Bless Without Ceasing – Psalm 34

Sometimes I wonder…if God had a Bible for Himself…what would it say?

It is easy to know how much we are needy as human beings simply by looking at how big is God’s manual for us. If only we were a little smarter and had a little better memory, God would not need to tell us the same truths again and again and again, through all sorts of angles and parallels and stories…but the reality is that without reminders, we just forget what we need to do. Of course, God is not like this. He doesn’t need a manual to be God. He doesn’t forget what He is supposed to do, He doesn’t need instructions written in a book to keep in line with His job. But sometimes I wonder, if God had His own Bible…what would it say?

Well, I think it would probably blow our minds to see all the things that God intentionally does for us every day. No doubt, if God had a Bible, it would be filled with truths about His character that would make our minds explode in wonder.

Today we are going to look at Psalm 34, and when I read this Psalm, it makes me wonder if before creation God did not read a verse saying: “Bless without Ceasing.” 

Of course God doesn’t need to be reminded of anything, and not only because He doesn’t forget, but also because that’s simply who He is. God cannot help but to bless, and to bless at all times.

And this is what we see in Psalm 34.

We’ll look into it verse by verse in a moment, but before this, let me read a few passages, and tell me if you don’t see a pattern there:

Verse 1: I will bless the Lord at all times his praise shall continually be in my mouth

Verse 4: I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears

Verse 5: Those who look at him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed

Verse 6: This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him of all his troubles

Verse 9: Those who fear him have no lack

Verse 10: Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing

Verse 19: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all

Verse 20: He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken

Verse 22: None of those who take refuge in him will be condemned

In 1 Chronicles 17:27 it is written that when God blesses something, it is blessed forever. When God blesses, He doesn’t do it half-heartedly. When God sets His mind to do good to someone, believe me, goodness flows, and overflows, even grace upon grace as the New Testament puts it: one truck load after the other. 

God loves to bless. He loves to help people in need. In fact, that’s even His specialty. He even named His only Son “Jesus: salvation from God.”  Saving is what He does best, and so He loves being able to do it. He’s got skills beyond understanding, no matter the situation, the problem, the troubles; He can save and turn any circumstances into a blessing.

And as we look at Psalm 34, we will see 6 never-ceasing aspects of God’s blessings, so that we can grow to have a heart of continuous praise to Him.

Prayer

Now this Psalm is really interesting because it is one that we actually know when it happened. A lot of Psalms are anonymous and without historical context, but not this one.

Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.

Now most of us would remember that story in 1 Samuel 21 when David flees from Saul and goes to Philistia to find refuge, and when the king Achisch sees him, David acts like a madman, making marks on doors and letting his spit run down his beard. Now the name Abimelech is a little confusing for tow reasons. First, it must not be confused with the prophet of Nob Ahimelech in the same chapter. Second, the name of the Philistine ruler here is Achisch, not Abimelech, but the truth is that the name “Abimelech” which literally means “my father the king” is very often used for rulers, especially in Philistia. When Abraham went to that region, the king’s name was Abimelech. When Isaac went to that region, the king’s name was also Abimelech.

If we turn a few chapters earlier in the book of 1 Samuel, we see what made David flee:

1Sa 19:1  And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David.

And then there is some drama happening. Jonathan takes the defense for David, and Saul swears before the Lord not to harm him. But then he changes his mind, and the second time it is Saul’s daughter, Michal, that saves him.

And so David is both confused and scared, and really fears for his life:

1Sa 20:3b  But truly, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death. »  

And so David flees to Philistia, out of desperation, not really planning well what he will do. I mean, running to enemy territory might not be the smartest thing. It’s like if we all got scared of Obama and all ran together to North Korea instead. But David doesn’t have time to think. The king is after him. And so he runs to the land of the Philistines, and when he realizes what he has done, he gets really scared:

Sa 21:10  And David rose and fled that day from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath. [11]  And the servants of Achish said to him, « Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’? » [12]  And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath.

So again, when we understand the life of David, he was a fugitive for close to 10 years. And here is where it all started. Of the 12ish Psalms of David with historical background, this is only the 2nd one. The one previous to that is Psalm 59, when David just fled at night with the help of Michal, and the next one is Psalm 56, where much maturing  has happened then, so much that he doesn’t even seem fazed by the hardships, but simply awakens the dawn in praise.

And here we are. Right before this Psalm, David is afraid, and he doesn’t know what to do. And so he comes up with the most desperate, crazy, unimaginable scheme: he takes the role of a madman. And we don’t know how long he does this. It could have been days, it could have been weeks. But the king finally comes to check it out, he let him go.

And I can just picture David’s unbelief after the whole thing. “I can’t believe that this worked! That was the dumbest, most risk-taking, most unthought-of plan, and it worked! It simply means one thing: God can truly save anybody, out of any situation, at any time!”

I.                    Never-Ceasing Praise (v.1-3)

And so here we go into the Psalm. And the first aspect that we see, is a Never-Ceasing Praise.

Psalm 34:1   I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. [2] My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. [3] Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!

Here David affirms his conviction: that he desires to praise the LORD at all times, never failing. Not only does he want to praise God in all circumstances, but also in a growing manner. The way “continually” comes from the root meaning “to stretch.” Not only does David want his default mind-setting to be on praise mode, but he also want to have an automatic “click” on the refresh button continually, because he knows that new blessings will always come.

David speaks out of conviction. “I will bless the LORD at all times.” This is a resolution. This is a commitment. This is how he wants to live for the rest of his life. And again, we can understand why. He had made all the worst possible choices, and yet God had given him deliverance with absolutely no harm and no loss.

“I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” he says. I love that image. David wanted his mind to be focused on the LORD at all times, and in consequences, he wanted his mouth to be filled with praises at all times. My little daughter, I never know what to expect when I see that her mouth is full. She has tried to eat dirt, Kleenexes, plastic objects, even her own poop. And often this is how we are, even as believers. The way we react to others and our responses are often random and not well seasoned.  But David wanted God to be on the tip of his tongue so that every time words would come out, praise to God would flow as well.

And he explains that a little more as he goes:

Psa 34:2  My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.

 Not only he is committed to do it in the future as a resolution, but he is starting right there, writing a song for God! He changes from the future tense to the present tense. “My soul makes it boast in the LORD.” He is living it out.

 Now it would have been easy for David to boast in himself. People sung songs about him, as the one killing his ten thousands. He had been the Israel Idol of the teen girls in Jerusalem. He was smart, cunning, courageous, victorious, a leader of men, a war strategist. And although he displayed great faith throughout his fights, I am sure that the temptation to accept praise would have been great. But here he doesn’t, and the reason why is that he couldn’t even if he wanted to. He was caught off guard, acted ruthless, and the only reason why he had been saved was a complete act of God’s grace. 

 And so he boasts in the LORD, and calls those that are of humble state to join him. And here the word for “humble” could also be translated as “poor, lowly, needy.” David here was reminded of something every important: God’s salvation is for those in need, those that are helpless and destitute. It’s not for those who have it figured out.

 He continues:

 Psa 34:3  Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!

 Here we have a call to worship with the unity of believers. David knows that the praise of one man alone is insufficient to do justice to the greatness of God’s name. He wants to magnify, literally “make great” the name of the LORD, and exalt his name, literally to “elevate, make it high.” 

God’s goodness is so great, it takes all of the praise of all the believers to do justice to it.

II.                  Never-Ceasing Protection (vv.4-7)

And why does David want to praise the LORD so much? The rest of the Psalm speaks for itself. From verses 4-7, never-ceasing praise comes from God’s Never-Ceasing Protection.

Psa 34:4  I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. [5] Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. [6]  This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. [7]  The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

God never ceases to look for ways to protect and to bless. People can seek Him (v.4), look for Him (v.5) cry to Him (v.6) or even taste Him as we will see in verse 8.

First there is David in verse 4, the coming king, had been in danger, and God had saved him from all his fears. God delivered him, literally, “snatched him away.” David was in a “fear” zone, and God simply showed up, grabbed him, and walked out, leaving all the fears behind. All that David had to do was to seek the Lord and to pray to Him.

But God doesn’t want to only save David.

Psa 34:5  Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

The faithful ones that look at Him are radiant. I love that word. It comes from a root that gave the words for river and for light in Hebrew. It speaks of a continual flow of life. It is often paired up with the notion of a deep and abundant joy that just overflows from one’s soul. That’s what happens to all who trust God. They taste of His never-ceasing protection. They can walk in joy day after day, because there is nothing that can come their way.

“Their faces shall never be ashamed” David says. In an honor/shame society, to tell someone that he would have shame again would be the same as giving a winning lottery ticket to someone believing in the American Dream. To live without shame would have been the utopia of the day. It’s like telling someone that everything he ever strived for was granted to him.

And that’s how God does things. He doesn’t bless just half-heartedly. When He blesses, He blesses even beyond what we can receive.

He protected David, He protects those who look for Him, and He even protected the poor random citizen:

Psa 34:6  This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.

Even the random poor man, God found out about him and saved him out of all his troubles. That man was so insignificant, David doesn’t even remember his name. But he remembered that even in his poor and lowly situation God had heard him, and he had saved him out of all his troubles, because that’s what He does best.

That poor man was in “trouble” a word here that comes from the root “tightness.” Things had been tight. Things had been difficult, complicated, unexpected, stretched thin to the point of despair. But in time God showed up, and there was not one trouble that He did not resolve.

Indeed:

Psa 34:7  The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

I love this image. The angel of LORD encamps around those who fear him. He surrounds them under his protection and care, and He delivers them. He is no distant God. He is here, he is near, and there is no direction that we can walk, left or right, ahead or behind, where He is not protecting us. He is all around, as a shield against all dangers. We can go to the right and make a good decision and be protected by God, or turn to the left and make a not-so-good decision (which happens all the time since we are fallen beings) and still be protected by God.

And He “delivers” which is an interesting word because it comes from a root meaning to “withdraw” which is similar to the “snatching away” that we saw earlier, but it is also a play on word with a root that means to “equip for battle.” So not only God does deliver by taken us away from our fears and our troubles, but He also equips us to face them in His presence.

III.                Never-Ceasing Provision (vv.8-10)

 Never-ceasing praise comes from never-ceasing protection, but also never-ceasing provision. And this is what we see in verses 8-10).

Psa 34:8  Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! [9]  Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! [10]  The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Again we see here God’s heart to bless without ceasing. Not only is He good, but His goodness is also constantly poured out to those who seek Him.

And again, the blessing is near because God is near. He is right there, so close you can even taste His goodness as it passes by. This is why David encourages the hearers to take refuge in Him. “Go live where God lives! Stay close to Him, wrapped in His arms, and you will see that the taste of goodness will never leave your mouth!”

And the result of clinging to God is to have no lack.

Now we know this. We hear in Psalm 23 that those who count God as a Shepherd lack nothing, in 2 Peter 1:3 we hear that believers have all things that pertain to life and godliness. The problem is not so intellectually but practically. Sometimes the bank account run lower than we expect, our attitude changes. This is where we can learn from David. His resolutions of praising the Lord were not based no circumstances but on His God, and so He was committed to give glory to God no matter the outcome.

