Psalm 103 – God is so good

God is so good.

 

SING: “Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven” [P.103b]

 

This psalm is an expression of deep gratitude and praise to God for all his goodness and grace to ME. {David the writer} v1-5

Also of his goodness and mercy to his covenant people v6-18

And finally the psalmist summons all creation to praise God v19-22

 

READ:

Psalm 103:1-22

1 [Of David.]

Praise the LORD, O my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits —

3 who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

 

  1. God’s blessings to me.

 

These 1st 5 verses are very personal – David is the writer.

ILLUS.: Talking to oneself is considered by some to be the first sign of madness…

BUT the psalmist here and on many other occasions does just that. It is good to talk to ourselves – instead of listening to ourselves. C H Spurgeon once said “Some of the best talks in the world are those a man has with himself. He who speaks to everyone except himself is a great fool.”

When we are overwhelmed by problems and feeling sorry for ourselves it is good to talk to ourselves esp. in the Words of scriptures.

“Listen Soul! Praise the Lord and don’t forget all his benefits!!”

David confronts his reluctant soul to worship God.

He does two things:

  • Praises God for who he is – “his holy name”. God is unique and awesome.
    • Praises God for what he has done-“All his benefits” to me. [implied]

 

His desire is that his worship of God will be total/complete. He wants to respond with “ALL his inmost being” to “ALL God’s benefits”

God’s benefits are complete dealing with body and soul –

Negatively:-

forgives all your sins

heals all your diseases,

redeems your life from the pit [grave – sheol – the place of the dead]

 

Positively:-

Crowns him with love and compassion

Makes him not just a child of the King of kings but also makes him a king. We too will reign with Christ as Royalty!

Satisfies his deepest desires

Continually strengthens him like and eagle [cf Isaiah 40:31 31 .. those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (NIV)]

 

These then are God’s benefits – They are all promised, but only in Glory will we enjoy them to their fullest extent.

 

PRAYER – Praise and thanksgiving for ALL God’s goodness.

 

Testimony – Margarit Ryan – God’s goodness to her.

 

SING: “Give thanks with a grateful heart” – [P.174]

 

 

READ: 6 The LORD works righteousness

and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,

his deeds to the people of Israel:

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse,

nor will he harbour his anger for ever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass,

he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,

and its place remembers it no more.

17 But from everlasting to everlasting

the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,

and his righteousness with their children’s children —

18 with those who keep his covenant

and remember to obey his precepts.

 

  1. God’s blessings to His people.

 

Psalmist now moves from sg. to pl.

From what he has done for ME to what he has done for his people.

 

He describes God as being righteous and just [v6]

We only know this about God because he has revealed himself – [v7 – made himself know to Moses and his people]

What we learn from God’s revelation – through his speaking to His people and his dealings with his people – is that [v8] The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

 

The Psalmist now reinforces this statement: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love

 

1st with two negatives:

  • He will NOT always accuse – there is a time limit to God’s anger against sin.
  • He does NOT treat us as our sins deserve – he restraints his anger and treats us with compassion and mercy rather than with judgement.

 

2nd with three positive examples:

  • V.11 – His love is as high as the heavens – infinite
  • V.12. – His forgiveness has no limit – east and west never meet.
  • V.13 – His pity / compassion is as tender as a Father for his child

WHY does he treat us this way?  V-14. He knows we are frail / feeble / human being unable to help ourselves.

 

3rd with a striking contrast:

With the mention of our human frailty the psalmist expands this thought and contrasts it with God’s eternal love.

In comparison to eternity our life on earth, even if we live to be 100, is but a speck on the time line of eternity. Our life is so transient, so fragile BUT BY CONTRAST God is forever, God is permanent …

BUT Note … those who are in a covenant relationship with God [v.17] will enjoy His Love “from everlasting to everlasting”  SO while this physical life may be here today and gone tomorrow we will live forever with him IF we belong to him!!

 

COMMENT / QUESTION?

 

SING: “O thank the Lord..” [P.279]

“The steadfast love of the Lord..” [P.280]

 

3. God’s jurisdiction over the universe.

 

READ       19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,

and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,

you mighty ones who do his bidding,

who obey his word.

21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,

you his servants who do his will.

22 Praise the LORD, all his works

everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the LORD, O my soul. (NIV)

 

The Psalm is of three ever increasing concentric circle – God’s jurisdiction extent over, ME, HIS PEOPLE, THE UNIVERSE.

 

His throne is in heaven and he rules over ALL [v.19]

1st he addresses The Mighty Angels in heaven THEN all the rest of the heavenly beings [v20-21]

2nd  he turns to the rest of creation and summons them to bow down and worship God [v.22]

Finally, having moved from here [me] to the ends of the universe he comes back and talks to himself again – seeing himself in correct perspective – “Praise the Lord, O my soul!”

 

COMMENT / QUESTION?

 

SING: “Praise the Lord! My soul is singing” [P.103a]

 

Prayer: Open LIZ – HBC –

 

SING: “How good is the God we adore” [P.788]

 

 

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Psalm 84 – A life that comes from loving God’s presence.

PSALM 84.

 

A life that comes from loving God’s presence.

 

Introduction.

 

Today the perception of old age is very different to what it used to be. It is also different to what it is in many others parts of the world. We have been conned by the media into thinking that younger is better – younger is more beautiful.

 

If you are over 60 or even 50 then you are past your sell by date!

 

For a person of 50 who has been made redundant it is very difficult to get a job. Many are obsessed with trying to stay young and good looking.

But eventually the looks fade and the years slip by and if that is where your security has been then what is there to look forward to – very little!

 

Psalm 84 gives a different perspective on life

 

  1. 1.     THE BLESSEDNESS OF THOSE WHO

LOVE GOD’S PRESENCE. [vv1-4]

This OT psalm was written by one of the sons of Korah. One of their many functions was to be the door-keepers in the Temple.

 

In describing “The dwelling places of God” the Psalmist is not focussing on the buildings as beautiful as they were. His concern is what the buildings represent – the presence of God.

Verse 2 is clear: My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord, my hart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

 

What he desires more than anything is to know God. He knows that being cut off from God is a miserable existence. Even the sparrows have nested in the Temple. How much more should the people made in God’s image long to be near to him.

 

Those who know and love God are the really blessed ones! It is not the strong and rich and famous who are privileged but those who know God in Jesus Christ.

 

  1. 2.     BLESSINGS THAT FLOW FROM A

 GOD-CENTRED LIFE. [v.5-7]

 

It is not youth nor good looks nor wealth nor fame that make one strong but it is walking close to God.

Blessed are those whose source of strength is in you,

Who set their hearts on following your ways. [v5]

 

What makes a person strong – close fellowship with God. The physical world is what every one tends to focus on. That is why we have this obsession with staying young.

The apostle Paul reminds us:

… outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are

being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary

troubles are achieving for us and eternal glory that far

out weighs them all. [2.Co.4v16-17].

 

Those who live this kind of life – close to God – are blessed but are also a blessing to others.

 

ILLUST: Mrs Pill – mid 80’s – frail and physically dependent on a stick to walk BUT full of the joy of God and one always came away from visiting her having been refreshed.

 

The Valley of Baca was very dry and parched. The name means the Parched Valley {some think the valley of Sorrows}. Far from being redundant, those who are close to God are the ones who bring springs of water and showers of blessing to a dry and thirsty land.

 

Isn’t that what Jesus promised those who come to him:

“If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink.

Whoever believes in me as the scripture has said,

streams of living water will flow from within him.

By this he meant the holy Spirit…[Jn.7v37f]

 

In the physical realm as we get older we become less able to do the things that we used to do.

To most of you I am young. To my children I am old. I begin to fell old when I can no longer run faster than my sons. I used to be able to run the 100m in 10.9 secs. I can’t any more.

 

But the psalmist says that far from getting weaker those who know God go from strength to strength. As the body gets older and weaker the soul gets stronger and can produce real blessing toward others. This does not mean that life is easy or pain free. The valley of Baca can equally be translated “Sorrows” and life can bring many sorrows. But in spite of those sorrows the one who relies on God goes from “strength to strength”.

 

For the Christian ageing is not nearing the end but rather a time to look forward to the beginning of enjoying the fullness of the presence of God.

As we follow Christ and go from strength to strength we look froward more and more to being with God in heaven.

The apostle Paul longed to be in heaven “which is better by far”

 

  1. 3.     THE INCOMPARABLE BLESSING OF

GOD. [v.10-12]

 

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.

I would rather be a door keeper in the house of the lord

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

 

The task of the doorkeeper in the temple was not a very high profile job. But because it was a God-ordained task it was infinitely better than any position of importance away from God. The root of all wickedness lies in shunning fellowship with God.

 

But the one who trusts in God will enjoy God’s protection and God’s favour and God’s honour.

No good thing does he withold from those

whose walk is blameless [v11]

 

He didn’t promise life would be plain sailing or trouble free but that real strength and beauty was inner and spiritual and not outer and physical.

 

Ultimately real joy will be in the eternal presence of God in heaven. Here God will give us everything that is good and will take us home to glory. He will give strength for the journey even when it means going through the Parched Valley [Valley of Sorrow]. But one thing is sure we will be with him in heaven if we have walked with him in this life.

 

ILLUST: Old missionary couple returning from aboard after a lifetime on the mission field. On the same ship a famous movie star. Crowds to meet the movie star and no one to meet the old couple. The wife complained to her husband who responded “But my dear we are not home yet”.

Some may think, “I haven’t served God all my life he won’t accept me now – I don’t deserve it!”

No one deserves it – Jesus told a story about workers hired in the morning, at noon and in the afternoon and were all paid the same. Whether you come to God when you are 5 or 95 he treats us all the same!

 

God’s goodness in this life is wonderful BUT the best is yet to come.

 

Revelation 21:3-4 …”Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 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.” (NIV)

 

Psalm 73:1-28 – Bad Day

Sermon Outline by Roddy Chestnut
West Point Church of Christ

Asaph’s Bad Day
Psalm 73:1-28

Thesis: God’s people need to be reminded that tough times do not last.

Intro.:

1. Everyone has a bad day.

2. Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, had a bad day/attitude. Psalm 73 tells us how to “deal with it!”

I. OPENING AFFIRMATION (v. 1): “God is good!” We agree with that, but find it hard to declare at certain times of life.

II. THE PROBLEM (vv. 2-3): Feet almost slipped (“nearly lost it”) due to envy of wicked who had it good. When bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people there is a tension that needs to be resolved. Relieving that tension is what this psalm is all about!

III. WHAT THE WICKED ARE LIKE (vv. 4-11): They work out at Fitness University, don’t have a single gram of fat on their bodies, cholestrol, blood pressure is excellent, they will live to be 120! (v. 4); They don’t have kids (Ha!)–they don’t have normal, day to day struggles the rest of us have (v. 5); Verse 7–“eyes bulge with fat” (NIV footnote): have smug, self-satisfied look.

IV. SUMMARY OF WHAT THE WICKED ARE LIKE (v. 12).

V. IS IT WORTH IT? (vv. 13-16): “Heart/hands” (v. 13) = actions & thoughts; Verse 15 means: I couldn’t talk to others about it because it would have done more harm than good; I couldn’t keep it in either because I would have exploded!” As next verse indicates, Asaph took it to God!

VI. THE TURNING POINT (v. 17): Worshipping the unchangeable God caused Asaph to realize “this too shall pass.” Here Asaph changes from a “snapshot” perspective of life, which in any given frame may be good/bad to a “video” perspective which is much broader. It helps him get a grip!

VII. WHAT THE WICKED ARE REALLY LIKE (vv. 18-20): Note 18a–with the long-term perspective, look who is on slippery ground! (cf. v. 2)

VIII. ASAPH CONFESSES HIS SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS (vv. 21-22): “When my heart grieved, spirit embittered”–when was that? Up to verse 17!!! “Senseless and ignorant before you”–just like an animal! Sociologists tell us that one of the distinguishing characteristics (humanly speaking) between people and animals is that people can envision the future–animals can’t! They are conditioned upon the past.

IX. RECOGNITION OF GOD’S HELP IN PRESENT (vv. 23-28): “I’m sticking with you God, no matter how bad it may look at any given moment. I’m in this thing for the long haul!”

Conclusion: When things look bad, Asaph invites us to take a more comprehensive view of life. When we do, we can join with him in affirming that “Surely God is good!” (v. 1).

Psalm 73:
The Suffering of the
Righteous and the Success of Sinners

Introduction

ILLUS.: Jayne (21) and Esther (27) killed –  Uncle at funeral said something like this: “God must be cruel to allow this to happen!” others may say, “Why is it that the good always die young?”

 

The fundamental question underlying Psalm 73 is, “How can a good God allow the righteous to suffer?” This question has puzzled saints and pleased sceptics over the centuries. This psalm and the question with which it deals is extremely important to us, both for the purpose of apologetics (defending our faith) and in order to preserve our faith in the midst of life’s trials. Many Christians today seem to think that faith in God comes with a guarantee of freedom from adversity. In fact, too many of our evangelistic appeals are tainted with the false promise (implied or stated) that coming to faith in Christ will deliver people from the trials of life. When young Christians come to the realisation that this is not so, their faith is sometimes severely shaken.

The suffering of the saints and the prosperity of the wicked is an issue which is frequently addressed in the Word of God. We find the Book of Job dealing explicitly with this matter. We come face-to-face with it again in Psalm 73. In each passage of Scripture the issue is considered from a slightly different perspective.116 The unique contribution of Psalm 73 is that it deals with suffering not so much on the level of defending God as defining good.

 

The question, “How can a good God allow the righteous to suffer?” reveals several fallacies in our thinking.

The first is the assumption that suffering is always evil and therefore irreconcilable with God’s goodness.

The second is a failure to understand righteousness, so far as it relates to the saint, the true child of God. In answer to the problem of pain, this psalm forces us to take another look at our definition of good, lest we accuse God of being the author of evil by allowing us to suffer. Let those who suffer look to this psalm for a word of instruction.

Psalm 73 divides nearly evenly into two parts. Verses 1-15 depict the trial of the psalmist’s faith when he observes the blessing of the wicked. Verses 16-28 describe the triumph of Asaph’s faith, when he turns from protest to praise, from doubt to the declaration of the goodness of God.

Faith Tested

Psalm 73:1-15

1 [A psalm of Asaph.]

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.

3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.

5 They are free from the burdens common to man;  they are not plagued by human ills.

6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.

7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.

8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.

9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.

