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He Remembers His Covenant

Series: Psalms Book 4

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Nov 16, 2008

Psalm 105:1-45

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I'd invite you to turn with me to Psalm 105 as we continue our way through the Fourth Book of the Psalms. This psalm is another in a train of psalms of praise. It's a long psalm, but it's outlined fairly simply. The first six verses contain a call to praise God for His wondrous works for His chosen people, and nine different verbs will be used to exhort us to worship God, will instruct us what it means to worship God in those first six verses.

The second part of the psalm is found in verses 7-11, and in a sense this is the center point of the psalm, because in those verses the promise of God to Abraham, the covenant that God made with Abraham, is central; and everything else in the psalm is in fulfillment of that promise that God made to Abraham.

The third part of the psalm is found in verses 12-17, where God's protection of Israel before Israel was even a nation is recounted. In verses 16-22, the fourth part of the pPsalm records how God rescued Israel in a time of famine through Joseph. Even through what seemed to be horrible circumstances in Joseph's life, God was guiding every step of the way in order to preserve and rescue His people. The fifth part of the psalm is the longest part of the Psalm, and it's found in verses 23 -38, and it records the story of God's delivering of Israel from bondage in Egypt. In verses 39-42, the sixth part of the psalm records the provision of God for the children of Israel as they are wandering in the wilderness.

Now as you look at this psalm, let me ask you to look at verse 8. I want to walk through the psalm. If you look at the psalm, one of the things that comes out is that all the emphasis is on what God does. Over and over, the emphasis is on what God does. And what is emphasized by doing that? One, it emphasizes that it's God who saves, and that salvation is by grace. It's not by what we do: it's what God does that saves us. Look at how this is emphasized. Verse 8 — “He remembers”; verse 9 — “He made the covenant with Abraham”; verse 10 — “He confirmed it to Jacob as a statute”; verse 14 — “He allowed no one to oppress them”; verse 14 - “He rebuked kings on their account”; verse 16 — “He summoned a famine on the land”; verse 25 — “He turned their hearts to hate His people…” [So He's in control even of the Egyptians in their hating of the children of Israel]; verse 26 — “He sent Moses”; verse 28 — “He sent darkness”; verse 29 — “He turned the waters into blood”; verse 31 — “He spoke and there came flies and gnats”; verse 32 — “He gave hail”; verse 33 — “He struck down their vines”; verse 34 — “He spoke and the locusts came”; verse 36 — “He struck down all the firstborn”; verse 37 — “He brought out Israel”; verse 39 — “He spread a cloud”; verse 41 — “He opened the rock”; verse 42 — “He remembered His holy promise.”

Now we're all the way back to the original promise as it's recorded in verses 7-11. I've not even exhausted all the things that are said in this psalm that the Lord has done. You go back and study it yourself this afternoon. Why is ‘He did this, He did that, He did the other’repeated so many times in this psalm? To stress that it's God who saves.

Now the seventh and final part of the psalm you’ll find in verses 43-45, and interestingly there we are told that God settles His children in the Promised Land, and he tells us what the purpose for doing that was. What was the purpose for God saving His people? It's recorded in verse 45.

Now before we read this Psalm together, let's look to God in prayer and ask for His help and blessing.

Our heavenly Father, we thank You for Your word. We ask that You would bless its reading, and its explanation, and its application to our spiritual nourishment. Lord, help us to understand it. Help us to understand what it means, and help us to understand what it means for us. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Hear the word of God from Psalm 105:

