Psalm 11: Hide and Seek

Psalm 11 New International Version (NIV)

For the director of music. Of David.

In the Lord I take refuge.
    How then can you say to me:
    “Flee like a bird to your mountain.
For look, the wicked bend their bows;
    they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
    at the upright in heart.
When the foundations are being destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
    his eyes examine them.
The Lord examines the righteous,
    but the wicked, those who love violence,
    he hates with a passion.
On the wicked he will rain
    fiery coals and burning sulfur;
    a scorching wind will be their lot.

For the Lord is righteous,
    he loves justice;
    the upright will see his face.

The discipline of hiding in God

The first verse of this Psalm is profoundly simple. David has learned the spiritual discipline of “hide and seek”. When David’s enemies come to destroy him he hides himself in God. Instead of running to his “mountain” as they suggest, he runs to his God. Instead of seeking escape, he seeks God.

A friend of mine told me a story I will never forget.

He decided to have a go at farming. The trouble was that he, by his own admission, was not much of a farmer. It wasn’t long before things started to go wrong. The crops were failing. Instead of being out in the field confronting the problem however, my friend found himself spending more and more time in the shed. The worse the problem got the more time he spent pottering around, cleaning the equipment and tidying the shed. He was working but he was also hiding. He was overwhelmed by the challenge in front of him and so he took refuge in the shed.

I’ll never forget that story because I find myself doing the same thing all the time. I hide from my problems. I’m not a farmer and I hate sheds. They have an overwhelming scent of old gardening gloves and are usually infested with spiders. However, I constantly seek escape in other ways: social media, tv, computer games, eBay etc. even when I know that these things cannot ultimately help me.

Don’t misunderstand me, these things have their place but they cannot offer me security. They only offer distraction.

David on the other hand seems to have learned the discipline of hiding in God and seeking him when he is most under pressure. How? Ultimately the answer is that he knows God. Here are three things about God that we need to know if we are to learn to take refuge in him as David did.

Know that God is in control v4

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
    his eyes examine them.

There is nothing that happens in this world that escapes the knowledge of God. He sees all and rules over all. Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, whatever trouble comes our way, we need to remember that God is not ignorant of his people’s suffering. He sees and understands. We also need to know that God is fully in control of everything we endure. In the words of Colin Buchanan, “God never says ‘Oops.'”

This is no less clear in the New Testament. One of the core convictions of the Christian is that Jesus Christ is the Lord who works in all things according to the purpose of His will. (Ephesians 1)

Know that God will bring justice vv5-6

The Lord examines the righteous,
    but the wicked, those who love violence,
    he hates with a passion.
On the wicked he will rain
    fiery coals and burning sulfur;
    a scorching wind will be their lot.

Hiding in God is not simply running away from your problems. It is actively entrusting them into God’s care. He will bring justice. True, God may allow injustice for a time in order to bring about His higher purpose but he will not allow evil to go free. God will judge the sins of all people. Either he will judge us or, for those who trust in him, Jesus will bear the judgement for us.

This is what fundamentally separates the “righteous” and the “wicked”. The righteous are those who entrust themselves to God to forgive them and to change them. The wicked are those who refuse to acknowledge their guilt or turn back to God. They refuse to take refuge in him. This has a radical effect on the way we live. David is able to avoid taking revenge because he trusts that God will give him justice.

TV, sheds and Facebook cannot solve your problems but God most certainly can…and will.

Know that God is righteous

For the Lord is righteous,
    he loves justice;
    the upright will see his face.

This is what ties the first two points together. We know that God will use his position of sovereign control to bring about justice and goodness because we know who God is. He always does what is right and he loves justice. Those who trust in Him, who seek to honour him in all they do, will see his face.

“Rock of Ages, Cleft for me; let me hide myself in Thee.”

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Psalm 10: The Lord is King

The Lord is King for ever and ever;
    the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror.

