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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1264

July 10, 2016 Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

"A God Too Small"

 

If there is one thing we need in our time it is a big God! We need the God who looks over all the earth and notices his people and their difficulties. We need the God who keeps His promises. We need the God who forgives sin and open hearts and creates and redeems. We need God today in a world that has lost its way, a nation lost in its own corruption, decadence, and immorality. We saw just last week how the rule of law can be tossed out the window in a corrupted system and perhaps that has happened because God's rules and laws were tossed out decades ago. We have seen in the past week troubling shootings and the regular media frenzy that elevates fiction over fact which probably caused some of those shootings to occur. We need God and we have a God who does see and hear and know our troubled world. He loves us and seeks us out. Our God is our defender and deliverer. Scripture reveals much more about our God and it is in times like ours that we need to spend even more time in His word.

 

That is why we come together today, to talk about God, to talk to God, to sing to God, to affirm our faith in God, to listen to God's word. Our purpose is to focus upon our God; no other god is to be worshiped. No other god is to be lifted up. We spend this hour with intentional awareness of the God of the Holy Bible. We discover our God through the Word given in scripture, through the Word given in Jesus Christ, through our life in the Holy Spirit, and in all the other ways God may choose.

 

Much of the church and most of the American culture holds to a limited knowledge of who our God is. Of course, we are all limited. Very often, most often, we hold to a shallow image that tries to place God in a small box, reducing God to certain categories, allowing God a very limited influence in culture, in society, and in the life of the world — and we limit God's influence in our lives. Sadly, it appears that even more have no concern for God at all. What our nation truly needs is a revival, but I fear that will not come on a national level. Perhaps it is not up to us to think nationally as far as revival goes and maybe revival is not even the right term. Evangelism might be what if really needed. It has always been that way ever since Jesus gave us the commission to make disciples and teach them to obey Jesus.

Nationally God has been reduced to multi-culturalism and the ideology of tolerance (except for Christianity) and all the other progressive failures to replace theology. What the world needs is to come to the hope that we share as a community of faith, a faith in the God unique and unlike any other god.

 

 

  • No God Like Our God

 

22Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, 23and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart; (1 Kings 8:22-23)

 

6There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you. (Jeremiah 10:6-7)

 

The scriptures give the testimony of none like our God. Because there is no god like our God, we spend much of our time with His revealing word, learning and growing in relationship with Him through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. What makes God who God is? We take one text at a time, today from Psalm 139.

 

  • Psalm 139

    • Our Addressable God

 

The first thing we might notice is that this is a prayer. The Psalm begins with a traditional address of God, O Lord, you. You have searched me, you know me, you know when I sit, when I rise, you perceive my thoughts, you discern my going out and lying down, you are familiar with my ways, you know my words, you hem me in, you have laid your hand upon me.

Lord, you are something else!

God is addressed and the prayer acknowledges what God does. God knows, God discerns, God searches. These are some of the things we can know about our God. These are the things we read and hear and we, like the Psalmist, come to realize that in what God can do is more than we can comprehend. The wonder of our God is that such knowledge of God is too wonderful, yet this is the same God we can talk to and the same God who talks to us. This is the God who makes something of God's self, known. The God we cannot know offers himself to be known.

 

    • Our Ever Present God

 

The Psalm reveals to God who is ever present. It is more than I can grasp that whether I do up or down, you are there. If I go around the world or across the street, you are there. How is that possible? I don't know, all I know is that God is incommensurate, like no other god, our God cannot be measured in terms that we use to measure the air temperature or the distance between Princeton and Bluefield. Such knowledge is too wonderful for us; it cannot even be captured in words like omniscience or omnipresence, because those words are inadequate to capture God or to describe God. God is more than everywhere — because God can also be somewhere and not somewhere if God chooses. But you see I have no adequate way to say this, because God is more than I can know, such knowledge is too wonderful for me! Yet, there is nowhere that we can go where God is absent. We may wonder where God is from time to time, in times of death or crisis or tragedy, but still God is with us through all things.

