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Monday, 30 October 2006

Psalm 6: From trouble to triumph.

OBSEC
29th October 2006
Sunday Morning
P.A.Thatcher
Psalm 6: From trouble to triumph.

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. [a]A Psalm of David.
A cry of desperation:
O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?
A plea from the heart:
Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave? [b] I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.
A triumphant faith:
Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.
Footnotes:
a. Psalm 6:1 Title: Probably a musical term
b. Psalm 6:5 Hebrew Sheol
This is one of seven Penitential Psalms; these are Psalms 6, 32, 38 51, 102, 130 & 143. Five of the seven were written by David, Psalms 102 &130 are anonymous. All of them are deeply personal, it has been suggested that Christians should read one of them every day as part of our prayer for forgiveness.

When we are in any kind of trouble it is often difficult for us to see any way that good can come from such circumstances. How can we go from trouble to triumph?
The occasion of this Psalm is unknown but we can clearly see from the content that David is again in trouble. In the previous Psalms he has been in trouble from human relationships. We can readily associate with such difficulties and if you are anything like me you will have been encouraged by the way God so graciously dealt with David in such difficult times. David again is in trouble when he wrote this Psalm but the circumstances are very different. He is on this occasion troubled by an illness. In the first stanza we discover that it is a debilitating illness; he is faint or weak, his bones are in agony and his soul is affected. He is in anguish or severe pain of the soul. This is serious for David and it seems from his comments in stanza 2 that it has been an ongoing process. This Psalm is a great encouragement for all of us but I believe it is even more so for those of us who have been struggling with our health for an extended period of time and especially for those who have no promise of respite from our problems. So what can we learn this morning from David’s Psalm?
A cry of desperation:
As I have already indicated this is a penitential Psalm. Another penitential Psalm is the 51st Psalm, which is related to a situation where David had sinned and brought about the problems that he was experiencing; he consequently repented and recorded his penitence in the Psalm for our benefit. Can we therefore say that at the time of writing Psalm 6 David was experiencing ill health due to sin? That is certainly not what I believe is the thrust of what David is saying! Look at the first stanza; David begins with a plea to God from a desperate heart. He is recognising that he is a sinner and that sin deserves God’s wrath and anger. As a sinner he does not deserve favour or acceptance from God but rather a rebuke and discipline. But it seems from the context that even though he believes that he deserves such treatment he is appealing to God for mercy. He believes that he has suffered enough and to have God’s righteous judgement also would be too much for him to bear. There is no evidence that he is saying that his illness is due to sin as some might have us believe. The two things are totally unrelated!
David actually pleads with God for mercy simply because he can take no more. He is faint; his bones are weary and his soul is distraught. His request is for healing but his question is “how long will I suffer?” If we consider David for a while; we know that he was king of Israel, he was set apart by God and he was promised that he would have a long and successful reign over his people. Now he is blighted by illness and his work is under threat. How does this square up with God’s promises made to David?
From the way that David is praying we observe a number of things:
· He completely trusts Yahweh.
· He has a relationship with God that allows him to plead for mercy.
· His illness is an inconvenience both to him and for his work as king of Israel.
· His illness is getting him down; he is severely depressed by it.
· He sighs, “How long will it last?”
David is clearly downcast but he is not without hope. His hope is still clearly in Yahweh who is completely in control and is currently allowing him to go through problems. His prayer is a little bit like the man who came to Jesus for his son to be healed (Mark 9:14-28) When challenged by Jesus about his faith the father exclaimed “I do believe, help me in my unbelief” David clearly trusted in God, he believed that God had a purpose for him as king but now his life is under threat from illness and David is saying to God, “even though I do not deserve it; have mercy on me, do not judge me, please heal me and how long will it take?” His words are full of faith but there is a very human element of unbelief in the whole prayer.
Lesson: We cannot claim illness to be the direct judgement of God due to personal sin. It is true that illness came into the world as a result of original sin but God does not generally sit in judgement in heaven throwing ailments and problems at His people when they transgress. It is true to say that at times we do something which will cause us to suffer due to our wrongdoing. For example: if we are promiscuous we should not be too surprised if we contract a sexually transmitted disease! God may also at times allow us to suffer in order that we might know that His grace is sufficient for us in good times and bad times alike. David pleaded for God’s grace in very difficult circumstances!
A plea from the heart:
In many respects the second stanza is a continuation of the first but here David exposes something of his hearts desire! David is concerned about his reputation that would be left behind should he die. He still believes that he has a purpose to fulfil and so his request is for God to turn in favour towards him and to deliver him from his difficulties. He continues to tell God of his state of health. He is worn out from the pain as expressed in his groaning. He has often cried himself to sleep with pain and anguish. His bed is flooded by his tears. This is the leader of the people; if they had known how weak their king had become; how much confidence would they have had in his leadership? It is a good thing that we are often shielded from the frailty of our leaders. We observe in all of this that God’s appointed people are not exempt from the normal and natural difficulties of life. David’s difficulties were not only encountered at bedtime we find that his couch was also drenched with the tears of pain and anguish. This means that his problems were with him all of the time. Ongoing illness at times is more difficult to bear than oppression from an enemy! At least with oppression there is often respite when other issues crowd in and take our minds away from the issues but pain never goes away, day or night, it reduces us to tears at any time! So much so that David says “his vision is impaired.” He is not talking about his sight here but is referring to his enemies. He is saying that his vision for the safety and security of his people is impaired by his weakness in the sight of his enemies. This is the purpose of his cry from the heart. I am reminded as I read this that the Lord Jesus who during the ultimate battle never lost His vision for His people. John records in chapter 17 of his gospel; what has become known as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. Just before His arrest Jesus prayed for His people that God would care for them. His concern was for their salvation. He cared for them at the time of His greatest personal need. This is what David is in effect doing when he in effect said; “I have suffered so much that I am now in danger of losing sight of the most important thing.” The most important thing to David was the safety and security of the nation and that God’s glory would be seen through his own life! The sight of his enemy is rapidly becoming bigger than his faith could cope with and so he is making a heart felt cry to God for help.

Lesson: We have a God who is concerned for us in our problems. As we have learned in recent weeks we can approach God boldly in prayer. David in this Psalm demonstrates that if this is our normal way; then it is natural when illness strikes that we come to Him with our concerns and needs. God is always pleased to answer such a prayer, not necessarily with a healing hand but with an injection of his grace, which will be sufficient in all eventualities. The Apostle Paul was never healed from his thorn in the flesh but he learned by God’s grace to live with it and to glorify the name of Jesus through it!


