************ Funeral Sermon on Proverbs 3:5-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 12, 2003
Funeral Sermon for Sally Kampen
February 12, 2003
(Proverbs 3:5-6) Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (6) in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Our verse for this morning has been hanging on the bedroom wall of Fred & Sally Kampen during 47 years of marriage. It was on a plaque that someone gave to them as a wedding present. Every night when they went to bed and every morning when they got up they saw that plaque.
They saw that plaque when they grieved over the death of two infant sons. They saw that plaque when they moved from Artesia to Visalia and helped to start Tulare Community Church. They saw that plaque when Sally had heart and valve problems and was put on all sorts of medication.
Sally saw that plaque when Fred died 15 months ago. Sally saw that plaque when she was diagnosed with cancer and required surgery last April. Sally saw that plaque when she got ready to go out for dinner with Christine Riezebos on Saturday night.
And, Floyd and Pauline and Carol and Jeff saw that plaque when they went into their mother's bedroom a few days ago.
That plaque has been a witness to so many years, so many tragedies, so many prayers. And, through them all it has been a source of hope and strength and comfort and consolation.
More than once Sally talked about that plaque and how much it meant to her. Actually, it isn't the plaque that meant so much but the words that are on it:
(Prov 3:5-6) Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (6) in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
What do these words say to us, the family and friends of Sally Kampen, as soon we lay her body in its final resting place on this earth?
I want you to observe that our text starts off with three commands (trust, lean, acknowledge) and ends with a promise (make straight). Fred and Sally followed the commands and were blessed with the promise.
I The Promise
A What is the promise that we find in our text? Verse 6 states the promise: "he will make your paths straight." The Hebrew term means "to make smooth, straight, right." Obstacles that are in the way are removed. Roads that curve back and forth are straightened out. Valleys are filled. Mountains are made low.
"He will make your paths straight." I think of Israel at the time of the Exodus. The Egyptians are behind them. The Red Sea is in front of them. And the Lord God divided the waters so the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground. That happened again at the Jordan River as the children of Israel entered the Promised Land.
"He will make your paths straight." In the Book of Daniel we read about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They refused to bow before the golden image made by King Nebuchadnezzar. So they were thrown into a blazing hot furnace. But when the king looked, he saw four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out without a burn mark on them, and they didn't even smell of smoke.
"He will make your paths straight." I also think of Daniel who continued to pray to the Lord God Almighty even though there was a command that no man should pray to anyone except to King Darius. As a result, Daniel ended up in a den of hungry lions. But the lions didn't touch him or bother him.
"He will make your paths straight." We can think of the time Paul and Silas are in jail. They have been stripped and beaten and flogged. They are in an inner cell and their feet are fastened in stocks. But instead of feeling sorry for themselves they are praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners are listening to them. And God sent such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison are shaken and all the prison doors fly open and everybody's chains fall off.
"He will make your paths straight." Do you see what God does? He opens a path through the sea and across the river, He stands with His children in a fiery furnace, He shuts the mouths of ravenous lions, He breaks the chains of bondage and opens the doors of captivity.
"He will make your paths straight." Despair gives way to joy. Gloom gives way to hope. Death makes way for life.
"He will make your paths straight." That's the promise of God to you, the family and friends of Sally Kampen, as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death. "He will make your paths straight." That's the promise claimed by Fred and Sally as they faced trials of different kinds during 47 years of marriage.
"He will make your paths straight." Not everyone can claim this promise. Not everyone will experience this blessing. As I mentioned earlier, our text starts off with three commands (trust, lean, acknowledge) and ends with a promise (make straight). Fred and Sally followed the commands and were blessed with the promise. And, if you obey the commands you also will be blessed with the promise.
II Three Commands
A The first command is "Trust in the LORD with all you heart." What does it mean to trust in the Lord? At the root of the Hebrew word for trust is the idea of lying helplessly on the ground. We see animals doing that sometime. I take my dog for a walk and when a big, aggressive dog comes towards her she lies helplessly on the ground, indicating her submission and subservience to a dog that is bigger and stronger. My dog literally puts herself at the mercy of another dog.
We are to put our trust in the LORD. This is the God Who loves us in Jesus Christ. This is the God Who is our Creator. This is the God Who is accomplishing His plan to save His people. This is the God Who holds the whole world in His hands. This is the God Who determines times and dates and life and death.
This God has never given us a reason not to trust Him. He has never let us down. He has never disappointed us. He is unlike every other god. When we compare them to God we quickly realize none of them are worthy of trust:
-It wasn't Allah who loved me enough to send his only son to die for me.
