************ Advent Sermon on Psalm 25:1 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on December 11, 2016

Psalm 25
Psalm 25:1
"Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus"
2016 Advent # 3

"Come, Thou Long-Expected Santa." That's the song of countless children. Check out the children in the cartoon section of the newspaper -- Charlie Brown & friends, Family Circle, Dennis the Menace -- Christmas is all about Santa. Probably that's the song of many of the children here: "Come, Thou Long-Expected Santa." I have to confess that was my song as a boy.
My mom's side of the family would get together for Christmas on December 5: Grandpa and Grandma, aunts and uncles, 35-40 cousins. To be honest, I could hardly wait.
One of the uncles would dress as Saint Nick and come riding up on a white horse. Saint Nick would pull a present from the huge big pile under the tree, read the name, and we all would watch as the wrappings were torn off and the present was revealed. All of us cousins would ooh and ahh about the presents.
One year all my brother and I got was a little note: "Your present is in the basement at home." My parents were very mysterious about it and refused to say what it was. When we finally got home and raced into the basement, there was an electric train set with an engine, caboose, cars, tracks, buildings, crossings, etc. We spent countless hours playing with that train set.
"Come, Thou Long-Expected Santa."

The Children of Israel had a similar song -- one that we will be singing after the sermon on this third Sunday of Advent: "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" (except their name for Him is "Messiah"). Like me and my cousins, they could hardly wait for this day to arrive. Like me and my cousins, this day filled them with excitement and anticipation.

Now, a few words about the structure of Psalm 25 before we dig into its content. The footnote at the bottom of the page in your pew Bibles informs us that Psalm 25 is an acrostic poem. This means the first verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the second verse begins with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and so on. What we have is the A - Z of God as Savior and Lord. Or, to use the Hebrew, what we have is the Alef - Tav (א - ת) of God as Savior and Lord.

As we look at this psalm we see three points: The Psalmist's Need, The Psalmist's Savior, and The Psalmist's Lord.

I The Psalmist's Need
A First, the Psalmist's Need. The heading to the psalm informs us that David is the author. David, the man of God. David, the man after God's heart. David, the shepherd king who is the picture of Jesus the Shepherd King.

Notice how David starts off this psalm with a statement of trust and fath:
(Ps 25:1-2) To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; (2) in you I trust, O my God.

Why does David start off this way? Because his life is not peace and safety and security and health and strength. Here is a reminder of how wrong the health and wealth gospel is. Here is a reminder of how wrong the name it and claim it gospel is. Here is a reminder of how wrong the prosperity gospel is. Just because you follow Jesus does NOT mean life is easy and comfortable. Just because you follow Jesus does NOT mean everything in your life is perfect. David's life tells us that even the best Christian experiences struggles and trials and hardships and problems.

B Look at the specifics of what David mentions. We can highlight four different areas.

First, David is struggling with fear because his life is in danger.
(Ps 25:2) in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.

(Ps 25:19) See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me!
David has enemies who hate him. Enemies who appear to be getting stronger. Enemies who want to destroy him.

David is scared as he thinks about these enemies. He doesn't just dismiss them. He sees them as threats. More than once he couldn't sleep at night. More than once he had nightmares about them. More than once he woke up with a pounding heart. More than once he jumped at a sudden sound. Here is a reminder that normal Christian life in this age means, as the Catechism puts it, that our sworn enemies -- the devil, the world, and our own flesh -- never stop attacking us. So, our prayer, with David, is that we do not go down to defeat but may firmly resist our enemies until we finally win the complete victory.

Second, David is struggling with loneliness. Look at what he writes in verse 16:
(Ps 25:16) Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
We see the same thing in the life of Paul and Jesus. This is what often happens to those who follow the Lord. Friends and family pull away because they are uneasy in your presence and find you and your religion threatening. By the way -- and, I thank God this is not true for me -- some of the loneliest people in America are pastors.

Third, David is struggling with guilt because of sin. If David -- the man after God's own heart -- struggles with sin and guilt, then surely you and I do as well. Listen to what David says:
(Ps 25:7-8) Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD. (8) Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

(Ps 25:11) For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

(Ps 25:18) Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.
He remembers the dumb and foolish and sinful things he did as a young man. He admits his present sin is great. He knows he has sinned against both God and neighbor. He knows his life is not the life of love for God and neighbor required by the Law of God.

Fourth, David is struggling to know and do the will of God. Listen to verses 4 & 5:
(Ps 25:4-5) Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; (5) guide me in your truth and teach me ...
Don't we have the same cry? What is the will of God for me in this situation? What am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to go? How am I supposed to react? Am I supposed to take this new job? Should I be buying this house or business? Can I marry this guy or gal? We want to do the right thing, the godly thing, but so many times it is difficult to know. God does not speak to us directly as He did with Abraham or Moses or Samuel. God does not mysteriously write a message on the wall of our house. God does not send a prophet to give us direction in any and every situation.

David thinks about his fear, loneliness, guilt, and need for direction. And he sums it up in verse 17 with these words:
(Ps 25:17) The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish.
Literally, "troubles my heart enlarged." It is not good news if the doctor says you have an enlarged heart. This means there has been damage to the heart muscle. Similarly, David does not view his enlarged heart as being good news. He is in trouble and he needs help and he knows it.

II The Psalmist's Savior
A In our second point we ask what is David to do in such a situation? Well, what do you do when the doctor says you have an enlarged heart? You get help. You go to a heart doctor. You undergo surgery or are given medication.

