The LORD Has Done Great Things
I recently read an interesting statistic on communications. Experts report that for the average person, if everything that is spoken on any given day was put into print, the result would be enough words to fill 20 single-spaced typed pages. That is every day.
That means we say enough words to fill two books of 300 pages each month, which works out to 24 books per year. In 50 years, that makes a total of 1200 books.
That is a lot of talking. Add to that all the written communication in emails, texts, tweets, and stuff like that. Which begs the question, “What do we use our words to do?”
Of course, words can be used to criticize. Here are some criticisms I have heard or read about related to our national parks.
For the Grand Canyon. “As amazing as the views are, it is really kind of boring. Every 500 feet a new vantage point of the same thing - a really big hole in the ground.”
Another Grand Canyon review. “The only time I was not bored was when I stood on the edge and realized that a tiny burst of wind could plummet my body to sheer disintegration.”
Another. “The one day I had at the Grand Canyon was flooded with fog. We could not see a thing. I would not have known there was a canyon there had I not been told. I was disappointed that although I got there at 4:30 p.m. and there was zero visibility, the park continued to collect the $25 fee per car.”
Rocky Mountain National Park. ‘The trails are too steep. Will you level them?”
Yellowstone. "When we got out of the car, the smell of sulfur nearly knocked my girlfriend off her feet and the stench followed us through the day as it clung to our clothes and hair.” (Actually, I agree with the poor review of the smell of sulfur, but it’s Yellowstone. If you don’t like the smell, don’t go there.)
Death Valley National Park. “Don’t waste your time. There is nothing there. I paid $20 for nothing but nasty rock and salt.”
We express a lot of things each day. Our words can be used to criticize. But you know what? We who are Christians should be using our words for a better, higher purpose.
We experience that each Sunday morning with our music and the messages, but let’s consider a Biblical challenge to use our words for a higher purpose all the time, along with what some things are that can be shared.
The challenge is found in the second part of the second verse of Psalm 126. “They said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things.’”
Psalm 126 is one of what are called Songs of Ascent. Each of the Psalms - 120 through 134 - is something worshipers recited as they journeyed to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was at the highest point of Judea. Those who approached the city climbed - they ascended - in altitude. Hence the title Songs of Ascent. Those same Psalms were recited when worshipers climbed the steps to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
The purpose of all those Psalms, including Psalm 126, was to make sure the hearts and minds of the worshipers were ready to worship so that when they entered the Temple, nothing would distract them from worship.
Part of the preparation - the part that comes in the first part of Psalm 126 - was the reminder that God provided freedom after a time of captivity. The time referred to was the captivity of God’s people in the ancient kingdom of Babylon. The people had been captives, but after a time, God had made them free.
At the time of freedom, and, at the time of the writing and then the reciting of Psalm 126, there was great joy about what God had done. That is expressed in the first part of verse 2. “Our mouth was filled with laughter, our tongue with singing.”
However, it was not just an inward celebration. Everyone everywhere was told of God’s greatness. Again, they said among the nations - not just the people of God, but everyone, including heathens - the great things the LORD had done.
As mentioned, Psalm 126 was one of the passages recited as people - the people of God - were on their way to Jerusalem and then as they climbed the steps to the Jewish Temple. What a wonderful reminder verse 2 was for them to do as their ancestors did. What a challenge that they, too, tell others about the greatness of God.
I think that same challenge applies to us today. We, too, are, with joy and singing, to say to the nations that the LORD has done great things.
What great things? Of course, the list could go on and on and on, but for this message, I read through the Songs of Ascent before Psalm 126 and picked out one great thing in each. Let’s use these as examples of what we can say to others about God’s greatness.
Psalm 120, verse 1. “In my distress I cry to the LORD, that He may answer me.”
What a promise. The promise that when we cry to the LORD, He will answer us.
Right after that, the Psalm refers to “lying lips” and “deceitful tongues.”
