Sermon Notes:

Grab your Bibles and turn to Psalm 105. I have two simple outcomes I believe God wants to see from our time in His Word.

The first outcome is to see each of us equipped with a clear and sharable memory of the ways that God has worked in the past. We’re going to take a whirlwind tour through some key moments in the History of Israel – that will be new for some but many of you will be familiar with it – that’s why I also want to help us call to mind some key moments in the life of our church and get you seriously thinking about some times in your own life when God has been at work. I think that’s going to be really helpful. I’ll know if we’ve achieved the outcome if you have a clear and sharable memory and are able to tell someone else what you’ve reflected on. We need to put words to the story.

Secondly, God wants to guide us to an appropriate set of responses as we consider history. History, better described as His Story, is not meant to be studied as a random set of useless trivia to impress people or even ultimately as something to learn from so we don’t repeat it. A good study of history will always result in praise of God – in giving God glory. Just like science is not meant as an end in itself, it is meant to result in the praise and adoration of God, so reflecting on history – both ours, our church community, and the people of God throughout the ages is meant to bring praise, adoration, and glory to God.

Looking at the past should lead to Praise.

So those are the two things before us this morning – to know and be able to articulate how God’s hand has been at work and to respond to that in praise. Neither are possible without your involvement in this message so I hope you’ll lean in, and neither are possible without God’s hand and presence in this morning’s service, so let’s pray to ask Him to work here.

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Reading through the entire Bible can be a challenge. It is rewarding and something every Christian should absolutely do at least once in their lifetime no matter how long it takes; however, even if you do read through the entire Bible, you’ll often find that your understanding of the high-level events of human history aren’t as clear as you would like. We already know that so many Christians are fuzzy on the message of the Gospel – hence Pastor Aaron walking us through Galatians and helping us to get the Gospel right – however, from my experience, I would say that many Christians are also fuzzy on biblical history as a whole. That’s why Scriptures like Psalm 105 are so helpful and necessary.

Psalm 105 is a Song of history that recounts key instances where God’s hand in the life of his people, Israel, is very clear. It’s relatively short, but covers a lot of ground and serves to string together many of the accounts you may have read through in the first 5 books of the Bible. It must have been a favourite for God’s people because large chunks of the Psalm are included in a sort of mashup song recorded in 1 Chronicles 16 where David sings this psalm along with sections from Psalm 96 and Psalm 106. You know when you have a favourite line from a song you just keep singing and inserting into every other song – this Psalm is kind of like that.

It begins with a call to worship directed at the people of Israel themselves, then recalls major events in Israel’s history in such a way that people could easily remember and share them.

As we read through verses 1-6, make a note of all the words that are commands to the audience. I’ve made them bold on the screen:

“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones!”

In these six verses we see an excellent combination of what we call the vertical and the horizontal. We are to give thanks to God, call upon him, sing to him, glory in him, seek Him. Those are all vertical. Then we are to make known his deeds, tell of his wondrous works which requires us to know and remember those works that he has done. Those are more horizontal.

All together, it reminds us that God’s people are called to tell the story for God’s glory.

From the beginning of time to the time when Jesus gave the Great Commission to today – each generation has been entrusted with a history of how God has moved, and they are responsible to tell it. It’s not optional. But – and this is important – we are not to tell it in a disinterested, dry, boring way. It’s been said before that one of the greatest sins is to bore people with the Bible. We need to tell the story of God’s hand in history at the same time we are seeking him and seeing him work in our lifetimes. This is key. And that makes it come alive to people – when they see it’s not just about way back then. It’s about today. When a Christian can talk about the hand of God setting the Israelites free and then talk about God’s direct involvement in their life last week – that’s awesome.

It’s also an immense task. But God’s Word will equip us as it answers the question of How can we tell the story? What should we focus on? There is so much that could be said, how do we know where to look? That’s the question we are going to answer as we walk through Psalm 105. (As a side note, the question is also answered in Psalm 106 which is a closely related Psalm, so read that this week sometime.)

Tell the story: Remember God’s Promises

The first thing we are going to see is that we must Remember God’s Promises. You cannot tell the story of God without telling of his promises. They are the strong thread that pulls everything in Scripture together to make sense. Psalm 105 Verse 7 and following reads:

“He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance’.”

