PSALM 44 TALK: Victory in the Jaws of Defeat

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PSALM 44 TALK

VICTORY IN THE JAWS OF DEFEAT

(GOD’S WILL FOR US AND HIS CHURCH IS NOT ALWAYS CLEAR SAILING)

 INTRODUCTION

 I love to watch rugby football matches on T.V when I can but I will always turn a game off if one side is winning easily. I love to watch a close game and I really get excited when a team managers to win against all odds. The often-quoted expression of the T.V commentators is “they snatched victory in the jaws of defeat”. Psalm 44 has a very unusual message as it speaks in the first half about how the nation of Israel (God’s team) always had victory over its enemies (Satan’s team) by the hand of God. However the second half of the Psalm speaks of the Nation facing defeat seemingly at the hands of God even when they have trusted in God for that victory. The last section seems to be a plea for God to give them victory in the jaws of defeat.

The big question is what incident in Israel’s history is this Psalm referring to?

Many suggestions have been made but most of these don’t fit all of the obvious settings of the situation described in the Psalm.

My theory goes like this. If this Psalm is a Psalm of the Son’s of Korah, a psalm originally part of the Elohistic Psalter which developed at the same time as the Psalms in the first book of Psalms then there is only two time frames for the incident behind this Psalm. The two time frames are the reign of David and the reign of Solomon. Interestingly there is another Psalm in this second book of Psalms which is very similar to this Psalm and we do know its historical setting from its heading.

The heading for Psalm 60 reads,

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

“For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lily of the Covenant.” A miktam of David. For teaching. When he fought Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah, and when Joab returned and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt”.

Psalm 60 verse 10 reads,

“Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us and no longer go out with our armies”?

While Psalm 44 verse 9 reads,

But now you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies”.

 I think that Psalm 60 is a David version of Psalm 44 written by the Sons of Korah. This mean the possible historical setting of both Psalms is David’s war with his northern Assyrian neighbors and Joab’s battles with his easterly Edomite neighbors.

The Edomite conflict of David’s time is very interesting because it is presented in two bible references and the second indicates that for a time Israel’s forces did not do so well. The first reference to this conflict is 2 Samuel 8: 13 – 13,

“And David became famous after he returned from striking down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. He put garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites became subject to David. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went”.

This sounds like David had a fairly straightforward victory over the Edomites but the second reference sheds a little light on how David’s victory played its way out. It is a reference to this conflict in David’s time by a conflict Solomon had with the Edomites in his time. It is found in 1Kings 11: 15,

“Earlier when David was fighting with Edom, Joab the commander of the army, who had gone up to bury the dead, had struck down all the men in Edom. Joab and all the Israelites stayed there for six months, until they had destroyed all the men in Edom”.

The reference to Joab going up to Edom to “bury the dead” indicates that at first forces from Israel had suffered a major defeat. Also note how it took Joab and his men six months to have total victory over the Edomites.

This Psalm could have been written at the time when the news of Israel’s defeat reached Jerusalem and the horror of the Nation trusting in God yet being defeated by their enemies caused one of the sons of Korah to write this Psalm. When a nation in ancient times defeats another nation any solders not killed in battle they are usually sold off into slavery which could explain what the writer of Psalm 44 is referring to in verses 10 – 12,

“You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us.

You gave us up to be devoured like sheep and have scattered us among the nations.

You sold your people for a pittance, gaining nothing from their sale”.

 There is no doubt this Psalm would have been an appropriate song for the people of Israel to sing at other times of it’s history when they suffered major defeats at the hands of their enemies like when the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians or in the time when the Babylonians defeated Judah and took most of the people into exile. Calvin believed the Psalm was written during the time of the Maccabees.

However this Psalm and its message would apply to many times in the history of the Church. Even Paul quotes verse 22 in Romans 8: 36 when speaking of persecutions in the time of the early church.

The fact is this Psalm is teaching us that God’s will for us and his church is not always clear sailing. God in his infinite wisdom does allow his followers to face times of persecution and difficulty. However as Paul implies in his application of verse 22 no matter what God’s enemies might do to God’s people they will always in the end snatch victory from the jaws of defeat something I will explore with you as we look closely at this Psalm together.

I have divided this Psalm into 5 sections:

          1.     VICTORY BELONGS TO GOD ALONE (1 – 3)

          2.     VICTORY LEADS TO MORE FAITH IN GOD (4 – 8)

          3.     DEFEAT IN THE JAWS OF VICTORY (9 – 16

          4.     FAITHFULNESS IN THE JAWS OF DEFEAT (17 – 22)

           5.     VICTORY In THE JAWS OF DEFEAT (23- 26)

 

            1.     VICTORY BELONGS TO GOD ALONE (1- 3)

This Son of Korah starts his song striking a very high note; he speaks of what he has learnt from his forebears about God in the past, verse1,

We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago”.

 Interestingly this gives us an insight into how the story or history of the bible actually first came into being. It was essentially an oral history something passed on verbally from one generation to the next. Of course Moses is the first person, we believe to write down some of the oral history in the first five books of the bible.

However even in Moses time we have instructions for oral history to continue. We see this in the story of the Exodus in Moses institution of the Passover celebration when God defeated Egypt and their king Pharaoh through the killing of all first born sons in Egypt except for those who kept the first Passover feast. In Exodus 13: 14 – 16 after Moses commands the dedication of all first born men and animals we read these words,

“In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

Modern people might doubt the accuracy of oral history because we have become so dependant of things being written down. Some might sight the well-known party game of Chinese whispers where one person whispers a sentence into another person’s ear and then this is passed on to each person sitting in a circle. The message always gets distorted and usually is so far from the original message that it is hilarious. However ancient people and even modern more primitive people are far more gifted at passing on oral stories and history as their culture depended on its accuracy and they practiced the art of rote learning and their memories were much more reliable than ours.

What did the “fathers” tell this Son of Korah, verses 2 – 3,

“With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our ancestors; you crushed the peoples and made our ancestors flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them”.

 The “fathers”, the past generations of Israel have informed this Son of Korah that God and God alone gave Israel the land of Israel. This work of God establishing the people of Israel in the land of the Canaanites started with what we just read in Exodus how God miraculously brought them out of Egypt and defeated the armies of Egypt. A few days after Israel left Egypt Pharaoh and his mighty army is drowned in the red sea when God closed it after Israel went through it unharmed. During Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness God gave them victory over many enemies and of course under the leadership of Joshua God helped them defeat the people of Canaan to take possession of the Promised Land.

This is not saying Israel did not have to fight but most of the time Israel was outnumbered and out gunned but they won great miraculous victories. Recently I was studying again the story of the Exodus and I came across these words spoken by Egyptian soldiers as their wheels of their chariots fell off while they attempted to cross over the parted red sea,

“Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” (Exodus 14: 25)

 What then is the meaning of the words,

The light of your face, for you loved them”.

 Charles Spugeon explains the meaning of, “The light of your face” when he writes,

“The divine hand actively fought for them, the divine arm powerfully sustained them with more than human energy, and the divine smile inspired them with dauntless courage. Who could not win with such triple help, though earth, death, and hell should rise in war against him?”

 Finally note why God did it. It was because he loved them. Not that they had anything in them for God to love. I find the people in the wilderness and even in the promised land a bunch of grumbling and unfaithful people yet God’s grace is so great he still continued to love them by giving them victories before there enemies.

We too must realize that without the death of Christ for us we are powerless before the enemies of God. Paul writes in Romans 8: 37,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”.

          2.     VICTORY LEADS TO MORE FAITH IN GOD (4 – 8)

From the foundation of what God did for his nation in the past this Son of Korah now declares who he and his nation put their trust in and reveals three things:

          1.     Who he puts his trust in (vs. 4)

          2.     Why he puts his trust in him (5- 7)

          3.     What that trust in him leads to (8)

          1.     Who he puts his trust in (vs.4)

Who he puts his trust in is declared in verses 4,

“You are my King and my God, who decrees victories for Jacob”.

He sees God and God alone as his King and His God so he trusts in him alone. Interestingly he does not say, King David is his king. Of course we know from Psalm 2: 2 that,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather against the Lord and against his anointed one”.

 David was God’s appointed king on earth but he too is answerable to a higher king namely God in heaven. So when the enemies of Israel seek to bring down Israel led by David they are attacking God and when they are defeated by David and his people they are defeated by God. Note how he uses the name Jacob who becomes Israel. Jacob had to learn the hard way to fully trust in God so he could change from Jacob (the sup planter) to Israel (one who prevails with God). So God’s grace or unmerited love is hinted at again in that God gives victories to the nation even though they don’t deserve it like their forefather Jacob.

2.     Why he puts his trust in him (5 – 7)

 This Son of Korah now states again why he and his nation can trust fully in their God. He writes in verses 5 – 7,

“Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes.

I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame”.

 Just like his words in verses 1 – 3 he declares how all his nations victories of the past are a result of God’s interventions. Note how he still sees Israel has a role to play in the words, “through you we push back our enemies”. All ancient people went out to battle with emblems and belief that there God or God’s were with them. Even on modern movies on ancient nations like Greeks and Romans you often hear the words spoken by the leaders of armies, “May the God’s be with us”. In Israel’s case they believed the one true God of heaven and earth was with them and went before them in battle.

Note how he speaks of how victory comes through the name of God. The name represents the true and real character of God and when we fight God’s battles in this life we must do it with faith in the God of the bible in our minds and hearts. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 6: 10 – 12,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

 Note also how this Son of Korah speaks of his nations true weapons in their battles against God’s enemies in the words,

“I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame”.

 For Israel they went out with bows and swords but these alone did not give them victory as most times other nations had better and more bows and swords. No God made the difference not their weapons.

Paul speaks about our weapons in our spiritual battles of life in 2 Corinthians 10: 4 – 5,

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.

3.     What that trust in him leads to (8)

 The high point of this Son of Korah is now reached in verse 8 where he tells us what this trust in God leads him to,

“In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever”.

He has been leading up to this and in fact has been actually doing it, boasting in how great and loving is his God. So often when you here what some call successful Christians speaking they sound like it was a combination of their gifts and God’s power that made them successful. But we are nothing without God. We are powerless without God and we have nothing to contribute to our success in God but God himself. The great Apostle Paul spoke this way on many occasions. Let me remind you of one, 2 Corinthians 10: 17 – 18,

“But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends”.

 It is on this high note of boasting in the power and love of God that this Son of Korah completes this first section of the Psalm. However a big surprise awaits us in the next

Verse.

      3. DEFEAT IN THE JAWS OF VICTORY (9 – 16)

Section two of this Psalm starts with the word, “But” that little word that appears 4,487 times in the bible and most times something significant is about to be said. Like the word, “therefore” you must understand what comes before it to fully appreciate what followers it.

The argument goes something like this, God guides and protects Israel because he loves them and gave them victory in the past but our present experience is telling us that this is not true and in fact God has rejected Israel and turned them over to their enemies for destruction.

Let me put my theory of the background of this Psalm into what the original composer of this Psalm is saying and why?

If this Psalm was written at the time of the initial defeat of Israel’s forces by Assyrians in the North and Edomites to the east then this Psalm really starts to make a lot of sense. Let me remind you what 1Kings 11: 15 says,

“Earlier when David was fighting with Edom, Joab the commander of the army, who had gone up to bury the dead, had struck down all the men in Edom. Joab and all the Israelites stayed there for six months, until they had destroyed all the men in Edom”.

When Jerusalem learnt of their armies defeat in Edom and defeat also in the at the hands of Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah to the north (as the heading at the top of Psalm 60 tells us) great terror and distress would have overcome the people. We know for sure that David reacted in two ways he wrote Psalm 60 and sent a new force to Edom under the control of Joab.

What if the people’s response at this time is our current Psalm written for them by the Sons of Korah and Psalm 60 is David’s response.

Even if this is not the background to this Psalm it does help us understand what the writer is saying. He is speaking about how God has given his people defeat in the jaws of victory.

He seems to be saying God did four things to them in these two defeats:

1.     He rejected them (9)

2.     He caused there defeat (10 – 11)

3.     He sold them into slavery (12)

4.     He made them a laughing stock among their enemies (13 – 16)

 

1.     He rejected them (9)

Verse 9 reads,

“But now you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies”.

In the first section the writer speaks of God going before them in battle and fighting for them. He attributes their victories solely to God but now it is as though God decided to stay home or not go with his people into battle. It appears by what happened in the North and in Edom God rejected them as his special people and just wanted them to suffer great humiliation.

Over the centuries many religions have taken up arms in the name of their God or faith and have arrogantly proclaimed that God is on their side. In recent years we have heard that some Muslims have engaged in a Holy war against the evil west. We should remember that back in the dark ages Christians did the same thing. My personal view on this is summed up by the words of Jesus when Peter took up arms the night Jesus was arrested and cut of the ear of a High Priest servant. Jesus words are found in Matthew 26: 52,

 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword”.

 Jesus is saying “you want to take up arms in my name then realize the consequences that which is if you live by violence you will die violently”. As Christians we are fighting a holy spiritual war and our weapons of this battle

are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10: 4)

Sometimes it will look like God has rejected his people and caused their humiliation at the hands of the evil one and his followers.

Many times throughout history the forces of evil seem to be winning and God’s people are going down but so often God rescues his people and gives them victory in the jaws of defeat.

The fact is that God’s will for his church is not all clear sailing. There will be times of testing and persecution and we only have to look at the story of Job to realize this great fact.

2.     He caused there defeat (10 – 11)

Verses 10 – 11 read,

“You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us. You gave us up to be devoured like sheep and have scattered us among the nations.

In my theory of the background to this Psalm it appears that the first army to attack Edom in the war between David’s army and the army of Edom was defeated. It is only the short reference to this in 1Kings 11: 15 that tells us this.

From this one verse we can glean that a army from Israel was defeated in Edom and Joab had to go to Edom obviously with a fresh army to bury the dead and try again to overcome the Edomites which he was able to do in six months.

This battle must have been very ferocious because the writer says that the army was,

Devoured like sheep” and “scattered us among the nations”.

Sometimes God has very good reasons for causing hardship and persecution on his people. In the book of acts we read in Acts 8: 1,

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria”.

 Persecution here was used to push Christians out of Jerusalem to achieve God’s will of the Gospel going out from Jerusalem into the whole world starting with Judea and Samaria as predicted by Acts 1: 8).

3.     He sold them into slavery (12)

Verse 12 reads,

“You sold your people for a pittance, gaining nothing from their sale”.

 It was the custom of many Nations in ancient times to sell the enemy survivors into slavery and any Israelite who survived the unsuccessful battle against the Edomites would probably have been sold into slavery.

So the news hits Jerusalem of the defeats in the North and the east and how many of their fighting men were now forced into slavery.

Recently I have seen two movies that are set in the background of Slavery in the southern states of the US before the American civil war and they depicted the horror and inhumanity of slavery. The bible does not openly condemn slavery but verses like Galatians 3; 28,

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

Teach that in Christ all men are equal and therefore the concept of slavery is wrong.

It is an interesting fact that in the first two centuries a great number of the Christian following were in fact slaves maybe they understood clearly the concept of spiritual liberation more than anyone else.

4.     He made them a laughing stock among their enemies (13 – 16)

Verses 13 – 16 read,

“You have made us a reproach to our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations the peoples shake their heads at us. I live in disgrace all day long, and my face is covered with shame at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge”.

This was probably the most serious charge against God this writer makes that through the victories of Israel’s neighbours in the North and East Israel was made a laughing stock amongst its many enemies. Now the writer feels all of their enemies will now pay out on Israel as they inflict revenge of them.

We saw how painful the taunts of the writers enemies was to him in the last two Psalms and in Psalm 43: 1, he cries out for vindication from God,

“Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked”.

Down through the ages God’s people have had to face verbal persecution that has often led to physical persecution. Christians of all ages have had to face rejection and unfair abuse from non-believers. Jesus in fact warned his disciples that this would happen in John 15: 18 – 21,

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me”.

Again notice how Jesus is not promising the Christian life to be plain sailing. There are “road humps” in the Christian life. If you don’t know what a road hump is then let me explain. In my country, Australia, when the authorities want you to slow down on a road or street they put a tar hump on the road to force you to slow down. On one road I travel on regularly there is some kind of specially designed strips of some substance that if you go over 70 Ks per hour you will experience a annoying vibration in your wheels.

Maybe the difficulties God throws at us in life are his speed humps that slow us down or cause us to change direction in our lives and this is another reason why God’s will for his church is not always clear sailing.

4.  FAITHFULLNESS IN THE JAWS OF DEFEAT (17 – 22)

The writer is not just content to spell out to God how he has inflicted on them defeat in the jaws of victory but now argues how unjust it is that God is doing this.

His argument is a threefold argument:

1.     It has happened even though we have kept your covenant (17 – 19)

2.     It happened even though we have not turned away from you (20 -21)

3.     It has turned us into condemned animals (22)

 

1.     It has happened even though we have kept your covenant (17- 19)

Verses 17 – 19 read,

“All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant. Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path. But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals; you covered us over with deep darkness”.

 

The “covenant” or agreement the Israelites should have lived by is best expressed by Exodus 19: 5 – 6,

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

In Deuteronomy 27 Moses lists a number of curses that Israel will have come upon it if it disobeys this covenant. Then at the start of Deuteronomy 28 we read these words, Deut. 28: 1- 2,

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God”.

This is what the writer of Psalm 44 is referring to and is saying we are keeping our part of the covenant agreement.

This is why the background to this Psalm could not be the exile or any other period of Israel’s history where God caused some kind of exile because God’s judgment for Israel not keeping their part of the covenant caused that exile.

Throughout most of David’s reign Israel kept God’s covenant except maybe during the time of Absalom rebellion. This is because David was one of the few kings of Israel who was loyal to the covenant. Even his son Solomon later in his reign strayed from God’s covenant when under the evil influence of foreign wives helped introduce false worship practices.

This Son of Korah certainly is painting a dark and gloomy time in Israel when news came of the defeats in the North and East of the country. His words in the second half of verse 19 express this well,

“You covered us over with deep darkness”.

Sometimes in the history of God’s people dark times have descended upon them. During the inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church in the middle ages many faithful followers of Christ suffered greatly as a deep darkness descended on true believers of that time. However these times of darkness are always followed by a time of great light and blessing like the reformation that came out of the great persecution of the inquisition. Church history teaches us that the God’s will for his church is not always clear sailing.

2.     It happened even though we have not turned away from you (20 -21)

Verses 20 – 21 read,

If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god,

Would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?

This point of the writer argument follows the previous one about keeping true to their part of God’s covenant. They did not turn from their faith in the one true God, which is expressed in the concept of “the name of God” which always means the character, and will of the God of the bible. They did not turn to other false God’s, which other generation in Israel will do in years to come.

He then draws on one of the bibles revealed character of God his all knowingness called omniscience when he says,

“Would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?”

 This is a concept David referred to in a number of Psalms like Psalm 139: 23- 24,

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.

 So the writer really believes the Nation has really got a rough deal from God that is totally out of character and contrary to God’s word.

As I said before we could site many times in history where God’s true church has seemed to have got a rough deal from God but all Christians need to have the faith Paul expressed in words like Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

 3.     It has turned us into condemned animals (22)

With enemies to the North routing one of its armies and enemies in the East doing the same people in Jerusalem would feel they were like sitting ducks to their enemies. This unfortunate set of circumstances also spoke about by King David in Psalm 60 really unnerved the whole nation of Israel at that time. This feeling of being at the mercy of their enemies is what is behind the expression found in verse 22, which reads,

“Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered”.

 Already twice in this second half of this Psalm similar expressions are to be found,

Verse 11,

“You gave us up to be devoured like sheep and have scattered us among the nations”.

 And verse 19,

“But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals; you covered us over with deep darkness”.

 Adam Clarke explains the significance of the expression “a haunt of Jackals”, with these words,

We, as a people, are in a similar state to one who has strayed into a wilderness, where there are no human inhabitants; who hears nothing round about him but the hissing of serpents, the howling of beasts of prey, and the terrible roaring of the lion; and who expects every moment to be devoured”.

The same idea is in the expressions,

“Devoured like sheep” verse 11,

 And  

 “Considered as sheep to be slaughtered”, verse 22.

 The writer is arguing that God has turned his back on Israel’s forces in the North and East and has therefore turned all Israel into condemned animals. People who now wait for fierce forces from two sides to attack and destroy viciously the people of Israel.

Interestingly this was the situation Israel faced throughout its long history.

They were always surrounded by lots of hostile nations who attacked and often plundered the Nation of Israel. In 740 B.C the Assyrians attacked and destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Then through a series of Babylonian campaigns between 597 and 582 the Kingdom of Judah was defeated and most of its people were taken into exile.

Paul quotes verse 22 in Romans 8: 36, indicating that many faithful believers of his time suffered at the hands of their enemies not because of unfaithfulness but because of their allegiance to Christ. Mark Driscoll quotes the  following words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed in 1945 by the Nazi’s,

“Suffering is the badge of the true Christian. The disciple is not above his master. Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer.”

 Derek Kidner calls suffering,

“A battle scar rather than a punishment”

 And Paul goes on to say these amazing words after quoting the Psalm 44: 22,

Romans 8: 37 – 39,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Jesus himself said in Matthew 10: 28,

 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.

Of course the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell is God himself. Jesus is telling future generations of suffering persecuted Christians that no matter what the forces of evil will attempt to do and will do to you, ultimately you have nothing to fear because you will spend eternity with him in heaven and those who sought to destroy you will be themselves destroyed in hell.

 5.  VICTORY FROM THE JAWS OF DEFEAT (23- 26)

The link between the last verse and this final section is the words in verse 22,

“Yet for your sake”

Even though the writer has just presented a case for the seeming injustice of what happened to the two armies of Israel he has not given up his faith in God.

Even when he declares they feel like sitting ducks he uses the words, “yet for your sake” so he is still totally committed to his God even though he does not understand what he has currently been doing. He will endure because he knows he has a God who will somehow come through for him.

This last section is a prayer to God for God to rescue the nation even in the face of certain death and defeat. He wants God to snatch victory for them in the jaws of defeat.

This prayer has three elements:

1.     A call for God to spring into action (23)

2.     A question about why God has not already acted (24-25)

3.     An appeal to the God of love for Salvation (26)

 

1.     A call for God to spring into action (23)

The writer uses the human failing of going to sleep on the job to frame a prayer for God to spring into action for his people.

“Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself ! Do not reject us forever”.

Psalm 121: 4, says,

“Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep”.

This verse is saying that God never goes to sleep on the job he is always watching and never nods off to sleep. Many years ago I preached on this verse and spoke of the true story of how I did basic training for the Australian army when I was 20 years old. One night I was put on guard duty at the main gate of the army base. That day we had done a 10-mile forced march in full battle gear and I was very tied. During my time on watch I fell asleep in the little guardhouse at the gate I was supposed to be minding. The whole base relied on me that night and I let them down because I was so tied. My point of this story is we can rely on God because unlike us he will “neither slumber nor sleep” as he watches over us.

So why is the writer asking God to wake up from his sleep?

The answer is to him and to his nation what had happened in the North and the East of their country it was like God had gone off to sleep. He is asking for God to stop his seeming inaction and to spring into action for them. He is asking for God to give them victory in the jaws of defeat.

Sometimes in our lives or our church we might think God is asleep or rather not active. We might find that we have prayed about something for a while and God does not seem to be listening. The reality according to the bible is that God is always active and he is always listening but that may not always seem obvious to us at the time. It took God 70 years for God’s answer of Christian’s prayers for the fall of communism in Russia and the Eastern block and it took 6 years for God’s answer of Christian’s prayers for Nazi Germany to fall.

Was God asleep during those long dark years for Christians suffering at the hands of those evil Governments?

No, many stories have been told and many books have been written about how God was active in helping Christians in so many ways as they endured their times of suffering. So often we can see by looking back how God used dark times in an  believers life to achieve things for him and by doing that bring glory to his name.

We must always remember what the prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 55: 8,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD”.

Also God’s time table is different than ours as Peter says in 2 Peter 3: 8,

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”.

2.     A question about why God has not already acted (24-25)

The writer returns to his original way of reasoning in this Psalm in verses 24 – 25,

“Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.

Using another human failing, hiding our faces or turning a blind eye to another persons misfortune he is trying to convey how God’s seeming inaction in the destruction of the armies in the North and Eastern boarders. He would have known that God never hides his face from us as he would have read or sung David’s Psalms that speak of God’s never ending love and concern for his people Israel.

Like the words of Psalm 17: 6 – 8,

“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings”

 God is so close to those he loves that they are the apple of his eye, the reflection of us in the iris of our eye when we are so close to another person (see my talk on Psalm 17).

The writer is not holding back the pain and misery of his people at this dark time as he describes their plight as being like being thrown down into the dust and unable to get up (our bodies cling to the ground).

He is asking again why the great saving God of the past who fought great victories for his people now allowed them to face a terrible defeat at the hands of their Godless enemies.

I have seen and heard of Christians in the public eye ridiculed and belittled because of their Christian stand and some might ask where was their God why did he allow them to be publically shamed?

The answer is again, God’s ways are not our ways as we saw from Isaiah 55: 8 and one day all people will come into judgment. Revelation 1: 7 teaches us that when Jesus returns,

“Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen”.

 Not one thing in this world escapes the notice of God and all injustice that happens in this world will be brought into God’s judgment as Revelation 20: 11 – 15 says,

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

3.     An appeal to the God of love for Salvation (26)

The whole Psalm has been leading to this last verse, which is an appeal to God for his help and redemption in the jaws of defeat,

In the first section verses 1 – 8 the Psalmist declared how God had given his people victory against their enemies in the past. How he went out with them and fought for them but verses 11 – 16 he speaks of how Israel’s armies in the North and East faced terrible and humiliating defeat and it appeared that God had rejected Israel as his chosen people. In verses 17 – 22 the Psalmist speaks of how Israel at this time had been faithful to God and had kept his covenant agreement. He then asks God to stop appearing to be asleep and come to the help of his people in verses 22 – 25.

Now in this final verse he asks God,

“Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love”.

The situation might seem beyond help but this writer knew how God had helped Israel in the past and there were many examples of God coming to Israel’s aid and giving them victory in the jaws of defeat.

The example of this that comes to my mind is at the time of the Exodus when Israel had left Egypt after the Passover and the death of the first born and were trapped with their backs to the red sea and a fast and ferocious Egyptian army were coming straight at them. Here the people’s faith melted and Exodus 14: 11- 12 records what the people said to Moses,

“Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

They certainly are expressing the idea that they faced certain death and there is no hope for them but God had other ideas and through Moses performed a great miracle for them. He miraculously divides the waters of the red sea and they walk across on dry ground. However when the Egyptians follow them in their chariots God steps in again causing havoc with their chariots and eventually once the Israelites are safely across he closes the walls of water and all of the Egyptian army is destroyed. Israel had a victory in the jaws of defeat and death.

This Son of Korah is asking God to do the same for them in his day, he pleads,

“Rise up and help us”

On what grounds does he finally make this call for miraculous help?

It is on the grounds of God’s unfailing love. Note he stops speaking about how faithful the people have been and returns to what he learnt from his fathers that God only fought for Israel because he loved them (verse 3). Yes Israel had been seeking to keep God’s covenant agreement but they and King David had both fallen short of God’s standards or requirements. Even here the grace of God is the real foundation for God’s acts of Salvation for his people.

Once Christ died for our sins on the cross all who look to him and what he has done for them are his people as Paul says in Galatians 3: 28,

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

We as the new Israel of God are like the old Israel saved by grace, the unmerited love of God and our salvation is a victory won by Jesus Christ from the jaws of death.

The greatest example of victory from the jaws of defeat in the bible is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just when all seemed lost, his death, we learn that he defeats death by rising to life in three days. This resurrection of Jesus gives us also victory over death and Paul speaks of our victory from the jaws of death in 1 Corinthians 15: 54 – 57,

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks are to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

CONCLUSION

The Psalm ends with a confident call to God for help against the certain death by Israel’s enemies but was that prayer answered?

Interestingly even though both Psalm 44 and Psalm 60 seem to be set in the background of a terrible hopeless situation for Israel at the time of David’s battles with the Assyrians in the North and the Edomites in the east not much is said about them in the historical texts.

The Northern conflict is mentioned almost in passing in 2 Samuel 8: 3 – 10 and the Edomite victory in 2 Samuel is only one verse a little latter, 2 Samuel 8: 12.

It is only the 1Kings 11: 15 reference in the time of Solomon that gives us a small window into this terrible time that is the probable background of both these Psalms and it reads like this,

“Earlier when David was fighting with Edom, Joab the commander of the army, who had gone up to bury the dead, had struck down all the men in Edom. Joab and all the Israelites stayed there for six months, until they had destroyed all the men in Edom”.

The other mention of this difficult time is the heading the original editors put at the top of Psalm 60, which says,

“For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lily of the Covenant.” A miktam of David. For teaching. When he fought Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah, and when Joab returned and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt”.

This scant reference to what both Psalms see as a very difficult time in Israel I believe hints at the fact that God answered the prayer of the last verse of Psalm 44,

“God rose up and helped them; rescuing them because of his unfailing love”.

Sometimes when I look back at difficult times in my life as a Christian I see them in a different light because I have come through them with God’s help. At the time of testing and difficulty all seemed like I had my back to the wall and was facing defeat from the jaws of victory but on the other side when I look back and see that through the grace of God I actually had victory from the jaws of defeat.

VICTORY IN THE JAWS OF DEFEAT

 Victory in the jaws of defeat

Through the help of a mighty Lord

Not through the weapons of this world

But through God’s powerful word

I pray to God

I pray to God

And I know that I am heard.

 

You are my King and my God

Please help my misery

I will trust in you Oh Lord

To give me victory.

I boast in you

I boast in you

You give so much to me.

 

Defeat in the jaws of victory

Sometimes it seems that way

When life goes wrong and I am lost

And Satan holds the sway

I ask you Lord

I ask you Lord

Why are you far away?

 

Sometimes my enemies say to me

Where is your God today?

They seek to bring you down Oh Lord

When will this go away?

Why Oh Lord?

Why Oh Lord?

Do I feel this way?

 

Wake up Oh Lord and rescue me

From all my fears and doubts

I know you’re always there for me

Through all life’s ins and outs
I call to you

I call to you

My soul calls out and shouts.

 

Victory in the jaws of death

Redeemed by Christ the Lord

Unfailing love has recued me

Revealed by your word

I trust in you

I trust in you

My faith has been restored.

Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

Dear father in heaven we know from your word how you gave your people in the past great victories from the jaws of defeat help me to know you saving power in my life. Help me with my doubts and fears and through your love Oh Lord help me to trust in you even in the difficult times of life. Give me victory in the jaws of death as I put my faith and trust in what your Son has done for me on the cross. This I ask in the mighty powerful name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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Psalm 43 TALK: Homeward Bound (The Christian Hope of Heaven)

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

PSALM 43 TALK

HOMEWARD BOUND

(THE CHRISTIAN HOPE OF HEAVEN)

 INTRODUCTION

 As you go through life you find you attend gatherings that represent the stage of life you are at. For instance when you’re a child you attend birthday parties for various ages. When you turn 18 and or 21 you attend parties that celebrate your entering your independent age. You attend a lot of weddings when you and your contemporaries are entering marriage or baptisms or naming ceremonies when you and your contemporaries are raising a family. I am now in my sixties so I have sadly started to attend funerals and this will be an on going feature of life to come. This is because I am approaching my death as well.

Funerals for older people are sad emotional numbing experiences but for young people they are even more emotionally horrific. When I was a Church Youth minister many years ago I remember attending a funeral for a 14-year-old boy who was not a Christian who was tragically killed when riding illegally a motorbike on a local road. The crying and wailing at that funeral by those who attended the funeral was emotionally devastating and many young people asked, “Why would God allow this to happen”?

Every time I attend a funeral of a person of any age I am reminded of both my own mortality and of course the great hope we have of heaven as Christian believers. As Christians we know that death is not the end but we are in fact homeward bound.

Psalm 42 and 43, probably originally one Psalm present a message of hope in God in the face of great difficulty. In my study of Psalm 42 I said that these two Psalms contain really three song verses and a chorus. Derek Kidner explains the difference between the two Psalms with this insightful observation,

“The dark moods (Psalm 42) alternate with increasingly affirmative prayer (Psalm 43)”

 He entitles Psalm 43 in his commentary as, “The Release”, release from the dark depression of being cruelly separated from his home and ministry in Jerusalem probably during the time of the Absalom rebellion. This son of Korah was a leader of Tabernacle music and singing and he now finds himself out in the wilds of the trans-Jordan wilderness facing certain death at the hands of the rebellious Absalom and his many followers. Here he prays that God will, Psalm 43: 3b,

“bring me to your holy mountain”

 For the Christian that holy mountain also called Mount Zion symbolizes heaven itself as spoken of in Hebrews 12: 22,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly”.

 The hope of the Son of Korah is that he would be “Homeward Bound” and not trapped away from home in the wilderness surrounded by an “ungodly nation” verse 1 or those who oppose the true God of Heaven.

Our hope is that our life will not end in death lost in the place all the ungodly will go to but through faith in what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us we will go to be with him in heaven where all peace and joy is found. In John 14: 1-3 Jesus promises us a heavenly home when we die and go to heaven,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my fathers house are many rooms; If it was not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going”.

My title of “Homeward Bound”, reminds me of the secular song of the same name by the great Paul Simon. Even though he is not referring to heaven as his homeward bound destination the chorus of his song resonates for me of our desire to be with God in heaven,

“Homeward bound

I wish I was

Homeward bound

Home, where my thought’s escaping

Home, where my music’s playing

Home, where my love lies waiting

Silently for me.

In this study we will conclude our look at the Sons of Korah’s song of hope of returning home to Jerusalem to be close to God and lead the singing and worship there again. We will also explore through the New Testament our great hope of going home to be with God in heaven where we will sing and worship God forever.

My headings all relate to the theme of “Homeward Bound”:

1.     HOMEWARD BOUND FOR VINICATION (1- 2)

 2.     HOMEWARD BOUND FOR RESTORATION (3 – 4)

 3.     HOMEWARD BOUND BECAUSE OF OUR HOPE IN GOD (5)

 

1.     HOMEWARD BOUND FOR VINDICATION (1 -2)

 As I spoke of in the last study on Psalm 42 David and those who supported him copped a vicious verbal attack on their integrity and faith from those who opposed them and ultimately God himself. In Psalm 42: 10 we read the words,

“My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God”.

 We learnt that the book of 2 Samuel records one such taunt when David and his faithful followers where on the run fro Absalom in the words of a man from the tribe of Saul, Benjamin and he is called Shime, 2 Samuel 16: 7 -8,

“Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The LORD has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!”

Shime was not the first man to kick a man when he was down as David was on the run from Absalom with many of his family and loyal followers and seemingly facing certain death. David stops his men from killing this nasty man with the words,

2 Samuel 16: 11 – 12,

“David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”

 The sentiment of David’s words are expressed beautifully by the opening prayerful plea of The Sons’s of Korah’s opening words of Psalm 43,

“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation”

 Here the writer or writers is asking God to be their judge and lawyer. They are calling for the defense of their good name and sincere faith in God to be taken to the highest court of all, heaven itself and they want God to plead their case for them. So sure of their innocence and true faith in God are they that they are in fact challenging God to vindicate them. We saw this same thing in a number of David’s Psalms in the first book of Psalms, 17: 2, 26:1 and 35: 23,24.

And who are these accusers?

Here they are described as,

“An ungodly nation”

 Many commentators hotly dispute the meaning of this phrase and what it means. Leupold points out that Hebrew word “Nation” called “Goy” commonly refers to hostile Gentiles but believes that the word should be translated, “an ungodly people”. He writes,

“The Psalmist seems to be thinking rather of their great numbers and the fact that their attitude is ungodly”.

 I have stated one of the main theme’s of Book one and two of Psalms is, “The Struggles of the anointed King and his followers” which was set up right back in Book 1, Psalm 2 verses 1, 2,

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed one”.

 This struggle is not just against the Gentile Nations but is also against those who oppose the Lord’s anointed King within the Nation of Israel. Interestingly Psalm 2 is followed by Psalm 3 which is set in the rebellion of Absalom a prime example of this rebellion against the Lord’s anointed King from within Israel and even from within David’s own family.

All this rebellion then comes from ungodly people who not only oppose God’s true King on earth but his faithfully followers and God himself.

This Son of Korah or even Son’s of Korah, if this was a collaborative composition where faithful followers of The Lord and The Lord’s anointed King David and they plead with God in the second part of verse 1,

“rescue me from deceitful and wicked men”

 This is the rhyming thought and this bit of parallelism reveals that the rebellion of Absalom certainly fits well to this Psalm as Absalom and his followers were both deceitful and wicked.

Vindication did come for David and his followers when in only a few weeks Absalom and his followers where defeated easily in battle and Absalom lost his life. However the opposition to God and the Lords anointed did not stop with the overthrow of Absalom rebellion as David lived his whole life facing conflict and difficulties because of his unique close identification with God.

Jesus is God’s great Anointed King we first see this at the Baptism of Jesus when God declares, Luke 2: 22,

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”

 A fulfilment of the prophecy concerning the anointing of the Messiah King found in Psalm 2: 7-8

“You are my Son, today I have become your Father. Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”

 So Jesus and his followers face the same opposition and taunts from God’s enemies like David and his faithful followers received.

So there was a vindication of the taunts of Absalom and his followers once David was re- installed as King back in Jerusalem after Absalom death but the ultimate vindication is yet to come in the great day of judgment when we are all homeward bound when Jesus returns from Heaven.

However when the Son of Korah wrote this Psalm he still faced a very difficult situation as verse 2 expresses,

“You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy”.

 He was “Homeward Bound” by faith but it had not yet come. Notice how the writer calls God his “stronghold” meaning strength and protector. Yet he still faces what seems like God’s rejection, as he has to bear the vicious taunts of the enemies and what seems like a great victory of God’s enemies over his faithful followers.

Sometimes our hope of Heaven, our Homeward Bound journey will be challenged by the circumstances of our lives and we need to remember too that our God is our Stronghold and by faith push on our Homeward Bound journey.

As the writer to the Hebrews puts it,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

 And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

 Jesus has gone before us making the our homeward bound journey possible but we need to have faith in him to stay focused on the way ahead no matter what happens to us.

2.     HOMEWARD BOUND FOR RESTORATION (3 – 4)

 Now the Son of Korah prays for his ultimate restoration to his place on the special mountain of God often called Mount Zion. There he would be restored to leading the music of worship in the great Tabernacle of David’s time and Temple in the time of Solomon.

We read the start of his prayer in verse 3,

“Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell”.

 In the middle of this mans current dark circumstances he prays for God’s light and truth to break through his darkness and guide him back to his home and ministry in Jerusalem. Leopold believes he is actually asking for God’s mercy as he writes,

“Light”, “is best thought of as a figure of God’s mercy or His “steadfast love”. Darkness seems to have settled upon us when we are deprived of the assurance of God’s mercy. Light seems to shine into our life when we know ourselves to be in God’s favor”.

