Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
3 December 2017
Sermon Text: Psalm 80:1-7; 17-19
Advent 1

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[ sketch notes ]

Intro – Advent – Lectionary

Historical Context of Psalm / Bridge from Jonah — Nineveh/Assyrians were raised up as a weapon to punish Israel because

They have made me jealous with what is no god;
    they have provoked me to anger with their idols.
So I will make them jealous with those who are no people;
    I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” (Deuteronomy 32:21)

Stand for reading of the Word of God:

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
    Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
stir up your might
    and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!
O Lord God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
    and our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!
But let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
    the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
Then we shall not turn back from you;
    give us life, and we will call upon your name!
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts!
    Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

May God add his blessings to the reading, preaching, and hearing of his word.

Darkness

The psalm opens with a series of imperatives. The psalmist actually commands God to take action and do something for him and his people. He speaks openly and honestly on behalf of the whole community, yet not irreverently or foolishly.

Listen, we are in trouble here. Real trouble. Deep trouble. You are angry with our prayers. You reject our worship. You have sent us on a reverse exodus, out of the promise land into exile. The world is upside down. Instead of manna from heaven and water from the rock, you make us eat the bread of tears and you make us wash it down with a triple shot of tears. You have made us an object of scorn and our enemies scoff at us. All of that to say, we are in deep distress and darkness.

We can relate to them in some ways.

We are reluctant to express our concerns, laments, and troubles publicly for fear of sounding like we are grumbling or complaining. I get that that and appreciate it. But this has been a tough year for some of us. It has been a tough few years for many of us. It has been a tough week for a few of us. The straw that broke the pastor’s heart was the death of a new friend last weekend — the day after Thanksgiving.

That broke my heart and I’ve been upset and crying about that — and many other things — all week.

This morning I pulled out my phone and checked facebook and I was sorta jolted by a fb post by Tim Keller.

“Us questioning how God runs the world is like a 7 year old questioning the mathematical calculations of a world-class physicist.”

Now that might be true, but I still have a question or two. And so do you.

Where is God? Why is this happening? When will things change?

Like the psalmist we want to know how long, O Lord?

As I reflect on who we are and what we are going through it tastes like eating the bread of tears and drinking mugs of tears.

Your parents are getting older, their glory is fading, their bodies are broken, their memory is jumbled. You have buried loved ones this year.

Your children are struggling to find a place to fit in, to get traction in life, to make sense of life.

Your jobs are hanging by a thread. There’s too much month at the end of the money. You’re overqualified and underpaid.

Your friends come close and go far way. New members show up, get involved, and move on.

You have suffered various health problems physically and emotionally. Anxiety and depression, stiff joints and tight backs, sleepless nights and tearful mornings.

Your growth as a congregation is painfully slow despite your best desires and efforts. We gain one and lose three.

Your life is dangling by a thread. Your community is decaying. Your nation is tearing itself apart. Your world is on the brink of war.

You are haunted and hounded by sins, the flesh, and the devil in your life and the lives of others.

You feel stuck in the darkness. Trapped under the cloud. Alone in the night. Choking down the bread of tears. Drowning in a triple shot of tears.

Just like the psalmist.

Some of us respond to these things meekly like Toby Flenderson from The Office: “Why you always gotta be so mean to me?”

Others respond more defiantly like Lieutenant Dan (Forest Gump’s friend). “Where is this god of yours? You’ll never sink this boat! You call this a storm? It’s time for a show down — you and me!” If you survive you’ll be left tangled and hanging in the rigging.

Transition / Turning Point

In the midst of his own darkness and despair the psalmist cries out,

Restore us, O God; O God of hosts; O Lord God of hostslet your face shine, that we may be saved!

The word restore actually means “make us return.” We have drifted away into darkness, make us come back into the light.

The cry goes out three times. Notice how it intensifies each time. O God; O God of hosts; O Lord God of hosts

This is an echo of the priestly prayer — the Aaronic blessing through which God put his name on his people. The same benediction we receive every week.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them. (Numbers 6)

The point here is that the psalmist senses that something is terribly wrong.

Is the Lord cursing his people and letting them go; Is he cloaking his face and stirring up wrath? Is he looking away and giving them fits? Is he taking his name away from his people and forsaking them?

Trip to DC and the Holocaust Museum in DC / Elie Wiesel — Night

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp,
that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.
Never.”

Elie Wiesel’s perspective is fine as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough. There is something missing here that the psalmist supplies.

Like Wiesel, we are prone to focus on the tragedy and sorrow and darkness of life. But there is more than darkness at work in the world.

The psalmist is a realist. He knows there is cause for doubt, fear, and worry.

But he not just a realist. He is a hopeful realist.

