August 26, 2012

Sermon, Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

God Knows You
Psalm 139, 2 Corinthians 3:1-9, Mark 7:31-37
Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
August 26, 2012

When you hear words like omniscient or omnipresent, you may think they are only for academic theologians in seminary classrooms. In reality they are inseparably connected to everyday Christian living, for they express the deep essence of the nature and being of God.

Omnicience means God knows all things, but Psalm 139 shows that it especially means God knows you. The very first verse says God has searched you out. This does not mean God went looking for you, for you are never out of His sight. It means He sees you with a searching, knowing look. He searches you as the Bereans searched the Scriptures when the Apostle Paul preached to them. He is examining you in minute detail, and there is nothing about you that is hidden from His sight. He knows you. He knows the tiniest details of your life; your "down-sitting" and your up-rising." What time did you go to bed on this date two years ago? You don't know, but God knows. What did you have for dinner on this date three years ago? God knows. He knows all of your life. He knows what you will eat on this date next year. He knows what you will be doing a hundred years from now, a million years from now, and an eternity of eternities from now. He knows your words before you speak them. He knows what you will do before you do it. He knows your thoughts before you think them. He knows every structure in every cell of your body. Your bones are not hidden from Him. They were written in His book "when as yet there were none of them." He fashioned you as a builder builds a house. That is why verse 13 says you are "fearfully and wonderfully made."

If God knows you that well, He knows your sins. He knows the secret thoughts and desires of your heart, the secret sins you commit only in thought, the unjustified rage, the selfishness, the antipathy toward Him, the contempt of His commandments. To Him all hearts are open, all desires known, and from Him no secrets are hid.

He also knows every hurt, every sorrow, and every need you have, and He cares about you. I do not base my theology on hymns and songs, and when I like one it is because it expresses some part of Biblical truth in a succinct, easy to remember way. Such is the hymn by John Zundel, "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy;"

There is no place where earth's sorrows Are more felt than up in heav'n;
There is no place where earth's failings have such kindly judgments giv'n

God knows your sorrows, and He knows how to give good things to you. He alone knows how to comfort you, fill your emptiness and heal your brokenness. He can fill that hole in your being that you try to fill with toys and activities and amusements. And He can fill it better than those things because He is only piece of your puzzle that fits in that place. Quoting from John Zundel's hymn again;

There is welcome for the sinner, And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Saviour; There is healing in his blood.

Omnipresent means God is everywhere, but Psalm 139 makes the point that God is with you. No matter where you are, how bad things may appear to you, God has not and never will forsake you. Even in the shadow of death, "Thou art with me." "Thou art about my path, and about my bed, and art acquainted with all my ways" (vs. 2) . If you could fly to Heaven, or plunge yourself into the pit of hell, you would still be in the presence of God. If you fly through the sky with the wings of the morning, or go to the deepest part of the sea, even if you hide yourself absolute darkness, you are as much in His presence as if you stood before His throne in Heaven, and He sees you as clearly as you see yourself in the noonday sun. "Whither shall I go then from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I go then from Thy presence?"

Jonah God tried to go from God's Spirit and from God's presence. He ran from God for the same reason everyone runs from God, because he didn't want to do what God wanted him to do. God wanted him to preach repentance to the Ninevites, but that is just the letter of God's commandment. The spirit of God's commandment to Jonah was that God wanted Jonah to love the Ninevites, to care about them, and to have compassion on them. They were without God in this world, and would go to eternity without God, unless they repented, and God wanted Jonah to care about that. On an even deeper level, God wanted Jonah to care about God. He wanted Jonah to love God with all his being. He wanted Jonah to love what God loves. He wanted love to move Jonah to gladly do God's bidding. But Jonah refused. Instead of loving God, Jonah ran from Him. He probably thought God was limited to the geographical area of Israel, as though God had a territory, like a salesman or a franchise, and getting out of Israel would get him to a place where God could not reach him, could not bother him. But God created the heavens and the earth. He owns the seas and all that in them is. He can sink a boat or take it safely to harbour. He can even make a man live inside a fish for three days. If you are running away from God, like Jonah, you can't get away. He is there wherever you go, wherever you hide. He will always bother you, until you love Him back.

Jacob thought God had deserted him. Jacob tricked his father and stole from his brother until his brother rose in anger against him, and Jacob had to run for his life. In a matter of minutes Jacob went from having everything he wanted to having nothing at all. Alone in the desert, without friends or family, without home or money or food, feeling sorry for himself, but never admitting that he was reaping what he had sown, he found that God was with him. God was there in the desert. And God was working to bring Jacob to Himself, so that he would no longer be a liar and a thief and a con-man. God wanted more for Jacob than just to be the head of a clan, or to have power and money. That's what Jacob wanted, and he planned and plotted against his father and against his brother and against God to get what he wanted. But God wanted more for him than mere pleasures and trinkets of the world. God wanted Jacob to love God. God wanted Jacob to value what was really valuable, things like faith, and love, and hope and joy and peace and holiness. God wanted to give him God. And God is with you even in the most desolate wilderness of the soul. In fact, God often drives us into the desert to get our attention, and to begin the process of bringing us back to Him. It is as though He makes us realise we have nothing and are nothing without Him, and then we become ready to receive Him.

Seeing that God knows him, and seeing that God is with him, King David closes his Psalm as he does so many others, with words of faith in God. "How dear are thy counsels unto me, O God." "Lead me in the way everlasting." David has learned to love what God loves, desire what God gives, and hate what God hates. There is a wonderful message in all of this. Our entire existence is in God, and apart from God life has no meaning. That's why only God can fill the emptiness of the soul that all of us feel when we try to fill it with other things. But knowing God knows you, and that you are always in His presence, is a fearful thing to those who live in rebellion and sin. To such people God's knowledge and presence is condemnation forever. The knowledge and presence of God are comforting only to those who have come to Him in faith through Christ. And even their comfort is not found in their own goodness, but in the forgiveness of their sins through the cross of Christ.

"Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but for the mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen."

No comments:

Post a Comment