Remembering and Hope
I have told you before that I grew up a Navy brat and because of that we never got the chance to live close to my grandparents. So in order to get to see our extended family we had to go on an adventure. Many of my memories involve long trips in a Plymouth Station wagon traveling from San Francisco, California or Arlington, Texas to Crockett and Holly Springs Mississippi. And while the trip was long my parents always tried to keep my brother and I occupied. They brought books to read, or toys to play with, and we even played travel games, like find the alphabet on road signs or see who could find license plates from the 50 states.
One time that Dad rigged up a 13 inch Black and White TV so that we could watch cartoons. Now televisions in cars were not as popular 30-35 years ago as they are now. And we didn’t even know what a DVD was much less a MP4. So we could only watch TV when we were close to a big city and could get reception. Unfortunately we usually only got reception during the morning when “As The Stomach Turns” was on, so that turned out to be a bust.
But there was one thing we liked to do and that was sing. We would sing what was on the radio or we would sing church songs. And over the last few weeks we have been looking at the traveling songs of families that were making the long trip to Jerusalem, and I have had the opportunity to remember that we can learn a whole lot about living with God in a fallen world through the hymns we sing.
One of the reasons we are singing through the sermons is because we learn a lot of our theology through the songs we sing. Rarely do people find themselves repeating a line from a sermon during the week. I have never had someone say “I woke up last week repeating the words from your sermon, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind.” But how many of you have caught yourself humming or singing a worship song during the week? The truth is that we all have.
In the early days of the church their song book was the book of Psalms. In these pages we find the lyrics of the songs that the Israelites and the first Christians used to worship God. There are songs of praise because of what God had done in their lives, and songs of hope because of what God will do in their future.
Our song this morning comes from the 132nd Psalm and it is unique that it does both. It begins as a song of remembrance as the psalmist reminds us of the time that David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to the city of Jerusalem. And it ends with a prayer of hope that God will shower His blessings on the pilgrims who gather in the city to worship God.
If you think about it, we have gathered here this morning to do the very same thing. Every Sunday we stop everything that is going on in our lives and spend some time gathered around a table of remembrance. We take a little piece of unleavened bread and drink a small cup of grape juice as a way to remember our past. We remember God’s expression of love as He sent Christ to come to our world and experience humanity, and to die as a sacrifice for our sinfulness.
We pray and sing songs of expectant hope. We hope that God is not done with us yet, but that He will continue to be actively involved in our lives, actively working in the fabric of our lives and weave it into a beautiful tapestry, where we will be able to see His love and compassion poured out in the mess that we make of our lives.
Remember what God has done in the past
Our song starts by referencing the time that David found the ark and had it brought back to Jerusalem. It doesn’t have to tell the whole story, because the people who were originally singing this Psalm, knew the story. It was a part of who they were, just like the story of Jesus is a part of who we are today.
I love the fact that these people were singing this song while they were walking the up the same roads that the ark had been carried. They are not the first persons to ascend these slopes on their way of obedience to God, and they will not be the last. And every group was reminded in this song that God has gone before them, and would meet them in the temple.
The ability to remember is a wonderful gift God has given us. In a flash we can be a child again, skipping rocks across a pond, or walking through an open field. Through memory we can fall in love, get married, and enjoy our children all over again. All this is possible through the blessing of memory.
And God wants us to remember and He even says that there are things he established so that we could remember. In Genesis 9, after God destroyed the earth in a flood, He told Noah, I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Rainbows are more than just a thing of beauty, they are a reminder of God’s promise.
That wasn’t the only memorial God established, The Feast of Passover, Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles were all established so that the Jews could be reminded of God’s protection and providence. In Joshua 4 we see God having the people set up a memorial to remember how He stopped the Jordan River so the people could cross into the promised land.
To be honest, most of us don’t spend a lot of time remembering because we are just drifting through life. Our crisis moments usually consist of not having any clean socks in the drawer or not having enough flour in the pantry. Then when, not if but when, the bottom falls out we completely freak out because we have forgotten how faithful God is and what really matters.
Josh Ross has written a book entitled Scarred Faith. It started as a journal during a time when his world came crashing down around him. I was introduced to his story at Pepperdine this year. Back in 2010, Josh received a text that his older sister Jenny had a fever of 105; while it was incredibly high, she was 31 years old and very healthy. Josh said he prayed about it and he received word a few hours later that her fever had broken and he thought all was well. The next morning he received a call from his mom that his sister was in ICU, diagnosed with Group A Strep. By the time she entered the ER she was in a full blown battle with septic shock.
Josh and his family would lose his sister. As horrible as this story is, I was struck by what happened after the doctors came and told the family that Jenny had passed away. Josh writes that as his parents were about to leave that hospital for the last time, his mom turned to his dad and asked, "Rick, before we walk of the doors back out into life, remind me what we believe." His dad said, "The tomb is empty."
Hoping for what God will do in the future
One of the byproducts of remembering what God has done in the past is that we receive hope for what He will do in the future. That exactly what we see in the second part of this Psalm. The reason that memory is tied to hope is because everyone of these promises found in the end of this song are tied to what God has already done. And if we are not sure of what God has done in the past we will never find hope in what He will do in the future.
