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It is Marvelous in our Eyes

December 24, 2015, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee (Psalm 118:21-29) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Psalms
Preached at a Combined Service service

Tags: Hallel, Messianic

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Date: 24th Dec 2015
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee
Title: It is Marvelous in our Eyes

Brothers and sisters, this is the night of Christmas Eve. Are you ready for the coming of Jesus? Before the coming of Jesus, Mark quoted from Isaiah 40:3, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ And that’s what we need to do. To prepare for the Gospel of Mark starting next year, we used devotions based on Isaiah so that we can reflect on prophetic verses like these.[1] On Day 2 of the devotions, this was explained “In order to develop the uneven ground into a wide and flat expressway, obstacles need to be removed and the road needs to be flattened, it is like spreading out the red carpet to welcome the God of glory. God’s Promised King was returning to the Holy city of Jerusalem, and the people would definitely return too. This was true because in 538B.C. the first batch of Israelites were allowed to return from Babylon to rebuild their synagogue (Ezra chapters 1-2), so things happened as were foretold. However, God’s intervention was not only to allow for one batch of His people to return home. He said: all flesh shall see it together. This represents a broader, more comprehensive preparation to receive the coming of God. At that time, the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” (若要把崎岖小山路开展成 宽大又平坦的快速公路,这意味着移开障碍,铺上平坦的路,铺 开红地毯来迎接荣耀的主。上帝应许的王要回到圣城耶路撒冷, 百姓也必定回归。这是对的,因主前538 年第一批的百姓获准由 巴比伦回归、重建圣殿(以斯拉记 1-2章),事情的确如此发 生。但是,上帝的心意不只是要让一批的百姓回归。祂说:凡有 4 ⾎⽓的必⼀同看见。这就代表了更广义、更全面的准备迎接主的 来到。那时耶和华的荣耀必然显现。)

Brothers and sisters, do not assume that such preparation comes easy. Look at the Singapore roads! Even with all the modern machinery and vehicles, Singapore roads are always under construction mode. In the same way, preparing our own hearts and minds, preparing the hearts and minds of a people is never easy. Firstly, the world always moves with its own agenda. In the days of the exile, Isaiah was speaking to a bunch of people more interested in their own survival than the vision of God. In the days of Jesus, it was about maintaining status quo under a volatile Roman political environment. Today, we continue to be busy with our own lives, fighting our daily battles. Honestly, I understand. It is hard enough day after day, year after year, handling the troubles of our own. It is a tall order to have time to wonder about God’s agenda. But I urge you to put this as primary importance. Prepare your hearts so that you may know when God is moving.

Besides being busy, there is another reason why preparing for the coming of God’s work is never easy. The reason is a fixed mindset. Some call it resistance to change. But think about it. We are dealing with a creative God. When God acts, how can there not be change? How can there not be dramatic transformation? Think about this. If Jesus comes today, will you be ready? (pause) If God wants to be creative in Jubilee Church, are we ready? (pause) When Jesus came to the Jewish community almost 2000 years ago, many were not ready. Most of them even opposed him. It was only upon reflection that they slapped their foreheads. OMG. Isn’t this precisely the astonishing and surprising way of God? Psalm 118 is one of the key psalms they used to understand Jesus. Let us also be well prepared with it.

Psalm 118: 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.
25 Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

The key word in this passage is in verse 23: “amazing”, also translated as “marvelous”. Its literal meaning is to be surpassing or extraordinary. And so it could refer to something beyond one’s power or too difficult to do. It could also mean something too difficult to understand. Therefore, it is often used to describe the works and ways of God. When God acts, it is beyond our ways. It is also beyond our understanding. And this is why we marvel and are amazed by it. It is something so special, the psalmist says in verse 23 and 24, this must be God’s own handiwork. “This is a day that God made”, meaning that only God can make it happen. So what exactly did God do?

If you heard the sermon on Christmas Sunday, you would have heard the first half of psalm 118, where the story was about a king trapped in a deadly situation, both for him and his people. Then, in today’s passage, it is revealed: God had delivered them. Verse 21: I will give you thanks, for you answered me, and have become my deliverer. Verse 27: The Lord is God and he has delivered us.

However, that’s not the amazing or marvelous part. What is marvelous is described in verse 22: The stone which the builders discarded has become the cornerstone. This cryptic verse is a construction metaphor. In the past, stones were very precious for construction use. They had to be laboriously cut and transported to the construction site. Sometimes, stones were cut into an odd shape without an immediate use, and they were put aside. Yet, at the key moment, that odd shaped stone might become the most important part of the building in supporting or balancing a critical structure in the architecture. This metaphor therefore means that God has used an unseemly person or event to play a critical role in saving his people. Such a person may be really lowly or insignificant to most people, just like an unwanted stone. Yet the marvelous part is that God used him or her, and performed an unimaginable act of salvation from an impossible situation.