God does not want us or does not expect us to figure out everything on our own. Those that are naturally gifted are not necessary those that taste of God’s goodness.

The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Here David does not talk about baby lions. Young lions in the Bible refer to lions in their strength, they have already learned how to hunt. In the Bible, young lions are described as those that never give up their prey. They are bloodthirsty, extremely dangerous, the worst enemies and can be a symbol of wrath. But even they suffer need and hunger.

Sometimes it is easy for us to trust in our natural giftedness and strength. And often we rest on these things because it appears successful. But again, we must understand everything in perspective. The success of the young lions is temporary. They might look strong in one context, but in another they are completely hopeless, and there is nothing they can do about it.

But God delights in blessing the humble. The one who seeks Him, and fears Him.

IV.                Never-Ceasing Pursuit of Man (vv.11-14)

And this is where David turns next. To the never-ceasing pursuit of man: the fear of the Lord. Never-ceasing praise comes from God’s never-ceasing protection and provision, but also from our never-ceasing pursuit of God.

Psa 34:11  Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.  [3rd mention] [12]  What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? [13]  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. [14]  Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Here David calls for children. Once again, this is a call to the lowly. To the humble. To the needy. It’s not just because he isn’t king yet and can’t teach the grown-ups. But sadly, this is a lesson that only the humble can accept.

Psa 34:11  Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD

Now what is the fear of the Lord? In some ways, the best way that we can define it is by faith. That is the way the righteous live. And as we will see, after these verses, the believers are no longer referred to as those who fear the Lord but as the righteous. The righteous lives by faith. He lives by fearing the Lord. He lives with a constant understanding of God’s presence, which changes his every moment decisions and actions.

The book that helped me understand this the most was the book of Ecclesiastes.

If we turn with me first to Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Ecc 2:24  There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, [25]  for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?

Here we see a very simple concept. Believers and unbelievers basically live similar lives. All are human beings that generally grow up, are educated, work, are involved in relationships, have children, and die. And all these little things are opportunities that are given for man to see God and to acknowledge Him. These are all opportunities for us to see God at work. With God every moment is a test for us to see Him, as Job wrote:

 Job 7:17  What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, [18]  visit him every morning and test him every moment?

And we see why God does that later in the book of Ecclesiastes:

Ecc_3:14  I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.

Ecc_12:13  The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

 And this is why we can praise God in a never-ceasing manner. Every moment is a test for us to see the windows of heaven opened. That is our never-ceasing pursuit.

And then look at what happens:

Psa 34:12  What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? [13]  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. [14]  Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

When you walk by the fear of the Lord, who is good, you turn out to see good (v.12) and to do good (v.14). In short, you become like God. The more we learn as believers to wait on the Lord and to trust Him, the more we actually become like Him. And we start to bless people in a never-ceasing manner, like He does, speaking truth at all times, doing good in all circumstances, and bringing peace to those around us.

 V.                  Never-Ceasing Pursuit of God (vv. 15-19)

So yes, to learn the never-ceasing praise of God, we need to embrace this never-ceasing pursuit. But look at what comes next. Next comes God’s never-ceasing pursuit, which is that of blessing the righteous.

Psa 34:15  The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. [16]  The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. [17]  When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. [18]  The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Here we see God’s intense commitment to the righteous. His eyes are towards them, his ears are towards them, and his face…well it is against those who do evil because it is facing the other way towards the righteous!

God delights so much in those who fear Him, that the world will be given to them. The other ones who delight in sin and selfishness and indulge in the passions of the world will be forgotten. Their memory will be cut off from the earth. But it is not so for the righteous. When they cry for help, God is quick and ready to help and to deliver from all the troubles they find themselves into.

Why does God bless people so much? He blesses them so that He can bless them even more. The more you receive God’s blessings, the more you can understand, enjoy, and receive even more blessings!

But again, God doesn’t deliver people just because He is bored and has nothing to do. He does so because He wants to bless people by making Himself known to them, Him, the perfectly good and awesome God! The reason why God gives so much of Himself is because He knows that to know Him is to know the best thing in the universe!

And this is why God delights in delivering especially those who have their eyes open to see Him, those who humbly wait for Him, and who quickly go to Him in times of need, knowing that He desires to show up in glory!

  Psa 34:18  The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

 He is near because He knows that He will have an opportunity to bless, and He is near because He knows that His deliverance will be received in faith.

 Here we see the desperate situation of those in need: the brokenhearted. Those whose hearts have been scattered to pieces. They have been hurt to the depth of their core. The crushed in Spirit. Those whose spirit has been reduced to ashes. The word for “crush” here is the same one that gave the word “dust” in Hebrew. Those that have seemingly lost everything. Those that are desperate.

 Well, God saves them. It doesn’t matter how hurt people can be. He is the Savior.

 So why not come to Him more for deliverance? Why don’t we simply trust Him with our troubles? Bring your problems, your sins, your pain and your past to God, and see if He cannot deliver! It’s His specialty!

VI.                Never-Ceasing Promise (vv.19-22)

Finally, we see God’s never-ceasing blessings in God’s never-ceasing promises.

Psa 34:19  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all [20]  He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. [21]  Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. [22]  The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

And here we end our Psalm with 4 promises:

 Psa 34:19  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all

That’s what He does. He is the cause of the deliverance. There is no salvation outside of Him. Sometimes when times are tight and rough we turn to different things to find comfort. We turn to self-indulgence, self-gratification, self-absorbance, selfish pleasures…but none of those things can deliver. Only God can. The LORD is the one who delivers from our real problems.  

Psa 34:20  He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

The second promise is God’s commitment not to let His loved ones endure sufferings that are beyond what they can bear. David here speaks in amazement on his own experience. He had been at war dozens of times. It was a real miracle that his bones were intact.

Now the Bible doesn’t say that we do not have trouble. Tests and trials will exist until the end comes. But the LORD will never let us endure something that is beyond our capacity. His goal is not to torture our confuse us, but to refine us.

But this promise goes beyond that. It refers to Christ’s crucifixion (John 19:36). Just as the one-year old lambs needed to be offered whole without any broken bone, so was Christ offered for our sakes. Now again, we see the grace of God. Although Christ suffered tremendously, God protected Him from many unnecessary excesses. He suffered just enough to accomplish God’s purposes. And then rose victorious.

Psa 34:21  Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

 The third promise is this: those who do not have the LORD will suffer affliction without having a deliverer.

 This is a humbling and sobering truth, but the fact is that those who do not have the LORD simply do not have a deliverer. When the weight of this sinful world falls on them, they have no protection. In a world as corrupted as ours, this is a tragedy.

 My grand-parents in France have had a maid for decades, a super nice lady, although no a believer. Her daughter got married to someone who a few years ago killed her and then committed suicide. Of course something like this is devastating. But without the comfort and the hope of the LORD, how do you move on from something like that?

 True deliverance and comfort is only found in the LORD.

 Psa 34:22  The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

 The final promise is my favorite. The righteous will never be condemned.

 And the reason why this is so is that the righteous belongs to God. They are redeemed. He paid the price to have them saved from this world and to be His own. This passing world and its sinful condition have no say on our lives. The destiny of this present world is not ours. This world will eventually be destroyed and reduced to ashes. But we belong to God. Because of this, His goodness is fully ours. His heaven will one day be fully ours. His love and His peace are fully ours.

 And again, we see one more time the call to the lowly. Who is it that God redeems? His servants. Those who live, not as if they were the center of their own plot, but those who humbly agree to make God their hero, their Savior, and their King.

 CONCLUSION

 We have covered much in this Psalm, and there is still a lot more we could have looked into.

 When I think of God’s goodness, I sometimes think of the widow that the prophet Elisha went to minister to. All he asked her to do was to take empty jars and fill them with that one jar of oil that God had blessed. And we know the story. As she poured out the oil, every single empty jar was filled. None were half-filled. None were filled with corrupted oil. They were all perfectly filled. Because that’s how God blesses. The only think that limited her from tasting more of God’s blessing was her faith. All she had needed to do was to get more jars. God still would have filled them all.

 And our life will continue to be filled as long as we put empty jars for God to fill. This requires faith, and humility, but the result is without fail: we will like David know never-ceasing praise, as we taste of God’s never-ceasing blessings.

 

Histoire des Huguenots – History of the Huguenots

Cliquez ici pour voir un  PDF en anglais de l’Histoire des Huguenots (1523-1789)

Marquées de victoires et de défaites politiques et spirituelles, l’histoire des Huguenots reste à mon opinion une des plus grandes sources d’inspiration pour le chrétien francophone. Les persécutions, les souffrances, les rejets et la violence suivant le Réforme en France produisirent plusieurs générations de chrétiens purifiés par le feu. Mon histoire préférée reste celle des martyres de Toulouse, d’où je viens, tiré du livre « Cross and Crown » de James McCabe (1875).

 

Toulouse. 19 Février 1762.

Un cortège de quatre jeunes hommes se dirige vers la potence. Jugement : hérétiques. Sentence : mort.

L’histoire commence quelques  mois plus tôt, vers la fin de l’année 1761. C’était à ce moment là qu’une décision devait être prise pour les trois frères Grenier, enfants de la noblesse française de la dernière génération précédent la Révolution.  Un de leur meilleur ami, un jeune prédicateur, vient de se faire arrêter pour avoir prêché l’évangile de Jésus. Condamné à mort, ses jours sont comptés. Mais s’il pouvait être délivré ? Un plan de libération en vaudrait-il la peine ?

En marchant vers la potence, pourtant, les trois frères n’ont aucun regret. Leur plan aurait peut-être fonctionné, s’ils n’avaient pas été trahis. Peu importe. Ils connaissaient le risque. Ils l’avaient pris avec conviction.

Cette conviction, ce fut la même qui les poussa à endurer les mois d’emprisonnement précédent leur jugement. Jour après jour, les maîtres religieux venaient dans leur cellule pour ‘plaider’ leur repentance. « Abandonnez votre foi, et vous serez absouts ! »

Leur ami avait été arrêté pour la seule raison d’avoir prêché la Bible. Un crime ayant couté la vie à ses confrères pendant maintenant plusieurs générations.

Cette marche, cette dernière marche, serait aussi accomplie avec conviction. Le sourire au visage, l’air triomphant, les quatre amis entonnent en chœur les paroles du Psaume 118 :

« C’est ici la journée que l’Éternel a faite: Qu’elle soit pour nous un sujet d’allégresse et de joie!

L’Éternel est Dieu, et il nous éclaire. Attachez la victime avec des liens, Amenez-la jusqu’aux cornes de l’autel!

Tu es mon Dieu, et je te louerai; Mon Dieu! je t’exalterai.

Louez l’Éternel, car il est bon, Car sa miséricorde dure à toujours! »

Le chant continue jusqu’au sommet de la potence. Le bourreau s’approche du prédicateur, essayant par ses cris à le convaincre de changer d’allégeance religieuse. Gardant le sourire, sans résister, le jeune homme se laisse mettre la corde au cou.

