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February 17, 2019

Sermon II Chronicles 5:13  . . .“Bible songs:  Asaph’s song”

“Bible songs:  Asaph’s song”

II Chronicles 5:13

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

One weekend, or so the story goes, an old farmer went to the city, and attended a big city church.  When he came home, his wife asked him how it was.

“Well,” said the farmer, “it was good.  But they did something really different.  They sang ‘Praise songs’ instead of hymns.”

“Praise songs?” asked his wife.  “What are those?”

“They’re sort of like hymns, only different,” said the farmer.

“Well, what’s the difference?” asked his wife.

The farmer said:  “Well, it’s like this.  If I were to say to you, ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well, that would be a hymn.  If, on the other hand, I were to say to you, ‘Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh, Martha, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, are in the corn, are in the corn, CORN, CORN!!!  Yes, It’s true.  The whole herd is in the corn,’ that would be a ‘Praise song.’”

That same day, a young man who usually attended a city church, attended a small town church instead.  When he came home, his wife asked him how it was.

“Well,” said the young man, “it was good.  But they did something a little different.  They sang hymns instead of praise songs.”

“Hymns?” asked his wife.  “What are those?”

He said, “They’re sort of like praise songs, only different.”

“Well, what’s the difference?” asked his wife.

The young man said, “Well, it’s like this.  If I were to say to you, ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well, that would be a praise song.  If, on the other hand, I were to say to you, ‘Oh, Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry.  Inclinest thine ear to the word of my mouth.  Yea, those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight, have broken free of their shackles, the warm pens eschewed, then goaded by minion of darkness and night, they all my sweet corn have chewed,’ now that’s a hymn!”

The Bible is full of songs.  David wrote in Psalm 28:  “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.”  Another psalmist wrote in Psalm 95:  “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation...let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!”  And the apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians:  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

And so far in our time together, we’ve looked at a handful of Bible songs.  Just as soon as the people of Israel passed through the Red Sea and stood on solid ground, Moses, and his sister Miriam, sang a song.  When Deborah and Barak defeated King Jabin and his general Sisera, they sang a song.  And when King Saul and his son, Jonathan, were killed in battle, David sang a song, a song of lament.

Now in our text for today, we find another song.  But what makes it different from any other Bible song is that it’s only ten words long, making it the shortest song of all!

Please turn in your Bible to page 457, as I read the words of our text.  I’ll start where it says, “The Ark Brought to the Temple.”  II Chronicles chapter 5, verse 2:  “Then Solomon assembled the elders of the Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion.  And all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the feast that is in the seventh month.  And all the elders of Israel came, and the Levites took up the ark.  And they brought up the ark, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the Levitical priests brought them up.  And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered.”

Let’s stop there for just a moment to see what’s going on.

For the past two hundred years, Israel’s central place of worship had been a tabernacle, a tent.  And just as soon as they made it, they moved it from place to place for forty years, till they came to the Promised Land.  Then, when Jerusalem became their capital, they set up their tabernacle, their “Tent of Meeting,” there.

But if you’ll remember, David wanted to build a temple, a permanent place of worship, but God wouldn’t let him.  He wanted David’s son, Solomon, to build it instead.

So as it says in a chapter before, back in II Chronicles chapter 3, Solomon built that temple.  Look at chapter 3, verse 5:  “The nave he lined with cypress and covered it with fine gold and made palms and chains on it.  He adorned the house with settings of precious stones.”  Verse 8:  “And he made the Most Holy Place.  Its length, corresponding to the breadth of the house, was twenty cubits, and its breadth was twenty cubits.  He overlaid it with 600 talents of fine gold.”  Then look at chapter 4, verse 19:  “So Solomon made all the vessels that were in the house of God:  the golden altar, the tables for the bread of the Presence, the lampstands and their lamps of pure gold to burn before the inner sanctuary, as prescribed; the flowers, the lamps, and the tongs, of purest gold; the snuffers, basins, dishes for incense, and fire pans, of pure gold, and the sockets of the temple for the inner doors to the Most Holy Place and for the doors of the nave of the temple were of gold.”

Just imagine!  With its beautiful wood, intricate carvings, and pure gold, the building must have been absolutely beautiful!  If we were to see it today, it’d probably take our breath away.

Now here in chapter 5, the last and most important part of all, the Ark of the Covenant, what symbolized the very presence of God, came to rest in the Most Holy Place.

It was a day of national joy and celebration!

Now look with me at chapter 5, verse 11:  “And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, ‘For He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever,’ the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.”

Imagine the joy!  Imagine the sound!  Clanging cymbals, blaring trumpets, and strumming harps, and lyres.  

Imagine the singing!  The Bible tells us there was a choir of four thousand, with 288 skilled musicians!

And what did they sing?  Over and over again, they sang their simple, joy-filled, ten-word song:  “For He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.”

I like that word, “steadfast.”  Not just “love,” but “steadfast love.”

So what’s makes a love “steadfast”?  It’s a constant love.  It’s an enduring love.  It’s a love that’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Far beyond what we could ever deserve, it’s the kind of love God has for us doomed sinners, that caused Him to reach down from heaven to earth to send His Son.

And even though we were the worst of sinners to ever walk His planet, His love, His steadfast love, always remains the same--willing to forgive, willing to make us whole again.

It’s a love that lasts forever.

In her book, Steadfast Love:  The Response of God to the Cries of Our Heart, author Lauren Chandler tells of a Thanksgiving morning, back in 2009.  The coffee was brewing, and her six-foot, five-inch husband, Matt, poured himself a cup and sat down on the couch to feed their six-month old girl from a bottle.  Then he burped her and put her in a bouncy seat.

The next thing she knew, there was a loud bang.  When she didn’t hear anything more, she ran inside the living room to find him lying on the floor between a coffee table and the fireplace ledge, thrashing, having a seizure.

When the medics came with their stretcher and black bulky bags, she prayed that the Lord would save his voice, his mind, and his life.  He was, after all, the pastor of a congregation of six thousand just outside Dallas, TX.

So what caused the seizure?  A tumor.  A malignant brain tumor.  

And for the next several months, their life took on a “new normal.”  First came low dose chemo and radiation.  Then came high dose.  And with each dose, he became weaker and more nauseous.  

Meanwhile, their family’s world kept spinning--school, homework, diapers, baseball practice, baths, and bedtime stories.  And all he had energy to do was to lie on the couch and fall asleep.

And as she struggled to make sense of it all, and to find her hope in God, she wrote a book, a book she called, Steadfast Love.  

This is what she said:  “There are times when worship overflows easily and effortlessly from a heart full of gratitude and praise.  Yet, there are other times when God seems far and we feel we have nothing left to offer.  We are tired, or thirsty, or imprisoned in our own chains through our own devices, or caught in the waves of a tumultuous sea.  This is when God shows us His steadfast love.”

And she wrote:  “He wraps His eternally powerful, ultimately creative, nail-scarred hands around our hearts and squeezes with appropriate might--yielding an honest plea for Him to save us and deliver us from our circumstances, fears, and self-control.  And He does.  He initiates with His steadfast love, and responds with the same.”

We too need to know God’s steadfast love.  It’s our haven, our harbor, our shelter in the storm.  

As the people of Israel once sang:  “For He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.”

 

Finish then Thy new creation, pure and spotless let us be; let us see Thy great salvation, perfectly restored in Thee!  Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before Thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise; for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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