1.Wandering through the Psalms
1.Wandering through the Psalms
2. A Psalm for our time
Who wants to be happy? While sometimes it seems the pursuit of happiness is a consuming passion for
3. The Nations are Raging
There is anger and frustration everywhere. Nation against nation, people against people; conflict in families, tension and tumult in politics, all inflamed by angry comments in media and in public debate. At the centre of this turbulence is the insistence that we should all be free to do whatever we want. The people want to throw off outdated moral constraints, limits on their ability to pursue their own goals irrespective of the harm that is done to others, to be free to decide their own choices without interference from others. And the cause of all this friction is a God who claims to have absolute authority to demand obedience to the rules he establishes.
Psalm 2 is called a ‘Royal Psalm’ and it draws the connection between the earthly king and the King of Kings. The nations around about want to throw off the obligations to God almighty, they want to do as they choose without consequence, and so they conspire together. The rulers, decision makers, kings counsel together to dispose of this one true God and put themselves in His place. We live in such a time; will God be deposed? Will the nations and power brokers take over and rule the world according to their own interests?
The Psalmist answers this: “From his throne in heaven the Lord laughs and mocks their feeble plans” (Psalm 2:4 GNT). Charles Spurgeon writes: ‘’Mark the quiet dignity of the Omnipotent One, and the contempt which he pours upon the princes and their raging people. He has not taken the trouble to rise up and do battle with them—he despises them, he knows how absurd, how irrational, how futile are their attempts against him—he therefore laughs at them.” He sits on his throne in the Heavenly places, he isn’t pacing back and forth wondering what to do next. He knows that with a word he can overturn the schemes and plans of the nations. Their conspiracies and strategies will come to nothing, he has determined before the foundation of the earth the coming of the Messiah, the son who will announce the kingdom of God. Since the beginning of creation Satan has attempted to destroy God’s plan and has failed. Nations have come and gone, kings and queens faded into history, empires have been short lived. Tyrants and dictators, treaties and world wide organisations have all tried and failed to depose God from his throne, not one has succeeded and none ever will.
Then God speaks. He will come in anger and deal with those who oppose him. In the Psalms of Solomon a collection of militant poems and songs that were distributed in the early church, chapter 17 contains these words: ‘See, O Lord, and raise up for them their king, the son of David, at the time which you chose, O God, to rule over Israel your servant. And gird him with strength to shatter in pieces unrighteous rulers, to purify Jerusalem from nations that trample her down in destruction, in wisdom of righteousness, to drive out sinners from the inheritance, to smash the arrogance of the sinner like a potter’s vessel, to shatter all their substance with an iron rod, to destroy the lawless nations by the word of his mouth’. Three times in Revelation we are told that the Christ, the Messiah spoken of in Psalm 2 will rule the nations with a rod of iron (2:27, 12:5, 19:15).
But God offers grace ‘’be warned’ he says ‘Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling’. Submit to and worship the son. There is hope and blessing to all who take refuge in him. There is hope, but only to those who bow in humility to the coming king. Nations may rage, they may conspire, but the King sits on his throne and the time left to the nations to submit is limited.
4. When Life falls apart
King David was in trouble. He had been one of the most powerful kings that every lived, he had absolute power over life and death of all the people under his rule, he was fabulously wealthy, had a number of wives and a fortune in wealth and possessions. But it all fell in a hole. One day he took an interest in Bathsheba, another man’s wife, committed adultery with her then arranged for her husband to be killed so he could take her as his wife. The consequences of his sin were devastating and far reaching.
David’s oldest son, Amnon, raped his half-sister, Tamar. Tamar’s brother, Absalom, took revenge by murdering Amnon. Absalom fled into exile for several years, but later was permitted to return. But after his return, David refused to see his son for two years. The resentment built and Absalom began to court the disgruntled people in the kingdom, offering himself as a more sympathetic leader than his powerful father was. (Bible.org). Absalom and his supporters planned to kill David, so he fled for his life. His family and servants grabbed what they could and left Jerusalem with David following, barefooted, weeping and with his head covered in shame. He was humiliated, broken, abandoned by his friends, hunted by his enemies, a failure as a king and a failure as a father.
