Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Reminders in His Universe

Dannah Gresh: One way you can tell if someone loves you is by what they do for you. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with a personal example.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Several years ago when Robert and I were dating, it was during the summer months before our wedding. We were sitting outside one day on the deck of my house—it was my house then. That deck was long and narrow. So when I had people over, which I did often in the summer, if we got more than just a few people, some of them were kind of falling off the deck because it was long and narrow.

I mentioned as Robert and I were sitting out there, that, “Someday it would be so nice to have a larger deck.” Well, that’s all Robert needed to hear!

No sooner had we said, “I do,” then he said, “I will,” and set out to build a bigger deck. This precious man spent weeks and weeks, long hours, lots of hard work building what I think is a really amazing, beautiful deck.

That deck—hard work, yes—but even more than that, it was a labor of love for his bride. That deck has gotten a ton of use. It’s brought a ton of enjoyment to me, to Robert, to us, to our friends. And Robert, by the way, has done the same thing inside of our home, building in closets and just making everything better.

All of these things I see that he has done with the work of his hands and the sweat of his brow, these things are all reminders of this precious man who did this because he loves me—he loves me. And that’s why he has made—we really shouldn’t use the word “create” when it comes to human beings because no human being can create out of nothing. God creates. We organize the things that He’s created and make something out of them. But my husband has made these beautiful things for me to enjoy.

That’s a reminder that this world that we see around us is not just an impressive, complex, scientific machine. It is all that, but more than that. It is a labor of love created by God for the use, the delight, and the enjoyment of us, His creatures that He dearly loves.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for November 19, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

All week long we’ve been in a series from Nancy focused on Psalm 136. If you missed any of those programs, head on over to ReviveOurHearts.come to listen to those messages or read the transcripts.

Now, this program was recorded slightly before the days of social distancing and COVID-related shutdowns. That’s why you might notice a larger studio audience in the background.

We’re continuing in a series today as Nancy shows us how creation is designed to point us to the Creator. She just mentioned the deck Robert built shortly after they were married. Let’s listen.

Nancy: Now, Robert and I enjoy that deck a lot, but we don’t worship the deck. God’s creation, likewise, is made to be enjoyed, but it’s not made to be worshipped. It’s meant to point us to the Creator who created it.

I don’t worship our deck, but I do thank God for the man who made that deck. And this creation around us reminds us to be thankful to God, to delight in Him, to worship Him, to recognize that He has done things in creating this world that no one else could have done.

Well, we come back today to Psalm 136. We’re camping in this passage for a week-and-a-half here because it’s so full and so rich and speaks so to where we live today.

Now, I want to go back to the first part of this chapter and read the first six verses to start with. I want to invite you to join with me, to be the choir. You’ve done a great job of this, and I hope those who are listening by podcast or broadcast to this broadcast later on will join as they hear us reading this passage, they’ll join in repeating this chorus, this refrain. Over and over again we hear it, “For His steadfast love endures forever.”

So, this is the Word of the Lord, Psalm 136, beginning in verse 1:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
Give thanks to him who alone does great wonders,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who by understanding made the heavens,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;

Now, let’s stop there for just a moment. We’re going to pick up with it again, but this theme of God creating this world, creating the earth, and this being a great wonder. This is a theme that is found elsewhere throughout the Scripture. Let me give you a couple of example.

Psalm 104 is a great psalm about God’s creation. I’m reading just several verses from Psalm 104, beginning in verse 1:

Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! (v. 1)

He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. (v. 5)

The earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. (v. 13)

O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable. There go the ships, and Leviathan [these large sea creatures], which you formed to play in it. (v. 24)

Pause there. God made these great sea creatures—people aren’t even really sure exactly what these Leviathan are. They’re creatures that probably don’t exist today. And in these waters, in this sea, great and wide, are ships and there are these great sea creatures, which God made. And He made them for a purpose.

Remember, we said that in the last program that everything He made. He was intentional about it; He was purposeful in His creation. He made these sea creatures. He formed them. He shaped them. He designed them to play in the sea. He made this world for their enjoyment. He’s purposeful.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. (v. 33)

You see, creation is intended to lead us not to worship the creation, but to marvel at the Creator and to lift our praise up to Him.

Well, we come back to Psalm 136, and picking up at verse 7, I want to continue through verse 9. Psalm 136, verse 7:

Give thanks to the Lord to him who made the great lights,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.