“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Tell of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that He has done,
His miracles, and the judgments He uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, His servant,
Children of Jacob, His chosen ones!
“He is the Lord our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers His covenant forever,
The word that He commanded, for a thousand generations,
The covenant that that He made with Abraham,
His sworn promise to Isaac, which He confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
Saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan
As your portion for an inheritance.’
“When they were few in number,
Of little account, and sojourners in it
Wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people,
He allowed no one to oppress them;
He rebuked kings on their account, saying,
‘Touch not My anointed ones,
Do My prophets no harm!’
“When He summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread,
He had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters;
His neck was put in a collar of iron;
Until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.
The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free;
He made him lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions,
To bind his princes at his pleasure
And to teach his elders wisdom.
“Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
And the Lord made His people very fruitful
And made them stronger than their foes.
He turned their hearts to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants.
“He sent Moses, His servant,
And Aaron, whom He had chosen.
They performed His signs among them and miracles in the land of Ham.
He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
They did not rebel against His words.
He turned their waters into blood and caused their fish to die.
Their land swarmed with frogs, even in the chambers of their kings.
He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
And gnats throughout their country.
He gave them hail for rain,
And fiery lightning bolts through their land.
He struck down their vines and fig trees,
And shattered the trees of their country.
He spoke, and the locusts came, young locusts without number,
Which devoured all the vegetation in their land
And ate up the fruit of their ground.
He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
The firstfruits of all their strength.
“Then He brought out Israel with silver and gold,
And there was none among His tribes who stumbled.
Egypt was glad when they departed,
For dread of them had fallen upon it.
“He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night.
They asked, and He brought quail,
And gave them bread from heaven in abundance.
He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
It flowed through the desert like a river.
For He remembered His holy promise, and Abraham, His servant.
“So He brought His people out with joy, His chosen ones with singing.
And He gave them the lands of the nations,
And they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil,
That they might keep His statutes and observe His laws.
Praise the Lord!”

Amen. And thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.

Have you ever paused to ask yourself what it is that you do? I mean, you might have been in your profession for a long time. You might have been an attorney. What is it exactly that I do? Do I read contracts and mediate disputations, and sue people or defend people against suits? Or fundamentally is what I do try to bring about a civil and acceptable-to-all-parties compromise in difficult civil and criminal situations?

I don't know what your answer to that question is. Maybe you moms are asking these questions…you know, what is it that I'm doing? What do I do as a mom, as I'm changing these diapers? As I'm driving people to school or to soccer, or to piano practice? What, as a mom, am I doing? What is it that I do? Maybe your answer as you reflect on that is ultimately — in the midst of all the diapers and all the carpools and all the parties — I'm shaping a soul that will never die.

You know the legendary Vince Lombardi was famous for every time summer practice started picking up a football and showing it to his players and saying, “This is a football”–the point being that he wanted them to think about what it is that they were doing in the game. What is the whole point of this game? How is it played? What is it that we're supposed to do?

Asking yourself “What do I do?” can actually be a very fruitful exercise. You could have been in your profession for a long time, and you can lose the forest for the trees. You can get caught up in the rote details of day to day life and fail to see the big picture of what it is that you’re doing.

Well, this psalm points you to the big picture of what you’re doing in worship, what we do in baptism, and what we're doing in life. And it's good to think about all three of those things — what we're doing in worship, what we do in baptism, and what we do in life. It's a good question to ask. What do I do? What am I doing when I come to worship? Specifically, how is it that I worship God? And this psalm answers very, very particularly.

I. What is it that I do when I worship God?

If you look at verses 1-6, it will give you nine answers to the question, “What is it that I do when I worship God? How is it specifically that I worship God?” And you’ll see those answers in these verbs.

The first one is give thanks to the Lord. That's one way we worship God specifically. We give thanks to Him. We have hearts of gratitude.

Some of you have lost, in the last few weeks and months, and maybe over the last year or so, enormous amounts of money. I was taking a long drive with a dear friend the other day, and he told me about a friend who had lost more money this year in his business than he had made in his entire life in that business up until this year. I have another friend who has literally lost millions of dollars; on the other hand, from that end, all the way down to other friends who have lost their jobs. And it would be very easy, wouldn't it, in this kind of a situation — where we are in our country and in our economy — to grumble and complain just like the children of Israel. Remember the children of Israel in the wilderness? ‘Oh, that we could just go back to Egypt and eat like we used to eat, instead of being stuck out here in the wilderness with this bland, yucky old ‘same old-same old’ everyday bread. We could be eating all sorts of good stuff if we were back in Egypt. We’d have meat with our meals if we were back in Egypt!’ Well, we could be doing that today. A lot of us could be saying, ‘Oh, for the days of the crash of 1987! Give it to me, Lord!’ Or, ‘Oh, for that old job that I used to complain about every day that I hated…at least I had a job.’ It would be very easy to do that, wouldn't it?

But this Psalm says one of the ways we worship God is with hearts of gratitude, and, my friends, we have an extraordinary opportunity to represent to God thanks and a heart of gratitude in a time where that thanks really costs us something. We want to be able to worship the Lord when it costs us something. Well, it costs you something to be grateful right now, to be thankful right now, especially if you've lost a lot — and most of us here have lost a lot in the last few weeks and months, and there's no telling what's ahead. There is one specific way that you worship the Lord: you worship the Lord with gratitude, as opposed to complaint and grumbling.