David sat down to write this Psalm when his life was at the lowest it could possibly be. There was no hope, the number of his enemies were growing by the day, and they taunted him by saying his sin was so great even God would not save him. What could he do? He starts by acknowledging that God was his lord, this is a intimate name, not the Lord God Almighty, though he was that, but his Lord who loved and cared for him. When we feel we are at the bottom of a pit, everything has fallen apart, we need to remind ourselves that he is Lord, he loves us and cares for us and takes no delight in our suffering. David recognized that it was God who was his shield. The word ‘shield’ means to protect around about, on every side and from every direction God would protect him. Even though others sought to do him harm, it was the lord himself that would keep him safe.
David had brought dishonour to himself, and this had been compounded by others especially his son, but the lord would bring him honour, or glory. He would also lift up David’s head. Shame and distress will often cause us to drop our head, we may not want to look others in the eye, it is a sign we are defeated – but God will lift the head, just as he did with David. He gave him back his dignity. He answered his prayer, he did not turn his back, he had heard David’s complaint and he responded. We are not told what God said to David, but it allowed him to sleep and be refreshed. He woke with new vigour and courage to face his enemies. They didn’t go away, but now David could stand before them, look them in the eye and meet them with courage.
David could confidently look to God to restore him. Blessings belonged to God to give as he pleased, not to the crowd. David did not seek to excuse his failure, he acknowledged his sin and knew that what had happened to him was the result of his own actions. But he never forgot the lord, he turned to him at his deepest point and God restored him and stood him back in his feet. No matter how deep a hole we find ourselves in, no matter how black the sky looks or how many are seeking our misfortune, God never turns his back. We call out to him and he hears us from his holy hill. He restores our soul, and he raises our head!
5. Answer me when I call
It has been suggested that this Psalm is the second part of Psalm 3 and continues the theme that David develops there. The heading to the Psalm indicates that it was meant to be read with musical accompaniment.
David begins with a cry all of us have probably voiced: ‘Answer me when I call!’ There are no doubt times in your life that you weren’t sure God was listening to your prayers, and you needed to make sure that he not only heard, but that he would answer. There was passion in David’s cry he needed God to answer. Isaiah 64:7 says: ‘’There is no one who calls on your name, who stirs himself to take hold of You”. David stirred himself, he intended to take hold of God until he heard from him – is this how you approach God when you pray?
The psalm begins with David speaking to God, then moves to David speaking to others and then him speaking to himself. David begins by reminding God that it was he that was the source of his righteousness, not by anything David had done but because God had declared him to be so. Then he states the reason he has confidence in God is because he has relieved his distress and met his need before, so he comes to seek mercy again.
Now he questions his enemies, how long would they slander him and take pleasure in his failure? When will they stop chasing worthless things, pursuing vanity. Eugene Peterson in The Message puts it this way: ‘Why is everyone hungry for more? “More, more,” they say. “More, more.” I have God’s more-than-enough, more joy in one ordinary day than they get in all their shopping sprees. At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep, for you, God, have put my life back together.’ The lives of these people were consumed with seeking after things that would not last, bigger homes, better crops, more wealth. Those things wouldn’t bring what they promised, they were all lies. But David knew that God would hear his prayers because he had been set apart by God and for God.
David turns to himself – he had reason to be angry, his enemies lied about him, wanted to kill him, stolen what was his, but he knew he must not let anger lead him to sin, he needed to examine his own heart and trust in God for deliverance. Many had sought pleasure in abundant crops and wine, but God had put more joy in his heart than they could ever imagine. In confidence he could sleep at night knowing God would keep him in perfect peace.
6. Wait expectantly
David pours out his heart to God. He does this in two ways, using words and in groaning. He has a complaint and so he spells it out to God, but sometimes words are inadequate and at those times he trusts God to understand the anguish he feels which can only be expressed in groaning, or as some translations put it in lament, which can be defined as passionate expression of grief or sorrow. How often do we bring a concern to God and always try to put it into the right words? We may even be excessively polite assuming God is going to ignore poorly expressed requests. David had no such problem, he groaned, he wept, he shared his heart with a God that he knew loved and cared for him.
