Monday, September 23, 2019

“He’s got the whole wide world in His hands”

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Great Expectations
Duurt Sikkens
 
 
 
The subject of this sermon is Great Expectations.
Let’s begin by reading  Psalm 39 verse 7.
“And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in thee.”
 
There should really be a long pause after the first half of the verse:
David is sitting there by himself, thinking: “What am I waiting for? What am I expecting to happen?
You could ask yourself the same question. “What am I waiting for. What do I expect to happen?”
 
Once there was a vision in our church about a coal fire. We were
all urged to feed the fire, to rekindle it, so that it would burn
more brightly. And that is what this verse is all about - rekindling the hope in us.
 
Yesterday I also read an old prophesy that spoke of hope. And the hope was compared to a tree. The ground water level fell below its normal level, but the hope, the expectation was, that the roots of the tree would grow towards the water, so that it would stay alive.
 
And that’s why I want to talk about hope today.
Although I don’t really like that word hope very much, because its meaning has declined into something very vague. Often you hear people say, “Yes I hope so” , but they have no real hope. They don’t actually expect it to happen.  So that’s why I prefer to say expectation instead of hope.  
And as far as the original text is concerned, both terms are correct. The word in the original text means both hope and expectation. You can see that from this psalm too. What do I hope for? What do I expect? Well, my expectation, David says, and then his face lights up, is in You, Lord. How? Well, lets take a look.
 
Since the Fall of man, the whole of mankind has been waiting, and hoping, for the restoration of the relationship between God and the human beings He created. Satan had destroyed this relationship, and separated man from God. This was not only a blow for mankind, but it also caused God great sadness, because He too had lost His partner. So even before Adam and Eve had left the Garden of Eden, God was thinking: “How can I get my partner back.” And what is the first thing He does?  He prays. Let me explain that.
 
The Hebrew word for pray is Palàl. That also means
“come in between”.  So what does He do? He puts enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Between the offspring of mankind and the offspring of Satan.
He says: “They cannot exist together”.  And the offspring of mankind, that is all the people who are filled with God’s spirit. These people will one day come forth out of the woman, His church.
 
But before that, all the people who had put their hope in God up to 400 years after the last prophet Maleachi, that is 40 centuries, all these people have only had the promise to base their hope on. It was promised, that one day the relationship between God and mankind would be restored. How? Nobody knew. They did have an inkling. And all the prophecies in the Bible, (read them again with spiritually opened eyes, especially the Psalms), they are all about the expectation, the hope. The Psalms are full of them. You could say the psalms are pregnant with promises, waiting to be fulfilled.
 
The believers have looked forward to the fulfilment of the promise for a very long time. They held on to the promise, even if it meant imprisonment. They lived in the hope, in the expectation of it happening. Because the way satan thinks, his plans,must be crushed. That is his head. And I too have suffered under the way satan thinks.  For example, people said of me. “Nothing good will come of you. You will die in the end, just like everyone else, and God doesn’t even like you”. They are satan’s words.
 
 
The believers in the Old Testament had only the promise to keep their expectations alive. Did they see the fulfilling of the promise? No! But they said. “It will come”. You can read that in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 13.  They died trusting completely in the promise they had received. And I’m sure that all these people, who so longed to see the promise fulfilled, are now filled with the holy spirit in God’s paradise. Praiseworthy that they held on to this promise, because that was all they had. The promise.
 
Do you know what that is? The Promise? That is the holy spirit. The promise of the Father, that is the baptism with the holy spirit. You can read all about that in Acts chapter 1 verse 4 and chapter 2 verses 33-39. And this spirit, that they could only long for, we have received .  And that is why we live in the land of the promise.
 
Some people call it the promised land, but I’m not so keen on that expression. It’s not found in the Bible. The land of the promise, THAT is. And that means to live in a world where we think as God thinks, and contemplate on the things of God in the spirit.
 
Look at Hebrews chapter three verse 6. It says something remarkable there. It says that Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, but Christ was faithful over God’s house as a son.
And this is the important part: “WE are his house, if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.” So that means YOU are His house. If you keep on hoping. That’s how the people in the Old Testament were able to keep going, and that’s how we can too.
 
So why are you a house of God? Because you hold on to your expectations, your hope. Because God feels at home in this hope, because He lives with the same hope. He hopes to bring his light into his offspring. God’s expectations are also ours, and vice versa.
 
