Well Morning South Sydney Anglican Church and HAPPY NEW YEAR. My name is Matt Johnson and this January we a looking at some WISDOM PSALMS in the Old Testament – to ensure that we are starting 2024 in wisdom, not foolishness. So let me pray as we begin;
Prayer: Well, the Psalms are part of the Old Testament called WISDOM LITERATURE. The Psalms are songs, poems and reflections designed to help us live in right relationship with God and the world. Or to put it another way – the Psalms help us to make decisions that are wise, rather than foolish. Now given that 2024 is a new year – I assume we all want to be wise, rather than foolish.
But what is the essence of wisdom and foolishness? Well in Psalm 91:2 – you can see the Psalmist talks about “my God – in whom I TRUST.” TRUST is both the cornerstone of wisdom and foolishness. When you put your trust in things that are truly trustworthy you are wise. But when you put your trust in people or things that are not trustworthy – that is foolishness and naivete. So it is no surprise – that about 40 times – the Psalms encourage us to put our trust in God OR tells us that God is trustworthy. Where we put our trust proves us to be WISE or shows us to be FOOLS.
So apart from the Psalms telling us to put our trust in God, the Psalms also tell us NOT to put our trust in other things. For instance, (Slide 1; Ps.20:7; 40:6). The reality is that many people in this world put their trust in POWER or the resources that come with power. We trust certain things or objects to get us out of trouble. For others it is MONEY (ENTER – Ps.49:6). Despite the US dollar clearly saying (Silde 3) “In God we Trust”; this is no longer true. Most people (including many Christians) now put a lot of trust in money to protect and save them in times of trouble. Psalm 49 says; (ENTER – PS.49:13)
For many with academic training and high IQ – we simply TRUST IN OURSELVES. We’ll save ourselves. But again, whether it is A) academic smarts or B) street smarts the Psalms make it clear that those who trust in themselves are fools. Of course those who trust in deaf, dumb, blind IDOLS are also fools (ENTER – Ps.135:18). ie. deaf, dumb and blind. But our western world is now full of IDOLS – everything from Buddha by the pool to the idol of wellness by the affluent.
US millionaire BRYAN JOHNSON now spends up to a million dollars a week on A WELLNESS REGIME that is one of the most depressing forms of idolatry I’ve ever seen. In a fallen world (where death and decay are inevitable) – wellness is as futile as trying to stop the incoming tide. But countless people (including western Christians) are now serving the idol of wellness and longevity.
Finally, the Psalms also repeatedly tell us (ENTER – Ps.146:3). Now I really shouldn’t have to tell people NOT to trust princes or politicians. Are we really that foolish? Trusting non-Christian princes and politicians is like trusting an ice-addict who’s beginning to itch. That’s how you spell FOOL. But this is the world we now live in. HUMANISM with its OPTIMISTIC VIEW of man’s essential goodness is turning us all into gullible fools. I believe that one of the biggest dangers for the modern church is we have lost the doctrine of the absolute depravity of man. Yes, the Bible says unsaved human beings are totally depraved. But instead, we have accepted the humanistic doctrine that man is essentially good. So we now believe unredeemed scientists, politicians and academics are essentially good, when the Bible clearly tells us they are essentially evil.
So friends I am increasingly concerned about our blind faith in what is called scientism. We were told to trust the scientists throughout coronavirus – even with fast tracked vaccines. We are also now told to trust the science with the origins of life, transgenderism and climate change in some very significant ways.
But no science is done in a VACUUM. All science is done by sinful, fallen, human beings with evil agendas (because their father is the devil). Those are Jesus words – not mine (Jn.8:44). So trusting unsaved, secular scientists is NOT much different to trusting a meth addict. Seriously! The Bible says – they both have the same thoroughly depraved human nature and poison is on their tongues (Rom.3:13). We ignore the doctrine of the absolute depravity of man at our own peril.
So where should we put our trust?
Point 1: The Wise Trust in the LORD Most High – Alone
Show: Psalm 91:1-2 (READ)
Explain: Well this Psalm begins by articulating who the wise person is – in a fallen world. The wise person trusts in the God of the Bible. Now the WORD for SHELTER (in verse 1) is literally “hiding place”. Who can you really trust in a world where everyone is hiding behind fig leafs?
