9/26/99 – Gary L. Cox

Gary L. Cox

We are going to be in Psalm 39, if you want to turn in your Bibles to Psalm 39. Let us pray.
Lord we thank You for who You are and what You have done for us in Christ. And we gather this morning in Christ’s name and we are seeking, Lord, to be edified and nourished by You through Your Word in our hearts. Thank You for this group of people that have gathered here this morning and we ask Lord that we might succeed today in exalting Christ and finding true fellowship one with another in Jesus Christ and Him alone. We thank You and we ask in His name, amen.
It is good to see some of you visitors and it is good to run out of space also. We have been discussing in our fellowship in recent weeks the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. And we have been discussing it in the context which it originated which is the gathering of the church and the use of spiritual gifts in the context of the church and the nature of love as it relates to our spiritual gifts, etc. The key thing with love of course is that it changes us from self serving people to a people serving others, a people who are ready and willing to divest of themselves into others for their benefit, for their best interest. So, this morning we have plans and some of our plans are changed. Some of them are not so much changed but basically we had planned on having another missionary family also who was going to be sharing and that missionary family called up at the last minute and said their plans with their base church had changed and they asked for a possible means of reconciling their situation and I felt like a rescheduling would be the easiest thing for them and us. So that one family is not here. I apologize for that for those of you who were looking forward to that. They will be here Sunday, December 12.
We are in Psalm 39 this morning and there is a reason for being in Psalm 39. I would like to start by telling a story if I can. We have a small home school ministry as a part of our church here and as a part of that ministry we help oversee families in the state of Maryland mostly. And I was on the Eastern Shore visiting with a new family. One of the general obligations that we request of families belonging to our school is that they be a Christian family. That is the goal and focus of home schooling is to honor Christ. That is our primary purpose. So once in a while we will find a situation where there is a believing, usually it is the wife, a believing spouse and she wants to home school and yet she does not have a Christian home per say to work from. So in those cases we go through a real careful process to make sure that the husband is at least going to support the wife as he can yet without creating a pretentious kind of Christianity which the husband tries to fill out in order to be in the school. This happened to be the case of this particular family. And as we were going through the acceptance process, the husband wrote plainly on the application, “I am not a Christian but I do believe in God.” So with that special request, we made an exception to them. So at the home visit which I conducted this week, we were chatting at the dining room table and because of the honesty of the situation, the wife had a lot of convenience of just bringing up spiritual concerns and issues in front of her husband and child that were a concern to her. So she asked me bluntly at the table with her husband on my right and her son in front of me, she asked me bluntly, “How should I handle this situation?” Then she went on to say, “When we enrolled I was under the impression that my son wanted to follow after the Lord. I got that impression that he really wanted to home school for spiritual reasons, but apparently he just told me what he thought I wanted to hear but he really does not want to home school for any kind of spiritual reason.” Then she looked at her son and said, “Would you tell him what you asked me?” Course that is an awkward situation for a young person about age 13. And he looked at his mom and said, “You tell him. So she went ahead and said, well as they enrolled in the school, their expectations were such that she was going to diligently disciple this son towards the Lord and that included his attending church with her. So now he was complaining about attending church and his question was, “If God is so great, why do you have to go to a church and do all of this worship stuff and if you do not worship Him and He does not like how you worship Him, He is going to throw you in Hell. What kind of God is that?” That was his sum total of his experience. Then she wanted me to answer that question in front of her husband and her son. Thank God for the Holy Spirit in those moments because without the prompting of the Holy Spirit you might not know what to say. But, a valid question, a valid question. I wonder this morning as we are standing here, I wonder if there is anyone here who has asked that question themselves. If you have had a question you have raised concerning the person of God and His expectations of you. The way the son perceived it, God must be some kind of an ego maniac that demands people to gather together and speak of His praise and greatness or He will smite them to smithereens. That is kind of an interesting view of God, isn’t it? This morning my heart is burdened to challenge us. We have a tremendous obligation, we have a tremendous obligation as parents in order that we might guide the feet of our young ones in the path of the Lord. It is a tremendous responsibility because you and I by our very nature are weak. And the significant need that we have for a successful ministry is the identification of our weakness. So if you will permit this morning, I would like to do two things. We are going to go into Psalm 39 and we are going to take a look at the dilemma of weakness in the place of service, the dilemma of weakness in the place of service. And then perhaps to conclude, I would like to go to Corinthians and touch on two passages which perhaps you have never seen before side by side which touch on the substance of the issue that relates here. Now as I finish this particular story that I was telling you, I remember a time in my own life when I had such a struggle. Due to lack of time, I will not give you all the sort of details of the situation, but nevertheless, suffice it to say that when I was in Bible college, I rebelled against clear direction of the Lord. And in my rebellion I did what was right in my own eyes. And in the doing of that which was right in my own eyes, I reaped a very significant loss. I reaped the destruction that the Bible promises for those who do what is right in their own eyes. And in that process of reaping destruction, one of the things that I reaped was a tremendous capacity for criticizing God. I remember going to and from the chapel at the Bible college with these thoughts that this young man spoke forthrightly at that kitchen table, “What is wrong with God anyway that He has such a big ego that people need to worship Him?” And there was that sorted, that sorted, corrupt anguish of soul that sin had birthed in my heart. Course when those thoughts came to my heart, I can tell you there was a fright in my heart for myself because I had a wonderful, wonderful conversion experience. It was not a questionable thing of what God had done. It was very clear what God had done and yet here I am, this was not more than two years after conversion and I am struggling with this tremendous incapability of perceiving God in any right way. And that struggle lasted an earnest, at the time it lasted significantly and I had to just pray a little bit of proper Biblical perspective around it in order to go on. But the lingering consequence of my sin, the lingering consequence of my sin, continued with a poor crop of fruit being yielded in my life for many years to follow. And in my own ministry, I left Bible college and began Christian ministry immediately and in those early years of Christian ministry, there was much difficulty and much spiritual need because of these unresolved matters that went back to my disobedience and what that disobedience did to my relationship with God. I will tell you the rest of the story at the end of the message about that little boy and what answer I gave him on the home visit.
