One of my favorite novels is Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe.” Well … we call Defoe’s book “Robinson Crusoe,” but the actual title of the books is … “The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who Lived Eight and Twenty Years, All Alone in an Un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, Near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having Been Cast on Shore by Shipwreck, Wherein All the Men Perished but Himself. With an Account how he was at last as Strangely Deliver’d by Pyrates. Written by Himself.” You’ve almost got the whole story in the title, don’t you?
You know, it’s sad how we’ve taken great novels like “Robinson Crusoe,” “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Moby Dick,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” or “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and relegated them to children’s stories. We’ve done the same with stories like Noah and Samson and Goliath in the Bible, haven’t we? But they are not children’s stories and neither is Daniel Defoe’s story about Robinson Crusoe. It is actually a serious Christian treatise on the goodness of God.
Robinson Crusoe starts out as a rebellious young man who, through a series of misfortunes, ends up as the lone survivor of a shipwreck on a deserted island. Among the items that he salvages from the ship’s floating debris is one lone book. Ever play the “If you’re stuck on a deserted island and you could only have one book, what book would it be” game? Well, that’s the situation that Defoe sets up. Robinson is marooned on a desolate island and the only thing he has to read is one book. Care to guess what book that would be? If you guessed “the Bible,” you’d be right.
Here’s something you may not have noticed or thought about if you’ve ever read Defoe’s novel. There is no church on the island. There are no priests on the island. All Robinson Crusoe has is the Bible and, in Defoe’s opinion, the Bible is enough … the Bible is all you need … the Bible alone can change a person’s life. Do you agree with Defoe?
Of course, Robinson reads the Bible and, as he does, he learns about God’s goodness … how God provides forgiveness for our sins and gives us an endless supply of grace. Again, think about it. Think about where Robinson Crusoe is. He’s stuck on a deserted island. There are no markets, no craftsmen, no farms, no shops, no other people to provide for him … only God. As time goes on … as Crusoe continues to read and study God’s Word, he begins to realize that God has indeed been providing for him … food … shelter … even the Bible, the only book to survive the ship wreck and wash up on shore. See, I told you this was a pretty cool book, amen?
Over and over and over … hour after hour … page after page, Robinson Crusoe reads about God’s goodness, God’s desire to take care of His children … and over and over and over again, God provides evidence of his love and support of Robin Crusoe by taking care of him … even on a deserted island … and Crusoe’s faith in God continues to grow and he goes from cursing his misfortune to faithfully trusting Christ as his Protector and Provider.
Once Robinson Crusoe establishes himself on the island and has food and shelter that he can count on, one of the main things that he lacks and begins to yearn for is human companionship. And guess what? God even provides him with that. One day Robinson finds a set of footprints on the beach and the discovery terrifies him. Having read and heard about the fierce, cannibalistic practices of some of the tribes on the nearby islands, Robinson lives in constant fear. He writes in his diary: “All that former confidence in God which was founded upon such wonderful experiences as I had had of [God’s] goodness now vanished … as if He who had fed me by miracles hitherto could not preserve, by His power, the provision which He made for me by His goodness.” In other words, all that “former confidence in God” that Crusoe had that was founded on the many, many ways that God had provided for him disappeared like smoke in the wind when he was faced with this new danger. Has that ever happened to you?
Robinson eventually comes face-to-face with the man who made the footprints … and rescues him from a couple of cannibals who are about to kill him and eat him. Why did he name the man “Friday”? Well … for one reason … because he rescued “Friday” on “Friday.” The real question, however, is: Who rescued whom? Sure, Robinson Crusoe rescued Friday but God sent Friday to rescue Crusoe from his loneliness and the two men were able to work together to get rid of the two cannibals … whom Friday wanted to eat … and in the end, Robinson shares the Gospel with Friday and leads him to Christ. The two become inseparable friends and together they both come to know and trust in the good God who provided for all of their needs … even on a deserted island.
