Thought for the Week - 7th OctoberPastor Gareth Watkins
Psalm 115: 14-18
May the Lord richly bless
both you and your children.
May you be blessed by the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
The heavens belong to the Lord,
but he has given the earth to all humanity.
The dead cannot sing praises to the Lord,
for they have gone into the silence of the grave.
But we can praise the Lord
both now and forever!
Praise the Lord!.
I’m currently reading a book about the life of Hudson Taylor.
He was returning from China in order to finish off his training as a medical student to become a doctor. While he was here, he’d travel to different people to talk to them about the fact there were 400 million people in China that had not come under the sound of the gospel. They had not had a chance to find salvation. One of the places he went to was in Scotland. They were very stiff and starchy. Nobody doing this sort of missionary work had gone to their conference, which was about righteousness and holiness rather than evangelism.
When Taylor got up to speak, there was a sea of faces in front of him. He told of the time that he was on the river travelling to the inland. The man travelling with him fell off the boat. He was splashing around and starting to go under, but the boat could not stop. Taylor started to shout that there was a man overboard. He shouted to a fishermen to catch the man; to throw their nets over to help him. They replied “how much will you pay us?”. They started trying to negotiate with Taylor. They wanted $20. When Taylor replied he didn’t have that money, they asked how much money he did have on him. He offered them the $14 he had on him – all that he had. It was only then that they then threw their nets out to catch the man. By the time they rescued him, he was dead.
The moral of that story, according to how Taylor explained it, they were so indifferent to life that they didn’t care whether the man lived or died. They were indifferent. Instead of going to save him, they wanted to know how much money they could get first. The indifference cost that man his life.
The verses above paint a rich picture. They describe the whole of heaven, the stars and the skies – everything belonging to God. They also show a picture of the earth and humanity.
God is in control of all the heaven and the earth, but earth belongs to humanity because God has given it to them. That humanity is meant to sing praises to God forever. If they’re not singing praises to God, they’re dead. Those who are dead, who are not part of God’s creation, cannot sing because they’re compelled to be silent.
It’s a very interesting scripture. When I started to read it, I thought it was nice to read of God’s blessings – which He means to come – to you and your children, and the children thereafter. That’s His intent. He wants the blessings to come to the next generation, and the next generation. There’s a blessing of God that comes from generation to the next generation. That’s how the creator God works. It’s His blessing, His requirement for this earth, for His blessing to continue from generation to generation. It’s His plan for life.
Part of that plan for life is to have praise and worship. That praise and worship connects with God. That goes on forever. Unless of course you’re dead. There’s no middle ground: you are either going on and praising the Lord forever, or you’re dead.
When I read that earlier in the week, it immediately brought a chill to my spirit. There are people who were once alive who made the wrong choices. They’re now described as dead. They’re now described as silent in the grave. They cannot sing praises to God because they’ve gone into silence. They are silent.
There are two sets of people: people who are choosing God and going on with God, and the people who are spiritually dead and are silent. This is a position that has become their lot in life. One lot is going to go on to sing praises to God, and another lot have gone on into silence. That is a frightening place to be. Forever. One person in the grave silent, and another praising the Lord forever.
In a sense it shows that the earth belongs to the Lord. Not the polluters. God has His blessings, He has all these things going on. The earth belongs to the Lord and His blessings.
We can read the news, listen to the news, and hear the polluters pollute everything. We can see the drug barons selling their drugs, the war makers making their wars, and the politicians doing their political things. The earth is being ruined. Some people mutter that God is out of control or not in control.
But this scripture puts it into context. The earth belongs to God and His people. It’s not out of God’s control.
Events have been happening where choices have been made by person after person after person, and they’re taking people into a place where they will be called dead. Once they’re in that place, they will be silent. And yet, eternity speaks out for them as well as the other people who are regarded as God’s people. In that sense, are these people actually dead or are they just silent? Are they dead and finished with? Or are they alive in this place of dead, and there’s life in them yet they cannot speak because they’re silent – God has stopped them speaking. The time where they can speak is passed. The decisions that they’ve made, the ongoing actions they’ve taken, put them into a place that’s called dead. The silence of the grave, the scriptures call it. This place continues on.
