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12/22/19b
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  • Angels We Have Heard on High
  • While Shepherds Watched (Christmas)
  • What Child Is This
  • For those of you that want to follow along in your Bible, you can find Psalm 136. That is on page 616 of your worship Bibles.
    What is love? Sometimes we think we know, other times we are confused by it. There is a Webster’s dictionary definition, and we know when we have love. We know when we are lacking love. We think we know how to love. There are the 5 love languages, according to Gary Chapman- C.S. Lewis wrote a book on 4 types of Love. We can LOVE technology, or our dogs love us, we have romantic love and love for humanity. Although we think we know what love is, the world can sometimes sem like a unloving place. Whatever we think love is, or whatever kind of love we are talking almost everyone wants more love in their life .
    How we think abut love has an impact on your life, and your perception of the world. It affects how you interact with people, what your expectations are in relationships, and what you want your future to be. The issue is this, we have our own personal experiences of love, and that is mixed with how we define it according to the world around us. Then, we read about love in the Bible, or hear about love in a sermon, and we take a non-biblical defintion that is in our heads read it into a Bible verse. And Voila’ we have reduced God- the creator God our loving Father to a human faulty picture of love. As a result we miss out on our relationship with God, we miss out with the people around us. Our Churches lack love, and the world misses out on what God has for them because of this mis-understanding. Once this is cleared up, I believe that the beauty of the Gospel shines even more brightly, and I believe that in understanding this you will see Christ more fully, and God the Father will then appear to you loving than ever before. That is my prayer for you today as we look at love.
    Bow with me prayer as begin
    prayer
    So, as we talk about love, we cannot help but consider Psalm 136.
    Slide-Psalm
    A portion of Psalm 136 is on the screen. The first thing that will jump put at you when you look at the Psalm 136 is a repeating phrase-His love endures forever. It is even somehow set off in type. Now, every translation and publisher will do it differently, sometimes it is on a separate line, other times it is in italics, other times indented. They do that to signify that it was meant as a response. Over and over again we see the same response- His Love endures forever.
    Last week I said that the emotion of Joy, is what we feel as a result of the experience we have when we are delivered, or redeemed by God. God rescue’s or redeems us from something, and that brings us joy. The emotion of Joy is not kept inside so it comes out, and is expressed. Israel knowing God as a rescuing or redeeming God expressed joy often. They would come together in worship and tell How God rescued them, and express joy in Song and praise. This is the same thing here.
    To express their joy for the Lord’s rescue in worship they have Psalm 136. It is called the Great Hallel or the Great Psalm of Praise. The worship leader would sing, or cantor would chant the first part of each verse and the worshippers or the congregation would respond with His love endures forever. So, why should we praise God? His love endures forever. So right, easy enough at first.
    Psalm 136:1 NIV
    1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
    Ok kinda cool, right? This goes on for 26 verses, I think we did read it in Church once. Our lay lector was Linda, does that sound familiar? And it goes on and on. She did such a great job, changing her inflection as we read it. Should we try it here? We will do the first 12 verses, about half- It will take about 2 minutes, have you got 2 minutes-of course you do who am I kidding, I’ve got you here for 20 minutes -you don’t really have a choice do you? Ok so I’ll read the verse and you all respond with-His love endures forever? Got it ok here we go.
    Psalm 136:1–12 NIV
    1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. 2 Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. 3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. 4 to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever. 5 who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever. 6 who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever. 7 who made the great lights— His love endures forever. 8 the sun to govern the day, His love endures forever. 9 the moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever. 10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt His love endures forever. 11 and brought Israel out from among them His love endures forever. 12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever.
    It goes on for 14 more verses. That phrase is 6 Hebrew syllables. Keeping in mind the Psalms are poetic, and sung. After we translate it, speak it instead of singing it has lost some of its speed and beauty that was present in the original worship and sounds a little repetitive. But even in that repetition God does something.