Okay, let’s stop there. I know we looked at this passage in the last session, but there’s some more things that have been kind of exploding in my own heart as I’ve been meditating on this passage, and we couldn’t fit it all in one program. So we’re doing a second today about seeing the goodness and the steadfast love of God in His creation.

Psalm 74 tells us, beginning in verse 16: 

Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.

The seasons and the lights in the sky—the sun, the moon, and the stars—that control and regulate the seasons—who made all of that? The Lord did. The Lord who is good and whose steadfast love endures forever.

This passage makes me think of that hymn that many of us have sung since we were little:

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

(“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas Crisolm)

That’s what the creation does. That’s what the night sky does. That’s what the day sky does. The more we learn about these marvels and these wonders of creation, the more we realize that they reflect His faithfulness, His hesed, His covenant-keeping love, His mercy.

Psalm 104 tells us that “He made the moon.” (One translation says, “He appointed the moon—”Moon, this is your job.”) “He appointed the moon to mark the seasons; and the sun knows its time for setting” (v. 19).

Who ordered all that? Who designed all that? Who coordinates all that? Who makes sure that the sun and the moon don’t run into each other? Who makes sure that we don’t run into the sun, or it doesn’t run into our planet? Who keeps the sun, the moon, and the stars in their places? Who ordained and designed the seasons and the days and the times that they rule over? Who appointed the moon to mark the seasons? The Lord did, who is good, and whose steadfast love endures forever.

One commentator said this line that I love: “The sun is no mere mechanical timepiece to the psalmist, but a conscious servant of God.”

The sun isn’t just a mechanical timepiece. He appointed the moon to mark the seasons. The sun knows its time for setting. It sets exactly when God’s going to tell it to set.

I can pull up my weather app, and I can tell you what time the sun is going to set tonight. I can tell you what time the sun is going to set this night next year and the next year and the next, because God has ordered things in such a way that people can observe this. They know that the sun is going to set when it’s supposed to set. But who tells it when to set?

I know this is metaphorical about the sun setting, but who tells it? God appoints this. God tells the sun the time for rising and setting. The sun is a conscious servant of God, a devoted servant of the Lord.

And so Psalm 148, verse 3, says, “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!”

We don’t worship, as many have over the years, the sun, the moon, and the stars. The sun, the moon, and the stars worship Him! They know who made them. They know who gives them their directions. They know who sets their boundaries and their time and their seasons, and they worship Him. “Praise him, sun, moon and stars.”

The sun benefits the earth in the way that God has designed all this and benefits all of those of us who live on it. It gives heat. It gives light. It’s necessary for the flourishing, the growth, and the delight of all living things. But the sun points us to an even more necessary light, and that’s what I want to focus on in these next few moments here.

Malachi chapter 4, verse 2, talks about the “sun of righteousness risen with healing in His wings.”

The sun is not an “it” in this case. The sun is a “who.” And the sun in the sky is intended to point us to a far greater even more essential sun—that is the Son of God, Jesus.

Matthew chapter 4, quoting an Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah, says, “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (v. 16).

This world was dark before God said, “Let there be light” (v. 3).

This world would be dark today if God turned off the light of the sun or withdrew the sun from the universe. There is no light without God-created light. And the world in its heart, in its soul, in its sinfulness was dark.

There was a region and shadow of death over the whole world that did not change until the light of the world, Jesus, the Son of God came into this world. “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light.” The light is not an “it.” It is a “who.”

Matthew chapter 17 talks about Jesus who went up on that mount with three of His closest disciples, and He was transfigured before them. That word isn’t to just look different on the outside. It’s that the outside appearance changes because something has changed inside that is now reflected on the outside. It’s transfigured, metamorphosed from the inside out. “He was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (v. 2).

This was a rare moment when God pulled back the curtain for those few disciples to see, and us to know because we now read this account, that Jesus is the light of God. The glory of God that was shining through Jesus’ face and even His clothes. He is the Sun of Righteousness—S-U-N—and the Son of God who brings light to this dark world.

John chapter 1 says it this way—the gospel of John has a lot to say about Jesus being the light. It says in John 1: 

All things were made through him, and without him [Jesus] was not anything made that was made. [Without the sun, there would be no life; nothing would grow.] In him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. [You see the connection between light and life?] The light shines in the darkness, [John says] and the darkness has not overcome it (v. 2–5).

You see, the sun displaces darkness, and the darkness cannot shut it off. The darkness can’t say, when the sun comes up in the morning, “Go back, sun. Go away. Darkness is coming to overcome it.” No! And when Jesus came into the world, the light of the world, Jesus, had come to turn on the light, and there is no darkness that can turn off that light.