 Truth follows light because through God’s word we discover the truth about God that he is a God of mercy and love. Jesus had much to say about light and truth. He claims to be both light and truth as we read in the following two verses,

John 8: 12,

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 John 14: 6,

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

Jesus can make these claims simply because of whom he is. In John 1: 14 we learn that Jesus is God’s word or truth become flesh,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

Note where following Jesus will lead us to in the John 14: 6, non other then to our Father in heaven. This is because those who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ are bound for Heaven. The holy mountain or Mount Zion symbolized heaven and was to represent the concept of God dwelling with his people on earth.

That is why This Son of Korah speaks of Mount Zion being the place where God dwells. In Old Testament times Mount Zion was a very special place to all Israelites but we now know from the New Testament that Zion and even Jerusalem are but symbols for the real dwelling place of God, heaven itself. I quote Hebrews 12: 22 again,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly”.

 This is the great hope of all Christians that this world is not our home but rather we are Homeward Bound to heaven itself. In 1 Peter 2: 11, Peter writes,

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul”.

 Hear Peter is telling his readers that we do not belong to this world but rather our home is in heaven where all believers are headed for and we should live our lives with this firmly planted in our minds not letting life’s circumstances or the world around us shape how we live but rather we are to let our ultimate destiny shape our lives.

Then this Son of Korah states what he will do when he gets back to God’s Holy Mountain in verse 4a,

“Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and delight”.

As a Levite he had special duties to perform in Jewish worship but David gave some of the Sons of Korah extra duties involving the making music and leading singing. This Son of Korah longs to return to Jerusalem to perform his special ministry in Tabernacle worship. He first wants to go to the altar of God, David Guzik points out what this going to the altar wanting to offer a sacrifice is all about in this following insightful comment,

“This wouldn’t be a sacrifice of atonement for sin, but for gratitude and celebration of fellowship with God”.

Christ died for our sins on the cross so we do not need to offer a sacrifice of atonement for sin but like the Son of Korah we offer a sacrifice of praise, Hebrews 12: 13,

“Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name (Jesus)”.

So the Son of Korah wants to offer a sacrifice of praise and gratitude to the God he believes will take him home to Jerusalem and therefore he calls God his “joy and delight”.

It is interesting he speaks of joy when we consider where he is, exiled from Jerusalem possibly facing death and out in the wilds of the Trans-Jordan valley. Human joy is so fickle it is often dependant upon our circumstances. However with God joy and delight are eternal.

Only in God can we find true joy as Jesus advised his disciples as they faced the most terrible day of there lives when they would witness the death of their beloved leader. Jesus advises John 15: 9- 11,

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”.

As a old children’s hymn goes:

Happiness is to know the Savior,

Living a life within His favor,

Having a change in my behavior,

Happiness is the Lord.

Happiness is a new creation,

Jesus and me in close relation,

Having a part in His salvation,

Happiness is the Lord.

Real joy is mine, no matter if teardrops start;

I’ve found the secret,

it’s Jesus in my heart!

Happiness is to be forgiven,

Living a life that’s worth the living,

Taking a trip that leads to Heaven,

Happiness is the Lord!

The Son of Korah then speaks of what he will do when he gets there in vs. 4b

 “I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God”.

As I have already pointed out The Sons of Korah where Levites and where given an extra and very special ministry by David to be leaders of music and singing in the Tabernacle after David, the Temple (1Chronicles 15: 16 – 22). Deprived of being able to perform this special ministry because of his exile from Jerusalem this Son of Korah now looks forward to being able to perform his special ministry of music again. He led the people in praise with singing and the playing of the harp.

How this relates to heaven is that music and praise is associated with what we will do in heaven. A good example of this is Revelation 5: 8 – 11,

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders”.

When I go to large Christian meetings like conventions I am usually swept away by the uplifting emotions of singing with hundreds of other fellow believers and for me I have a glimpse of heaven. After all who will be in heaven with us? Of course all the true believers that have ever lived, what a Christain convention that will be.

3.     HOMEWARD BOUND BECAUSE OF OUR HOPE IN GOD (5)

 Now we come to the final time the repetitive chorus is sung and it follows what we have just been looking at in verses 1 – 4. In my study of Psalm 42, where this chorus first appears I mentioned how it contained the big idea of the Psalm namely,

“Put your hope in God”

 It starts with two questions,

“Why are you downcast, O my Soul? Why so disturbed within me”

 I mentioned in my Psalm 42 study that this self-questioning was like the writer seeking to snap himself out of his despair and depression. He is counseling himself by asking himself two important questions. It is as though he is saying why am I letting my current circumstances get the better of me. Then he advises himself to,

“Put your hope in God”

 I heard a Christian speaker recently point out the importance of having hope in this life. He said that it is when people think they have no hope in the future that they commit suicide. He went on to point out how having hope he also called vision can drive us on to great things for God.

The writer wanted to return home and his hope in God meant that he believed he was now homeward bound. Our hope for our ultimate future is that we one day will go home to be with God so we too are homeward bound. Listen to the apostle Paul speak of this, Philippians 1: 20 – 24,

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body”.

 Note how Paul uses the word, “hope” in this passage. He eagerly expects and hopes. He has faith and confidence in God and knows that God has a plan for him in this life yet when it comes to an end he is heaven bound.

As Christians God has a plan for us in this life and we all have the great sure and certain hope of Heaven to come. This is why we should not let the difficult circumstances we might face in this life control us but by faith in the Lord Jesus seek to look beyond our difficult circumstances to the great hope we have in God.

The Son of Kohah completes his song with what he sees as the reason for him to hope in God, when he writes,

“For I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God”,

 His hope was that his God of all hope would change his difficult circumstances and restore him to his home and ministry in Jerusalem. Also this week I saw the movie, “Twelve Years a Slave”. This is the true story of a Negro man named Solomon Northup who was kidnapped by anti – slave members of the Southern States of America in the early 1840’s. He faces terrible horrific cruelty and seems destined to live out his life as an enslaved person. However Northup never gives up hope of one day returning home to New York to his family and freedom. This hope sustains him while other slaves around him feel they have no hope and perish as a result.

We might think our current circumstances are very difficult and will never change but we are to live through whatever we face with hope and faith in God. Like Solomon Northup who had hope in returning home one day. Our great hope is that God has a plan for our lives and ultimately we to are homeward bound. I close with the words of Jesus I quoted in my introduction in John 14: 1 – 3 and my own poem inspired by the study of this Psalm.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my fathers house are many rooms; If it was not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going”.

BOUND FOR HOME

(Based on Psalm 43 and the Christian hope of Heaven)

 

Bound for home yes I’m homeward bound

Because Jesus died for me.

Gave me life when I should be dead

His death has set me free.

One day my Lord will return on high

And then the world will see

That we were right and they were wrong

When all will bow the knee.

 

Bound for home yes I’m homeward bound

No matter what life brings.

For heaven awaits those who trust

The Lord the King of Kings.

For he is way the truth and the life

The redeemer of our sins

The light of the world that shines on us

Whose praise Heaven now sings.

 

Bound for home yes I’m homeward bound

This world is not my home.

For we are but pilgrims passing through

Heavens shores is where we’ll roam.

But now we live to serve our Lord

In this life’s froth and foam.

In heaven we’ll sing and praise the Lord

No longer will we groan.

 

Bound for home, yes I’m homeward bound

My Lord is my sure hope.

For he has made a way for me

And given me help to cope.

So why am I often feeling so low?

My Lord keeps me afloat

And helps me through difficult times

And gives me hope to cope.

 

Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we want to thank you for sending your Son into this world to die for our sins on the cross so that we can be accepted by you into heaven. We thank you for giving us the hope of heaven. Help us to live our lives with this hope in mind so that we live our lives not as the people of this world live but as people who are bound to be one day in your eternal heavenly home. In Jesus name we pray Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 42 TALK: Put your Hope in God

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

PSALM 42 TALK

PUT YOUR HOPE IN GOD

(MY HOPE IS BUILT ON NOTHING LESS THAN JESUS BLOOD AND RIGHTOUSNESS)

 INTRODUCTION

 Many years ago I was criticized by my minister for a sermon I preached on the theme of Christian Hope. He said that the word hope was so devalued today that I should have used another word. He was talking about of course the colloquial expression of hope when a person says something like, “I hope something will happen” meaning they are not sure of something but trust that it might be true or will happen. I of course pointed out that the bible was full of the word “hope” but acknowledged that it’s meaning was that we are trusting in something sure and concrete that is true and will happen.

I believe Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 is a song with three verses and three choruses and that the chorus, which is the central theme or idea of the song, is the message of hope. You find this repeated chorus or refrain in 42: 5, 42: 11 and 43: 5. It seems logical to assume that both Psalm 42 and 43 were in fact once one Psalm but a long time ago the editors of the Psalms saw fit to separate them into two distinct Psalms.

The inscription at the top of Psalm 42 reads,

“For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah”

 For some reason a lot of commentators over the years have said that this was actually a Psalm of David given to his appointed Tabernacle and later Temple chief singers and musicians called “The sons of Korah” but I reject this idea simply because the second book of Psalms has another collection of Psalms attributed to David Psalms 51 – 70 (except for Psalm 69) and Psalm 42 is a obvious separate collection ( 42 – 49) attributed to The Sons of Korah who also have a collection of Psalms in the third book as well (84 – 88).

Who were these “Sons of Korah”?

I will have much more to say about them in studies to come but as I have already said they were Levi musicians and singers for the Tabernacle worship services appointed by David and were also active during the time of King Solomon in his new Temple (2 Chronicles 5: 12). This family group of singers and musicians continue to get a mention right up to the time of Ezra (Ezra 3: 10). There seems to be three of them that stand out individually, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan (1 Chronicles 15: 17 – 18) who all have Psalms individually attributed to them in Books 2 and 3. Their family history is also very interesting and important to understanding some of the things they wrote into their Psalms. Basically they were descendants of the infamous Levite named Korah who lived and died during the time of Moses when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. Korah led a revolt against the leadership of Moses and Aaron recorded in Numbers 16. It seems Korah and his co- conspirators were not content with their doorkeepers and assistants to the Priests duties. They paid dearly for their treachery with their lives when God made the earth swallow them up (Numbers 16: 23 – 34). However Numbers 26: 11 records that the line of Korah did not die out and it is from this line that the “Sons of Korah” come from in David’s time. Dr Carla Waterman writes about how there sordid family history would have influenced their compositions:

“With this specific personal history in view, it would come as no surprise that the songs of the Sons of Korah are some of the most poignantly powerful in the Psalter. Wearing the name of one’s shame and redemption is a powerful primer for prayer”.

The more difficult question for me was whether or not this Psalm was written at the time of the rebellion of Absalom when David and his family and close followers fled Jerusalem to escape death at the hands of Absalom and his followers. The sons of Korah probably had to flee with David as they were part of his loyal followers having been set up as Tabernacle musicians and singers (see 1 Chronicles 6: 31 – 33). Also there are many references in the Psalm to being exiled from the place of the sanctuary or from Jerusalem. The key verse is verse 6 that mentions “the land of Jordon, the heights of Hermon – from Mount Mizar”. Leupold and others argue that this is a description of the place David eventually got to when on the run from Absalom a place called Mahanaim other side of the Jordan mentioned in 2 Samual 17: 24. I quote from the Pulpit Commentary on Psalm 42 verse 6.

“And of the Hormonites: rather, and of the Hermons. This expression is not elsewhere used, and can only be explained conjecturally. It probably means the mountain ranges which, starting from Hermon in the north, extend in a southerly direction down the entire Trans – Jordanic territory”.

 Unfortunately Mount Mizar or better translated “Hill Mizar” is unknown but probably is where David camped when on the other side of the Jordon in Mahanain which some scholars believe was on the Jabbok river (a tributary of the Jordan river)  which has water falls in its path to the Jordan river.

So I believe one of the sons of Korah who fled with David penned this Psalm when he found himself cut off from the place he loved namely The Tabernacle in Jerusalem with little chance of returning since Absalom had taken over. He only found comfort in his sure hope in God. It has the general title, “Sons of Korah because he collaborated with other members of his musical ensemble to write this Psalm.

We will learn from our study of this Psalm that we to have a sure hope to look to at all times but particularly in times of difficulty and despair and this hope is I think wonderfully expressed in the 19th century hymn “The Solid Rock” by Edward Mote which reads,

“My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus name.

I will refer to other verses of this great hymn throughout this study.

I have divided this Psalm into the four parts of how I see the original song composed,

1.     FACING FEELINGS OF HOPELESSNES (1 – 4)

2.     HOPE IN GOD IS THE ANSWER (5)

3.     DEALING WITH A HOPELESS SITUATION (6 – 10)

4.     HOPE IN GOD IS THE ANSWER (11)

 We will study the third verse and final chorus of this song separately when we look at Psalm 43.

1.     FACING FEELINGS OF HOPELESSNESS (1 – 4)

 As this Psalm is attributed to “The Son’s of Korah” and not one of the key three Sons of Korah we can surmise that this Psalm was a collaborative composition and therefore a shared experience of this group of singers and musicians. In Jerusalem they had enjoyed the privilege of leading the music in the worship of God and were now cut off from this and were camped out in the wilderness with King David and hundreds of other loyal family members, friends and supporters. How they felt is beautifully poetically expressed with the words,

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God”.

 But this verse is not talking about the physical separation from Jerusalem and it’s Tabernacle there but the inner pain of separation from God. Although the circumstances of the physical separation has cause the deep painful feelings of the inner separation. Sometimes in life we face times of difficulties and these often cause us to challenge our hope and faith in God.

The extent of the pain the writer is describing is immense it is liked to a wild animal desperately thirsting for water. This would have been a very easily understood image in the barren and dry land of ancient Israel that suffered often from times of drought. The writer then is expressing his great need to feel close to God again as he obviously felt when he was in Jerusalem. To put it another way he was really out of his comfort zone and despite the discomfort of sleeping out in the cold nights of the Jordan valley and the unpredictable nature of his future at the hands of Absalom and his men his greatest need was to feel close to God again. Spurgeon puts it so well when he writes,

“But the enjoyment of communion with God was an urgent need of his soul, he viewed it not merely as the sweetest of all luxuries, but as an absolute necessity, like water to a stag”.

 Jesus spoke of how he alone can quench this great thirst of ours when speaking to the Samaritan women at the well in John 4: 13,

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

 Jesus is speaking here about the spiritual nourishment he gives us through the Holy Spirit he gives us when we come to him in repentance and faith.

The writer spells out what his feelings of spiritual thirst was like when he was separated from Jerusalem by the evil forces of Absalom in verse 2,

“My soul thirsts for God for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

 These Sons of Korah along with King David and all other devout Israelites knew that when they went to the Sanctuary in Jerusalem they were drawing near to God to meet with him in prayer and worship but now out in the wilds of the Jordan Valley they were cut off from this Sanctuary. This caused them to feel like they were dying of spiritual thirst.

We know and I think they knew to that God is not confined to a building or particular place but for the ancient Israelite the tabernacle and after David the Temple represented to them God’s special dwelling place with his people. The key concept in this verse is the words, “the living God” as Israel’s God was not a idol in a building but the one true God who is alive everywhere.

Why then did the writer feel spiritually thirsty by being separated from Jerusalem and its Sanctuary?

The writer obviously enjoyed greatly his privileged position of leading the music in Tabernacle worship as he states in verse 4,

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng”.

But now he is cut off from this and is out in the wilderness fighting to stay alive and feeling hopelessly spiritually lost.

The writer of Psalm 42 then declares his inner pain and feeling of hopelessness in verse 3 when he writes,

“My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

 The writer’s feelings of hopelessness are so deep it is taking his apatite away from him and instead of eating he says he is crying. I have known friends of mine, and some of them are believers who have told me they have suffered from depression and how it saps away not only their apatite but also their will to live. I think we all face times of difficulty that can give us a form of depression and even a feeling of hopelessness. We need the same remedy for this, which we will look at in the next section, which will help regain our spiritual sense of well-being.

The writer or writers of the Psalm then reveal that the feeling of hopelessness is made worse by people around them asking them, “Where is your God”. All the commentators speak of this question being posed by his enemies. However if this Psalm was written in the context of the flight from the forces of Absalom not only were there enemies asking him that question but maybe even fellow believing friends. Maybe many other fellow family and friends experienced doubts and fears as they ran from Absalom and this leader of Temple singing was a target for their feelings of hopelessness.

Sometimes people turn on Christians when they seem to be doing badly saying, “where is your God” or “if God is real why is he letting that happen to me”. Sometimes well meaning Christians can cause suffering Christians even more pain when they try to give them advice about prayer or having enough faith to be healed or delivered from their suffering.

In my study of Psalm 6 I referred to a very interesting Christian speaker called Leigh Hatcher. Recently I had the privilege of meeting and hearing him again.

Years ago when he was a highly successful T.V presenter he suffered from an illness called “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” which left him unable to work and he was constantly tied and feeling ill. He said he copped a lot of painful abuse often given to him as helpful advice like, “Leigh get yourself together and get back to work” etc.

He said the cruelest and most devastating so called advice was that from some fellow Christians who said things like, “Where is your faith” or “Haven’t you been praying about this”. These kind of comments came from Christians who believe that all we have to do is pray and God will heal us and if we are not healed then we are not really praying or we have not yet got enough faith in God to be healed. He said that even some Christians who did not understand the illness he had also said to him, “Leigh get yourself together and get back to work”. Leigh said this type of thing was sometimes even more painful to bear than the illness itself.

We need to learn from stories like this that the best thing we can offer a sick person or a person going through a difficult time is not our advice but our loving concern shown in prayerful support of that person.

I said I would refer to Edward Mote’s hymn during the study and I think the second verse raps up this first part of the Psalm 42 song very well:

When darkness veils His lovely face,

I rest on His unchanging grace,

In every high and stormy gale,

My anchor holds within the veil.

2.     HOPE IN GOD IS THE ANSWER (5)

So the song has completed its virtual first verse and now in verse 5 we have the chorus for the first time. I will relate what this chorus is saying in the context of the songs verse before it each time it comes up.

The chorus verse reads:

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will praise him, my Savior and my God”.

 I see this chorus giving three solutions or antidotes to his feelings of hopelessness.

They are:

1.     Question Yourself

2.     Put your hope in God

3.     Praise him no matter what

 

1.     Question Yourself

 The writer seems to be trying to snap himself out of his despair and feelings of hopelessness by asking himself two important questions:

“Why are you downcast, O my soul?

 And

“Why so disturbed within me?

 Some times what we need to do when we feel despondent or hopeless is to stop and take stock of our situation and particularly remind ourselves of what we really believe. Recently I watched a T.V mini series on the life of Sigmund Freud who is called “the father of psychoanalysis”. Freud came up with and promoted the idea of a dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst.

Freud learnt that by getting the patient to talk about their lives and what actually happened to them in the past helped them to be able to start to deal with the problem in the past that had disturbed them.

We need to do a bit of spiritual psychoanalysis on ourselves and this is what the writer of Psalm 42 is doing. Spurgeon says,

‘His faith reasons with his fears, his hope argues with his sorrows”.

 It is as though by his questions he is asking,

Why have I let my current difficult situation get the better of me?

Or

Why is he letting my current separation from Jerusalem and my musical ministry there make me feel so hopeless?

Sometimes we need to take stock of our feelings when they begin to control us and not God. We need to ask what are we really trusting in our God in heaven or our current circumstances. Sometimes just asking these questions will snap us out of our feelings of hopelessness.

2.     Put your hope in God

 We come to the central theme of the Psalm, the main idea or as my current minister at my church calls, “The big idea” of this passage namely, “Put your Hope in God”.

What has the writer basically told us so far?

  1. He has a raging thirst for God
  2. He wants to be back to Jerusalem to worship God there again
  3. He is crying more than eating because of his situation
  4. He misses leading the people in song or he misses being able to conduct his ministry for God.

All this is answered in one incredible phrase, “Put your hope in God’.

What was he doing by letting his difficult situation get the better of him?

He was letting his feelings triggered by his unfortunate circumstances control him and not his faith and hope in God.

Many wonderful New Testament verses come flooding into my head at this point but I will spare you by quoting only two.

  1. Romans 5: 5,

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”

2.  Hebrews 6: 19 – 20

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek”.

 Do you see the certainty of our Hope in Christ not the “Oh I hope it will happen” type of hope but the “It is and will happen” type of hope.

So often we let our feelings and circumstances control our lives and this will only lead to despair and a sense of hopelessness but we must learn to lift our eyes up from our feelings and circumstances to that sure and certain hope only found in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Spurgeon again puts it so eloquently when he writes,

God is unchangeable, and therefore his grace is the ground for unshaken hope. If everything be dark, yet the day will come”.

3.     Praise him no matter what

 How do we actually outwardly show we are putting our hope in God and not our feelings or current difficult circumstances?

The last part of our chorus here in Psalm 42: 5 tells us,

“For I will yet praise him my Savior and my God”

 The concept of praising God no mater what appeared in many of David’s Psalms in book one. I spoke a lot about it in my study of Psalm 32 where I referred to the story of Corrie Tan Boon who found herself in a Nazi Concentration camp. There with her sister she read from a copy of the New Testament smuggled into the camp the words of 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

 Corrie’s sister Betsy made Corrie thank God for their current situation, a flea infested, dirty and smelly barrack in a Nazi prison. Corrie at first resisted but her sister insisted and she did. A few weeks later Corrie learnt that the guards did not come into the barracks where the sisters held the bible study because of the fleas. She realized that God even uses fleas to help us.

Paul went through so much difficulty and hardship once he became a believer and missionary but he practiced what he preached he is found often in the book of acts praising God in the most difficult of circumstances.

Peter says this about difficult times in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

 I close this first chorus in Psalm 42 with Edward Mote’s hymn chorus:

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

3.  DEALING WITH A HOPELESS SITUATION (6 – 10)

The second verse of the Psalmist song continues the theme of his feelings of hopelessness although after singing the chorus he is a little more positive about his situation then he sounded like in his first verse of his song. Even though he is starting to turn from his current circumstances to faith and hope in God he still has to deal with what seems to be, humanly speaking a hopeless situation.

He writes in verse 6,

“My soul is downcast within me: therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon – from Mount Mizar”

 I see the writer, the Korite standing on a little hill, as Mizar could also be translated little hill, looking down at the Jabbok river (a major tributary of the Jordan river and part of the Jordan valley) and then looking north and seeing the great snow capped mount Hermon in the distance. As he looks at this knowing his enemies are close at hand ready to strike them down he feels that sense of hopelessness again. However having just stated in his chorus that he has put his hope in God he seeks to remember his God even in the face of such hopelessness.

Spurgeon writes:

“It is well to tell the Lord how we feel, and the more plain the confession the better”.

Jesus offers us comforting words when we feel downcast and facing a hopeless situation in Matthew 11: 28 – 29,

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”.

 In verse 7 it looks like the writer then has the landscape around him speaking to him of his situation when he writes,

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me”.

 Maybe he was looking down on the river near a waterfall, I looked up photo’s of this area on google and discovered that both the Jabbok river and Jordan river have small waterfalls in there path through the Trans – Jordanic territory. So as he looked at this waterfall he saw a picture of the overwhelming sense of hopelessness he is feeling. It even makes him think of waves on the ocean, which are relentless like the ever-present coming tide of Absalom and his army.

Many years ago I witnessed the constant surging waters of Niagara Falls and just could not understand how so much water can constantly flow over such a vast area. Its water flow is relentless and is a awesome sight to witness.

However in the face of such overwhelming odds, Absalom army outnumbered David’s, the writer puts his hope in God and prays. Verse 8 uses the images of night and day,

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life”.

 You see the daytime is the good times in life when things seem to be going well and the nighttime is the times when we face difficulty and suffering. However the writer says of the nighttime that even in the face of difficulty and suffering he has God’s song. Yes he is saying he is singing and maybe praising God when things are tough. This reminds me again of both the teaching of the Apostle Paul and his example. His teaching says things like Philippians 4: 4,

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say again: Rejoice!”

His example is when he was in Philippi in prison where we read in Acts 16: 25,

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them”.

 This leader of Tabernacle singing speaks of his dark time and sings songs about his God of love and prays. This is how we must face difficult times in our lives with a song and a prayer, with praise and turning our situation over to God who can turn all hopelessness into hope and victory.

However his prayer is not an unreal prayer devoid from reality. His prayer features three things in verses 9 and 10.

1.     Addressed to the unchangeable and reliable God

2.     A honest confession of his feelings

3.     A real request for help when facing a hopeless situation

 

1.     Addressed to the unchangeable and reliable God

 The writer’s prayer commences with the words,

“I say to God my Rock”

 We have already seen David in his Psalms in Book 1 use this term or name for God “The Rock” as seen particularly in Psalm 28. I offer again a quote I used in my study of Psalm 28 that explains what this name for God means,

“The name Rock refers to the fact that God is the foundation of everything. He alone is immovable and unbreakable.  When building a house it is important to dig down to the rock to form a strong foundation so that over time the ground beneath the house won’t begin to crumble and tear the house apart. God is the foundation for our lives that will not crumble” (From Parent Company, Awareness of God / Names of God).

So when this leader of singing faces his hopeless situation he prays to God not with some vain hope he will help him but with the unbelievable assurance that his God is “The Rock” the unchangeable and reliable God who can help us face the ever-changeable unreliable world we live in.

2.     A honest confession of his feelings

 After addressing God as his rock, unchangeable and reliable one he seems to make a request that disagrees with how he sees God. We read the first part of his prayer to God in verse 9,

“Why have you forgotten me?”

 The problem here is how can he say in one breath “God my Rock” and then with the next breath, “Why have you forgotten me”?

This leader of Temple singing and music would have known and sung David’s famous 23rd Psalm which says in verse 4,

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me”.

 Yet he seems to say he believes God has forgotten or even forsaken him.

The answer to this conundrum is that the writer is expressing again his very real true feelings to God. He is out in the wilderness with hundreds of other people facing a large well-equipped and vicious army that is about to annihilate him and all who like him are staying true to King David.

We see that this must be the case by his words,

“Why must I go about mourning oppressed by the enemy?”

 This honest heart felt emotion has been a feature of all the prayers so far in the book of Psalms and continues throughout the Psalms to come. David and people like The Sons of Korah are not afraid of telling God exactly how they are feeling and what they are facing in their struggles in their lives.

Maybe this is what Jesus is speaking about in Matthew 6: 5 – 8

 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him”.

 Jesus is saying God does not want to hear upright even spot on theological discourses when we pray that are only often spoken by the prayer to show off how wonderful they are. No God desires us to be honest and real and pray a genuine prayer that comes from a sincere heart that reaches out to God for help.

This is the prayer of the Son’s of Korah who wrote Psalm 42 and as we will see in the next section they are presenting to God a very problem that only God can solve.

3.     A real request for help when facing a hopeless situation

So what is this real request?

We find it in verse 10,

“My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

His request given in the form of a further description of his predicament and question he is simply asking God to help him overcome or at least deal with the taunts of his enemies. We touched on this in verse 3 although here he is definitely singling out the taunts of his enemies or foes.

The effect on him from their taunts is like his bones being crushed. At the age of 14 I suffered a broken wrist when playing a rugby football match and the pain of that injury was some of the worse pain I have ever experienced. I like this saying I found on the internet,

“Words can hurt far more than sticks and stones. Bruises heal but cruel words can make us cry for years.”

When I got to the hospital and eventually got to see a doctor the day I broke my wrist I had my wrist set in plaster and with the help of pain killing drugs the pain went away. However as the saying says “Bruises heal but cruel words can make us cry for years”.

As David left Jerusalem with the many hundreds of loyal family and friends he encountered on the way many cruel taunts from those who did not support him. Listen to one cruel taunt one nasty man named Shimei gave him recorded in 2 Samuel 16: 7 – 8

“Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The LORD has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!”

This man did not hold back and David interestingly had to hold back his faithful soldiers from slaying this man for what he was saying. This then is an illustration of the kind of taunts The Sons of Korah are referring to here in Psalm 42. They looked like they were on the loosing side, Absalom was in charge and David was on the run and according to men like Shimei God was going to bring them to ruin.

Christians more and more are being marginalized today and as we are negative taunts against us are growing. We need to take this problem to God in prayer asking for his help to be able to deal with this. The last verse of this song is found in the next psalm and it deals with the issue of vindication and we will look more closely at this then.

Finally another verse of Edward Mote’s hymn will help bring this section to a conclusion:

His oath, His covenant, His blood

Support me in the whelming flood;

When all around my soul gives way,

He then is all my hope and stay.

4.     HOPE IN GOD IS THE ANSWER (11)

So we have completed the second verse of this song written by The Son’s of Korah and now we have the chorus or refrain again,

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will praise him, my Savior and my God”.

As I said when commenting on this chorus in verse 5 this is the central or big idea of this Psalm. It contains the answer to our feelings of hopelessness when we are facing what might seem to us an impossible unwinnable situation. As I said in the first chorus section it provides a three-point answer, which is:

1.     Question Yourself

2.     Put your hope in God

3.     Praise him no matter what

 I would like to now quickly relate this answer to the issues raised in what I have been calling the second verse of the song, which primarily raised the issue of dealing with a hopeless situation.

1.     Question Yourself

 In actual fact the writer or writers started to do this in this section. He speaks of his downcast soul in verse 6, he prays to God with questions like,

Why have you forgotten me?”

 “Why must I go about mourning?” (verse 9)

Now he repeats his psychoanalytic questioning with the words,

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?

Sometimes all we need is a good talking to ourselves even in an attitude of prayer. I can honestly say that I have had many personal prayer times when I have found the answer to my prayer and problems simply by just talking through the problem as part of my prayer request.

May I suggest that if you find the problem you are facing still bothers you and you feel you simply cannot find God’s peace and answer then maybe you need help from a trusted Christian friend or minister. I can say that I have found help like this when a problem or difficulty has really got to me.

Also I know from time to time I have been able to offer counsel and help to a fellow Christian who has come to me as they have faced an impossible problem. Sometimes all I have been able to say is, “I will pray for you” and surprising I have been told by the some people that that was the best help they have been given. Maybe all the person who came to me for help was looking for was a loving supportive sounding board to listen to them and who was willing to offer them prayerful support as they faced their problem or difficulty.

2.      Put your hope in God

Each week my current minister will say “And this weeks big idea is” and for this Psalm it is, “Put your Hope in God”. So how does this big idea relate to what we saw in the last section or as I called it second verse of The Sons of Korah’s song?

During the second section the writer has been saying:

  1. He is still feeling downcast.
  2. Particularly when he realises geographically the predicament he is in.
  3. He feels overwhelmed by his predicament
  4. Yet by day (good times) and by night (difficult times) he will praise his God.
  5. He sees God as his Rock, unchangeable and reliable
  6. Yet he feels abandoned by God when he sees the oppression of his enemies.
  7. He also feels crushed by the taunts of his enemies.

The answer to all this is “Put your Hope in God”. It is interesting that after stating this big idea in the first chorus something of it seeps into things he is saying when he is speaking about dealing with his hopeless situation. Particularly in what he says in verse 8,

“By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life”.

Interestingly Edward Mote wrote two other verses for his hymn that were dropped by the original publishers and they read,

My hope built on nothing less

Than Jesus blood and righteousness;

Midst all the hell I feel within,

On His completed work I lean.

I trust His righteous character

His council, promise, and all His power;

His honor and His name’s at stake,

To save me from the burning lake.

Mote is expressing what we as Christians have as “Our Hope in God”. It is anchored, using his expression in the completed work of the Lord Jesus when he died for our sins on the cross. This work of Christ saves us from the judgment to come which Mote describes as, “The burning lake” a reference to Revelation 21:8.

Two final “Hope” New Testament verses will nail down what our hope is as Christians is, 1 Peter 1: 13,

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming”.

And what this hope does to us in this life, Romans 15: 13,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

3.     Praise him no matter what

As I said the first time this chorus appeared in verse 5, Praising God no matter what outwardly shows we are putting our hope in God and not our feelings or current difficult circumstances.

I also said the writer or writers of the Psalm started to do this in the second section when they wrote,

“By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life”. (verse 8)

 So the Psalm closes with the idea of praising God no matter what,

“For I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God”

 I don’t think the word, “yet” here is speaking about praising God when Absalom forces are defeated, which they were and he was back serving God and Israel in the Tabernacle in Jerusalem, which he did but “yet” in the sense of “despite of” his current circumstances.

Note also his confidence in God when he calls God his Savior. Savior is a loaded term for all Christians because we believe Jesus is our Savior from our sins but here God is his Savior from his enemies represented at that time by Absalom and his mighty forces.

However we have seen by many Psalms of David in the first book that David knew he needed a Savior from his many sins and God was that to him as well as David wrote in Psalm 38: 22,

“Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior”.

The Absalom rebellion did not last long as he was defeated in the forest area called Ephraim, east of the Jordan not far from where I believe David was camped with his family and followers. So the Son’s of Korah were able to return to their treasured ministry of leading the people in song and music.

However they also returned with a new song to sing a song that we have seen taught them to “Put there hope in God” no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless things might seem and no matter what other people might say.

I close with my own poem on putting our hope in God and particularly have Christians who feel depressed in mind in this poem) :

WHERE HOPE IS FOUND (Based on Psalm 42)

I thirst for the living God

Longing to be close to him

I feel so far away from God

Will I feel his love again?

My tears overwhelm me now

My foes seek to bring me down

No hope in this terrible hour

I feel like I’m going to drown.

 

I remember better times Oh Lord

As I pour out my soul to you

How I led your worship Lord

Those times seem far from view.

Oh Lord I feel so down and out

I feel like there’s no hope to win.

I long to be free of my doubt

To rise up again and sing.

 

Refrain:

Why am I so downcast?

Jesus died for me.

Hope is found in him alone

Help me Lord to see.

 

But Lord I feel so far from you

I seek you but cannot see

I long to stand on high and view

Your creative majesty.

Mighty oceans and waterfalls

Seem to suck and pull me down.

So my lost dark heart now calls

Where is hope to be found?

 

I know your love directs me Lord

I know that nights must come

Help me in my darkness Lord

To praise you with my tongue.

I look to you Oh God my Rock

And this my prayer will be

That doubting voices will now stop

And I will rise up free.

 

Refrain:

Why am I so downcast?

Jesus died for me.

Hope is found in him alone

Help me Lord to see.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Oh Lord help us all to see that when the pressures of the world and this life come upon us that you are with us in the difficulties of Life as our sure hope and guide. That you sent your Son Jesus Christ to this world to die for our sins on the cross and to defeat those forces of evil that seek to bring us down. Lift us up from all doubts and fears to a sure and certain hope in your love and power. In Jesus name we pray Amen.

Psalm 41 TALK: The Struggles of the Anointed King with his Enemies

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

PSALM 41 TALK

THE STRUGGLES OF THE ANOINTED KING WITH HIS ENEMIES

(TAKE IT ALL TO THE FOOT OF THE CROSS)

 INTRODUCTION

 So we come to the final Psalm of the first book of Psalms and as we have seen all through our study of this book that Psalm’s are placed in the book with specific purposes in mind. This Psalm brings most of the great themes of the book to a conclusion. It even has an extra verse added by the editors of this book to close the book with a final word of praise. Interestingly all the five books of Psalms has this editors words of praise in the final Psalm of each book. These verses appear in Psalm 41: 13, book 1, Psalm 72: 19, book 2, Psalm 89: 52 book 3, Psalm 106: 48, book 4 and Psalm 150: 6 (in fact whole Psalm is a praise to God) book 5.

The opening word of Psalm 41, “Blessed”, mirrors the opening word of Psalm 1. In psalm 41 the blessed life comes from living with regard for the weak or as Jesus taught in Matthew 5: 7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will show mercy”. David knew that the only way he and all people could have God’s blessing in their lives was through the love and mercy of God something he spoke a lot about in the Psalms of this book particularly in Psalms 30 to 40.

This Psalm’s middle section tackles the major theme of this first book of Psalms namely the struggle of the anointed King and his followers with the enemies of God. This theme is first raised in Psalm 2 verses 1 and 2, New International Version

“Why do the nations conspire and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One”.

This opposition not only comes from the Nations around Israel but also comes from people within Israel. David wrote Psalms 3, 4 and possibly 5 in the setting of the rebellion of his own son Absalom. David also refers to God’s discipline coming to him through sickness in many Psalms and sometimes he uses physical sickness to describe the agony of his soul and mind after he had fallen to sins, which include Adultery and Murder. All of the Psalms written in this book in the context of his sins of adultery and murder feature this theme of sickness being the tool of God’s discipline; they are Psalms 6, 32 and 38. Other Psalms that feature sickness are Psalms 22, 30 and now 41.

In verse 9 of Psalm 41 David speaks of the betrayal of a trusted friend which we read about in 2 Samuel 15: 12 where Absalom enlists David’s trusted counsellor Ahithophel in his rebellion against his father. What happens to Ahithophel will be revealed in the middle section of this Psalm.

Finally we have seen throughout our study of the first book of Psalms that God’s love and mercy and victory over all his enemies (evil) were achieved by the death and resurrection of his son. Jesus quoted verse 9 of Psalm 41 when he predicted the betrayal of his close friend and disciple Judas in John 13: 18 and therefore we have a direct link with this Psalm and the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Throughout this study we will see how we must all come to the foot of the cross for forgiveness and inspiration in our daily walk with our Lord.

I have divided this Psalm into 4 sections:

  1. GOD’S PROMISE OF BLESSING FOR THOSE WHO LIVE A LIFE OF MERCY AND LOVE (1 – 3)
  2. THE STUGGLES OF THE ANOINTED KING WITH HIS ENEMIES (4- 9)
  3. A FINAL PRAYER FOR VICTORY OVER GOD’S ENEMIES (10 – 12)
  4. THE PSALMS’S EDITORS FINAL WORD OF PRAISE (13)
  1. GOD’S PROMISE OF BLESSING FOR THOSE WHO LIVE A LIFE OF MERCY AND LOVE (1 – 3)

As I said before this Psalm like Psalm 1 and Psalm 32 begins with the word “Blessed”. I said in my study of Psalm 1 being “Blessed by God” is finding true deep and lasting happiness something every person is seeking in life. It is interesting to follow through the progression of thought of the use of the term “Blessed” in the first book of Psalms. In Psalm 1 we find this true and deep happiness by going or living the way God wants us to. This is in contrast to walking, standing and sitting with the Godless in this world.

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers”. Psalm 1: 1

In Psalm 32 we discover that the only way we can find this true and deep happiness is by discovering the forgiveness of God in our lives,

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered”

Psalm 32: 1

Now we discover in Psalm 41 verse 1 that this true and deep happiness is found in putting the mercy and love of God into our lives and this is demonstrated by how we treat the poor and needing of this world.

“Blessed is he who has regard for the weak: the Lord delivers him in times of trouble”.

Jesus taught in a number of places that if we have truly experienced the forgiveness of God then that should show this in how we forgive others. As Jesus taught in Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount in Luke 6: 37 – 38,

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

 This teaching is summed up beautifully by Jesus Beatitude or Matthew 5: 7,

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”.

Right throughout book 1 David has repeatedly gone back to the mercy or grace of God as being the grounds on which he depended. A good example of this is in Psalm 25:6 where David writes,

“Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old”

Or Psalm 32: 10,

“Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him”.

So David realizes in Psalm 41: 1 that if God shows mercy and love to him in his weakness then he should show the same kind of mercy and love to those weaker than himself and if he does this he has God himself in his life blessing him and delivering him from the troubles of life.

