Pondering the Great Love of God
Psalm 107 “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in…”
Good evening … thanks for being here … and thanks to the guys for giving me the privilege and opportunity to share with us all tonight … if you wonder how the important decision for who got to preach was made … I showed up late to the meeting … so apparently my qualification is tardiness
Tonight in my brief moments … I want to address a question that may seem elementary … see one of the basic understandings of who God is … is that He is a God of Love … if there is a God, He is Love … so we can start at a place of “easy” agreement … God is a God of Love .. I want us to consider the great unfailing love of God
Psalm 107:43 “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.”
The point is he says unless you have looked at the love of God to the point it makes you puzzle and you see the richness of it … If the love of God has never moved you to ponder it deeply, you don’t understand it.
wisdom isn’t date, it isn’t facts that in a list
Wisdom in the Hebrew worldview is transformed character through encounter with the living God. Therefore, he’s promising something. He’s saying, “If you ponder the love of God, if you puzzle over it, if you consider it sufficiently, rightly, properly, if you consider it deeply, your life will be changed. Your heart will be transformed.” That’s quite an invitation, isn’t it? In fact, the psalm is an invitation to do that. The psalm is a guide to doing it.
So tonight we are going to ponder the Love of God … my prayer is for wisdom … no you don’t really have a choice … my tardiness made it for you
Where do we ponder? What do we ponder? How do we ponder?
Where should we ponder God’s Love?
Where should we ponder God’s Love?
What do I mean? Where does this generally accepted idea that God is Love come from?
Because it isn’t common sense … in fact, I don’t have time tonight to give the “research” … but history would show us that for most of human history approaching god or gods … actually comes not with comfort or affection but with terror and fear … priests, sacrifices, offerings, rituals ...
And it doesn’t come from the world religions … we are often told that every religion is the same and ends up in the same place … but the facts are …
Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Hinduism don’t believe in a personal God
Islam believes in a powerful God, but not a kind one, not a personal one
And not nature … survival of the fittest, the biggest and strongest and fastest win … female praying mantis bites the head off of her mate … the principle of natural selection is that at the high cost of lots of life over lots of time we get advancement …
the idea of a loving comes from right here and only right here … the Word of God reveals it
If you want to consider the Love of God, consider right here
“If you want to ponder the love of God, consider these things.” What are these things? Over and over we read it. His wonderful deeds in history, the deeds of God as they’re revealed in the Bible. The psalmist is saying … He doesn’t say, “Ponder the great love of God by looking at nature. Ponder the love of God by looking at history.” No. What does he say? There is a God who has revealed himself to Abraham and to Moses.
The Psalmist here is going to give us four groups of people … our pastors tonight … read us the four sections … wanderers, prisoners, sick, people on the sea … I’ll get here in a second … but this is essentially all of us … we are these people … this is what I mean that the Bible, God’s revelation is the source, not that everyone who believes it is a student of the bible, just that the idea of it comes through the text of scripture
And even inside the text of scripture, even as a believer the idea that God is Love is hard, that God is
So what am I making a case for? Am I proving the Bible is true? No.
What I’m trying to prove is you need to try the Bible. You need to listen to it taught or go to some other church where it’s taught. You need, though, to ponder the love of God in the Bible, or you’re not going to have an encounter with the God of love.
What should we ponder about God’s Love?
What should we ponder about God’s Love?
So now let’s think about the four groups of people … very different people … and each treated exactly the same
4 Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; - what do they need … a father … a city represented safety, home, protection, stability … animals, marauders … they were homeless and needed a family, they needed a FATHER
10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, - they need a King, a general, a protector,
they didn’t need a sandwich and a dad, they needed someone who could deliver them, fight for them … a KING
17 Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; - these people are sick, wasting away physically, … their lives are ruined, overwork, addiction, choices in life that are ruining themselves … the need a DOCTOR, a healer, a counselor
23 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; … 26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; … this is the perfect storm … this is the 100ft wave … what they need is an omnipotent friend …
Father, King, Counselor, Friend … the full picture of the Love of God … so let’s ponder this
We have a tendency to simplify … we come to God expecting one thing … some expect a God of wrath, some expect a God of love, some think of Him as friend, counselor/comforter … but almost no one w/o intention thinks of Him as all of these things
When considering God in this way
We have to see God as beautifully complex, multifaceted, diamond-like
If you want to encounter God, and not some cartoon one-dimensional version of God … you have to let Him be bigger and broader and deeper and wider … more than you expect … and maybe the hardest part of all … we have to not let any one of these parts … Father, King, Counselor, Friend … be the ultimate picture, the one and only picture of who God is
So How do I do that? this is what you should be asking?
