Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 October 14, 2018
“The Lord Hath Done Great Things for Us”
I had every intention of returning to the Colossians series this week. I did the necessary work on Colossians 2:8-10, and I was within a day in the study—yea, a half-day—from being ready to deliver that word unto you. Then Friday at 10:00 A. M. happened.
I studied some at home that morning, and that, plus extra duty for our house—involving a trip to the Otto Convenience Center—put me on Addington Bridge Road northbound as the top-of-the-hour news from WCBS in New York played on our local WFSC radio station. The lead story was about the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. The next story, as I reached Morrison Church Road, informed me that our brother, Andrew Brunson, was freed from his two-year incarceration in Turkey. After brief expressions of praise that might make you wonder if I am more Pentecostal than Presbyterian, I looked for a place to pull off the road and call Karen. I found such a place just before the bridge at Skeenah Creek and Skeenah Road. Karen answered the phone and told me that she just got the news from Nan Preston of our congregation.
Then I drove to the library to obtain books for Karen. As I left the parking lot there, the Lord flashed today’s text into my mind—and it appeared to me in that instant that God had called an audible for today’s text and sermon. Indeed, the Lord hath done great things for us. Let’s hear more about this as we hear God’s Word read and proclaimed in this place today.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The Psalmist, as led by the Holy Spirit, begins the Psalm by telling us what kind it is: a song of ascents. These songs of ascents (Psalms 120-134) likely were used when the Israelite pilgrims to Jerusalem climbed Mount Zion—on which Jerusalem stands—on each of three required occasions every year. This Psalm of ascent, Psalm 126, may well be a post-exilic Psalm. That is, the human author may have written this Psalm at some time after the first return of exiles from Babylon (i. e., sometime after 539 B. C.). The context does not demand such an interpretation, but some commentators—and plausibly, at that—have seen in the Hebrew text good ground for this interpretation.
Now, having established the context, let us look at the words themselves. The Psalmist writes, “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,” we may well through the Spirit read, “When the Lord restored our fortunes,” for the word Zion here serves as an emblem of the Lord’s covenant people in every age. This word, then, applies both to the saints of old who anticipated a Christ to come and to Christian believers in this age who embrace the Christ Who has come. Note further the reaction of God’s people when He restores their fortunes—when He does great things for them. We, the people of God in Christ, are like those who dream. We may say, even as we know the certainty of our blessing, “Is this too good to be true?” Were it not God doing the great thing, we would think it too good to be true—but because He does it, it is indeed true. Hence, our mouths fill with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy (Hebrew a ringing cry, ESV loud singing, cf. Zephaniah iii.17). This is noteworthy especially when God brings His great thing to His people after difficult seasons in His providence.
Now note reactions to God’s great works in His people. First, we see the reaction of the nations. They say, “The Lord hath done great things for them.” Note the clear acknowledgement of the Lord from unbelieving lips, and note further that this acknowledgement perhaps occurs with a view to embracing the Lord—just as we have via faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and as Lord. Second, we see what God’s people say, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad (or merry, or joyful).” This reaction is most appropriate from God’s elect in Christ; when He does us good, we rejoice that He is good, He is the fount of every good, and He gives good graciously and generously.
We reach verse four after a one-line break in the English Standard Version. Clearly this material represents a break from the former, yet the former remains in clear view. The Psalmist cries, “Restore our fortunes, O Lord.” Why would a worshipper of God, with fortune clearly restored, cry thus? Perhaps, even in a great restoration of providential fortunes and favor, there remains something to be done. This may be true in a given Christian’s life, who receives to overflowing in one area of his life, but remains needy in another. This also may be true in the life of the Church, or major portion thereof, as a whole. A certain camp with Christ’s great army may know great blessing, while another camp may weather significant adversity. Hence, restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the desert (or in the south, Hebrew Negeb). The stream-beds there appear dry for long periods, for rain is absent for long periods. Yet when the torrential rains come, the stream-beds fill and flora flourish along the banks. Such is the Psalmist plea, figuratively, for his soul—and we plead similarly for our own souls.
We apply the material in verses five and six about sorrowful sowing and joyful reaping in two ways. First, sowing ministerial fruit, especially in adverse circumstance, will result in a harvest in due time (cf. Galatians vi.9). We shall reap from this sowing, with shouts of joy (cf. earlier), far out of proportion to what was sown. Second, as we wait for God’s good things to come to our lives, especially in a spiritually dry season, we wait with confidence for a bountiful harvest in due time. This, too, comes with shouts of joy and with blessing (reaping) far out of proportion to what was sown.
In Andrew Brunson’s release, the Lord has done great things for many. Certainly He has done inexpressible good unto Andrew, his wife, his children, his parents, and others in his family. The Lord has done great good for Christ Community Church of Montreat, North Carolina, for Mid-Atlantic Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church; and for the EPC as a whole. He has also blessed the whole visible Church on earth of the living triune God. When one part of His Body suffers, all suffer, but when one part rejoices, all rejoice (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:26). Therefore, note once again, with great joy, that the Lord does great things for His covenant people in Christ Jesus, His beloved Son—and these for His own glory, our great good, and our great joy.
Let us apply further along two lines. First, what great things hath the Lord done for you? Think of things pertaining directly to our salvation—such as forgiveness of sin, bestowal of saving faith, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, among others—and think of things needful or desirable in this life (both tangible and intangible). Recall these abundant blessings from God’s good hand with gladness, joy, laughter, and every appropriate response—and praise Him as well for these things.
Second, what great thing, or things, do you yet need Him to do for you? Perhaps you need Him to bestow things pertaining directly to your salvation—such as saving faith, desire to submit to His Lordship, among others. Cry out to Him for these things, if this be your case. Remember Jesus’ promise through John, “All who the Father gives Me will come to Me, and he who comes to Me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Perhaps you cry to Him for things needful or desirable in this life. In view of the great things the Lord has done, both in Biblical history and in your life, ask Him in faith for the great thing you yet need or want. In the meantime, let us wait actively—let us serve Him—for His good provision in His good time. Know, in due time, that we shall receive far above what we asked or thought (Ephesians 3:20). The Lord indeed hath done great things for us; let us be overjoyed for our good and for God’s glory.