08042019 8th Sunday After Pent 7AT Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

"God gives us joy when we please Him!"

08042019 8th Sunday After Pent 7AT Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA
August 4, 2019
“God gives us joy when we please Him!  Eccl. 2:26”
Sermon Audio

Imagine seeing King Solomon poised in front of a mirror, looking at himself.  As the Son of King David, he was a strapping young king who took after his Father.  In our current culture, we take looking in the mirror for granted today. We have mirrors in our bathrooms, cars, compaqs in purses and even mirrors that help us to pass people on the highway and look behind us when we see the flashing lights of an ambulance so we can pull over to let them pass.  We look at ourselves and how we at times admire what we have become or made ourselves to look like, whether in the salon, the makeup brush or even through surgery. What would King Solomon have said?

Our Old Testament lesson reveals the answer for us this morning.  Solomon said, “vanities of vanities!  All is vanity”!  Wow, Solomon doesn’t pull any punches.  He puts it out there for those who read the Book of Ecclesiastes, “All is vanity!”  This is disheartening to our 21st Century ear.  It cuts through our pride and lays bare a truth from God.  Solomon says later in our reading, “For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy”!  Therefore “God gives us joy when we please Him!”

How often have we been asked, begged, implored, compelled or heartily moved to please someone or some group?  At our workplace, by our boss, by our spouse, by our children, by ourselves, all of us have been asked to ‘please’ someone else.  What makes this different is that Solomon is revealing that what will happen when we please God is that God will give us joy.

Remember the young life of Solomon, in a dream, the Lord asked Solomon, “Ask for whatever you want Me to give you.”  This was beyond winning the Pennsylvania lottery, being able to retire or anything else that could be imagined.  And in true humility, Solomon asked the Lord to “Give Your servant an understanding heart to govern Your people, able to discern between good and bad.”  Solomon asked, not for riches or long life and ultimately was given by God the greatest measure of grace that was beyond his humble request.  Solomon received from God truly a wonderful gift. It is clear that God was well pleased with Solomon’s request and gave Solomon, ‘wisdom, knowledge and joy’ in such great quantity that when he wrote Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s intent was for the reader, the Old Testament people and we God’s children gathered here today to understand, “God gives us joy when we please Him!”

How then can we please God?  If we stick only to the Old Testament, the first place everyone goes is the 10 Commandments.  Yet, since we have been given the New Testament, God reveals to us that Jesus Christ, came into the world to fulfill the 10 Commandments.  Jesus ministry of salvation for us and all of mankind did not abolish the 10 Commandments, but in every way perfectly fulfilled them for us and for our salvation.  Jesus Christ offered Himself for us in order that we can have eternal life. Why then should we have to ‘please God’? We cannot please God to earn salvation. The reason we should ‘please God’ is to remind us that God did fulfill His Word through Jesus Christ as recorded by the prophecy of Solomon and we by our faith and action of pleasing God then can claim the Word of God is truth and how it daily changes our lives and impacts each of us as we receive joy from God.  For when we come to hear His Word, receive the forgiveness of sins declared unto us and come to the altar of God and receive Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood, we will fulfill Solomon’s intent of our reading that, “God gives us joy when we please Him!”

How can we please God?  If we like Solomon felt like we could ‘pray’ and ‘receive an answer’ that would be one thing.  But our world has removed ourselves from listening to God in our hearts. We think in our heads and strategize with our minds, determine what needs done according to the rules of man.  Whether the President of the United States, the Constitution, or even our own church politics and polity. I’m just as guilty as any person on the face of the earth. I have unsuccessfully tried to please people my entire life.  I have sought others ‘praise’ or tried to ‘solve people’s problems’. And I have tried to do what I thought was best in many situations. And I failed each and every time. Solomon is imploring us to not look for our individual gain, but look from God’s perspective.  “God gives us joy when we please Him!”

What has been occurring here at Emmanuel in the last two years, does not please God.  I’m responsible for my own actions. Today, following Solomon, I’m turning the page and I’m going to please God.  Every decision I make, my first question will be, ‘does this please God’? If it does please God, I will do it. If it does not please God, I will pray to God for wisdom so I can please Him.  And in doing this I ask you to do the same. I ask each and everyone of you to join me in pleasing God. This is the only way we will receive joy from God. By pleasing God, in seeking reconciliation, because God calls for us to forgive one another and reconcile ourselves to one another and we will find great joy.  God will bless us and God will change our hearts in order for us to receive the greatest blessing from God, for “God gives us joy when we please Him!”

There is a scene in the movie “Gladiator” where Maximus in visiting Caesar Marcus Aurelius contemplates a poignant question that we need to consider as well.  ‘How will the world speak my name?’ Though the Roman Armies and the Gladiators had conquered and extended the empire and brought four years of peace, Caesar desires to have a purpose for his life, but he fears that what he desired will not survive.  And he returns to the question, ‘How will the world speak my name?’

Clearly, Caesar sought his own pleasure and what he sought was in the balance from his perspective.  And we know the result, the Roman Empire eventually collapsed and Caesar’s name was relegated to the history books.  Caesar would find no joy in what transpired in the years to come if he read our history books.

We who have come here today to Emmanuel have heard Solomon, a man who desired not riches or long life, but only ‘an understanding heart’.  And Solomon speaks to us today nearly three millennia later and implores us to not please ourselves, but God through the prophecy of Solomon implores us to look higher and to a more lofty desire and goal to and for each and every one of us.  Solomon clearly reminds us to focus on God, for when we do with every fiber of our being, “God gives us joy when we please Him!”  AMEN!