Topic: Blessedness Of Obedience And Unity (STS 19 September 2021)
TEXT: Psalms 126 to 133
MEMORY VERSE: “Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee” (Psalm 128:1,2).
The psalms under consideration are songs of praise and worship of the Jews and reflect the diversity of their religious feasts. In them are reminiscences and appreciations of God’s mercies, faithfulness and deliverance from their enemies. As they sing these psalms in worship, they are reminded of the mighty acts of God in redemption, victory in battles and deliverance from captivity. They recall, “When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, the LORD hath done great things for them” (Psalm 126:1,2). Believers must find occasions to remember when, where and how the Lord delivered them. They should seek Him relentlessly for renewal and rededication, and do away with every form of sin in order to attract more of His presence. This will lead to praising Him always for transforming their lives, altering their eternal destiny and giving them full benefits of the finished work of Christ at Calvary.
The chapters under consideration describe the joy of restored Israel (Psalm 126); the necessity of God’s blessing on every undertaking without which no prosperity can be expected (Psalm 127); the blessedness of the man who fears the Lord (Psalm 128); thanksgiving for deliverance and prayer of the meek (Psalms 129 to 131); the triumphs of the Davidic dynasty (Psalm 132); and the benefit of unity among the saints (Psalm 133).
PRAISES OCCASIONED BY FREEDOM FROM SLAVERY (Psalms 126:1-6; 129:1-8; 132:1; 137:1-4; Proverbs 11:11; Jeremiah 43:4-7; John 15:1-7)
Psalm 126 is a song that looks back to the captive Jews’ return to Jerusalem following their long exile in Babylon for seventy years. “When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing…” (Psalm 126:1,2). Prophet Jeremiah had predicted that the captivity would be for seventy years (Jeremiah 25:1-14; 29: 10; Daniel 9:1,2). By divine inducement, Cyrus, king of Persia, proclaimed liberty for God’s people and ensured it was carried out. He issued a decree permitting the exiled Jews to return to their homeland to rebuild the city and temple (Ezra 1 : 1-3). The reason for the decree was “that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled”. Just as their captivity was prophesied, so was their return (Isaiah 1 1: 1 1, 12; 44:28). When the time of their release came, “The LORD… cut asunder the cords of the wicked” (Psalm 129:4). The fulfilment of these prophecies validates the divine authority and inspiration of the Scripture. God is faithful to His word and would move everything that is moveable to fulfil it. Whatever promise He has made, whether to an individual, a group of people, family or nations, will surely come to pass. There are not enough forces on earth, underneath the earth or in heaven to hinder Him from doing His will. Sometimes His promises are delayed, but what is certain is that in the fullness of time, they will be fulfilled. He promised Abraham that he shall have a son through Sarah; though the promise was delayed for more than two decades, it came to pass. Since He has promised us eternal life through Christ and a place in His coming kingdom, we shall surely get there if we believe and hold on to His word (John 10:28,29). “My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption” (Psalm 130:6,7). Irrespective of the position, goal or height a Christian attains, his gaze should remain fixed on heaven. It is probable that the captive Israelites were confronted with the temptation to stay back for want of any convenient settlement and good neighbourliness in Jerusalem, beside the stress of the long journey to the ruined city and danger of enemies on the way. But they trusted the Lord to accomplish His will and were not disappointed. Whatever the temptation they had, it was not the will of God for them to remain in captivity. For the prodigal Jews, nothing could compare with the city where God dwells. Their lament had been: “For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalm 137:3-6). Popularity, position, convenience and fear of the unknown should not make any prodigal child of God remain in captivity to sin and Satan. God promises forgiveness and restoration (Hosea 14:4; Luke 15: 11-24). Freedom from bondage is His will for all people; those who claim it shall find God to be true to His word. Christ has proclaimed liberty for all through the gospel and sacrificed His life to make the experience real in those who repent and believe Him (Luke 4:18; John 3:16).
Sin attracts grievous consequences. For example, Judah and Israel went into captivity because of their continued disobedience to the word of God; though they were the elect, they were not spared the repercussions (Leviticus 26:33; Jeremiah 9:16; 13:24; 18:17; 49:32; Ezekiel 5:10; 22:15). Two, the magnificent temple of Solomon was razed and the golden vessels taken away. The wall of Jerusalem was also destroyed. Three, they were removed from their land and became servants, prisoners and refuges in a strange land. Four, they lost their inheritance — a land flowing with milk and honey — to strangers (2 Kings 17:24). Five, they were forced to imbibe the strange cultures of their captors (Psalm 137:3,4). Six, they suffered the loss of loved ones as they were forced to be separated during the invasion. Truly, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5,6). When the church goes out to sow the seed of the gospel in obedience to the great commission, God will give the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).
