Category Archives: Jeremy Stopford

“SERMON ON THE MOUNT – AND BEYOND !!!”

Introduction, Part 2

Last week we began our study in perhaps the most famous “sermon” of all time, Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (SOTM). As you recall from last week, our Savior here is in the process of training His disciples – yet a “MULTITUDE” of people are listening in as well!

Did you catch how the “SOTM” (abbreviated, if you will) begins? Let’s read again Matthew 5:2, “Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying…” [my emphasis]. “He opened His mouth”! Isn’t this how all speeches of importance begin? Isn’t this how all professors begin their lectures? Isn’t this how all teachers begin their class? So then WHY is this so important?

We don’t have to go back too far in the Good Book to find our answer! You may remember that in the early part of Matthew 4, the apostle Matthew records the intimate details of Jesus’ temptation at the hands of our enemy, Satan. This is a most important recording! The Savior is showing that He came to earth as a Man – the God-Man if you will – to show that in addition to being our Savior, He was one of us, yet without sin. As such, how did He approach temptations? He approached them in the same way we must – using Scripture!

To each of the temptations He initially responded, “It is written”. And so should we! I’m particularly fascinated as to how He dealt with the FIRST allurement to evil from the enemy of our souls. We remember that Jesus had just spent 40 days in the wilderness WITHOUT food nor water. As we would be, He was hungry. He was famished. He was weak. Enter Satan. Enter Temptation #1: “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Could He have done that? Of course! BUT! He is now the “God-Man”! Remember what theologians would remind us in their understanding of the “kenosis” in Philippians 2:6-8:

6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,

7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

So while it is more than possible for the Savior to change stones to bread – or to steak or to MOXIE or to lobster or to any other most wonderful delicacy – He did not! Rather, He approached this temptation as He would want US to approach it: through the use of Scripture! As we could, He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, where Moses was instructing the next generation of the “children of Israel” as to how to live for the Lord:

“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

But WAIT, there’s more! Look at 2 Chronicles 6:4. In the context, Solomon, the newly crowned king of Israel, is sharing with his “congregation”, HIS “multitudes” of the people of Israel, that God is faithful to His Word! Listen to verse 4:

“And he said: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who has fulfilled with His hands what He spoke with His mouth to my father David…”.

Solomon did not become king by CHANCE! No, no! His kingship was a direct result of the Lord fulfilling His Word to Solomon’s father, David. “Fulfilling His word” how? “WHAT HE SPOKE WITH HIS MOUTH”!

The Father of glory spoke by His mouth here to Solomon, He fulfilled His Word in the giving of a son to David to continue the kingdom – and in turn, all the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for an ultimate Kingdom which will never end.

IS THERE MORE? Yes, at least one more! Do you remember – of course you do – the descriptions of Isaiah 53? Along with Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 and the chapters before it give vivid descriptions of what our Savior would endure at the time of the cross. In the middle of all this description of the Savior “becoming sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), is Isaiah 53:7:

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth;

He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,

And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”

[my emphasis]

Each of the gospel accounts gives a direct fulfillment of this prophecy concerning the Savior’s silence.

Listen to Matthew 27:12-14:

12 “And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.

13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” 14 But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.” [my emphasis]

The accounts in Mark and Luke are most similar to that of Matthew. However, the Gospel of John has a most unique emphasis which is typical of the gospel which is trying to show in vivid detail the Deity of our Savior. Listen to the interchange between Pilate and the soon to be crucified Savior, as seen in John 19:9-11:

[Pilate] “went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.

10 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”

11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

[my emphasis]

In fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53, the Savior was silent when questioned about His Humanity. BUT when questioned about His Deity, He was quick to share the proof of His origin. Did you catch the intent of John 19:11? The Savior was showing in no uncertain terms that the events of the cross were a direct result of the plans of His Father – and in NO WAY were being orchestrated by Pilate. That truth shook Pilate to his core.

Why is all this important? Because: Like Father, Like Son! The Savior, like His Father in the Old Testament before Him, spoke as it were “from His mouth”. The disciples in Matthew 5-7, along with the multitudes who as well heard, were listening to the Words of God right from the One Who is the Author of those Words!

The SOTM [remember what this means?] is more than just a bunch of nice words shared in the middle of a nice sermon which most of us might fall asleep in sometime in the midst of it! Rather, it is from the “mouth of God”, sharing His guidelines for the Kingdom – not only for Israel’s FUTURE kingdom, but also for the Kingdom of God lived on earth TODAY through those who love the Lord Jesus as Savior!

Are you ready to hear the Words of God from the mouth of God?

Why not spend a few moments this week reading – or perhaps re-reading – Matthew Chapters 5-7.

Better yet, ask yourself two important questions:

#1:“Do I love the Lord Jesus as my Savior and Lord, having trusted that what He did at Calvary was the payment for my sins, MY sins?” If so, rejoice that you belong to the King of kings!

AND #2: “IF I love Jesus as my Lord and Savior, am I walking with Him, intentionally spending time each day in His Word [listening to what comes from His Mouth] and in prayer [sharing with Him what comes from my mouth and heart]?”. Why not intentionally set aside those precious moments between you and the Savior! Someone once wisely observed, “if you read 3 chapters each day Monday through Saturday, and 5 chapters on Sunday, you can read the whole Bible through in one year!”. That may be an HUGE goal for you – but WHY NOT?

May the Lord bless your walk with the Savior this week. LISTEN to what He has to SAY!

“A NEW LOOK AT AN OLD LOOK!”

Semi-retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

I suppose when you get to be “our age” (whatever that is, eh, Dr. Becker?), it is possible to think “we’ve arrived” and we DON’T need to be taught anything new! They have words for people like that: “stagnant”! It’s kind of like having a really bad smell coming from the kitchen. After hours of tracking down that foul odor, to much surprise is found a very dead dormouse (or, to paraphrase O Henry, “how can a dormouse be dead?”). That description would be terrible if it happens to someone – like you or me – who says they love the Lord Jesus as Savior but are struggling to see Him afresh in one’s life.

Enter the “Sermon on the Mount”. I was a relatively young pastor in 1992 when I preached through this sermon series for my first and only time. As I’ve looked over my notes for the first time in almost 30 years, I am amazed at how scholarly I was back then. My fear is that such scholarship was probably a form of plagiarism – I found a good quote, wrote it town, and the people in the pew wouldn’t know the worse.

Which leads us to today! This series, now in 2021, could possibly be entitled, “A NEW LOOK AT AN OLD LOOK”. Catchy, huh? But maybe that’s what you and I need! A new look at an old look! We need to look in a real way at some most familiar words proclaimed over 2000 years ago, designed to show the world that Jesus Himself hungers to be REAL in those who proclaim Him as Savior. Lord willing, for the next number of weeks we will be making that “new look” together!

Let’s begin with Matthew 4:13, “And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali…”. Leaving Nazareth. For Jesus, HOMETOWN! A place of familiarity. A place where everyone knows Him as “the carpenter’s son”. In Matthew 13:55, a crowd most surprised by His teaching questioned, “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?”. They KNEW who He was. They KNEW His beginnings – they were there! But now, after not seeing Him for who knows how many years, His public ministry – designed initially to point Israel to its true Messiah – was a shock to their familiar intellectual surroundings. Mark 6:3 dissects that the people of Nazareth “were offended at Him.” A friend once told me that meant, “they didn’t like the way He did things.”