10 Therefore their people turn to them      and drink up waters in abundance.

11 They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?”

12 This is what the wicked are like — always carefree, they increase in wealth.

13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.

15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed your children. (NIV)

The Psalmist’s Affirmation of Faith (v. 1)

Several years ago a funeral service was conducted for a young boy who has been tragically killed. In the service a song was included which was said to be the boy’s “affirmation of faith.” The name of the song was “Zippidy Doo-Dah.” What a far cry this is from the affirmation of faith of Asaph in verse 1: “Surely117 God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” Here, Asaph declares the truth on which his faith is founded as well as the truth which troubles his faith. The faith of the saints has always been rooted in the firm conviction of God’s existence and the assurance that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

In one sense, verse 1 is the conclusion of the matter. Asaph believed that God existed, that He was good, and that He was sovereign.

In another sense, however, this verse was the basis of the psalmist’s problem. If God exists, and He is good so as to reward the righteous, and He is all-powerful, totally in control of His creation, then why is it that in God’s world the wicked seem to be doing better than the righteous? Aren’t the facts inconsistent with Asaph’s faith? How can God be good to the pure in heart if observation convinces us that sinners succeed and saints suffer?

 

This is a serious spiritual issue and one that has precipitated widely diverging explanations.

  • The atheist answers by explaining that there is no God.
  • The cynic says that there is a God, but denies that He is good. Life is just one of God’s cruel jokes.
  • The liberal believes that there is a God who is loving, good, and kind. He explains suffering by denying the sovereignty of God. God is all-good, but not all-powerful. As a liberal preacher once said in the funeral message he delivered for a young wife and mother who died of cancer, “I am convinced that it was not the will of God for this woman to die.” He believed in God’s existence and His goodness, but not in His greatness. If it was not God’s will for that woman to die, and yet she did die, God must have been willing, but not able, to spare her from death.

A biblical faith does not require nor permit us to deny any of the attributes of God. We maintain not only that God exists, but also that He is good and great, a rewarder of the righteous and a judge of the wicked. How, then, do we explain the problem of the suffering of the saints and the success of sinners? The psalmist takes us through the steps of his personal struggle in verses 2-28, from the low point of his doubts and protest to the pinnacle of his renewed devotion and praise.

The Psalmist’s Two Problems (vv. 2-3)

I am deeply impressed by the honesty with which Asaph describes his trek through the “slough of despond.”

His dismay is the result of two problems: the first is theological; the second is personal.

  • The first concerns the apparent departure of God from His covenant promise to bless the righteous and curse the wicked.
  • The second is Asaph’s personal struggle with envy concerning the lifestyle of the wicked.

 

The first problem which Asaph describes in verses 2 and 3a is his personal spiritual turmoil.

In poetic terms Asaph describes his frame of mind and heart as precarious: his feet had almost slipped and he had nearly lost his footing (v. 2). The spiritual stability of the psalmist had been shaken. We might say in our own idiom, “he had nearly lost his grip.” The cause of this instability is identified as “envy” in verse 3.

Asaph’s confession is crucial because it is intended to qualify his description of the wicked which follows. Everything the psalmist saw, and over which he agonised, was coloured by his own sinful attitude of envy. It is one thing for us to observe sinners who are arrogantly flaunting their prosperity, and for us to be vexed by their wickedness. The righteous should be grieved by sin, even as “righteous” Lot “was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men” (2 Pet. 2:8, cf. also v. 9). But Asaph was consumed with greed, not grief. Asaph was not distressed so much by the sin of the successful as he was by the success of the sinful. He was like the prodigal son’s brother (cf. Luke 15:28-30), who was angered to think that sin could be so enjoyable and that his righteousness seemingly profited him so little.

We can easily deceive ourselves by becoming distraught over the wrong things. Besides this, we can be grieved by the right thing (sin) for the wrong reasons (envy, rather than purity). This is why we are instructed, “Do not fret because of evil men. Or be envious of those who do wrong” (Ps. 37:1).

It is indeed difficult to see life clearly through our own tears of self-pity. Even though the wicked do seem to prosper in this life, the description which follows in verses 4-12 is a distorted one. It was not correct for Asaph to conclude that all the wicked prospered or that all the prosperous were wicked. Not all the wicked are wealthy, and not all the wealthy are wicked. People with sinful attitudes are hardly able to judge others objectively. As our Lord put it, those with a plank in their own eyes have trouble seeing a speck of sawdust in the eye of another (Matt. 7:3-5).

 

The second problem which troubled Asaph was the “prosperity” of the wicked (v. 3b, AV, NASB, NIV). I do not dispute the rendering “prosperity” here, but it hardly conveys to us all that the original term, shalom, meant to the Israelite of that day. This is a term pregnant with religious significance,118 which we must pause to consider, for it is at the heart of the psalmist’s struggle.

The root meaning of shalom was “completion” or “fulfillment.” Quite often the term was used of “peace” in the sense of a cessation of war or hostility (e.g. 1 Kings 4:25). Shalom implied wholeness and harmony, not only a mere absence of hostility. It was thus used to describe harmonious relationships (e.g. 1 Kings 5:12). Often shalom was used of physical well-being, that is, of good health. It is in this context that it became used both as a greeting and a farewell (e.g. Judg. 19:20; 1 Sam. 25:6, 35), implying a blessing. In modern Hebrew shalom is used for both “hello” and “goodbye.”119

To the Israelite, shalom summarized in one word the benefits or blessings which were promised in God’s covenant with Israel. Nearly two-thirds of its occurrences relate to the fulfillment which comes as a result of God’s activity in covenant with His people and as a result of righteousness (cf. Isa. 32:17). Consequently, we find the expression “covenant of peace” (Num. 25:12; Isa. 54:10).120

While shalom was viewed primarily as God’s material blessing,121 this did not exhaust its meaning. God was viewed as the source of Israel’s “shalom” (cf. 1 Chron. 22:9-10). He would also speak words of “shalom” to His people (Ps. 85:8). This “spiritual” dimension of the concept of “shalom” was, at first, quite general. The priests, for example, were instructed to pronounce this blessing on the people: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you: The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26).

As time went on, the prophets began to speak of Israel’s “shalom” in much more specific terms, for ultimately the blessings of God would be realised through the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, whose sacrificial death would bring “shalom” to men.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, And the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end (Isa. 9:6-7).

But he was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, And by his wounds we are healed (Isa. 53:5).

And while the prophets of God promised that God would establish “shalom” in His good time, the false prophets spoke of “peace” as well, but not based on righteousness, faith, and obedience:

“They dress the wound of my people As though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, When there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14; cf. 14:13; 28:9; Ezek. 13:16).

As seen from the theological perspective of the Old Testament saint, we can understand why Asaph would have been perplexed by the prosperity of the wicked. From his point of view the covenant blessings of God were being poured out on the wicked, while divine chastening was the lot of the righteous. As he saw it, sinners were being blessed and saints cursed. It was as though God had turned His covenant upside-down. No wonder Asaph was puzzled!

The Success of Sinners (vv. 4-12)

These verses describe the three characteristics of the wicked which have caused the psalmist great consternation: (1) their well-being or their “shalom” (vv. 4-5); (2) their wickedness (vv. 6-9); and (3) their wide-spread popularity (vv. 10-11). Let us consider these three characteristics and how they caused Asaph to contemplate a course of action (vv. 12-14) that would have been spiritually disastrous.

Verses 4 and 5 describe the prosperity, the “shalom,” of the wicked, which he mentioned in verse 3. His definition of “shalom” here is one that is almost entirely materialistic. With regard to their physical well-being, the wicked are described as having sleek and healthy bodies (v. 4). Depending on the correct reading of the text,122 we find that while the wicked are not exempted from death, even their passing appears to be relatively free from struggle and pain. The affluence of the wicked enables them to care for their bodies so that they are almost immune to the maladies common to mankind. In general, the wealthy wicked seem to live above the trials of life, which are nevertheless the plight of the righteous (v. 5). In short, the wicked are experiencing the kind of “shalom” which Asaph believed should be experienced only by the righteous.

The psalmist was not an ascetic who believed material prosperity was evil and therefore to be avoided. As a devoted Israelite, he is not condemning prosperity, but rather protesting God’s choice of who should prosper. The Old Testament frequently promised prosperity to the pious (cf. Deut. 28:1-14). It also warned of divine judgement (cursing) when God’s law was ignored (cf. Deut. 28:15-68). On the basis of these promises, the psalmist expected that he should have been one of those described in verses 4 and 5, rather than the wicked. Here is where the envy of Asaph is evident (cf. v. 3).

His protest was therefore two-fold:

  • First, in response to his own suffering, he cried, “Why me, Lord?”
  • Second, in response to the prosperity of the wicked, he complained, “Why them?”

Asaph had nothing against owning a Rolls Royce; it was just that he wanted to be the one in the driver’s seat rather than his ungodly neighbour.

In verses 6-9 it is the wickedness of the wealthy which troubles Asaph. If he had difficulty with the comfort and well-being of those described in verses 4-5, he was even more distressed because the wealthy were also wicked. Then, as now, the mentality was, “if you’ve got it, flaunt it.” If these well-to-do wicked did not take their prosperity to be a sign of divine blessing, at least they interpreted their success in life as an evidence God either did not know or did not care about their sinful means of gaining wealth. Perhaps they reasoned that He was not able to do anything about it. The result was that pride and evil plans were promoted. The pride of the wicked was openly displayed. The psalmist described it as a necklace which was worn in the Ancient Near East as a sign of status (cf. Gen. 41:42).

In the Old Testament, as in the New, wealth was not only a blessing, but a stewardship. The wealthy had an obligation to the less fortunate. The wicked wealthy whom Asaph observed had none of the compassion which was to be expected. Instead of using their success and status as a means of helping others, the wicked used it as a tool for gaining even further riches, at the expense of the poor. The psalmist looked at the callousness of the wealthy and saw that they were not content with what they had but continually schemed to gain more and more (v. 7). Compassion was set aside and oppression was the rule of the day (v. 8).

The pride of the wicked was not merely reflected in their attitudes and actions toward men. The wicked became so bold that they openly blasphemed God by elevating themselves to god-like levels (v. 9; cf. Isa. 14:13-14). As Kirkpatrick put it,

The wealthy were not only wicked, they were also popular and prominent. They had little trouble gathering a large following, which was yet another source of the psalmist’s distress. Verses 10 and 11 are difficult to interpret, consequently there is disagreement among Bible students as to exactly what is said. While the specifics of the expressions used here may be uncertain, the overall activity is clear and, I think, a matter of general agreement.123 The wicked who prospered gathered others about themselves who had also tasted the “good life” (they had “drunk waters in abundance,” v. 10) and wished to imitate the wicked both in principle and practice. Thus, they went so far as to say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?” (v. 11).124

No wonder Asaph was so distressed! He had concluded that the wicked were prospering not only materially and physically, but also in numerical growth. With Elijah-like reasoning, Asaph concluded that the righteous were being outnumbered. Asaph seems to have said within himself, “I alone am left” (cf. 1 Kings 19:10).

I believe it is important for us to know just who these “wicked” are. Until now, I had always thought of them as pagans—Gentiles. The wicked, I thought, were ungodly foreigners who surrounded the Israelites, who persisted in their sinful ways, and who not only got away with it, they got ahead with it. I have now come to the conclusion that this is not the case. Let me point out some of the reasons why this cannot be.

(1) Nowhere in this psalm are the ‘wicked’ called by any name which would distinguish them as Gentiles. “Why do the nations rage 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 (Ps. 2:1-2). To my knowledge, there is no clear identification of the “wicked” as non-Israelites.

(2) Verse one seems to focus on God’s relationship to Israel, rather than on mankind in general. The psalm begins, “Surely God is good to Israel.” Asaph is not really interested here with God’s relationship to pagans, but to His people. The blessings and the cursings of Deuteronomy 27 and 28 are primarily directed toward Israel, not others.

(3) The theology reflected in verse 11 is not one that is pagan in origin, but it is decidedly that of an Israelite. When would a pagan refer to only one God, as opposed to many gods? It was Israel’s God who was known as “God” and the “Most High” (v. 11).

(4) The sins which Asaph depicts are not those of the surrounding nations, but those of wicked Israelites. From the superscription to this psalm we learn that Asaph is its author. We know that he was one of David’s three chief musicians, who played a significant role in directing the worship in the temple (cf. 1 Chron. 6:39; 15:16-19; 16:5, 7, 37; 25:1-2).

In the other psalms written by Asaph we see a distinction made between the surrounding nations which are Israel’s enemies and the wicked Israelites who are also a threat to Israel’s well-being. There are, then, the enemies without and the enemies within. In Psalms 74, 79, 80, 81 and 83 the enemies of Israel are the surrounding nations who would destroy Israel. They are called the nations (79:1,6,10), the adversary (74:10,18; 81:14), neighbors (80:6) and enemies (80:6; 81:14). In Psalm 83 the nations are listed.

In Psalms 50 and 82 the enemies within are described. In Psalm 50 God is portrayed as the judge of His people (50:4), who will condemn His people for their empty religious rituals. Their practices are an abomination to God (vv. 16-21). In Psalm 82 the wicked are actually the rulers and leaders of the nation who have not exercised their authority in righteousness. In Psalm 50 the unrighteous are called the “wicked” (50:16).

It is my conclusion that the wicked of Psalms 73, 50 and 82 are the same group—wicked Israelites. In part this is true because the term “wicked” is used of them, while other designations are employed for the foreign enemies of Israel. It should also be observed that the sins of which the “wicked” of Psalm 73 are accused are those characteristic of wicked Israelites, and not those of the pagans which are mentioned in Asaph’s other psalms.

It is the prosperity of wicked Israelites which brought such distress to Asaph, and I think I can understand why this would be true. Asaph, as best as I can tell, was a professional, full-time religious worker. In those days, the musicians were paid. Those who served in religious endeavors were supported by the tithes of the congregation. If the people of Israel were prospering and Asaph was not, it was because the people were not being obedient to God, not only in the way they obtained their wealth, but in their use of it.

Asaph’s vantage point was from the perspective of the choir loft. I can almost see him there in the temple, looking out over the congregation. They had healthy, well-fed bodies, fine clothes, and expensive jewelry. He had aches and pains, meager clothing, and no luxuries of life. He was serving God; they were not. It wasn’t fair! Doesn’t this help you to understand the agony of Asaph? The wicked were those very people who came to the temple to worship, but in a very perfunctory way. They gave lip service to their faith, but showed no genuine heart for God.