Let us turn to Psalm 39 this morning and beginning at verse 1, I am going to read the Psalm and then I am going to focus in on a couple issues that the Psalm addresses in my heart. Psalm 39 verse 1, “To the chief musician, even to Jeduthun.” By the way, interesting point, do you know what the word “Jeduthun” means? Hebrews always named people with a purpose. Their names had a spiritual implication. David is giving an assignment to a chief musician for the worship in the temple and the name “Jeduthun” means “one who praises with his hands lifted.” Great name. A parent named him that and his life was a service in the temple perhaps at its most holy time in the history of Israel where he was the chief musician governing worship of the people of God, worshiping God with their hands lifted. Is that not a neat insight? Let us go on. I said I was going to read, didn’t I? “A Psalm of David. I said, I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue. I will keep my mouth with a bridle while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace even from good and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing, the fire burned. Then spake I with my tongue.” Verse 4, “Lord, make me to know mine end and the measure of my days, what it is that I may know how frail I am. Behold, Thou hast made my days as an handbreadth and mine age is as nothing before Thee. Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.” Verse 6, “Surely every man walks in a vain show, surely they are disquieted in vain. He heaps up riches and he knows not who shall gather them. Now Lord what wait I for? My hope is in Thee. Deliver me from all my transgressions. Make me not the reproach of the foolish. I was dumb, I opened not my mouth because Thou didst it. Remove Thy stroke from me. I am consumed by the blow of Thine hand. When Thou with rebukes dost correct a man for iniquity, Thou makes his beauty to consume away like a moth. Surely every man is vanity. Selah. Hear my prayer O Lord and give ear unto my cry. Hold not Thy peace at my tears for I am a stranger with Thee and a sojourner as all my fathers were.” Verse 13, “O spare me that I may recover strength before I go hence and be no more.” That is a beautiful Psalm. It is a beautiful Psalm especially for those of us who have responsibility of spiritual leadership and nurture of others under us. It has to do with that balance of understanding where we recognize the necessity of service but we must be given a capacity to serve out of a right understanding of who we are ourselves. We have been studying love as the primary means by which any ministry can be given to man. And if you do not have love, no matter what your gift is, that fruit of your work without love is empty, it is meaningless, it has absolutely no value. It is worth the effort for us to discover and to discern, “Well how can I minister then by love? How can I walk then in love in such a way that I have fruit, in such a way that there is success?” Real briefly, the simple contrast between love and that which is not love is the focus of motivation. Those who are motivated by love adopt a servant’s heart. I want to just plug that into your mind first thing this morning. Those who walk by love have a servant’s heart. And those who have a servant’s heart then are free from the egotisms that are due to our own nature. And we struggle with ego and with that which is meaningless, advancing our own pride and our own cause. We pursue that almost instinctively like a breath of air. That is the nature of who we are by ourselves. So it is necessary for us to really deal with the issue of what is love? What is love? It means being a servant for somebody’s greater end, but that greater end is not defined by that person. The greater end is defined by God. So my interest in that person is God’s favor, is God’s purpose, is God’s blessing. And we know that that which is God’s favor and purpose and blessing contrasts, it contradicts that which by our own nature pleases us, attracts us or draws out of us our natural motivation. With that in mind, let us take the Psalm apart momentarily and get a perspective here on what is taking place. The first thing that I want to confess is that I am giving to you what is my best understanding of the Psalm and you may disagree. I am not meaning to interpret it as if to say, “This is exactly the accurate.” But I have taken this Psalm in a certain way that until this week I have never seen it in a different light. And because of some of my own personal experiences the Psalm has begun to minister to me just as a salve to a wound and it is in light of that context that I am seeing the Psalm in a different light than before. Before, I saw the Psalm as the statement that when you stand before the wicked and you try to hold your mouth shut and you are righteous, your righteousness boils within and you eventually have to speak because you have to speak for righteousness. And that is the manner in which I have seen the passage. It kind of naturally seems to have that appearance in the first couple of verses. But I do not think that is what it really means. Personally I have seen in my own life, it has a little different bent, a little different meaning. So let us look at this picture. And I want to talk about here the powerlessness of ministry by our own source, by our own resource. We are powerless to serve, we are powerless to minister by our own resources. There is nothing that we have. There is nothing in us that is useful, that is capable of going out and engaging and drawing forth spiritual vitality. There is absolutely nothing that is there. Here is the picture. In verses 1 through verse 3, we find this situation. David clearly defines step one, step two and step three of a particular situation. He does not give us any of the details of the matter, he just shows us his personal, emotional and mental process by which he goes through that step one, step two, step three. And we are going to touch on that. That is probably where it ministers to me the greatest. Then we have verse 4. At verse 4 we have this outbreak, “Lord make me to know mine end.” This whole picture of David capturing himself and what we find is the sequence that David sees himself going through is a sequence of wanting to resist sin, attempting in human strength to resist sin and failing and by lack of strength sinning. And he is sinning in a very particular matter, it is the sin of his mouth, the sin of the words of his mouth and how he speaks. So it is in that context that we see the one, two, three process and in verse 4 we get this great upheaval of soul by which he is just beside himself, “Lord how can I get things right? Here I am, a deliberate effort to avoid sin and I end in absolute failure.” So in verse 4 through verse 6 we see the understandable state of man. What is the understandable state of man? This is a very important section for you and I. These are those sections whereby we get an absolute point of reference and the reference clearly says, “We have significant need, we have significant lack and we need to have what God has for us.” Our sense of need is heightened in verses 4 to 6. Then when you go from verse 7 to the end of the chapter, we see this practical communion with God of the servant, yielding himself up to the Lord, yielding himself up to the Lord’s methods and adopting a primary desire that God’s work is completed in his own life. Here is the beauty of the Psalm: when I have the work of God being successful in my own life, it is only at that point that I have any hope of my service, of my servanthood reaching out to another and touching their life for good and helping them to see truth. I am not saying that every time I extend out that message in a righteous manner that it will be received, but what I am saying is you cannot serve with any hope of vitalness unless you reach this place where your understanding is fixed and you see yourself as you need to be seen. Basically here is the problem if I could sum it up in a nutshell for you and I: if you see that there is a person, individual “A” has a spiritual need and you are aware of that spiritual need, the natural inclination for you if you are an unbeliever is to think of yourself more highly than them because you see their need. And we find the proof text for that in Romans 2. The natural inclination to see somebody’s need and then because we have this capacity to see a need, we raise ourselves up in pride and in a sense of superiority spiritually and we think, there is a little click that happens, we think that because we have the capacity to judge, we are free ourselves from sin and we ourselves fall into great deceit and great confusion and we are incapable of serving the Lord by the power of His might. The next part is if you are not an unbeliever but if you are a believer, you still have this struggle of dealing with this individual. The struggle that I believe David has here is the struggle of the believer. It is the believer struggle. It is this sensitivity to sin. I know that there is a wrong way and I do not want to do this anymore. And you kind of see yourself, “I want to get this mouth under control.” But they become so focused on the sin that they use a human effort to resist the sin and that human effort can never succeed in overcoming sin. So failure is assured in the very process and that which we attempt to resist ends up coming out in volcanic proportions because all we have succeeded in doing is bottling it up until the cork can no longer hold it back, then the cork rips off and out it comes and we are simply overwhelmed by our iniquity. And the thing that we find here as David finds the correction is understanding our relationship with God in the proper mode.
