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AS WE LIVE, SO SHALL WE REAP

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
American Baptist - United Methodist

28 JULY 1996

BY Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Psalm 128:1-6
Ezekiel 19: 1-14
Haggai 2:17
Matthew 5:8
           
26:52
Hebrews 12:14
1 John 3:2-3

PART I

As we look around the world, including our own community, we see many evil things being done.

Itís as though these people are saying to themselves, "Iím not accountable to anyone but myself. I can do whatever I want, and you canít do anything about it."

Many people abuse the authority that has been given to them, and they fail to realize that they are accountable to God.

Now, on the other hand, there are those who sincerely try to serve the Lord our God, and do what is right in His sight.

Each will reap the rewards according to the way he or she has lived.

Psalm 128 is a psalm of ascents, a hymn of those who seek the Lord, as they go up to the Temple.

Letís take a look at the first two verses:

1.  How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,

Who walks in His ways.

2.  When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,

You will be happy and it will be well with you.

The key to all of this is first that we fear or reverence the Lord and walk in His ways.

And the result is that we eat of the fruit of our hands, or eat of what we have produced.

Listen to how Haggai expresses this in 2:17:

17.  ĎI smote you and every work of your hands with blasting wind, mildew, and hail; yet you did not come back to Me,í declares the Lord.

Those who did what was against the will of God only received a just punishment.

God didnít do this vindictively, but to lead them back to Him.

But if they refused to listen, they would receive the ultimate punishment.

But Psalm 128 speaks of those who truly seek the Lord.

Note what we are told in Hebrews 12:14:

14.  Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

The pursuit of peace is according to the will of God, not the pursuit of violence; for if our life is not dedicated to the pursuit of peace, we will not see God.

Isnít this what our preparation verse (Matthew 5:8) also told us, and isnít this, in essence, what all of the Beatitudes tell us?

8.  "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

In other words, only those who seek peace are pure in heart; or we could say it the other way, that only the pure in heart are those who truly seek peace.

Either way we look at it, only such people will see God.

Those who are not pure in heart, and who do not seek peace, will not see God.

John tells us the same thing in his first epistle (1 John 3:2-3):

2.  Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.

3.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

Our heart becomes pure, as we grow in faith and trust in the Lord.

So this brings us back to ourselves.

Who are we, individually, in the presence of God?

Do we really and truly trust in the Lord?

Do we really and truly believe the Lord and all His promises, and hold fast to that hope?

Or, do we think we have to hurry it along in some way?

Are we the pure in heart, who trust and follow the Lord wherever He may lead us, without any hesitation?

Are we the ones who truly pursue peace for all of Godís creation (humans, animals, and the environment)?

If we are, then we will indeed see God.

Amen.

PART II

Letís resume our discussion on how we live and what we will reap.

Listen to verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 128:

3.  Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine,

Within your house,

Your children like olive plants

Around your table.

2.  Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed

Who fears the Lord?

These verses are telling us that part of the reward for living a life of peace with a pure heart is that our families will reflect that type of life.

In essence, we reap the benefits of a Godly and peaceful home life, because that is the example we set for the rest of the family.

And husbands and wives have very interesting little ways of encouraging each other to do what is right, if that is also the desire of their own hearts.

And when parents set the example for their children, most often their children will follow that example.

And in turn, the whole family will be peaceful.

The same conditions also apply to the greater families: the church family and the community that surrounds the church.

The nation of Israel was like one of these large families.

They were the descendants of Jacob (Israel).

Ezekiel sings forth a lament from God in chapter 19, for Godís family did not follow the ways He set before them.

Listen to these words that God speaks to Ezekiel to say to the people (Ezekiel 19:1-14):

1. "As for you, take up a lamentation for the princes of Israel,

2.  and say,

ĎWhat was your mother?

A lioness among lions!

She lay down among young lions,

She reared her cubs.

3.  ĎWhen she brought up one of her cubs,

He became a lion,

And he learned to tear his prey;

He devoured men.

Note carefully that we are being given the example of a violent person, a violent leader.

In his position, he is setting an example for the rest of the people.

4.  ĎThen nations heard about him;

He was captured in their pit,

And they brought him with hooks

To the land of Egypt.

Because of his violence, he was destroyed by violence, just as Jesus tells us in Matthew 26:52, "for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword."

Let's return to Ezekiel.

5.  ĎWhen she [Israel] saw, as she waited,

That her hope was lost,

She took another of her cubs

And made him a young lion.

6.  ĎAnd he walked about among the lions;

He became a young lion,

He learned to tear his prey;

He devoured men.

7.  ĎAnd he destroyed their fortified towers

And laid waste their cities;

And the land and its fulness were appalled

Because of the sound of his roaring.

8.  Then nations set against him

On every side from their provinces,

And they spread their net over him;

He was captured in their pit.

9.  ĎAnd they put him in a cage with hooks

And brought him to the king of Babylon;

They brought him in hunting nets

So that his voice should be heard no more

On the mountains of Israel.

The family of Israel continued to live in violence; thus they suffered violent ends at the hands of other violent people.

Their lives were violent, and they reaped violence.

10.  ĎYour mother was like a vine in your vineyard,

Planted by the waters;

It was fruitful and full of branches

Because of abundant waters.

11. ĎAnd it had strong branches fit for scepters of rulers,

And its height was raised above the clouds

So that it was seen in its height with the mass of its branches.

12.  ĎBut it was plucked up in fury;

It was cast down to the ground;

And the east wind dried up its fruit.

Its strong branch was torn off

So that it withered;

The fire consumed it.

13.  ĎAnd now it is planted in the wilderness,

In a dry and thirsty land.

14.  ĎAnd fire has gone out from its branch;

It has consumed its shoots and fruit,

So that there is not in it a strong branch,

A scepter to rule.í "

This is a lamentation, and has become a lamentation.

Today, I believe the Lord is crying forth with a similar lament over what we have done with His Church, and the communities it serves, or should serve.

Israel became so hard of heart, I don't really think she saw herself as doing anything wrong.

And Iím hearing similar thoughts coming forth from many sectors of the Church, today.

Beloved, itís time to wake up and change our ways, and allow ourselves to once again become pure of heart.

Itís time we again truly see God.

And I hope and pray, that the last two verses of Psalm 128 will be meant for us, just as they were meant for the obedient and pure of heart in Israel:

5.  The Lord bless you from Zion,

And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6.  Indeed, may you see your childrenís children.

Peace be upon Israel!

And may peace be upon the Church and world of today.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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