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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45am Service, 2005-01-02

Text: Psalm 96:1-8

As today is the second day of 2005, it would be good for us to start the year by being reminded of the ultimate goal of our life. We humans are like precision instruments. Precision instruments can be effective only if they are calibrated correctly. And even when they are properly calibrated, they often need to be checked and recalibrated from time to time. This is because after prolonged use, they tend to lose their accuracy and precision - all the readings taken with them are wrong. As Christians we too need such recalibration with God's Word from time to time. Life is so full of distractions and diversions, that it is always so easy for us to lose sight of our ultimate purpose and goal for living. We then stray into paths that end up nowhere, and accomplish nothing. And worse still, we end up making a mess of everything!

So let us start the new year by getting ourselves recalibrated - to be restored to fulfilling precisely and accurately what we are created and saved for - our ultimate goal. Our church theme for last year dwelt on the first part of it - to know Christ. This year our church theme is all about the other part of our goal in life - and that is, to make Him known. Through the messages that will be preached this year, we will attempt to explore this theme of making Him known. And there are so many things we need to know about this. This morning we begin with a message on Making God's Glory Known. One passage of scripture that can help us understand this is Psalm 96. 

This psalm is all about how excellently great our God is and how He alone ought to be most highly extolled and praised by everyone and by everything that is able to glorify Him. We observe that this psalm is utterly theo-centric. No honour or glory is given to man at all. It is unlike what you will read and hear from the world today, which is very man-centred and extols self (e.g. Singapore Idol). But in this psalm there is not even the slightest hint of man's glory. It is all about glorifying God, and God alone. I would like to suggest that this is also what our life ought to be - theocentric. If your life has become less than theo-centric, then you need some recalibration to make God the centre of your life again.

You will also notice that there isn't any hint at all in this psalm of supplication or petition for oneself, it is all pure praise - this makes it clear that we ought to seek God for no other reason than the fact that He is God, worthy or our highest praises, not for anything that He does for us, but for who He is. Worship is all about giving to God, and our sole aim in worship is not to receive anything from God, but to give to Him the credit, honour and praise that He rightly deserves from us. 

In contrast to that, much of the worship that goes on in many places today is sensual in order to appeal to man's selfish motives of wanting to be favoured or blessed by God in some way. And when such favour or blessing does not come, some would feel short-changed or unhappy, wondering why God has not responded to all that they have done for Him. There are times I have heard some give a public testimony testify about how God helped them in a marvelous way, but the testimony is spoiled because they add to it that God's help came to them because they had been so good, so devoted and obedient and so diligent toward Him. This only encourages people to be devoted, obedient and diligent because of the personal advantages one can gain for doing these things.

If your attitude in worship, in prayer and in your devotion to God has degenerated to this level, then you need to have it recalibrated or restored to what it should be. So let us now study this psalm with the aim of understanding what it means to live a God-centred life (theocentric), a life that will truly make His glory known. If you look once again at Psalm 96 you will notice that it consists of two parts. The first part is v.1 to v.6 and the second is v.7-13. Both parts begin in a similar manner - with a three-fold call to praise God. In the first part the call repeats the phrase 'sing unto the Lord' three times and in the second part, the call repeats the phrase 'give unto the Lord' three times. This repetition is typical of Hebrew poetry, and is known as 'climactic parallelism.' It leads the listener upward to a climax by building up the idea in steps.

Besides having similar beginnings, you will also notice that both parts of this psalm have similar endings - endings which provide some specific grounds or motivation for heeding the respective calls. These are marked by the word 'for.' 'For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised' (v.4) and 'For He cometh to judge the earth' (v.13). The first part of the psalm speaks of the glory of God's works, while the second part speaks of the glory of God's reign. In this morning's message we will be studying only the first part of it to find out how we should make God's glory known, as revealed in all His mighty works. These works demonstrate just how great He is, what honour He deserves, and how God stands uniquely apart from every other god that is worshipped by man. Let us consider all the works of God that are named here:

I. In God's Work of Creation

Verse 5 says, 'For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.' This was of course the very first work of God that is known to man - Creation. And it displays God's eternal power and being so obviously and plainly that Romans 1:20 says that man has no excuse for not knowing God. ('For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse') 

Psalm 19:1 makes it very plain that 'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.' Just think of the vastness and complexities of the whole universe with all its billions of planets, stars and galaxies moving through space in perfect timing, and be amazed at the awesome power that made them. 

Think also of the inner complexities and workings of your own body with its trillions of cells, and you will be just as amazed at the infinite wisdom that has made you, as the psalmist said in Psalm 139:14, 'I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.'

