Sunday’s Sermon: Who Do You Belong To?

  • Not too long ago, I purchased something from Amazon. This time, it wasn’t a book … but it was something that you use for books. It was a book embosser – one of those tools that presses an image into the paper.
    • This one → seal: From the Library of Lisa Joanne Johnson
    • Kind of like a permanent bookplate
    • Now, this is not something that I plan to use on just any old book that crosses my path. This embosser is for the special books – the ones that I think are really important. It’s for books that I know I’ll be keeping forever – books that I can’t imagine living without.
      • Bibles, commentaries, and seminary books
      • Classic kids’ books like Love You Forever
      • Favorites like Harry Potter series, Bridge to Terabithia, and Jane Austen books
    • Tendency to mark things that belong to us starts at a young age – We want everyone to know that this cool, beautiful, interesting thing right here … it’s mine! It belongs to me. But how often do we stop and consider that we ourselves have been claimed and marked in a similar way?
      • Especially significant question as we look toward Lent
        • Ash Wed. – literally marked by sign of the cross
        • Something to ponder throughout Lent – what does it mean to be claimed by God?
      • This is what we encounter in our texts for today – God claiming us as God’s own once and for all. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we are extended grace strong enough to keep us in God’s presence for eternity.
  • Psalm 121 tells us that God is our keeper.
    • Tells us … and tells us … and tells us à word “keep” shows up 6 times in 8 verses
    • Pretty clear in English but made even clearer in the Heb. – v. 5: “The Lord is your keeper” is “preceded and followed by exactly the same number of syllables.”[1]
      • Quite literally the central point of the psalm
    • And in addition to simply telling us that God is our keeper, the psalm also describes what it means for God to be our keeper. → 2 elements of this
      • Element #1 = protection: The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.[2]
        • We’ve encountered this Hebrew word for “evil” before. This is that word that encompasses just about anything and everything bad you could possibly think of – inferiority, discontent, viciousness, something that is disagreeable or unwholesome or annoying, and so on. When we care about something enough to mark it as our own, we want to keep it from getting ruined, right? According to our psalm today, that’s exactly what God wants to do for us – protect us from harm and keep us from getting ruined.
      • Element #2 of God being our keeper = provision: the Lord is your shade at your right hand. … The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.[3] → Basically, God will provide for you.
        • Scholar: “No place, no time, no circumstance will be able to separate the psalmist from God’s loving care.”[4]
  • Now, these ideas of protection and provision also align with the idea of the shepherd presented in John. Shepherds protect their flocks and provide for them by leading them to lush pastures and clear streams. This takes a pretty in-depth knowledge on the part of the shepherd. – text: I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.[5]
    • Think about this for a minute. We often focus on the beginning of that verse: “I know my own, and my own know me.” Sounds good, right? God knows who you are … and that’s great! But it goes so much deeper than simply cataloguing your name in some giant, cosmic list.
      • Listen to end of the verse – “I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” Jesus had a relationship with God that was beyond intimate because he was God! His knowledge of God was infinite and profound and utterly complete. And Jesus is saying he knows us in that same way – completely, profoundly, to the depths of our souls. Despite this intimate knowledge … and even because of this intimate knowledge, God desires us. God claims us as God’s very own.
    • Some of you are probably familiar with Pixar’s Toy Story movies.
      • Basic premise: toys come to life when people aren’t around → something bad always happens that puts the toys in danger of being lost forever, but somehow, they always find their way back to their boy – to Andy
        • Andy’s toys often encounter other toys – abandoned by previous owners
          • Tend to be pretty bitter and jaded
          • Try to convince Andy’s toys that Andy doesn’t love them anymore – that he’s abandoned them
          • But Andy’s toys always have proof that he loves them – that he wants to keep them and protect them. You see, Andy’s name is written on them somewhere – the bottom of their shoes, for example. He marked them as his own, and the knowledge of that mark always gave them the strength and encouragement that they needed to them back to Andy.
            • Okay, I know that these are just toys. Toys break and wear out. They get lost. We eventually grow out of them. But think back to the amount of care you gave your favorite toy. Now imagine how much more God cares for us – those whom God created, those whom God has marked as God’s very own.
            • Our mark isn’t on the bottoms of our shoes or anywhere that can be seen – in 2 Cor, Paul speaks of this mark: written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of the human hearts.[6]
  • Psalm 121 tells us how long this mark will last: from this time on and forevermore.[7]
    • Special Heb. word here: olam = forevermore, constancy, eternity
      • How long will God desire us? Forever.
      • How often will God be there for us? Constantly.
      • How much time will we get to spend with God? Eternity.
    • Constancy – emphasized in John → First, Jesus describes the way the hired man deserts the sheep in the face of danger because “he does not own the sheep,” nor does he care for them.[8] In contrast, Jesus presents the good shepherd, the one who cares so much that he chooses to “lay down [his] life for the sheep.”[9] The good shepherd is the one willing to stick around – through the hard times, the scary times, the unsure times. God is the one willing to stay with us through it all.
      • This willingness led to ultimate sacrifice → provides us with grace upon grace
        • Look back at Ps 121Heb. “keep” can also mean “save” → He who saves Israel will not slumber. He who saves Israel will not slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your Savior. The Lord will save you from all evil; he will save your life.
          • This is the essence of the cross! God came to earth in Jesus Christ to lay down God’s own life so that our lives might be spared. A life for a life.
            • Scholar: Thus Jesus’ journey led finally to a cross, but the good news is that God was there, too, keeping his life. And as we follow Jesus on that way, God is our keeper as well.[10]
  • We are extended grace through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. And it is this act that keeps us in God’s company for eternity.
    • Book embosser leaves a mark that can’t be erased or rubbed out → physically changes the appearance of the page
      • According to Paul, we are marked in the same way – Eph: In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.[11]
      • “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit” → this is permanent – a mark that cannot be erased or rubbed out
    • God has claimed you. God has marked you as God’s very own, and because God desires you so much, Jesus sacrificed the utmost – life itself – to give you sufficient grace to spend eternity in God’s presence. As we approach this season of Lent – this season of repentance and contemplation and searching and rededication – my question for you is this: Are you ready to proudly declare who it is you belong to? Amen.

 


[1] J. Clinton McCann, Jr. “The Book of Psalms: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 4 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996), 1181.

[2] Ps 121:7.

[3] Ps 121:5b, 8.

[4] McCann, 1181.

[5] Jn 10:14-15a.

[6] 2 Cor 3:3.

[7] Ps 121:8.

[8] Jn 10:12, 13.

[9] Jn 10:15.

[10] McCann, 1182.

[11] Eph 1:13-14.

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