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Honest to God

Living the Way Everlasting

Psalm 139: 23-24

Dr Alex Tang

 

Sermon statement

The Lord knows all about us, is always with us and has lovingly guided our lives. We need to be honest to him if we are to develop spiritual intimacy and spiritual growth.

 

Introduction

Do you dare to pray this prayer?

 

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;  test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

Psalm in context

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

 PS 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me

    and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;

    you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;

    you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue

    you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in--behind and before;

    you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

    too lofty for me to attain.

 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

    Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

    if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

    your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me

    and the light become night around me,"

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;

    the night will shine like the day,

    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;

    you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you

    when I was made in the secret place.

  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.

  All the days ordained for me were written in your book

    before one of them came to be.

 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

    How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,

    they would outnumber the grains of sand.

  When I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God!

    Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!

20 They speak of you with evil intent;

    your adversaries misuse your name.

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD,

    and abhor those who rise up against you?

22 I have nothing but hatred for them;

    I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;

    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,

    and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

This is considered a didactic wisdom psalm and attributed to King David. David realizes that God knows every detail of his life in advance and it is impossible to hide from that penetrating presence. Therefore there is no need to defend himself against false accusations to God. It is this knowledge that leads him to this beautiful affirmation of his loyalty to God and submission to the divine guidance in v.23,24.

 

The Way Everlasting

 

1.      The Knowing God (v.23)

a.       The All-Knowing (v.1-6)

b.      You can run but you cannot hide (v.7-12)

c.       God is good all the time (v.13-16)

2.      Honest to God (v.24)

a.       Honor God (v. 17-22)

b.      Honesty is the best policy

 

1.      The Knowing God (v.23)

  PS 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;

    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

a.      The All Knowing (The Lord knows all about us) (v.1-6)

  PS 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me

    and you know me.

  PS 139:2 You know when I sit and when I rise;

    you perceive my thoughts from afar.

  PS 139:3 You discern my going out and my lying down;

    you are familiar with all my ways.

  PS 139:4 Before a word is on my tongue

    you know it completely, O LORD.

  PS 139:5 You hem me in--behind and before;

    you have laid your hand upon me.

  PS 139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

    too lofty for me to attain.

God’s closeness in overwhelming.

 

The All-Knowing God is demonstrated by the choice of David as king when God has rejected Saul. This is documented in 1 Samuel 16: 1- 13

1SA 16:1 The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king."

    1SA 16:2 But Samuel said, "How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me."

    The LORD said, "Take a heifer with you and say, `I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate."

    1SA 16:4 Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, "Do you come in peace?"

    1SA 16:5 Samuel replied, "Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me." Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

    1SA 16:6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD."

    1SA 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

    1SA 16:8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, "The LORD has not chosen this one either." 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, "Nor has the LORD chosen this one." 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, "The LORD has not chosen these." 11 So he asked Jesse, "Are these all the sons you have?"

    "There is still the youngest," Jesse answered, "but he is tending the sheep."

    Samuel said, "Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives." 

    1SA 16:12 So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.

    Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one."

    1SA 16:13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.

 

b.      You can run but you cannot hide (The Lord is always with us) (v.7-12)

  PS 139:7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

    Where can I flee from your presence?

  PS 139:8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

Above and below the earth

  PS 139:9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

    if I settle on the far side of the sea,

movement from east to west as speedy as the speed of light

  PS 139:10 even there your hand will guide me,

    your right hand will hold me fast.

  PS 139:11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me

    and the light become night around me,"

  PS 139:12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;

    the night will shine like the day,

    for darkness is as light to you.

God sees the psalmist at all times including into the dark. Lord can see into the depths of our being, our consciences.

 

c.       God is good all the time (The Lord has lovingly guided our lives since creation) (v.13-16)

We are God’s creative workmanship before we are born.

PS 139:13 For you created my inmost being;

    you knit me together in my mother's womb.

  PS 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    your works are wonderful,

    I know that full well. 

  PS 139:15 My frame was not hidden from you

    when I was made in the secret place.

  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

    PS 139:16 your eyes saw my unformed body.

  All the days ordained for me

    were written in your book

    before one of them came to be.

  

2.      Honest to God (v.24)

  PS 139:24 See if there is any offensive way in me,

    and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

a.      Honor God (v. 17-22)

Against false accusers and to align ourselves with God.

PS 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

    How vast is the sum of them!

  PS 139:18 Were I to count them,

    they would outnumber the grains of sand.