Covenants are a big deal to God because they demonstrate His character. Every covenant/promise kept is a reminder to all people that He is faithful, that He is good, and that He deserves the glory. That means, when we tell the story of His promises kept, he receives glory. A covenant is a binding, sacred agreement between two parties – a promise that is initiated by God. God has made various covenants with people throughout history – he made one with Noah when God flooded the earth. God promised Noah that He would never flood the earth again and the sign of that covenant was a rainbow in the sky to remind all creation of His faithfulness. True to His word, the world has never flooded completely ever again. The fact that God has kept that promise, even when his rainbow was first defiled in 1978 as a symbol for deviant sexual behaviour, is testimony to just how true to His Word God is. When he says it, he will do it.

Verse 8 says that he remembers His covenant forever. He does not delete it, misplace it, twist it, or forget it. He keeps it. Every time. He made a promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 – a promise of a son, of many descendants, of land. Each of those promises has faced significant threats through history and each time God has shown himself to be true. He gave Abraham a son when it seemed impossible. He multiplied their children and grandchildren even though they had fertility issues, he brought the people of Israel back from captivity to the promised land more than once. All this reminds us that if God says it, he will do it. It’s an awesome thing to know.

At many points in the life of this church we’ve had to remember the promises of God. God promises his presence as we carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:20). That truth gave courage to the launch team starting a brand-new church 21 years ago. His promise that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28) brought peace in the midst of several spiritual attacks on marriage that threatened to destroy the fledgling church and it has brought comfort in the last few years when the world says up is down and down is up, and we’ve been attacked for standing for truth. God’s promises are true and can always be trusted. When you trust them fully, you aren’t afraid to champion them publicly.

We have a deck umbrella at home that is currently not anchored very well. I’m not sure why they make these things with such a flimsy base. It’s been annoying since the day we got it. I’ve had concrete blocks piled up on the base trying to keep it in place, but it always seems to wiggle free. Now I suppose I could just keep the umbrella collapsed and 9 times out of 10 it would be okay, but I need the umbrella up and able to withstand some wind. I need a better foundation for it.

I think that’s a picture for how many of us live our lives. We don’t trust our foundation, so we keep our voice down. Perhaps one of the reasons we aren’t very good storytellers is because we distrust the story itself. Did God really flood the entire earth? Did God really create the world in 6 days? Did God really make that promise? Did God really part the red sea, break down the walls of Jericho, empower Moses to perform miraculous plagues? Those are the kinds of questions that Satan asks. It goes right back to the garden where he asked Eve, “Did God really say?”

Let me tell you right here and now, God’s Word is true. 100% true. Cover to Cover. True. And every promise He made within these pages is also 100% true no matter what the world looks like. So, tell the story and tell the promises of God – even if we don’t see the fulfillment yet. He has a perfect track record for keeping His Word and there is no reason to doubt. So, speak up and tell someone. You’ll get blown around a bit, but if you hold onto His promises, you’ll never be uprooted.

When you tell the story of God, you also want to highlight and Remember His Protection

Tell the story: Remember his protection

Verse 12-15 says, “When they were few in number, of little account, and sojourners in it, wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, saying, ‘Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!'”

Historically, factually, logically speaking it is an absolute miracle that Abraham’s children grew into the nation of Israel. The cards were stacked against them at every turn. They were challenged numerically; they had no land to really call their own aside from a small burial plot God eventually allowed Abraham to buy for his wife Sarah – not exactly a fortress with walls to defend them. Not only were they challenged with the basic circumstances, but Abraham himself jeopardized the whole thing by allowing king Abimelech to have his wife Sarah for himself. He played the whole “she’s my sister” card. Had God not interceded by speaking to Abimelech in a dream and saying quite literally “You are a dead man” (Gen. 20:3) if he was to touch Sarah, the whole fulfillment of God’s promise would have been compromised. God protected them in His mercy, and He does the same for us, over and over again so that the glory belongs to him.

Can you imagine Abraham sitting down with his grandkids and telling the story like this, “Man kids, that was a close call. I did the wise thing by giving my wife to the king – you know we are called to submit to authority right. He asked; I gave her. But I really knew it would work out. It was all part of my plan because in the end Abimelech gave me a whole bunch of sheep and servants when he felt guilty.”

