- Do not fret because of evil men, or be envious of those who do wrong;
- for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die
- Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
- Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
- Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
- He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Was going to speak on the whole of verse 4, but as I’ve looked at this and heard what was being said at Transform (the Salt & Light group of churches bible week), I’m going to focus on the first part “Delight yourself in the Lord”.
However, quick look at “and He will give you the desires of your heart”
So what does it mean?
I believe (along with various biblical scholars) that it means that as you delight yourself in the Lord, he will place desires in your heart – when I twigged this, it started to make more sense. Why do I have a desire to be involved with church planting? To worship the Lord and lead His people in worship? To help people do what they were created to do? Why do these desires never seem to go away, even when I’m not able to do them? Perhaps it’s because these aren’t just things I want to do – but that they are desires the Lord has planted in my heart.
If that’s so – then I must have been “delighting myself in the Lord”.
When I was first hit by these verses some 8 or 9 years ago there was something in my Spirit that understood what “delighting myself in the Lord” meant – but I couldn’t describe it, I couldn’t understand it with my mind. However – a few weeks ago at Transform it started to click in to place.
Transform bible week
The topic for the week was “Radical Disciples in a Changing World.”
One of the speakers talked about being in the presence of the Lord and that this came first. It then pushed us on into mission – but going with the Lord. Suddenly it became clear – delighting myself in the Lord was nothing more than being in His presence. Bing! Sermon topic
So how do I describe being in the presence of the Lord and what it does?
I’m going to look at three people in the bible and see what being in the presence of the Lord meant for them and did to/for them
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah was probably a scribe in the royal palace in Jerusalem – a very respectable job. Isaiah doesn’t tell us what he was doing at the time of this vision, but it would be a fair guess to say that he was worshiping The Lord, when The Lord broke in and met with him.
There’s 3 things that happened
- Isaiah had a conviction of sin – his own and his people I am a man of unclean lips and I live among people of unclean lips. Now, he wasn’t obviously a sinful man – not committing adultery, not a thief, not lying or blaspheming, but being in the presence of a holy God brings a realisation of uncleanliness, of sin, and not just his, but the nation of Judah. I would suggest that the only way we – I, you, our friends & neighbours, etc. can recognise that we are sinners is through an encounter with God. We may not actually be worshipping Him at the time, but the conviction of sin only comes at that time – see Saul’s conversion in Acts 9.
- Along with the recognition of sin came cleansing. Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. It was very quick & easy – no long drawn out counselling sessions, no hair shirt or whipping. I’ve heard people say that 5 minutes in the presence of God can sort out more than 5 years of counselling – I’m not putting down counselling because there are times when it’s needed, but sometimes just being in the presence of God sorts sin out just like that.
Many years ago I used to smoke. I’d given up once for about 7 months and then started again. I went away with a group of friends from my church in London and I decided that this would be a good time to try quitting again – the place we were staying didn’t allow smoking indoors and there was a lot of snow and sub-zero temperature outdoors. The first morning, while we were worshipping, God broke in and changed the direction of the weekend. Fortunately, the leaders went with it rather than trying to follow the original agenda. Later that morning I was being prayed for – not about smoking – when I was “slain in the Spirit”. Apparently I was down and being prayed for for over 15 minutes – I don’t remember that. But something happened during that time. I didn’t realise quite how much until later. I’d quit smoking – no withdrawal symptoms or cravings, no nicotine patches (didn’t have them in those days). The following Friday I was down the pub at a leaving do and cigarettes were being passed around. I took one out of habit, got 2 puffs through and though “Yuck!” and stubbed it out. For the next 2 years I couldn’t be near people who smoked or in smoky pubs because I just couldn’t stand the smell. Being in the presence of the Lord for 15 minutes sorted out what no amount of will power on my part could.
- Finally comes a call. Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” This was Isaiah’s call to be a prophet to his nation. We all have a call on our lives to do what we were created to do. I come across people who say they don’t know what their call is – that’s OK. At the time Isaiah didn’t know either – he thought he was going to be a scribe, but The Lord had something else for him. How can we discover what that call is if we don’t spend time in the presence of The Lord – delighting ourselves in Him
The Apostle John Revelation 1:10-11.
On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
John was in exile on Patmos, the Christian church was under great persecution and things were looking bleak (to say the least).
John was spending time with the Lord, worshipping him, studying scripture – something like we do each Sunday – when suddenly, God broke in and John was given a revelation which he later wrote down as this book. It starts with letters of encouragement and correction to 7 churches, but then goes on to show the gloriousness of the kingdom of God.
We have 3 things here
- A message of encouragement. The churches were going through difficult times and these letters showed them that The Lord saw this and was pleased by the way they were handling it. We can get discouraged at times (well I can anyway!) and at those times I need to hear The Lord saying “well done.”
- and correction. There were also areas where they’d got a bit off track and The Lord wanted to correct this because he wanted the absolute best for them. I too need to hear Him say “you can do better, and this is how”
- A message of hope for the future. The Lord spoke to John about what was happening and what was going to happen – even the difficult times, so that we (the church) could be prepared. But the message finishes off with a vision of the end time – where the people of God (that’s us) will dwell in God’s presence forever (I’ll come back to this later).
Moses Exodus 33:11-16
The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Moses was a guy who spoke face to face with God (not many of us can claim to have had that experience – in fact he’s probably the only person in the bible to have done this) see also Numbers 12:8, 14:14, Deuteronomy 5:4 and 34:10
Again 3 things can be seen here
- What’s the point? Even though Moses spoke face to face with God as a friend, he realised that if the presence of the Lord didn’t go with him or the Israelites that he was leading, then what was the point? They’d be no different to the people they were going to displace from the promised land.
- Know where the Lord is leading. A couple of years ago Mary spoke on Joshua “I will give you every place where you set your foot”. This can only be done if we go with the presence of the Lord. But we can’t just go running off willy-nilly and assume that The Lord will go with us – oh no. The Israelites followed a pillar of fire and cloud in the wilderness and when crossing the Jordan and entering the promised land they followed behind the Ark of the Covenant. All this were symbols of the presence of the Lord. If we are to go in the presence of The Lord, we need to know where he is leading.
- Follow. Moses asked God to go with him or he wouldn’t go, but he only went where God led. He spoke face to face with the Lord, which gave him a bit of an advantage over us, but we can hear to, by being in the presence of the Lord, by delighting ourselves in the Lord.
Finally – bookending it all
I’m going out on a bit of a limb here perhaps. To delight yourself in the Lord is the single most important thing we can do. Why? The bible starts with Adam & Eve communing with God in the garden of Eden Genesis 1:8-9 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. “But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
Adam & Eve knew the sound of the Lord walking in the garden – it must have been a regular occurrence. God called out to them – He wanted to be with them, also probably a regular occurrence. Adam & Eve were in the presence of God in the garden of Eden.
Flash forward to Revelation 21:1-3 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
At the end of time, when the Lord comes back, we will spend eternity in his presence
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart”
Note – the mp3 of this sermon will be available at the Lutterworth Community Church website soon. Click on “Media” and then look for Sunday 23rd August