Good morning! Last week, we finished our sermon series on the Kingdom of God, where we looked at the rule and reign of God through Jesus Christ, how the Kingdom of God is here but still to come, how the Kingdom of God is an upside-down Kingdom, and how the Church is on mission to bring the Kingdom near to the world, as we await the return of the King of the Kingdom.
And this morning, we officially enter into the season of Advent. If you have no idea what Advent is, or if Advent sounds like a liturgical church thing to you, Advent is simply the time of year when we look back at the first coming of Jesus, while at the same time, looking forward to the second coming of Jesus.
In Advent, we remember when Jesus, fully God and fully man, came to this earth as a baby, born of the virgin Mary, who came not to condemn the world but to save the world, who died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin, and who would be raised back to life to take away the sting of death.
We look back at the first coming of Jesus with celebration for what Jesus did on our behalf. There was nothing we could have done ourselves to fix our predicament; we needed the God-man to do that for us. And so, we celebrate what Jesus accomplished for us in His first coming.
But then, in Advent, we also look forward to when Jesus, the Ruler King, will come again to judge the world in righteousness, who will come to make all things right, who will come to fully and finally put an end to all injustice and evil and sin in the world.
We looked at some of this in our sermon series on the Kingdom of God, how we look forward to the second coming of Jesus with anticipation that Jesus is coming, and when we will forever be with our Saviour and King.
And here is why Advent matters so much for us: We are busy people. This time of year, people are running around all over the place, getting gifts for friends and family, getting things ready and organized for Christmas, and doing all that they can possibly do to get into the Christmas season. And none of this bad, but it makes busy this time of year.
Helena and I have just started an Advent activity chain, where the kids cut off a loop each day. And on each loop there is an activity written on it, that we are to accomplish as a family for that day. This is going to be a lot of fun, and we are going to get a lot of activities in.
But my hope is that we don’t just do these things for the sake of doing them, as though we are simply crossing them off our list of Christmas to-do’s, but that we are actually taking the time to take in what we’re doing.
With all of the busyness and commercialization of this time of year, Advent essentially gives us permission to slow down and reflect on the coming of Christ into this world. That is why Advent is so rich and so beneficial for the follower of Jesus. So, I’m excited! We have a few events planned so far for the Chapel.
This Friday, we are hosting Community Praise & Prayer, here at The Chapel at 7pm. And over the next few Sundays, we will be looking at the various themes of Advent: hope, joy, peace, and love. And then, on Monday, December 24, we will be having a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, here at The Chapel, where we will reflect on the Christmas story.
And my hope is that all of this would re-orient us to the reason for the season, and that is, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to this world, and that we would experience a renewed desire for Jesus to return.
So, if you have a Bible, we will begin the season of Advent by looking at Psalm 22. And if you don’t have a Bible, there should be a Bible under the row of chairs in front of you. If you can grab a Bible, we will be in Psalm 22.
This morning, we are going to begin the Advent season by looking at our first Advent theme: hope. In a season where hope is sometimes hard for many people to find, we need hope. We need to know that there is hope.
And in our passage, this morning, we find an individual who is wrestling with his circumstances on the one hand, and how he has seen God at work in his life, time and time again, on the other hand. And this morning, we will see how we can have a hope that is greater than our circumstances.
So, if you have your Bible opened to Psalm 22, we will begin by looking at verse 1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.”
The writer of this Psalm is a guy by the name of David. And David opens up his situation to us. He feels forsaken by God. He is crying out to God, but he is getting no response. He is not finding rest. He feels like God is far from him.
And what's interesting about this is that David is giving us a window into the human condition. You see, we are often presented with seemingly hopeless situations, and it is quite natural for us, in these circumstances, to lose hope.
Maybe we have a loved one who is sick, maybe we are the ones who are sick, maybe we are having issues in our marriage, maybe we are struggling in our parenting, maybe we are feeling lonely. And we lose hope.
I remember when I was in my second year of Bible College. That year was a hard year for many of us, because of the intense spiritual warfare that we were experiencing. And I just remember stepping foot on campus and feeling what I can only describe was darkness. I felt alone. I felt like God was far from me.