The UK is alive with election fever. Admittedly it is an interesting year for British politics. Conservatives are winning by a landslide. The Liberal Democrats have all but disappeared. Labour clearly backed the wrong man because, despite an aggressive campaign, they hardly made any gains. Something of a revolution is going on in Scotland. And of course, UKIP are gathering a staggering amount of momentum. So forgive me for applying the Psalm to politics this morning, but I just couldn’t help myself.

The truth is, this passage helps me tremendously during elections. How? It provides me realistic expectations.

Democracy is not the answer

So many of the people I talk to are disillusioned with politics. To many, it seems that we have to choose the least rubbish rather than the best. Well, what did we expect. It is all too easy for us to elevate politicians as false messiahs, saviours of the world. The problem is that there is only one Messiah, and one Saviour…Jesus Christ. He is God’s appointed King and until the world acknowledges and bows the knee before Him we will never have a perfect world.

Democracy is not the answer. We were never meant to live in a democracy. We were meant to live under a monarchy, with God as our King. Politicians, political parties and political systems will come and go but God is King forever. One day that kingdom will be tangibly realised in God’s new creation.

Ok so I need to throw in a few caveats at this point. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have a democracy. In fact, democracy is definitely the best political option for us at the moment (in my opinion). However, we need to have realistic expectations about what democracy can and cannot do. Democracy limits the power of leaders and therefore limits the potential for abuse of power but it cannot fix he world.

People are the problem

This psalm describes human nature with terrifying honesty.

2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
    who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
    he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
    in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
His ways are always prosperous;
    your laws are rejected by him;
    he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
    He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”

7 His mouth is full of lies and threats;
    trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
    from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
    like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
    he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
    they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
    he covers his face and never sees.”

The reason why politicians, politics and political systems will all fail, disappoint and disillusion is because they cannot change people. People are the problem. This is as true for the general public as it is for the politicians.

Does this mean that we should give up on politics? Absolutely not. It is important that we vote, speak out and pray for politicians because they do play a role in keeping order, limiting the effects of evil, and striving for progress in society. Some systems, leaders and parties will harness and restrain sinfulness more effectively than others. There is a massive difference between valuing politics and making an idol out of politics. The former recognises that we need more than political reform to change the world. We need moral reform.

We need a leader who always does what is right, who is perfect in truth, love and justice. We also need a leader who can change the hearts of his followers and make them increasingly truthful, loving and just. There is only one such leader…the Lord Jesus Christ.

16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
    the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror.

Psalm 9: The Lord Your Stronghold

Psalm 9 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.

Look back: Recount the faithfulness of God in past rescues

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
    I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
    I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
When my enemies turn back,
    they stumble and perish before your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
    you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgement.
You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
    you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

David’s confidence in God’s future rescue is rooted in the knowledge of God’s faithfulness in the past. As Christians, we are able to look back on even greater rescues. In particular, we can look to Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension as the ultimate triumph of God over the enemies of his people. It more important than ever, when we are going through difficult times in the Christian life, to take the time to meditate on all that God has done in order to give us hope to endure.

Look up: Consider the throne of God in present trials

The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
    their cities you rooted out;
    the very memory of them has perished.
But the Lord sits enthroned for ever;
    he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
    he judges the peoples with uprightness.
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
    for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
11 Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!
    Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
    he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

David not only reflects on the actions of God but also on his character. God is the king and judge of all the earth. This is easy to lose sight of in times of difficulty, but again, it is precisely during these times that we need this the most. God’s grace towards his people and his hatred of evil ensures God’s future judgement and salvation because He does not change. It is the character of God himself that guarantees consistency between his past and future rescues.

Look forward: Trust in the unchanging rule of God 

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
    See my affliction from those who hate me,
    O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
    that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
    I may rejoice in your salvation.
15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
    in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgement;
    the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah
17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
    all the nations that forget God.
18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
    and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.
19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
    let the nations be judged before you!
20 Put them in fear, O Lord!
    Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

We too live between God’s past and future rescues. And so we too can renew our confidence and praise in light of God’s sovereignty and character. Jesus has come, and he will come again. He is our stronghold.