This Psalm has many things in it – reminiscent of a horror movie. It includes in verse 3; THE FOWLER’S SNARE and some sort of DEADLY PESTILENCE. Verse 5; speaks of TERRORS in the night and ARROWS flying by day. Verse 6 – PESTILENCE that stalks your every move (like a deranged demon) and more PLAGUE. And if this isn’t bad enough – in verse 13 – we are reminded that we can no longer even trust the animal kingdom. The lion and the cobra bite. But this isn’t Nightmare on Elm Street. This is everyday life in a fallen, sinful, absolutely depraved world. So in such a scary, fallen world who can you really trust?
Well Psalm 91 says its GOD, GOD, GOD, GOD. Four times we are given different names for God. First, the Psalm speaks of God Most High. The Hebrew is word “El-yon”; EL meaning God; YON meaning above or beyond all other gods.
Although, there are many powerful, spiritual entities in this world (both good angels and fallen angels) there is one true God above them all. The mention of God Most High (or above other gods) is a reminder that we live in a fallen world where nasty spiritual forces are also at work. There are spiritual beings pretending to be gods who are NOT really God – like Allah, Buddha, Vishnu etc. Just fallen angels. So, Psalm 91 encourages us to make sure the Most High God is our shelter and hiding place. Spiritual forces are at work that can’t be trusted.
The next name we get for God is ALMIGHTY. In Hebrew it is EL-SHADDAI. The meaning is something like the All Mighty One. Although, there are other powerful spiritual entities (like angels and demons) their existence is derived from God Almighty. They are creatures. Only God Almighty is uncreated being. So if you put your trust in a god (less than God Almighty) that god will NOT be able to protect you from God Almighty if he is angry at you. God Almighty can protect you from lesser gods, but lesser gods cannot protect you from God Almighty. So where is your trust?
The third name LORD (in verse 2) is literally YAHWEH. Yahweh is Gods covenant name. The other names for God are really just adjectives to describe the supreme God. But the name Yahweh was given in covenant and through special revelation. God revealed to the Jews both his name – YAHWEH and HIS COVENANT PROMISE OF A MESSIAH. Yahweh explained to the Jews that He would one day provide a Saviour who provide A SAFE, HIDING PLACE – to save us from the effects of the fall. The name Yahweh is Gods covenant name that brings with it all the promises of the covenant.
Finally (again in verse 2) we find the ordinary name God. In Hebrew the word is EL-OHIM. It kind of means God who is plurality – perhaps alluding to Father, Son & Holy Spirit. So the Psalmist says ElYon, ElShaddai. Yahweh is “My God in whom I trust. But are we really trusting in God?
Illustrate: Before me here – I have TWO CHAIRS. I believe these are chairs. But biblical faith and trust is active, not passive. Biblical faith or trust is not just an intellectual exercise. It is active. So which of these two chairs should I plonk myself and trust it to support me? (PAUSE). Plonking myself in one – will prove me wise. Plonking myself in the other – will result in me looking like a fool. So where should I put my trust? When we put our trust in chariots and horses, money or ourselves, idols or even princes and people – we are putting our faith in chairs that are fundamentally broken. They will not and cannot support us – because they have all been damaged by the fall. THE ONLY THING that is NOT affected by the fall is God Himself.
Apply: The point is – ALL THE THINGS in the world that secularism and humanism and sinful man is encouraging us to trust in will ultimately fail us. They are NOT trustworthy. But in His grace and mercy – the true God – the God most High, El-Shaddai, Yahweh, Elohim left heaven and came into this world as Jesus – to be the Messiah we needed. He is the one chair that won’t let us down.
