Monthly Archives: January 2016
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One of Satan’s most insidious lies is that the Christian life is void of pleasure, whereas pursuing sin brings real satisfaction. For example, the cynical H. L. Mencken said, “Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy” (cited by Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints [Academie/Zondervan], p. 1). An- other cynic said that Puritanism “damages the human soul, renders it hard and gloomy, deprives it of sunshine and happiness” (Lang- don Mitchell, ibid.).
Leland Ryken, who cites these quotes, goes on to show how false they are. For example, Puritan Thomas Gataker “wrote that it is the purpose of Satan to persuade us that ‘in the kingdom of God there is nothing but sighing and groaning and fasting and prayer,’ whereas the truth is that ‘in his house there is marrying and giving in marriage, … feasting and rejoicing’” (ibid., p. 2). “William Tyn- dale described the Christian gospel as ‘good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, and dance, and leap for joy’” (ibid., pp. 2-3).
But we don’t need the citations of the Puritans to refute Sa- tan’s lies. The Bible itself repeatedly proclaims the soul-satisfying joy of knowing God. As we saw, David exults (Ps. 16:11), “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” The list could go on for pages, but here are a few more:
Psalm 34:8: “O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
Psalm 36:7-8: “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.”
Psalm 63:3-5: “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.”
Those verses do not sound like a deprived soul who was en- during a life devoid of pleasure! Over and over the Psalms tell us how blessed we are if we follow the Lord. And Psalm 84 is another example. It begins by exclaiming, “How lovely are Your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts!” Then, three times the psalmist exclaims, “How blessed!” In verse 4, “How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You.” Verse 5: “How blessed is the man whose strength is in You….” And, verse 12, “O Lord of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!” These repeated exclamations teach us that…
The pleasures that God gives to satisfy our souls should fuel our desire to be in His presence.
In other words, God motivates us to seek Him with the pleas- ures and satisfaction of being in His presence. And those pleasures are not all delayed until we arrive in heaven. They begin now. As Jesus proclaimed with reference to His sheep (John 10:10b), “I came that they may have life; and have it more abundantly.”
We can’t be sure about the author of Psalm 84 or the histori- cal circumstances in which he wrote it. Some respected commen- tators (Calvin & Spurgeon) think that David wrote it. I do not agree. The picture of the swallows building their nests in God’s house would point toward Solomon’s temple rather than the taber- nacle. Swallows build their nests under the eaves of permanent buildings, but not on tents. So it was written after David’s time.
Also, although some (e.g., James Boice) disagree, most think that the psalmist was not able to be at the temple, although he wanted to be there. Derek Kidner (Psalms 73-150 [IVP], p. 302) writes, “Longing is written all over this psalm. This eager and homesick man is one of the Korahite temple singers, and the mood of the psalm is not unlike that of Psalms 42 and 43, which are a product of the same group.”
J. J. S. Perowne The Book of Psalms [Zondervan], 2:115) sug- gests that the parallels between those psalms and this one point to the same author. For example, in 84:2, the psalmist says, “My soul longed for and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy [or, cry out] to the living God.” In 42:1, 2 we read a similar cry, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so
my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” Psalms 84:2 and 42:2 are the only times in the Psalms that God is referred to as “the living God.” In 84:4, the psalmist says of those who dwell in God’s house, “they are ever praising You.” In 42:5 he cries, “for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” In 84:7, he mentions concerning these pilgrims, “Every one of them appears before God in Zion.” In 42:2 he asks, “when shall I come and appear before God?” In 84:1, he mentions God’s dwelling places. In 43:3, he asks God to send out His light and truth so that they will lead him “to Your dwelling places.”
There are a few differences between Psalms 42-43 and Psalm 84. In the earlier psalms, the psalmist was being taunted by his enemies, whereas in Psalm 84 there is no mention of this. In the earlier psalms, the author was battling depression, whereas here his mood seems to have changed to joy. But in both the earlier psalms and in Psalm 84, the author strongly wants to be at God’s temple, and more, to be in the presence of the living God Himself.
Let’s look at the three blessings, which show us the pleasures that God uses to fuel our desire to be in His presence:
1. The pleasure of being in God’s house should fuel our de- sire to be in His presence (84:1-4).
The plural, “dwelling places,” may refer to the various parts of the temple where God manifested Himself, or it may just be a po- etic form (the plural is also in Ps. 43:3 & 46:4). “How lovely” is an expression of love poetry (Kidner, p. 303), expressing the attrac- tiveness of God’s house. “O Lord of hosts” (see also 84:3, 8, 12) designates God as the Sovereign over all the spiritual forces in the universe, who can easily defend His people.
Verse 2 indicates that the psalmist longs to be at the temple, but is not able to be there. In the context, the verb translated “sing for joy” might better be rendered, “cry out” (Kidner, ibid.). The psalmist’s total being (soul, heart, and flesh) are crying out to the living God that he might join the worshipers at the temple.
In verse 3, he recalls being in the temple and seeing the swal- lows flitting around the courtyard. They made their nests high on the temple buildings. The psalmist now envies these little birds,
because they are at the temple, but he is not. Although they were insignificant creatures who could not rationally worship God, they had found the right place for their nests, there in the temple. Spur- geon preached an entire sermon on verse 3 (“The Sparrow and the Swallow ,” Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 53:253-264), developing the idea that just as these little birds found homes for themselves and nests for their young, so Christians find the same in Christ and His church.
After again addressing God as the Lord of hosts (84:3), the psalmist reflects his personal relationship with this Sovereign, “my King and my God.” Although God is the awesome power who commands all the powerful angels of heaven, He is also our per- sonal King and God through Jesus Christ. Then the psalmist ex- claims, “How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You.” Perowne (p. 119, italics his) comments, “The blessedness of God’s house is that there men praise Him. This it was that made that house so precious to the Psalmist. And what Christian man can climb higher than this—to find in the praise of God the greatest joy of his life?”
The Bible reveals that we may enjoy God’s presence individu- ally or corporately, in any location. It may be in a church building or it may be at a beautiful outdoor scene. We may be alone or we may be with a stadium full of believers. As New Testament believ- ers, we need to be clear that there are no longer any sacred build- ings. God doesn’t dwell in cathedrals, but rather in His people, who are now His temple, both individually and corporately (1 Cor. 3:16- 17; 6:19; Eph. 2:21-22). But the psalmist’s point here is that he longed to gather corporately with God’s people so that he could praise God with them and experience God’s presence together.
Do you share his longing? Do you look forward to gathering with the saints in worship, with the desire to be in God’s presence? I think that we tend to be too laid back about gathering with the church. Do you come really looking for God to show up? We should come eagerly with the prayer that we might encounter the living God in the midst of His people, His temple!
2. The pleasure of experiencing God’s strength in our weak- ness should fuel our desire to overcome hindrances to get to God’s house (84:5-9).
Instead of putting his “how blessed” at the end of the section (as in 84:4, 12), the psalmist leads with it (84:5-7): “How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion! Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before God in Zion.” These verses make the point that…
A. God gives us His strength in our weakness so that we can overcome hindrances to worship Him in His house.
The psalmist pictures a band of pilgrims making their way to- wards the temple through difficult terrain. The last phrase of verse 5 is difficult (literally, “in whose heart are the ways”), but in the context it seems to mean that these pilgrims have such a desire to be at God’s temple that they make the rough desert paths into highways (see Isa. 35:8). They pass through the valley of Baca, which probably means, “tears.” It is symbolic for a place of afflic- tion or difficulty. But their anticipated joy at being at the temple turns this desert valley into a place of springs. God sends rain to provide for them as they travel. As a result, they go from strength to strength (God’s strength, not their own), arriving safely to ap- pear before God in Zion. Meeting with God in the company of His people is the joyous goal.
Regarding the blessing of having God as our strength, John Calvin observes (Calvin s Commentaries [Baker], p. 358), “To lean with the whole heart upon God, is to attain to no ordinary degree of advancement: and this cannot be attained by any man, unless all his pride is laid prostrate in the dust, and his heart is truly hum- bled.” In other words, we won’t know God’s strength until we see our own weakness. As long as we proudly think that we can live the Christian life in our own power, we will not know God’s power.
Calvin (pp. 359-362) goes on to apply these verses as a rebuke to those who are too lazy to inconvenience themselves to go to church. In his day, people either had to walk or ride a horse to get to church, often in stormy weather. He might be a bit more force- ful in rebuking those today who can drive to church in comfortable cars! I was touched when I was in Nepal and Barney asked the men how long it had taken them to come to the meetings. Some of them had walked for hours and then ridden on their crowded bus-
ses for more hours to get there! They sat on the hard floor for hours to listen to the teaching of God’s Word. And yet we often skip church because we don’t want to be inconvenienced to get out of bed and drive across town to sit in our comfortable chairs!
Verses 8 & 9 seem to be a parenthesis in the flow of the psalm: “O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Behold our shield, O God, and look upon the face of Your anointed.” But they may fit into the context by showing that…
B. Prayer is the means of laying hold of God’s strength in our weakness.
There seems to be some sort of national crisis behind this psalm (Willem VanGemeren, Expositor s Bible Commentary, ed. by Frank Gaebelein [Zondervan], 5:545). Some think that the psalmist was the king, praying here for himself. But he just as well could have been a member of the Korahites, unable to get to the temple because of some national crisis. Perhaps a foreign army was threat- ening the land, so he couldn’t travel. So he cries out to the Lord God of hosts, the God of Jacob, to behold their shield and to look upon the face of His anointed. The shield and the anointed both refer to the king (see Ps. 89:18). The psalmist and his fellow pilgrims needed the king’s protection in order to make their journey to the temple in Jerusalem.
Jesus Christ is God’s supreme Anointed One (Christ means anointed one). He is our Shield and King, through whom we have access to the God of Jacob. Jacob was a weak, undeserving man who wrestled with God and prevailed. Thus the God of Jacob is the God of weak and undeserving people who put their trust in Him. His house (now, His people) should be a house of prayer (Matt. 21:13), where we appropriate His strength for our weakness.
Thus the pleasure of being in God’s house should fuel our de- sire to be in His presence. The pleasure of experiencing His strength in our weakness should fuel our desire to overcome hin- drances to get to God’s house for worship and prayer.
