August 10, 2010 David Balzer

Psalm 118: “Reject!”

Do you ever wonder whether you’re being any USE to God? Doing anything VALUABLE for HEAVEN’S sake?

Or do you feel like you’re just taking up space? Using up oxygen? Warming a pew?

Do you feel like you’re A REJECT? And no use to anyone!?

It seems like everyone ELSE has got it together. Everyone ELSE has normal families. Regular quiet times. Victory over sin. Useful spiritual gifts…  Except you. You’re just a REJECT!

If that’s how you sometimes feel, (and I think MOST of us feel like that at SOME time or another) then BE ENCOURAGED. Because God’s USED to working with us “rejects”. In fact, it’s his preferred way of doing business.

Like a twelve year old boy called George. It was August, 1876. And he stood in front of a small group of people in a classroom in Gloucestershire, England. And he preached his first sermon. It may not have been much good. But he wanted to use what he had to serve his Lord. He wanted to tell people about the one he loved.

Twelve years later. And George presented himself as a candidate for the ministry, to the Methodist Church. But they rejected him. Said he couldn’t preach. He sent a telegram to his father that day. One word. “Rejected!”

And his father wired back his reply. He was a preacher too. And here were his wise words. Words which WE need to take to heart, too. Only six words. But just as POSITIVE as his son’s telegram was NEGATIVE.

“REJECTED ON EARTH, ACCEPTED IN HEAVEN!”

And if you think about it, isn’t that the way you’d rather have it? Rejected on earth, but accepted in heaven. That’s much more important!

2. God Brings success to the Rejected King – Ps 118

Well, if you feel rejected on earth, you’re not alone. Even the writer of Ps 118 felt it. He felt like his whole world was caving in around him. But he turns to the only One who can do anything about it. And now, he’s telling his fellow believers about it. Look at v5.

(Psa 118:5 NIV)  In my anguish I cried TO THE LORD, and he answered by setting me free.

We don’t really know what he was going through. We don’t even know who he was. Maybe he was an Israelite king who’d gone off to war.

But by the sound of it, whatever it was, he was going through a pretty rough patch. Listen to vv10-13.

(Psa 118:10-13 NIV)  All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off. {11} They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off. {12} They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off. {13} I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me.

Does your life sometimes sound like that? One thing after another. Stumbling from one crisis to the next. An unpayable bill, the car breaks down, problems at school or work, or sickness, or relationship breakdown. One knock after another. And you feel SURROUNDED.

And it was like that for THIS GUY. But he turns to the only One who CAN ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING about the problem. And so he gets the victory. God answers him, and sets him free.

That’s the lesson he’s learned. Look at v6.

(Psa 118:6-9 NIV)  The Lord IS with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? {7} The Lord IS with me; he IS my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. {8} It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. {9} It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.

That’s the attitude us ‘rejects’ should have. “The LORD is with me; I won’t be afraid. What can man do to me?”

When we feel like we’ve got nothing to offer the world. When we feel so weak, we can barely make it through the day. When we feel like our own problems are so huge, we can’t even think about anyone else. When we haven’t got a clue which direction to turn in. The key is to recognise where our SHELTER is. “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.” To take refuge in the ONLY ROCK which doesn’t budge.

Because you CAN’T trust your PHYSICAL STRENGTH. One stray cancer cell, or virus, or falling off a ladder. And your STRENGTH is gone.

You can’t trust DOCTORS or MEDICINE. They make mistakes, drugs can’t fix everything.

You can’t trust FRIENDS. Their attention is fickle. They’ve got their own problems to deal with.

You can’t trust FAMILY. Marriage used to be for life. But not anymore. Relatives have BETTER things to do than worry about YOU.

You can’t trust POSSESSIONS. Floods or earthquakes- and economies are ruined. Bushfires, tsunamis, storms, and hail. 5 minutes of mayhem and everything’s gone. Houses, cars, businesses, roofs, boats, bikes, and fences.

You can’t trust GOVERNMENTS. Opinion polls can blow their sails anywhere. One election, new party in power, and new policies wipe out everything you’d counted on.

You can’t trust EMPLOYMENT. There’s no employee-loyalty anymore. It only takes a minor restructure, and your job’s gone.

