Dear Radio Friends,
It is with great joy and thankfulness to God that I return today to the microphone of the Reformed Witness Hour. We are very thankful for the stirring and solid messages that were given by Pastor Wilbur Bruinsma for the past fourteen weeks on the Reformed Witness Hour. We express to our brother our prayers for him in his work as a missionary and as a church-planter. And we rejoice for the gifts given to him as he has faithfully brought edifying messages to us in the past weeks.
As I return to my place as the radio-pastor, I would direct your attention today to a very beautiful promise of God found in Psalm 68:6. The title of our meditation will be “God’s Gift of the Family.”
Your family, according to God’s Word, is a gift of God. A Christian family comes in the infinite compassion of the majestic and glorious God. A Christian family is the product of God’s hand and of God’s heart. So we are taught in the Scriptures in Psalm 68:6. We read, “God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.”
Psalm 68 was sung or written by David when he brought the ark of the covenant of God out of the house of Obed-edom up to the place that he had prepared for it in the city of Jerusalem. As he is engaged in this, he thinks of how the ark, built originally by Moses and carried by the priests, would lead the way as Israel journeyed for forty years in the wilderness. And so, he begins Psalm 68 with the prayer that Moses would utter whenever the ark went forward to lead Israel in the wilderness. We read in Numbers 10:35, and in Psalm 68:1, “Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee.” “Lord,” is the prayer, “lead us, protect us. Our enemies of personal sin and temptation are ever around us. As the wind drives away smoke, so, Lord, go before us and make the way plain and protect us.”
The leading, says David in verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 68, shall make the righteous people glad. “Let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice,” he says. “Sing unto God, sing praises to [God].” He calls our attention to our God’s majesty and glory, and says that He is above all praise. He rideth, says David, upon the heavens by his name Jah. Soaring above all that is majestic and honorable is God Himself. The word “Jah” is the abbreviation of “Jehovah,” which means “I AM THAT I AM.” It is found only there in Psalm 68:4 and is really involved in the word “Hallelujah.” “Rejoice before Jehovah”—that is what Hallelujah means.
But then, lest we think that God is exalted beyond reach and that we can have no approach and that we must hide in terror, David begins in verse 5 to speak of the infinite tenderness of our great and majestic God. He says, “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation,” the great heart of God for orphans and widows, for deserted and lonely sinners. How many orphans were there in the forty years’ wilderness wanderings? As Moses led the people of God for forty years, waiting for all those who were over twenty to die before they could enter into the land of Canaan, how many orphans there must have been. And God cared for them.
Still more, the pity and the tender heart of the majestic Jehovah is seen in this: God sets the solitary in families. He brings out those that are bound with chains. But the rebellious dwell in a dry land. Again, the point is the great compassion of God. The point of the passage is this, that our families are the glorious gift of Jehovah to us His desolate and spiritual needy children. God’s great mercy and God’s great love in Jesus is seen in the establishment of a Christian family. He, Jehovah, the majestic and yet filled-with-loving-kindness-God, is the God who sets the solitary in families. We are being taught in Holy Scripture that as Christians we must receive in thanksgiving our family and live conscious of the blessing, of the great good, that our families are for our spiritual life. God is pleased to nurture and to guard our spiritual lives in our families. In the family, He is pleased to show His love, mold our faith, comfort our sorrows, and give us true happiness. In the family we learn and taste of His love, and we experience His care so that we can say, as in Psalm 71: “From youth thou art my trust.” The family, then, is not a human contrivance. It is not the product of men. But it is God’s gracious gift to us His children.
But you say, “Pastor, my home does not fit so often those words. My home is troublesome. The youth, the children, don’t want to be there. It is a place of anger and fighting.” That may be true. We are broken sinners and we need God’s Word to heal us and to instruct us.
Maybe you say, “But I have no family. I’m single—not married. I don’t come from a believing home. I have no children right now to fill my house with joy. We were not given children.” And I respond to you, “Yet the family is the great gift of God to you, for we are members of the family of God—His church.” God’s gracious gift is the family.
Note with me that David, in Psalm 68, is saying that the family is precious, first of all, because it is the place where Jehovah gives us to experience fellowship with Him. God sets the solitary, or lonely, in families, or in homes. Your home, then, as children of God, should be very precious to you, not because of what it costs or the fact that you remodeled it and did the sweat work, but your home should be precious because in that home God is pleased to give you to enjoy fellowship with Him. As sinners, we are described as the solitary, as the lonely. Sin always isolates. Sin’s goal in our life is that we be alone—all alone. Sin always makes us look within, think of ourselves. And the consequences of sin are always isolation—isolation from God and from one another. As sinners we are solitary, or, in other words of Scripture, we are castaways, aliens, strangers, lonely, burdened. We cry out in our loneliness. We go through depression.