Psalm 8: The Majesty of God’s Name

Psalm 8 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honour.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

God is majestic! I love how this psalm reminds me of this simple and profound truth by drawing out a series of contrasts. Every contrast highlights the difference between God and ourselves, and in-so-doing, highlights the majesty of God.

It is through our weakness that God display’s His strength vv1-2.

They say dynamite comes in small packages.

Even though God’s glory is above the heavens, it is through infants that he establishes his strength. There are few things in the world more weak and helpless than babies and yet it is precisely the weak and helpless through which God chooses to establish his stronghold against his enemies.

What does this mean? The very existence of children brings glory to God because they point so clearly to Him as the Creator. When those children sing his praise, their witness becomes a powerful refutation of all who would deny Him. This is literally true of children but also applies to those who are scorned because they praise God. Lane puts it so well when he comments:

This praise is also a bastion against the forces of evil (v. 2b), hence Jesus’ use of it on encountering his enemies when entering Jerusalem (Matt. 21:16). The fall of the angels deprived God of some of his worshippers; they drew man after them and nature too revolted. But God’s reply was to enable the universe to continue to function as an expression of his glory (v. 1). (Lane, E., 2006. Psalms 1-89: the lord saves, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications.)

It is through our unworthiness that God display’s His love vv3-4.

When we see the stars on a clear night we can only be in awe of the power and greatness of the One who made them. So why on earth would God care about humanity when they are not even visible from the nearest star? The answer is that God has chosen mankind to bear his image in a special way as those who are crowned in glory and who rule over creation. The Psalm presumes that we understand that God is not only aware of people but loves and cares for them. We are nothing and yet God loves us.

It is through Jesus that God display’s His majesty vv5-9.

This Psalm is not only quoted by Jesus in the New Testament, it is also quoted about him. The author of Hebrews says;

“At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2)

In Jesus we not only see the “glory of humanity” of which God is mindful, we also see the God who is mindful of humanity. Jesus is both God and man. In his humanity is he the perfect “image-bearer” of God’s glory. As God, Jesus is the most complete expression of God’s “mindfulness” of humanity. He is God, who humbled himself enough to take on human form, in order to save the people he cared so much about.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 7: God is a Righteous Judge

Psalm 7 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite.

Lord my God, in you do I take refuge;
    save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
    rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
Lord my God, if I have done this,
    if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
    or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
    and let him trample my life to the ground
    and lay my glory in the dust. Selah
Arise, O Lord, in your anger;
    lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
    awake for me; you have appointed a judgement.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
    over it return on high.
The Lord judges the peoples;
    judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
    and according to the integrity that is in me.
Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
    and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts,
    O righteous God!
10 My shield is with God,
    who saves the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge,
    and a God who feels indignation every day.
12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
    he has bent and readied his bow;
13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
    making his arrows fiery shafts.
14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
    and is pregnant with mischief
    and gives birth to lies.
15 He makes a pit, digging it out,
    and falls into the hole that he has made.
16 His mischief returns upon his own head,
    and on his own skull his violence descends.
17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
    and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

v17 is the key verse in this psalm. Praise God because he is a righteous judge who will bring judgement on the world. Now before you write this post off as the rantings of a fundamentalist madman, there are a few news items I want you to think about: Jayde Panayiotou; Xenophobia and ISIS. Often the comments, tweets and status updates associated with these sorts of tragic events are along the lines of “when will it ever stop?” or “how can people be so evil?” This is not very different from the cry of the Psalmist who says;

Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
    and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts,
    O righteous God!

When we take a good hard look at the world, and at the people inhabiting it, a day of righteous judgement by a just judge is very good thing. We should praise God that he does not allow evil to go unpunished. We should praise God that he is righteous and just. The reality is that however indignant you feel about all that is wrong with the world, God feels it more keenly.

