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Lesson 103 of 127
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The Heart of God


The Heart of God

Psalm 106

Sermon transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

God has tried to get me to say today and it’s Psalm 106. Of course it’d be hard for you to get the heart of it. Psalm 106, “Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever! Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord, or show forth all his praise? Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times! Remember me, O Lord, when thou showest favor to thy people; help me when thou deliverest them; that I may see the prosperity of thy chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thy heritage.

Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider thy wonderful works; they did not remember the abundance of thy steadfast love, but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power. He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry; and he led them through the deep as through a desert. So he saved them from the hand of the foe, and delivered them from the power of the enemy. And the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.

But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them.

When men in the camp were jealous of Moses and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord, the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. Fire also broke out in their company; the flame burned up the wicked.

They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a molten image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red Sea. Therefore he said he would destroy them — had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

Then they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in his promise. They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord. Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them that he would make them fall in the wilderness, and would disperse their descendants among the nations, scattering them over the lands.

Then they attached themselves to the Ba’al of Pe’or, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead; they provoked the Lord to anger with their doings, and a plaque broke out among them. Then Phin’ehas stood up and interposed, and the plaque was stayed. And that has been reckoned to him as righteousness from generation to generation for ever.

They angered him at the waters of Mer’ibah, and it went ill with Moses on their account; for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke words that were rash.

They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the harlot in their doings.

Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage; he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their power. Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes, and were brought low through their iniquity. Nevertheless he regarded their distress, when he heard their cry. He remembered for their sake his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive.

Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to thy holy name and glory in thy praise.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord!”

Of course then (Psalm) 107 goes the same way, just boringly so. It’s very difficult to ignore it, you feel like saying, “You stupid God, you stupid God! They’ll do it again to you.” I mean it breaks your heart, so life gets very important, very important that we see it ourselves and we don’t miss making that point. By all means let us be right and orthodox, I appreciate it Colleen, dear love her. She said years ago to me the actual words that I had spoken years ago when I had spoken on Matthew 25, he separates the sheep from the goats and go away unto everlasting punishment and she said, “Oh that’s the conclusion you came to back then, what you’ve just concluded now.” Thank you for that.

I thought of course again about it because it’s very serious and it came back to me again actually as if to haunt me because you can tell I’m not confident of the whole business that God gives us another chance. But it came back to me again of course in Ephesians, that famous Ephesians piece, Ephesians 2:4 is the start of those and Ephesians 2:7 was the one that pulled me up. Ephesians 2:4 is the great wonderful good description of reality and I hope you have it memorized in your heart.

Ephesians 2:4, “But God, who is rich in mercy” towards us “out of the great love with which he loved us,” and then of course in verse 7, “that” and then he raises it up and makes us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus and then in Ephesians 2:7, “That in the coming ages” and that came back to haunt me in regard for those who don’t appear to be saved as they say here in this life, our cousins and our relatives who apparently don’t know Christ, “that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Of course what got me actually is the Greek word for immeasurable is super duper you know, “huper balon”. “Balon” is to throw and “huper” is to throw above so immeasurable is throwing away above what is normal and so the immeasurable riches of his grace are, in fact I remember one of the commentators say, “There is no way in which you can say it in English more forcibly, there is no more superlative expression then this immeasurable riches of his grace.” Of course then what gets me is to the ages even to the ages that in the coming ages. However much my wife calls me back to

orthodoxy or challenges me on this whole doctrine of God’s great mercy to us even after death, still the ages of the ages….

I don’t know if you know there is no word “forever” in Greek. There is no word. The word they use is “ionos ionon”. “Ionon” is age and it’s to the ages of the ages, that’s what they use for the expression forever, to the ages of the ages, which is quite interesting. Of course this is that he may “show the immeasurable greatness of his grace in kindness towards us in the coming ages.” So will there be coming ages? Well who knows, God does not outline that to us. But it did bring back to me again all the mercy of God, the extreme mercy of God and the extreme forgiveness of God.

It brought back to me these Psalms that of course detail it and the whole Old Testament details a sad story of a rebellious people who are constantly doing and making promises to God and then breaking them. So often you feel you – well you don’t of course but so often you feel like saying, “You stupid God, they did that before to you.” Except that each nail for our benefit, “they nailed you to the cross before, don’t you have any sense?” So I think He is very gracious, very gracious to us and I think that especially on this day when we remember Him. It’s important for us to see again the incredible mercy of God.

I said to Irene, “Well you know what is important in all this to me, is what it says about the heart of God.” I of course was caught by the words of that children’s hymn which expresses so beautifully but still it is the heart of God. “The heart of the eternal is most wonderfully kind.” What came home to me when I first glimpsed at all this extreme mercy of God or whether there is a possibility of a second provision or however you want to put it, is that his heart is what’s important. We’re here to grasp his heart and to express his heart. Even if you ignore all these things that we’re talking about whether there will be “what will happen to our unsaved dads and mums or cousins or all the others?” Even if you ignore all those arguments you have to face the fact that God and I know you object and rightly so to the exact words, but God died for us and I know it wasn’t him, it was His son. But even if you don’t mind me saying it because it’s kind of funny but it was just your very down to earth scientific way of putting it, “Yes but he knew he was going to be alive, he knew he was going to overcome death.” But I thought, “Oh well now, wait a minute, will it would only work if he didn’t know?”

It seems to me the thing that is very plain in this that God was actually willing for that. That God so loved us that he died for us. You can’t get around the fact that his Son cried out “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?” God was willing to allow himself to be destroyed it seemed for us. God has gone to extreme limits to express his you might say eternal mercy or his overwhelming mercy to us. So I thought then well what is the difficulty with this issue? Think about it a little, just think about it. If we are wrong or not exactly and precisely right, if we are preaching and expressing what is our calling which is to express God’s heart, isn’t that what we’re here to do? To express God’s heart. We’re not here to explain exactly how things will go after this world is gone. We’re here to express God’s heart and if we’re faithful to that isn’t that the important thing?

Then what is the danger of the other? Well the only danger I see in it is that you would call up to yourself the human affections that you have for your dads and your mums or your brothers and sisters and that you’d kind of side with them against God, you’d mix or water down the joy that you have in God alone with some of the purely human pleasure of maybe seeing you dads and mums or your unsaved relatives. That would be the only danger. But that is always there. One can keep ones eyes on God and see that the glory is that we will be with him and we will be with all He loves. You won’t make

it a kind of domestic thing, “Oh good I’m going to see them again.” That mixes up your joy in Him and in some way waters down the purity of your love. You can control that yourself. I can see that that’s a weakness. I can see that if you take the attitude that well even those relatives that I have and those brothers and sisters even though they didn’t know God, they are going to be there and yippee that’s going to be the joy of heaven.

Well that’s not right and isn’t balanced and isn’t truth. That is a danger but one can attend to that. That really ties up with do you love God more than other human beings? Or do you love God more than even your dearest relative? Are you closest to God of all the people you are close to? So one has to take care of some of those things and be honest in your thoughts. But it does seem to me that our Father is extremely merciful, is extremely merciful. And that his heart is one of mercy to all that he has made.

I remember a phrase that stuck with me about old Barth, I refer to Barth more because I respect his intellectual honesty and his intellectual prowess of course and his commitment to God’s word. I’m not by any means a Barthian or he would himself not be a Barthian but it is interesting to remember that he kept on saying this, “What’s the big deal here?” And he would say “If Jesus died we don’t have to die. Jesus died so no one else has to die.” He’s very definite about it and to me that used to be one of the arguments that the old vague general evangelicals would use, “Oh Jesus died for me so that’s everything.” But he says it as if two people don’t have to die for one sin. That was his kind of approach.

There is no doubt there are so many verses, “Jesus died for all therefore all died.” So it is important for us most of all not to try to settle two ways of interpreting the truth here but it is more to see the heart of God, see the heart of our dear Father which is extreme, his mercy is extreme. Of course the other thing Barth said was “He doesn’t destroy anything he has made.” He knows that that isn’t true, he has destroyed many things that he has made but obviously he meant to destroy something that he had made in his own image. So it’s important and of course don’t please, Barth is not settled on one side of the fence at all. I’m just quoting the things that reinforce what I myself am talking about at this moment. It does seem to me on this day of all days it’s important for us to see his blood and his flesh, here they are and that’s the extreme he will go to. He will, you can’t say turn against his own flesh and blood, but certainly separate himself from his own son for us stupid little people, for us silly little people. So his mercy is great towards us and I do believe that.

It is a matter of holding truth and tension always in theology, holding truth and tension because the truths themselves are infinite and you can not see them perfectly. That’s why I say to the ages of the ages and why I talk about the drone. That’s why I bring up the issue of the silly European probe because it seems to me to bring home to us the vastness of the universe and therefore the vastness of the length of time and the infinity that we’re involved in. That there is far more than this little world and there has been more life than we are aware of on this little world because we really don’t know much beyond the Iron Age or the Stone Age as far as what they really thought or believed.

It ties up with the bleakness thing that we talked about, often the attitude of Christians has a bleakness to it when it comes to after death – a joy about those who are saved but a bleakness about all the other people and of course they are so real to us. I can think of and you can think of the faces that are dear to us, that apparently didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. So there is all that unknown life that we don’t think much about.

It just seems to me in the light of Psalms like 106 and many other Psalms and many other chapters in the Old Testament where some of those prophets detail the back and forth of God’s people and God’s eternal steadfast love that kept on coming out. It seems to me very plain and strong that we have a Father who is beyond our understanding and far beyond our ability to show love and mercy. There is something that, well you used to say it at times about some of the church-ianity that we met, it’s mean. They are very mean, you know they are stingy with their love, stingy with their generosity and there can creep in a meanness. “Well I’m glad I know where I’m going.” Not quite to hell with them but I’m glad I know where I’m going. Well I don’t think the Savior thinks that way. Think his tears are way beyond these stupid tears and a very loving person and of course we say “we’re glad he is!”

So just to revisit and revisit because I want to be honest, I appreciated what Colleen said that I said before and I don’t have answers for all the expressions that Jesus used. “They will go away, cast out into the place of the devil and his angels.” I just think that it’s still possible that Jesus does accommodate himself at times to the expressions and the understanding of the people that he’s talking to and so he does everything to encourage them to see how serious this situation is and how important it is to make the right decision. It seems to me our task is one above all others to set forth the steadfast love of our Lord and his extreme mercy and his extreme mercy and his, what lays me flat, is his readiness, his readiness to let us have our way until we finally let him have his way.

Of course the overwhelming fact behind all that is because he is final reality. He is final reality. In other words if you say what will happen when we get behind this card, behind that card, behind that card to eventually find out what is there? It will be the heart of the eternal most wonderful friend. He can afford to be a Quaker because that’s reality, that’s truth; the heart of the eternal is merciful. Shall we pray?

Dear Lord, we trust you for your good light for us so that we may understand your heart. Lord we know it is not vital for us to be able to define everything intellectually, it is not vital truth for us with our poor inadequate language to express what you only can express by your son but it is vital for us to grasp your heart and to allow your heart to become ours and to express that heart to all that we meet in these coming years.

So Lord we would come to you this morning to trust you by your Holy Spirit to continue to lead us in our understanding and to enable us to grow so that we may see things as you see them and so that we may be quiet about things that we’re not sure of and be loud in our expression of what we know. So Father we would give ourselves to you to be of whatever use you can make us. We ask you to give us wisdom when we come to these issues and above all to have our eyes on you. You have said that you will guide us with your eye and Lord we would keep our eyes on your eye so that our heart is filled with your heart.

Then Lord we pray for the dear people that we love and care for. We pray for our relatives, for our brothers and sisters, for dads and mums, for all the ones that you have used to express your love to us. We would pray now for them and trust you that you will do what is right with them; you will do what is for their blessing. Lord that is enough for us. We know that it is your desire that we would put everything into your hands and be confident that there is where it lies and that it is safe and secure with you.

So Lord we would thank you for all the people that we have met in our life and for all those who have touched us. We would thank you Lord that you will not destroy anything that you have set your love upon and that you will keep alive all of yourself and all of your beauty that you have made. So we trust you Father for your judgments. We thank you that they are not our responsibility, that they are yours and you yourself have bequeathed them to your dear son. So Lord we bow before you this morning to thank you for your graciousness to us in our lives, to thank you for your steadfast love that never ceases and your mercies that never come to an end. We thank you Lord for your patience with us and for letting us do whatever we want so that we may see the extreme results of it and so that we may turn to you with a convinced heart that knows what is right. Lord we thank you, thank you for your forbearance. Amen