When I was reading this scripture earlier in the week, I felt that these people are still alive. There was life still in these places, but the fact was they weren’t able to speak. That’s an interesting thought. That there’s a place where people are still alive, and yet they can’t interact with God and God’s creation, praising God, lifting their hands to God, worshiping God, or walking with God. Because they’ve had their chance for that, and this other place comes for them where they’re still there, but there is no noise.
Does such a place exist?
What does the New Testament teach on that? Jesus speaks of a place in Luke 16 where people were in torment and in anguish in flames. In the story of Lazarus there were two men. A rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus was covered in sores, was poor and helpless. The rich man had everything that he could have in this life. Both men died. The rich man dies and ends up in Hades. Lazarus goes on to be in the bosom of Abraham. The rich man finds himself separated from Lazarus. One is here and one is there. Lazarus, at this point, goes on in blessing, eternity and in company of the saints, in his place with God. On the other hand, the rich man finds himself in a place where he is in anguish in flames. There is still life in this man.
In my reading of the Old Testament, he was silent. He couldn’t speak out in the way he would have done when he was alive. He was in this place, in this torment, in the place that Jesus speaks of in the New Testament, and now he can’t get out of it. He has made choice after choice after choice. Now he finds himself dead, in a grave. And the silence of the grave envelops him.
Can you be dead and silent, but alive?
On the other hand, if you don’t want to take any risks, position yourself with those who are spiritually alive. If you make the right choice, after the right choice, after the right choice, God’s plan for us is to be alive. Alive and yet dead. Alive, going on with God. Alive, praising the Lord and forever!
We don’t hear much preaching about eternity in the church. We don’t hear much preaching about what happens if you go on with God unto the last day, and what happens after that. We don’t hear much preaching about what happens if you don’t go on with God and choose wrongly, continue to choose wrongly, and where you end up. This passage shows quite clearly that those who praise God, made the right choices and thanked God, went to a place where they sang praises to God forever. It’s a continual praise that comes out of the individual and goes on unto that eternal life that God has for us.
Did you praise God last week? Did you thank God for anything last week? Did you worship God last week? Did you sing a song? If you didn’t, then you know to make a choice to do something this week. Choose to worship God this week.
The question could be asked why you didn’t ask praise God last week? Or why you didn’t thank Him last week or sing to Him last week? When He does so much and keeps on doing so much for us. And yet, the week has passed and we haven’t bothered. Prayer time can come and we can’t even be lifting our voice up to sing to Him or speak to Him. We can position ourselves who are spiritually dead or don’t care, and thereby identify with that way of life rather than the way of life that God has for us.
Position yourself in the thoughtful way with those who are spiritually alive, than yourself who are spiritually dead. Choose to live in the way that God has called you. God knows if we do the things that are with Him, or the things that are against Him. He knows if we walk the broad path that leads to destruction, or the narrow path that leads to eternal life.
There is a road that leads to destruction. If we don’t know about these things, or walk with these things, we’re denying the very life that God has in these words for us. We’re meant to be spiritually alive in Christ. He has given us spiritual life that we’re able to praise the Lord forever. What age does forever last until? It doesn’t end. It goes on forever. Not to the point that the body goes into the grave, but forever, in the sense that Christ spoke about Lazarus and the rich man. There is a life that goes on beyond the grave. That praising the Lord has been given to you now, lasts you onwards until eternity. On the other hand, if you choose wrongly and continue to choose wrongly, and align yourself with those who are spiritually dead, you end up in a place where you cannot sing praises to the Lord. They’ve gone into the silence of the grave. They’re not dead but they cannot speak.