In verse 15 we read of God’s provision: I will bless her with plenty; I will fill her poor with food. The Jewish travelers singing this song would get to this verse and remember the 40 years that their ancestors spent wandering in the wilderness. One of the amazing things that God did while His people wandered was the way that He took care of their basic needs. When they were thirsty He provided water from a rock, when they were hungry He provided mana that covered the ground like dew and gave them quail from the skies. In those 40 years of wandering the Children of Israel didn’t plow the ground, plant, or harvest, but there was food and water enough to spare. God had blessed His children with plenty.
In verse 16 we read of God;s salvation: I will cover her priests with salvation, and those who worship me will really sing for joy. The Jewish people have been oppressed more than any other ethnic group. They spent centuries in slavery and dealt with the destruction of their homeland countless times. So they understood the physical nature of salvation as well as the spiritual nature of salvation. When their priests wanted to describe what salvation was, all they had to do was look back into their history.
Even today there is a sense of joy in the gathering of the Jewish people. It is a joy that we see of people who understand what God has done and those who live in hope for what God is going to do. The celebration on the other side of the Red Sea with Miriam and the women accompanying with tambourines, to the victorious trumpets that shook and finally tumbled the walls of Jericho, to the beautiful hymns of David that we continue to sing in our churches today, the joy has overflowed. It is a joy mingled with hope and expectation.
Verse 17 talks about the presence of God: Here I will increase the power of David; my anointed one will be a light for my people. This idea of light is found all throughout scripture as a metaphor of God’s presence and the hope that exists in our relationship with Him. God is light and He intensifies, fulfills, and glorifies our lives. He takes us and leads us through the darkness into an ever-growing experience of vitality and productivity.
God reveals reality. God’s light opens our eyes and hearts so that our life can have focus. With God leading the way we can see clearly in this dimly lit world. Light reveals while darkness conceals. God is our light that reveals the truth in our lives. The mysteries of life will gradually unfold and become clear. When we bring the fear and uncertainty of our life to the light of God we can see who is truly in control and find peace and comfort in Him.
And in verse 18 we read about the triumph of God: I will clothe his enemies with shame, but he will be a glorious king. The history books of the Jewish travelers are filled with battles with the Amorites, Jebusites, Moabites, and Canaanites. These people were not only seen as enemies of the Jewish people but enemies of God Himself. And while there were times that God used these people to bring His children back to repentance, the end result was always the same. As a matter of fact outside of the Biblical narrative the world would not know who these people are. The shame of God's enemies and the glory of God is decisive and the triumph is complete. Evil will lie sprawling in defeat, righteousness will flourish in victory.
This song is echoed by Paul in Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
We can have hope in our future because we serve a God that exceeds all of our expectations. And that’s pretty awesome. God does not just forgive a sin, He promises to forgive all of your sin. God doesn’t just love you when you’re good, He loves you when you’re bad. God doesn’t just gives us our daily bread, He provides steak and potatoes, the corn, the peas, the beans, a fresh green salad, pecan pie and a scoop of your favorite ice-cream.
Think about it this way, We hope that God can give us this (show a tennis ball) but what God offers us is this (reveal a LARGE Tennis ball). When we think back to what God has done for us in the past, we can find hope for what He will do in the future.
Hope connects us with the future just as memories connected us with the past. We can remember the past and have hope for the future. Our hope rests in our Lord Jesus Christ. Sure there might be valleys, just as there were valleys in our past. But the hope we have in Christ Jesus should make us realize that some day we will stand on the Holy Mountain of God, reigning with Christ, beautifully adorned as bride for the bridegroom. Worshiping God, praising God, dwelling with God. That is what hope does for us.
This morning, no matter what you have done and no matter where you have been we have the opportunity to look back to the cross that stood on Calvary, we can remember the empty tomb and find hope in the fact that God’s forgiveness is complete and all encompassing. Our sins have been paid for in full by Christ. When we place our trust in the finished work of Christ there is no place for guilt in our lives, we are forgiven!
I love the words of Paul in Colossians 1:21-22; And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight
We remember the cross and have hope that we can be reconciled to the Father. Jesus will present us holy, blameless, and above reproach, not because of what we have done but because He finished the work of the Cross.
We remember the tomb and find hope that we can change to become what God created us to be. We don’t need to wallow in our sin, believing the lie that we cannot change. The tomb reminds us that there is hope. If God can take the body of Christ that was dead for three days, and give it life, make it a glorified body, then just imagine what He can do with us.
Questions For You To Consider
Psalm 132 uses the ark as a memory of obedience. What is a memory you use to help you in your daily Christian journey?
What are some of the promises God makes in Psalm 132 to the people of Israel?
The Psalm expresses joy in being persistent in following God. Where do you find the persistence to follow God?
One of the reasons we can look forward because we can remember the past. What do you want to see resulting from your walk with God?
What does the cross mean to you?
What hope do you find in the empty tomb?
What does this hope lead you to do?