3. The pleasure of enjoying God Himself and His abundant goodness should fuel our desire to be in His house (84:10- 12).
The psalmist makes three points in these wonderful verses: 6
A. The pleasure of being even at the doorstep of God’s house is far better than all the pleasures of sin.
“For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (84:10). As Spurgeon puts it (The Treasury of David [Baker], 4:66-67), “The lowest station in connec- tion with the Lord’s house is better than the highest position among the godless…. God’s worst is better than the devil’s best.” H. C. Leupold (Exposition of Psalms [Baker], p. 608) astutely ob- serves: “It may seem to be a strong statement to describe those who are disinclined to worship the Lord as being guilty of wicked- ness. But that is where the root of all wickedness lies, shunning fellowship with God.”
In a day when Christians frequently skip church to pursue rec- reation, I wonder how many could honestly say that one day of gath- ering with God’s people to worship Him is better than a thousand days of other pursuits? Was the psalmist using hyperbole? Maybe, but don’t shrug off his point: His pleasure in enjoying God in the company of God’s people was greater than anything that the world has to offer. If we can’t join him in these feelings, maybe we need to re-examine our values!
B. ThepleasureofenjoyingGodHimselfandHisabundant goodness is incomparable.
“For the Lord God is a sun and a shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (84:11). There are probably several sermons in this one rich verse (Spurgeon has three!). I can only touch on it:
This is the only time in the Bible that God is directly referred to as the sun (but see Mal. 4:2; Luke 1:78-79). In Psalm 84, the metaphor is in the context of travelers. There were no lighted streets or cars with headlights. When you were traveling in the wil- derness and it got dark, you had to stop. It got cold when the sun went down. Wolves howled in the darkness. So the travelers hud- dled together and waited for the dawn. The rising sun meant that you could see your way again. It brought warmth and cheer. It
brought a new day that would take you closer to God’s lovely dwelling place, the temple.
The sun sustains all life on earth. It is a never-ending source of energy. It cheers our sagging spirits when it breaks through the clouds after a storm. Even so the Lord God is a sun to us.
The sun gives light and nourishes life, but the shield gives protection from enemies. Without the shield, we would be vulner- able to all sorts of dangers in our pilgrimage to heaven. The sun and the shield balance each other. With the sun only, a band of pilgrims would be more conspicuous to their enemies. So God also is a shield for them, keeping them safe to their journey’s end.
Grace humbles us because God only gives grace to the unde- serving. If you earn it or deserve it, it is not grace, but a wage that is due (Rom. 4:4-5). Salvation is entirely due to God’s gracious choice, apart from any foreseen faith or works, which would nullify grace (Rom. 11:6). We receive God’s grace at salvation, but we also need His grace daily in order to walk with Him. God’s abundant grace in Christ motivates us to serve Him (1 Cor. 15:10).
This may refer to the future glory of heaven, but here it probably means (as Calvin explains it, p. 364-365), “that after God has once taken the faithful into his favor, he will advance them to high honor, and never cease to enrich them with his blessings.”
Maybe you’re thinking, “No good thing? How about a million dollars, Lord?” But that may not be a good thing for you! “How about good health?” That may not be a good thing, either! We have to interpret this promise in light of the many trials that the Bible shows God’s saints enduring (Heb. 11:35b-39). This is where faith must operate. Although we may not understand God’s purpose for our trials, “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). In that sense, He does not withhold any good thing from us. But, there is a condition in our text:
C. The requirement for enjoying God and His abundant blessings is to walk uprightly and to trust in Him.
The promise of God’s not withholding any good thing is for those who walk uprightly (84:11). His blessing is on those who trust in Him (84:12). To walk uprightly is to live before God with integrity. It does not imply perfection, but it does mean that you walk openly before God, confessing your sin. You trust in His grace and strength to overcome sin. You seek to please God by obeying His commandments. To such people, the Lord will not withhold any good thing. They will join the psalmist (84:12) in ex- claiming, “How blessed is the man who trusts in You!”
In 1714, Matthew Henry, the well-known pastor and Bible commentator, was on his deathbed at age 52. He was relatively young and had not finished his commentary (others finished it from his notes). He had endured the loss of his first wife and of three of his nine children. He could have complained about his hard life. But he said to a friend, “You have been used to take no- tice of the sayings of dying men. This is mine—that a life spent in the service of God, and communion with Him, is the most com- fortable and pleasant life that one can live in the present world” (Matthew Henry s Commentary on the Whole Bible [Revell], p. 1:xiv).
Don’t believe Satan’s lie that following God is a drag. Fol- lowing the Lord is the most blessed life possible. The many pleas- ures that the Lord gives to satisfy your soul should fuel your desire to be in His presence, both individually and when His people gather to worship Him.
- Many professing Christians say that they do not need the church. Is this a dangerous view? Why/why not?
- Since in the NT, believers (not buildings) are God’s temple, is it wrong to design church buildings to enhance worship?
- SupposethataChristianadmitsthathefindsmorepleasurein recreational pursuits than in church. How should he fix this?
- Ifsomeonechallengedyouthatverse11b(“nogoodthing”)is not true, how would you defend it?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2009, All Rights Reserved.
Section 1. “The author of the psalm.” This is another psalm purporting to have been written by David, and there is nothing in it that lead‘s us to think otherwise.
Section 2. “The title to the psalm.” The psalm is addressed To the chief Musician upon Gittith. In regard to the meanin of the phrase “chief Musician,” see the notes at the introduction to Psalm 4:1-8. The word Gittith – גתית gittı̂yth – occurs but in two other places, also in the titles to the psalms, Psalm 81:1; Psalm 84:1. It is supposed to refer to a musical instrument so called, either as being common among the Gittites (from גתי gittı̂y ), Gittites, or an inhabitant of Gath. See 2 Samuel 6:10-11; 2 Samuel 15:18), among whom David for some time resided; or as being derived from גת gath – a wine-press, as denoting an instrument that was used by those accustomed to tread the wine-vat, and intended to accompany the songs of the vintage. The former is the more probable derivation, as it is known that David dwelt for some time among that people, and it is not at all improbable that an instrument of music in use among them should have become common among the Hebrews. Nothing is known, however, as to whether it was a stringed instrument or a wind instrument. Compare, however, Ugolin, Thes. Sac. Ant. xxxii. 487. All that can be ascertained, with any degree of probability about this instrument, is, that as each of the psalms to which this title is prefixed is of a cheerful or joyous nature, would seem that this instrument was adapted to music of this kind, rather than to that which was pensive or serious. This idea also would agree well with the supposition that it denotes an instrument that was employed by those connected with the vintage. Compare Isaiah 16:10.
Section 3. “Occasion on which the psalm was composed.” Of this nothing is specified in the psalm itself, and it is impossible now to ascertain it. Aben Ezra, and some others, have supposed that it was written when David brought up the ark to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite, as mentioned in 1 Chronicles 13:12-14. But there is nothing in the psalm adapted to such an occasion. Rudinger supposes that it was composed in the joy of taking possession of Mount Zion. Others have supposed that it was on occasion of the victory of David over Goliath of Gath; but there is nothing in it adapted to the celebration of such a victory.
If we may judge from the psalm itself, it would seem probable that it was composed by night in the contemplation of the starry heavens – naturally suggesting, in view of the vastness and beauty of the celestial luminaries, the littleness of man. This also filled the mind of the psalmist with wonder that the God who marshals all these hosts should condescend to regard the condition and wants of a being so feeble and frail as man, and should have exalted him as he has done over his works. That it was composed or suggested in the night seems probable, from Psalm 8:3, where the psalmist represents himself as surveying or “considering” the “heavens, the work” of the divine “fingers,” and as making the “moon and the stars” the subject of his contemplation, but not mentioning the sun. In such contemplations, when looking on the vastness and grandeur, the beauty and order, of the heavenly hosts, it was not unnatural for the writer to think of his own comparative littleness, and then the comparative littleness of man everywhere. No time is more favorable for suggesting such thoughts than the still night, when the stars are shining clearly in the heavens, and when the moon is moving on in the silent majesty of its course. It would seem also, from Psalm 8:2, to be probable that the immediate occasion of this expression of admiration of the name and character of God was some act of condescension on his part in which he had bestowed signal favor on the writer – as if he had ordained strength out of the mouth of babes and sucklings – from even the most feeble and helpless. Perhaps it was in view of some favor bestowed on David himself; and his soul is overwhelmed with a sense of the condescension of God in noticing one so weak and feeble and helpless as he was. From the contemplation of this, the thought is naturally turned to the honor which God had everywhere bestowed upon man.
The psalm, though one part of it is applied by the apostle Paul to Christ Hebrews 2:6-7, does not appear originally to have had any designed reference to the Messiah, though the apostle shows that its language had a complete fulfillment in him, and in him alone. See the notes at that passage. The psalm is complete in itself, as applicable to man as he was originally created, and according to the purposes of his creation; though it is true that the original design will be carried out and completed only in the dominion which will be granted to the Messiah, who, as a man, has illustrated in the highest manner the original purpose of the creation of the race, and in whom alone the original design will be fully carried out.
Section 4. “Contents of the psalm.” The psalm embraces the following points:
I. An admiring recognition of the excellence of the name of God (that is, of God himself); of that excellence as manifested in all the earth, Psalm 8:1. The excellency referred to, as the subsequent part of the psalm shows, is in his great condescension, and in his conferring such honor on man – a being so feeble as compared with himself, and so unworthy as compared with the glory of the heavens.
II. The immediate occasion of this reflection, or the cause which suggested it, Psalm 8:2. This seems to have been some remarkable manifestation to one who was feeble and helpless, as if God had ordained strength out of the mouth of babes and sucklings. It is not improbable, as remarked above, that in this the psalmist refers to himself as having been, though conscious of weakness and helplessness, the means of overcoming the enemies of God, as if God had ordained strength through him, or had endowed him with strength not his own.
III. The psalmist is led into admiration of the condescension of God in bestowing such dignity and honor on man, Psalm 8:3-8. This admiration is founded on two things:
(1) That the God who had made the heavens, the moon and the stars, should condescend to notice man or creatures so insignificant and unworthy of notice, Psalm 8:3-4.