A triumphant faith:
This is one of the big issues of the Christian faith. “How do we live a victorious Christian life?” Look at the change that comes over David at the beginning of the final stanza. We have just observed his fear that the enemy has the upper hand. He has prayed and now he has a complete change of mindset. Instead of being fearful of the enemy he comes to them with authority and expels them from his presence.
What is it that has changed?
He simply says that the Lord has heard his plea from the heart. There was a song once written “what a difference a day makes.” The song says that just 24 hours can change things drastically. We all recognise the truth in that but a more stark reality is found here in David’s words. His song of prayer pre-dates “what a difference a day makes” by 3000 years and says “what a difference a prayer makes!” God has heard David’s weeping, he has heard his cry for mercy and the most amazing thing is that He has accepted his prayer. The answer that comes is also surprising; there is no mention of David having been healed! Some might believe that healing would be of prime importance but to David it seems to have been inconsequential! Look again at the end of the final stanza, David is concerned only about the effect that God’s answer will have upon the enemy. They will be ashamed of themselves, confused and dismayed and ultimately defeated. David’s main concern was for his people and for the glory of God. God is never ashamed to answer such a prayer. As for his illness, by his silence on the matter David is now clearly resolved to leave that in God’s hands. For those who know Joni Eriksson’s testimony you will remember that it took her a number of years to reach that same level of understanding and faith in God. She eventually had to put aside the idea that her accident (even though it was the result of a momentary lapse of reason) was not God’s judgement upon her due to her personal sin. God had allowed it to happen, He had entrusted her to cope with all of the problems and heartaches that it brought to her and that even through such a disability God would use her to glorify His name. David was saying just that as He recognised the smallness and impotence of his enemy before God and at the hands of a very much-weakened human king.
Lesson: I know there are many of us who are currently going through debilitating circumstances. Some of them are illnesses; others are difficult people or situations. Like David our difficulties are not the result of personal sin they are merely life’s problems. We need to be like David who prayed and cast his cares upon God and recognised just as Paul did that God’s grace is sufficient for all who trust in Christ Jesus. This always flags up the question; are you trusting in Christ Jesus? Why not trust in Him and as did the Apostle Paul and other Christians like Joni then you also will be able to know that God will glorify Himself through you even when life deals you a rough blow either through illness or difficulty!

Sunday, 22 October 2006

Psalm 5: What God takes pleasure in.

OBSEC
22nd October 2006
Sunday Morning
P.A.Thatcher
Psalm 5: What God takes pleasure in.
For the director of music. For flutes. A psalm of David.
A: The believer’s experience. (Volume 1)
Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
B: The unbeliever’s problem. (Volume 1)
You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.
C: Personal testimony. (Volume 1)
But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.
C: Personal testimony. (Volume 2)
Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make straight your way before me.
B: The unbeliever’s problem. (Volume 2)
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit. Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.
A: The believer’s experience. (Volume 2)
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them; that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield.
*****

Note:
Psalm 5 is an example of what is known as introverted parallelism. Section A at the beginning is related to A at the end of the Psalm. These sections are the words of the believer. The two sections headed B are related and speak of the unbeliever. Sections C come in the middle of the Psalm and relate to personal desire.
The occasion of the Psalm is again a time of trouble. Wickedness and righteousness are the theme. If Psalms 3; 4 & 5 are related they speak of a morning (Psalm 3); and the evening (Psalm 4) and then the next morning (psalm 5). There are no Selah’s in this Psalm; therefore it is supposed to be read through without pause for thought until the end.

In Psalm 3 David looks at life from 3 different aspects. It is a bit like a bookshelf in a library titled “the experience of life.” As we have seen the Psalm is split up into 6 stanzas. The first and last titled “the believer’s experience (volumes 1 &2) form the bookends of our shelf. The 2nd and 5th stanzas titled “the unbeliever’s problem (volumes 1&2)” are thick volumes that take up a large proportion of the shelf. There are 2 volumes that even though small are the focal point of the shelf; they are titled “personal testimony (volumes 1&2).” Firstly David observes life from his own experience as a believer in God. Secondly he discloses the problems that an unbeliever experiences and thirdly he looks at the testimony of the believer.
The believer’s experience:
The believer’s experience comes in 2 volumes. These are found at each end of the bookshelf. In volume 1 we have an example of David in prayer. As we have discovered in recent weeks David is not afraid to come boldly to God in his prayer. We also find that his prayer is passionate; he asks God to consider his sighing! He is expectant that God listens to his prayer and he also dares to ask that God might help him in his time of need. If this Psalm is as some believe a direct follow on from Psalms 2 & 3 then it’s setting is the following morning. The requested help in this case would be for assistance to overcome his own son Absalom as he attempts to kill David in order to gain the throne of Israel. Some may be offended at the boldness of David’s prayer but as we read on we cannot help but be struck by the reverence that David displays as he prays to God. The king of Israel was not too proud to come under the authority of God in heaven and declare Him to be King! This prayer that we find recorded in our Psalm is as good a model of prayer as you will find anywhere.
It was clearly prayed in the morning and was committing the day to the Lord in order that His glory might be made known. Some make much from this believing that morning is the most important time to pray, if you read Spurgeon’s and other such people’s comments on this passage you will probably end up in a guilt trip concerning your own efforts in prayer. I would not dare to contradict such greats, but I do not believe that David wrote this Psalm in order to instruct us that morning is the best time to pray. As we shall discover there are other important lessons to be learned from the Psalm but the time that we pray is not the point that David is making. He is not saying that getting up at some time before everyone else and sacrificially going without sleep is more spiritual than having a full nights sleep. What David actually says is that he needs God’s help to get through the day. The Rolling Stones sang of “a little yellow pill; that was mother’s little helper that helped her through the busy day.” Some believe that prayer is some sort of mystical spiritual pill that gives us energy to get through the day. That certainly was not David’s expectation. He merely trusted in God in heaven who delights in hearing and responding to the prayers of His friends. David was not asking for everything to go well during the day but simply that God would be glorified.
Some would also have us believe that we should pray great, long and pleading prayers. If this is a record of David’s entire prayer (and there is no reason to believe that it is not) then it was only 2-3 minutes long but it is no less powerful and meaningful than an hour of prayer. It does not necessarily take hours to pray, sometimes it is right to spend an extended period in prayer at other times it is right to be succinct and trust that God is answering our every thought and prayer.
Lesson:
The believer must be a person that prays. His or her prayer should be:
· Bold
· Passionate
· Respectful of God
· Expectant that God will answer and will help in their situation.
This is one of the bookends on the shelf but what of the other? David was praying in the second volume for all believers. He prayed that as they take refuge or shelter from the wars of human experience and that they are a joyful people of praise!
He prays that those who hide under the shelter of God’s wings might find security. We have here a picture of a mother bird protecting her chicks under her wings. This of course is the picture that Jesus painted on that Sunday when He entered triumphant into Jerusalem. Before entering the city He looked down on it and with tears in His eyes He took on this theme when He said to them: “I long to gather you as a hen would gather her chicks under her wings; but you will not come!” It is passages like Psalm 5 that He was alluding to. We learn much about the character of God from Jesus’ statement. Some feminists would have us believe that it displays the femininity of God. I am certain that was never the intention but that Jesus was revealing something of His perfect, protecting parenthood that any mother or father will display at a time of need! As a good parent does, God also protects and provides for His family. To David, that would mean belonging to the nation of Israel and being faithful to God and His word. Today we have a more full understanding of what it means to belong to God’s family. We are adopted into the family of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He died in order to remove the offence of our sin in order to make us acceptable to God.