You can’t trust FINANCIAL SECURITY. Banks go broke. The share market crashes. There’s a world-wide financial down-turn. And you’ve lost everything

When you think about it, we stand on very shaky ground indeed. In ANY of those situations, it’s only GOD who can do anything about them.

{8} It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.

How futile it is, and useless to hear people say, in the face of catastrophe “Our THOUGHTS are with the victims”. What use are THOUGHTS?

World War II journalist Ernie Pyle coined the expression “There are no atheists in foxholes”. In other words, war drives home to people the truth that there are some situations that we just have no control over. God is the only one who can deliver us.

The same could be said for natural disasters, or terrorist attacks. There are no atheists in hurricanes, or earthquakes, or tsunamis, or bomb blasts.

{8} It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.

I’ve told you before about something that happened to us a few years back. We were staying at Terrigal. And I’d taken Alex, Lachlan and Daniel to the beach. I was lying on the sand reading a book. Every few minutes I’d look around for the kids. There were Alex and Lachlan playing in the waves. That was okay. But I couldn’t see Daniel.

Now, at that time Daniel was too scared to go near the water. He’d just been stung by a bluebottle. So he was pretty safe.

But as I looked around for him. I couldn’t see him anywhere. My stomach dropped. Just to give you a bit of background. Terrigal beach has a bit of a history for me.

It was off Terrigal beach that I was caught in a rip when I was about twelve. I was rescued by a lifesaver when I felt like I was halfway to New Zealand.

And it was off Terrigal Beach that a family from our church at Gosford found their young son. Floating face down in the water. They’d only taken their eyes off him for a second. He died later in hospital.

So it was no wonder I was beginning to panic. I raced up and down the beach. I looked out to sea. I looked back across the sand. Nothing. I sent Lachlan in one direction, Alex in the other, while I went to check the showers. Nothing.

I was getting more and more desperate. “Please Lord. Please Lord” I don’t remember praying much more than that!

I was getting desperate. I went to the lifesavers’ enclosure on the beach. I tried to sound calm, and in control.

“I’ve lost my son. Daniel. He’s wearing a hat, blue rash shirt. I don’t THINK he’d go in the water”

They mobilised troops and headed up and down the beach. I headed back to our towels. Just as I got there, a lady came walking across the sand … holding Daniel’s hand. He looked as scared as I felt.

“I couldn’t find you Daddy. Where were you?” He’d just wandered off up the beach, and couldn’t find our stuff again.

I gave him a big hug. “Thank you, Lord!” Verse 13.

(Psa 118:13-18 NIV)  I was pushed back and about to fall, but THE LORD helped me. {14} THE LORD is my strength and my song; HE has become my salvation. {15} Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “THE LORD’S RIGHT HAND HAS DONE MIGHTY THINGS! {16} The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!” {17} I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. {18} The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.

I HAD been chastened. I needed to keep a closer eye on the kids. But God had delivered me. And he hadn’t given me over to death. … At least not at the moment. Caron hadn’t found out yet.

But I was grateful to God. And thankful for his goodness and protection. Things HAD worked out – no matter how little I deserved it.

And that was the experience of the writer of this Psalm. He’s overjoyed. God is good!

And he wants everyone to know about it. Especially his congregation. That’s how he starts off the Psalm. Encouraging them to declare for themselves how good God is. Look at v1. He’s talking to THEM, and expecting them to respond.

(Psa 118:1-4 NIV)  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. {2} Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.” {3} Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” {4} Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures forever.”

And as he tells his story. As he gives his testimony. You can imagine them getting more and more excited. Finally in v22. They answer him.

(Psa 118:22-24 NIV)  The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; {23} the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. {24} This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

A reject –  someone every dismisses without a second glance – a loser – God’s given victory to. He’s been down for the count, but he’s got back up again. And delivered the knockout punch.

And the congregation loves to hear this story because it gives them hope and faith for the situation THEY’RE in. Whatever valley they’re walking through. When they’re reminded that God DOES work, He DOES act and care. He’s done it for THIS GUY, and he’ll do it AGAIN.