PRIORITY OF OBEDIENCE FOR FAMILY FRUITFULNESS AND SATISFACTION (Psalms 127:1-5; 128:1-8; 130:1-8; 132:1-17; 1:1-3; 112:1; Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28)
“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Psalm 127:1). This means, one, that all human efforts are in vain unless they have God’s blessing. This principle is applicable to believers’ efforts to succeed and prosper in life. They need to depend entirely on God knowing that He is the source of every blessing that “…maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22). Two, the fact that children belong to God and are to be regarded as His, we need to commit their spiritual welfare into His hands (Isaiah 54:13). “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalm 127:3). “Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways” (Psalm 128:1). The secret of blessedness is righteousness and faithfulness. The blessedness of those who fear the Lord are seen in their success in life, happy family, the privilege to see children’s children and permission to see the “good of Jerusalem” and “peace upon Israel”. “I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread” (Psalm 132:15). To obey God is to fear Him, which is “the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 1 1 1: I()a; Job 28:28); but to disobey Him is an evidence of lack of fear and reverence. Obedience to God’s word brings honour and dignity, and makes us distinct among our neighbours. “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say: Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me” (Psalm The nation of Israel has been severally afflicted by the enemies with the intention of wearing them out but this has been impossible. Believers suffer one form of persecution or the other at different stages in their Christian lives (2 Timothy 3: 12), but the grace of God has always been sufficient for them. Certain principles of behaviour are expected of every sincere Christian suffering persecution namely, holiness of life, non—retaliation and submission to God. As our perfect Example, Christ endured and blessed and prayed for forgiveness for those who persecuted and crucified Him; we are also commanded to forgive our persecutors. We are to bless those who curse us, rejoice for every opportunity to suffer for Christ’s sake, patiently cleave unto His word and be ever conscious of the eternal weight of glory reserved in heaven for us (2 Corinthians 4:17,18; 1 Peter 1:3,4) “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130:1-4). The writer humbly cries to the Lord for mercy and places his trust in Him. His cry is of one who realises his unworthiness when considering the righteousness and holiness of God. Likewise, every sinner must come to the realisation of their unworthiness and confess, forsake all sins and accept the substitutionary death of Christ in order to receive forgiveness from God (1 John 3:5; 1:9). God places a high premium on obedience. The blessedness of obeying God’s word is unquantifiable both now and in eternity. Specifically, obedience to God’s word of salvation frees the sinner from sin and condemnation. It also aids believers’ continued understanding of His word and gives them inner strength to do His will. Furthermore, it enhances other Christian experiences and secures us abundant life in Christ. As we continue to obey God’s word, we will enjoy divine guidance and protection (Psalms 126:6; 127: 1); divine provision (Psalm 128:2; Philippians 4: 19); rest and fruitfulness (Psalm 128:3; Ezekiel 34: 14); restoration of soul (Psalm 23:3); abundant grace for righteous walk (Proverbs 8:20); present help in times of trouble (Isaiah 43: 2); comfort through His word (John 14:1-3); upliftment and victory over the enemy (Romans 8:37); divine favour and mercy (Psalm 23:5,6); and eternal life with God.
PRIMACY OF ONENESS IN FELLOWSHIP AMONG THE SAINTS (Psalm 133:1-3; 131:1-3; Ephesians 4:3,4,11,12; Romans 14:19)
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). This short psalm gracefully illustrates the nature of true unity that binds believers together as one in Christ. The entire membership of the church must be knit together in unity. This is the prayer of Christ for the Church. “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (John 17:11). First, there can be no good work without hearty force of union; and there can be no such union without believers’ readiness to concede to one another and cooperate. Second, like an exquisite fragrance, unity attracts others. The presence of unity in the church is a constant invitation, though voiceless, yet influential and effective. Finally and perhaps more significantly, is the fact that without the unity which our Lord requires in His people, there will be no divine blessing and communication of the “life for evermore”. Christian unity is an evidence of genuine conversion and sanctification (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32; John 17:21), and the benefits include: one, it enhances our witness to the world (John 13:35); two, it creates an atmosphere of goodness and pleasantness; three, it distils the refreshing dew of heaven (Psalm 133:3); four, it releases the power and authority of heaven (Matthew 18: 18, 19); five, it establishes corporate anointing through the blending of spiritual gifts (Acts 4:33; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7); six, it gains heaven’s endorsement for the body of Christ; and seven, it creates room for the edification and nourishment of believers in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4: 11-14).
Believers’ unity is practically impossible without the experience of sanctification, the second work of grace, whereby the root of sin is removed, all forms of self- seeking attitudes, arrogance and pride are banished and the fruit of the Spirit flourishes (Galatians 5:22,23). However, individual believers should pray, consecrate, and be committed to upholding unity among fellow brethren. In the language of the psalmist, they should profess and possess humility, simplicity and meekness, which are essential ingredients of unity. “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child” (Psalm 131:1,2). In addition, to make for unity, our ministries must be complementary, not contentious (Ephesians 4:3,4). In this regard, every believer must shun criticism, complain, quarrel or contradicting one another. A sanctified heart hates anything that divides the church. A true believer in Christ loves and forgives in obedience to God’s word. He or she recognlses the possibility of offences, but commits to the principle of Christian forgiveness and non-retaliation. Our Christlike obedience and commitrnent to oneness please God and attract His blessings.