Perhaps, the biggest danger in this fallen, sinful world to OURSELVES is ourselves. When we trust in ourselves (or things other than God) – we invariably end up sinning against God. In fact, sin is not trusting God. And all of us have SINNED against God in many ways that offend Him. So instead of running toward God for safety and refuge, we run from God in fear of wrath and punishment. (GOSPEL) But God (simply because He is trustworthy and faithful to His Covenant) sent His Son – the Lord Jesus – to die on the cross for our sins. So as Jesus died on the cross – he took the punishment for everything we have done wrong upon himself, so that we can be spared. And God give us the NEW COVENANT PROMISE that if we 1) trust and believe Jesus died for us and 2) we make Jesus our hiding place (from all the consequences and effects of the fall) – we are forgiven.
When we trust in Jesus – God says that He accepts Jesus’ death as full and final payment for our sins. Godly Jews looked forward and trusted in the coming of this Messiah and their faith saved them. As Christians we look back and trust in the coming of this Messiah and our faith saves us. But we MUST ask ourselves are we really trusting in God (and the hiding place He has provided in Jesus) or are we more and more trusting in the hiding places offered by secularism and humanism because we now trust in things that are not trustworthy.
Point 2: The Wise Trust in the LORD Most High and receive Salvation
Show: Ps.91:3-7 (READ)
Explain: Well, the big question in verse 7 – is what is the “IT” that will NOT come near us? What is the “IT”? There are many dangers in this fallen, sinful world that lead to DEATH. Verse 3; The fowlers net is often code in the Psalms for deceitful, scheming men plotting to trap us and kill us If we trust fallen men we are prone to the fowlers net eventually getting us. Again verse 3 deadly pestilence is bad in that it is deadly. The fall means that our bodies now face disease, decay and cancer. Then verse 5 – talks of the terror of night. In non-lawful societies – night-time always brings certain dangers because people do all sorts of evil things under the cover of darkness. IN KENYA, most men still sleep with a weapon of some sort next to their bed to protect themselves and their families. But again verse 5 we are told (if we trust in Yahweh God) we are not to fear the arrows that fly by day (or perhaps if you live in America the BULLETS); nor the pestilence in the night time, the plague in the day time OR the ever present reality of war – where thousands and even tens of thousands sometimes fall on the battle field. But Psalm 91 says – do not be afraid. Trust in God.
Is God promising to protect us from all effects of the fall in this world? Sadly, even for the most devout, godly, faith-filled Christians this is NOT our human experience. Even as Christians we still experience the effects of the fall and as Paul says in Romans – we face death all day long.
But the “IT” that God promises to protect us from is clearly spelt out in verse 8. (SLIDE 8; Ps.91:8). What we will see with our eyes (but never experience personally if we trust in God is the punishment of the wicked. People are going to be judged and punished by God when they die OR when Jesus returns. AND THE FINAL PUNISHMENT of the wicked will be far worse than anything we have experienced thus in this fallen world. But as Christians we will only OBSERVE this punishment taking place. It will NOT COME NEAR US personally – if we trust in God.
SO THIS MEANS the FEAR that accompanies death is now gone for those who trust God. People often say that we only fear death because we fear the unknown. But this is NOT true. People fear death because THEY KNOW God is real (Romans 1) and THEY KNOW judgment is coming. Hebrews 9:27 says; man is destined to die once and after this face judgment. Or as 1 Corinthians 15:56 puts it – the sting of death is sin. We fear death because of what comes next. IT is the full and final punishment of our sin. But IT is gone for those who trust in Yahweh and make Jesus their hiding place.
Yes, as Christians we may still die in this fallen sinful world thanks to Adam. We can all take that up with Adam when we get to heaven. But as people who trust in Yahweh God alone for salvation, no longer face Yahweh God’s punishment – because Jesus took the punishment for our sins on the cross. For those who trust in God – death is just a glorious doorway into heaven. THE APOSTLE PAUL says he desires, he longs to depart and be with Christ – which is better by far. (Phil.1:23)
Apply: So as Christians we are called to live by faith in Jesus, not constant fear of death or punishment. The Bible is clear that Satan keeps us in a kind of SLAVERY if we fear death too much. If we are forever dancing and trying to avoid death (like ALL the people of the world) we will waste much time, energy and money for nothing.