How do we ponder God’s Love?
How do we ponder God’s Love?
Now … almost none of us do this, certainly not naturally … we tend to emphasize one picture, one attribute over the other … None of us keep that all together. If you do, the first thing that’s going to happen is you’ll start to see the impossibility of God’s love. God’s love will never change your life until you see it is impossible. Let me show you what I mean.
The big reason we don’t hold all of these is that it feels impossible, it feels contradictory
The conservative - will tend to see God as King … so we pursue obedience, come in line, live a good life, and He’ll love me … and let’s be honest, that kind of love isn’t impressive, it doesn’t even really deserve worship … be good, get love … no need for thanksgiving, gratitude … I’m getting what He owes me
Liberal/postmodern approach - if there is a God, he loves everyone, accepts everyone, just as they are, just as they define themselves, there is no judgement day … and there is nothing in this to worship or honor … nothing that will lead to thanks or gratitude … it’s easy, there is no cost to it, everyone is in …
See it is in the pondering of the love of God, the complex, multi-faceted love of the true God, revealed in scripture … Father, Counselor, King, Friend … until you are perplexed by the paradox of His character and complexity … you will never be changed by itr
just one example …
Ps 107:10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, 11 for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High... 13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress... 15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 16 For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.
Do you see it, do you hear it … here they are in darkness, shadow, death … inprisoned, behind bars … whose … God himself is the one who bars they are behind, God Himself is the one they have offended, God Himself is the one who delivers
If you read it … they are in bondage because they have broken God’s law, rebelled against His words … and He is the one cuts them out
Do you see it … if God is just liberal, and all sorts of love everyone, accept it all … they would never be in prison … He wouldn’t have consequences … and on the other hand if He is only a King, He would never let them out, no mercy, no grace, no forgiveness …
If he’s only a king he can’t let them out. If he’s only a friend he would never put them in. But he puts them in, and then he cuts through his own bars. You say, “How could that be? That’s impossible. That’s a contradiction.” Yes. Now you’re on the road to a changed life. Until you see the contradiction, until you see the impossibility, you’ll never be amazed at his love.
The only requirement now for the love of God is that you see you can’t possibly get it on your own.
All you need is nothing. If you come with something, you’ll never get it. All you need is need. All you need is nothing.
If you don’t think you’re a Christian, or you don’t know you’re a Christian, or if you’re not a Christian and you know it, this is how you do it.
Consider the great love of God. See the impossibility of his love. See it resolved in Jesus Christ. Let that dawn on you. Find it in the biblical narratives of God’s wonderful deeds through Jesus.
If you’re a Christian tonight and you find you, yourself, are not a person of praise, if you say, “There’s not much joy in my life; I’m not like this psalmist,” go back to the sources. Maybe you have a cartoon God. Maybe you’re not lwho He really is.
Maybe you’re not looking at life and seeing God as a father and a king and a friend and a lover. Maybe you’re missing one of those. Maybe you have a cartoon God.
This week of thanksgiving … can I leave you with a few questions to help you
Ponder the Great Love of God:
- What aspect of God have you missed? - Which of the four are you missing?
- How can you meditate upon it tonight? - Do you know someone who seems to get that part of God?
- Where can this revelation come out? - How can you express this part of his character in your life … generosity? righteousness? mercy? kindness? forgiveness?
Ponder the great love of God. Let’s pray.