    Perhaps you notice something when you read this? The repetition does something to you. Now, every single word of Scripture is God-breathed, God placed it here in the Bible for a specific reason and purpose. So even this repetition is here for a reason. As we repeat this over and over again somewhere the repetition changes. It starts as pleasant and not bothersome, and then gets tiring and at points even awkward, then maybe, after saying it enough it starts to change.....we start to get it. Slowly... God is saying something else in the repetition as well as in the words. Almost as if the repetition, is demonstrating what the words mean. Do you see that?
    He is saying- Hey do you get it? Do you understand. How many times do I have to say it I love you. I Even SHOWED you I loved you through these ways- I love you. Do you get it? I love You. I’ll say it again, I love you.
    You are safe and loved, as some friends of mine always say.
    Let’s look at each of the words in the phrase for a minute.
    Slide
    (For) His Love Endures Forever.
    Other translations start the stanza with for- for- for his love endures forever. The NIV leaves it out, but it is there in the Hebrew-for as in-for this reason or because.
    So in verse 1, Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, Why? should we? For His love endures forever, or because-his love endures forever. In verse 2, give thanks to the God of Gods-Why? Because his LOVE endures forever.
    Then His is referring to God the Father. In the trinitarian sense, it is God the Father who loves us, and sends God the son Jesus to redeem those the Father loves-by the power of the Holy Spirit. Love proceeds from God the Father, demonstrated, by God the Son and worked out, by God the Holy Spirit, to His people.
    Then LOVE- Thee are 4 or 5 types of love in the OT, Hebrew. There is a romantic love, a friendship love, etc, a family love, but the word here for love is the most common. It shows up over 250 times. It is Chesed. This is where things get interesting-We do not have a word for it. The New Testament does not have a word for it, it is not in the greek. We do not have a word for it. An equivalent for Chesed does not exist in our language. This is why Im saying we are missing something.
    Translators do not agree how to translate it. Here in the NIV just Love. Does anybody have anything else. Sometimes, it translated as Mercy, sometimes lovingkindness, sometimes steadfast love. Sometimes translators will translate differently depending on where it is and the context.
    Let me see if I can unpack it for you. This is a special kind of loyal Friendship can be a loyal love but not as steadfast or full of mercy as this- Friendship love is a strong love. You can take a lot from your friend and still remain friends, but at some point if a friend crosses the line or does not have your back the friendship may dissolve. It is only loyal to a point.
    This is also not familial or family love, for instance that is the love that you have for a family member. A very loyal love. Maybe the love a husband has for a wife or children or between siblings or close relatives. That is a strong love, no doubt. No one loves like a family right? We are in it for thick and thin. But as you know, families fight. And I hate to even talk like this but there is a point where you can imagine that a family member might do something that would even break that. A son or daughter might be cut-off from the family, or divorce, or people who walk away from their families. At some point it is possible and actually quite common that the familial love bond is or could be broken.
    Chesed is a covenantal love. It is a love that is tied together in part by a covenant which is very strong, in the marriage covenant it is until death do us part. That means that included in the love is a loyalty, or enduring love, that goes above and beyond what happens between the parties. The bond is held tightly by the covenantal agreement, that is based on the character of the parties.
    That may be a little hard to understand, but it is like this. A covenant is like a contract plus. A contract is very business oriented, you can have a contract with a business associate and their personal life is separate. The terms of the contract are only what holds you accountable. A covenant is based on two parties and the tie binding the covenant is the character of the parties involved. It is often a relationship extending beyond just the barebones of the agreement to a tie binding the two parties together, a marriage for instance is a covenant, not a contract. Covenant’s in many cases extend all the way unto death.
    This covenantal love in psalm 136 endures forever. It is everlasting it has no end. God is eternal, that is part of His nature it is who He is. God does not change nor does His love. The covenantal Love of God is found in that strange story in Genesis chapter 15.
    See, in Genesis God promised Abraham that he would give Him some land, physical land. The same land that is there today. God promised it to Abraham and his descendents. And not only did God promise them physical land, but also that He would be with Abraham.
    Genesis 15:1 NIV
    1 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
    God was entering into this relationship this covenantal love relationship with HIm.
    Now, in those days you would ratify the covenant, or like today sign the contract. Today we have paper and lawyers and sign it, or we have a ceremony like a wedding or something. But in those days for a serious covenant you would do something very different.
