The Step of Duty - Part I
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to Psalm 126. We are in the midst of a devotional study of the book of Psalms, beginning with Psalm 120 and concluding with Psalm 134, which we have termed the “Pilgrim's Staircase.”

We began this spiritual ascent on the Step of Distress. For in verse 1 of Psalm 120 the psalmist cries out:

Psalms 120

1In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.

In Psalm 121 the psalmist stood upon the Step of Deliverance, and he describes the deliverance which God had so graciously provided for him.

Then the psalmist took another step. He describes the Step of Delight in Psalm 122 and Psalm 123. Every individual who comes to know the Lord Jesus Christ finds a real delight in being with the people of God. But we suggested that there was also a need for that private communion with the Lord Himself.

We suggested to you that this is a staircase with a landing–that is a flight of stairs, then a landing, and then another flight of stairs. We reached the landing in Psalm 124 and Psalm 125. We called it the Step of Declaration, that pause in every Christian experience when we look back over the way we have come and join with the psalmist in saying, “If the Lord had not been on our side, then they would have swallowed us up quick” (Psalm 124:2,3).

Continuing the Climb

We are ready to continue our climb up the Pilgrim's Staircase. Look, please, at Psalm 126 where we read:

Psalms 126

1When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.
2Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.
3The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
4Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south.
5They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
6He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

As we read this psalm we recognize it as the first step after the landing–the first step in the second flight of stairs. You will notice a tendency on the part of the psalmist to want to stay on the landing. He has a tendency to want to stay right where he is and enjoy the good things about which he has been speaking. But that is not permitted; it is necessary to go on.

Three Words as Mental Pegs

In Psalm 126 we have the first step in the second flight of stairs which I refer to as the Step of Duty. May I suggest to you, as we meditate in this psalm, three words which you might use as mental pegs upon which to hang some of the thoughts that I want to leave with you. The words are: reminiscence, request, and reminder.

God's Deliverance Amazing

As we look at the word “reminiscence” for the basis of our immediate thought, notice with me verse 1 of Psalm 126 again:

Psalms 126

1When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.

Now, of course, this particular psalm was written after a special deliverance on the part of God in behalf of the nation of Israel. And when the psalmist was thinking about this deliverance he said that it was unbelievable. The Amplified version translates the verse: “When the Lord brought back the captivity to Zion, we were like those who dreamed; it seemed so unreal.”

Think about the deliverances which God has provided for you. Can you find in your heart this statement: “It seemed so unreal; we were like those who dreamed.”? We are a strange breed of creatures aren't we? We ask God for something; we believe that He is going to do it, and then when He does it, we are almost overwhelmed with amazement. We talk about how wonderful it is and how unreal it seems that God could have done what we asked.

Joy of Deliverance

Glance at verse 2 as I remind you how the psalmist reacted to that which God did for him. He says in verse 2:

Psalms 126

2Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing…

Oh how we rejoice when God grants us the deliverance for which we pray.

An Enviable Deliverance

This deliverance about which the psalmist was thinking was not only unbelievable and enjoyable, but it was an enviable thing on the part of the unsaved. We read in verse 2:

Psalms 126

2…… and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, [among the unsaved] The LORD hath done great things for them.

This was not a good thing they were saying. They were envious. They were saying, “The Lord hath done great things for them,” and if we were paraphrasing, we could add, “And, oh, how I wish He were doing it for us!”

How long has it been since the Lord did an enviable thing for you? How long has it been since the Lord did something for you that unsaved people or people out of fellowship could look upon and say, “The Lord has done a great thing for them.”? I wonder if we are not living beneath our spiritual privileges.

Perchance you are among the number of the unsaved or among the number of those who are out of fellowship, and you always see God doing something for Christians other than yourself, but you never see Him do things for you. You are never able to say, “He has done it for me,” but you are able to say that He has done it for others. I want to remind you that God is just as able, just as willing and just as anxious to do for you the enviable thing that He has done for others.

