Satisfaction ('All I Want for Christmas is You')(Psalm 73:23-26)
Topic: One Lord: No One Like You Passage: Psalm 73:23–26
Satisfaction ('All I Want for Christmas is You')
(One Lord: No One Like You)
December 23rd, 2018
I. “There is Just One Thing I Need”
Though in a different way than Christmas carols, Christmas pop songs can also point us back to God's word and to God's son. That's been the premise for our study series this month.
Now, you may recall that we began this study by thinking about the song, “White Christmas”. As I mentioned in that message, “White Christmas” is not only the best-selling Christmas song of all time. It's the best-selling song of all time.
But if we adjust the time frame a bit, and talk about the best-selling modern Christmas song, that distinction goes to another single. Though it is over fifty years newer than “White Christmas”, Mariah Carey's “All I Want for Christmas is You” has already sold 16 million copies since its release in 1994.
The New Yorker magazine has called it "one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon". With a great 60's throwback, pop-rock sound, the song continues to establish itself as a radio favorite. And to date, it's earned Carey over $60 million in royalties.
Now, even though Mariah released a children's book with the same name in 2015, a book about a little girl who wants to rescue a dog from the animal shelter, the song itself (written by Carey and her writing partner) is clearly a love song.
I won't ask for much this Christmas, I won't even wish for snow
I'm just gonna keep on waiting, Underneath the mistletoe...
'Cause I just want you here tonight, Holding on to me so tight
What more can I do, Baby all I want for Christmas is you.
As we've talked about, these popular Christmas songs have a unique way of expressing very basic human longings (like the ones we've already thought about): nostalgia, happiness, belonging. But what about this song? Should we simply describe the longing here as “love”? I think the romantic longing expressed in this song could also be described as a desire to be emotionally satisfied. As the lyrics indicate, the singer will not be satisfied until her boyfriend or husband is with her. Keep that longing in mind as you turn over to Psalm 73.
II. The Passage: “Whom Have I in Heaven But You?” (73:23-26)
I'd love to look at all 28 verses of this Psalm, but this morning, we're going to focus on verses 23-26. Let me read those. As I do, think about how they might connect to the pop song we've been talking about, specifically to that longing, that desire to be emotionally satisfied. Psalm 73, verse 23...
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23–26)
Now remember, the psalms are songs. Therefore, we're actually thinking about two songs this morning, one modern and one ancient. So let's try to break down these verses and understand them in light of the entire Psalm.
1. “I Was Envious” (vs. 1-22)
The first thing that should catch our attention is the word “nevertheless” at the beginning of verse 23. That word forces us to think about what came before this section. To understand what brought the writer to that “nevertheless”, just look at the previous verse, verse 22:
I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
Okay. But how? How was the psalmist “brutish and ignorant”? Well, that drives us back to the opening lines of the psalm. Look at verses 1-3...
Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
So the writer here admits he was “ignorant” because of the “arrogant”; he was spiritually “brutish and ignorant” because he believed that wicked people were better off; that people who lived for themselves and not God were prospering, while faithful people like himself were suffering.
But this misguided perspective changed. How? Verses 16, 17...
But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,  until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.
So, when the psalmist went to the Temple, somehow God made it clear to him that though the unrighteous can prosper in this life, they cannot prosper in eternity, for they cannot escape the final judgment of God.
2. “You Guide Me” (vs. 23, 24)
But look at where the writer goes in verses 23 and 24. “Nevertheless...even though I was angry and bitter and envious of wicked people”, the psalmist is amazed... I am continually with you. How is that possible? As his heart was straying, how did the writer remain in God's presence? Look at the end of v. 23... you hold my right hand. He goes on... you guide me with your counsel (in contrast to the writer's own misguided thinking).
And because God is graciously holding on to the psalmist, look at the difference in terms of his destiny: ...afterward you will receive me to glory.
Now if we're honest, haven't all of us found our hearts in similar places? Haven't all of us believed in some way, at some point, that maybe the way of the flesh was more satisfying than the way of faith; that it would be easier to compromise and conform, rather than stand firm and be set apart?
But when that happens, how is it we remain with God in the end? The only reason is God's grace. God is holding your hand. He holds on to his people. Amen? What a beautiful picture we're given here of God's faithful and merciful and correcting and sustaining presence; his grace-filled presence.
3. “Nothing... I Desire Besides You” (v. 25)
In light of this, it's not surprising to find this passionate exclamation in verse 25:
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
Do you see what he's saying here? There is nothing immaterial or material, heavenly or earthly, spiritual or physical that matters more to the psalmist than God himself. He was “brutish and ignorant” when he was envious of those who had material wealth or physical healthy or safety.
But graciously, God has given him new eyes, eyes to see the 'big picture': All earthly blessings, all earthly gifts, all earthly pleasures are only shadows of the Blesser, of the Giver, of the pleasures that come from knowing God himself. Earthly things will always fail us in some way. They will always fade. But God is eternal and unchanging. He is the source of all good, of all life, of all love. In fact, as I John 4 tells us, “God is love”.
That, of course, has implications for us as we look for love down here. All earthly love, whether maternal, or paternal, brotherly, or platonic, or romantic, all earthly love is a shadow of God's perfect and infinite and eternal love.
4. “God is the strength of my heart” (v. 26)
Now think about what that means in terms of satisfaction; in terms of soul satisfaction; spiritual satisfaction. The psalmist touches on this in verse 26... My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
What is your hope, what is my hope, in all of our foolishness and fits and failings? Your hope is the fullness of God... but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
That's the testimony of a man who is satisfied with what he has, right? Before, he envied the health and wealth of others. But now, he realizes the incomparable prosperity of knowing and serving God. And the Psalms are filled with similar language about how God satisfies:
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
Therefore, the writer of Psalm 63 anticipates this fullness...
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips... (Psalm 63:5)
And this assurance becomes a prayer in Psalm 90...
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)
Therefore David expresses with confidence...
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. (Psalm 17:15)
III. The Gift that Keeps on Giving
So what does any of this have to do with Christmas? Well, remember the pop song we were talking about: “All I Want for Christmas is You”. Think for a minute about the message of that song. Christmas is a time for giving and receiving. Typically, as a kid, your Christmas appetite can only be satisfied by a particular toy or video game or bike or whatever. But as you get older, often, you begin to value 'being present' in the experience of Christmas over the presents of Christmas morning.
But in the Mariah Carey song, no holiday cheer or decoration or family get-together or gift card, no Christmas gift, no Christmas experience will satisfy her longing for love. Therefore, in a season of giving and receiving, the only gift she wants to receive is the attention and affection of her man.
But what has God shown us this morning? He's turned our attention to an ancient declaration:
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
As we talked about, this truth means our longing for love can only fully be satisfied in Him. Why? Well, first, you were created with a capacity for love, ultimately, that you might love and be loved by God. And second, God's love is far better than any other love, because only God's love is perfect and infinite and eternal. It will never fail you. It will never fade.
Does that mean we shouldn't look for love anywhere else? Not exactly. God has called us to love one another. In different ways, in different relationships, He's made us to love one another as human beings. But no earthly love can compare to God's love. Even more than that, if it's to be healthy, our earthly love must be grounded in and guided by God's love.
But again, how does this connect us to Christmas? Well, listen to how I John 4:9 answers that question.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
There would no Christmas were it not for the perfect, holy, self-giving love of God.
As John would go on to explain ten verses later: We love because he first loved us.
Christmas is about God giving us that which can truly satisfy our deepest longings: he gave us Jesus. And in giving us Jesus, God gave us himself; through his suffering on the cross for our sins, and his victory over death,through Jesus, God gave us a way back; he offers us a new heart. Speaking of hearts, romantic love, no matter how 'storybook' it feels or appears, can ever satisfy in the way God's love can. This is precisely why Paul could make this Psalm 73-ish confession in Philippians 3:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8–11)
At this time of the year it's fairly common to talk about how God GAVE us Christ at Christmas, right? And that's true. But if we leave it at that, it's easy to get lost sight of God's gift in the past as we get distracted by earthly gifts in the present.
What I believe God would have us remember, as Paul testifies to in Philippians 3, is that Jesus is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Yes, he came into our world long ago. But this morning, he wants to come to you and come into your life in amazing ways. Please don't miss the astounding relevance of Christmas: he may have been born in Bethlehem two-thousand years ago, but Jesus wants to live in you and through you today. And in so doing, he wants to satisfy your deepest longings.
Is that your desire? Is that your prayer? Do you understand that this request can and should go right to the top of your Christmas list? To borrow the title, this Christmas, I hope you are saying to God, through faith in Jesus Christ, “all I want for Christmas is you”.
Even now there may be many, many things you are longing for this holiday season. But just as the psalmist discovered, nothing immaterial or material, heavenly or earthly, spiritual or physical can compare with what God offers you.
“All I want for Christmas is you, Jesus. All I want for Christmas is you, heavenly Father”. If that isn't your prayer this morning, will you make it your prayer? If you do, you won't be disappointed. Let's pray this morning in light of that prayer, in light of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ; in light of the soul satisfaction only God can give us in himself.
More in Pop Christmas
December 16, 2018Belonging ("I'll Be Home for Christmas")(John 14:1-3, 18-23)
December 9, 2018Happiness ("It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year")(Nehemiah 8:1-12)
December 2, 2018Nostalgia ("White Christmas")(Exodus 16:1-3)