Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Psalm 119:9-16 "Prepare the Way for the Lord...through Meditation

Last week the Cleveland Cavaliers played the Brooklyn Nets in a basketball game.  The game was in the third quarter, the score was close, but no one was watching the game.  Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, entered the building and took their seats courtside.  Every eye was on them.  After the game Lebron James talked about what an honor it was for him to be visited by royalty coming to watch his basketball game. 

Heavenly Royalty visits us, but are our hearts prepared to welcome him?  Jesus came to us at Bethlehem, and he comes to us also tonight, and every time we open this Bible to hear his Word.  See, there is this intimate connection between Jesus and his Word—he is never separated from his Word.  The Bible in fact calls him the Word made flesh, in John chapter 1.  And Jesus said that wherever [even just] two or three gather in his name, there he is with them.  Tonight we gather in his name to soak up the Word he has given, and worship him in prayers and songs inspired by those words.  He is with us.  We are visited by royalty.  We are honored.

We are doubly honored, in fact, because Jesus has not just come to spend time with us; he has actually come to bring us into his kingdom, and make us royalty with him.  “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, because all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ,” Galatians 3:26.  Sons of God, heirs in his kingdom, heavenly royalty, and all because Jesus has come to wrap himself around us now and take us to be with him later!

This is a big deal.  We are honored.

But are you ready to welcome him tonight, and when he comes back in the future?  Psalm 119 voices the question that is on all our minds…How can I be ready, when so much that is in my world and on my mind is not worthy of heavenly royalty?  The temptations of my life are strong, and my flesh is so weak.  God’s answers, which we have considered in this sermon series, are: Meditation, Prayer, and Testing.   Tonight we focus on meditation.

But first, what’s meditation?  Maybe you think of a Buddhist monk.  The dictionary says it means to focus your thoughts on something, ponder, or reflect upon something.  One writer gave a useful illustration of meditation when he pointed out that the Hebrew word for meditate is also used in another context to talk about a lion happily growling to itself while it gnaws on its latest kill.  The lion “meditates” over its kill.  I have another illustration, one that sticks because it is frankly far too silly for me to use.  Meditate sounds like marinate.  Meditate on the Word of God means soak your mind in the Word of God.  Spend enough time soaking up the thoughts of God in his Word, that your thinking and acting actually takes on the flavor of God’s thoughts and actions. 

Sorry about that last one.  Anyway, meditation on the Word of God means that you spend time with it, and you find joy as you savor the thoughts you find there.  Listen for these thoughts in Psalm 119:9-16.

“How can a young man keep his way pure?
                  By living according to your word.

I seek you with all my heart;
                  Do not let me stray from your commands.

I have hidden your word in my heart
                  that I might not sin against you.

Praise be to you, O Lord;
                  teach me your decrees.

With my lips I recount
                  all the laws that come from your mouth.

I rejoice in following  your statutes
                  as one rejoices in great riches.

I meditate on your precepts
                  and consider your ways.

I delight in your decrees;
                  I will not neglect your word.”

Theme:  “Prepare the Way for the Lord by Meditation”
1.     Spend time with it,
2.     Enjoy it.

1.  Spend time with the Word!
How long does it take to marinate a good piece of steak?  How much time does a lion spend gnawing the meat off the bones, and sucking the marrow out of the insides?  We are always in such a hurry with the Word of God!  We skip our morning devotion because we are in a hurry to get to the tasks of the day.  We skip the evening devotion because we are in a hurry to let our brains decompress in front of the TV and then in a hurry to shut our brains off and get to bed.  We devalue time spent thinking, because we quantify our success and worth in terms of how much we have accomplished.  Time spent thinking is ridiculed as time spend with your “Head in the clouds.”  One writer remarked that, though we typically agree that we should spend time quietly listening pondering the Word of God, “We struggle to be Marys in a Martha world.”  Even our Bible reading plans, we get in a hurry, and it becomes more about accomplishing the daily 4 chapter goal and less about truly taking in the meaning!

We need to think about this differently…our effort to accomplish enough tasks probably isn’t as critical as we think.  You notice how sometimes things go badly in spite of your best efforts, and sometimes it goes really well even if you didn’t put forth as much time as you would have liked to.   Maybe what we do isn’t as important as we think, and we should put a higher value on what the psalm says… slow down, enjoy it, “I meditate on your precepts, and consider your ways.”  After all, isn’t Jesus the one who teaches us to slow down and spend quiet time in his Word,  calling us to seek his kingdom first, and everything else will be given to us as well!  He tells us that all the stuff we worry so much about and work so hard at will be just fine, even if we “lose a little time” with him in his Word.  “He who did not spare his own Son, but graciously give him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things!”