La même offre proposée au trois frères est aussi rejetée. Mais pour eux, pas de pendaison. Leur noble lignée leur accorde le droit à une mort plus digne, celle de la décapitation. Chacun leur tour, ils posent leur tête sans résistance. Puis vient le tour du plus jeune, encore un garçon.

« Abjure et vis ! » lance le bourreau.

Posant sa tête sur le bloc ensanglanté, l’adolescent jette un dernier regard à son exécuteur :

« Fais-ton bouleau. »

 

Click here to see a PDF of the History of the Huguenots (1523-1789)

Marked by both victories and defeats in political and spiritual realms, the history of the Huguenots remains in my opinion one of the greatest source of inspiration for believers. The persecutions, sufferings, rejections and violence following the Reformation in France produced several generations of Christians purified by fire. My favorite story is that of the martyrs of Toulouse, my home town, found in “Cross and Crown” by James McCabe (1875).

 

Toulouse.  February 19th 1762.

Four young people walk towards a scaffold. Their condemnation: heretics. The sentence: death.

The story had began a few months earlier, towards the end of the year 1761. It was then that a decision was taken by the three Grenier brothers, children of a French noble family. One of their best friends, a young pastor, had just gotten arrested by the authorities for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Condemned to death, his days were counted. But what if he could be delivered? Would it be worth it to try?

Walking towards the scaffold, the three brothers had no regret. Maybe their plan would have worked, if they hadn’t been betrayed. But they knew the risk. They took it with conviction.

That conviction was the same one that helped them endure the months of imprisonment before their judgment. Day after day, the religious masters would come in their cell to “plead” them to repent. “Abandon your faith, recant, and you will be absolved!” 

Their friend had been arrested for the only reason that he had been preaching the Bible. A crime that had cost the life of many of his pastor friends also.

 This walk, this last walk, would be done also with conviction. With a smile on their faces, marching victoriously, the four friends being to sing together the words of Psalm 118:

“This is the day that the Lord has made;

We will rejoice and be glad in it.

God is the Lord who has showed us light

Bind the sacrifices with cords, even to the horns of the altar”

“Thou are my God, and I will praise Thee;

Thou are my God, and I will exalt Thee.

O, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good;

For His mercies endure forever.”

The song continues until their reach the top of the scaffold. The executioner comes near to the preacher, trying to convince him to change his religion. Keeping his smile, without resisting, the young man lets the rope that will kill him be laid around his neck.

The same offer was given to the 3 brothers but was also rejected. But for them, no hanging. Because they were nobles, they could have a more worthy death, they would have their heads chopped off. One by one, without resistance, they lay their heads down on the bloc of execution. Then comes the turn of the younger brother, still a young teenager.

“Recant and live!” says the executioner.

Laying down his head on the bloody bloc, the lad looks for a last time towards his executioner:

“Do your duty.”


 

True Salvation – Luke 17:11-19

Introduction

What do you think is the biggest lie that one could ever believe? Think about it a second. What do you think is the biggest lie one could believe?

Would it be that God doesn’t exist? Well, maybe. But a lot of people believe in some God and will still be in great trouble at the day of judgment.

Would it be that Jesus is not God? Maybe. But you still have a lot of people who believe this and that are unregenerate.

Would it be that the Bible is not authoritative? Maybe. But a lot of people believe in the authority of the Bible and still are not saved.

But what if you made people believe that they were saved, when they are not?

Complete deceit. You get close to the truth but tweak it just enough so that people don’t see the difference. Welcome to America, right? The country where 50% of the people are “born-again” and 90% believe in premarital sex.

Or maybe, we could say, welcome to Palestine in 30 AD.

Our times are not very different from those of Jesus Christ. Effective lies don’t change. When Jesus came to Israel, almost everybody was a Jew. They all thought they were the chosen people, the blessed descendants of Abraham, the holy remnant of the world.

They all thought they were all right. But what did Jesus think? Did Jesus think that all the people in Israel claiming to be Jews were going to heaven? Oh no.

According to Him, hell will be filled with people who confessed the name of Jesus Christ, of people who called Him master and who filled their lives with “religious” things.

So who is it that will really go to heaven? Who are the people that are really saved? How does it show in their lives?

This morning we are going to look at a salvation story from the life of Christ and we will what true salvation brings: a life that glorifies God.

In fact, let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke 17:11-19, where we will find 4 settings that illustrate what true salvation is, so that we also would live for the glory of God.

Luk 17:11  On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.

Luk 17:12  And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance

Luk 17:13  and lifted up their voices, saying, « Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. »

Luk 17:14  When he saw them he said to them, « Go and show yourselves to the priests. » And as they went they were cleansed.

Luk 17:15  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;

Luk 17:16  and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

Luk 17:17  Then Jesus answered, « Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?

Luk 17:18  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? »

Luk 17:19  And he said to him, « Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well. »

This miracle is a story of salvation. Or one could translate this last phrase, “your faith has made you whole” or “your faith has saved you.” The Greek word here is the word that Paul uses for salvation throughout Scriptures.  And I believe that it was critical for the disciples to understand this at the time that it happened.

I. The Journey

The first setting is the journey. We see in verse 1:

“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.”

This is Jesus’ last journey. He is going to Jerusalem, and He is going there to die. At this point, the dies are already cast. Since the resurrection of Lazarus, about 3 months earlier, the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders of the nation, made a united decision to put Jesus to death. This is what we read in John 11:53, “So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.”

So at this point Jesus is a fugitive. His hours are counted. He is on his way to Jerusalem, and He knows that it is His last journey. He planned it all out from the beginning. The miracles on the Sabbath, the arguments with the Pharisees, the cleansings of the Temple…everything was planned. Jesus had two purposes from the beginning: he is going to die, yes, but He also wants to make disciples. And to make a true disciple two things were necessary: that they believe in who He truly is, the Messiah and the Son of God, and that they understand what true salvation means.

Now, do you think that the disciples truly understood what true salvation is? Well, they were in the process. We see in the Scriptures that they are very often caught off guard with the manner in which Jesus responds to people. Sometimes they just don’t understand. They almost wish Jesus would make peace with the Pharisees.

And so here we are at the end of the life of Jesus. He has only a few more weeks to live. And He is trying to make sure His disciples understand fully what it means to be His disciples.

And this is what we see in the gospel of Luke from chapters 13-19. And here Luke insists on these last months of the life of Christ. And it all starts in Luke 13:22, “He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.” So they are coming down from Caesarea Philippi in the north where Peter made his confession. And then something interesting happens. The disciples begin to have a little more discernment. One of the hardest things for the people of Israel to understand was what true salvation was. Because they had a national religion, it was very difficult to understand where the line was for them, especially because it was very easy to fake an outside faith with legalism.

So in verse 23: “And someone said to him, « Lord, will those who are saved be few?« 

And Jesus to answer: the gate is narrow. The disciples are beginning to get it.

And here we are in Luke 17, about 2 weeks before Christ’s death. He has been hiding in a village called Ephraim with his disciples for a while, spending time with them, and now is the time to end all things. And so Jesus plans it all out. He will leave Judea discretely by going north to Galilee through Samaria, then in Galilee will join a group of pilgrims on their way to the Passover, which will give Him protection and a crowd to minister to.

So remember. Jesus is about to die. His disciples believe that He is the Christ, but they still are confused on what true salvation is. And here come the ten lepers and a story of salvation that will never be forgotten by the disciples.

II. The Desperation of the Lepers

So first, we see the journey. Secondly, we see the desperation of the lepers.

Luk 17:12  And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance

Luk 17:13  and lifted up their voices, saying, « Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. »

At this point, Jesus had not been seen in Galilee for at least 6 months, and here He appears in a village, probably in the south of Galilee. Jesus’ reputation as a healer had made its way around. As soon as Jesus enters the village, the lepers come to meet Him, and they stay at a distance, as it was obligated by law to do so.

But it would not take long for Jesus to notice them. Even at a distance, lepers stand out. They look different, they sound different, and they smell different.

In the Bible, leprosy was more kind of family of skin diseases than one disease in particular. Most of these diseases were pretty intense though.

Nowadays we equal leprosy to Hansen’s disease, a grave illness attacking one’s skin and nervous system. It’s actually kind of scary. Since the illness attacks the nerves of their extremities, they end up losing the sense of feeling in their fingers and other parts of their body. This is why they can end up scratching their nose until it bleeds without even knowing it. They can even lose entire body parts like that.

So if you saw a leper, you would know there was something wrong with him. Their skin looked different. In fact, this illness is sometimes called lion’s-faces disease because as the skin is lost again and again it eventually forms hard bumps. I saw someone like that before. It was one of the scariest sights I had ever seen.

And not only the effects of this sickness are gruesome, but they are also contagious and deadly. And as they affect the body, not only does it change someone’s outside appearance, but it also changes their voices, making it raspy and uncomfortable to listen to.

There might even be nuances of this in the text here. We see in verse 13 that the lepers raise their “voices.” Well, in the Greek text it is actually not “voices” but “voice,” almost as if their speaking was so awkward and pitiful that it was just the melting of a cacophony.

And not only leprosy looked bad, but it sounded bad, and it smelled bad.

Leprosy, in the Bible was different from other illnesses, because it had a very high religious stigma. There were a lot of different sicknesses existing in the times of Moses and Jesus. But as God had chosen some animals to be unclean, He also chose some illnesses to be unclean. And leprosy happened to be the main one. That is why we do not see people being “healed” from leprosy but “cleansed” from leprosy in the Bible.

The state of someone with leprosy was extremely humbling:

“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.” (Leviticus 13:45-46)

It is one thing to have a shameful disease, but it is another to have to scream it to every passing person! Can you imagine living in a society where if you let’s say sin against your boss you have to spend the rest of the day, obligated by law, to yell, “sinner! sinner!” to everyone that you see?

The lepers were the people that had lost absolutely everything. Because of their illness they were separated from their families, from their friends, from their cities. The certainly could not find work. They were forbidden to enter the synagogues and the Temple.  They were excluded from the social and the religious life of the people.

A prayer f the Pharisees goes like this, “I thank you God that I was not born a Gentile, a slave, a leper, or a woman!”

These people were the outcasts. The nobodies. They had fallen short of the standards of the land. They even had a Samaritan in their midst. Samaritans were the worst kind of people for the Jews.  At one time Jesus was discussing things with some leaders in Jerusalem and they got so mad at Him, they said: « Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon? »

Samaritans were worst than Gentiles and unbelievers, they were in some sense regarded as traitors by the Jews. Not only they were a bastard people, but they had also been enemies in the past. In the 2nd Cent. BC Antiochus Epiphanes offered pigs as sacrifices in the Temple, bringing the Jews of the south to rebel and actually gain independence, and at that time the Samaritans sided with the opposing forces to attack them. But the Jews won and they destroyed the temple of the Samaritans. All to say, there was just a lot of hatred between Samaritans and Jews.

