Seeing Jesus in Psalm 56 – Responding to Culture

Psalm 56:4 – “In God, whose word I praise, I God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?”

 
Thanksgiving, a time of celebration.  A time of remembering the goodness of God and for simply being thankful.  That was originally the plan at least way back in 1621 as a small group of settlers and indians gathered to give thanks in what had been deemed, “the New World.”  That certainly was Abraham Lincoln’s intent when he instituted a national day of thanksgiving in the midst of the Civil War.  It was a reminder that even though we were in war, that God was still in control and that God was still good.
 
We are 150 years past that declaration of Thanksgiving and almost 400 years past the original Thanksgiving gathering, and this day for being thankful has turned into something else.  On this day we watch parades, we watch football, we eat and eat and eat (to quote my 8 year old son), and we visit family.  Stores have begun to open on this once sacred day so that shoppers might avoid the rush of Black Friday.  Thanksgiving is changing and so is the world that we are living in. You need to look no further than the Thanksgiving parades to see that, or the commercials during the football games, or just drive by your local Wal-Mart or Target store.  Thanksgiving is changing but in reality so is culture.
 
I watched with horror a few minutes ago as a group of men dressed up like women danced in one of the parades.  Do we really need the children of America seeing that at 9:15 on a Thursday morning?  When the football games start we will be riveted to the action, but then the commercials, many of which will feature scenes of sexual activity, will remind us that things are changing.  Then we will drive home this evening from visiting with friends and relatives and we will drive by stores that used to be closed for a day of family celebrating, which will now be open with full parking lots and ringing cash registers.  The times they are a changing.
 
The question must be, how do we respond? As followers of Jesus Christ in the midst of a culture that no longer recognizes Him how do we respond?  Do we respond with fear and lament, “oh woe is me, things are terrible.”  Of course not but it’s tempting to isn’t it?  It is tempting to think the world is spinning out of control and that the culture is beyond repair.  Yet we aren’t called to respond that way, instead we are called simply to trust.  In the midst of changing culture, in the midst of a culture that is no longer seemingly a “Christian culture”, we just simply trust.  In the midst of these difficult days, we just simply continue to trust God and know that “He is working all things together for good.”  David did that in Psalm 56, things were hard and difficult for him.  The Philistines had seized him in Gath, things were frightening, and yet he said, “I’m simply going to trust. In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?”  David’s situation was very different than our situation today, but he still tells us the antidote to fear, it is to trust God and to realize that God is in control.
 
We combat fear by standing on the promises of God, by trusting in God’s word.  In the New Testament we are told that Jesus in the living word of God.  So we stand on the promises of God, and we cling to the living word of God, Jesus Christ realizing that He has all things under His control.  Even in the middle of changing and hostile culture we trust and we live thankfully.  David says in verse 12, “I must perform my vows to you O God; I will render thank offerings to you.  For you have delivered my soul from death.”  God has done the same thing for us hasn’t He?  Through the blood of Jesus Christ, through Him being the propitiation for our sins He has delivered our souls from death as well.  In fact He has given us the gift of eternal life.  In response to the goodness of God we trust Him and we thank Him and praise Him.  Our culture has forgotten about God, David reminds us however that we cannot.  Many may want to take “in God we trust” even off of our money, but David reminds us that we should live our lives “in God we trust (v. 4)”, trusting Him and living every day for His glory.  

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 55 – Trusting Even in Betrayal

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 55 – Trusting Even in Betrayal

 

Psalm 55:1 – “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!”

 

Psalm 55 begins with a tone like many of the psalms of David.  David is going through a difficulty and this difficulty is plaguing him.  He is suffering and in the midst of his suffering he cries out to God as his Father.  He is humble in his cry but still somewhat forceful because he recognizes the depth of his need, “give ear to me o God…..attend to me and answer me.”  In other words God help me, I am desperate without you, and I need you.  David realizes his own helplessness and his own need.

 

What is going on in David’s life?  Previously he has talked about the difficulty of having some of his countrymen turn on him (Psalm 54), but here it is more personal he has been betrayed by a close friend.  He is emotionally wounded and hurting and even then he cries out to God for help.  David’s response to this trouble stands in stark contrast to how many people would choose to respond.  Many would simply throw up their hands and quit caring, while others would take it upon themselves to rectify the situation themselves, and some maybe the majority would lash out vindictively on their  own. 