Let us look a little closer to some of these verses in the context of David’s prayer and of David’s focus. Back to verse 1, David said, “I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue.” “I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue.” Here is a picture of a man looking at the circumstances of his life and as it were, he is visualizing occasions of sin and occasions of stumbling, so he begins very deliberately attempting to set up barriers and barricades against the possibility of sinning. He sees, “I have a problem with my mouth, I have got a problem with my tongue and that is where I tend to sin. So here is what I am going to do, in order to not sin with my tongue here is what I am going to do, I am going to cut off the tongue at every point. I am going to pay attention to the occasions where I get entangled with my tongue and I am going to start building defenses against getting in those situations where I am going to sin with my tongue. And there is an interesting picture here, he said, “I will keep my mouth with a bridle while the wicked is before me.” Why is that an interesting statement? Does anybody remember the book of James? What does the book of James tell us about the tongue and bridles? It says that you can guide a horse with a bridle but you cannot control the tongue. The tongue no man can tame. Here is the secret of David’s mistake: he is looking to his own capacity at bridling, at building a barricade against his own sin and it is in that sense of looking at his sin and what strength he can have to bring against it, he is totally engaged in resisting sin simply by his own strength which is absolutely insufficient. Should you ever fight a battle of any sort without sufficiency? Does that make sense? On the practical side of it I do not think so. But here we find that picture, “I will keep my mouth with a bridle.” “I will, I will.” I just want to suggest this morning to you and I, this is an unusual doctrine, but your capacity to will against sin is zero. You will always be defeated if you depend on success against sin by your will, if you start making bridles and barriers. I want to pause this morning and I want suggest, this is the tendency of all flesh. It is not just David, it is not just here because King David had a chronic problem with his own strength and his lack of understanding of it. No this is not King David only, this is us always. Our nature is to be repulsed by our sin and to take as it were a vow of resistance, “I will not sin with my tongue,” and you write it a thousand times and we buy a bridle, we put it on. And the word “bridle” there by the way actually means a harness, we put the whole thing under our control of a contraption and we say, “I will do it, I will do it, I will not sin with my tongue.” Now notice what takes place. This is the interesting part of David’s experience. Notice that the focus area is while the wicked is before me. It is important that we see that. The focus area is while the wicked is before me. What we begin to see here is the transition between wickedness of those who need the Lord and wickedness and iniquity of ourselves of those who have the Lord and we tend to make a distortion of that picture and starkly work out of that model and that is what David was doing. He was focusing on the wicked and he was saying, “I am not going to sin with my mouth while the wicked is before me.”
Now verse 2 tells us what happened, “I was dumb with silence.” It sounds like his will was working, “I was dumb with silence,” yes sir, “I held my peace.” Absolutely, then notice a little clincher here, “even from good and my sorrow was stirred, even from good and my sorrow was stirred.” “I held my peace even from good and my sorrow was stirred.” Take a quick look at that context there. When we are people with a spiritual origin, there are times to speak and the believer has only one of two vents, he only has one of two vents. He has the vent of good or the vent of iniquity. And what we see here is an imbalance in David’s life as he perceived a spiritual dilemma. He realized that his strength was so poor at how he used his tongue, how he spoke in the context of the wicked when they were in his presence, he realized that his sin was so alive and so real that he needed to take some kind of measure against sinning with his mouth. So what he does is he contrives a human harness, a bridle for his tongue and he fixes exclusively on only part of the problem. “If my mouth is going to sin, I tell you what, I will staple the lips shut. I will put a master screw up through the jaws and I will clamp it down and I will not be able to talk.” That is the way we are, is it not? We get so focused on wanting to avoid that sin that we just become consumed by that fixation. And what happens is he not only held his peace from that which was evil and sin, he also held his peace from that which was good. Now what does the Bible say about that as far as sin? In James we hear another story about this. What does the Bible say? “Now to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Is that not amazing? The whole focus was so self centered in that sense of, “I have got to stop sinning, I have got to resist it, I have got to overcome it,” and so we contrive a physical, a human remedy. And that human remedy errs immediately. As we are trying to close off this sin it is like a frog eye. Did you ever try to pin a frog eye on the table? Every time you hit the frog eye it slips away and it gets away in another direction. You cannot nail it down. That is the way sin is. But the point of it is, we are not capable of seeing a big enough picture, so what we do is we just focus on the biggest thing that bugs us. But we are not balanced. We are not capable of really dealing with the whole issue and what happened is our very effort to keep from sinning causes us to end up sinning. There is a little secret here and I want to encourage you and I with this because we do sin with our mouths. This is the greatest area of struggle that the believer has, sinning with our mouths. And James warned us not to be many teachers because you will receive the greater condemnation. There is a very important need for us to get a hold of our mouths but nailing our mouths shut is not a solution, causing our lips to be permanently sealed is not the solution. I was going to ask you a question this morning, I was going to ask, maybe there are some wives here this morning. They have been frustrated by the use of their mouth with their husband or with their children and you have said, “I have had it. I am just not going to say anything. I am not going to say another word. They do not listen to me anyway, I am just going to..” I do not mean to stop there and just pick on the wives because there are husbands here. What is the greatest complaint against men by their wives? It is only a two word accusation. No it is actually a contraction and a word, “Don’t talk.” Where was I recently? I was talking to somebody and the wife said, “I am learning that my husband loves me even though he does not talk to me. I am beginning to see that. I have been hurt all these years thinking that he did not love me because he would not talk, but I am beginning to see that he does love me but he just don’t talk.” The tongue is an instrument that God can use for righteousness. I just want to pause for a moment and think. Is this not