Do you believe this and is it true of you?

The unbeliever’s problem:
Here we have 2 big volumes that are noticeable by their dark and uninviting covers. The content is miserable and the ending is desperately sad. This is the sort of book that you would not read by choice. These 2 books are like a Leonard Cohen song, which somebody once described as “miserable enough to make you want to slash you wrists!” David begins by looking at what God is like. He reminds us that God takes no delight in evil, which is bad news for sinners. But worse is yet to come; David tells us that they can have no place with God. Arrogant people will not even be able to stand in His presence! You might be thinking this isn’t as bad as you make it out to be, nobody would describe me as evil, or wicked and I am certainly not arrogant. You might also say “I might not be a believer as they seem to be here in this church but nobody would describe me as has been depicted so far!” But you need to read on: David says that God hates all who do wrong; is there any here that have never done anything wrong? Liars for instance are to be destroyed (we shall be looking at a liar tonight.) Bloodthirsty and deceitful people; are abhorred (detested) by God. This is a dark volume indeed! It ends on a black note but there is a sequel, the unbeliever’s problem volume 2. Perhaps there will be hope to be found in this book’s pages! To reach it we have to pass by the 2 slim bright volumes of personal testimony to reach the second volume titled the unbelievers problem. When we open it up we find a completely hopeless situation. In fact David is speaking from his own perspective. We might expect compassion from a believer in God but just read what he says.
· Nothing they say can be trusted.
· Their hearts are full of destruction.
· Their throats are like graves; their words have the stink of death on them!
· They are completely deceitful.
· God judge them and declare them guilty, destroy them!
These are harsh words coming from a believer inGod. How dare he be so judgemental? To understand this we need to remember that God described David as a man after His own heart. This means that David had similar desires to God. Therefore under God’s supervision he is declaring judgement on all who are sinners. They will be banished from God’s presence. I said this was a dark volume and in it there is no hope. There is a paradox in that we have passed by those slim volumes of personal testimony. There are also 2 volumes titled the believers experience. If what the bible tells us that: “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” is true how then can it be possible for some to have the relationship that is recorded in those volumes? The truth is that the volumes titled: “the unbeliever’s problem,” are there for information and offer a challenge to all, because there is a way of escape. If you come under the category of unbeliever you can change because God hates your sin but He loves you! He does not want the story to end at judgement. That is why David put in the 2 volumes of personal testimony in order that as you look through this Psalm you might discover God for yourself!
Let us see what the 2 volumes titled personal testimony have to tell us.

Personal testimony:
Now we come to these last two volumes. They are a lot slimmer but they are absolute gems. David tells us in the first volume that by God’s mercy he is a different person! This is the key to the whole Psalm, man is sinful and so he is hopeless before God; BUT by God’s mercy a difference can be made. David is emphatic; he says that he will come into God’s house. To David that would have been worship in the tabernacle, which was a tent where the people met that had a special area set aside for God’s presence. The point is that it is impossible for man to enter into God’s presence except that by His great mercy He desires man to do so. We have titled our study this morning “What God takes pleasure in” it is this that He delights! The very fact that even though sinners are not able to naturally come to Him He has made it possible for them to do so. David can thus testify to his own personal desire and he can make promises to God that he will do certain things.
· He WILL come into the temple for worship.
· He WILL be reverent.
· He WILL bow in humble submission.
We need to remember that it is the king who is speaking and that he recognises God as worthy of his obeyance!
David’s first volume of personal testimony is all about his promises to God, so what do we find in the second volume?
We see from this volume something of God’s heart displayed through the words and requests of David. David’s testimony is completely dependant upon God’s help. Therefore he requests certain things from God:
· He requests the Lord to lead him. The leader of Israel needs leading by a higher authority.
· He requests God to make his pathway plain. David needs to know where he is going, not in order to promote his own leadership but for a greater purpose; that the enemy might recognise God’s guidance. David was in effect praying for the salvation of his enemies.
The personal testimony is maybe a little different to what we might have imagined. When we read books that testify to man’s achievements we are often amazed at their authority or power etc. The book will tell us what a great or bad person he or she was. But in the testimony we have here it is different. It is not about man and his achievements but it is all about God who takes delight in men and women of faith.
When we take a look along the shelf of human experience the focal point is the 2 slim volumes in the middle that are labelled Personal Testimony. David is telling us that God does not delight in evil but that by His good mercy wicked mankind is able to do something about their problem and then they will be able to worship God.

Monday, 16 October 2006

Jacob's polygamy: Genesis 29

OBSEC
15th October 2006
Evening Praise
P.A.Thatcher
Strange stories part 5

Jacob’s polygamy.