 

David is different however in the midst of trouble he trusts God, and here in the midst of extreme personal anguish he trusts God.  He is not being passive in his response but rather active.  He knows that the greatest thing he can do even in this situation is to trust.  I was given some extremely valuable advice one time by an elderly friend when he said, “Why do we say all we can do is pray? We come to the end of our ropes and we say well all we can do is pray, but in reality the greatest things we can do is pray.”  He is right the greatest thing we can do in any situation is pray and simply trust God.  David modeled that in this intensely personal situation.  It would have been easy to take matters into his own hands and to make matters worse but David didn’t he simply trusted God.

 

Jesus did as well.  David’s countrymen turned on him, so did Jesus’.  He was hailed as King on Palm Sunday as the crowds cheered, “hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” then just a few days later those same countrymen chanted, “crucify Him and kill Him.”  David was betrayed by a friend, Jesus was as well.  Betrayed by Judas, sold for 30 pieces of silver.  In the midst of the betrayal and the hurt, David trusted God, Jesus did as well.  In the Garden before He was betrayed He prayed, “Father take this cup from me, yet not my will but your be done.”  Even hanging on the cross Jesus could have taken matters into His own hands, He could have called down legions of angels and saved Himself.  He could have come down anytime He wanted, but He didn’t.  He chose to willingly stay on the cross, He chose to willingly die for you and for me.  He could have saved Himself, but He didn’t He chose to save us and that is the greatest things about the cross, through that cross He makes our salvation possible.

 

The cross and the events surrounding it also stand as an example to us, to trust God even in the midst of whatever the difficulty is.  Instead of trying to make it right and instead of trying to take matters into our own hands, we, just like David and just like Jesus, simply need to trust God, the Father.  We need to trust that He is working “all things together for good”.  It is a helpless place but sometimes it is the place that God leads us to, to teach us how to live, to teach us to trust Him, to teach us to live everyday for His glory.

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 51 – The Rescue of the King

Psalm 51:5 – “Behold I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

Pastor and theologian J.C. Ryle when discussing the great doctrines of the faith said, “man is radically diseased. I believe that ignorance of the extent of the Fall, and of the whole doctrine of original sin, is one grand reason why many can neither understand, appreciate, nor receive (what Jesus did on the cross).”  What he was saying was simply this no matter who we are or into what kind of family we are born we are sinners and we are ultimately depraved. 

Those are not popular words but they are true.  We however like to believe we wouldn’t have made the mistakes that we have made if we would have had more money, or a better education,  or better treatment by our parents, or more support from our teachers, or if we wouldn’t have been bullied in 7th grade, or whatever.  Some of those things are bad and in fact horrific, and yes they do color the people that we become but even if we would have had the perfect parents and the perfect teachers, if we would have received nothing but love and support from our classmates, if we would have been born with money and had the greatest education available we would have still sinned.  In fact we were sinful even from birth, our circumstances might change but we would still sin because we are sinners.

David is the perfect example of that.  He was the king of the country, he was talented (a musician), he was strong and courageous (he fought a giant), he was a great shepherd.  David had it all sure his dad looked past him when they were searching for a king but that is a minor technicality.  David had it all and what did David do with it, he used it to jump into sin.Then after his encounter with Nathan the prophet, David realizes the depth of his sin.  He sees himself for what he is, not a king, not a warrior, not a musician, not a shepherd, but a wretched sinner, and in his sin David does something marvelous,  he cries out to God.  And what does he cry for? Forgiveness,  restoration, cleaning,  and change. 

What a picture Psalm 51 gives us, David is the king of the country, arguably the most powerful man on earth and he is broken in his sin.  The king needs to be rescued.  He is a sinner who needs a Savior, and that is what he gets.  David the king gets rescued by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He repents of his sins and God rushes in and forgives him and transforms him.  He gives him joy in the place of his brokeness and forgiveness instead of his guilt.  The bones that are crushed are healed and the spirit once again rejoices.  It is total and absolute transformation. 

David the king needed to be rescued, Jesus the One true King rescued him.  And here is the good and in fact even amazing news, He has done the same for us.  To God be the glory!

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 54 – Big Words

Psalm 54:7 -“For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.”

Every few years our culture seemingly invents a new word or changes the definition of an existing word.  When I was 5 bad was bad but then when I turned 13 all of a sudden bad was good.  The same thing happened on another level with the internet, if you would have used the words “I’m surfing the web” 30 years people would have thought you were crazy.  Crazy is a word that used to mean insane but now means good apparently as well.    Wild used to be a word that was used for children who misbehaved now it means something like crazy.