Apparently David, the author of the Psalm, was the target of two misuses of people’s words.
“Deceitful tongues” refers to those who tried to flatter David. Those who pretended to be his friends, their words aimed at getting him to let down his guard so they could take advantage of him.
“Lying lips” refers to false accusations against David. Smears of his character aimed at getting people to work against rather than for or with David.”
I wonder. Have you ever been the target of lying lips or deceitful tongues. Perhaps that has happened to you personally. We know that happens in society against our faith.
How many times have we heard that Christians are biased and intolerant? That happening whenever we stand firm on what the Bible teaches. When we insist that what God says is right.
How many times have we heard Christians described as uppity and arrogant? We of course need to make sure we are neither of those things, but not at the expense of associating with sin.
We are called exclusive because we say Jesus is the only way to Heaven. But that is what the Bible teaches. We are to live pure lives. Sometimes that may look like we are an exclusive bunch of people.
All of that can result in being in distress because of what people say about us.
If that happens, what are we to do? We are cry to God. The promise? The LORD will answer, which is not to say everyone will always say only nice things to us or about us. But the LORD will, when we cry to Him, give us the strength we need to stay true to our faith. That is a great thing the LORD does. That is one thing we can say among the nations, including our own nation.
In Psalm 121 is this in the last part of verse 3 and verse 4. “He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
Who keeps you - and me? God. How careful is God with that? He neither slumbers nor sleeps.
How great is that.
“Slumber” alludes to dozing off, which can happen with sentries who are to be on guard, but sometime through the night cannot keep their eyes open, thereby putting their fellow soldiers at risk. Have you, too, read westerns when the bad guys have a look out at night who falls asleep and the posse gets into camp and arrests everyone?
We might doze off. It can be easy to do. But God does not doze off. He is always alert as He keeps - as He watches over - His people.
“Sleep” refers to what we are supposed to do eight hours each night. It alludes to deep, hopefully restful sleep. Which we need, but not God. He never sleeps.
What a wonderful thought. Whatever we need every hour of every day and whatever we need every hour of every night, He is awake to know about.
Certainly no person can guarantee that. There is no other god worshiped around the world who guarantees that. But God - our God - neither slumbers nor sleeps. That is a very great thing. One of the great things we are to say about Him to the nations.
Again the question. “What do we use our words to do?”
As mentioned, words can be used to criticize. For instance, here are some college class reviews. (When I taught, which was at the junior high school level, I never asked for evaluations. I’m not sure I wanted to know.) But here are come college reviews.
“The textbook was useless except for one thing. I used it to kill roaches in my dorm room.”
“The lectures were great. They were so confusing I forgot who I was, where I was, and what I was doing. It was a great stress reliever.”
“The course was very thorough. What was not covered in class was covered on the final exam.”
“Information was presented like a ruptured fire hose - spraying in all directions, no way to stop it.”
We can use our words to criticize. Or we can use them to say to others that the LORD has done great things. Things such as answering His people when we cry in distress. Things like the fact He neither slumbers nor sleeps. And things like one of the things in Psalm 122. Verse 1. “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’”
Do you sense the greatness represented in that verse. It is the greatness that the LORD allows us to worship Him.
God could be standoffish - so sure of His greatness, so entitled to an arrogance - that He would want nothing to do with us. But that is not the case.
That was already said in the fact He answers us when we cry in distress. It is true as well in the fact that He welcomes our worship, which gives us the opportunity to praise Him and thank Him.
That, by the way, puts our God above every other god worshiped in the world. I am thinking, for instance, of the Islamic Allah. Those who follow the Muslim religion - many of them anyway - seem to think the only way to please their god is to kill anyone who does not believe in their Allah.
That is not the case with our God - the one true God. He wants us to worship Him, doing good things, helpful things, encouraging things.
And there is significance in two other words in the verse. Let us go to the house of the LORD.
Of course we should worship when we are alone, but we are also to gather together to worship.