As Christians we come to the foot of the cross to find God’s forgiveness and grace as on the cross Jesus paid for all our sins by becoming sin for us. As Paul taught in 2 Cor. 5: 21,

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

We should come to the foot of the cross daily and confess our sins to God as we learnt in Psalm 38 and then rise to new life in Christ because he has forgiven our sins and through his resurrection gives us a new life. I believe this is an ongoing continual process that bit-by-bit changes us into the new creature God is making us.

As Paul taught a few verses before our previous quote,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5: 17)

So we should show that we have truly come to the foot of the cross by the way we now live our lives. We are saved by the grace of God alone and by that same grace we now live our lives. If God’s grace is in our lives then we should show grace, love and mercy to others particularly those weaker and poorer than us. This is what verse 1 of this Psalm teaches us.

“Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble”.

All of God’s blessings flow from the foot of the cross and so as we find his love and forgiveness in Christ death for us so we should be inspired to show this kind of love to others.

David then gives us six promises of God for those who show love and mercy to others particularly those poorer or weaker than ourselves. Those six promises are:

  1. Help in the time of trouble (vs.1)
  2. Protection in life (vs.2)
  3. Blessing in the land (vs.2) (Old Testament language for spiritual and material blessings)
  4. Not surrender him to evil foes (vs.2) (Protection from the assaults of the Devil)
  5. Help in the time of sickness (vs.3)
  6. Restoration from sickness (vs.3)

Note how David did not consider sickness here something only reserved for sinners but something that everyone or anyone can face in the normal course of life. Christians don’t escape the effects of living in a fallen world of sin but are helped by God through times of trouble and sickness.

This is something I learnt first hand on my recent mission trip to Myanmar and the Philippines. In the first week of this trip I was struck down with a strange and painful illness, which forced me to trust in God for help and deliverance. With God’s help in my time of trouble I was still able to continue my teaching ministry. I believe I was protected from the attack of the devil and found God’s healing and restoration in my time of sickness. The whole experience made me realize my own frailty and need to trust in God and his mercy and love and Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12: 10 came to my mind when I was able to continue my ministry when I was sick,

“For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

I had to go to the foot of the cross for not only forgiveness but to find God’s strength and healing in my life. God did not spare me from suffering sickness but used it to make me look to him in dependence and faith and when I went to the foot of the cross, God’s place of mercy and love, then and only then did I find his help and healing.

2.  THE STUGGLES OF THE ANOINTED KING WITH HIS ENEMIES (4- 9)

The middle section of this Psalm concludes a major theme of teaching in this first book. This theme is what I understand to be “The struggles of the anointed King with his enemies” which I pointed out was first raised in Psalm 2: 1,2,

“Why do the nations conspire and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One”.

David’s struggles with the enemies of God really start with his first great battle namely his victory over the Philistine giant Goliath and then quickly escalate with his struggles with enemies within his own country namely King Saul who knows he has been passed over by God as King of Israel. David’s struggles with the mad and evil King Saul provide a backdrop of many of the Psalms in this first book.

As I said in the introduction David’s struggles with his own rebellious son Absalom provided a rich background to many of David’s Psalms in this book. We know that David wrote both Psalms 3, 4 and possibly 5 when he fled for his life from Absalom. Absalom sought to kill his father and his wives and family so that he could become the absolute unchallenged King of Israel.

This Psalm seems to have been first written in that time as it refers to the betrayal of a close friend of David who is called Ahithophel David’s counsellor or adviser and friend who joins the rebellion of Absalom in 2 Samuel 15: 12.

Verses 4 to 9 seem to suggest David suffered some kind of serious illness at the time of the rebellion of Absalom. The 2 Samuel text does not mention David suffering an illness at this time but it is interesting that in the lead up to the Absalom rebellion David seems to be out of action in his daily courtly duties. In 2 Samuel 15: 2 – 4 we read,

“He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”

Why was there no representative of the King to hear the complaints of the people?

Some commentators have suggested that this could indicate David was out of action during this crucial time?

Maybe David was out of action because he was sick during this time.

Verse 4. Reads,

“I said, “Have mercy on me, Lord; heal me, for I have sinned against you.”

On many occasions in this first book of Psalms David has connected his sickness to the Lords’ discipline of him because of his sin. We saw this in Psalm 6, 32, 38 and now here in Psalm 41. The prophet Nathan predicted the rebellion of Absalom in the words of 2 Samuel 12: 11 – 12,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

 Absalom rebellion was a direct result of David’s sins of adultery and murder and therefore falls in to the category of the Lord’s discipline of David’s sins.

God forgave David for his great sins of adultery and murder but he still had to face the consequences or fallout of these sins in a number of ways. However we now know from many Psalms in book 1 that David wrote that even as David faced difficult times during these times of discipline God was with him helping him through the struggles of sickness and his many battles with his enemies bringing him to a place of deliverance and healing.

This is why David is saying in verse 4,

“I said, O Lord, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you”

David did not deserve God’s mercy and love as he faced the fallout from his terrible sins of Adultery and murder but he knew his God was a God of mercy and love and so he confidently prays this prayer for God’s mercy and love to forgive and heal him in God’s time of discipline.

Verses 5 – 9 now set down the struggles David had with his enemies at the time of the rebellion of Absalom. I see three problems David faced at this time:

1.     Deceitful Malice (5 – 6)

2.     Spiteful Rumor (7- 8)

3.     Bitter betrayal (9)

 

1.     Deceitful Malice (5 – 9)

Over and over again in this first book of Psalms David refers to his many enemies and because of the words of Psalm 2 David faced these vicious enemies because of his special relationship with God, namely, “The Lord’s Anointed King”. David’s enemies where in fact God’s enemies something we also see in the life and death of our Lord in the Gospels.

Here his enemies speak malice, which my Collins dictionary describes as,

“A desire to cause harm to others”.

Often David faced fresh attacks from both enemies outside of Israel and within when they thought he was weak and down for the count. In fact we saw in Psalm 30 when David saw the angel of the Lord turn away from destroying him and his people David says, vs. 1,

“and (you) did not let my enemies gloat over me”

 In there malice towards David his enemies say, vs.5,

“When will he die and his name perish”

Not much physical archeological evidence exists at this point of time of the life of King David but his name is far from perishing from history. In his writings, namely his 73 Psalms David’s name and life’s contributions live on. Also his story recorded for us in the Books of Samuel and Chronicles keep the name of David alive and active and in his great descendant Jesus Christ. Not only does David’s name live on but he too is living with God forever.

Verse 6 could also be written about our Lord on that terrible night he stood before the Sanhedrin when he was falsely accused of crimes and sins he had not committed,

“Whenever one comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander: then he goes out and spreads it abroad” (vs. 6)

This is what the Pharisees and Sadducees did throughout the ministry of Jesus rather than accept the miracles and inspired words of Christ they gathered false slanderous lies, which they threw at Jesus on the night before his death at their Kangaroo trial.

David faced this kind of opposition as well and for the same reasons as Christ because he was God’s appointed King on earth and those who opposed God in their hearts opposed God’s King. Jesus is the King of Kings who David is only a shadow of so the malice he faced from his enemies was far greater and led to his painful death on the cross.

And at the foot of the cross these same Jewish leaders and many other people threw insults and abuse at Christ as he suffered on the cross. Matthew describes graphically the malice Jesus received from many at the foot of the cross, Matthew 27: 38 – 44,

“Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him”.

2.     Spiteful Rumor (7- 8)

In verse 7 David seems to say his enemies gang up on him behind his back to imagine the worst for him. They want David to die in disgrace and they then could install the treacherous Absalom as King instead of David.

Verse 8 seems to suggest that these enemies are seeking to spread a spiteful rumor of David’s undignified untimely death,

“A vile disease has beset him; he will never get up from the place where he lies” (vs.8)

When Jesus was on the cross I’m sure the Pharisees and Sadducees who helped put him their thought they had finally gotten rid of the troublesome Jesus Christ.

They thought as David’s enemies thought that Jesus was beaten by his death on the cross. How wrong they were because Jesus did die on the cross but three days later he rose in victory over death and sin in the resurrection.

3.     Bitter betrayal (9)

Verse 9 helps us pin down the possible background to this Psalm because during the time of the rebellion of Absalom one of David’s closest friends turns on him, giving us the verse,

“Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared bread, has lifted up his heel against me”

This friends name is Athithophel and read this about him in 2 Samuel 15: 12

“While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing”.

Who was this man Athithophel and what was his relationship to David?

Two verses in the second book of Samuel give us the answer to this question. First is 2 Samuel 23: 34,

“Eliphelet son of Ahasbai the Maakathite, Eliam son of Ahithophel the Gilonite,”

We learn in 2 Samuel 11: 3 that Eliam was Bathsheba’s father making Ahithophel her grandfather.

The second verse that reveals Ahithophel’s relationship to David is 2 Samuel 16: 23,

“Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice”.

 So Ahithophel was both a grandfather in law and a close and trusted friend and advisor to David and his siding with the rebellious Absalom would have been quite a blow to David as verse 9 of Psalm 41 reveals.

“Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared bread, has lifted up his heel against me”

David not only had enemies turning on him because he was the Lord’s anointed he now had both family and friends turning on him as well.

Interestingly as I said in the introduction Jesus in Johns Gospel refers to this verse when speaking of the betrayal of his friend and disciple Judas.

We read this in John 13: 18,

“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this I to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me”.

 Straight after Judas took the bread Jesus shared with him we read in verse 27,

“Satan entered into him (Judas)

 Jesus obviously saw parallels of his life with the life of David as he is the Lord’s great promised anointed king also for told in Psalm 2: 6 – 9,

“I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:  He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.

Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

 The end of Ahithophel and Judas strangely are the same they both end up hanging themselves. After Ahithophel successfully advisers Absalom to lie with some of David’s wives left behind by him he then unsuccessfully advisers Absalom to immediately attack and kill David but Absalom takes the advise of anther adviser to hold off and wait. Ahithophel seeing the writing on the wall so to speak of the downfall of Absalom goes back to his home gets his affairs in order and hangs himself (2 Samuel 17: 23)

Judas meets the same fate as Ahithophel as we read the sad tale of his death in Matthew 27: 3 – 5,

“When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself”.

 For both David and Jesus the bitter betrayal of trusted friends would have been a painful emotional and spiritual blow but this is part of what I have call the struggles of the anointed King against his enemies.

 3.  A FINAL PRAYER FOR VICTORY OVER GOD’S ENEMIES (10 – 12)

David moves from the painful thoughts of his trusted friend and adviser, Ahithphel, turning on him to a final plea for victory over his enemies. David has featured two great themes in many of the Psalms of this first book namely the great opposition he faced as the anointed king of God and God’s mercy and love that upheld him during these struggles with his enemies and gave him victory over his enemies who were in fact God’s enemies.

So he commences in verse 10 a plea for God’s mercy and love to raise him up from his hostile enemies. He asks that he might be raised up in victory over his enemies so that he might be able to repay them. This is another feature of the Psalms in book one of David asking for the downfall and judgment of those who oppose him and God. I have discussed the issue of imprecatory prayers, prayers for God’s judgment on David’s enemies.

As Christians we are told by Christ to love our enemies and to pray for them. We are also taught by Christ to leave judgment and punishment to God as Jesus taught in Matthew 7: 1 – 2,

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”.

And

Matthew 5: 44,

“However I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

However even David seems to end up leaving the judgment of his enemies to God. He had at least two opportunities to kill his enemy King Saul but chose not to leaving Saul’s fate to God. When on the run from his rebellious son Absalom a man named Shimel from Saul’s tribe of Benjamin lets loose abuse and rocks at David and his men and when one of his trusted soldiers Abishai asks David permission to strike down this man David replies in 2 Samuel 16: 11 – 12,

“My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”

As the rightful king of Israel David had the legal power to put down and kill those who opposed him but David even did not want to do this to his own rebellious son Absalom and when he learns of Absalom death he mourns greatly and acts as though he did not want his son executed for his treachery.

In verse 11 David re states his true state before God as “The Lord’s appointed King”,

“”I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me”

So this first book of Psalms comes a full circle from the words in Psalm 2 that say,

“The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill”. Verses 4 – 6.

To the triumph of King David over his enemies in verse 11 of Psalm 41.

These words are both true of David and The Lord Jesus Christ God’s great anointed and installed King of Heaven and earth.

As we come to the foot of the cross and see both the love of God and the justice of God being played out in the death of his son we learn how God has saved us from his terrible wrath.

However once Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead in victory over death and sin we learn that Jesus went back to heaven and from their he reigns supreme over all things and from their he will one day come again to judge this world and take those who have come to him back to heaven.

As we read in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

 And 1 Thessalonians 4: 13 – 17,

 “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever”.

At the foot of the cross the enemies of Jesus might have thought that they had triumphed over Jesus but as Revelation 1: 7 says,

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen”.

 Finally this vindication of David and Jesus over their enemies is spoken about in verses 12,

“In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever”.

As we come to Christ at the foot of the cross we have this eternal hope as well as Jesus promised in John 14: 6,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

When David speaks of “integrity” he is speaking of his sincere and real faith in God not his own righteousness. Even though David had fallen to terrible sins, a basis of many of the Psalms in this first book, he always came back to God in repentance and faith.

We too need to continually come to the foot of the cross knowing that our own righteousness is but filly rags and it is only because Jesus died for our sins on the cross that we too have forgiveness and the hope of eternal life with God in heaven.

4.   THE PSALMS’S EDITORS FINAL WORD OF PRAISE (13)

So we come to the final verse of this Psalm, which is the final verse of the first book of Psalms. It is interesting that the Hebrew word for “Psalms” is literally “Praises” and each book of Psalms ends with a word of praise.

Here in verse 13 we read,

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting Amen and Amen”.

I like the simple explanation of this verse by John Calvin,

“Here the Psalmist (or Psalm editors) confirms and repeats the expression of thanksgiving contained in a preceding verse. By calling God expressively the God of Israel, he testifies that he cherished in his heart a deep and thorough impression of the covenant, which God made with the Fathers; because it was the source from which his deliverance proceeded. The term amen is repeated twice, to express the greater vehemence, and that all the godly might be the more effectually stirred to praise God”.

The Psalms are always a source of inspiration and praise and my study of the first book of Psalms has led me to the foot of the cross from where I see the great God of love and forgiveness and from there I join with the editors of this first book of Psalms and say,

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen. 

AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS

(BASED ON PSALM 41)

 Blessed are those who have regard for the weak

For they show that God’s love is real

And God will help them even in their strife

For at the foot of the cross they kneel.

 

The Lord promises to protect and guide his flock

And bring them to glory above

For as they kneel at the cross and see Christ

Then they know that their God is Love.

 

The Lord will sustain us when we are weak and ill

For he will help us in our pain

Even when enemies seek to bring down God

At the foot of the cross we’ll remain.

 

For through the cross Jesus defeated God’s foes

Even a friend turned against him

At the foot of the cross many cursed

But our Lord said forgive all them.

 

But God looked away from his Son who became

The penalty of our sin for us

At the foot of the cross we come

And by faith in God’s mercy we trust.

 

God did not leave us at the foot of the cross

For he raised his Son on high

To triumph over evil and sin

And to one day return in the sky

 

So each day we come to the foot of the cross

To drop all our sins on him

Rise to life in resurrection power

And praise his name as our King.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PART 2. THREE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATIONS OF PSALM 41.

 This will be my last New Testament application of a Psalm for in my studies of the second book of Psalms I aim to only open up the Psalm and make New Testament application as it comes up in my explanation of what the Psalm is teaching us just as I did during this Psalm and all of the other 40 Psalms I have looked at.

My underlining New Testament theme of this Psalm has been, “Take it all to the foot of the cross” so I have chosen three New Testament passages which explore this concept. They are:

1. TAKE LIFES TROUBLES TO THE FOOT OF THE CROSS   (John 16: 31 – 33 and 17: 1 – 5)

2. TAKE YOUR PERSECUTION TO THE FOOT OF THE CROSS (John 15: 18 – 27 and 14: 15 – 27)

3. FIND GOD’S VICTORY OVER SIN AND DEATH AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS  (John 13: 31 – 32 and 16: 19 – 24)

 

1.     TAKE LIFES TROUBLES TO THE FOOT OF THE CROSS:  (John 16: 31 – 33 and 17: 1 – 5)

 All of my New Testament application passages come from Jesus teaching at the last Supper and his prayer in the garden of Gethsemanehe the night before he went to the cross. This long section of teaching by Jesus is found in Johns Gospel chapters 13 – 17 and you would find it helpful to read through these chapters as a whole before dipping into the three aspects of Jesus teaching I am highlighting in this New Testament section of this study.

All of Jesus teaching at the last supper and in his prayer in the garden before his arrest where particularly given by Jesus to prepare the disciples for his coming death on the cross and what would follow on that dark and terrible day in Jesus resurrection, glorification (ascension) and the sending of the Holy Spirit to all his true followers.

In Psalm 41 David opened with teaching about being blessed by God by showing God’s mercy and love to others and how those who do that God will help and protect when they face problems and difficulties in life particularly caused by sickness that might come upon us.

The three points I would like to highlight in this passage are:

1.     Why Christians will face trouble in this life (16: 31 – 32)

2.     What Jesus offers Christians in this life when they face problems  (16: 33)

3.     How coming to the foot of the cross is the answer to all life’s problems   (17: 1 – 5)

 

1.  Why Christians will face trouble in this life (16: 31 – 32)

 The question of why we all face suffering and difficulty in this life is a complex and often badly miss understood issue among Christians of all ages.

A number of times in my study of this first book of Psalms my understanding of the bibles teaching on this have been discussed. In short I believe the bible gives us four reasons why we might face some form of suffering in our lives. In my study of Psalm 6 I first set down these four reasons with a scripture reference to go with them:

  1. Suffering comes as a test of our faith (1 Peter 1: 6 – 7)
  2. Suffering comes to bring glory to God (John 9: 2)
  3. Suffering comes from living in a fallen world

(Genesis 3: 19 & Romans 8: 19 – 21)

  1. Suffering comes as a form of Discipline from God (Hebrews 12: 4-8)

The problem I think that causes miss understanding and often ultimate un biblical teaching about the question of suffering is that just one of these reasons for suffering is used to explain why we suffer and what the bibles answer is to it.

I have not got the time or space in this study to explore how each one of these reasons for suffering can become distorted teaching but I will illustrate my point by taking number two as the only reason for suffering.

If I believe all suffering is an opportunity for Christians to glorify God in healing then I will have real problems with the times that a persons sickness is not healed in this life but leads to their death.

Because I understand the third reason for the bibles teaching on suffering that suffering comes from living in a fallen world I am able to acknowledge that death and the decay of our bodies is part of life for all of us.

However for the Christian death is not the end or not the horrible fate those outside of Christ will face. This is because for the Christian we have eternal life in Christ and as Paul puts it in Philippines 1: 21 – 25,

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith’.

 This is not said to say that God does not heal us of our sicknesses in this life through the prayer of faith which James speak about in James 5: 13 – 14. But this healing I believe can come through the hands of doctors and the medicines which they provide for us just as much as the miraculous healing that also can happen which I have witnessed in times past on many occasions.

In our passage Jesus says in John 16: 33b,

“ In this world you will have trouble”.

 This trouble Jesus links with persecution, which could be a fifth reason for Christians suffering in this world. However I would consider suffering coming from persecution falls into the first category I mentioned namely: Suffering comes as a test of our faith (1 Peter 1: 6 – 7). This is because the Peter passage fits well into Peter’s general teaching of suffering which he speaks about in chapter 3: 8 – 22.

So whether we suffer because of persecution or because we are living in a fallen world where disease and death is all around us Jesus teaching is true,

“ In this world you will have trouble”.           

 2.     What God offers Christians in this life when they face problems (16: 33)

So Jesus is telling his disciple they will face persecution and trouble in this life but he offers help to combat the trouble they will face. In verse 33a he says,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace”

 David faced mighty trouble all through his long life sometimes that trouble was a direct result of his own shortcomings and sins. However through his Psalms in the first book of Psalms he speaks of God’s help and peace as we read in Psalm 29: 11,

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace”

 Paul taught the same thing in Philippines 4: 4 – 7,

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

Jesus then makes a veiled reference to the cross when he says at the end of verse 33,

“But take heart! I have overcome the world”

Through the cross Jesus defeated sin, death and evil and created the opportunity for us to have peace with God. This was his overcoming or victory he achieved for us through the cross. Paul in Romans 5: 1 – 5, makes this link between Jesus death on the cross and how it gives us peace with God,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

 Paul’s link with the role of the Holy Spirit in this outworking of God’s peace in Christ and what he has achieved for us and our ongoing Christian growth through suffering is apt here as Jesus had a lot to say about the coming of God’s Holy Spirit in John 13 to 17.

Listen to Jesus words in John 16: 5 – 7,

“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned”.

Jesus has overcome the world, sin and the devil through his death on the cross and we need to continually come to the cross to find God’s forgiveness and the peace that offers us in this dark and fallen world.

3.     How coming to the foot of the cross is the answer to all life’s problems  (17: 1 – 5)

 In the first book of Psalms David seemed to often speak of how his only hope for peace and forgiveness is found in the mercy or grace of God. A good example of this are these three verses from Psalm 40: 11 – 13,

“Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord; May your love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me”.

 David did not have the full picture of how God’s love and forgiveness would be able to be given to us. His faith simply knew the covenant God of love and in that he trusted even after falling to great sins.

However as Christians we have the full picture of how God can and does forgive us. In John 15: 1 to 5 Jesus spells this out for us.

My two points from this passage I hope will help you take all your problems to the foot of the cross are:

1.     The cross brings glory and authority to Christ (verse 1 – 2a)

2.     The cross brings eternal life to those who believe in Christ (verses 2 – 5)

 

1.     The cross brings glory and authority to Christ (verses 1 – 2)

 What is Jesus speaking about when he says in verse 1 of his prayer before his arrest?

“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you”

 What immediately follows this prayer is Jesus arrest, false trials and then his suffering on the cross. So Jesus sees his death as his glory and this is what his Father in heaven wants him to do.

At the foot of the cross we look up and see both the justice of God and the love of God in one great act. Through the cross Jesus not only brings us to the glory of God but through it he establishes his authority over death, sin and the devil as it was through the cross Jesus achieved all this.

It is at the foot of the cross that God’s grace operates as Paul spells out in Romans 8: 1- 4,

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”.

 Paul teaches us in Ephesians 2: 1 – 10 how we are saved by this grace of God given to us through the cross,

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

 In John 17: 2a we read,

For you granted him authority over all people”

 This authority Jesus has gained through his death, resurrection and ascension is to determine the destiny of every person who has ever lived or will live. How this judgment will be conducted is spelt out in John 3: 18,

“Whoever believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.

 2.     The cross brings eternal life to those who believe in Christ  (Verse’s 2b – 5)

So Christ prayed that he might go to the cross to bring glory to God and give him authority over every living thing in heaven and on earth. Now in verses 2b – 5 he speaks of what coming to the cross will give us.

“That he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began”.

Jesus is saying here that through his death on the cross he won for us eternal life, which is not just life when we die but life in abundance (John 10: 10) from the moment we come to the foot of the cross and put our faith and hope in what Jesus has done for us. This is what John 3: 16 is saying,

“ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

The eternal life the cross of Christ brings us brings us into is a new relationship with God that Jesus prayer in John 17 spells out as,

“That they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (verse 3)

Jesus makes it clear that is through his suffering on this cross that this eternal life is won for us when he prays,

“I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do”. (verse 4)

Finally he makes it clear in his prayer that his death on the cross was not the end of him but rather his resurrection and ascension would complete his mission to save us and win us eternal life when he prays,

“And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began”. (verse 5)

So we need to go to the foot of the cross with faith in Jesus to find God’s forgiveness and love. To receive the gift of eternal life, a new relationship with God and to come to know his peace in our lives as we live in this troubled world.

2. TAKE YOUR PERSECUTION TO THE FOOT OF THE CROSS  (John 15: 18 – 27 and 14: 15 – 21)

In the middle section of Psalm 41 the main theme of the first Book of Psalms is explored again namely “The struggle of the anointed King and his followers with the enemies of God”. This struggle came about we learnt from Psalm 2 because David was God’s anointed King and those who opposed the true God of heaven and earth opposed him. Jesus is the great supreme anointed King of the universe so he faced even greater opposition from those who oppose the one true God and this led to his humiliating and horrible death on the cross.

Now we will learn:

1.     If they hated Christ then they will hate those who follow him  (John 15: 18 – 25)

2.     The help Jesus offers us as we struggle with persecution  (John 15: 26 – 27 and John 14: 15 – 27)

 3.     What actually happened to the first followers of Jesus

 

1.     If they hated Christ then they will hate those who follow him  (John 15: 18 – 25)

We come now the big theme of The Struggles of the Anointed King with his enemies in the first book of Psalms relates to us. Jesus in John 13 – 17 prepared his disciples for his death, resurrection now speaks of what will happen to his followers if they continue to identify with him and seek to truly follow him. We read this in John 15 verses 18 – 25,

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘they hated me without reason”.

So Jesus makes it clear that if they hated him then they will hate us as well. This is the basis of all Christian persecution. As Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 2: 15 – 16,

“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life”.

Paul is implying that to those being saved we smell good but to those who reject the gospel we stink. For some our stink causes them to react negative to us. However just like David and Jesus they are not just reacting to us but they are ultimately reacting to God who we represent here on earth.

In some parts of the world right now this rejection of the message of the true God leads to persecution that causes the death of Christians. In western countries this persecution is in subtler ways like be laughed at or not given the same employment opportunities as non-believers or not being accepted in some social groups etc. This can make life as a Christian a struggle but God does give us help just as David had help with his struggles with his enemies who opposed him and his God who he so closely identified with.

2.     The help Jesus offers us as we struggle with persecution  (John 15: 26 – 27 and 14: 15 – 27)

In a number of places Jesus speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit who some translators call “The comforter” in John 14: 26. Jesus is promising to be with us through the coming of the Holy Spirit in our lives once we truly believe in him. In John 15: 26 – 27 we read,

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning”.

So Jesus is promising to give us the Holy Spirit who will help us to testify for him even in the face of persecution. Soon after Jesus ascended the Holy Spirit was given to all believers on the day of Pentecost and then Peter who not long before that day had denied the Lord to a slave girl and others stood up boldly proclaiming the Gospel leading to 3,000 people to follower Christ. This was a direct fulfillment of what Jesus promised in John 15.

In John 14: 15 – 27 Jesus promises three things through the coming of the Holy Spirit.

  1. The Holy Spirit will be Jesus in us (18 – 21 and 23)

Once Jesus went back to heaven the disciples no longer had a physical Jesus to relate to. If Jesus remained in bodily form on the earth he could only relate to a small confined area and group of people. However through the Holy Spirit Jesus can be with people all over the world in any time or age. This is what he is teaching in verses 18 – 21,

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

So Jesus comes into our lives through the Holy Spirit and just as he helped the disciples when in bodily form he now helps them and us in and through The Holy Spirit.

This is also spoken about in verse 23,

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him”

2. The Holy Spirit will teach us everything we need to know (26)

The promise of the Holy Spirit teaching us and bringing Jesus teaching to our minds crops up in a few places in John 13 to 17.

Non-believers might ask how could the disciples who wrote the Gospels remember the teachings of Jesus. In chapter 16: 12 – 15 Jesus promises the disciple this very thing:

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

In John 14 verse 26 we have a more general promise to all Christians when Jesus says,

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you everything I have said to you”.

All that Jesus said to the disciples has been recorded in the New Testament for us and the same Holy Spirit who inspired the disciples to write it for us will remind us what we need to know when living our Christian lives even in the face of persecution.

    3. The Holy Spirit will give us peace (vs. 27)

The final promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit is the promise of the peace of God in our lives. As I said before David spoke a lot about God’s peace in the midst of his struggles with his enemies. The same God of peace promises all believers his peace through the Holy Spirit in our lives. As John 14 verse 27 reads,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.

David over and over again speaks of God’s peace and protection coming to him in the midst of great problems and difficulties. It as though he is saying God does not promise to never let us go through the storms of life but in the midst of life’s storms of life God is with us protecting us and giving us his great peace. As David wrote in Psalm 5: 11 – 12,

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield”.

3. FIND GOD’S VICTORY OVER SIN AND DEATH AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS  (John 13: 31 – 32 and 16: 19 – 24)

 In John 13 to 17 Jesus is preparing his disciples for the very dark day to come where it will appear the world or those who oppose God that they had victory over him. However in John 13: 31 – 31 and 16: 19 – 24 Jesus is not seeing this dark day to come as a day of defeat but a day of victory for him God.

He even indicates that his death on a cross is God’s glorification of him,

“Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him”. John 13: 31

 We will now look at how:

1.     The cross is Jesus Glory

2.     The cross is the place of victory over sin and death

3.     The cross is the place where we need to come for our victory over sin and death

 

1.     The cross is Jesus Glory

Jesus was very clear in John 13: 31 – 32 that what was about to happen to him the next day, namely his death on a cross would be his glorification. Those at the foot of the cross the day Jesus was crucified all seemed to not see Jesus view of what was happening to him. However the Gospel writers do drop into the narrative of this painful event hints to something happening that most did not see that day at the foot of the cross. I will explore just two of them.

Both of these are found in Matthew and Marks accounts of Jesus death. The first is the Roman centurion in charge of Jesus execution in Matthew 27: 54,

“When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

These soldiers would have witnessed the death by crucifixion of hundreds of people so their reaction to Jesus death was quite remarkable. This observation suggests that the death of Jesus was no ordinary run of the mill death and that something far greater and significant was happening through this death.

Matthew best describes this in the second incident recorded by both Mark and Matthew again we will look at Matthews account in Matthew 50- 51,

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and rocks split.”

This incident that takes place right at the death of Jesus is the most significant indication of how Jesus death on the cross was his glorification. The tearing of the temple curtain is very momentous. In the Old Testament worship the temple was the focus of Israel’s worshipping activities. The Temple represented God’s dwelling with his people on earth and in that Temple was a place that was so holy and special that the Jewish high priest only entered it once a year. This Holy of Hollies place where the symbols of God’s covenant and presence dwelt which was the ark of the covenant containing the tablets of stone on which was written the ten commandments. This holy of hollies was blocked of from all people by a large heavy curtain. This curtain represented the barrier of sin that separates us from God.

Once Jesus died this barrier or curtain is torn from top to bottom which means God now opens up the way for all to enter into his presence.

The death of Jesus on the cross achieved a new and more wonderful way of coming to God. His death made a way for us to be accepted by God as forgiven sinners.

Finally Jesus of course did not stay dead because within three days God raised him from the dead and eventually after appearing to many people ascended into heaven. We looked at this concept of ascension in Psalm 26, which David wrote for the ascension of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, which I said was the climax of the Old Testament story. Jesus death, resurrection and ascension are the climax of the New Testament story. Finally Jesus return and our ultimate ascension into heaven is the climax of history.

Therefore Jesus is correct when he says in John 13: 31, 32,

“Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once”.

2.     The cross is the place of victory over sin and death

 So we need to come to the foot of the cross for both forgiveness and victory over sin and death. This is something we do not just do once in our lives when we first come to faith in Christ but rather is something we need to do every day of our lives in Christ. Through the cross God constantly forgives us and gives us new inspiration to live for him.

In John 16: 19 – 24 Jesus again tries to prepare his disciples for what will seem to them as a terrible day. He describes exactly how they will feel when he is dying on the cross and how they will feel soon after that before he rose from the dead in verse 20,

“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy”.

The scenes of Jesus followers at the foot of the cross certainly bare this out as we see Luke 23: 48 – 49,

“When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things”.

Mark records in Mark 16: 10 the state of the disciples before the knowledge of the resurrection,

“”She (Mary Magdalene) went and told those who had been with him who were mourning and weeping”.

Jesus does not just for tell of the great weeping and mourning to come but the great joy his death and resurrection would bring. We see this beautifully expressed by Jesus in John 16: 21 – 22,

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

This joy that come at the time of the Resurrection is expressed so well in Matthews account of it in Matthew 28: 8- 10,

“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

This joy comes because of the realization that Jesus death on the cross is not his defeat but his victory over death and sin. So we will find both joy and victory if we go to the cross of Christ and find his love and forgiveness won for us there.

3.      The cross is the place where we need to come for our victory over sin   and death

 So we have learnt that Jesus death was not his defeat but his glorious victory over sin and death. That going to the foot of the cross is coming to the place of forgiveness and love. That Jesus wants to give us a new life in him a life of glory and power. This is what Jesus goes on to talk about in John 16: 23 – 24,

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth; my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete”.

We relate to Jesus by faith in him and what he has done for us and by confident and bold prayer, which Jesus speaks about here. We are able to do this because God’s Holy Spirit who now lives in us.

David did not have this great clear and wonderful message of how we are forgiven and empowered to live for him through the death and resurrection of Christ but he trusted in the same God of love who sent Jesus some 700 years after his time on earth and I would like to finish this study with David’s confident words of faith in Psalm 41: 10 – 12,

“But may you have mercy on me, Lord; raise me up, that I may repay them.

I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me.

Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever”.

 We have so much more reasons for having this kind of confidence in God. We have the message of the cross of Christ where he paid for all of our sins and made the way back to God where we have eternal life now and forever.

CONCLUSION TO THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS

 As I said in the introduction the last verse of Psalm 41, the last Psalm in the first book of Psalms seems to be a verse added by the editors of this book. In my introduction to the book of Psalms I suggested that David could have been one of these editors in both the first and second book of Psalms.

This editors note of praise becomes the pattern for the last word in each of the books of Psalms and makes us realise that no matter what problem or difficulty we might face in this life because of who our God is and what he has done for us we should learn to praise him in all situations.

The first book featured the theme of The Struggles of the anointed King against his enemies something that will be carried on in the second book of Psalms. This theme is mainly set against the turbulent life of David who wrote most of these Psalms.

David has taken us on a journey of pain and difficulty but always returns to the love and mercy of God that guides him though these difficult times and ends up giving him victory and peace.

David does not set down in his many Psalms in this first book of Psalms that the true follower of God will not face the storms of life rather he has taught us we might even face bigger storms in life if we truly identify and follow God. What he presents then is that as we go through the storms of life we have God with us helping us and protecting us and giving us his peace.

In Psalm 29 we learnt that God’s voice is like the sound of a great Thunderstorm but even in the middle a terrifying thunderstorm God is with his people giving them his peace. Psalm 29: 11,

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace”.

 May we find this God of peace in our daily lives, peace even in the midst of the storms of life as we seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

PRAYER:

Dear God in heaven we thank you for sending your Son Jesus Christ into this world to give his life in his amazing sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Help us to live in the light of your love and grace for us. Even as we face the storms of life and those who oppose you help us to realize that you are with us protecting and guiding us and giving us peace, which passes human understanding. In Jesus powerful name we pray. Amen

Psalm 40 TALK: The Great Deliverance of God’s Forgiveness

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

PSALM 40 TALK: THE GREAT DELIVERANCE OF GOD’S FORGIVENESS

                               (THE RIGHT WAY TO RESPONDING TO GOD’S FORGIVENESS)

INTRODUCTION

The first time I became aware of this wonderful Psalm was when I was on the home staff of a missionary organisation called The Church Missionary society. I had met the famous missionary doctor writer named Dr. Paul White who made up many famous stories of African jungle animals that explained and presented the Christian Gospel. I heard him tell the story of, “The Trap” which involved a little antelope name Dic Dic that fell into a jungle trap. He had strayed from the safety of the elephant named Tembo. The little antelope was in danger of being caught by the hunter who had set the trap and other animals like Boohoo the Hippopotamus (who could only quote rules about jungle traps) and Toto the monkey(who was not strong enough to pull him out) failed to help him. Then along came Tembo the elephant who lifted him out of the muddy trap by using his trunk. Paul White then referred to the opening verses of this Psalm that speak of how David waited patiently on the Lord who lifted him out of a slimy pit and set him upon firm ground.

David is using poetic language to describe how God had delivered him from the trap of sin by his love and forgiveness. The Psalm fits well in the time of David’s battles with King Saul or when he was on the run from his rebellious Son Absalom. David was on the run from both King Saul and his rebellious son Absalom at different times of his life and both sought to catch him and kill him. During the eight years when David was on the run from Saul he was delivered from certain death on many occasions. Psalms 30 to 40 have referred on a number of occasions to these escapes. Like Psalm 31 which is set in the context of David’s escape from Keliah and Psalm 34 which is set in the context of David’s escape from the Philistine town of Gath. These 11 Psalms also speak of David’s deliverance from the trap of sin through God’s loving forgiveness. Psalm 30 kicks off this section of book 1 with the great sin of David ordering a count of his possible and actual fighting men a direct violation of God’s law and 70,000 die in a plague before David pleads for forgiveness and God stops the death’s in Israel. Psalms 32, 33 and 38 look like they were written in the context of David’s sins of Adultery and murder where David pleads again for God’s mercy and forgiveness and finds it.

Psalm 40 then seems to be a good conclusion to the themes and teachings of Psalms 30 to 40 and I believe the original editors of the book of Psalms chose this Psalm to be placed here because of its obvious conclusion to the teachings of Psalms 30 to 40. These Psalms teach us about how we need to trust and wait on God for his forgiveness that will deliver us from our many sins and help us in our battles with our enemies. Psalm 41 seems to be a good conclusion to the entire first book of Psalms and we will look at this in our next Psalm study.

Let me take the time to briefly remind you of how the theme of God’s forgiveness has been dealt with throughout Psalms 30 to 40.

  1. Psalm 30 – The joy of God’s forgiveness
  2. Psalm 31 –  The confidence we can have in the forgiving God
  3. Psalm 32 –  The inner power and happiness of knowing God’s forgiveness
  4. Psalm 33 –  The true worship which comes from knowing God’s forgiveness
  5. Psalm 34 –  The right testimony of declaring God’s forgiveness
  6. Psalm 35 –  The battles of life and how God’s forgiveness gives us victory
  7. Psalm 36 –  The knowledge of God through knowing his forgiveness
  8. Psalm 37 –  The command to wait patiently on God who forgives us
  9. Psalm 38 –  The role of confession in appropriating God’s forgiveness
  10. Psalm 39 –  The sins of the tongue and how God forgives us of them
  11. Psalm 40 –  The right way of responding to his forgiveness

I have broken this Psalm into three sections with the theme of God’s forgiveness in mind:

1.     GOD’ GREAT DELIVERANCE STATED  (1 – 5)

2.     GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE DECLARED (6 – 10)

3.     GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE SOUGHT AGAIN (11 – 17)

 

1.     GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE STATED (1 -5)

The first section states vividly what it means to know God’s great deliverance and forgiveness for it states what it actually is. I must acknowledge the commentator Michael Wilcock for his excellent break down of this Psalm and I will use his divisions for opening up the verses in each of the three sections of this Psalm. His divisions for this first section are,

1.     Looking back to what God has done (1 – 3)

2.     Looking up to the God who forgives (4 – 5)

 

1.     Looking back to what God has done (1 -3)

As I pointed out in the introduction David used the image of being trapped in a deep pit, like a jungle trap to describe what being caught up in sin is like. Paul White called it, “The Sin Trap”. David knew full well what sin did to a person as we have seen from many of the Psalms in this section. To him it was a desperate uncomfortable place, captured well by the image of a slimy and muddy pit. The prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 38 literally was put in such a place and Jeremiah 38: 6 says, (The Holy Bible, New International Version)

“They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud and Jeremiah sank down into the mud”.