(2) The actual honor conferred on man, in the rank which God had given him in the dominion over his works here below; and in the wide extent of that dominion over the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the inhabitants of the seas, Psalm 8:5-8.
IV. The psalm concludes with a repetition of the sentiment in the first verse – the reflection on the excellency of the divine name and majesty, Psalm 8:9.
O Lord – Hebrew, יהוה Yahweh It is an address to God by his chosen and special title, Exodus 3:14. Compare the notes at Isaiah 1:2.
Our Lord – The word used here – אדני ‘âdônay – means properly master, lord, ruler, owner, and is such a title as is given to an owner of land or of slaves, to kings, or to rulers, and is applied to God as being the ruler or governor of the universe. The meaning here is, that the psalmist acknowledged Yahweh to be the rightful ruler, king, or master of himself and of all others. He comes before him with the feeling that Yahweh is the universal ruler – the king and proprietor of all things.
How excellent is thy name – How excellent or exalted art thou – the name being often used to denote the person. The idea is,” How glorious art thou in thy manifested excellence or character.”
In all the earth – In all parts of the world. That is, the manifestation of his perfect character was not confined to any one country, but was seen in all lands, and among all people. In every place his true character was made known through His works; in every land there were evidences of his wisdom, his greatness, his goodness, his condescension.
Who hast set thy glory above the heavens – The word used here, and rendered “hast set,” is in the imperative mood – תנה tenâh – give; and it should probably have been so rendered here, “which thy glory give thou;” that is, “which glory of thine, or implied in thy name, give or place above the heavens.” In other words, let it he exalted in the highest degree, and to the highest place, even above the heavens on which he was gazing, and which were in themselves so grand, Psalm 8:3. It expresses the wish or prayer of the writer that the name or praise of God, so manifest in the earth, might be exalted in the highest possible degree – be more elevated than the moon and the stars – exalted and adored in all worlds. In His name there was such intrinsic grandeur that he desired that it might be regarded as the highest object in the universe, and might blaze forth above all worlds. On the grammatical construction of this word – תנה tenâh – see an article by Prof. Stuart, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. ix. pp. 73-77. Prof. Stuart supposes that the word is not formed from נתן nâthan – to give, as is the common explanation, but from תנה tânâh – to give presents, to distribute gifts, Hosea 8:9-10, and that it should be rendered, Thou who diffusest abroad thy glory over the heavens.
Out of the mouth – This passage is quoted by the Saviour in Matthew 21:16, to vindicate the conduct of the children in the temple crying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” against the objections of the Pharisees and Scribes, and is perhaps alluded to by him in Matthew 11:25. It is not affirmed, however, in either place, that it had an original reference to the times of the Messiah, or that it was meant, as used by the psalmist, to denote that children would be employed in the praise of God. The language sufficiently expressed the idea which the Saviour meant to convey; and the princip e or great truth involved in the psalm was applicable to the use which he made of it. The language would, perhaps, most naturally denote that infant children would give utterance to the praises of God, as the word “mouth” is used; but still it is not quite certain that the psalmist meant to convey that idea. It is probable, as we shall see, that he meant to say, God had conferred great honor on men – men so humble and weak that they might be compared to infants – by making them the means of overthrowing his enemies, thus showing the greatness of the divine condescension.
Babes – The word used here – עולל ‛ôlêl – means properly a boy or child, and is usually connected with the word rendered sucklings, Jeremiah 44:7; Lamentations 2:11. It is applied to a boy playing in the streets, Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 9:21; asking for bread, Lamentations 4:4,; carried away captive, Lamentations 1:5; borne in the arms, Lamentations 2:20; and once to an unborn infant, Job 3:16. It refers here to a child, or to one who is like a child; and the idea is that those to whom it is applied were naturally unable to accomplish what was done by them, and that God had honored them, and had shown his own condescension, by making them the instruments of doing what they had done.
And sucklings – The word used here – יונק yôneq – means a suckling, or a suckling child, a babe, Deuteronomy 32:25. It may be used literally, or employed to denote one who, in respect to strength, may be compared with a babe. The latter is probably the use made of it here.
Hast thou ordained strength – The word rendered ordained – יסד yâsad – means to found, to lay the foundation of, as of a building, Ezra 3:12; Isaiah 54:11. Then it means to establish, appoint, ordain, constitute, etc. The meaning here is, that in what is referred to, there was, as it were, some basis or foundation for what is called “strength;” that is, that what is here meant by “strength” rested on that as a foundation – to wit, on what was done by babes and sucklings. The word “strength” is rendered by the Septuagint as “praise” – αἷνον ainon – and this is followed in the quotation in Matthew 21:16. The same rendering is adopted in the Latin Vulgate and in the Syriac. The Hebrew word – עז ‛ôz – properly means strength, might; and the idea here would seem to be, that even from babes and sucklings – from those who were in themselves so feeble – God had taken occasion to accomplish a work requiring great power – to wit, in “stilling the enemy and the avenger;” that is, he had made those who were so feeble the instruments of accomplishing so great a work.
Because of thine enemies – In respect to thine enemies, or in order to accomplish something in regard to them, namely, in stilling them, as is immediately specified. The idea is, that there were those who rose up against God, and opposed his government and plans, and that God, in overcoming them, instead of putting forth his own power directly, had condescended to employ those who were weak and feeble like little children. Who these enemies were is not specified, but it is most natural to suppose that the reference is to some of the foes of the author of the psalm, who had been subdued by the prowess of his arm – by strength imparted to him, though in himself feeble as an infant.
That thou mightest still – Mightest cause to rest, or to cease. The original word – שׁבת shâbath – from which our word Sabbath is derived, means to rest; to lie by; to sit down; to sit still; and in the Hiphil, to cause to rest, or to cause to desist; to put an end to, Ezekiel 34:10; Joshua 22:25; Psalm 46:9; Proverbs 18:18. Here it means to bring to an end the purposes of the enemy and the avenger; or, to cause him to desist from his designs.
The enemy – The enemy of the writer, regarded also as the enemy of God.
And the avenger – One who was endeavoring to take revenge, or who was acting as if determined to avenge some imaginary or real wrong. This, too, may refer either to some one who was seeking to revenge himself on the author of the psalm, or who, with the spirit of revenge, stood up against God, and had set himself against him.
In regard to the meaning of this verse, which I apprehend is the key to the whole psalm, and which contains the original germ of the psalm, or the thought which suggested the train of reflection in it, the following remarks may be made:
(a) There is no evidence that it was designed to refer originally to infants, or to children of any age, as stating anything which they would do in contributing to the praise of God, or as defeating sceptics and cavillers by “their instinctive recognition of God‘s being and glory,” as is supposed by Calvin, DeWette, Prof. Alexander, and others. What is said here to be done by “babes and sucklings” has reference to some mighty enemy that had been overcome, not to anything which had been effected by the influence of the recognition of God by little children. It may be doubted, also, whether there is any such “instinctive admiration of his works, even by the youngest children,” as would be “a strong defense against those who would question the being and glory” of God, as is supposed by Prof. Alexander and others; and, at all events, that is not the manifest thought in the passage.
(b) Nor does it refer merely to praise as proceeding from children, as being that by which the effect referred to is accomplished. It is true that this idea is in the translation by the Septuagint, and true that it is so quoted in Matthew 21:16, and true, also, that, as quoted by the Saviour, and as originally applied, it was adapted to the end which the Saviour had in view – to silence the chief priests and Scribes, who objected to the praises and hosannas of the children in the temple, for the psalm, on any interpretation, originally meant that God would accomplish good effects by those who were feeble and weak as children, and this principle was applicable to the praises of the children in the temple. But it does not appear that it originally referred to praise, either of children or others. It was to some manifested strength or prowess, by which some enemy, or some one who was seeking revenge, was overcome by the instrumentality of those who might be compared with children on account of their feebleness. From this the psalmist takes occasion to make his reflections on the exalted honor conferred in general on a creature so weak and feeble as man, especially in the wide dominion granted him over the inferior creation.
(c) This was, not improbably, some enemy of the author of the psalm; but who it was is not mentioned. David was often, however, in the course of his life, in such circumstances as are here supposed. Might it not refer to Goliath of Gath – a mighty giant, and a formidable enemy of the people of God, overcome by David, quite a stripling – a child? Would not the language of the psalm agree with that? Was it not true that he was an “enemy” and an “avenger,” or one socking revenge? and was it not true that God had, from one who was a mere child, “ordained strength” to subdue him?
(d) God had, then, condescended to honor one who was in himself weak and feeble as a child – who had no power of himself to accomplish what had been done.
(e) This was great condescension on the part of God; and especially was it to be so regarded when the eye looked out – as the author of the psalm appears to have done at the time of its composition – on the starry heavens, and contemplated their greatness and grandeur. What astonishing condescension was it that he who marshalled all those hosts should bestow such honor on man!
(f) It was not, therefore, unnatural to reflect on the greatness of the honor which God had actually bestowed on man, and the dignity to which God had exalted him; and the psalmist is thus, from a particular act of his condescension, led into the beautiful train of reflections on the exalted dominion of man with which the psalm concludes. Thus understood, the psalm has no orignal reference to the Messiah, but still it contains the principle on which the apostle reasons in Hebrews 2, for the dignity of man is most seen in the Redeemer, and the actual conferring of all the dignity and honor referred to in the psalm – the actual and entire subjugation of the earth to man – will be found only in the universal dominion conceded to Him. At the same time, however, there is a foundation for all that the psalmist says in respect to the honor originally conferred on man, and in his actual dominion over the inferior creation.
When I consider thy heavens – When I contemplate or look upon. They are called his heavens because he made them – because he is the proprietor of them – perhaps because they are his abode.
The work of thy fingers – Which thy fingers have made. The fingers are the instruments by which we construct a piece of work – perhaps indicating skill rather than strength; and hence so used in respect to God, as it is by his skill that the heavens have been made.
The moon and the stars – Showing, as remarked above, that probably this psalm, was composed at night, or that the train of thought was suggested by the contemplation of the starry worlds. It is not improbable that the thoughts occurred to the psalmist when meditating on the signal honor which God had conferred on him, a feeble man (see the notes at Psalm 8:2), and when his thoughts were at the same time directed to the goodness of God as the heavens were contemplated in their silent grandeur.