It was to God that David prayed, his prayers didn’t evaporate into space or bounce off the ceiling, they were met by an attentive ear. The NIV translation records verse 3 this way: ‘In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.’ It was the Jewish custom to attend the temple in the morning and present prayers and sacrifices, David followed this practice and that is when he offered these impassioned prayers. Then he looked up or watched expectantly for an answer. He didn’t quickly say amen and get up to go about his business, he waited for an answer. He expected God to act and watched. How often do we bow to pray for some minutes, race through our list of requests and then get up without even being certain that God had heard? David directed his prayers, he poured out his need and waited. David prayed in the morning, he started the day by enlisting God’s mercy and grace on whatever the day had for him. Not everyone feels that the morning is the best time for them, and each must work out when is the right time to be alone with God. But as someone once said, it seems reasonable for an orchestra to tune the instruments before they try to perform a symphony!
David contrasted himself with the self-righteous who acted arrogantly, those that would say one thing but act in a different way. They would flatter in order to gain an advantage all the while seeking to harm those they flattered. David was not like that, he understood that it was only by God’s mercy that he could enter the temple. He needed God’s guidance and deliverance from those evil people who conspired against him and he wanted them to suffer because of their sin. He wasn’t seeking vengeance for himself, but for God’s honour; these people needed to bear their guilt and accept the consequences of their sin. To those who turned to God there would be refuge and safety. He would bless them so that they would sing for joy and know his favour on their lives.
This psalm is David’s plea for deliverance from those that would try to destroy him and ruin his reputation. He didn’t know how best to express himself so he waited before God and expressed himself the best way he could. God knew – in Psalm 139 we read ‘’even before there is a word on my tongue, behold O Lord, you know it all” (verse 4). When you are in despair, grieving or just confused and the best you can do is weep or sit in silence – it is enough. God hears you, he cares for you and he will answer your unspoken prayers. Watch for him, wait expectantly, he will come.
7. O Lord – How long?
This is the first of seven Psalms scattered through the catalogue which deal with confession and humility, they are sometimes called the Penitential Psalms. This psalm may be related to the activities of David’s son, Absalom but that is not said, and it isn’t clear. What is obvious is that David is suffering greatly and the only one who could relive his pain was God.
In the opening verses he says he is frail, his bones are shaking in terror and his whole body is completely terrified! (CEB). In later verses he expands his description by adding: “I’m worn out from groaning. Every night, I drench my bed with tears; I soak my couch all the way through. My vision fails because of my grief; it’s weak because of all my distress.” This is an unrelenting grief that consumed David completely it affected him physically, not just emotionally. You may have experienced something similar and you may have been able to point to a cause, the loss of someone you love, significant illness or a different type of loss.
While David does not identify the cause of his grief he does recognize that the only one who could relieve it is God. He had suffered significant loss, he was humiliated and his relationship with God had been broken, how long would this suffering last, when would the sun come up again and the dark clouds be dispersed? He may have believed his circumstances were God’s punishment, he knew his own failure had led to the mess he was in, was God adding even greater burdens? We know that God disciplines us so that we will grow in our faith and turn from hurtful things, we know also that those things may lead to sickness, but God does not uses sickness as a punishment. David speaks of illness , but he does not refer to disease. In some Spanish speaking countries, the term susto is used refer to the idea that the human spirit/soul is lost or displaced by some traumatic incident. The symptoms of susto include nervousness, anorexia, insomnia, listlessness, fever, depression, and diarrhea. In some cases, embarrassment, mortification, or shame are also considered signs of illness. (Tarah Van De Wiele). Elsewhere in the Bible Jeremiah speaks of his soul being cast down within him and David writes in Psalm 32 that when he kept silent about his sin his body wasted away, he groaned all day long and had lost all his energy.
David was tired, he was broken and his enemies kept tormenting him. Was this his future? He says that he needs relief straightaway, there may not be a tomorrow. He did the only thing he could do, he appealed to God’s love and mercy (verses 4,5). He wasn’t able to plead innocence, he couldn’t claim any activity of his own as grounds for deliverance. All he could do was to remind God of his own steadfast love and to insist that if God was true to his character he would save him.
You may have experienced grief in the same way that David did, and you may believe it is God punishing you. He isn’t. He may use the suffering you are experiencing to bring you back to the right road, he may encourage you to see the folly of your actions, he may allow you to experience the consequences of living in world that is under the influence of Satan. But he will not punish you by making you sick. Often times when we know our relationship with God and with others we are close to is broken we feel the pain physically. We experience headaches, sleep problems, eating disorders and so on, if this is or has been true for you, the first place to turn is to God himself, examine your conscience, seek his forgiveness if needed and then listen to him – he may direct you to others for help, or he may restore you in a moment. Look to him expectantly.