Dearly beloved, can you behold all the wonders of nature and not see the magnificent glory of God revealed in them? When you seek to bring the Gospel of salvation to others, these wonders of nature as found in God's creation serve as an excellent starting point in evangelism. Point out to them how every leaf, every flower, every plant, tree, every little insect and everything that has breath in it simply shouts to us 'Behold the infinite glory of the God who made me!' 

When you point this out to them, there will of course be some whowill disagree with you and attribute all these things to the wonders of evolution. Let me tell you this: Evolution theory is nothing but Satan's attempt to rob the almighty God of His glory in creation, and it needs to be refuted. And there are many good answers given by eminent scientists that refute evolution (Our church library has many good books to read on this, including the magazine 'Creation Ex Nihilo' published by the Institute of Creation Research) Now besides God's Work of Creation, there are also 

II. In God's Work of Miracles

This is mentioned in v.3 'Declare His glory among the heathen, His wonders among all people.' The word 'wonders' here refers to things that are extraordinary, supernormal or supernatural. They do not normally happen. This word is used in the book of Exodus to describe the ten plagues of Egypt (Exodus 3:20) and the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:11). It is used in the Book of Joshua to describe the drying up of the river Jordan when the Israelites needed to cross it (Joshua 3:5). To the Israelites, these wonders were clear manifestation of God's superiority over all other gods.

Each of the ten plagues of Egypt signalled a clear defeat of one of the gods of Egypt. For instance the Egyptians worshipped a god named Osiris, who is the god of the Nile river. In the first plague God turned the waters of the Nile into blood. In the second plague God used multitudes of frogs to overrun all the Egyptian households. This demonstrated His superiority over the Egyptian goddess named Hekt, whose symbol was a frog. The same thing was true of the rest of the plagues and they revealed that these Egyptian gods are just powerless idols who cannot work such great wonders like these. 

Another awesome demonstration of God's power was seen later on, at Mt Carmel, when the prophet Elijah encountered the prophets of the Canaanite idol called Baal. All the tiring efforts that the 450 prophets of Baal did from morning to evening to invoke Baal to consume their sacrifice availed nothing at all. But when Elijah offered up his sacrifice, and uttered a short prayer to the Living and True God, fire immediately came down from heaven and consumed not only the sacrifice but the stone altar of sacrifice as well. This powerful miracle turned the people of Israel back to worshipping God. 

There is no doubt that God has used miracles like these to make His glory known from time to time. The greatest of these were done by our Lord Jesus Christ who resurrected from the dead. And some would then ask if we still need miracles today to make His glory known. Today, we need not look for any more miracles from God. Jesus Himself said, 'An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign' (Matthew 12:39) because miracles became an end in itself, instead of a means to an end.

We only need to point people to the many miracles that He has already done and that are recorded in the Scriptures. They are sufficient to demonstrate God's power and glory. Besides that, the Scriptures glorify God in a way that no miracle can do - through the accurate fulfillment of all the prophecies God has given in it. The Bible's many fulfilled prophecies glorify God's omniscience. It demonstrates how God alone knows the end from the beginning and can reveal all future events with perfect accuracy. In the Christmas service we had here two weeks ago we have already seen how Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies of His birth given by God 700 years before it happened. 

And what is exciting is that there are still many prophecies of the Bible that are being fulfilled and will be fulfilled. Prophecies of end-time events like the restoration of the nation of Israel in 1948 (cf. Ezekiel 37), the worldwide preaching of the Gospel, the increase of wars, rumours of wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes (Matthew 24:6-8,14). The devastation that was caused by last Sunday's earthquake is part of the fulfillment of this prophecy.

There is nothing like this to be found in any other religious writing purported to be divine revelation than the Bible, for there is no other god who can do anything like this. And thus the phenomenon of Bible prophecy, just like all God's miracles, brings out the truth given in v.3,4 of our text 'Declare His glory among the heathen, His wonders among all people. For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: He is to be feared above all gods.'

Dearly beloved, let us boldly declare all these wonders of God to the world today. By doing this, we are making His glory known. And while we do that, let us also declare another great work of God that reveals His glory, one which is mentioned in v.2

III. In God's Work of Salvation

'Sing unto the LORD, bless His name; shew forth His salvation from day to day.' The exact nature of God's work of salvation is not mentioned here, but it may be a general reference to all instances when God saved His people, e.g. bring the Israelites out of Egypt in the time of Moses, and delivering them oppressive forces during the time of the Judges.