But God’s grace comes to us. And that grace finds us a sinful, solitary soul—cast away—and unites us to Jesus Christ by grace, unites us to the family of God (the church), and then (through marriage) grants to us a family—a place where we might experience fellowship with God, with Jehovah!
Going back to verse 4, David said that we extol Him that rides upon the heavens by His name Jah, and rejoice before Him. I said that “Jah” is the name “Jehovah,” I AM THAT I AM, a name that looks within God, a name in which God says, “This is what I am. I am what I am.” And, by pointing to Himself, He is pointing to the fact that He is a God who in Himself has everlasting fellowship. God is not lonely. We stand before the great truth of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is the truth that shows us that God is a living God. He is not solitary throughout eternity. He is not lonely. But Father, Son, and Holy Spirit love one another purely, talk freely, cherish one another dearly. And, in His grace, He is moved to bring us to experience that fellowship with Him (which the Bible calls “covenant”). Through the blood of Jesus Christ, He brings us to experience a fellowship that He Himself is the author of.
And in the family, He says, “I am pleased to give you, through faith in Me, to enjoy that fellowship with each other.” God’s grace gives us the institution of the family as a place where we might experience fellowship with Him and each other as we walk as His children in a weary and lonely world.
That means that our homes need to reflect Him. Consciously we must build our homes to reflect Him. Our homes, then, will be filled with graciousness. Note the word, “God sets the lonely in a house.” That oozes with His graciousness and kindness. God is so gracious and filled with pity toward us. Are you gracious, as God is gracious to you, to the members of your family? Do you show that? Are you intolerant of the weaknesses of a wife or a husband? Do you say, “Why does she need to be that way all the time?” Are you irritable with your children? Is there, in your home, unacceptance, yelling, fighting, bickering, a big lip, arguing? Do you children want to go home?
Our homes, first of all, must be filled with a graciousness—not with the criticism: “Why can’t you…,” but with a graciousness that God shows to us in our salvation.
Our homes must not only be filled with graciousness, but they must also be filled with compassion. God’s heart goes out in pity towards us and toward the suffering. The family is the place where we invite the lonely, the aged mother or widow, the lonely teenager, the visitor at church. Our homes are places of compassion. Within our homes we must be compassionate one toward another.
We are very concerned in the building of a physical house about radon and asbestos because they are threats to our health. So, if you buy a house that has radon and asbestos in it, it has to be taken out. If there are the radon and asbestos of ill-will, resentment, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, take that out of your house. Then our homes will be filled with communication, talking. If our homes are to reflect the fellowship of God, then homes have to be places where we talk with each other, we open up to each other, we talk about more than just earthly, mundane things. We talk about our faith and our walk and our spiritual life with God. The living Word of God must be the warmth, the comfort, the basis of our fellowship. There must be times for regular family devotions around the Word of God. We live in a lonely world, where everyone becomes more and more distant from others, and where everyone lives in his own room, with his face glued to a computer, to Facebook, to a television, and never talking. The picture of the Christian family is not that. The picture of the Christian family is a place of communion, fellowship, talking even as God has communion with us.
I said the family is precious because it is the place where God is pleased to give us to enjoy fellowship with Him. But the family is precious also, according to our text today, because it is the gracious means of God to deliver us from a life lived under the tyranny of sinful pride.
When we come back again to read the text, we see that the text is talking about more than just loneliness and the prison of feeling isolated. But let us read the complete text, the text as a whole. “God setteththe solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” Now, the verse is written in what is called Hebrew parallelism, which means that all of the parts must be taken together and reflect upon each other. So the evil that is considered in the text, from which the family is a gift of God to deliver us, is being solitary, alone, dwelling in chains and rebellion. The meaning, then, is this: Our problem, as sinners, is that we live a life for self, rebellious. We are narcissistic, we are under the bondage of our own pride and selfishness. And as surely as the drops of the rain fall to the earth by the hand of God and run into the tile and then into the ditch and stream and river and out into the lake or ocean, so also the course of our life, the course of a child’s life, flows to self-centered bondage, the bondage of pride and sin—unless God’s grace brings us to the joy of forsaking ourselves and finding our all in serving Him, unless God brings us out of that bondage of sin into the liberty of the grace of God in Christ.
And what are the means that God uses for that? You say, “Pastor, that’s the Holy Spirit, that’s the Word of God, it’s the preaching.” Yes, but it is also the family. Also the Christian family is the means of God to deliver us from a life lived under the tyranny of sinful pride.