(5) Religious leaders of our Lord’s day almost perfectly fit the three-fold description of Asaph in Psalm 73. Asaph’s characterization of his fellow-countrymen as prosperous, proud, and popular is not difficult to accept when one applies these same criteria to New Testament times. The Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees were just like the wicked who caused Asaph such distress.

These religious leaders were certainly prosperous. We are told, for example, that it was the family of the high priest, a Sadducee, who owned the concession at the entrance to the temple which exchanged currency and sold sacrificial animals at exorbitant rates, turning the temple from a “house of prayer” to a “den of thieves” (cf. Matt. 21:13). We know also that the wealth of the Scribes and Pharisees was obtained by taking advantage of helpless widows (Matt. 23:14). And rather than to meet their obligations to others, legal technicalities were fabricated to preserve their wealth and indulge only themselves (Matt. 23:16-24; Mk. 7:11-12).

The religious leaders were not only prosperous, they were also proud. In Matthew 23 our Lord accused them of loving the place of honor at banquets and taking the chief seats in the synagogue (v. 6). They made a show of their religious activities to be seen by men (v. 5). And, worst of all, they took for themselves titles (Rabbi, Father, and Leader), all of which belonged to God (vv. 8-12).

Finally, the scribes and Pharisees were aggressive in seeking to lead men in their sinful ways. Jesus said to these religious leaders, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matt. 23:15). He then goes on to call these same men “blind guides” (v. 16). The people whose prosperity, pride, and popularity caused Asaph so much pain were the wicked within the nation Israel, those who called on the name of Yahweh, who worshipped in the temple, but whose hearts and lives were evil and proud. It is bad enough when the heathen, who do not even profess to trust in the one living God, flourish. It is pure agony however, when those who claim to know the God we serve, live in sin and yet prosper, or appear to profit.

Verse 12 summarizes the complaint of Asaph concerning the wicked: they were carefree and they continued to prosper, even in their wickedness. In short, the wicked in Israel enticed others to follow them and their evil example, and yet their lives were seemingly blessed with financial prosperity and physical well-being, a fact which seemed contradictory to the covenant God had made with Israel.

The Secrets of the Psalmist’s Soul (vv. 13-14)

I have chosen to title the theme of verses 13 and 14 in such a way as to emphasise a very important fact. The thoughts with which the psalmist toyed for a time were never shared until after he had seen how sinful they were. To put it more bluntly, Asaph knew when to keep quiet. He did not share the soul-stretching questions of his heart until after he had found the answer to them. How often, in the name of honesty (or, more piously, a “prayer request”) we share unsettling questions and problems, only to create difficulties for others. I am deeply impressed with the honesty of the psalmist on the one hand and his sense of discretion on the other. When the confession of his sins could aid his fellow-saints, he did so, but when this would only tempt others, he agonised alone, until he had the answer he sought.

Verses 13 and 14 give the conclusion toward which the evidence led Asaph. If God is not blessing the righteous and cursing the wicked, the very thing promised in the Old Testament Law (Deut. 27–28), then what was the good of being righteous? The cost of remaining pure was exceedingly high and the rewards for which Asaph had looked went to the wicked instead. Righteousness seemingly was not rewarded but punished. Such religion certainly appeared to be vain. It looked contradictory to both God’s covenant and common sense.

It should also be noted that this tempting thought with which Asaph wrestled was the presupposition of Satan:

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 1:9-11).

It is inconceivable that Satan was not involved in the temptation which Asaph was going through as he watched the wicked doing well and as he agonised in his own affliction.

The Catastrophic Consequences of Asaph’s Anticipated Actions (v. 15)

Having described the course of action with which Asaph was flirting in verses 13 and 14, the psalmist now describes the impact such a sinful response would have had on others. To have doubted God’s faithfulness and forsaken a godly life would have been a betrayal of Asaph’s brethren. As a religious leader he not only would have been responsible for his own sin, but he would also have encouraged others to walk in his steps. Just as sin would have devastated his ministry and his witness (v. 15), so his faithfulness and worship promoted his testimony and ministry among men (v. 28). Our actions have a profound impact on others.

Faith’s Triumph
(73:16-28)

16 When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight 17 Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end. 18 Surely Thou dost set them in slippery places; Thou dost cast them down to destruction. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! 20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, Thou wilt despise their form.

21 When my heart was embittered, And I was pierced within, 22 Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before Thee. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; Thou hast taken hold of my right hand. 24 With Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For, behold, those who are far from Thee will perish; Thou hast destroyed all those who are unfaithful to Thee. 28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Thy works. (NASB)

The Perspective of Worship (vv. 16-20)

In verse 16 we come to a dramatic change of heart and mind where we move from the testing of Asaph’s faith to its triumph. The inner debate and doubting of the psalmist, as portrayed in verses 2-15 were the result of his efforts to resolve the problem by mere reason. Human reason could only lead Asaph to the conclusion that personal piety was profitless and painful. But suddenly in verse 16 there is a new perspective and a complete change in Asaph’s attitude. Instead of protest there is praise. What changed his outlook? The answer, I believe, can be summed up in one word—worship: “When I tried to understand all this It was oppressive to me Till I entered the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their final destiny” (vv. 16-17).

It was not a change of place that transformed Asaph’s outlook, but rather a change in his perspective and in his vocation. Asaph is now a man of worship. While God’s name was hardly mentioned in the first 14 verses (except in v. 1) other than on the lips of the wicked (v. 11), now Asaph is communing with God in worship.125 There is a dramatic change in the pronouns employed. In the first half of the psalm the wicked (“they” and “them”) are the object of Asaph’s attention, but in verses 15-28 God (“you”) is central. The exact nature of worship and its effect on Asaph’s heart is described in this second half of the psalm. Let us look carefully at worship’s composition and how it can transform the critic into a contrite and grateful saint.

First, worship reminded Asaph of his responsibility to the righteous (v. 15). Worship in ancient Israel was most often corporate, something done as a part of a community of worshippers. When Asaph came to worship he was not alone. There in the congregation were not only the wicked, whose prosperity had so troubled Asaph, but those who were righteous, the “generation of God’s children” (v. 15). To have adopted the attitude described in verses 13 and 14 and abandoned his faith would have been to tempt others to follow in his steps. Such a sin in the life of the saint is not only an offense to God, but also a stumbling block to fellow-believers. True worship reminds us that we cannot ignore our brethren. Indeed, we cannot worship God while we offend others (cf. Matt. 5:23-24). It is possible that Asaph has come to realize that these godly brethren are, themselves, far greater treasure than the meager material gains of the wicked.

Second, worship dissolved Asaph’s envy of the wicked by reminding and reassuring him of their ultimate destiny.126 Asaph had concluded that the wicked prospered and the righteous suffered, but this was a decision too hastily made. His conclusion had been reached on the basis of observations which were superficial. The fate of the wicked was viewed from a temporal perspective, not an eternal one. Asaph’s reasoning was based on human thinking, not on faith. While the wicked do prosper, their ultimate destiny is now viewed through the eyes of faith in accordance with the promises of God given in the Old Testament Scriptures.

The prosperity of the wicked can now be seen to be passing and precarious. If the psalmist’s footing was shaky (v. 2), that of the wicked is even more so (vv. 18-20). God has placed them on “slippery ground” (v. 18). In a moment’s time their prosperity will turn to peril and punishment (v. 19). God has chosen to delay His judgment, but once He is aroused, they will be despised and their momentary success will be seen like a passing dream, a mere fantasy.

The destiny of the wicked, rather than their immediate prosperity, served as a cure for the envy which Asaph had in his heart toward these evil-doers. While one might be tempted to envy the present ease of life in which they lived, who would possibly desire to share in their future condemnation? Looking only at the short-term they were an object of envy, but from a longer range view they were to be pitied. Worship, for Asaph, had brought the prosperity of the wicked into focus. Worship caused him to view life from an eternal perspective rather than merely an earthly one.

Self-Righteous Pity to Penitence (vv. 21-22)

Worship also gave Asaph a new perspective on himself. It dissolved false pride and brought about a penitent spirit. Underlying Asaph’s protest in verses 1-14 was a faulty assumption—that while the wealthy were wicked, he was righteous. Only a man who thought himself righteous could reason: “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; In vain have I washed my hands in innocence” (v. 13).

Asaph was convinced that he was a righteous man. If the prosperous were wicked and deserved to be punished, he was righteous and deserved to prosper.

But Asaph did not deserve God’s blessings for he too was a sinner. His problem was not different in kind, but only in degree, from that of the wicked he hoped to see suffer. Asaph had hinted at this in verse 3 when he indicated his attitude was one of envy, not grief. Before he went to God in worship, Asaph viewed himself as distinct from others whom he saw as more wicked than himself. When contrasted to these “sinners” he was righteous, much like the self-righteous Pharisee who compared himself with the publican in Luke 18:11. At worship Asaph was forced to view himself in comparison with God, not wicked men. Finally he honestly admitted that he too was a sinner. In his moments of inner struggle Asaph was upset and bitter, senseless and ignorant. He was like an animal (vv. 21-22). Worship forces us to look at ourselves as God sees us. Comparison to others is set aside.

The Advantages of Affliction (vv. 23-26)

At the outset of his struggle Asaph assumed that affliction was inappropriate for the righteous. Furthermore he believed that adversity was evil. If the consequence of sin is judgment and suffering, then how could adversity possibly have a beneficial effect in the life of the saint? The success of sinners and the suffering of saints was a problem too great for the mind of the psalmist to grasp; but when he worshipped God, Asaph came to understand the blessing adversity had been in his life. On the other hand he was able to see that affluence had been detrimental to the wicked.

Worship is, first and foremost, something spiritual. At worship, Asaph began to consider the spiritual dimension of life as opposed to the merely physical aspects. Asaph had, like most of his contemporaries, defined prosperity (“shalom”) only in material and physical terms. The wicked, he protested, had sleek and healthy bodies and they were free from life’s trials (vv. 4-5). But what he had failed to appreciate was the detrimental effect prosperity had on the spiritual lives of the wicked. Prosperity made the wicked even more greedy, violent, and oppressive (vv. 6-8). Worst of all, the prosperous became proud, even to the point of blasphemy (vv. 9-11).

Rather than bringing men closer to God, affluence only made men more independent and ungrateful. Prosperity led to spiritual complacency and even blasphemous pride.

Asaph’s affliction, while unpleasant, had the beneficial effect of drawing him closer to God. While there was an initial reaction of bitterness and complaint, he finally came to the point of worship and praise. Now, rather than dwelling on what material things he lacked, he delighted in the greatest blessing of all—having God as an intimate counselor and guide, a present and a future source of comfort and security (vv. 23-26).

The sufferings of the psalmist were not God’s hand of judgment, as Asaph had too hastily concluded, but His loving hand, a course in God’s school of suffering. He did not intend to drive Asaph away, but to draw him to Himself. In all of his trials God never left his side. He was guiding and guarding him throughout his ordeal. Asaph’s experience of God’s care in the present brought assurance of His continued care and fellowship in the future, no matter how limited his understanding of this might be.

The faithfulness of God in the midst of present trials is further evidence of God’s faithfulness in the future. This is what Paul spoke of in the fifth chapter of his epistle to the Romans: “

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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 (Rom. 5:3-5).

This is why Asaph was able to say with confidence that although suffering may be his portion in life—his “flesh and his heart may fail”—nevertheless, God will be sufficient for his every need (v. 26). God was in the present, and He would be in the future, Asaph’s “refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).

Worship has reminded Asaph of yet another important truth. God has never promised to keep His people from suffering, but He has promised to be with His people in suffering.

The Psalmist’s Summation (vv. 27-28)

God’s promised blessings and His cursings are now seen in an entirely different light, therefore Asaph concludes the psalm by summarizing the peril of the wicked and the blessings of the righteous. The wicked, those who are not near to God (v. 27), will ultimately perish. No matter how comfortable they now seem to be, destruction is their final destiny. The God who is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart (v. 1), is also the God who will destroy those who are unfaithful to Him (vv. 18-20, 27). Their momentary ease of life is no longer the object of Asaph’s envy, but their final destiny is a sobering reality.

If the blessing of God had previously been measured only in terms of material prosperity and ease of life, it is now viewed as being, in the words of one hymn, “near to the heart of God” (v. 28). This was the case with Asaph (vv. 23-26) and so he can conclude the psalm with the confident statement that he has made God his refuge and that he will publicly praise God for His wondrous deeds, which may include sending adversity into the life of His loved ones (v. 28).

Conclusion

Do you see how Asaph’s thinking has radically changed? He began by complaining that the wicked were prospering and that he, as one of the righteous, was being punished. He believed that suffering is evil and that since God is good He cannot allow affliction to touch the life of the righteous. “Good” was somehow inseparably intertwined with material prosperity and physical well-being. But worship taught Asaph that the ultimate good in life is knowing God. If knowing God is the highest good in this life and in eternity, then we must conclude that whatever draws us away from Him is evil and whatever draws us to Him is good. Since affluence had only promoted the wickedness of the ungodly and adversity caused Asaph to draw more closely to God, his initial thinking is revealed to be reversed. The suffering he shunned was actually a blessing, while the success he sought was really a curse.

In the light of this principle—that affliction is often a gift of God—I am greatly distressed by an all-too-common theme which is prominent in Christian circles, a theme which is almost identical to the thinking which caused Asaph such great agony of soul. It is the mentality that God’s blessings always come in the form of financial success, material abundance, and physical well-being. We are led to believe that the righteous can claim such things as their rightful possessions. We are also told that when we experience financial setbacks or physical illness it is because we lack the faith to possess what is ours in Christ.

Such theology can only be maintained by a selective reading of the Bible. Some choose to study only those passages which promise us the “good things” of life, but systematically ignore those which speak of suffering and trials. They convince themselves that a good God would never cause his saints any sorrow. That, my friend, is not what the Bible teaches. It is, rather, a doctrine which Satan himself originated and which he actively promotes in the world today. He suggested to Eve that a good God would never withhold such a pleasant and attractive thing as the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He was certain that Job would not serve God unless God continued to prosper him. He even had the audacity to suggest to the Lord Jesus that suffering was inappropriate for Him when he sought to tempt Him at the outset of His ministry (cf. Matt. 4:1-11). Jesus responded that obedience is more important than personal satisfaction (Matt. 4:4) and that God alone must be worshipped, no matter how appealing immediate pleasure or success may seem (4:10).