So God wants to live in people. What sort of people? Hebrews 6 verse 19 says something which as a child I could never understand. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain”.
What on earth does that mean? I always used to think that the anchor was a ship’s anchor, and that it was thrown through the curtain. (the curtain hangs between the Holy place and the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle). The anchor then catches on to something and stays there forever. Is that what it means? And where’s the ship then. You don’t want it to stay there for ever. That’s not what a ship is built for? So it would be foolish to translate the word anchor to mean a ships’ anchor. And any builder can tell you that there are more meanings to the word anchor. For example, you can fix a beam to a wall with a wall anchor.
So an anchor just means secure, certain. Something you can rely on and trust. That’s why my picture of the ship’s anchor wasn’t right. That ship would have to stay put all it’s life. A ship behind a curtain for ever, that’s a foolish idea. So what does it mean? I’ll try to explain.
 
The huge curtain that is embroidered with angels, and which hangs between the Holy place and the Holy of Holies is a symbol. But of what? In Hebrews chapter 10 verse 20 it says: a symbol of your flesh. And what is your flesh? That is your human life. When Jesus gave up his human life, and gave himself over to death, then this curtain was torn in two, ripped from top to bottom. I imagine God had tears of joy in His eyes when this happened. Finally, finally it has happened. A human being without sin, pure and cleansed, who has given himself voluntarily to make the way free between God and mankind.  He is the first person, as high priest of the new covenant, to go through the curtain.
 
In Hebrews 9 verse 16 it also says that “where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it, must be established.”
Well, Jesus did that himself.  “Father, it is finished”. Can you see it in your mind’s eye? It is something that happens in the heavens, in the spiritual world. And what is the Holy Place for us? Think about the reality, now, instead of endlessly contemplating the tabernacle. What is the holiest? That God lives in us. That is the holy of holies, for God himself is there.
And so I was thinking that when God says, “when you pray, go into your room, that THAT could be what is meant by that room. There where God is, within you. Then you can speak to Him face to face.
 
The tabernacle was merely a mobile hut. God never lived there. It is just an illustration, a symbol. It is a hut. The building was made of plain wood. Just as we are ordinary people.
Tabernacle also means a hut made of planks of wood. The word tavern comes from this.
The inside of the planks of wood was covered with gold and that is an image of the inner person. The person of faith. Because gold is always a symbol of trust. Indestructible gold.
 
So what a happening that must have been in the spiritual world when the curtain was torn in two. The angels must have stood rejoicing. At last, what the whole world had been waiting for had happened. And so now it is possible for believers to partake of God’s divine nature. Because that’s the clue. You can try and change your nature by following endless therapy sessions, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that, it can be very helpful. But God says: “If you learn to partake of my nature, to think as I think, and I you long for Christ to be in your life, then your personality will be restored automatically.” That’s how I was healed……. well, I’m still in the process….!. But I see that it works. I am becoming the person who I really am, who I was meant to be, how God originally created me to be, because I keep on searching for that Kingdom of God. And people can point out things in my life that are not right, but thehealing comes from the Father.
 
So God is hidden in people. Jesus was on earth incognito as well. Hardly anyone recognized who he was. Incognito. Let me put it like this. Literally ‘incognito’ means that you do not make your name or identity known. You don’t say what your name is, or who you are or what you do. Jesus was an ordinary person. That He was the Christ was the layer of gold on the inside of his life. And He didn’t make this known either. No, only to his trusted friends in their room, in the quiet of their hearts.
 
Think back to that illustration of the coal fire, because that has a role in the Bible too.
The High Priest had a container with glowing coals in it, and he put
incense on them, whole handfuls. The idea was that the smoke from
the incense would completely cover the cherubim on the cover of the Ark so that God would be covered as it were in a sweet smelling cloud. That is a beautiful picture. But the glowing coals also portrayed cleansing from sins, and cleansing from wrong thoughts, wrong thoughts about how God is.
And the glowing coals were to enable cleansing. When Isaiah was called by God, he says : “I am an unclean man in an unclean nation” and then an angel comes and takes one of the glowing coals from the altar, and touches the lips of Isaiah with it.
It is a spiritual action. And that’s what I think is so wonderful.
The thoughts that Isaiah then receives from God are good and true.
 
So the important thing here is do you speak thetruth about God. That’s what the glowing coals are for. To enable that.
 