Another word for worshiping the Lord in verses 1-6 is to call upon His name. Now the ladies who are studying the book of Judges will know that the language call upon the name of the Lord is Old Testament code language for public worship. The Old Testament will use the phrase to call upon the name of the Lord as code language for the people of God gathering together to worship Him. So one of the ways that you worship God is that you want to gather and worship with His people.

A few months ago in the Inquirers Class we had one of our elders come and give his testimony. I won't embarrass him by identifying him by name right now, but he told a fascinating story. When he was being shipped off by the United States across the Pacific to fight the War, he said that the worship services on the ship were packed. But coming back from the war to the United States, the worship services were empty–which said to him that there were a lot of people that were in those services just because they were afraid that they were going to get killed, and once the fear of getting killed was gone, well, they weren't interested in gathering with the people of God for worship. The psalmist is saying one mark of true worship is you really want to be with the people of God, and you really want to be worshiping. That's how you worship. You worship by gathering publicly with the people of God, and you want to do that.

Thirdly, he says here's another way you worship: make known His deeds among the people. Now that's again a very common phrase in the Psalms, isn't it? Making known His deeds among the nations is one of the ways that God's covenant with Abraham was fulfilled.

Do you remember God told Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 that he was blessed in order to be a blessing to all nations? And one of the ways that he was going to be a blessing to all nations is he was going to bring to their attention the wondrous deeds of the Lord, and so the Psalms — all of them — are filled with this kind of language. Think of Psalm 67.

Making the glorious deeds, the miraculous deeds, the wondrous deeds of God known to the nations is one of the ways that God is glorified and the nations are brought to God. So for us that means, in our making known God's deeds among the nations, we're involved in witness and in mission. Have you ever thought of that? When you are involved in the propagation of the gospel, when you’re sharing the gospel with a friend, when you are supporting a missionary, praying for a missionary, or going to the mission field yourself, you are worshiping God. The act of missions is an act of worship. The act of sharing the gospel is an act of worship. When you are sharing the gospel with someone at work or in your neighborhood, you’re worshiping God by doing — what? Telling of His marvelous deeds. What greater deed has there ever been than the deed of God sending His own Son to die on our behalf? And so when you are telling that story, you are declaring His glory among the nations. You’re worshiping God.

A fourth way to worship God that's mentioned in verses 1-6 is to sing — to sing to Him, to sing praises to Him. It doesn't matter whether you can't sing —sing! One of the greatest benefits that I ever had in my life was sitting next to my dad in worship (or standing next to my dad in worship) and listening to him sing. He could not carry a tune in a bucket! He had a wonderful, resonant voice, and it was a good speaking voice. But somewhere along the line a music teacher told him he was monotone, and so he never ever worked on his singing, and he could not match a pitch to save his life. You could have held a gun to his head and said, “Match pitch!” and he would have been lost. But he sang anyway. And for a Marine and a successful businessman who was an elder in the church who could not sing worth a lick to do his dead-level best to sing was a great testimony to me.

I love the — what is it, the second stanza? — of the hymn that we sing, Come, We that Love the Lord. It's hymn No. 700 in your Trinity Hymnal. The second line says, “Let those refuse to sing who never knew our God.” Those who know God will want to sing to Him. That's one of the ways that we worship. Why? Because singing brings together truth and our hearts. It brings together truth and experience. It allows us to express ourselves emotionally and to give the whole of ourselves — mind, will, and affection — to God.

Think of it. There are so many things in your life that are associated with music. When you hear “daaa-da-da-da-daaa-da” you flash back, and you’re thinking of high school or college graduation. You’re hearing Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance playing over and over and over again as all 13,000 people graduate and the thing just keeps droning on! But the music has an association in your heart, and immediately all sorts of things come back. Well, that's how music works. It connects truth with your heart, and it deeply impresses it upon you. And, you give the whole of yourself to God when you use it to worship Him.

Then there's the next word, the fifth word for worship: Tell of His wondrous works…speak of all His wonders. In other words, talk about the Lord! Talk about His wonders. Talk about how amazing He is! Talk about how amazing the gospel is.