Definitions are changing and new words are being invented.  One of those new words is ginormous (even as I typed it might computer recognized it), it means something big, well in fact something that is bigger than big.  As I read David’s words in Psalm 54, especially verse 7 that is the words that come to mind, his words are ginormous.   Think about the magnitude of what he says don’t just skim over it, let it truly hit you because if you do it will wreck you (in a good way, remember definitions are changing).  His words are ginormous and if they are true they are paradigm shifting, world changing, life altering: “God has delievered me from every trouble. ”  That is impossible isn’t it? Perhaps and at the very least it is impossible to believe for God certainly hasn’t delievered us from every trouble has He?

So how could David make that statement? How could he believe it was true? Simply put because it IS true.  God has delivered David from every trouble.  Were there some that he lost the battle too? Oh yes, make no mistake about that.  David won some victories and David lost some battles, sometimes it seemed that for David the troubles had won but they hadn’t.   God truly did deliever him from all of his troubles, and if we are followers of Jesus Christ He will deliver us from all of our troubles as well.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying if you follow Jesus your life will be perfect and you will live your best life now.  That statement is out of touch with reality.  I am however saying some ginormous words, “If you are a follower of Jesus, God really will deliver you from all your troubles.”

When and where? Not here and not now.  He may give you victory over some of your troubles and He certainly will give you grace to sustain you in troubles, but Jesus made us a promise, “in this world you will have trouble,” so guess what, troubles will come to us.  Yet God will deliver us from all of our troubles, not here, not in this world,  but in the next.  When the kingdom of God comes in its fullness and Jesus gives us the new heaven and the new earth then we will inherit the promise of a life “where there is no weeping or crying or mourning or pain.”  Then God will deliver us from all of our troubles, so with John in Revelation let us pray, “even so come quickly Lord Jesus.”  To God be the glory!

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 52 – Easier said than Done

Psalm 52:8 -“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.”

David writes Psalm 52 from the position of one in difficulty and one who has been betrayed yet he still makes a bold assertion, “I will trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.”  Those words are easy to say, in fact they are so easy to say that they have become almost cliche.  They are easy to say but hard to do.  Its easy to say I trust God especially when life is good but it is hard to put that into practice, especially when life is not so good.  When life is hard trusting God is easier said than done.

David however both said it and did it and in doing so stands as an example for all of us.  Last night I was struggling and as I read David’s words I was gripped by the reality of them, here was a man in dire circumstances yet he was still trusting God.  David was a sinner and at times his life was out of control but when you read these words and you know that he lived them out its easy to see why he was called “a man after God’s own heart.”  He had that type of faith and here in the midst of difficulty and betrayal it showed.  Its hard to trust in the hard times, yet David did.

Last night I was struggling as my middle son dealt with sickness and a fever.  He has a seizure disorder and has had 3 big seizures in life (most likely gran mal), each time he also was running a fever.  It has been 23 months since the last one but still when he gets a fever we are quick to give him motrin amd other fever reducers, anything to keep him from going through another seizure.  Last night however was different.   He wouldn’t take the medicine, in fact he threw it up, so we tried to trick him and put it in food but he simply would not eat.  It was a hopeless feeling. 

He and my wife then went and laid down and I did the only thing I could do, I prayed.  This situation was 100% out of my control.  I prayed and I read and I came across David’s words in Psalm 52, words that said he was trusting in God’s steadfast love forever.  Those were comforting words but at that moment I’m not sure they were words I could live out.  I could say them but could I live them?

So I prayed and I prayed and sometimes I trusted and sometimes I didn’t.   Sometimes I was at peace and sometimes I literally felt like I would throw up or at best hyperventilate.   It was a hard few hours yet David’s words of trust brought to a statement I fully believed: “there is nothing in your life that God hasn’t either caused or allowed.”  So as I clung to that I realized that God had allowed what we were going through to happen and I did the only thing I could, I trusted.  I trusted that God would keep him from a seizure and I trusted if He didn’t then there was a purpose in not.  I trusted at least for a minute but then I was back and forth.  Wavering, washing too and fro. 

David however didn’t waver, he trusted.  Like “a green olive tree” he trusted.  The picture he wants us to see is that he is unmovable.   He is trusting and clinging to God in the midst of the storm.  Easy to say but hard to do.  Yet David did it, trusting in the one who is the “true olive branch (Romans 11:17), trusting in Jesus.  We must do the same in the good times and the bad times.  We must trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, even in the middle of enemies and hardship.  To God be the glory!

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 50 – A Horrible Yet Beautiful Picture

Psalm 50:4-6 – “He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people:  “Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!   The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge!”