So, out of his alarm and anxiety the psalmist adds this to his many requests: Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see. (vs. 14)

Notice how he shifts from listen to us to look at us, from open your ear to open your eyes.

Make us return to you and return yourself to us. Draw near to us as we draw near to you.

This prayer strikes at the heart of the psalm.

Light

Confession — all week long I was stuck on the first part of the psalm. I could see the darkness of night, but not the light of day.

Just this morning I was sitting in the back yard staring out into the trees, weighed down with sorrows and wondering why so many strange and weird things have happened to us over the past few years, months, weeks, and days.

The wind blew and the sun rose through the trees. As the sunlight broke through the trees and that’s when I turned and saw the rest of the psalm. Verse 17-19

But let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
    the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
Then we shall not turn back from you;
    give us life, and we will call upon your name!
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts!
    Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Who is the Son of Man? In light of the prophets (Ezekiel and Daniel),

Ezekiel the prophet says (according to Bruce Vawter) that “The Son of Man is an exemplar of obedience to the divine will in the midst of a house of rebellion (2: 8). He is filled with the word of God (3: 1-4). He has a predilection for symbolic acts, signs, and is himself a sign for Israel (24: 24). He is identified with the people of God, figuring their destiny in himself (4: 4-15; 12: 1-7, 17-20; 24: 15-24). He is known as a speaker of parables (20: 49). He is the judge of Israel (20: 4ff.; 22: lff.); moreover, he effects judgment by his words and works, a judgment which can be said to be coming and yet is here (21: 12). He knows that there are those who cannot hear his word (3: 27); he is spiritually stirred, distraught, he groans, his soul is troubled (3: 14f.; 21: 11). He stands in the presence of God whence he is sent to reveal the glory of Yahweh; the burden and refrain of his prophecy is “that you may know I Am.” He offers mercy and forgiveness to Israel and resurrection to its dead bones through the spirit of God (37: 14). He denounces the profanation of the temple, but looks forward to a covenant of peace when his divine dwelling will be among his people forever (37: 26). He points to the true shepherd of the sheep of Israel.”       [Bruce Vawter, “Ezekiel and John,” CBQ 26, no. 4 (1964): 450– 58 (452– 53). quoted in Peterson, Brian Neil. John’s Use of Ezekiel: Understanding the Unique Perspective of the Fourth Gospel (Kindle Locations 1249-1250). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.]

Daniel the prophet says,

He is the one who rides on

the clouds of heaven
    and he came to the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed.

Who is the Son of Man? In light of the psalm, the Son of Man is the true and better Abel who was slaughtered by the hands of his brother. The shepherd of Israel. (vs 1)

He is the true and better Joseph who descended into the pit and rose up to the throne as the savior of his people. (vs 1)

He is the true and better Moses who gives us the bread of life and springs of living water. (vs 5)

[ He is the true and better Joshua who leads his people to victory over the sin. the flesh, and the devil. (vss 8-9) ]

He is the true and better David who sits at the right hand of God as a man after God’s own heart. (vs 17)

Who is the Son of Man? In light of the gospel (Mark), the Son of Man is Jesus Christ, the God-man, the word made flesh for the life of the world.

He is the one who has authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10), he is the Lord of Sabbath-rest who shows mercy to to the twisted and broken of this world (Mark 2:28),

He is the one who was delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and condemned to death;

He was delivered over to the Gentiles,

and suffered under Pontius Pilate,
and was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into death;
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead(Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33)

For the Son of Man came to serve, not to be served, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

The Son of Man will come in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect (chosen people) from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. (Mark 13:26-27)

All that to say, in the person and work of the Son of Man, God enters our story. God enters our darkness and brings light, God enters our sorrows and brings joy, God enters our grief and brings comfort, God enters our death and brings life, God enters our despair and brings hope.

When the Son of Man comes (again) we will be saved. God will restore us and make us return.

When the Lord Jesus Christ comes to our hearts and to our lives, we will never leave God or forsake him and we always call on his name because the Son of Man gives us eternal life.

Jesus Christ is the divine response to our human request. Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

As it is written, For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:5)

pastoral prayer

Lighten our darkness, we ask you, O Lord; and by your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of the world, the flesh, and the devil; grant us the grace to turn back to you again as often as we turn away, wipe away our tears, mend our broken hearts, bind up our wounds, for the love of your only Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Communion Meditation — Psalm 80:5; 1 Cor. 10:14-17

You have tasted the salty bread and cup of tears. Now receive the sweet bread and cup of Christ. Exchange your sorrows for his joys, your tears for his laughter, your anxieties for his peace, your labors for his rest. The bread and cup of Christ is fresh and sweet not bitter and stale. The Lord’s Supper is comfort food and drink for your body and soul. In the Supper Christ offers you himself. The Son of Man gives you his body and his blood that you may have life.

My beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.