of Moses, of David, of Israel, is firmly founded upon God and His mercy. And therefore the Psalmist ended with a threefold petition: 1) Teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom. In other words, help us to realise that our time here is short and there are so many better things to do than what we are doing at present. 2) Have compassion on Your servants (remember that we are but dust) satisfy us early with Your mercy make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us, the years in which we have seen evil. And 3) Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands, so that when we pass on, others might be able to build upon that which we began.
Life is so short. We have hardly begun our journey when death interrupts our plans. Thus, if we are to use our time wisely, we must be aware of our own limitations limitations of time and limitations of strength. But these limitations must be seen in the light of God's lack of limitations, especially when it comes to His mercy and grace without which, nothing we do will ever prosper nor be established.
So, as the editors of the Psalms struggled to come to grips with their own dilemma as they sat exiled in Babylon, they found hope in looking back to the wisdom of Moses, a man chosen by God to be the instrument through whom He would deliver His people from bondage and slavery and bring them into the Promised Land.
As He had been a help to those in the Exodus, so He would be a help to those in the Exile, and so He still will be a help to us who yet wander as pilgrims in this world. Yes, life may be short our days may be filled with toil and trouble they may seem hopeless and futile from time to time we may feel trapped in powerlessness to change the cruel circumstances of life but if we consider this seeming futility in the light of our only stability if we consider that God alone is from eternity to eternity if we consider that His character is always to have mercy then we will find Him to be our refuge even in the midst of apparent hopelessness.
Man is but dust. From dust he was taken and to dust he will return. If one stops there, all hope is indeed gone. Moses failed because he was dust. David failed because he was dust. Israel failed because they were dust. But there is One Man Who did not fail and that is the Man Christ Jesus. Thus the hope of the Monarchy rests with Him the hope of the restoration of the kingdom rests with Him the hope of return to Paradise rests with Him because He took our penalty for sin that which separated us from God that which caused the ultimate exile from God He took that penalty upon His Own sinless Self and died in our stead, so that the handwriting that was against us might be removed in order that we might be reconciled to God and enter into eternity with great assurance.
And it is here at His Table that He reminds us again and again of our hope in Him of our deliverance from bondage. It is here where He sustains us throughout the wilderness of this life. And it is here that we enter boldly into Paradise to sup with Him at His Table, so that we might be strengthened with His Body and cleansed by His Blood. Yes, our bodies will return to the dust from which they were once taken, but because of the hope we have in our King Jesus, we know that those bodies will rise transformed from corruptibility to incorruptibility on the last day. The same God Who has helped us in Ages Past, is still our hope for years to come He is our shelter from the stormy blast of life in a sin-sick world and He is our eternal home.
© Johann W. Vanderbijl III 2006-03-24
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