You know, that doesn't come naturally to some of us. We can talk about lots of things that get us excited. We can talk about …football. Or we can talk about recipes. But somehow talking about God and His gospel doesn't get us excited.

Some of you know that through the generosity of a friend, I have XM radio — soon to be Sirius/XM radio — in my car. And mostly I listen to the BBC World Service, the finest news service in the English-speaking world, and the XM “Pops” station. That's generally what I listen to. On Saturdays you can sometimes find me listening to football games on the XM satellite radio. Well, as Sirius and XM have been in the process of merger, I had turned to one of the SEC radio channels to listen to a football game on Saturday afternoon and I noticed that the little tag line on the radio for that station (because normally what it has, it says “SEC” and it says what the game is and what the score is, and what quarter it is. But the tagline when you turned to that station gave the station number — 192 — and then it said “Religion.” And I thought to myself, “Yeah…you know, it is religion to a lot of people!” There are a lot of people…SEC football gets them pretty excited, and they can talk all day long about SEC football. Why? Because they love it! They value it; they enjoy it; they’re into it. Well, when the psalmist says tell of His wondrous works, speak of His wonders, the psalmist is saying you ought to care more about God than you do about the other things that you would talk about. So one of the ways you express your worship of God is you talk about Him. “You wouldn't believe…” [you might say to a friend] “…you wouldn't believe what truth I just learned from this passage. It just really hit home to me. I want to share with you about it.” Tell of His wondrous works.

Glory in His holy name is the sixth thing that is written for us in verses 1-6 as a specific, a particular way to worship God. That means to treasure God and to delight in Him, to think more highly of Him than anything else, to glory in His holy name.

Seventh, to let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. The Lord is saying, ‘Here's one way that you can worship Me: be glad in Me; rejoice at the thought of Me; rejoice at what I've done for you.’ You worship God when you rejoice in Him in that way.

Seek the Lord is the eighth thing: “Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually!” What's that talking about? It's talking about prayer. How do you worship the Lord? You pray. Remember how Jesus described the temple? What did He say about the temple? That “My Father's house shall be a house of prayer.” That's why this service is filled up with prayer.

I once had a young lady stop me at the back as she was going out of the worship service. And Derek had prayed the pastoral prayer, and she came up to me and she said,


“What was that thing that he did in the middle of the service?”
I said, “The thing that he did in the middle of the service…I'm not following you.”
“You know...that long thing that he did when he, you know, sort of talked to God.”
I said, “That was the pastoral prayer.”
She said, “Well, I'm a pastor's daughter, and I've never heard that in a worship service before.”

And you remember in the Old Testament times and in the early Christian times, they called worship “going to prayer.” But you don't find much prayer in worship services anymore. It's almost evaporated in most places. Short little prayers here and there, but no long address to God. Well, seeking the Lord, seeking His face continually, is worshiping Him by prayer.

And then, remembering His works which He has done. Now that's very interesting, that you could worship the Lord by remembering.

Remembering is very important, my friends. Remembering is very important. We experience this in life. We have special days. We have anniversaries and birthdays in which we remember things that are very precious to us. Sometimes those aren't just anniversaries of weddings or of engagements; sometimes they’re anniversaries of deaths that have profoundly affected us, and on those dates there is a solemn remembrance of something that is worked deep into our hearts.

And sometimes we actually create memorials to help us remember those things. You know, if you fought in the Second World War and you see the Marine Corps Memorial in Washington, D.C., with the Marines lifting the flag as they did at Iwo Jima, it evokes all sorts of memories. It may be a memory of your involvement in the war, the loss of a friend, the sacrifices that were made, or the principles for which you fought in the Second World War. And you see the World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and it may evoke numerous memories. And the psalmist is saying we are to remember and we are to memorialize what God has done. That ought to be a conscious effort. Really, this whole Psalm is that. It's a memorial. Really. If you look at verse 8 all the way to 42, all it is is a memorial. It's a remembrance of what God has done. That's why all the emphasis is on Him: This is what He did…this is what He did…this is what He did…this is what He did. It's so important.

You know a Mississippian named Faulkner once said, “Remembering knows before knowing ever remembers.”1 And what he was doing was, he was drawing attention to the power of remembering and the way it's able to evoke deep, deep feelings and commitments and understanding of certain things that are engraved in the very nature of who we are; and that's what the psalmist is saying: Remember the Lord's wonders and what He has done.