Which thou hast ordained – Prepared, fitted up, constituted, appointed. He had fixed them in their appropriate spheres, and they now silently showed forth his glory.
What is man – What claim has one so weak, and frail, and short-lived, to be remembered by time? What is there in man that entitles him to so much notice? Why has God conferred on him so signal honor? Why has he placed him over the works of his hands? Why has he made so many arrangements for his comfort? Why has he done so much to save him? He is so insignificant his life is so much like a vapor, he so soon disappears, he is so sinful and polluted, that the question may well be asked, why such honor has been conferred on him, and why such a dominion over the world has been given him. See these thoughts more fully expanded in the notes at Hebrews 2:6.
That thou art mindful of him – That thou dost remember him; that is, think of him, attend to him – that he does not pass away wholly from thy thoughts. Why should a God who is so vast and glorious, and who has all the starry worlds, so beautiful and grand, to claim his attention – why should he turn his thoughts on man? And especially why should he honor him as he has done by giving him dominion over the works of his hands?
And the son of man – Any descendant of man – any one of the race. What was man, as he was originally made, that such exalted honor should have been conferred on him; and what has any one of his descendants become, in virtue of his native faculties or acquired endowments, that he should be thus honored? The design is the same as in the former part of the verse, to express the idea that there was nothing in man, considered in any respect, that entitled him to this exalted honor. Nothing that man has done since the time when the question was asked by the psalmist has contributed to diminish the force of the inquiry.
That thou visitest him – As thou dost; that is, with the attention and care which thou dost bestow upon him; not forgetting him; not leaving him; not passing him by. The word used here – פקד pâqad – would properly express a visitation for any purpose – for inspection, for mercy; for friendship, for judgment, etc. Here it refers to the attention bestowed by God on man in conferring on him such marks of favor and honor as he had done – such attention that he never seemed to forget him, but was constantly coming to him with some new proof of favor. What God has done for man since the psalmist wrote this, has done nothing to weaken the force of this inquiry.
For thou hast made him – Thou hast made man as such; that is, he was such in the original design of his creation, in the rank given him, and in the dominion conceded to him. The object here is to show the honor conferred on man, or to show how God has regarded and honored him; and the thought is, that in his original creation, though so insignificant as compared with the vast worlds over which God presides, he had given him a rank but little inferior to that of the angels. See the notes at Hebrews 2:7.
A little lower – The Hebrew word used here – חסר châsêr means to want, to lack – and then, to be in want, to be diminished. The meaming is, “Thou hast caused him to want but little;” that is, he was but little interior.
Than the angels – So this is rendered by the Aramaic Paraphrase: by the Septuagint; by the Latin Vulgate; by the Syriac and Arabic; and by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews Hebrews 2:7, who has literally quoted the fourth, fifth, and sixth verses from the Septuagint. The Hebrew, however, is – מאלהים mi’ĕlôhı̂ym – than God. So Gesenius renders it, “Thou hast caused him to want but little of God; that is, thou hast made him but little lower than God.” So DeWette, “nur wenig unter Gott.” So Tholuck renders it, “nur um wenig unter Gott.” This is the more natural construction, and this would convey an idea conformable to the course of thought in the psalm, though it has been usually supposed that the word used here – אלהים ‘Elohiym – may be applied to angels, or even men, as in Psalm 82:1; Psalm 97:7; Psalm 138:1; Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8-9. Gesenius (Thesau. Ling. Heb., p. 95) maintains that the word never has this signification. The authority, however, of the Aramaic, the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, would seem sufficient to show that that meaning may be attached to the word here with propriety, and that somehow that idea was naturally suggested in the passage itself. Still, if it were not for these versions, the most natural interpretation would be that which takes the word in its usual sense, as referring to God, and as meaning that, in respect to his dominion over the earth, man had been placed in a condition comparatively but little inferior to God himself; he had made him almost equal to himself.
And hast crowned him with glory and honor – With exalted honor. See the notes at Hebrews 2:7.
Thou madest him to have dominion – Thou didst cause him to have, or didst give him this dominion. It does not mean that God made or created him for that end, but that he had conceded to him that dominion, thus conferring on him exalted honor. The allusion is to Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:28.
Over the works of thy hands – His works upon the earth, for the dominion extends no further.
Thou hast put all things under his feet – Hast placed all things in subjection to him. Compare Psalm 47:3; Psalm 91:13; Lamentations 3:34; Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 15:25. The language is taken from the act of treading down enemies in battle; from putting the feet on the necks of captives, etc. The idea is that of complete and entire subjection. This dominion was originally given to man at his creation, and it still remains (though not so absolute and entire as this), for nothing is in itself more remarkable than the dominion which man, by nature so feeble, exercises over the inferior creation. it is impossible to account for this in any other way than as it is accounted for in the Bible, by the supposition that it was originally conceded to man by his Creator. On the question of the applicability of this to Christ, see the notes at Hebrews 2:6-9.
All sheep and oxen – Flocks and herds. Genesis 1:26, “over the cattle.” Nothing is more manifest than the control which man exercises over flocks and herds – making them subservient to his use, and obedient to his will.
And the beasts of the field – Those not included in the general phrase “sheep and oxen.” The word rendered “field,” שׂדה śâdeh – or the poetic form, as here – שׂדי śâday means properly a plain; a level tract of country; then, a field, or a tilled farm, Genesis 23:17; Genesis 47:20-21,; and then the fields, the open country, as opposed to a city, a village, a camp Genesis 25:27; and hence, in this place the expression means the beasts that roam at large – wild beasts, Genesis 2:20; Genesis 3:14. Here the allusion is to the power which man has of subduing the wild beasts; of capturing them, and making them subservient to his purposes; of preventing their increase and their depredations; and of taming them so that they shall obey his will, and become his servants. Nothing is more remarkable than this, and nothing furnishcs a better illustration of Scripture than the conformity of this with the declaration Genesis 9:2, “And the fear of you, and the dread of you, shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air,” etc. Compare the notes at James 3:7. It is to be remembered that no small number of what are now domestic animals were originally wild, and that they have been subdued and tamed by the power anti skill of man. No animal has shown himself superior to this power and skill.
The fowl of the air – Genesis 1:26, “Over the fowl of the air.” Genesis 9:2, “upon every fowl of the air.” This dominion is the more remarkable because the birds of the air seem to be beyond the reach of man; and yet, equally with the beasts of the field, they are subject to his control. Man captures and destroys them; he prevents their multiplication and their ravages. Numerous as they are, and rapid as is their flight, and strong as many of them are, they have never succeeded in making man subject to them, or in disturbing the purposes of man. See the notes at James 3:7.
And the fish of the sea – Genesis 1:26, “Over the fish of the sea.” Genesis 9:2, “upon all the fishes of the sea.” This must be understood in a general sense, and this is perhaps still more remarkable than the dominion over the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, for the fishes that swim in the ocean seem to be placed still farther from the control of man. Yet, so far as is necessary for his use and for safety, they are, in fact, put under the control of man, and he makes them minister to his profit. Not a little of that which contributes to the support the comfort, and the luxury of man, comes from the ocean. From the mighty whale to the shellfish that furnished the Tyrian dye, or to that which furnishes the beautiful pearl, man has shown his power to make the dwellers in the deep subservient to his will.
And whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas – Everything, in general, that passes through the paths of the sea, as if the ocean was formed with paths or highways for them to pass over. Some have referred this to man, as passing over the sea and subduing its inhabitants; some, to the fishes before spoken of; but the most natural construction is that which is adotpted in our received version, as referring to everything which moves in the waters. The idea is that man has a wide and universal dominion – a dominion so wide as to excite amazement, wonder, and gratitude, that it has been conceded to one so feeble as he is.
O Lord our Lord, how excellent … – Repeating the sentiment with which the psalm opens, as now fully illustrated, or as its propriety is now seen. The intermediate thoughts are simply an illustration of this; and now we see what occupied the attention of the psalmist when, in Psalm 8:1, he gave utterance to what seems there to be a somewhat abrupt sentiment. We now, at the close of the psalm, see clearly its beauty and truthfulness.
Seeking God in the Psalms
Pressureisoneoftheinescapablefactsofmodernlife. Asstu- dents you face the pressure of getting the many assignments done well and on time. You face the pressure of working so that you can meet financial pressures. The busy schedule puts pressure on your family relationships, especially if you’re married with children. You face the pressure of deciding what you’re going to do, where you’ll work and live after you finish school.
In the midst of such pressures, there is one thing that will de- termine the course of your life: your priorities. We all have priori- ties, although some of you may not be able to articulate yours clearly. If you do not clearly define your priorities and keep them in front of you in the midst of the pressures, you will be swept downstream by the rush of everything around you. You will not end up where you probably would want to go if you sat down and thought about it in a calm moment.
I want to talk about what ought to be your most important pri- ority: Seeking after God. If you get this priority in place and work to keep it there, everything else in life will take its proper place. If you neglect it, even though it may seem that things are going well, you will end up far from where you ought to be. As Jesus put it, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things [personal needs, provisions] will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).
While all Scripture is profitable for spiritual growth, and you ought to be reading through the whole Bible, I want to encourage you especially to be seeking God through the Psalms. The Book of Psalms is the longest book in the Bible. It is the Old Testament book most frequently quoted in the New Testament. Don’t forget that it is a hymn book, meant to be sung from the heart. God loves to hear His people singing His praises.
ThePsalmscomeoutofthetrenchesofthebattleoflife. In- variably, the psalmist is in some overwhelming situation, taxed be- yond his ability to cope. In his predicament, he cries out to God and comes to know God more intimately as he trusts Him in this crisis.
So the Psalms reveal much to us about the nature of God—His mercy, His loyal love, His faithfulness, His readiness to help in our timeofneed,Hisrighteousjudgmentonsin. AndthePsalmsreveal much about our own nature—fallen in sin, always in need of God, tossed about by many overwhelming emotions.
I want to take you briefly to a Psalm written by King David when he was under tremendous pressure. His own son, Absalom, had led a rebellion against David. The king and his followers were forced to flee for their lives. During that time, David spent a short while in the barren wilderness of Judah. While there, he penned Psalm 63. The very fact that he wrote it then is significant. If I were fleeing for my life, faced with the kinds of pressure that David faced at that moment, writing psalms wouldn’t be real high on my priority list! Or, if I did write a song, the theme of it would be, “Get me out of here, Lord!” But Psalm 63 contains no petition. Instead, it’s an affirmation of David’s priority under pressure. It teaches us …
Seeking after God should be our most important priority.
