THE SEARCH FOR INTIMACY WITH GOD
Good morning brothers and sisters,
What a privilege it is for Jeannette and me to be with you and minister to you at St A. When Rev David Cook first raised the possibility of serving you at St A I totally dismissed the idea because I felt totally inadequate for the responsibility. We would really value your prayers that our brief time here, 9 weeks, will be beneficial to you and glorifying to God.
Let me briefly tell you what the preaching programme is for the next 8 weeks:
Today and next week I will be preaching from Psalms.
Then, on 30 June and 7 July I will preach a story-telling sermon from Genesis 1 and 3. This will be different to normal sermons it will have interaction with the congregation and a bit more light-hearted. It will be a great opportunity to bring your friends who are still seeking. I have asked for the high school kids to stay in church if possible.
Then the last 4 Sundays we will go through Paul’s letter of 1 Timothy.
That’s the preaching programme for the next 8 Sundays.
This morning we will look at Psalm 19 and focus on “Searching for intimacy with God”.
How do we get intimacy with God?
How can we get closer to God?
How can we be better friends with God?
Psalm 19 is helpful in answering these questions. I hope that at the end of this service we understand better how to get closer to God.
This Psalm is divided into 3 parts
V1-6 – intimacy comes from looking.
V7-11 – intimacy comes from reading.
V12-14 – intimacy comes from praying.
But before we try to understand God’s word, let’s pray for His help:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the privilege and freedom we have here to come to Your word. As we try to understand Your word, the Bible, please give us a quiet and teachable heart. Please take away all distractions and concerns.
Heavenly Father we want to get closer to You, to have more intimacy with You. Please speak to us and reveal Yourself to us this morning.
May these words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
If you have closed your Bibles, please open it again and let’s focus on the first section of Psalm 19: v 1-6 Intimacy with God comes from looking.
These verses basically say: “Look at nature and you will see that God exists”. But you and I are city slickers, we don’t often look at nature. We don’t look up at the heavens and the skies above but look down at our mobile phones and iPads. That’s different from the Israelites living around 1000 BC when David wrote these words. What did they think when they heard these words?
v1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
the skies proclaim the work of His hands
Notice the repetition. Hebrew writing often repeats itself for emphasis.
What it says is: look at the heavens and the skies and you see that God is all around us and near us, so we can come closer to Him.
v2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge
Every day the heavens and the skies pour forth i.e. speak of the glory of God. Night after night, here is the repetition again: day and night, the heavens and the skies reveal God’s knowledge.
Have you ever seen stars in the sky at night? Have you seen a falling star, a comet? Maybe you are like me; growing up in a big city instead of a country town and haven’t seen many stars.
V3,4a They have no speech they use no words, no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of
Words are not required, everyone can know that God exists just by looking.
Paul agrees with David and says in Rom 1:18-20 that what may be known about God has been clearly seen through nature and that people are without excuse.
V4b-6 talks about the sun.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun,
it is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
Many ancient people worshipped the sun. The Egyptians had a sun god: Re, Mesopotamians had a sun god: Shamash. And you can understand why: there’s nothing more powerful, nothing is immune to its heat. And don’t we know it in a place like KL!
But in Deut 4:19 God warned the Israelites and said
And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the
stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has
God told the Israelites of old: don’t worship the sun, moon or stars because I the Lord have apportioned them, God has created them all.
But notice what else David says in v4b: He, that means God, pitched a tent for the sun. A tent is a shelter, a protection. Our God is bigger than the powerful sun. Our God is the one who protects and shelters the sun. The sun is not god, our God is the real God.
We city dwellers need to remember that one way to have intimacy with God is to open our eyes and look at nature and its beauty. Photography is one way to get closer to God. Many of us here take pictures on our phones. That’s good but don’t just take selfies lah! Or food! Last Friday Jim ……….. took me to eat durian and that was worth taking a picture of to send to our Malaysian friends in Sydney.
But we should look more at the beauty that God created all around us. When I was a student in Hobart, Tasmania when I was tired of studying I would grab my camera, jump on my motorbike and ride out of town. Hobart was a small place 50+ years ago and if you rode 15 minutes in any direction you’d be out of town. I then try to open my eyes to the beauty of God’s creation and take pictures. Maybe the last leaves in autumn. Or an insect, or a sunset. And in those days photography was only in B&W. Now, with colour, digital photography it is even easier to sense God’s presence.
Photography is one way we can have more intimacy with God because it opens our eyes to search for something beautiful that He created.
Bushwalking or painting are other ways to see God in creation.
By looking at nature we know 3 things about God:
All powerful; He created everything including the sun
Creative and artistic: just look at the shapes and colours around us
Intelligent: the sun rises at one end of the heavens and sets at the other, every day, like clockwork, precise; designed by an intelligent God.
Now a special word to the children. If you don’t remember anything else I say today, just remember this one thing: As you grow up you will meet many smart people. Some will be your school friends, or uni friends or people you meet later when you go to work. Some of these smart people will tell you it is dumb to believe in God. They will tell you that science has proved that God does not exist. Don’t believe them; that is not true. Science can only explain things because God made this world so orderly. For example: Every day the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, happens every day, it never fails. So science can then predict what time sunrise is, what the temperature will be at different times of the day. Science exists only because an intelligent God made this world orderly.
So don’t believe smart people who say God does not exist. That is not smart, that is dumb.
Apart these 3 things, what else can we know about God? From looking at nature we know there is a God, but what is He like, what does He want? Can we get more intimate with God or is he far away like gods of other religions? In some religions their god is far away and not personal, he only judges people, he’s only like a policeman. Buddhism doesn’t even have a god. And post-modern western society doesn’t believe in God, maybe a Force like in Star wars but not a personal one you can get to know and be friends with.