Yikes! What a way to misread and falsely tell the story. Yet we have a habit of doing this ourselves. Rather than emphasize God’s protection and grace and mercy, we attribute our safety to chance, to skill, to any host of other things that make us look better. Yet it was really God’s work.

I know God has protected me more than once – the easy place to talk about is on the road. I’m a much better driver now, but I have two stories I’ll share quickly where God clearly protected me. The first was on my G2 road test. I was really nervous and ended up turning at a stop light into oncoming traffic. Needless to say, I didn’t pass. But that could have been a serious accident. The second time was when I was a new driver driving the wintery roads up in Huron County I spun out after hitting a pile of slush late at night. The car did a 360% spin into oncoming traffic and somehow landed facing oncoming traffic on the shoulder just as cars sped past. Both were errors on my part that could have been disastrous and both times God granted me protection. He has also granted me spiritual protection. I know and can testify how God’s hand protected me from my own flesh time and time again. He hasn’t done it all the time – he’s allowed me to stumble too and to fall on my face to humble me and keep me from pride. But He has absolutely protected as well.

I want you to write this down and reflect. How has God protected you or your family? How has he protected our church? Maybe physically, maybe spiritually. Can you name a time? I guarantee there is a time – many times. But we need to be diligent to reflect and think them over and then share them. I’ll never forget sitting down to lunch with a couple from our church years ago and the man telling me how he was scheduled to be at the trade center in New York on September 11th, 2001, but because of some crazy circumstance he was delayed. Talk about protection!

But that brings up an important point. Sometimes we hesitate to talk about God’s protection because we don’t know what to say to those who are suffering who feel they haven’t been protected. It’s the same thing for someone who wants to shout for joy that God has answered their prayer for a child, but they are sensitive to the grief of the couple that hasn’t been able to have children. It’s the husband and wife who have had their marriage restored and want to publicly praise God but aren’t sure what to say to all the couples that haven’t been able to find healing yet. It’s the man or woman healed of cancer next to the widow that lost a husband.

There are two things we need to remember when it comes to this. First, God is sovereign in the way He works. He works all things out for His purposes, and it is an act of grace that we experience any goodness at all. While sometimes there is a direct link between our personal suffering and our sin, many times our suffering is not a result of our sin specifically but a result of living in a broken world. In John 9:2-3, the disciples asked Jesus about a blind man “‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ 3 Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’.” Jesus goes on to heal the man and display his power. That was an act of grace, not because the man was “better” than others.

Yet we also know that God did not heal the Apostle Paul but allowed His thorn in the flesh to remain so that as 2 Cor 12:9 says, “for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That wasn’t because God hated Paul or liked him less than the blind man. It was simply different ways that God received glory.

The second thing to remember is that we are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep. It is good to praise God for the protection he has offered and tell others about it. Through the eyes of faith though we can also weep with those who weep and praise God that our faith and hope in Him is being strengthened. The next few verses of Psalm 105 show an example of a man who suffered for a divine purpose.

And his example reminds us that we can tell the story by Remember(ing) His Presence

Tell the story: Remember His Presence

Verses 16-24 recount the life of another key figure in the history of the nation of Israel – Joseph. Joseph was a great grandson of Abraham and grew up in a blended family with 4 moms. Definitely not ideal and it certainly created a lot of family tension. Joseph was given dreams of the future by God and when he told them to his half-brothers, they were furious and ended up selling him into slavery in Egypt. There Joseph goes from slavery to a prominent position of leadership over all the land – all because God was with him. The text of Genesis makes it so crystal clear that, while Joseph was a moral and upright man, the game changer was God’s presence in his life. Genesis 39:23 says, “Whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” Interestingly God had a reason for Joseph being in Egypt and that’s what verses 16-24 recount:

“When he summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him. The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free; he made him lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions, to bind his princes at his pleasure and to teach his elders wisdom. Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And the Lord made his people very fruitful and made them stronger than their foes.”

Who made the people fruitful? God did. Who made them stronger? God did. Who sent Joseph ahead to Egypt? Ultimately God did by using the evil intentions of Joseph’s brothers for good. God is that amazing. And this reminds us of the importance of God’s presence.

