A Homily for Trinity 5
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
July 1, 2018
Text: Psalm 99 – The Glory of God
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
As we have made our way through the Psalter this summer I think we are starting to see a persistent theme throughout the psalms we have looked at. These Psalms are constantly proclaiming the glory and holiness of God. I hope, now that we are about a third of the way through this series that we are starting to get a sense of who God is – He is Holy. As we back away from the Psalms and apply this to all of scripture, all of our life, and all of creation we come to a profound sense that all God does, and not only that but all of creation resonates with His glory and holiness.
This glory and holiness is the design for the whole of creation – that the world would glorify and magnify the Lord, proclaiming boldly His goodness. Humanity was created that we might be images of this glory, and in glorifying the Lord we also delight in Him. Sin, however has tarnished these images and corrupted creation. Though the images of the good still exist underneath our sin and a desire to know God still persists despite the corruption of our will. Sin does distracts us from all of this and makes it hard for us to see. We battle daily for our allegiance, do we glorify the Lord, do we delight in His goodness, or do we delight in our self, desiring to do our will, wanting the glory for ourselves?
David Tripp puts it well in his book “Dangerous Calling,” when he says: we come into worship in the middle of a war that we probably don’t recognize. It is a war for the allegiance, the worship, of our hearts. In ways we don’t understand, we have again and again asked the creation to give us what only the Creator can provide. We have looked horizontally again and again for what can only be found vertically. We have asked people, situations, locations, and experience to be the one thing they will never be: our savior. We have looked to these things to give us life, security, identity, and hope. We have asked these things to heal our broken hearts. We have hoped that these things would make us better people. So a war rages, and we are here as wounded soldiers. It is a glory war, a battle for what glory will rule our hearts and in so doing, control our choices, words, and behaviors.” (I’ve edited this quote slightly, as this book is written to pastors – and so it is addressing them as they think about the congregation, so I changed this to address all of us.)
It is always tempting to place our hope in anything but the Lord. Yet it is the Lord, and the Lord alone that saves, and in that salvation he asks for nothing more, and nothing less than our allegiance, our loyalty, and our lives. We are called to a life of devotion and growing in the Lord.
Psalm 99 reminds us of this – points us back to the incredible, magnificent glory of the Lord. Reminds us of the fact that all of creation was designed to point to this, and how God’s acts throughout the ages glorify Him.
There are two ways in which the Psalm has commonly been approached there is the two fold approach that see the first half of the psalm as proclaiming God’s Holiness enthroned and then in the second half proclaiming God’s Holiness encountered. You will see that this is definitely a part of the Psalm, but there is a second approach, that I think works even better.
One theologian explained this second approach best when he wrote: “the 99th Psalm has three parts, in which the Lord is celebrated as He who is to come, as He who is, and as He who was, and each part is closed with an ascription of his praise: He is holy.”
As we step back, we see that this understanding works very well. We see that three times we proclaim that the Lord is Holy. First in verse 3, again in verse five, and finally in verse 9 we have a longer proclamation saying “for the Lord our God is holy!” Each of these sections, verses one to three, four and five, and six to nine proclaim the perpetual holiness and glory of the Lord that is unchanging from the time that was, in our current time, and in the time that will come.
It is interesting that instead of starting with the past, or even the present, the Psalm starts with what will be. Of course, we know that in heaven God’s glory is still persistently proclaimed, this is a part of why we pray – thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, when we pray the Lord’s prayer – for we long for God’s glory to be rightfully restored in all of earth. What makes this portion of the Psalm a proclamation of what will be is that we know in the end of days, God’s glory will be restored fully, that all nations, and every tongue will confess this.
This vision is that the Lord reigns, the people tremble; The Lord is enthroned, the earth quakes, the Lord is great in Zion, but exalted over all people, all the people praise his great and awesome name.
We see a vison of the greatness of the Lord. We are reminded first that He reigns, although today many fail to see His sovereignty and Him in His right place because of sin, we can have confidence that the Lord is still sovereign over the world. However, we also know in the last day, all things will be made right and His will shall be done on earth and in heaven.
The people will tremble – perhaps the best explanation of this is found not in a commentary or in a collection of Biblical theology – but penned in the words of a children’s book, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis. The main characters are being told about Aslan, who is the king, and is often understood as being an allegory for God. Mr. Beaver, who as you might guess, is a beaver, says:
“Aslan is a lion – THE Lion.”
“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” ….
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver … “who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.”
So often we want a God that we twist into something we can control, a god that is created in our own image and not the other way around. We want a god who is safe, but deep down inside we know a safe God isn’t a good God. But God is good, He, like The Lion is powerful and great. He isn’t safe. But He is good.
God gives us what we need to glorify Him, and not only that but welcomes us into a relationship with Him. God is very good, but I suspect that when we finally meet Him face to face, we too will tremble. Not out of fear, but out of wisdom for His greatness, His Holiness, and even His goodness.
