A Four-Letter Word to Live By

Delivered August 29, 1999 by Dr. Ronald W. Scates

Sermon Text:
Psalm 105:1-7
1 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.
3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4 Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
5 Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
6 O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.
7 He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

Maybe I’m not quite back from vacation. Or maybe it is my depravity. Or maybe it is a little bit of both. The elders of the church this year and the clergy are reading a book together called The Purpose Driven Church. And as Christina began to sing, (I don’t know if you noticed in that first line it had something about dolphins) and I started thinking, “Well, maybe we are a purpose driven church.” Now I’m back from vacation.

How should you and I act in the presence of royalty? Last month for the first time in almost three hundred years, the Scottish parliament was convened in Edinburgh. And as Queen Elizabeth II was escorted into the assembly hall, her aide was about to seat her in the speakers chair, the most prominent chair in the hall. A Scottish official leaned over quickly and whispered into the ear of that aide that the Queen might want to consider sitting somewhere else since a war erupted centuries ago over that same seating arrangement. Ironically, you had there in the parliament of Scotland, royalty trying to figure out how it should act in the presence of the people.

Now if you are like me inside, I’m saying, “Hooray for the Scots! Put that human royalty and that pomposity in its place.” But if you and I aren’t careful, there is a danger. A danger that we can carry that kind of attitude into a place like this. Because bottom line reality my friends, is that when you and I gather for Christian worship, we are in the presence of royalty. The presence of the King of kings ,and Lord of lords. Authentic worship never happens unless that king is in his rightful seat. And so we are back to that question again, “How should you and I act in the presence of royalty.”

In 1 Chronicles 16, we discover that the Psalm that we are about to read was commissioned by David really as sort of an official anthem for the people to sing as they welcomed the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem from Philistine captivity. You remember that the Ark symbolized the very presence of God, the presence of royalty amongst the people. And as pilgrims came from all over Palestine flooding into Jerusalem, the Ark was brought in with great celebration and fanfare, and they sang Psalm 105.

In the verses we are going to look at this morning, there is still a good guide there for you and me, as to how we should act in the presence of royalty on Sunday mornings. But also since all of life is an act of worship, how you and I should act as we go through the pilgrimage of living as followers of the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

I would invite you to turn with me and keep your Bibles open during the sermon, to Psalm 105. This morning let’s take a look together at the first seven verses of that Psalm. Psalm 105, beginning to read at the first verse. This is the word of God:

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him: tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

Join me as we pray: And now Father as my words are true to your word, may they be taken to heart. But as my words should stray from your word, may they be quickly forgotten. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Any time Christian worship becomes human-centered other than God-centered, the temptation is to come into a place like this and expect to be entertained. And the temptation for worship leaders is to become entertainers. When that happens people leave entertained, but they leave spiritually empty. In the first 5 verses of the Psalm we just read, we are presented with seven wonderful verbs that continue to remind you and me how we should act in the presence of royalty; how we ought to worship with authenticity, and how we can become more fulfilled as human beings who follow a Lord and Savior named Jesus Christ.

Let’s take a look at those seven verbs, and see what God has to say to us today through this text. The first one we encounter is in verse 1 where we are told to give thanks, “Give thanks to the Lord.” In other words, gratitude. You have all seen that bumper sticker that says, ‘If you can read this, thank a teacher.’ Well that is true. But let’s think a little bit deeper about that bumper sticker. If you can read it, it is because you are alive. It is because your heart is beating. It is because your eyes can see, and all of those things are nothing less than a gift. A gift from a King to you. And so authentic worship and authentic living for Christ always begins with gratitude. Give thanks.

That is why I feel sorry for atheists. Because any atheist at various times in their lives are going to be inevitably overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude because of something that has happened. And who do they thank? Give thanks to the Lord.

The second wonderful verb that we encounter is also in verse 1, when the psalmist exhorts you and me to call upon the name of the Lord. Authentic worship and authentic Christian living is never passive. We are never to be just completely silent in the presence of Christ. We are to ring him up. We are to call upon his name. And guess what? You will never be put on hold. You are never going to get God’s voice mail. You are never going to be shunted to Michael the Arc Angel. We are to call upon the name of the Lord.

What is that name? That name is Abba. That intimate Aramaic term somewhere on the level of daddy. He is your intimate Father and mine. We can go to him. He is not going to turn us away. Do you hear your Father speaking to you this morning through this Psalm? Call, call upon the name of the Lord.

Thirdly, in verses 1 and 2 we encounter the verbs “to tell” or “to make known” to the nations. To make known the wonderful acts of God. This means that you and I in worship and as we live our lives, are really to be publicists for the gospel. On a macro level, to tell about Gods creation and his redemption in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But also on the personal micro level. What has God been doing in your life lately? What has he done in the past? What do you hope he will do in the future? Have you ever told anyone recently about the reality of God in your life and his grace that is operative there? That is your calling and mine. To make known to others the work of the Lord.