In all of his troubles and trials, David went to see a heart doctor.
(Ps 25:1-2) To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; (2) in you I trust, O my God.
Who is David's heart doctor? It is the LORD!

Notice what David does: he lifts up his soul to the Lord. The Hebrew for "lift up" is used to describe the lifting up of Noah's ark by the waters (Gen 7:17) or hands that are lifted up in prayer (Ps 28:2). The word for "soul" refers to the gift of breath God puts within us so we become a living being (cf Gen 2:7). When David lifts up his soul unto the Lord, then, he is directing his inmost being to focus on God. His hope is in the Lord (Ps 25:3,5). His trust is in the Lord (Ps 25:2). His eyes are on the Lord (Ps 25:15).

David's attention and focus is God. Yes, the troubles and trials are still there. Yes, he still is faced with fear, loneliness, guilt, and need for direction. But before the presence of God all his troubles and trials -- to use the expression of Paul -- are light and momentary (2 Cor 4:17). They are outweighed by the weight of God's glory and majesty and grace and mercy.

B What, specifically, does the Lord do? The message on this third Sunday of Advent is that "You are God my Savior" (Ps 25:5). God is the God Who provides deliverance, rescue, salvation. He is the God of salvation. He provides rescue from enemies (see vs 20). He saves from the guilt of sin. He delivers from loneliness. He is the God Who saves us in Jesus Christ. This is the saving God whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
This is David's hope and David's confidence as he lifts his soul to the Lord. That someday the Savior we know as Jesus would come. That someday his sins would be forgiven. That someday his guilt would be removed. That someday his enemies -- who are also God's enemies -- would be defeated.

C Notice, too, why David has this hope: because God "remembers." Three times the word is used in verses 6-7:
(Ps 25:6-7) Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. (7) Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.
God is the God Who remembers. Or, to put it another way, He is the God Who never forgets. He remembers His promise in the Garden of Eden -- what we call the Mother Promise of the Gospel.
(Gen 3:15) "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
He remembers His promise to be gracious to Abraham and Abraham's descendants. He remembers His promise through Isaiah:
(Isa 7:14) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
He remembers His promise that a Suffering Servant, the Lord Jesus, will suffer and die for the sins of the elect. God remembers. God never forgets. So, on this third Sunday of Advent with David we can sing and pray:
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
On this third Sunday of Advent we also lift up our soul to the Lord.

III The Psalmist's Lord
A In my third point I want to emphasize something that so many forget. Almost everyone in our culture knows something about Jesus. They know it is His birth we celebrate at Christmas. They know God so loved the world. They know peace on earth. They know a Savior has been born. But, but, they don't want to serve Him as Lord.

If you lift up your soul to God as Savior you also have to lift up your soul to Him as Lord. I want to tell you this morning you cannot have Jesus as Savior without also having Him as Lord. Remember the message of the angel on Christmas Day?
(Lk 2:11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

Everyone wants to be saved from sin. But not everyone wants to live obediently for Jesus. People want to live life their way rather than God's way. Too many churches have surrendered to the culture's view of abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, alcoholism, and son on.
This past week I was sent an article from the student newspaper of one of our Christian Colleges. The headline says it all: "FIRST GAY COUPLE IN ... COUNTY SHARE TESTIMONY OF FAITH, LOVE AND TIME AT (what follows is the name of the Christian College).
According to the article, the couple identify themselves as "Christian gay men." "God takes precedence in both of our lives." They claim the Holy Spirit came upon them and showed them what to do ...
You might say this is the student newspaper; this is not the college's viewpoint. But there is no way an article like this would be published without the knowledge and permission of the administration.
I repeat: you cannot claim Christ as Savior if you don't also claim Him as Lord.

B What does it mean to claim our saving God as Lord? David tells us:
(Ps 25:4-5) Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; (5) guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

(Ps 25:8-9) Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. (9) He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

If Jesus is your Lord, then you follow His ways. Then you obey Him. Then you don't change His Word, ignore His Word, or look for loopholes in His Word.

As we travel through this life, we walk not by the ways of the world, but by the ways and truth of God as He has revealed in Scripture. The rule of life and godliness believers must follow is the Word of God. The child of God does not live according to His own desires but according to the will of God. As the second stanza of "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" puts it:
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit,
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

This Lordship of Jesus Christ applies to all of life and every area of life:
-what you watch on TV
-what job you take
-whom you marry
-how you spend your money
-what you do for leisure and vacation
-where you live
-how you dress
-whether you read the Bible and pray
-how you vote
-how you raise and educate your kids
-the college you attend

In Senior Bible Study this year we are looking at the book of Judges. Over and over again as we go through this book we see that every man does what is right in his own eyes. But if Jesus is your Savior and Lord, it is not up to you to define what is right. He does. He tells us in His Word.

C This submission to God stems from a humble heart that knows its own sin and the weakness of the flesh. David recognized this about himself. He knew the depth of his sin. We looked at this as we looked at David's guilt.

On this third Sunday of Advent we claim Jesus is Savior AND Lord. But we do this knowing our sin. We do this knowing our weakness and struggles. We know our total dependence upon God. We do not think we are better or more deserving than all others. Because we, too, are sinners who need the grace of God.
(Ps 25:1-2) To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; (2) in you I trust, O my God.

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