There’s no indifference in that. It is black and white. We can’t choose one way or the other, and flitter back and forth. The choices are made. And you’re either singing praises to God, as all of the earth is intended to do, or you’re not. All of creation is meant to sing praises to God – the plants, the creatures, the trees, the animals, the mountains, the seas etc. Yet man, if you notice, does his absolute best to destroy that God has given. For example, there’s whole seas full of plastics, with animals dying horrific deaths. It’s killing the birds, the fish, and it’s killing us. The sin of man is breaking and ruining the things that belong to God.
But don’t think that God has lost control. God made all the earth and the heavens. He is in control. There’s a season and a time when this will all change. But in the meantime, all the earth is meant to praise God. God doesn’t want this to happen. God wants us to live and He wants the animals, plants etc. to be in such a way in that it will all praise God. And if they don’t, those things in their own way, will be in their own way be compelled to be in the silence of the grave.
In the next Psalm, Psalm 116: 1-2 we read:
I love the Lord because he hears my voice
and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!
God knows that we haven’t always done right. The Psalmist knows he needs help. He knows he is guilty and cannot help himself. He knows he has to throw himself on the mercy of God. He’s done things, chosen things, and been a part of things that would lead to destruction. And so he cries out to God. The Psalmist knows that God hears his voice. That God is hearing his voice in the way of mercy.
Does God really hear your voice, and is he merciful to you? The answer is yes, yes, and yes again. When you’ve done wrong, when you know you’ve done wrong, when you’ve chosen against God, when you turn to Him again He is a merciful God. He is a God of mercy time and time again. He hears our voice and our prayer because He bends down to listen.
He knows when he’s done wrong. He knows he needs to pray to God. When he gets the unction to pray out to God, he comes on his knees asking God. And God then bends down to listen.
What a wonderful personal God! That means He knows us personally. When we’ve done our naughtiest, slyest or deceitful things, He hears. And He knows. And He bends down to listen because He hears you and me. It’s personal to you and me. He bends down to listen.
The Psalmist says he will praise for as long as he lives. There’s a feeling of restoration in that. He was away from God, and now he will praise for as long as he has breath in him. He knows what it is for God to hear him. He doesn’t want to be a part of the death or the silence or the torment. He knows he has to at some point get on his knees before God and ask His heavenly saviour to come. And Christ has done these things for us to be redeemed. That’s what the word redeemed means. He bought us back when we didn’t deserve it. To be redeemed means we’re going somewhere in an ongoing way because Christ has turned us round 180 degrees. We’ve been entirely redeemed. The Psalmist shows that we can turn.
In Psalm 116: 4-5 we read:
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Please, Lord, save me!”
How kind the Lord is! How good he is!
So merciful, this God of ours!
When people say bad things about God, don’t accept it. We hear such things as “what sort of God would allow…”. That’s the effect of sin and mankind, and the effect of satan and his plan for this earth. Our God is a God of life, praise, mercy and eternal redemption!
See things in black and white. Not in an indifferent way, or with lack of care. We can go God’s way or another way. If we go God’s way, we can praise the Lord both now and forever. If we don’t go God’s way, as the story of Lazarus shows, the dead won’t sing, and they can’t sing praises to God because they’ve gone into the silence.
Choose to commit your life to praising God in every area of your life. Every area of your life should in some way praise God. Commit yourself to making the changes needed. Step by step get closer to God. Closer to that day when you meet Him face to face.
And if we choose not to, then we will a step away, and another, and another. The fearful part is the question of where we would be. The dead cannot sing praises to the Lord. They’ve gone into the silence of the grave.
Choose God. Choose the abundance of life that God has got for you.
Hudson Taylor could have been a well off Doctor or businessman. Instead of that he chose a life of God, poverty and sickness. But the blessings that remain from that man’s life far outweighs the life of a Doctor who would have been well off on this earth with a prominent business. The lasting blessing to this earth is way more than what it would have been as a Doctor. He chose the way of God. I’m asking you to do the same.