So here comes 10 lepers. Outcasts, rejected, and they even have a Samaritan with them. They are really as low as low can get. They are like dead to society.

And they see Jesus, and come to Him, and cry out loud, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!« 

They call Him “master,” a word that only appears in Luke and speaks of someone with notable power (even miraculous). And they cry out to Him, begging for mercy.

People only cry for mercy when there is absolutely no hope. Here, they have absolutely nothing to offer to Christ to ask for help. No money, no labor, no gifting. They are useless. All they can do is plead for grace.  And so they “confess” Christ as master.

III. Healing and Worship

Now we move to the next verse, and we get to the third aspect depicted true salvation, that of healing and worship.

Luk 17:14  When he saw them he said to them, « Go and show yourselves to the priests. » And as they went they were cleansed.

These lepers were truly the lowliest of society. It seems to this point that Jesus doesn’t even notice them until they cry out. And He sees then, but still remains very distant to them, which is kind of interesting.

Jesus did His miracles in a lot of different ways. Most of the time, He clearly displayed compassion and care for the people. When the first leper came to be healed by Him in Mark 1, He touched him. That was crazy for the people. One could never touch a leper. During His ministry, we see how He would preach the word and then heal the people one by one, making it very personal.

But other times, He tested people. Jesus tested the Centurion. He tested the Syro-Phoenician lady. He tested Lazarus’ sisters, and many more. He didn’t only want people to be healed. If that was His goal, He could have just snapped His fingers and get every living creature on earth healed on the spot.  Jesus wanted to produce faith in His people. He wanted people to understand the spiritual aspect of things. He wanted them to know more than the healer, but also the Savior.

And so here, Jesus tests these lepers. Moses had commanded the lepers to go see the priests. And that’s all He tells them to do. No promise. No hope. Just a command. And they believe. They go. And on their way they are healed.

Luk 17:15  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;

Just imagine a minute those 10 lepers making their way to go see the priests. They go on the road, and every time they pass someone, they have to make a detour around them, crying out, “unclean! unclean!” Just imagine how freaky it would be to be walking with your family down the street and then have a group of 10 sick people scream that around you. So they walk, and they see a grandma: “unclean! unclean!” they continue, see a bunch of little kids playing around: “unclean! unclean!” hey keep walking and they see some men working on a house: “unclean! unclean!” then a random persons walks by, and they see him come from a distance, and they get ready to cry out again. But as they walk towards him, they start to realize that their skin is getting better. And the closer the man approaches, the cleaner their skin becomes. And when the man passes by, for the first time they are silent. and they continue walking, and they see some other men coming their way, and so they shake hands and start to talk about the things of life catching up and everything. And all they are thinking about is this, “I can’t believe it! Life is back to normal again! This is great! Let’s come back to where it was before!”

But one man thinks differently. For him, life is not the same. And so he turns back, and starts running the opposite way. And he sees the men building the house, and starts screaming and he probably has tears pouring on his cheeks, “clean! clean! God healed me! Look at my skin! Jesus of Nazareth did it!” and he continues and sees the little children playing around, and cries out to them, “Look at me! Jesus cleansed me! I am no longer unclean! Praise be the name of our God!” and he continues to run back and sees the grandma, still walking pretty slow. “Clean! Clean! God cleansed me! I am clean! Glory to God!”

What else could he do? He had had a big sticker “outcast” on his forehead for maybe years. He was condemned with no hope. And now, things were different. Was he going to be silent? Was he going to not tell the world about how awesome God is? That made no sense to him.

Luk 17:16  and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

That man was not simply healed. He was transformed. He had met the grace of God and would respond to it with faith. And so he runs back to Jesus. He runs back to his Savior, and he falls down at His feet with cries of thankfulness. Even though the word “proskuneo” is not used here in reference to the prostration of the leper, we all understand the implications of his abasement. He is worshipping. Something happened in that man’s heart. A change that made him desire to run toward His Savior, a change that made him desire to worship His creator. He received cleansing like the very grace of God, and responded to it with praise.

I wonder how loud that guy would have sung on a Sabbath worship service. Monotonous voice:  “All creatures of our God and King…lift up your voice and with us sing…alleluia, alleluia…” Man, I bet the synagogue was shaking after he stopped by!

A heart that received grace is a heart that sings. That’s simply how faith works. Grace comes down, and praise returns.

IV. The Ungratefulness of the Nine

Fourthly and finally, the last aspect that we see is that of the ungratefulness of the nine.

Luk 17:17  Then Jesus answered, « Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?

Where not ten cleansed? Jesus’ question begs for a positive answer. Of course they were cleansed. It is evident. And as a normal reaction to this supernatural cleansing, they should be there as well.

And so He continues: “Where the nine?” The Greek here actually omits the verb. Where the nine? Again, Jesus sharp question begs for the obvious. They should be there.

But where are they? Something is not right. Why did the 9 not come back to thank Jesus and give glory to God? Where are they?

The certainly saw the Samaritan turn back. They probably heard him cry out with joy to the glory of God. Why did they not follow? I wonder what they were thinking.

“That guy is over zealous. We got what we wanted, let’s just relax now. Let’s enjoy all the things we have been missing. Let’s go see our friends and prove them wrong. We made it. We found a way to get out of it. We did it. We found the healer, and He listened to us. We were convincing enough when we cried out to Him. We even called Him master at the entrance of the village, at the town-gate, the most important place. There were a lot of people. They all heard us cry out to Him. I’m sure that made Him feel good. We did our job. But that Samaritan…he’s got no life anyways. He’s a loser. He is the least of the least. We don’t need what he needs. He’s got issues. But us, we know how to figure things out.”

Complete ungratefulness. Pride and unbelief: “me” as the focus, and total blindness concerning God’s working. And the result: no thankfulness, and zero worship, and an eternal reward that is completely void.

It’s crazy. These lepers were like nothing to the world before Christ met them, and yet they didn’t even come back to say one word of thankfulness. How prideful can one be? What Jesus had just done for them was unheard of. Nobody else cleansed lepers. Nobody.  And Jesus had made it clear during His ministry that everything He did He did it through the power of God and for the glory of God. But after they got what they wanted, they didn’t even think back.  Their hearts were hardened by unbelief. They just didn’t see God as He truly was in the picture. Had God healed them? Probably. But it didn’t mean they owed Him anything. In fact, if God was so good, he should be expected to do good things, right? They deserved it.

The 9 lepers had no need to come back. They “made the prayer.” Their problem was solved. Their conscience was appeased. They certainly did not need to come back. They could just continue to live life as they had in the past.

Luk 17:18  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? »

“Have they not been found returning?” is the literal rendition of Jesus question from the Greek. Interestingly, Jesus asks this question with the “ouk” negativizer. It begs a positive answer. After such a great miracle of healing, they should have been found. They had been given all the proofs that Jesus was being used as an instrument of God and that He was worthy of following. They should have been found. Where they?

No. Only the one who was forgiven much praises much. But the other ones, no. They did not give glory to God. In effect, the word here translated as “praise” is the word “doxa” meaning glory. The 9 kept the glory for themselves. They figured things out, they did it, there was no need to render glory to someone else. Only the loser came back. The Samaritan. The sinner. The foreigner. (The allogene.)

This word foreigner is pejorative. Jesus’ usage of it is the only one in the New Testament. But it was also found on a limestone block from the Temple of Jerusalem. It was placed in the Court of the Gentiles next to the entrance to the Court of the Women or an area into which only Jews could go. ‘Let no foreigner [allogene] enter within the screen and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary.’ A foreigner doing this was subject to the penalty of death.

The privileged ones, the “chosen” ones, where missing before the throne of their God. Only the praise of this foreigner was given to God. And while the 9 others might have thought it was enough, it wasn’t enough for God.

Let me ask you a question. How much of the glory belongs to God?

Isaiah 48:11, “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”

How much of the glory belongs to God? All of the glory! All of it! All the praise! All the honor! All the worship! All of it! This world was made for Him, through Him, by Him.

God will not be satisfied with the praise of a few. He wants our praise. He wants our loud praise.

The glory belongs to God. It’s who He is. He is going to get it whether we give it to Him or not. Either He will receive it from our mouths, or He will take it through judgment. Taking the glory away from God is like trying to snatch His arm off. But that can’t happen to an unchanging God. He’s going to get His arm back, and He’s going to beat up those who don’t want to give it back.

Let me tell you, unless they repented, those 9 lepers are in hell right now. And their desperation is much greater than anything they might have known on earth.

God wants the glory, let us give it to Him! All of it! All that we can!

So if to God belongs all the glory, why don’t we sing loud? How can we be satisfied with displaying so little joy in our lives? How can we allow the spirit of complaining and judging and ungratefulness to enter our lives?

How easy to take things for granted! But we have received so much! Grace upon grace upon grace. Especially for us, who are studying the very Word of God and who are being set apart for ministry. How much grace have we received! What a privilege to be called to do God’s work, us, unworthy sinners!

[But let me ask you a question: do people know that you are a thankful person? Obviously we don’t want to be external people, but if we asked some around us, would they testify of us as men constantly filled with words of praise to Our Savior? What would your family say? What would your neighbors say? Have they ever heard you praise God with a loud voice? ]

Listen! The stewardship of the disciples is ours. Jesus revealed to them what true salvation was: that of desperate and lost people receiving grace, and responding to it with praise, giving glory to His name. We should be the first examples of such salvation.

I have no doubt that in every one of our churches there are many people who sit in the pews week after week and are not changed. And they never run to Christ. And they never fall down at His feet.  We can’t change their hearts, but we can show them what true salvation means to us!

We’re not any better than these lepers were. Like them, if it is not for God’s grace, we’re condemned to separation, to shame, and to death. Just like Isaac, we were bound to the altar of death without even knowing it. Just picture yourself in his place. That’s who we were. Walking to our death, completely blind, completely clueless, and completely lost. And then we go to the altar and lay down. And the knife is about to fall down on our throat. And then Jesus comes in the midst of everything and takes our spot. And He lays down on the altar. And God the Father comes down also, and takes the knife from Abraham. And at this point, no angel dares to come near Him. And He takes that knife and slaughters His Son. He slaughters Him. For our sake.

Can’t we sing loud?

Luk 17:19  And he said to him, « Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well. »

And so Jesus looks at him. His eyes say much: “The self-righteous will get what they want. They will feel good about themselves. But for you, you have had faith. Life will never be the same. Go now. Live on as a new person. You have been saved.”

Conclusion

I think the disciples remembered this story very vividly. I think that when they saw true salvation with their own eyes, its fruits and the obviousness of God’s working, that it truly impacted them. If this random man was willing to have such a loud and public testimony of God’s grace in his life, as Jesus’ chosen disciples, their task would be much greater. As the recipients of God’s salvation, they were stewards of God’s grace. A grace that would allow them to live lives that would bring a glory worthy of their Savior. Miracle after miracle, message after message, Christ was showing His disciples how to move from seeing trees to see fully. Let our eyes be open to see the fullness of God’s glory. “Therefore…work out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you.