11 God is a righteous judge,
    and a God who feels indignation every day.

The problem is where we draw the line. It is easy to condemn a killer, whether they kill because of a terrorist organisation, mob mentality or financial gain, we find it easy to say they are deserving of judgement. But what about us? Are we willing to be consistent enough to let God’s righteous judgement fall not only on them but on us as well? Are we willing to accept that if God feels indignation about the evil in them, he also feels it about the evil in us? This is what is so striking about this psalm:

Lord my God, if I have done this,
    if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
    or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
    and let him trample my life to the ground
    and lay my glory in the dust.

The reality is that what separates us from them is not that they are guilty and that we are not. True, they may be more guilty of greater crimes, but a criminal is a criminal no matter the crime. So what hope is there for those of us who hate the evil in the world but who also, when we’re brave enough to admit it, sit far too comfortably with the evil inside us. The answer lies in v12:

12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
    he has bent and readied his bow;

Our hope does not lie in attaining perfect innocence but in repentance. That is, admitting and turning away from the evil that plagues us and turning back to God to forgive us and change us. The wonderful promise of God alluded to in this passage is that those who repent and believe in Jesus will be forgiven and transformed. Jesus will take the guilt and wrath that you deserve and give you the righteousness you don’t.

O God may we never be deluded by self-righteousness. May we recognise your judgement as good and just and may we run to Jesus for refuge.

Psalm 6: A Cry for Mercy

Psalm 6 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
    nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
    heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
    But you, O Lord—how long?
Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
    save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
    in Sheol who will give you praise?
I am weary with my moaning;
    every night I flood my bed with tears;
    I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
    it grows weak because of all my foes.
Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
    for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
    they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

Have you ever been so completely overwhelmed that you have felt physically ill?

This psalm is the heart-cry of a man who is utterly broken. He is broken because of his sins v1, and because of his enemies v7-8,10. It is affecting him in every way: spiritually v3, physically v2 and emotionally v6. He could not be in a place of greater weakness.

All though I can’t be sure, it seems likely that there is a connection between his sense of guilt in v1 and the suffering he is receiving at the hands of his enemies. Guilt is mingled with the pain and it has become almost unbearable. His tears are both an expression of the pain and a recognition that he has brought it on himself.

So what can we do when we find ourselves in a position where we carry a heavy burden of hardship, compounded with feelings of guilt? First of all, be like David. Calvin explains it in this way:

John Calvin Quote

But this psalm is not merely about the desperate pleas of a broken man. They are also the convictions of a man of hopeful resolve. In fact, the change of tone in vv8-10 seems to come out of nowhere as if he suddenly sees something that gives him confidence. Just look at these verses again:

Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
    for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
    they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

David is confident that the Lord will hear his prayers and vindicate him. How can we have this confidence when we know that it is our own sin and guilt that is at the root of the problem? What does David “see”? The answer lies in v4:

Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
    save me for the sake of your steadfast love.

“Steadfast love” is something that God has promised his people and so David knows that God will not abandon him because God would never break his promise. This remains true despite their failures. If this was true for David in the Old Covenant, how much more true is it for those of us in Christ. Jesus has given us an all-sufficient pledge of God’s commitment to his promises. His sacrifice for worthless sinners is the ultimate expression of his steadfast love and so we who trust in Christ can have confidence in the face of sin, shame and subsequent hardships. As David Wells writes in his book God in the Whirlwind;

“Christ’s redemption is not going to be stopped cold by the very sin he went to the cross to overcome!”

O God may I never forget your amazing grace and your steadfast love. May it give me the confidence to cry out for mercy in my sin and to persevere with hope in my suffering.

Psalm 5: The Hatred and Love of God

God hates sin

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
    evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

I spend most of my life downplaying the seriousness of my sins in order to appease my conscience. It is precisely because of this that I need reminders of how God views my acts of rebellion against him. He hates it. He cannot allow it to dwell in His presence. If I claim to walk with God, and yet continue to treat my disobedience as “not that bad” then I offend God and deceive myself. I needed to hear this. Oh how I needed to hear this! I sit far too comfortably with sin and I praise God for reminding me just how serious my sins are.