Fortunately the real God is a relational God, He wants to talk to us and be our friend. The Bible tells us what he is like, who he is, what he wants and how we should respond. Everything we need to know about God is in the Bible.
The second part of Psalm 19, from v7 to 11 talks about this. Let’s look at these verses now.
Intimacy with God comes from reading His Word.
Earlier on v3,4 say that no words are heard to tell us about God. But He does speak to us; not with audible words but through the Bible. So if we want to get intimate with God we need to read the Bible. In the following verses different words are used to describe the Bible.
V7 the law of the Lord ….. refreshes the soul: are you feeling down or sad? Are you going through a rough patch? Reading God’s word refreshes our souls and bring us hope.
V7 the statutes of the Lord….. makes wise the simple. Every day we make lots of decisions, big and small. Do you need wisdom to make a big decision according to God’s will? His word will make you wise. Even in small decisions, God is interested and reading His word gives us wisdom.
V8 the precepts are right and gives joy. Some people think that being a Christian is a burden because of all the commands to follow. That’s not true. Although God’s precepts or commands are indeed to be obeyed, but because they are right they give joy instead of being a burden. Doing the right thing feels good. Do you remember a time when you were tempted to do the wrong thing but then decided to obey God? Didn’t you feel good?
V8 They are radiant, giving light to the eyes. God’s word opens our eyes and makes us see reality, makes us see truth.
V9 the fear of the Lord is pure. The more intimate we know God, the more we see our sinfulness. And the result of seeing a holy God is fear. But our fear is pure. It is not a fear of eternal punishment, not a fear of going to hell. Our fear is pure because we know there is forgiveness in Jesus who died for us. If we are willing to confess our sin and accept God’s forgiveness we can have pure fear of Him. Pure fear means awe and reverence for a holy God.
David summarises the value of God’s word in v10, 11
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold.
They are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
He compares the value of God’s word with 2 things.
Gold: most valuable commodity at that time, there were no shares or Bitcoins yet. But God’s word is even more valuable. The Bible is precious.
Honey: Did you know that the Israelites at that time did not know sugar? If they wanted something sweet they used honey. The Bible is not unpalatable, it’s sweet.
Intimacy with God comes from reading His Word.
I know that most of us here read the Bible regularly and I want to encourage you to continue doing that. Kids, who of you reads the Bible almost every day? That is great, keep doing that and listen to God, not to smart people who say there is no God!
I want to encourage us to read big chunks of the Bible and follow a systematic reading plan.
Don’t use devotional books with only 1, 2 or 3 verses and jump all over the Bible. Instead read the Bible diligently and systematically to understand the big picture. Ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand.
If we only read a few verses at a time, we won’t know the context, we won’t know who wrote those verses, why he wrote it, when it was written and why God included it in the Bible. Follow a Bible reading plan and understand the big picture. If you are not sure what the big picture of the Bible is, please ask someone and join the ACE class at 9.45.
This is the big picture of the Bible: In the beginning God created the whole universe and wanted to be friends with us. But man was disobedient and the relationship with God was broken and therefore we all live disobedient lives and are subject to God’s punishment. But in God’s love He had a plan for salvation, a plan on how to forgive people and yet be just at the same time. He started by choosing a 90 y.o. old man from Iraq, to start a new people, God’s chosen people, to be an example and a blessing to all nations. About 900 years later God promised King David, the writer of this Psalm, that one of his descendants will be the Saviour who will save people from their sin. Roughly 1000 years after that, it happened and Jesus came to earth and died for our sin. After He rose from the dead He returned to heaven and promised to come back again and restore the world to God’s original plan of creation. That is the big picture of the Bible.
Each time you read a passage of scripture try and figure out where that passage fits in God’s big picture. Use our brains but ask the Holy Spirit for understanding.
Finally, intimacy with God comes from praying, talking with God.
Look at v12-13 Who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant from wilful sins, may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
The result of reading the Bible is a greater awareness of our sinfulness and this drives us closer to God through prayer.
Notice three wrong-doings here that get progressively worse: Errors, hidden faults and wilful sins.
errors – David shows that by reading God’s word our conscience get sharpened, we become concerned about our errors. Whereas previously we brushed it aside, no big deal, just a small mistake. I’m only human, it’s only a white lie etc, but now we take it seriously.
hidden faults – this is more serious than errors. It is wrong things, faults, but they are hidden and we don’t realise we have them. We often can’t see our own faults, we think we are almost perfect, almost. Sometimes when I see another Christian do something wrong I think to myself: why does he/she do that or say that? They are mature Christians and should know better. Do you sometimes think like that too? But then I am reminded that other people probably think that of me too: why does Jim do so and so? Why is he so self-centred? We need to speak the truth in love to each other and help each other see our hidden faults, faults we do not see ourselves.
Finally wilful sins – these are things we know are wrong but we do them anyway, we do them knowingly, deliberately, wilfully. These are dangerous because they can rule over us as v13 says. If we don’t consciously stop doing the wrong thing, it becomes a habit, then a lifestyle and then it will rule over us.
Before you go to sleep tonight, may I suggest that you reflect on this question: during the past year have you been more aware of your errors, hidden faults and wilful sins? As we get more intimate with God, is our conscience being sharpened? Are the grey areas becoming more black?
That should be the result of spending time in God’s word: we should become more aware of our sinfulness and our need for grace.
But be encouraged because v13b says then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. God’s word also assures us that there is forgiveness in Christ for any sin as long as we confess it.
Praying is admitting that we are not yet perfect, that we still need to depend on God.
v14 is both a beautiful prayer and a self-dedication.
This is our final aim of searching for intimacy with God.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Whatever we say openly with our mouth, and whatever we think inwardly in our heart, may it be pleasing to our Lord.