Summary: Psalm 40 leads us in reflection on the past and a vision for the future. This was a new year’s sermon.
Looking Backward, Looking Forward
January 2, 2005
Intro: (Calvin and Hobbes)
Are you glad the old year is over? As you look back over 2004, are you glad it’s done? For some of us, that answer is a big YES! We look back and see lives uprooted by floods in basements and all the mess and clean up and waiting, we remember various losses, we see the difficult times and struggles with health and family and friendships.
One of the questions I like to ask people is this: “what is God doing? What is He teaching you, what is He showing you about Himself and about you, where is He leading you?” It is a challenging question, sometimes in the middle of the struggle we don’t know the answer, and that is ok – because most of the time we see that a little later on.
This morning, I want to ask us all to think about that question, and maybe some of you will even share the answer by way of a sort of impromptu testimony. I want to be interactive this morning, and lead us to look back over the past year and remember what God has done. The prayers God has answered, the hope and joy that God has brought even through difficulty. I’ll give you a few moments to think about that while I turn to Psalm 40.
One of the things I learn from the Psalms is that it is incredibly important to remember what God has done in our lives, and to share that with others. As I read the Psalms, again and again I read the words of a person pouring out the anguish of their soul, being frighteningly honest about how they are feeling towards God, but also choosing to remember and choosing to publicly profess the goodness of God. Psalm 40 is a good example of remembering and proclaiming the goodness of God. Here is what it says. (read)
The first 3 verses are David’s testimony. I think many of us can relate to those words as we look back over the past year – we can see how we were waiting, and God came. We remember how God lifted us up, gave us a strong foundation, and put a song of praise in our mouths. Maybe the mud and mire was deep and you felt like you were sinking, or maybe it wasn’t that dramatic – maybe it was just the muck and mire of life. But you can look back and see how God pulled you through.
In verse 4, David recognizes that the choice to trust in God is the source of the blessing, and encourages us to not get discouraged and distracted onto another path. Verse 5 shows us again the result – that God is so good to us in all the things He has done.
The next section, vs 6-8, moves us from remembering the goodness of God to responding to God. It starts with the negative – God isn’t interested in the external forms, sacrifices and offerings and all of those types of things. God wants our hearts. Verse 7 is the climax of our response to God, and it is simple. “Here I am.” It is the gift of our whole selves – not our perfect, cleaned up, nice-looking selves – but simply our hearts, and our desire to do the will of God. That is what God desires in return – us! Our love, our hearts, our obedience.
Next, David goes public. This is where I am going to invite those of you who would like to share an impromptu “testimony” to do so. David wants to share how good God has been with God’s people. Now, the Psalm doesn’t tell us why David wants to share the goodness of God, just that He does. I think there are two things going on: first is simply that David is full to bursting, that he so grateful for all that God has done that he simply must share it. But I think there is one more reason: David knows that his sharing will be a great encouragement to others. He knows that the “great assembly” needs to be reminded, needs to hear the stories, needs to see again that God really has been good, really has been faithful, really does come to those who wait and who are stuck, and really will lift us out of the mire and place our feet on solid ground.
I know that we need the same thing, and that is why I want to take some time for us to share what God has been doing in the past year. Let us tell the stories again – even the ones we have heard already – let us give God thanks and praise again for how He has been good to us through 2004, let us encourage one another as we remember. (invite).