What a privilege it is to worship God. We are to be glad when we share with the nations that example of the LORD’s greatness.
In Psalm 123 are these words in verses 2 and 3. “As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God till He have mercy on us.”
Remember that servants and maids have as their purpose to do the will of their masters and mistresses. Doing what those in charge want, often communicated with various hand gestures, is the goal of servants and maids.
And there is this. When servants and maids do a good job of pleasing the ones in charge, they can look to the hands of their masters and mistresses to be given what they need to survive.
There should be no question at all what our master - what God - wants us to do. He explains His wants and His wishes and His will throughout the Bible. All we have to do is read the Bible and study it and pray for the wisdom needed to know and obey what He wants.
But listen. Many places the Bible promises that when we know and obey, everything we need will be provided, not only in this life, but in Heaven as well.
How great is God? Very great, including His willingness to instruct us what He wants us to do and His willingness to give us what we need. What a privilege it is say to the nations that God’s greatness extends to Him being our perfect master.
Psalm 124, verse 8. “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made Heaven and earth.”
There are two examples of God’s goodness in that verse.
One is that God made everything everywhere. How powerful He is to have done that.
The other is that God is our help. Earlier in Psalm 124, David has these words. “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side when men rose up against us, they would have swallowed us up alive.”
David goes on with these descriptions. “Like a flood, those against us would have swept us away except for the Lord being on our side. They would have been like a torrent going over us. They would have been like raging water.”
David faced opposition many times, including physically. We might feel under attack now. But like David did, we have help available to us. Our help is from the LORD, who keeps our enemies under control, which is at least a spiritual promise, meaning that even if our enemies kill the body, they cannot kill the spirit.
That is because of the great gift expressed in the first verse of Psalm 125. “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.”
There is a requirement. Did we catch it? The requirement is to trust in the LORD, which includes trusting that He will answer us when we cry, that He neither slumbers nor sleeps, that He invites our worship, that He lets us know what we are supposed to do, that He provides for our needs, and that He is willing to help. It also includes, for us who are Christians, to believe in Jesus as Savior.
The requirement is to trust in the LORD, but what a wonderful reward for trusting in Him. The reward that, spiritually, we will be as strong as a mountain - built on rock and immovable - so that, with God, we will be able to stay true to our faith.
We say and write a lot of words. One more time the question, “What do we use our words to do?”
As mentioned, words can be used to criticize. Here are a couple I heard from Lynna Gene concerning a meeting she hosted here at the church this summer. A meeting advertised as being on parliamentary procedure in running a meeting.
One of the post-meeting comments criticized the program because - wait for it - “there was too much of an emphasis on parliamentary procedure.” Duh.
There was another critical comment about that meeting. “Too much food.” Our women’s group prepared and served the meals and the snacks for that meeting. Too much food? Maybe don’t eat it all? Just a thought.
We do express a lot of things each day. May we who are Christians use our words for a better, higher purpose than criticism. Let’s use our words to say among the nations - to say to anyone and everyone we come across - “The LORD has done great things.” Every day let’s proclaim that God does answer when we cry to Him in distress, that He never slumbers nor sleeps, that He gives us the privilege of worshiping Him, that He tells us how to live and is willing to provide for our needs, that He is willing to help us, that He can keep us strong and steady in our faith.
God is great. He was great in the past. He is great now. He will be great in the future. The LORD has done, is doing, and will do great things. Let’s tell others about Him.
Lord, we say and write so many, many words, and yes, it can be very easy to fall into the habit of using our words to criticize. Indeed, there seems to be a lot to criticize in this world.
However, as Christians, we are called to a better, higher purpose, including using our words to tell others about Your greatness. Including that You answer us when we cry to You, that You never slumber nor sleep, that You give us the privilege of worshiping You, that You tell us how to live, that You are willing to provide for our needs, that You are willing to help us, that You can keep us strong and steady in our faith.
Lord, You are great. Help us to proclaim that to everyone we meet. Amen.