You can think of Abraham, an old childless man. You can think of Moses, a shepherd living in exile. Traditionally, Jewish interpreters have used this verse to refer to David. “David was an unlikely candidate to be a king of Israel. When Samuel visited Jesse’s home to look for the person whom God wanted to anoint as king of Israel, Jesse first introduced his eldest son, Eliab to him. Samuel was much impressed by Eliab, and he thought, “Surely this must the one the LORD wants to anoint. However, God clearly told him, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature. I have rejected him… For Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6-7). Then Jesse introduced his next son, Abinadab, and another, Shammah, and finally all his seven sons, except one whom Jesse perceived as the most unlikely. David was out in the field tending sheep, but the LORD’s eye was upon him all along. Then Samuel told Jesse, “Bring him here; we will not sit down until he comes” (16:11). David was the stone that the builders rejected which became the cornerstone.”[2]

Now, why did Mark and the other early Christians connect this understanding to the Jesus event?[3] “During the New Testament times, Jesus Himself was also perceived by the leaders of Israel as an unlikely candidate to be the person whom God had chosen to be the anointed One. Even as the people were shouting “Hosanna!” when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, many people, who were anticipating the Messiah, failed to see Jesus as the One whom God had sent to save His people. They shouted out to Jesus, the same words in verse 25, “Save us, we pray, O, LORD” In Hebrew, that prayer is expressed in just one word - “Hosanna!””[4] They also shouted, just like in verse 26, “May the one who comes in the name of the Lord be blessed!” But when they saw Jesus challenging the temple system, when they saw Jesus challenging the meaning of the Sabbath laws, and most importantly, when they saw Jesus arrested and crucified on the cross, they cast him aside like an unwanted stone. What were we thinking? Shouting Hosanna and calling him blessed. He was just a simpleton from Galilee.

Brothers and sisters, are your hearts prepared for the works of God? In the end, “the stone which the builders discarded has become the cornerstone.” When Jesus came to Bethlehem, there was no place to stay. Barely a toddler, his family had to flee for their lives from Herod. The bulk of his ministries were in the ulu towns of Galilee. And when he was finally in Jerusalem, he was mocked and rejected. Yet, through such an unlikely person, God redeemed his people back to himself. He became the cornerstone of God’s salvation and deliverance. In using Psalm 118 to describe Jesus, Mark and the other New Testament writers identified him as the new David. He is the chosen and anointed king of God’s people. He is here to fulfill the prophetic promises of God, to stay faithful and true to his covenant. When this happens, verse 27 declares, “The Lord is God and has shone light on us.” “As usual, whereas darkness and gloom are symbols for disaster and defeat, light is a symbol of triumph, victory, and blessing (Numbers 6:24-25). The light has shone on “us”. The leader’s victory is the people’s, not just his.”[5] Jesus has come as the victorious Davidic king. Isn’t that amazing and marvelous?

Brothers and sisters, this Christmas, this is how we can prepare our hearts. Let us remember the shock value of Jesus. God has called the most unlikely person to be the savior. We must prepare ourselves in this way because only when we are truly amazed by God, only when we marvel again at his wondrous act through Jesus Christ, then we can truly appreciate Christmas in our hearts. Jesus is more than just a hero who saves the day. He is the new David. He is come amongst us, so that he can be the lord and king over all of us. This Christmas, let us say with true knowledge and conviction at the coming of Jesus: Hosanna! 25 Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.

Finally, there is only one true response when we acknowledge just how amazing and marvelous is the coming of Jesus, and that is to respond with thanksgiving.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.
27 Tie the offering with ropes to the horns of the altar!
(This means we give our offerings to God.)
28 You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Dearly beloved brothers and sisters, Christmas should be a time of thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving can come in the form of praise and worship. We are thankful that God has restored us as his people. We praise and acknowledge that he is our God. From this Christmas onwards, can I hear more conviction in our praises? Amen? Thanksgiving can be in the form of witnessing and confessing to the world. We sing our carols and express our joy openly so that the world may know what God has done. In the year 2016, can we commit to share the good news with at least one friend? Amen? Thanksgiving can come in the form of offering. We vow to serve him and to dedicate our lives to God’s holy purposes. Let this Christmas be a new beginning for you. Amen? When Christ comes, the world must be ready for transformation. Let us be ready. Let our lives be ready. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. May Jesus be the cornerstone of our new beginning.

[1]http://www.jubilee.org.sg/advent2015/
[2]http://www.jubilee.org.sg/sermons/?sermon_id=401
[3]See Mark 11:9; 12:10-11
[4]http://www.jubilee.org.sg/sermons/?sermon_id=401
[5]Goldingay, Baker Commentary, p 364

Psalm 118:21–29 (Listen)

21   I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22   The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.
23   This is the LORD's doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24   This is the day that the LORD has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25   Save us, we pray, O LORD!
    O LORD, we pray, give us success!
26   Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
    We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27   The LORD is God,
    and he has made his light to shine upon us.
  Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
    up to the horns of the altar!
28   You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God; I will extol you.
29   Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

(ESV)