Nowhere did the Old Testament teach that material prosperity was the inevitable result of righteousness. Adversity was a tool God used as freely in those days as in our own. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, not because of his sin, but because of their contempt for his righteousness. The Israelites spent 400 years in captivity in Egypt, not so much as a punishment for sin as a preparation for future blessing. And the difficulties Israel experienced in the wilderness were God’s school of discipline, to teach His people obedience and to develop their faith in Him as a trustworthy Father.

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you (Deut. 8:2-5).

Many scholars believe that the Book of Job may be the oldest book of the Bible. If this is true then we should realize that one of the first truths God communicated to man was that suffering may be used of God to accomplish His purposes (such as providing instruction for Satan, Job 1–2) and to strengthen the faith of His saints (Job 42:1-6). While the saints may suffer temporarily, they can be assured of God’s ultimate blessings (Job 42:10-17).

Anyone who wishes to think that God’s people have the right to expect a trouble-free life of ease and prosperity apparently read the Scriptures superficially and have an inadequate grasp of the process God uses to conform us to the image of His Son. Suffering is one of the central themes in the New Testament Book of Hebrews. In chapter 10 the author commended the Hebrews for their diligence in spite of their suffering and persecution, urging them to continue and to endure in the present (10:32-39). In chapter 11 we are reminded that the heroes of the Old Testament were men and women who endured suffering, confident in God’s promise of future blessings.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (11:13-16).

The material blessings which these saints of old sought, they did not receive in their lifetime. Their hope and trust was in the promise of God and they were willing to look beyond the grave for its fulfillment. The delay, we are told, was so that we too might share in their blessings:

And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect (11:39-40).

In chapter 12 of this great Book of Hebrews we are reminded that one of the proofs of sonship is that we, like Israel of old, will be taught in the school of discipline. Suffering is not a denial of God’s love, but a demonstration of it, for it prepares us for the blessings for which we look, just as it did the saints of old. This is the lesson which Asaph had to learn in order to appreciate the adversity God had brought into his life.

It is not hard to understand the strong materialistic emphasis of the Old Testament saint, but it is nearly as pronounced today as it was then. For example, what comes to your mind when you think of heaven? Probably you think of the streets of gold, the absence of sorrow and pain and tears, and the great joy we will experience. I know of songs which speak of heaven in terms of the absence of war or of the possession of a pair of shoes. None of these descriptions is really wrong, but they are all distorted. You see, we are predisposed to think of heaven in material terms just as the saint of olden times thought of his blessings in such ways. Heaven, however, is not merely the absence of all those things which we think of as painful, nor is it merely the presence of what we would call pleasure. Heaven is, first and foremost, dwelling eternally in the presence of God and worshipping Him.

Psalm 73 has underscored a very important truth concerning our witness. We can state this truth as a principle: envy is the enemy of evangelism. Both halves of this Psalm end with a statement concerning the effect of Asaph’s attitudes and actions on evangelism. To have given up godliness as vain would have been to betray his brethren, to encourage others to walk in an ungodly way (v. 15). To worship God and find Him to be all sufficient is to enable one to encourage others to trust and obey God (v. 28).

It was only as I reconsidered verses 15 and 28 that I saw how important this principle is in the Psalm. It is very difficult to evangelize those whom we envy. To envy the wicked is to desire to be like them. Worldliness is devastating to our witness because we desire to be like the wicked more than we desire that they be like us. We want what they have more than we want them to have what is ours. It is only when Asaph sees the wicked in the light of eternity that he can be fervent in his witness. Their prosperity is fleeting and their destruction is sure. They may have some passing pleasures, but they do not have the blessing of knowing God and having intimate fellowship with Him. Let us learn this lesson well. We will never be effective evangelists when in our hearts we envy the way of the wicked.

Whenever we reduce the blessings of God to physical and material well-being we put ourselves in the same place that Asaph was when he observed the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous. When we think of heaven as prosperity, we look at life on earth as hellish, for here we find suffering and trials. But when we view heaven as everlasting fellowship with God in uninterrupted intimacy, then we realize that we can experience a part of heaven here and now, even in the midst of adversity. In fact, it is adversity which lessens the pull of this life and its pleasures and intensifies our desire for heaven (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16–5:10). Let us seek to keep our view of heaven in biblical focus, not thinking as much about the gifts as the Giver, with whom we shall dwell forever.

Finally, let this psalm instruct us concerning the vital role which worship should play in our lives. If there was one turning point in Asaph’s change from temptation to triumph it was his worship experience (v. 17). At worship, Asaph gained a right perspective about himself and about others. He stopped focusing on the present, passing pleasures of the wicked, and pondered their ultimate and certain judgment. He ceased to consider himself as righteous, compared to the “wicked” about him, and viewed himself as a sinner, not deserving God’s gifts, but dependent on God’s grace. He ceased to envy the wicked and began to consider his obligation to the righteous. He realized that fellowship with God was not inconsistent with adversity, but often was its result. He then appreciated suffering as a gracious gift from a loving God.

Worship is not so much the leaving behind of life and coming into the presence of God as it is bringing life before God and coming to view it as He does. Worship is seeing things as they are. God is good and faithful. Life on earth is fleeting. Thus we should praise God for all that He is and for all that He does, even when He brings suffering into our lives.

Worship is not just important because it delights the heart of God. Worship is vital because it renews the perspective of the saints and enables them to live in a world of suffering, praising God, obeying His word, and looking ahead to the fulfillment of all His promises.

 

 

116 “We may indicate the distinctive nature of the solution offered in this psalm by noting that it penetrates deeper than does any other that has ever been attempted on the Old Testament level. It mounts to the very presence of God, holds close to Him, and then views the situation from that vantage point.” H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House [reprint], 1969), p. 523.

Perhaps Kirkpatrick best summarizes the contribution of Psalm 73 with regard to the other passages which deal with the same subject. He writes: “In Psalm 37 we have a simple exhortation to patience and faith in view of the prosperity of the wicked, for the triumph of the wicked will be short-lived, while the reward of the righteous will be sure and abiding. In Psalm 49 the impotence and the transitoriness of wealth are insisted on, and contrasted with God’s care for the righteous and the final triumph of righteousness. In this Psalm the problem is still approached from the side of the prosperity of the wicked, though there is a side-glance at the sufferings of the righteous (v. 14). It represents a deeper and probably later stage of thought: the difficulty has become more acute, and the solution is more complete; for the Psalmist is led to recognize not only the instability of worldly greatness, but the supreme blessedness of fellowship with God as man’s highest good. In the Book of Job the problem is approached from the side of the suffering of the righteous, but it is fully discussed in its manifold aspects. A further step is made towards the conclusion implicitly contained in the faith of this Psalm, that this world is but one act in the great drama of life.” A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms (Cambridge: University Press, 1906), p. 431.

117 “The very first word allows for two possibilities of interpretation. Most of the commentators who follow the English tradition translate the ‘akh as ‘surely.’ The German tradition for the most part (except Luther) follows the equally acceptable meaning ‘only,’ i.e., God has been only good to Israel. The choice is difficult since both usages are fully warranted.” Leupold, pp. 531-532.

One can see that if verse one were rendered, “Only good is God to Israel,” the psalmist’s anguish is even more acute.

Delitzsch says, “It may therefore be rendered: yea good, assuredly good, or: only good, nothing but good; both renderings are an assertion of a sure, infallible relation of things.” Franz Delitzsch, The Psalms (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company [photolithoprinted], 1968), II, p. 311.

118 Gerhard von Rad writes: “Seldom do we find in the OT a word which to the same degree as shalom can bear a common use and yet can also be filled with a concentrated religious content far above the level of the average conception.” Gerhard von Rad, “EIRENE,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans [photolithoprinted], 1968), II, p. 402.

Carr adds, “Shalom, and its related words … are among the most important theological words in the OT. Shalom occurs over 250 times in 213 separate verses (so Durham, p. 275. BDB lists 237 uses). The KJV translates 172 of these as “peace.” The remainder are translated about 310 different ways, many only a single time each.” G. Lloyd Carr, “Shalem,Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), II, p. 931.

119 Ibid.

120 Ibid.

121 Gerhard von Rad, “EIRENE,” p. 403.

122 A comparison of the various translations will show some differences in the way verse 4 is rendered. This reflects a slightly different reading of the text, which some feel is both justified and necessary. For example, Kidner writes: “Death seems to be introduced too early in the passage. ‘In their death’ is a single Heb. word, lemotam; divided it is read as lamo; tam, i.e. as the italicized words in the sentence: ‘… no pangs for them; sound and sleek is their body.’” Derek Kidner, Psalms (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), II, p. 260, fn. 2.

123 Kirkpatrick writes concerning verse 10: “A difficult verse. The general sense appears to be that, attracted by the prosperity and pretensions of the wicked, a crowd of imitators turn to follow them, and in their company drink to the dregs the cup of sinful pleasure.” Ibid.

124 There are two major ways of interpreting verses 10-14. The first is to understand that it is the followers of the wicked who are speaking in verses 10-14. They come to the conclusion of verse 11 (How can God know?) and they justify it on the basis of their observations of the wicked, which are expressed in verses 12-13. The wicked, they conclude, are getting away with it, and even prospering in their sin. They decide that godliness is in vain, and that God really doesn’t care (vv. 13-14, v. 11). Like those addressed in the Book of Hebrews, it would seem that they considered the cost of obedience too high, and have determined to give up. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” The psalmist speaks for himself, then, only in verse 15. He considered joining his peers in abandoning his faith, but decided against it.

The second view of verses 10-14 is that those who have chosen to follow the path of the wicked who have prospered speak only in verse 11. The psalmist then takes up in verses 12-14 and speaks for himself, honestly confessing the thoughts he has pondered, but finally rejected. This is the view of Kirkpatrick, which he ably defends (pp. 434-435). I have adopted this latter view. The substance of the psalmist’s words is little different, in the end.

125 “The light breaks in as he turns to God Himself, and to Him as an object not of speculation but of worship.” Kidner, II, pp. 261-262.

The expression “the sanctuary of God” is literally “the sanctuaries.” Just how this should be understood is debated. Leupold writes: “It is not easy to determine whether this statement refers to the visible Temple as such and the attendance of public worship in it, or whether it refers to an entering into the truth that God knows and imparts to others concerning His strange dealings with the children of men. Perhaps one had better allow for both possibilities. All commentators are agreed that a mere physical entering into the sanctuary gives no deeper insight. One must either hear something of God’s truth uttered in the sanctuary, or one must at least, while worshiping there and pondering upon divine truth, have been led by the guidance of the Spirit of God into new insights that resolve the troublesome problem. It is true that the latter may occur without the former. Both might have occurred in sequence.” Leupold, p. 528.

126 It should be pointed out here that there is considerable discussion among Bible scholars as to how specific this passage is concerning the future judgment of the wicked. So too there is debate about such statements as are found in verse 24 concerning the “glory” which awaits the saint. My personal opinion is that the specifics are not at all spelled out in this psalm, but that room is left for the more complete revelation of the Old Testament prophets and the even more particular instruction of the New Testament. I believe that the Old Testament saint had a hope beyond the grave, but that it was not nearly so well defined as we might think, looking back as we do from the New Testament teaching.

 

Psalm 46 – When stress exceeds strength!

WHEN STRESS EXCEEDS STRENGTH!

Psalm 46

Introduction.

Stress is the villain blamed for many of our ills these days. And it is true that many live under extreme pressure.

A certain amount of stress in life is unavoidable – in fact I would go as far a to say that stress in many situations is desirable.

ILLUS.: Students face stress at exam time that hopefully pressures them to get down to study.

When I was in the army we were regularly underwent kit inspection. The barracks had to be sparkling – each bed made perfectly square / all beds in an exact line – every man’s kit arranged in exactly the same way / buttons polished/ boots shone / every soldier at rigid attention next to his bed as the Sgt.Major stalked from man to man glaring at each and looking for the smallest speck of dirt. Stress!

Athlete need a certain amount of stress to get them going and to keep them going…

Often we place stress upon ourselves because of overwork / unwise actions etc…

Sometimes things beyond our control put us under stress that is greater than the strength we have in ourselves.

Sometimes we are faced with sudden, unexpected devastating circumstances – e.g. the death of a loved one, financial disaster, break-up of a relationship / home, diagnosis of serious illness, redundancy – these and many others can be sudden and extremely stressful. Usually easy to identify cause!

However, sometimes stress builds up to an intolerable level but it happens gradually – an accumulation of numerous little things that when all added together place us under enormous pressure. This kind of stress is often not easily identifiable – often we are unaware we are over stressed – it kind of creeps up on us. Then one day we take stock and realise why we feel the way we do.

How do we handle stress?       The comics suggest a few ways:-

  • Drive to work in reverse
  • Read a dictionary upside down and look for secret messages
  • Fill in your tax return in roman numerals
  • Send your doctor a bill for the time you spend in his waiting room
  • Pay your electricity bill in 1p coins
  • When someone says, “Have a nice day!” say you have other plans

These might be humorous but not very helpful.

  1. 1.     There may will be trouble ahead.

The song goes, “There may be trouble ahead!” BUT for the Christian as far as Jesus was concerned there will be trouble. John 16:33  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

The question to ask is not, “Will trouble come?” BUT rather “When trouble comes how will I handle it?”

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 46 was no stranger to trouble. He uses wonderful poetic language to describe – Psalm 46:2-3            2 …, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,       3 though its waters roar and foam            and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah (NIV)

There are times in life where there is such upheaval that you feel as if you are in the midst of an earthquake. There are times when life is so overwhelming that you feel as if you are being swamped by a raging sea. Maybe there are some here today who feel like that now!

Maybe for some of you life in blissfully trouble free at the moment – I hate to shatter your comfort zone BUT there is trouble ahead.

None of us have exactly the same experiences and even if we did we all handle life differently.

Some have relatively trouble free lives – For others stresses can be beyond our strength.

ILLUS.: Think of the stress that the family of little Sarah Pain must be going through with her disappearance 2 weeks ago!

Whether the troubles we face are great or small it is important that we prepare for them. Death will come to us all – and no doubt a host of other things before that. Some are more like earthquakes than others are BUT all will shake us to a degree.

What is the Psalmists Advice?

(a)  “Be still”

There is some difference of opinion about how to look at this phrase. The sentence is “Be still and know that I am God”. It is seen written at the front of many churches. Presumably to encourage us to come in quietness and reverence into the church. BUT look at the context of the Psalm – earthquakes, surging seas, and raging battles. Quiet reverential atmosphere??!! Hardly!