So He moved on, to Capernaum [pronounced, properly, “CAP-ER-NAAAAAM” – kind of like a southern Texas drawl], which town would become His new “headquarters” as well as His disciples and His place of retreat. Do YOU have a “place of retreat”? It may be only the recliner in the living room! By the way, I saw a cartoon yesterday in which the doctor tells his visibly overweight patient, “no, you can’t count the recliner bar as a form of exercise”. Perhaps your place of retreat is the golf course, or digging into a good book, or a weekend away to a new scene. In any case, Jesus will be with you – you are NOT retreating from Jesus!

And His disciples were with Him! And so were the multitudes (verse 25)! God’s people are NOT to be isolationists! We may need to be recharged from time to time. But people – PEOPLE! – are not an interruption to ministry. People ARE ministry! Our Savior knew that, and the Scriptures teach that! Remember Acts 1:8: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [my emphasis!]. See also Acts 7:59-8:1, where after the stoning of Stephen, the writer declares, “At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” [again, MY emphasis!]. What’s the point? The Savior is preparing people to be purposely placed where HE needs a witness, a voice, an encourager, a challenger, a testimony. He needs HIS Word proclaimed! Evangelist D. L. Moody wisely said, “Preach the Gospel at all costs! And if necessary, use words.” Our lives and our words are to be used by the Savior to make an eternal impact wherever He wisely gives us HIS assignment! What is YOUR place of assignment today?

Finally, God’s people are to be taught, Matthew 5:2, “Then He opened His mouth and taught them…”. But wait, there is MORE! God’s people are to be taught BECAUSE they are God’s people! How about some familiar verses put together in one spot? Proverbs 22:6a, “Train up a child in the way he should go…”. Ephesians 6:4, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” [MY emphasis]. 2 Timothy 4:16a, 17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable… that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

And God does look AT THE HEART! Remember when Samuel was called of God to choose out from all the males in Israel the “man after God’s own HEART” to be the next king of Israel? Jesse was sure that his oldest son – tall, dark, and handsome Eliab – would be a PERFECT candidate for the next king of Israel! What did God say to Samuel? 1 Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Shortly afterwards, Eli anoints none other than Jesse’s youngest, “a boy named David.”

And with all this…enters the “Sermon on the Mount”. The Savior is training God’s people to be His instruments where He has wisely placed each one, so that each one can represent HIM and HIS heart!

My favorite song of all time, without question, is J.S. Bach’s “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.” A man may play the song accurately. He may play all the notes mechanically perfectly. And yet, he may not really have played it accurately at all. WHY? Because he has missed Bach’s INTENT – that the mood of the music is to reflect the centrality of CHRIST in the desire of man.

Hence, the Sermon on the Mount is the Savior’s instruction to His people to do WHAT? To create the mood of the music of our lives to reflect the centrality of CHRIST in the desire and lives of His children.

How about YOU? Are you ready for the Savior’s challenge – to sit at His feet and learn of Him?

TODAY’S FINAL (!) LESSON: Psalm 134

Semi Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

A STUDY IN THE ASCENT PSALMS

This is Study #15 of our insights into the “Ascent Psalms” – Psalms 120-134! Each one of these studies has drawn us to a vivid realization that we are on a sojourn, a journey, a walk with the Lord with the end of the journey being, well, HIM! In ancient days, the Jews were either heading back to Jerusalem from captivity OR they were headed to Jerusalem for specific feast days. In either case, the end result was the presence of God in Jerusalem.

Our theme verse has been Psalm 84:5, “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.” (Psalm 84:5 NKJV). Have you learned our theme verse yet?

TODAY WE ARE IN PSALM 134

Psalm 134 New King James Version (NKJV)

A Song of Ascents.

1 Behold, bless the Lord,

All you servants of the Lord,

Who by night stand in the house of the Lord!

2  Lift up your hands in the sanctuary,

And bless the Lord.

3  The Lord who made heaven and earth

Bless you from Zion!

Our valuable scholar, Dr. Graham Scroggie, entitles this psalm “Blessing and Blessed”.

I have created a most simple outline:

1. In the House of the Lord, v. 1

2. In the Sanctuary of the Lord, v. 2

3. In the City of the Lord, v. 3

There are SOME INTERESTING INSIGHTS we all can glean from this wonderful psalm!

FIRST, did you notice how many times the word “bless” is used in these 3 verses: Yes, 3 times! First, in verse 1 we are instructed that the servants of the LORD should be blessing the LORD! Isn’t that a good reminder? Have you ever gone into a project and thought, “I wonder what PEOPLE will think of me if I do this? Or present this? Or say this? Or NOT do this? What will PEOPLE think of ME? ME? ME?

The psalmist lovingly reminds us that the ONE to be blessed is not ME (although, as a by-product, we should be “blessed” for doing a project with the right motive, shouldn’t we?). Rather, the One Who should be “blessed” is the One Who should be the One for Whom anything is done! Isn’t that what Paul says to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 10:31b, “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”. Wow!

Second, in verse 2, we are directed to bless the Lord in the sanctuary. The psalmist is instructing the reader to remember a most important truth: that every moment is to be a moment of worship! EVERY moment! And then in verse 3, the third use of “bless” is seeking the blessing of the One Who is the Creator of all things! That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Kinda puts us in our place!

I like what Paul says in his doctrinal treatise to the brethren in Rome, particularly in Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…”. God’s creation – and His wonderful design on display in it – purposely draws every man, woman, boy and girl of all eternity to His Lordship.

IF that Lordship is NOT recognized, that individual is “without excuse” when he or she appears before the Lord “in that day”. But IF that Lordship IS recognized, the Lord in His grace lovingly points the seeker to the One Who is the Creator Himself – even the Lord Jesus – and gives further revelation in the WRITTEN Word that Jesus died for the sinner, and His death, burial, and resurrection is on the sinner’s behalf – the only substitute for sin that God will eternally honor. “BLESS THE LORD!”

SECOND, it would be easy to overlook that little phrase in verse 1: “you servants of the Lord WHO BY NIGHT stand in the house of the Lord”. Why does the psalmist share that insight? Wouldn’t it have been sufficient simply to say, “bless the Lord all you servants of the Lord” and add nothing to it? Perhaps the answer to that question is found in the phrase “WHO BY NIGHT”.

Listen to the first part of Exodus 27:21, where Moses is giving instructions concerning the service of the temple: “In the tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil which is before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it FROM EVENING UNTIL MORNING before the Lord…”.

Answer me this: who is going to see them? Not me – I’ll be in bed! How about you? You, too, sleep at night? Hmmm. So the only One Who will see them is…THE LORD HIMSELF! Why is this important to the psalmist? Because the psalmist is reminding us that there are MANY servants of the Lord who serve Him in various functions – most of them unnoticed by man – but they ARE noticed by the Lord Himself! That just thrills my soul, because I really AM a blessing to Him! Wow! “BLESS THE LORD IN MY OBSCURITY!”

THIRD, Who is “the Lord” in this psalm? He is none other than “Jehovah” [“YHVH”). Why is THAT of particular interest? Because that Name for God refers to the One Who is both merciful and condescending to His creation. This Name tells the reader that God should be blessed because, well, He FIRST blessed us!

Again, what does the New Testament say so well, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). How about “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…” (Romans 5:8). The Lord of this psalm is the One Who sees us as we are, and yet comes down to where we are. We in turn should, got it?, BLESS HIM WHO IS MERCIFUL!

FINALLY, did you notice the different ways God is referred to? In verse 1, He has a house where His children – His redeemed family – can bless Him! Oh my! Did Hebrews 10:25 come quickly to your minds too? “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

His redeemed family should be blessing Him together, encouraging one another, lifting each other up in prayer and support. In verse 2, we are instructed to “lift your hands” while blessing the Lord in the sanctuary. Is that an instruction on HOW to worship? Is it telling me that I MUST lift my hands in order to properly worship our great God? OR is it more than just a physical teaching?

