Sermon at First Presbyterian Church Lockhart

"Know God – Know Mercy”

Jeremiah 31:27-34, Psalm 119:97-104, II Timothy 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8

                                                             October 17, 2010                                

by James Greene

 

           Have you ever been in a position where you ‘know’ God took care of you?  One day, my Dad and I were sitting at a light in San Antonio.  The light changed, yet I didn’t enter the intersection.  It was almost a 5 count, when here came a car, speeding through the red light.  If I had moved forward, right when the light turned ‘green’, we would have been hit on the driver’s side.  It was one of those moments where you knew that God was watching over you.  I knew that I had experienced God’s Mercy with that near miss.  

 

Sometimes our Knowing God is in knowing and recognizing those moments when God has taken care of us, and it is only by His Mercy, that we made it through a time of trial, or a time of a missed catastrophic event.  It seems that the more that we

Know God, the more that we Know (are aware of and experience) God’s Mercy.

 

           The title of today’s sermon is “Know God – Know Mercy”

 

I  Know God in Heart and Mind, and be forgiven  – Jeremiah

 

In Jeremiah, we see prophesies written in Hebraic poetry.  It is a prophesy of the changes that God will bring about.  The summary of the message is God’s Promise of a New Covenant.  This declaration of a New Covenant only occurs here in Jeremiah, and only occurs once, in the Old Testament (the Old Covenant).  It is however, the focus of Jesus’ ministry and witness to the coming of The Kingdom of God. 

 

Now in Hebrew, the word for, “Word” means “commands”.  So the people are called to submit to God’s Word (God’s commands).  In this prophesy, God is doing a new thing.  Instead of writing His Word (His commands) upon tablets of stone, he will write His Word (His Commands) on the tablets of their hearts. 

 

We need to remember that, in the Hebrew culture, the Heart is the center of moral decisions and choice.  It was the center of one’s personal will.  It was the center of one’s personal identity.  It was wrapped up in identifying - who you were, and who you are.  The problem with Israel in Jeremiah, was that they had a bad heart.

 

In the Lord’s declaring, that he will make a “new covenant”.  God is making this covenant with Israel, and he is planting His Law, His Word in their hearts and minds.  God, like the laws of the seed, is putting His Spirit within his people.  It tells us that that they will all know the Lord.  Like the seed, that grows and follows God’s Law, they will intimately know what the Lord commands them to do. 

                                                                 1

 

It will be part of their very nature.  They won’t have to be taught anymore.  This “New Covenant”, is an Old Testament agreement that is binding.  It is the agreement, a (covenant), from the king to the subjects.  It is power given from the one in power to the powerless.  This is all done so “they will all know me- from the least to the greatest”, because in this Covenant the Lord will forgive their wickedness, and forget their sin.  The Knowledge of God is internalized.  It is intimate, because God is a personal God, who cares for His people.  The people will Know God’s Mercy in His forgiveness when He restores His people.  It is a quality of community (The Kingdom) created by God’s amazing acts, because he is a personal God, and requires a personal relationship both with Him and within God’s community.

 

II  Know God, in the Law – Psalm - Jeremiah

 

In Psalm 1119, like Jeremiah we see how we Know God in The Law.  It is about intimately understanding God’s commands.  How they are wiser than our enemies.  How we are to meditate on the law and not to depart from it.  How we gain understanding from God’s commands.  Because in doing this, we keep on the right path (the right Way) and we hate the wrong path (the wrong Way).

 

Now Psalm 119 is different from all the other psalms.  If you notice, there is a title in between each section.  These are the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  Today’s reading is from the section titled “Mem”.  It is the 13th letter.  The character kind of looks like, a cursive capital “G”.  A unique characteristic of Psalm 119 is that, the beginning letter of every line in the sections is the same letter as the title of the section.

 

So, every line begins with a “Mem” or “G”.  It is a lot like a children’s primer.  It is a way of learning the alphabet, and a way of associating an image of God’s Word with a particular letter.  Much like our ‘A’ is for Apple. 

Another observation is that there is no coherence between lines.   They are not linked together like regular Hebrew poetry.  From my readings, the lines are said to be like rings or pearls (much like the sayings from Proverbs), and not a connected chain.  

 

The mechanics are much like the poem:

 

Prism                                 

Revive again,     the light in me,

And shine true love,     that I might be,

Returned to sight,     and shall see,

Thy loving light,     by loving thee.

 

           They are not totally understood as coherent, yet they have a coherence to them.  This is the uniqueness of this Psalm.

 

                                                                 2

III Know God in Teaching and Preaching - II Timothy

 

           In our Epistle letter, we see Paul encouraging Timothy to continue in what he has learned.  He knows that the Word is written upon his heart, and that all Scripture is God breathed, and useful for teaching and understanding.  Like Jeremiah, Paul points out how we are to have God’s word written upon our hearts to equip us for all situations, that we may “be prepared in season, and out of season.”  This that we make Know God, and Know and teach of His Mercy.

           Paul warns of a time that will come when the world will not tolerate God’s sound wisdom, and doctrine.  People will follow their own desires and not God’s precepts.  They will gather their own teachers that will teach their own desires.  This reminds us a lot of what today’s culture is like.  Paul instructs him to Know The Word, to teach and preach The Word, and to keep his head, and to do his duty.

           Because in Knowing God, he will Know God’s Mercy in the coming of Christ, and the bringing in of The Kingdom. 

                                                                  

IV Know God – Know Mercy  - Luke

 

           In Luke we see Jesus teaching the parable of the persistent widow.  We see a glimpse of the society that Paul has described.  Where there is no fear of God, and no fear of man.  Yet, there is the realization that a Just God will bring about justice for His chosen ones.  If they cry out to Him to remember His Law, and His covenant, God will see that things will be made right.  Not only for His people, but also for those who do not fear God’s laws and His teachings.

 

Conclusion

 

           Jesus asks the question, “will He find faith upon the earth?”  We must understand and realize as, the people of God, it is important for us to know the scriptures.  It is important for us to teach and to Know God, in His Law (this should be an intimate part of our identity) and in knowing God, we will know God’s Mercy.

 

     As we read in Jeremiah, and hear from Jesus,   when God restores his people, 

 

life and the world, will never be the same,

 

but -  we will… Know God, and   we will… Know God’s Mercy.

 

 

                      In the Name of    the Father,   the Son,   and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

 

 

                                                                 3