God hates sinners

The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

So it turns out that the popular saying “God loves the sinner but hates the sin” is not entirely true. It is not entirely false either but lacks some important qualifications and so has the potential to distort our view of God. We cannot separate our sin from our identity in God’s sight. If I sin then I am a sinner. If I commit murder then I am a murderer. If I commit adultery then I am an adulterer. If I lie then I am a lier. If I slander then I am a slanderer etc. So God’s anger and hatred of all things immoral are justly directed to the sinner as well as the sin. I am the source of all of my evil deeds and God hates me because of this. God is not angry because of the things we do. He is angry because of who we are. Jonathan Edwards gets it right when he says:

“The God that holds you over the pit of Hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his Wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince…”

I thank God for reminding me of the seriousness of my sinfulness. May I remember it every time I entertain the idea of sin and may it protect me from thinking I am more highly of myself than I should.

God loves sinners

I know that this seems contradictory. How can God love sinners and hate sinners at the same time? The answer is that some of those sinners are His people and, even though they are sinners, he loves them as his own children because he has forgiven them.

So who are God’s people? Here are 5 characteristics of the people of God found in this Psalm:

  • God’s people are those who humbly recognise that it is purely by the love and grace of God that they will be allowed into his presence.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
    will enter your house.

  • God’s people are those who understand that God deserves our complete obedience and, who fear him enough to turn away from their sins to worship him.

I will bow down towards your holy temple
    in the fear of you.

  • God’s people run to God for refuge from his wrath (among other things) and rejoice over his favour, blessing and protection.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
    you cover him with favour as with a shield.

  • God’s people long for his teaching and leading in righteousness.

Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies;
    make your way straight before me.

  • God’s people are those who love, trust and seek to obey Jesus. All of the characteristics of God’s people found in this Psalm are now being realised in the Church. All of God’s promises of grace, forgiveness and transformation are now fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Jonathan Edwards continues…

What would not those poor damned, hopeless souls give for one day’s such opportunity as you now enjoy!

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has flung the door of mercy wide open, and stands in the door calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the Kingdom of God; many are daily coming from the East, West, North and South; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are in now an happy state, with their hearts filled with love to Him that has loved them and washed them for their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.

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Psalm 4: God Gives Greater Joy

Psalm 4 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
    You have given me relief when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honour be turned into shame?
    How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
    ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
    and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
    Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
    than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Where do you go when you are feeling overwhelmed?

I have certain default settings. When I feel overwhelmed there are two places I look to: Amazon to buy books and Netflix: television and retail therapy. I go to these things because I believe they will lift my spirits and restore my joy. They don’t.

If I’m honest, sometimes the temptation is to do more serious and more sinister things than buying books. Sometimes I want to give up on my vocation as a pastor. Other times I think about giving up on being a Christian altogether. The reason is that, in those moments, I have begun to tell myself that I would be happier if I were not a pastor or a Christian.

We don’t know exactly what problem is weighing so heavily on David but we know there is an issue. The remarkable thing is that When he is under pressure he does not run from God or blame God. He doesn’t start to treat good things as though they are gods. Instead he runs directly to God.

So I ask the question: how is he able to do that? What drives him back to God again and again through trial after trial? He knows that God gives greater joy than anything or anyone else.

You have put more joy in my heart
    than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

So learn this from the Psalm… Whatever I am going through and whatever I am feeling, I will never be happier or more at peace than when I entrust my life to God. He is the God of my righteousness. He covers me with the obedience of His Son, Jesus. He has set me apart as one of his own people and so I know that he hears me when I call and that he will shine the light of His Face upon me.

Psalm 3: Save me from my enemies?

Psalm 3 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
    there is no salvation for him in God. Selah
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
    I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all round.
Arise, O Lord!
    Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
    you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
    your blessing be on your people! Selah

David was going through a rough time. His own son sought to depose him from the throne and even murder him. That cannot be easy.  Understandably, even admirably, he cries out to God for salvation from his enemies.