In such a place the more you struggled to get out the more you would sink down. Sin is like that the more you try to stop doing it the more you seem to do it and the worse it gets. In this terrible state David says he:

“Waited patiently for the Lord” (verse 1)

Three times before David speaks of waiting patiently or words to that affect in Psalms 30 – 40, Psalm 37:7, 38:15 and 39:7. John Calvin points out the actual Hebrew could be translated, “In waiting I waited” so David really found himself in a desperate situation that lasted a long time and he then says,

“He turned to me and heard my cry”. (verse 1)

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire” (verse 2)

The sense of liberation and peace is what is being described here and it does not end with just this as David goes on to say,

“He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand”

Our lives before we come to Christ are best described by the Lord himself in Matthew 7: 26 – 27,

“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

We might say that before we come to Christ our lives are all over the place and disaster is either struck or about to strike. Like poor Jeremiah in the pit he was slipping and sliding as he fought to get out of there. However Jesus tells us what David is saying in this Psalm about what responding to God’s word of love and forgiveness is like in Mathew 7: 24 – 25,

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock”.

David goes even further in his description of what God’s deliverance or forgiveness was like for him when he writes,

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord”. (Verse 3)

For David writing new songs was not a strange experience as we have over 73 original works of David in the book of Psalms alone. But Leupold points out there is three possible interpretations of this concept of a new song:

  • “Singing the old hymn with deeper understanding
  • Fresh colour to and old hymn
  • The composition of a song entirely new”.

Whatever David is referring to here his deliverance experience caused him to sing. Music has been described by many as “The expression of the emotions of the heart” and when we sing with meaning or from the heart we are expressing our true understanding of what God has done for us in delivering us from the power of sin and death.

David used his music and singing to do two things:

  • Give praise to his God and
  • Show others how they can, “see and fear and put their trust in the Lord”.

2.     Looking up to the God who forgives (4 – 5)

David now continues his statement of his experience of the deliverance of the Lord by encouraging his hearers to do as he has done, namely look up to God and away from the ways of general sinful humanity, he writes in verse 4,

“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud” (verse 4)

These words remind us of Psalm 1 where the way of the righteous or Godly man is contrasted with way of the ungodly man.

The Godly man is blessed if he goes God’s way but the ungodly man is heading for destruction. The bible makes it clear that sin is when men and women look away from God and go their own way. This going your own way is pride or arrogance that is expressed by people when they say they can live their lives better without God.

But David knew what pride and arrogance leads to as we particularly saw in Psalm 30 where sin led to the plague and death of 70,000 Israelites. This happened when David disobeyed God and counted his fighting men. In Psalm 30 verse 6 David tells us of his sin of pride,

“When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken”

David had to go to God in sackcloth and ashes fallen on his face begging for forgiveness and then God stopped the plague and David and his people were delivered.

But this was one of many times David knew what God’s deliverance or forgiveness was like and he speaks of this in the next verse,

“Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare”.

We should learn to count our blessings but realize that God has done so much for us in Christ that we could never fully explain them all. As Paul puts it in his prayer for the Church in Ephesus in Ephesians 3: 20 – 21,

 “ Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen”.

(2)  GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE DECLARED (6 – 10)

Now David moves from stating his great deliverance or forgiveness by God to telling us how and why we should declare it. By adapting and using Wilcok’s divisions again I have broken this section into two parts:

1.     Praising God from within  (6 – 8)

2.     Praising God in public      (9 – 10)

 

(1)  Praising God from within (6 – 8)

What then is the right response to what God has done for us?

David has already spoken about singing God’s praises so that many will see or learn to fear God and trust in him in verse 3 and speaks of recounting the many wonders God has done in verse 5. But now he tells us more specifically what we should do if we really believe God has delivered us through his forgiveness.

In Old Testament terms this should lead David to worship God with a sacrifice. Sacrifice was the Old Testament way of worshipping God laid down in the first five books of the bible called by David and others “The Law of God”.

However David knew two horrific experiences of the danger of misplaced sacrificing.

The first came from his predecessor King Saul who in 1 Samuel 15 offered a sacrifice to God at a time he was actually disobeying God’s direct commands. Saul had been told to destroy the evil and ungodly Amalekites who attacked Moses and the people when they were in the desert and escaping from Egypt. Saul does a bad job of this and allows much of the booty from the Amalakites to be taken by his men and he also spares the life of the King of the Amalekites. Then Samuel comes to Saul and tells Saul of God’s displeasure. Saul tells Samuel he used the best of the captured sheep to sacrifice to the Lord and Samuel says this to Saul,

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”

The second time David realized the danger and inadequacy of Sacrifice was after his twin sins of Adultery and murder when the prophet Nathan exposes David to God’s knowledge of his sins. In Psalm 51 David reveals how he knows God does not want sacrifice from him, Psalm 51 : 16 – 17,

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, isa broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise”.

David knowing the shortfalls of Sacrificial worship states clearly in verses 6  his desire to worship God properly in his heart with true faith and obedience,

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire but my ears you have pierced burnt offerings and sin offeringsyou did not require. (verse 6)

David wants to express his praise and worship for the deliverance of God first and for most from a true heart not like King Saul did but like he did in Psalm 51 with a “broken and contrite heart”. Leupold put it this way,

“Sacrifices are only meaningful when done in a spirit that corresponds with the nature of the sacrifice offered”.

Much has been written about the meaning of “but my ears have pierced” and the two main lines of thought are:

  1. The concept of the mark of a devoted slave being a pierced ear as spoken of in Exodus 21: 6 and
  2. The concept of a “pierced ear” being an expression for and open ear to listen as in Isaiah 50: 5.

“The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious: I have not drawn back”.

The second seems to be the better as it fits in with what David goes on to talk about in the next verse,

“Then I said, “Here I am, I have come it is written about me in the scroll”. (verse 7)

This verse has its problems in understanding as well. What is David trying to say when speaks of having come? And what does he mean by “it is written in the scroll”?

Kidner believes the expression “Here I am, I have come”, is similar to Isaiah’s expression in Isaiah 6: 8, “Here am I, send me”. David is saying I am ready to worship you in my heart. In the matter of the expression, “It is written about me in the scroll” I discovered a very interesting passage in what David would have called the book or scroll of the Law. It is Deuteronomy 17: 14 – 20 which is a passage that spells out the law concerning future Kings in Israel. Verses 18 and 19 say this,

“When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees.”

Could David be referring to this scroll he would have had when he says, “it is written about me in the scroll”? (verse 7)

If this is what he is talking about then he is saying I am doing what God’s law really tells me to do I am praising and worshipping God sincerely in my heart. The next verse seems to back this up when it says,

“ I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.” (verse 8)

This passage also appears in the New Testament in Hebrews 10: 5 – 7 and I will go into more explanation of this passage and it’s significants in the New Testament section of this study. But for now I will simply say that the full meaning of these verses do not fully come unto they are for filled in the coming Messiah. Jesus brought about the full understanding and fulfilment of the whole sacrificial system by becoming the perfect and final sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Only he fully lived up to the full requirements of the law as David sinned and as he says in verse 12,

“My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see”.

(2)  Praising God in public   (9 – 10)

David now moves from private inward praise of the great deliverance or forgiveness of God to an open a clear public praising of God.

In verse 9 and10 he writes,

“I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips as you know, O Lord. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and truth from the great assembly”.

From what we read of the great King David see a man who was not afraid of holding back his emotions and thoughts on God and other things as well.

After all he was the king who stripped down to simple clothes and danced before the Lord or rather before the Ark of the Covenant as it was carried into Jerusalem. Here in these verses David lets loose in the great gathering of the people of God, “the assembly” with amazing and powerful words about the righteousness of God from which he implies flows God’s faithfulness, salvation, love and truth. Leupold captures the significance of what David is proclaiming with these words,

“God’s righteousness is God’s marvelous attribute which leads him both to deal graciously with those who faithfully serve him and seek his countenance as well as to punish the evildoer”.

From God’s righteousness, David is saying flows God’s love to him seen in his recent deliverance, which is, bound up in his forgiveness for his many sins. David worshipped God in his heart but this led to worshipping God in public in a right and God glorifying manner.

What can we learn from this section of the Psalm?

Firstly we should heed the warning that our public worship must be a true expression of our contrite and devoted hearts and realize that worship that is simply people putting on a good show is not liked or accepted by God.

Secondly if we truly worship God in our hearts then this should show itself in God centered, God glorifying and God proclaiming worship.

3.     GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE SOUGHT AGAIN (11 – 17)

For some the final section of this Psalm comes as a surprise as David moves from praising God for his deliverance and forgiveness to asking for it again. I do not find this strange at all as I know from my life’s battles with the world the flesh and the devil that the battle is never over in this life. As Christians we experience help or deliverance from time to time but this does not mean we gain total cessation from problems and difficulties in this life. When we come to Christ we learn that our sins are forgiven but this does not mean we no longer sin and do not need God’s forgiveness again and again.

David escaped from Saul’s grasp on many occasions but this did not mean Saul did not attack him again. For eight long years Saul pursued David and time and time again God delivered David from Saul’s clutches.

So David moves from praise for a great time of Deliverance to the need for further help for God’s deliverance and forgiveness. This time Wilcock divides this last section in to three sections, which I have adapted with my own headings that go like this,

1.     Prayer and confession to God (11 – 13)

2.     Help and protection from God (14 – 15)

3.     Praise and worship for God (16 – 17)

 

1.  Prayer and confession to God (11 – 13)

Here David moves to prayer as he sees yet again that he needs God’s help and forgiveness in his on going battles of life. His prayer starts with a statement of faith,

“Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord; may your love and your truth always protect me.” (verse 11)

David never assumes that God will do what he wants God to do for him even though David states on many occasions that God can be relied upon to help and save us. As we saw in David’s waiting on God verses like Psalm 38: 15,

“I wait for you, O Lord: you will answer, O Lord my God”.

Or the confident words of Psalm 26: 3,

“For your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth”

Note also how David speaks of God’s protection coming from his love and truth. The salvation of the bible is not a man made invention like other religions of this world but rather it comes from a loving God who reveals his love to us through his word (The Truth).

This is why it is so important that Jesus is “The word become flesh” (John 1:14) therefore he is not just another religious man pointing to God but he is God become man and as John goes on to say,

“And (Jesus) made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

David now moves to yet another confession of his many sins,

“For troubles without number surround me: my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me”. (verse 12)

David sees a direct association between his sins and his troubles. It is as though his sins have caught up with him in the persons of his many enemies. So often we can see how sins catch up with people. Sexual sins lead often to sexual diseases, drunkenness to sickness or violence and many other sins leads to people suffering from all kinds of mental and emotional breakdowns. We might not see a direct link between our sins and our problems but so often the problems we face in this life are one way or another a result of our sins or the sins others.

This world is full of people sinning and each person’s sins number as David puts it,

“More than the hairs of my head” (verse 12)

This leaves David to say as we all say from time to time,

“My heart fails within me” (verse 12)

But David believed that his God was a loving and merciful God, who longs to forgive us as we see from his words in the next verse,

“Be pleased O Lord, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me” (verse 13)

So David as he did in Psalm 38 comes to God in confession and faith begging God to forgive him and deliver him from the consequences of his many sins.

2.  Help and protection from God (14 – 15)

Now David includes in his prayer deliverance from his enemies. David faced danger from his enemies right throughout his long reign but the most dangerous times he faced danger from his enemies was the eight years on the run from Saul and the number of weeks of being on the run from his rebellious son Absalom. On both these occasions many people in David’s own kingdom turned on him as they supported either Saul or Absalom.

David cries out to the Lord for deliverance from his enemies in verses 14 and 15. The fact David links this problem with his enemies to his many sins could suggest that this was at the time of Absalom as Absalom’s rebellion was linked to his sins of adultery and murder years before when David was told by the prophet Nathan that from within his own household would come calamity.

So David prays,

“May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire me ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha! Be appalled at their own shame”. (verses 14 – 15)

The last time David used the words “Aha! Aha” was when he was speaking about his enemies is in Psalm 35: 21 which seems to fit better in the context of his long battles with Saul and the people loyal to Saul who conspired to kill him for a long eight year period.

It is good to note that David does not pray for the destruction of his enemies here but rather that they be put to shame and confusion so that they will turn back to God. David had ample opportunities to kill King Saul but he refused to kill the King God had appointed even though Saul was now rejected by God and in rebellion to God.

We might find ourselves in serious conflict with those who oppose the Christian Gospel but we must not act in anger and rage but follow the advice of Jesus and other New Testament writers and seek to love our enemies. Peter speaking about how we should live in this life even when we face opposition from others says this in 1 Peter 3: 8 – 9,

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing”.

3.  Praise and worship for God (16 – 17)

Finally David returns to words of praise in the final two verses. In verse 16 he returns to the opening praise for God’s deliverance.

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted” (verse 16)

Note David has not yet received God’s deliverance from his latest request for it comes as part of his prayer for that deliverance. David seems to have practiced the very New Testament teaching of praising God in all situations. As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5: 18,

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

We have seen in many Psalms that David can go from a very low point in his emotions as he pleads with God for help and forgiveness and then rise to praise and exaltation of the God who he believes has saved and forgiven him. This is real faith in action and to praise God and seek to exalt him when things are not going well in our life proves that we really trust and believe in God.

The final verse David shows his true humility and faith in God when he declares,

“Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay”. (verse 17)

Right throughout the Psalm David has featured the concept of his God being his deliverer and so he ends the Psalm with this description of the God. God is his “help and deliverer”.

God has lifted him up from despair and difficulty to a secure place of peace and prosperity from which he could praise and exalt his God. Based on what God had done for him in the past he now confidently goes to God in prayer and asked again for his help and forgiveness. His final request is that God will do this quickly for him.

CONCLUSION

In Psalm 40 David shows us yet again what God is like. He is a God of love and forgiveness. He shows us how we should approach him. We should approach him in prayer and trust in a God who has shown us in the past that he longs to help and save us.

Finally he has shown us how we should show our gratitude for his love and forgiveness. We should show this by truly believing in him in our hearts and by professing our faith in him in his church and in the world at large even when things are not going well for us.

A poem/ song based on Psalm 40

GOD REACHED DOWN

 God reached down to me

And lifted me up on high

Set my feet on the rock

Of his is love that cannot die.

Down in a pit of miry clay

I called out loud to him

I was lost and sinking fast

When God reached down to me

By sending his Son to die for my sin

He raised me and set me free.

 

Chorus

 

God forgives, so we now live

God is love, for he reached down from above

God sent his Son, so that everyone

Who believes, God forgives.

Now I sing a new song

A hymn of praise to the Lord

Many can also now know

The power of his word.

Blessed is he who trusts in God

And turns from selfish pride.

For many are the wonders of the Lord

That he has planned to give.

So I will simply praise his name

And turn to him and live.

Chorus

 

So I worship the Lord

With a sacrifice of praise

He looks into our hearts

To see if we long for his ways.

I desire to serve the Lord

His righteousness I will proclaim.

I’ll speak of his love and faithfulness

And tell others the salvation plan.

Praise his name in his church

And tell every women and man.

Chorus

 

I plead to you O Lord

For your mercy to forgive

For many are my sins

That plague the life I live.

Please save me I trust in you

For you are my deliverer.

I will rejoice and praise you Lord

For you are a God who cares

May are those who know your love

And share your life giving word.

Chorus

By: Jim Wenman

 

PART 2 THREE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATIONS OF PSALM 40

I mentioned in the introduction to this study of Psalm 40 that this Psalm is a fitting conclusion to Psalms 30 to 40 that have featured the theme of God’s forgiveness. So in this New Testament application I will focus us on the three sections of the Psalm and particularly how they relate to the theme of God’s forgiveness.

1.  GOD’ GREAT DELIVERANCE STATED  (1 – 5)

2.  GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE DECLARED (6 – 10)

3.  GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE SOUGHT AGAIN (11 – 17)

The New Testament sections will become:

1.  GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE IS FOUNDED ON THE ROCK OF CHRIST (Matthew 7: 24 – 27)

2.  GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE IS DECLARED IN THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST (Hebrews 10: 1 – 12)

3.  GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE IS SOUGHT THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST Hebrews 12: 1 – 3)

 1.  GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE IS FOUNDED ON THE ROCK OF CHRIST (Matthew 7: 24 – 27)

In Psalm 40 verses 1 to 3 we saw how David used the image of a slimy and muddy pit and being trapped in sin was likened to being trapped in that pit. Deliverance from this sinful state was being like God reaching down and lifting us out of the pit and being set upon a rock or a firm place to stand. Jesus spoke about people building their lives on him and his word being like a person building their house on a rock and those not building their lives on him and his word being like a builder building their house on sand.

This appears in Matthew 7: 24 : 27 and I would like to highlight three things from this passage:

1.  What Jesus wants us to build our lives upon

2.  What building our lives on him leads too

3.   What not building our lives on him leads too

 

1.   What Jesus wants us to build our lives upon

In the verses leading up to verse 24 Jesus is warning his listeners about the danger of false prophets or teachers. He says these false teachers will come and appear to be genuine and even convincing. Now he makes it clear what we should believe and build our lives upon. Jesus describes this in theses words,

“Everyone who hears these word’s of mine and puts them into practice”

So the big test of true teaching is if the teaching is based on the word of Jesus, which we now know, is the word of the New Testament.

The early church took great pains to only accept as the New Testament the books that were the words of Christ or the explanation and application of Christ words written by those who actually knew Christ and applied systematically what they knew Christ taught. This process took some time to accept the Books of James and Hebrews but after much debate, research and prayer the early church accepted these books as the true teachings or applications of the teachings of Christ.

We too must be diligent in our study of the word of God making sure we are not false teachers or believers teaching something not truly found in the teachings of Christ but rather is a faithful representation of what he actually taught.

More than this Jesus tells us we must put his word into action. Note how Jesus describes the false teachers or believers in verse’s 21 – 23,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

2. What building our lives on him leads too

Jesus then uses the imagery of a builder building a house. The first builder builds his house on rock. The rain comes, water rises and winds blow but because the house is build on solid foundations it does not fall down.

Jesus is telling us here that if we trust in him and his word and put that into action in our lives then we will stand the trials and tribulations of this life. All houses that are built in Australia in more recent years must have their foundations inspected before the new house or building can proceed. This means that modern houses in Australia will not fall down because of bad foundations.

If we build our lives on faith in the Lord Jesus and his word making sure we are living our lives accordingly then we will be like houses build on solid foundations and will stand even when the storms of life come upon us. Particularly we will stand the final storm of all human existence namely the Judgement day of Christ, which Jesus referred to in the previous section.

3. What not building our lives on him leads too

Then Jesus tells us in verse’s 26 and 27 what happens when people refuse to build their lives on him. He describes these people as being like builders who build their houses on sand. If our foundations are not built on solid ground then when the rains come, water rises and the wind blows the house will fall down.

Even as a very young child hearing this parable in Sunday school I understood what Jesus was saying. If people don’t have the sure foundations then life’s trails will sweep them away.

David said he felt he was not trapped in mud and only God could lift him out and make his life secure.

We too are trapped in mud and both mud and sand are not just poor ground to stand upon but they are even worse places to build upon. Jesus came into this world to save us from our sins, which Dr Paul White called, “The Sin Trap” and only Jesus and what he has done for us can lift us out of that trap.

Once we are saved from the sin trap by trusting and believing in Jesus we need to continue to stand on him or follow him because he and his word are the only sure foundation to live by in this life and are the only sure foundation to face the final day of the judgment in the next life.

2. GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE IS DECLARED IN THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST  (Hebrews 10: 1 – 12)

Psalm 40 verses 6 and 7 are quoted in the book of Hebrews 10: 5 – 7 with some interesting changes. The Hebrews passage has a lot to teach us about the ideas David had in mind when he first wrote these words and teach us even more about God’s offer of deliverance and forgiveness in Christ.

This passage revealed three main things to me:

1. The need for a better sacrificial system

2. How Christ is the perfect sacrifice for our sins

3. How Christ sacrifice influences us

 

1. The need for a better sacrificial system

 The first five books of the bible, often called the Law or Torah set down the way God wants his people to live and approach him or worship him. These writings lay down a rigid system of sacrifices which the rest of the Old Testament writers seem to point to someone who would make a better way to God and yet still for fill God’s sacrificial requirements. The classic passage on this is Isaiah 53, which comes to a climax in verse 12 with theses words,

“Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors”.

The New Testament and particularly the book of Hebrews presents clearly that the person Isaiah is speaking about is non other than The Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10 and the verses we are looking at speak plainly about how God intended a better sacrificial system to come about through the sending of his son as the once for great sacrifice for our sins. Chapter 10 commences with the words,

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship”.

By using the verses in Psalm 40 the writer links David’s words on the need for a different type of sacrifice needed by God to the sacrifice of Christ in his death on the cross.

He starts this by saying that,

“When Christ came into the world he said”

 Then we read a version of David’s words in Psalm 40,

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me”

 The author of Hebrews quotes here the Septuagint or Greek translation of these verses, which he would have known in his day. The change in this version is “ear” to “body”. Michael Wilcock explains what this means by these words,

“For when the ear is truly opened to the word of God he will mobilize the whole body to obey it”.

 The writer cleverly links both the incarnation, God becoming man to the full obedience of Christ in one simple statement.

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me”

So the writer to the Hebrews tells us the need for a better sacrificial system in verse 8,

“First he said, ‘Sacrifice and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them (Although the law required them to be made)”.

 2. How Christ is the perfect sacrifice for our sins

This passage says more than how God desires a better sacrificial system but also presents what is the perfect sacrifice for sins he established in Christ.

What many of the Old Testament writers looked forward to was how someone would be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Again the best example of this is Isaiah 53 and in verse’s 4 and 5 we read,

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

 In verse two of this chapter the writer to the Hebrews speaks of the need for this perfect sacrifice in these words,

“If it could (sacrificial system) would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins”.

 The writer takes up the words of Psalm 40: 7 to introduce the idea of Christ being this perfect sacrifice in his verse 7,

“Then I said, “Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God”.

 The writer to the Hebrews then goes on to link these words of David in Psalm 40 with these words in verse’s 9 and 10,

“Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will’. He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”.

 The “will” here is the willing obedience of Christ a perfect man to die a horrible death on the cross for us, so that our sins could be forgiven totally something animal sacrifice just could not achieve.

The writer to the Hebrews then goes on to link Jesus not only to the sacrificial animal but the High priest who offered it up. He teaches that since there is no more need for sacrifices for sin there is no more need for a priest to offer it, verses 11 and 12,

“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God”.

 This then is a remarkable use of David’s words in Psalm 40 as David himself realized that worship offered by sacrifice was not what God really wanted. However he could not offer full and true obedience from his heart because of the sin problem he and all of us suffer from. Only in Jesus could God recognize a full and perfect sacrifice for sin. Through Jesus sacrifice then was that full and perfect sacrifice for sin obtained once and for all time to come.

3.   How Christ sacrifice influences us

 This teaching in Hebrews plays a lot of bearing of what we as bible believing Christians actually believe. Other forms of the Christian faith like the Roman Catholics for instance worship with the mass which they believe is a continual offering up of the blood and body of Christ on what they call the alter. However Hebrews teaches us that this day by day offering of the priest of a sacrifice has been done away by the once and for all perfect sacrifice of God as he states in verse 12,

“But when this priest (Jesus Christ) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”

 This then should influence both how we live and how we worship our God and King.

How we should live:

 We should live as though God has forgiven us of all sin and when we fall to sin come to God through the cross of Christ asking for forgiveness and knowing it is available because Jesus had died for us. In fact the knowledge that Jesus has died for our sins should inspire us to live lives of gratitude and praise turning away from sin in our lives.

How we should worship

 Our lives should now be turned over to praise for the forgiveness Christ has won for us on Cross and this should be the basis of  our worship. As David realised in Psalm 51 : 16 – 17,

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifice of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart O God, you will not despise”.

 Paul spoke about how our daily lives lived in sacrificial service to him is our true worship in Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”.

 So far as what we do when we come together in corporate worship than this too should reflect in some way or another our offering of ourselves to God as living sacrifices inspired by the once and for all sacrifice of Christ. How we actually do this will vary from church to church and culture to culture but the one distinguishing feature will be the emphasis given to the once and for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary for it is at the cross all true believers come and are one in Christ.

3.  GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCE IS SOUGHT THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST Hebrews 12: 1 – 3)

I close with one of my favourite passages of scripture in the New Testament Hebrews 12: 1 – 3. I find this passage is so instructive and so encouraging that I often turn to it when I feel a little overwhelmed by the world, the flesh (my sins) and the devil.

This passage clearly states our faith in Christ offers the deliverance we seek by God in our daily lives. I would like to draw out three things from this passage.

1. The encouragement of many other Christians

2. The encouragement of who Jesus actually is

3. The encouragement of what Jesus has done for us

 

1.   The encouragement of many other Christians

 The previous chapter to Hebrews 12, Hebrews 11, sets down a long list of bible heroes, men and women of faith who demonstrated what faith in God is and what it can achieve. Then in verses 1 of Hebrews 12 we read,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”

 One of the great encouragements I am often made aware of is other Christians and what God has been doing in their lives.

I can go to other countries in the world and meet they’re other Christians whose faith in Christ encourages me to continue having faith in Christ. This why we should both keep reading our bibles and meeting together with other Christians for in the bible we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and in our Christian gatherings we have another cloud of witnesses to encourage us. When you meet Christians who have stopped reading the bible and stopped meeting together with other Christians you see that they are full of doubt and lack real enthusiasm for Christ. They need the encouragement of the witnesses of the bible and other Christians.

2.  The encouragement of who Jesus is

 The writer to the Hebrews after referring to the great encouragement of other men and women of faith then says in verse 1b,

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

 Up to the age of 16 I was a member of an athletics club and for eight years I ran many races on the weekends and from time to time at school during the week. I was a fairly good middle distance runner and these words about running with perseverance mean a lot to me. I ran really well when I ran with determination and commitment but on days when I simply did run with determination I was easily beaten and the run was far from enjoyable.

The writer to the Hebrews says that there is a race of life we are in and that God has marked this race out for us. This means God has a plan for our lives but we need to run or live the way God wants us to live. I am now over 60 years of age and I can look back at how God has had a plan for my life and has led me to run my unique race for him.

However the writer then tells us how we actually run this race and who has actually made it possible for us to run it. In verse 2a he writes

 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith”

 We run the race God wants us to run or we live the life God wants us to live by fixing our eyes on Jesus. This means every day of our lives we look to Jesus for help and inspiration to live our lives. I like that movement in the early 1990’s called WWJD or “What would Jesus do” where Christians sought to live their daily lives by living out the motto of WWJD, “What would Jesus do”. This seems to be a practical way of living our lives the way God wants us to live and when a new opportunity or decision of life comes along we need to pray to God through Christ and seek to do what we think Jesus wants us to do.

But why must we fix our eyes on Jesus?

The second half of our text answers this, it is because of who Jesus,

“the author and perfecter of our faith”.

 The writer to the Hebrews is saying that Jesus is the forerunner or the one who has gone before us to make the way for us to go or run. Some say that Jesus is the trailblazer who makes the trail for us and then comes beside us to walk that trail he has made.

3.  The encouragement of what Jesus has done for us

 The second half of verse 2 sets down what Jesus has done for us,

“who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

 The way Jesus made for us was by the way of the cross where he died for our sins so that we could be forgiven by God and therefore be accepted by God into heaven and his family on earth. Jesus endured so we can know the joy of God’s forgiveness and this was his joy. However Jesus did not stay dead but God raised him from the dead and he now sits at the right hand of the throne of God.

The writer to the Hebrews believes this is the greatest encouragement we can know and in verse 3 he makes that clear,

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.

 When things get tough in life we should remember how tough it got for Jesus and that he actually endured the suffering he went through to forgive and save us. The writer to the Hebrews says should stop us from growing weary and giving up.

In the last part of Psalm 40 David again turned to God for forgiveness and help and as he prayed to God for this he actually discovered God’s encouragement when he writes in verse 16,

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted”.

 May we as we look to our great deliverer or Savoir Jesus Christ do the same exalt his name when we realise both who he is and what he has done for us.

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we thank you for your Son who is our great deliverer and Savoir for our many sins. Thank you for how he has lifted us up from the sin pit and set our feet upon the rock of his love for us. May we live our lives as an act of self sacrificial worship as we fix our eyes on Your Son the author and perfecter of our faith. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savoir, Amen

Psalm 39 TALK: Sin’s of the Tongue

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

PSALM 39 TALK:  SIN’S OF THE TONGUE

                               (A CALL FOR FORGIVENESS FOR THE SIN OF NOT

                                SPEAKING WHEN I SHOULD AND SPEAKING WHEN

                                I SHOULD’NT)

INTRODUCTION

 Towards the end of my paid working life I worked for two private profits based organizations that had contracts with the Government to assist unemployed people to gain jobs. I was employed mainly as a trainer and at times the tactics the organization wanted me to use ran aground with my Christian belief’s and for a long time I kept quiet and tried to implement these tactics in a loving way. One day in the middle of a staff meeting in front of all my fellow employers at an inappropriate time I blurted out my frustrations and said. “I cannot do this any longer because of my Christian beliefs”. The result was confusion and even amusement as what I said as the timing of my words and what I said was simply inappropriate.

Our tongues or the muse use of it can get us into lots of problems and can even cause us to fall to all kinds of sins. James says in James 3: 5 – 6, (New International Version)

“The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell”.

 David I believe is speaking about problems he had with his tongue in Psalm 39. This Psalm has the heading, “For the director of music. For Jeduthum, A Psalm of David” and it seems that Jedutham had two more Psalms given to him, one more by David, Psalm 62 and one by Asaph (another known author of Psalms) Psalm 77. From the brief references of this man Jedutham we can learn three things about him. One was he had a unique position in the role of music in the Tabernacle in David day, (1 Chronicles 16: 37) and Temple in Solomon’s day, (2 Chronicles 5: 12 – 14), he was one of the chosen Levites to lead the singing and playing of music. Secondly he used his musical gifts to prophesy or proclaim the word of the Lord, 1 Chronicles 25: 1. Finally Jedutham years into the future was called, “The kings seer” or prophet a kind of special adviser of King David, (2 Chronicles 35: 15). So David gives this man who had a unique position in the worship of Israel this Psalm for wider use in the worship of God.

Many of the commentaries I read on Psalm 39 did not see this Psalm as I see it and it was the inspired work of H.C Leupold that pointed me towards the line of understanding that I have taken.

I hope from this study we will learn the danger of not speaking when we should, speaking when we shouldn’t, speaking in the way God wants us to and finally finding God’s forgiveness for failing in the way we use or don’t use our tongues.

With this in mind I have divided this Psalm into 3 parts:

1.     SINS OF THE TONGUE  (1 – 6)

2.     FORGIVENESS FOR SINS OF THE TONGUE  (7 – 11)

3.     A FIANL PRAYER FOR HELP  (12 – 13)

 

1.     SINS OF THE TONGUE (1 – 6)

 I found the fact that this Psalm has many similarities to the previous two Psalms, 38 and 37 very helpful. In the first section David speaks of seeking to keep silent before his enemies. In the previous Psalm, 38: 13, 14 we read,

“I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth: I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply”.

 In Psalm 37 David speaks of coming to God and being quiet and still before him when we are attacked by non-believers, verse 7,

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes”.

 At the start of this Psalm David indicates clearly he is seeking to put this kind of thing into action, verse 1,

“I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence”.

 David does not want his enemies to have a chance to further dishonor God as he has already dishonored God by his sins. If this Psalm like Psalm 38 before it is in the context of his sins of Adultery and Murder then David’s enemies had loads of ammunition to fire at David. Like Psalm 38 David believes God is disciplining him as we see in Psalm 39 verses 10 and 11,

“Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand. You rebuke and discipline men for their sin; you consume their wealth like a moth – each man is but breath”.

 However this first section reveals three sins of the tongue from David,

1.     Not speaking when he should have spoken (verse 2)

2.     Speaking when he shouldn’t have (verse 3)

3.     Speaking sinfully when he spoke (verses 4 – 6)

 

1.     Not speaking when he should have spoken (verse 2)

 David had something he wanted to say to his enemies but willfully chose to not speak it at this point. We will see what he wanted to say in the third point of this section. David chose not to speak because he feared the consequences of what had had to say. He indicates that he now believed this was wrong and even sinful by the words, “not even saying anything good”.

 There is a time for us to keep our mouths shut and to say nothing and this is better than to speak and sin. When our emotion rise and we even become angry Paul says in Ephesians 4: 26,

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”.

David indicates clearly here that at the beginning he did have something good he could have said but he chose not to say it. The end of verse 2 and all of verse 3 teach us the consequences of doing this,

“My anguish increased. My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned”.

The consequences of not speaking when we should speak is we bottle up lots emotions and leave ourselves open to causing more harm by not speaking then speaking. This is what happened to me in the work meeting I referred to in the introduction. I should have privately spoken to my boss before the meeting about the problem of her tactics and my Christian beliefs but I chose to be quiet and not speak over a number of weeks. Then as my emotions got the better of me I spoke foolishly.

2.     Speaking when he shouldn’t have (verse 3)

 At the end of verse 3 we read the words,

“Then I spoke with my tongue”

 Leading up to this speaking David describes what was going on inside him. He describes the emotional build up inside of him in three ways,

“My anguish increased”

“My heart grew hot within me”

“As I meditated, the fire burned”

 All these expressions describe a man becoming emotional unstable as a result of the forced closure of his mouth. Psychologist tells us it is not advisable to “Bottle up our emotions”. I found this interesting quote on the net from a Psychologist named Dr. Jim Manganiello,

“Medical psychology research has shown that people who cannot or will not allow themselves to experience and express their emotional pain tend to be at increased risk for serious illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer.

One reason we have trouble feeling our pain and expressing it to others is that we feel a loss of self-esteem in doing so. This is because many of us have bought into false notions about what it means to be a healthy or strong person. The myth of the hero is a predominant one in our society. Its basic premise is that negative feelings and pain is a sign of weakness. And that keeping a “stiff upper lip” and “toughing it out” are signs of maturity, character and strength”.

 Manganiello hits on a very real point that not expressing our true feelings and emotions is not necessarily a sign of strength and character. However as we will learn from the next section as Christians we need to express our emotions in a godly way. This is helped by not keeping our feelings bottled up but expressing them at the right time in a way that does not lead us to sin as Paul teaches us in Ephesians 4: 26. My foolish outburst at my work staff meeting taught me a lesson that I need to find a more Godly way of expressing my Christian convictions.

3.     Speaking sinfully when he spoke (4 – 6)

This leads us to my controversial interpretation in this Psalm, as most of the commentators I came across believe this section of the Psalm is simply a prayer David privately prays to God in which he speaks about the brevity of life. For instance Brent Kercheville writes,

“David contemplates the insignificants of our lives in the greater scheme of this world”

 But why does David move to a prayer about this in the context of what he has just said about not speaking to his enemies and then speaking at the end of verse 3?

What clears this up is coming to terms with what David wanted to say and didn’t say and then said once his emotions bottled up inside him. Michael Wilcock believes that what is agitating David is the same thing that Psalms 37 talked about which I think is best described best by Psalm 37: 1,

“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong”

 And in Psalm 37: 12, 13,

“The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming”

David knew that the wicked will get their just deserts in the end but he seems to have a problem in his mind about the fact that the wicked for a time get away with what they do wrong but the righteous suffer because of their sins.

Leopold argues that the words we read in verses 4 – 6 take on a different slant when we consider the tone of voice they where spoken by David. He argues that if these words are spoken in the tone of impatience he is actually saying,

“How soon am I going to die? The sooner the better”

 David’s frustration is that he is now suffering God’s discipline for his sins as he says in verse 11,

“You rebuke and discipline men for their sin”

 However often the wicked seem to prosper even when they sin and even though God will judge them in the context of this life both face a relative short time in this life. This is the same idea expressed in the book of Ecclesiastes 2: 15 – 16,

Then I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?” I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.” For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die”!

Lets go through these verses with this tone of frustration in mind.

Verses 4,

“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life”

In his built up frustration he is declaring to God that he wants to die.

Did David speak these words to God in a prayer privately or were they uttered in the presence of some of his enemies?

We simply cannot tell but David certainly broke his vow of silence with these words because verse 3 ends with the words,

“Then I spoke with my tongue”

Verse 5,

“You have made my days a mere hand breath; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath”.

Even if we live to be 80 or 90 this life compared to the eternal days of God is nothing but the wicked live the same life span as those who trust in God and they are disciplined in this life for there sins.

The next verse states even more clearly David’s frustration with the reality of this life.

Verse 6,

“Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it”.

The old expression, “you cannot take it with you” applies here. I remember with laughter a news story I saw on T.V years ago of a man who was buried in his beloved Cadillac car, literally seeking to defy the saying, “you cannot take it with you”. Of course such a man will simply rot away in his car as it goes to rust and then dust.

So were these words of David the words of a man of faith?

The simple answer is, no.

Where is his hope for eternal life with God?

David did have the hope of eternal life as we can see from Psalm 23: 6,

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”

 But David is not speaking in these verses from the perspective of faith but from the emotions of frustration built up by his bottle ling up of his thoughts and feelings about his enemies and tormentors and how they often prosper while believers suffer the Lords discipline for their sins.

We must learn from this that we too will sometimes let our frustrations and emotions get the better of us just as I did at the staff meeting I referred to in the opening section of this talk.

If we fall to this problem as David expresses in verse 8 we will open ourselves up to becoming,

“The scorn of fools”.

2.     FORGIVENESS FOR SINS OF THE TONGUE  (7 – 11)

 David’s lack of faith and his sinful response to his situation quickly comes to an end in the next section of this Psalm. In this section we see David speaking of three things,

1.     A RIGHT PERSPECTIVE OF THIS LIFE (VS. 7)

2.     A REQUEST FOR FORGIVENESS (VS. 8 -9)

3.     A REQUEST FOR THE SHORTENING OF GOD’S DISCIPLINE (10 – 11)

 

1.     A RIGHT PERSPECTIVE OF THIS LIFE (VS. 7)

This section is certainly a prayer David prayed to God just as the last section is. David starts this prayer with a statement of faith,

“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you”

What David should have declared to his enemies was that even though he had sinned he still had a sure hope in his God. David was not a perfect person by a long shot. He failed God on many occasions as we have seen from many of the Psalms leading up to this one. However what makes David, “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13: 22 and Acts 13: 22) is that even when David sinned he always came back to him in repentance and faith.

David lived his whole life not as a sinless man but a man who put his hope and faith in God even when he did fall to all kinds of sins.

So David’s words in verse 7 represent David coming to a right perspective of life and how he should react in a faithful way to the difficulties he faced in his life.

2.     A REQUEST FOR FORGIVENESS (VS. 8 -9)

In verses 8 and 9 we see the perfect illustration of David’s hope and faith in action as we hear him asking God for forgiveness.

“”Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools”.