Genesis 29:31-30:25
God created Adam to be in relationship firstly with Himself and secondly with woman. This was to be a special relationship as is illustrated by the fact that God made Eve from part of Adam. The significance of what God did in creating Eve from Adam’s side and then giving instructions of how to live together as husband and wife suggest that from the beginning God designed man to be married to one woman and vice-versa. God told Adam and Eve that at the right time a man must leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. That word cleave suggests a strong relationship or bond together. The man is to give up his existing family ties and take up role as head of a new household, no longer tied to the apron strings of his own Mother. Interestingly modern comedy pokes fun at the man’s mother-in-law but by observation I have come to a conclusions that more often than not if there is any interference within a marriage from in-laws it is more likely to be from the man’s mother. That is my observation which you may choose to dispute but the point that I am making is that God intended that man and woman have a very special relationship together without outside interference from anybody especially parents and also other men or women.
Adam recognised this I believe when he named Eve, he had named the animals previously and found no soul mate there but when God brought Eve to him it was very different. He said this “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman” for she was taken out of man.” We could say that Adam was waxing lyrical in the way he spoke. It is possibly the first poem written and was inspired by the sight of a woman who was unique to him and now in special relationship with him alone. The whole account suggests that God intended man to be monogamous.
As the bible develops and God reveals more of Himself and His requirements of man it becomes clear that God expects marriage to be pure, wholesome and between one man and one woman! When we get to the New Testament we are told the reason why. Our relationship in marriage echoes God’s relationship with His people. His people are revealed to be the church which is often especially in Revelation referred to as the bride of Christ. Marriage is unique in God’s eyes and should be for us also. Sadly man throughout history has denigrated marriage and made it to be a second rate and disposable relationship. So what does God think of wrong relationships within marriage? Can there ever be blessing for those who fail in their marriages? These are vital questions that we can begin to explore through the account that we read of Jacob.
We should be fair to Jacob as we look into his story. We could have examined any number of great men in the Old Testament and considered the issue of multiple relationships within marriage. We could have considered Abraham, David, Solomon etc. but Jacob’s story is helpful to us. It is a strange story in that the offspring from 4 women (2 wives and 2 servant girls) are the fathers of the tribes that make up the nation of Israel who are the people in the Old Testament that God referred to as His special nation. This in turn begs the question “if God is against multiple relationships how can He claim Israel as a special people and how can He bless either Jacob or his sons when they are born in such strange and sinful circumstances?”
Let us step back from the result for a while and consider the facts. God had promised that Jacob would be the father of a mighty nation. His offspring would be the foundation of that nation. He had 12 sons who would form the 12 tribes of Israel. Within Israel because it was to be a theocracy (ruled by God!) there needed to be a priestly line that would be the link between man and God. Levy; Jacob’s third son would be the forefather of the priesthood. Levy was born to Leah who was Jacob’s first wife whom he never loved and was duped into marrying. How can such a relationship be blessed by God and can He really speak to His people through a family with such dubious beginnings?
Jacob’s other 11 sons would become the forefathers of the 12 tribes. (Joseph through his sons Manasseh and Ephraim became the forefather of two lesser tribe of Israel!)
A problem that is constantly before us is that the nation of Israel (God’s people) came from such a dysfunctional family as Jacob’s.

A look at the family:
Jacob worked for Laban, in exchange for 7 years wages he would gain Rachel as his wife. The 7 years passed quickly due to his great love for Rachel At this point we come to a cultural problem. Rachel’s older and less attractive sister Leah is still unmarried. Laban does not want Rachel to be married before her sister and so he on the wedding night swaps Leah for Rachel. I will not pretend to know how that could happen but Laban got away with it. When Jacob woke up he discovered the deception. An arrangement was made that for a second 7 years wages then Jacob could marry Rachel also after Leah had been allowed a honeymoon period of 7 days. This is what happened hence Jacob has been tricked into a wrong marriage and now had entered into a bigamous relationship. God certainly had not prescribed it but He had allowed it to happen. Can there be any blessing?
As with all such relationships tensions soon came to the fore. Rachel was loved; Leah was lonely and unloved. It is here that we see the grace of God shining through. Leah needed someone to love and so God it says opened her womb and she conceived and gave birth to first Reuben followed by Simeon, Levy and Judah. Leah is somewhat fulfilled and gloating! This gives rise to jealousy in Rachel; she is barren and does not have a child to hold and to love. There is no mention that she or Jacob cry out to God in prayer but what she does is takes a leaf out of her grandmothers book. Sarah had offered her maidservant to Abraham to father a child through; when she was unable to conceive. Rachel offered Bilhah to Jacob who willingly slept with her and she became the surrogate mother of Dan and then Naphtali.
There are now 6 sons born to Jacob through 2 women but 3 relationships!
The birth of the boys causes Rachel to gloat over her apparent success. She named the first child Dan because it means vindicated and so was saying to Leah; God has vindicated me at last. She named Naphtali because it means struggle and she believed that her struggle now was over.
Leah had not conceived for a while and became jealous of Rachel and so “what you can do I can do better” Leah gave Zilpah her maidservant to Jacob who again willingly slept with her fathering Gad which means good fortune and Asher meaning happy. From the names given we can see the “one-upmanship” that existed between the now 4 women in the relationship. It is these names that are the continuing tribal names of God’s people Israel!
There are now 8 sons born to Jacob through 3 women but 4 relationships!
A strange story indeed; how can God bless in such circumstances? After some jiggery-pokery using mandrakes as a kind of aphrodisiac and fertility enhancer Leah again conceives and believing that God had rewarded her names the child Issachar and then was “gifted of God” with another son named Zebulon. She also had a daughter named Dinah at this time.
There are now 10 sons of Jacob now still through 3 women but 4 relationships!
Up until now Rachel had not conceived and clearly surrogate motherhood was not enough. The account tells us that God heard her prayer and she also conceived and gave birth to Joseph and much later to Benjamin of whom she died giving birth to.
These are the 12 sons of Jacob who would form the nation of Israel, who are God’s people but they come from his relationship with 4 different women!
Can there be any blessing through such strange circumstances? For us to understand we have to first consider the sinfulness of man. We are all tainted with sin and therefore for God to bless anything that we do He has to bless by grace alone because none of us is worthy of His approval for anything that we do!
Secondly we have to view sin from God’s perspective rather than from ours. To us sin is graded, some things that we do are far more wrong than others. This is right for us but sin to God is all things that are not for his glory. Therefore to Him adultery is equally as bad as taking a piece of paper from work! We might not understand that but to God it is absolute. This means that in order for Him to bless us in anything then by His grace He has to allow certain wrongs to pass by. I suppose it is like a parent that has to deal with the big issues in a child’s life rather than picking on every little thing. God did not approve of Jacob’s ways but He did by grace use the offspring of his relationships to build a nation of such great significance that they are the forerunner of an even greater nation, which is the church.
The church did not come about by a wrong relationship but through the only perfect man that ever lived. The Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself in order that His people might be born again. He also had 12 men (the Apostles) that would be the foundation. They would be spiritual fathers to a great nation that would have more than a special land; they would become related to God through faith and therefore would enter into His land, which is heaven. Where Jacob failed Jesus triumphed. To be a descendant of Jacob you had to belong to the family line or be adopted into the family. It is the same with the church. There is only One Son who belongs by right; that is Jesus but there are many adopted in. They are all who by faith believe in Jesus and trust in the perfect sacrifice He made on the cross in order that sin might be dealt with and sinners might find forgiveness, acceptance by God and adoption into His family. The alternative is to remain outside of the family of God and ultimately to be refused entry into His Kingdom.
YOU?

Psalm 4: What God listens to.