And so we come in here. We hear God’s word as we rehearse the mighty act of God through biblical history; but also, worship is a time to share. Share what is going on in our own lives. Make known what God is doing in your life. There are others out there that need to hear that.

The fourth verb we encounter in verse 2: sing. Sing praises to the Lord. Right here you and I learn that music is not optional in worship, nor is it optional in the authentic Christian life. And here we get a glimpse into the very heart of God; that God wants to be serenaded by his people. Not just by worship teams and choirs. He wants to be serenaded by you and me. Now at this point you might be protesting a little bit saying, ‘Yeah, but you have never heard me sing. When I sing, it sounds like Roseanne trying to sing the national anthem.” That’s okay. Don’t ever stop singing. When your heart is in it, when my heart is in it, do you know what we sound like to God? We sound like Tony Bennett or Shania Twain.

And so when we come into this place to worship, we need to sing with all of our hearts, and we need to whistle while we work throughout the week. Our whole lives need to be a song of praise to almighty God. Sing, sing unto the Lord.

Look at verse 3. We encounter now a fifth wonderful verb. It is one that we usually don’t use as a verb. Glory! We think of glory as being an object, but this is a verb. Glory in the name of the Lord. When was the last time you did that? You are probably saying, ‘What the heck does that mean?”

The name of the Lord is not something that you and I are called to defend. It is not something that we are called to hide behind. It is not something that we are called to polish. It is not something that you and I are called to improve in any way. We are called to glory in the name of the Lord. What does that mean? Near as I can figure out, it means that you and I are to think about God and revel in his name. Roll around in his name until it is all over you; and when you start doing that, do you know what you start looking like? You start looking like a Christian, because the reflection of the glory of Jesus Christ begins to radiate out of you and me. The name of God is a name that you and I need to proudly wear in public.

The sixth verb we find in verse 5 where the psalmist exhorts you and me to remember. Remember the wonders of the Lord, his miracles, his judgments. Authentic worship is always about remembering. It always involves looking back, not just celebrating the presence of Christ with us now. Why? Because you are like me. Because throughout this whole week, I have been kicked around by satan to the point where he has tried to infect me with what you might call spiritual amnesia. And because you are like me, we go through the week, and we a lot of times can’t find God. It looks like he is not there. And so we need to always remember. We need to go back to the Word and remember what he has done for his people throughout history. And we need to remember in worship what he has been doing in our lives in the past, because that is a guarantee my friends that he is present and at work in your life now and will always be. But ‘now and always’ is only triggered when you and I remember and recall the mighty acts of God in history, and in our own personal lives. Remember, Remember.

Well some of you are type A’s, and you have already discovered that I have missed a verse. In fact, I missed a verse and a half. I skipped over verse 4. And you are looking there and you are saying, ‘There are a couple more verbs in there Ron. In fact, in the end of verse 3 there is another verb you missed.’ That is because I wanted to save the best for last.

In verse 4, the psalmist says, ‘Look to the Lord. Look to his strength.’ And he also says, ‘Seek the Lord’s face always.’ Now there are two Hebrew words there for those verbs, although the meaning of the verbs are pretty much the same. The verb that our text translates “look to” specifically involves seeking the Lord in the particular context of worship. The other verb is more of a general seek the Lord in life.

The word “seek” my friends, is the second most important four letter word in the Bible. The first being love. Any time you encounter the word seek in Scripture, underline it twice, circle it, highlight it. It is that important. We are going to get into why in just a minute. But unfortunately over the last few decades, the church has gutted much of the meaning of the word “seek”, especially for the believer. What we have done is that we have taken that word “seek”, and we have developed out of that the word “seeker,” which we use primarily to refer to a non-Christian who is interested in spiritual stuff.

We have designed churches that we call “seeker sensitive.” We have designed services of worship that we call “seeker sensitive services.” Trying to attract the non-Christian. I understand that. I am with that up to a point. We intentionally try to do some of that here at Central. But here is another danger. The danger is that we take that wonderful, beautiful, meaningful word “seek,” and we apply it only to Non-Christians.

Authentic worship by believers in Jesus Christ, the psalmist says in verse 4 involves looking to the Lord. He says for the believer to go through life is to seek the Lord’s face always. A believer is now and always will be also a seeker. You never outgrow your need to seek the Lord at deeper, and deeper, and deeper levels. We are called to seek.

