Psalm 30 Holy History, Lifted Out of the Depths
The Scripture tells us that Jesus came as a fulfillment to God’s promise to seek and save the lost. Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God and let us know that the Kingdom of God was within us. Luke 17:20-21 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Sadly there have always been those who ignore this verse and think they can create a physical kingdom on the back of the church of God. This has resulted in the church being turned into a social control device rather than the transcending presence it was intended to be.
The folks who first came to settle in America did so for religious reasons. America had become a refuge for those who wanted religious freedom and became a home to the many people that had the chance to improve their lives. This was the source of America’s greatness and goodness. However, we can never take this beginning foundation for granted. We will always live with the danger of extremes. What extremes am I talking about? First, there is the extreme of again making our faith simply a social control device that is a form of civil religion. Secondly, there is the extreme of allowing our faith to be made irrelevant in how people live their lives in this land. Both of these extremes are quite active in America today. In one case Jesus is made a political tool. In the other, he is viewed as an outdated myth.
Psalm 130 is a worship Psalm. It is a psalm that we can use to better understand the challenges we face in our faith in America today. It is a good Psalm for our focus on this 4th of July.
Psalm 30 begins with a statement of praise and gratitude. It is a statement of understanding that it was God who rescued the psalmist from a wound received from his enemy. It is a statement of acknowledgement that God is the one who saved him from the Pit.
The freedom we now enjoy in this country did not come easy. Yes, people came to this country for religious freedom, but a quick perusal of this nation’s early history finds that those groups that came wanted to impose their views of faith on others. The first colony to truly allow religious toleration was Rhode Island. It was founded by Roger Williams, a Baptist. Folks, this is not an egotist nor prejudicial sectarian statement but a verifiable historical fact, religious freedom exists in America because of Baptists. Also, in reality, the fact that America survived first the Revolutionary war and the war of 1812 is in itself a miracle and testimony to the holy history this nation has been allowed to experience. God had a purpose and God lifted this small nation out of the pit. God gave us leaders who lived by faith and believe in a nation, “one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” Yes, God has blessed America and this blessing has allowed us to prevail against our enemies. However, we must never, as Christians and as Baptist ever believe that neither this country, nor any country is the Kingdom of God. Once again I quote the ending 17: 21 not ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” God has blessed America because America has been and again can be a nation in which righteousness is desired by the multitude and many, many people have used the freedom we possess to seek first the Kingdom of God. I have no doubt, though, if Americans continue to move away from using the gift of freedom and liberty to seek and serve the Creator of the universe and continue to instead turn liberty into license, God’s blessing will wane (I believe this has already begun).
What makes this even worse is that the church, the bride of Christ, has followed our culture down this road of carnality and decadence. Freedom of religion is not why people seek to come to this country now. They come seeking material things. They do not come because of our churches but because of our corporations. America is more about money as the message than the faith that founded our freedoms. Is it any wonder our culture has become so corrupt. Yet, if but the faithful, if but the righteous remnant would cry out as the Psalmist does in verse 2, I believe with all my heart a healing, a revival and renewal could still come.
Look at verse 5. This verse reveals a truth we need to hold with all our might. It reminds us of two axioms of our faith. One, our God is a righteous God and we do need fear his anger. Thomas Jefferson, one our America’s founding fathers said: And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.” The last thing on most American’s mind in this day and age is the judgment of God. It should though be on the mind of every true follower of Jesus Christ. It will be brought to the mind of every human being at sometime in their life. It is the duty of the church to be the watchman, the sentry, the lifeguard who calls out to those who have lost the true meaning of freedom and liberty, “You need God’s grace, you need God’s guidance! You need the gift of his Son. You need Jesus. Our country needs people who faithfully follow Jesus and not just “do church”. People need for those who are faithful to tell others about Jesus. Ezekiel 3:17-21 Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself. “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.” Once again look at verse 5. The second axiom found in this verse is our God is a God of grace and love. Our night is not yet through, however if we are faithful we can be assured the morning will come. We are called to bring hope and joy.
In verses 6-7 we find the folly of the fallen. The folly of thinking we are beyond reproach, the folly of carnal confidence. This is a contagious cancer. It spreads by virtue of our sin nature. It causes us to take God for granted. It leads us to focus on a fantasy-filled future rather than seeking to find a focused, foundational faith. In verses 8-10 we find that the Psalmist understands the reason he got into the mess he or she was in is because they had taken God’s blessing for granted. They had forgotten the conditions of the covenant. They forgot what God expected, just as many people today (both those who are lost and those who are saved) have done. What does God require and what does God expect: Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” These requirements have been trampled on in too many lives because of arrogance, ignorance or both. We need mercy.
Verse nine is filled with rhetorical questions and certain consequence of ignoring what God has spoken through his word. God does not want our destruction. God does not want us in the pit. God does not like seeing us in the dust.
(A little boy asked his mother, “Did God really make Adam out of the dust? She replied, “Yes he did, why do you ask?” “It looks like he is going to make a whole bunch of Adams under my bed!”)
God does not put us in these situations, we put ourselves in them. But there is a way out. As the psalmist knows, our God is a merciful God.
This is why Jesus came. Jesus came to lift us up. Again there is a song we sing (Love lifted Me). Jesus tell us: John 12:32 “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He tells us: John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Look at verses 11 and 12. Here is the answer. Here is the path to follow. This is where true freedom and liberty is found. This is the way back, through God’s mercy. Seek first the Kingdom of God and the blessing that made this country great, that gives us unfailing hope, that provides purpose, courage and strength for times such as these. I believe God wants to bless America again and again and again. Not because it is a Christian nation, but because it can again have true seekers who will turn to the One in whom true freedom is found, Jesus Christ our Lord.