Songs of Ascent 13. - Apprehending God ~ Psalm 132
Song of Ascents 13. – Apprehending God ~ Psalm 132
Responsive Reading: Hebrews 12.18-29
Hymn #318 – I Need Thee Every Hour
Text: Psalm 132.1-9
Introduction: An ascension of heights above heights is the personal knowledge of God. Is this an idealistic notion or is this a reachable reality? Can God be known? Can He be apprehended? This is the topic which I want to direct our attention this morning: Apprehending God.
I. Possessing Nothing - Afflictions
A. “All his afflictions…” What are afflictions for? They are to rid us of all our possessions. Beginning at the beginning, in the garden, God said to Adam, “See, I have given you every…it shall be for food.” So within man was God and without much in the way of gifts from God. But by sin, God was forced out and things have taken over. Now many things usurp and fight for their place on the throne of the heart. .
B. The human heart is the ever present nature to possess. With a deep and fierce passion it covets all things to itself. At the earliest age of a man’s life, this is illustrated. One of the most used words in the limited vocabulary of a toddler is “Mine”. This one word defines the old man better than all the volumes and volumes of theology. All things are his. All of the gifts of God have taken the place of God. Self looks to possess and gain all things. Profit is the bottom line. Our LORD spoke of this displacement in Matthew 16.24-25. When persons were condemned to be crucified, a part of the sentence was that they should carry the cross on which they were to die to the place of execution. It was an instrument of death. To carry it was burdensome, was disgraceful, was trying to the feelings and was an addition to the punishment. So “to carry the cross” is a figurative expression, denoting that we must endure whatever is burdensome, or is trying, or is considered disgraceful to the self. “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
C. What our LORD was talking about was to become poor, possessing nothing. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Those who possess the kingdom are they who have repudiated and abnegated all things from their heart. They have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. This is what poor means. They are no longer slaves to the tyrannical control of things and possessions. The yoke is broken. Now there is seemingly a contradiction. If they have abnegated all things, how is it do they possess the kingdom of heaven? With the absolute surrender of all things comes the free possession of the kingdom of heaven. This is not merely a teaching, but an absolute for spiritual life. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Let me exhort you to the seriousness of this spiritual principle that must be experiential in your life or you have no life. Listen to this radical statement by Jesus. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot – cannot be My disciple.”
D. Consider Abraham for a moment. No more dramatic and illustrative picture is given than the relationship between Abraham and Isaac. In Isaac were all the promises, covenant, hopes and even the Messiah. Everything hinged on the life of this one promised child. Can you imagine the love Abraham had for Isaac? And God says, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love.” Do you think God knew the depth of feelings and love that Abraham had for Isaac? “Whom you love.” He knows the depth of your feelings as well and just where your love is. “Take him and offer him up.” Can you imagine the deep agony that Abraham experienced? He must have wrestled with God all that night concerning this request to lose everything. How could he kill the son of his lineage? How could he slay the one in whom the promises of God were to be fulfilled? “In Isaac shall your seed be called.” But sometime during the middle of the night with his heart aching he found the solution. He would offer his son as God had commanded him to do and then trust God to raise him from the dead. Hebrews says, he concluded “that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.” But to get to this point he had to lose everything. He was rich in the eyes of the world. He had cattle, sheep, camels and land, but possessed nothing. The sense of possession had left his heart. There was no more “mine”, for he possessed nothing.
E. What does your heart possess? If you possess anything but nothing, let me try to help you. If you have recognized the symptoms of this possession problem and you long for God, first, put away all your defenses and have the LORD as your defender. Don’t look to your own heart that is deceitful, but insist upon the open, truthful and honest relations with the LORD. Secondly, take no careless or casual approach to this matter. This is holy business. If you are drastic enough to whole heartedly desire to possess nothing, then coddle no feelings and insist to be heard by God. Finally, here is the problem with true spirituality; it is not learned by learning facts. You must experience every bit of it. You must live through the dying. There must be an violent expulsion of the old possessive miser, just as Christ expelled the money changers. A.W. Tozer said this concerning such a testing as Abraham, “At that testing place there will be no dozen possible choices for us – just one and an alternative – but our whole future will be conditioned by the choice we make.” The loss of all things places us in a position similar to David, searching for “a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
II. Pursuing God
A. Now, I want to talk to you about something that is foreign to Christendom, this is evident from the popularity of this latest film on the Passion of Christ. True Christianity has a real passion for God. He pursues God. The believer, like David, seeks for a dwelling place for God. This is what David is doing here. “Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house, or go up to the comfort of my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” Now, I have several questions concerning this psalm. First, Did David find this place? Well, we know from Scripture that Solomon built the temple. Also, how do you house “the Mighty God of Jacob?” Does He need a house? And if so, would He need us to build a house for Him? What abode would be suitable for the LORD? These are the same questions God asked as well. Acts 7.46-49
B. What is this abode of God which David speaks of? Is it a building? It is the church of the Living God. It is the building “being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” It is not a building with a roof, floor and four walls. It is a gathering of people, chosen of God from every tongue and tribe on the earth who are “fitted together and grown into a holy temple in the LORD.” It is this habitation of God that John has a vision of. Revelation 21.2-4
C. So David has this urgent matter before him. “I will not go up to the comfort of my bed. I will not go to sleep before this matter is closed.” The success of this whole matter of the abode of God rests heavily on his own soul. Yet this is not a corporate issue for him, but personal. He will not sleep until it is resolved. But you say, “He never built it, Solomon did.” Yes, Solomon built the tabernacle. But did David find an abode for the LORD of which he swore he would not sleep until he had? Ye he did. How is this abode personal? In Ephesians, Paul prays “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” The whole matter with David was personal and should be with us. There is no rest and peace only pain, sorrow, grief, distress, crying and death until Christ takes up this residency in our hearts by faith. It is this holy resolve to take no comfort no rest, no sleep until “I” find that place for the LORD! This is as A.W. Tozer terms it – “The Pursuit of God.”