I want to deal with two questions from this Psalm: (1) What does it mean to seek after God? (2) How do I seek after God?
What does it mean to seek after God?
1. To seek after God means to have an intimate personal re- lationship with God.
“O God, You are my God” (63:1). David knew God in an in- timate, personal way. Obviously this was not the first time David had sought after God. Years before, when he was a teenage shep- herd, David had written that beloved song, “The Lord is my shep- herd” (Ps. 23:1). He had entered into a personal relationship with God as a young man, and he had developed that relationship over the years. So here, in a time of crisis, David didn’t pray, “O God, whoever You may be, if You’re out there, help me!” He personally knew the God whom he now sought in this crisis.
There is a vast difference between knowing about a person and actually knowing that person. You can learn a lot about the Presi- dent by reading news articles and books on his life. But that is quite different than knowing the President as a close personal friend. To
know him or anyone else personally, there must be an initial intro- duction, followed by many different occasions of spending time to- gether. As a friendship and trust develops, there is an increasing disclosure of each friend to the other.
A lot of people know about God. Perhaps you were raised in the church and you know many things about God. But knowing God personally is different than knowing about Him. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent” (John 17:3, NIV). He also said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV). To know the one true God, who is holy in all His ways, you must trust in Jesus Christ as your sin bearer and receive the free gift of eternal life He offers. That’s the introduction or starting point.
And then, as with any other relationship, you must develop your friendship with God by spending time with Him through the months and years that follow. Sin hinders a relationship with God, and so to grow closer to Him, you must openly confess all sin and grow in obedience. Jesus promised, “He who has My command- ments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21). To seek after God means to have this kind of growing personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, where He discloses more of Himself to you as you grow in obedience to Him.
2. To seek after God means always to desire more of Him.
David said, “Earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for You; my body longs for You …” Didn’t David have the Lord? Yes, because he calls Him “my God.” But he wanted more. He wanted to go deeper. He was satisfied (63:5) but he wasn’t satisfied. He knew that there was more and his whole being craved it as a thirsty man craves for water.
The word translated “seek earnestly” is related to the word for “dawn,” and thus some translations have “seek early.” But most commentators agree that the word means earnestly, ardently, or dili- gently. It was used of wild donkeys looking eagerly for food. The
point is, to seek after God means to go after God with an intense desire.
A young man ran after Socrates, calling, “Socrates, Socrates, can I be your disciple?” Socrates ignored him and walked out into the water. The man followed him and repeated the question. Socrates turned and without a word grabbed the young man and dunked him under the water and held him down until he knew that he couldn’t take it any longer. The man came up gasping for air. Socrates re- plied, “When you desire the truth as much as you seek air, you can be my disciple.” How much do you desire to know God?
A. W. Tozer, in his devotional classic, The Pursuit of God (Chris- tian Publications, pp. 17, 15), wrote, “Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth…. Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him, the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking.”
To seek after God means that there is always more, because God is an infinite person. If you think that you’ve reached the place inyourChristianlifewhereyoucancoast,you’reintrouble! David had walked with God for years, but he thirsted for more.
3. To seek after God means to pursue God alone as that which satisfies your soul.
When you’re in a jam like David was, the tendency is to try to use God like Aladdin’s genie to get you out of the crisis. When it’s over, you put Him back on the shelf and get on with your life. Or, youusethingsorpeopletofillthevoidinyourlife. Ineithercase, God is in the background. He isn’t central. Things or people or work or hobbies are.
Put yourself in David’s place. He has fled from the throne. He left his possessions and his wives behind him. His own son whom he loved deeply was attempting to kill him. And yet in all of this, David wasn’t trying to use God to get all his things back. He was seeking God alone. “I seek You”; “I thirst for You”; “I yearn for You”; “Your love is better than life.” What amazing statements!
It’s a constant battle, because we’re all prone to drift into the place where God has a slice of our lives, but He isn’t central. We go
to church on Sunday. We profess to be Christians. But we’re really living for something other than God. To seek Him means to pursue Him alone to meet the needs of your soul.
Thus seeking after God means to have an intimate personal re- lationship with Him; always to desire more of Him; and, to pursue God alone to satisfy your soul.
How does a person seek after God?
I’m assuming here that you already know God personally through Christ. No one seeks for God unless God first seeks after them (Rom. 3:11; John 6:44). His sovereign grace initiates the proc- ess. But once you’ve received His grace, how do you go on seeking after God? Three things:
1. You seek God by putting love for God at the center of your relationship with Him.
God’s loyal love (63:3) was better to David than life itself. Therefore, David says, “My soul clings to You; Your right hand up- holds me” (63:8). What a beautiful balance! David clings to God, but underneath it all, God’s powerful hand is under David.
The Hebrew word translated “clings” has the nuance of loyalty related to affection. It’s used in Genesis 2:24, where it says that a man will “cleave” to his wife. It is used of Ruth clinging to her mother-in-law, Naomi, rather than leaving her (Ruth 1:14; see also, Gen. 34:3; 2 Sam. 20:2; 1 Kings 11:2). The idea is loyalty related to strong feelings of affection.
Your relationship with the Lord is comparable to a marriage relationship. Marriage is a relationship where intense feelings of pas- sion and a lifelong commitment are intertwined. When a couple falls in love, there are strong feelings, and there is nothing wrong with that. But a marriage cannot be built on feelings alone, but on com- mitment. The commitment carries you through the hard times when the feelings may fade. Sometimes you have to work at the romance (which sounds contradictory, but it’s not). But if there are never any feelings of love, your marriage is in trouble.
Seeking after God means keeping your passion for God alive. Christianity is not just a matter of the head, but of the heart. As you think on what God has done for you in Christ, it ought to move you
emotionally. As you reflect on His great love and faithfulness to- ward you over the years, in spite of your failures, you ought to feel love for Him.
In your marriage, keeping your passion alive means saying no to some things in order to say yes to your wife. Your job, outside inter- ests, time with other friends, even your involvement at church–these are all good things in their place. But they shouldn’t come before your marriage. In the same way, nothing, not even your marriage and family, should come before your love relationship with God. That leads to the second thing:
2. You seek God by spending consistent time alone with Him.
David was under intense pressure as he fled from Absalom. He had to think about how all of his loyal followers who fled with him were going to get food and water in this barren wilderness. He had to be thinking constantly about their safety. And yet he did not ne- glect earnestly seeking God in this trying situation (63:1-2, 6, 8). David made it a priority to spend time alone with God.
We all make time to do what we really want to do. Exhibit A: A young man in college who is working and carrying a full load. His schedule seems packed. Then he meets the woman of his dreams. Suddenly he finds time to spend with her! It’s not a duty, it’s a de- light! He will cut corners elsewhere if he has to, but he will not miss his time with this wonderful creature.
If you love God, you’ll make time to spend with Him. This in- cludes time in His Word, renewing your mind so that you can please Him; time in prayer, bringing your needs and others’ needs before Him; and, time in praise and worship, expressing your love for Him.
3. You seek God by integrating Him into every area of your life.
God isn’t just a spoke in the wheel; He’s the hub. God perme- ates every area of your life. He’s the Lord of every decision you make; the Lord of every relationship you have. There is no area of your life–business, family, money, education, or whatever–where God is not an integral part. There is no division between sacred and secular; all of life is related to God.
Here is David, his kingdom in disarray, running for his life, seeking to protect his men. It would be understandable if God was temporarily squeezed out of the picture. But David is “following hard after God,” as the King James Version puts verse 8. God was at the center of David’s life.
How is it with you and God? Perhaps you say, “I’m actively in- volved in serving Him!” That’s fine, but that’s not what I’m asking. You can be in full time ministry and lose sight of seeking God Him- self. I once heard the godly pastor and author, Alan Redpath, speak. He told how he faced a time in his life when the opportunities for ministry were the greatest he had ever seen. God seemed to be blessing his preaching. It was the kind of thing every pastor prays and longs for.
And then, right in the middle of it, Redpath was laid up with a stroke. As he lay in his hospital bed, he asked, “Lord, why? Why now, when the opportunities to serve You are so great?” I’ll never forget what he said next. He said that the Lord quietly impressed upon him, “Alan, you’ve gotten your work ahead of your worship.”
Review your past week or month and ask yourself, “Did my schedule reflect that seeking God was my number one priority?” You say, “Well, that’s my priority, but I’ve been under a lot of pres- sure!” Pressure reveals our true priorities. When the pressure is on, everything but the essential gets put on hold. The Holy Spirit is tellingusthroughDavid,”SeekingGodisessential!” Ifit’snotes- sential for you, you’ve got to join David, the man after God’s heart, in making it so.
WHY THE SAINTS SHOULD
REJOICE IN OUR GOD
Intro: Psalm 33 is a special Psalm. It is one of only four Psalms that lacks a title. The others are Psalm 1, 2, and 10. All the other Psalms have some sort of title. Many commentators believe that this Psalm is linked to Psalm 32. In that Psalm, David praises the Lord for forgiving his sins. Psalm 32 closes with a command to rejoice, v. 11. Psalm 33 opens with the same command.
While these two Psalms are very different in their content, they are both centered on the theme of praise. In Psalm 32 God is to be praised because He forgives sin. In Psalm 33 God is to be praised because He is in control. Both of those themes make God worthy to be praised.
By way of introduction, let’s consider this call to praise the Lord.
In verse 1, the saints of God are commanded to “rejoice”. This word means “to be overcome; to cry out, to give a ringing cry, to shout for joy.” This is a command for loud, vocal praise to be lifted up to the Lord.
· Verse 1 also tells us that “praise is comely for the upright”. The word “comely” means “beautiful”. There are many emotions that can grip our hearts. We can be overcome with pride, hate, malice, anger, envy, unforgiveness, and a host of other harmful emotions. No emotion is as elegant, as beneficial, or as beautiful as a heart that is filled with praise for the Lord.
· Verse 2 calls on us to use our musical skills to praise Him. When instruments are played for His glory, it honors Him because music is another form of praise to the Lord.
