Saved to Sing
Rev. Brian Bill
Let’s think about some words that don’t go together very well. I’ll say one phrase and then you give me the exact opposite.
Toothpaste Orange Juice
Fox News MSNBC
Sauerkraut Ice Cream
Michigan Promised Land
Cheese Everything Else
Chicago Bears Super Bowl Champs
These last two groups have experienced a ton of animosity for thousands of years, much of which continues today. The Jew/Gentile divide is more pronounced than anything most of us can relate to.
The Jews were God’s chosen people, also known as the nation of Israel. The term “Gentile” refers to all those outside of the Jewish faith and is sometimes translated as “nations.” From a biblical point of view, the human race is divided into two distinct groups—the Jews and everyone else. Since there are approximately 15 million Jews today amid a total world population of over 6 billion, nearly everyone falls into the Gentile grouping.
Israel was chosen to reflect the will and character of God in a unique way and yet they were often led astray by the surrounding nations. As such, great animosity developed over the years between the Jews and Gentiles. The Gentiles hated the Jews (Esth. 9:1,5; Ps. 44:13,14), often ravaged and defiled the holy land (Ps. 79:1) and were rebellious against God (Rom. 1:28). The Jews on the other hand, tried to stay away from the Gentiles (Acts 10:28). The daily prayer of a strict Jewish male involved thanking God that he was not a Gentile. Even after becoming Christ-followers, the tendency of some Jewish background believers was to doubt whether the Gentiles were really on an equal spiritual plane with them. No doubt, there was plenty of dirty laundry on both sides.
That reminds me of the story about a young couple that had just moved into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they were eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbor hanging the wash outside (back when people still did this). “That laundry is not very clean,” she said. “She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, she would make the same disparaging comments. About one month later, the woman was surprised to see some lily white laundry on the line and said to her husband: “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her how to do it?” To which the husband said, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
There were some pretty dirty windows between Jews and Gentiles. Have you ever been on the receiving end of being judged or having someone say things about you that just aren’t true? This happened to me this week when I went to the Dance Center to pick Megan up from her ballet class. One of the adults wished me a belated Happy Birthday and then a young girl who I had never met before asked me how old I was. I decided to fish for a compliment so I asked her how old she thought I was. Thinking she was going to say “30-something,” I wasn’t prepared for her answer: “You look like you’re 67!”
Last week we learned from Romans 15:1-7 that the best way to deal with disagreement about disputable matters is to…
• Put up (1). That’s what I needed to do with this young ballerina!
• Build up (2)
• Look up (3)
• Grow up (4)
• Circle up (5)
• Point up (6)
• Warm up (7)
Verse 7 summarizes how we’re to put up with the porcupine people in our lives: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” How are you doing at making room for people? If you’ve hit a roadblock because of some conflict, let me encourage you to attend the Peacemaker Class taught by Nathan Hilt that will begin next Sunday at 10:45 in the library.
This verse lays the groundwork for verses 8-13 which tell us how we’re to get along with people who by nature we despise and pull away from because of cultural differences and background. God has brought not only the weak and the strong together, but also Jew and Gentile. Verses 1-7 challenge us to please others instead of ourselves and verses 8-13 emphasize praising God in unity and harmony. I like how John MacArthur puts it: “Paul is no longer exhorting here in a negative way….when he was calling us to not offend…or not cause someone to stumble…but is now positively calling for us to rejoice in what God has done in making us one.”
Here’s the sermon in one statement: God’s promises should cause us to praise Him.
1. God’s Promises to the Jewish People. We see this in verse 8: “For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs.” The phrase “For I tell you” is very emphatic which indicates that what is to follow is extremely important and has great doctrinal significance. This should make us sit up straight and lean forward as Paul reiterates what is really the main argument found in the fourth chapter of Romans. It’s interesting that the title Paul chooses here for Jesus is “servant” but he’s simply following what Jesus Himself said in Luke 22:27: “But I am among you as one who serves.”
Jesus “confirmed” the promises that were made to the Jewish patriarchs, which means that he fulfilled them. By the way, our summer sermon series will be called “A Summer of Promise” as we take a look at some key promises from the Bible. The Jews were the people of promise and Jesus was born a Jew in order to serve the Jews first.
There are many illustrations to choose from but let’s look at an encounter that Jesus had with a Gentile woman from the country of Canaan. Please turn to Matthew 15:22-24: “A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.’ Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’” Keep your finger here because we’ll come back to this passage shortly.
2. God’s Prophecies to the Gentile People. While the Old Testament makes clear that the Jews were the people of promise, Gentiles were also included in God’s plan. Check out the first part of verse 9: “So that…” Promises are made to the Jewish patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in order that God’s mercy would be spread to the Gentiles: “So that the Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy…” I love how Simeon puts it in his song when he encounters the Savior as a baby in Luke 2:30-32: “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
The whole point of Jesus coming to fulfill promises to the Jewish patriarchs was ultimately so that non-Jewish people could experience God’s mercy and thus bring praise to God. Let’s pick up the story of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:25-28: “The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said. He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread [what belongs to the Jews] and toss it to their dogs.’ [Jesus is referring to a common Jewish belief that Gentiles were like dogs]. ‘Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ [She recognizes that salvation came first to the Jews but then it was to be shared with the Gentiles] Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”
When the gospel went forth in the Book of Acts, efforts were made first to reach the Jews, and when they rejected it, the missionaries reached out to the Gentiles. One example is found in Acts 13:46 when Paul and Barnabas address a Jewish audience with these words: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” At the very beginning of the book of Romans this truth is reinforced in Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
We see this throughout the Old Testament as well; it was part of the covenant promise given to Abraham way back in Genesis 12:2-3: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
In order to make his point about how Jesus also came for the Gentiles, Paul references four different Old Testament passages from four different sections of the Hebrew Bible – the Books of History, the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets. And these verses are found in books written by mighty men of the faith, honored by Jews everywhere – Moses, David and Isaiah. We’ll see that Paul is not offering just one “proof text” but a whole string of passages to prove his point.