Perhaps God is telling us that the “lifting of the hands” is an outward sign of an inward humbling before the One Who only is to be praised! And then notice verse 3, Who is the Lord here? Why, He is the Maker of “heaven and earth”. HE should be blessed. But here it is HE WHO does the blessing! Wow!

AS WE CONCLUDE OUR STUDY in the Ascent Psalms, I have been most challenged – haven’t you? I am on a journey, a pilgrimage! The Lord Himself is directing me, following me, and is the “End Result” of my lifelong walk!

And if I’m REALLY alert, I will notice that there are MANY OTHERS on this journey. The Bible says that God has placed an hunger for Him in the hearts of every one who has every had breath. That hunger can only be met in Him. So the journey begins at the very moment we took our first breath! And, yes, “from dust to dust” we will breathe to walk with Him through faith in His cross!

ARE YOU STILL BREATHING? You’re reading Dr. Becker’s website, aren’t you? Then you are still on the journey! You are still on your pilgrimage!

MAY THE LORD BE BLESSED in your journey with Him today!

THIS YEAR’S VERSE!

Thoughts on Philippians 1:21

by semi-retired pastor, Jeremy Stopford

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

(First preached January 5, 2014—First Baptist, Earlville, NY)

As you may know, in all the years I have pastored, I have begun each year with a new “memory verse” or, better, “this year’s verse”. While the Bible encourages us to memorize Scripture [Psalm 119:11 – (Do you know it?) “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”], we are calling this “this year’s verse”. I am hoping you will do more than just memorize or learn this verse. I am hoping you will LIVE this verse! Prayer

Our memory verse for 2014 divides nicely into two parts. I want to take the second part – “and to die is gain” – first. This is the HOPE of the passage. Our Savior and Scripture invite us to trust the Lord Jesus as our Lord and Savior. IF we have that trust, then the Bible says we also have a HOPE. The hope says I belong to Him, and that I will also spend eternity with Him! “To die is gain” isn’t a morbid thought; rather it is a HOPE of eternity – knowing that I can LIVE for God today because I have HOPE for tomorrow!

The first part gives us the HEART of the passage – “for to me to live is Christ.” What is it that you are living for? Earthly goals? Family? Or Christ? Earthly goals and family ARE important, but they are no match for having an eternal purpose – living for Christ!

The Apostle Paul was in a Roman prison, daily chained to four Roman guards (one to each foot, one to each hand). What do you think he thought when they had their “changing of the guard” – perhaps as much as once every 4 hours? That means that 6 times a day of twenty four hours he would have four new guards – twenty four guards per day. Do you think he thought, “Oh no, here we go again!”? Or do you think he prayed, “Lord Jesus, prepare hearts for the gospel!”?

What do you think he talked about with them? “Hey, how about them Dolphins!” Or, “How about the weather, huh? Sure is COLD!” Or do you think he talked about the Lord Jesus and His salvation at the cross? The book of Philippians lets us in on that, for throughout the book Paul mentions about the number of guards and “members of Caesar’s household” who had come to know Jesus as Savior – WHILE Paul was a prisoner. Because for Paul, “for to me, to live is Christ”!

This verse is, in essence, Paul’s legacy. It is what he LIVED in that dash between his new birth as a Christian and his date of death. What – or better WHO – he lived was CHRIST!

I read a wonderful devotional this morning, written by Oswald Chambers. He made the observation that when we first come to Christ, when we first follow Him, this is the “external”. It is nothing mysterious. We are simply trusting that what God’s word says is true – that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Mr. Chambers then went on to say that God then calls us to a second “follow” – and he calls this the “internal”. This is a regular sacrifice. This is a regular yielding, a surrender to the Lord Jesus’ Lordship in our lives. Mr. Chambers would agree with Paul, wouldn’t he, that “for to me to live is Christ” – a sacrifice, an internal surrender to the eternal!

I encourage you to memorize this verse this year. It is an EASY verse to memorize. It is an HARD verse to live. You cannot tell me the verse today – not until next Sunday. And only then, you can tell me the verse IF you agree: “Pastor, this is my surrender. This is my sacrifice.”

Our 2014 memory verse, Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Close in prayer

A WORD FROM CHRISTMAS PAST

Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

This message was delivered the first year that Pastor Stopford served as pastor of First Baptist Church Earlville, NY , December 13, 2009.

Immanuel? I thought His Name is Jesus!”

Matthew 1:18-25:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son,

and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.

And he called His name Jesus.

INTRODUCTION

This is my official first Christmas here at First Baptist. And, historically, this would be the Baby Jesus’ first Christmas – for this is the season that we commemorate His birth.

By the way, do you know the difference between the Christmas Alphabet and the English Alphabet? You bet – the Christmas Alphabet has no L.

We are not looking to Clement More for his approval, though he wrote, “’Twas the night before Christmas”. We are not looking to Bob May – a 1926 classmate of my Dad’s at Dartmouth – for his insight, although he wrote “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer.”

No, no! We are looking to the Gospel of Matthew, the first gospel of The Book. Familiar words. Sometimes TOO familiar.

Today, may the Lord Jesus give us fresh insights into the purposes of that first birth.

PRAYER

  1. THE STORY OF THE BIRTH (1:18)

“Mary was betrothed to Joseph”. This was a big deal in Jewish circles. Joseph’s and Mary’s parents got together and at one point said, “my son Joseph and your daughter Mary would be perfect for each other. There, that settles it.” Do you wish it were that way today?

So it was the betrothal – a period of time similar to an engagement, but with all the rights of marriage EXCEPT consummation. Joseph and Mary got to know each other better, their likes and dislikes. In the meantime, it was the PARENTS who figured out all the arrangements for the wedding. THEY made the plans. Don’t you wish – sometimes – that parents were more involved in today’s weddings?

And in the midst of all this betrothal stuff are these words of inspiration: “she [Mary] was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” We know from Luke 1:26-38 that by this time the angel Gabriel had visited her and explained to her what was to be. It was near that time that Mary said these words of her true heart which ring down through the centuries: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And later, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. for He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant…”. (Luke 1:38; 46-48a). Mary’s heart, her WORSHIP, was forever – and is still in glory – to her own Son.

II. THE JUST HUSBAND (1:19)

So Mary and Joseph were planning their wedding! Can you imagine each of their thoughts as they were wondering how married life would be different from their individual lives as single people? And then came the news: Mary is pregnant. Joseph knew, he just KNEW, that the baby was not HIS. She had violated her vows of betrothal to Joseph! By law, he had a number of choices. Being the espoused husband, he could have Mary stoned to death – PUBLICLY!

Please note that verse 19 comes before verse 20. [“DUH!” You say!]. BEFORE the visit from the angel of the Lord, BEFORE there is any public ridicule upon Mary – much less upon Joseph – the Scriptures in verse 19 say, “being a just man”. The scriptures identify the CHARACTER of this man of God! He was a just husband! He was a private man, with a private personal walk with the Lord, which in turn governed his public life.

We have MANY public figures today with PUBLIC problems – from the President on down. Joseph heart should make us question OUR own hearts – what is OUR character? Who are we when NO ONE (but the Lord!) is looking?

III. THE AMAZING “BEHOLD” #1 (1:20-21)

So Joseph is thinking about “doing the right thing”. Like you and me, he was thinking about all the options available to him. But most of all, he was thinking about…MARY! His heart broke for how her character would be attacked. So while he was thinking about all this, there was an interruption: “BEHOLD!!!!!!!!!”