Most of you know Mum’s in hospital. And fairly weak. She’s facing a third operation, and can hardly bare the thought of it. But I read this Psalm to her on Friday. And it gave us both hope, because if God’s acted like this in THE PAST, then we can trust him with THE FUTURE.

And it’s the same with YOU.

And that’s the point. It’s not about YOU or ME or this guy. It’s not GOD. THE LORD HAS DONE THIS. This is the day that THE LORD has made (v24). Let us rejoice!

That’s the secret for us rejects. To LOOK to God for help. Not to wallow in our own inadequacies. Or focus on our own weaknesses or rejection. Or the size of the mountain in front of us.

But to look to the one with the power to build mountains, and gouge out oceans, and spin galaxies. Because he’s also the one who’s interested in the prayers of his weak and powerless people. His rejects.

And then when he DOES it. When he rescues or vindicates, or exalts, we need to make sure we GIVE HIM THE CREDIT. That’s what the Psalmist does.

You see even for rejects, that’s a great ministry at church. Tell us about how you’ve been at the bottom of the barrel. And then tell us how God has pulled you out, and we’ll all join together to praise our great God.

The God of rejects

3. God Brings Success to Rejects

You see that’s the way God’s ALWAYS worked. His preferred method of doing business. To bring success to rejects.

He would have failed Personnel Management training. Because he never picks the biggest or the best or the brightest or the boldest. Right through the bible he’s the God of rejects. Who picks the one’s the world’s not interested in.

Like Abraham. When God told Abram, at 100 YEARS OF AGE, that he’d still be the father of many nations, Gen 17:17 tells us that Abraham LAUGHED. But that’s the way God works.

Or Israel. Deuteronomy 7 tells us that God chose Israel out of all the nations on the face of the earth. Why? Because they were big, or successful, or talented, or strategic? NO WAY! Verse 7. They were the FEWEST of all the peoples

Or we could pick more. There’s Gideon. The mighty warrior, Gideon. The least in his family. Which was the weakest in the tribe. God chose him to lead Israel when he was threshing grain in a wine press. A hole in the ground. Hiding, so that none of the Midianites could see him.

And when 32 000 men assembled to fight under Gideon, God sent all but 300 of them home. Because he said “Any more men, and Israel would boast that HER OWN STRENGTH had saved her, rather than ME.”

And God won the victory with 300 men and Gideon. Rejects! But God gave them victory.

Or King David. The youngest of 8 sons. In 1 Sam 16, Nathan the prophet goes to Jesse’s place. Checks out number one son. Tall, strong. He must be the one. No says God. Well then, it must be number two. No! And so on, through seven sons who are there. Each time God says no. So Nathan says to Jesse, “Haven’t you got any more sons”. Only the youngest, But he’s off looking after the sheep. When they find David, God chooses him. Listen to what he says. 1 Sam 16:7.

“The Lord doesn’t look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”

God uses “rejects”! Rejects who’s HEARTS ARE RIGHT WITH HIM. Who want to honour him, and be used by him. Is that you?

Rejects like the Apostle Paul. He was a man who was well aware of his own weaknesses. But who was used by God like no other. He was used because he recognised that the power and beauty came from God, not him. In 2 Cor 4:7 he says “But we have this treasure (the treasure of the gospel) in JARS OF CLAY to show that this all-surpassing power is FROM GOD and NOT FROM US.”

And a bit further on, in Ch 12, he talks about his thorn in the flesh. A physical weakness God gave him to stop him getting a big head. In verse 8, he says

(2 Cor 12:8-10 NIV)  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. {9} But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for MY POWER IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS.” Therefore (Paul says) I WILL BOAST ALL THE MORE GLADLY ABOUT MY WEAKNESSES, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. {10} That is why, for Christ’s sake, I DELIGHT IN WEAKNESSES, IN INSULTS, IN HARDSHIPS, IN PERSECUTIONS, IN DIFFICULTIES. FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG.