amazing how God works, the greatest device of evil, the most significant area of our own corruption is our tongue, all of us, all of me, and then think about the Gospel. What did the Scripture say about the Gospel? That it would be through the foolishness of preaching, through the foolishness of preaching that the power of God would be unleashed and made accessible to the hearts of men by faith. Is that not amazing to you? Is that not incredible? That God who sees the greatest sin in man is his tongue, chooses to use the tongue as the vehicle for the Gospel to go forth? What an incredible contrast. You know what it tells me kind of up front? It tells me that God is not afraid of His power. God is not afraid of His grace. He knows that while men cannot handle the tongue, He can. While men cannot handle the tongue, He can and what God wants to do is He wants to redeem our tongues from hell. He wants to redeem our tongues from the iniquity that they spew out and He wants to train our tongues in ministry of righteousness. And when it is all said and done whether you are parenting your child or any other venue of service, the wisdom of God is transferred from one person to the next through the little vessel of the tongue. I know that the written word is similar to the tongue because it is the communication process. But there is where the power is going to be unleashed, through the use of the tongue. That is God’s great gift and purpose. It makes me marvel to think that what a God we have that would take our weakest member and say, “You know what? I am going to preach the Gospel through that. That will really let the power be seen as from God and not from men. It will really let the contrast be there and be real.” So this morning I just want to encourage us as we look at David and we see that in his effort to stop sinning, he attempted to stop the vessel of blessing, he attempted to stop the vessel of power. Mark – (One comment from Romans 10:9, it says that we confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord and it just kind of confirms the idea that He uses our mouth to praise His name.) In other words, I think redemption has to be effective in our mouths. We have to have redeemed lips by the praise and the glory of God.
Let us go on. This is exciting. When he had this holding of his peace even from good, I said earlier that that is a cork, that he corked it up and he did not ventilate. I want to make a suggestion. To you fathers this morning, to you mothers, here is an important principle to understand because when we talked about love we said this one thing a couple weeks ago, love rejoices in the truth and love rejoices not in iniquity. And the foundation of ministry is our capacity for what we rejoice in. And the necessity of joy to our spirits is the connection to our strength, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” I have a need to walk in joy. So what we see here is David failed to rejoice in the truth and so he sinned in his effort to avoid sinning. In his effort to avoid sinning, David failed to rejoice in the truth, instead he rejoiced in iniquity and he ended up in sin. Here is the whole point, if you and I are going to need to use our lips, we need to use them as vessels of rejoicing in the truth, vessels of rejoicing in the truth. It is imperative that we understand that at the very place that is so difficult, where we are tempted to have vile cursings or just shut up altogether so I do not say vile cursings, at that crossroads, that is the very place where the ministry and the life of the Gospel of Christ is going to come forth and out of our lips are going to be soothing words of living water like a salve and we are going to be able to reach inside in one of the complex or difficult circumstance where the tensions and the pulling of contention are great between us and our children or what have you. Right at that point you minister that living water and you start bringing life right to the very person that you are trying to reach and the truth brings the life. And the result of that truth bringing life is the rejoicing of the child in the truth and you see the victory of that ministry by the child embracing godliness and eschewing evil, turning away from evil, putting it aside. What we find here with David is he failed. He failed to understand the ministry before the wicked. He saw himself as only a critic, as only a condemner, as the only one who blasted them out of the water with the violence of his tongue and he said, “I am going to snip it off, I am going to cut it off, I am going to prevent myself from sinning when I am before the wicked and I am not going to speak anything, not even good.” And at that point he cut himself off. Failure to speak victory at the point of opportunity will always lead to more sin, you will always lead to more sin. You cannot beat sin by being afraid of confronting sin. You cannot beat sin by in your fear of being overcome by sin, closing your mouth and saying, “I am not going to do anything, I will just let it up to God. I will let God do it.” Well God is going to do it. But He wants to do it through your victorious, joyful lips speaking the truth in love, rejoicing in the truth. It is that picture of joy. As you see the joy and you bring that focus of joy right on the incident, that is where the life begins to transmit because someone else begins to get the vision for what you have and they see the hope and embrace it. I am going to illustrate this. It is kind of a silly illustration but I do not know if this child got much from this illustration but I did years ago. When I first got in the ministry, we had a visit from a bunch of young people from the church that sponsored us up to Frederick County. So after we were finished with our work day or whatever it was, I got to chit chatting with some of the young people from this one family and we were close friends and as we are chit chatting this girl tells me, she says, “My grandmother makes us call her ‘Mama Dear.’ That is so embarrassing to have to call my grandmother ‘Mama Dear’.” And the Lord just kind of sparked a little interest in me and I thought that is a really endearing name, that is beautiful. I said, “That is a wonderful name.” And I just started shouting “Mama Dear.” And I said it in a way that I was rejoicing in that thing. What a sweet thing and I began rejoicing in it and within 30 seconds this girl was envious of my joy of that name and she went home happy to use “Mama Dear.” She saw it as an opportunity. But it was just her outlook. It was a difference of rejoicing, rejoicing in the truth and not rejoicing in the truth. I realize that is a small incident and you say, “How can it be truth to say, ‘Mama Dear’?” In one sense of the word it is truth because that was the title of respect demanded and she was rebelling against that because it was embarrassing to her outlook. So there was truth and rejoicing in truth to embrace that which was asked and to see a different side of it. But it gave me a hint and from that day on I have remembered that transition because that girl came with this long doleful face to being cheerful and happy and grateful that she had such a dear name to give her grandmother. I saw that transformation. Nothing changed except the child’s outlook and rejoicing from what was once ugly and demeaning to what now is wonderful, opportunity, a privilege.