When I read through the Christmas story, I just want to circle the word “behold”. In fact, I often can wonder how it first must have been said. Can you see the Eternal Bose Mic picking up the word? “BEHOLD!!!!!!!!!”

It was now Joseph’s turn to have a visit from the beloved angel Gabriel. Joseph’s world comes to a stop: When I read through the Christmas story, I just want to circle the word “BEHOLD!!!!!!!!!”. In fact, I often can wonder how it must have been first said. Can you see the Eternal Bose Mic picking up the word? “BEHOLD!!!!!!!!!” The area is inundated with the Glory of God.

God loves to intervene in our history when we are making OTHER plans! He does that in our lives. He does that in eternity and with His eternal purposes. Joseph is now given the BIG picture!

The angel Gabriel takes Joseph from what Joseph thinks is the temporal (the pregnancy of an unwed mother) into the eternal (God becoming Man through the work of the Holy Spirit within Mary’s womb!). Not only is Joseph given the BIG picture; he is also told the Baby’s Name: “Jesus”. “Jesus” is the Greek “Iesous” transliterated. The name means “Jeshua is Savior”. Did you catch that? JEHOVAH IS SAVIOR is Jesus’ name!

This tells Jesus’ MISSION!

IV. THE AMAZING “BEHOLD” #2 (1:22-23)

In essence, Matthew tells us ““BEHOLD!!!!!!!!!” I thought His Name is Jesus”:

He takes us to a quote of Isaiah 7:14, where the Messiah is introduced as having the Name “Immanuel”, that is, “God with us.” This refers to Jesus’ CHARACTER.

I would encourage you to read Isaiah Chapters 7-9. These chapters answer way ahead of time how the Messiah Jesus-Immanuel will be received:

* He will be given the Name “Immanuel” (7:14)

* “Immanuel” will still be waiting for Israel to acknowledge Him as “God with us” (8:8-10)

* “Immanuel” will be exalted (9:6-7)

CONCLUSION: Let’s get practical!

In 1:20-21, Joseph was told what to do (take Mary as wife; she will give birth to a Child Who is the Son of the Holy Spirit) and in 1:24-25, Joseph did what he was told to do!

He OBEYED WHAT HE HEARD!

He understood Jesus’ MISSION: to save the lost!

He understood Jesus’ CHARACTER: God with us.

But he also understood that God’s Son Immanuel would be rejected, that He would patiently wait for our trust, and one day would be exalted to the position which He already holds by character.

How about you? Are you OBEYING WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD?

OR does your trust need to be RENEWED?

At this Christmas time, God is looking for sinners to trust what HE has done for the whole world in sending His Son. God is looking for sinners to trust Jesus as Savior, God with us. God is looking for sinners to trust that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was for each of us personally!

Is that your trust today? Did you need to be reminded afresh WHO your trust should be?

IMMANUEL! GOD WITH US! MERRY CHRISTMAS! Close in prayer

TODAY’S LESSON: Psalm 133

Semi Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

STUDY IN THE ASCENT PSALMS

INTRODUCTION

Today is Study #14 of our insights into the “Ascent Psalms” – Psalms 120-134! We will have one more lesson – Psalm 134 – in this study. However, Lord willing we’ll have a special “Christmas study” next week.

Each one of the Ascent Psalms is unique, an individual, one of a kind. Since we have started this study, have you seen how your life is a journey, a sojourning into the seemingly unknown but also into the hands of the One Who knows your path?

OUR THEME VERSE

“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NKJV). Have you learned our theme verse yet?

TODAY WE ARE IN PSALM 133

Psalm 133 New King James Version (NKJV)

Blessed Unity of the People of God

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

1. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is

For brethren to dwell together in unity!

2.  It is like the precious oil upon the head,

Running down on the beard,

The beard of Aaron,

Running down on the edge of his garments.

3. It is like the dew of Hermon,

Descending upon the mountains of Zion;

For there the Lord commanded the blessing—

Life forevermore.

TITLE AND OUTLINE OF PSALM 133

TITLE (per Dr. W. Graham Scroggie): “Fraternal Unity”

OUTLINE (per JBS):

I. Goal (v, 1)

II. Purpose (v. 2)

III. Impossibility (v. 3)

SOME INTERESTING INSIGHTS

So, you are struggling to maintain your private devotions, are you? Your moments for an intimate walk with the Lord are seemingly squelched with all the stresses of time – even in our seasons of dealing with Covid-19 and its challenges and restrictions? So the Good Lord in His kindness and wisdom has given you an huge GIFT. He has given to you Psalms 117 and 133 – the shortest psalms in the Bible! Read them on those time challenging mornings, and you can honestly say, “I’ve read my Bible today!”

Psalm 133 is indeed one of the shortest psalms, much less one of the shortest chapters in the Bible. And don’t be fooled – it’s brief content has much encouragement for the soul who is seeking the heart of his/her Father.

It begins with a call to unity, a statement of how brothers on the same journey ought to be. I remember the first time I read through the Ascent Psalms in a most intense way. Sometime during that season, I went to a meeting of the Conference my first church was in. The President of the Conference (Tioga River Christian Conference, for those of you who might be familiar with it!) said, “before we begin our meeting, I want to have a devotional on our need to be united as a Conference.” Before any more words came out of his mouth, without thinking I blurted out, “Psalm 133”. He said, “HEY! Did you read my notes?”. I told him that I have ESPN. Or something like that.

Romans 6:19 perhaps gives the heart of Psalm 133:1:

“I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.”

“Slaves [or better, ‘servants’] of righteousness for holiness.” The heart of Psalm 133:1 is that those of us who love the Lord Jesus as our Savior are on the SAME JOURNEY! We are…BRETHREN! Brothers and sisters in Christ. Bought by the precious blood of the Lamb. We are not our own, we are bought with a price. Therefore our focus should be on the oneness we have together in Christ. “Dwell together in unity” is possible ONLY if we dwell together in the awe-ness of our being ONE IN CHRIST! Anything short of that is a ticket for disaster in the body of believers.

Verse two introduces the journeyman to an interesting comparison. The key word here is “LIKE”. Such a unity which is described in verse 1 is LIKE “the precious oil upon the head”. WHAT? I don’t want no oil put on MY head! Phooey! I JUST washed my hair this morning! It would take forever to get that oil OUT! What kind of picture of unity is that?

Good questions…until. Until you answer the important question: WHY was oil upon the head, running down the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments? Why?

Listen carefully to the words from Exodus 29:1,7. These are THE LORD’S instructions to Moses. These are NOT Moses’ instructions to the people! These are the Lord’s words. And the Lord said, “And this is what you shall do to them to HALLOW [“set them apart as holy”] them for ministering to ME as priests…you shall take the anointing oil, pour it on HIS [Aaron’s] head, and anoint him…” Aaron is Moses’ brother, BUT he is NOT chosen simply because of family ties. The creation of this priesthood is by order of the LORD HIMSELF! And in order to set Aaron (and his descendants) apart, anointing oil is poured over them. Can you visualize the oil being poured on Aaron’s head, watching it flow through his beard, to his shoulders, to his priestly garments, to his feet?

What did the writer of Psalm 133:2 say, “ It is LIKE the precious oil upon the head,

running down…”. Do you remember what the disciples (in particular, the crooked Judas the treasurer) said when Lazarus’ sister Mary took costly ointment and anointed the Lord Jesus (Mark 14:3ff)? What did he/they say? “Why this waste?” The Lord Jesus turned around and said that this would be forever a memorial of Mary’s worship of the Lord Jesus. A memorial of what? The Lord Jesus’ death – His being the Lamb of God CHOSEN by the Father to be the Substitute for the sin of the world!