Night after night, I would pray to God for Him to save me from the overwhelming darkness, but I received no relief. I cried out like David, in this Psalm, but I found no rest. And if this is where the story ends, then we would certainly lose hope.
But notice that David doesn’t end the Psalm there. He continues in verse 3: “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.”
Forsaken, yet God is our trust. A couple of weeks into the school year, I was delivered from the feeling of darkness. I finally felt relief. I finally found rest. And I found myself agreeing with David here. If the many saints before me trusted in God for their deliverance, then I can trust God for my deliverance.
Forsaken, yes. I’m not going to stand here and tell you that everything is roses and butterflies the moment you decide to follow Jesus, because that’s not the case. Yet, God is our trust. And though deliverance might not look like what we expect it to look like, we can still trust God in our circumstances.
And here’s why: Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 27. How can we have such hope? In Matthew 27, Jesus has just been sentenced to crucifixion. He’s hanging on the cross, taking all the shame and mocking and sin upon Himself.
And here is what Matthew 27:45-46 says: “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”
Sounds familiar, right? Jesus is quoting from Psalm 22. He is forsaken by God. He cries out to His Father in the darkness, but He receives no response. Jesus is on the cross, taking every sin upon Himself, and feels abandoned by His Father.
And how this gives us hope is, first, God Himself felt forsaken. If you think that God is somewhere up there, and has no idea what you're feeling, think again. God is your trust, because He has experienced what you are experiencing. That’s the first reason why we can have hope.
The second reason is that Jesus nailed whatever you are experiencing to His cross. He took it all, whatever you are experiencing, and He put it to death on the cross. That’s good news, right? It means I don’t need to go this alone.
You see, it’s natural to be where David is, in the first two verses of this Psalm, but there comes a point when we need to come to verse 3. Health issues, yet. Marriage problems, yet. Parenting struggles, yet. Forsaken, yet God is my trust.
The Christ who was delivered up to be crucified is the Christ who delivers us from our circumstances. If we don’t get this, then we will forever live with this victim mentality that says, “Poor me.”
That’s letting your circumstances dictate your hope. And this text is saying that we can have hope, regardless of our circumstances, because our trust is in God.
But David continues to wrestle with his circumstances and his trust in God, in verse 6: “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 ‘He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’”
Again, this has direct parallels to Matthew 27. Jesus is on the cross, and the chief priests, scribes, and elders, mocked Jesus, saying, in verse 42, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
David feels despised by the people. His faith is even under attack. They mock his trust in the Lord. And here is the challenge, for the follower of Jesus: Holding fast to our faith, when our faith is ridiculed or mocked or belittled.
I think of Job, right? Job had all these bad things happen to him, at once. And what is the response he receives from the ones who were supposed to be there for him? “It’s your fault this is happening to you. It’s some sin you committed. Curse God and die.”
We know this: It’s in the hard times of our lives, that people are going to have the biggest questions about why we believe what we believe. It’s in those times, when things are going bad, that people are going to say, “You believe in God, but where is He now?”
Jesus was despised on the cross. His relationship with His Father mocked. “He trusts in God, let God deliver Him.” But what do we see three days later? Jesus is raised back to life. The God who promises to be faithful comes through. And because of God’s faithfulness, we can trust Him in the hard times. Amen?
It’s in the hard times, that we must echo the words of David, in verse 9: “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts. 10 On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God. 11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.”
What should come to our minds, in the hard times, are all the times we have seen God at work in our lives. That’s what is going to carry us through.
For David, this should be easy, right? The kid who took on the giant, Goliath, with a sling and a stone? David trusted in His God, that God would defeat the giant. And God does. So, if I’m David, whenever hard times come my way, whenever anyone speaks ill of my God, I’m going back to that time when God showed Himself faithful to me.
And I know it’s hard, when people come against you because of your faith, when people think you are a fool for following Jesus, to dwell on the faithfulness of God rather than having bitterness and resentment towards God. But if God has taken care of you all these years, do you really have any reason to suspect that He won't take care of you now?
Despised, yet God is faithful. He is still God on His throne in the hard times. We might not see it. We might be ridiculed for it. But He is still the faithful God that we can cry out to, when trouble comes our way.