Le Culte Raisonnable – Romains 12:1

Que cela signifie-t-il d’adorer Dieu?

Qu’est-ce que la vraie adoration ?

Est-c e que c’est d’avoir des frissons dans les dos lorsque l’on chante des cantiques ?

Est-ce que c’est de louer Dieu comme le font les certains anges dans le ciel, sans rien faire d’autre ?

Qu’est-ce qui vient à l’esprit lorsque l’on parle d’adoration ?

Adorer dans le dictionnaire français signifie de « rendre un culte à une divinité. »

Imaginez-vous 2900 ans plus tôt avec le roi Salomon. Vous êtes un juif zélé, et vous voulez rendre un culte à Yahvé. Que cela implique-t-il ?

Premièrement, il faut se consacrer. Il faut embraser pleinement le système en place, accepter de payer entre 20-30% de son salaire pour soutenir les sacrificateurs et les Lévites et le gouvernement institué par Dieu, être prêt à se rendre au minimum 3 fois par an au sanctuaire pour les fêtes nationales, d’abord situé à Silo puis ensuite à Jérusalem, se soumettre à la Torah, la loi de Dieu, et entrer dans le système complexe des sacrifices où il faut être pur selon le code des exigences divines.

Pour pouvoir adorer Dieu, dans l’Ancien Testament, il faut se soumettre au calendrier religieux du pays, où chaque tournant attire les regards vers Dieu. Il faut se soumettre à la révélation de Dieu, dont chaque trait attire les regards vers Dieu. Il faut se consacrer pleinement et être prêt à vivre par la foi, donnant à Dieu généreusement, étant prêt à acheter les animaux nécessaires aux sacrifices lorsque l’on pèche où que l’on est impur.

Adorer Dieu, dans l’Ancien Testament comme dans le Nouveau implique beaucoup plus que de proclamer la gloire de Dieu au travers de chants. En fait, le mot principal utilisé en Hébreu pour l’adoration est un mot qui signifie d’adorer, et aussi de se prosterner la tête contre le sol. Et lorsque Jésus affirme que l’heure vient où les vrais adorateurs adoreront le Père en esprit et en vérité, c’est un mot Grec avec la même signification qu’Il utilise, un mot signifiant de se prosterner, et de rendre hommage dans l’obéissance.

En fait, on pourrait regrouper les mots utilisés dans la Bible pour l’adoration en quatre catégories. (1) Celle de position, de se prosterner, de fléchir le genou (2) celle de la proclamation, de louer, chanter, célébrer (3) celle du service, de servir Dieu, de remplir un ministère, comme le faisait les sacrificateurs (4) et finalement celle de l’attitude, de la crainte et de la réjouissance.

Alors bien sûr, les cultes d’adoration de l’Ancien Testament et du Nouveau Testament sont bien différents. Et c’est ce qu’on voit dans l’usage des verbes ayant un rapport avec l’adoration. Lorsque l’on arrive au Nouveau Testament, le vocabulaire s’affiliant aux rituels disparait pour faire place à un vocabulaire accentuant la consécration personnelle. Le système complexe de l’Ancien Testament se dissout pour faire place à ce qui se cachait derrière le voile et les ombres de l’ancienne alliance : la personne de Jésus Christ.

Et il n’y a aucun doute, l’adoration pour les fidèles de la nouvelle alliance est centrée sur une personne, Jésus Christ, et sur une consécration pour faire Sa volonté.

Comment un croyant du Nouveau Testament peut-il offrir à Dieu un culte d’adoration approprié ?

Je vous invite à tourner dans vos Bibles en Romains 12 :1.

« Je vous exhorte donc, frères, par les compassions de Dieu, à offrir vos corps comme un sacrifice vivant, saint, agréable à Dieu, ce qui sera de votre part un culte raisonnable. »

Nous allons diviser l’étude de ce verset en trois parties. Premièrement nous allons regarder à l’appel à l’adoration. Deuxièmement nous allons regarder au moyen de l’adoration, c’est-à-dire ce qui nous permet de l’accomplir. Finalement, nous regarderons à l’application de l’adoration pour le croyant.

I. L’Appel à l’Adoration

Alors premièrement, nous allons regarder à l’appel à l’adoration. Paul écrit en Romains 12 :1, je vous exhorte donc. Vous savez, quand on lit la Bible et qu’on croise un « donc » il faut toujours se poser la question, mais d’où cela vient donc ? Un donc reflète une conséquence, et cette adoration est aussi la conséquence du raisonnement de Paul dans cette épitre aux Romains.

Quelle fut la raison pour laquelle Paul écrivit sa lettre ? Je vous invite à lire Romains 1 :1-4,

« Paul, serviteur [doulos, esclave] de Jésus Christ, appelé à être apôtre, mis à part pour annoncer l’Évangile de Dieu, – qui avait été promis auparavant de la part de Dieu par ses prophètes dans les saintes Écritures,  et qui concerne son Fils (né de la postérité de David, selon la chair, et déclaré Fils de Dieu avec puissance, selon l’Esprit de sainteté, par sa résurrection d’entre les morts), Jésus Christ notre Seigneur. »

L’épitre aux Romains est l’une des plus belles présentations de l’Evangile de Jésus Christ. Et c’est cet évangile que Paul décrit des chapitres 1-11, celui qui est offert par la justification par la foi. Il commence par donner le verdict : tous sont coupables, puis explique comment Dieu justifie les pécheurs et quelles sont les belles promesses qui sont attachées à ce salut. Et puis on arrive au chapitre 9-11, où Paul explique le salut de Dieu par rapport à la situation d’Israël. En effet, il serait normal pour les juifs ne se poser la question, « Si Dieu est si bon et son salut si merveilleux, pourquoi abandonne-t-il son peuple ? » Et Paul répond à cette question en affirmant que l’histoire d’Israël n’est pas finie, mais que la période historique présente est une sorte de parenthèse jusqu’à ce que tout Israël soit sauvé.

Les chapitres 1-11 traitent de doctrine. Pour Paul, cela était primordial. Avant de parler de choses pratiques, il voulait que ses lecteurs aient une base solide. Et puis on arrive au chapitre 12, où Paul commence à parler des choses pratiques.

Ainsi, lorsque Paul utilise le mot « donc » il implique que ce culte raisonnable dont il parle dans ce premier verset est une réponse, c’est une réponse à quoi ? A l’évangile de Jésus Christ. Notre adoration est une réponse à l’évangile de Christ. C’est une réponse dans le sens que sans son salut nous ne pouvons adorer en « esprit et en vérité » mais aussi dans le sens que notre adoration doit être centrée sur l’évangile et centrée sur la personne de Jésus.

Et d’ailleurs, qu’est-ce que l’évangile ?

L’évangile, du Grec signifiant « bonne nouvelle, » si je demandais à la plupart des chrétiens mûrs de me l’expliquer, ils me diraient le message biblique selon lequel Jésus est venu sur la terre pour mourir pour les péchés du monde, en scellant Sa victoire par Sa résurrection, et donnant son salut à ceux qui l’accepteraient dans la repentance.

Cette explication, il n’y a pas de doute, est bonne, mais j’aimerai regarder à quelque chose ensembles. Tournons dans nos Bibles en Marc 1 :14-15

« Après que Jean eut été livré, Jésus alla dans la Galilée, prêchant l’Évangile de Dieu. Il disait: Le temps est accompli, et le royaume de Dieu est proche. Repentez-vous, et croyez à la bonne nouvelle [evangelio]. »

Alors la question que j’aimerai vous poser est celle-ci : comment Jésus pouvait-il prêcher un évangile n’ayant ni à faire à sa mort, ni à sa résurrection ?

Et la réponse à cette question est celle-ci : l’évangile que Jésus prêchait était celui du Royaume de Dieu. Et qui dit Royaume dit Roi. L’évangile de Jésus était que le Roi était présent, et qu’il offrait ce royaume à ceux qui voudraient le suivre.

Et c’est cela la bonne nouvelle, non seulement que nous pouvons être pardonnés de nos péchés, mais que nous puissions réellement être réconciliés avec Dieu pour avoir une relation personnelle et profonde avec Lui, dans sa présence et dans son intimité.

Car Dieu a tant aimé le monde qu’Il a donné…le pardon des péchés ? Cela vient ensuite. Le don le plus merveilleux est que Dieu nous donna Jésus Christ, son Fils unique.

C’est ce que disait Jésus en Jean 17 :3, que la vie éternelle c’est de connaitre Dieu, et celui qu’Il a envoyé, Jésus Christ. Paul courait pour connaitre Christ. On voit cela en Philippiens 3.

En Hébreu nous lisons que les pratiques du culte de l’ancienne alliance n’étaient qu’une ombre des choses à venir. Mais toutes ces ombres ont été éclaircies par la présence et le sacrifice de Jésus Christ. L’évangile, c’est Jésus. La bonne nouvelle, c’est Jésus. Notre adoration doit être dirigée et centrée sur la personne de Jésus Christ. L’appel à l’adoration pour le croyant du Nouveau Testament est celui qui vient en provenance de l’évangile. Et cet évangile, c’est la personne de Jésus Christ.

Est-ce que nous aimons Jésus-Christ ?

Lorsque nous vivons notre chrétienté, quelles sont nos motivations principales ? Cherchons-nous à faire le minimum simplement pour garder une bonne conscience ? Avons-nous une liste de choses à faire ayant rapport avec la piété, à laquelle qu’il nous suffit de cocher les cases principales pour avoir bonne image ? Ou sommes-nous consumés par un amour pour la personne de Christ qui nous pousse à le poursuivre, à Lui courir après, à Lui donner accès à chaque centimètre carré de notre vie ?

Cette adoration, Paul la vivait de manière très personnelle. Et cela se voit aussi dans la manière avec laquelle il communique son message. Lorsqu’il écrit « je vous exhorte, » il utilise un mot qui pourrait aussi être traduit par « je vous implore, » « je vous conjure, » « je vous prie. » Et il s’adresse à ses « frères. »

Mon frère, ma sœur, je vous en supplie, venez offrir un culte d’adoration à notre Dieu ! C’est la conséquence logique de l’amour de Dieu manifesté par son évangile ! Il nous a prédestinés à être à l’image de son Fils, il nous a appelés, il nous a justifiés, il nous a glorifiés !  On voit cela en Romains 8 :29-30.

Si Dieu a fait tout cela pour nous, ne devrions pas démontrer une réponse digne d’un si grand Dieu ? Le salut est un appel à l’adoration. Une fois que nous sommes sauvés, nous nous devons d’être des adorateurs fidèles de notre Dieu.

Mais pour répondre à l’appel à l’adoration, il faut avoir les oreilles ouvertes. L’évangile nous incite à adorer. Mais cet évangile ne peut être accepté que par la foi. Et cela était déjà l’argument de Paul tout au long de son épitre. C’est par la foi que nous sommes acceptés devant Dieu. La foi c’est comme un muscle, et plus celle-ci est entrainée, plus elle est étirée et utilisée, plus elle se développe, et plus nous devenons sensibles à ce que cela veut réellement dire de vivre de l’évangile de Dieu, et plus nous adorons Dieu. L’adoration est le fruit d’une foi qui travaille, qui reconnait Dieu, Son œuvre, Sa volonté, et désire y répondre.