 

    • A God Incommensurate

 

I mentioned this above but I think it deserves its own point; we notice that God is more than we are, more capable, more knowledgeable, more perceptive. God is incommensurate. Incommensurate is a word we all should learn. It means — unable to be measured, without comparison; in biblical terms, there is none like our God, none like Yahweh. There is no god like our God. God is without equal, without comparison, more than we can imagine. As good theologians and faithful Christians we should all learn that word, incommensurate — unable to be measured, without comparison, none like our God. It is a word that speaks of that which we cannot understand about God. The Psalmist makes that known in this prayer. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, it is high; I cannot attain it.

The Psalmist lays out what is known about God and then says it is too much! God knows when we sit down and when we rise up! God discerns our thoughts. God is acquainted with our ways. What an interesting phrase, “acquainted with.” To become acquainted is to become more aware of, to get to know, to become familiar. In verse one God has searched and come to know, and in verse three God has become acquainted with the Psalmist in such a way that God is able to discern thoughts, to know what will be said even before the word is spoken.

Our God is willing and wanting to search us and to know us. Why does the Psalmist prayer for God to search and know? The God who is like no other god wants to search and know you, wants to be your friend, wants to love and be loved, wants to be in a covenant relationship that includes freedom and dependence and intimacy and revelation. The incommensurate God is also the God of mutuality - that is, the God beyond our knowledge is also revealing himself so that we may know. The God who is too wonderful for us is also the God who is with us. The incommensurate God is the one who is too wonderful for our minds, but the mutual God is the one who is with us enabling us to profess that wherever we go and whatever we do, “you are there.” Our God is above the fray, but our God is also in the fray with us. Our God is beyond our capacity to grasp, but our God is in our midst in covenant.

 

 

    • The God Who Searches

       

Psalm 139 reveals the God who searches us. This is the only God who does this, who cares enough to search, to know, to become familiar, who is even capable of searching. The Psalm begins with the past tense, “you have searched me.” Does that mean that God chose not to know everything about the Psalmist until the searching? And look again at the end of the prayer, verse 23, Search me, O God, and know my heart... You have searched and now I pray that you will search again. Let's get to know each other. How is it that God can know so much and yet have to search me to know me? I don't know - such knowledge about God is too wonderful for me. Perhaps God chooses not to know so that the relationship may have freedom, surprise, expectancy, growth, and mutual love.

 

    • Our Creator God

 

13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

 

This is the God who created us. Because we recognize the creative power of God, we respond in praise. God has made us and therefore we owe everything to God. The Psalm responds in praise and we know that it is also appropriated to respond in thanks, devotion, faith, hope, and love.

 

    • Our Forgiving God

 

23Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

 

The only reason to find a grievous way is so that God might forgive and lead to a new way of life. The desire is to be known even to oneself. God knows us and knows if there is anything that would grieve God’s heart, but we too need to know that so that we might address it with discipline and self control. We seek God’s forgiveness and God’s help to teach us His way and Word that we might not sin against Him.

 

 

  • Your God Is Too Small

 

One thing that we need to handle the conflicts and disturbing events of our time is the God of Psalm 139, the God who forgives, creates, searches – the God present, like no other, and addressable. It is one Psalm among many that reveal the vast majesty of our God. Our God is too small because we hold to a small knowledge of God. Too small because we do not believe big. Too small because we act in ways that do not trust what God can really do. We need a larger view and understanding of God because our world has little to no view of God. Our view is crucial for the world.

 

Are we willing to trust this God who knows yet searches to know? Are we prepared to pray to our God whose knowledge is too wonderful for us yet wherever we go God is there? Can we make this prayer our prayer? Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

 

This is a God so big, so wonderful, so incommensurate, this God is like no other in power, knowledge, and like no other in relationship and vulnerability. That is, this God, our God is personal and willing to be in a common relationship, a covenant of relatedness.

 

What a God! This is the God to get excited about because this is the God who wants to know us, to search us, and to lead us in the way everlasting. May God lead us today and throughout this week as we become more aware of the God too wonderful to know who is still with us each day. Amen.