-It wasn't Muhammad who took his cross and stamped "pardon" on my soul to save me from hell.
-It wasn't Buddha or Confucius who divinely inspired the writing of an infallible, inerrant Bible.
-It isn't the Rev. Moon who gives me a peace that passes all understanding.
-It isn't Merrill Lynch or Charles Schwab who provides my every need.
-It isn't some new age crystal that heals my diseases.
-It isn't the stars that give direction and meaning to my life.
It is the LORD Who has done all of this. He has proven time and time again that He can be trusted.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart." Heart here does not mean the organ inside Sally's chest that needed a valve replacement. It means the inner person. It means the center of our intellect and emotion and will and conscience and personality. It means that everything in us and about us is to trust in God. It means total trust. It means we hold back no area of our mind or will or feeling. It means we trust God with every fibre of our being.
Do you trust in the LORD with all your heart? Have you thrown yourself at His feet? Are you helpless before Him? Do you depend on His mercy and His love?
B The second command is "lean not on your own understanding." We see the Hebrew word for "lean" when blind Samson leaned against the huge pillars supporting the Philistine temple (Judges 16:26). We see it again when King Saul leaned upon his spear for support (2 Sam 1:16). It represents the idea of resting one's weight upon something.
"Lean not on your own understanding." We cannot rest our weight upon what we think or feel or dream or imagine. We need to admit we don't know everything, we don't understand everything, and too often we are just plain wrong.
The few times I go to churches outside of the Reformed faith or listen to TV or radio preachers I often hear phrases like, "The Lord told me..." "The Lord said..." Yet very little of what you hear from them is truly of God! I've been in the ministry for 24 years and I have never once heard God say anything to me. This reminds me too much of the prophecy of Jeremiah. Jeremiah had to battle with false prophets who claimed to be speaking from God. These false prophets said God had told them Judah would spend only two years in Babylon (Jer 28). But, these are the same prophets who also said sword and famine will not touch the land (Jer 14). And the people flocked after these false prophets because the prophets said what their itching ears wanted to hear.
The prophets and the people, do you know what they are doing? They lean on their own understanding. They substitute their thoughts and their hopes and their words for the words of God. They want quick and easy answers. They do not realize that getting to know God's voice requires spending much time in the Word and in prayer.
A lot of what God says to us in His Word is simply too wonderful, unbelievable and incredible for us to believe. So our human understanding begins to ask, "How can this be? It is impossible!" Suddenly, our human understanding builds a hedge against God!
We see this with Sarah. God told the elderly Sarah she would have a child and become the mother of many nations. What an incredible, beautiful promise! But Sarah's human understanding quickly rose up and said, "Me, a mother at 90? Why, my womb is dead. My husband is an old man. It is impossible!" She laughed at the thought!
"Lean not on your own understanding." Have you learned to do that? Do you take God at His Word? Do you listen to what He says in His Word? Do you spend much time with Him in secret?
C The third command is "in all your ways acknowledge him." In everything you do, in everywhere you go, in everything you think, in everything you plan, at all times keep on confessing and recognizing God as the Lord of your life. Surrender yourself to Him so His plans becomes your plans, His will your will, and His desires your desires. He wants to rule supreme in your life.
"In all your ways acknowledge him." Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego acknowledged Him and were thrown into the furnace. Daniel acknowledged Him and was thrown into the lions' den. Paul and Silas acknowledged Him and were stripped and beaten and whipped and thrown into prison with stocks on their feet. Stephen acknowledged Him and was stoned to death. Joseph acknowledged Him and spent 2 miserable years in an Egyptian jail. Fred acknowledged Him and Sally said to me more than once he was so pushy about it and she would get embarrassed and would tell Fred to pipe down because she was sure people did not want to listen. But do you know what I saw during the last 15 months? Sally started to be like Fred and she too acknowledged Him and did not worry what people thought.
"In all your ways acknowledge him." Do you acknowledge Him? Have you surrendered to Him completely? Regardless of the cost? Regardless of what people say or think? Regardless of what you yourself might want?
(Proverbs 3:5-6) Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (6) in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.Fred and Sally had these words hanging in their bedroom. Three commands: trust, lean, acknowledge. One promise: make straight. Fred and Sally followed the commands and were blessed with the promise.
Do you, the family and friends of Sally Kampen, follow the commands? If so, then you also are blessed with the promise! How I hope and pray that may truly be the case.
In this time of grief have you thrown yourself completely upon the Lord Who is your Savior? Have you stopped leaning on your own understanding? Do you recognize His presence and control of all situations? If so, then He will smooth out and make straight your paths, removing each and every obstacle along your way.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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