God sometimes works such acts of salvation without the use of any miracles, but simply through the ordering of events and circumstances. One excellent example can be found in the book of Esther - a book that does not even mention God at all - it records how the Jewish race was saved from being exterminated while they were in the Persian Empire. Despite being helpless against Haman, the wicked and powerful prime minister, the Israelites were providentially saved and the perpetrator was executed. To me, such a deliverance without the use of miracles brings even more glory to God that those He effects with miracles. And yet, many who experience such deliverances rob God of the glory by attributing their salvation to luck or chance.

In the past week you may have heard or read of some who escaped death from the deadly tsunami waves. And you may have noticed that the majority who were interviewed attributed their salvation to being 'lucky' although a few did say 'thank God'. Dearly beloved, if you want to make God's glory known do not attribute any deliverance or blessing you receive to luck, but be sure to give Him the credit for every deliverance you experience in life. Let others know that you have a mighty God who is able to save those who have put their trust in Him.

Through such a testimony, you not only give God the glory that is due unto His name (v.8), but you may also bring others to experience God's greater work of salvation - salvation from eternal death and hell, through Christ. Yes, God's greatest work of salvation was accomplished about 2,000 years ago on the cross where Jesus died. And this is one salvation that we should never cease to praise the Lord for and tell others about! As v.2 says, we ought to 'shew forth His salvation from day to day.'

Now all these works of salvation reveal one aspect of God's glory that is not obvious in the other works of God. His works of salvation glorify His mercy and grace. This is because the ones who are saved are sinners, who do not deserve salvation at all. They are not saved because of they are better than others, but because God is so gracious and merciful to them. God chose to save them, despite their unworthiness. 

This was true of the Israelites that God delivered from Egypt - they were also sinners like the Egyptians (that is why the tenth plague would also have affected them if they had not trusted in God's provision of salvation through the blood of the Passover Lamb). It is true of our salvation from sin and from eternal death (Ephesians 2:8 'For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God'). 

And it is also true of our nation being spared from the deadly waves that has taken over 144,000 lives this past week. If not for God's great mercy to us, we too would have perished like all of them. We Singaporeans should not think that we are morally better than the nations that have suffered such awful devastation and loss. We are as much deserving of God's judgment as any other nation in the world. And perhaps we are more deserving of judgement now, with the increasing laxity of moral values and increased materialism. It is only undeserved grace that has spared our nation from being judged severely by God.

Such grace ought to make us thankful to God for sparing us. Should we not show how grateful we are for this grace now by making it known? Perhaps this may be the very reason why God has mercifully spared us thus far from all the earthquakes, floods and typhoons that have ravaged so many parts of the world last year - so that we may not take His grace for granted, but make it known freely and widely to all who are still outside God's kingdom. They need to receive the Gospel and be saved.

Dearly beloved, perhaps it would be good for us to take this terrible catastrophe that has affected Asia as a wake up call from God to us all - a wake up call to change our ways, to repent of our sins, and live our lives differently now - so that our lives will henceforth be more God-centred, and so that we may be more fervent in our devotion to Him to make His glory known. And we have already seen this morning that how God has revealed His glory in all His Works - His works of Creation, Miracles and most of all, our Salvation. Dearly beloved, let us resolve to be good witnesses to these works of God, declaring them boldly to the unsaved. 

Some of us here may not mind bearing witness to God's wonderful works when we are together with fellow believers, since we know that they will fully agree with us. But here in this psalm, we are told to 'declare His glory among the heathen.' That refers to the unsaved. There are Christians who would not speak a word about God at all when they are with their non-Christian friends or colleagues, thinking that it would offend them or bring a hostile response from them. But by refusing to witness to them they are only doing them a grave disfavour, they are also refusing to submit to God's authority.

We cannot claim to be God-centred people unless we fully submit to His rule over us. We can see God's right to rule our life in vv.7,8. Here we notice that instead of using the phrase 'sing unto the Lord' as he did at the beginning of the psalm, the writer changes to 'give unto the Lord.' This phrase denotes submission to God rather than just giving praise to God. Giving unto the Lord, implies submission to His sovereign will over your life, even when it does not agree with your own will and desires. Dearly beloved, will you submit to the Lord's will for you today? Will you give Him the glory that is due unto His name? Will you live God-centred lives and make Him known to those who are around you? 

Let us think of how our Lord Jesus Christ Himself lived and died to make God's glory known, and how He yielded His will to do the Father's will saying, 'Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.' (Luke 22:42) May we listen to the voice of God speaking to us today saying, 'My child, give Me first place in your heart. Make a firm commitment to do My will and not your will. And make My glory known to all.'

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25