Let us go on. Verse 3 says, “My heart was hot within me. While I was musing, the fire burned, then spake I with my tongue.” Now the picture here is real interesting. First of all it reminds me of another picture of the book of James, tongue, the world of iniquity and it is a fire, a flame set on fire by hell itself. And this picture here, “My heart was hot within me,” that Hebrew word means “a flame.” There is this flame in my heart about this circumstance. Then it goes on and it says, “While I was musing the fire burned.” Now you and I recognize the word “musing” as a word of internal thoughts, “I am thinking inside my head what is going on.” The Hebrew word actually means, “a boiling.” If you have ever seen a pot of water boiling and then you get a big stick in there and you start stirring it all up, getting the heat out and you are stirring it all up, that musing process is a boiling process. It is a process by which my focus on the problem on the iniquity of the wicked gets sharp.(tape turned here)…and what happens to me? I get madder and madder. I get hotter and hotter. And you have this cork on it and you are heating it up and you are stirring it up and you are letting all this steam escape and you have this intense buildup of pressure. And here is the fault of men trying to solve all of their sin problems by corking it: we have no strength enough to keep the cork on and the information shoved down. We have no capacity to prevent it. Therefore what do we have? We have an explosion. At some point it breaks itself out. And I want to point out here just by way of physics, when you have a container that is building pressure around a heat source that is causing an expansion of material that keeps putting pressure, when you have that, you need to vent that off. The nature of physics is such that you need to vent it off. Now in this context then of venting off this heat, I am going to take some of Paul’s thunder, but Paul was telling me about where they live, they live in volcano land and the place that they live is an old volcano. But they have gone up into the mountain for little hikes and he says that there are these volcanic vents out of the mountains that are just amazing. They were carved by fluid, hot molten lava, as they were venting off the sides of the mountain. And they would blow out the whole side, create smooth rock and it was obviously a fluid so it looks like a blood vessel if anything and they can walk back these veins all the way deep until they get to the place where gravity pulled back the lava and it sealed off itself with hardened rock again. But those vents let off the steam. Now here is the point that is exciting brothers and sisters especially as we think of our mouths, if you use your lips for good by the grace of God with the right attitude, you will be able to vent off all the kind of pressure that builds up from within. That ministry will be a ministry of life, it will bring focus and force to the issue and concern and truth and rejoicing in the truth will cause that good to be ministered to and you will be kept from sin. You will have a proper ventilation. So it is almost as if there is a little insight here taking place that for you and I if we are going to walk by grace, we have to actively walk in victorious goodness or the sin that we are trying to clamp down just builds up pressure and it starts exploding like a volcanic reaction and we end up walking in sin because of the explosion. We need to vent off our sin by learning how to walk in goodness, doing that which is good, that which is right in the eyes of the Lord.
We are in Psalm 39. Let us look at the next verse. Picking up again at verse 4, “Lord make me to know mine end and the measure of my days what is it that I may know how frail I am.” It is important for us to understand what he is focusing on when he ends from verse 3, “Then I spoke with my tongue,” and then his immediate response is, “Lord make me to know mine end, the measure of my days what it is that I may know how frail I am.” His immediate sense of big concern is that here he blew it again. His effort to not sin ended in sin and out of that came an insight. He needed to know something about himself. For your information, the word “frail,” you and I tend to use frail today almost in the sense of fragile, at least that is the kind of ordinary use that we think of it at least the way I do, but frail here has to do with lack of strength. One of the words means “flabby.” If someone is frail they are just flabby, they just do not have any strength at all. What the writer is focusing on here is this flabbiness of our own capability. Now as he is talking about this flabbiness, this frailty, we are dealing with a picture here, look at the first part of the verse, “Make me to know mine end.” You and I would think of that word “end” there as if the end of my days, when life is over. But the actual Hebrew word has to do with the extreme border, the limit at which I can operate within, “Teach me to know mine end.” Teach me to know my limitations. What are the realities of who I am? It is not just that I need to know that I have a short life, although that is part of the package, but it is an understanding that these limitations are borders. In a simple way, if I have a $200 bill that I owe somebody and I have a $20 account which to pay that bill, my limitations are pretty clear. That which I am bound by is plain as I look to that issue. And here is the first thought that David has as it relates to his victory over sin, “That I may know mine end.” What is the limitation that I have and what is my border? You know, the first step of significant ministry is that walking in your own limitations, understanding that you are a limited person. Only God is eternal, only He has unending days, only He has all power and all strength. And who am I? I am a man of weak means. I am a man of great limitation and God is calling me to live within my great limitations, He has called me to live in larger service. How do you do that? It is by connecting to the person and the power of God. That is the way it works.
The next part of the phrase says, “And the measure of my days, what it is.” That Hebrew word there was really exciting because the word, “measure of my days,” is actually a Hebrew word that means the fleetingness of my days. It is really an emphasis on how fleeting time is. “Make me to know how fleeting time is.” I have very little time. Interesting. Quality ministry is going to come forth from me when I begin to take stock of who I really am. How many times are we sinning because we are walking as if we have unending resources. We can do all things and we stop there and forget the rest of the verse that says, “Through Christ who strengthens me.” We just start thinking about, “I can do all things.” And we take on the world as if we ourselves are sufficient unto ourselves, which we are not, and we lay a hold of vision beyond our resources. But correct ministry comes when there is a sense of limitation, “What are the borders? What is the end? What is that maximum capacity that I have? What is the fleetingness of my life?” If you begin to realize how fleeting life is, you begin to measure your words more carefully. I know that I often try to encourage my children and other young people that are moving into the age of getting married and starting a family, I always try to encourage them, “Pay close attention to just how important every day is because there are decisions that come up today that seem so insignificant. Here they are, they come and they go and you do not seem to think they have any great consequence and we tend to think that if I make a mistake I will correct it and fix it tomorrow.” We tend to have that carelessness. But the reality is, I look back on my life and I realize, how many decisions did I make when I was young and today it is almost as if I am permanently hedged in by some of those decisions. There is a permanence to those limited decisions that were made. And I do not have capacities beyond where we can begin to value the moment that we have, “My time is fleeting, my resources are limited,” that begins to sharpen our focus for ministry. Then he says, “That I may know how frail I am.” That is, how little strength I actually have. If you know how little strength you actually have, you will not begin to pretend to walk in that strength. You know that you have to get a resource that is bigger, God. It is just an automatic response. When you are out of it and you know you are out of it, you cry for help. You know what the Lord wants of us? He wants us crying for help at all times? Well why do we not cry for help at all times? Because we get confident in our own resources. We get focused on what we think is our own strength and so we sin, and so we move in ministry of sin. And he goes on in verse 5, “Behold Thou hast made my days as an handbreath,” literally as the stretch of a palm of a hand. “Thou hast made my days as an handbreath and mine age is as nothing before Thee, mine age is as nothing before Thee.” That word “nothing” there is literally the word “absolutely nothing.” And all the sudden God begins to challenge us to compare ourselves to Him. What are your resources God compared to mine? When I look at what I have, it is not that I have nothing, but when I look at what I have compared to what God has, the reality is it is nothing. It is a drop in the bucket as the writer of Isaiah said, “All the nations are as a drop in the bucket.” Can you think of that? All of the nations are a drop in a bucket. Incredible contrast. We are nothing before God and what God wants out of us is that awakening reality of who He is so our resource becomes Him, so He becomes that which drives us in the morning, through the day and at night. He is sufficient and all of our sufficiency rests in Him.