  When I awake,

    I am still with you.

  PS 139:19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God!

    Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!

  PS 139:20 They speak of you with evil intent;

    your adversaries misuse your name.

  PS 139:21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD,

    and abhor those who rise up against you?

  PS 139:22 I have nothing but hatred for them;

    I count them my enemies.

We have to choose between following God or rejecting God which is similar to hating God. This is what the palmist did. He chose to stand with God and hate those who hate God. Joshua, at the end of his time as the military leader of the Israelites and having conquered Canaan said this to the assembly of the ancient Israelites.

  JOS 24:14 "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

When we choose God, we choose to honor him and be against all things that will dishonor him. Things that dishonor God are also called “counterfeit Gods” or idolatry. Pastor Tim Keeler of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York in his book Counterfeit Gods (Keller 2009) offer offers a brief list of idol categories:

Theological idols - Doctrinal errors that produce such distorted views of God that we end up worshipping a false god.

Sexual idols – addictions such as pornography and fetishisms that promise but don’t deliver a sense of intimacy and acceptance; ideals of physical beauty in yourself and/or your partner; romantic idealism

Magic/ritual idols – Witchcraft and the occult. All idolatry is in the end a form of magic that seeks to rebel against the order of transcendent reality rather than submitting to it in love and wisdom.

Political/economic idols – Ideologies of the left, right, and libertarian that absolutize some aspect of political order and make it the solution. Deifying or demonizing free markets, for example.

Racial/national idols – Racism, militarism, nationalism, or ethnic pride that turns bitter or oppressive.

Relational idols – Dysfunctional family systems of codependency: “fatal attractions”; living your life through your children.

Religious idols – Moralism and legalism; idolatry of success and gifts; religion as a pretext for abuse of power.

Philosophical idols – Systems of thought that make some created thing the problem wit life (instead of sin) and some human product or enterprise the solution to our problems (instead of God’s grace).

Cultural idols – Radical individualism, as in the West, that makes an idol out of individual happiness at the expense of the community; shame cultures that make an idol out of family and clan at the expense of individual rights.

Deep idols – Motivational drives and temperaments made into absolutes: a. Power idolatry: “Life has meaning/ I only have worth if - I have power and influence over others.” b. Approval idolatry: “Life has meaning/ I only have worth if - I am loved and respected by ____________.” c. Comfort idolatry: “Life has meaning/ I only have worth if - I have this kind of pleasure experience, a particular quality of life.” d. Control idolatry: “Life has meaning/ I only have worth – if I am able to gain mastery over my life in the area of ____________.” (p.204, n.119)

“The only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the true one. The living God, who revealed himself both at Mount Sinai and on the Cross, is the only Lord who, if you find him, can truly fulfill you, and, if you fail him, can truly forgive you” (xxiv).

b.      Honesty is the best policy (We need to be honest about our need for him)

We must examine ourselves in relationship to how we honor God. Most of the time we believe honouring God is doing more for him – getting involved with more church activities, more givings, more …. human doing.

We are created to be human being, not human doing. We are created to be God’s creation which reflect his image. God’s image is reflected in human beings as Jesus Christ. We are created to become more like Jesus.

One of the fears that hold us back in our relationship with God is to be honest with God. From young, sometimes though bitter experiences, we are taught that it is dangerously to be completely honesty with anyone. We think that total revelation of ourselves will lead to

Ø      Abuse if people uses what we reveal to harm us

Ø      We don’t like ourselves

Ø      We want to be someone else

Ø      We are ashamed of ourselves

Ø      We are wounded

Ø      We enjoy our sins

Ø      We are afraid that God will ask us to do something which we do not like

So we hide behind masks and shun relational intimacy (which is relational honesty). Unfortunately this limiting of our honesty or intimacy in relationship also apply to our relationship with God. We are afraid of being totally honest with God. So we stick to a superficial relationship with him. We are like facebook friends. We share edited information. We are afraid to commit to a deeper relationship. That is why we are afraid to pray Psalm 139: 23, 24 because that calls for a deeper and more intimate relationship with God.

 Conclusion

The Lord knows all about us, is always with us and has lovingly guided our lives. We need to be honest to him if we are to develop spiritual intimacy and spiritual growth.

 Do you dare to pray this prayer?

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;  test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

 |posted 28 Nov 2011|

 

 

Reference

Keller, Timothy. 2009. Counterfeit gods: When the empty promises of love, money and power let you down. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

               

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 "spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"  

 

     
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