Advent Midweek 2 LSB #817
Text – Psalm 96:1-2
Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His name; tell of His salvation from day to day.
praising God’s salvAtion: So big!
In 1952 the Christian writer J. B. Phillips wrote a short book by the name “Your God is Too Small.” It challenged his readers to see God as so much more than a smiling old grandfather or some type of distant cosmic policeman.
All human beings are tempted to put God in a box that is safe & manageable, to be called upon in certain times of life, but not to get in the way of who we want to be or how we want to live. The truth is Yahweh is so much larger than we realize. He is the Almighty, the Creator of all the universe. His ways are beyond our understanding.
We can use words from confirmation class like omnipotent or omniscience to get at this truth, but a recent song by the Christian band Addison Road called “What Do I Know of Holy?” put it in a way that helps to see this bigger God we worship. Here are some lyrics: “I caught a glimpse of who You might be. The slightest hint of You brought me to my knees.”
Earlier in the song, the writer asked, “What do I know of You who spoke me into motion?” The Holy Trinity spoke us into motion, & not just human beings, but all of creation. From the motion of the electrons in a molecule to the waves on an ocean to the wheat swaying in a field to hands lifted in praise – God spoke everything into motion.
He is the Creator & even the slightest hint of who He is brings us to our knees. Psalm 96 calls us to sing praises to this Creator of all: “Sing a new song . . . Sing to the Lord . . . Proclaim His salvation & glory day after day.” And not just people, but all creation is to rejoice & be glad. The heavens, earth & sea; the mountains, fields & trees; all sing praises because the Lord reigns. He is ruler of all & His salvation is for all creation. So, how does a tree praise the Lord? Or a mountain? Or a rock? Perhaps we’re thinking too small when it comes to praise. Praise is more than singing a few words during a worship service. Praise is also the sounds & sights of being & doing just what God created a mountain or a bird or a tree to be & to do.
Imagine for a moment the most memorable scenes of God’s creation. The author remembers a family vacation. They got into their van & started driving due west through Missouri & Kansas. The latter one sure looks flat, but appearances can be deceiving. As you drive through that state, you’re actually climbing toward Colorado.
It’s a gentle climb, but then Denver comes into view. Behind that city you see mountains. The closer you get, the more you realize just how majestic those Rocky Mountains are. Finally you drive right through them, trying to peer out the window at how high & huge they really are. It’s incredible.
Perhaps you’ve stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon & looked down. Have you walked along an ocean beach & stared out to the horizon? Have you put your eye to a microscope & seen the intricacies of a skin cell? Now realize that God sees all this all the time from every possible point of view.
The Christian philosopher, Dallas Willard, wrote that God is the most joyous being in the universe. We pay money to get a tank with a few tropical fish & enjoy looking at their beauty as they swim around. God has oceans & seas of fish which He created & constantly enjoys. We might enjoy a song or a concert, but He experiences all that is right & beautiful & good.
Mr. Willard wrote, “All of the good & beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth & depth & richness.” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy [HarperOne, 1998], 62‒64.) Creation praises God by being & doing what He created it to be & to do – the laughter of a three-year-old as his grandpa chases him down the hallway – a springtime calf jumping & mooing in the barnyard – birds singing in the early morning outside an open window – the rustling of leaves of corn in a field ripe for harvest – the heart beating faster with excitement as a dog fetches a stick in a park.
All these sights & sounds are music to God’s ears & beautiful in His eyes. He is the most joyous being in the universe, except these sights & sounds are also silenced & turned into something ugly. Driving down the road we see animals that were hit by cars – their bodies broken & bloated. Pollution has dirtied the skies & contaminated the water created by God.
Whole species of animals are extinct, no more to be seen or heard in their created wonder. Fires rage through drought stricken forests. Once majestic trees rage red in flame; turn black & die. Hurricanes & tornadoes destroy wildlife & crops just as much as they destroy hospitals, homes & cars.
Many animals cower in fear & try to make no sound at all or they’ll be seen or heard; then attacked & eaten. Pets make sounds that God loves to hear: contented meows or the welcome home bark. Then one day you notice they aren’t eating like usual. The trip to the vet may not be a happy one with the purring or barking silenced by disease.
The 8th chapter of Romans puts this ugliness & silencing of God’s creation into words: “For the creation was subjected to futility. . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly.”