One last thing … what do you notice about Robinson’ last name … “Crusoe”? What does it sound like? Well, the word for “cross” in Latin is “crucis” or “cruz” in Spanish. Coincidence? I think not. And when do we celebrate our salvation on the Cross? Good what? Good Friday. Again, coincidence? “Friday” represented the end of Robinson Crusoe’s separation from his fellow man or human just as “Good Friday” and the cross represent the end of our separation from God.
Defoe doesn’t tell us what Robinson Crusoe’s favorite scriptures or psalm might be … he’s a fictional character … but Psalm 100 would apply beautifully to his situation. Psalm 100 is a brilliantly and carefully crafted song. The description at the top of Psalm 100 says that it’s “A Psalm of Thanksgiving.” It is known as an “entry” or “entrance” psalm because it was meant to be sung by the people of Israel or by a choir of priests or Levites as they entered the Temple for the specific purpose of offering a thanksgiving sacrifice.
As a I said, there is a deliberate movement carefully crafted into this psalm. There are seven imperatives or commands in Psalm 100’s five verses: “Shout for joy” … “worship the Lord” … “come before Him” … “know that the Lord is God” … “enter His gates” … “give Him thanks” … and “praise His name.” The seven commands have a middle or central command. There are three commands … shout, worship, and come … at the beginning and there are three at the end … enter, give, and praise. And right in the middle of these commands, command number 4, is what I consider to be the central command of the song: “Know the Lord.”
Hold on … there’s more. Psalm 100 is made up of five verses and you can do the same thing with the number 5 that you can with the number 7. There are two verses at the beginning of Psalm 100 … verses 1 and 2 … and there are two verses at the end of Psalm 100 … verses 4 and 5. And right in the middle of verses 1 and 2 and verses 4 and 5 is … verse 3 … and it begins: “Know the LORD.” Coincidence? Again, I think not.
Hummmmm … what do you think that the psalmist is trying to tell us?
If you pay close attention to the psalm, you’ll discover that there is a deliberate narrowing of the poem’s focus. Verse 1 says “all the earth” should shout with joy. Then it narrows down in verse 2 to just God’s covenant people, the Israelites, the “sheep of His pasture.” Verses 3 and 4 zero in on the central subject of the psalm … the Lord. And verse 5 is the reason that all the earth should shout for joy and all the children of Israel should enter the gates of the Temple giving thanks and singing His praises! “For the Lord is good ... His steadfast love endures forever and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).
So … open up your “Owner’s Manual” to Psalm 100 and look at verse 1. It commands who to make a joyful noise to the LORD? … “all the earth.” Who should make a joyful noise to the LORD? All the earth … not just all the people but all creation. All the earth, all creation, all people should recognize God as the Creator and Sustainer of the world that we live in. The world belongs to God, the One who created it. If He didn’t create it, guess what? Creation wouldn’t exist … and we wouldn’t exist … which is a pretty good reason, I believe, for the whole earth and every living creature on it to shout and make a grateful and joyful noise to the LORD, amen?
Psalm 145 says that the eyes of all look expectantly to God, who gives them their food in due season. God opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:15-16). God satisfies the desire of every living thing … not just Jews and Christians … not just human beings … but every living thing that flies or crawls or swims or springs up out of the ground. Whether we’re stranded on a deserted island … or simply feel that way … the Lord will provide. He who gave us lungs also created air. He who gave us stomachs supplies us with food and water. He who made us in His image provides companionship. He who made us with eyes also creates spell-binding vistas and surrounds us with beauty and gave us minds to take all this in and appreciate it. He who made us gave us voices so that we could come into His presence singing about the joy and the gratitude that fills our hearts and souls because we have been formed by God and are wonderfully and fearfully made, amen?