II. Le Moyen de L’Adoration

Alors premièrement nous avons vu que l’adoration est une réponse à l’évangile de Jésus Christ. Maintenant, regardons le moyen par lequel cette réponse est mise à l’œuvre.

« Je vous exhorte donc, frères…comment ? par quel moyen ? … par les compassions de Dieu. »

Le moyen par lequel nous pouvons adorer Dieu n’est autre que par la compassion de Dieu, par la grâce de Dieu. Le mot utilisé ici signifie en réalité d’avoir pitié, de démontrer de la miséricorde.

Je me souviendrai toujours de la première fois où l’on parla de ce verset en classe d’école du Dimanche. J’avais environ 10 ans.

« Je vous exhorte donc, frères, par les compassions de Dieu, à offrir vos corps comme un sacrifice vivant, saint, agréable à Dieu, ce qui sera de votre part un culte raisonnable. »

J’y ai réfléchit une seconde puis ai conclut : « Non ! C’est impossible ! M’offrir en entier pour le service de Dieu, je ne peux pas faire ça. C’est impossible, c’est trop difficile. »

S’offrir comme sacrifice à Dieu, je me suis dit, jamais je n’aurai la volonté ni le pouvoir de faire cela !

Mais la bonne nouvelle, c’est que ce n’est pas à nous de créer cette force, cette énergie, nous permettant d’adorer Dieu comme Il le souhaite, en nous offrant entièrement à Sa volonté.

Imaginez-vous encore une fois il y a plus de 3000 ans du temps de prophète Samuel. Et voilà que la Pacques arrive, et vous allez en famille jusqu’à Silo où se situe le Tabernacle. Cette première soirée là il y a une grande célébration avec des chantres et le prophète Samuel lui-même va prêcher. Mais voilà qu’en chemin votre fils trouve une petite chauve-souris morte sur le côté de la route et vous l’emmène. Par curiosité vous la toucher, et sans le savoir vous êtes devenus impurs jusqu’au soir, incapables ainsi d’entrer au sanctuaire pour la fête. Et non seulement la famille ne pourra pas aller à la fête ensemble, mais vous allez aussi devoir offrir un sacrifice de culpabilité, sacrifiant une brebis ou une chèvre.

Et vous commencer à réfléchir…hum…il n’y a personne qui m’a vu. J’ai simplement touché une chauve-souris par accident. Ce n’est pas comme si j’avais mangé un saucisson en pure rébellion, ce n’est pas si grave que cela. Et puis, je fais cela pour la famille, c’est une seule fois par année, on a fait tout le voyage, le prophète Samuel va prêcher…et puis on rationalise, on trouve des excuses. Et puis de toute façon, je n’ai pas vraiment les moyens ni le temps d’aller me procurer une brebis pour ce sacrifice. Bon c’est vrai que j’ai une bonne situation, mais les gens ici ne le savent pas, peut-être que je peux offrir des tourterelles à la place comme le font les gens pauvres…

Depuis le début, l’adoration envers Dieu s’est effectuée par un mélange de deux ingrédients : la foi et la grâce. D’un côté la foi pour accepter l’autorité de la Parole de Dieu peu importe les circonstances, et deuxièmement la grâce de Dieu permettant à chacun d’accomplir Sa volonté avec joie.

La grâce de Dieu, c’est ce qui permet à l’homme d’accomplir ce qui lui est impossible d’accomplir avec sa nature égoïste. C’est de donner généreusement sans rien attendre en retour, d’aimer ses ennemis, de se réjouir même dans des temps d’épreuve, d’être patients avec et rempli d’amour avec les gens qui ne sont pas appréciés de la société, c’est de servir avec humilité, de chercher l’intérêt des autres.

La grâce de Dieu, c’est bien plus qu’une carte de protection contre la conséquence du péché et de l’enfer. La grâce de Dieu, c’est la main de Dieu agissante dans nos vies. Les gens de l’Ancien Testament n’auraient jamais pu supporter la loi de Dieu sans cette grâce qui l’accompagne. D’ailleurs, on voit que les juifs ignorèrent cette loi. Lorsque Dieu les envoya en exil pendant 70 ans dans l’empire Babylonien, il est écrit que Dieu les jugea en partie à cause de leur manque de respect envers Son sabbat, pour donner du repos au pays (2 Chr 36 :20-21). Il fallait la foi pour travailler un jour de moins dans des temps où survivre n’était pas toujours facile. Les gens préféraient forcer les choses par leurs propres efforts plutôt que, par la foi, de s’attendre à ce que Dieu fasse grâce en pourvoyant.

Le culte d’adoration pour le croyant de la nouvelle alliance n’est pas non plus quelque chose qui puisse se faire sans la grâce de Dieu. Il est impossible de s’offrir comme sacrifices vivants, saints et agréables. Vivre toute sa vie pour l’honneur de quelqu’un d’autre ? C’est impossible si Dieu ne nous donne pas Sa grâce, sa miséricorde, ses compassions.

III. L’Application de l’Adoration

Premièrement nous avons vu que l’adoration était une réponse, deuxièmement que cette réponse était mise en œuvre par la grâce, et maintenant nous allons regarder sur ce que cette adoration est en elle-même au niveau pratique.

« Je vous exhorte donc, frères, par les compassions de Dieu, à offrir vos corps comme un sacrifice vivant, saint, agréable à Dieu, ce qui sera de votre part un culte raisonnable. »

Le culte d’adoration raisonnable, c’est-à-dire attendu de la part de Dieu, est un culte où le croyant se donne comme un sacrifice envers Dieu, un sacrifice qui est vivant, saint, et agréable. Trois aspects auxquels nous allons maintenant nous concentrer.

A. Un Sacrifice Vivant

Premièrement, ce sacrifice est un sacrifice vivant. Qu’est-ce qu’un sacrifice vivant ? En quoi est-ce différent d’un sacrifice normal ? Le sacrifice vivant, c’est celui de la consécration.

L’adjectif qualificatif ici sert à mettre en lumière un certain contraste. Un sacrifice vivant est le contraire du sacrifice mort. Un sacrifice mort est quelque chose qui est accomplit une fois et puis ensuite est terminé. Mais la vie du croyant c’est celui de l’animal qui est consacré, dont la direction est l’autel du sacrifice, et dont le seul but dans la vie est de se rendre sur cet autel.

C’est la même chose que Jésus impliquait lorsqu’il appela ses disciples à se charger de leur croix pour le suivre. Se charger d’une croix n’est pas simplement de porter un fardeau. Se charger de sa croix veut dire que nous prenons la direction du peloton d’exécution. On ne peut pas prendre une croix par exemple, et partir à gauche et à droite et faire ce qu’on veut. Lorsque l’on prend sa croix, on se dirige vers le Mont du Calvaire, et cela prend toutes nos forces. Celui qui prend sa croix est déjà condamné. La mort n’est qu’une question de temps, le temps de marcher du lieu de condamnation au lieu du crime.

Un ami à moi alla un jour visiter une église en Grèce où il y avait une magnifique fresque dépeignant des martyres. Le guide, inconverti, décrit la fresque par ses mots : « Ces gens, personne ne pouvait les tuer, parce qu’ils étaient déjà morts. Pendant leur vie sur cette terre, ils se regardaient déjà comme morts à eux-mêmes, ne vivant que pour Dieu. »

Et ça, c’était aussi le témoignage de Paul. Dans la dernière lettre qu’il écrit avant de mourir, 2 Timothée, il dit au chapitre 4 et verset 6 :

« Car pour moi, je sers déjà de libation, et le moment de mon départ approche. »

Une libation, c’était une offrande d’un liquide (comme de l’huile ou du vin) que l’on versait sur l’autel pour accompagner le  sacrifice. Et là, une fois que le verre est vidé, il ne reste plus rien dans la coupe. Paul avait vécu sa vie jusqu’à la dernière goute. Il avait tout donné.

Un sacrifice vivant, consacré pour une seule chose, l’œuvre de Dieu. Et non seulement c’est une consécration, mais c’est une consécration active. Le temps est compté, et nos forces sont limitées. Le sacrifice vivant c’est celui qui se donne entièrement.

Et cette façon de vivre, c’est la manière de vivre nécessaire pour adorer Dieu. Lorsque l’on meure à soi-même pour ne vivre que pour Dieu.

B. Un Sacrifice Saint

Deuxièmement, ce sacrifice est aussi un sacrifice saint.

Les sacrifices que Dieu demandaient dans l’Ancien Testament étaient les meilleurs. Il désirait des agneaux d’un an, sans tâche, sans maladie, sans défaut. Dieu voulait des sacrifices aussi parfaits que possible.

Et Il désire la même chose avec nous. Son standard n’est pas un standard de médiocrité.

Quatre fois dans le livre du Lévitique Dieu commande : « Soyez saints, comme je suis saints. » Et c’est cette même idée que Jésus reprend en Matthieu 5 :48, « Soyez donc parfaits, comme votre Père céleste est parfait. »

Etre saint signifie d’être mis à part, d’appartenir à Dieu. La sainteté de Dieu n’est pas simplement Sa pureté, mais c’est aussi son identité propre. Dieu est saint. C’est ce qu’Il est. Si nous voulons être en communion avec lui, nous nous devons de nous sanctifier. Et cette sanctification, elle s’effectue de cette manière. Tournez en 1 Thess 4 :3, « Ce que Dieu veut, c’est votre sanctification ; c’est que vous vous absteniez de la débauche. »

Et le mot Grec utilisé ici pour « débauche » est le mot « porneia » qui a donné le mot pornographie. Dieu nous appelle à rejeter tout ce qui est immoral. Il nous appelle à nous détourner de l’amour du monde et de l’influence de la génération présente.

Retournons en Romains 12 :2

« Ne vous conformez pas au siècle présent, mais soyez transformés par le renouvellement de l’intelligence, afin que vous discerniez quelle est la volonté de Dieu, ce qui est bon, agréable et parfait. »

Ce que Dieu désire dans notre adoration, c’est qu’elle soit saturée de Sa pensée à Lui, et non des choses du monde. Pour nous, de vivre en tant qu’adorateurs signifie que nous devons avoir des vies qui reflètent la sainteté de notre Dieu. Si le péché abonde dans notre vie, si nous refusons de nous repentir, si nous refusons de faire la volonté de Dieu, alors notre adoration est souillée.

La sainteté est aussi une sorte de consécration. C’est une consécration au niveau de la discipline. Le sacrifice vivant est un sacrifice zélé, le sacrifice saint est un sacrifice qui requiert un certain apprentissage. Pour se sanctifier, il faut se renouveler dans son intelligence, comme le disait Paul. Il faut savoir comment sonder chaque aspect de notre vie pour voir si Dieu y est vraiment présent, et si tout cela reflète son caractère saint.