We can take the statement two ways I think:

(i)                God is speaking to the earth / nations that are in uproar and he command above the turmoil “Be still! [SILENCE!] Know that I am God!” or

(ii)             (ii) God is speaking to his people and in the midst of the uproar he say to those who are his “Be still! [Be calm / at peace] Know that I am God [I am in control].

Being still does not mean you don’t take physical action from physical danger. In the midst of a physical earthquake / flood you don’t sit quietly when the house is tumbling around your ears or the water pouring through the door!

Sometimes we face situations in life and our instincts tell us to “RUN”. – BUT God says, instead of making hysterical decision “Be still”

ILLUS.: When I was in the army I was assigned to the engineering corps. Part of our job was to find and disarm land mines. We were trained to ‘freeze’ if we heard a “click” or if a comrade shouted, “FREEZE!” If you didn’t you could loose your leg or worse!                     Freeze! Assess! Decide! Act!

(b)   “Know that I am God!”

To be still is not enough – many people take time out to be quiet. Many may be calm under pressure.

Some take time out to talk to the trees!

Some meditate on their latest guru!

Some contemplate their navels!

The Psalmist says “Acknowledge God and allowing that knowledge to impact upon you!”

“To know someone” can have a very broad meaning.

ILLUS.: I know the Queen – in the sense that I know who she is – I recognise her picture.

BUT I know my wife! I know her better than any other human being. We have a close intimate relationship.

The Bible uses the word know in many ways – e.g. Genesis 4:1  Adam KNEW his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. ……” (NIV)

It is this intimate sense of the word that the Psalmist uses here.  We need a personal, intimate relationship with God.

  1. 2.     Knowing God intimately.

I know Janet better now than I did when we first met 20+ years ago. Our relationship has deepened and become more intimate with time and experience.

The same is true with God.

As we get to know more about God and get to trust him more we find he is trustworthy and reliable and loving.

The Psalmist tells us to consider three things about God:-

  • He is a Refuge
  • He is Strength
  • He is an ever present help

REFUGE

In the OT there were cities of Refuge to which people could flee in time of trouble – here they were safe from the enemy -/ the avenger of blood until the problem was resolved. It was a place where a person could be protected from danger and preserved in the midst of danger.

God is willing and able to protect and preserve us in times of trouble as we entrust ourselves to him.

STRENGTH

We may be tempted to think that if this is so then God is there to solve all our problems and give us a trouble free life. NOT SO!

God’s concern is for our eternal wellbeing and sometimes our present trouble, while painful and confusing at times, is to achieve a higher purpose.

2 Corinthians 4:17 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (NIV)

But in those troubles God is our strength if we will trust Him. He may not always remove the troubles as we might wish BUT he will give us the strength to cope! Habakkuk 3:19             The Sovereign LORD is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to go on the heights. (NIV)

He may not remove the mountain BUT he will give you goat’s feet to climb the mountain!

HELP

We all need help from friends and family at various times. Sometimes the help we seek is not forthcoming. I guess we have all be guilty of not giving this kind of help to others and have failed to receive it at times.

Jesus experienced this failure in his disciples in Gethsemane when he asked them to pray with him and they fell asleep!

BUT not so God! He is ever present to help in trouble!

Down through history men and women have proved God in his promise to be “a very present help”

ILLUS.: When Martin Luther was up to his ears in trouble with the Pope he wrote his now famous hymn based on this psalm. “A mighty fortress is our God”

3. A source of strength for the stresses.

Maybe this psalm was written after Jerusalem had been under attack and survived – we can’t be sure!

Certainly a siege could be endure much more easily if there was a river flowing through the city.

Psalm 46:4-5 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.

5 God is within her, she will not fall;

God will help her at break of day. (NIV)

The Psalmist is in no douubt that the Lord himself is the river. He is the one who provides life-giving water to those who are surrounded by troubles and trauma.

Jesus used a similar picture in John 7:38-39 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, …….

Knowing these things in our heads in one thing – getting them into our hearts and living in the light of these truths is another.

The people living in a besieged city can rejoice that there is a river flowing through the city but if they fail to drink from the river it is not going to do them much good.

The things of this world that we think are firm and strong – things like mountains and nations – are in fact quite flimsy and fragile!

Mouontains can seem so solid / immovable but a volcano or earthquake can level them. Nations can seem strong and secure but war or economic collapse can change that over night. We need something more substantial and enduring than mountains and nations – we need a dwelling place with God. And that is what God gives.

Psalm 46:4-5       4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,       the holy place where the Most High dwells.           5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. (NIV)

Are you drinking from the life-giving stream that God provides by his word and his Spirit through Jesus Christ?

Should our prayer not be – “O Lord, let my times of prayer and meditation be quiet places in a noisy and troubled world. May they be times when I am conscious of your eternal ways and know the strength of your presence with me through Jesus Christ.”

Let’s end with a poem by Eddie Askew based around Ps.46:

Lord, my mind races.

A blur of images, impressions

moving too fast to think about.

Words, pictures, happenings crowd in , insistently.

Rioting in my mind , uncontrolled.

Hurling rocks to shatter my security.

I feel under attack.

Nothing is what is seems.

Nothing is what it was.

And what it will be , I have no idea.

Changing, ll the time.

It shakes me, Lord.

The minute I’ve taken in this one new thought,

there’s yet another treading down my heels,

pushing hard to get by.

I need you, Lord.

A safe refuge. A shelter.

I used to scorn that thought.

Shelters were for the weak, and I was strong.

But pride’s not what it was,

that’s changed too,

and who am I, when mountains shake

to stand out in the storm?

I head for cover with the rest.

Cold with shock.

Another of the walking wounded in the fight.

I need your reassurance.

The strength that comes from you.

Yet even you, Lord,

come to me in different ways.

Speaking new words in unexpected moments.

Shaking what little complacency I have left.

And Lord, when I take a break

gasping for breath

at the end of this day’s lap,

I realise you never promised things would always be the same.

Rebirth means change.

Walking with you is transformation.

Uncomfortable. Painful at times.

Filled with newness.

New life, and joy, and love.

Help me to cope with it.

Because you promised,

and I think I’ve got it right,

your hand in mine.

Calm strength flowing through to me.

From you. The Unchanging One.


WHEN STRESS EXCEEDS STRENGTH!

 

Psalm 46

 

1. There may will be trouble ahead.

  • “Be still”
  • “Know that I am God!”

2. Knowing God intimately.

  • refuge
  • strength
  • help

3. A source of strength for the stresses.

 

¨      PSALMIST – “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall;…”

¨      JESUS – “ Whoever believes in me.., streams of living water will flow from within him.”  – the Holy Spirit

Psalm 37:1-38 – Why Fret When You Can Have Faith?

Why Fret When You Can Have Faith?

Psalm 37:1-38

READ: Psalm 37 –responsively

 

SING: “When lawless people thrive” [P.37]

 

INTRODUCTION

Why worship, when we can worry?

Why trust when we can fuss.

Why pray to God when we can pester our friends / neighbours / family?

When we first hear questions like that we tend to think, “Well, why would anyone choose worrying, fussing and pestering over worshipping, trusting and praying?”

That is a good question. Why would anyone choose the weaker response over the stronger one?

Yet we do it, and more often than we like to admit.

All of those questions can be summed up in one question.

Why choose faith when we can fret?”

Psalm 37 addresses the issue of faith verses fretting.

Why choose faith, when we can fret?

It’s a long Psalm and we are going to dip into it!!!

 

1. God tells us to have faith rather than fret over the things of the world.

Psalm 37:1            1  Do not fret because of evil men

or be envious of those who do wrong; (NIV)

 

Simple and straight forward, right? Not exactly.

Some might translate it so, “We don’t need to do anything when we see evil in the world.”

I don’t think David, the Psalmist meant that we should sit back and do nothing when we see evil. That we should never be concerned about anything, let alone the things that are wrong in the world. If you have a love for God, you will be concerned. You will see people living in a way that can lead to death and destruction and you will be concerned for their mortal safety, and for their eternal salvation.

Not DOING anything is not the correct response, so what does it mean, “…not to fret”?

The Hebrew word translated here as fret is ‘charah’ {khaw-raw’} and it means;

‘..to be hot, furious, burn, become angry ..’

The dictionary defines “fret” – to gnaw, to make or become rough, to wear away.

So when David says, “Do not fret…”, he’s really telling us not to let our emotions run away with us so that they begin to gnaw away at the very fabric of our faith in God.

Q> How would you define the different between fretting and being legitimately concerned?

Q> WHAT THINGS cause us to fret?

Some things just happen – no one’s fault directly. Accidents / illness etc.

In these we need to trust God –

ILLUS.: When I was diagnosed with a terminally illness 5 years ago — anxious / concerned / fretted etc …. Slow realisation [very slow] that God knows .. I can trust my family and their future to him. Doesn’t mean I become passive and do nothing to help myself …

 

BUT I don’t think that this psalm is primarily about things that ‘just happen’.

The wrongs he is concerned about here are those caused by others.

If your life is anything like mine, it is full of the unexpected. Those issues that catch you broadside and make you shake your head in bewilderment as to how you’re going to deal with it.

 

Sometimes, if we let them, those issues can cause us to go into a tailspin of fret and worry, especially when the issue is because of someone else’s wrong doing.

 

This fretting can take one of two forms in our lives.

  • Sometimes we respond with, (sounding worried, wringing hands.…) “Oooo, now what am I going to do? How can I get myself out of this mess?”
  • Sometimes we respond with, (with an evil, menacing lilt) “What am I going to do? I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to get even, that’s what I’m going to do

One is to be paralysed with fear, and the other is to be paralysed with vengeance.

Either way, it’s not good and will only cause you trouble in the end.

We need to follow David’s instruction to the Israelites, “Do NOT fret… because of those who do you wrong…”

 

SING: “What a friend we have in Jesus” [P.614]

 

2. WHY SHOULD WE AVOID FRETTING?

….because you are taking things into your own hands, as if you can come up with some fantastic solution to the problem.

OUR HUMAN SOLUTION…. the person who has harmed you gets repaid, and taught such a lesson that they wouldn’t dare retaliate. And on top of that, you get to feel vindicated, and if everything works out well, you can still use this against them in the future if you need some leverage, and there will be absolutely no ill effects to come back on you.

I’ve had a limited time on this earth, only 40-something years, and I’ve yet to see that kind of solution work out the way we think it’s going to.

 

Our thoughts of, “How can I get myself out of this“, “How can I get even?”, or “How can I pay them back?” can only lead to more trouble. They stem from self-pity and will lead us into doing something in retaliation. Repaying evil for evil has only one winner… the devil.

David tells us in Psalm 37:8 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

do not fret — it leads only to evil. (NIV)

 

Here’s how it works.

Someone does you wrong – so you do something wrong in return, just to keep things even. Then they in turn do something else to you to pay you back, and before you know it people are getting hurt and they don’t know why. They don’t remember what started it, and they’re not sure why they should be angry, they just know they should hate the other person and his family, and his friends.

You see, the fretting-payback mentality isn’t confined to one person hating another. It affects the entire life of both the hated, and the one doing the hating. Their families, their employment, and their faith.

 

If you find yourself in this type of hate vs. hate relationship, we need to have some simple answers to very real questions.

Eventually if you’re involved in this kind of feud, you might well ask yourself…

How can I get myself out of this?” YOU probably can’t, but God can.

Or you might ask…

How can I pay that person back for what they’ve done?” YOU shouldn’t. God should.

 

We live in a blame culture – if something goes wrong someone must pay. Now of course there is place for genuine restitution and compensation [a biblical principle] but that is not the same as vengeance – it can be a fine line – we need to be careful.

 

2THES 1:6&7 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you, and give relief to you who are troubled…

Once you really understand that God IS in control, that He IS just, that He WILL pay back those who trouble you and He WILL give you relief, you begin to realise, “What else is there to fight about?”

 

It is much better to commit your way to the Lord and trust in him, than it is to commit your way to paying someone back for some wrongdoing.

PS 37:5-6 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:

He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

There really is no need to fret.

 

 

Remember the chorus we used to sing as kids in SS?

Why worry when you can pray

Trust Jesus he’ll be your stay; (He’ll lead the way)?

Don’t be a doubting Thomas,

Rest firmly on his promise,

Why worry, worry, worry, worry

When you can pray!                       SING – if known!!

“If something is too small to be turned into a prayer it is too small to be made into a burden.” Corrie ten Boom

 

SING: “Be still my soul” [P.754]

 

Don’t fret, we don’t need to. We can do something else instead. We can have faith in God. We can TRUST Him. Why?

 

3. WHY SHOULD WE TRUST GOD INSTEAD?

Because of His promises, and His faithfulness toward us.

Let’s go back to Psalm 37 and look at some of God’s promises. Psalm 37:23-31

23 If the LORD delights in a man’s way,

he makes his steps firm;

24 though he stumble, he will not fall,

for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

25 I was young and now I am old,

yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken

or their children begging bread.

26 They are always generous and lend freely;

their children will be blessed.

27 Turn from evil and do good;

then you will dwell in the land for ever.

28 For the LORD loves the just

and will not forsake his faithful ones.

They will be protected for ever,

but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;

29 the righteous will inherit the land

and dwell in it for ever.

30 The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom,

and his tongue speaks what is just.

31 The law of his God is in his heart;

his feet do not slip. (NIV)

 

 

CONCLUSION

Fretting is for those who have no faith in God. Who don’t recognise their own weaknesses and try to deal with everything according to their OWN understanding.

V.1 Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;… Why? Because the Master has the Master-Plan and he says that He will deal with the wicked.

Instead, we should trust in the Lord… Why? For the same reason. The Master has the Master plan, and he promises us strength in times of trouble, security, and most importantly, and he says he will reward the righteous.

To those who rely on His strength and wisdom and mercy and grace, he promises us a future with him, eternal salvation.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

So why fret… when you can have faith?

 

How can we be sure our faith is well-founded?

“Because he lives I can face tomorrow..”

 

“SING: “God sent his Son” [P.895]

 

OPEN PRAYER:           {Search me O God – P.829}

{Soften my heart – P.835}

{Reign in me – P.766}

 

SING: “Leave God to order all your ways” [P.761]

 

PRAYER:

Father in heaven, Lord of all glory

We come before you with our worries, our fears, and all those things that would gnaw away at our faith.

We thank you Lord that you are our strength in times of trouble.

We thank you that our salvation comes through you.

Teach us to put all our trust in you, Lord.

Teach us to say, “The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”

Lord, if there are any who haven’t put their trust in you, I pray that they would do so today. So that they too might have the peace that passes all understanding, and will know that their future is safely in your hands.