David shows us again his faith in a loving merciful God when he calls to God for forgiveness for his many sins or transgressions including the sins of the tongue. Sins of not speaking when he should have, speaking when he shouldn’t and speaking in a way he should not have spoken even in prayer to God.

David makes it clear from verse 9 that his initial reasons for keeping quiet were honorable,

“I was silent: I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this”

But David did not keep his silence and broke out in either private or public prayer with words of frustration and unbelief.

When James spoke of the problem of the tongue he had these words to say, James 3: 2,

“We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man able keep his whole body in check”.

Of course it is impossible for any of us to perfectly control the tongue and we all fall to sins of the tongue. But as John declares in 1 John 1: 8 – 9,

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.

What can we do about the fall out from the sins of the tongue?

David aptly points out when we sin like this we may face, “the scorn of fools”.

My suggestion is to not hide the fact of our sins from the ungodly but claim the forgiveness of God showing our faith is not bound up in our own righteousness (that does not exist) but in the loving forgiveness of God.

I remember a true story I heard at a Billy Graham counselors training course I attended many years ago in preparation for his last mission in Sydney Australia in 1979. We heard of how a teenage girl witnessed to a fellow teenager and she eventually responded at a Billy Graham Crusade. The Christian girl asked her friend how she helped her friend come to Christ. The newly converted girl said it was not that she was perfect but rather when she saw that she did fall to sin she still had faith in God because she discovered that her faith did not depend on her but on the Lord who loved and forgave her.

3.     A REQUEST FOR THE SHORTENING OF GOD’S DISCIPLINE (10 – 11)

Even though God forgave David for his many sins he still faced both the fall out from them and what he calls, God’s Scourge verse 10 or discipline verse 11.

Some might be tempted to sin when we realize that God will forgive all our sins. However sin still has its consequences in our lives. God will forgive a convicted criminal facing the death penalty for his crimes but he still will die for his crimes or sins. David’s sins of adultery and murder led to the death of the child from his initial union with Bathsheba and later the problems within his own family, which included the rebellion and eventual death of his beloved son Absalom. As we have seen also from Psalms 37 and 38 David faced the taunts of his enemies and some kind of physical or psychological sickness.

All this David saw as God’s hand of loving discipline.

From all this David asks God in verses 10 and 11 for some kind of relief,

“Remove your scourge from me: I am overcome by the blow of your hand. You rebuke and discipline men for their sin; you consume their wealth like moth – each man is but breath”.

We all would do well to consider what willful sin can do in our lives and seek God’s help daily to avoid falling to sin particularly sins of the tongue. James gives us good advice about speaking in our daily lives in James 1: 19- 21,

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you”.

So often we find that we experience problems and difficulties in our lives because of poor and even sinful use of our tongues. The fall out from saying a wrong and hurtful thing to another person can last a life -time. Many conflicts in all kinds of relationships started from a slip of the tongue. When we say something to somebody we know we should not have said we cannot take it back it was said and is now planted in our hearer’s minds and only love and forgiveness can overcome that.

4.     A FIANL PRAYER FOR HELP  (12 – 13)

In the final two verses of this Psalm David continues in prayer to God asking for further help from God. He is still suffering from the loving discipline hand of God and he asks God for three things:

1.     That God hear his prayer  (vs. 12a)

2.     That God consider him a alien and stranger in this life (vs. 12b

3.     That God stop his hand of discipline (vs. 13)

 

1.     That God hear his prayer (vs. 12a)

Even David knew that God always heard the prayers of the true believer as David writes in Psalm 17: 6,

“I call on you, O God, for you will answer me”

Even though David knows this he does not take God’s answer to prayers for granted for the second half of this verse reads,

“Give ear to me and hear my prayer”

So David prays in a similar way in verse 12a,

“Hear my prayers, O Lord, listen to my cry for help, be not deaf to my weeping”

We to should have confidence in the power and value of prayer as many New Testament passages including words the Lord himself and they all exhort us to pray with confidence. I offer just one of many passages I could quote here, 1 John 5 : 14 – 15,

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him”.

David was suffering the fall out from his many sins but even in this he asks God to hear his prayers for help,

“be not deaf to my weeping

2.     That God consider him a alien and stranger in this life (vs. 12b)

This request on the surface seems to be a strange request as David asks God to consider him as an alien and stranger.

“For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger”

This is not a strange request when we consider two biblical facts,

  1. The Old Testament Law told the Israelites to care for aliens and strangers as we see in Deut. 10: 19,

“And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt”

2.  Many of the past greats of the Old Testament where aliens and strangers as David points out at the end of verse 12,

“As all my fathers were”

Abraham wandered around what became the Promised Land and only owned his family burial plot. Abraham’s sons did the same and eventually as the Deut. 10: 19 said the whole nation of Israel were alien slaves in Egypt. Yet God looked after them and heard their cry for help with the Exodus.

Maybe David had something of the New Testament application of this in mind. Peter in 1 Peter 2: 11 -1 2 says,

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”.

As the old song says, “This world is not my home I’m just a passing through”.

We belong in heaven but while we live in this world we must not live as if this world is all there is but live as though we are heading to a far greater place than this. As the writer to the Hebrews put it when speaking about the fathers of old in Hebrews 11: 9 – 10,

“By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”.

3.     That God stop his hand of discipline (vs. 13)

The final verse seems to come as a complete anti climax as David does not push on to finish with a hope for a better life to come but rather has another plea for his present suffering to end before he dies.

“Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more”.

I conclude this part of the Psalm study with the wise and instructive words of the great C.H. Spurgeon,

“”May the short interval which divides us from it (heaven) be gilded with the sunlight of our heavenly Fathers love. It is sad to be an invalid from the cradle to the grave, far worse to be under the Lord’s chastisement by the month together, but what are these compared with the endurance of the endless punishment threatened to those who die in their sins”.

Read the poem based on Psalm 39

SINS OF THE TONUE

Forgive me Lord for not speaking for you

When I chose to keep silent today.

For had a chance to declare your love

But I feared what others might say.

For the tongue can be used to praise you Lord

Or curse and defy your name

For out of my mouth can come praise Oh Lord

And out of it words of shame.

 

Forgive my foolish words Oh Lord

When I spoke in haste and pain.

Spoken in the heat of my difficult day

I dishonored your righteous name.

For my tongue is a small but raging fire

That corrupts my body and soul

So I look to you forgiveness Oh Lord

I long to be made whole.

 

Forgive me Lord for how I spoke today

When my emotions got the better of me

I said things that I know I shouldn’t have

And I long for your forgiveness so free.

For the tongue should be used to praise you Lord
To tell others about your great love

And my words only served to confuse and harm

Not point others to you above.

 

But now Oh Lord my hope is in you

My Savior God’s only dear son

Who died on the cross to forgive my sin

Where he suffered the abuse of the tongue.

His pain and his suffering paid sins price

And now I can speak of his love

Use my tongue to declare his word

And point others to the Lord above.

 

By : Jim Wenman

 

PART 2: THREE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATIONS OF PSALM 39

In Psalm 39 we saw David spoke about three types of sins of the tongue, not speaking when we should, speaking when we shouldn’t and speaking in a way God would not want us to speak.

In this section we will look at the following three New Testament applications:

1.     Speaking when we should  (John 18: 15 – 18, 25 – 27, 21: 15 – 19)

2.     Speaking when we shouldn’t  (Matthew 16: 13 – 27)

3.     Speaking the way God wants us to  (James 1: 19 – 21, 3: 9 – 11 and  1 Peter 3: 15)

I would like to explore three New Testament passages that relate to each of these and emphasize the forgiveness of God for the sins of the tongue.

1.     Speaking when we should:  (John 18: 15 – 18, 25 – 27, 21: 15 – 19)

My favorite story in the New Testament about someone not speaking when he should have is the story of Peter’s famous denial of his allegiance to the Lord Jesus on the night Jesus was betrayed and falsely tried. This story always challenges me, as I know I to have failed to identify with Christ from time to time when I was in the presence of people who indicated hostile attitudes to Christianity.

The story does not just challenge me but also offers me hope and the assurance of Jesus forgiveness when I have been like Peter and failed to speak when I should have.

I will look at the three passages from John’s Gospel by the way of the following three points:

1.     Peter was told he would deny his Lord and still did it

2.     Peter succumbed to the heat of unbelief

3.     Peter denied the Lord three times Jesus forgave him three times

 

1.     Peter was told he would deny his Lord and still did it (John 18: 15 – 18)

In John 18: 15 we read of Peter and another unmanned disciple (probably John himself) following Jesus to the High priest Annas place. Only a few hours before this at last supper in John 13 : 37 Peter declares,

“Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you”

Jesus straight away replies to Peter in verse 38,

“Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times”.

Soon after arriving at the home of the Chief priest Peter is asked by a young girl, verse 17,

“You are not one of his disciples, are you?”  Peter replies,

“I am not”

So Peter fails to speak or identify with his Lord and Savior only hours after Jesus predicted he would. This should not be something we should be quick to condemn because I’m sure we have all faced situations like Peter and failed to use our tongues when we should have.

Jesus takes this sin of not speaking or identifying with him seriously as we see from his words in Matthew 10: 33,

“”But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven”.

2.     Peter succumbed to the heat of unbelief (John 18: 25 – 27)

The story gets even worse in the next passage in Johns Gospel, John 18: 25 – 27. Here Peter is standing with a small group of others warming themselves over a small fire. In the heat of this moment when not far away the High priest is cruelly interrogating Jesus Peter is asked again, verse 25,

“You are not one of his disciples, are you?  Peter replies,

“I am not”

Then we read of Peters third predicted denial of his Lord and its tragic consequences in verses 26 and 27,

“One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow”.

In Marks Gospel we read the tragic reaction of Peter in Mark 14: 72,

“Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept”.

Peter seems to be a broken and shattered man as he realized he had failed to speak up for his Lord and instead he denied him just as Jesus had predicted.

3.     Peter denied the Lord three times Jesus forgave him three times (John 21: 15 – 19)

The story of Peter failing to speak when he should have does not end with him simply being a broken failure in the service of our Lord because we read of an amazing encounter Peter had with Jesus soon after his resurrection. We read of this encounter in John 21: 15 – 19.

Here Peter is again face to face with the Lord he loved but who he had denied before men only a few days before.

In this passage Jesus asks Peter three times,

“Simon son of John, do you truly love me”

Three times Peter answers,

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”

And three times Jesus declares,

“Feed my lambs (or sheep)”

Three time Peter denied Jesus and three times Jesus asks him does he love him and I believe three times Jesus forgives Peter and re-commissions him for his future ministry for him. Predicting that he would one day die in service to him.

Only a few days later Peter gets up in front of thousands and declares the Gospel of our Lord bravely and with great power after the Holy Spirit is given to him and to all who believe in Jesus from that day on.

We can learn from these passages that we need to pray always for God’s Holy Spirit to empower us to speak for him in the way he wants us to instead of denying our Lord in the heat of this life’s trials and temptations and if we do we can confidently go to Jesus for forgiveness and he will forgive us.

2.     Speaking when we shouldn’t  (Matthew 16: 13 – 27)

The next story features Peter again. I heard someone once say that Peter had the problem of “putting his foot in his mouth” which is an English expression which means saying something embarrassing or wrong or speaking without often first thinking through what we should say which some call, “foot in mouth disease”.

I have chosen a much longer version of this story to show Peter speaking as he should as well as he shouldn’t. I will again make 3 observations from this passage as well.

1.     Peter Speaking as he should have spoken

2.     Peter Speaking as he shouldn’t have spoken

3.     The consequences of speaking of what we shouldn’t say

 

1.     Peter Speaking as he should have spoken (Matthew 16: 13 – 20)

At the start of this passage in Matthew’s gospel Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi and in 16: 13, Jesus asks his disciples this question,

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They reply with things people have been saying about Jesus up to this point of Jesus ministry on earth,

“Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets”.

Jesus then gets right to the point in verse 15,

“But what about you? He asked, “Who do you say I am”.

Peter without hesitation replies, verse 16,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”

 This was an amazing and wonderful response by Peter who has cottoned on early to the truth about who Jesus really was. This response gets a equally amazing response from Jesus as we read in Matthew 16: 17 – 19,

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus is basically saying four things here:

  1. This understanding of who Jesus is was given to Peter by a revelation from God in heaven.
  2. On this revelation or statement of Peter will Jesus build his church.  (Note it is on the statement, which represents a key element of the Gospel that Jesus will build his church not on Peter himself).
  3. Peter building on the Gospel foundation will establish Christ church on earth.
  4. And this provides the keys to heaven and the basis of the authority of God on earth.

Roman Catholics see Jesus speaking of Peter as the first Bishop of Rome as being the basis of the church and so this authority is passed down by Peter descendants namely the on going Bishops of Rome called Popes.

This is a miss- interpretation of Jesus words here and even if Peter was martyred in Rome we have little proof he was ever the first Bishop of the Church in Rome. He was the first disciple of Christ to proclaim the Gospel message, which was on the day of Pentecost.

So the in the first part of this passage we have Peter speaking as he should have.

2.     Peter Speaking as he shouldn’t have spoken (Matthew 16: 21 – 22)

Interestingly Matthew now moves on to another time Peter speaks up and this time he is speaking way out of line in a way he should not have spoken. Matthew tells us in verse 21 that Jesus from this time on,

“Explains to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life”.

Peter feels he must speak up against these disturbing words of Jesus and in verse 22 we read,

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him (Jesus) “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you”.

Peter is now totally out of line and seems to have forgotten the inspired words of the previous section. In fact it probably reveals that he at this point did not really understand the mission of the Christ the Son of the Living God on earth.

What he thought Jesus mission was at this time we are not certain but the idea of Jesus being the Suffering Messiah as presented in many parts of the Old Testament and particularly in Isaiah 52 13 – 15 and 53 was foreign to Peter and probably all of the disciples.

We must learn from this that we must be careful in what we speak and preach that it is truly the word of God and nothing else or we will be speaking what we shouldn’t.

3.     The consequences of speaking what we shouldn’t say (Matthew 16: 23 – 27)

The reaction of Jesus is very definite and I think unnerving and we read this in verse 23,

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men”.

Jesus is saying Peter when you speak like this you are like the mouth- piece of the devil. If you look at the passages of the Temptations of Jesus in the wilderness you will see that the Devil sought to talk Jesus out of going the way of suffering for sin and turn instead and worship him. Jesus used scripture to counter the temptations and now Peter tries to talk Jesus out of the way of suffering for our sins. This is why Jesus is so strong in saying that what Peter has said is not “The things of God”.

When we say or worse teach what is not true to the word of God we to are vehicles of Satan and are not speaking the mind of God but are actually becoming a stumbling block to faith in Christ.

Even Peter had to learn this great lesson of speaking the way God wants him to and it is not unto he sees Jesus crucified, raised from the dead and then given the gift of the Holy Spirit that he fully understands the true plan of God for this world which he proclaims as the Gospel message on the day of Pentecost.

Jesus closes this section with words that express how hard it will be to be men and women who speak what God wants and I close with the final words of Jesus in this section, verses 24 – 27,

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done”.

3.  Speaking the way God wants us to  (James 1: 19 – 21, 3: 9 – 11 and 1 Peter 3: 15)

We have seen already that the way God wants us to speak is the way of the word of God and particularly the Gospel. Any other message is not from God but Satan and the way or things of man.

In my final two passages I want us to look at two key issues from words of James about the right and wrong use of the tongue and one last issue from 1 Peter 3: 15.

1.     Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to becoming angry

(James 1: 19 -12)

2.     We should use our tongues to praise God (James 3: 9 – 11)

3.     We should always be ready to give an answer for the hope we have (1 Peter 3: 15)

 

1.     Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to becoming angry   (James 1: 19 -12)

Letter of James contains some of the most practical advice for Christian living the whole bible. In our verses today James gives us very practical advice on how we should use our tongues.

He says three things:

1.     Be quick to listen

2.     Slow to speak

3.     Slow to becoming angry

 

1.     Be quick to listen

For many years as an adult educator one of the subject area’s I taught is what is called “interpersonal communications” and one major topic in this is listening skills. I personally suffer from poor listening skills. Some of us are extraverts and are quick to speak while others are introverts and are better listeners. I fall in the category of an extravert and I need to work very hard on listening rather than speaking.

I always told my students, God gave us two ears and only one mouth so he too wants us to listen more than speak. Some people do not say a lot in conversations but this does not necessarily mean they are listening in fact they could simply be just switched off. People who are good talkers often do not listen to the other person because they are thinking of the next thing they want to say.

Real communications is a two way process we need to be both actively listening as well as actively speaking.

James advice is really practical he says “be quick to listen” or really work at listening to the other person before you use your tongue. Active listening means we show the other person we are listening to them by showing with our body movements and our questions of clarification that we are listening. This will mean we will speak more effectively to the other person.

I once had to deal with a verbally aggressive angry client who intimidated every one of my fellow workers. In my first meeting with him I chose to write down in point form every complaint he had for me. My only words to him were to clarify what he was actually complaining about.

I remember the list had twenty-four points. Once he had finished his aggressive rant I then told him that immediately I could fix three of his problems and promised to work on another three after he had gone and the next time I saw him I would work on some of the other points on my list. When he was about to leave me that day he shook my hand and said, “You are the first person who has ever truly listened to him”.

2.     Slow to speak

This point follows closely the first point of being quick to listen because to be quick to listen we must first be slow to speak. It also means that James is encouraging us to think through what we are about to say before we say it.

This is great advice because many people including myself can be found guilty of what some call, “shooting off our mouth”, speaking words without really thinking through the total implications of them.

James wants us to be slow to speak so we can both concentrate on listening to the other person and so we can think through carefully what we can more effectively say to the other person we are seeking to communicate with. This too can help avoid sins of the tongue.

3.     Slow to becoming angry

James final point of practical advise concerning the use of the tongue involves the role of our emotions. We saw in Psalm 39 that when David did not speak he had real problems with controlling his emotions. We see this in verses 2 and 3,

“So I remained utterly silent, not even saying anything good. But my anguish increased; my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue”.

I spoke earlier of Paul’s similar advice in Ephesians 4: 26,

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”.

When we let our emotions get the better of us in a conversation with another person we usually fall to sins of the tongue. We need to take hold of ourselves when we feel anger welling up inside of us and take James advice of becoming slow to anger.

James goes on to say why this is so important in verse 20,

“For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires”.

 

2.     We should use our tongues to praise God (James 3: 9 – 11)

James gives us a clear challenge that says we have only two choices about how we use our tongues in these verses,

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring”?

Note James does not give us any middle ground you are either using your tongue the right way or the wrong way. I must confess again that I have been guilty of using my tongue the wrong way. We do this not simply by literally cursing someone but rather by not speaking up for God or speaking in a way that does not honor God. When we do this we are as good as not praising God and cursing human beings.

I love the old hymn that has a first line that reads,

“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believers ear”

When we declare the word of God with our tongues we will have accordingly two responses as Paul points out in 1 Cor. 1: 18,

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.

So Jesus and the message of the cross are sweet in a believer’s ear but bitter in a non- believers ear. This is ultimately why non- believers take the Lords name in vain. Jesus becomes nothing more than a swear word in their mouths. James says something like this in our passage,

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing”

James I think is implying that only a saved and sanctified heart can produce the kind of words God wants to come out of our mouth when he writes,

“Can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water”.

People who do not acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Savior will show by their words what they truly believe however we as believers and particularly teachers of God’s word should show by our words that we truly believe in him by giving praise to our Father in heaven.

3.     We should always be ready to give an answer for the hope we have  (1 Peter 3: 15)

Our final New Testament passage comes from Peter’s first letter chapter 3 where Peter has been speaking about suffering because of our faith in Christ. Interestingly in the verses leading up to out verse Peter quoted from Psalm 34 and in that quote is about the use of our tongues.

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech” (verse 10)

Peter continues to speak about suffering for identifying with God and what he stands for and then gives in verse’s 15 and 16 advise on what God wants us to say to others who challenge our faith in Christ,

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.

I want to highlight again three things from these verses,

1.     Be prepared

2.     Be alert

3.     Be respectful

 

1.     Be prepared

When I was a young child I joined the boys scouts and only stopped attending when I became a young Christian at 13 because I got more involved in the young peoples groups of my church. The boys scouts motto is, “Be Prepared” which the scouting movements founder Robert Baden-Powell came up with. The following quote by Robert Baden- Powell explains his meaning of the phrase:

The Scout Motto is: BE PREPARED, which means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.

Be Prepared in Mind by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.

Be Prepared in Body by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it.

This is a great way of describing what Peter wants us to do in his advice on, “Always be prepared”. Note it involves discipline by thinking through beforehand what you might say and do. Baden Powell in his motto explanation speaks of knowing the right thing to say or do.

Most of us get caught of not saying the right thing because we are not prepared. I have become prepared on how to answer certain non- believer questions because I have been caught out and this has led me to research an answer or better answer for the next time someone who might ask me a similar question.

2.     Be alert

Another important aspect of being prepared is being alert to the opportunities that may come to us in our daily lives. I think the best way to be alert is to start the day in prayer asking God to alert us to opportunities to speak for him. Maybe this is what Peter means by the opening words or verse 15,

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord”

Sometimes the opportunities to speak will be obvious as Peter says,

“Give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”.

Sometimes the opportunities will be less obvious and only by being prayerfully alert will we see this opportunity.

3.     Be respectful

Peter makes it clear that when we speak we must do it with,

“Gentleness and respect”

Again when we use our tongues even in witnessing and preaching we must do it in the way God wants it done. Jesus always spoke, even to his enemies in a loving way even when he was pointing out the false ways or views they had about him or the word of God.

Peter tells us his reasons for speaking like this in verse 16,

Keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.

Peter is saying don’t let what you say to your persecutors be used by them as justification for their persecution as far as this is possible.

This is why I think we should work hard as Christians to research and understand what non-believers really believe and why.

If we have little or no understanding of what our hearers believe or think then we could be speaking words that are of little use to them when we are explaining the Christian Gospel to them. In my Bible College days in the early 1970’s I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing from the famous missionary speaker Don Richardson who worked successfully for many years as a missionary among western tribal people in New Guinea.

Don Richardson wrote the famous book, “Peace Child” in which he speaks about “Redemptive Analogies” which he argues, God has placed cultural practices or understandings, which Christians can use to explain or illustrate the Christian Gospel. He made popular the concept of “contextualization of the Biblical incarnation of Jesus”.

Missionary historian Ruth A. Tucker writes:

“As he learned the language and lived with the people, he became more aware of the gulf that separated his Christian worldview from the worldview of the Sawi: “In their eyes, Judas, not Jesus, was the hero of the Gospels, Jesus was just the dupe to be laughed at.” Eventually Richardson discovered what he referred to as a Redemptive Analogy that pointed to the Incarnate Christ far more clearly than any biblical passage alone could have done. What he discovered was the Sawi concept of the Peace Child.

Three tribal villages were in constant battle at this time. The Richardson’s were considering leaving the area, so to keep them there, the Sawi people in the embattled villages came together and decided that they would make peace with their hated enemies. Ceremonies commenced that saw young children being exchanged between opposing villages.

One man in particular ran toward his enemy’s camp and literally gave his son to his hated foe. Observing this, Richardson wrote: “if a man would actually give his own son to his enemies, that man could be trusted!” From this rare picture came the analogy of God’s sacrifice of his own Son.

The Sawi began to understand the teaching of the incarnation of Christ in the Gospel after Richardson explained God to them in this way”.

We probably do not have to go as far as Don Richardson in our preparation and respect of other people’s beliefs but the principle is the same. A respect and understanding of the people we are seeking to witness to will assist in us speaking more effectively for him and if God’s Spirit is helping our hearers open up to the message we are speaking then we could be used to bring them to Christ.

CONCLUSION

We have now looked at New Testament passages on not speaking when we should, speaking when we shouldn’t, not speaking the way God wants us to and speaking the way God wants us to. In all this there are many traps and errors we can fall into which I have called “The Sins of the Tongue” but we must feel encouraged by the fact that men in the bible like King David and the Apostle Peter, to name just two, had great problems with sins of the tongue.

We can be encouraged that God forgives sins of the tongue if we are willing to confess them and find their forgiveness in the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I close with David’s words of prayer as my prayer and I hope yours as well.

PRAYER:

“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.

Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools.

In Jesus Name I pray this, Amen.

 

 

 

 

Psalm 38 TALK: A General but Personal Confession for those who are suffering because of their sins

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

PSALM 38 TALK:  A GENERAL BUT PERSONAL CONFESSION FOR THOSE

                               WHO ARE SUFFERING BECAUSE OF THERE SIN’S

 INTRODUCTION

 I am a Christian first and I really enjoy fellowshipping and working with a wide variety of Christians from many denominations. However I am also an Evangelical Anglican and it was through my local Anglican Church I attended at the time that I became a follower of Christ. I was only 13 years old and I had been attending that church for two years. As a very young child I attended a Presbyterian Sunday School before my family moved to a new house in Liverpool an outer suburb of Sydney.

As an Anglican Christian I am very familiar with set prayers of various kinds and the one I want to share in this study is called, “The General Confession”. This prayer is usually prayed in services of prayer and worship for both mornings and evening prayer. The prayer goes like this (Australian Prayer Book 1978):

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against your holy laws. We have left undone those things, which we ought to have done; and we have done those things, which we ought not to have done; and there is nothing good in us. O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent; according to your promises declared unto men in Christ Jesus our Lord. Grant that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life; to the glory of his name. Amen”.

This prayer could be read and is often read with peoples minds disengaged and this is a criticism of set worship services like Anglicans use. However I have read this out aloud on many occasions and felt the full force of its truth and relevance. Psalm 38 interestingly I think is an ancient Hebrew general confession. This comes from a better understanding of the superscription at the top of the Psalm. The NIV translates this, New International version, “A Psalm of David. A petition”

 Even though this certainly is a petition and is one of the seven “penitential psalms” others include 6, 32, 51,102,130 and 143 the heading more correctly translated is better seen in the New Revised Standard Version which reads, “To the Leader. Of David, for the memorial offering”.

 An American Old Testament Scholar named Nancy deClaisse Walford explains the two possible explanations of this better translated superscription that appear not only on this Psalm but Psalm 70 also,

How does

“First, it may suggest that the psalms were recited at the occasion of various offerings at the temple or sanctuaries (see Leviticus 1 – 6). Second, it may indicate that these psalms were ‘kept on file’ at the temple or sanctuaries, available for folk to recite who lacked the words to express their heartfelt woes and desires”.

 Both these suggest that this Psalm and Psalm 70 were forms of general confessions for the ancient Hebrews similar to the Anglican one I quoted at the start of this study.

However I don’t think this Psalm started its life as this but rather came out of the very real and bitter experience of David at the time of his coming to terms with his sins with Bathsheba that involved adultery and murder.

Some commentators have dismissed David as the author because they say the historical texts have no reference to David ever having the kind of sickness a literal interpretation of the text suggests. However many other commentators have suggested that the sickness interpreted literally does not exist and suggest that this points to a more poetic form of interpretation. The most famous of this theory is the nineteenth century great Baptist preacher Charles Haden Spurgeon who puts it this way,

“I am persuaded that the description here does not tally with any known disease of the body. It is very like leprosy, but it has certain features which cannot be found in any leprosy ever known, either by ancient or modern writers, The fact is, it is spiritual leprosy, an inward disease which is here described”.

 I will also explore just when I think David wrote this confession in the first part of the study.

I have divided this Psalm into 4 parts:

1.     THE SINNERS REQUEST (1 – 2)

2.     THE SINNERS STATE OF MIND AND SOUL (3 – 10)

3.     THE SINNERS STATE WITH HIS FRIENDS AND ENEMIES (11 – 20)

4.     THE SINNERS FINAL PLEA (21 – 22)

 

1.     THE SINNERS REQUEST (1 – 2)

Many might say that Anglicans starting almost every service of worship with a prayer like the general confession are simply Christians who have not truly taken hold of the forgiveness and new life God provides through Christ. But this attitude is not the true biblical state of every believer. Yes we are forgiven and yes God now accepts us as justified in Christ but does this mean that we are now sinless and no longer needing the forgiveness of Christ and confession of sin. Let me quote from a publication my own diocese of Sydney produced called, “Biblical patterns of Prayer”,

“We can only draw near to ‘the throne of the heavenly grace’ as those who are truly penitent and trust in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ for pardon and renewal. So praying for forgiveness is a way of acknowledging the basis of our relationship with God, before we come to him with our various petitions”.

 This Psalm is not written from the perspective of a non believer coming to God asking for God’s forgiveness but is King David, the one called, “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13: 14 and Acts 13: 22), who is asking, (New International version)

 “O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath”

 David is praying this desperate prayer I believe after just receiving the news that God knows all about his sins of murder and adultery through his affair with Bathsheba and even though he will be forgiven by God he will loose the first child conceived through this sinful relationship. Lets read now in 2 Samuel 12: 15 – 17 in which we see how David reacted to the news that his newly born son would die,

“After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them”.

David is suffering here very greatly under the Lords heavy discipline brought on by David’s willful sins of Adultery and murder. He is asking in the Psalm for God’s hand of discipline and its painful consequences to leave him.

This opening verse is the same as the opening verse of Psalm 6 and in that study I had a good look at why we might suffer in this life. I came up with the following four reasons:

Reason 1. Suffering comes because God wants to test our faith – 1 Peter 1 : 6 – 7.

Reason 2. Suffering comes because God will be glorified through it – John 9: 2.

Reason 3. Suffering comes because we live in a sinful fallen world – Romans 8: 19 –  21

Reason 4. Suffering comes because wants to discipline us – Hebrews 12: 4 to 8.

The last reason for suffering, suffering coming from God’s Discipline, seems to be what David has in mind as he suffered after hearing of God’s knowledge of his sins with Bathsheba.

Some might say how can we say God is truly a loving God if he actually brings pain and difficulty on the ones he says he loves?

The Hebrew 12: 4 – 8 answers this question,

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all”.

David should not have been forgiven for the sins of adultery and murder if we were simply looking at this from a human point of view but in the bible we are not looking at this from our perspective but God’s perspective and he is the great God of love and his love is unmerited and unbelievable.

Also David needs to learn that even though he is forgiven he must continually turn from sinful ways and seek to live the way God wants him to. This often can only be learnt from the painful process of God’s disciplinary actions like David was now experiencing.

Verse 2, David poetically describes what these disciplinary actions of God felt like.

“For your arrows have pieced me, and your hand has come down upon me”

The pain of God’s discipline is like the pain of an arrows sticking into a persons body, which would be very painful, and the guilt of sin is a deep- seated painful experience. Many people suffering from guilt turn to alcohol or drugs to deaden the pain they feel but only a realisation of God’s forgiveness can relieve such a pain as this.

David then describes the pain of God’s disciplinary hand as like God’s hand pressing down upon him. This brings back to me my memories of sleepless nights I can remember having after a time of wilful sins in my life. I felt this terrible heavy pressure constantly on me as my mind kept thinking about my sins. God is heavy on our hearts making sure he is aware of our sins and does not like them. But as we saw in Psalm 30 verse 5,

“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”

For seven nights David had nights like we read in 2 Samuel 12: 15 – 17 but after the child died and David was told about it we read in verses 18 – 20,

“On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.” David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.

“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”

Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate”.

During that week or so of suffering David describes how he felt in the next part of this Psalm and after that he describes how his sin and God’s discipline effected his relationship with his friends and enemies.

2.     THE SINNERS STATE OF MIND AND SOUL (3 – 10)

 In the next two sections of this Psalm David spells out the effects of sin and God’s discipline on his life. This first section uses poetic imagery to describe the effects of his sin and God’s discipline on his soul and mind. He is using the images of a terrible and painful disease to describe his experience at this time.

In 2 Samuel 12: 16 – 17 we read the kind of state David was in once Nathans prophecy of the sickness and ultimate death of David and Bathsheba’s first child came true,

David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them”.

 People I have met in the past who have lost an infant child have told me of the agony and pain of grief they have experienced at the time. Well just imagine how you would feel if you knew the sickness and death of your infant child was your fault owing to your adulterous sin. This is the kind of pain and agony David is trying to describe here.

I want to break down this description into two parts:

1.     The effect of sin on David’s mind

 Guilt has a terrible effect on all aspects of us but it centrally plays its way out in the mind of the sufferer. One writer I discovered on the net called Charles R. Swindoll described guilt’s effect on the human mind and experience this way,

Grief over past sins plunges them into a depth of sorrow. Guilt swallows them up, and they feel as if they are drowning”.

In verses 4 to 8 David describes the sate of his mind in physical painful images. Lets go through each of these next four verses and unpack the images David is using.

  1. Drowning victim –  verse 4,

“My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear”

Like Swindoll spoke of in the previous quote many people suffering from the pain of guilt from the memory of past sins feel they are drowning. David uses Hebrew words that project here the sense of drowning, which we read as being overwhelmed. Leslie S. M’can calls it, “a suffocating flood” that David goes on to describe, “crushes the life out of him”. The pain of guilt can cause us to feel truly miserable and unhappy and only the powerful blood of Christ spilt for us so that we can truly be forgiven and freed from the power of guilt can help us here. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 9: 14,

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

   2.  Social outcast – verse 5,

“My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly”

David is saying here I feel like I have festering sores that make me feel like a social outcast. This is the image of leprosy which we have many images of in the bible. If you got this terrible disease in bible times you were treated literally as a social outcast. David says his sins or as he puts it, “sinful folly”, made him feel, “loathsome” or like a social outcast, as Spurgeon put it, “Spiritual leprosy”.

3.  Unable to stand up straight – verse 6,

“I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning”

 The description of David in 2 Samuel 12: 16 is of David pleading with God fasting and spending the nights,

“lying in sackcloth on the ground”.

I remember a friend describing the stature of a person we knew who had recently confessed to a major sin in his life and who had lost his ministry job as a result and he was described as being hunched over and giving the appearance of a broken man. David became a broken man he lay in sackcloth, harsh rough fibres material on the cold floor of his palace room. A mind full of guilt and the pain of sin will do this to anyone it will break us and cause us to not walk upright in this world both physically and emotionally. We will see in the next section on the effects of sin on the soul that the only way we can stand up straight is by becoming forgiven sinners.

    4.  No health in my body – verse 7,

“My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body”.

The total effect of David’s sin on his mind and physical state is brought to a conclusion in the words, “there is no health in my body”. David uses the physical ailment of back pain to describe his mental anguish caused by his sins. I have three times in my life experienced back pain and it was not very pleasant. I only had minor muscle damage but friends of mine over the years have told me of the debilitating excruciating pain they suffered as they had a slipped disk in their back and how they were totally laid up in bed heavily sedated. This is what sin did to David’s mind and physical state it made him suffer debilitating and excruciated pain that affected the entire health of his body.

2.     The effect of sin on David’s soul

The final three verses of this section express how David felt spiritually or how his sins and God’s disciplinary actions affected his soul.

We as human beings are more than just flesh and blood machines as some modern evolutionary thinkers present. God breath’s into us and makes us a living soul at the time of our birth as Genesis 2: 7 suggests. So David like any human being will feel the effects of sin not only physically in our minds and bodies but deep within us in our souls or as the bible often calls it our hearts.

Let me unpack the images David is using in these next three verses,

  1. Anguish of heart – verse 8,

“I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart”

The guilt caused by sin reaches deep within the human heart. It expresses itself outwardly in deep groans and is felt inwardly as a feeling of being crushed. This makes us week and powerless in God’s service and David for a number of days after the prophet, Nathan revealed to David God’s knowledge of his sins acted like a totally crushed man. He experienced the heavy discipline of the Lord but he eventually recovered from this and rose from his despair to serve and worship the Lord again as 2 Samuel 12: 20,

“Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped”.

When we sin again as Christians we too need to learn to be truly penitent, confess our sins and then rise as forgiven sinners to love and serve the Lord.

      2.  Longings lie open before you – verse 9,

“All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you”

Coffman writes, “What a horrible creature man appears to be in his conscience when his depravity and vileness are fully exposed by the searching eyes of God”.

David knew that God had searched his heart and mind and found him wanting as he wrote in Psalm 139 which he concludes in verses 23 and 24,

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.

God had done this and found and revealed the offensive way in David’s heart and now David could do only one thing, lay before the Lord the longings of his heart. This is what the New Testament tells us to do as we see in a verse like 1 John 1: 9,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.

     3.  The light is gone from my eyes – verse 10,

“My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes”

David is now expressing that his sense of guilt in his heart has made him not only weak but causing him to feel he is actually dying. Churchyard believes that to the Hebrew listener when hearing the expression, “even the light has gone from my eyes” would know he is saying,” I am dying”

Paul taught that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and the curse Adam and Eve received from God because of their sin was death Genesis 3: 19. However a promise goes with Romans 6: 23 is,

“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

David did not have knowledge of Jesus Christ and his gift of life but he did know the God of love who he spoke of in Psalm 25: 7,

“Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good”.

3.     THE SINNERS STATE WITH HIS FRIENDS AND ENEMIES (11 – 20)

David now moves from a description of what he personally felt as a result of his guilt and the discipline of God as a result of his sins to the effect this has on some of his friends and enemies. We will look at each separately.

1.     The effects of his sins on his friends (verse 11)

David states the effect of his being disciplined by God owing to his grievous sins on his friends in just one verse which reads,

“My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbours stay far away”

When a friend or family member is caught out in serious sin then a major test of how much we love them is revealed. I know from past experience when I have heard or seen the reaction of some people to those close to them being caught out in serious sin I have been surprised and disappointed. Kidner says,

It is ironic that the more desperately a person needs the support of friends and loved ones the less likely he is to receive it”.

I wonder what reaction the ordinary Israelite in the streets of Jerusalem would have been once they found out their supposed Godly and mighty King David committed the sins of adultery and murder let alone the reaction of those close to the king. David tells us he believed many of those close to him avoided him.

As Christians we are exhorted by the New Testament not to do this as Paul teaches in Galatians 6: 1 – 2,

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ”.

2.     The effects of his sins on some of his enemies (verses 12 – 20)

David now spells out in much more detail the effect of his known sins on his enemies. When a high profile Christian falls to obvious and terrible sin the effects can be devastating on the Church and the message it seeks to proclaim.

David knew all to well the reality of this and a number of Psalms are either devoted to this or mention this. Psalm 26 is one of the Psalms devoted to David’s vindication because of his enemy’s false accusations. However in this Psalm David does not seek vindication, as he knows his accusers accusations and taunts are not false but well founded. This is why in verse 13 and 14 he writes,

“I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth. I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply”.

David can only say nothing and throw himself before the Lord which he says he is doing in verse 15,

“I wait for you. O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God’”

I think the effects on David by his enemies in this section are threefold:

1.     They seek his life (verse 12)

2.     They hate him with no reason (verse 19)

3.     They slandered him (verse 20)

 

1. They seek his life (verse 12)

On many occasions David’s life was in danger from his enemies. The most famous of course was when he was on the run from King Saul but here his enemies falsely accused him of wrong. In this Psalm David has admitted he had sinned and God was chastising him because of it but his enemies used this as an excuse to try and take his life.

There are two times in the second book of Samuel where his enemies are seeking to kill him because of his sinful shortcomings. The first is found in 2 Samuel chapters 15 – 19 where David is on the run from his son Absalom that relates to his sins in the Bathsheba affair because this rebellion is the fulfilment of Nathans prophecy concerning God’s judgment on David for these sins, namely what is recorded in 2 Samuel 12: 11,

“Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you”.