C. Un Sacrifice Agréable

Finalement, Dieu nous appelle a offrir un sacrifice qui est agréable.

Qu’est-ce qu’un sacrifice agréable ? Les sacrifices d’une odeur agréable à Dieu étaient des sacrifices brûlés. Comme la cuisson d’un bon plat dégage une bonne odeur, ces sacrifices consumés par le feu étaient de bonne odeur pour Dieu.

Le premier sacrifice de bonne odeur inscrit dans l’Ancien Testament fut celui de Noé, suite au déluge. Noé offert des oiseaux purs, et Dieu bénit le sacrifice en promettant de ne plus juger la terre comme Il l’eut fait.

Un sacrifice agréable, c’est en d’autres termes celui qui plait à Dieu. C’est celui qui est conforme à Sa volonté.

Paul désirait plaire à Dieu le plus possible. On lit en 2 Corinthiens 5 :9

« C’est pour cela aussi que nous nous efforçons de lui être agréables, soit que nous demeurions dans ce corps, soit que nous le quittions. »

Paul s’efforçait à plaire à Dieu. Il en faisait son but, sa motivation. Il voulait être agréable à son Dieu.

Jésus aussi accomplit un ministère agréable aux yeux de Dieu. On lit en Matthieu 12 :18, une prophétie d’Esaïe faite à son sujet :

« Voici mon serviteur que j’ai choisi, Mon bien-aimé en qui mon âme a pris plaisir. Je mettrai mon Esprit sur lui, Et il annoncera la justice aux nations. »

Jésus fut appelé bien-aimé, un homme en qui Dieu prit plaisir. Mais Il fut aussi appelé serviteur. On ne peut pas plaire à Dieu sans se soumettre pleinement à Sa volonté, et sans devenir des serviteurs de Dieu, des esclaves de Dieu comme nous l’avons vu la semaine dernière en Romains 6 :22.

On parlait au début des différents mots grecs et hébreux concernant l’adoration. Une chose est intéressante, c’est que les mots de l’Ancien Testament ayant à faire aux rituels disparaissent dans le Nouveau Testament pour un langage de consécration envers l’accomplissement de la volonté de Dieu. Jésus n’a pas laissé des rituels en partant, il nous a laissé une mission, celle de faire des disciples. Et ça, pour le croyant de la nouvelle alliance, c’est la vraie adoration agréable à Dieu.

Un sacrifice de bonne odeur, comme nous l’avons vu, est un sacrifice qui est brûlé. Il est consacré jusqu’à la consumation totale. Et c’est cette même image que l’adoration de Dieu devrait refléter, d’être tellement consumés par Sa volonté qu’il ne reste plus rien de la nôtre.

Vous savez, j’ai dirigé la louange dans bien des pays. En France, en Israël, au Canada, and Etats-Unis, mais il y a quelque chose que j’ai remarqué dans tous ces pays. Souvent, les gens que je vois louer avec le plus de conviction sont des gens qui ont souffert ou qui sont entrain de passer par des épreuves. Des fois il faut passer par le feu pour que notre foi soit éprouvée et purifiée et pour que nous soyons recentrés de nouveau sur la volonté de Dieu.

Conclusion

Le culte raisonnable d’adoration est bien plus qu’une simple proclamation de paroles de louange pendant les chants du Dimanche matin. Comme dans l’Ancien Testament, le croyant qui veut adorer Dieu doit avoir une vie où Dieu est au centre. Il doit avoir une vie façonnée par l’évangile, et un cœur donné entièrement à la personne de Jésus.

L’adoration, c’est tous les jours que ça se passe, dans chaque décision, dans chaque parole, dans chaque pensée. C’est une consécration totale, inspirée de l’évangile et mise en œuvre par la grâce de Dieu.

L’adoration est le fruit naturel d’une vie transformée par Dieu. En effet, ceux qui ont réellement connus l’amour de Dieu n’auront pas de mal à comprendre pourquoi ce commandement est dit d’être le premier :

« Tu aimeras le Seigneur, ton Dieu, de tout ton cœur, de toute ton âme, et de toute ta pensée. »

Uncompromised Worship – Psalm 81


Introduction

Imagine one instant that you enter a church in the middle of their worship service. And you look around and people are singing loudly and happily, they’re clapping, they’re shakin’; and you can tell that it is just a time of rejoicing. You’ve got the Gospel choir in front, that are just rocking the place, singing with passion, the guitar is very melodic and sweet-sounding, the percussions are full of life; everybody is just enjoying and rejoicing.

Then during a song a certain line shows up on the screen. And as the people are singing, they see the line and they stop. The organist also stumbles over it and hits that loud minor chord. And everything stops. There is silence. And everyone in the congregation knows why. The atmosphere gets very cold. And they are all staring at the stage, waiting. And as they do so, an elder goes up. And in that very solemn moment, after looking at the congregation for a while, he starts speaking. And he says to them: “There is a reason why we could not sing this line. We cannot fake it any longer. There is an issue we need to deal with now; and we’re all guilty. Our rejoicing is fake and it has been fake for too long, for our hearts are not right before God. We have compromised and now we must come back to God.”

This story could be a modern version of the Psalm that we are going to look at today, Psalm 81. In this passage, we see Israel who after being called to worship, are rebuked by God because their hearts were not fully devoted to Him. There was compromise, they had failed to trust God in times of testing, and had turned to other sources for comfort.

And as we look at this Psalm of Asaph, Psalm 81, we will uncover 3 aspects of worship, so that we can learn to live uncompromised lives.

I. The Call to Worship (v.1-7)

The first aspect of worship that we see here is the call, the call to worship. We see this from verses 1-7. It begins:

“To the choirmaster; according to the gittith. Of Asaph.”

It is a song dedicated to the choirmaster, so you know you will have a lot of people involved, and secondly it is a Psalm of Asaph, the numero uno worship leader of King David and possibly of King Solomon. His name first appeared in 1 Chronicles 15 and 16, as he was appointed by David as the chief musician and singer for the precession of the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem. His skills in leading worship impressed David so much, that on that very day the King appointed Asaph and his brothers as the official chief worship leaders of Israel. And not only was Asaph a talented performer and leader, but also a very skilled writer, as we see in this Psalm, one the twelve that we inherited in the canon.

Imagine the scene. You’ve got the official worship leader, appointed for official ceremonies and feasts, Asaph, the best of the best, with his big choir. And they are trying to bring the people of Israel into worship. And that is what Asaph’s name means, “to gather.” And so the choir goes in verse 1:

Verse 1: “Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!”

They begin with a call for people to join them, to “sing loud” which is a word hard to translate but implies singing for joy, shouting with a ringing cry of joy. And there is a reason why there is joy: they are singing to God who is their strength! He is their protection, their security, their pride and glory.

Then they continue “shout for joy” which is a word that comes from the root meaning “to split” as of “splitting the ears” because of loud noise. The choir is not asking for some murmuring here. They are leading the people into loud, vibrant and exciting worship, and again it is all centered around God, their God, the God of Israel.

Verse 2: “Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp”

Now they get the intensity going up even more. You can imagine the song raising up at this point. They are getting the drum set, the sweet electric guitar and the keyboard. I mean close, they get the tambourine, which was often used with dancing and celebration, as Miriam, Moses’ sister, displayed after the crossing of the Red Sea. Then they have their string instrument, a lyre, which sounds sweet, it is musical, it is rich. And on top they have the beautiful resonating harp. And the people are there and their arms are already covered with goose bumps.

Verse 3: “Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast”

And when you think that the song cannot get more intense, they get the trumpet out, which is the shofar, the ram’s horn, the loudest sound of all. In fact, its sound is so loud that most of the times they would use it for the sounding of a signal or an alarm. When the shofar blew as God was at Sinai, the sound terrified the people and made them tremble. That was what the Israelites had used during the conquest of Jericho, what Ehud, Gideon, Jonathan and many more leaders had used to gather men for battle, what people would blow at coronation ceremonies and for national feast days and at the beginning of each month, at the new moon.

But there was also one month, the 7th month, around September/October, that was just a month of continual celebration. It started at the new moon, at the 1st day of the month, with the feast of trumpets, and then 10 days later was the Day of Atonement, and then five days later there was the feast mentioned here, at the full moon, the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths. And that was the culmination of the celebration, as all the men of Israel were commanded to attend.

In Leviticus 23, the feast of Tabernacles was described as seven-day convocation in which the people of Israel would bring food offerings and drinks offerings to thank the Lord for His provision. It would come after the time when the produce had been harvested. These seven days were set apart to be a time of intense rejoicing in the Lord. And not only it was a time of joy, but also fun, as families would make booths of branches and live in them for the week, to commemorate the deliverance from Egypt and from the booths they used to dwell in during their time of slavery.

But just picture yourself inside the scene. The trumpets are blowing, the music is banging, and you’ve got thousands of men and families gathered lifting up their voices.

Verse 4: “For it is a statute for Israel, a rule of the God of Jacob”

Now, why were they doing all these things? Why were they celebrating? Because God, had decreed it. It wasn’t just a made-man feast. It was a feast that God had come up with and revealed to His people.

The God of Israel had commanded them to party! Now, seriously, that is just really cool. Getting a whole week of vacation with friends and fun and feasts and vibrant worship, that just sounds awesome. And it was their God, the God of Israel, who had come up with this awesome idea! What a great God!

Verse 5a: “He made it a decree in Joseph when he went out over the land of Egypt”

That’s right! This is a commemoration of the exodus from Egypt! That was God’s very word spoken to Moses at Sinai. It is not only that God is good and gives His people an opportunity to rejoice, but He must be worshipped because He made Israel a people when they were not a people. They used to be slaves in Egypt, all they knew back then was suffering and pain. The voice of Lord for hope and comfort was something unknown:

Verse 5b: “I hear a language I had not known”

Here you can almost picture the music dwindle. The choir gets quiet and Asaph begins a solo act. And he is reminding the people of the unique circumstances of the Exodus. God had spoken to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob directly. Joseph had had some dreams, but not very much direct revelation. And after that, for 400 years, we do not hear of any prophet or man of God receiving a word from God. Until Moses. And he comes with words of hope, with words of healing, with a revelation from Yahweh, something completely foreign to that generation of slaves. And then, as music begins to rise again, Asaph speaks as taking the very voice of Yahweh:

Verse 6: “I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket”

God speaks. He begins an oracle that will go until the end of the Psalm. Just as He had spoken to the generation of the Exodus, He speaks to the people gathered in Jerusalem for worship. “I relieved your shoulder of the burden;” speaking of a complete relief. The word used here literally means to “take off.” The people of Israel had been under a severe trial, working on difficult building projects, carrying heavy materials and laboring under severe heat. But as soon as they called on God, He came with revelation, and then with complete relief. Their hands were “freed” from the basket, a word meaning alienation, separation, a change of state, literally, to “cross over.” In other words, the basket was taken from them and thrown across the street. God had come to help, and to help fully, as we continue:

Verse 7a: In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder”

When Israel had been in distress, they had trusted the Lord. They had called His name. They had trusted their burdens in His hands. And He had come to deliver fully. He had descended from the heavens, from the secret place of His glorious dwelling, to be with them. God’s theophanies with the generation of the Exodus were often accompanied by clouds and sometime thunder, which reflected His presence. When Israel called God, He came personally; He showed up with power and took His people out of the bondage that oppressed them.