In Jesus mighty name…

Amen.

Psalm 22 – The sufferings and glory of Christ.

Psalm 22

 

The sufferings and glory of Christ.

 

 

¨     One of the Passion psalms

¨     Describes suffering and persecution of an innocent victim

¨     David wrote this – clearly from personal experience of one who has suffered unjustly

¨     Reminds us of Suffering Servant of Isaiah (esp. chs. 53-54)

¨     Christian can’t read this without seeing in it a parallel / prophecy about sufferings and subsequent glory of Christ [we will see parallels as we go through]

 

The cry of anguish. [1-21]

 

¨     The sufferer cries out in agonised question: “Why have you forsaken me?” Greatest suffering is not physical pain / nor torment of persecutors which we’ll see later BUT his sense of God-forsakeness.

¨     A cry of perplexity rather than despair or bitterness – Because what is so poignant is his faith is still personally in God – 3x “My God” in vv.1-2.

¨     # Jesus cried these words from the cross – in deep perplexity and anguish of soul at being cut off from fellowship with the Father. We cannot begin to imagine what agony Jesus, as God’s Son, and God the Father suffered. We tend always to focus on Jesus’ suffering BUT remember the father suffered too. We know how as parents it breaks our hearts when our children suffer. How much more must God have suffered seeing His own dear Son suffering at his hand.

¨     Three things accentuate the suffers struggle while at the same time strengthening his faith:-

² 1st –  [3-5] He looks back at his forefathers and sees that when they trusted God they were delivered / not disappointed. Why was he not being delivered from his suffering? YET at the same time there is hope that if God delivered them he will do it again. There is always great value in looking back to see what God has done / in the Bible / in church history / in the lives of others we know / in our own past experiences.

²  2nd –  [6-8] there are the taunts and mockery of his enemies – Where is his God now? # Jesus -Mark 15:31-32  [they] mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

² 3rd – [9-11] The psalmist looks back at his own experience; God has been his God from the beginning, surely he will not abandon him now when trouble is at hand [v11]. There are times when we are burdened and cannot feel God’s presence / when trouble is at hand and God seems a millions miles away. It is then that we need to remind ourselves of his past dealing. And that even if we can’t feel him close he is!

 

What exactly is his trouble?

¨     He is physically weak and helpless, very sick and fast approaching death. [V15]

¨     His physical problems are exacerbated by the group of evil men who surround him. He likens them to:-

² Strong bulls from the rich pastureland of Bashan [v12]

² Roaring Lion ready to devour him [v13] –interesting the devil is given this description in the NT

² Wild dogs – [v16] – we can picture a pack of ferocious dogs snarling and snapping and him

² Wild oxen [v21] ready to gore him with their horns

 

¨     In some brutal way they pierce his hands and his feet [v16]; they stare and gloat over him [v17]; they strip him of his clothes and gamble for them [18]

John 19:23-24 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said,

“They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”

So this is what the soldiers did. (NIV)

¨     V14-17 are a remarkably description of Jesus crucifixion – his disjointed bones [very frequently in crucifixion – the victim would hang by his arms – often the shoulder joints would dislocate] His thirst – # Jesus cried that he was thirsty and they offered him wine vinegar to drink. His pierced hands and feet – this was written before the Romans invented crucifixion.

¨     V19-21 – is his appeal for God’s deliverance.

 

Before next part – communion – Isaiah 53. [Sally B]

 

The Song of Praise [22-31]

 

¨     There is a sudden and dramatic change of tone – from prayer to praise / from suffering to triumph.

¨     We are not told how God delivered him.

¨     Simply that God has not despised him [v24] as men have despised him [v6]. – God hear his anguished cry and in due time came to his rescue.

¨     He is now so elated with praise and worship that he wants everyone to praise God with him.

¨     TRUE worshippers are always missionary minded.

¨     True worshippers cannot conceive of praising God alone. [The height of selfishness is the person who is content to go to heaven alone]

¨     The remaining verses describe in ever increasing circles those he wants to worship God with him:-

² [V22-25] – he wishes to include all his fellow Israelites – descendants of Jacob / Israel.

² [v26] – he thinks of others who are still poor – fellow suffers – that they can share a sacrificial meal – eat and be satisfied.

² [v27-28] – his eyes look to the nations of the world

² not just his generation BUT all generations – those yet unborn!!

Hebrews 2:11-12 11 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12 He says,     “I will declare your name to my brothers;

in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” (NIV)

 

¨     His desire is that the salvation he has experienced will be published abroad.

¨     Here a prophetic view that the Gospel of salvation is both universal and everlasting to those like the psalmist who cry to God for mercy.

 

The psalm is a prophetic description of the sufferings of Christ to whom true worshipper may come for salvation and also encourage / urge others to come to Him also.

 

 

 

 

Psalm 16 – Present Faith – Future Hope!

Psalm 16

Present Faith – Future Hope!

 

Many of the psalms are a desperate cry for help and rescue from extreme circumstances. Psalm 16, while it begins with a prayer, is really a testimony of faith in God for this life and beyond.

 

We do know that David wrote this psalm but we do not know the circumstances surrounding this psalm. Judging by the tone of the psalm it was likely written after he had experienced some hard times in his life – possibly the years of being on the run from the murderously insane King Saul. The tone of this Psalm is that of someone who has suffered and now has come to a place of rest and confidence in God. Even death cannot rob him of his fellowship with God.

 

It is reminiscent of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans 8:38-39 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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. (NIV)

 

The psalm divides neatly into two sections – 1) Present Faith vv.1-6   and   –     2) Future Hope vv.7-11.

 

  1. 1.     Present Faith vv.1-6

 

v.1 He starts off with the prayer to be kept safe and to take refuge in God; then continues in verse 2 to explain why God is a place of safety and refuge – God is Lord {King / Sovereign} and to ignore or oppose God is extreme foolishness because only in him is good to be found!

 

God-ward. V.2

2 I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

Q> Does it mean that there is nothing else good in the world?

The translation of this verse in the NIV is slightly misleading –

NLT – “You are my Master! All the good things I have are from you!”

or –   2 , I have no good beyond you; {i.e. you are my highest treasure}

The psalmist knows where his true treasure is – in God himself.

Paul says a similar thing in the NT – the greatness and glory of knowing Christ far exceeds any earthly achievement or treasure! Philippians 3:8 8 .., I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (NIV)

Paul, like David, seems to be saying that knowing God / Christ is so precious / valuable that by comparison everything else pales so into insignificance as to be of little or no value really.

Man-ward – vv.3-4

Present faith is not only in relation to God but also people.

Two groups:         1) Those who worship the true God and

2) those who worship other gods

 

David delights to share fellowship with those who, like him, know God in this intimate personal way.

Q> What does this teach us about our relationship with other believers?

One of the mark of a true worshipper / follower of God is the s/he enjoys the company of God’s people. And also enjoys worshipping with God’s people. When a person claims to be a Christian but distances him/herself from the church then that shows a disobedience or misunderstanding of scripture.

 

David distances himself from those who pursue false gods.

The consequences of the misplaced worship are that their sorrows and trouble will increase. Q> How do we square this with the psalmists cry in other places –“Why do the wicked prosper?”  I guess he is taking a long-term view  – an eternal view beyond this life. [v.10 not abandon me to the grave! – v.11 eternal pleasures]

David will have nothing to do with the false worship practice surrounding these other gods. This is reminiscent of Psalm 1:1

1 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. (NIV)

 

To associated in anyway with their false worship would be incompatible with his while hearted devotion to the Lord.

 

God’s goodness to him. vv.5-6

He mentions to his portion and his cup – probably alluding to his food [rather than land] and his drink – i.e. God satisfies his hunger and his thirst.

Did Jesus have this psalm in mind when he taught – Matthew 5:6 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (NIV)

Q> Does the inheritance he refers to in v6 refer to the land of Canaan or is he thinking of God as his inheritance?  In light of v.10 not abandon me to the grave! – v.11 eternal pleasures, he may well have in mind God himself.

1 Peter 1:3-4 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, (NIV)

 

Future Hope vv.7-11

In God we are rock-solid.

ILLUS.: Have you ever lain awake at night worrying / anxious – problems and trouble often seem so big at night – then we awake in the morning and somehow the problems don’t always seem so huge.

 

In this psalm David is so secure that he finds that even at night his fellowship with God is so intimate that his faith is rock-solid. God is always before him [v.8 –before me] and beside him [v. 8 at his right-hand]

Q> Do you think this is always the case?

There were times when David didn’t feel like this –

 

He is so secure in God that he is convinced that even his future beyond the grave is secure and this causes him to rejoice – v.9.

 

These last few verses have different levels of interpretation.

1st – he is expressing confidence in God that he will not be abandoned to the grave – lit. sheol – the place of the dead but that god will rescue him from this.

 

2nd – the corollary to deliverance from death is treading the path of life – this is not just physical survival but enjoyment of God’s presence bringing joy and eternal pleasures.

The NT calls this eternal life

John 3:15-16 15 that everyone who believes in him [Jesus] may have eternal life.

John 3:36 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, …

John 17:2 2 For you [God the Father] granted him [God the Son] authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

 

3rd – Peter in the NT applies these verses to Jesus – it is this 3rd level upon which the other two stand. There would be no eternal life and no rescue from the place of the Dead / grave without this 3rd level.

David is unlikely to have understood the implications of what he was writing but carried along by the Spirit he writes these words and Peter in Acts 2 in the NT applies them to Jesus.  Acts 2:30-31 30 But he [David] was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. (NIV)

 

David was led to write these words about the conquest of death and the fullness of life and joy in God’s presence forever. These words would have their final and ultimate fulfilment, not in his experience but in that of his great descendant Jesus Christ – came to earth to die and rise again – thus opening a way for all who believe to be rescued from abandonment to sheol / the place of the dead AND to enter into eternal life and joy in God’s presence forever!!

 

The Lord’s supper is a constant reminder of Jesus’ conquest of the grave and the Way of entry into eternal life.

Psalm 13 – How long, O Lord?

HOW LONG, O LORD?

 

BACKGROUND.

 

A psalm of David – setting is uncertain – clearly born out of a life situation that was very tough – this is the cry from the heart of an individual – we can’t know for certain when this was in David’s life – could be a number of occasions – a protracted time of difficulty  – possibly the time he was fleeing from King Saul in the deserts of Judea – hounded day after day.

Hated by Saul – rejected by the masses of Israel – hunted like an animal – living in caves – AND feeling abandoned by God –

This psalm is not the cry of an unbeliever over sin BUT the cry of  believer who is feeling hurt and alone and who cries out to God and gets no response!!

Remember that David is called “a man after God’s own heart”

 

READING.

Psalm 13:1-6

1 [For the director of music. A psalm of David.]

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation [deliverance].

6 I will sing to the LORD,

for he has been good to me. (NIV)

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?………..

SILENCE!!!!

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Does this psalm touch a cord in your heart?

Have you at the place were your heart is breaking and heaven is silent?

  • As your partner you fell head over heels in love with a few years before walks away –”I don’t love you any more!”  [to you or your child]
  • as you stand at the grave side and watch your loved one buried!!
  • as you watch your children messing up their lives and you are helpless to stop it!
  • as you are relentless hounded by an unreasonable boss and there seems no end in sight
  • as you struggle with your past / abuse as a child / broken home /
  • as you live year in and year out with that unsaved spouse and your heart breaks when you think of them dying without Christ
  • as you or your loved one battle some dread disease

C S Lewis in his book A Grief Observed writes….

“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, if you turn to Him with praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting on the inside. After that silence. You may as well turn away.

 

You cry out to God  – and he appears to be a million miles away!!

 

1. DAVID’S SORROW [v1-2]

 

             How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

4x “How long?” – he is stretched to the limit – his strength is gone – can he hold on? – his patience has run out. He has clearly cried out to God – over and over and over again BUT heaven is silent!!

Why doesn’t God do something!!

Why does he intervene in the situation and bring relief?

It seems as if God is hiding his face from this desperate man!!

It is so long since he has heard from God that it feels like forever –

Ever been there??

Your prayers bounce off the ceiling – as far as you are aware there is no besetting sin in your life. BUT from God their is no apparent response. Sometimes our communion with God is broken because of sin – and that needs to be repented of – BUT it doesn’t appear to be the case here – This is not like Psalm32 and 51 written after David had committed adultery and murder!!

David was having a hard time – life was tough!

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

This gives us a glimpse of the struggle that is going on inside him – he is [it seems] lying awake at night trying to solve these problems –

  • problems at work
  • kids/ grand kids going through hard time
  • marriage problems
  • financial worries
  • been deeply hurt and struggling with all the emotions that that brings

 

Then you lie awake in the night trying to find solution – going round and round in circles – looking for answers – mentally/ emotionally exhausted – in desperation you cry to God – SILENCE

And then your complaint like David “Lord, how long?”

Are you afraid to complain to God??

Afraid to tell God that you are angry with Him?

God has broad shoulders – he would rather here a complaint from us than not hear at all!!

Jeremiah 20:7 & 14

7 O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived;

you overpowered me and prevailed.

I am ridiculed all day long;

everyone mocks me. … ……………….

14 Cursed be the day I was born!

May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! (NIV)

We can almost feel David’s despair in this fourfold cry uttered out of the depth of grief of heart and soul

 

2. DAVID’S SUPPLICATION [v3-4]

 

3 Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

first two verses complain — these two petition / supplication.

It is as though God has turn away / disinterested / indifferent

As if God has not even bothered to give a look of acknowledgement to the cries / if he would just say something/anything — just a nod would do – some indication that he has heard!!  “Lord just look at me!!”

NB the words of this plea – in spite of his distress – David has not turned away from God – O Lord My God –  David still knows that he is a child of God and that this God is HIS God – MY GOD –

Is seems as if David has been stripped of all earthly props – all he has left is God – “Lord, if you go – I have nothing – I may as well die – only you can light up my eyes – only you can give me life!”

Sometimes it is only when God strips us of all earthly props that we come to realise that only HE has the answer to life!!

ILLUS.: The Rwandan Christian – lost his wife, children and all possession on the genocide a few years ago “I did not know that Jesus was all I needed until Jesus was all I had!”

David knows this – Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; –

David’s cry is not only for his own sake BUT for God’s honour – If he is killed by his enemy, King Saul, God’s promise will fail – David is God’s anointed King in waiting – if he dies God’s word will have failed.