And then finally, we see here, “And there is nothing before Thee, verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity, Selah.” “Every man at his best state is altogether vanity, Selah.” Now this picture of there being nothing before God is something that you and I do not grasp very well. The first commandment concerning idols, “Thou shalt have,” what? “No other god before Me.” It is that picture, the picture of that which we use always to compete with God. The nature of man is to compete with God. We are going to be tempted with the same temptation of Satan, we are going to want to be like God. We are going to want to compare our strength to His strength and whatever we can do that we do not need God’s help, “I do not need Your help God, I can do this myself, thank you.” Have you watched your children grow up? It is so amazing. They get to around 18 months or earlier and all of the sudden they are rolling up their sleeves and taking on mom and dad. Something small like cutting their own meat, here is this piece of meat on their plate and there is no way they can cut it if they had a sharp knife. They might cut their finger off but that is about it. But it is, “Get out of the way, I want to do this.” There is that natural instinctive tendency to press forward with all that we have and all that we are so that our sense of significance might be known and that is sin, from A to Z. That is the whole nature of sin. The manifestation of me before so that I have a little, some spot before God, that there is a little bit of remembrance of me before God. The Scripture says God will not share His glory with another, period. There is no glory sharing. God is all and in all, over all and through all. He is it. He is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega. There is none else besides God. That is the challenge of salvation, that is the challenge of our whole life. There is nothing before Thee. Then he gives this little picture, and I want to compare this picture back to the resolutions of men which he starts out with when he said, “I will take heed to myself that I sin not with my tongue.” “Verily, man at his best state is altogether vanity.” So just stop a for a minute. Let us just take 30 seconds and imagine what that means. Let us have a competition, let us have a worldwide, international, through all ages competition. We can do it on computers now because computers do wonderful things. You know how Rocky boxed Ali and lost, that is done by computers, we can do that now. Let us take every man and let us have a competition. Let us get the ultimate man, the ultimate one who is really everything and all and just mighty for God, good, holy, righteous, powerful, striking down enemies, you name it, let us get them out there. Let us get our best trophy and let us set them out there before God. Then we find the words of condemnation, “Man at his best state is altogether vanity.” You know what the word “vanity” means there? What is in this thing besides air? What is in this thing besides air? No thing. Nothing. That is right. Very good. There is no thing in there. And that is what vanity is, nothing, nothing. It is a big zero. There is nothing to compare. Now maybe to help us understand it a little bit, those illustrations I try to make up are so bad, I am going to skip it. Let us go on. Have you ever seen a little child make a little wooden car out of nothing? And when they are all finished it looks like nothing. That is the hard part of being a parent that I have had. I see nothing and I say nothing and my wife sees nothing and she says, “Ah that is wonderful.” But anyway if you could take one of these nothing little creations by a wonderful little child that only the mother can see the beauty of, take one of those little cars and compare it to the world’s best car ever made, ever known, maybe it is a Rolls Royce, I do not know, I do not know what the best is but let us pretend it is a Rolls Royce for a moment and compare, and ask yourself, “How much of something is this in light of the Rolls Royce?” How much is there to compare? And only a mother can say, “Something.” The rest of us would say, “Nothing.” And it would be pretty obvious, it is just a pile of unused wood, misused wood and that is the best we can state. But there is that contrast, there are you and I. Man at his altogether very best state, with no exception, the premier super bowl of super bowl of super bowl’s man, he is equal to that little wood pile of meaninglessness when compared to what God does as an afterthought. That is the contrast. Now why is this there? Is this to humiliate us? Is this to rub us in the dirt to make us feel totally incapable and totally stupid and hang our heads down in shame? No it is not to do that. It is to get us to focus on our resource. God has extended Himself to us so that which He is is available to us in all things. And God is to be manifested by His strength, by His virtue, by His glory, He wants to be manifested in us, in our need. So He makes our need great so His opportunity is great. And we find ourselves full, we find ourselves satisfied when we have found ourselves met in God. When that which is His power and His might is made known and manifested, we find ourselves full, full of joy, full of strength, at rest, at peace. I love that verse, “Man at his best state is altogether vanity.” You know what it does for me? It just cuts out any desire to win a trophy. It just cuts out. Why compete? Why chase after vanity? Why waste all that time? I just have this little tiny life. I have these tiny limitations. Time is wasting and why should I spend even one minute pursuing something that absolutely means nothing? Why should I chase that? Let me rather chase after God. Let me pursue Him in all things and let me learn early, let me learn soon how to tap into His resource so that when I am weak, He is strong and His strength becomes my life and my life becomes a praise to His name.
