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TEXT: Psalms 3-4
SUBJECT: Sorrows Brought to God
In a lifetime of going to church, I have heard more than seven thousand sermons. No two were exactly the same, of course, but a great many of them had the same message:
If you want to be happy,
You'd better be good.
For example, if you want a happy home, you'd better be a good husband. If you want a happy neighborhood, you'd better be a good neighbor. If you want a happy church, you'd better be a good church member. Many sermons communicate this message, some directly, others indirectly.
Is the message true? There is truth in it. A good husband and father is more likely to have a happy home than the man who beats his wife, screams at his children, and kicks the dog every night after work. This is confirmed by common sense and plainly taught in the Bible.
True as this is, however, it is not entirely true. Some lives are in equal measure and at the same time, very good and shot through with problems. Many sweet and loving wives are married to hateful and bitter husbands. No wife is perfect, but good wives are not to blame for their husbands' cruel and immoral ways. Some think they are-'It must be me'-they say, but it's not them. Don't confuse humility with dishonesty or delusion! If your husband's a scoundrel, it's on him, not you. Only Jesus is big enough to bear the sins of your husband. God calls you to be a wife, not a sacrificial lamb. Stop blaming yourself! Every man must bear his own burden!
Back to the topic. Good lives are good, but they're not always happy and carefree-
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
LAMENTSThis brings us to Psalms 3-4. Scholars call them 'laments', because that's what they are. People are pouring out their hearts to God and asking Him to make things right.
Psalm 3 is a personal lament, that is, one man crying to God for relief. Psalm 4 starts off that way, but in v.6 the one becomes many; the single man blends into the whole nation. The Third Psalm was prayed in private, for the most part, while the Fourth Psalm was part of public worship.
This meets a deep psychological need. Suffering has a way of isolating us, of making jus feel alone, and to think no one has ever felt this way before. Our minds know better, but our hearts feel this way. We're all tempted to sing the old spiritual-
Nobody knows the troubles I've seen,
Nobody knows my sorrow.
There is real value in a liturgy higher than what we're used to. By praying written prayers and reading the Word in unison, we can enter into the sorrows of other people (living and dead), and, better than that, they enter into our own sorrows. Recited worship can be mindless, I know, but it doesn't have to be. It can also be deeply felt.
It's good to know you're not alone. You may feel alone, but you're not alone. For centuries the People of God have confessed-
I believe in the communion of saints.
And this fellowship includes-
Bearing one another's burdens and
Weeping with those who weep.
The Church is not always as sensitive and compassionate as it should be, but even when it is cold and heartless, the Head of the Church remains warm and sympathetic-
He bore our griefs an carried our sorrows.
Psalm 3 begins in the customary way, with God's name invoked. You notice in your English Bible, the word, LORD is in all capitals. This means it is the Hebrew YHWH or Jehovah. He is the Lord of the Covenant, the God who promises to be with us, no matter what we're going through. Friends forsake friends; husbands betray wives; children ignore parents; parents abandon children, but the Lord is always faithful to us and true to His Word, which is-
I will never leave you
Nor forsake you.
Before he asked for anything, David found real comfort in God's name. While the Proverb means more than this, it does not mean less, 18:10-
The Name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.
After calling on God's name, David goes on to tell Him what's wrong-
How they are increased who
Many are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
'There is no help for him in God'.
Who are his enemies? The Psalm itself doesn't say, but the rabbis thought they were David's son, Absalom and his allies. You can read the shameful story in the middle chapters of II Samuel. For now, I can only say this:
Absalom was the handsomest and most charming man in Israel. Through his good looks and charisma, he stole the hearts of the people, and then he toppled his father's government. David, who had never turned his back on an enemy ran from his own son whose will to power would stop at nothing to obtain it.
Civil war broke out, with most Israelites siding with the wrong man. But-as I said last week-there is no victory over the Lord and His Anointed! Absalom's armies were turned back, and the man himself was killed hanging from his celebrated hair.
Numbers and planning and young and will were all of Absalom's side, but David had something his wicked son didn't have-
But you, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
Knowing the Lord was with him in the darkest days of his life allowed the king to sleep like a baby, surrounded by ten thousand enemies who wanted nothing more than to take his head off his shoulders.