This is a good reason to plead with God –

ILLUS.: Moses knew this Israel in the wilderness made God so angry and he said I will wipe them off the face of the earth because they had made a golden calf…

Deuteronomy 9:25-29

25 I lay prostrate before the LORD those forty days and forty nights because the LORD had said he would destroy you. 26 I prayed to the LORD and said, “O Sovereign LORD, do not destroy your people, your own inheritance that you redeemed by your great power and brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Overlook the stubbornness of this people, their wickedness and their sin. 28 Otherwise, the country from which you brought us will say, ‘Because the LORD was not able to take them into the land he had promised them, and because he hated them, he brought them out to put them to death in the desert.’ 29 But they are your people, your inheritance that you brought out by your great power and your outstretched arm.” (NIV)

If we are going to pray like this then we need to be sure that it is GOD’s honour that we are concerned about and not just our comfort!!

 

3. DAVID’S SONG [v5-6]

 

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation [deliverance].

6 I will sing to the LORD,

for he has been good to me.

— Has God answered David? Have all his problems gone away?  NO!!

BUT David it seems has reflected on two things

1) the character of God – his unfailing love

2) God’s dealings with him in the past –  he has been good to me

As David looks back he remembers that God has been good to him – there is great merit in counting your blessing and naming them one by one.

It reminds us, in the midst of sorrow and trouble,  that God is faithful – his love is unfailing.

David doesn’t know when he will get relief from his troubles – maybe you are in a similar position — BUT he knows that God is faithful and deliverance will come!

At the end of this psalm David has had a glimpse of God – his problems haven’t been solved – but he has seen God

ILLUS.: letter from Ronald Dunn, whose 18 year old son committed suicide due to manic depression – author of “Don’t just stand there pray something!” [from his book When Heaven Is Silent  p.115 writing to a friend Manley who suffered many life threatening medical problem “..What is the greatest exhibition of the power of God? not to remove the pain … but to keep us in the love of God through it all. Now my point: the despair of the sufferer is not caused by the depth of the suffering but by the depth of the sense of separation from God. You [Manley] said that when you were finally able to get hold of God, the peace came. The suffering didn’t diminish, it was as deep as ever, but the sense of separation had vanished. You no longer felt separated from God…… I believe that the fear and despair I feel lying in a hospital bed, not knowing if I will live or die, is caused, not by the pain, or the fear of dying, but by the fact that I seem to have lost contact with God. I can’t sense his presence. I can’t get hold of him. BUT when I do the sense of separation from God is dispelled; the despair, the fear is relieved. The pain may remain, but the despair does not. It is not the suffering but the separation that undermines our confidence in God.

………………………Teilhard de Chardin was right: Joy is not the absence of pain but the presence of God.”

This is not a worked up ‘Praise God for everything’ attitude popularised by people like Merlin Carouthers in his book ‘Prison to Praise’ or ‘Praise Power’

This is not a Chestershire Cat happiness – BUT the deep joy that David understood.

We may feel that God is distant BUT he is not….

Matthew Henry “The God of Israel, the Saviour, is sometimes a God that hides himself but never a God that is absent; sometimes in the dark, but never at a distance.

God calls us to trust him – even when life is tough and your heart is breaking – there are no trite answers – and sometimes God allows us to struggle through feeling as if we are on our own BUT we never are – He is always there!!

Heaven may be silent BUT God is never absent.

ILLUS.: George Matheson – 19thC hymn writer – bright young man with promising future, engaged to be married. Began to go blind. Not wanting to be shackled to a blindman for the rest of her life, his fiancee left him.

Broken hearted he wrote these words……..

O love, that wilt not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee.

I give thee back the life I owe,

that in thine ocean depths its flow

may richer, fuller be,

 

O joy that seekest me through pain,

I dare not shut my heart to thee.

I’ll trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain

That morn shall tearless be.

There are times when life doesn’t make sense and the problems seem overwhelming – and heaven is silent – your heart is breaking and you feel that you may never smile again!!

Jesus promised that we would have trouble in this life!! BUT also promised that it will not destroy us!!

John 16:33

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

Jesus calls us to take an eternal perspective – this life will have trouble BUT the life to come is joy and peace forever in HIS presence and fellowship with the saints!!

In the meantime he gives us the strength to cope and is always with us, even when – like David – we feel that heaven is silent.

Annie Johnson Flint was orphaned at a young age – as a young lady she was very ill and was bed-ridden and blind and eventually incontinent … and in that state wrote these words ….

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,

He sendeth more strength when the labours increase:

To added affliction He addeth His mercy,

To multiplied trials, He multiplied peace.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,

His power has no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

When we has exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

 

Annie Johnson Flint

Christian Hymns #801

 

Psalm 11:1-7 – When the going is tough

WHEN THE GOING IS TOUGH!

 

PSALM 11:1-7.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Life can be very tough sometimes! Their are times in our lives when it seems as if one thing after another seems to go wrong. The list is almost endless – family, finance, health, work, school – The car and TV licence is due in the same month, the washing machine breaks down – the iron blows up, the dog needs to go to the vet – mother-in-law come to stay, the children get sick etc.

 

Sometimes we don’t even know why life seems tough – it just is! We feel down, depressed, dejected …. There can be a whole host of reasons — sometimes it is because of our own weakness or stupidity or sin — sometimes there seems to be no apparent reason at all – BUT we feel that the whole world is against us.

 

That is, I suggest how David the psalmist, felt when he wrote this Psalm.

 

1. When the going gets tough – turn to go! [v1b – 3]

 

Psalm 11:1-3

1 b……….How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain. 2  For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. 3  When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? (NIV)

 

There are a number of occasions in David’s life into which this psalm could fit. Possibly when he was being pursued by King Saul before David himself became king — or towards the end of his life when his son Absolom turned against him —these are the two most likely occasions.

 

In these first 3 verses David describes the advice he is given and the pressure he is under.

Whatever his situation was it would appear that it seemed hopeless and so he turns to his friends for advice and they tell him to  : “Flee like a bird to your mountain.  –  It is highly likely that David was tempted to think like this himself. The forests of  Palestine were in the mountains and that is were the birds would flee from danger. The word “your” – is in the pl. – this is not just David alone but all those who are with him – all those who stand with him as God’s anointed.

 

The danger that David faces is not only serious but it is also imminent – the enemy has ‘bent his bow’ and ‘fitted the arrow to the string’. This is no idle threat but real danger.

 

Our natural inclination when trouble comes is to want ‘out’.  This is true of every sphere of life.

 

ILLUS.: *The teenager who doesn’t get along with a step-parent, or is struggling at school wants to run away from home.

*The husband who thinks he has fallen out of love with his wife wants a  divorce.

*The pastor who is facing difficulty in the church suddenly feels led to another ministry.

 

[Now there may be situations where relationships are irreconcilable – but that is usually because one or both parties are unwilling to change and work at the relationship.]

 

However, very often it is that a person wants to escape from reality and they see opting out as the only alternative – this is often the case with alcoholism, drugs-addiction and suicide. These things are seen as an escape – this is their mountain that they are running to – Sometimes the escape is not so obvious or so radical – introverted lifestyle — escape into novels — TV — obsessions with the house — over work to escape pressures at home — there are many ways we try to escape from reality. Often we are even encouraged to do so.

 

[There are times when we need to withdraw – sometimes it is wise to do so – but only if our motives are right]

 

David was under pressure – the arrows were beginning to fall thick and fast – and he probably felt that he was being used for target practice. The enemies that David was facing was devious and underhand – they shoot from the shadows [lit. darkness]. They are not out in the open but scheming – they were trying every trick in the book [scroll] to bring David down.

 

Things were pretty tough for David – it seemed as though his world was falling apart.

 

3  When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?

 

What are these ‘foundations’ that David’s advisers are referring to?

Are they the foundations of the State — of society [some translations] — the basic principles of justice and righteousness.

 

There are many who believe that the foundations of our society are being destroyed!! And I am not disagreeing!

 

  • Moral and ethical values leave much to be desired

 

  • Integrity and honesty in business is rare – a person’s word is no longer trusted.

 

  • The principle of a “fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” is violated constantly –  the low pay are abused – the very high paid are greedy and many workers no longer give an honest day’s work for the wages they  receive.

 

  • Respect for authority is crumbling – in home – school – work –

 

  • Respect for the sanctity and permanence of marriage is being undermined – the new “no-fault” divorce bill – will make opting out of  marriage easier and quicker than ever before in the country.

 

When people see society crumbling many want to opt out – many are doing just that in the West – it is becoming fashionable for high flying executives to quit their jobs and buy a plot in Wales or France and live a simple life. What is the motive?? For many it is a selfish protection of self.

 

David’s advisers ask ‘What are the righteous to do’ in the light of such circumstances?

 

We are left with the impression that these advisers have no solutions – no faith – “Give up and run away” is their only advice. There is a note of pathetic defeat!

 

David was not super-human! And Christians today are not super-human! We face the same pressures, discouragement and troubles that is the lot of every person in the world —

 

BUT that is where the similarity should end!   When the discouraged run away to the mountains – Christians should be like David and do what he did!

 

This is what the second half of the psalm is about!!

 

2. When the going is tough – turn to God! [v.1a; 3 – 7]

 

Psalm 11:1a; 4-7       1 In the LORD I take refuge. ……

4  The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. 5  The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. 6  On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulphur; a scorching wind will be their lot [the portion of their cup]. 7  For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face. (NIV)

 

Their are many who are defiant in the face of trouble – some because of self-confident arrogance and others because of sheer stubborn belligerence. So we need to be clear that in David’s case these things are not so – he is not trusting in himself or being stubborn but his confidence is “in the LORD”.

 

In the NT the key words we read again and again are “Faith”  and “believe” but in the OT the word is “TRUST”

 

For many people belief is simply gibing academic assent to certain facts – “Yes – I believe there is a God and Jesus was a historical person who died for our sins….”  BUT this belief makes absolutely no different to the way they live – they have not placed their trust in this person they say they believe in.

 

ILLUS.: I believe that the elastic cord used by bungi-jumpers is strong enough to stop them hitting the ground. BUT there is no way that I will put my trust in that elastic and leap of a bridge 300 feet high.

 

In the realm of bungi-jumping I believe but my belief does not extend to trust.

 

The word Trust  or Refuge [v.1a] has three different but very similar meanings – to take refuge in – to lean on – to roll upon.

 

* TO TAKE REFUGE IN – whenever Christians talk about this kind of trust in God there will always be someone to accuse them of being inadequate and having to manufacture a God in order to cope.

The truth is that everyone is inadequate at some point in life. There will come a time when even the most self-sufficient person will crumble – old age, illness, some tragedy of life – sooner or later everyone must come to realise that they are inadequate.

It is far more realistic and sensible to admit this and plan for it than to bury your head in the sand.

Everyone needs security – some more than others — home, family, money, work, being appreciated by others, having a well ordered life – some have a set routine and if that is disrupted they fall apart and can’t cope – business executives need flashy suits, plush offices and expensive cars.

 

We need God in all these physical areas but when it comes to security of the soul the LORD is the only place where one will find refuge – people look elsewhere and some find temporary security but lasting refuge is only in the LORD.

 

David had learnt this!!

 

* LEAN ON – Have you ever been told by someone who are talking to about Jesus that “The trouble with you Christians is that you are weak and need a crutch!”

 

ILLUS.: A girl goes skiing – break a leg – it is set in plaster – is given a stick of wood with a rubber foot on one end and  a padded arm support on the other – Would she object saying I don’t need a crutch!” [Stuart Briscoe]

 

Crutches are not to be despised they perfectly answer the need of a person with a broken leg – anyone who admits a need welcomes the answer to that need – The problem with many people is that they will not admit their need. They are no more against God than they are against crutches BUT they simply will not admit they need support.

 

* ROLL UPON – Psalm 22:8 8  “He trusts in [rolls upon] the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” (NIV)

 

This verse is a prophetic utterance about Christ’s death on the cross. When Jesus was on the cross with all the agony and ridicule he faced he trusted – rolled upon – his Father.  If Jesus needed to TRUST in his Father What makes me think that I can make it through life without rolling my burdens on God.

 

ILLUS.: Stuart Briscoe tells a story of an old woman an old woman who was walking to the village carrying a heavy load – a farmer in his horse and cart stopped to offer her a lift – after a few moments the farmer noticed that the old lady was hugging her heavy basket on her lap. When he suggested that she put it on the floor she replied, “Oh, no, I’d prefer to hold it on my knees and keep the weight off the horse”.

 

Laugh! Many of us do exactly that with God!

1 In the LORD I take refuge. …… [place my trust]

 

Is that where your trust is??

 

EVERYONE IS TRUSTING SOMETHING!

Some in Finance   – Barings Bank and Nick Leeson?? – Trustworthy??!

– Lloyds names??!

Some in Luck       – You only have to look at the National Lottery to see how                                    many!

Some in Political powers – Bill Clinton? Margaret Thatcher?  John Major? The                                         Tories? Labour? Lib. Dems? ….

Some in friends    – many a friends has betrayed a friends – we need to trust our                                friends but even the best friends will fail us sometimes.

 

Psalm 20: 7  Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

 

David’s trust was in the Lord – WHY?  Well he tells us in v.4-7.

 

GOD RULES ALL – 4  The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne.

 

David is not thinking about the Temple in Jerusalem – there was no Temple in David’s time, his son Solomon built that later – NO! David is thinking about the God who inhabits Heaven – the King of the universe seated on his throne!

Simply because God is high and holy does not imply that he is remote and disinterested in the affairs of  people. It is because he is so high that nothing escapes him!

 

As you sit here this morning God knows exactly who you are, what your circumstances are and how you feel.

 

GOD SEES ALL – 4b…. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. (NIV)

ILLUS.: Almost every week on “Crime Watch” there is someone who has committed a crime and thought they have got away with it BUT an electronic eye has seen everything – Many public places are under constant CCTV surveillance.

 

God sees far more than a TV camera – he sees everything – including our thoughts and motives. There is no time when God is not carefully and lovingly watching over his people. Nor does God miss anything that the wicked do!

 

GOD EVALUATES ALL – 5  The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. (NIV)

God is not only concerned with our actions but also with our motives – this Psalm could well have been written when David was a fugitive from Saul – No doubt Saul justified his pursuit of David as necessary for State security – BUT Saul’s motivation was jealousy – this did not escape God!

 

The righteous and the unrighteous are constantly under God’s searching gaze!

 

May you are having a tough time – victimised at work – taken advantage of by family and friends – God knows and he cares ….

AND be comforted by this fact — God rewards all  — the wick get there due and the righteous God’s favour.