In terms of going on, if you will look at the next verse. He begins to site the nature of man. Verse 6 says this, “Surely every man walks in a vain show.” I want to pause there for a moment and I want to just emphasize a few words because this is important for us in a group setting like this. Sometimes it is easier to preach the Word to a large group because we can say everybody and it means everybody. But if I am speaking to you one on one, you do not feel like there is everybody there, so you feel like I am picking on you all alone in the whole world. So this morning we have a benefit. We can say, “Everybody,” and we can mean you, George. I knew you were smiling so I could get away with it. Every man walks in a vain show. Every man walks in a vain show. Who here this morning can say, “It is not true?” Every man walks in a vain show. Our natural instinct is to walk in vanity. So when we arrive and we say, “Hello,” and extend the hand of fellowship, we are extending the show, “Here is what I have to present. Here I am. I want you to see the show.” That is who we are. It is by our nature, it is by our instinct. That is why we tend to have trends and fads in how we dress because we are all walking in a vain show. We are here to strut. We get our little plumes out there and all the pretty colors we want everybody to see, that is who we are. Now can we confess that morning? Can we acknowledge that this is who I am? I think we can. I know we should. With that vain show comes the rest of the story following verse 6, the middle portion, “Surely they are disquieted in vain, surely they are disquieted in vain.” Now there is a lot of talk in the New Testament about peace, about having the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts, ruling in our minds, that peace that passes all understanding. And that peace that passes all understanding is directly focused on this particular issue here, the disquietness of my vanity. When I am walking in a vain show, I become disquieted. Usually I become disquieted because the competition is fierce. Only one guy wins the crown and I get the hint pretty quick that it will not be me and I get disquieted within my soul and I begin looking for a means or a method to get ahead, get around the corner, get out in front, make sure that I do not lose at least totally. At least make sure that there are more people behind me than there are ahead of me, that vain press. There is that picture of disquietness, the lack of peace. Hint, “Come to me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” There is the Gospel in a nutshell. Come to Christ in our disquietness to find the rest of Christ which is life. We have to let it go. We have to give it up. We have to exchange that which is absolutely worthless and lay a hold of that which truly has value. And you know what is exciting? This is the most amazing thing. When we get to Heaven we are going to be stunned. By reading good Christian biographies, you are going to be stunned now, nothing like you will be then, but it is a good start. The reality is this: God is after bringing peace to souls so hearts become fixed and focused on eternal things no matter what is swirling on around them in the world beside. All that vain show, that stirring up the dirt, remember what the Scripture says about the wicked? The wicked are like the troubled sea, casting up mire and dirt. “There is no peace,” saith my God, “For the wicked.” Wickedness leaves us disquieted. We are anxious. We are consumed. We are concerned. We are afraid of not making it and God is delivering us with His peace, with His quietness. “Surely they are disquieted in vain.” Notice the picture of disquietness, this is an incredible picture, “They heap up riches.” Now riches are the single most trophy that men find on earth by which to measure themselves. It is the single most trophy. It is just the natural setting, how rich I am and how I portray I wealth. What Psalm is that? Is that Psalm 69 or Psalm 49, the Scripture says, “Surely men will praise thee if thou wilt treat thyself well.” If you do good to yourself, men will praise you. There is that whole nature of the competition in a moment and this heaping up of riches, the word “riches” by the way there is supplied, it is not literally in the context. It is this heaping up of all those things that become the substitute for God in my life. “And they knoweth not who shall gather them.”
Now we see in verse 7 the solution, at rest. David now gets a focus on his own self and he says, “Now Lord what wait I for? My hope is in Thee.” What a simple question. What a simple question to ask ourselves this morning. What are you waiting for? Are you here this morning full of disquietness? Is your heart and soul in turmoil because you are after things that have nothing but vanity as their end? What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for the extension of fame, fortune, approval by men, honor, greatness? What are you waiting for? “What wait I for? My hope is in Thee.” I want to say this morning, what we wait for has everything to do with our walk, with our life. What am I waiting for? We can only wait either for the vanity of the world or we can wait for that which God Himself has promised. I cannot finish the Psalm so I am going to finish my story. Remember the story I told in the beginning about this little guy? Turn your Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 6. Beginning at verse 19, “But know you not that your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s.” Skip over quickly to chapter 7, verse 20. “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he is called. Art thou called being a servant? Care not for it but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather for he that is called in the Lord being a servant is the Lord’s freeman. Likewise also, he that is called being free is Christ’s servant. You are bought with a price. Be ye not the servants of men. Brethren, let every man wherein he is called, therein abide with God.” As that dear lady asked me that difficult question and I looked on this teenage face and it was not interested in any answer, I could tell it was not a listening audience and the husband was at best pensive, course in those situations I am tempted to panic, find the quickest door out and leave, and the Lord just gave me a word and the word was ownership, ownership. And I said, I said, “Well the principle is ownership and let me ask you a question son. Do you have any possessions, anything that you own that is very special to you? Something that stands out.” He said, “I have got a lot of things but I guess the two most special things are my bike and my playroom.” I do not know what the room playroom meant because I am not real familiar with the latest computer games or what have you so I did not even want to go there. I was out of touch with what play rooms are. But I could relate to a bike. So I said, “I just wonder, that bike is yours. You own it. How would you feel if the neighborhood kids came by and they wanted to use your bike anytime, for any reason, for whatever purpose, and your parents said, ‘Oh sure come on in. I know it is his bike but go ahead and use it, it does not matter’.” Well it was real interesting. When I said that, it was just an imaginary story, it had nothing to do with reality, I was just making it up, but when I said that, I saw his stomach turn with a visible knot and he was moved with indignation and his face become like, “Don’t you dare do this to me.” It was incredible how quickly he was moved to this brink. And I realized that the Lord had struck a nerve. And I went on and I played out the story a little bit further, I said, “Let me ask you another question, how would you feel the next time you went out to get your bike, you started to reach down for the handle bar and the bike got up, spun its wheels, spit gravel in your eye and cursed at you and took off saying get away from me creep? How would you feel? You start running all over the neighborhood and everybody laughs at you, the bike keeps getting away, what would you do? What would you do?” He said, “I will tell you what I would do.” He was into this story quick. He said, “I will tell you what I would do. I would take my wrench and my pliers and I would take and make that thing a pile of bolts and I would be done with it.” I said, “Son, that is what Hell is. Hell is the place for those who refuse to be with God where God is. Hell is the place where people say, ‘I do not want to be around you God’, and they get what they want. The absence of God is Hell.” With that he reached over and grabbed a big juicy pear and took a big juicy bite