A few weeks ago we talked about Revelation 4 and how God is enthroned in glory, here again we see His throne. Now we see Him over the cherubim. Cherubim are often associated with giving God constant praise, of belonging in the places where God is continually worshiped. We see them dwelling in and guarding the Holy of holies and this practice even carried over into some Christian churches that use statues where they place statues of Cherubim over the altar to remind that people of the profundity of the holy act of communion. The Cherubim are part of the heavenly praise of the Lord, and even hold Him in the imagery used today.
On the last day, when His glory is revealed, I think the only reasonable response is to tremble. To praise, to fall on our knees.
And now we have any interesting reminder – the Lord is great in Zion – he is exalted over all the people. Zion was chosen to be God’s ambassadors on earth – to be a blessing on to all nations. We understand that out of that nation comes the blessing who is the man Jesus Christ. Who came to save all people, to open the door to fellowship with the great king. It is through Christ that we come to know this greatness, and it’s through Christ that every kingdom shall exalt the Lord.
So, the final verse of this first section ends with an invitation – let them praise your great and awesome name. So, let us always be praising God’s great and awesome name. Let us always be looking forward to the day when God’s kingdom comes, and His will is always being done. Let us look forward to the day when our whole lives are acts of praise.
We end with the phrase – He is Holy. We will end with this two more times, and I think, that it will be best to end the entire sermon with a contemplation of what this means.
The middle section reminds us of who God is: He is king, mighty, loves justice, establishes equity, therefore we exalt Him, for the world is His footstool.
Verse 4 is interesting because the first half states what He is, and the second half affirms it. First he loves justice and can perform it because of His good mightiness. Yet, he doesn’t only love justice -- he executes it. This reminds us of what we learned last week about God’s justice – we may yearn for Justice, and we can take confidence that the Lord will provide it. He will provide that perfect blend of justice and mercy that can only come from God. So when we feel wronged we bring it to the Lord, and trust in Him.
Likewise the church is not the church of one type of people who look and think like us, but all people. I have been reading and learning a great deal about missions lately and how the Lord has used the unique cultures of various people to spread His gospel deeper and deeper into the world, the diversity of the church is truly beautiful. We are reminded also of St. Paul’s word who told us that there is not race in the church – but only people in Christ. This doesn’t mean that we are homogenous or blind to the gifts that the diversity of each person brings – but that people from all backgrounds are welcomed in the church and made one when we dwell in Christ, bringing their unique gifts, and cultural perspectives that the Lord would be glorified.
Finally – we are reminded that all the world exalts the Lord because the world is his footstool. We are reminded of the right ordering of creation – that the Lord is Holy over all, but we are also reminded of what the Psalmist says – what is man that you are mindful of him? Even though we are God’s footstool He is mindful of us, we are able to walk with Him.
The Psalmist then turns to the history of the Israelites and shows the faithfulness of God. It is easy to get discouraged in our walk with the Lord, but this habit of remembering God’s faithfulness, God’s goodness, and times of experiencing God’s glory is helpful to encourage us when we grow weary in the race.
We can encourage ourselves in two ways – one is to simply ask what we are thankful for today – what has God done for us today? Making a list of our blessings, the things that might reassure us and reminds us that even if God seems distant and far of – He is not, he is good and holy.
Another way, especially when we are particularly discouraged about something specific is remembering how God was there for us in the past. Perhaps it was His comfort in the darkness of life, perhaps it was the way he provided when you were out of money and had no where to get food. Perhaps it was how he brought a friend into your life in the pit of loneliness. Like the Psalmist does here, we can look back throughout our lives and see God’s faithfulness and be brought into awe of His holiness and faithfulness.
We read church history and are reminded of the history of the Israelites, which was so important to them, because we may face dark times, we may even have to go into a spiritual or literal exile – but we know from the history of the church, and from the history of the Israelites that God is faithful. So, we take heart, and we stay faithful whether the day is filled with Joy or darkness. We take heart in knowing that the Lord works out all things for the good of our soul.
The Psalm today ends with this: “O magnify the Lord our God, and worship him upon his holy hill; * for the Lord our God is holy.” Our lives are to be acts of praises to the Lord – to be poured out In his glory because He is glory, because He is good, and because He is holy.
This Psalm affirms three times that God is Holy – because of what He will do, what He is doing, and what He has done. We are affirming the very nature of God, or as one Bible dictionary put it we are affirming that God is “unique and pure in the sense of superior moral qualities and possessing certain essential divine qualities in contrast with what is human.” In other words, God is higher and more perfect than we could understand or be. His Holiness is this perfection displayed for us.
This week in the Psalm we are reminded of God’s glory and Holiness. How that brings us to worship Him, to see His goodness in our life. We are reminded that there is constantly this tug in our hearts to make anything except for God holy, and to glorify anything except for Him.
Let’s end with a quote from another modern theologian, David Tripp: “The ultimate key to joining together in radical obedience to Christ is found in fostering a humble view of ourselves and a high view of God in the church. [Let us] give ourselves in total abandonment for His great purpose in the world: the declaration of His gospel and the demonstration of His glory to all the peoples of the earth.”
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.