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GETHSEMANE - A PICTURE OF AWAKENING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, March 2, 2003
 

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul" (Psalm 116:3-4).


These words express four levels of thought:

1. The experience of the Psalmist himself.

2. The experience of Christ going through Gethsemane.

3. The experience of a human soul going through awakening.

4. The experience of a Christian praying through in supplication.

Tonight I will deal only with the second and third levels of the application of this passage.

But before we go into these applications we should go over David's experience. David was in great distress, danger, and sorrow, which drove him to the very edge of despair. "The sorrows of death," says Matthew Henry, were "thought to be the very pangs [pains] of death. Note, The sorrows of death are great sorrows, and the pains of hell are great pains… These compassed [surrounded] him on every side; they arrested him, got hold upon him, so that he could not escape. Without were fightings, within were fears. 'I found trouble and sorrow;' not only they found me… He tells us that he prayed: 'Then called I upon the name of the Lord;' then, when he was brought to the last extremity, then he made use of the old and only remedy, which he found to be a [medicine] for every sore" (Matthew Henry's Commentary, note on Psalm 116:1-4). This, then, was the very experience of David himself. And it is very nearly the same thing he said in Psalm 18:3-6. That Psalm was written "in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul" (preface to Psalm 18). But now we come to the first of two applications of our text.

I. First, the text gives a picture of Christ going through Gethsemane.

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow" (Psalm 116:3).

This is a picture of what happened to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before they crucified Him.

Concerning the parallel passage in Psalm 18:4-6, Spurgeon said, "The Messiah our Saviour is evidently, over and beyond David or any other believer, the main and chief subject of this song; and while studying it we have grown more and more sure that every line here has its deepest and profoundest fulfillment in Him" (C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Pilgrim, 1983, volume I, p. 268).

In his comments on our text, Spurgeon says that it also speaks of Christ:

In the troublous times of my incarnation I was encircled with snares, and urged onward towards my death… "The bands of the grave" laid hold of me, and I was hurried to the Cross. Then, truly did Christ find heaviness and affliction. "His soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." He prayed anxiously to His Heavenly Father, that "the cup might pass from him." The fate of the whole world was in the balance; and he supplicated with agony, that his soul might be delivered (op. cit., volume V, p. 288).

As Spurgeon pointed out, our text is a picture of the agony of the Saviour in the Garden of Gethsemane.

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow…" (Psalm 116:3).

Please turn with me to Mark, chapter fourteen, verse thirty-two:

"And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed [troubled, distressed, 'in the grip of shuddering horror' - Rienecker, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Zondervan, 1980, p. 128], and to be very heavy ['sorely troubled, to be in anguish' - Rienecker, ibid.]; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14:32-36).

Luke 22:44 adds to this by telling us he was "in an agony." The Greek word "agonia" means "conflict, struggle" (Rienecker, ibid.).

These, then, were the sorrows that Jesus went through in the Garden. The weight of our sins was placed upon Him as our paschal lamb. He was broken and nearly killed by the weight of your sin being placed in His Body (cf. I Peter 2:24). The heaviness of sin caused Him to be in an agony, a conflict, a struggle. The heaviness of sin troubled and distressed Him with shuddering horror. He was "sore amazed, and very heavy," sorely troubled, full of anguish and pain.

All of this was experienced by Jesus when your sins were placed on Him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

'Tis midnight; and on Olive's brow, The star is dimmed that lately shone,
'Tis midnight, in the garden now, The suffering Saviour prays alone.

'Tis midnight, and for others' guilt, The Man of Sorrows weeps in blood;
Yet He that hath in anguish knelt Is not forsaken by His God.
   ("'Tis Midnight, And on Olive's Brow" by William B. Tappan, 1794-1849).

Jesus went through these agonies to pay the penalty for your sins, to save your soul from the agonies of Hell. But lost sinners must trust in Jesus, rather than themselves. Humans in their natural state are totally depraved. They will not naturally turn to Jesus.

One of the great errors in modern Finney-style decisionism is to think that depraved sinners will come to Christ if a few arguments are presented to them. That was one of Finney's errors. He was an attorney who continued to argue his case. He did not believe sinners were depraved. They could follow the arguments and do what he said without Divine intervention. "Just give them a few Bible verses, and a few arguments," says the modern decisionist. "If you explain repentance and salvation they will understand. Nothing else is needed." So says the modern decisionist. But he is wrong. Something else is needed! The Holy Spirit must convince the depraved sinner of his need for Jesus, otherwise he will reject Jesus every time, as we are told in Isaiah 53:3 - which takes us to our second point. Please turn back in our text to Psalm 116:3-4:

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul" (Psalm 116:3-4).

II. Second, the text gives a picture of a lost person in awakening.

The sorrows of death and the pains of Hell need to stab the heart of sinners or they will not believe savingly in Jesus. They will continue to despise and reject Jesus (Isaiah 53:3) until they are pricked in their hearts by the Spirit of God (Acts 2:37).

Can a child go through such pricking?  Of course!  My own son was pricked in the  heart  and  converted  when  he  was  only  a  child,  during  a  sermon  by  Dr.  Bob Jones, Jr.

How can a sinner know when he has gone through enough struggle and turmoil? Simple! He has gone through enough of it when he gives up and trusts Jesus! He has gone through enough conviction when he says in his heart,

I give up myself and whatever I know;
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

For some, like the thief on the cross, the time of conviction is short. For others, like Nicodemus, it will be longer. But there must be a sharp inner convicting or sinners will not yield their stubborn hearts to Jesus.

"But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead"
      (II Corinthians 1:9).

That's exactly what happened to the Philippian jailor. He was so troubled that he was ready to commit suicide. He came "trembling" to Paul and Silas (Acts 16:27-29).

The Finneyite "decisionist" wants to give people Acts 16:31 who have not had any of the experience of Acts 16:27-29 at all! This is one of the main reasons modern evangelism adds almost no one to the churches. These Finney people go around teaching dead, dry doctrines about repentance and faith, thinking that totally depraved sinners will learn these doctrines and do what they say. Rubbish! Away with this dry and emotionless "evangelism" from the face of God's earth!

Conviction may well be very short in length. But it had better be sharp! It had better be sharp enough to make a man's heart at least tremble a little, as the jailor did in Acts 16:29. When was the last time you saw a man tremble in a church service? I have seen it happen. I have seen real revival. God help us - with these decisionists going up and down the land giving little "teachings" on repentance and faith. We need to see some trembling. When was there ever a revival without some trembling? When was there ever a real conversion without some heart agony, or some heart trembling? I don't buy this modern "dry" way of evangelism. I want to see some old-fashioned trembling of heart, like the Philippian jailor!

When the Holy Spirit comes to a sinner, He convinces him of his sin, as we are told in John 16:8. He puts the "sentence of death" into a man's heart? Why? Why does He do that?

"But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead"
      (II Corinthians 1:9).

Preaching on this text, Spurgeon said that God uses this "treatment in dealing with men who are as yet not saved. Why is it that one of the first works of grace on a man is to take away all his comfort and hope? I will soon tell you" (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 26, p. 273):


I have heard of one who fell into the water and sank, and a strong swimmer standing on the shore did not at the same instant plunge in, though fully resolved to rescue him. The man went down a second time, and then he who would rescue him was in the water swimming near him, but not too near, waiting very cautiously till his time came. He who was drowning was a strong, energetic man, and the other was too prudent to expose himself to the risk of being dragged under by his struggles. He let the man go down for the third time, and then he knew that his strength was quite exhausted, and swimming to him he grasped him and drew him to shore. If he had seized him at first, while the drowning man had strength, they would have gone down together.

The first part of human salvation is the sentence of death upon all human power and merit. When all hope in self is quite gone, Christ comes in, and with his infinite grace rescues the soul from destruction. As long as you think you can swim, you will kick, and struggle, and drown; but when you see the futility of all your own efforts, and perceive that you are without strength, you will leave yourself with Jesus, and be saved. The eternal power will come in when your power goes out. The sentence of death in yourselves will prevent your trusting in yourselves… (ibid., pp. 273-274).

Thursday night I read the autobiography of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). This book was compiled from his letters to his brother (Dear Theo, edited by Irving Stone, Plume, 1995). I did not know that this famous artist started out to be a preacher of the gospel! He ended up insane. What happened to him? I will tell you more in a future sermon, but I can tell you this now - he never came to the end of trusting himself. If you never stop trusting yourself you will never trust Christ!

Vincent van Gogh's experience shows that no amount of conviction will bring salvation unless a person trusts Jesus.  I believe that van Gogh came under such great conviction that his mind snapped.  He committed suicide, like Judas.  This shows that no amount of conviction will bring salvation.  Conviction, long or short, must end in trusting Jesus as one's personal Saviour.  The key thing is not the amount of conviction, but whether a person trusts Jesus.

Van Gogh's story is fascinating.

 

The eldest son of a Protestant pastor, van Gogh's early years were characterized by a single question:  What must I do to be saved?  Kathleen Powers Erickson, author of At Eternity's Gate:  The Spiritual Vision of Vincent Van Gogh, points us to what he was reading in those days:  the book of Isaiah...and John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.  He also listened to the revivalists Dwight Moody and Charles Spurgeon (Sojourners, September-October 1999).

 

If van Gogh had not committed suicide at the age of 37 he might well have experienced conversion.  He might have given up trusting his own mind - and he might have come to Jesus and been saved.  Instead he went on under the torture of endless guilt.

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow…" (Psalm 116:3).

Dr. Watts gave this poetic comment on that text:

My flesh declined, my spirits fell,
    And I drew near the dead;
While inward pangs, and fears of hell,
    Perplex'ed my wakeful head.
       (Psalm 116 - Song I, by Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

Has that happened to you? Have you thought enough about your own death to be frightened? Have you thought enough about Hell to trouble your heart? Have you experienced inward trouble and sorrow?

How much of this do you need? Enough to turn your heart to Jesus! One guilty stab in the heart has been enough for many. Others, like van Gogh, are boiled alive by inward trouble and sorrow - and remain rebellious to the end.

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul" (Psalm 116:3-4).

If your heart is stabbed by guilt, come to Christ. Call upon His name! Throw yourself upon Him! Believe on Him!

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"
(Acts 16:31).

Christ died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He rose physically from the dead and is alive at the right hand of God in Heaven.

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"
(Acts 16:31).

Let us stand and turn to hymn number 6 on your song sheet. While we sing you get out of your seat and come and stand here in front of this pulpit. Then we will go to my office for a few minutes to talk about your salvation. Come while we sing.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan:

Mark 14:32-36; Luke 22:39-44.

Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"'Tis Midnight, and on Olive's Brow" (by William B. Tappan, 1794-1849).

THE OUTLINE OF

GETHSEMANE - A PICTURE OF AWAKENING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul" (Psalm 116:3-4).

I.   The text gives a picture of Christ going through Gethsemane,
Mark 14:32-36; Luke 22:39-44; I Peter 2:24.

II.  The text gives a picture of a lost person in awakening,
Isaiah 53:3; Acts 2:37; II Corinthians 1:9; Acts 16:27-31;
John 16:8; Acts 16:31.