Jesus said in John chapter 8, verse 12: 

I am the light of the world. [The light is not an “it.” It is a “who.”] whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

Light and life, they go together, and they find their place in Jesus.

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness (John 12:46).

This is all a part for what we’re intended to understand when the Scripture says that God made this great light to rule the day. He put the sun in the sky. He made it to rule the day. He made the sun and the moon and the stars to order this world, to mark time and seasons. But all of this was intended to point us to the Creator but also to point us to Jesus, who is the Creator. He is the one who created this world. He is the light that gives life to this world.

And this is all a cause for heartfelt thanks. Where would we be without the sun? And where would we be without Jesus? So, “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 136:1).

Now, for our last few moments, I want to go in just a little different direction—something I’ve been thinking about.

The same God who put the sun, the moon, and the stars in the sky can also cause them not to shine when we reject Him, when we refuse His steadfast love, and when we worship the creation rather than the Creator. He turns them on. He can turn them off. Let me give you some evidences of that in Scripture.

If you go back to the book of Exodus, God sent ten plagues as a judgment against Egypt. And in those plagues, God showed Himself to be more powerful than all the gods and goddesses of Egypt.

Now, the greatest god in their entire pantheon of gods that the Egyptians worshipped was the sun god. They called him “Ra.” Pharaoh was believed to be the son of this god, the son of the sun god.

And you’ll notice that the last three of the ten plagues in Egypt resulted in darkness in the land. God was showing Himself to be greater than the sun, and that the sun was no god, but God alone was God.

The eighth plague in Exodus chapter 10, says that “a dense swarm of locusts covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened” (v. 15). Darkness by this horde of locusts.

The ninth plague: “Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days” (v. 22–23). A picture, by the way, perhaps, of the days that Jesus lay in that tomb between His crucifixion and the resurrection, and darkness came over the face of the earth. When Jesus was hanging on that cross, dying for the sins of the world, God turned out the light.

And in that eighth and ninth plague of Egypt, God turned out the light. And then that tenth plague, the death of the firstborn sons at midnight—the darkest part of the night. God was saying to the Egyptians and to the Israelites who were watching all this, “The sun is not God. I am God. Don’t worship the sun. Worship Me.”

And then the Old Testament speaks of a coming day of intense divine judgment against those who have rejected God. It’s called many times in the Old Testament, the “Day of the Lord.” When you read about the “Day of the Lord,” usually that’s not a happy thing. That’s something that comes with great chaos and violence and strange things happening in the environment and in the world.

This is the day of God’s wrath, the day of His judgment. It’s not just one twenty-four-hour period day. It’s a season, getting worse and worse, intensifying judgment, the “Day of the Lord’s judgment.” It will be accompanied by great and dreadful signs in the universe. 

It will be accompanied by this natural world that God created being deconstructed, chaos coming out of God-created order. God created the order, and God will create the chaos. God made the lights to shine, and God will make the lights not to shine in this great and coming “Day of the Lord.”

You read about this in many of the Old Testament prophets. For example, Joel chapter 2: 

The earth quakes before them;the heavens tremble.The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining (v. 10). 

This is a description of what takes place in that coming day of judgment, the “Day of the Lord.”

And then as we get closer and closer to that end time, to that “Day of the Lord,” the judgment intensifies, and you read a lot about this in the book of Revelation. You don’t have to understand—not of us really does because we’ve never been there. God is speaking to us in mysteries still, at some level.

We don’t exactly know what all these things look like or how they happen or what this will be like, but we get the idea, as we read through the book of Revelation, that the judgment is intensifying. The wrath of God is being poured out on those who, for years and decades and centuries and millennia, have refused to repent and honor and worship the true and living God.

So God begins to turn out the lights and to change the things that had always been perfectly in order, the things people counted on to be steady and reliable. God says, “I’m going to show you who’s in charge here.”

So you look, for example, in Revelation chapter 6, 

I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place (vv. 12–14).

It’s just the opposite of what we read about in Genesis 1 and in Psalm 136 about how God intentionally, purposefully set the earth, separated it from the waters, set the sun, the moon, and the stars in the sky. God created all that. But in the time of His judgment, God will deconstruct that world and bring chaos out of the order He created.

Revelation chapter 16 talks about a day as the “Day of the Lord” approaches when the power and the heat of the sun will alternately intensify or be diminished. Like, you won’t know what to expect. Now, I know we feel like that happens from winter to summer here in Michigan. But this is going to be extremes of climates and extremes of temperature that the earth has never known before.