Remember to Be Grateful

Notice verse 3, please, as I suggest that this thing about which the psalmist was reminiscing was not only unbelievable and enjoyable, but it was something for which he himself was grateful. For in verse 3 we read:

Psalms 126

3The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

“The Lord hath done great things for us.” I beg of you if God is not doing great things for you, remember that He can and He will. And I would suggest to you if He has done great things, then don't forget to be grateful. Don't forget to give testimony to what He has done.

Restoration of Blessing

Individuals who remember in this fashion turn their reminiscence into a request. Look at verse 4 where we read:

Psalms 126

4Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south.

Having been so abundantly blessed of the Lord, the psalmist was hungry for the Lord to do even more. There is nothing wrong with that. Someone may say, “Aren't you satisfied with what you have?” But the psalmist said, “No.” The psalmist asked the Lord to do even greater things. “Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south.”

What does all this mean to you and to me? Well, let me suggest that the psalmist was praying for a complete restoration. He had been delivered, but he wanted something even better. And so he was praying for a full restoration of all of the blessings that he had a right to have from the Lord.

The phrase “streams in the south” is a reference to empty ditches in the south desert. Those ditches were empty most of the time. But when the former rain came and the latter rain came in the land of Palestine, those ditches became brim full with water that had mighty power. The psalmist is saying, “Lord, I remember what you have done and I thank you for it, but I'm not satisfied. I want you to do still more.”

Have you been praying about some special thing and God has worked and you are so grateful. You didn't expect to see anything at all, but you've seen a little of what He can do. Don't stop there; don't rest there; don't say that that is all there is to it. Say, instead, “Lord, make it a raging torrent; make it a mighty thing.”

Reminded to Move Ahead

Now the psalmist wanted to reminisce about what God had done, requesting Him to do even more, but in this psalm in which we are looking, he was reminded of something, and this brings us to our third word, “reminder.” He was reminded that he could not linger on the landing. He was reminded that there was another flight of steps to climb. He was reminded that he had to take the next step, the Step of Duty.

A story is brought to my mind. Do you remember the story of Job? Do you remember the terrible things through which Job went? Do you remember how God delivered Job? Do you remember what is recorded in chapter 49 of the book of Job? God turned the captivity of Job–the same word which we are speaking of here–when he prayed for his friends.

Job had a little private conference with the Lord. He was telling the Lord how terrible he was and how wonderful the Lord was. And then the Lord said to him, “Now Job, you have three people you need to pray for.” Job might have answered and said, “Oh, I want to stay here and talk to you.” But God said that he needed to pray for his friends. He told Job that they had had enough communion and that it was time for him to do something else. And God did not turn the captivity of Job; He did not give him twice as much as he had before until he prayed for his friends.

General Reminder

When we read Psalm 126, we find the psalmist reminded first in a general way and then in a specific way of the duty that exists for every believer. The general reminder is found in verse 5:

Psalms 126

5They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Specific Duty of Believer

Then God reminds the psalmist of his duty in a specific way in verse 6:

Psalms 126

6He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

This is a specific duty of which the psalmist was reminded. We will examine it briefly, but before we do, may I suggest to you that some Christians have never gone beyond the first flight of stairs. Yes, they have recognized they needed a Savior; they have taken that Step of Distress. They have cried out to the Lord and the Lord saved them. They can give testimony to the delivering power of God. They have even delighted to be with the people of God. They are at church every time the church doors are open. They know something of the private communion with the Lord. Whenever there is a chance to give testimony of what God has done for them they are able to stand on the Step of Declaration and give a testimony to God's redeeming grace. But they have never gone any farther than that.

Have you gone any farther than the first flight of stairs? Are you still on the landing, so to speak? I beg of you to covenant with God to take this first step in the second flight of stairs.

Commanded to Go Forth

In verse 6 we realize our duty which I am going to describe for you using five words as mental pegs.

The first word is “command.” That is suggested to my mind by the phrase “He that goeth forth.” Notice that there must be a going forth. Do you know that that was the first word that was said on the day of resurrection? “Go tell” was the resurrection message. How many of us stay in the garden where the Lord was, figuratively speaking, instead of going out where the need is? Follow that little command throughout the Word of God and you will find that the command to believers is “go.”

Someone said to me not too long ago, “You know, I am getting real hungry to see someone saved in a service at the Bible Center.” I asked them just how hungry they were. They said they were so hungry, and they had been praying that I would change my message so that someone could be saved at the Bible Center. I asked God for a bit of grace and then I said to this person, “Friend, let me tell you something. If you want to see someone saved at the Bible Center, why don't you do what you ought to do?” This person said, “Oh, I have. I've been praying real hard for you.” I told them to keep praying, that I couldn't get too much praying, but I told them to go out where people are not saved.

You go out, if you want to see someone saved, and you bring them in. That's the command. Nowhere in the Word of God are we told to pray that people will be saved in a religious service! We are told, however, that we are to go out.

Go Forth With Weeping

We are told not only to go out, but we are told how we are supposed to go out, and that brings me to the second word. First, a command: “He that goeth forth.” Then the word “weeping,” which brings to my mind “concern.”

I recently read that all personal witnessing is good salesmanship. That's not true! It is not a matter of life or death if you sell an automobile. It is not a matter of life or death if you see some insurance. It is not a matter of life or death if you sell some merchandise. But I want to remind you, Friend, that it is a matter of life or death if you are not able to sell the message of the Gospel. People are dying without Christ. I would remind you that unless you go out with a real concern you might as well stay on the Step of Declaration.

May I suggest to you that that work which you would like to see God perform in the life of some individual might comme nearer being performed if you prove to God that you are a little more concerned. It is so easy to tell God what you want. It is so easy to tell God to work in someone's life. Have you showed Him how concerned you are? Are you concerned? Do you really care?

Bearing Precious Seed

Look at verse 6 again as I give you the third word:

Psalms 126

6He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed……..

The command is to “go forth.” “Weeping” is the concern, and “bearing precious seed.” is the carriage, the baggage you take with you.

What do you do when you go out? You carry your precious seed. Don't carry your own thoughts. Don't carry your own experience. It might confuse someone. Carry the seed. The seed is the Word of God.

Confidence In the Outcome

If you carry the seed of the Word of God, I can look with you at the fourth word which describes this experience and that is the word “certainty.” Look at the phrase “shall doubtless come again.” This word “doubtless” is a word that describes the absolute certainty. There are no “ifs” and 'ands' about it.

You don't go out and say that you don't know whether or not you will make it. You go out in obedience to the command. Your heart is burdened with a real concern, and you carry with you the seed of the Word of God. And you have the certainty that you will come again with rejoicing.

Complete In the Work

The last word that I want to leave with you is the word “completion.” I use that word because of what is found in the last statement of verse 6, “bringing his sheaves with him.” I am using that word, because unless you bring the sheaves with you, the work really isn't complete as far as you are concerned.

I have gone out many times and I have come again rejoicing because folk even listened to what I had to say. However, I didn't bring home the sheaves, so to speak. Even though I came home rejoicing, I came home with a feeling of emptiness because I wasn't able to bring in the sheaves.

But God has given a promise that if you will take this next step in the second flight of stairs, the Step of Duty, and go out obeying His command with a real concern, carrying the Word of God with certainty, you will return complete in the work which you have gone forth to do, bringing your sheaves with you.

I don't mean that you won't have to take two or three trips to get the sheaves. Will you remember that? But the thing that concerns my heart is that so many of you just never go back after the sheaves. Do you follow me? You go and you bear the precious seed and folk listen, but they are not ready to be bundled and you never go back to bundle the sheaves. So your work is never complete.

Remember, God has given you the promise that it is complete, and I personally believe that if God lays a soul upon your heart then you ought not to rest until the work is completed. No matter how many trips you have to make before you bring the sheaves with you. However, I want to emphasize, and it is wise to remember, that God does not give you the privilege in every instance of seeing the sheaves bundled. But there is a need for perseverance under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Beloved, have you taken this first step in the second flight of stairs? Search your heart. How long has it been since you have gone out carrying the precious seed? How long has it been since you have gone out?

Let me ask you another question that I hope the Holy Spirit will use to search your heart. Have you ever gone out? Have you ever gone beyond this Step of Declaration and gone out to witness?


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