OBSEC
15tht October 2006
Sunday Morning
P.A.Thatcher
Psalm 4: What God listens to.
Psalm 4
For the director of music; with stringed instruments; A psalm of David.
Stanza 1: A cry from the heart.

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer. How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? [a] How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? [b]

Selah
Stanza 2: A promise in the heart.
Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him. In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.
Selah
Stanza 3: A gift from the heart.
Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD. Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?" Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.
Stanza 4: A certain peace in the heart.
You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Footnotes:
a. Psalm 4:2 Or you dishonour my Glorious One
b. Psalm 4:2 Or seek lies


Remember last time we discovered that Psalm 3 was for the morning and that Psalm 4 is for the evening. To some the Psalms are related by the Selah (or “pause for a moment and then continue”) at the end of Psalm3. Psalm 4 they believe does not randomly follow on from Psalm 3 but that they belong together. They believe Psalm 4 to be David’s prayer for comfort before going to sleep whilst being pursued by his son Absalom. I can see no real evidence that suggests that to be true or denies the possibility. Stanza 2 clearly tells us that it was written with nighttime in mind therefore I am happy to accept that the purpose of this Psalm is to help us in our times of reflection especially when we lie down ready to go to sleep.

A cry from the heart.
The Psalms are the songs of the bible but they are often much more than songs. As with Psalm 4 they are a plea from the heart of the writer, this is a prayer of David. It is helpful for our own prayer life to understand how the saints of old prayed to God. So we discover firstly that David cried out to God from the heart. Last time we discovered that we must come boldly to God in prayer. He does not expect us to come as some type of Uriah Heap. You know what he was like; he prided himself in his humility. He told everyone of his own unworthiness so much that what he really displayed was an evil arrogant pride, which made him a most unlikeable fellow. Some Christians believe that this is what God expects of His people. Nothing could be further from the truth! David comes boldly to God who listens to his requests and answers His bold friend.
Secondly we see the respect that David has for God. We also must come respectfully to God recognising His righteousness. Even David King of Israel came in praise and wonder of God in heaven. Getting the right balance in life is always difficult. As we saw with Uriah Heap we can be arrogant in our humility; it is equally wrong to be arrogant in our boldness. David in this Psalm displays the right balance; we must come to God always in the right way. This is what Jesus was teaching when He said that God wants people to worship in spirit but also to be guarded by truth.
As David was praying and asking for God to hear and grant mercy to him his attention went out to his enemies. It seems as if he was addressing them, this displays the conversational aspect of his prayer life. He could not directly address his enemies but he could talk to the Lord about them and expose his hearts before the Lord. David was God’s appointed king; God’s glory was with David this was in question by his critics and his enemy. They were “rubbishing” his person and ultimately attacking his authority, which was God Himself! David had every right to question what they were doing, not because he himself was worthy of honour but because he was God’s appointed man. Saul was a bad king and he often harmed David but David would have no harm done to Saul because he knew that he was God’s man at that moment Saul was answerable to God for his own wrongdoing. Until God removed Saul, David was to obey him as king. Sadly that was not the attitude of David’s enemies; they were happy to attack God’s man. All David had left was his relationship with God, which superseded even the difficulties brought about by his human enemies.
Finally we see David’s concern for the spiritual state of the enemy. They loved delusions and sought after false gods. They knew all about the truth and decided against it, they also knew all about God and refused to follow Him. David loved his enemy and wanted only the best for them and so he prayed “how long before you come to the truth and your senses?”

Lesson:
We as Christians are in the family of God, we also can come boldly requesting that His name might be glorified even in those who would despitefully use us.


The Selah that follows is probably a musical term, which means pause for a while and ponder before continuing. In other words “stop and wonder at what God has done for His people!”


A promise in the heart.

David recognised his relationship with God in our second stanza; he had been set apart for service to God and His people! Being “set apart” is a reference to the articles used for worship in the tabernacle. All of the bowls etc that were to be used had to be made of pure metal and before use they were to be made ceremonially clean. David is using the same terminology here when referring to the Godly. We can move on from here to the New Testament we find that all who are saved by Jesus’ death are set apart or are made holy for God’s service!
Our relationship with God is not one-sided, we do not speak to a god who cannot hear or speak. David tells us that our God in heaven who is righteous hears the prayers of His friends even in our ramblings as we lie on our beds after a difficult day. David then reminds himself and warns us that our thoughts at bedtime can be very dangerous! You know what it is like when you go to bed; if the day has been stressful we will ponder all of the difficulties of the day plotting and planning as to what might happen tomorrow and how we might do harm to those who hurt us! Whilst we are waiting for sleep to happen we can indulge in the most awful sins. If this Psalm were written at the time when Absalom was seeking David’s life then it would have been very easy for David to wage a hate campaign against Absalom! David recognised this as wrong.
It is important to note that David does not say do not be angry or that anger is sin. It was right for him to be angry and as Christians at times we ought to be angry. We should be angry about injustice and all wrongdoing, how much more so for the wrong that is aimed at God or His people, which may include ourselves. God Himself is angry at sin but His is a righteous anger with no hint of wrong or sin involved. We should be angry in the same way. God hates sin but loves sinners and desires that they be restored into fellowship with Him. David in writing this Psalm displays his God-like qualities. He gives some sound advise to both himself and to his readers also. When the temptation to sin comes, “search your own heart and be silent.” It is better to be quiet than to say something, which will cause bitterness and sin.
At this point David instructs the reader to ponder and consider what has been said but then to continue: Selah

Lesson:
As Christians; we are in a personal relationship with God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a living relationship, as His family we can approach Him not only knowing that He listens to us but that He also answers our prayers. As His friends we are to be like Him in all of our ways. Just as at times in His earthly ministry Jesus displayed anger but did not sin. We also must deal with our anger rightly and not sin. Remember that when the Lord interpreted the commands He said that hatred was as bad as murder. David throughout his life displayed a love for his enemy and so must we.

A gift from the heart.