Rejected stones. Broken bricks. They’re the building materials God can use. That’s the way he’s always done it. Because they let God do his stuff. They’re the ones who give the glory to God. Because it’s so obvious that he’s the only one who deserves it. And that’s what Psalm 118 is teaching us

(Psa 118:22-24 NIV)  The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; {23} the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. {24} This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

4. God Brings success to The Rejected Jesus – Mt 21:33-46

And while we can put ourselves into the shoes of the Psalmist, JESUS could AS WELL. It’s a Psalm he was thinking about as he made his way to Jerusalem. As the crowds cheered him on as he rode into town on his donkey, and made his way to the temple.

He knew how fickle they were. How quickly they’d turn. He knew the undercurrent of murderous hatred the leaders felt. He knew where he’d end up in a very short time.

And as he taught in the temple, he told a parable about a vineyard. It’s Lk 20 v9.

A landowner planted a vineyard, and rented it out to some tenants. But when it came time for harvest, the tenants wouldn’t hand over the fruit. In fact, they killed all the messengers the landowner sent.

Jesus is talking about God and Israel. Israel’s the vineyard, and her leaders are the tenants. They’re supposed to be looking after her. And the messengers were God’s prophets who were often killed.

Jesus goes on. Last of all, the landowner sent his own Son. (Jesus is talking about himself). But the tenants killed him too.

And Jesus finishes the parable. The owner’s going to come and kick the tenants out of the vineyard, and give it to someone else. That’s God’s judgement.

Because they rejected THE SON, they’ve rejected THE OWNER. And they’ll be judged. Jesus concludes (Luke 20:17 p744))

17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” 19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

Jesus was rejected by the leaders. And God used that very rejection to bring about his purposes. The broken brick on Good Friday, became the capstone. The most important stone in the building. On Easter Sunday.

Jesus became a reject for us “rejects”. Rejected by men, then rejected by God, so that WE wouldn’t be rejected by God. That God would accept us as his children. Even though we’re rejects!

So once again, God brings success to rejects. Because that’s the way he does business.

5. God Brings success to Rejects – Now – 1 Peter 2:4-7

And he’s still doing it NOW. Still using rejects. Turn to 1 Peter 2:4 (p857). We’re a living building. A church. That’s built on the foundation of Jesus. Jesus – who was the rejected stone.

(1 Pet 2:4-8 NIV)  As you come to him, the living Stone–REJECTED BY MEN BUT CHOSEN BY GOD and precious to him– {5} YOU ALSO, LIKE LIVING STONES, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. {6} For in Scripture it says: “See, I LAY A STONE IN ZION, A CHOSEN AND PRECIOUS CORNERSTONE, AND THE ONE WHO TRUSTS IN HIM WILL NEVER BE PUT TO SHAME.” {7} Now to you who believe, THIS STONE IS PRECIOUS. But to those who do not believe, “THE STONE THE BUILDERS REJECTED HAS BECOME THE CAPSTONE,” {8} and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for.

You see, Jesus is the rejected stone, and we’re built on his foundation. If we’re living stones, one of the things that means is that WE’RE REJECTS, TOO!

Our whole life is built on the rejection of Jesus by men. Our friendship with God is based on Jesus’ rejection on the cross. Our identity as people of God is founded on Jesus as the rejected stone.

And that makes him precious to us.

So what are we to do as rejects? Peter goes on. Verse 9. The job description for God’s rejects.

(1 Pet 2:9-12 NIV)  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. {10} Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. {11} Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. {12} Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Rejected on earth. Accepted in heaven. And that’s not a bad way to be.

That brings me back to our 12 yr old boy. George. His full name was George Campbell Morgan. Soon after his rejection by the Methodists, he was accepted by the Congregationalists. He was ordained in 1890, and was the minister at several churches in both England and America.

Finally, in August, 1943, 67 years after he preached that first sermon as a 12 yr old. He preached his last sermon from the pulpit of Westminster Chapel, London. A church which had become famous because of his ministry. His assistant, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones took over from him.

He’s been called the “prince of expositors”, and “perhaps the greatest Bible teacher of that day in the English-speaking world”.

George Campbell Morgan was a reject who wanted to be used by God. A reject who recognised that it was only God who brought success.

(Psa 118:22-23 NIV)  The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; {23} the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

Broken bricks are God’s preferred building material. And that’s great news for us “rejects”.

Rejected on earth, accepted in heaven. That’s what I want to be! How about you?

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