II. How can I worship God?

Now that leads us very naturally into the second thing that the psalmist says, and you’ll see it in verses 7-11. In verses 1-6, he answers the question, “How can I worship God?” and he answers it, “Well, you can worship God these nine ways. You can give Him thanks, you can call on His name, you can make Him known, you can sing, you can tell, you can glory in Him, you can let your heart be glad, you can seek Him in prayer, you can remember the wonders that He has done.

But he moves to a specific explanation of a memorial that we have just enjoyed — the memorial of baptism — as he describes it in verses 7-11. He really answers for us the question “What is baptism all about?”

Look at verses 7-11. Here he records God's promise to Abraham:

“He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers His covenant forever,
The word that He commanded, for a thousand generations,
The covenant that He made with Abraham,
His sworn promise to Isaac,
Which He confirmed to Jacob as a statute….”

[What was it?]

“‘To you I will give this land…as your portion for an inheritance.’”

So he's reminding us of Genesis 12, and Genesis 15, and Genesis 17, where God made a promise to Abraham. He promised to be his God, and He promised to give him a seed, and He promised to give him the land. Now think of the utter contrast between that and what God promised to the nations in the Scripture reading in Isaiah 14 today. What did He promise to the nations? He promised them that He was going to judge them and destroy them, but to Abraham He promised, “I will be your God, and you will be My people.”

That, my friends, is what baptism pictures. Baptism is a picture of that promise. It is a picture that “I am your God… By grace I have saved you…I am your God, and I will be the God of you and your children, and all those who are afar off, as many as call on the name of the Lord.” Baptism is about a promise that God makes to you before it is about your response to God. So what is baptism? It's a picture of a promise. It's a picture of a promise of God to His people.

III. What are you saved to do?

And then, third, if you look at verses 43-45, not only does he tell you what it is that you’re to do to worship God, not only does he explain baptism to you, what it's about, what it pictures, but he tells you what you’re saved for.

Have you ever wondered the question, “What am I here for? Why did God redeem me? Why did God forgive me? Why did God pardon me? Why did God accept me? Why did God change me? Why did He do that? What's the goal, what's the purpose of God in His saving me, His forgiving me, His accepting me, His pardoning me? What's the goal? What's the purpose?”

Well, the answer is given in verses 43-45. Look at them closely. The psalmist says this:

“He brought His people out with joy…”

[So it's referring to the exodus…He brought the children of Israel out of Egypt with joy.]

“…His chosen one with singing…”

[You can remember Miriam and the ladies dancing by the Red Sea. He brought them out with singing.]

“He gave them the lands of the nations….”

[He brought them into the land of Canaan.]

“They took possession of the fruit of the people's toil…”

[Why did they take possession of the land of the Canaanites? Here's the answer.]

“…In order that [so that] they might keep His statutes and observe His laws.”
 

Now, my friends, that is exactly what God said for Moses to tell the children of Israel in Exodus 19. Turn with me to Exodus 19 and look at verses 4-6. In Exodus 19, verses 4-6, God tells Moses, ‘Now you tell the children of Israel this.’ And here's what He tells Moses to tell the children of Israel.
“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore

you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”

Now notice what God emphasizes. Did He save Israel by their works? No. Did He save them because they were good? No. Did He save them in cooperation with them? No.

“I myself bore you on eagles’ wings.”

Then look what He says:

“Now then if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

In other words, they were not saved by their holiness, but they were saved to be a holy nation. So Psalm 105 says that they were saved in order that they would obey God's law. It's different words, but it's actually the same thing.

Why is it that we're saved? In order to fulfill the purpose for which God created us in the first place. And what is that purpose? To be like Him. To be His image. To glorify Him. To delight in Him more than anything else. And you can call that obedience, or you can call that obeying God's law, or you can call that pursuing holiness, or you can call that godliness. The Bible uses all sorts of terms for it, but it's all the same thing. We’re not saved by works, we're saved to works; we're not saved by holiness, we're saved to holiness; we're not saved by our godliness, or we’d all be going to hell. We’re saved to godliness. We’re saved for the purpose of being what God created us to be in the first place.

