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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Those Who Seek Him (Psalm 24.3-6, Romans 10.4-9)

Sermon by: Robert Austell; November 15, 2015
Text: Psalm 24:3-6; Romans 10:4-9

:: Sermon Audio (link) ::
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used ::
Song of Praise: Holiness (Underwood)
Song of Praise: Jesus, All for Jesus (Robin Mark)
The Word in Music: Offertory (John Ness Beck)
Song of Confession: Give Us Clean Hands (Charlie Hall)
Offering of Music: Autumn Carol (choir; arr. Schulz-Widmar)
Hymn of Sending: Take My Life and Let it Be (HENDON)
Postlude: Linda Jenkins, Organ

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)::
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.

We are in the midst of a short series on Psalm 24. It has so much in it, from Creation to Fall to Redemption to consummation. As a Psalm it is poetry and music, and it packs the story of the bible into ten short verses. In many ways this is the song of the Bible. I encourage you to spend some time with Psalm 24 this week; perhaps even commit it to memory.

Last week we looked at the first two verses, which named God as both Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the world. We also looked at part of the Creation story in Genesis to see that God has entrusted us to care for this world as an act of obedience and worship. We often do that imperfectly, even sinfully, because of the Fall; but God has also come to redeem us and the world, restoring His image and purpose through Christ, who alone is capable of perfectly fulfilling what God has intended for us.

Today we will focus primarily on the middle part (vv. 3-6), though you will hear all of the Psalm over the course of the service. In this middle part, we will also be pointed to Jesus, because he is the one who has done perfectly what the Lord set out for us and he is the one who bids us to come after and follow him.

Who May Ascend? (v. 3)

Our text today starts with the question, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?” (v. 3) On the one hand you might think the answer is ‘no one’ because we read it in order in English and think verse 4 is the answer to the question. And no one truly has “clean hands and a pure heart,” therefore no one must be able to ascend the hill of the Lord.

This Psalm was sung as God’s people went in procession into the Temple of the Lord for worship. It is actually the case that ALL ISRAEL could ascend the hill because they were God’s people under the covenant.  The questions are celebratory because they highlight the generosity and graciousness of God’s covenant promises to Abraham and his children. Verse 4 actually serves to describe who will experience the BLESSING of God’s covenant faithfulness.

The way God set up His relationship with His people was not conditional – God did not promise to only be God of those who were good, because he knew we would fail. That’s a contract; you do this and I’ll do that. Rather, God set up a COVENANT, a one-way promise with God’s name on the line, that God would be the faithful covenant keeper. And part of that faithfulness was imparting Laws for the health, benefit, and blessing of His people. Keep these and you’ll be better off, because I love you and give you life-giving laws. That’s what covenant BLESSINGS are. And that’s what is described in verse 5, “He shall receive a blessing from the Lord.” Who shall receive it? …“The one with clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.”

We can’t keep the Law perfectly, but we aren’t talking about earning our salvation, but experiencing God’s blessing. And, in fact, verse 5 points out that righteousness and salvation come from God. They are gracious gifts of God. What a great pointer to Jesus!

Christ IS the one who has kept the Law perfectly. He is the perfectly righteous one. He is the one who truly has clean hands and a pure heart. And he IS God’s gift of righteousness and salvation. Christ has saved those who trust him through HIS covenant obedience.

So who can approach God? … all who will come. Who can experience blessing – God’s goodness? …all who obey God’s Word (that’s covenant obedience). What of the fact that at our best we can only do that imperfectly? …Jesus has gone before us and is the best of God’s blessings, God’s good gift of righteousness and salvation for all who trust him.

And verse 6 tells us how to do that; we “seek His face.”

Who Seeks His Face? (Romans 10:6-7)

The New Testament tells us that Jesus Christ is the tangible, touchable, seeable, enfleshment of God. Very God of very God; the visible image of the invisible God. We seek God’s face by seeking and following Jesus. That is what Jesus taught about himself as well when he repeatedly invited, “Come, follow me.”

So how do you do that? That’s where I want to turn to Romans 10. There is a portion of that chapter that brings to mind this language of ascending the holy hill. In Romans 10, Paul writes, “Don’t say ‘Who will ascend into heaven (to bring Christ down)?’ or ‘Who will descend into the abyss (to bring Christ up?’” (vv. 6-7)  We don’t go get Christ; we don’t go grab hold of our salvation by sheer will-power or good works or holiness. Remember, it is a gift of God!

But God promised salvation and righteousness (rightness with Him) as a covenant. And Psalm 24 reminded us that in addition to the ordinary blessings of living obediently before God there is the ultimate blessing of God’s salvation. So we don’t (and can’t) go get Christ, whether in Heaven, Earth, or Hell. We “seek God’s face” through Christ through belief, trust, and obedience. And Christ leads us – rather shares with us – God’s blessing-gift of salvation and rightness with Him.

The Word: God Has Come to Get Us (Romans 10:8-9)

Paul continues in Romans 10 with this wonderful quote, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart… the word of faith we are preaching.” (v. 8) It and the preceding verses are a quote from Deuteronomy 30:12-14, in which God tells his people that hearing His commandments is not difficult. It doesn’t have to be pulled down from heaven or brought from beyond the sea. God has given it as a gift. It is very near, in our mouth and our heart. Like the holy hill in Psalm 24, which is itself not hard or blocked to ascend, we have ACCESS to God’s holy Word. The question is faith and belief. The question is trust. The question is obedience and a willing to seek after Jesus.

So Paul continues, “If you confess Jesus and believe God raised him, you will be saved.”  (vv. 9-10) In seeking God through Jesus, we acknowledge Jesus as Lord and believe God raised him Savior, then we have and know God’s gift of salvation. Trust what God has done, and follow where He leads. That is how we seek His face.

Those Who Seek Him

Who are those who seek him? It is those who come in faith and obedience into the holy presence of God. Just like the holy hill of Psalm 24, our doors are open. Anyone can come in and worship here. But being here doesn’t make you right with God or impart salvation. God’s Word is near; it is read, sung, prayed, enacted, and cherished every Sunday. What will you do with it? God says that listening and obeying His Word is good. And God is ever faithful to meet us through His written Word and through the Incarnate Word, Jesus.

Do you seek Him? Would you trust Him and follow His Word and His Savior? It is right here; He is right here… near you, in your mouth and in your heart. It is never the wrong time to trust and follow Him for the first time. It is never the wrong time to trust and follow Him again. It is God’s delight to show His faith and make good on His faithful promises. Amen.

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