It is the holiest of weeks.
As we travel the trail of tears,
may we know afresh how deeply we are loved.
I am facilitating a seekers’ study this year, studying John, seeing how different Christianity is from world religions. Last week I had a a few couples over, one who is so earnestly and authentically seeking, and we talked of the difference between religion and the gospel. One dear man said, “This is so different from what I have been taught in church all my life.” I could see his tenderness, his hope it might be true, but his confusion. I was so moved.
Leaning across the kitchen counter between us, I covered his grasped hands with mine and was silent for a moment. His eyes grew wet with tears. I told him: “I understand your confusion. I had wrong teaching too. It’s everywhere. But this is what the Bible teaches. This is the heart. This is the Gospel. And I can see that God is wooing you.”
He said, “You have been telling my wife God is wooing her.”
I smiled. I had been telling her that! I said, “He is wooing her. And now I see Him wooing you too.”
He wept again. I saw it in his eyes: Could it be true?
Last week I got a text from His wife on the way to Nebraska. She wrote. I got it! I was in my car, just south of Egg Harbor when I realized: “I don’t have to do anything. He did it.” It is such amazing news — it seems impossible to be true. Christianity is such good news, we have trouble believing it. We have trouble believing the gospel before we enter, and then it keeps slipping out of our hands, and we think we have to earn His favor. But we don’t. It has been done. He is real, and He loves us. Every day I sense His reality in different ways. On this blog — in your hearts! I wondered where we would end up on Holy Week in the psalms, if it would work — but I somehow knew it would — for this is how our God is. Psalm 17 is of a man who is accused unjustly, and this in Christendom has often been paralleled with Christ before Pilate, so unjustly accused, yet so trusting in a God who would deliver his soul from the wicked, who would raise Him from the dead so that He would behold God’s face and be satisfied. This psalm also is of David, when he was unjustly accused by Saul, and David found strength in remembering God’s how God miraculously delivered the Israelites when it seemed there was no way out, for their enemies surrounded them. Only God can part a sea, only God can raise the dead, only God can save a soul. We cannot do it — BUT HE HAS DONE IT. This week we have marvelous songs to stir your heart each day, and one of Keller’s best sermons on video, plus a wonderful sermon from him on Psalm 22 — the crown jewel of the Messianic psalms. How I pray His presence will permeate your soul this week. Because it is holy week, I know some of you spend a good deal of the time Jesus was on the cross (9 to 3) with Him — so I’m giving you more — but just do what you can. Whatever you do and share blesses all of us. We are joining with believers of every tribe and nation, traveling together the trail of tears, exalting together in the amazing good news.
I love the song And Can It Be and this particular video of it. Dick Lucas said, “I think more truth may have been passed down through the centuries through the hymns of Charles Wesley than the sermons of John Wesley.” Such lyrics and music! Oh. In this video the WHOLE CHURCH is turned into a choir, singing it with all their hearts. As Psalm 22 tells us: “God inhabits the praise of His people.” How I see it in this video.
Psalm Sunday Icebreaker
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. The scales fall from our eyes in different ways. Some have a dramatic moment and can name the time. Others, it is more like traveling from Nebraska to Colorado — you don’t know when you passed the border, but you eventually realize, “I’m not in Nebraska anymore — this is different territory.” What was it like for you?
My friend who came to understand the gospel this week as she was driving told me before her realization, “I think it will be gradual for me.” I told her it might be, or God might come to her suddenly. How like God to do it that very week, surprising her “just south of Egg Harbor.” I love it that she can name the time and place — though I know it isn’t always that way.
God’s quickening ray fell on her and her heart was free. It reminds me of the fourth verse in And Can It Be:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay, Fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray— I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Monday: Song and Psalm 17
This psalm is of a man surrounded by enemies, as David was, as Jesus was. David knew he was innocent of the particular charges, and we know Jesus was completely innocent. There are going to be times when we are unjustly accused as well. How do we not cave under unjust accusation? We know God is before us, behind us, underneath us.
On a personal note, I do think it is important to see when we are unjustly attacked that the enemy is behind it, trying to discourage and devour us, but we must remember God is for us. A week ago, when I was in the midst of so much ministry, I received a very long and angry phone call from a man who had been told that I said something that I simply didn’t say. I was shaken at first, but when I realized it was the enemy, the father of lies, I knew the Lord would be my defender — and He has been. He is hiding me, as Psalm 17 says, in the shadow of his wings.
3. Read Psalm 17 and write down the truths about God that sustained them.
One night when I was traveling I watched Larry King interview Johnny Depp. He said, “Johnny — what do you trust in?” Depp paused, and then said, “I trust in my children.”
4. Contrast the man of the world with the man of God in verses 14-15. Meditate and share your thoughts.
TUESDAY: SONG AND KELLER VIDEO
Prepare your heart with this song.
5. Memories of God’s great deliverance for the Israelites during the Exodus often sustained David and God’s people. There are reflections of that in Psalm 17. See if you can find some.
Watch Keller’s video called “Getting Out” and share your comments.
Wednesday and Thursday: Psalm 22
Prepare your heart with this song:
Now watch this video:
No incident in the life of David can account for many parts of this psalm — it is clear prophecy of our Lord’s crucifixion.
7. Contemplate the first verse and find when Jesus spoke this. Why was He forsaken by God when He was on the cross?
8. What does verse 3 teach you? Please spend time in worshipful song, either singing or listening, asking Him to inhabit your heart as you do. If you have a song that moves you, please share it here.
9. What sustains the suffering servant according to verses 4 and 5? When did God deliver someone from your past that can serve as an encouragement to you?
10. How do you see Christ in verses 5-8?
11. How do you see Christ in verses 9-10, and the hope that sustains him? What words of Christ’s on the cross bring this scene to mind?
12. What scene and emotions are depicted in verses 12-13?
13. What words from the cross come to mind on the basis of verses 14-15?
14. Challenge question: Why do you think he said he could count all his bones in verse 17?
15. What scene is depicted in verse 18. How does this show the utmost cruelty?
16. What are His prayers in 19-21?
17. Read verses 22-31 and find two promises for which you are thankful.
18. Spend time in thankful for what He did and accomplished.
Good Friday: Keller sermon
Spend time with Him during the hours He was on the cross — 9 to 3 — the same time that the Passover Lambs were sacrificed.
Redeemer has a new website — this link will take you there I hope — otherwise copy and paste please. The sermon is not free, but if you can listen, it is good! Click here to listen.
19. Share your comments on the sermon.
20. What is your take-a-way and why?