Whether those out there in the world know it or not, WE know that this world would be a living hell without God, amen? We know that this world is the hunting ground of the Devil, who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. The only reason this world is not a living hell is because it is the Kingdom of God. Despite all appearances to the contrary these days, God still rules this world. God is still king over this world. It is only because of God’s mercy and love for His creation that the world still exists and that everyone has the chance and the opportunity to turn to Him and enter His perfect kingdom. And because of that, as verse 2 says, the whole earth should worship the Lord with gladness and come before Him with joyful song, amen?
As I said earlier, verse 3 is the pivotal point in the psalm. It goes from speaking about all people to speaking only about God’s chosen, covenant people. It also contains the central command of the psalm: “Know that the Lord is God.” “Know that the Lord is God” is not only the central command of this psalm, it is also the central tenant of our faith. Every morning, devout Jews pray the Shema which declares the sovereignty of God over Israel. The only God IS the God of Israel. There is no one else. There is no other god. And that God, says the author of Psalm 100, has made us. We are His people … we are His children ... we are the sheep of His pasture.
The recognition that “He made us” in verse 3 takes us back to verse 1. Why should all the earth shout for joy to the Lord? Why should all the earth worship Him with gladness and come before Him with joyful songs? Because He made us … an allusion to the creation story in Genesis 1. But “He made us” also refers to God’s covenant people … the “sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3). God “made” Israel when he chose them to be His people … when He liberated them from Egypt and made them a nation in the wilderness. He has made an unbreakable covenant with them and they have received His promises and they enjoy His love and care in a way that the rest of the world cannot … not because they are special or have proven themselves to be worthy. They have nothing to commend themselves to God. It is only because of God’s grace that He chose them, made them to be a particular people in all the earth … sheep of God’s pastures under God’s watchful care … which is a wonderful reason for them to shout to the Lord and come into His Temple and worship Him with gladness, amen?
And because of Jesus Christ, we too are God’s covenant people! We too enjoy the promise of God’s steadfast and enduring love and care. We too graze in the pasture of God’s love because Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gave His life for His flock. We live because Jesus died for us. And, like the covenant people of Israel, we give thanks to the Lord our God today and every day of our lives for the rest of our lives … and even then, we will continue to give thanks and sing God’s praises for eternity in Heaven.
We cannot help but shout of joy, amen? We cannot help but worship Him with gladness, amen? We cannot help but come before Him with joyful songs because we are His! Because Jesus … our dear, precious Savior … bought us with His blood, amen?
Verse 4 speaks of the people of God coming into God’s Presence at the Temple. Now a days, we no longer go the Temple. We no longer have to sacrifice the blood of animals because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Lord, the Good Shepherd. Instead, we come here … to church. This is where we come to offer up our worship. This is where we come to shout to the Lord … to worship with gladness ... to come before God with our joyful songs.
While it is true that the Israelites worshipped in the Temple and we worship in the church, the church is NOT the fulfillment of the Temple. Jesus Christ is! The sacrifices in the Temple foreshadowed the sacrifice of the Lamb who was slaughtered to give us new life … eternal life. The Temple was the symbol of the Presence of God in the midst of His people. The Temple was where the people would go to meet God. Today, we don’t go to the Temple … we go to Jesus Christ! The Messiah … Immanuel … God with us … dwells in our hearts through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.
And the reason that we shout for joy … the reason that we worship Him with gladness … the reason that we enter His Presence with thanksgiving … the reason that we give thanks to Him and praise His name is summed up in verse 5: “For the Lord is good and His ‘hesed’” … His “steadfast love” … “endures forever … and His faithfulness continues through all generations.” Did you hear it? “All generations” echoes “all the earth” back in verse 1.
The reason for all our thankfulness, for all our joy, for all our praising is the goodness of the Lord as demonstrated and proved by His “hesed” … His continuous and faithful love. The word “hesed” is a covenantal word signifying that God has not only chosen us for Himself but has also promised to love us and keep His covenant with us for all generations … for all time.