The other is in chapter 20 where a member of Saul’s Benjamin tribe named Sheba leads a revolt against David. This man would have used David’s short falls to raise a revolt against the kingship of David.

The words of verse 12 aptly capture things that took place on both these occasions,

“Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception”.

2.     They hate him with no reason (verse 19)

Verse 19 reads,

“Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous”

Of course this is not strictly correct because David did sin badly and under the old idea of an eye for an eye type Old Testament judgment he deserved death for organizing the killing of Uriah in battle. However God forgave David and was disciplining him for that and his sin of adultery.

However the enemies of David did not really recognise the true and living God of David and Israel. They, like all who do not acknowledge God, really were living for their own advancement and interests and therefore were using David’s sins as a chance to legitimately destroy him.

3.     They slandered him (verse 20)

David now describes what these enemies were actually doing in verse 20,

“Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good”

There is a incident in the rebellion of Absalom when David was on the run and his reputation was shot through by slanderous propaganda by his son and his followers. In this situation a man Shimel verbally attacks David. Shimel like Sheba is a Benjamite and his slanderous actions aimed at David are recorded in 2 Samuel 16: 6 – 8,

“He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”

This man vastly outnumbered by David’s men takes on the King running him down with this vicious verbal attack. Interestingly David tells his chief officer Abishai to ignore this man and says theses words in 11 – 12,

“ David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”

So like David’s words in the Psalm describe what he did on that day, he became,

“like a deaf man, who cannot hear, whose mouth can offer no reply”

In conclusion what can you do if you fall into sin and your public reputation is ruined and like David you cop slander and abuse from unbelievers?

Well apart from keeping your mouth shut like David you can do what David does in verses 15 – 18.

1.     You can,

“wait for you, O Lord” (verse 15)

This mean don’t attempt to fix things yourself but look to God to deal with it.

2.     Pray therefore specifically for God’s assistance in this difficult situation as verse 16 spells out,

“For I said, ‘Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips”

3.     Tell God how you are really feeling,

“For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me” (verse 17)

4.      Finally make sure above all things you confess your sins to God as we read David did in verse 18,

“I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin”

 4.     THE SINNERS FINAL PLEA (21 – 22)

 David now brings his prayer of confession and petition to a close in verses 21 – 22 in which he is not saying that God has answered him as many of the Psalms usually do. Instead David asks God for two more things.

1.     That  God would not forsake him (verse 21)

 2.     That God would come quickly to save him (verse21)

 

1.     That God would not forsake him (verse 21)

We have just seen in the previous sections that many of his best friends had forsaken him and his enemies had turned on him with slander. He asks God not to also turn on him even though he deserves God to do so.

“O Lord do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God”

 We have far more assurance of God’s constant, never changing love and forgiveness than David had as we saw from our study of Psalm 31. We have the work and words of Jesus, God become flesh who promises in John 10: 27 and 28,

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand”.

David does not have these words of assurance but he had a lifetime of proof of God’s ever-present love and help in his life. This he often refers to in his Psalms and this is what lies behind his plea for God not to forsake him now.

2.     That God would come quickly to save him (verse21)

Finally David prays,

“Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savoir”

David has indicated right from the start that God’s discipline of him, which came about owing to his terrible sins, was very painful. He started asking God to stop this harsh discipline and now he finishes asking God to do it quickly. This is a desperate prayer for God to stop his discipline but he is confident it will stop soon because he calls the God he is praying to his, “Lord and Savoir”, the God who constantly reveals himself as a God of love.

In the story of David’s reaction to the news his son to Bathsheba would die David is in a state of mental and spiritual turmoil for about a week but once the child dies and David learns of this David rose from his pain and penitent prayer to worship the Lord.

In the Anglican prayer of general confession we read,

“Restore those who are penitent; according to your promises declared unto men in Christ Jesus our Lord. Grant that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life; to the glory of his name. Amen”.

Read the poem based on Psalm 38

A CALL FOR FORGIVENESS

 Oh Lord don’t rebuke me

Turn from your wrath

Turn and forgive me Oh Lord.

For I know you’re a God

Who longs to love

And I know this because of your word.

So I call for your love and forgiveness

Yes I call on the grounds of your grace.

For I know that your son

Paid for my sin

On the cross when he died in my place.

 

Oh Lord I have sinned

I have turned from your way.

I have followed the desires of my heart.

My guilt overwhelms me

I long to be free

Yes I long for a brand new start.

So I call for your love and forgiveness

Yes I call on the grounds of your grace.

For I know that your son

Paid for my sin

On the cross when he died in my place.

 

Oh Lord my sin is

Ever before me.

I am bowed down and brought very low.

All day I am mourning

I long to be free

Yes I’m longing for your love to show.

So I call for your love and forgiveness

Yes I call on the grounds of your grace.

For I know that your son

Paid for my sin

On the cross when he died in my place.

 

My friends they seem

To turn from me

When they learn that I’ve sinned again.

My enemies taunt me

They say I not true

To the message I preach to them.

So I call for your love and forgiveness

Yes I call on the grounds of your grace.

For I know that your son

Paid for my sin

On the cross when he died in my place.

 

So I pray that you Lord

Will forgive me

And your peace will soon come in my heart.

For I know from your word

You will not forsake

Yes your love will never depart.

So I call for your love and forgiveness

Yes I call on the grounds of your grace.

For I know that your son

Paid for my sin

On the cross when he died in my place.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PART 2: THREE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATIONS OF PSALM 38

 Psalm 38 is a prayer of confession and it became to be used as a prayer available in the Temple of sanctuaries as a kind of general prayer for the ancient Israelites like the Anglican prayer of General confession. I goggled the word confession into my computer and it revealed three famous New Testament passages on confession. They are New Testament passages that contain the word, “confess” and they give us three different New Testament applications of the concept of confession. Interestingly my search also revealed that many of the articles on “confession” are written by Roman Catholics who have a different view on how we confess.

As bible believing Christians we too should know and teach others about confession but we do not confess to a priest or some kind of other mediator but we confess directly to Jesus who Paul describes in 1 Timothy 2: 5 as the,

“One God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus”.

Lest now look at the three confession New Testament passages my Google search found.

  1. CONFESSION LEADS TO FORGIVENESS (1 John 1: 8 – 10)

The first result of my Internet search led me to the first letter of John where he states clearly what confession leads to and why it is so important for every Christian. The three things I see in this passage area:

1.     It’s impossible to be without sin

2.     It’s impossible to be forgiven without confession

3.     It’s impossible to live a Christian life without further confession of sins

 

1.     It’s impossible to be without sin (vs. 8)

This seems to be an obvious thing to know that everyone has sinned and Paul spoke on this on a number of occasions. However before we come to Christ we live as though we have nothing to answer for before God. However when someone says to me that mankind is basically good I refer them to our needs for locks on our doors and the fact that everyone cannot claim they have never told a lie.

John points out to his readers this fact by writing,

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”.

He was writing against a false teaching of the time that said the body was sinful but the soul was good but he made it clear that to teach that even our souls are good is a lie and is not part of God’s truth.

2.    It’s impossible to be forgiven without confession (verse 9)

John goes on to say that,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.

The second point is that without the confession of our sins there is no forgiveness of them. When a person becomes a Christian they must first “repent” that is turn away from sins. Confession of sins is the first part of repenting and the next step is believing that through the death of Christ our sins have been forgiven. This is something we must continue to do all the days of our life after coming to Christ as the next point will teach us.

3.     It’s impossible to live the Christian life without further confession of sins (verse 10)

The final point from this passage is that all Christians continue to fall to sin in their daily lives. In Johns day the false teachers he battled with taught that they knew the secret to not sinning and this secret teaching known as Gnosticism taught that there was a way to free the sinful body to know the experience of the sinless soul. John makes it clear in verse 10,

“If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives”.

In all ages the church has had to face false teaching about Christians being able to become sinless in this life. I once met a lady on a church pastoral home visit who belonged to a false teaching movement called “The Holiness Movement”, she said I denied my salvation in Christ by not believing I was now sinless. I took her to this verse in the bible but she had such a crazy view of sanctification she dismissed what I said and re-interpreted this verse form her perspective. I left that meeting with her with a big headache.

As Christians we should seek to not sin but when we do we need to confess them and as the verse says God will forgive us.

2.     CONFESSION LEADS TO POWERFUL FELLOWSHIP (James 5: 13 – 16)

Some see this passage in James as being very controversial because it has a major reference to healing. However I like to just read it as it stands and for me it has more to say about the role and power of God’s forgiveness than anything else.

I want to focus on three issues again:

1.     The power of being happy or sad through prayer

2.     The power of prayer

3.     The power of the fellowship of confession and forgiveness

 

1.     The power of being happy or sad through prayer (13)

I always find the book of James both practical and refreshing and this passage has both those qualities going for it. It speaks of how the real Christian life is a combination of happiness and sadness, good times and difficult times. James has already made it clear earlier that God uses even the difficult times for his good purposes, as we see in 1: 2 – 4,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

In the verses leading up to this passage James speaks of being patient as we wait for the Lords return and how this might require us to endure suffering. In 5: 10 – 11, James says this,

“Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy”.

Now James speaks to both states of Christian experience, being troubled and happy in verse 13,

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise”

James is following through his previous words in chapter 1 where he says that difficult times should lead to praise and joy because they are used by God to help us grow and be useful. Therefore there is power for the Christian in being both happy or sad.

2.     The power of prayer (14 – 15)

This is the controversial part of our passage where the prayer of faith is said to make a person well. To me I don’t believe this verse is guaranteeing a healing result we might always have in mind but real prayer done by real believers is always heard by God and receives his answer. If a person is sick and we pray for them we cannot say God has not answered if they don’t get better or even die as James has already said that God uses trials and difficulties in his plan for us. If the person is a believer and they die they have not lost out because they are now with the Lord in heaven. I don’t think we can then seek our prayer answer agenda when even Jesus himself said on the night before he was crucified,

“Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22: 42

So lets look at what these verses are really saying,

 “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven”.

This passage is telling us the sort of things we should do when we find ourselves sick. James has already said if we are in trouble we should pray. He now says we should also enlist the help of others in our church to pray as well. He speaks of calling the elders, which could be as it is in my current church a group of people the church has nominated and sought to train as carers.

These people offer prayer and in James time oil, which many commentators say, was an example first century practical medicine. This would mean that carers and others who want to help a fellow sick brother or sister should both pray and offer any practical assistance they can. We have the gift of modern medicine to look to also for help in our times of sickness.

Then James says, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven”.

Taking this on face value it is saying prayer offered in faith is very powerful and I have seen over the years how praying for my brothers and sisters in Christ when they were sick has really helped them. I have seen or heard of God healing people and I know some others have not recovered when very ill but have gone peacefully to meet the Lord in heaven. Both these results are positive and fit James description of making the sick person well.

Finally note the reference to forgiveness at the end of this verse. The prayer of faithfully believers is also the key to forgiveness as we saw in the previous 1 John passage. To be truly “well’ means to be right with God and in a healthy relationship with his Son, The Lord Jesus Christ.

3.     The power of the fellowship of confession and forgiveness (16)

Finally we come to our “Confession” reference in this passage. James points us also to the power of confession and the forgiveness in this verse.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”.

Again to limit the idea of being healed to just physical illness is selling this verse short of its true impact. James has shown over and over again in his letter that he is not just concerned for our physical well being but our spiritual and eternal well being as well.

Note how this confession of sin is not just our personal and private confession to God as John spoke about in the previous 1 John passage but is confession to one another. This corporate confession in the early church sowed the seeds of the Roman Catholic practice of confession to a priest.

Apparently corporate confession got out of hand by the third or fourth century and the priest became the representative of the church and God and he became the one to confess to. This is out of line with the biblical concept of Jesus being the one mediator between God and man and the actual teaching in this passage of corporate confession.

I think there is an answer to the problems of corporate confession getting out of hand. First we can all pray together some form of general confession like my church does in the general confession and we can do some confessing together in smaller group church meetings.

I have always belonged to some form of Church based bible study group which my current church calls a “Growth Group”. At these smaller meetings of Christians we always pray for one another and the wider church and sometimes this involves some kind of confession of sins to one another. I find the intimate fellowship of these small church group meetings vital to my own walk with the Lord.

Finally note what this confession of sins to one another leads to. James tells us it has two effects.

  1. It heals us  (Physically and Spiritually)
  2. Is Powerful and effective

Confession and the forgiveness it brings to us is a wonderful and powerful gift from God that we all should seek to practice in both our private and church lives. It will lead to our growth and power in our daily walk with the Lord.

3.     CONFESSION LEADS TO OUR SALVATION (Romans 10: 9 – 13)

The final New Testament passage my Internet Google search led me to on confession was Romans 10: 9- 13. Paul is teaching us here how we can be saved and his words are clear and decisive and I want to point to three great truths again from this passage.

1.     Confession must be both by mouth and heart (vs. 9 – 11)

2.     Confession is the way for all people  (vs. 12)

3.     Confession is calling on the name of the Lord (vs. 13)

 

1.     Confession must be both by mouth and heart (vs. 9 – 11)

Paul wants to make it even clearer how a person becomes a true believer in Christ and therefore discovers the life changing power of justification by faith in Christ. I once heard this theological explanation of justification being explained as, JUST IF I HAD NEVER SINNED. This is how God treats us in the sense of his certain judgment of tis world if we have faith in Christ. But the question Paul is answering here is:

How do I know I have faith in Christ”

Paul’s answer is verses 9 – 10,

“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved”.

Note this speaks of two clear aspects of human experience, our mouths and our hearts. When I taught scripture lessons in schools many years ago when I was a full time Church Youth Worker I would ask the students how are you saved and sometimes they would answer by believing in Jesus but even though they could say it with their mouths they did not necessary believe it in their hearts.

The confession Paul speaks about is Jesus is Lord and this was the stumbling block for not only my students but is for most people when they hear the gospel. Paul made it clear in the early part of Romans that sin is when people turn away from God to go their own way, Romans 3: 12,

“All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one”.

So to say Jesus Is Lord is to truly believe in Jesus in your heart. The statement, “that God raised him from the dead”, means that the full work of Jesus on the cross is recognised by the true believer.

So this confession of the heart and mouth is how a person connects to the salvation offered by Christ. Nothing else is needed to be saved but whether this is a true confession is revealed by the changed life of the person who has confessed.

2.     Confession is the way for all people  (vs. 12)

Paul goes on in the next verse to make it clear that this confession of belief in Christ is the way of salvation for all people. He has spent a lot of time in Romans talking about the Jews and how the Old Testament presented the way of the law but he goes to great pains to point out that salvation by the law just won’t do it. As Paul says in Romans 3: 20,

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin”.

So Paul declares in Romans 10: 12,

“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who calls on him”.

So whether we are rich or poor, clever or dumb, young or old we all come to Christ the same way by confessing that he is now the Lord of our lives.

3.     Confession is calling on the name of the Lord (vs. 13)

So Paul makes it clear in our last verse from this passage how anyone and everyone is saved,

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.

The name of the Lord is a loaded term because his name was not just a way of identifying him but his name meant something. It is:

Jesus –  Savoir and

The Christ –  the promised one from God who would come to earth and make the way back to God in heaven.

We call on him remember when we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead. We show that we really are doing this by the way we now seek to live. Ironically this is where the law comes back into play.

If I want to know how God wants me to live where do I look?

The answer is the law of God. The Ten Commandments could be seen as a list of don’t do’s but to a saved person they become a list of do’s.

Let me show you:

  1. You shall have no other God before me becomes put Jesus first as Lord of your life.
  2.   You shall not make for yourself an idol becomes you only worship God through Christ.
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord becomes you honour the name of Jesus as the name above all names.
  4. Observe the Sabbath day means you seek to worship with others the things God has done for you through Christ.
  5. Honour your father and mother becomes obey you mum and dad.
  6. You shall not murder becomes love your enemies.
  7. You shall not commit adultery becomes love and serve your wife or husband and be totally faithful to them.
  8. You shall not steal becomes be generous and give to others.
  9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour become always tell the truth.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbours wife, house or land etc. becomes love your neighbour as yourself.

So the law becomes a guide to the new life we live in Christ. Not that we keep this guide all the time as we are still sinful fallen beings but we have learnt all we need to do is confess our sins to God and God because of the work of Christ will forgive us.

CONCLUSION

So we have seen through this study of Psalm 38 the importance of confession. Confession is not just a Roman Catholic activity that sadly misses the real point of what true biblical confession is all about.

Biblical confession is best summed up in the words of 1 John 1: 8 – 9,

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.

PRAYER : I started with the Anglican prayer of confession so I close with it.

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against your holy laws. We have left undone those things, which we ought to have done; and we have done those things, which we ought not to have done; and there is nothing good in us. O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent; according to your promises declared unto men in Christ Jesus our Lord. Grant that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life; to the glory of his name. Amen”.

 

 

Psalm 37 TALK: Waiting Patiently on God (The A-Z on Christian Patience)

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

PSALM 37 TALK – WAITING PATIENTLY ON GOD

 (THE  A – Z  ON CHRISTIAN PATIENCE)

INTRODUCTION

 Many years ago I came across this little ditty that reads:

“Patience is a virtue possess it if you can, seldom found in women, never found in man”

I’m sure just as many women find patience a hard thing to practice as much as men do especially in the age we live in. We have instant coffee, instant access to knowledge (through the internet) and many labour saving devices like electric kettles, washing machines and the list goes on. It is very clear that we do not like waiting, just look around at the body language of people near you the next time you stand in a long queue or think back to how you felt the last time you were put on hold when making a business telephone call.

In preparation for this study I read an excellent article on waiting on the Lord written by a man named J. Hamton Keathley, 111 this is what he said,

“One of the important exhortations of the bible is to “wait on the Lord”; Even though God promises special blessing for waiting, waiting is one of the most difficult exhortations of Scripture. Why is it so hard? Because, as part of fallen humanity, we are so prone to take matters into our own hands, to follow our own schemes. Yet, over and over again we are told in Scripture “wait on the Lord”.

 Psalm 37 refers twice to this, in verse 7 and verse 34 where we are told to “wait on the Lord” and there are many other verses relating to this theme like verses 3, 4, 5, 39, and 40. These verses use other waiting patiently on the Lord terms like, “Trust in”, “Delight in”, “commit your way”, “their stronghold in” and “take refuge in him”.

This Psalm is the second longest Psalm in the first book of Psalms and it is an “acrostic” Psalm that some call an “alphabet Psalm”. It follows the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and uses each letter for the first Hebrew word every two verses. This devise could have been used to help people memorize it as ancient Hebrew people could only carry around the word of God in their heads as expensive and cumbersome scrolls were only kept in special places like the Temple. Another commentator, J.A Motyer suggested the acrostic Psalm was, “a poetic way of saying that a total coverage of the subject was being offered”. This is like saying that this is the “ABC” or the “A to Z” of a subject. For this reason I have called this study the A – Z on Christian Patience.

David probably wrote this Palm in his later years as the inscription at the top of the Psalm says, (New International Version),

 ”Of David”

 and verse 25 reads,

 “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread”

 David wrote this Psalm not only in the acrostic framework but as a piece of Wisdom literature like we find in the Book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs is a collection of instructions or exhortations on various practical issues of life.

So what is the practical issue that this Psalm deals with?

I would say the central issue this Psalm deals with is the question what is God doing when the wicked prosper while many believers struggle?

I will speak to this issue throughout the Psalm but I think the answer to this question does not only relate to this question but to any issue or problem we might struggle with where there does not seem to be an obvious answer from God.

Issues like this might include:

  • Why do I suffer sickness as a Christian while others particularly non believers enjoy good health?
  • Why is my ministry for God not as successful or fruitful as others who might not work as hard as me?
  • Why does God allow people to get away with sin and even prosper as a result of it?

These and many other problems all find their answer in what the Psalm has to say about waiting patiently on the Lord and I hope that through this study we might learn how we can wait more patiently on the Lord in our daily lives.

With this in mind I have divided this long Psalm into 3 sections:

1.     TRUST IN GOD NO MATTER WHAT  (1 – 11)

 2.     SEE THINGS FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE (12 – 26)

 3.     WAIT PATIENTLY FOR GOD’S DELIVERANCE  (27 – 40)

 

1.     TRUST IN GOD NO MATTER WHAT  (1 – 11)

 The opening two verses of this practical Psalm of advice sets down both the problem and its solution in summary form,

“Do not fret” – The solution,

“because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong” – The problem,

 “For like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away” – The solution.

 The concept of man being like the grass is used in Isaiah 40: 8 and 1 Peter 1: 24 – 25 to depict the shortness and frailty of human life compared to the eternal nature of the word of the Lord. Here it used to describe the shortness and frailty of the supposed prosperous non believer. Recently I attended the funeral of a close relative and thought of how the people there could not fail to think about their own mortality and how life seems so short and cruel.

The Psalm now looks into this problem and its solution in much more depth and detail.

We will look at in this section:

1.     How we can trust in God no matter what  (3 – 8)

2.     Why we can trust in God no matter what  (9 – 11)

 

1.     How we can trust God no matter what (3 – 8)

In verses 3 to 8 David teaches how we can trust in God no matter what and from this we will learn how we can have God’s gift of patience.

I have broken this down to five things we must learn to do.

1.     Trust in the Lord  (vs. 3)

2.     Delight in the Lord  (vs.4)

3.     Commit your way to the Lord  (vs.5)

4.     Be still before the Lord and wait patiently (vs. 7)

5.     Refrain from Anger (vs. 8)

 

1.     Trust in the Lord  (vs. 3)

 The Hebrew term for “do not fret” is “do not get heated” or we might say, “Get worked up” or “become uptight”. The antidote for this in verse 3 is “Trust in the Lord and do good” which is to turn from our feelings of frustration and uneasiness and put our faith in God no matter what situation we find ourselves in. On many occasions I have had to learn this the hard way. During a prayer meeting at a missionary organisation I once worked for an older member of staff spoke of some very real problems she faced and I referred her to Philippians 4: 6 which says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.

 I said we all need to turn our frustrations and anxieties into prayers. This is how we practice trusting in the Lord no matter what. In Psalm 37: 3 the injunction to trust in the Lord is followed by a promise which reads,

“Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture”

 This is an Old Testament picture for the promise Paul gives us in Philippians 4: 7,

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.

 2.     Delight in the Lord  (vs.4)

Leupold tells us that to “Delight yourself in the Lord” is to, “Let him be your joy”. Interestingly in three verses before Philippians 4: 7 we read in Philippians 4: 4,

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice”.

 Paul said these words particularly to two women in the church in Philippi who were arguing with each other over some matter. They had come to some kind of disagreement and their frustrations and ego’s clashed badly. Paul wants them to agree with each other and then practice the joy of the Lord. David is saying we should do the same thing when we see the non believer doing well as we struggle.

He is saying becoming uptight by this kind of thing makes us grumpy and full of complaints and we must counter this by trusting in God and finding joy in our Lord. David says if we do this God will,

“Give you the desires of your heart”.

 3.     Commit your way to the Lord  (vs.5)

 David now tells us to take it a step further, Kinder says that David’s word for “commit” in Hebrew literally means “Roll” or “Roll over”, this implies giving our problem to God in prayer and leaving with him. I know that on many occasions I have taken a problem to the Lord in prayer but soon after or the next day I have gone back to continuing with that problem as though I didn’t believe God can deal with it.

Real faith in God, faith that expresses itself in trusting God no matter what actually seeks to commit our problem to God and leave it with him to deal with it. Interestingly David goes on to say in this same verse,

“Trust in him and he will do this”

 Proverbs 16: 3 says,

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed”

 While Psalm 22: 8 says,

“He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him”

 This is a very real picture of a person practicing real patience as we are not letting the difficult circumstances of our lives control and dominate us but we are committing our way to the Lord and leaving our difficult circumstances with him.

This verse is followed by verse 6 which relates to our vindication and how we might have to wait for this as well. Even though might appear in this life to be down trodden or a failure in the sight of this unbelieving world God’s promise is:

“He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun”.

 David is saying here that as certain as the sun rises and shines at noonday God will show everyone your vindication.

4.     Be still before the Lord and wait patiently (vs. 7)

 Now David makes it clear how we can practice waiting patiently on the Lord with these words,

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him”

 Kinder points out that the Hebrew word for, “Be still” literally means, “Be silent” and we see in another use of “Be still” in Psalm 46: 10 why we might be still or silent before our Lord,

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”.

 God is so great and powerful the best way we can approach him is simply stop talking and submit to his will and purpose for our lives.

David encourages us not only to be still before the Lord but,

“Wait patiently for him”

We do not just come before God and say or do nothing we consciously wait patiently for him to act. We rise from our prayers and live and act as though he is in charge and is working his purposes out for us.

David now applies this to his problem of the seeming unchecked success of the wicked when he writes,

“Do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes”

 It’s as though he is saying even if the wicked seem to be succeeding in their wickedness don’t give in to that. Keep on trusting God and wait on him patiently believing he will bless and deal with the wicked in his own good time and way.

This Psalm will soon have plenty to say about how God will deal with the wicked but our focus should be on the Lord himself.

5.     Refrain from Anger (vs. 8)

 The final thing we must do to have God’s gift of patience in our lives is found in verse 8, where we read,

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath”

 This Psalm is very real and practical in the advice it gives for so often when I have become impatient and frustrated with a problem in my life I have become angry. I have lost my cool and fell to the sin of unrighteous anger. David points out that what fretting or becoming frustrated over a problem leads to in the second half of the verse,

“Do not fret – it leads to evil”

 Paul says in Ephesians 4: 26,

“In your anger do not sin”Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”.

Note how Paul seems to suggest that there is a non sinful anger and that all of us will become angry but we are not to sin when we get angry and we are not to let it fester in our lives because it stands opposite the concept of being,

“Still before the Lord and waiting patiently for him”

 Impatient frustrated Christians are not in tune with the God they are certainly not rejoicing in the Lord or trusting him no matter what.

2.     Why we can trust God no matter what (9 – 11)

 These three verses speak of two reasons why we should trust in God no matter what. They are:

1.     Hope verses Hopelessness (9 – 10)

 2.     Meekness verses Arrogance (11)

 

1.     Hope verses Hopelessness (9 – 10)

 The first reason why we can trust in God no matter what happens is because hope is only found in God alone.

The second half of verse 9 reads:

“But those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land”

“Inherit the Land” is Old Testament language for the future blessings of God in heaven which are only available to those who put their faith and hope in God. In Matthew 6: 33 Jesus declares,

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, all these things will be given to you as well”.

 Jesus made it clear over and over again that the promise and hope of heaven was only available for those who put God first in their lives and turn in repentance and faith to him.

Jesus also made it clear that just as there is hope for those who believe there is equally no hope for those who refuse to believe in him. Listen to Jesus speaking about this in John 3 : 16 – 18,

“ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.

David speaks of this no hope for those who are not true believers in the first part of verse 9,

“For evil men will be cut off”

And in verse 10,

“A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found”

David is saying, you are feeling uptight and frustrated by the way the wicked are prospering well let me tell you they are not really prospering, in fact they face certain destruction. However let me also tell you who trust in God no matter what and you alone have the hope of God’s inheritance.

2.     Meekness verses Arrogance (11)

 This same message is continued in verse 11 which is quoted and used by Jesus in Matthew 5: 5 which is the third beatitude in Jesus Sermon on the Mount. Verse 11 reads like this,

“But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace”

 David is saying that we are to be the opposite of the natural state of mankind. People generally do not seek to be meek or humble rather they are often full of ourselves and even arrogant. Meekness is usually associated with weakness and is not seen in this world as a virtue people should seek after let alone cultivate. Yet David and Jesus say that it is only the meek who will be given God’s blessings expressed in Old Testament terms as the land of Israel.

Jesus applies this blessing a little wider as Matthew 5: 5 reads,

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”.

What did Jesus mean when he said, “they will inherit the earth”?

Jesus taught in Matthew 24: 35 that one day this earth will pass away and there will be a new heaven and new earth. In other beatitudes he spoke of the poor in spirit and the persecuted having the kingdom of heaven. This means that the meek will inherit the future blessing of the New Earth and New Heaven which is New Testament language for heaven.

So only those who trust in God no matter what and who turn from their natural arrogant attitudes have God’s promise of future blessing.

This too should be a powerful assistance in our pursuit of patience and faith in God alone.

2.   SEE THINGS FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE (12 – 26)

Derick Kinder uses the term, “The long View” in his commentary on this Psalm to describe looking at things from God’s perspective. When we are caught up in the day to day grind and problems of living for God in this world we sometimes we need to put our heads up and think of what God is going to do in the future. We need to try and develop a view of what is happening from God’s perspective. God has a much longer view of things than we have and only through what he tells us in his word can we get any real sense of God’s long view of things.

In this next section God gives us something of his long view of what will happen to both the wicked and the person of faith. I would like to separate out from this passage what God’s long view is for each category. So we will look at:

1.     The futility and judgment of the wicked

 2.     The future and present blessing of the believer

 

1.     The futility and judgement of the wrongdoer

 David in this passage describes what the person who is a non believer does to believers. He describes three things:

  • “Plot against the righteous” vs. 12
  • “The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy” vs. 14
  • “The wicked borrow and do not repay” vs. 21

 God then gives us his long view of what will happen to these people and what he really thinks of them.

God tells us five things about how he will deal with these people:

  • “the lord laughs at the wicked for he knows their day is coming” vs. 13
  • God knows that, “their swords will piece their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. Vs. 15
  • “The power of the wicked will be broken” vs. 17
  • “The wicked will perish; The Lord’s enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish- vanish like smoke”. Vs. 20
  • “Those he curses will be cut off”. Vs. 22

God’s long view is that the wicked who often oppose the people of God will not be successful in the long run because they will face certain and terrible judgement. Verse 15 speaks of the wicked taking up arms against the people of God and in David’s time this actually happened on many occasions. We might not face physical persecution, although many Christians today in other countries do but figuratively we all face attacks from the devil and all he controls and so the promise of God’s help and the perspective on this is still valid for us.

We will now look at:

2.     The future and present blessing of the believer

 David not only sets out how God sees the wicked or non believer and what he is going to do to them in the long run but he sets out how God sees and what he will do for the believer.

First of all how God views the believer:

  • They are : “poor and needy” vs. 14
  • “those who’s ways are upright” vs. 14
  • “The days of the blameless are known to the Lord” vs. 18
  • “The righteous give generously” vs. 21
  • “They are always generous and lend freely” vs. 26

Now we look at what God is doing and will do for all believers:

  • “The Lord upholds the righteous” vs. 17
  • “Their inheritance will endure forever” vs. 18
  • “In times of disaster they will not wither” vs. 19
  • “In days of famine they will enjoy plenty” vs. 19
  • “Those the Lord blesses will inherit the land” vs. 22
  • “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm” vs. 23
  • “though he stumble, he will not fall” vs. 24
  • “The Lord upholds him with his hand” vs. 24
  • “Never seen the righteous forsaken” vs. 25
  • “Their children will be blessed” vs. 25 and vs. 26

How does taking God’s long view of things relate to the topic of Christian patience?

I think having God’s long view on things is crucial. Becoming caught up with day to day problems can very easily take our mind off God and his future promises for us. It is not that God only wants to bless us in heaven, “pie in the sky when we die” as some put it, but rather what God is going to do for us in the future has current implications for us today as well. As Christians we have been saved from sin by the death of Christ and through his spirit we are being transformed into new creatures and we now do not belong to this world but look forward to the world to come.

Paul spoke of this in 2 Corinthians 5: 16 – 21,

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

God’s long view for us namely what he has done for us in Christ, what he is doing in us now and what he will do for us in the future should be the very things that directs us, shapes us and inspires us in our daily lives. The devil does not want us to think and act like this so he will do whatever in takes to distract us from God’s plan for our lives.

Having patience then is to stop letting this day to day struggle with the world the flesh and the Devil control us but to let God’s work in us now and let his future promises be our controlling influence.

Interestingly one verse I did not commit on in this section of the Psalm is verse 16, which says,

“Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked”

When we consider what God is doing for us now and will do for us in the future than things like worldly wealth pale into insignificance for when David put that into the long view he wrote, verse 17,

“For the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous”

Now David points us even more into God’s Long view of things and exhorts us to:

3.     WAIT PATIENTLY FOR GOD’S DELIVERANCE  (27 – 40)

 David now exhorts his readers to choose the path they will take in life. All of the wisdom literature like The Book of Proverbs and many Psalms offer the two ways to live, it is often described as the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous like Psalm 1: 6,

“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish”.

 So David commences this last section with, verses 27 and 28,

“Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful one. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off”.

 David now sets down again a continual contrast to the way God deals with the wicked unbelievers in this world and with those who turn to him and seek to live the way he wants them to live.

Again we will look at these two contrasting views separately and then I will make some final comments about how this relates to the topic of Christian patience.

1.     The destruction and defeat of the wicked

 2.     The protection and deliverance of the righteous

 3.     How this relates to the topic of Christian patience

 

 1.     The destruction and defeat of the wicked

 This last section features more the protection and deliverance of the righteous than what it has to say about the destruction and defeat of the wicked but what it has to say about the fate of the wicked is pretty devastating.

There are only two more mentions of the fate of the wicked and the first mention of these is verses 35 and 36 where it says,

“I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more: though I looked for him, he could not be found”.

 This is the third time the wicked are compared with something from the world of horticulture. In verse 2, they are like grass and plants that wither away, while in verse 20 they are compared to wild flowers of the field that vanish like smoke and here they are like a flourishing tree that passes away almost unexpectedly,

“though I looked for him, he could not be found”.

 Each time David is emphasizing the fleeting nature of the prosperity of the wicked. It might seem that some non believing people you know seem powerful and invincible however one day they will be die and their seeming power will be gone forever. Worst than this they will face God in judgment and there they are powerless before the God of heaven and earth.

The second time the fate of the wicked is mentioned in this section is verse 38,

“But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off”.

 This verse is telling us that the wicked will not only pass away in death but will face certain judgment and destruction in a most terrible way. They will be, “cut off” another horticulture image I think. This is best understood for us as Christians by Jesus use of this image in John 15. Jesus tells us the fate of those who refuse to turn to him and the blessing of those who turn to him in the image of a vine and its branches in John 15: 1 – 4,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”.

 

David is not necessarily referring to grape cultivation but he is referring to pruning and the wicked will be lopped off in judgment like a dead tree branch.

2.     The protection and deliverance of the righteous

This section has much more to say about the protection and deliverance of the righteous or those who faithfully seek to trust in God no matter what. This can be narrowed down to four things this kind of man must do and four things God will do if he does those things.

1.     Four things a man of faith must do 

  1. First verse 27 tells us he must,

Turn from evil and do good”.

Verse 30 says much the same thing,

“His tongue speaks what is just”.

 How can we do this, how can we truly both know what is good and be able to do what is good?

Verse 31 gives a vital clue when it says,

The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip”.

 This is telling us that seeking to both know and follow God’s word helps us both know and do what God wants.

  1. Second verse 30 tells us,

“The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom”,

 This follows the first point of turning form evil and doing good and finds its inspiration in the word of God or as verse 31 puts it

The law of his God”.

 To turn from evil and do good involves what we say as well as what we do both of these go hand and hand together as Paul indicates in Romans 10: 9,

 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God

 raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.

3.  Thirdly verse 34 tells us,

 

 Wait for the Lord and keep his way”.

 This is the second time David has said we must “Wait for the Lord” and of course strikes at the heart of this Psalm and its message to us. We have learnt already that a person that has real faith in God seeks to truly trust in God no matter what. Our patience or ability to be still and wait on God’s leading in our life truly shows we are putting our faith into action. As James tells us a number of times,

“Faith without works is dead”.

        4.     Finally verse 40 tells us,

 “They take refuge in him”.

 This is the final way of saying if we want the promise of God’s protection and deliverance in our lives than we must turn to him for that protection and deliverance. The real test of our faith is what do when problems and difficulties come upon us. Who do we turn to for help?

For if we say we trust in God no matter is he the first person we turn to when we face problems and difficulties in our lives.

 

 2.     Four things our faithful God promises to do for us

  1. Firstly verse 27 tells us,

“Then you will dwell in the land forever”

 While the end of verse 28 says,

“The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever”

 and verse 34 says,

“He will exalt you to inherit the land”

 The concept of dwelling in the land was very important to an Old Testament Jew as it was the fulfilment of the covenant. Hebrews 9: 14 – 15 tells us about the New Covenant how it was made and what it’s fulfilment will be for us,

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death so that we may serve the living God!

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

 So God’s promise of ‘the land” in the Old Testament is now in Christ the promise of eternal life with God in heaven.

2.  Secondly verse 28 tells us,

“For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones”

 Verse 31 says,

“His feet do not slip”

 Verse 33 says,

“But the Lord will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial”

 In all of these verses God is promising that he will never forsake his people that he will constantly come to their aid when they need him and his love and protection can be relied upon. Jesus promises us the same thing as we read in John 10: 27 – 30,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

 In many parts of the bible God promises to never leave or forsake those who belong to him. If we have truly put our faith in Christ and have turned from our sins to serve Christ then we are his and he is ours and Paul says in Romans 8: 37 – 39

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

     3.   Thirdly verse 39 tells us,

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord”

 and verse 40 says,

“The Lord helps them and delivers them”

 Here David is telling us that the Lord will save or deliver his people especially from the attacks of the wicked as the middle of verse 40 says,

“He delivers them from the wicked”

 Jesus of course is our great Saviour a Paul told Timothy in 1 Tim. 1: 15,

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”.

 In fact Paul teaches that through the cross,

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

 When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead the Devil and all his forces were defeated as Hebrews 2: 14 – 15 says,

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death”.

 These verses teach us that not only was the devil defeated by Christ on the cross but so to was the fear or power of Death.

So the words of David 700 years before Christ in Psalm 37 find their ultimate fulfilment in the death and resurrection of Christ.

4.   Finally verse 39 tells us,

“He is their stronghold in time of trouble”

 and verse 40 says,

“They take refuge in him”

 David often spoke of God being his stronghold and refuge. This is because so often in his life God wonderfully came to his rescue and protected him. He was protected from the mighty warrior Goliath, the mad and deadly King Saul, the wild and rebellious older Son Absalom and the many enemies both within and outside of Israel that sought to bring David and his Kingdom down.

Like David we can go to Jesus for protection and help as he says to us in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 3.     How this relates to the topic of Christian patience

In the middle of this final section of Psalm 37 David tells us to,

“Wait for the Lord and keep his way”

 I mentioned that David probably wrote this Psalm in the later years of his life and he is teaching us to have patience in the Lord. He knew that throughout life many trials and difficulties can and will come upon us but he also knew that the only answer to these trials and difficulties was to wait on the Lord. To trust in the Lord no matter what happens to us. For as this last section revealed to us:

  1. God is giving us life and the promise of heaven itself

2. God is giving us his promise of never leaving us.

3.  God is giving us his promise of Salvation and deliverance

4.  God is giving us his promise of help and protection.

All this should inspire us to never give up trusting God no matter what which will lead us to be a more patient servants of the Lord.

Read the poem based on Psalm 37 verses 1 to 11

 WAIT FOR THE LORD

 Wait for the Lord

For you can trust in his word

Be still before the Lord

For he will carry you through

Cause’ he loves you.

