|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||Covenant Love|
|Text||Psalm 106 vv.4-5|
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"Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; That I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance" (Psalm 106, 4-5).
You would have noticed from the reading and from your knowledge of this Psalm that it is a Psalm giving the history of the people of God. We sometimes refer to this and to similar Psalms as being 'historical' Psalms because they deal with the history of the people of God. It is not the only historical Psalm. There are others, notably the one before this - Psalm 105. But I would point out that there is a significant difference between Psalm 105 and Psalm 106 and the difference could be put like this: they both look at history and they both look at God's dealings with His people in the past. However, Psalm 105, you could say, looks at history from an optimistic point of view; it does not charge the people of God with their sin; it does not underline or draw attention to the shortcomings of the people of God in Old Testament times. You could say it has this optimistic approach to the history of the people of God. But when you come to this Psalm 106 you would have noticed at once, from the reading and the singing, that here the sins of the people of God are mentioned. Indeed, they are mentioned verse upon verse, and verse after verse. It is a rehearsal of so many of the sins and wickednesses and apostasies of the people of God in Old Testament times. I would call Psalm 106 a historical Psalm which looks at history from the pessimistic point of view.
Both of these points of view are valid and justified. How can it be so? If you go home and study these Psalms and compare and contrast them the one with the other, I think you will find that Psalm 105 talks about what God does for His own people. Therefore there is, as I say, this optimism and gladness and brightness of spirit. When you come to Psalm 106 it deals not so much with what God has done for the people - although that element is there - but it deals more with what the people themselves have done: their sins and their backslidings. You may ask that as the history of the world and church progresses, are things getting better or worse? That's a very important and worthwhile question, one which would be profitable to discuss and ought to be discussed. Are things getting better in the world or are they getting worse? I do not hesitate to answer that question by saying that both of those things are happening together. The world is getting both better and worse at one and the same time. It's getting better in some ways and worse in other ways. This is reflected in these two Psalms. If anyone should be interested in history, especially church history, it is the people of God. Sadly, very few people learn anything from the past.
Some of you will be aware of a famous quotation from a great German writer whose name was Hegel; he said something well worth repeating. He said that history teaches that history teaches nothing. That is to say that people never learn from history. Governments don't learn from it; leaders don't learn from it; and too often also, churches and church people fail to learn from the mistakes of the past. That is why God has given us these Psalms - to teach us that the history of His dealings with his people is full of lessons. History is replete with important instructions, lessons, guidance, teaching and principles which we can recall and apply to our situation today. We, in our circumstances, should be all too aware of this fact because what happened in 2000AD happened in 1900AD. It was an exact, or an almost exact or very similar, repetition of the same problem. No doubt, when our grandchildren are alive in 70 years time - if the world is spared that long - the same kind of things will be happening again. History teaches that history teaches nothing, because people don't apply the lessons of the past to the needs of the present. That's why these historical Psalms are written.
My text, as I have said, is in verses 4 and 5. There is something absolutely unique about verses 4 and 5 in this Psalm - that's why I take them together as my text. I challenge you to prove me wrong if you wish to do so. I think you will find it is correct to say that verses 4 and 5 speak about the Psalmist himself. Look at it: "Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance" (text). It's all in the first person. He is applying the lessons of history to himself. I think I'm right in saying that nowhere else in this Psalm do we hear the voice of the Psalmist referring to himself exclusively. He refers to the people, he refers to God and he refers to the dealings of God and the sins of the people. Nowhere else, as far as I can recall, does the Psalmist in this Psalm speak of himself. However, here he does: "Remember me, O Lord"; "O visit me" (text). Why is he doing that? For the very reason I've given you, because as he looks back at the dealings of God with his people and the dealings of his people with God, he sees his own profound need of grace, help and mercy to live his life in this world to the glory of God. In other words, he's applying lessons from history to himself and his own personal needs.
This text is a perfect prayer. It well deserves to be memorised and studied and laid to heart. Listen again: "Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; That I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance" (text). Is it not a great prayer? Notice it is full of spirituality. It doesn't ask for anything in this world. He's not praying for food, or drink, or houses, or clothes, or a job, or anything. It's all heavenly, all spiritual; it's all to do with his soul and to do with his spiritual good. "Remember me", he says, "O Lord", in all these ways.
What have you and I to learn from this Psalm - and from the text particularly? The first lesson I would set before you is that there are periods in the experience of God's people when God makes them very sad. This is a sad Psalm. It is sad because of the things which had gone wrong. Let me take one or two examples: "We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly" (v.6); "Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the. Red Sea" (v.7); "They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul" (v.13-15). I could go on, if time permitted, with other quotations to show you that it's a sad Psalm; it reflects very much the mistakes that they had made in the past.