Will meditation help us to treat all these earthly concerns like sidelight issues, and focus whole-heartedly on welcoming our visiting King?  Will it really help me keep my heart pure?  Help me keep my serenity through the stressful tasks of my life?  Will it help me be a heavenly person in this sinful world? 

Of course it will!  You know your mind is very adaptable.  You become like the people you surround yourself with.  The things you fill your head with change the way you think, even in ways that you don’t want to change.  Live anywhere long enough and you will pick up the accent of that place.  Watch enough bad TV, and it will change the way you think.  When I worked as a landscaper, I spent a lot of time with people who were not the most sanctified.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but, even though I tried to fight it, the way they talked changed the way I talked.  Now, if evil influences in your life change you negatively, against your will, you know God will have a positive effect on you if you fill your heart and mind with his thoughts and words!  Spend time in the Word, Enjoy it, Meditate, and his thoughts will become your thoughts!  You will pick up his accent.

But what about the fact that we do actually have to accomplish a few things in our lives?  Can we really afford the time to just sit like Mary and enjoy the words of the Savior?  Yes, and it will be a source of joy and strength in all our other work!

2.  Enjoy It!

“I rejoice in following  your statutes
                  as one rejoices in great riches.

I meditate on your precepts
                  and consider your ways.

I delight in your decrees;
                  I will not neglect your word.”

That sounds to me like someone who has just got up from his morning meditation on the Word of God, and is ready now to attack the tasks of the day with joy, purpose, and plenty of God-given strength.  Maybe you have a hard time seeing that as a reality for yourself though.  Perhaps you don’t really enjoy reading.  Maybe reading, contemplating the thoughts of God, and singing the great truths of Scripture doesn’t really excite you, and you have a hard time believing you’re going to get joy and strength for your tasks out of it.

But God didn't give us this psalm because we naturally enjoy reading and meditating so much that we would want to sing about it like this..."I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches!"  No, we have this song because we have been reconciled to God, our crimes against him removed by the blood of Jesus.  We were born lost from our heavenly Father, and have wandered off on our own, far from his loving care.  He wants to reconnect, be close to us, and build a relationship with us.  It isn't how much we enjoy reading at all; it's how much God enjoys being with us, and how he wants to fill us with joy as he spends time with us!

Here's an analogy.  If you could have a cup of coffee with anyone, who would it be?  The Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge?  Lebron James?  You would feel honored. 

Me, I want to spend time with people who show interest in my life.   I know that sounds selfish—but it makes everyone feel good to sit down with someone who listens.  I also like to spend time with people who can lovingly help me think things through and see where I am wrong.  You may think about your spouse, or parents.  You may think about a fun date you went on, when that person was really into you.  That person’s interest in you gives you joy.

Think about what you get when you spend quality time with your Lord Jesus.  Forget the Duke and Duchess, Lebron (aka King James), or the Prince of Persia!  Jesus is a very important person, and he wants to spend time with you!  The Lord of lords!  Divine Word who created of the Universe, Redeemer of mankind, Serpent Slayer, Firstborn from the Dead…his titles are many.  Here is someone who already knows everything about you, his word is a light that lovingly straightens out our way of thinking, he thoroughly enjoys the great things you’ve done (you’ve done them for me, he says!), and he tells you better things about yourself than you ever could (your guilt has been removed by his blood, your debt to God has been cancelled and you are no longer to be considered rebels and criminals against him.  In fact you are sons of God, heavenly royalty, beautifully dressed in Christ’s righteousness, raised up and seated with him in the heavenly realms!).  Marinate your mind in that, and you can’t help but pick yourself up, put on a smile, and sleep well knowing all is well!


Remember the Lion with his kill, and the meat in the marinade?  That’s the way it should be for us with the Word.  But there are a lot of competing voices out there.  I’m thinking Sunday and Wednesday aren’t enough.  Let me encourage us to take up a little memory work again.  It’s like taking the Holy Spirit with you wherever you go, when you carry the powerful verses of Scripture on your mind. I’ve often found it helpful to memorize portions of my sermon text as I prepare the my message, because the Word soaks in so much more deeply, and the Holy Spirit has that much more time to lead me to appreciate and apply the words of our Savior.  Memorize Scripture.  Bring back your Catechisms.  Soak up the Word—Growl over it.  Marinate your mind in God’s truth.  It will do you good, and give you joy.  Prepare for the Lord…through Meditation.”