Trained hands - Psalm 78:70-72 - Henk Lijzenga
Psalm 78:70-72 talks about David:
“He chose David to be his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob; of Israel his in heritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skilful hands he led them”
He led them with skilful hands: David.
This same David says in 2 Samuel 22:35a about God: ”He trains my hands for battle”. I am starting to read 2 Samuel 22 from verse 31“ As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield of all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord And who is the Rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. “
He, who trains my hands for battle....................
Our life is important to God. He trains my hands for battle. God trains my hands. That is what I want to emphasize this morning.
We know a lot about God. He does wonderful things. But this God who created men, wants to work through these men. He wants to make them skilful, but He needs those people themselves for that.
God has created the world and in Genesis 1 it says that He rested from all His works, from creating all those different things. When it says “God rested from His works”, it does not mean the He is somehow idle lying down. For God is ‘resting’ means: believing that the words He spoke will come to pass, will come to pass exactly as He has spoken them.
At the same time, He also is busy working-out His words. He has a part in it and gives power to His words, so that they will really be worked out and come to pass. When enemies counteract them, they will be defeated. Why? Because God believes in the words He has spoken and firmly holds on to them. Those words will always keep their strength and He rejoices about the outcome of His words.
So we see that God works while He is resting. Gods rest means that He has a part in all that He has spoken and is completely active in it. Jesus Himself says: “ My Father is at work” and He continues: “and so am I.”
In Psalm 8 you read of the wonderful things God has worked out. I would like to read that with you. Psalm 8: 1-3
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,“
We read that the enemy was silenced, and God does that through the mouths of children and infants. He does that through man. God confirms His own work through man. We read in verses 4-9:
What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honour.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet;
all the flocks and herds and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the sea.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth.
That work of God! He completes the work He started!
David is worshiping God because of all these glorious things He has made, and he says in verse 4 “What is man that you are mindful of him?”
David knows how the plan of God fits together. David says that we are that work of God.
We human beings, who have received life on this earth, life that sprang forth from God. It is good to recognise this and acknowledge it. “The life I have, I have received it from you oh God.” It is good to proclaim that. And I am not only saying this to the young people and those who have not yet accepted the Lord. I am also saying this to those who have already lived with the Lord for years. It is good to say it again and again: “God, you have given me life, thanks to you I have this life.”
And it is even more important to enter eternal live and proclaim this as well. Say it: “I have to thank you for this eternal life. I am your handiwork.”
By speaking this out aloud and by living it, you proclaim your own dependence on God. It is very important for Christians to be clear in this. We want to acknowledge this. That does not bring you down, in the contrary, that lifts you up high towards God. It is good when you desire to be dependent on the living God, who gave you this life on earth and who says at the same time: “Come, enter my glory. Enter into heaven and do not live only on the earth, take the step to enter heaven really and start to develop there.”
We are his handiwork and we will be that forever. In whichever way you develop, even when you become a man of God, even when you are able to move mountains, even if you can move dark mountains, occult mountains, you remain Gods handiwork. Handiwork of the God, who says that we may rule over all He has made. And now Jesus says that we have to do the works of God. So God wants us to work. God desires that our lives function in such a way that He can reveal Himself through us. That is doing Gods works, that is living according to the destination of our lives. Sometimes a different destination rules over somebody’s life and that destination has to be broken in the name of the Lord Jesus. Sometimes powers of darkness have claimed children and adults. Such a power determines: “I determine that there will beadversity and bad luck in the life of this person. I do not want this life to become wonderful, I do not want this life to be used by God. ” Sometimes it is very drastic and severe.
But it is also wonderful when you see that such a destination can be undone, the claim can be broken in the name of Jesus and you can reach your true destination. Your destination is that you can do the work God wants to do through you. When you do that work, you can join in with Moses in Psalm 90:17. He asks God: “establish the work of our hands.“
All the time it is God who is at work, but He does it through my hands, through my life, my feet, my heart, my eyes, my ears.God trains our hands and makes us able men, able women. He blesses our work. He assesses it and rewards it too. And sometimes you don’t like it when God makes an assessment of your work and shows you that there are things not as they should be. It becomes even more difficult when a fellow human being is used by God to let you know that your work is lacking in some ways and can be improved upon! That is how God works: through people. There are people who can easily accept it when GOD shows them their mistakes. He shows you where you failed or where you are weak. He does that from a desire to see you develop to your full capacity, to see you function better.
But how is it with you when the same God uses a HUMAN BEING to let you develop better to your full capacity? May be it is somebody very close to you, may be your own child, your own husband or wife, your father or mother, your brother, your spiritual brother or sister? How do you like it when God places somebody close to you and that person shows you your failings, shows you the things that are wrong, the dangers you are prone to fall into, and the castles in the sky you are building? And how are you reacting when that person shows you that you are busy with the theory, but not with putting it into practice? Remember that this is how God works. God is testing you and your work and Gods assessment/judgement often goes through people.
God also calls out: “Let me do it, but let me do it through you.” In Isaiah 45:11 God asks: “Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?” God is able to work things out and we have to trust Him that He will do this through people.
Jesus said: “The Father who is in me and remains in me, does his work.”
Jesus also says: “The Father has given me his works and it is my food to carry out his work.”
God does His work through you. It is important that you make that known, that you talk about that. We read in Jeremiah 51:10: “The Lord has vindicated us; come, let us tell in Zion what the Lord our God has done.” The nearest place to tell about the work of God is in your church, in this Zion. Let us tell others how the Lord has vindicated us. Let us share what God is doing in our midst, what the Lord is doing in our lives. Let is us do that and talk together about it, talk about what we are experiencing in our daily lives. I encourage you to share regularly with one another in the bible study groups.
Often I ask in the bible study group meeting: “Do we have something to thank the Lord for? Do you have a word that the Lord has given you and that has built you up?” And there are some who will share, but others keep silent. That is not meant as a rebuke, but I want to challenge you to open up and speak out, living in the knowledge that God is at work in your life. God wants us to make known what He has done in Zion, the church. The work that He started long ago, the work which He brings about through Jesus Christ. That work of which we ourselves are the living examples. But it is also the work to which He is calling us. And then remember how it says in Psalm 78 that David led the flock with skilful hand.
How did David get those skills? David was called and he answered that call. As a result he was able to do great things through the Holy Spirit. God gives us the skill, makes us competent. He wants to do His work through our hands. When I say hands, I mean to say through our whole existence, our lives, all that we have and all that we can acquire or are in the process of acquiring. You can think of your ears and your eyes, your mind, your physical energy, your emotional energy, your ability to carry on in life. Everything.
God wants to make us able people, He wants to train our hands.“You who train my hands for battle, You train my hands.”
We have spoken a lot in our church about the sonship of God, being sons of God. We continue to speak about it, because that is what we are pursuing. It is Gods plan that we, His children grow up to become adults, that we become mature and grow up in His grace. That has to do with growth, with development, with coming out, blossoming. In order to make that come true in our lives it is necessary to know the teaching of Gods Word.
I have sometimes summarised this into four categories.
- That we know the teaching of the Bible
- That we know the life
- That we know the body
- That we live a life of bearing fruit.
But teaching and doctrine should not be ‘religion’. Teaching should not be a set of ‘rules’. Teaching should not be: measuring up to all sorts of theoretical ideas and enjoy only those. It is possible that you, as a Christian continue to be occupied with the teaching, the doctrines, just as the churches have done again and again through the centuries.
Teaching has to be translated into daily practical living. You can know a lot about the full gospel in your head, but it will only become a reality when you start to put it into practice in your life. That is something you have to do yourself.
Don’t misunderstand me. It is true that through the churches the Word of God has become known and is still known. That is of great value. But there is another side to Christianity. Many people have kept themselves busy with theories and have made up and written down one doctrine after another. Where this happens, situations arise when people say: “Yes, I have been baptized by emersion once, but don’t ask me why exactly, I can’t explain. If you want to know, go and ask the elders or the pastor.”
That is a real possibility and I have discovered that it happens even in full gospel churches. You may have a wonderful truth and yet you are like the teacher I used to have in school,. When we were talking about infant-baptism, that teacher said: “I don’t know anything about it, I can’t explain it to you, you will have to go and ask the pastor.” I asked the question, because I wanted to know his mind about this!
So be careful when you know things in theory or when you agree with the teachings in the church in theory, when you are always here and are eager to get more and more knowledge. If that is all, and you don’t learn to put it into practice, it is of no use after-all. That does not even constitute a challenge and Gods work is not done through you.It is important that you put your knowledge to use in daily life.
This means that if you are baptised in the Spirit and speak in tongues, that you use that language every day. It means that if you know that the Lord will reveal Himself through words of wisdom and knowledge, through prophecy and power, that you consciously train yourself in this. Every day, again and again.“Lord I am in a situation in which I don’t know how to act. How can I handle this?”
It may be a natural situation, but you take it to the Lord and you discover how He reminds you of things you learned some time ago, or which you read somewhere and your realize all of a sudden: “this is how I should handle this.“ That same principle works in your spiritual development, in your growth to mature manhood.
We have to live and be in the teaching of the Bible. It is just as important that you live that life within a body, in a church, such as we have here. What I mean is that you live in what the bible teaches in connection with one another, that you share with others, that you are able to give them something they may need. You need to search for the answer to the question: What is it that the other person needs? How can you find that out? How can you find out what concerns the other person, what is occupying his mind?
You can find out by knowing what is keeping you occupied, what is living in you. That means training yourself in knowing yourself, in self-knowledge. How do things work in my own life, what do I experience in my own life?
By training yourself in this, you will discover a set of principles, which you have learned in the church, you come to see what you learn from the Word of God and what the Holy Spirit teaches you. By learning these things, you will also discover what is living in other people, even in people in the church here.
The body of Christ will start to function the way it should, because you desire and aim to live out what you are taught through the Word of God for the sake of your brothers and sisters,
That opens the way to bearing fruit and multiplication. That is what God desires in our time now: multiplication. Will you allow God to use you? Even if you are only 15 years old? Can God use you? Even if you are 70 years old? If you say YES to this, God will start to use you in your own circle of friends and family, very close by.
In Isaiah 45 we read: “Question me about what will happen in the future” In Jeremiah 33:3 God says: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
When is God answering?
When you ask, when you call Him.
You may think: “I want to know the meaning of the book of Revelation, I want to know what is going to happen in the end-time. Lord, reveal that to me.” If you think that way, you are jumping too far ahead. You are skipping a few steps. “Ask for the things that will happen,” it says.
“Lord, how do you want me to live my life? Considering today, how can I handle the issues of tomorrow? Lord, the problem that I am facing right now, how should I handle it?”
By asking these questions, you train yourself to learn to understand what God wants to say about other things in your life and what God wants to do.
I want to emphasize that God is doing great things in this world and that God trains my hands, but He can only do that if I give my hands to be used. I have a choice whether I want to be available for Him or not. It means that I can start working, start working in small things, close-by. It is important that I learn to see what God wants me to see.
When Jesus talks about the end times, he says: “Watch the fig-tree and all the other trees.” That means that you can learn to be observant, that you can learn to observe how things function in your inner being, observe whether you are still holding on to old thought patterns in certain issues. It also means that you can learn to look around and observe what is happening around you in nature, but also in society. It means that you can learn to see what is developing in people. It means that you can get eyes that see what other people need. Eyes that see where you can help and come alongside the other person. What I really want to see is that you will actually do this, that you will get trained hands by working it out and using them.
I have seen the movie “Stronger than Lashes” made by the organisation “Open Doors” It is about a boy who has heard at home from his mother about the Lord Jesus Christ and has been given the biblical principles.
At a certain time he finds himself in a very different area where he has to become a Moslem. He is adopted by a couple and they have to see to it, that he grows up as a Moslem and embraces that religion. Before he arrives in this family, he has already been given many lashes and the marks can still be seen on his back. But there comes a moment when something of what his mother has taught him comes to the surface and he starts searching for it. He finds a few Christians who are coming together in secret. They have to be very careful, because if anybody outside hears that they are Christians, they will be punished or killed in a terrible way. So the movie is about persecution of Christians in Islam countries. This boy ultimately makes the choice to hold on to the gospel. He is persecuted and he flees. Finally he comes back to his own tribe, his own people and brings them the message of the gospel.
When I saw this movie, I thought, I wished the whole church could see this. It is very shocking to see how those people are treated. You see Christians worshiping in church and then fire is set to the church and it burns down. One person after the other dies, only because they are Christians. It is terrible.
This boy did not know how to evangelise, he had not learned it, he was trained in Islam. But with the little he knew he started. He spoke to God. He sought God and because he was seeking God sincerely and because he was willing to pay the cost, that is why he received.
That is what I mean when I quote the verse: “Ask me for the things that will happen. Call me and I will answer you.” Call Him in all the little situations of everyday life. Be consistent in this struggle, saying: “Lord, I don’t know how it has to be done. Lord, I can’t do this. Lord I have too much pain, but how can I endure and stand firm? Give me strength!”
You feel the pain and yet you say: “Lord give me strength to endure.” And then you start to discover that you can manage, despite the pain, because you have peace in your heart.
That movie has touched me deeply. When I see that one person there in Africa, is willing to endure so much in order to stay close to God. To stay with the God of the Bible, with the son of God, Jesus Christ.
It has challenged me, but it has also shown me that you get trained hands when you decide not to run away when things get tough, when circumstances become difficult. You get trained by fighting the battle and saying: “Lord, I am so busy and I have so little time, please open ways that this will change. Lord, because of my work I am not able to go to the bible study evening or because of other reasons. Please show me a way. Help me that I can find the way and work it out.”
In this way there are many situations in which you can train your hands in a practical way. When you start taking action in the strength of God, He will do it through you.
Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians and tells them somewhere: “You are a letter from Christ, when people look at you, they can read who the Lord Jesus is.”
We know that Paul writes other things about the Corinthians as well, there is immorality among them and there are other things that are wrong. But despite all that, Paul says: “there are a lot of people who have cleansed themselves from all this. They have been washed and are clean. They live in forgiveness. They live in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And you have become a letter.” And Paul adds: “This is the result of our ministry. In other words, Corinthians, that letter which other people can read and in which they find out who Jesus Christ is, I have been used to write this.”
Why does Paul say this? Because he wants to keep alive what he sees and what he believes. Through what he says, he keeps alive what he experiences, what he has worked out and what he sees in the Corinthians. What I find so important in this is that he says: “but our competence comes from God.” You can read that in 2 Corinthians 3:5 God makes us competent. How did God make Paul competent? How did God make David competent? It is not necessary to have been given a task first. You do not need to wait first for the great call from God. You do not need to wait until you are completely perfect, that will take quite some time! Just start!
Your hands are trained by starting where you are and with what you see. May be you are tempted to look the other way when people are beginning to put the chairs ready in the church or when they are cleaning up in the church, because you feel that talking to people is more important. But it might be better if you help with the chairs first. I am saying this to show you how it is in practice. May be you should go and pick up somebody for the bible study evening, or give some extra time and attention to
somebody who is alone or feels very lonely. Start with it, just begin!
If you wait until you have time, it might be a long while before you have time. Usually you have to make time for that sort of things. Just as you have to make time to study your bible, in the same way you have to make time to spend in the things of the Lord. Even then, when you have a busy job in the day-time. There is a way to train your hands, to say to the Lord: “Lord I have a very intensive job and it takes it really out of me. I have to keep my mind on things continuously, but please, will you come through with your strength.” Then you will see that the Lord is able to remind you of how you are doing in those moments. Ask Him and work out what He is showing you.
Your hands are trained through all the practical things you are putting them to. The best way to learn this is in the church, because in the church you know one another. But ultimately it has to move on from within the church to the people outside. To let the people around you discover that you are thinking about their lives. To let them know that their lives are important to you. You might have to look through a lot of darkness first, but remember, God does the same. When you say: “Lord, I see so much sin in these people, so much unrighteousness,” the Lord will reply, “You should ask Me.” And you ask: “Lord, how did you do it? Teach me to be able to look right through unrighteousness and see the heart of the people, to see what they really need.”
The Lord will teach you this.
This week one of our brothers called me, our brother John. He is in a drug rehabilitation centre, where drug addicts go and try to become clean. He phoned me for the first time since his admission. He is having a hard time. He has just finished his first two weeks. He told me: “It is hell, it is terrible.” And when he says that, I know what he means, because he has already gone through a lot. And he still has a long way to go. How is he going to do that, how is he going to cope? HOW, how, when you have lived for nearly 30 years as an addict. THIRTY YEARS! He has been addicted all that time and tried many times to break his addiction. How can you manage to kick the habit and start a whole new life, a new life for which he has now chosen.
He can manage because has the Lord involved into it.
Do you know what he shared with me? Verse 2 and 3 from Jeremiah 33. It says:
“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it – the Lord is his name. Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
And also verse 6
“I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.”
John told me: “These are the promises the Lord has given me.”
That is what it means to train your hands for battle.
It is a very deep road for him to get a normal life. He is very thankful for the cards and letters he is receiving. He needs our prayers badly, but he has to fight the battle himself. And because he does that, he has opened the way to be helped by people. God is helping him through the people who are around him.
And that principle, my brothers and sisters, is a principal of the gospel of Jesus Christ. According to the measure in which we set our boundaries, very clearly and consequently, for what we allow and do not allow in our lives, to that measure the Lord will be able to train our hands. And He will make you proficient for the task for which He has called you or will call you. For he stays with His people.
If God has promised you something and you know very clearly, deep in your heart, that “this is a word from the Lord for my personal life”, He will stick to that. That word will stand until He can work out what He wants together with you. But it will go right through you and start in small bits, it will start with those things you are able to do now.
“He who trains my hands for the battle”.(We read it in the beginning of this sermon in Sam. 22, verse 31)
My hands, my life, my existence. Allow God to train in you.
Lord God, here we are. Will you please help us to work out this reality? Lord Jesus we need you so much. We need your grace and power. Lord Jesus, train our hands. Help us to see those moments in which you want to train us. Give that we are available then.
Lord Jesus, speak, make us able people. Help us to bring into practice what we know, to shine the light to many people through our lives.
Lord, this is how we want to live in this world.
We are praying for John, but we are also praying for other people, here and at home, who are also in the training fields and sometimes it is so heavy. Lord Jesus, speak when it is so heavy and help us to tell in Zion the work you are doing in our lives. Guide us and lead us on. Speak, to us and through us, so that people come to know you, so that people loin us into the circle of your glory, into that light, into your joy.
For this we bless one another.
Lord, you will provide. Our expectation is from you, in the name of Jesus, the Conqueror, the Prince of Life, the King who reigns. Hallelujah.
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