“Into Battle” (John MacDiarmid)

Notes on Sermon Preached at PCF on 8 July 2012

Reference: Psalm 7

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Before we look in detail at this song, some preliminary thoughts.

Firstly, once again we thank God for this precious gift of the book of songs, which take the medium of poetry, set to music, for God’s people to express their deepest feelings to Him. As Abba asked “who found out that nothing can touch the heart like a melody can?” God himself has provided the medium for us to express the deepest feelings of our hearts to him.

Secondly, God has provided a book of songs that is rich in laments. Someone has pointed out that, astonishingly, over half of the Psalms are laments! There is also a book of Lamentations and the prophets are full of laments. We often, rightly, encourage positive speaking and confession, encourage people to peak words of faith rather than words of doubt. Yet over half of the Psalms in the songbook inspired by God are songs where the writer is expressing pain, confusion disappointment and hurt. Surely the reason for this is that it is a big part of our human experience. What the Psalms give is not an excuse to wallow but a vehicle to work through our pains, sorrows, difficulties and confusion. When we do so, God meets us. Maybe a lesson from this is that we need to give ourselves, and one another room to work through the pains of life, express them to God, in order to truly deal with them and bring us to a place of fully trusting in Him.

Thirdly, we need to note the historical setting of the Psalm. David was being falsely accused of treason and was on the run. It was written referring to time when he was under huge pressure, despite the promise of God that he would be King over Israel – nothing could have seemed less likely! The battles that David went through were those that readied him for the role that he would have in life. To be King over God’s inheritance required a man who was prepared in every way, and the circumstances described this psalm were amongst those that God used to prepare him This doesn’t make circumstances that we go through easy to bear, but they do enable us to put them into perspective!
So now we come to the text of Psalm seven:

1. The Call to God’s Battle

LORD my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me apart like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

Every believer has to recognise that they are in a battle. Sometimes it is more fierce than others, but we have an adversary who will use our weaknesses, our circumstances and other people to ensure that the Christian journey is as hard as possible. Both Old and New testaments talk about this constantly.

2. Covering the bases

LORD my God, if I have done this
and there is guilt on my hands –
if I have repaid my ally with evil
or without cause have robbed my foe –
then let my enemy pursue and overtake me;
let him trample my life to the ground
and make me sleep in the dust.[c]

Of course one of the possibilities is that we are going through a hard time as a resulst fo our own sin or failings. Sometimes the problem is not the enemy – its’ us! The question – “is it me?”- is one that we should all ask. And sometimes the problem is with us. In this case, David knows that it isn’t, but when it is we have the wonderful provision of god’s forgiveness and supply of a way forward.

3. Crying out to God

Arise, LORD, in your anger;
rise up against the rage of my enemies.
Awake, my God; decree justice.
Let the assembled peoples gather round you,
while you sit enthroned over them on high.
Let the LORD judge the peoples.
Vindicate me, LORD, according to my righteousness,
according to my integrity, O Most High.
Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
and make the righteous secure –
you, the righteous God
who probes minds and hearts.

Here, once again, we see David crying out to God, bringing his complaint to god, with a plea for justice and righteousness. His prayer can be summed up in three words – “thy Kingdom come”

4. Confidence in God

My shield is God Most High,
who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
a God who displays his wrath every day.
If he does not relent,
he will sharpen his sword;
he will bend and string his bow.
He has prepared his deadly weapons;
he makes ready his flaming arrows.
Whoever is pregnant with evil
conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.
Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out
falls into the pit they have made.
The trouble they cause recoils on them;
their violence comes down on their own heads.

David expresses the utmost confidence that god will determine the outcome of this trial with justice and righteousness. And because we know that all those who do evil will have a day in which they will be required to give account means that today we can obey God’s command to forgive.

5. Celebrating God

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High.

David ends his Psalm of Lament with a determination that he will praise the God who se battle he is engaged in. Note that this is a choice of his will – he is choosing to praise God. Once again we see that working through our pain, our battles and our trilas to God, means that we end up in a place of praise. A Believer who is in the thick of battle can sing!

JOHN MACDIARMID
JULY 2012

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