Moses said it best when he spoke to God and said in Exodus 33:15-16 and he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

The thing that sets us apart as the holy people of God is the presence of God with us. That’s why the Psalm calls on the audience to seek the Lord. Seek His presence continually. Seek his strength. Without God’s sustaining presence we would be in big trouble immediately. Think of it like a helicopter without its blades. Immediately it starts to plummet like a rock to the ground. It’s not like an airplane without its blades that still has wings to glide on. God’s presence is our only hope, and if you think you can do without it, watch out because you are either in the free fall about to crash or you’ve never lifted off the ground to fly in the first place.

To seek God’s presence as a new covenant believer is to live fully surrendered to the power of the Holy Spirit – to realize that God now dwells in you – and to watch that you don’t quench the Spirit by living in rebellion against His promptings. It is also to remember what John 15 says – that we are to abide in Christ – to find our strength in him. It says there that apart from Christ we can do nothing. You may have the appearances of doing something, but in the end, it will have zero eternal benefit. So, write this down and think about it: How have I sought God’s presence? Where has His presence been evident in my life? This is a bold claim, but I can say with conviction that we have been blessed with the manifest presence of God time and time again at Harvest. As we have submitted to Him and sought Him, He has shown up and worked powerfully and all the credit goes to Him.

So, as we tell the story, we tell of his Promise, His Protection, His Presence, and fourth we Remember His Power.

Tell the Story: Remember His Power

Psalm 105 fast forwards from the time of Joseph to hundreds of years later when the people of God increased greatly and now it was time for God to remove them from Egypt and go on to keep his promise of bringing them to the land of Canaan. It says in verse 25-27: He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants. He sent Moses, his servant, and Aaron, whom he had chosen. They performed his signs among them and miracles in the land of Ham.”

And now the Psalm is going to record a few of those signs/plagues recorded in Exodus 7-12. The Psalm calls them signs rather than plagues because, from a Jewish perspective, they were intended to be displays of God’s power. He starts with the 9th plague darkness – likely because that was the plague that convinced all the people except Pharaoh. Verse 28.

He sent darkness, and made the land dark; they did not rebel against his words. He turned their waters into blood and caused their fish to die. Their land swarmed with frogs, even in the chambers of their kings. He spoke, and there came swarms of flies, and gnats throughout their country. He gave them hail for rain, and fiery lightning bolts through their land. He struck down their vines and fig trees, and shattered the trees of their country. He spoke, and the locusts came, young locusts without number, which devoured all the vegetation in their land and ate up the fruit of their ground. He struck down all the firstborn in their land, the firstfruits of all their strength.”

In this passage, even though Moses and Aaron are said to have performed the signs and miracles at the beginning, it is so clear that the signs were God’s signs – notice “his signs” in verse 27. And notice that each sign is described as God’s direct action – “he” did it. If you read through Exodus, you’ll see that God was very concerned to display His power not just to the Israelites but to the Egyptians as well. It is how people will know that He is Lord.

Today God is just as concerned with people acknowledging his Lordship. When we tell of His power, we are showcasing that God is Lord. We have seen so many displays of God’s power in our church. He has saved many people – even the “unlikely” and we’ve seen evidence of that in our full baptism services which, if you’ve never witnessed, are amazing testimonies to God’s greatness.

Let me tell you this as well. Being a pastor, I’ve seen more of our church’s “dirty laundry” than the average ministry partner likely sees. And that was a bit of a surprise at first in ministry. It was quite sobering. Are we really different from the world? But because of knowing the lowest lows, I’ve also had the privilege of witnessing and knowing tons of examples of God’s power at work. It’s awesome. If we could look around our church and know each person’s story and how God has worked his power in their life, we wouldn’t be able to stop singing God’s praise. And I want to encourage those of you who have made it through a difficult season and have seen God’s power work in your life: tell the story!

Sometimes we don’t tell the story because we don’t know the story. Sometimes we don’t tell the story because we don’t want to seem too joyful, but sometimes we don’t tell the story because the story reveals our shame. It reveals just how bad things really were – how bad I really am. But, Church, you are missing an opportunity to give God glory! The worse you were, the more His grace and mercy shine.