Just imagine the people of Israel who had gathered for the feast. They come, and Asaph, the gifted worship leader, prepares their hearts for worship. He turns their focus towards God and brings them back in the cloud of the Shekinah. With intense music and powerful words, He draws them near to God, so close that God even begins to speak to them.

Then you get this one sentence that falls on them like an atomic bomb:

Verse 7b: “I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah.”

Then there is silence. The people are taken by surprise. They were not expecting this. They had forgotten what it meant to truly enter God’s presence. It came with holiness. They could praise the God of vibrant music and the God who delivered them out of Egypt, but they could not praise the God of Meribah.

Now what happened at Meribah? Meribah, also known as Massa, was the place where the people of Israel tested God because they were thirsty. We read in Exodus 17:7, “They tested the Lord saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?” Because of thirst, they hardened their hearts, put God to the test and provoked His wrath. They even caused Moses, the meekest and most humble man on earth at this time to lose his temper and his access to the Promised Land. It was at Meribah that God had told Moses to speak to the rock, but where in anger Moses hit the rock and did not give glory to God.

What is interesting here is that while all other passages of Scriptures mentioning Meribah or Massa speak of Israel testing God, this passage speaks of God testing His people.

God wanted to press them, like we press a sponge, to see what kind of water would come out, pure or clean.

At the Feast of the Tabernacles, the people praised God for two things: His past deliverance from Egypt, and for His provision for food. When it came to Egypt, yes, they could worship God. But when it came to provision, they could not. And they knew it. The year had been hard, the food had been sparse, and their trust in God had been tested severely, as we will see in more details as we unfold the text.

This was not an easy test. I asked one day my grandfather what was the hardest thing he had gone through during World War II. He told me, “To be young, hungry, and have no food.”

So the music stops. There is a Selah. That minor chord on the keyboard with a lot of black notes. And then nothing. Silence. And the people get ready for the next verse of the song with fear.

II. Confrontation for True Worship (8-10)

And they fear because next comes the confrontation. And they know it. First there was the call to worship, then comes the confrontation for undivided worship. From verses 1-7 there was the call, then from verses 8-10 there is the confrontation.

Verse 8: Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would be listen to me!

Verse 9: There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.”

What is scene. It’s just like when you are a kid, and you are sent to your room for doing something bad, and you know your parents are coming soon to lecture you and punish you. “Hear O my people while I admonish you!” And here the word “to admonish” finds its root in the noun “witness.” There has been evidence of evil. They were caught in the act.

But here, even in the midst of the rebuke, God is pleading to His people “O Israel, if you would be listen to me!” This was not the first time. There was a continual pattern of disobedience and a continual pattern of pleading from God. He would never abandon His child. But here again, they are found disobeying the first commandment.

The language that Israel had not known in Egypt, they had never fully understood either. They had readily accepted the victory of God from Egypt, but the holiness and exclusiveness of God was something very much harder to grasp. That’s what we had seen with the golden calf, and that’s what was happening right there again with the people of Israel, turning again to other gods.

And so God goes back to the language of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the great Shema: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one…These words that I command you shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently…”

But they did not take those words to heart. I times of testing, they turned to other gods, to other sources for comfort, hope, and satisfaction.

One of the most sobering moment for me when I lived in Israel for four months in the IBEX program was we spent a day excavating in Jerusalem. We were digging a shaft that was believed to have been a secret passage leading to a spring in the times of the Canaanites, the same shaft that Joab might have climbed to go in the city and take it by surprise. During one of our breaks the chief archaeologist came to us and showed us a little figurine they had found. I would never forget what he said, “This is from the time of King David, we have found many from that period.” I could not believe it. King David? The one who prepared the building of God’s Temple? Who organized the Levites? Who saw God’s hand with Him time and time again?

Yes. Even during the reign of this king zealous for the Lord and blessed by the Lord, the people still turned to other gods.

And while because of David’s obedience God blessed the people with military success, we know that He still judged them many times, one time even sending a 3-year famine. This was part of His covenant with them. You obey, you get food. You don’t obey, you starve. And then less you get it, the more the spiral goes down and the worse the judgment is.

Would you trust God after 3 years of famine? After all your savings have been consumed and your children have only skin on their bones? After half your farm animals have died and you’ve gone to your 10th funeral in just a few months? This was not an easy test.

For sure, when trials come, if we focus on our poor miserable selves, we will be miserable. You will lose hope. But even trials are not about us.

Verse 10a: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt”

“Israel! This is not about you! It’s never been about you! I didn’t choose you because you were a great nation, I chose you because I had plans for you, for my glory! I am the one with the plans for your lives, for the nations, for this world! Focus on yourselves, you will be lost in your miserable distress, just as miserable as the plans you come up for yourself!”

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt! I spoke these words to your fathers when I gave them my 10 commandments, now I speak them to you! I who delivered Israel from Egypt, I am the same today! I saved you, redeemed you, you belong to me, and if you trust me, I will take care of you! Remember your fathers! 40 years they were in the desert, and they lacked nothing (Deut 2:7)! For 40 years their clothes did not worn out and their sandals did not worn off their feet! (Deut 29:5)” [when I was in Israel, after 2 weeks I had already broken 2 pairs]

Verse 10b: “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

“Take a step of faith! Open your mouth wide and call on my name, and see if I will not provide for you, as I did to your fathers! I was with the in the desert every day, and they lacked nothing! Just open your mouth! And open it big, because I am no small god! ‘Try me, and see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down a blessing until there is no more need!’ (Malachi 3:10). Stop trusting other sources to find comfort and satisfaction trust in me and worship me!”

The problem of Israel is that they only gave God 50% of their worship. They could praise God for His past faithfulness, but they could not wait on Him to be faithful from day to day. They could praise Him for His goodness it some areas, but then they would turn to different gods in the areas He was not answering them in their own timing.

But for God, the first commandment was very straight-forward. True worship is 100% or nothing. It is all worship or not worship at all. You can’t offer God an omelet with 11 good eggs and one rotten one. You got to give everything. It is either the pure and blameless lamb, or else it is nothing better than a cursed pig. 60 or 80% is not worship. Giving 60% to your family as an excuse that you are giving 100% to ministry is not an excuse. True worship is a question of the heart. Either something is completely committed to God, or else it is not worship.

Would we work the same way if God was our boss? Would we speak the same if God was sitting in the classroom? Did you offer thanksgivings to God before the last movie or show or game you watched? Was your heart in the right disposition to do it?

Either God is in what we do or He is not.

It’s about faith. Worship is and has always been a test of faith. Worship in its essence is a response. When Paul wrote in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, brothers I urge you to offer your bodies as living, holy and acceptable sacrifices” the “therefore” mirrors back the 11 previous chapters filled with the gospel of Christ. And you can’t respond in worship to the Gospel unless you have faith. We must trust God fully.

I had a friend who had a line he could not sing. He could praise God for many things, but for some trials that had happened in his life in the past he could never praise the Lord. That friend could not grow. He could not take steps of faith. He often felt miserable. And I’m telling you, if you ever start calling into question God’s goodness into your life and refuse to give Him glory even for trials, it will ruin you.

And that is what we see in the last verses.

III. The Contrast of Worshippers (v.11-16)

First there was the call, secondly the confrontation, and now, thirdly from verses 11-16, there is the contrast of worshippers, a contrast between what happens to a compromising worshiper, and a true worshipper. In verses 11-12 we see the condition of those who offer partial worship, and in verses 13-16 we see the contentment of those who live by faith.

Verse 11: “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.

Verse 12: So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels”

Those who did not listen and obey (which really are the same thing) would be given over to the lusts of their hearts, which would be the literal translation. And we know what that means. This is the same language as Romans 1:26-27. That is the fate of unbelievers who “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” And the result is that they end up following their own counsels. But the plans of mortal men are not immortal plans. They also lead to death.

But listen to the plans of God for the true worshippers:

Verse 13: “Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!

Verse 14: I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes.

Verse 15: Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him, and their fate would last forever.

Verse 16: But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with the honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

God had made a covenant with Israel. Disobedience meant judgment, and obedience meant blessing. But notice, all the verbs here are on the conditional tense. None of these blessings can happen, unless Israel truly begins to listen, and to walk in God’s ways, which basically means to keep God’s revealed commandments.

That is verse 13. God is pleading. He is like a father who keeps telling his fifteen year-old son, “I’ll give you a car when you turn 16 if you behave.” But the boy is so impatient he keeps sneaking in the garage to borrow his dad’s car, only to get arrested by the police and send home with tickets. And when his birthday comes, there is no blessing, only admonition.

And you keep thinking to yourself: why don’t you just wait a little bit longer? This time of testing is so short, and the blessings are right there around the corner!

But they wanted the here and now, their own way.

Then verse 14-15. “What I did to the Egyptians, I can do it again. I will subdue your enemies. Don’t even worry. Just trust me! All I have to do is to turn my hand (as one would do with the motion of a sword), and it will be all over. It’s that easy for me. I am God.”

“In fact, I would even made them cringe, bow down before me, and bring homage to me and to my people, and for those who refuse to submit, I would make their shame last forever. This is how committed I am to bless you. I am even willing to send to everlasting punishment those who would oppose you, so that no one would ever want to rise against you. Because, I have chosen you  and I love you.”

And finally we get to the last verse, verse 16, the most beautiful verse of the chapter.

Verse 16: But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with the honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Now Asaph is quoting Deuteronomy again, the song of Moses, in chapter 32.

“Israel, if you would obey, I would give you the finest, or literally the fattest wheat, the kidney fat of the wheat, and even from something bare, cold and dry like a rock, I would give you honey.”

And I keep remember Deuteronomy 2:7, “These 40 years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.”

Nothing?

You mean in those lands of hard stones and dirt, where nothing grows? Nothing.

You mean in that moving cemetery where an entire generation died? Nothing.

You mean in that place where the same meal was served 15,000 days in a row? Nothing, for I was with you.

If you truly delighted in me, even that manna would have tasted like the finest of wheat; even that water from the rock of Meribah, would have tasted like honey. If only you knew what it meant to worship me.

Israel had been called to worship. They were the chosen ones. God had a covenant with them. He would bless, if they worshipped. In verses 1-7 we saw them show up, but their hearts were not right. So in verses 8-10 there was the confrontation. Then God ends the whole thing with a sobering contrast, from verses 11-16. Those who do not listen will fail miserably. Those who worship in faith will taste of the honey from the rock.

Why was that rock so good?

Let us read from the New Testament 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

“For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized by Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food,  and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”