To the world, the church – the true church with its blood-bought members – is a WHAT? Waste! So the Savior through the writer of Psalm 133 is reminding the church that we are NOT a waste! We are PRECIOUS in His sight! We are CALLED! We are BLOOD BOUGHT! We are His PERFECT design to turn the world upside down for His glory. AND as such, we are designed to be…ONE in Christ!

But wait, there’s MORE!

Carefully look at the illustration in Psalm 133:3. It is LIKE! The unity of the brethren, focused on their ascent to Jerusalem to the temple [or, in NT practicality, focused on the glory of God on display through His body which is faithfully walking with HIM] is now given an overwhelming comparative. Watch the progression: like the dew of Hermon…descending upon the mountains of Zion…there the Lord commanded the blessing…life forever!

KEY THOUGHT: WHAT blessing? Look at Genesis 12:2,3: I [the Lord] will make you [Abram/Abraham] a great nation; I will BLESS you and make your name great; and you shall be a BLESSING. I will BLESS those who BLESS you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you ALL the families of the earth shall be BLESSED.” Tuck this away for further personal study: this is the framework of the Savior’s words of Matthew 25, the dividing of the world into the “sheep” and the “goat” nations. The “sheep” nations are the blessed ones – because they are the ones who recognize ISRAEL as God’s chosen people, and so treat him accordingly. The “goat” nations are the ones so recognized because they fail to honor Israel as GOD’S people.

CONCLUDING THOUGHT

The BLESSING? Life forevermore! Illustrated through the anointing oil upon the priest, setting him apart as God’s servant. What may have seemed a waste is God’s design! And one day the Father would send His One and only Son – the Lord Jesus – to be the High Priest of the sheep, yet One Who would take the place of the sheep and become THEIR sacrifice, the perfect, spotless, sinless Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. ANOINTED eternally as the One to be our Lamb on Calvary’s cross.

The BLESSING? Life forevermore! Fulfilling the promise of God to Moses as Jesus being the Prophet just like Moses.

The BLESSING? Life forevermore! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten [His “One and only”] Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have EVERLASTING LIFE.” (John 3:16).

The BLESSING? Life forevermore! When the body of believers recognizes the plan of the Father as put in place by the Son, effected on the cross, and eternally effectual through His shed blood, uniting FOREVER all those who have their faith and trust in that death, burial, and resurrection of Christ being in their place – then why wouldn’t the brethren dwell together in unity?

Is that YOUR walk with the Father?

Is that YOUR excitement about your local church?

Is that YOUR joy with your fellow brethren in the ascent, the journey with the Lord?

TODAY’S LESSON: Psalm 132

Semi Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

STUDY IN THE ASCENT PSALMS

INTRODUCTION

Today is Study #13 of our insights into the “Ascent Psalms” – Psalms 120-134!

Each one is unique, an individual, one of a kind. A visual of a pilgrim’s journey – like YOURS! Since we have started this study, have you seen how your life is a journey, a sojourning into the seemingly unknown but also in the hands of the One Who knows your path?

OUR THEME VERSE

“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NKJV). Have you learned our theme verse yet?

TODAY WE ARE IN PSALM 132

The Eternal Dwelling of God in Zion

A Song of Ascents.

1. Lord, remember David

And all his afflictions;

2. How he swore to the Lord,

And vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob:

3. “Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house,

Or go up to the comfort of my bed;

4. I will not give sleep to my eyes

Or slumber to my eyelids,

5. Until I find a place for the Lord,

A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

6. Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah;

We found it in the fields of the woods.

7. Let us go into His tabernacle;

Let us worship at His footstool.

8. Arise, O Lord, to Your resting place,

You and the ark of Your strength.

9. Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness,

And let Your saints shout for joy.

10. For Your servant David’s sake,

Do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.

11. The Lord has sworn in truth to David;

He will not turn from it:

“I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body.

12. If your sons will keep My covenant

And My testimony which I shall teach them,

Their sons also shall sit upon your throne forevermore.”

13. For the Lord has chosen Zion;

He has desired it for His dwelling place:

14. “This is My resting place forever;

Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.

15. I will abundantly bless her provision;

I will satisfy her poor with bread.

16. I will also clothe her priests with salvation,

And her saints shall shout aloud for joy.

17. There I will make the horn of David grow;

I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed.

18. His enemies I will clothe with shame,

But upon Himself His crown shall flourish.”

TITLE AND OUTLINE OF PSALM 132 (Dr. W. Graham Scroggie)

TITLE: “Prayer and Promise”

OUTLINE:

  1. The Prayer of the people (vs. 1-10)

A. That the King’s resolution may be remembered (vs. 1-5)

B. That the sanctuary in Zion may be accepted (vs. 6-10)

  1. The Promise of the Lord (vs. 11-18)

A. In respect of the King: the oath to David (vs. 11-12)

B. In respect of the Sanctuary: the choice of Zion (vs. 13-18)

SOME INTERESTING INSIGHTS

I was trying to remember what things I was told to remember. But I forget.

Seriously.

There were things that Mother told me to remember. And without getting remotely risqué, there was that reminder about wearing clean underwear, but I don’t remember why she told me to remember. [Was it an accident or something? I don’t remember!] And to remember that she had both the power and the authority to “send me into the middle of next week.” I’m so glad that she never remembered to do that.

But what happens when GOD HIMSELF is asked to remember something. Does God need to remember? Does God ever forget?

Well, actually He DOES forget, doesn’t He? Do you REMEMBER what He forgets? There are a good number of references, but the end of Jeremiah 31:34 will suffice: “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will REMEMBER no more.” This is not only present for believers. In the context – as quoted in Romans 11:27 – it is a definite future promise to Israel.

Sometimes – respectfully speaking – I think the Lord has a sense of humour. Listen to the FIRST use of a form of “remember, in Genesis 8:1: “Then God REMEMBERED Noah…”. Had He forgotten about Noah and the ark? Hmm. After that pronouncement – marking 150 days that the rains and winds would subside and the earth would be dry – God makes a promise: “I will REMEMBER My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh…” (Genesis 9:15). No more would the world be completely covered/destroyed by rain [it WILL be by…fire – 2 Pet. 3:7 and elsewhere].

In an overwhelming 230 VERSES the Lord REMEMBERS the word REMEMBER! Isn’t that overwhelming?

And one day our Savior would both command and encourage the disciples in regards to the communion, “this do in REMEMBRANCE of Me.” Why would He need to use the word “REMEMBER” in that form and context? Because He knew, and He KNOWS, that His creation, well…FORGETS! In the busyness of our worlds, and in the struggles of life, we FORGET to REMEMBER that the heart of life is Jesus’ broken body and shed blood given for us at Calvary.

You ask, “WHAT does that have to do with our study in Psalm 132?” The word “remember” is the heart of this passage. Look with astonishment, awe, and wonder at verse 1, “Lord, REMEMBER David and all his afflictions.” Read that real slow, now: “Lord. Remember. David.”

Didn’t we just learn that the Lord Himself remembers in over 200 passages? Didn’t we just learn that the very first usage of “remember” was about Noah and a promise of no more world-wide destroying flood? Did we just learn that the Lord Jesus wants us to remember His sacrifice for our sins?

Isn’t that enough?

HERE’S THE HEART OF GOD: He loves us! And He loves us SO MUCH that He would include in His Word – and in particular an Ascent Psalm marking one’s direction toward the heart of God and His worship – an intimate moment between David and his amazing, faithful, loving God. DAVID! The same one who had an affair with old what’s her name! (Bathsheba, for those who forgot!). The same one who would one day flee Jerusalem because his kingdom was falling apart while under the rebellion of David’s son, Absalom. King David asks God to remember David. An intimate moment. A tender moment. David REMINDS God! He asks God to REMEMBER! Remember all I went through in my afflictions for You! Remember my heart and desire that You have a place to reside permanently in Jerusalem! Remember that I want your ark to have a permanent place of rest in a house – a temple – in the heart of the city which one day will be the center of the kingdom of the King of kings, even Your Son Whom you have promised us! Remember!

