6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: We must have open hearts to fully experience God’s presence in our lives.

Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches

March 3, 2002

Third Sunday of Lent

“Open Hearts”

Psalm 95

INTRODUCTION: Pilgrim worshipers sang Psalm 95 as they approached the Temple for a festival. It was a typical “entrance liturgy” where people would progress from outside the temple, through the courts of the Gentiles up to the entrance of the Priestly Court which contained the altar of sacrifice and the Holy of Holies. Later it was used as a call to worship in the synagogue spoken by a priest or Levite to the Israelites. The Psalm was not only used in the processional entrance but also served as a “psychological entrance” into the presence of God.

Psalms 95-100 have a common theme--the worship of God the creator as well as the covenant God of Israel. Last week we talked about Psalms 120-134 being the Psalms of ASCENT toward Jerusalem. The purpose of Psalms 95-100 is to help the people get FOCUSED on God.

When we come to church we are often distracted by all of the things going on in our lives during the week and our thoughts are not really centered on God. We need ways to enter into God’s presence as well as these people did. A variety of things help us to become more focused on God--the call to worship, singing, scripture, the expressing of joys, the giving of offerings, receiving communion, our response to the morning message, kneeling at the altar, and raising our hands in praise.

The Lenten season is a time for us to focus our attention on God through all of these means and to evaluate where we are in our walk with the Lord.

How can Psalm 95 speak to us today?

1. {A God of Kingly Power} The Awesome God--Creator: In the first part of the Psalm the focus is placed on God as the majestic, awesome Creator of the universe. Being able to see the greatness of God in many different places does much to lift our spirits from the problems we face in our daily lives.

The Psalm gives a call to praise the God of all creation--the God who shows up in all of the extremes--the depths of the earth, the sea, the mountain peaks, and the desert--and all that is in between. The extent of His power is limitless.

The Message Bible puts it a little more forcefully:

“Let’s shout praise to God,

Raise the roof for the Rock who saved us.

March into His presence with singing

Because God is the best--the Creator!

If we can lift our eyes up and away from our problems and look to God the Creator, it should do something to help us psychologically focus on God who can meet us at our point of need. An invitation is given here to come, to sing joyfully, to the ROCK of our Salvation. ROCK is a title of honor for God recalling the Rock of the desert which provided water for the people. (See Exodus 17:6) The altar of sacrifice would also be a Rock and remind them of God’s presence--reliable, stable, rock solid.

2. {A God of Special Grace} The Sheep of His Pasture: Once the people’s attention was focused on the awesomeness of the God of the universe, the focus shifted from the general to the specific. He is our God--He is my God. He is the shepherd which means that He is committed to care for us in a variety of ways. Verse 7 says, “We are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.”

Many people today are only aware of God in a general sense. You hear people say, “Yes, I believe in a Higher Power” or something general like that. To the Old Testament people He says, “I am your shepherd, committed to care for you.” To New Testament people, Jesus said in John 10:14, “I AM the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep.”

He expects us to hear His voice. John 10:27 says, “My sheep hear My voice.” Hearing His voice is the same with believing and doing. It is time for us to hear his voice and to walk in His ways. The Lenten season is a time to look at where we are walking and who we are listening to. Are we far away in our hearts so preoccupied with a million other things that we miss hearing His voice? Are we “take it or leave it” Christians, serving Him only when we don’t have something better to do? Sometimes we are distracted so easily.

STORY: When a little church stopped buying from the local stationary store, they called the deacon to ask why. The deacon explained, “Remember those pencils we ordered from you so that visitors could register?”

“Sure,” the stationer replied, “Didn’t you get them?”

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