But how many Christians, in the West at least, would say that they have “enemies”? Should Christians even have enemies?

Given that this comes up in the Psalms pretty often I thought should probably think it through otherwise I’m going to have these questions assaulting me every morning.

So here are a few enemies that every Christian will encounter in their sojourn through this life.

Enemy 1: The World

The “world” is the word used by the Bible to describe humanity in its rebellion against God. It is the current of human culture moving away from God toward all kinds of evil. It is hard to swim against the current all the time. Sometimes we may experience this in general ways. For example, we may struggle against temptation to indulge in pornography or to believe that science is more trustworthy than God’s Word. Sometimes the enemy of the world takes a more personal form: a work colleague who openly ridicules your faith; a friend who begins to hate you because you cannot condone their actions; an extremist who threatens you and your family because you are a Christian; a senseless act of crime that leaves you reeling in shock.

Enemy 2: Your Sinful Nature

The ever-present enemy for Christians is the enemy within. Our own sinful nature is what makes the world tempting to us in the first place. But it doesn’t leave us alone when we come home from work or switch off the computer. It is an incessant urging within us to disobey God and act selfishly.

Enemy 3: The Devil

Satan and demons are still a reality in our world. I know it seems silly to believe in that these days but if we begin to buy into that then we are in real trouble. The devil is real and so is the threat he presents to health of Christians. True, he will not triumph in the end. True, he is under God’s authority even now. But he is still a prowling lion ready to devour.

Enemy 4: Other Christians

What struck me about this Psalm is that the enemy in David’s mind was not worldliness, or Satan or even his own sin. Rather His enemy was his son Absalom, who was his own family and even his own faith. To use the contemporary equivalent, Absalom went to church with David.

The influence of the world, the sinful nature and the devil on Christians means that from time to time we will be opposed in our lives and faith by other believers. It may be because they are not truly born again. It may be that they are true Christians behaving sinfully. Most of the time, these are the enemies that hurt us most.

And yes, it means that you and I are not immune to the possibility of being the enemy either.

Cry Out to God for Salvation

If you’re a little overwhelmed at the prospect of all of these foes then hopefully you will also see how wonderfully relevant this prayer is to all of us. The only one who can save us from these enemies is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God’s sustaining power and protection alone can give us peace in the face of those who oppose us and seek to harm us. This is especially true for believers living on this side of the cross because we have seen God’s triumph over his enemies through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Salvation, from beginning to end, belongs to the Lord. Cry out to Him.

Psalm 2: When we shake our fists at God

Psalm 2 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

2 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

What fascinates me about those who claim to be atheists is how much anger they have toward God. Most recently, this has been demonstrated by British celebrity Stephen Fry here, but perhaps more famously by Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchins. It fascinates me because anger toward God is not the emotion that I expect from someone who says that there is no God. I can understand apathy, or even ridicule, but not anger. I think this Psalm provides an explanation as to why it is that there are so many angry atheists in the world: the real motivator behind claims of disbelief is not science or intellect or morality but rebellion. The real reason for unbelief and disobedience is treason against the Creator.

This applies as much to the Christian as to the atheist. What grieves me most is that despite my conviction that Jesus is the rightful King of all creation, there still exists a part of me that would see His throne toppled and my own established in its place. This desire triumphs every time I choose to disobey his Word. Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

We need to recognise the rightful rule of the Creator over our lives. To do this we need to give allegiance to the King he has appointed: Jesus Christ. God has established the rule of His Son and no amount of fist-shaking can do anything about that. Yet to all who do fear Him, who do submit to Him he is also a refuge. The same King who lovingly rules over us, also forgives us our treasonous acts and offers us grace and mercy.

O God, help me to see the futility and arrogance of my rebellion against you. Help me surrender all to the service of King Jesus. Help me to know that my treason is forgiven in His name.