Revelation 16, verse 8: 

The fourth angel poured out his bowl [this is a bowl of God’s judgment] on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness.

Darkness. Heat. And light. Not in their normal course of things, but becoming destructive as an instrument of the judgment of God.

You see again in Revelation 8, 

The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night (v. 12).

This is not hocus pocus. This is not random chance. This has been promised and foretold by God, the God who created the sun, the moon, and the stars. He ordains when they shine, and when they cease to shine—when there is light on this earth, and when there is darkness—when there is order, and when there is chaos.

This is why the call to repent and believe the gospel is one that we must take to ourselves, and we must share with others because this “Day of the Lord” that is coming will be a day of fierce, intense judgment. It can be avoided because “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Those who belong to God, those who are His own, those who have believed in Christ and repent of their sin will escape the wrath of God in the “Day of the Lord.” The rest of the world will fall under that great cataclysmic judgment.

And here’s the sweet peace of good news: When all those judgments are finished, when the cup of God’s wrath has been poured out, God will make all things new. He will recreate this earth.

Back to the book of Revelation, the last two chapters talk about the New Jerusalem, the city of God. “The has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb, and there will be no night there” (21:23).

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Rev. 22:5)

You see, at this point, the sun, the moon, and the stars will have fulfilled their created purpose, and they won’t be needed any longer. Jesus, the Light of the world, the Lamb of God, (one and the same) will shine forever and ever, and we will reign and shine with Him. That’s what the Scripture tells us.

Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever (Dan. 12:3). 

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43). 

We will be like Him. We will see Him as He is. And our lives will (as they were always intended to do) reflect the light of the Son.

So, back to Psalm 136, what do we do? “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Amen.

Dannah: Amen.

That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth taking us through Psalm 136. And as we heard today, half of the psalm is the same line repeated—“His steadfast love endures forever.” The other parts of this passage contain accounts of God’s faithfulness and illustrations from creation that point back to His steadfast love.

Nancy, you recorded that last February, before the full-strength of the pandemic, before the political unrest, even before Robert’s cancer diagnosis.

Nancy: Yes. We, of course, had no idea what was coming in 2020, but the Lord knew, and how kind He was to anchor my heart in this refrain, “The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.”

So everything this year has seemed up for grabs, up in the air, craziness, never having any idea what the next day’s news might bring—either personally or in our nation or in our world. But it’s been so sweet for Robert and me to tether our hearts day after day to this promise, this assurance that “the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.” That’s something that no news can shake, no diagnosis can shake.

And, Dannah, I’m just imagining that we have listeners right now who are going through crazy things in their lives, hard things in their family, in their finances, and here coming into the holiday season, painful points in their lives. Just that assurance that “the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever,” maybe that’s what someone needed to hear today.

Dannah: And how much have we needed that truth this year. And even as we enter 2021 and aren’t sure what it holds, we can be anchored in the truth that “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Which reminds me of the theme of our wall calendar for 2021—Heaven Rules.

Nancy: Yes, Dannah. Only the Lord knows what this next year is going to hold—and He knows what tomorrow is going to hold. That’s why I keep coming back to this assurance that Robert and I have leaned into so much throughout this year, and we plan to take it with us into the next year and every year to come, and that’s just these two words: Heaven Rules.

When we talked about what should be the theme for the Revive Our Hearts wall calendar for next year, we said, “It’s got to be ‘Heaven Rules.’” I’m so thrilled with how it turned out. It’s just a beautiful, powerful reminder.

We have incredible artwork by my friend Ginny Graham. She’s done such a great job on this. It’s something you’ll love to have in your home. And not only because it’s beautiful, but because of the reminder—heaven rules—is going to be there in front of your eyes every day throughout this coming year. It’s just a great way to counsel our hearts when it feels like this world is falling apart—which it is—but the assurance is that heaven rules over all of that.

So my hope is that every listener will have a chance to have this beautiful wall calendar in your home for the year ahead.

Dannah: This wall calendar is only available through Revive Our Hearts right now, and we would love to send you one. VisitReviveOurHearts.com to make a donation of any amount, or call us at 1–800–569–5959, and be sure to ask for the “Heaven Rules” wall calendar.

Tomorrow we’re going to look at God’s steadfast love for His people as Nancy continues in Psalm 136. I’m Dannah Gresh. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Reminding you of God’s faithfulness, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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