    Often the terms of violating the covenant meant death, so what they did was this. The cut an animal in half and put one half on one side and other half of the animal on the other side, then the parties would walk in between the pieces, down this bloody trail. It mean that if the parties violated the terms of the covenant then they were saying may what has happened to these animals may happen to me. A bit more intense then our failure to perform clauses in our contracts. Imagine if you had a an agreement with a concrete guy to put in a driveway and you said ok we will cut this cow in half and walk between the halves, and if you don’t put in the driveway I’ll cut you in half.
    Crazy right, but that is what happens in Gen 15.
    So God says to Abraham,
    Genesis 15:7 NIV
    7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
    Again, the He is God the Father and He says I rescued you- now I am going to give you this land.
    Genesis 15:8–10 NIV
    8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” 9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half.
    God says here is how you will know that I love you. I will make a binding covenant with you. So Abraham, lays out all these pieces and then what happens. He waits. and waits. Interesting-God does not show up right away, it takes a while. That should give us hope in our waiting-there is a lot of waiting in the Bible especially for Christimas He waits all day until it is dark.
    Genesis 15:12 NIV
    12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.
    SO there is this thick and dreadful darkness. Ever have that feeling of dreadful darkness, ick I have felt it before, I do not care for it, it is horrible, and I’m sure Abraham’s was far worse than anything I could ever imagine.
    Then in the darkness....
    Genesis 15:17 NIV
    17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.
    A firepot and a Blazing torch, a light has appeared in the darkness, it is God appearing to Abraham, and God passes through the pieces. Now I want you notice something here Abraham does not pass through the pieces. Only God passes through the pieces. God is making the covenant and God is saying that if the terms of the covenant are not met I will be the one who will die.
    God has this everlasting, this enduring covenant love for his people, and it is God who has vowed by penalty of death to uphold the covenant. Now what happens? Isarel or Abraham’s descendents continue to walk away from God, they don’t obey his laws they sin. But God… His love is still faithful and enduring and loyal. So God must do something about it.
    SO even though His people have turned away and violated the covenant God’s love is still there enduring, and waiting. Even though they are walking in darkness God has sent his son Jesus, to a people walking in darkness a light has dawned, and Jesus has come. Love has come. At Christmas according to the enduring faithful steadfast mercy and love of God.
    That Love that proceeds from the Father toward us has come. He came to die on the cross for our sins to draw us back into that covenant relationship. with Him- Do you see that?
    All that is for this the bottom line is this God the Father loves us so much with this loyal covenantal love that He is willing to take the punishment for us not keeping the covenant.
    John 3:16–17 NIV
    16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
    So what happens is God the Father’s everlasting enduring covenental love is extened to us through Jesus’s death. God the Holy Spirit fills us and gives us a new heart.
    1 John 4:10 NIV
    10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
    Not that we loved God-right- the people walking in darkness, while we are still sinners, while we are turning away not believing not loving one another-not that we loved God but.... that God the Father Loved us with this covenantal enduring love as shown to us by Jesus.
    When we become part of the family of God, through Jesus we become part of God’s community. In Israel as the covenantal community they supposed to love one another with this same type of covenantal love. If they did this they would demonstrate or show God’s love to one another and the world. The Church is supposed to do the same.
    Love, Like Hope and peace and joy is a mark of a Christian. It is a characteristic of a Church of a faith community. You cannot be a Christian and not love one another.
    1 John 4:7–8 NIV
    7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
    and
    1 John 4:11–12 NIV
    11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
    What does that love look like? We know it looks like Christ, it looks like dying to self. It looks like laying down our lives for one another. It looks like not boasting or envying, or keeping a record of wrongs, it isn’t proud or self seeking, it protects, it trusts, it perseveres. It does not dishonor, and it is not easily angered. It is a love that rejoices with those who rejoice, and weeps with those weep. It holds it shares, it lifts up and does not tear down, where people are weak it provides strength. It heals It never, ever fails. Christ gives us that Love at Christmas
    Jesus came to die in your place to show you the love you are to show to others. Go and show that love to your brother.
    roll video
      • Psalm 136:1NIV2011

      • Psalm 136:1–12NIV2011

      • Genesis 15:1NIV2011

      • Genesis 15:7NIV2011

      • Genesis 15:8–10NIV2011

      • Genesis 15:12NIV2011

      • Genesis 15:17NIV2011

      • John 3:16–17NIV2011

      • 1 John 4:10NIV2011

      • 1 John 4:7–8NIV2011

      • 1 John 4:11–12NIV2011

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  • Go Tell It On The Mountain
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