My very dear friends, sometimes God causes His people to live in a sad time - a time when there are many sad things all around them in this world, sad memories of things that have gone wrong in the past. That is part of the way God deals with His people. You and I know the meaning of that, don't we? We have lived in this country to see a transcendental decline from extensive church-going to rapid declension. We have seen this country go down in a nosedive in the last number of years. Those of us with grey hairs can speak of 50 and 60 years ago. The churches of Christ have nosedived also - for the most part, with exceptions. That's tremendously upsetting for those who are spiritual. The Lord's people long to get out of this world because they can hardly bear the thought of the sadness, the change. In 1900, I am told, that of the ministers who came out of the great Free Church of the Victorian Age into the 20th century Free Church, four of them at least, out of 26, committed suicide. That's a great sin, a terrible sin! They shouldn't have done it but they did. I believe and imagine the cause was their great sadness at the changes that came into Scotland; they couldn't believe it. They belonged to a vast church of thousands and thousands of people, with missions in India and Africa, and in many places, and it shrank down to next to nothing before their very eyes. It was too much for their minds. Their minds probably were unhinged by it.
My dearly beloved friends, you and I must seek strength to live in a difficult time. That's what this text is doing. The words of this text are showing us how to live in a dark and evil day, when the clouds are all around us as the people of God. Here it is: "Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people" (text). In the worst of times God is still working, and in the worst of times God is still with those who want Him and love Him. He has not forsaken those who truly seek His face. There's the first lesson: sometimes the Lord causes his people to live in sad and difficult times, times which you would rather not live through. We would rather live in Puritan times when in this country churches were burgeoning with thousands and the roads were black with men that went to church. The same was true in Victorian times in this land. We can't pretend and we can't change the providence of God; we must take such refuge as the Psalmist takes here. What does he do in this sad time? What does he do when he reviews and rehearses in his mind the sins of the past? Does he despair? Does his mind become unhinged? No! He flees to God for grace to live in a dark and evil day. "Remember me, O Lord"; "O visit me with thy salvation"; "that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance" (text).
The second lesson I bring you is this. The Christian longs for tokens of God's love to him or her personally. I've drawn attention to the frequency with which the Psalmist speaks here of himself. Notice how intensely personal this text is. You can read all the other verses of this Psalm and they refer to God and to history, but my text is like a window into the soul of this Psalmist who is writing. "Remember me," he says; "O visit me" (text).
Why should he want God to remember him? Because he had enemies and the people of God in his day had enemies. To be sure, our enemies will never remember us; they'll be only too glad to forget us. That's what the Lord's people suffer in this world. They might have had friends who once walked with them, though when they become enemies they forget you. They don't want to know you any more. They cross the street to avoid you. They treat you as strange. When men forget us we can always turn to God and say, "Remember me, O Lord," (text) - remember me!
This is perfectly illustrated, you recall, in the case of Joseph. Do you remember him? He was unjustly imprisoned and, being inspired of God, he interpreted the dreams for the baker and for the butler in Egypt. These dreams came exactly true: the baker was beheaded after a few days and the butler was restored to his place of honour - pouring out wine for the king, Pharaoh. Do you remember what it said at the end of the chapter where Joseph had interpreted these dreams? "Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him" (Genesis 40, 23) - conveniently of course. He didn't forget him in every sense, but he didn't mention him to the king favourably because it was not in his interest to do so. When people are selfish and self-centred they don't do anything to help you; they forget you. This is what happens to the people of God. You and I must not rely upon men to give us any kind of help at all. We must be content to be sidelined if necessary. If we are doing the will of God we can say as the Psalmist does: "Remember me, O Lord" (text). Wasn't that the word of the thief on the cross - "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom" (Luke 23, 42)? O what a blessing, friends! The Lord remembers those who truly seek Him with all their powers.
The next thing we see here is that the Lord's people yearn for nothing less than an experience of God's covenant and electing love. "Remember me"; how? Well, he says, "Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people" (text). What is that - "the favour that thou bearest unto thy people"? There is a general goodness in God, in which He does good to His enemies as well as to his friends. Christ refers to this. He says the heavenly Father causes his sun to rise on the righteous, yes, and on the wicked. The heavenly Father sends rain, yes, both upon the good and upon the evil. He is kind to the unthankful and to the unholy. That's His general goodness and we should be mightily thankful for it in this country. We live in a wicked country, and yet the general goodness of God fills the stores and fills the shelves of our shops with food which Third World and developing countries have never dreamed of; He has filled our houses with comforts and conveniences which people in many other countries of the world have never imagined. That's the general goodness of God. It is no thanks to us as a society or as a nation!