We need to REMEMBER Psalm 31:15 says – our time in is in God’s hands. You will not die a second sooner or a second later than God has determined. God is Sovereign and your life is in His hands. (Now this raises many practical questions about 1) medical treatment in dire situations; 2) whether Christians should do missionary work in dangerous places OR even 3) stand for biblical truth if it risks martyrdom). THESE QUESTIONS are 1) beyond the scope of this sermon today and 2) need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
But the Psalmist goes on to assure us that if A) we live by faith in God and B) do not fear all the terrors of this fallen world – God will supply us with supernatural, ANGELIC PROTECTION. Have a look. (Slide 7; Ps.91:11-12). Now we don’t often think about angelic protection. But as we trust in God – He provide us with guardian angels to protect us. Of course, ANGELIC PROTECTION is not something to be flaunted. You know; “I think I’ll go go skydiving without a parachute because I have angelic protection.” Or “I’m going to be play Russian Roulette with a loaded gun because I have angelic protection”. Some activities are just plain foolishness… think the snake handlers in some of the Christian cults in the American deep south.
Some of you may know Satan quotes Psalm 91:11-12 when Jesus is fasting in the wilderness. Satan tells Jesus to jump off the highest place in the temple – because “God will command his angels to guard you.” Jesus then counters with a verse from Deuteronomy; “Don’t put the LORD to the test.” In the wilderness Satan is playing death games with Jesus. He uses fear of death to manipulate and control. So Satan urges the starving Jesus to save himself from death – by turning stones into bread. Then, Satan offers Jesus authority over all the kingdoms of the world (without having to go to the cross and die). But in each temptation Jesus trusts that God can save him from death, without putting Gods promise to the test. And in this Jesus models a truly biblical, wise attitude towards death. And then in Matthew 4 – we are told the angels came and ministered to Jesus.
Point 2: The Wise Trust in the LORD Most High and live a Full Life
Show: Ps.91:14-16 (READ)
Explain: Well, the word LOVE in verse 14 is a word that often means TO CLEAVE or to ENTER INTO COVENANT. This word LOVE is often used to describe 1) the marriage covenant and also 2) Gods covenant with Israel. But we are now focused on man’s side in God’s covenant. As we enter into God’s covenant – trusting His promise of salvation, acknowledging His name (and not giving way to the fear of death) – God now promises 1) rescue, 2) protection, 3) answers to our prayers, 4) being with us in times of trouble, 5) deliverance, 6) honour and 7) long life (in this world). It is in trusting God (in this fallen world) that we not only receive A) eternal salvation, but we also live B) the fullest, most abundant life we can possibly live now.
The final words of Psalm 91 are more or less the equivalent of Jesus saying – the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life and life to the full (John 10:10).
Apply: If we really want A) to live well in this fallen world in 2024 and B) ultimately see the punishment of the wicked on the last day – we need to really trust God, and especially when we are confronted with the reality of potential death in this fallen world. In such contexts – we can be sure Satan through his secular humanist mouthpieces – will be encouraging us to trust in anything and everything other than Yahweh God to save us. And despite this we need keep saying loudly and clearly; “NO. YAHWEH IS MY GOD IN WHOM I TRUST.” (Rpt). For every other TRUST is but a three legged chair… setting us up to fall.
As such they have long been considered a mirror for Gods people. As we stare into the Psalms, we begin to see ourselves for who we really are. Am I being wise or am I being foolish? Of course, given that it is a new year – I imagine we all want to begin by putting the right foot forward. So we need to look in the mirror so that we walk in wisdom, not foolishness.
My point is that there is a reflective quality to the Psalms to help us assess our own spiritual lives. For this reason – many godly saints have found that one or two Psalms a day (in their quiet times) is good for the soul. It is like medicine or daily vitamins to keep you healthy. (So, I wonder how have you started 2024? Have you spent time each day in God’s Word or are you already becoming too busy?) The problem is not really busyness. The problem is that the Psalms (and all God’s Word for that matter) are like one of those magnified, light up mirrors that women use to put on make up. (You know the ones I mean. You accidentally look in them and it’s like Aaagh. Do I really look that bad?). The Psalms so light up and magnify your life that you begin to see all the wrinkles, the puffy eyes and the imperfections in your skin. This is the nature of God’s Word and especially the Psalms. It shows us for who we really are – warts and all.