III. Apprehending God
A. This resolve is not futile. David says, “we heard of it in Ephrathah…” that is to say the city of Bethlehem. This is an important point. You won’t find the abode of God in the big city. What do I mean by this? Everything is in the city. All the work, the opportunities to make something big of yourself, all the entertainment and fancy eating establishments, everything that is desired of this world is on display in the city. That is this Ephrathah or Bethlehem. David says, “We heard of it in Ephrathah…” This is what the world has no problem with – hearing of it. But where did he find it – in the fields of the woods – out in the sticks. That is he found it away from all of what the world is drawn to – the places where the passion and lusts for possessions lie. Out where there is nothing. This is where he found God’s abode.
B. I said David’s resolve is not futile. Christ said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” It is true that we cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws us. That is absolutely clear in verse 44 of this same chapter 6 of John’s gospel. However, we cannot ignore the other part of this statement… “And the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” signifies that there is a coming on our own part. It is here that we see the resolve of David in our text. He is resolved to come. He resolved to seek, to ask and to knock. What do we mean by resolve? We keep using this word resolve. It means pursuing God until you apprehend Him. It means seeking until you find, asking until you get an answer and knocking until the door is opened. It means not sleeping, not going up to your house chamber for comfort. It means not resting, not being content until you get what you want. What do you want? Is it God? Do you want Him fully? Do you want God wholly? Listen to the language of the Psalmist again in verse 8 – “Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place.” Where do you want God to be in the matter of your situation and life, in reserve, a troop to back you up when all else fails? Or do you want God, period. David’s resolve is “there will be no rest for me, until God rests in me.”
C. What is behind David’s whole hearted resolve to find this abode for God? It goes to the heart of believing that God is. To most people God is a conclusion from facts and not a reality. Most are satisfied in their conclusion that “He must be, therefore He is.” To others, well, they have heard of Him. To others He is an ideal – goodness, beauty, truth, a law or life – the creative impulse in the phenomena of existence. The arguments of creationism in and of itself afford nothing to influence men, because in their minds God is nothing more than a theory like evolution. The problem is that they do not know God in personal experience. He is not a reality, but a vague idea of existence. He is not knowable. It is no better for some Christians, who go through life trying to love an ideal of which they have been taught by a creed to pray. Against these cloudy and vague ideals stands the stark, clear truth of Scripture that God can be known in a personal experience.
D. God is a living and present Person who speaks, pleads, loves, works and manifests Himself whenever and wherever His people truly call on Him. Scripture speaks expressively of knowing God; Psalm 34.8, “O taste and see that the LORD is good”; Psalm 45.8, “All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia”; John 10.27 “My sheep hear my voice” and Matthew 5.8 “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Just as we apprehend the physical world, we have organs within our hearts to apprehend God to know Him intimately. Now we do not take for granted that such a heart is given of the Holy Spirit.
E. What we are seeing hear of David is that urgent desire and passion to know God in a habitual and conscious communion which some know very little about. Why is this the case? Unbelief. There is insensibility and numbness toward spiritual things in unbelief. Spiritual realities surround us all, but an embracement of them is the issue. Some lack the communion with the reality of God. Let me explain this statement concerning reality. The validity of what is real does not depend on the observer. That is reality is reality whether it is observed or experienced or not. Some live their lives according to an idealistic notion. The problem is that their ideas are only brain deep, not life deep. If Christianity had been this idealistic notion of ideas for living, then it would have died out a long time ago. In the sermon of Stephen, is a small statement that illustrates the difference. In verse 51, Stephen says, “You always resist the Holy Spirit.” Resisting an ideal is of no immediate concern, but to resist the reality of God is an entirely different matter. It is a personal matter. God can be apprehended. There is a real personal communion to be had. It is this that David speaks of. “Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Your saints shout for joy.” For what, an ideal? There is nothing to shout about in an ideal. But come to the personal, real abiding of Christ in our hearts through faith and that is something to shout about. “Let Your saints shout for joy!”
Conclusion: “You have not come to the mountain, but to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…Our God is a consuming fire…Do no refuse Him.” He is real, able to be apprehended to live within our hearts, personally to be experienced and known. How much do you want to know God? May God quicken every power within us to apprehend God in the fullest of measures.