· Verse 3 calls on us to “sing unto Him a new song”. The idea of a “new song” means that we are to be thoughtful and we are exercise our minds to find new ways to praise Him. When you consider the fact that Lam. 3:22-23 says, “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” It should be clear that we have ample reason every day to exalt Him for His grace, His blessings and His goodness to us.
· Verse 3 also calls on us to praise Him in such a way that they are heard by others. That does not mean that we are to praise Him so that others will see us, but we are to praise Him so that others will be aware of Who He is and what He has done for His people.
Now, having commanded us to praise the Lord, the Psalmist now gives us the reasons why we are to praise Him. I want to walk through this Psalm today and preach on the subject Why The Saints Should Rejoice In Our God. Let me show you the reasons why He is worthy of our praise.
I. v. 4-9 WE SHOULD REJOICE
IN HIS WORD
A. v. 4a His Word Is Precious – The word “right” has the idea of “upright, straight, correct”. This word reminds us that God’s Word sets the standard for righteousness and morality. The Word of God is like a compass that guides the people of God through the desert of this world.
All around us we see the results of abandoning the Word of God. Our society has been cast adrift upon the sea of time without a rudder. Our nation, and the world as a whole, has abandoned the Ten Commandments, the Great Commandment, and every other precept of God. The obvious result of sinful man’s foolish decision to abandon the Word of God is rampant immorality, wickedness and evil in the world.
Those who read the Word, honor the Word and live by the Word, know how precious the Word of God is. They can say with the Psalmist, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” Psa. 119:105. They also know the truth of Pro. 6:23, which says, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.”
The saints of God have a rudder as they sail the uncertain seas of life. We have a pattern after which we can live our lives. From His Word we can discern His will for the course of our lives and we can find out how we are to live day by day.
His Word is precious. We should praise Him for that!
B. v. 4b-5 His Word Is Personal – In His Word we learn about the Lord Himself. His Word is His revelation of Himself to the world. We learn that He does everything He does in “truth”, v. 4. That word carries the idea of “steadfastness”. We learn in verse 5 that He “loveth righteousness” and judgment”. This reminds us that He will bless those who honor His Word and He will judge those who abandon His Word. Verse 5 also teaches us that God’s goodness can be seen in all the word around us.
All these truths teach us that the Word of God is a revelation of the Person of God. How else could a holy, transcendent, eternal God reveal Himself to man? It would be like us trying to communicate with the ants in an anthill. We are so removed from their experience that we could not possibly communicate with them on our level. God so longed to reveal Himself to humanity that He condescended to reveal Himself in the pages of a Book. Not just any book! God has chosen to reveal Himself in the pages of the Word of God, John 5:39. We should praise Him for His Word because it reveals the nature of God to us!
C. v. 6-9 His Word Is Powerful – In these verses the Psalmist reminds us that everything we see around us was spoken into existence by the Word of God. Everything that is visible; everything that is invisible; everything that is large; everything that is small; everything that is near; and everything that is far came into existence through the Word of God.
In Gen. 1:3 God spoke for the first time. When He spoke light appeared out of the darkness. All through Genesis 1 God kept speaking and great things kept appearing. His Word had power then, and His Word still has power today. Every promise will be fulfilled. Our actions will be judged based on His commands. The Word of God is filled with power, glory and hope.
Listen to the testimony of His Word about His Word.
· “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” Heb. 4:12.
· “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven,” Psa 119:89.
· “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works,” 2Tim. 3:16-17.
We should praise Him for His Word because it is infused with divine power! It will stand though the entire world stand against it, Isa. 55:11.
I. We Should Rejoice In His Word
II. v. 10-12 WE SHOULD REJOICE
IN HIS WILL
A. v. 10 His Will Is Dominate – Men can make their plans and devise their schemes, but in the end, God’s will is going to be accomplished. If you look at all the maneuvering of the nations, it is possible to become filled with fear. When you think of the militant regimes in Iran and North Korea; the power, the military and financial resources of China; the belligerent attitude of Russia; and the threat posed to peaceful people by radical Islam, it may seem to us that the world is out of control. The foolish decisions by our own government leave us wondering how things will play out in time and history. We need not fear, because our God is in control of all things. He will have the final word, because His will is dominant. As the Psalmist said, “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased,” Psa. 115:3.
B. v. 11 His Will Is Determined – The things that occur in this world are all part of our Lord’s plan for the ages. Nothing takes place that is not a part of His divine plan. I know that doesn’t sit well with a lot of people in our day. We want to be in control. We want to think that our thoughts and opinions matter. We want the world to revolve around us and our desires. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but what you think, want, or plan doesn’t matter in the least. God has determined what will take place in this world and that is what is going to happen.
· “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it,” Isa. 46:9-11.
· “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places,” Psa. 135:6.
· “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” Dan. 4:35.
That concept bothers some folks. It comforts me! I am reminded day by day that my God is on control of all things. That allows we to rest in His providence and trust Him to make all things work out as they should for my good and His glory, Rom. 8:28.
C. v. 12 His Will Is Desirable – The Psalmist mentions the nations that honor God. He says they will be blessed. This is clearly seen in the histories of America and Great Britain. Both of our nations were ruled by a series of men who, while not perfect, at least acknowledged God and declared their dependence upon Him. Now that both nations have declared their independence from God, we can see the results all around us. We have abandoned God and He has abandoned us to our choice.
There is a lesson in this for the individual as well. Those who respond to God’s will by submitting to Him will be blessed.
For man to make his plans without consulting the will of God is to reject Him as Creator. Isa. 29:15-16 says, “Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?”
Listen also to what Paul had to say about this in Rom. 9:19-21, “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”
So, knowing and living by the will of God is a good pattern for living. It is a recipe for blessing, while rejecting His will and going against His plan is a recipe for judgment and spiritual disaster.
So, we should praise God that He is a Sovereign God and that His will is going to be accomplished in earth and Heaven, no matter how hard the devil or fallen man works against Him!
I. We Should Rejoice In His Word
II. We Should Rejoice In His Will
III. v. 13-19 WE SHOULD REJOICE
IN HIS WATCHING
A. v. 13-15 His Watching Is Absolute – Our God is in Heaven, but His eyes are on the affairs of man. From where He sits, He sees everything that takes place. He sees it all. There is no deed, no thought, no sin, or good work that can occur without His intimate knowledge, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do,” Heb 4:13.
· He knows every deed, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good,” Pro. 15:3.
· He knows every thought, “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off,” Psa. 139:2.
· He knows every motive behind every action, “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings,” Jer. 17:10.
· He hears every idle word, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment,” Matt. 12:36.
He knows everything there is to know and nothing can be hidden from Him. That is a sobering thought, but it does showcase His power and why He is worthy of our praise!
B. v. 16-17 His Watching Is Aware – God watches the heathen as they make their plans and set their armies in array. He sees their vain efforts to alter His plans and seek to obtain their own salvation through dominating their enemies. He sees them as they lives for this world and give no thought to the world to come. These two verses are just a reminder that God knows what the wicked are up to. Sometimes I think we think He forgets, but He never does! He sees is all and one day He will judge them according to their works.
C. v. 18-19 His Watching Is Affectionate – God has just told us that the destinies of nations are in His hands. The decisions that will determine the course of this world are not made in Washington, Moscow or Beijing. The decisions that will affect the course of this world are made in Heaven by the sovereign God Who occupies the throne as the Ruler of all things. But, while God sovereignly controls everything that takes place in His creation, He still has time for the individual.
The God Who controls all things takes an intimate interest in your life. His “eye” is on those who “fear Him” and upon those who “hope in His mercy”. Those individuals who have looked to the Lord for their soul’s salvation are the recipients of His tender watch care and of His promise in verse 19 that He will secure them and supply them. He will take care of His Own, Matt. 6:25-33.
He sees everything that happens to you. He sees all the pain. He sees all the problems. He sees all the attacks of your enemies. He sees the hurts, the fears, the valleys and the sorrows. Nothing escapes His gaze!
While a lost world lives in fear, the people of God can rest in the arms of divine sovereignty knowing that their God will take care of them. His eye is on your life and He knows more about your needs than you do! He will not fail you. He will not desert you. He loves you and He will take care of you until you join Him in glory, Psa. 37:25, 28; Heb. 13:5. He is worthy to be praised for the fact that He watches over all things, especially the needs of His people!
Conc: The Psalmist closes this Psalm by expressing his resolve to continue trusting in the Lord. We can rest in His Word. We can rest in His Will. We can rest in His Watching. As our trust in Him deepens, our ability to rest in Him grows. And, when we are resting in Him, we can rejoice in spite of everything that is going on around us.
We serve a God Who is worthy to be praised! He deserves the uninhibited praises of His people. He deserves our best songs, our loudest shouts, and our devoted service. He is worthy to be praised and we are way behind in the business of praising Him. We allow other things to cloud our thinking and hide His face. The Psalmist wants us to take a fresh look at Him today so that we might be filled with praise for Him.
· Has the Lord touched you in some area of your life?
· Are you praising Him like He deserves?
· Have you become distracted by some issue so that you have lost your focus on Him?
· Do you need to thank Him for His Word, His Will and His Watching?
· Do you need to bring some sin to Him in repentance?
· Do you need to seek His help in some matter?
· Do you need to come before Him and seek Him in worship?
· If He has spoken to you on any level, please mind Him and let Him have His way in your heart and life.
OUR SUFFICIENT GOD
As you probably know, one of the most heated debates in Christian circles right now concerns the role of psychology in the Christian life. At the heart of that debate is the question of whether the Bible and the resources it points us to–a personal relationship with God, forgiveness of sins, the promise of eternal life, our riches in Christ, the fellowship of the church, etc.–are sufficient to deal with the complicated problems people face, or whether we must supplement these things with the insights of modern psychology.
Pastor John MacArthur (interview in “Servant,” 9/91) tells about being on a Christian talk show where he said to the host, “Don’t you believe that the Holy Spirit, the Word of God and the living Christ are fully sufficient for our sanctification? Psychology is only a hundred years old, people have been being sanctified a lot longer than that.” She said that some people can’t get into the position to be sanctified until therapy helps them deal with some psychological issues. MacArthur comments, “That God can’t do His work in you until a good therapist gets it started is a frightening concept.”