 

Do not fret when evil men rise

For they are like withering grass

Trust in the Lord and seek to live right

Delight in his love and might

And he’ll bless you.

 

Commit your way to the Lord

Trust in him and his powerful word.

He will make us rise like the dawn

We’ll shine like the noonday sun

When he comes again.

 

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath

Do not fret for it leads to strife

For evil men will be cast from the Lord

And blessings will come to the meek

Cause’ God loves them.

 

Wait for the Lord

For you can trust in his word

Be still before the Lord

For he will carry you through

Cause’ he loves you.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

SECTION 2: THREE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATION OF CHRISTIAN PATIENCE

The article on “waiting on the Lord” by J. Hamton Keathley, 111, says this about the modern world we live in.

“Due to modern technology and all our conveniences- telephones, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, fast foods, airplanes, etc – we have many things immediately at our fingertips”.

 He goes on to say,

“The simple fact is, in spite of our modern age and dislike for waiting, life is full of waiting. And one of the most challenging exhortations of Scripture is ‘Wait’. But waiting, despite our impatience and our dislike for it, is a vital element in life. Indeed, waiting has a number of benefits that we will discuss in this study”.

 So Psalm 37 and many other scriptures exhort us to “wait on the Lord” and this is really an exhortation to be patient to let go of our plans and schemes, to stop being faithless and to trust in God no matter what happens.

Patience and waiting in the New Testament is bound up in waiting for the return of our Lord and in fact if we looked at only the word “Wait” all of the passages will one way or another exhort us to be patient and hold fast to the Lord as you wait for his return. I have chosen one passage on this but have chosen two others that don’t use the word wait but teach us about Christian patience.

1.     PATIENTLY WAITING FOR OUR LORDS RETURN: TITUS 2: 11 – 14

Paul is writing this letter to his faithful fellow worker Titus who at the time of the letter was working in the struggling church of Crete, 1:5 and in chapter 2 Paul gives Titus a summary of what his teaching should be to various groups of people in the church. From verses 11 – 14 Paul encourages Titus with words that speak of why he should do this ministry of teaching in the church. In this he uses one of the main Greek words for “wait” which is, “Prosedechomal”, which is a word that means literally, “expect look for”, or “wait for” and is used in many other New Testament passages.

In this passage I will highlight three things:

1.     What waiting for the return of the Lord should do to us

2.     What we are actually waiting for

3.     Why we can have confidence while we wait

 

1.     What waiting for the return of the Lord should do to us

 Paul commences this passage with the words,

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men”.

 Note what brings salvation to “all men” or “Any Man” it is the grace of God, that is the unmerited love of God that is the basis of what Jesus did for us and is the power of God to save us. This grace or love of God coupled with the hope we wait for has a powerful effect upon our daily lives, Paul says:

“It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self- controlled, upright and godly lives in this age, while we wait”.

 Note how the grace of God that saves us works hand in hand with the eager expectation of the Lords return to transform our lives giving us the power to say “No” to sinful ways. The idea of the second coming being a spur to holy living is found in many New Testament passages like 2 Peter 3: 11 – 13,

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells”.

If we become inpatient and stop exercising faith in the Lord, forgetting that one day he will return to judge this world then we are in danger of slipping back into ungodly ways.

2.     What we are actually waiting for

 Verse 13 tells us clearly what we are actually waiting for,

“while we wait for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ”.

Keathley in his article on, “Waiting on the Lord”, speaks of how the word wait has a lot to do with the concept of “hope” or “wait expectantly”. Note how Paul says to Titus, “wait for the blessed hope”.

So what is this blessed hope?

Paul tells us immediately, “the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ”.

Some Christians believe that Jesus will come in secret and we will only know he has come because those left on earth will notice some people missing but this is a miss understanding of the words of Jesus in Matthew 24: 40 and Luke 17: 24. Jesus is telling us here that at his second coming there will be a separation of people with believers rising to God and non believers being left to face the coming judgment.

I think the best passage on what this “glorious appearing” will be like is in 1 Thessalonians 4: 13 – 18,

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words”.

 If the sinfulness and difficulty of this life causes you to become disheartened then just think of what awaits us in the glorious return of Christ and this certain hope should make us push on in faith and patience.

3.     Why we can have confidence while we wait

 The final thing I would like to comment on in this passage in Titus is what is said in verse 14,

“”Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”.

 How can we be sure that Jesus is going to return as he promised?

One of the reasons we can have confidence in this is that he came the first time and when he came he did so much for us. Jesus did not come to this world to live as some kind of powerful earthly king. He was born in a barn, had a stone as his pillow and in Mark 10: 45 Jesus himself claimed,

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus not only gave himself to a life of poverty but he gave himself up to death even death on a cross. He did all this Paul as tells us in Titus and Jesus tells us in Marks Gospel to,

“redeem us”

and

“to give his life as a ransom for many”

How do we know this giving of his life achieved anything?

The answer to that is twofold:

Firstly because Jesus did not stay dead but rose from the dead three days after his death. Paul was so certain of this that in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul lists a number of witnesses to Christ’s resurrection and says that there are over five hundred others most of which are still alive when he wrote this (1 Cor. 15: 6). He completes this passage by saying in 1 Corinthians 15: 20 – 25,

 “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet”.

Secondly as Paul indicates in Titus 2: 14 we have the proof of changed lives, people who give their elegance to Christ and who are members of his church here on earth as verse 14 reads,

“to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”.

All through history since Christ died, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven people have come to him and their lives have been transformed by the power of his love and by the indwelling power of his spirit that has led them to do all kinds of good deeds in this life.

So when we become in-patient owing to the pressures of this life we should re-focus on what Jesus has done for us when he first came to this world and what he promises to do for us when he returns as,

“Our great God and Savoir, Jesus Christ”.

2.     PATIENTLY BEING CONTENT WITH THE LIFE OUR LORD GIVES US:

Philippians 4: 10 – 13

As I said in the introduction to this New Testament section I want to look beyond New Testament passages that use the word wait to other passages that will exhort us to be patient as we live in this life holding fast to the Lord as you wait for his return. The first of these passages is Philippians 4: 10 – 13.

I would like to draw three things out of this passage:

1.     What Paul’s main state of mind was

2.     Why he had this state of mind

3.     What made all this possible

 

1.     What Paul’s main state of mind was

One of Paul’s reasons to write to the church in Philippi seems to be to thank them for a special monetary gift he received from them when they heard he was imprisoned in Rome. This gift according to chapter 1 verse 5 represented there,

“Partnership in the gospel from the first day unto now”

He says that this gift caused him to,

“Rejoice greatly in the Lord”

Paul had previously exhorted them to “Rejoice in the Lord always” and this seems to be the main state of mind Paul had. When he was beaten up and thrown in prison with Silas in Philippi we read that,

“Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God”, Acts 16 : 25

So Paul demonstrated that he practiced what he preached for even a severe beating and a cold prison cell could not stop him rejoicing in the Lord. He wrote this letter to the Philippians from prison and as we see from the passage he was still, “rejoicing greatly in the Lord”.

 In chapter 1 Paul speaks of some of the difficulties he faced not only imprisonment in Rome but opposition from some leaders in the churches who he says that although they preach Christ they,

“Stir up trouble for me while I am in chains” (verse 17)

But Paul sees God’s hand in this and instead of complaining he writes in verse 18,

“But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice”.

If we want to show our faith in action we too should not let the difficult circumstances of our lives dominate us but instead of focusing on the difficulties we should be like Paul, who focused on the Lord and rejoiced.

2.     Why he had this state of mind

Paul goes on in this passage to give us the key to having a positive and rejoicing mind. He writes in verses 12 and 13,

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want”.

Paul is saying that he never lets his circumstances whether good or bad control his sense of being content. This is the perfect picture of patience of looking beyond ones circumstances and focusing on the Lord. I wish I could say I always do this but alas I know that I have grumbled when things don’t go my way or the way I think they should go. I have a long way to go in being able to say I am, “content whatever the circumstances”. But this is what all of us must seek to cultivate.

3.     What made all this possible

Finally Paul fully reveals his secret of living a life of contentment no matter what the circumstances and verse 13 reveals this,

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength”.

This is a remarkable statement and the story of Paul’s life once he turned to Christ on the road to Damascus demonstrates the truth of this. From that day on Paul fulfilled the prophecy Jesus gave him through Ananias for his life, Acts 9: 15 – 16,

“This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Paul did suffer much in the name of Jesus his Lord and Savior but Paul always showed what it is to have faith in Jesus no matter what. Paul in fact does not take the credit for this remarkable powerful testimony but rather tells us he did it all,

“through him who gives him strength”.

4.     PATIENTLY FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS: 2 Corinthians 4: 16 – 18

The last New Testament passage I want to share on the topic of Patience is in 2 Corinthians. It is interesting to note that the context of 2 Corinthians is in itself a testimony to the faith and patience of Paul. This is because 2 Corinthians was written soon after 1 Corinthians and the first letter because of some of its disciplinary aspects was used as ammunition by a small group of opponents who sought to destroy the authority of Paul in Corinth. This would have caused Paul some pain and difficulty yet Paul shows throughout the letter his love and patience towards both his opponents and the problems they caused him.

At the start of 1 Corinthians 4, Paul speaks about his often-difficult ministry in this way,

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart, rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God”.

By the end of this chapter Paul rounds up his argument concerning how and why he conducts his ministry in contrast to the false teachers in the church in Corinth. This opens up the three things I would like to share on Christian patience. The three points are:

1.     How we can be patient even though we are constantly ageing

2.     How trouble helps develop patience and Christian growth

3.     How we can have true Christian patience

 

1.     How we can be patient even though we are constantly ageing

I now know what Paul means by his words,

“Though outwardly we are wasting away” (verse 16)

As I have entered my sixties in recent years and feel the early on set of growing old coming to me. You are just not as physically agile as you once were. I presently enjoy good health but do feel the odd aces and pains of growing older. Paul wrote these words towards the end of his life and his body faced far more of a battering than I have ever faced. All of us are in the same boat, as even in our youth we are continually growing older.

Paul says that even though outwardly we are all aging we should not lose heart for,

“Inwardly we are being renewed day by day”.

I like how Paul puts it in the previous chapter of 2 Corinthians where in verse 18 he says,

“And we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”.

 One older Christian man said to me many years ago he praises God for every new grey hair because each of them tell him he is one step closer to being with the Lord. So even old age should not disturb our Christian patience because even in that God has a positive for us namely the fact we are continuing to be renewed from within and we are step by step getting closer to being with him. As Paul wrote in Philippians 1: 21 – 25,

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith”.

If only we all could have that kind of faith and if we did we would certainly be a more patient and faithful Christian.

2.     How trouble helps develop patience and Christian growth

Paul has already touched on this in verse 16 when he speaks of how we are inwardly be renewed even though we are constantly growing old. Now he goes on to say in verse 17,

“for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all”.

Paul taught in many places of his letters that God uses the troubles and battles of this life for many positive outcomes. Here are three good but different examples of this,

Romans 5: 3 – 5,

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 7

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Philippians 3: 7 – 11,

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.

I consider them garbage, 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 is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead”.

So troubles in this life that causes so many of us to loose our patience is by Paul’s reckoning one of God’s tools to change us for the better. To equip us to help others and make us more committed to Christ and the eternal hope we have in him.

I once prayed a dangerous prayer, I prayed for God to give me more patience. It was dangerous because God answered that prayer with a time of great difficulty. I very quickly lost patience and had to go to God in prayer for help. However once I received his help I grew a little more in my commitment to him and in the long run developed a better sense of patience.

This seems to be how God often chooses to teach us. He puts us in difficult situations to both test us and help us grow in patience and faith. I like the way Peter puts this in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 9,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.

3.     How we can have true Christian patience

The last verse of our passage in 2 Corinthians 4, is a fitting conclusion to this little look at the topic of Christian Patience for it teaches us how we can have true Christian patience, verse 18,

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.

In our study of Psalm 37 I spoke of how one of the commentators I looked at, Derik Kidner used the expression, “The Long View” to describe how David encouraged his readers to look to God and not the trials and tribulations our enemies might cause us in this life. The long view saw that the wicked who might prosper a bit now will one day die and face judgment. We of cause through Christ and his death for us do not look forward to judgment but Salvation and deliverance.

Paul is encouraging his readers to have the long view of life, which is not fixing our eyes on the problems and difficulties of this life but on the unseen spiritual glory in Christ, which is eternal. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 12: 1 – 2

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

Fixing our eyes or life on Jesus is the chief source of not only Christian patience but faith itself as Hebrews 12: 1 and 2 are the climax of a great chapter that defines what real faith is.

CONCLUSION

Paul demonstrated not only from his teaching in the three passages we just looked but from his very own life that he knew the secret of real Christian patience. He faced lots of hardships and opposition yet he always looked to Christ and showed he did this by rejoicing even in his difficulties. He had the long view of life, which focused on the end game, namely the return of the Lord and the salvation, and deliverance that offers to all true Christians.

May we to cultivate this kind of patience and may the Lord give us his strength that makes us more than conquers.

PRAYER:

Dear father in heaven help us in our daily battles of life to fix our eyes on your dear Son Jesus. Help us not to be dominated by the circumstances of this life but by faith trust in you no matter what. Give us this kind of patience so we can more effective for you in our ministries of reconciliation as your ambassadors. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 36 TALK: Knowing God in Our Daily Lives

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

 PSALM 36 TALK:    KNOWING GOD IN OUR DAILY LIVES

INTRODUCTION

 Besides the Bible there are only a handful of books I could refer to that have truly influenced and changed my life. One of these books is a book first published in 1974 by an evangelical preacher and writer named James Packer and the book is called “Knowing God”. In this book Packer sets down what he understands the bible teaches about God and how that applies to our daily lives. In the first chapter Packer answers the question, Why Study God?

His answer is best summoned up by this quote from “Knowing God”,

“We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you”.

 I believe Psalm 36 is about what it means to know God in our daily lives. We have no idea of what prompted David to write it. The inscription simply reads,

(New International Version),

“For the director of music, of David the servant of the Lord”

 This means we know three things about this Psalm, firstly it is a song written for worship in the Temple which was only the Tabernacle in David’s day. Secondly David wrote it and thirdly David describes himself as, “The Servant of the Lord” which means he is not presenting himself as the all-powerful King but rather as Leupold writes,

“A leader and instructor of his people, whom he serves by serving the Lord”.

 The Psalm has three distinct parts which I believe reveal what it means to know God in our daily lives. Some commentators have suggested that this Psalm is similar in theme and concepts to the very first Psalm. This is because both Psalms speak of the way of the wicked and the results of going that way and they also speak of the way of the righteous or as verse 10 says “those who know God” and what that leads to.

 Even though this is true this Psalm goes a lot further than Psalm 1 as the middle section verses 5 to 9 set down a wonderful description of some of the attributes of God.

In this study I hope to explain what the Psalm teaches us about not knowing God and knowing God. What the God who can be known is like and finally how knowing God should influence our daily lives. We will see from the New Testament that in Jesus we have the full and perfect revelation of God and his love and in him we have the promise of life to the full both now and for all eternity.

Before we look at the Psalm I would like to try and explain what the opening words of this Psalm mean when it says,

“An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked”

 Some have said this is also part of the heading of the Psalm and literally means as Duane Smets puts it,

“Transgression Speaks”

David is saying by using the word, “Oracle” that what he is about to say about the workings of the wicked human heart was given to him by divine inspiration and not merely by human reasoning. This heading or opening words should make us sit up and take notice because what is about to be given to us in this Psalm is truly from God himself.

I have divided this Psalm into three sections:

1.     NOT KNOWING GOD (1 – 4)

 2.     THE GOD WHO IS KNOWN (5 – 9)

 3.     KNOWING GOD IN OUR DAILY LIVES (10 – 12)

 

 1.     NOT KNOWING GOD (1 – 4)

 As I said in the opening section David believed God revealed to him a special understanding of the workings of the sinful wicked mind and heart as he calls his Psalm “an oracle” or prophecy.

And what does that special revelation tell us?

It tells us four things about why we as sinful people do not know God:

1.     There is no fear of God (vs. 1)

2.     We have a high and false view of ourselves (vs.2)

3.     Our words and actions are wicked (vs.3)

4.     We plot and plan evil deeds (vs. 4)

 

1.     There is no fear of God (vs.1)

 The second half of verse 1 is quoted by Paul in Romans 3: 18,

“There is no fear of God before their eyes”

 Paul uses this in his great argument for the sinful state of all people. He argues we have all turned away from God and as result do not know or fear God. This is the first point of David’s special revelation of God about the sinful state of man. Even in David’s time the same Godless lives existed as it did in Paul’s day as it does today. Paul spells out what not fearing or having reverence for God leads to in Romans 1: 21 – 25,

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen”.

Once man looked away from God his view of God diminished and he lost sight of God so much so that some say, “I don’t believe in God because I cannot see him”.

2.     We have a high and false view of ourselves (vs.2)

In verse 2 David now spells out what he now understood what not fearing God leads to,

“For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin”

David is saying that sinful fallen people do not see what they are really like. Most people don’t go around saying how bad and sinful they are but rather speak of how good they are or at least how they a not as bad as other people. We are even taught today to always have a positive image of ourselves and people receive training in developing a positive self image.

The bible teaches that even Christian believers must have a sober and real opinion of themselves as Paul says in Romans 12: 3,

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you”.

If we think there is nothing wrong with us and that actually we are pretty good then the need to know or seek to know God diminishes even further.

3.     Our words and actions are wicked (vs.3)

David now says that once we have looked away from God (not fear him) and think more highly of ourselves than we should then we speak wicked and deceitful words. Our words of course are followed by our actions and all this Jesus tells us comes from our hearts. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 15: 19,

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander”.

Once we get involved in more and more Godless behaviour than the sight of God gets dimmer and dimmer and the devil gets more of hold on our hearts and lives.

4.     We plot and plan evil deeds (vs. 4)

 The final verse of what it means to not know God is verse 4 where David paints a picture of sinful man lying in his bed plotting evil deeds. Psalm 1: 1 sees the final stage of the Godless way as, “sitting in the seat of mockers” this I said in my Psalm 1 study means switching “sides and sitting down with (this could mean join forces with) those who oppose God”.

David sees full blown sinful people actually plotting or planning to do evil. I know that often when I go to bed I think about the day that has past and I sometimes start to plan the day ahead and yes I know that sometimes my thoughts or plans are not what God would want me to do. However as a Christian we know that when we start to get tempted to plan sinful deeds we are out of step with God but the person who does not fear God, has an untrue view of themselves and who speaks wicked words is not even considering God in his plans and actions.

Our daily world is full of people living their lives for themselves and the consequences of that can be both frightening and dangerous. Our daily news is full of all kinds of wicked calamities and all this comes about because people do not know God and so James Packers quote rings true,

“We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you”.

 David will not leave us in such a terrible situation as he and James Packer have just described and in the next section we will learn who this God we are blind to is and we will learn what he is really like and this will help us find his way in this dark and seemingly Godless world.

 2.     THE GOD WHO IS KNOWN (5 – 9)

 I mentioned at the start of this study that only a handful of books outside of the bible have truly influenced and changed my life another one of these books is, “The Attributes of God” by Arthur W. Pink. Pink sets down in his book simply and wonderfully the many great attributes of God that are presented in the bible. In Pinks forward to his book he writes,

“The foundation of all true knowledge of God must be a clear mental apprehension of His perfections as revealed in Holy Scripture. An unknown God can neither be trusted, served, nor worshipped”.

David must have realised this as well when he penned Psalm 36 nearly three thousand years ago. For David moves from the dark and grubby description of man not knowing God and its consequences to a description of the unknown God who has revealed himself to us.

Unlike Pink in his book “The Attributes of God” David only looks at four attributes of God (Pink sets down 16). We will now look at David’s four attributes of God:

1.     God is Love (vs.5a)

2.     God is faithful (vs.5b)

3.     God is righteous (vs.6a)

4.     God is just (vs.6b)

 

1.     God is Love (vs.5a)

 In verse 5 part A, David writes,

“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens”

 There is a problem here for us because the Hebrew word for love is “chesed” and our English translation of love does not do justice to the real Hebrew meaning. In Duane Smets sermon on this Psalm he explains the real meaning of the Hebrew word “chesed” this way,

“Constant, loyal, persistent, everlasting, unfailing kindness”

 David says this “chesed” or love reaches the heavens. Smets points out that the furthest star in the heavens is 10 billion light years away and it would take us 322 billion years to get there if we could. David of course did not know that the heavens were that vast but even for him what he saw in the night sky seemed a long way away.

When I was a younger Christian I went on a number of Christmas holidays on what is called a beach mission.

We set up camp close to a beach on the NSW coast -line and ran outreach programs to the children and their families who also camped there. One of the favourite choruses we sang in those days went like this,

 Wide, wide as the ocean, high as the Heaven above;


Deep, deep as the deepest sea is my Savior’s love.


I, though so unworthy, still am a child of His care;


For His Word teaches me that His love reaches me everywhere.

Arthur Pink points out in his book that just as God is infinite so his love is infinite and then he writes,

“So His love is without limit. There is a depth to it which none can fathom; there is height to it which none can scale; there is a length and breadth to it which defies measurement, by any creature- standard”.

 We see the depths and wideness of God’s love in God sending his son to this world to die for our sins on the cross as John 3: 16 says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

 And as the beach mission chorus says,

I, though so unworthy, still am a child of His care;


For His Word teaches me that His love reaches me everywhere.

2.     God is faithful (vs.5b)

 God’s love is simply amazing and David’s next attribute of God says that this love will never stop or cease because God is faithful. Verse 5b reads,

“Your faithfulness to the skies”

 God will not stop loving us and this is the message of the Gospel that says that even though we are sinners and deserve death God sent Jesus into this world to save sinners by dieing for their sins on the cross. This is the message that changes and transforms lives. In the first section of the Psalm we saw how far away from God we are and how dark life without God really is. Well into this dark world God sent his Son and through him we have both life and light.

God first set down this plan in the Old Testament in the first covenant that David knew and was always referring to one way or another. But this first covenant was but a prelude to the great second covenant, which was established by the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is better described as the fulfilment of the covenant given to Moses after the exodus from Egypt.

Even though Israel often turned away from God and was unfaithful to God and his covenant God never stopped loving them. This is the same God who loves us and he will not stop loving us because his love and faithfulness is endless.

3.     God is righteous (vs.6a)

In verse 6 A David speaks of another attribute of God, namely his righteousness,

“Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains”

 God is totally holy and without sin and this is as sure as the very mountains are unmovable. Mountains have some of the most ferocious weather in the world yet no matter how hard and fast the wind and rain might hit them they will not move.

David seems to be giving us a big contrast to what we are like in verses 1- 4 and what God is like in verses 5 – 9. We are sinful and unreliable but God is righteous and totally reliable. We plot and plan wickedness but God plots and plans love and righteousness.

The picture of God and his love is amazing. He sent Jesus to die for our sins, which is something many people find just unbelievable. I heard an atheist named Richard Dawkins say in a debate with John Lennox a renown Christian scholar that he cannot believe in the God of the bible because he finds it simply laughable to think that,

“The creator of the universe couldn’t think of a better way to rid this world of sin then to come to this spec of cosmic dust and have himself tortured and executed so that he could forgive himself”.

This is a crude and twisted way of describing the Christian Gospel but yet it also captures something of the true magnitude of what God has done for us. Yes even those of us who believe in what God has done are amazed by it but to dismiss it only reveals that our view of God is small and limited by the bounds of human reasoning and not by the bounds of the great love and righteousness of the God of the bible.

4.     God is Just (vs.6b)

 Verse 6b says,

“Your justice like the great deep. O Lord you preserve both man and beast”

 Justice leupold says could also be translated as Judgement and he argues that the image of the “great deep” could be a reference to the flood in Noah’s time when God brought judgement upon the evil world of that time. This could explain the words that follow,

“O Lord you preserve both man and beast”

 Meaning that God did not wipe out man and beast totally but through the ark saved Noah, his family and a representative of all animals. Jesus also revealed that God cares for both man and all animal life when he said in Matthew 6: 25 – 27,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

 

Our world deserves to be wiped out again and God will judge this world again one day but God is not just a God of wrath and judgement he is also, as we have seen, a God of love and faithfulness. Pink makes this startling claim in his book “The Attributes of God”,

“The great God that could wink all his enemies into destruction, bears with them, and is at daily cost to maintain them”

 This is what Peter is saying in 2 Peter 3: 9,

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is the patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.

 In the cross we see both God’s love and God’s justice or wrath come perfectly together.

Jesus takes on himself our sins, which he does because he loves us and God punishes sin by his death for us. This is what Dawkins just cannot get that the creator of the universe can pay for our sins on the cross by punishing and torturing his only Son. But this is how far God was prepared to go for us and in this we see the light at the end of the tunnel of this fallen dark world we live in.

THE PRECIOUSNESS OF GOD’S LOVE (7 – 9)

In verses 7 to 9 David returns to talk again about “chesed” or as the NIV bible translates, “unfailing love”. Now he makes the bold claim,

“How precious is your unfailing love”

 David seems to be comparing God’s love to an expensive jewel like a sparkling perfectly cut diamond as Duane Smets calls it.

But how precious is this special and wonderful love of God?

David gives us four analogies to try to answer this question.

These analogies are:

1.     Refuge under the shadow of God’s wings (vs. 7b)

2.     An abundant feast of food and drink (vs. 8)

3.     A great fountain of life (vs. 9a)

4.     A light that gives light (vs. 9b)

 

1.     Refuge under the shadow of God’s wings (vs. 7b)

 The image of God being like a great bird who we can shelter under appears in a number of places in the bible I first came across it in Psalm 17: 8,

 “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings”

 Which I explained is David asking God to come very close to him and provide him with protection and help in his battle with King Saul while on the run from him. Moses used the same expression in his great song at the end of his life in Deuteronomy 32 : 10 – 11,

“In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft”.

 Here David writes in verse 7b,

“Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings”

 This is how precious God’s love is he gives us shelter and protection from the many dangers of this life-like a large bird offers protection to its young chicks with the covering of its warm and gentle wings.

2.     An abundant feast of food and drink (vs.8)

 Then David speaks of how precious God’s love is by saying in verse 8,

“They feast on the abundance of your house”

 People of all cultures throughout history have always marked special occasions with some kind of feast. From birthday celebrations, marriage and remembering past special achievements people of every age have got together and feasted. God’s love here is so precious it is like having a great feast from God’s endless storehouse in heaven.

This of course is one of the pictures both Jesus and the book of revelation gave of heaven. In Matthew 8: 10 – 13, Jesus says these remarkable words when he sees the simple but real faith of the Roman Centurion,

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

 Heaven then will be like going to a great eternal feast and as a lover of food myself I find that image very attractive.

But David does not just stop at food he goes on to speak of drink as well. He says,

“You give them drink from your river of delights”

 Some commentators see the terms “river of delights” and the one that follows “the fountain of life” as referring to Eden. Kidner refers to both Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 22. Both these passages are an illusion to the restoration of the rivers that flowed out of Eden, Genesis 2: 10 – 14. This of course is a picture of the completion of salvation to man and the earth when we will be with God in heaven. Jesus teaches in John 4: 13 – 14 that he offers us now life-giving water,

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

 

This is of course is the promise of the nourishment all Christians have in the Holy Spirit who comes to us when we first have truth faith in him.

3.     A great fountain of life

 God’s unfailing love is now like a great fountain of life.

“For with you is the fountain of life” (vs. 9a)

 As I have already said this image probably originates in the concept of the rivers of Eden, which God caused to flow out of the Garden of Eden.

God’s love is the source of all true nourishing life and David is probably again making a great comparison with life with God compared to life without God which we saw in verses 1 to 4.

Life with God brings joy and nourishment, which God supplies from heaven for all those who know God and have faith in him.

4.     A light that gives light

 Finally the preciousness of God’s unfailing love is like a light that gives light, 9b,

“In your light we see light”

 At the start of this Psalm we saw that sinful man’s eyes are closed to God and therefore, spiritually speaking mankind is in the dark. Now David says that through God’s unfailing love God offers light that gives light. We experience physically every day of our lives what this image is about. Every night the great light in the sky seems to go out and we are in darkness. However every morning the sun comes up and we can see again without the aid of man-made lights. For us the sun is the light that gives light.

Spiritually God’s love is the light that gives light that is why Jesus says in John 8: 12,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life”

 Without the bible and particularly Jesus mankind is in the dark not knowing God and not able to find they’re way in this life. Jesus is like the great sun rising in the morning to show how much God loves us. I taught scripture in high schools for five years when I was a Youth worker many years ago and students often challenged me to show them God who they believed did not exist. I learnt quickly that the best thing I could do was put in their hands a copy of God’s word. I purchased from the Bible Society brightly covered copies of Marks Gospel in an easy to read modern translation, which I handed out to students in my High School scripture classes and from that I sought to introduce them to Jesus who is God’s great light that gives light.

So we come to the end of David’s presentation of the God who is known and David now turns to prayer in the final section to bring the first two sections together and we will learn how we can continue to know God in our daily lives.

3.     KNOWING GOD IN OUR DAILY LIVES (10 – 12)

The final three verses of this Psalm are a prayer where David pulls together the first two sections of this Psalm. I have broken each of these verses into three sub headings:

1.     Live in the light of God’s Love (vs. 10)

2.     Live not fearing the wicked (vs. 11)

3.     Live with a eye on the future that is coming (vs. 12)

 

1.     Live in the light of God’s Love (vs. 10)

 It has been pointed out that David seems to be praying for something theologically incorrect because he is asking for God to continue his love when he has already said in verse 8 that God’s love and faithlessness is limitless and never ends.

But I think David is actually asking that those who know God not give up knowing and experiencing his love,

“Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart”

 David knew very well what it was like to look away from God and his love particularly when he lusted after Bathsheba, committed adultery and then murder to cover it up. He fell to sin and was not living in the light of God’s love. It was a hard and painful road back but it also taught David how vast God’s love and mercy actually is. In his prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 written probably soon after Nathan’s disclosure of his sins he writes,

“Have mercy on me. O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” Psalm 51: 1

 If we have come to know God through Christ we need to live our daily lives in the light of his love and word. We need to look away from sinful ways and seek God’s righteousness. This is something we will continually battle with but in battling with it we will grow and change as Paul teaches us in 2 Corinthians 4: 16 – 18,

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.

 I discovered the other day a helpful practical guide to how we can live in the light of God’s love and word and grow. It was published on the “NET” by Campus Crusaders for Christ USA and composed by Bill Bright and Bill lists 5 principles of how we can mature in Christ i.e. “continue in God’s love”

 The five principles are:

  1. We must study God’s word
  2. We must pray
  3. We must fellowship with other Christians
  4. We must witness for Christ
  5. We must obey God

2.     Live not fearing the wicked (vs. 11)

David started his Psalm speaking about how the wicked heart and mind operates. He knew from personal experience that the wicked could and did attack him as the “Lords Anointed”.

David had enemies in and outside of Israel but always God protected him. In his prayer at the end of this Psalm he asks,

“May the foot of the proud not come against me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away”

 David is asking that his enemies who were God’s enemies not tramping him down under foot or push him away. These are ancient battle images as battles in the ancient world were basically massive hand-to-hand combats where opponents sought to push each other down and once down thrust a spear or sword into them often as they held them down with their foot.

The New Testament says that we are actually all involved in a great spiritual battle, Ephesians 6: 10 – 12,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

Note that Paul says we should not be fearful or weak if we are trusting in the Lord we are strong in him and in his mighty power. We should not let the devil and his schemes have his way but as James 4: 7 says,

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”.

 

3.     Live with an eye on the future that is coming (vs. 12)

In the final verse David has an eye on the future fate of the wicked, all those who have not turned to God and this is what that eye of faith sees,

“See how the evildoers lie fallen – thrown down, not able to rise”

 David knew that most evildoers thought they had got away with the wicked things they had planned and carried out. But he knew that in the end Judgment would come to them all and they will all fall before God and not rise.

The first sermon I ever preached was based on the great passage in Philippians 2: 1- 11. In my sermon I envisaged a great ladder or stairway from heaven from which Christ took a number of great steps down to die for us on the cross. But then Christ ascended the ladder or stairway back into heaven as verse 9 reads,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name”.

 From there one day in the future versus 10 and 11 tell us what Christ will do,

 “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

 One day everyone will bow the knee to Jesus the difference is those who know God and seek to live as he wants will be bowing in worship and praise but those who have not acknowledged him in this life will bow and acknowledged him as Lord with great wailing and gnashing of teeth.

We should live our lives with this in mind the second coming of Jesus is both a great hope for us and a spur to live a holy life.

Just contemplate this question,

How would you feel if on the day the Lord returned you were actually committing a sin and were out of step with God?

CONCLUSION

 So we have seen what it means to not know God and know God and how that can transform our lives. To not know God is to turn away from him and go our own way but to know God is to take seriously the presentation of God in the bible and let that guide and change our lives. May we not disregard the study of God through the Bible as James Packer put it but may we read, mediate and inwardly digest its contents and come to that life changing experience of Knowing God through Christ?

Read the song inspired by the study of this Psalm

 

TO KNOW YOU

 

To know you is to fear you

And to fear you is to know you

For I know I have turned away from you

And I want you to forgive me

For your forgiveness is your gift

So inspired by your love I come

Yes I come to you.

 

 To know you is to see you

And to see you is to know you

For your love is so great and beautiful

For your love reaches the heavens

And your faithfulness the skies

So inspired by your love I come

Yes I come to you.

 

 To know you is to realize

That your love is so precious

Like a priceless jewel is your love

And you feed us in abundance

And give us life and light

So inspired by your love I come

Yes I come to you.

 

 To know you is to love you

And to love you is to know you

For you’ve given your Son to die for us

And I want you to change me

For to change me is to want you

So inspired by your love I come

Yes I come to you.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PART TWO NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATION OF PSALM 36

 As I said in this study already part of Psalm 36 is quoted in the New Testament in Romans 3: 18 and I referred to the fact that Paul used this verse to speak of the general nature of sin for all mankind. In this section I want to look at three New Testament passages that touch on what is called the revelation of God, which I think this Psalm features throughout.

People often ask, “How can we know or see God? The bible’s answer to this is if you see Jesus you see God and I will develop this concept through the three New Testament passages I have chosen.

1. JESUS IS THE WAY TO GOD (John 14: 6)

 Knowing and seeing God is not easy and I believe this is so because of our sin. Sin has blinded our eyes to God and this blindness even can be seen in the disciples of Jesus.

John 14 speaks of two Disciples of Christ namely Thomas and Philip. Both these men spent three intense years with Jesus yet at the end of those three years on the night before Jesus was crucified both men asked questions that reveal they too struggled with knowing and seeing God.

We will look at each of the questions these men asked Jesus and the answer Jesus gave them.

First we will look at Thomas’s and his question that concerns the way to God.

1.     Show us the Way

Thomas is often called “doubting Thomas” because later after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead, Jesus appeared to the disciples. Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared and when told about Jesus he said he would not believe Jesus had risen unless he saw him for himself and was able to put his fingers into the nail wounds of Jesus. Jesus did appear again and Thomas was there this time and when he saw Jesus he dropped to his knees in faith and worship.

This time Thomas asks the question, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?

Jesus has just told the disciples that he is going back to God his father in heaven and will prepare a place for them there and will come back to take them to that place.

Thomas is obviously confused and lacking faith as his question indicates he has not followed what Jesus was saying and in fact Jesus has been teaching them for three years about his true mission on earth but again Thomas did not seem to get it.

Jesus answer is one of the most quoted sayings of Jesus and also has caused a lot of controversy for Christians who have quoted it.

Verse 6, reads,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

 Jesus answer is very clear that he and he alone make’s the way to God for fallen humanity. He uses three terms to make this clear, Way, Truth and Life and then makes it even clearer with the statement, “No one comes to the Father except through me”.

 What is Jesus saying when says he is “the way and the truth and the life”

 Lets look at each concept:

The Way

 This could be translated “Road” or “Path” and Jesus is saying he is making the road to God. He, note, is not pointing to the road to God, prophet or teacher but he is the road or path to God. In the book of Hebrews in chapter 12 verse 2 we read,

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

 This verse sees Jesus as the trail -blazer who makes the way back to God possible by his death and resurrection and when we look to Jesus we are following him into heaven. This is what I believe Jesus is saying when he says, “I am the way”.

 The Truth

 Jesus life and teaching contain as Albert Barnes says,

“The most complete and perfect representation of the things of the eternal world that has been or can be presented to man”.

 Jesus embodied God’s word or truth to mankind (John 1:14) and in John 8: 31 – 32 he tells us,

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

The disciples were told on the same night Jesus said he was the truth that he would give them the Holy Spirit who will,

“teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” John 14: 26

 A little later he made this point even clearer in John 16: 12 – 14,

 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you”.

 In fact the New Testament is simply the life and teaching of Jesus recorded and explained and the letters are Jesus teaching applied to certain early church situations.

The Life

Jesus then says he is the life, which means that the only way we can experience true spiritual life is by trusting and believing in him. He not only provides life after death but full and abundant life now as he indicated in John 10: 10,

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.

 We are spiritually dead in our sinful state and only Jesus can raise us from the dead to give us eternal life as John 11: 25 says,

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”.

 The only Way to God

 Jesus then makes the starting claim that,

No one comes to the Father except through me”.

This statement of Jesus has caused great controversy down through the ages and Christians have been called bigots and narrow-minded people when they have quoted this verse especially in the context of other religious faiths.

I do believe whole heartedly in what this verse says but I think it is not a act of love to go to a Muslim say and tell them we have the only way to God as Christians. There are many other things we could say that would help them find the truth besides quoting John 14: 6.

However there might come a time when we will need to refer to this when we are speaking to people from other faiths. I remember being held up in the street by an aggressive member of the Hare Krishna faith in the late 1970’s. This Hare Krishna asked me to donate money to her to help young people get of drugs and find God. I told her I would not give her any money and she persisted even stronger when I refused and when she found out I was a full-time Christian youth worker, She said “don’t you want young people to get off drugs and find God”? I had to say I was sure she could help young people get off drugs but so far as helping them find God she could not help them because Jesus made it clear when he said that he was,

“The way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

 She did not accept my answer quietly and followed me up the street yelling out a lot of nasty and insulting things at me.

Jesus is the only way because of who he is and what he alone could do. No other religious leader claimed to be The Son of God or God in the flesh. No other religious leader rose from the dead after giving his life to forgive his follower’s sins.

The uniqueness of who Jesus is and what he did makes it possible for him to make this unique claim.

2.     JESUS IS THE WAY TO SEE GOD (JOHN 14: 8 – 11)

 The second question asked in this passage comes from the disciple named Philip who figured in a couple of other famous incidents in John’s Gospel. He is the one who brought Nathanael to Jesus in John chapter 1. Jesus tested him about how 5,000 people could be fed in John 6. He also is the one who brought Greeks to Jesus in John 12. It is thought that Philip probably spoke Greek because like Andrew and Peter he came from Bethsaida a noted Greek town in the Galilee area.