How can Psalm 96 call us to praise the Lord when so much ugliness, groaning & silencing of His creation is all around? The answer is God’s salvation. We can praise & sing because God is so big & so is His salvation: “Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day.” Don’t make God’s salvation small. It’s not simply about ending up in heaven. It’s not just seeing loved ones once again. It’s not only being with Jesus for eternity. Those wonderful blessings are a part of God’s salvation, but His plan is far bigger than that.
In Romans 8, creation hopes for the day it will be liberated from bondage to decay & brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. All creation is waiting for the redemption of our bodies, & that redemption of all creation began when stones sang out in praise. Yes, stones. Go back to a joyous day for Jesus & the disciples.
It’s a week before the Son of God will hang on the cross. Listen in as one of the disciples tells us what happened: “We were approaching Jerusalem, & Jesus told two of us to go into a small village just ahead of us. We’d find a small donkey, one that had never been ridden before. He said it would be tied up just as we entered the village.”
“Well, when Jesus told us to do something, we did it. Another disciple & I entered the village & the donkey was there, just as Jesus said. The donkey’s owners saw us untie the animal & asked what we were doing. Jesus knew this would happen, so He told us to say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ When the owners heard that, they let us take the donkey.”
“We got back & put our cloaks & garments on the donkey. We set Jesus on its back. We threw more coats on the road. People found palm branches & started to sing praises to Jesus: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.’ It was a victory parade. Shouts & cheers; praise & glory; all for Jesus. Hundreds of people leading Him into Jerusalem.”
“But not everyone was pleased. The Pharisees, of course, did not like Jesus. I can still see them coming up to Him & demanding that He stop the whole procession. Jesus answered, ‘I tell you if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ It sounded strange at the time. Not a week later, the Pharisees got their wish. They silenced Jesus. No more words came out of His mouth when He died on the cross & His body was set in a tomb. They chased His followers away. We hid, quiet & alone, in an upper room, afraid for our lives. Yes, the praises had stopped, but then the stones cried out. Yes, the stones. On Easter morning, can you hear the sound they made – stone against stone?”
“The stone in front of the tomb rolled back & scraped against the opening of the tomb that had been cut into stone. That grinding sound is just the noise a stone is supposed to make when a tomb is opened. What gave one of the 1st sounds of praise on Easter morning? The stones did as Jesus rises from the dead & the hope of our resurrection is born.”
Returning to tonight – yes, the redemption of all creation began with Jesus. What happened to His body, now alive & glorified, is the hope not just of you & me & all believers. It is a larger hope that that. It is the hope of all creation. All the earth & sea & heavens, all the trees & mountains & fields, look forward to the salvation Jesus will bring on that last day.
All of creation waits in eager anticipation for the moment when Jesus will return so the ugliness, groaning & silence can be replaced with the most joyous chorus of praise ever heard. Maybe Handel’s Messiah can give us a glimpse:
Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, Hallelujah! The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord & of His Christ, & He shall reign for ever & ever, Hallelujah! King of Kings, & Lord of Lords, & He shall reign for ever & ever, Hallelujah!
Now, imagine the birds are singing along with the sopranos. Elephants trumpet out in joyous adoration. Cows are mooing the bass line. The fields are waving in harmony to the music. The mountains have never stood more majestic. Deer run & leap without fear. A cat purrs so loudly, as a young girl holds it, that the Lord smiles.
And the rocks like cymbals repeat the sounding joy of the resurrected Savior returning
in glory as Lord of Lords & King of Kings. He shall reign forever & forever. Now that’s a “ginormous” salvation. That is our God, larger than any can imagine.
That’s the sound of praise we look forward to, but also the sound of praise we are already privileged to sing. Here in church, of course, but also on Tuesday afternoon, Thursday morning, & next weekend when we join His creation in being & in doing what Yahweh created & redeemed us to be & to do. Amen.
Hail, wind & rain! Loud blowing snowstorm! Sing to the Lord a new song! Flowers & trees! Loud rustling dry leaves! Sing to the Lord a new song! Engines & steel! Loud pounding hammers! Sing to the Lord a new song! Limestone & beams! Loud building workers! Sing to the Lord a new song! He has done marvelous things. I too will praise Him with a new song! Amen. LSB 817:2, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet