Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, IA
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I’m sure many of you have heard this story: A farmer went into his banker and said to him that he had good news and bad news. “First the bad. I can’t make the mortgage payment, and I can’t pay back my operating loan this year. We couldn’t get the crop planted because of the weather, so I won’t be making any payments on my equipment either. In fact, I’m going to pack it all in and just turn the farm over to you.” After a prolonged silence the banker asked, “What’s the good news?” The farmer smiled, “I’m still going to bank with you.”
Good News and Bad News. We get used to hearing things that are good news and bad news. Of course in real life we don’t want to hear the bad news, only the good. And here we are pew sitting Easter is still fresh on our minds. Isn’t this the time when we expect to hear about “Good News?” The purple of advent is gone, the fasting, the sorry feelings for what Jesus had to go through on our behalf. Let’s hear some more Good News about Jesus being alive! OK!
Well, that’s not just Good News that Christ has risen, that’s Best of the Best News. Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death and hell. Every time we shout it we proclaim the victory won by Jesus. The victory that is our by faith in what He has done. It’s Good News…
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (Psalm 139:1-12, ESV)
My question to you today is: Is that psalm Good News or Bad News?
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! (Psalm 139:1, ESV)
Well, of course it’s not always good to have God know everything about everything about me. It almost feels like an invasion of privacy. Think about it, God searching me and knowing me! If God’s knows me, I can’t hide in the crowd. I can’t blend in to the wallflowers. He knows who I am and there’s no getting away. That’s Bad News, isn’t it? Or is it Good News? He knows me. He knows who I am, I’m not just a number in the crowd. He knows me for me. Come to think about it that means when Jesus hung on the cross, when He died for the sins of the world, he because he was God, he knew me there too! When He rose from the dead as the first fruits of those who believe, he knew me then too! Because he searches me and knows me, he knows how much I needed a Savior, and when he bled and died on the cross he did it for me. And he rose again from death, and when I shout “He is Risen!” I’m shouting it for me because God knows me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. (Psalm 139:2, ESV)
God knows when I sit and when I rise, that pretty much covers all my waking hours: At work, at play, at home, at church, as a matter of fact this sounds a lot like church, sitting and rising. Right here and now God knows my thoughts from afar. I don’t think that’s Good News at all. He looks inside here, inside my head, and knows what I’m thinking. Well, at times it’s rather empty, but at times it’s full of awful things. When I sit by people that I don’t like, God knows what I’m thinking… God knows what I’m thinking; he knows my thoughts from afar. He doesn’t have to be here and see the disgust on my face when I sit and wish that certain people would just go away. I’d rather not have God know about that… But God knows my thoughts… He knows my struggle every day to do what’s right. I know I should be welcoming to everyone. I know that Jesus promise of forgiveness is for everyone. He knows that I know what I should do and yet I don’t do it. He knows my thoughts, how much help I need, so when He promises to help it’s not an empty offer. He is the one who can help me make a change in my attitude, and change my thoughts, because he knows what they are. That is Good News.
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139:3, ESV)
God watches over my going out and my lying down: in my house, outside of my house; in the garage, taking a nap on the couch, or late nights in front of the glow of the tube, God is familiar with all my ways. He’s familiar… does familiarity breeds contempt? My ways are not God’s ways. It’s not Good News that God is familiar with what I do every day. Mostly because I’m not sure he’d be happy with some of the things I do. I don’t want my family to know all my ways. I have private moments that I thought were just mine, but God says he’s familiar… with my personal failures, my personal struggles with recurring sins, my personal demons, all the things that I hide from everyone. He knows them all… that’s Bad News, and yet, it’s Good News, isn’t it. If he’s familiar with it, he knows how much those things hurt me. If he’s familiar he knows how unhappy I am when I do them. The bible says that Jesus was tempted every way just as we are, that means he knows how difficult the struggle is. If he knows about them there’s no reason to not talk to him about them. No reason not to confess them to him. He’s familiar, he’s not going to be surprised at my confession, in fact when I say I have sinned in thought word and deed, he’s familiar with what I’m talking about. “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That’s his promise. He is faithful. He is familiar. He is forgiving. He forgives me.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. (Psalm 139:4, ESV)
There are times when I wish I knew what was on my tongue before I spoke. More often than not, my words cut. More times than I care to admit my tongue is my most versatile weapon, and it works with more precision than any satellite-guided bomb. Worst of all my tongue is connected to my heart. When I say the things I wish I didn’t say, I do mean them, even if I don’t mean them later. My tongue reveals the blackness that I know is in my heart. And God knows it’s there, too. He knows what I’m going to say before I say it. And what about those words that I don’t say? Those hurtful, spiteful words that I somehow manage to keep from rolling off my tongue. If he knows the ones I say before I say them then he knows the ones that I bite off in my mouth. Even though it was good not to say them, it’s bad that I even thought them. And God knows them all. He knows them because he doesn’t judge the words of my mouth. God judges by the heart, and mine is full of sin. He knows the words because he knows the heart. Out of the heart comes all sort of evil, Jesus says. St. Paul says to let the words of Christ dwell richly in your heart. If his words are there then His words will come off your tongue. Just look at today as an example: God knew I’d be singing the words of the hymn we just sang even before we sang them, even before I pick it for us to sing!
So, the tongue that hurts is also the tongue that repeats Good News. The tongue that cuts can also be the tongue that speaks of the forgiveness won for corrupt hearts. Jesus Christ knows, He knows what I’m going to say. He can and will cause his words to come out of me, instead of my own.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (Psalm 139:5-12, ESV)
The psalm speaks of God’s pursuit. Everywhere I go He is there. He’s like a bloodhound on the trail. I can’t climb a tree, or into a hole. He knows me. I can’t hide from Him. He knows my thoughts, the evil that fills my brain. He knows the things I do, weather in secret or in public. The things I do that are selfish, or hateful, or for spite. He knows my heart and the evil words I will speak. For all of that He should pursue me for punishment. The wages of sin is death, He says. I deserve death, for my thoughts words and deed. And I can hide none of them from God. The “Bad News” is that I am guilty and God knows it.
But the Good News is: That instead of pursuing me, God pursues someone else. It’s funny, in a way, because even though I am evil and deserve punishment, God punishes him even though He is Good. Jesus Christ fell under the relentless pursuit of God punishment. He suffered and died for my sins. AS Jesus bled and died on the cross, God heaped on him the punishment for my hidden thoughts, my evil actions, and my sinful heart. And when Jesus said, “It is finished!” the punishment for them all went away with His death. He rose again for me, to give life to me instead of the death I deserved. That is Great, Good News.
The funny thing is that if we think again of the psalm we don’t have to worry about the “Bad News” any more. We can think of the Good News of the Psalm instead. He searches me and knows me he knows all my needs and takes care of me. No intrusion on my privacy only the searching of a loving caring God. He only wants the best for me. Because of Jesus he knows my sitting and my rising and my thoughts from afar. He knows me so well that nothing can separate me from his love. I am always on his mind. And He knows and hears me even before I speak. Before I even know my needs myself, before I can even speak them God knows about them and has already answered my prayers.
So the Psalm that would be Bad News / Good News is really not Bad News at all. It’s Good News about my relationship with God, because of Jesus Christ. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.