Now here he asks a puzzling question after Jesus adds to John 14: 6,

“If your really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (verse 7)

 Philip’s question is, “Show us the father and that will be enough for us”? (verse 8)

 As I said before Philip has been with Jesus for at least three years. He has heard Jesus claim oneness with his father in heaven and yet he asks this question. I think this shows us that it is not easy for anyone to see or accept the unique claims of Jesus. It is only when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives to open our hearts and minds to the truth that this revelation can become clear to us. As Jesus later that night taught them in John 17: 7 – 11,

“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned”.

 Jesus now makes it clear to Philip and to us how we can see and know God in verses 9 – 11,

“Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves”.

 Jesus is saying, “you want to see God”, “You want to know how to know God” then simply look at me for I am God’s perfect revelation. Jesus makes it clear God has not left us in the dark he chose 2,000 years ago to come to this world to make it clear both who he is and what he is like.

Jesus only did the miracles he did to show us he was not just a man but rather a member of the Godhead, the creator of all things and the amazing thing is he came not just to say, “here I am this is what I am like”. No he came to make a way back to God for lost and fallen mankind and he did this by dieing for us on the cross.

3.     JESUS IS GOD COME IN THE FLESH (John 1: 1 – 14)

 It is interesting that the Gospel of John has no birth of Jesus story like Matthew and Luke but like Mark John omits this. John however does speak about the incarnation but from a cosmic perspective. He goes right back to creation itself to start the story of Jesus coming to this world.

John wants us to learn who Jesus really is right from the start of his Gospel and he wants us to understand why he came as well.

I would to draw four main points out of this passage.

1.     Jesus is the word of God (1 – 5)

2.     Jesus is the light of God  (6 – 9)

3.     Jesus is the way back to God (10 – 14)

4.     Jesus is God come in the flesh (14)

 

1.     Jesus is the word of God (1 -5)

 John starts his Gospel like the first verse of the Bible; Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning” Only John is going back before the beginning of the earth by saying that before the world and the universe was made existed “the word”. John 1: 14 tells us that this word is non other than Jesus himself,

“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”

 So Jesus is the word who John tells us, “was with God”, and this word made all things. Genesis 1 presents God speaking and things are created, Genesis 1: verse 3,

 “And God said, let there be light, and there was light”.

 So this speaking was actually Jesus in action making all things.

Verses 3 – 5 speak of Jesus work of creation mentioning particularly life and light.

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.

 This idea of God being life and light is also in Psalm 36: 9,

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light”

 So the first thing I want to say is Jesus is uniquely qualified to show us God because before he became man he was one with God in heaven.

2.     Jesus is the light of God (6 – 9)

 In this section John introduces us to the unique ministry of John the Baptist who had the job according to verse’s 7 and 8,

“He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light”.

 John wants us to understand how Jesus came to reveal God to us so even here he speaks of Jesus as “the true light that gives light to every man”.

 The thing I want to emphasize here is that even though we are in the dark about God Jesus came as the light of the world to reveal God to us and as he says in John 8: 12,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life”.

 3.     Jesus is the way back to God (10 – 14)

 John now introduces the reason why Jesus came; his mission on earth was,

Verses 11 and 12,

“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”.

 Even his clash and rejection by most of the Jews of his own time is mentioned in these opening verses of Johns Gospel.

The point here is that through Jesus we not only see what God is like we also learn how we can come to know God in our lives experiencing new spiritual birth. This is something John will develop further in John chapter 3.

4.     Jesus is God come in the flesh (14)

Finally John makes it clear who Jesus actual is in a beautiful and profound picture of Christ and his coming to this world in verse 14,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

The words, “made his dwelling” could be translated “pitched his tent” and wonderfully describes what God did in sending Jesus to this world. Jesus took on human form and got intimately involved in this life. This involvement led him to the cross where he willingly gave up his life for us.

No other religious faiths proclaim anything like this and as I said in the study of Psalm 36 atheists like Richard Dawkins find this idea that the creator of the universe came to this world to rescue sinful man outlandishly ridiculous. As outlandishly ridiculous it might seem it is the truth and Jesus will prove it to be true by the many miracles he performed and especially by the greatest miracle of them all his resurrection from the dead.

My final point is we see God perfectly through the person of Jesus and not only do we see God through him but we can come to know God through him and him alone.

PRAYER:

Father in heaven we want to thank you for sending Jesus to this world to both reveal to us who you really are and to die for our sins on the cross. We thank you for your love, which inspires us to live the way you want us to live. May we not go back to the darkness of sin but may you help us fight against the temptations of the evil one and know your love reigning in our hearts unto you come again to take us home with you, In Jesus Name we pray this Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 35 TALK: A Call to God to Help us fight the Good fight of Faith

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

 PSALM 35 TALK – A CALL TO GOD TO HELP US FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF THE FAITH

 INTRODUCTION

 In a cold first century dungeon the apostle Paul wrote his last letter to his young well-loved protégé Timothy and towards the end of this letter he writes (New International Version),

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearing” 2 Timothy 4: 6 – 8.

Twice before this, Paul called Timothy to do the same, to fight the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy  1: 18 and 6; 12). Paul knew from his understanding of the scriptures and his experience of the Christian life that even though in Christ the Christian is more than a conqueror (Romans 8: 37) we are still in this life involved in a dangerous and difficult conflict between good and evil. As we see in Ephesians 6: 12, we are not struggling

  “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

David knew this too and throughout his long life and particularly when fleeing the murderous madness of King Saul. We believe David was on the run from Saul for over eight years before Saul finally succumbed in death at his own hands when fighting the Philistines.

It is this context that I believe Psalm 35 was written. A Psalm not unlike the previous Psalm except Psalm 34 was written with a particular deliverance in mind during this period of time, namely his escape from Gath while Psalm 35 deals with the total eight- year period of ongoing struggle and ultimate deliverance seen in Psalm 35 by the eye of faith looking to God’s final outcome. Both Psalms mention “The Angel of the Lord” (no other Psalms do) and Psalm 35 speaks of the darkness while fighting the good fight when he was on the run from Saul and his men while Psalm 34 speaks of deliverance from this darkness, verse’s 4 and 5,

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame”.

When I was much younger I was asked to preach in the local Salvation Army Church in the suburb I worked in as a full time Church Youth Worker. I had never attended such a church before yet alone preached in one. I was given an open brief to preach on anything I believed I should. I knew that The Salvation Army was designed on military images from the bible so I checked my bible for a passage that spoke of the Christian faith being expressed in military terms. I found a few and settled on Ephesians 6, “The armour of God”. They really liked it and I gained a new appreciation of how the Christian life is like being in a great battle and how we need to look to God for help and deliverance.

David uses lots of military terms in his Psalm 35 and I believe in this Psalm he is calling out to God to help him in his fight against the forces of evil he faced as he fled from Saul and his men.

In this study I want us to look at how we can find help and deliverance in our struggle against the forces of evil and like Paul we too one day will be able to say, “I have fought the good fight of faith”.

A WORD ABOUT IMPRECATIONS

 Psalm 35 is called an imprecatory Psalm and H.C. Leupold lists the following Psalms as imprecatory Psalms, 7,22,31,36,39,54,55,56,109 and 140. However imprecation verses pop up right throughout the Psalms. The first verse I came across in my study of the first book of Psalms (1 – 41) is Psalm 5: 10,

 “Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you”.

I would like to quote myself from my Psalm 5 study to explain a bit about these imprecations.

 “Verse 10 is David’s actual prayer for God’s judgment to come upon his enemies, this is called in theological cycles as imprecation which is a term which means invoking evil or judgment on someone. There are many examples of imprecation in the Psalms and these Psalms are often called Imprecatory Psalms. This raises the issue in my mind of whether we should pray that God will deal with his enemies the same way today. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for them, Luke 6 : 27 – 29,

 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic”.

 However we also know from the teaching of Christ and the rest of the New Testament that God has appointed a day that all men will be judged, Acts 17 : 31,

 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

This means that when we read David praying for God to deal with his enemies like he does here in verse 10 of Psalm 5, who are also God’s enemies we should think of this in the context of the final judgment to come. Martin Luther pointed out that when we pray in the Lords prayer, “Thy Kingdom come”, we are praying for God’s Day of Judgment to come as well”.

This Psalm has three clear sections that contain as Spurgeon points out a, “complaint, prayer, and promise of praise”. My headings are:

1.     1 – 10:   A CALL TO GOD FOR GOD TO FIGHT FOR HIM

 2.     11 – 18: A CALL TO GOD FOR HELP IN A UNFAIR FIGHT

 3.     19 – 28: A CALL TO GOD FOR VICTORY OVER HIS ENEMIES

 

1.     1 – 10: A CALL TO GOD FOR GOD TO FIGHT FOR HIM

 This section contains a number of military terms used in David’s time but the Psalm starts with a legal term, “Contend” which literally means that David wants God to take up his defence for the charges of treason Saul had lain against him. This concept is developed much more in Psalm 26 but here David is calling on God to not only take up his case but to actually fight for him,

“Fight against those who fight against me”.

David then uses military terms of his day in a figurative way,

“Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me”. (Verse 2)

David is calling to God for God to take up arms for him. He wants and in fact needs God’s help and protection. He eventually gains around 600 men (1 Samuel 23: 13) but Saul has the entire army of Israel at his disposal and in one campaign against David (1 Samuel 24: 2) Saul took 3,000 men to help him capture David. In modern terms we would say David is hopelessly outgunned. To say that David is fearful of his life is an understatement and this is why at the end of verse 3 he writes,

“Say to my soul, “I am your salvation”

The only thing that kept David and his men alive during those eight long years was God fighting for him.

As I said at the start we as followers of Christ are up against unbelievable powerful odds, “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heaven”. We too might feel that we are totally outgunned in the battle of faith. But Paul in Eph. 6: 10 says,

 “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”

David trusted in God and his mighty power and in our fight of the good fight of faith we should do the same.

Verses 4 – 8 commences David’s first imprecatory prayers. We must put this prayer in this Psalm in its context.

David faces death at the hands of Saul and he is totally innocent of any wrong doing. A good passage to get a idea of the crazy and dangerous mind and intent of Saul is in 1 Samuel 20: 30 – 33, where Jonathan, Saul’s eldest son finds out for himself what his father thinks of David and intends to do to him.

 “Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”

“Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David”.

From this day onwards David is caught up in a life and death battle with King Saul. David never wavers from his loyalty to Saul and even saves his life by not killing him when God seems to give him opportunity to do this on at least two occasions. However David becomes a political outcast from his own country and Psalms like 35 are a record of his private prayers during this time.

I wont you to notice that David does not pray for Saul and his followers death but rather that they be thwarted in their attempts to destroy him and that God judge them for the injustice they seek against him.

Jesus taught us not to pray like this in his teaching but rather leave judgment to God as Jesus says in Matthew 7: 1 – 3,

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye”?

However David as the “Lords Anointed” knew that his enemies where God’s enemies and therefore their murderous attack on him was in fact an attack on God as well.

The imprecatory prayer of this first section, verses 4 – 8 is actually David asking God to do three things to his enemies:

1.     Put them to shame (vs. 4a)

2.     Turn them back (vs’s 4b – 6)

3.     Trap them in their own traps (7,8)

 

1.     Put them to shame (vs. 4a)

In verse 4 David is asking God again that the enemies who pursue him be the ones who are disgraced and put to shame. David has asked this a number of times before and is very clear in Psalm 25: 3,

“No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse

David, when on the run from Saul was a social outcast and most of the people in his own country would have looked down on him as a traitor and criminal. King Saul and his loyal followers trumped up charges of treason against David. So David wants God to clear his name and the shame he now feels be shifted from him to the people who accused him of treachery and treason.

We to might feel like David sometimes when we are caught up in this Godless world and maybe miss out on promotion at work because of our Christian stand or we are accused of saying things as a Christian we have not said. Peter had a bit to say on this in his letters and his advice in 1 Peter 4: 12 – 14 is,

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you”.

1.     Turn them back (vs’s 4b – 6)

The end of verse’s 4 and 5 David is asking God to turn back his enemies,

“May those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them”.

For eight long years David lived as a virtual fugitive while on the run from Saul and his men and he would have always been looking back to see if Saul was catching up to him. A number of times the text of 1 Samuel records close shaves as Saul gets within striking range of David. David pleads with God for this evil intent of King Saul to be turned back. God answers this prayer many times as Saul is continually thwarted in his attempts to capture and kill David.

Twice in these verses David asks help from the mysterious, “Angel of the Lord” who we read about in the previous Psalm. Derek Kidner points to the famous passage on “The Angel of the Lord”, Exodus 23: 20 – 23,

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out”.

Kidner points out that in this passage the Angel of the Lord is, “either our salvation or our doom”. The angel of the Lord is powerful but to oppose him and his will, even for an Israelite was to face the very judgment of God himself.

So David asks God to send his Angel against his enemies to drive them back like chaff blown like the wind and to turn them back by making their path dark and slippery a poetic way of saying may they fail in their evil pursuit of him.

We too can trust that God is with us in our battle with evil and this world in the person of Christ himself through his Holy Spirit. This is what Peter said at the end of the passage I quoted in the last section, 1 Peter 4: 14,

“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you”.

2.     Trap them in their own traps (vs’s 7 – 8)

David asks for another thing we have seen him ask for before, namely that the trap his enemies set for him be the very trap his enemies fall into,

“Since they hid their net for me without cause and without cause dug a pit for me, may ruin overtake them by surprise- may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin”. (Verses 7 and 8)

What David is praying for here using poetic language is natural justice that is that the sins of his enemies be the very thing that brings God’s judgment upon them. There are many examples of this in our own times like when communist Russian opposed Christians and ended up after 70 years being brought down in disgrace and the Christian church came out of this dark time stronger than ever. Or when a person claims there is no God and lives a life like there isn’t and dies an early death from the effects of drugs or alcohol.

David wants God to turn the efforts of his enemies to kill him to disaster and failure and we see also from the text of 1 Samuel that this is what actually happened to Saul on a number of occasions.

We must never seek vengeance as Romans 12: 19 says,

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord”.

We are to show love to our enemies because as Peter says in 1 Peter 4: 8,

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”.

Love is the weapon Jesus wants us to wield in the battle against sin and the devil as Jesus says in John 13: 34 – 35,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The first promise of Praise (verses 9 – 10)

Now for the first time in the Psalm David turns to praise. He does something similar at the end of each section and he is doing it while he is still on the run from Saul. He is determining to act in faith and praise God for his answer to his prayers before he sees the hand of God answering them. This is the remarkable thing that sets David apart. He trusts in God and his word all through his life. Even after his great fall to the sins of adultery and murder he turns back to God in faith.

This is the difference between Saul and David, Michael Wilcock writes, “David’s delight is in the law of the Lord, despite his lapses into sin, Saul is like chaff that the wind blows (verse 5)”. We see the difference between these two men especially in the incident in Saul’s life near its end. He has lost touch with God and his word and faces the mighty forces of the Philistines alone so what does he do he consults a witch in Vendor for advice and help and we read these words from Samuel who Saul seeks to consult from the grave, 1 Samuel 28: 16 – 19,

“Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has departed from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done what he predicted through me. The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today.The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.”

The next day Saul, his son Jonathan and his army were slaughtered by the Philistines then David’s prayers for deliverance from the hand of Saul were answered and his praise could go up to God but David did not wait till then to praise God he had been praising God for his ultimate deliverance years before and verses 9 and 10 of Psalm 35 are examples of that praise,

“Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim “Who is like you, O Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them”.

David is turning his attention from his troubles to his God and the salvation he is offering him, “rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation”. He is using not just his mouth to praise God but his, “whole being” and he is acknowledging his weakness and frailty in the face of the opposition he faces by describing himself as poor and needy. But God recues and saves those who humble themselves before him in faith and praise.

Paul teaches us to do the same in Philippians 4: 6 – 7,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

2.     11 – 18: A CALL TO GOD FOR HELP IN A UNFAIR FIGHT

David now goes back to describe a little further the terrible plight he was in when he was on the run from Saul and his army. He presents three things that describe the unfairness of his adversities. His enemies are inspired and empowered by the evil one, Satan who Jesus describes in John 8: 44 as “the father of lies”. These pictures are:

  1. False witnesses (vs’s 11 – 12)
  2. False friendship (vs’s 13 – 15)
  3. False mockers (vs’s 16 – 17)
  1. False witnesses (vs’s 11 – 12

David now speaks of how many of his very own men and even friends from the army of Israel he served in joined with Saul to make false accusations against him. We see that it was not just Saul who falsely accusing David of wrongdoing in 1 Samuel 24: 9 where David is speaking to Saul about the unjust false accusations he was making against him when we read,

“”Why do you listen when men say, “David is bent on harming you”.

David probably did not know all these men personally but he considered them his brothers as he had formerly served with them in battles for the Lord and now these brothers in arms became as David says in verse 11, “Ruthless witnesses” who he says in verse 12, “repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn”.

Sometimes we might find the evil one, Satan will use even so called Christian brothers to turn on us with false accusations. I experienced this myself many years ago when a man I had fellowshipped with many times at work one day turned on me when he believed I had not given him contracts for work he believed I had promised him. It was a very painful and soul shattering experience to have a Christian friend turn on me this way. However I learnt once again that my faith is not in men but it is in The Lord Jesus Christ and on him I can always rely. As the writer to the Hebrews put it in Hebrews 12: 2,

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”

       2.  False friendship (vs’s 13 – 15)

In verses 13 – 15 David is probably referring to his early encounters with King Saul. In 1Samuel 16 verses 14 to 23 we are told that Saul began to suffer from some kind of mental disorder that the text calls, an “evil spirit from the Lord tormenting him”, verse 14. This could well have been some form of mental depression, which came on Saul after he had got out of step with God. As the first part of the verse says, “The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul”. It is during this period that someone in the court of Saul suggests that a young man named David should come and play his harp for the king. David is described this way in 1 Samuel 16: 18,

 “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him”.

David comes and plays his harp and gives Saul relief from his sufferings as we read in verse 23,

“Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him”.

So David puts a lot of time and effort into helping the ailing King Saul and he did this out of genuine love and devotion for his King. David expresses in verses 13 and 14 what he believed he was doing for Saul,

“Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered. I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother”.

Yet what is King Saul now doing to him? I think verse 15 answers that well,

“But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing”.

So David faced false friendship, he thought he had the confidence and faith of King Saul but as it turned out the King turned on him and now slandered his good name and sought to kill him. Many other former friends of David joined with Saul to do the same thing.

        3.  False mockers (vs’s 16 – 17)

I call them false mockers because the accusations and insults they now threw at David were false and this mocking was vicious as verse 16 describes,

“they gnashed their teeth at me”

David followers this thought of angry gnashing teeth of mocking and false accusations with a renewed prayer for deliverance in verse 17,

“O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions”.

These verses remind me of the false accusations thrown at Jesus when he stood before the Sanhedrin after his arrest. I take up the story in Mark 14: 55 – 65,

“The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 

We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree”.

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus,

Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked him,

“Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked.  “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him”.

This only a small part of the suffering our Lord went through for us. Jesus knew that the devil and all his evil forces lay behind the Sanhedrin trial. He also knew he would be handed over to the Romans for execution but in three days he would rise from the dead in Victory over sin and evil. As we fight the good fight of faith we need to lift our eyes to what will happen in the future as its says in Revelation 12: 10 – 12,

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

The Second promise of Praise (vs. 18)

This second section of this Psalm finishes with yet another promise of praise as the first section did, verse 18,

“I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you”

Just as we saw in Psalm 34 verse 3 David believed and promoted what one commentator called “the fellowship of praise”,

“Glorify the Lord with me let us exalt his name together”

Here in Psalm 35 he is promising to give thanks in the great assembly to join others in “the fellowship of praise”. Again he makes this promise as he faces the forces of Saul against him.

As we face great opposition in our fight of the good fight of faith we to need to join with others in faith to praise the Lord for the salvation we have in Christ. As Paul encouraged the Colossians in Colossians 3: 16 – 17,

“ Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”

3.  19– 28: A CALL TO GOD FOR VICTORY OVER HIS ENEMIES

 Even though David has just promised to praise God for his deliverance in the company of his fellow worshippers he is not out of the woods yet as the old saying puts it. Saul and his army are still in hot pursuit of David so David makes a final call to God for deliverance. It is amazing to think that David would have prayed this kind of prayer for eight long years and shows his amazing faith in his God who is really testing him.

It is easy to have faith in God when things are going well but when difficulties come upon us our real faith is fully revealed. This is what Peter is talking about in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

I see three main requests in David’s final call for victory over his enemies in this final section of the Psalm:

1.     Don’t let them gloat over me

 2.     Vindicate my innocents

 3.     Awake and come to my defense

 

1.     Don’t let them gloat over me

David reveals the very real sense of the powerlessness he felt when he was on the run from Saul in his references to his enemies gloating over him in this final call to God. We read this in verse 19,21,24,25 and 26. He is saying the same thing in different ways in these verses,

“Let not those gloat over me” vs.19,

“”They gape at me and say “Aha Aha” vs.21,

“do not let them gloat over my distress” vs.24

“Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!” vs.25,

“May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame”, vs26

What is David really asking for here?

David definitely feels he has been unjustly treated by Saul and others and he feels that if these men get away with their evil intent then a great injustice would have been done to him and many others. The rest of verses 19 and 20 express this thought very well,

“Let not those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; let not those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye. They do not speak peaceably but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land”.

David is saying by their actions they reveal their true position before God. They are not men of justice and peace but deceitful men of injustice and malice.

2.     Vindicate my innocents

It is clear what David wants God to do for him, he wants vindication or he wants his good name restored and justice done. David during those eight dark years was a political and social outcast in his own country. By the wicked action of Saul and others who supported him David went from being a public hero to a national traitor. His good name was dragged down into the mud and he was now a doomed fugitive on the run for his very life. David felt hurt, betrayed and forsaken and he wants God to change this and return him to his former status as an upright man who loved God and his people.

We se this not only in this Psalm but also in many others and it is a problem David faced not only when he was on the run from Saul but also when his very own son Absalom turned on him and sought his life again when he rebelled against him. David cries out for vindication in verse 24,

“Vindicate me in your righteousness, O Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me”.

 When the evil one attacks us he will sometimes use the same tactic of seeking to bring down our own good name. Even within the church this attack of Satan can come upon us. Paul faced this problem in his ministry when particularly members of the Church in Corinth attacked Paul’s good name and motives and this is the background to his second letter to the Corinthians. Paul seems to be contending with men who call themselves true apostles who attack his motives and things they falsely say he wrote in his first letter to them. Listen to what Paul says to the church in Corinth about this in 2 Corinthians 11: 13 – 15,

“For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve”.

So Paul saw that this attack from within the Church at Corinth was an attack orchestrated by Satan himself and is therefore yet another aspect to the spiritual warfare he was engaged in

3.     Awake and come to my defense

The final aspect to the call of David to God for victory over his enemies is found in verses 22 and 23,

“O Lord, you have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me. O Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord”.

David appeals to the great attribute of God namely his omniscience, which is God knows and sees all things. It’s not that he believes God has gone to sleep during those long dangerous years when he was on the run from Saul as he states in verse 22,

“O Lord, you have seen this”

 No David knew he believed in a all knowing and all seeing God who knew not only what Saul was doing but knew the heart of Saul and what motivated him as Psalm 44: 21 says,

“Would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart”?

No what David is asking for is God’s action or for God to seemingly spring from his sleep concerning the problems David faced from Saul’s murderous intent and act on David’s behalf. He wants an answer from God to act for him,

“Rise to my defence!”

He wants God to contend for him as verse 23 says.

This brings us to the all-important truth that sometimes God’s answer to our prayers is “Wait”. For David it took 8 long years before God answered this prayer but in God’s good time Saul got what he deserved death and defeat and David got what he asked for deliverance from his enemies and restoration of his good name when he became the next king of Israel.

So we too must learn to be patient in prayer and acknowledge that God does know our situation and is concerned for it.

In a few Psalms after this David devotes a Psalm to this topic of waiting on the Lord and in Psalm 37: 7 he writes,

 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes”.

Finally Peter puts waiting on God in perspective and gives us some practical advice on waiting on God in 2 Peter 3: 8 – 9,

 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.

The third and final promise of praise (27,28)

The final two verses of this Psalm like many Psalms of David end on a high note of praise. Twice before we have seen David turn from despair and desperate prayer for deliverance from his agonizing fight with the forces of Saul and his army to the promise of praise to God for that deliverance. This was written by David while he waited patiently for God to do it.

Verse 27 reads,

“May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness”

David had eventually 600 men and a collection of women with him while he was on the run from Saul. God did not leave him on his own and many others during those years in Israel and Philistine came to David’s aid.

Some at great cost like priest Ahimelech and most of his family lost their lives after Aimelech gave David and his men practical assistance in 1 Samuel 21 and 22.

So David even during his eight years on the run knew personally people who, “delighted in his vindication” they by faith knew David’s time was coming. Eventually when David is installed as the rightful King of Israel in 2 Samuel 2 we read in verses 2 and 3,

“So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah”.

This is when David knew God had fully answered his many prayers for deliverance. Then the reality of his praise of verse 28, uttered here by faith saw the clear light of reality.

“My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long”

We to have a hope to look forward to as we fight the good fight of faith the reality to come for us namely being with God in heaven forever.

As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13: 12,

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known”.

CONCLUSION

Through the three sections of this Psalm we have seen David call out to God for his fight against his enemy Saul.

1. Strong in the Lord

In the first section we read of David’s call to God to fight for him as he was facing overwhelming adversities. We learnt that we to face overwhelming odds in the fight of the good fight of faith. We face “powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heaven” Eph. 6:12. So we too like David need to call to God for his help in this great fight and Paul’s word of encouragement in Eph. 6: 10 is that like David we are, “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”.

2.   Look to Jesus not men

In the second section we saw David calling out to God again this time asking for God’s help as he faced a enemy that fought ruthlessly and unfairly against him. Even some of his so called former friends and colleagues turned on him particularly King Saul who David gave great assistance when he suffered from great bouts of mental depression. David shows us that this trial of his faith did not cause him to give his faith in God away but he looked to God for help and vindication and he praised God for it even before it became a reality.

We too need to not be surprised if friends, family or even fellow Christians attack us or might fail to help us when we need their help. We like David must learn to look to God for help in the great battle of our faith. As we fight the good fight of faith we need to, “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith Heb. 12: 2.

3.   Be patient and Wait on God to Act

Finally we saw how desperate David felt for vindication for eight long years while on the run from Saul and his men. How he feels that it seems like God has gone to sleep, as he has not answered his many prayers for the defeat of his enemies. We too need to be patient and wait on the Lord particularly for this battle to be finally over when the Lord returns. As Peter put it in 2 Peter 3: 8 – 9,

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.

A poem based on Psalm 35

FIGHT FOR ME

 Fight for me O Lord my God

Be now my sword and shield

Arise and come by my side

In this world’s great battlefield.

 

Chorus:

 

Praise the Lord for his victory

Praise his name on high

For he died for me to set me free

And in battle he hears my every cry

Yes in battle he hears my cry.

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

As Satan’s forces rise

To bring me ruin and disgrace

Oh hear my desperate cries.

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

May evil be blown away?

Like worthless seed in the wind

May you fight for me today.

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

When caught in this world’s lies

Of how you do not exist to help

Show them you hear our cries.

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

When unbelievers turn on me

Even after I have shown them love

Help me to set them free.

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

Awake and answer my prayers

For it seems I prayed this many times

As evil causes me tears

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

Give me patience in the fight

As I remember your word that promises

One day you return to right

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

May your judgment finally come?

May your Son return and fill the sky?

May the fight be finally won?

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PART 2

 THREE NEW TESTAMANT FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH PASSAGES

 INTRODUCTION

 In this section I want to choose three New Testament passages that deal with fighting the good fight of faith and draw out some practical applications for our daily walk with the Lord in this life.

1.     THE CALL TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH: 2 Timothy 4: 6 – 8

 As I said in the introduction twice before passage Paul spoke of the Christian life being like a fight or a battle, (1 Timothy  1: 18 and 6; 12). Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy from prison in Rome as he awaited his certain execution. I would like to make three observations from this passage about fighting the good fight of faith:

1.     It is a good fight

2.     It has a ultimate victory

3.     It involves keeping the true faith

 

1.     It is a good fight

 On all of occasions that Paul speaks of the Christian life being a fight or a battle he calls it a good fight. Ian Mackervoy says that it is a “good fight” because, “this struggle is for God and the “gospel”. We are not fighting some useless futile war as so many have had to fight throughout history but we are involved in a battle that has eternal consequences, namely the salvation of the whole of humanity as Paul indicated in the opening of his letter to the Ephesians in Ephesians 1: 7 – 10,

 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ”.

 This wisdom and understanding that Paul speaks about hear is the Gospel Message that Paul so diligently preached and now in this final charge to Timothy he says to him to,

“Preach the word; be prepared in and out of season”. 2 Timothy 4: 2.

 Paul knows that Satan knows that the Gospel is the great weapon he cannot overcome in the great war he rages against God and therefore Satan will attempt to dilute or defuse it’s message using sinful men even within the church. That is why Paul warns Timothy to be patient and careful in 2 Timothy 4: 2 and goes on to say what will happen within the church under Satan’s attack of the Gospel message.

Lets read Paul’s warning to Timothy about this in 2 Timothy 4: 3 – 5,

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

Paul is telling Timothy how he should fight this great fight in verse 5, namely he should, “do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

 Maybe it is a waste of time spending too much time in disputes within the church about right doctrine and our time would be better spent getting on with the job of preaching the Gospel so that many more people can come to Christ. Satan after all does not want that to happen and would feel he has won a little battle if Christians are waylaid from the preaching of the Gospel and winning hearts and lives to follow Christ.

2.     It has a ultimate victory

This fight Paul is speaking about here is not a fight that will lead to despair and failure. Even though Paul speaks about this in the context of his certain death that will come about because he was faithful in preaching the Gospel in his day. In verse 6 he speaks about his coming death in these words.

“For I am already being pored out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure”.

 Paul is using here an Old Testament sacrificial practice of pouring some kind of drink, usually wine over the sacrificial animal before its was sacrificed. Paul saw his life being like that drink offering that he is being offered to God. But this is not a futile act of defeat as he says in verse 8,

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me in that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”.

 Paul always looked to the final goal of God and the Gospel as he fought his daily battles of the faith. Sometimes the trails and tribulations of this life can weigh us down and we can loose our way in the battle we face each day for the Lord. The answer to this problem is to be like Paul and lift our eyes beyond these daily struggles to the ultimate goal or victory that awaits all true believers namely heaven itself.

3.     It involves keeping the true faith

Finally Paul indicates in this passage what fighting the good fight successfully involves. Paul tells us at the end of verse 7, “I have kept the faith”.

 Ian Mackervoy makes it clear what Paul is saying hear when he writes,

“His trust in Christ never failed. He believed in Christ to the end. God had trusted him with the truth and he had kept it. He had been loyal to the Lord and to the gospel of Christ”.

 Paul used another image to convey this and this time he drew on the sport of athletics when he writes in verse 7,

“I have finished the race”

 Once before Paul used this image to convey something about the Christian life in 1 Corinthians 9: 23 – 27,

“I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize”.

Paul is saying hear that keeping our faith and preaching the Gospel involves exertion and training. That is why many go to Bible College or theological college because they want to have a better understanding of the faith and the Gospel by studying the bible in a more diligent and intensive way. I treasure my three years of Bible College of had in my younger days. Not that I learnt it all then, by no means but what I learnt was how I could study the bible myself more effectively. I also was able to lay a better foundation of what the Christian faith is really about by the intensive study of evangelical Christian doctrine and this helped me be more prepared to run the Christian race and fight the good fight of our faith.

Paul now saw in 2 Timothy the finishing line close at hand. He was in the straight and heading for the finishing line tape. I once was a very good middle distance runner as a young person and I won many races because I had a strong finishing sprint that some call a finishing kick. This was something I practiced in my training and I always finished my training runs with a sprint to the finish. I hope that in the greater race of life I will finish like Paul not waving or falling over but putting on a finishing kick that will mean that like Paul I will enter glory having done my best in this life and in the battle for the Lord.

2.     THE RESOURCES GOD PROVIDES TO FIGHT THE FIGHT OF FAITH:

2 Corinthians 10 : 1 – 6

 As I have said throughout this study the bible presents the idea of the Christian life being like a great battleground. Paul talks about this in a number of places and here in 2 Corinthians 10 he speaks of it again. He was involved at this time with a group of leaders in the Corinthian church who sought to discredit his ministry there.

One of the charges these opposing leaders threw at Paul was that he was timid when he was face to face with the church in Corinth but when he was away from them and communicated by letter he was bold and often hostile to them. Paul hotly disputed this as we see in verses 1 and 2 of this passage,

“By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world”.

 Now Paul uses the military image to further his argument of what really motives him. From this Paul sets down some resources God provides for us to fight the fight of faith. I would like to draw out three points from this passage:

1.     Our weapons are not of this world

2.     Our weapons are the knowledge of God and word of Christ

3.     Our weapons are effective

 

 1.     Our weapons are not of this world

 Paul now states that he fights the Christian battle with weapons that are not of this world. He is seeking here to contrast his motives and actions to those of his opponents in the Church in Corinth he called, “super-apostles” in 2 Corinthians 11: 5. These “super-apostles” fought with human weapons or non-biblical ones as 2 Corinthians 11 sets out in phrases like,

“For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached” verse 4,

 “or a different gospel from the one you accepted” verse 4

 and, “I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge”

 So these opponents preached a non-biblical Jesus and Gospel and used worldly speaking techniques to convince others of their teachings.

Paul however chose to stick to what he called, “not weapons of the world”

 We must be careful in our choice of preaching techniques, not that using modern technology is wrong but if technology or anything else takes away from the true Biblical presentation of the Gospel then we are just like the “super-apostles” of Paul’s day. We need to find ways of faithfully presenting Christ and his word or our fight for him in this world will be lost and the devil will have a victory over us.

2.     Our weapons are Knowledge of God and the word of Christ

 Paul now says his main weapon in his warfare against this world, sin and the devil is as he puts it in verse 5,

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.

 Where is this spiritual battle taking place?

Paul argues that it is taking place in the human mind when he speaks of knowledge and thoughts.

What weapon does Paul use in this spiritual battle?

The weapon is the knowledge of God and particularly that knowledge relating to Christ. This is what we as Christians call The Bible, which is both the old and new Testaments. As Paul points to in Ephesians 6: 17,

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God”

 Note the only offensive weapon mentioned in this amour of God passage is the sword, which is the word of God.

 Paul uses another powerful military image in this verse namely taking thoughts captive that are against the word Andrew Wommack explains this image and how Paul is using it this way,

“Just as enemy soldiers are captured in war, so rebel thoughts must be taken captive and made to submit to Christ”.

 The opponents of Paul the “super-apostles” obviously had moved away from God’s word and particularly the word of Christ. In chapter 11 Paul claims these “super- apostles” are inspired or deceived by Satan and now present a different Jesus, verses 3 and 4,

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough”.

 This is a great danger in the war against this world, sin and the devil namely changing or moving away from the word of God particularly its faithful presentation of who Jesus is and what he preached and taught us namely The Gospel message.

We need to be like Paul faithfully seeking to,

“Demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.

 If we do this we will have many victories over the devil and his many followers.

3.     Our weapons are effective

Finally Paul makes it clear from this passage and many others that the word of God is a powerful and effective weapon as he says in verse 4,

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds”.

 The bible is God’s word inspired to men just like us and Paul teaches in the famous 2 Timothy 3: 16- 17 passage,

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

 The word of God is very powerful as Hebrews 4: 12 says,

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.

 This then makes it clear that we must get to know our weapon, the bible and use it effectively in the battle of a faith against the forces of this world, sin and the devil. If we do use it we can be confident like Paul God that God is working through us and we to will be able to,

“demolish strongholds”

3.     THE FINAL VICTORY IN THE FIGHT OF FAITH:  Revelation 21: 1 – 8

 We saw three times in Psalm 35 that David in the midst of his eight years of being on the run from Saul lifted his eyes to the end of this conflict. David saw by faith God’s victory over his enemies and praised God. This helped David press on in his struggle with the forces of evil he battled with in his life at that time.

We to need to lift the eyes of our faith to the great victory to come. This victory is God’s final victory over this world, sin and the Devil and is beautifully depicted in picture language in Revelation 21: 1 – 8 near the end of the bible.

I would like to speak on three truths from this passage:

1.     The new dwelling of God to come

2.     The new existence with God to come

3.     The final victory over evil by God to come

 

1.     The new dwelling of God to come

 Revelation 21 starts with the words,

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away”

 This is clearly picturing that God will establish an entirely new existence after the judgment of God is completed as described in Revelation 20. What this “New Earth and Heaven” will look like is not clear but it certainly will be different, “no longer any sea” verse 1 and will be far better than the old one, “I am making everything new” verse 5.

This description is short on detail but big on generalities and the best generality is,

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God”.

 This then is the victory we should be looking forward to which is the ultimate answer to all our prayers that come as a result of our struggle with this world, sin and the Devil.

2.     The new existence with God to come

The second great truth I would like to speak about in this passage is what the new existence with God will be like. I think verse 4 perfectly but simply tells us what this existence will be like,

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 All the pain, disappointment and conflict of this life will be no more in the life we will experience with God in heaven.

David knew plenty of tears, pain and conflict in his life but even he looked forward to this great existence as well as he wrote in Psalm 110: 1,

“The Lord says to my Lord; ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for my feet”.

 Which is David looking to his Lord, Jesus Christ to come sitting with God in heaven victorious over all his enemies. David looked forward to this great final Day of Judgment and the setting up of the new existence just as we do.

Psalm 73: 24 – 25 (not written by David) speaks of the hope of this new existence to come as well,

“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you”.

 So we too should fix our eyes on Jesus and the new existence he has for us to come, which is so superior to this life. As we face this life’s conflicts and pain we have this hope to come when God will,

“Wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 3.     The final victory over evil by God to come

 The final truth of this passage is what it says about what will happen to the Devil and all who follow him. Verse 8 has a very dramatic picture of their fate,

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

 This concept of the devil and his followers being cast into eternal flames forever appears a number of times in the book of Revelation and the last two verses of the previous chapter speaks of this as well, verses 14 and 15,

“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

 So the battle with the devil and his followers will be finished and peace will reign forever as the picture before verse 8 indicates, verses 6 and 7,

“He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children”.

 So we come to the final victory of God over all who oppose him. The great battle of faith will be over. All those who fix their eyes on Jesus will be with God forever. We should constantly thank God for this great hope we have to come. We like David should use this to encourage us in our daily struggles with sin the world and the devil.

CONCLUSION

 We have now learnt from the New Testament that God calls us all to fight the good fight of faith and like David in Psalm 35 we can call on God to fight for us as we battle with the world, sin and the devil. We also looked at what Paul saw as his weapon against evil in this world namely the very word of God.

Finally we learnt that like David did in Psalm 35 we can praise God in advance for the great hope we have in God in the future when the Lord Jesus returns, Satan and all who follow him are cast into the eternal lake of fire and those who follow Christ will go to live with God forever in heaven.

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven please help us in the fight against this world, sin and the Devil. Just as David prayed long ago so we pray that you will fight for us. Help us to understand and use your word in this battle so that we can see many more people come to knowledge of your dear Son. Thank you for the day that is coming when all evil is done away with and we are one with you in heaven. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen