Happy New Year Everyone! Welcome to another year of praise.
As we begin a New Year, I want to pause in our series of studies through Philippians to share with you a single verse that will encourage us as we turn the page of the calendar. It is a verse that is translated in different ways in different versions of the Bible. Instead of trying to decide which of the translations is the best one, I want to embrace all of them and give you three great reasons to praise the Lord in the New Year.
Psalm 68 is a sweeping chapter with all kinds of implications for what Dr. Michael Heiser calls the unseen realm and the divine counsel. There’s a lot going on this Psalm. But for the sake of simplicity, I want to focus on verse 19.
The verse is Psalm 68:19 and it begins the same basic way in most translations: Praise be to the Lord, Or Blessed be the Lord
The first word is “Praise.” We start the year off right when we celebrate Him. Rejoice in Him. Sing to Him. Pray to Him. Thank Him. Think about Him. Exalt Him. Let this New Year be one of praise, first to last, January 1 to December 31. Praise Him in January, February, March, and April. Praise Him through the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Praise Him through the passing days and encircling months.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.
Frances Ridley Havergal
And why do we praise Him? One of the reasons is that He does things for us on a daily basis. We have a daily God, and every day the Savior works on our behalf. Psalm 23 says that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, which means every day this year.
Psalm 68:19 says: Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily…
So the question is: What is He going to do for us every day this year? Well, I have an unusual outline today. In all my ministry, I don’t think that I’ve ever done exactly what I’m doing here. I’m going to expound on this verse from three different English Bible translations, and these three translations will constitute the three points of today’s message.
1. Praise God Who Daily Bears our Burdens
First, in the New International Version the verse reads like this: Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.
He is our burden-bearer. Have you ever thought of God as daily bearing your burdens? That’s something He wants to do every day. He not only carries our burdens; He daily carries our burdens. When you wake up in the morning, He is already bearing your burdens.
Let’s think of this in traveling terms. Some years ago, I hard time deciding whether to take a backpack or a roller board when I travel. I love having a backpack because it keeps my hands free. I never have to check my luggage, and things are accessible to me all along the way. But sometimes I use a roller board or a small rolling suitcase because a backpack gets heavy.
My son-in-law and I took a trip a few years ago and I took a backpack. We actually said we were backpacking. That didn’t mean we were camping out or sleeping under the stars. It just meant that for ten days we lived out of our backpacks. I liked doing that, but a backpack gets heavy along the way. But when I got on a train or a bus or a taxi, I slid the burden off my back and let the vehicle carry it. It was such a relief. It was so wonderful to feel that strain and weight slide off my shoulders. I still had my backpack, of course. I kept it within sight. I didn’t lose my burden. It was still there beside me or at my feet. But I was no longer bearing the weight of it.
That’s the kind of feeling we have when we finally learn to entrust our problems to the Lord. The Bible says: Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
You and I may have burdens heavier than we can bear. Our shoulders hurt. We’re stooped over. We’re weighed down. But there is liberating relief to slipping that burden off our shoulders and entrusting it to God. We have still have it. It’s not like the burden immediately disappears. But the weight of it is being borne by another.
Two of our great hymns articulate this theme. One says:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry,
Everything to God in prayer.
I must tell Jesus all of my trials,
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me,
He ever loves and cares for His own.
Every one of us is starting this New Year with certain burdens. I’m not suggesting we forget about them or pretend they’re not there. But I would encourage you to slip them off your shoulders and let the Lord carry them. Let Him bear the weight of that burden. Trust Him with it. Claim this verse for the New Year: Praise be to God our Savior who daily bears our burdens. That’s the way it’s put in the New International Version.
2. Praise God Who Daily Bears Us Up
But now I want to switch translations. The English Standard Version puts it a little differently. It says: Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.
It’s one thing if someone bears my burden, but it’s another if he bears me up. The Lord does both. Even after He bears our burdens, we can falter under the stresses and strains of life. We need Him to bear us up.
There’s an amazing story that comes from the National World War II Museum. A nineteen-year-old sailor, Signalman 3rd class Elgin Staples from Akron, Ohio, was serving aboard the cruiser USS Astoria in support of the landings at Guadalcanal. Their ship was hit by enemy fire, and Staples was thrown overboard. He was dazed in the water and wounded by shrapnel, but he was kept afloat due to an inflatable rubber lifebelt he was wearing. He was rescued, treated, and sent back to the Astoria. But the Astoria had been damaged so bad, she sank, putting the sailor back into the water. Again, he was saved by his inflatable rubber lifebelt, and rescued a second time by the USS President Jackson, a transport ship.
Safely aboard the President Jackson, Staples took off the lifebelt that had twice saved him, and he examined it carefully. There was a tag that indicated it had been made in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. Stamped onto the belt were an unusual set of numbers.
When he finally arrived back home, he pulled out his lifebelt and showed it to his family, telling them it had twice saved his life. He described being thrown off one ship by the explosion and jumping off it later as it sunk.
“Take a look at that, Mom,” he said. She looked it and told him that while he had been gone, she had gotten a job at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and her job had been inspecting lifebelts. The strange numbers stamped onto the best were her inspector number.
Signalman Staples had been lifted up and saved by the belt his own mother had inspected.
We all find ourselves in troubled waters from time to time, but we are borne up, lifted up, by the One who guarantees our safety and has given us a lifebuoy of Scripture.
The words of Scripture are like flotation devices. They are like buoys. And we find that the eternal God is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. As we enter this New Year, there will be days when we not only need the Lord to bear our burdens; we need Him to bear us up ourselves. For the children of God, there is always the buoyance of the presence and the promises of God our Savior. He bears our burdens and He bears us up. That’s the way it’s put in the English Standard Version.
3. Praise God Who Daily Loads Us with Benefits
But it doesn’t stop there. Let’s open one last translation, the New King James Version, and read this verse from its pages. The verse in the NKJV says: Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!
Not only does the Lord bear our burdens and bear us up; He daily loads us with benefits. He opens the windows of heaven and bestows blessings innumerable.
Years ago there was a Christian man named Robert C. Chapman. Born in Denmark, he moved to England and became an attorney. After his conversion to Christ, he entered fulltime Christian work and became a pastor. Charles Spurgeon called him “the saintliest man I ever knew.” Well, one morning someone ran into him on the street and said, “How are you.” Chapman said, “I’m burdened this morning.” His smile and countenance seemed to contradict his words, and the other person looked at him quizzically. Chapman went on to say, “Yes, but it’s a wonderful burden—it’s the overabundance of blessings for which I cannot find enough time or words to express my gratitude.”
“I am referring,” he said, “to Psalm 68:19.”
Well, speaking of Spurgeon, in preparation for this message I read Charles Spurgeon’s sermon on this text and he had a very good observation. Spurgeon said that when you combine verse 19 with verse 20, you have the totality of mercy. Still reading from the New King James Version, let’s look at both verses:
Blessed be the Lord who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation! Our God is the God of salvation; and to God the Lord belong escapes from death.
That last phrase would imply the resurrection, eternal life, the victory of the empty tomb. So verse 19 talks about the mercy we have in life, and verse 20 talks about the mercy we have in death. In both life and death we are blessed with an overabundance of mercy from the God who is our salvation. He daily loads us with benefits.
This is consistent Bible teaching.
- The apostle Paul said: His grace is sufficient.
- The apostle John said: From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.
- The book of Ephesians says that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
Every day this year He will daily load us with benefits, and that should bring joy to our hearts.
Now you know that I am an advocate of Scripture memory. We should always be working on memorizing a verse of Scripture. But here’s a verse we should memorize three times. Let’s experience Psalm 68:19 on three levels: Praise be to the Lord who daily bears our burdens, who daily bears us up, who daily loads us with benefits.
But don’t forget that word “Savior.” Praise be to the Lord our Savior who daily does all these things for us. These blessings are found only in Jesus Christ, and only because of what He did on Calvary’s cross by the offering of His body and in the shedding of His blood. Today as we observe the Lord’s Supper, we’re going to put these three verses on the screen.
- Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.
- Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.
- Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!