And those stories are yours to tell, not mine. I wish I could, but that’s yours to tell. Why hide that you had an addiction if Christ freed you? Why hide that you were a thief if Christ redeemed you from that? Why not speak about your depression, your rocky marriage, your laziness, your gluttony. If Christ has freed you, then you have a story to tell that can demonstrate his power, can encourage others that change is possible, and ultimately will lead to more glory and praise being given to God. Making His works known isn’t just about sharing the works He did for Israel; it’s about sharing the works he did for you. So, we remember his Promise, his Protection, His Presence, His Power, and fifth and finally we Remember His Provision.

Tell the Story: Remember His Provision

Probably the easiest of the 5 P’s I’ve shared this morning, provision is so easy to see all around us. He has given us far more than we deserve. Check out the final section starting in verse 37.

“Then he brought out Israel with silver and gold, and there was none among his tribes who stumbled. Egypt was glad when they departed, for dread of them had fallen upon it. He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night. They asked, and he brought quail, and gave them bread from heaven in abundance. He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river. For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant. So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing. And he gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil, that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the LORD!”

As God took a nation from captivity to freedom, he provided every step along the way. And not just a little. He provided abundantly. I had thought about labelling the section God’s patience because God’s people really tried his patience when they complained in the wilderness. But the text doesn’t talk about that at all in this remembering of it. It talks about his provisions. He allowed the people of Israel to leave Egypt with tons of gold and silver. He gave them food, water, direction. He is so so good.

But remember that he provides in his time. There was a time when they felt like he wasn’t coming through. The bricks were twice as hard to make. They suffered as slaves. But God couldn’t give them all his blessings there in Egypt. They would have grown to like Egypt too much and never sought the promised land to fulfill his promise. He needed to allow or even cause difficulty for his people so that they moved in the right direction.

When an Eagle makes its nest, it uses the unlikely material of thorns to build it, then it lines the inside with soft materials so that the baby eaglets are protected; however, when the baby eaglets grow, the mother eagle removes the soft materials and exposes the thorns. This creates an uncomfortable nest that eventually prompts the growing eaglets to learn to fly and leave the nest. Discomfort becomes a necessary and useful tool for growth.

Similarly, God’s greatest provisions often come through pain. Remember that. If God had let the Israelites be comfortable in Egypt, they would have never left. But he used pain and discomfort to uproot them and move them to freedom. So how has God provided for you? Your family? Our church?

God’s greatest provisions often come through pain

We can see all kinds of ways. For me personally, I can recall several years back when I was finishing my master’s degree while in ministry. I was getting tired and discouraged – we had lots of young kids, our house was very small, our finances were running low, and I was seriously considering taking a couple semesters off from school. Then one Sunday God made it clear to me that I was supposed to continue and that He would provide. Later that week, without me having communicated any of my concerns to people in our church or to family, I was surprised to hear from the school that someone had contributed thousands of dollars to my account. To this day I have no idea what human agent God used, but I know with 100% certainty it was God’s provision. He did it, and I praise God for that. Why did he do it? Because He wants to make His name great!

For our church, His provision has been clear over and over again. I’ll share one example. Back in 2015 we started a building campaign to expand our facility. When the plans came out to build this worship centre, and I read that there were going to be 800 seats, I have to admit I thought to myself, why would we ever need all those? Well, this year we have seen why! Had God not provided wisdom back in 2015 and the finances and vision in the years since then, we would have been unprepared for the growth God has brought.

For most of us I sincerely believe God used lockdowns to make us uncomfortable and to move us on to greater maturity. That, in a strange way, was his wonderful provision. We can praise God for that. We should praise God for that. Because God’s people are called to tell the story for God’s glory.

The average lifespan of someone in Canada is 82 years. A lot can happen in 82 years of life; however, most of us won’t have biographies published and the few words we leave on a gravestone will soon become just another momentary interest for a few mourners or curious minds as they walk through a cemetery.

But right now, while we have a few short years on earth and a voice, let’s use our lives to share the story of God’s promise, of his protection, of his presence, of his power, and of his provision – All for His glory.

Church, “Give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!” Psalm 105:1-2

Keep your eyes on Christ! (Hebrews 12:1-2)