I just read about a man who was convicted of murder. His killing spree lasted from 1977-1980 and in 1997 he was convicted of numerous counts of murder and given the death sentence.  Today over 16 years later he remains in prison as the state tries to decide how the death penalty should be carried out.  Sometimes judgment is slow in coming.

God’s word however reminds us that it will not always be that way.  Judgment will come, judgment is a certainty, not just for mass murderers but for all of us.  God will one day fully judge His people, and unlike human judgment once His judgment falls it will be enacted quickly.

God is a consuming fire and we are reminded of the certinty of facing Him with the words, “it is appointed unto man once to die amd then the judgment.”  Those are frightening words, and this is a horrific picture that the psalmist is painting in Psalm 50.  God is coming in judgment.  He is a devouring fore and a mighty tempest who is ready to testify against us and His testimonies are always right and just.  He is the judge, He is fair, He is just and what He says goes.  Revelation 19 reinforces this picture to us as it says He is returning to make war.  War against what? Sin in addition to other things.  The problem with that is that we all are sinners, we all have sin in our lives and in fact we are controlled by our sins (49:14).  We means that God is coming to make war against us.  We are sinners who are guilty in the face of judgment. 

We have no hope because we are guilty and we know it.  Worse yet, God knows it.  We will stand and presumably because of our guilt fall in the judgment.   Unless……unless as the psalmist says we have “made a covenant with Him by sacrifice. ”  What sacrifice is he talking about? Not our sacrifice but the glorious and beautiful sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  It is there that His blood cleanses us and takes our sins away, and it is there where Jesus’ righteousness is imputed (credited) to our account.  We are guilty but through the sacrifice of Jesus, if we make that covenant with Him, the covenant written in His own blood then we are declared innocent, and even beyond that we are declared righteous.   No wonder Paul joyously proclaims, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The psalmist paints for us a horrific picture of the coming judgment.   Yet it is not just horrific, it is also beautiful, as Jesus takes our sins away on that day we will be given a crown of righteousness,  and we will reign with Him forever, not because of what we do but because of what He did.  To God be the glory!

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 49 – What Is Your Guide?

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 49 – “What is Your Guide?”

 

Psalm 49:14 – “Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd.”

 

These are painfully shocking words, they are sobering words, to think that there are those who are led by death.  That death is their guide and their shepherd.  When I read those words I simply sat quietly for a minute, what does the psalmist mean?  Why would someone let death be their shepherd and guide?  Then I realized that that someone is all of us.  Humanity from birth is sinful and wicked.  U ewages of sin is death.”  We are driven by sin, which means we are driven by death.  It is our leader and it is our guide.

 

The psalmist (or again the psalmists, the Sons of Korah) are writing and telling the reader or the listener how to deal with bitterness.  He tells us that when bitterness threatens to invade our lives (and it quickly can can’t it?), we are to:

     *focus on the word of God (v. 1-3)

 

     *make worship a priority (v. 4)

 

     *think about eternity (v.17-20)

 

They give us good advice, this is how you deal with bitterness and resentment when those in the world seem to prosper and the righteous seem to struggle.  This is how you deal with people who have wronged you, mistreated you and hurt you.  Yes you focus on the word of God because in doing so you are reminded of a God who will “never leave you or forsake you.”  Yes you make worship a priority, because in doing so you enter into the presence of God and you realize that you are living for something beyond yourself, and that even God Himself when He came to this earth was mistreated and hurt.  Certainly in the midst of bitterness we should dwell on eternity because that reminds us that one day all of the troubles of this life will be over and one day we will be in a place with “no weeping, no crying, no mourning, no pain.”  We long  for that day.  All of these things are great strategies for dealing with resentment and bitterness, but these are not the most important thing that this psalm tells us.  The most important thing is those sobering words from v. 14, “death shall be their shepherd.”

 

That is the most important thing because that statement points us to the reality of who we are without Christ.  It reminds us (or perhaps shows us for the first time) that we need a Savior.  We don’t need to be led by sin.  Death should not be our shepherd, and yet left to our own devices it is.  We need someone to bring us to life.  Someone who as Paul says, “lifts us from the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of life.”  We need a Savior, we need a new Shepherd.  We need Jesus.  For only He can bring us from death to life, only He can transform us, only He can give us new hearts and thus a new Shepherd.  On our own death is our shepherd, but thanks be to God that through the cross of Jesus Christ we can be changed.  We can have a new Shepherd.  We can gloriously proclaim with David, “The Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)”.  To God be the glory!