Thus the word “REMEMBER” is the heart and soul of this ascent psalm! Why is that important to us today? Why is that important to those of us who are struggling in our “ascent” to God and to His temple? Why is that such a vital word for us?

Because what do we want God to REMEMBER? His PROMISES! “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you will be…forever!” “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” “Call unto Me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know!” What are YOUR favorite promises from God’s Word?

As a result, we have the freedom and JOY to ask God to REMEMBER! Remember ME! Enjoy that freedom and joy today!

There is one other phrase that the psalmist uses in this psalm. It is “clothed with”, as seen in verses 9, 16, and 18. The scriptures would encourage the student of God’s Word to be familiar with this term, one which is used at least thirty times in The Good Book! Note the 3 uses in this psalm. Verse 9 is a prayer that God’s priests be “clothed with righteousness”. The prayer is that the priests not only have a positional righteousness – because they belong to God that is what they have. But it also is a request that the priests have a living righteousness – because that is how they should behave! Further, in verse 16, the psalmist – while speaking from the mouth of God Himself – quotes the Lord as saying that He indeed WILL clothe His priests, with salvation! And as asked in verse 9 and answered in verse 16, that answer to prayer will result in His saints indeed shouting for joy!

Are you rejoicing that you who belong to Jesus by His blood shed at Calvary are clothed with righteousness – both personal and active?

Are you overwhelmed that you are clothed with salvation – both eternal and daily?

Are you?

CONCLUDING THOUGHT

As we bring this study of Psalm 132 to a close, there is a third use of “clothed with” that should give us all an heartfelt warning. In verse 18, the psalmist gives a futuristic yet present-day promise, “His enemies I will CLOTHE WITH shame, but upon Himself His crown shall flourish.” The psalmist is an instrument of God’s promise that the enemies of His eternal plan will be clothed with shame. Perhaps the shame is realizing that, despite all the promises and hopes that the Lord Himself has offered to His creation for literally centuries – if not millennia – they have refused His offers of grace. They will eternally be labelled as “His enemies.”

But the psalmist is more personal than that. The question must be asked, “WHOSE enemies?”. Go back to verse 17, “There [in Jerusalem, upon the Throne of David]…I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed.” “My Anointed”. That is “God’s anointed One”. The Hebrew is appropriately translated…aw, you knew already…MESSIAH!.

The psalmist is giving a past declaration of a present day activity of a future promise! [HEY Dr. Becker, that was pretty profound, no?]. In the past – Psalm 132 – the psalmist is declaring that in his present day the Lord Himself is promising that one day – in the future kingdom – the Savior, the promised Son of David, even the Lord Jesus, will sit upon David’s Throne in Jerusalem where He will rule and reign for a 1000 years over the world, Israel will have its promised King and kingdom.

But that promise comes with shame for all those who did not believe the promise.

How about THIS promise, in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten [His One and only] Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Have YOU believed that promise? Do you know Jesus Christ as YOUR personal Savior? OR will you be one of those whom God looks upon with shame?

Which will it be? Clothed with righteousness and salvation?

OR clothed with shame?

TODAY’S LESSON: Psalm 131

STUDY IN THE ASCENT PSALMS

Semi Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

INTRODUCTION

Years ago, I preached a series of messages going through the entire book of Romans. I was a young pastor, quite “wet behind my ears” as far as preaching a series all the way through a book of the Bible was concerned. So the first message was prefaced, “Studies in Romans, Part 1” then the title. It wasn’t too long when came, “Studies in Romans, Part 10”, then “Part 20”, then “Part 26”. I know, I know – some pastors would take even longer. But I learned from that – NEVER again preface a study with “Part #…”. Having said that, …….

Today is Study #12 of our insights into the “Ascent Psalms” – Psalms 120-134!

Each one is unique, an individual, one of a kind. A visual of a pilgrim’s journey – like YOURS!Since we have started this study, have you seen how your life is a journey, a sojourning into the seemingly unknown but also in the hands of the One Who knows your path?

OUR THEME VERSE

“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NKJV). This is a short verse – have you learned it yet?

TODAY WE ARE IN PSALM 131

Psalm 131 New King James Version (NKJV)

Simple Trust in the Lord

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

1. Lord, my heart is not haughty,

Nor my eyes lofty.

Neither do I concern myself with great matters,

Nor with things too profound for me.

2. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,

Like a weaned child with his mother;

Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3. O Israel, hope in the Lord

From this time forth and forever.

TITLE AND OUTLINE OF PSALM 131 (Dr. W. Graham Scroggie)

TITLE: “The Quiet Soul

OUTLINE:

  1. The Negative Claim (v. 1)
  2. The Positive Claim (v. 2)
  3. The Consequent Claim (v. 3)

SOME INTERESTING INSIGHTS

This is often called “A Psalm of Humility”. Now I’m the most humble person I know – just ask me, I’ll tell you. At least, I may have THOUGHT I am humble – until I am confronted with the Word of God , and in particular with this psalm.

Ever have one of those “OH MY!” moments while reading the Scriptures? Never? Not even once? I doubt I’m the only one. Sometime last year, as I was continuing my habit of reading 5 psalms every morning, I came upon Psalm 131. I had read it MANY times before. But THAT morning was different. Why? Because the Spirit of the Lord said in a silent, yet booming voice, “this psalm is My psalm for you.” The tears came then, and the gratefulness continues now.

This psalm has become my favorite passage in Scripture. I hope in time it will become one of your favorites as well.

The psalm is only 3 verses long, yet look how this is a proper “ascent” psalm – a psalm of heading toward a spiritual goal.

In verse 1, David equates the use of two body functions – his heart and eyes – and adds to them his “concern” with great and profound matters. My NKJV has some good “center margin” understandings of this verse:

“My heart is not ‘haughty’” = it is not “PROUD”. Listen to Proverbs 18:12, “Before destruction the HEART of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility” – the SAME thinking that David has here in Psalm 131! Proverbs 6:16 and the following talk about the “six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him”. In verse 18 is “a HEART that devises wicked plans.” Solomon, the author of most of the Proverbs, learned well from his father, David!

Psalm 131 goes on to say, not only is his heart not haughty, but “nor my eyes lofty.” Again, the margin reads for “lofty” = “arrogant” – decidedly an excellent understanding of “lofty”! Again, in Proverbs 6, verse 17, one of the things God hates is “a proud LOOK”. “Arrogant” fits well in our understanding.

David says in Psalm 131, “neither do I concern myself with great matters”. The margin is helpful once again: “concern” = “walk in” or “exercise”. This is a term of the body, of trying to stay in shape. Yet in this psalm it becomes a term of the spirit – of keeping the spiritual part of us in shape!

Finally in verse 1, David says that he doesn’t concern himself “with things too profound for me.” “Profound”? Ok, here we go…the margin says, “difficult”.

So David makes a declaration of what he has learned in his many years of walking with the Lord. These are lessons learned in HIS sojourn, his pilgrimage with the Lord. My HEART (heart), my EYES (soul), my EXERCISE (strength/body), and my PROFUNDITY (mind).

What was it that Jesus told the one who was looking to see if his life measured up with what the Lord expected? In Mark 12:20, Jesus said, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your HEART, with all your SOUL, with all your MIND, and with all your STRENGTH.’ This is the first commandment.”

David had learned this truth. And when we do, we will discover that our whole being is learning to be focused on a complete love for the Lord!

In verse 2, David visualizes the journey to true worship. He uses a comparison with which many of us may be familiar: the weaning of a child. The child may be human, it may be a kitten with a mother cat, a puppy with a mother dog, a young cow or other farm animal with its mother. This is a picture of contentedness. And in this contentedness, David uses terms like “calmed” and “quieted”. These are super visual, aren’t they? But what is the picture, the visual of weaning accomplishing? The calming and quieting of David’s SOUL – his innermost being and its hunger for true worship, true substance.

Have you read Ecclesiastes 3 lately? We’re all familiar with verses 1-8, “To everything there is a season…”. The Byrds made that into a famous song back in the 1960’s. In fact, when I introduce that passage as a song the Byrds sang, I often see the looks or actually hear the “I didn’t know THAT was from the Bible!” from those in my audience. But soon after the “to everything” verses is verse 11: “He [GOD] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” What does it mean, “put ETERNITY in their hearts”? Scholars teach that when used in that form, “eternity” stands for everything that the LORD stands for: purpose, substance, holiness, righteousness, and more! In other words, when God puts “eternity in their hearts”, He has put into our hearts an hunger for…HIM. We spend ALL OUR LIVES searching to feed that hunger, to satisfy that hunger, with everything BUT Him…until we come to the cross! And then “eternity in [OUR] hearts” is satisfied indeed!

THAT’s what David is sharing in these first 2 verses – our HUNGER for the LIVING LORD is SATISFIED only with Him. Nothing else will satisfy. Are YOU satisfied in Jesus alone?

CONCLUDING THOUGHT

Verse 3, “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever” sounds much like the last verse of Psalm 130, a prayer for Israel. That’s a good thing when the citizens of a nation – especially those of faith – are praying for its nation. Is that the heart of this verse?

I think not! As we close our study in Psalm 131, let us remember that David is thinking primarily, NOT of the nation, but of its citizens.

We here in the U.S. of A have just – I think? – finished a most tumultuous presidential election season. What is the one sad lesson that we’ve learned? That a nation becomes a DIVIDED nation when its citizens label themselves ONLY by political parties and not by allegiances to the Savior.

David in his hunger for, journey toward, and sojourn with the living Lord so desires that the citizens of Israel join him in that sojourn.

Will you be a sojourner of faith where the Lord has wisely planted YOU ?

TODAY’S LESSON: Psalm 130

Semi Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

STUDY IN THE ASCENT PSALMS

INTRODUCTION

We are heading into the HOME STRETCH! Today is Study #11 of our insights into the “Ascent Psalms” – Psalms 120-134!

Each one is unique, an individual, one of a kind. A visual of a pilgrim’s journey – like YOURS!

OUR THEME VERSE

“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NKJV). This is a short verse – have you learned it yet?

BUT FIRST, A COMMERCIAL !!!

Make that, TWO Commercials!

(Is a commercial allowed, Dr. Becker?)

COMMERCIAL #1: Have you BOUGHT the book?

“Saving Jesus – the unique story of the wise men”

AND the hero doesn’t have a name very similar to mine !!!

Get to Amazon and get your copy – why, I bought THREE – and have given 2 away!

COMMERCIAL #2: NEXT WEEK’S LESSON IS PSALM 131

Did you remember that is my FAVORITE passage in the whole Bible?

Please READ IT this week!

TODAY WE ARE IN PSALM 130

Psalm 130 New King James Version (NKJV)

Waiting for the Redemption of the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

1 Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord;

2  Lord, hear my voice!

Let Your ears be attentive

To the voice of my supplications.

3  If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

4  But there is forgiveness with You,

That You may be feared.

5  I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

And in His word I do hope.

6  My soul waits for the Lord

More than those who watch for the morning—

Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

7  O Israel, hope in the Lord;

For with the Lord there is mercy,

And with Him is abundant redemption.

8  And He shall redeem Israel

From all his iniquities.

TITLE AND OUTLINE OF PSALM 130 (Dr. W. Graham Scroggie)

TITLE: “De Profundis !!!”

OUTLINE:

#1. Waiting ON the Lord (vs. 1-4)

A. Earnest Supplication (vs. 1-2)

B. Joyful Consolation (vs. 3-4)

#2. Waiting FOR the Lord (vs. 5-8)

A. Trustful Expectation (vs. 5-6)

B. Stirring Exhortation (vs. 7-8)

SOME INTERESTING INSIGHTS

I had an extra challenge this week! Brother Scroggie entitled this psalm “De Profundis!”. Did you know that Oscar Wilde wrote a book by that name? So what does it mean? According to the dictionary, it means “a heartfelt cry of appeal expressing deep feelings of sorrow or anguish.” THEN to my surprise, it continues “and the ‘De Profundis’ prayer in the Bible is Psalm 130”. So here we go!

The psalmist raises an interesting question in verse 1 – “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord”. Where do you think he was in life when he prayed such an extreme prayer? Where would you or I be? To be honest, my simplistic prayer usually is, “Father, thank you for a new day. I give the day to you. Bless [whatever I’m looking forward to, or whatever a family member or friend is looking forward to]. Amen”.

I don’t think this kind of prayer of our unnamed psalmist is the “norm” for most of us – but it doesn’t HAVE to be! It is letting us know that WHAT we might pray and WHAT our heart REALLY feels, may be two different things! And that it is OK to “CUT LOOSE” before the Lord.

Matthew 6:8 reminds us, “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Paul adds in Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

So IF the Father knows our hearts, AND the Spirit knows our hearts, what is the point in this psalm? A little phrase which says, “OUT OF THE DEPTHS” !!! Wow! That phrase sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Who else prayed “out of the depths”? Who? Listen to his INDEPTH [little play on words, eh Dr. Becker?] insight, from, of course, Jonah 2:

1“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly.

2 And he said:

“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction,

And He answered me.

“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,

And You heard my voice.

3 For You cast me into the deep,

Into the heart of the seas,

And the floods surrounded me;

All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.”

Well, perhaps Jonah is teaching us that one does NOT have to go into the BELLY of the great fish to qualify to have an heartfelt prayer with the Lord! What he IS teaching us is that we can pray anywhere, anytime, regardless of the words or the hurt.

[For you studious ones, there is ONE time when our prayer needs to be preceded by repentance:

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” (Psalm 66:18)]

The Lord loves to receive by His ear the hurts of His children! The Spirit loves to help in putting to voice – EVEN if the voice is never uttered by word! – the concerns of the Father’s children.

Even “out of the depths”.

One more quick thought about this psalm. Did you notice that in verse 5 and the first part of verse 6, THREE TIMES the psalmist says that “he waits”:

“I WAIT for the Lord, MY SOUL WAITS,

And in His word I do hope.

MY SOUL WAITS for the Lord…”

OK, let’s be honest here. How well do you and I REALLY love to “WAIT”???

Been in a line at Walmart, especially just before Thanksgiving or before Christmas?

Been in a line at the traffic light?

Been someWHERE when you need to be elseWHERE 5 minutes ago?

So what does the psalmist DO while he is WAITING for the Lord to act?

The rest of verse 5 says, “And in His word I do hope.” “IN HIS WORD I DO HOPE!” Did we catch that?