We are born chained in rebellion—rebellion against God. We are born proud, selfish, isolated, solitary. There is no room for anybody else in our sinful pride, except that the other person become our footstool. This is what Satan instilled in Adam and Eve: “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. You are god!” And Scripture defines our sin, for which the Son of God came to die and deliver us, in this way: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Is. 53:6). That selfishness, that pride, brings isolation. We say it when we are filled with pride and we want our own sinful way. That is the way we speak in the family. We say, “Well, if that’s the way it is around here, I’m out of here!” Or we say, “My parents, who do they think they are to tell me!” You see, there is no fellowship when rebellion and pride reign in our hearts. There will be bickering, there will be fighting. There will only be emptiness. We will end alone.
You say to me, “Oh, Pastor, I don’t know about that. Look at the ungodly sinners who live according to their own sins and pride. Look at them in their parties and in their bars. They are happy, they are dancing, they are hugging, they are making out, they are having a good time.” No! Hollow emptiness. It is the clang of an empty barrel.
Young girl, you want attention? Do you want someone to love you? And one day someone who does not know Jesus shows you some attention. And he uses you. And, finally, you live together and you find that he is irritable, and he hits you, and he abuses you. Sin is selfishness. Selfishness is pride. Pride is loneliness. And it leads to bondage.
The verse speaks of chains. Our sinful pride ensnares us. It isolates us and then sin enslaves us. Hear that. Sin first isolates you. In your pride you leave the family. You leave the marriage. You leave places that are going to tell you that you are wrong. You walk away saying, “I’m not going to hear that. Not me!” Sin isolates you and then sin enslaves you. When you think about “me, myself,” when you are filled with self-pity and pride, the devil is bringing out the chains and he is ready to lock you up in the chains and bondage of sin.
God’s gift of the family is so precious because it is the institution to which His grace comes to deliver us from that sinful pride, from a life lived in the bondage of self. That is why He gives us a family. That is why He sets us in the church. For life in the believing family and in the believing church is not self. The life of Jesus Christ is fellowship. You must make room. You must destroy that idol that is called “me.” God sets you in a family. Why did God put you in a family? This is the reason: Graciously to turn you from the course of life that you would choose with the world, in which you would come under the bondage of sinful pride, sinful me. He uses the family to break that bondage by His grace so that we learn what it is to love and to live in humble love and fellowship with each other, to yield our way, to be considerate, to open our eyes for the other as a reflection of the grace of God who has had respect and pity upon me.
So our families exist to teach us repentance. Our families exist to teach us what sin is, and what selfishness and pride are, and how we are to deal with that sin and repent. Mom and Dad are examples. That means that Mom and Dad are not stuck on themselves—their own pleasures, their own time, their own entertainment, their own figures. Mom and Dad are not stuck on themselves. They teach—in how they live with each other. They teach wisely and lovingly that life in Christ is to serve one another in self-denying love. And they bring up their children that way. They direct the course of their family away from the bondage of pride, the pride of the world, to the humility and freedom of fellowship with God in Christ.
This is why the family is so precious. The family is precious because it is the gift of God whereby we enjoy fellowship with God. It is the gift of God whereby the tyranny of the bondage of a sinful life lived under pride is to be broken.
Do you believe that? That is God’s Word. Then guard your family. Guard it from the sewer, from the deluge of sexual perversions aimed at ensnaring and destroying you and your children. Guard your family and deliver it from the prevailing allurements of materialism. Understand that you are not on earth simply to find out how many possessions you can accumulate or to follow the latest fashion or to live for the dollar. Above all things, defend your home from your selfishness, from your pride, from your self-seeking.
The family, then, is God’s beautiful, precious gift to us in the covenant of His grace. Cherish it by living in humble obedience to God, by repenting of your sins and finding your refuge in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Do you cherish your family? Do you know how precious it is? Do you thank God for your family?
Is your family today in trouble? I know why David began Psalm 68 as he did. He wrote: “Let God arise and, by His might, put all His enemies to flight.” So we pray: “Lord, arise and defend my home. As Israel in the wilderness, I am an unworthy, foolish, stiff-necked, self-centered sinner. Rise up, O Lord. By Thy Word and Spirit go before me. And may my family travel together, as Israel of old through a dry and weary wilderness, a dry and weary world, experiencing fellowship with God, obeying, trusting, following, rejoicing in Jehovah, who is our strength and has promised to bless us.”
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the Word. And we pray for Thy Spirit to work it in our hearts this day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.