That, however, is not what the Lord's people will rest in. Though they are thankful for general mercies - that's not what they seek above all. What is it that they are burdened to receive? Well, it's what the Psalmist speaks of: "Remember me, O Lord, with the love that thou bearest unto thy people" (text). That is electing love, it is distinguishing love, it is covenant love: the love which brings redemption, the love which brings us to a state of grace and eventually, through His great mercy, to a state of glory. That is what the Psalmist prays for and he would be content in his prayer with nothing less than a full salvation. Look at it: "Visit me", he says, "with thy salvation" (text). He wanted to go through all those experiences which God gives to his truly elected people. What are these? - effectual calling, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, assurance of faith and eventually, glory. That's what he wanted, nothing less than that, and that's what you want, is it not? You are not content with things although you are grateful for them: houses, cars, furniture, food and money in the bank. We are glad and thankful to God for that, but that's not what we are hungry and thirsty for! We are hungry and thirsty for these spiritual blessings of God whereby we shall be visited with his salvation.
My text is altogether, from start to finish a heavenly prayer, a spiritual prayer, a prayer for the forgiveness of sins and a prayer to be made holy. Because he was studying history he was reflecting on Israel's past history - Israel and Judah - the way they had gone astray; the mistakes they had made; the apostasies; the pride; the idolatry. Oh yes, you can find the modern world in this Psalm: the way they offered their babies even to Molech (that's a dreadful god who demanded the sacrifice of children). They used to take their babies and burn them in the fire to this terrible and atrocious god Molech. It's going on today of course; abortion is doing virtually the same thing: sacrificing our babies to the god of people's selfishness. We have the same mistakes made that were made in these days. We have idolatry, and we have all the sins of this Psalm re-enacted in our society today. You and I are aware of this. Any newspaper you pick up will show and illustrate these very sins. The consequence of knowing all of this should have a spiritual effect upon our very minds; we should say to God as the Psalmist does, "O Lord, in the light of all that I see round about me in this world, O visit me, Lord, with this salvation that thou dost promise. Do not leave me like the world. Do not leave me like these false Christians, these false Israelites. Make me a true child of God. Put thy Spirit in my heart, O Lord. Make me a prayerful man or woman. Make me a prayerful young person. Give me a desire for the things of Jesus Christ." That's what he's praying for - a hungry soul longing for the blessing of God.
Third and lastly, let me say to you: the words of my text surely are a most relevant prayer for Christians today. Let me read these words once more: "Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance" (text).
Why is this a relevant prayer for the people of God today? First, as I mentioned earlier, because we too have lived in a time when evil has begun to abound. We too have lived in the time when, as we look back we see, even in the churches of Christ in our nation, great backsliding, great apostasy and great departures from the teaching of the Word of God. So this is a relevant prayer. "Lord," we say, "we live in a very dangerous society. Iniquity abounds, and the love of many is waxing cold. O Lord, keep me from going to sleep in this dangerous generation. O Lord, keep me from becoming an apostate like so many. Keep me from drifting into carnal-mindedness. Save me, O God, from living for this present dangerous world. Keep my feet from falling and my eyes from tears, O Lord, and remember me." If we don't pray prayers like this, of one kind or another, then there's no hope for us. Thank God, He hears the prayer of the sincere.
I give you another reason why this is relevant. It is because we too are waiting for God to visit us again, as this man was. "Visit me", he says; "visit me with thy salvation" (text). You and I are waiting on God - that's why we come to prayer meetings. We don't come here because, or merely because, we enjoy the company. Of course we do, but that's not the principal motive or intention. We come here because we know that God hears prayer, and our prayer to God is that He will come again as in the days of our fathers, and that He will shake the heavens and the earth, shake the nations, glorify Himself and revive His church upon earth in a marvellous way, bringing to life again His own dear people in this dark and evil world. That's why we need to pray these words, and to make them our own and to adopt the text that I've given you tonight as being suitable for ourselves in the day and age in which we live, that God will come and do great things for us again. Indeed, that's how the very Psalm ends.
This is how it ends. Look at the very end of the Psalm - wonderful words: "Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the Lord" (v. 47-48).
O beloved friends, as I close tonight, how we need God to help us today! O how we need the Lord to comfort us! O how we need the Lord to remember us and to visit us, that we may glory with his inheritance and rejoice with His nation! God grant we might all of us do so.
This sermon has been downloaded from http://www.bible-sermons.org.uk