David moves from the heart that sins to the heart that worships. His advice is simply; “keep away from sinful thinking by offering something to God instead.” When sin crouches at the door of your heart look upwards and offer your sacrifice to God! The question that needs to be asked is, “what are the sacrifices that David is talking about.” The answer to that is found in another of the Psalms written by David. In Psalm 51:17 he says that God accepts the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart. These words came from a man who was at the time guilty of gross sinfulness such as adultery and arranging the death of an innocent man in order to cover up his own indisgressions! David is saying “at the time of great temptation” offer the praise of your heart to God. Come before Him broken and asking for forgiveness in order that you might remain in fellowship with Him and ultimately with others. When we come to our difficulties in such a way we can more easily understand other people when they fail. This is exactly what David goes on to say! It is important that God’s people reflect the heart of God because when things go wrong; throughout history people have asked the question that David addresses next. “Who can show us any good?” Are there any good people left in the world? What is the answer? It is simple really, David tells us in his next statement. It might at first seem to be completely unrelated to what has gone before, but consider what he says for a moment. He makes a request of God in response to the people’s need. They need to see good in people, where should they see it? It should be clearly seen in the people of God. Therefore the answer as David recognises, is for God’s people to reflect His glory. David here was probably referring to Moses who after meeting with God one day had to veil his face from the people because he was so affected by the glory of God that his face was radiant. In fact it visibly shone so brightly that it would have frightened normal sinful people to death. David was saying in his prayer that the greatest need for Israel at that moment was for God’s glory to shine upon him in order that they might see God’s goodness to them through him.
Lesson:
We have a people all around us who are confused as to what is right and what is wrong. They are currently asking the question; “is there such a thing as right and wrong and if so what is right and what is wrong?” How will they ever know truth, if truth does not radiate through those who are friends of God. What the church needs the most today is Christians that radiate the glory of God. Not merely by our words but by every facet and nuance of our very being. How do we gain such a persona? By praying as David did in front of his enemies that they too might see goodness through him!


A place in the heart.

It is interesting to note that at the end of the previous stanza there is no Selah. By this David is saying; “with this in mind carry on to consider what is in your heart.” When God shines His light upon His people it always has the same effect:

WORSHIP!

This is what happens to David, he is no longer concerned about the enemy or his personal tendency to sin. He has seen the glory of God; and that is greater than a stomach full of good food or a heart merry with wine or even greater than being a successful farmer or merchant. To have God’s face to shine on you is absolute and total satisfaction, in the light of this everything else pails into insignificance. This is true peace, when we are at peace we can sleep well because God is our security. Thomas Cranmer’s brother asked him on the night before he was martyred if he wanted him to stay overnight. Cranmer refused the offer saying that he intended to have a better nights sleep than he had ever done because God would be with him. Cranmer could only say such a thing because he had experienced a peace beyond all understanding. Jesus said that He had come to bring such a peace into the world. David experienced it, Cranmer experienced it, are you experiencing it? You cannot gain it by what you do but by what has been done on your behalf.



Psalm 4

Answer me when I call, O God my help!
When I in trouble was, you aided me.
Be gracious to me; Lord, hear now my prayer.
Be gracious to me; Lord, hear now my prayer.

How long, you people; will you insult me?
How long will you love lies and vanity?
Know that God chose the ones who godly are;
He hears me when I call unto His name.

Tremble with fear lest you fall into sin;
Lie quietly in bed, and think on this:
Offer right sacrifice and trust in God.
Offer right sacrifice and trust in God.

Many pray, “We wish we could see some good.
Lift up your countenance upon us, Lord!”
But I’ve more joy than those with harvests great.
I sleep in peace, for You, Lord, keep me safe.

To the tune: Abide with me.
Meter: 10:10:10:10

Monday, 2 October 2006

Did God really flood the earth?

OBSEC
1st October 2006
Evening Praise
P.A.Thatcher
Strange stories part4

Did God really flood the earth?


Genesis 6:1-7:7

The fact that the flood took place is taken for granted by Moses (the writer of Genesis). Isaiah also speaks of it in chapter 54:9, as does the New Testament. See Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5 & 3:6. Jesus’ words are also recorded in Matthew’s gospel 24:37-39 & Luke 17:26-29. As far as scripture is concerned the flood happened without a doubt. But we live in the 21st century where we are encouraged to question everything. The bible is not beyond our scrutiny and many have chosen to believe that it is merely a book of myths and ideals. We have great science and scientists who readily speak contrary to the bible. So can we believe that God really flooded the whole earth?
We also have historical and other accounts handed down over the generations, many of which speak of a time of catastrophic flooding upon the land. We need to remember that the time we are looking at is very early in the history of mankind. If we count back to Adam we are in the region of 1650 years from creation. Therefore when God’s word speaks of the wickedness of man on the earth; had mankind spread from Eden across the whole globe or was he still in a more confined area of the planet. This being the case the question might be; does the record mean that the whole globe or just the part that was occupied by human life was flooded? This argument has been raging now for decades and I believe is somewhat of a red herring that fuels the fire of the sceptics! We can say that there is much traditional and archaeological evidence that points to the flood being widespread but there is a more important point to make than to prove the extent of the flood. It is clear from scripture that the flood involved all of humanity, with only 8 people being saved from its devastating effect.
This causes man to ask the question; “how can a God of love allow such a thing to happen?” The flood of Noah’s day will help us to understand why it happened and why God acted in such a way. We will also discover if God will do such a thing again. Another question that is often asked is “where is God in all of this?” The answer to that question is plain to see; He is in the very midst of it all. What we can observe from this account is something of how God feels when such an act of His judgement is taking place.
To help us learn from this event we will look at:

1. The state of mankind.
2. The heart of Noah.
3. The justice of God.
4. The salvation of God.

The state of mankind:

Genesis 6:1-6 tells us some things that are difficult to understand. It speaks of the sons of God marrying the daughters of men. There have been many varying suggestions as to what this might mean. Many are fanciful (you can read of them in some of the commentaries) but I suppose that the interpretation that I am most comfortable with is: the sons of men being those of professing faith over previous generations inter-marrying with those who are anti-faith producing a confused and perverse people such as described in our reading, these in turn were considered to be the heroes of their day. These things are recorded not for us to worry about as much as to inform us that something was desperately wrong with mankind by the time that Noah lived. It is this that God saw and would do something about.
God sees everything; there is nothing that escapes His gaze! The people were desperately wicked, so much so that verse 12 suggests to us that the whole of creation was corrupted by the wickedness of man.
We observed last we week in the account of Cain killing Abel how quickly that man had become “totally depraved” in just one generation! We are reminded again; God has revealed that man is sinful to the core. We think that the world is a bad place to be at times but it is no worse than in those early days. A question that we might have is “can it be as bad today?” Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that in the last days before His return it will be just as it was in the days of Noah so I guess that the days before the flood were days just like we live in today. People are just as ungodly and are doing the same things but God has promised not to act as He did then. He will never flood the earth again! He has another plan of which we will learn of as we consider the rest of the account.