I knew of a missionary friend, ministering among the Guanano Indians, who ultimately was martyred for his faith by Colombian rebels down in Colombia many years ago. Tim VanDyke LOVED the Lord, he LOVED to share his faith. And the testimony that came back after his martyrdom was WHAT? That while he and his co-worker were dwelling among their captors, what did they DO? They SHARED the Word of God in the hopes that their captors would be…SAVED! Tim and Steve HOPED in the Word of God! Yes, they, too were both “in the depths”. And while waiting upon the Lord to get them OUT of the depths, they HOPED that the Word of God would not only be THEIR hope, but it would also be the HOPE of their captors! Wow! The Great Faith chapter says of Tim and Steve, “of whom the world was not worthy”.

CONCLUDING THOUGHT

Look at the last two verses. How would YOU have finished a prayer from “out of the depths” of the despair or situation that the Lord allowed YOU to be in?

Our unnamed psalmist prayed for ISRAEL! He prayed for their:

HOPE in the Lord

MERCY in the Lord

ABUNDANT REDEMPTION in the Lord

REDEMPTION from all their iniquities!

The psalmist did NOT end his prayer praying for himself! He prayed for his country, his beloved Israel! In one sense, in praying for Israel, he was praying for the preparation of his nation for the future coming of the Messiah. But he was also praying for the hearts of the people of his land: that they would know the HOPE, MERCY, and REDEMPTION of the Lord!

Is that OUR prayer for the LAND in which the Lord has wisely put each of US?

Why not while IN the depths, and while an answer is not visible before us, let us remember to pray for an ENTIRE NATION that it, too, would be surrendering to the Lord’s amazing HOPE, MERCY, and REDEMPTION!

Will you pray for your land today?

TODAY’S LESSON: Psalm 129

Semi Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

STUDY IN THE ASCENT PSALMS

INTRODUCTION

WOW! Already, today we are in Study #10 of our insights into the “Ascent Psalms” – Psalms 120-134!

Each song is unique, an individual, one of a kind. All together they form a panorama of the pilgrim’s journey.

OUR THEME VERSE

“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.” (Psalm 84:5 NKJV). This is a short verse – but worthy of being not only OUR theme verse but YOUR Life Verse! Have you learned it yet?

TODAY WE ARE IN PSALM 129

Psalm 129 New King James Version (NKJV)

Song of Victory over Zion’s Enemies

A Song of Ascents.

1 “Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth,”

Let Israel now say—

2.  “Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth;

Yet they have not prevailed against me.

3  The plowers plowed on my back;

They made their furrows long.”

4  The Lord is righteous;

He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked.

5  Let all those who hate Zion

Be put to shame and turned back.

6  Let them be as the grass on the housetops,

Which withers before it grows up,

7  With which the reaper does not fill his hand,

Nor he who binds sheaves, his arms.

8  Neither let those who pass by them say,

“The blessing of the Lord be upon you;

We bless you in the name of the Lord!”

TITLE AND OUTLINE OF PSALM 120 (Dr. W. Graham Scroggie)

TITLE: “The Vindication of the Righteous”

OUTLINE: #1. The Affliction of the Righteous, Past (vs. 1-4)

#2. The Judgment of the Unrighteous, Future (vs. 5-8)

SOME INTERESTING INSIGHTS

To prepare our hearts for this study, let’s read together the following verses from PSALM 73:

Asaph, the author, began this psalm with these insightful, almost patriotic words:

“Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;

My steps had nearly slipped.

For I was envious of the boastful,

When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (VERSES 1-3)

Asaph, like the unnamed author of Psalm 129, has an overwhelming zeal for Israel. Throughout the psalms, even the non-Jewish readers can note that there is a tender place in the Lord’s heart for His chosen people:

Note PSALM 73:17:

“Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.”

Finally, note Asaph’s declaration of his inner faith, in PSALM 73:25-26:

“Whom have I in heaven but You?

And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.

  My flesh and my heart fail;

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Why are these verses important to our study of PSALM 129? Because they show the unity of the zeal for Israel, the anger of the non-Jews toward the nation and toward their God, and the firm hunger of God’s people of all ages for the intimacy provided in a relationship with the living God.

With those thoughts, coming to PSALM 129, note that there are at least 2 unusual grammar forms in this psalm:

#1 VERSE 3. “plowers plowed on my back”

This is a picture of both weakness and helplessness. It is a recurring theme in Scripture, and for good reason.

Let’s look together at a couple of verses to show this (there are MANY more – a casual reading of the entire Bible will find them readily!):

FROM JOB 30:

“They abhor me, they keep far from me;

They do not hesitate to spit in my face.” (v. 10)

“He has cast me into the mire,

And I have become like dust and ashes.” (v. 19)

“I cry out to You, but You do not answer me;

I stand up, and You regard me.” (v. 20)

“My skin grows black and falls from me;

My bones burn with fever.” (v. 30)

These all show an opposition to Job, an opposition which he did not ask for; an opposition which rears its ugly head not only with taunts of the wicked, but a seeming silence from God Himself.

Who else experienced this? Let’s check out:

ISAIAH 50:6 “I gave My back to those who struck Me,

And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard;

I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.”

ISAIAH 52:14 “Just as many were astonished at you,

So His visage [“appearance”] was marred more than any man,

And His form more than the sons of men;

MATTHEW 27:26 “Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged

Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.”

In English literature, this is called the “Christus Element”. It is an identification of a character – or, even in Psalm 129 a nation – Who/which has suffered suffering for which He/it did not ask, and which was no fault of His/its own.

As in Isaiah 50, 52, and Matthew 27, Psalm 129 is a perfect example of the “Christus Element”. The unknown author of Psalm 129 is pointing the nation of Israel directly to the One Who one day in the future would willingly suffer in their place! And His Name is Jesus!

#2 VERSES 5-6, which includes the phrase “grass on the housetops”

In 2 KINGS 19:25-26, the prophet Isaiah encourages King Hezekiah that the purpose of opposition from the King of Assyria was to point that king to the reality that all his accomplishments were not a result of his power, might, or wisdom. The king’s victories were a result of the Lord Himself using an ungodly king to fulfill His purposes for the nations – including Israel – against which the Lord had sent the armies of Assyria.

In that passage is a similar phrase to PSALM 129:

“Therefore their inhabitants had little power;

They were dismayed and confounded;

They were as the grass of the field

And the green herb,

As the GRASS ON THE HOUSETOPS

And grain blighted before it is grown.”

As in Psalm 129, this is a phrase of destruction. The picture is of grass which withers away, resulting in a useless and unprotected home – a type of how useless and unprotected any nation would be which seeks to oppose the LIVING God of Israel!

Oh how secure is the nation of Israel – as well as the believer – under the protective arms of our Great God and Savior!

CONCLUDING THOUGHT

A study of Psalm 129 would be incomplete without a comment on the psalm’s final phrase,

“The blessing of the Lord be upon you;

We bless you in the name of the Lord!”

There are at least 2 times in Scripture when this phrase or theme is used! In RUTH 2:4, the main male character Boaz at the start of the work day would greet his workers with, “The Lord be with you!”. In reply, they would respond, “The Lord bless you.”

Can you imagine your employer beginning the work day seeking a blessing from God upon the present day of labor?

But its origin is with the phrase often used throughout scripture and was initially found in NUMBERS 6:24-25, where the Lord instructed Moses as to how he was to bless the people of Israel, in part:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

  The Lord make His face shine upon you,

And be gracious to you…”

PSALM 129 incorporates that blessing. It was a reminder to the people of God throughout all the ages that there is a DIFFERENCE between the people of God and the people of the world.

The people of God enjoy the blessing – the personal, intimate, deep blessing – of the living God!

The people of the world not only do not enjoy that blessing – they have no idea what it is!

When we have trusted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are people of the blessing of the Lord!

Aren’t you glad you are a blessed person? Don’t you wish that everyone knew the blessing of being a child of the King of kings?