Do you remember the debate that went on in the 1970's in certain Bible church circles, especially dispensational circles, especially between the folks that said they believed in “free grace” as opposed to “lordship salvation”? The free grace folks said this: ‘You can be saved just by believing, but your life doesn't have to be changed. As long as you've made a profession of faith, as long as you've trusted in Christ, you've prayed a prayer or signed a card, you’re saved. It doesn't matter whether your life has changed, and if you say that your life has to be changed, it's legalism.’ And then the other side argued back, ‘No, no, no! You've got to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord.’ There was a big fight about it.2

Well, how does the Bible answer that question, “Can you be saved? Can you be pardoned and forgiven and not live a godly life?” Another way to ask that question is can you be justified and not sanctified? How does the Bible answer the question? Well, look at James 2:14.

“What if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can that kind of faith [claimed faith] save him?” James asks. No, is the answer. What about Hebrews 12:14 — “…holiness, without which no man will see the Lord”? So the Bible's answer to ‘Can you be saved and not live a godly life?’ is no.

But another way of asking that question in light of Psalm 105:45 is this: Can you be redeemed and forgiven, and yet fail to fulfill your purpose in life? Now again the Bible's answer to that question is no. You can't be redeemed and forgiven and fail to fulfill your purpose in life, but I want to pull back and ask one more question: Who would want to? Who would want to be forgiven and yet fail to realize the purpose for which you were created?

And the Bible simply says this: God never forgives someone without also working in them, at least in some measure, their experience of fulfilling the purpose for which He created them in the first place. And what is that purpose? “To glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever.” To live in holiness, to pursue godliness, to want to live to God, to want to live for God, to want to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. And whatever language you tack on it, it all means the same thing and it's found over and over in the Scriptures.

Think of Romans 8. Turn to Romans 8 and look at verse 4. As Paul is explaining Christian salvation in Romans 8, he says this — Romans 8:2:

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death…”

Now there's Paul in verse 2 saying you've been set free. You know the natural question to ask is, “Okay, set free for what?” Well, look at verse 4:

“…In order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.”

Ah! I've been set free in order that the requirement of the law can be fulfilled in me!

Now Paul makes it clear that the law itself … One of the problems with the law is that it could not produce a heart that wanted to follow in the way of the Lord. The law could tell you that you were either following in the way of the Lord or not following in the way of the Lord, but it could not produce in you the desire to follow in the way of the Lord. And so what does Paul say here? Only the Spirit can do that. Only the Holy Spirit can make you follow in the way of the Lord, so the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament at this point is not that in the New Testament God gets rid of the law; it's that He gives us the Spirit so that the law, as Jeremiah 31 says, can be written on the heart so that we will want to do it.

How can I explain that? Well, think about…let's say you’re taking voice lessons or piano lessons, or violin lessons or cello lessons, or tuba lessons. And you've got to practice if you’re ever going to get anywhere. Anne, my wife, was telling me yesterday or the day before that researchers have said that you've got to do something for 10,000 hours before you really master it. So what's that? Two hours a day for thirteen years, or something like that, you've got to really practice to master something. The problem is you hate to practice! I mean, you know you need to practice, but you don't want to!

Well, Paul and Psalm 105 are not telling you that when you become a Christian you don't have to practice anymore. They’re telling you that when you become a Christian the Spirit makes you want to practice. It's not that practice goes away; it's that suddenly you want to. You want to be like God, morally. You don't want to take His place, you don't want to vie with Him for sovereignty, but you want to bear His image. He's holy; you want to be holy. He's loving; you want to be loving. He's kind; you want to be kind. He's generous; you want to be generous. The Spirit changes your heart to want to do what you ought to do. The law couldn't make you want to do what you ought to do. In fact, sometimes the very telling of the law — have you ever experienced this? — makes you want to do the opposite: “Oh, yeah? So I have to do that, do I? You just watch me!” And here's Paul saying, ‘Now what does the Spirit do? He makes you want to do what you ought to do, so that you love to do what you should do.’

And that's what we're here for. We’re saved to glorify God. We’re saved to bear His image. We’re saved to be holy. We’re saved to pursue godliness. All of grace.

Let's pray.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your word. By Your Spirit, make our hearts to love it, and not simply to be hearers of it or talkers about it, but doers of it. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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1. William Faulkner. Light in August. 1932
2. John MacArthur. Jesus is Lord. http://www.gty.org/Resources/articles/2263

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