The Psalmist continues in verse 12: “Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—17 I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
David is surrounded. He could be writing of any of the number of times when he was surrounded by his enemies. He looks around and all he sees are people who are against him and want to kill him. And we are once again drawn to Jesus, in Matthew 27.
Look at verse 35: “And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.”
Jesus’ hands and feet are pierced. His garments are divided and they are casting lots for them. Jesus’ flesh, at this point, is shredded from the whipping that He received. His bones are exposed. He has no strength. Jesus is surrounded by His enemies.
But then you get to a passage of Scripture like 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, which says, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Or a passage like Hebrews 12:2, which says that Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross and despised the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
We look to Jesus who, surrounded by His enemies, became our rescue from our enemies. Peter, in his first letter, in 5:8, says, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
We are going to be surrounded by those who revile us and persecute us and speak all kinds of evil against us, but what does the David say?
Look at verse 19: “But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
Surrounded, yet God is my rescue. And He is my rescue, because of what He accomplished on the cross. I no longer fear condemnation, because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I no longer fear death, because Jesus killed death. I no longer fear harm, because “my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
That’s our confidence in the face of being surrounded by our enemies. The devil is going to use all kinds of tricks and maneuvers to cause us to stumble and fall in our trust in God, but we have something that the devil cannot take away, and that is, hope. No one, even the devil himself, can take away your hope.
And this brings us to the conclusion of the Psalm. Forsaken, yet God is my trust. Despised, yet God is faithful. Surrounded, yet God is my rescue.
Therefore, I will praise my God and King. Look at verse 22: “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.”
“25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever!”
“27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 28 For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.”
“29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. 30 Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; 31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.”
The gospel says that God came to this world that He created, that He dwelt among His people, that He was forsaken, that He was despised, and that He was surrounded by His enemies, that He suffered, that He died, and that He rose from the dead, for our sake.
We were headed towards a lost eternity with no God and no hope. Yet. That beautiful word in Scripture, implies that God interceded on our behalf. Yet, Jesus did what we simply could not do, so that if you believe in Jesus today, you can have hope in an eternity with Jesus Christ. That’s the gospel.
This time of year, we celebrate when Jesus came to this earth to be the trustworthy, faithful, and rescuing God. But this time of year, we also anticipate when Jesus will return to this earth, because we don’t worship a dead Saviour; we worship a risen Saviour, who’s life, death and resurrection, has given us hope that He will come again to make all things right.
So, this Advent season, what is our response to God? Will this be the Christmas I finally put my trust in Him? Will this be the Christmas I stop relying on my goodness and instead rely on the goodness of Jesus for my salvation? What will our response be?
David closes this Psalm by calling those who fear the Lord, to praise Him. Glorify Him. Stand in awe of Him. For this God did not leave us in our predicament of sin, He took it upon Himself. And because of Jesus, whatever your circumstances, if you feel forsaken, or if you feel despised, or if you feel surrounded, look to Jesus.
Your circumstances will look to get the better of you, but take heart, Jesus has overcome the world. And if Jesus has overcome the world, then your circumstances, though big to you, are small to Him.
We have hope that there is coming a day, when Christ will return, and all the afflicted sons and daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will be satisfied in the presence of our God. It’s coming. We have hope that it’s coming.
But this Advent season, what will our response be? What is our response to the God who has given us a great hope? Let’s pray…
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your faithfulness to us. We are a fickle people, God. We praise your goodness, one minute, but then when things go wrong, we question your goodness. God, help us to think rightly of who you are and what you have done for us. Help us to not lose sight of the gospel, this Christmas season, when we are out buying gifts and doing various activities. Help us to not become so busy, that we miss out on you and the gift that you have given us.
God, help us to be a thankful people, this Christmas season. Help us to have hope when there might not be any reason to hope. And may our lives be a living testimony of your faithfulness to us. Help us to grab hold of you and your truth when our circumstances try to get the better of us. We praise you, Father. We are in awe of what you have done and what you will do. We sing your praises, and we declare your righteousness. All things are in your capable hands. Help us to see that. Help us to trust you. We thank you and praise, in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.