Last week we left Nebuchadnezzar out in a field mooing and eating grass and chewing his cud. For a long season God deprived him of human sense and reason and reduced him to an animal. I called his condition Lycanthropy, the delusion of thinking you are an animal. It seems strange and foreign to us, something belonging to the ancient past. But the condition may be more common than we realize. We live in a culture that is full of the pride of life and pride of self. We have thrown off God and think we are God, that we can do whatever we want, that we are in control, that we can change the rules. We think we can change the definition of marriage, that we can change our gender at will, that we are free from all moral and sexual restraints, that we can kill babies and call it choice, we let men in women’s bathrooms and call it being inclusive and tolerant and progressive, that we can call good evil and evil good. We think we are the lords of the earth and nothing bad will happen. Another aspect of our cultures madness is it rejection of and rebellion against authority. Our culture is in a free fall in its hatred of authority, the authority of fathers, teachers, pastors and elders, police men. We have built a great secular Babylon, a world filled with incredible technological wonders, amazing feats, a world filled with every possible pleasure and entertainment. Technology is our new tower of Babel, making us gods, capable of doing anything. We think we are superior to all previous cultures. It is madness, it is the loss of reason and a great and terrible judgment is coming. God will give us over to animal like passions and behavior as the rule of reason and law is turned over. The call for Christians is to learn now to follow the example of Daniel while living in exile in this pagan secular world. How to be salt and light? How to pray for grace and mercy, for truth and righteousness, for justice and holiness, for the opening of blind eyes and hard hearts. The book of Daniel holds out hope to the exiled Jews and to us today. God is able to humble the proud and He is able to restore sanity. He has done it before in cultures more wicked and proud and violent than ours. God will show Himself to be God, He will show Himself to be in final control. He will one day put an end to the madness, to the insanity of our world’s arrogance and godlessness.
This morning is the second of three sermons on worship and why we worship and do what we do in our worship. Isaiah 6 is one of the great texts in Scripture on worship and how we worship. The flow of the text sets a pattern that we use in our worship and I want to unpack that with you this morning.
As we mark the beginning of another church calendar year together it’s a good time to reflect on what we are doing here and why. Why do we keep gathering here week in and week out, year in and year out for 116 years now? Habit? Tradition? Duty? I remember playing high school football, whenever we lost a game on Friday night, we knew that Monday was going to be a rough practice. Our coach would make us spend hours going back to the fundamentals, back to the basics. That’s not a bad thing to do when we have been worshiping together here for so long. Worship is fundamental to human existence. Everyone on this planet worships someone or something. It is only a question of who or what; and who we worship will make all the difference in our lives. Someone once said, “Culture is religion externalized” (Henry Van Til). What a person thinks and believes and worships will profoundly affect everything else in his life. And what a community of people think and believe and worship will affect everything else in that community, from morality to politics to economics to the legal system and education and art. Culture is the outward expression of a person’s or a nation’s faith and worship. If it worships man, it will be humanistic. If it worships Allah, it will be an Islamic culture. One way you can tell what the underlying religion of a culture is, just look at its blasphemy laws. What are you not allowed to do or say? Every culture has them. In our country those laws are changing. Now they are called hate laws and hate crimes. They tell us what we cannot touch, what is sacred, they point to what is at the center of belief. And those laws will continue to change as a reflection of what our culture increasingly values and thinks is most important. “Worship is the basic tool of formation, as we worship so we will believe, and value. If our worship is self-centered, we will be self-centered. If our worship is entertainment or another form of consumerism, that’s what we will value. If it is sentimental or shallow, so will our souls be. And if it lifts up a holy and majestic and noble God we will be lifted up as well” (R.J. Snell). We cannot rise above the nature and character of what we worship. Nor can a nation. Psalm 95 like many of the Psalms is a call to worship and a call to worship a particular God.
Pride and politics seem inseparable, where there is one, there is the other. And if ever we needed proof this election year is it. We should tremble at what the hand of God might do. For God is not mocked and He will not have His glory robbed with impunity. His hand of judgment will not be held back forever. But this story is not just for kings and presidents and politicians. This is a story for every one of us and if we don’t learn its lesson we too will be brought low.. Nebuchadnezzar, the great King of Babylon has been sent a messenger in the form of a dream and then another messenger to interpret the dream.
“Remember the Alamo; Remember Pearl Harbor; Remember Watergate; Remember 9/11!” we say these things to remind us of past history. We do it to challenge & warn us to be on guard that those events won’t ever happen again. We say it to spur us on to greater courage & confidence. And we need such reminding, for it is so easy to forget these certain events to help us face life & death. Well, you see, Jude has just given all us Christians Christ’s command to fight for the faith that was once for all entrusted to us. He does that because the Church & we Christians are always facing imminent dangers & destruction from the attacks of evil & error. And he has assured us we can defeat these enemies because we are God’s chosen, called, kept, & loved with His multiple mercy & peace.
Several weeks ago I was visiting with one of our senior saints and she wondered out loud with me why she was still here, since she wasn’t able to do anything particularly useful. Her life has been reduced to sleeping, eating, sitting, reading, watching a little TV, talking with a few old friends, maybe a little hand work, but nothing particularly useful. She got me to thinking about work and labor and what we do and about when we can’t do what we have always done. What would you say to her? How might you answer with an encouraging word? If you were in her shoes would you feel the same way? If our health and strength decline to the point we can’t do anything anymore, what then? What does it mean to be useful? Actually the age at which one can feel useless is getting younger and younger. There are people in the technology industry who are 45 and can’t get a job because they are too old. Labor Day weekend seems like a good time to reflect on what God’s Word says about work and usefulness and about our work at the end of life.