Thirsty Thursday- March Madness Psalm 33

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Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous! Praise from the upright is beautiful.
Praise the LORD with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.
Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy.

 (Psalm 33:1-3)

March Madness

In just a few hours, “March Madness” begins again. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’d love to know how you’ve managed to avoid the madness all these years!) March madness refers to the NCAA college basketball tournament that brings together 68 of the country’s best teams over the next three weekends with the single purpose of crowning a champion.

The term “March Madness” was actually coined back in 1939 by a guy named Henry V. Porter, and it was referring at that time to a high school basketball tournament sponsored by the Illinois High School Association. The tournament had begun humbly back in 1908, but by 1939 it had grown to over 900 teams participating from all over the country. Porter, the IHSA Secretary and a former high school basketball coach, wrote, “A little March madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel.” Of course, there was much more than basketball vying for the world’s attention in March, 1939—Hitler’s Germany had just invaded Czechoslovakia, and soon the whole world would be thrust into the unprecedented horrors of another world war. Even keel indeed…basketball may be a convenient distraction, but it has little power, if any, to change the world.

For our family (and countless others) march madness continues to be a convenient distraction to the problems of the world—80 years after Henry Porter first expressed that hope.  Of course, we all know a basketball tournament won’t make the problems go away, but it may just “complement and contribute to sanity” for a few weeks. So, we have each filled out our brackets—essentially predicting (or just guessing in most cases) the outcomes of every game. In a few weeks, the family member who guesses best will be crowned champion for 2019. For us, March Madness isn’t primarily about the basketball.  It’s about coming together, cheering together, celebrating and sharing life together.

Psalm 33 is an invitation to join together and cheer together, to share life and hope together— But far more importantly, it is a profound song of praise to Almighty God for who He is and what He does. We are invited to join this praise, not simply as a convenient distraction from our problems, but as a life-long pursuit of the only One who has the power to change the world.

In the first three verses, the unnamed writer offers an outline for praise. He tells us what we’re invited to do (“Rejoice”), who is invited to do it (the “righteous”), why we’re doing it (our praise is “beautiful”), and even how we’re supposed to do it (with instruments and voices, skillfully and enthusiastically). It might be tempting at this point to think that this whole worship thing is focused around us! Unlike our March madness, however, the main point isn’t how we respond or even that we respond…it’s all about Who we are responding to.

In the rest of the Psalm, the writer celebrates the Who–God’s character and God’s actions in the world. His word is trustworthy and true (4); He loves justice and righteousness and He has filled the world with His love (5); He is the creator and sustainer of the universe (6-9); He is the ruler of nations (10-11); and despite His greatness, He notices and watches over “all who live on earth” (12-15).

The writer finishes his song by acknowledging our need for this great God—he is the Solution to the problems of this world. We can’t put our hope in government, military strength or technology…and we are foolish to place our trust in ourselves or anyone else. Instead, “We wait in hope for the Lord…we trust in His holy name.”

The psalm writer invites us to become the kind of worshipers that know how to worship and why we worship; he invites us to consider the wonderful opportunity to celebrate and share worship together in community. But above all else he reminds us to keep our eyes on the One we worship. Our God is not simply a temporary distraction to the world’s problem…he is the permanent answer.

When Jesus came to earth, lots of people welcomed him as a convenient distraction. Some even hoped that he might be able to help them find the answer to life’s hardest questions. They were willing to cheer when he seemed to be winning, and they were willing to cross him off their bracket when it was inconvenient or confusing, difficult or disappointing. But Jesus isn’t a distraction from real life…he IS real life.  Jesus doesn’t just help us find the answer…he IS the answer. The problems of the world won’t go away just because we find something else to look at.  We don’t need another distraction, we need a solution.  We need to fix our eyes on him.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  He is the reason we worship and the one we worship.  He is the Living Water.  Don’t let yourself be distracted…stay thirsty for him. 

Pastor Philip

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