In his book, Our Sufficiency in Christ [Word, 1991], MacArthur tells about his church being sued over a counseling case. During the trial, a number of “experts” were called on to give testimony. He says (p. 57), “Most surprising to me were the so-called Christian psychologists and psychiatrists who testified that the Bible alone does not contain sufficient help to meet people’s deepest personal and emotional needs. These men were actually arguing before a secular court that God’s Word is not an adequate resource for counseling people about their spiritual problems!”
In the same book, in referring to so-called “Christian” psychology, he states (p. 31), “The clear message is that simply pointing Christians to their spiritual sufficiency in Christ is inane and maybe
even dangerous. But on the contrary, it is inane and dangerous to believe that any problem is beyond the scope of Scripture or unmet by our spiritual riches in Christ.” Please be clear: At issue is not whether Christians need counseling. The question is, do they need the counsel of the ungodly, or is Scripture sufficient?
I agree with MacArthur and so does the author of Psalm 46! Scholars are not unanimous, but I agree with John Calvin who relates this psalm to the time when King Hezekiah of Judah was surrounded by the army of Sennacherib, King of Assyria. Forty-six towns and villages in Judah had been sacked. Over 200,000 residents had been taken captive, along with much spoil. At least 185,000 troops surrounded Jerusalem, and it looked like only a matter of time before the city fell.
But proud Sennacherib did not reckon with the fact that Hezekiah’s God is the living God who will not be mocked. Hezekiah prayed, God spoke, and in one night the angel of the Lord defeated Sennacherib by killing 185,000 of his soldiers (2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32; Isaiah 36-37).
Whether out of that situation or some other, Psalm 46 was written out of the crucible of extreme adversity from which God had provided deliverance. It relates to anyone who is in a time of trouble, or to anyone who will face trouble, no matter how extreme, in the future. It tells us that
When trouble strikes, God is sufficient to get you through.
No problem, whether emotional, physical, or spiritual, is too big for our God. If we will learn to take refuge in Him and lean on Him alone for strength, then with the psalmist we can face the most extreme crises with quiet confidence, because God is with us and He is sufficient. But we would be in error if we thought that God insulates us from problems. The psalm makes it clear that …
1. Trouble will strike the godly.
The fact that God is our refuge and strength does not mean that we are immune from troubles and problems. The abundant life is not a trouble-free life. We need to be clear on this because many false teachers today claim that it is God’s will for every person to enjoy prosperity and perfect health. They teach that since Jesus has promised to answer the prayer of faith, all that stands between you and material prosperity and physical health is your lack of faith. Confess it as yours by faith, and it’s yours, according to this heresy.
But the Bible teaches no such thing. It teaches that God is our help in trouble, not that He will exempt us from trouble. The psalm mentions catastrophic trouble: global changes (46:2), severe earthquakes and storms (46:2-3), and wars (46:6, 9). Hebrews 11:35-38 mentions all sorts of terrible trials which faithful believers have had to face: being homeless, without proper clothing and food, mockings, torture, beatings, imprisonment, and various forms of cruel execution.
God does not protect Christians from this sort of thing. When a plane goes down, God does not make sure that there are no Christians aboard. When war ravages a country, God does not preserve the believers from its effects. God does not allow cancer to strike only those who have lived a life of sin. No, trouble will strike the godly as well as the ungodly. The question is, when trouble strikes, do you want to face it with God as your refuge and strength or do you want to find help elsewhere? Psalm 46 shows that when trouble strikes,
2. God is sufficient to get you through.
Let’s look first at the God who is sufficient and then at how we can lay hold of His sufficiency in our troubles.
A. The God who is sufficient.
The psalm falls into three sections:
46:1-3: God, the refuge against the raging of nature.
46:4-7: God, the resource against the raging of nations.
46:8-11: God, the ruler over the rebels of earth.
(1) God, the refuge against the raging of nature (46:1-3). The psalmist pictures one of the most frightening and catastrophic natural disasters imaginable: an earthquake so severe that the mountains slip into the heart of the sea. In California, we who lived in the mountains used to joke about how, after “the Big One” hit, we would have beachfront property. But the psalmist is picturing a quake so big that the mountains get swallowed up by the sea! He is saying that in the worst disaster we can imagine, God is sufficient as our refuge and strength so that we need not be terrified.
As our refuge, we can flee to God and find relief and comfort. As our strength, we discover that His strength is made perfect in our weakness as we trust in Him (2 Cor. 12:9). And, God’s protection and strength are immediately available (“a very present help”) the instant we turn to Him. While He may delay delivering us to show us our absolute need for Him or for reasons we can’t understand, we can always have immediate comfort and calm when we flee to God for refuge and strength.
During an earthquake a few years ago, the inhabitants of a small village were alarmed by the quake, but also surprised at the calmness and apparent joy of an old woman whom they all knew. At length one of them asked her, “Are you not afraid?” “No,” she replied, “I rejoice to know that I have a God who can shake the world.”
Whatever personal catastrophe you face–a major health problem, the death of a loved one, the loss of your job, emotional problems, relational conflicts, or whatever– God is bigger than your problems. He is readily available
to help if you will take refuge in Him and trust in His strength.
(2) God, the resource against the raging of nations (46:4-7). “There is a river ….” Jerusalem is one of the few ancient cities not built on a river. Ancient cities needed water close at hand, especially during a siege. When Sennacherib attacked Jerusalem, he was sure that their lack of water would ultimately drive them to surrender. But unknown to Sennacherib, Jerusalem had a source of water. Wise King Hezekiah had built an underground tunnel which secretly brought water 1,777 feet through solid rock from the spring of Gihon to the pool of Siloam. That little stream supplied all of their needs during the siege.
That river is a picture of the greater spiritual resource of the Lord Himself: “God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved” (46:5). He is the living water who alone can quench our spiritual thirst. He is the God who is powerful enough to quell the uproar of the nations by simply raising His voice (46:6).
Jesus told the woman at the well: “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Jesus also said, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water’“ (John 7:37-38). He was referring to the Holy Spirit, who is given to every believer.
Whatever problems rage against us, God’s Spirit is the ever-flowing river who sustains us and gives us gladness even while we’re under siege (Ps. 46:4)! If Christians would learn to drink from the abundant river of God’s Spirit, why would they ever turn to the supposed wisdom
of godless men like Freud, Jung, Rogers, and company? God is our refuge and resource in times of trouble.
(3) God, the ruler over the rebels of earth (46:8-11). Nations may rage and proud men may rebel, but God’s sovereign purpose will be fulfilled. He sets up kings and removes them as He wills. He is God; He alone will be exalted in the earth (46:10). When Christ returns, He will crush all opposition to His reign. The mightiest armies on earth are no match for His sovereign power.
Do you think that this God, who rules over His creation, who speaks the word and an entire army drops dead, is sufficient for your problems? When trouble strikes, we need to focus on our God who is sufficient: He is our refuge, He is our resource, He is our ruler. We need to lay hold of His sufficiency. But how?
B. How to avail yourself of His sufficiency:
(1) Depend on Him as your refuge. On Him! It is God Himself who is our refuge and strength–not our armies, not our fortresses, but God. It’s so easy to build up our own defenses against trouble and to put our trust in them instead of in God. We trust in our bank accounts, our insurance policies, our schemes and plans for the future. There is nothing wrong with these things–the Bible, in fact, urges us to be prudent in planning for the future. But those things can become wrong if we allow them to shift our trust from God alone.
How can you learn to depend on Him alone? Get to know who He is as revealed in His Word. Trust springs out of knowledge. A person who has little knowledge of flying will be greatly afraid in flying through rough weather. An experienced pilot, who knows flying and knows his aircraft will not be afraid. Because he has greater knowledge, he has greater trust.
The refrain (46:7, 11) suggests two areas in which you need to know God:
(a) Know Him as the Lord of hosts. “Hosts” refers both to the heavenly bodies (the universe) and to the angels. Our God spoke this vast universe into existence and rules over the billions of stars and planets. He is the Lord of all of the armies of heaven. With short, crashing phrases that hit like hammer blows, the psalmist shows us the might of our God: “The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us” (46:6). God is not some feeble, senile old man with a long white beard, sitting in heaven worried about the rebellion of man. He is mighty! If such a God is for us, who can be against us (see 2 Kings 6:8-23)? If you know God as the Lord of hosts, you will depend on Him.
(b) Know Him as the God of Jacob. Why not refer to Him as the God of Abraham, the great man of faith? Or why not at least refer to Him as the God of Israel, the name given to Jacob after he strived with God and prevailed? Jacob means “supplanter” or “deceiver.” Jacob was a conniving schemer. Why refer to the God of Jacob as our stronghold?
This points to God’s sovereign grace. God chose conniving Jacob over nice guy Esau so that everyone could see that He saves us on the basis of His choice, not because of our good works (Rom. 9:11). One of the errors psychology has brought into the church is to try to build people’s self-esteem by telling them, “Christ died for you because you were worthy.” Not so! He died for you while you were an unworthy sinner (Rom. 5:8). But the good news is, if He chose you apart from your worthiness, He will keep you and enable you to persevere unto the day of Christ because He is the God
So you can depend on Him, even if you’ve failed, if you know Him as the God of Jacob. His help in a time of trouble is not conditioned on your great strength, but on His great grace. When you are insufficient (which is always), depend on the Lord of Hosts and the God of Jacob as your refuge.
(2) Draw on Him as your resource. If you know Christ as your Savior, then you have His life within you. His Holy Spirit is that river of life, sufficient for your every need. He is that “river whose streams make glad the city of God” (Ps. 46:4). Draw on Him. How?
(a) Drink from Him daily. You have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in you! You are “a holy dwelling place of the Most High” God (46:4)! You are privileged to be able to draw upon His strength daily. He refreshes. He brings gladness and joy. Do you drink from Him daily? Do you have a time when you meet alone with Him in the Word and in prayer? Do you walk each day in conscious dependence upon Him, confessing your sin and yielding to His way? The river is there, but you’ve got to drink daily or you’ll dry up spiritually.
(b) Meet with His people regularly. Jerusalem was the “city of God” where God dwelled with His people in a special sense (46:4-5). The temple was there; it was the center for worship. Today God lives in every believer individually, but there is a special sense in which He dwells with His people corporately. God never intended of us to live the Christian life or to face trials in isolation.