 

GOD REWARDS ALL –

– the wicked receive their due   6  On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulphur; a scorching wind will be their lot [the portion of their cup].

 

There are many who ignore God and live their lives with no reference to him at all – there are many who deliberately commit evil! Their punishment will fit their crime. The language of this verse is a reminder of God’s punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah when the anger of God destroyed those two cities because of their wickedness.

 

The picture is of God giving each person a cup and the portion for the wicked is God’s anger – this is not simply picturesque language – the pursuit of life without God is a hopeless cause!

 

– the righteous receive His favour  .

7  For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face. (NIV)

 

How is a person righteous? – only by trusting the LORD. It is the privilege of the righteous to trust the Lord and it is only in trusting the Lord that one can possibly become righteous.

 

David is described by God as “a man after my own heart” – David was not perfect but his desire was to please God and follow after him – When this is the attitude of our hearts God will turn his face towards us “see his face” – this expression in the OT describes God showing his approval and favour towards a person.

 

Maybe 1995 has been a tough year for you – Have you trusted God or fled to your mountain.

 

Who knows what 1996 will hold?!  Maybe life is difficult for you now OR maybe it is going well and you have no major problems. Whatever your situation learn to trust God.

 

Everyone faces trouble in this life! Jesus Said     John 16:33

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

 

So there may come a time when you feel like quitting your job, leaving your spouse, giving up your studies, going to another Church, emigrating to another country, or opting out of life!! Sometimes changes are good and necessary!!

 

BUT before you allow discouragement and defeat to overwhelm you ask yourself this question:- “Have I allowed all these things to get on top of me so much that I have forgotten to trust the Lord?”

 

Trusting God did not remove David’s problems  – at least not immediately – BUT gave him the confidence to face them.

In this life we will always have problems but can you face your difficulties and say with David:- “In the Lord I put my trust ..”

 

God is our strength and refuge,

our present help in trouble;

and we therefore will not fear

though the earth should change!

Though mountains shake and tremble,

though swirling flood are raging,

God the Lord of Hosts is with us evermore!

 

PSALM 11:1 – 7.

 

1. When the going is tough – turn to go!                                                         [v1b – 3]

 

       “Opt out”

      “The wicked are taking over”

      “What else can you do?”

 

 

2. When the going is tough – turn to God!                                                [v.1a; 4 – 7]

 

      Trust in what?

            take refuge in     }

            lean on                } the LORD

            roll upon             }

 

WHY?

 

Because   God rules all

                   God sees all

                   God evaluates all

                   God rewards all

                      – the wicked receive their due, the righteous receive His favour

Psalm 2 – When the world is in a mess

PSALM 2

 

When the world is in a mess.

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

At the end of every year on TV or radio or in Newspapers we have a review of major world events over the past year. The cartoonist inveriably have old Father Time dragging himself off the world stage – 1994 written on his sickle – and onto the stage bounds 1995, fresh and young and full of energy.

 

It is not surprising that 1994 is tired and worn out – the Bosnian conflict is still unresolved, Rwanda is devastated, Angola is still in crisis, the Russians are bombing Grosny, …….  the world economy is still in a slump, most of the world still goes to bed hungry.  The average Briton owes £2500.00 [excluding mortgages], in the UK there are 400 abortions per day, 17 teenage school girls get pregnant every day, 4/10 marriages in the UK end in divorce …… The world is in a mess!!

 

Will 1995 be any better!!  Was 1994 better than 1993!!?   Was 1993 better than 1992??!!

Has it ever been any better? Will it ever be any better? Am I just been pessimistic?

Read history – there has always been war, famine, poverty, immorality, oppression etc….

 

The world is in disarray! It was so when the psalmist penned psalm 2.

 

1. HUMAN DEFIANCE. [vv 1-3]

 

This psalm was probably written when David was king of Israel at a time when he had subdued many of his enemies – the surrounding nations. It was not because David was an expansionist but these had been hostile towards Israel and he was subduing his enemies. The king had learned that the hostile forces in the world hate the people of God with a hatred that is stronger than racialism or nationalism.

He realises that the hostility he faces is dircted against him because he is devotee of Jehovah.

 

It would be easy for the Psalmist to feel like a martyr enduing this hostility BUT rather he reflects on the vanity of the hostility involved.

Why do the nations rage?

Why do the people plot in vain? [v1]

 

“Rage” has the connotation of a “raging sea” – group rage or riots. So the question really is, “Why is there so much international conflict?”  It has become so commonplace that we hardly notice it any more. We can hardly tell the difference between Hollywood fiction and real life.

 

ILLUS.: TV while eating supper. “Pass the butter – O look they just threw a body out of that hijacked plane in France!”  “More starving children in Africa – can I have another piece of chocolate cake?”

 

As Christians, more than any others, we should be asking these questions. Why are the nations raging and in such a mess.

 

The second question is equally momentous. “Why do the poeple plot in vain? OR …imagine a vain thing [KJV]”

Remember that when the Bible speaks about vanity it does not have in mind the amount of time spent in front of the mirrior trying to make up for the ravages of time.

Vanity in the OT means “emptiness, confusion, futility”

The word used here to “plot or imagine” is the same word used of the godly meditating on the law of the Lord. This is no idle fleeting thought BUT a deliberate effort to think or contemplate on something. The problem is that it is an exercise in futility.

 

Why is there so much confusion and emptiness??

Why do so many read their Horrorscopes when 90% is nonsense and the remaining 10% is rubbish!

Why are so many people becoming New Agers?

Why are “open marriages” protrayed as a way to “meaningful relationships” when all they do is open a Pandora’s box of social and sexual ills.

Why is divorce propagated as the only answer to marital unhappiness?

Spiritual, social and philosophical confusion abound and shows no sign of abating!

 

The danger that Christians face in the light of the world’s mess is that we adopted and attitude of calculated indifference to these problems. “What can I do?

This indifference would be understandable if there were no answers but since there are answers it is inexcusable.

 

The kings of the earth take their stand

and the rulers gather together against

the Lord and against his anointed one. [v2]

 

This includes all those who are leaders of kingdoms other than the kingdom of God. Usually those who think they are so self-sufficient that they don’t need anyone else to instruct them. When this psalm was written kings were able to exert great influence on the people.

 

Today there are people who have far wider influnece in our society than any king or ruler. The mass media has brought about a whole new situation. Jounalists, Talk Show Hosts and Soap Opera producers pedal their philosophies to millions of people every day. It does influence the way we think – it does affect society’s view and behaviour about sex, marriages, family values, social responsibilities, God and the supernatural, etc…

 

The kings and rulers of our day do not sit on thrones and lead men into battle but sit in offices and recording studios and penthouse suites planning articles that will hit the newsstands in slick, sophisticated formats.

 

Whoever today’s kings are and wherever they meet they have this in common, “They take counsel together” – their whole approach to loife is contrary to God’s way. Consequently what they offer to the masses is the same.  And we hear more of fallible man than of infallible God.

 

It is possible that real spiritual leaders can have places of influence but the are few and far between and we had better recognise that fact!!

 

The psalmist is in no doubt that the leaders of his day are opposed to “the LORD and to his anointed”  – in open opposition. They don’t try to hide the fact.

 

 

 

The word LORD is in Capitals [in my Bible] – Yahweh – [Ex.3v13-14] “I am that I am”.  Conveys independence, self-suffiency and determination. “I am who I am! I’ll do what I’ll do and I’ll accomplish what I please!!” It is a warning to man that he had better not confuse God with anyone else OR try to take his place.

 

The idea of a self-existent, self-dependent, totally unique God doesn’t appeal to self-sufficient man.  It is not surprising then to find tha people do not like a message that says it is God and not man who determines our destiny.

It is also not surprising to finf that people will oppse the message of Chrisdt who is God Anointed One.

 

Self-sufficient people, wrapped up in their own schemes, content with their own sins, and bend on living their own lives don’t want to hear about a redeemer. They don’t want to know about a Saviour who has come.

They only look for answers down here – they don’t look up there.

 

ILLUS.: Planetarium – Planet Earth – evolutionary theroy presented as scientific fact. No mention of even a possibility of creation. WHY??

 

WHY?? because if you acknowledge creation you must acknowledge a creator and men don’t want to do that. Because they stand against God.

 

And they are openly so!!

“Let us break their chains” they say “and

throw off their fetters” [v3]

 

These chains and fetters are the principles and standards of God – they are only considered chains and fetters by those who reject them. They think God’s principles bring bondage and their advice is to be free from it.

 

Contemporary philosophy tells us the same thing – “break free” – it is not new. It was there in David’s Time, in fact, it goes back to Adam, even to Lucifer who was so irritated that he wasn’t “The Most High” that he decided to break free and be as God.

 

Today we are told that Christian morality is outmoded, Christian principles are repressive. The church must be there to christen, marry and bury but mustn’t interfer in our lives at any other point in between.

People want the freedom they believe God is denying them and if they can be free of these chains and fetters then they will have peace and joy and happiness.

BUT instead there is anarchy and an increasing number of people are looking for answers which are not forthcoming from their misguided leaders.

 

World leaders talk of peace but where is it? Where is the new world order George Bush promised at the end of the cold war?? If we are so clever why can’t we distribute the food so no one goes hungry?  Why can’t husbands and wives solve their marriage problems? Why can’t parents raise children properly? ….

 

So what is God’s view of all this? How does God see man’s efforts to get on without him?

 

2. HEAVEN’S DISPLEASURE [v4-6]

 

READ v4-6.

 

What is God doing about this mess that the world is in? What is he doing about these arrogant leaders and rulers?

He laughs!!  – NB – not amusement at the suffering children in Africa or the displaced peoples of Bosnia. God’s laughter is not amusement or hysteria BUT derision at the ludicrous, empty boastings of man. There is nothing more pathetic than the arrogant rhetoric of a humanity that has repeatedly proved itself incompetent to manage its own affairs. That is why God laughs!!

 

Man’s opposition to God is so pathetic that he doesn’t even bother to rise from his throne. [Lit. “the sitter in the heavens laughs”].

This does not mean that God is indifferent to man’s plight – [that is why Jesus “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows” and why he wept over Jerusalem. ]

 

BUT man trying to oppose God is as much a threat as an ant is to oppose an elephant. It is laughable!!!

 

There will come a time, however, when God’s laughter will give way to anger and displeasure. Indeed God is always angry with sin BUT because he is a merciful and gracious God he withholds the full outpouring of his wrath.

 

But one thing is sure – those who oppose him will experience the full extent of his anger and they will be terrified.

We sometimes have difficluty reconciling God’s love and God’s anger because we see it in human terms. When people get angry they usually lose control – not God, his anger is righteous and pure – if he did not get angry with sin then he would not be a holy God.

 

Is God simply playing a waiting game? Sitting on his throne seething in silence! NO!

  I have installed my king on Zion,

my holy hill. [v6]

 

Initially referring to David but by extension referring to Jesus, Messiah.

 

The contrast between the kings who set themselves up [v2] and the king whom God appoints must not be missed. Self exalted man will be brought down BUT the one who humbles himself will be given a supreme position – NT makes clear that it is Jesus Christ the risen ascended Lord.

 

3. HEAVEN’S  DECREE. [V7-9].

 

READ v7-9

 

It is now the King who speaks reporting what God has said to him.

 

He outlines his position  – the son of the Father .

He outlines his expectations –  that the nations will be his as an inheritence.

He outlines his intentions – the rebellious will be destroyed and brought into

subjection to the king. [Like an iron bar shatters a

clay pot] [In the words of John the baptist “The

chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire]

 

These things are not acquired by his own ingenuity and planning BUT are given to him by his Father.

The heavenly view of things is strikingly different.

Chaos reigns on earth as a result of man’s arrogant rejection of God and his feeble attempts to brings some kind of meaning to his existence.

By contrast God and his Anointed One are seated in heaven confident and competent to bring order and meaning to this chaotic world.

 

 

4. HEART DECISION. [v10-12].

 

The Psalmist who begins by asking questions concludes by giving instructions!

If there is any misunderstanding about “God laughing” or “smashing them with an iron rod” we need to understand those statements in the light of these concluding verses.

 

READ v10-12

 

God does not desire to see people suffer. He does not gloat over the destruction of those who oppose him. The psalmist is simply expressing in strong terms God’s ultimate victory over all oppostion.

 

He has addressed kings and rulers in v.2  and does so again here as representative of the people over whom they rule.

 

They would be advised to act wisely for there is no higher folly than to oppose God and no higher wisdom than to submit to him.

 

There are four key word in v.11 “serve, fear, LORD and trembling” all of which have a strong emphasis in submission and reverence.  These were the very things that were missing from the kings and rulers.

 

But if there is to be any change in the world situation, that change must begin in the hearts of people. That change only comes when those who have understood the truth of God’s word submit to the claims of God in their lives.

 

This is the strange paradox – it is only in submission to the lord “in fear and trembling” that brings “rejoicing”. “… rejoice with trembling … ” What a paradox!!

No one objects to being joyful but what most people don’t realise is that true joy comes as a result of a reverent commitment to God.

 

The other thing that the kings and rulers need to do to be wise is to “Kiss the Son”

That is a strange expression!! In the OT a kiss is an expression of love and an acknowledge ment of submission.

 

ILLUS.: Kings and royalty would have their hands kissed – So too would men courting ladies!  A kiss is still an expression of Love!!

 

It is not just a submission to avoid his anger but a submission out of love for Christ who died for us.

 

The message to the unbeliever, the cynic, the indiffernt is this: “Living without God in your life is an exercise in futility”  BE wise!! turn to him for he is loving and caring and longs to give joy and peace and forgiveness. BUT he demands reverence and submission.

 

To the Christian the message is: “Don’t allow the world system to discourage you and get you down”  Simply because God’s principles and standards are ignored and ridiculed by the majority,  don’t allow that to make you compromise your faith.

 

The world and its wisdom will pass away but the word of the Lord will stand forever.

 

The believer has privileges and responsibilities that are clearly spelled out. As we begin 1995 we need, as God’s people, to be aware of the world in which we live and the turmoil it is in. BUT we also need to have a heavenly perspective – and see something of heaven’s splendour in contrast to the world’s turmoil. Knowing that God is in control – we have a responsibility to alert our world with the message of the last verse  “Blessed are all those who take refuge [put their trust] in HIM”.

 

God himself must be the object of our trust and confidence.

 

Let this be our prayer for 1995!

 

Forth in Thy name, O Lord, I go,

My daily labour to pursue,

Thee, only Thee, resolved to know

In all I think, or speak, or do.