I think it’s wonderful too that John, the evangelist, refers to this in his first epistle. 1 John chapter three verses two and three. He says there: “we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be” (so it is still hidden it doesn’t appear, yet, but it IS already known – what a wonderful future we have to look forward to!) “But we know that when He appears we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is. And every one who thus HOPES in him, purifies himself as He is pure.”
That’s where the cleansing of wrong thoughts comes in. Cleansing from the  warped ideas that you still have. So you see John understood exactly what was meant.
 
 
To be cleansed of  sins, that is one thing, but the biggest secret of God, that he cherished even before the creation of the world, is to have someone with Him, to be together with. That great secret was manifested first in Christ, but it is also in you. The greatest secret of God is within you. And you have to keep that secret. You don’t shout it through the streets “because”, Proverbs says “you should not let your springs be scattered in the streets”. It is a secret, and if someone asks about it, then you can tell them about it in the form of a parable or illustration.
 
And all this is all developing in the woman. The woman, the believers, the church, is pregnant, expecting, hoping. The seed of God has been sown in her by the Son, and now it is developing in the womb. We are a pregnant nation. We have been fertilised by the Word of God, God’s seed. And who is our husband? That is Jesus. When we read about the Woman in Revelation chapter 12 verse 1 then you can be sure that the Lord was with her. “I will be with you until the end” He said. There you see the husband, holding his wife’s hand, encouraging her, helping her, keeping her calm. There He is, next to his wife.
 
And Maria is a good example for the church. When Maria hears from an angel “You will become pregnant” then she says “Let it happen to me according to Your Word”.
Abraham also kept his faith and hope alive, despite all the opposition he encountered. And because of this faith, Isaac is born. Isaac is an image for Christ.
 
Look at Hebrew 11 verse 1: “Faith is the assurance of the things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Trustis that anchor, the assurance of the things of which you are pregnant. The things you are expecting to happen. That is wonderful. So your hope is based on faith. And what is the foundation of this faith? It must have a foundation. Well I’ll tell you. That is the faith of God himself. My faith is sustained by God’s faith. And my hope founded on what He hopes. And that’s why God says, “have the faith OF God. (Mark chapter 11 verse 22.) Trust God that it will all come right. In other words, if you look at God and ask Him: “Do you believe this?”, then he will nod. He has faith and trust in what He has sown, and for what the son has given his life for. That is all written in Psalm 139. The forming of Christ in the womb.
 
The word for womb in the original text is “tender love of God”. You are implanted in the tender love of God, in the womb.
I read somewhere in a magazine that the womb is 100% germ free.  I thought that was  wonderful.  And somewhere else I read that it is the safest place for a baby. Shock-free and always warm. The womb is the tender love of God.
 
And then we come to the birth. What do we think about when we hear that word. Do we keep our expectations alive? Peter talks about a “living hope”. And in the course of the centuries after Jesus, the hope has almost died. Who still lives in the expectation of the promise. Who still has hope? “
 
And the more hope you have, the more opposition you meet. Because satan doesn’t want his opponent, the Christ, to be brought forth. Which is why birth is accompanied by pains. That is all explained in Romans chapter 8 verse 22 and 23. The whole of creation groans, the spiritual world groans, the spirit of mankind, the kingdom of death and the whole world groans, and then it says “because of labour pains during birth”. And may people don’t realise his, but it is because the Christ is slowly being revealed, gradually being brought forth, being born. That’s why the world is suffering, Paul says.
 
And I repeat what he says. No birth is easy. There is always blood and groaning and tension, birth pains Genesis 3 says. This wasn’t God’s idea. It was Satan. Groaning with pain, that’s terrible. Satan is always anti life.
 
 
And Jesus’ natural birth wasn’t without problems either.  He was born at a time when the Romans ruled the country. He was born somewhere in a cow’s shed. And what about all the babies that were murdered. No one ever speaks about that when they tell the precious Christmas story. All those little babies from birth to two years old, all murdered. That is the blood that was spilt at the natural birth of Jesus. It was terrible.
 
We have a real enemy. The “serpent” he is called, and there is a good reason for that. Or the “dragon” and  he doesn’t want God to be brought forth in human beings. So be on your guard. Be careful. Jesus said that often. Be alert, stay awake, don’t fall asleep, in the spiritual sense. Be on your guard! And pray, and when you pray, pray that you will not come into temptation. That is part of labour pain too, you know, - temptations.
 
When Jesus was baptized in water as a sign of his new birth,(He was reborn too, you know), and then was baptised with God’s spirit, the first thing he did was to go into the wilderness. Because that’s where God’s spirit sent him. He had to go for a trial period shall we say, to practice. He had to withstand all possible temptations and trials that satan could think of. Well, that was a really difficult time for Him.
Just imagine. He had no food, and was tried and tempted all day and all night, especially at night. Somehow things always seem worse at night, don’t they. 
And what is the oldest temptation of all? Adam and Eve fell for this trick. To want to be like God. That is the greatest temptation. But then in the way that satan wants. Be like God. That’s what he said to Jesus too. Jump down from the temple. Bow down just once and the whole world is yours. Well, … I know some polititians who would do it immediately. But be careful. Be on your guard. Let God watch over your soul, just as the shepherd watches over his sheep. And then you can watch over one another.
 
I once prayed about this, and I still do sometimes.  You know, when you have the feeling that something’s going wrong…..a strange feeling of anxiety that you can’t explain….and every time God says to me: “Remain in me, as I am in you”. That’s the secret. And so I asked Him: “how did you do that, how did you cope in the wilderness. That must have been a very traumatic time. And the crucifixion is also a terrible experience. Didn’t you need therapy afterwards?”  And then I received this answer, the spirit of God revealed it to me: “Because my Father loves me, His love is so strong”. The love of God is indestructible. And secondly, because of His love for people.
 
Otherwise he would have gone through all this so that only He would become perfect. But He said, “I do it for all of mankind, for the people. So these two loves are the same. To love God and to love your neighbour, your fellow men. They are equal and brought together in Jesus. What a man. What He did still moves me.
 
And with Him we are spiritually married, we are joined with Him, because we have fellowship through the Holy Spirit. So Jesus withstood many pains before He could start his mission.
But that is also an advantage. That’s why he understands you so well. If you are having a difficult time, he understands. He has been through it too. In Hebrews chapter 4 verse 15 it says: “He can sympathise with us”. Isn’t that wonderful? He knows what we are feeling.
 
So we are pregnant, expecting the revelation of the Christ in us.
This was God’s plan from the very beginning, “Who was”:  and then it begins to develop “who is”: and then it will come to light “who will come”. Accompanied by labour pains. That’s why it is called a narrow path. And why is it so narrow? Because it is under pressure on all sides. That is what it says in the Greek text. You are under pressure. Without reason, you meet resistance, spiritually and physically. The narrow path, a path under pressure. And the birth canal is the best example of such a path.
Because before that which is hidden can come forth and be revealed, it has to go through something. And I call it the birth canal, that narrow path. The troubles and the temptations.
 
ONE temptation was known to all the prophets: Stop believing, stop hoping, it’s taking so long. Enough is enough. And……where has it all got you?  That is a difficult temptation.
 
There are also things that undermine your happiness. Irritation for example. Do you get irritated sometimes? Then you have a hole in your cup of happiness, and then you don’t hear what God says, because you are irritated all the time.
 
There will also be days when other people are irritated by you. Why? Well, because you are innocent for example. Pure and innocent, and for no reason they are irritated by you. You talk strangely, and think you know it all. They are irritated because they don’t know what grace is.
 
But most of the opposition comes from people who say that they believe in God. But theirs is a different god. Jesus had exactly the same problem. When He was with the gentiles they praised him. But He also had a love for believers who had backslidden, and He tried to open their eyes, and that’s where he met the most opposition. 
Now another text from Hebrews, chapter 6 verse 11 and 12: “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness” and now we come to this wonderful expression “in realising the full assurance of hope”. And that is the birth of God’s hope, his expectation.
 
Reach out to that goal. Otherwise you will become sluggish, and live from Sunday to Sunday.  That’s how it often goes. And that is a shame, because that means you are already sluggish. Be followers of those, who through patience and faith,  will inherit the promise.
They are always striving, day and night,  to reach their goal.
And David says in Psalm 25 verse 5: “for thee I wait all the day long”. Well, David, haven’t you got anything better to do with your time?” No. I expect him all day long. Think about what that means. That he is always expecting. He is always living with hope. And he didn’t receive the promise. But because he kept believing and kept hoping and expecting, he has by now received the promise.
 
It’s wonderful. The expectation of God’s glory. And that word glory needs some reflecting on too. What is that exactly, God’s glory? Everybody talks about it ecstatically, but what IS it?
 
It’s easiest, I think, to say it is the being of the Father in all His aspects.” That is glory. His being, brought forth and revealed.
Paul says in Romans chapter 8 verse 24: “in this hope we were saved”. And as long as I cherish this hope, that will be by salvation. Then I won’t backslide. I will keep the hope alive. It is your salvation through the labour pains.
 
At a Vox meeting I spoke to a German translator and asked her: “How is your hope and expectation?” And suddenly she said: “Do you know, there is an expression in German for “pregnant” or “expecting”  “in gutter hoffnung sein”, which translates “to be in good hope”. So if you are expecting then you are in good hope!. My hope, the hope in me, as a baby that is to be born.
 
But that child that is to be brought forth is going to become fully grown in me first. Yes, that’s going to be a very difficult birth! 
That refers to Revelations chapter 12.
 
A child is born there, but the original text says that it is a man.
I think it is well put in Ecclesiastes chapter 11 verse 5: “As you do not know how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything”.
 
 
 
There you see the threefold parallel:
- the work of the Spirit, bringing life to the bones
- the bones in the womb of the pregnant woman, that portrays the Christ in us, (and that word for bones really means identity in the original Hebrew text)
- and this is all the work of God.
 
There is a lot hidden out of sight there, isn’t there?  And through the spirit the covering will be removed, and you will see that the book of Ecclesiastes, also called the book of the Preacher, (which I used to think was a very dreary book), summarizes the whole work of God in one text here, one picture. Wonderful. It is all about the forming of the Christ in us.
 
The epistle of Paul to the Colossians is one pregnant with hope. Colossians 1 verse 23: “Remain firmly anchored in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard”. There it is again. Keep it alive, it will eventually be revealed.
 
The important thing is that the “man of God’ will be revealed, as we read in 1 timothy chapter 6 verse 11. It is the voice of God that says: “Come forth,  man of God, you are my offspring, be like me”.
‘You have been told about this hope’, Paul says, ‘the whole world has been told about the hope of the gospel of which I Paul am a servant.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.’
 
So what are  those sufferings? Well, they are the labour pains. Paul thinks, ‘I will endure the labour pains because then the Christ will be seen in you’. He is a good mother, a spiritual mother. And there you have the persecution of Christ.
 
Another text: Colossians 1 verse 25 “to make the word of God fully known”. What does that mean? That the seed of God will come to life in you, and become a man of God. Because love is not selfish. Love focuses on others. So many people focus solely on themselves and their spirituality. Climbing ladders, trying to reach heaven. All trying to discover something to give themselves an identity.
 
But love doesn’t focus on itself, God doesn’t focus on himself, he focuses on you.  He is looking for you. Come on he says. Come to me.  Let the word of God be fully known. A child can comprehend it, and then the Word becomes flesh again.
 
As long as creation remains sick I am glad there is compassion.
How wonderful if it can be said of you “You have become compassion in the flesh”.
I know people who have become laziness in the flesh! It’s true, that flesh is not active at all. It sits slumped on the settee switching from one channel of the TV to the next.
 
Another text: “the mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now, and this is important, now made manifest to his saints. (And that word ‘to’ will one day become ‘in ‘). To them God chose to make known how great are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory.
 
And there you have our gospel in a nutshell. The hope of the glory of God. The expectation of Christ in you. What will they be able to say of you? The same as they said of Jesus. “Full of grace and truth”. You are full of grace and truth, and what you are full of,  you speak about.
 
Thy kingdom come, we say. Where does it come? It comes, God says, within you. Let it come. Keep God’s hope alive, and re-kindle it.
If you do that, then you will see so many good things in others.
And that makes me so happy and joyful. It gives me new energy. Do I hear Amen?
 
 
What shall we pray. Thy kingdom come? Then your will will be done and we will be freed from satan. Isn’t that wonderful.
It is almost as if you can summarize everything in one sentence. 
 
Again and again it moves me how full of love God is. Because all the hope, the expectation, His faith, his trust, that is all contained in that love. So don’t just pray for all thematerial things in life, because Your Father knows what you need. The only thing that is important is this. And He says it to Maria, the sister of Martha. There is one thing that is important. Slowly, we are coming nearer to the point, that we know what that one thing is, and then all the rest will fall into place. Cherish thehope.
 
Amen
 
 
Let us pray:
“Father, I pray, together with you, that fully trusting in You, we can keep the hope and expectation alive, and cherish it in the womb of Your tender love, so that the plan, that you have always had, can be realised: a nation of spiritual human beings to live with you for ever.
 
Amen