The heart of Noah:

Genesis 6:8-9
All was not lost we know that Noah was a good man; Moses tells us that he was righteous. For those who concern themselves with numbers; Methuselah probably died the year of the flood. So there were those who; against all of the odds remained faithful, but they were in the minority! They stood for truth against the tide of public opinion.
It is the heart of Noah that is important; he was righteous and so was worthy of God’s salvation. I am glad that God is omniscient (He is all-knowing) and omnipresent (everywhere & seeing everything). He does not make rash judgements based on partial facts but upon the reality of the situation. He judged Noah to be righteous and so therefore saved him from the judgement to come. There is more recorded in the New Testament regarding Noah. Peter tells us that he was a preacher of righteousness (2Peter 2:5) and Hebrews 11:5 tells us that Noah was a man of faith who condemned the world through the building of the ark.
Noah clearly had a heart for God therefore he was treated differently at the time of judgement. We learn a vital principle here; God does not treat those who love Him in the same way as He does those who disregard Him because He is also omnipotent (all-powerful) which means He is powerful to judge rightly. He is all-powerful to save the righteous and equally all-powerful to condemn the wicked!

The justice of God:

Genesis 6:5 & 13
Because God is omniscient He not only sees and discerns the good heart of Noah but He is also concerned about the hearts of all people. He therefore observes and monitors the lives of everybody. He sees it exactly as it is and so because He is fully good He makes an assessment and judgement upon all of mankind just as each individual deserves. What God saw at that time had a profound affect upon Him. The above verses tell us that His heart was grieved and full of pain. For those who criticize God and His judgements they need to read such a passage that reveals not what man thinks what God is like but displays the pain and sorrow of the Divine Heart of God. Because God is good in every way He judges the situation rightly. One of the greatest criticisms in modern Britain is that there is poor justice in our law courts. The penalty in many peoples thinking does not fit the crime. Most believe that for some crimes judgement is too harsh and for others far too lenient. It is difficult for man to make a right judgement. But for God there is only one judgement: Salvation for the righteous & punishment for the wicked! The extent of punishment for the wicked is always up to the judge. God being the Righteous Judge makes His judgement not only fair but it is always right and just!
Just as Noah had a choice to live righteously so did the whole of the population but they chose an ungodly life and they paid God’s penalty. It is exactly the same for us today. The choice is ours, “as for me I will serve the Lord,” what will you do?

The salvation of God:

Sometimes God’s plans are a mystery to us. They might even seem somewhat bizarre or even irrelevant at the time. I am sure that Noah would have wondered what was in God’s mind as he was told to make a massive boat. It was going to rain; some experts tell us that rain and flood was not known before. I am not sure about that but Noah made the ark because he trusted completely in God’s word. For the many years that it took (because he did it alone) to make the ark Noah was doing two other things.
Firstly he was preaching righteousness as Peter tells us in the New Testament. We can imagine the passion that he would plead with the people. They were in a precarious situation, Noah knew of God’s plan which meant certain death for all outside of the ark. Noah’s extended family, his friends and his neighbours were all under judgement and all they could do was to mock “funny old Noah” and his ridiculous boat!
Secondly Noah was displaying God’s judgement by the building of the ark. There was ultimately only safety available for those on the inside. It would be no good to those who would appreciate the craftsmanship of the ark or its design. They had to enter into the ark in order to be saved from God’s final judgement.
But the people rejected God’s offer of salvation through Noah’s preaching and witness of obedience. We can imagine the kinds of comments; “we would rather take our chances with our friends than associate with Noah and his God.” The people were living life to the full just as they wanted. Jesus tells us in Luke 17:26-27 that they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. In other words they were blindly getting on with life in the face of God’s judgement upon them and they did not care. UNTIL the flood came and then Noah and his family had to hear their cries for help and rescue but they were in the floodwaters and lost forever.
Man has never changed; he is still the same today. He is under the judging eye of God who again has supplied an Ark of Salvation. This Ark to them is equally unbelievable and even funny in their estimation because it is the cross of Jesus. All who will believe in Him will be saved but all outside of faith will perish! As in the days of Noah people are blindly getting on with life ignoring such a great salvation and walking into God’s judgement because they do not care for His gracious offer of escape!
As we have learned from this passage God is grieved by man’s sinfulness, He is not quick to judge but He offers a way of escape but ultimately there will be a judgement made. He will save those who trust in Him and will punish everybody else. (Noah took that seriously and preached righteousness and pleaded with the people. Christians are we doing as Noah did????) The bible tells us that “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” He is pleased in the death of His people because at last they are with Him eternally. The opposite is not true of God that He is pleased with the death of the wicked! We learn from this passage that the heart of God grieves and is in pain over the rejection of the wicked. The New Testament tells us that he does not desire that any should perish but that they should be saved. This is why He is patient and will not judge the world with a flood as before. Ultimately He will judge all of mankind not with a happy face but with a broken heart. Every person who dies with their sins unforgiven breaks the heart of God. Will He be pleased with you or broken hearted at having to reject you from His presence?

Sunday, 1 October 2006

Psalm 3: God's protection

OBSEC
1st October 2006
Sunday Morning
P.A.Thatcher
Psalm 3: God’s protection.
A Psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom. (See 2 Samuel 15-18)
Stanza 1: Is there any hope?

O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him."
Selah [a]
Stanza 2: A ring of confidence.
But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift [b] up my head. To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.
Selah
Stanza 3: Rest in the Lord.
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.
Stanza 4: A certain victory.
Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.
Selah
Footnotes:
a. Selah: A word of uncertain meaning, occurring frequently in the Psalms; possibly a musical term that means pause and reflect.
b. Or O LORD; my Glorious One, who lifts up my head.
To understand this Psalm it is helpful to understand why it was written. The story goes back to the time when David’s guard was down and he saw Bathsheba bathing naked. He was filled with lust and as a result committed adultery with her. The prophet Nathan exposed his adultery and pronounced God’s judgement that he would experience problems from within his own family. It was one of those problems that inspired David to write this Psalm. It was written whilst under great stress and difficulty. Read the account in 2 Samuel 15-18 and you will see that Absalom who was David’s son instigated a military coup. David had to go on the run fleeing for his life, whilst in hiding he cried out to God. It was during this time that the Psalm was written.

