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Sermon 11/4/07 – Psalm 100:2-3
Voltaire & the Receptionist

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Voltaire & the Receptionist

Serve the Lord with gladness, come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:2-3)

Do you mind if I disagree with Voltaire for a moment? He was the famous philosopher who lived from 1694 to 1778. His father wanted the young man to study and practice law. Voltaire responded by PRETENDING to work in Paris as an assistant to a lawyer, but instead he spent much of his time writing satirical poetry. When his father found out, he again sent Voltaire to study law, this time into the country. Nevertheless, Voltaire continued to write poetry, along with essays and historical studies. The man was not precisely an atheist as some have thought, but for those who trust in the Lord, it is indeed a problem that the man had a low opinion of the Bible and leaned into what we would call “Eastern” religious ideas. He did, however, say, “It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being.

Here is where I would like to disagree with him today: He also said, “Anything too stupid to be said is sung.” It should be noted that he was considered to be a gifted poet. To me, poetry expresses something of the soul. It is less intellectual than other forms of writing, instead revealing something of the feelings of the poet; much like a classical painting will show something of how the artist felt when he observed something in nature. To sing is also to express feelings and what we sing reveals who we are. “Rap” music, for example, reveals the extent to which our “modern” culture is obsessed with lust and anger.

When Voltaire said that singing is “stupid,” he just did not understand that music, like poetry, is a way of communicating feelings that are otherwise difficult to share. There is a need of us all to share who we are, and a song will do just that. He, the poet, should have understood that music is poetry and its words express the soul. He also should have seen that his "necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being” has been sent to us in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving Himself for us so we can give ourselves to Him.

Not long ago, I sang to a receptionist. Oh, it’s not what you might think, for there was nothing wrong with singing a little song for her. She had been sharing her frustration about her daughter with my wife and I for some time and we responded by listening to her need and praying for her family. One day, the receptionist was especially frustrated as she told us about her family situation and it was then that I started singing. Do you remember the old song, “I Surrender All?” It was written in 1896. The words were by Evangelist Judson W. Van de Venter and the music was composed by Winfield S. Weeden, a man who wrote a lot of music, but he must have really liked this one because the title, “I Surrender All,” is written on his tombstone.

I have used this song as a sermon and Bible illustration before, and here’s what was sung to her: “I Surrender All,” which is what you would expect, but then it was continued in a different way – it was followed by these words in a Broadway beat: “I didn’t wanna’ do it.” So the whole song I shared with her is this: “I surrender all… I didn’t wanna’ do it… I didn’t wanna’ do it.” The meaning is this: many people have offered themselves to the Lord, but then live their lives as though they are trying to take back what was given.

And, I told her; that is the way of mankind. We ostensibly give ourselves, our lives, our hopes and our love to the Lord, but we have the strong tendency to hold back – a lot. As Frank Sinatra sang, we tend to do life “MY way,” not God’s way.

Singing a little song to her was intended as an illustration that might help her understand why her prayers had seemingly not been answered in relation to her daughter, who still slipped out the window at night and “partied” with her friends. This receptionist, this mother was helpless, for this teenaged daughter would not respect her mother’s rules.

And I think that’s the way God wants us to be. He seems to delight in allowing circumstances within our lives that are too great for us. You might think about yourself: “I’m a fairly nice person; so why has God given me this child who will not obey my rules? A child who doesn’t even seem to like me! Why me?” And if it’s not a child, it is likely something or someone ELSE in your life that makes you upset and helpless.

When we met the receptionist the next time, she was glowing. Her daughter was still her daughter and she had not fully changed as yet, but the receptionist had changed. The little “surrender” song had made an impact in her. As she prayed, the Lord spoke to her heart, revealing she had not fully surrendered. She now gave it “all” to the Lord. Her sorrow became the joy of the Lord. And the daughter has begun to change as well. She incredibly told her mother WHY she was the way she was. And they cried together with tears of love.

In Psalm 100, our Scripture for today, someone, centuries ago added the superscription (the words above the Psalm itself) which is, “A Psalm of Thanksgiving,” or in some translations, “A Psalm of Praise.” And those words really apply to this Psalm. C. H. Spurgeon said of Psalm 100, “Our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people; a cheerful spirit is in keeping with His nature, His acts, and the gratitude which we should cherish for His mercies.” God’s intention for us is that we will be like the receptionist, full of surrender to our God and reconciled with one another. We are intended to be a “happy” people who “serve the Lord with gladness, (and) come before His presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2).

There are many who have thought David was the author of Psalm 100, and it certainly is likely. He lived a difficult life, more so than most of us, and yet, “serve the Lord with gladness, come before His presence with singing” became the story of his life. He knew that “the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:2-3). He surrendered to the Lord, and was blessed. Unlike Voltaire who did not like singing, the Receptionist has been given a new song. She (like King David and so many others) has glimpsed the joy of the Lord.

Lord, we come into Your presence with singing. You are God and You made us; not we ourselves. We are Your people and we trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

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"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
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