When we shout for joy to the Lord, when we worship Him with gladness, when we come into His Presence with thanksgiving and praise, we are thanking Him and praising Him for His Son, Jesus Christ, who lives in us through the Holy Spirit. And our praise and our joy and our thanksgiving can’t help but keep pouring out of us. We who believe have no fear … only peace. We who believe have no despair … for we have hope. We who believe will not suffer forever … for we will one day enter the perfect Kingdom of God. Knowing that the Lord is good and that we are His people … the sheep of His pasture … is the cause and the source of our joy, our praise, our thanksgiving, and our sacrifice.
Psalm 143:10 says: “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. Let Your spirit lead me on a level path.” The Lord Jesus had something important to say about this in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus presents four contrasts in these two verses:
o There are two gates … one wide, one narrow
o There are two roads … one broad and one difficult
o There are two groups of people … the many and the few
o There are two destinations … destruction and life
Imagine you were untouched or untaught by the Gospel and you’re trying to sort out which way you want to go in life. You see a wide gate with a large number of people walking on this “broad way”. Nearby you see a narrow gate … a difficult way … and only a few people walking on it. Which road would you take? Well, there are many people on the broad way for a reason. Left to ourselves, we’re gonna chose the wide gate, the broad road, and the large crowd. But that choice leads to destruction. Only the narrow gate, the difficult road, and the small crowd lead to eternal life.
And God … our good, good God … tells us which gate to enter with thanksgiving … which road to travel … which group to follow. He tells us to “chose the narrow gate … chose the difficult way … chose a few companions because I, Jesus, know … I understand what’s lies in store for you at the end of both roads.”
There has never been a time in history when this “narrow gate theology,” as one commentator put it, has been more out of vogue than it is today. And yet, as we walk with God, does not life itself teach us that God is good and that His way is the best way despite any and all appearances to the contrary? Isn’t that what Robinson Crusoe discovered on his deserted island? Times may see tough. Life may be difficult … but God is always good and God will always provide just what we need when we need it, amen? At least that’s been my experience.
The broad gate and the broad way, as we observe it today, is a lifestyle unencumbered by moral guidelines. It’s free from spiritual stop signs and ethical speed limits. You can get on the broad way and go as fast and as far as you want. You can sample whatever pleasures life has to offer … and today it offers everything that the imagination can conjure up and more. You can live as you please. You can do whatever you want … whatever “feels good,” right?
The narrow way? Now that’s a different story. It has speed limits and warning signs and guardrails. Those traveling on the broad way look over at us on the narrow, more difficult way and scoff, telling us to get a life … to loosen up … to color outside the lines once in a while. They think we’re weird. We are husbands and wives who have decided to bond together for a lifetime. We are parents who give ourselves to our children and not to chasing dollars. We are children who are respectful of our mothers and fathers. We are families who go to church, who seek to serve the Lord … who are committed to doing right thing even when it’s hard. It’s a difficult kind of life but it’s not destructive.
The broad way, not the narrow way, says Jesus IS the road to destruction. The people on the broad way tend to become bitter or disillusioned as they age and lose the vigor of youth … as they lose their passion for life … as they face the growing prospect of the grave. As the people on the narrow way mature … as they get closer to the end of the road … what you sense in them is life … stability … a sense of peace …relationships that work … families that love each other … people who care … surrounded by men and women who share their precious faith and love for the Lord. They still bear fruit in their old age … staying fresh and green … proclaiming that “the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (Psalm 92:14-15).
Which is why the people on the broad road, seeing those on the narrow and more difficult road, don’t understand why the few people they see on the narrow path are shouting for joy … are worshipping the Lord with gladness … are singing God’s praises with joyful songs. “How can this be?” they watch and wonder. Because we know the Lord is good! “It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people ... the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3) … because we know with all our hearts, with all our mind, with all our strength, and with all our souls that the Lord is good and His love endures forever.
God is good … all the time!
All the time … God is good!