• Romans 15:9 (This is a reference from 2 Samuel 22:50 and Psalm 18:49): “…As it is written: ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.’” The phrase “as it is written” literally means, “Has been written and stands written.”
• Romans 15:10 (This is a reference from Deuteronomy 32:43): “Again it says, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.’” The redeemed can’t help but break out into rejoicing.
• Romans 15:11 (This is a reference from Psalm 117:1): “And again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to Him, all you peoples.’”
• Romans 15:12 (This is a reference from Isaiah 11:10): “And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in Him.’”
There’s a beautiful progression found in these four references. In verse 9, the Jewish singer is standing in the midst of the Gentiles singing praises. In verse 10, both groups are rejoicing with each other. In verse 11, the Gentiles are directed to sing His praise, whether anyone else is singing or not. Finally, in verse 12, the focus is not on the singers but on the Savior who reigns supreme.
3. God’s Power is Available to All Who Trust in Him. Check out this beautiful benediction in verse 13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” This really closes the main argument in the Book of Romans. We move from sinners to singers, from being hopeless to being filled with hope, from having no joy or peace to experiencing the Fruit of the Spirit. Here are some observations from this verse. Let’s slow down a bit and dive into this passage phrase by phrase.
• “May…” This is a prayer from Paul, a desire that he has for all believers.
• “…the God of hope…” Everything starts with God. When Paul quotes Isaiah 11 about the Gentiles hoping in Jesus, he picks up on the idea of God Himself being the origin and object of our hope. Related to this, it’s good to anchor our prayers to an attribute of God. When we’re hurting or feeling helpless or hopeless, remind yourself that God is the God of hope and cry out to Him.
• “…fill…” This word was used for cramming a net full of fish and also meant to satisfy or supply. There’s nothing else in this world that can satisfy us like God.
• “…you…” Paul loved to pray for others; so should we. This is a great passage to pray for the members of your family and for the members of this church family. Who do you know who needs some hope? Some joy? Some peace? Pray this prayer for them. In fact, think of someone in your family right now and pray this passage for them.
• “…with all joy…” Someone defined joy this way: “The deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord and is independent of whether circumstances are favorable or unfavorable.” Or we could say it like this: “Happiness depends on happenings, but joy depends on Jesus.”
• “...and peace…” Peace means to join together what is pulled apart, broken or divided. Psalm 133:1 tells us that God’s heart is for harmony: “How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!”
• “…as you trust in Him…” All that God has for is not automatically given to us simply because we’re an American or come to church. It must be appropriated by trusting or believing in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Check out this popular saying: “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Is that true? I don’t think so. It’s better to change the order: “God said it. That settles it. Will I believe it?”
• “…so that…” After we believe, the benefits come next. Faith must come first and then the fruit follows.
• “…you may overflow…” The meaning of this word is very rich: “To have exceeding abundance, to super-abound, to have in excess or to excel.”
• “…with hope…” At one time, according to Ephesians 2:12, the Gentiles had no hope. And even today it’s hard to have hope when we hear about earthquakes, tsunamis and unrest around the world. Hope has been defined as faith in the future tense. We have faith in what God has accomplished in the past, we have faith in God’s work in the present, and we look in hope to that which He will bring about in the future. One commentator has said that “there are no hopeless situations…there are only those who have grown hopeless about them.” Another adds this: “No one is hopeless who hopes in God.”
• “…by the power of the Holy Spirit.” We can’t generate any of this on our own. People spend their entire lives searching for joy, peace and hope but they will never find it apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.
4. God’s Praises are to be Proclaimed by All. I’m greatly challenged by what John Piper has said about the goal of missions in his book Let the Nations be Glad: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate.” To say it another way, the goal of our witnessing is so that there will be more worshippers because praise is the universal language of the Christian church. God’s promises should cause us to praise Him.
Let’s go back to our passage to see how united harmonious praise is the preeminent theme. Listen to verses 9-11 as I give special emphasis to the words that deal with worship: “So that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.’ Again, it says, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.’ And again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.’”
We’ve been talking a lot in our pastoral staff meetings about ways that we can equip PBCer’s to live out their faith at home. Another way to say this is that we’re to worship Him with our lives and our lips 24/7. Here are some questions to ponder that percolate out of our passage for today.
1. What prejudices do you need to confess?
2. How can you clean the dirt off the windows through which you look?
3. In what specific ways can you thank God for His mercy in your life?
4. Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to ask forgiveness from?
5. How can you learn from those who are different from you?
Friends, lock into God’s heart for all the ethnic and racial groups in the world. Don’t automatically attack that which is opposite from you. Let’s fast-forward to Revelation 7:9-10 where we see an amazing scene: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”
The redeemed can’t help but rejoice and the saved must sing! Since God’s promises should cause us to praise Him, let’s do that right now as our musicians come back up to the platform.