What allowed the king to sleep in the storm? It was the faithfulness of God. The Lord let many evils befall the king, but, when He was needed, He was there. In due time, the Lord would rise and bust His enemies in the chops!
Salvation belongs to the Lord. As long as that's true, David is safe. Things looked otherwise, but faith sees what is there-even if it cannot be seen! What's there is the Abiding Presence of God.
CHRIST IS PSALM 3
Bad things happen to good people. David loved his son, but his love was not returned. This common human experience attaches David to all of us, and all of us to Christ.
No one was better than Jesus. If any man had the right to a happy, carefree life, it was Christ. But read the Gospels and you'll see His life was one long nightmare. He honored his parents; His parents misunderstood Him. He served a nation; the nation rejected Him. He loved a friend; the friend betrayed Him. He trusted a disciple; the disciple denied Him three times. He was
Hated without a cause, and consequently,
A man of sorrows and acquanited with grief.
If David's problems were many and bad, our Lord's problems were more and worse. Both men resorted to prayer, and got the same answer.
Absalom was defeated and David regained his throne. The enemies of Jesus were also defeated-sin, Satan, death, hell, the grave, and the wrath of God. For three days and nights they triumphed over Him. But when the sun peeked over the horizon Sunday morning, it was Jesus who lived, and they who died!
This is what God did for the Lord Jesus. And for everyone joined to Him through faith. God allows bad things to happen to us-even if we're really, really good. But though they hurt us and scare us and even kill us-
Salvation belongs to the Lord.
And, therefore, it belongs to us-
We are more than conquerors
Through Him who loved us.
This brings us to Psalm 4, another lament, but this one for public use. You notice David wrote it, not for private devotions, but for the chief musician, intending him to teach it to the people and to lead use it on the Sabbath.
This time, instead of calling the Lord, YHWH, he calls Him, 'God' which means 'the strong one'. Sometimes we need more than sympathy; sometimes we need practical help, and when surrounded by enemies, that takes power. God has the power and uses it on behalf of His People.
David is a rough man himself, and is tempted to take things into his own hands. But he chooses not to. He leaves vengeance with God, and patiently waits for Him to act when, where, and how He wants to.
This gives him peace to worship the Lord without distraction; to be happy in the storm of criticism; and to sleep well without fear of what morning will bring.
CHRIST IN PSALM 4
Does Psalm 4 describe David's personal sufferings, or the collective sufferings of Israel? Both. The two blend together because the King represents the people and the people are included in the King.
Thus, David's suffering was the nation's and the nation's David's. This goes double for Jesus and His Church. The world hates us because it hates Him. That hatred comes out in different was in different times and places. In one place it is laughter and exclusion; in another it's torture and death. Whatever the tactics, however, let it be known-
All who live godly in Christ Jesus
Will suffer persecution.
The mistreatment is aimed at us and at God. It wants to hurt us and humiliate us, and make us renounce God and fit in with the ungodly all around us. Instead of doing that, however, it only pushes us to-
Pray in our distress.
And God will hear us and have mercy.
The mercy may not come in the shape we're looking for, but it will come, because God keeps His Word! He never refused the prayers of His Son, and through faith, we're in His Son. Our prayers will be heard, and sooner or later, the Lord will do what He promised-
Lift up the light of His countenance upon us, and put gladness in our hearts.
You've suffered a long time now, and instead of getting better, things are getting worse, heavier, more discouraging. Hold on! The Lord is near! You won't have to persevere much longer. One way or the other, God is coming to your rescue, and then, it won't matter how much or how long you suffered, only how much He loves you and how long His love will last!
Your Savior has been where you are: all alone sweating great drops of blood. He prayed, and, for a time, it seemed His prayers were not answered. Things went from bad to worse to the worst they could be.
But then God acted! The tears were wiped away, and He entered into a joy unspeakable and full of glory. You were included in His prayers, and His destiny is yours.
Jesus gets what He prayed for, and what He prayed for is you and your final salvation-
Father, I desire that they also whom you gave me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me; and that you have loved me before the foundation of the world.
Let us, therefore, accept suffering in this world, and anticipate a world without it. That world is real, Jesus is in it, and by God's mercy, we'll be with Him!
Surely I come quickly;
Even so, come Lord Jesus.
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