A couple of decades ago, they had the national “I Found It” campaign. Campus Crusade put that on. It was great. It came under some fire naturally by certain wings of the church; but I was all for it, except that idea that we get the sense that you know, ‘I found it. I found Christ; therefore, I am not looking anymore.’ To be a believer, you are always looking. There is never enough of Jesus Christ that you have discovered. You can’t empty that mine. You can’t get down deep enough. In fact, I believe that you and I will spend eternity mining the depth of the riches and glory of Jesus Christ. And we will never, ever, reach the end. We will always be seekers after a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. And so authentic worship involves looking to the Lord and as the psalmist says, “Looking to his strength.”

We are to look to the Lord. Not to our success, our satisfaction, our entertainment. We are to look to the Lord. And we are not to come here on Sunday morning to get pumped up so we can make it through the week. That is going on our strength. We are here to look to the Lord’s strength.

In a sense, hear me right. In a sense, worship is for weaklings. It is for those who have faced the reality that there is no way that you and I can beat sin and death in our own strength. And so to be a seeker, is to come to worship and look to the Lord’s strength. And when you find the Lords strength, you find that it is and always will be sufficient for whatever crisis you are going through.

Worship is the place during our week where we can come when the tank is empty and we are at the end of our ropes, and we have got nothing left. This is the place to come. His strength is sufficient.

In verse 4, the psalmist goes on to say, “Seek the Lord’s face always.” Jesus made you and me a promise and he never goes back on it. He says, “I will be with you always.” The seeker is that Christian that says, “Okay, I’m going to take you at your promise.” And that seeker wakes up on Monday morning and say, “Okay, here is where I am geographically. Here is where I am emotionally, spiritually, physically, relationally. Okay, where is God in all of this?” The seeker lives his or her life saying, “Okay Jesus. You made me that promise. Now I am going to hunt you up and I am going to connect with you today. Where are you in my job? Where are you in my studies? Where are you in this horrible medical diagnosis I have just been given? Where are you in my marriage? Where are you in this law suit that I have just been hit with? Where are you in my boredom with life?”

I am convinced that some people are bored with life because they are not looking for Christ. Where are you? He will show up if we seek. You know the really cool thing about this word “seek” in Scripture is that authentic worship and fulfilled living as a disciple of Jesus Christ does not depend, despite everything I have said here this morning, does not depend on you and me faithfully seeking the lord. You and I are not the primary seeker.

Look at verse 6 of your text. The psalmist describes the people of Israel as the ‘descendants of Abraham his servant, as sons of Jacob his chosen one.’ God, before we ever seek him out, has been in the business of choosing you and me. He has been tracking us down. He has been seeking us. He is the primary seeker. He is the initiator of seeker sensitivity. And he comes looking for you and me. He tracks us down. He finds us. He draws us to himself in a relationship in Jesus Christ. And then and only them, he calls you and me to respond by making that word seek a by word in our lives.

Above everything else, what are you primarily seeking in life? Fame? Power? Prestige? Pleasure? Health? Wealth? What are you primarily seeking when you come into a place like this on a Sunday morning? Christian friends? Social acceptance? Spiritual entertainment? Religion? Some of those things are good. A lot of those things are merely distractions from authentic worship and fulfilled living as a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ. Seek the Lord. Look to the Lord, his strength. Seek his face always. Above everything else, you and I ought to seek the Lord.

We are to be like bloodhounds tracking him down. After all, he shed his blood to be in your life. Can you catch that scent? Let me throw out a little challenge here. Tomorrow many of you are going back to school. Tomorrow many of you are going back to work. All of us are going back to something. My challenge is this. It is to me as well as to you. To get up tomorrow and primarily be a seeker looking for Jesus Christ and his promised presence even in the mundane stuff of our lives at school, at the office, in the neighborhood, the grocery store, cutting the grass.

He promises if we seek him, we will find him. By his grace and only by his grace will you and I find him. The irony of that grace is that when you and I find him we lose. We lose ourselves in wonder and praise of this mighty God, who has tracked us down and made us no less than royalty through his son Jesus Christ.

Now you really type A people have added up all the verbs in this text. I have said that there are seven wonderful verbs, and you have discovered an eighth one. Jump back at the end of verse 3. ‘Those who seek the Lord with their hearts rejoice.’ You see, true joy is merely a byproduct of pursuing God. Seek the Lord with all your heart and you will find him and so will I. Tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the next day, and every day of our lives, even into all of eternity.

Join me as we pray:
Father God, the weight and the pushes and pulls of this world and its pressures and all of the junk that we have caked around our lives have blinded us so many times to your obvious presence. And Lord as we talked about a few weeks go, there are those times when you hide yourself from us. Oh Lord, help us to seek you. Stir up within us such a love for you that nothing can keep us from that pursuit. That we might find you and discover anew, and in that discovery find that strength through which we might live more faithfully as disciples of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. For we ask it in Jesus precious name, Amen.