Songs of the Savior: Psalms for Advent

 

This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church we begin a new preaching series entitled “Songs of the Savior: Psalms for Advent.” As you can already tell, this series corresponds to the season of Advent, the start of the liturgical year that leads to our celebration of Christ’s birth.

The Psalms are referred to as the prayerbook of the Bible. This collection of prayer-songs gathers up the wide-ranging experiences and emotions of humanity at prayer with God. All through these prayers are clues to God’s plan to bring lasting hope and new beginnings through a promised Messiah. As we enter into Advent, remembering Christ’s nativity and anticipating His return, we journey through four psalms that are songs of the Messiah.

November 30/December 1 – “The Beloved Anointed of God” [Psalm 2]

December 7/8 – “The Suffering Messiah” [Psalm 22]

December 14/15 – “The Eternal Priest” [Psalm 110]

December 21/22 – “The Perfect King” [Psalm 72]

God Alone Does Marvelous Deeds (part 2)

Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds – Psalm 72:18

This final word in Psalm 72 highlights something else that is especially pertinent for those of us in leadership. It is a critical reminder with two parts. The first part is this: even with all of our efforts and plans, God “alone does marvelous deeds.” I am not the source of the marvelous deeds that I may see in my life, ministry, or church. God is the source. Even if I am the one most visibly attached to success, it is God who is the source. A clear conclusion we can draw from that truth is that God is the one to be praised…not me or you.

There is another part to this statement for those of us in leadership, and it has to do with our perspective: our ministry does not depend on us. As we expend energy and make strategic plans, there is only One who will make that energy useful and bring success from those plans. Again, God “alone does marvelous deeds.” If there will be marvelous results from our energy and plans it is because of God. Does this mean we stop expending energy or planning? Absolutely not! As we get active and make plans, though, we should do so with prayerful reliance on the only One will bring something ‘marvelous’ from us.

God alone does marvelous deeds.

God Alone Does Marvelous Deeds (part 1)

Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds – Psalm 72:18

Psalm 72 is a psalm that builds walls to keep me out when I read it. I feel immediately disconnected from what it is saying. The words are all about the king: praising him and praying for him. When I read these words, I am unsure of what to do with them. How does this connect with my real life today?

The psalmist sings to God grand blessings over the leader of the nation: may he be just and righteous, may he bring prosperity, may he rescue the poor and defenseless, may he bring peace, may his foes bow before him, and so on. I suppose we could transpose these blessings onto our national or state leaders, but it feels like doing so is a stretch.

But as the distance between us and this psalm appears to increase, a marvelous statement appears. The psalmist comes to grip with a striking truth. All of his prayers for and praise of the king remind him of something else. No king can do all of these things. Even a good king will struggle with doing them. We need only look at the life of David. Being ‘just and righteous’ seems a far cry from adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. The history of the kings of Judah and Israel chronicles mild human successes and massive human failures. All the wonderful things that a leader can offer are not always so easily realized. Leaders fail. And a leader’s successes oftentimes seem few and far between.

And so, the psalmist switches focus from the human king to the King of kings. He stops praising a man and starts praising God.  “Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds” (vs. 18). God alone does marvelous deeds. When good things happen, the psalmist writes, we can trace them back not to a human leader but ultimately to God. The Apostle James restates this when he writes: “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). God is the source of all good that we know. God is unchanging. Are we looking for a human leader to provide all that we need? Don’t hold your breath. When our leaders’ success comes, we do well to trace the goodness back to its original source in God.