We need one another in the Body of Christ: to encourage one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. For this to happen, you’ve got to be involved with the Lord’s people beyond
our Sunday worship service. The Lord is the river, but believers are the streams. To drink fully from the river, you’ve got to be in connection with the streams. You drink of the Lord through His people.
Thus to lay hold of His sufficiency: Depend on Him as your refuge; draw on Him as your resource.
(3) Defer to Him as your ruler. God desires that you submit to Him voluntarily. If you do not do it voluntarily now, a day is coming when you will do it under force: Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11).
There are two things to be said with reference to defer- ring to Him as your ruler:
(a) Behold His works (46:8). In the context the psalmist is referring to God’s miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem in destroying the Assyrian army. But we can apply it as an invitation to review God’s works down through the centuries. See how He has delivered His people time after time, both in the Scripture and in church history. The God of Abraham, Moses, David, Hezekiah, Peter, and Paul; the God of Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and Spurgeon, is your God. Behold His works and you will submit to Him as your ruler when you face a crisis.
(b) Bow to His ways (46:10). He is God. The command to cease striving is God speaking to the nations who are fighting against His people and His purpose. “You won’t win, so quit while you can!” But we can also apply it to ourselves. When trouble hits, don’t strive against God. Know that He is the sovereign God, even over your crisis. As God, He will be exalted and glorified in the earth. He wants you to exalt Him by submitting joyfully to Him through your trouble. The chief end of man is
not to live a happy, trouble-free life. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We glorify Him when we defer to Him as our ruler in times of trouble.
Psalm 46 inspired the great reformer, Martin Luther, to write his triumphant hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Luther faced numerous dangers and threats on his life from the pope and his forces. At one point he spent 11 months in hiding in Wartburg Castle. In the face of opposition, excommunication, and pressure from every side to back down, he stood firmly for the truth of salvation by grace through faith alone. When he had occasion to fear or grow discouraged, he would say to his friend and co-worker, Philip Melanchthon, “Come Philip, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm,” and they would lift their voices:
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. Our helper He, amid the flood, Of mortal ills prevailing.
Luther wrote, “We sing this Psalm to the praise of God, because God is with us, and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends His church and His word, against all fanatical spirits, against the gates of hell, against the implacable hatred of the devil, and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and sin” (in The Treasury of David [Baker], by C. H. Spurgeon, II:384).
For you to experience God’s sufficiency in a crisis, you must be learning to experience it each day. If you aren’t learning to depend on Him as your refuge, to draw on Him as your resource, and to defer to Him as your ruler when things are going smoothly, you won’t know how when trouble strikes. A crisis does not make a person; a crisis reveals a person. In a time of trial, you turn to what you trust. An alcoholic turns to the bottle. An addict turns to drugs. A worldly person turns to the world’s wisdom. A Christian should turn to the Lord. When trouble strikes, He is sufficient to get you through.
- Some say, “All truth is God’s truth; thus we can use the truth of psychology.” Why is this fallacious?
- Some argue, “We use modern medicine; why not modern psychology.” Why is this fallacious?
- How do we find the balance between “raw” trust in God and the proper use of means or methods?
Copyright 1993, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.
Psa. 51:1-19 HOW TO COME BACK WHEN YOU ARE DOWN
Intro: This Psalm came about as a result of David’s sin with Bathsheba. He
committed adultery, then in a effort to cover that up, he committed murder. After a
while, David was confronted about his sin by Nathan the prophet. It was only after
his sins were made public that David chooses to repent/ It was during this time of
repentance and soul searching that David penned this Psalm. In these verses, he
expresses the heartfelt need of a believer to be right with God.
To make this personal, let me say that Satan tempts us to sin by telling us,
“You can get by with it!”; or “No one will ever know about it!” Then, when you
give in to him and sin, he says, “You’ll never get away with it, everyone is going to
find out!” If you are saved, the devil knows that he cannot have your soul, but he
does seek to get you down, discouraged and defeated. He delights in leading
Christians into a backslidden condition and then convincing them that they will
never be able to get back up again.
Thank God, the devil is a liar! I know I am speaking to people who are
down spiritually. You used to faithfully serve God, but now your service is limited
to 1 hour a week. You have believed the lie and now you are down. In fact, it
would be safe to say that you area backslider. Now, Satan tells you that you have
thrown it all away and can never get back what you have lost. He is a liar! The
Bible plainly teaches us that we can come back when we are down. It tells us how
and we need to look at that today. I trust that you will be able to get back up today.
Allow me to share with you “How to come back when you are down.”
I. THE CAPACITY FOR SIN IN THE SAINT
A. Salvation saves the sinner, but does not take away his ability to sin, Ill. Rom.
6:14; 1 Cor. 10:13
B. Any saint who claims total sinless perfection is in a terrible state of self-
deception – 1 John 1:8-10.
C. Sin cannot take away our salvation, but it does tear us down spiritually and
emotionally. As long as we occupy these bodies, there will the capacity for
sin – Ill. Even David – Acts 13:22.
II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN FOR THE SAINT
(Ill. Psalm 51 was written by a sinning saint. He knew full well the
consequences and he begins with a plea for mercy. Never, never be deceived,
sin carries its own club – Pro. 13:22.) Notice these certain consequences of sin.
A. v. 2 Sin Soils The Saint – (Ill. David seeks cleansing)
Sin will make the saint feel dirty. The non-Christian will have no difficulty
with sin, (Ill. The Pig – 2 Pet. 2:22.) The saint will not be able to sin a get by
B. v. 3 Sin Saturates The Mind – (Ill. David’s sin was always on his mind!)
An unbeliever can sin and forget it, but the Christian will have that sin on his
mind until it is dealt with! The Holy Ghost in our hearts will not allow us to
forget it. (Ill. 2 major wounds to the mind – guilt and sorrow. Sorrow will
heal, because it is a clean wound. Guilt festers and infects the whole of life,
until it is dealt with. (Ill. Manifests itself in: temper, lack of concentration,
irritability, no prayer life, lack of appetite for spiritual things etc.) (Ill. Psa.
34:4) Guilt will eat you up. But, it doesn’t have to! Jesus offers cleansing
C. v. 4 Sin Stings The Conscience – (Ill. David hurt a lot of people in his fall,
but ultimately, his evil was against a Holy God!) Ill. David was broken
because he had hurt God! This is the difference between a slave and a son!
The slave fears the Master’s whip, but the son fears the Father’s displeasure.
If you fear only the punishment of sin, you had better check your salvation.
A true Christian weeps not over the consequences of his actions, but he
weeps because he has offended and disgraced his Heavenly Father! (Ill.
When we sin, we are attacking the Father’s right to be God in our lives – Ill.
Satan – Isa. 14!)
D. v. 8, 12 Sin Saddens The Heart – (Ill. David has lost his joy and wants it
back!) Ill. If you are saved, sin will make you the most miserable person on
the face of the earth. You cannot live in a backslidden condition and expect
to have happiness. Joy is the by-product of a right relationship with God!
(Ill. You can tell a backslider by his/her lack of joy. True abiding joy is not
affected by circumstance or difficulty. It is, however, affected by sin. If true
joy is missing in your life, it is because something has gotten between you
E. v. 8 Sin Sickens The Body – (Ill. David’s sin has begun to take a physical
toll on him.) Sin does this! It can damage your health – Ill. Paul’s warning
to the Corinthians – 1 Cor. 11:30. Because sin replaces joy and peace with
worry and fear, it has an impact on our ability to be well. (Ill. God never
casts us off when we sin, He just squeezes us closer to Himself. Often, this
crushing results in broken health.)
F. v. 10 Sin Sours The Spirit – (Ill. David had a wrong spirit – 2 Sam. 12:1-7)
Sin does this to a saint. The backslider will be cantankerous, critical, sour
and judgmental. The saint in sin is impossible to satisfy and quick to attack
others to make themselves look better. (Ill. They have spiritual
indigestion!)They feel so miserable, they attempt to compensate by pushing
their pain off on others. There is only one solution for the sour saint –
G. v. 13-15 Sin Seals The Lips – (Ill. All the things David says that he will do
when he gets right with God) Sin will take away your shout, your song and
your statement of testimony. You can shout – there’s no presence of God.
You can’t sing – there’s no joy. You can’t testify – there’s no reality in your
life. All the while, Satan in pointing at you laughing, and accusing you
trying to keep you down.
H. Some of you are right there today! Not where you used to be with the Lord.
Not where you know you ought to be. Not where you could be. Just where
you are, clod, indifferent, backslidden. Thank God! Things do not have to
remain the way they are!
III. THE COMEBACK FROM SIN FOR THE SAINT
(Ill. Even though you can, or perhaps have, fallen into sin you can come back!
A. Have The Confidence That God Still Loves You – (Ill. David – He knew
that even with all the sin he was guilty of, God still loved him.) (Ill. Satan
will tell you that God doesn’t care, that He doesn’t love you, or is through
with you. Remember, Satan is a liar! John 8:44.) No matter what you’ve
done, or how far you’ve fallen, God still loves you and wants to be in a right
relationship with you. For great sin, there is great grace – Rom. 5:20.
B. Confess Your Sins To God – (Ill. David confessed his sins and God’s right
to judge, v. 4) God is not looking for excuses or alibis, He is looking for
honesty. (Ill. Confess = To agree, say the same thing) If you want to be
right with God, you must come clean – 1 John 1:9.
C. Allow God To Cleanse You – v. 7 – (Ill. David requested cleansing) When
we allow God to cleanse us, great things take place. The mountain of our
guilt is removed, our condemnation is taken away, we are freed from the
voice of the Accuser, our sin is buried in the grave of forgetfulness, He
removes the penalty and pollution of our sin, He restores our joy and
receives us back into close fellowship with Himself. Don’t you want that for
yourself? You can have it right now.
Conc: Where are you today? Far from God floundering in a sea of sin? Drowning
in guilt and shame? No peace and no joy within? Please, come back to the Father
and walk with him like you used to. Please do not spend another hour in the far
country feeding among the swine. Come back to the Father’s house and enjoy His
fellowship and blessing once more. Will you come home? The Father is waiting