Psalm 3, which is closely related to Psalm 4, is the first of the Psalms to be credited to David. It is often referred to as the morning Psalm due to the words of the third stanza where David speaks of having slept and been kept overnight by God’s safe keeping. Psalm 4 is known as the evening Psalm.
So as David begins a new day:
Is there any hope?
Apparently long ago a submarine had sunk to the bottom of the sea, trapping the sailors inside. A rescue team came to the vessel and heard a tapping from within. The Morse code message simply said, “is there any hope?” This is something of David’s problem but there is a hint within his words that he had not given up.
The first thing that we can observe is the way that David addresses the Lord. As we have said before; our English versions are not always helpful the verse structure often hinders the free flow of the text. Another problem is that the words translated often lose the powerful meaning that was first intended. This is the case in this first stanza. David when addressing God uses the personal and holy name of God, the same name as was revealed to Moses at the burning bush; “I am who I am” or Yahweh in Hebrew. Whenever Yahweh is used in our English translations the translators use the word LORD but to differentiate between the common use of Lord bestowed upon kings and those in authority the word is always capitalised. Therefore David is saying at the beginning of the Psalm; O Yahweh; or O my God. He is speaking in relationship and trust in God. The thrust of what he is saying is; “O my God is there any hope?”
The second thing to observe is the way David’s enemies speak of God. They are using the impersonal name and merely give lip service to God. They are in effect speaking out of turn and making claims that are false even if at that moment they seem to be substantiated. They are speaking from a position of apparent power but are without God’s authority. We have seen similar claims throughout history. It seems that every nation even to the present day claims God to be on their side. The temptation is to believe that to be the case with those who are more powerful or even have won the battle. Bob Dylan wrote his song “With God on our side” as a parody of such thinking where all people and nations claim God to be with them. There was nothing further from the truth for Absalom and his “mighty” army. They believed contrary to God’s declared word that David was a spent force! God had promised that His purposes would be fulfilled through David and his son Solomon; not Absalom!
David was going through great difficulties brought on by his own personal sin but even so God was on His side. David even though discouraged and hurting because it was his own family that was attacking him knew that God was on his side because he knew God personally.
Do you have the same confidence?




David had:
A ring of confidence.
People say that history often has a habit of repeating itself; this week we have seen that to be true again. The supposed great adverts and the products that they heralded in the 1970’s have returned. I don’t suppose the Colgate toothpaste advert of that era will be re-incarnated but it is helpful to us today. Remember the ring of confidence that came around those who cleaned their teeth with Colgate! You were acceptable to all because your breath smells good and your teeth are white. David’s ring of confidence was of a much higher order. His confidence he declared was in Yahweh. Yahweh surrounds him and even though he is “banged up” hiding in a cave God’s glory is upon him. Even though the circumstances that he finds himself in are due to his earlier adultery God had not forsaken him nor had He removed His glory from David. There is much to learn here for us as Christians today. It is easy to believe that God is only blessing us when everything is going well according to our estimation. To David although everything seemed to be desperate; in God’s economy everything was under control, it was in order and going according to God’s will and purpose.
Not only was David confident of God’s protection in difficult days he was also sure that God hears and answers prayer. There had been no miraculous change overnight, the situation was just as it was before but David was confident.
What difficulties are you struggling with? Be encouraged by David’s story. When Nathan revealed his sin to him, David came to God in repentance (see Psalm 51) and even though sin does have an effect God never leaves or forsakes those whom He loves. Just come to Him as David did and then as with David your confidence in Yahweh will be restored and strengthened. You will know that even though circumstance are difficult God is with you and that He is pleased from His holy hill in heaven to answer you in the way that He knows is best!
When you know that you will be able to:
Rest in the Lord:
It doesn’t matter how tired you are, when in great danger it is almost impossible to sleep. When you lie down and close your eyes it seems to trigger imaginations that frighten us to death. David was afraid for his life but yet he was able to say that he could lie down and sleep. That is a confident man as we have already discovered. He is blessed because not only is he confident in Yahweh and believes that Yahweh hears and answers prayer but also because Yahweh is sustaining him. What David needed most then was to rest his body for the battle of the next day. David recognised that his good nights sleep was a gift from Yahweh. He was learning the principle that God will not allow anyone to be tested beyond what they can bear. The fears of the night before are in the past and David awakes with an even greater confidence that he is on the victory side. Even though the enemy seems vast David was not afraid; he had God on his side!
This is the great heritage of the believer; even though all seem to be against us we need not fear. One of the most distressing books to read is Foxes Book of the Martyrs. At first it seems glorious sad but by the time you get half way through it becomes monotonous in that the accounts all seem to follow the same formula. The victims are arrested, tried, found guilty and sentenced to death for blasphemy unless they recant of knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour. They are then executed as heretics usually by burning them at the stake! The one thing that Fox always brings out is that each martyr died knowing; (even though the enemy was great) that they were on the victory side.
Are you resting in the Lord? We have said before that Wesley’s Methodists were commended because they died well; but a mark of the believer is that he can sleep well. I do not mean that he will not have sleeping problems but that his sleep will not be ruined because of fear that God might not be on his side! We sleep well because we know that one day there will be:
A certain victory.
The mark of a great commander is that he can inspire his troops when needed. Remember Winston Churchill’s great stirring speeches during the Second World War and how they raised the spirits of the British nation not to give up in what at times seemed to be certain defeat! What David did in verse 7 seems to be almost blasphemous. He called on God to arise and fight the battle. We have been warned much in the past as to what is the acceptable way to approach God remembering His character. We must not approach Him just as we wish, but David came boldly to Him demanding that God fights on His behalf. The reason for this is that David knew with absolute certainty that what he was asking was within God’s purposes. Absalom was claiming that he was God’s appointed man BUT he was wrong! God had set David apart and Absalom was not a part of David’s plan for Israel! God will not allow another to usurp His authority; He will always glorify His name. Therefore David’s prayer was simply “Deliver me, O my God because it is only you Yahweh who can deliver and You will do so in order to bless Your people! David understood what the writer of the letter to the Hebrews would later teach in Hebrews chapter 4:16 “let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive grace to help us in our time of need.” David was certainly in a time of great need and so he approached the throne of grace confidently knowing that what he asked was God’s purpose for both Himself and Israel.
As Christians we must always treat the things of God with utmost respect but God has given great and mighty promises in His word. We often do not take them as the absolutes that they are and so we pray timidly. It is a wonder that God can ever interpret what we are asking of Him. That certainly was not the case with David! He wanted the enemy destroyed and God’s name to be glorified. There are many around us today attacking Yahweh and His authority, it is offensive to Him and so it should be to us. Are we as bold as David was? Dare we ask that the enemy of our God be defeated knowing in confidence that God will be pleased to answer that prayer?
So what do we learn from this Psalm? We can be like David who whilst in distress was confident in Yahweh resting in the belief of certain victory. We have reason to be even more confident, we can rest assured that the enemy of our souls has been defeated through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ and so we know that we are on the victory side as are all who trust in Him. He has commanded that we destroy the works of the evil one in the power of God that rescues people from Satan’s stranglehold. Our weapon of war is the gospel, we have it in our hand we must boldly use it for the glory of God.