and I said, “Isn’t it interesting, you had this view of God being so egocentric, but you know what? He made you. You are not your own. You are bought with a price.” I said, “You are bought once by Creatorship, He made you so you belong to you and He has a right to make you however He wants, He has the right to fix your handlebars the way He wants, to put you in that garage the way He wants, that is His will. But furthermore, He bought you back. He bought you back by redemption, by the blood of Christ and in that context you have an obligation. Have you thanked God for that pear? Have you thanked God for that pear? God made that pear by His own creative genius. And you know why He made it? He made it so you could wonderfully enjoy it. He meant for man to enjoy pears but you have not thanked Him for it. And you know what worship is son? Worship is giving God thanks that is due His name. Worship is acknowledging the Creator in the circumstance that I am in. And it is saying, ‘God I am Your bike; You made me, I am not my own. You have the right to do with what You please and I see God that You are a good God and You always do good to me and I want to praise You for that, thank You’.” With that, the boy was up and out the door and gone into the fields. And if you would pray for someone, pray for that dad because I looked at the dad and I sensed something touching his heart that was more than just an occasion. As we close this morning I want to talk to you. You know what our problem is? Ownership. That is our problem. Every form of rebellion of man, every form of vanity that we seek is a problem of ownership. We think we have a right to our own opinion. We think we have a right to our own way. We think that our feelings matter. And they do not. What matters is that we have an unlimited God who has made Himself a resource to us in our limitations. And He is wooing us and calling us and beseeching us that we come to Him. And as we think about this whole issue of ministry, moms and dads may I speak to you? What is a coward? What is a coward in terms of a parent, a parental coward? What is a coward? Have you thought about that lately? Have you asked yourself the question, “Are you a coward Mark?” Do not answer now. What is a coward? I will tell you what a coward is. A coward is someone who is afraid of that little speck of nothingness called man and in the fear of that little speck of nothingness called man, he cannot raise himself up in any sort of vision or wisdom or understanding to reckon with and understand the great God who made us, who owns us, who has for us every resource capable for giving us a full and a deeply satisfying life. That is a coward. That is a coward. Fear of the insignificant and the inability to have a vision for that which truly is significant. It is natural, moms and dads, it is natural for your children to desire the world. It is natural. We just read it in the Psalms. It is the way everyone is. We by our own nature seek after vanity. We are disquieted, chasing after the world. That is our nature. Therefore, the nature of parenting is to correct, to correct that vanity and guide it down the path of rightness, to exchange the cowardly invisibility of nothingness, to exchange that for a simple vision of life and righteousness. It is interesting how the Lord teaches and works things but remember that passage in 2 Corinthians 4, “For the things which are seen are temporal,” meaning temporary, short lives, fleeting, passing quickly, “the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are unseen are eternal.” And here is the nature of godly ministry. Do not hold your mouth shut until you blow up at your kid. You do it, we do it, I do it. But let us not do that. Let us not have such little vision that we only engage our children in anger with steam blowing out our ears. Let us have a little bit of vision. Let us recognize that there is an exchange needing to be taking place, that that which God has promised which is unseen has to be brought forward and embraced by faith. We have to hope in the Lord. We have to exchange hoping in the world to hoping in the Lord. And parents we are on duty to be the ones to see it. I want to tell you something and here is what I will close with as a challenge: moms and dads, especially you dads, as you can see your children when they are little in the smallest circumstance of being disquieted over nothingness, that is the occasion of training in godliness. When your child is disquieted in nothingness, it is a time to train them in godliness. How do you do it? You discern through the disquietness that the problem exists. You trace it back to the root of disquietness, that vain thing. And there are 1,000 vain things that we worry about in one day, 1,000 vain things. The marble, the extra pea on his plate, it does not matter. Ten thousand things in a day, but disquietness comes out and there is the point that we bring godly counsel. Do not hold your peace until the cork blows, get a vision. Get a vision for what is taking place and transform the disquiet moment to a place of trust. Take every one and make every one captive to Christ. That is what parenting is all about. You capture a child in those little ways and guess what? When they get older it will not be so difficult. But I warn you, you fail to win that battle when they are little, they are going to get older. And I will tell you what, when they are older, the battle is tougher. It never gets less difficult, it always gets more difficult because the strength of the flesh becomes strong and the false confidence of the flesh becomes boastful and it is your job to separate them through correction. I do not have time to go on but the rest of the passage teaches about correction and how God corrects us by popping the bubble of our vanity and removing from our sense of satisfaction any value or joy in that which is useless. He just disengages our whole sense of our appetite and gives us rather a sense of our need and a sense of our loss. You know, our tongues are meant to speak, they are meant to be instruments of training in the Gospel, training in righteousness. And our tongues are the constant source of sin by our weakness and by the nature of who we are as vain people. We are on a tremendous battleground. You cannot stop sinning with your tongue by ceasing to speak with your tongue. You can only stop sinning with your tongue by learning to speak good, by learning to get a hold of that truth and bring it into the core of the circumstance and bring it right there and get release, get the transfer. “What wait I for? My hope is in Thee.” And that transfer at that moment in a little crisis of disquietness in your home, that is the Gospel of Christ being preached for good in every occasion and that victory is going to be a permanent victory, it is going to be a real victory, a victory that transforms lives and you are going to see your children by the grace of God do exploits that you yourself could never imagine and that you yourself will never do. That is raising up the next generation in love. Let us pray.
Lord we come to You this morning, we marvel Lord at how You do Your work. Lord that You would take the weakest instrument of our whole being, that instrument that is the most frequent cause of sin and You would do Your work there, You would set a camp Lord upon our tongue and cause it to become the instrument of power, the instrument of life, the instrument of preaching the Gospel by which the power of God transforms the lives of those we reach. O Lord cleanse us from the faulty sense of pride and arrogance by which we see ourselves as better than others. Transform us Lord with a vision of service, a vision of doing good, speaking a word at a moment, Lord as apples of gold in settings of silver, that is the way a word is by Your grace that is fitly spoken. Lord give to us gracious lips, lips that can speak the truth in love. Lord, lips that can divide asunder between the vanity of man’s aspirations and the glory of God’s purpose. Help us Lord in the little things. Thank You for our families. We thank You for the long long time we get to raise up our children. Lord grant us that we would learn early and quickly to become aware of our limitations, of our weakness, that we would make the most of every opportunity knowing that the days are evil. We give You praise and thanksgiving, asking Lord that even our fellowship one with another might be seasoned with salt so that we might be exhorted and encouraged to number our days in good service, service for the King and not for vanity. We ask in Christ’s name, amen.

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