Sermon Preached at PCF on 13 July 2014
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Reference: Psalm 17
We continue our look at the Psalms by looking at this psalm of David, written when the world appeared to be against him. We don’t know in what circumstances it was written, but we know that circumstances were conspiring to make David fearful, lonely and facing disaster. In these circumstances he pours out his heart to God.
What can we learn from this? We too can pour out our heart to heart when things are difficult and be sure that even when everyone else is against us – God is for us.
So this Psalm is a cry to God in difficult times.
Hear me, LORD, ….
listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—
Before we look in detail at the text, we can note one question that David asks himself, that we would do well to remember in difficult times. David asks himself: is it me?
The fact is, in most difficult situations our conduct is not perfect, and there is usually something that we can change in our attitude or our behaviour. However David is saying something extraordinary – he is claiming that his life is without blemish:
Though you probe my heart,
though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil;
my mouth has not transgressed.
In the light of David’s life, this hardly seems a wise possibility. Yet it seems that David has learned well the lesson taught him by the prophet Nathan “the Lord has taken away your sin”.
That is why we, as well as David, can come to God in times of difficulty, or any other time, free from guilt and clean before God. One other thought. The only person who was able to say these verses without God doing something miraculous to take away his sin, was the lord Jesus Christ. David, says these words prophetically of the Lord Jesus, who would be the ultimate King of Israel, and because we are in Christ, we can say it too.
What an amazing position to be in: we can approach God on the basis of being pure and acceptable before a holy and righteous God.
So , to come back to our main point, we can be sure that God is for us when we go through difficult times. How does this show itself?
God helps us….
1 …by listening to us
Hear me, LORD, my plea is just;
listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—…
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
One of the greatest needs we have as human beings is to be listened to..really listened to, understood and felt with, to know that there is someone who hears our word, feels our feelings and walks our paths. Most of us don’t get that close to really being listened to. But God does know how to listen to us and to hear us. We can be sure of His compassion, his love and His understanding.
2 …by protecting us
We can be sure that in our distress God will protect us. It has been David’s experience throughout his life and would be again, that when he needed God’s protection it would be there for him. Two pictures in particular are worthy of note:
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
The apple of the eye is in fact the pupil, the part of the eye through which the light enters and without which the eye is useless. Because it is so valuable, it needs to be protected, whatever the cost. What David is saying is that this is how God sees us, and how important it is to him to protect us.
The image of hiding under God’s wing is a familiar one. The picture of chicks nestling securely under the wing of a great big bird of prey is a touching one. The chicks are vulnerable to attack, but perfectly safe under the wings of their parent. What wonderful protection God provides for us
3 …by vindicating us
Rise up, LORD, confront them, bring them down;
with your sword rescue me from the wicked.
By your hand save me from such people, LORD,
from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;
may their children gorge themselves on it,
and may there be leftovers for their little ones.
Words like this are some of the hardest to understand. David appears to be saying to God “Look at what they have done, and let them have it”. Yet it precisely because we know that God will do this that we are able to forgive and pray for them. David did not have the Sermon on the Mount and he was living in the understanding of God that he had. For us we need to approach others hurts with forgiveness and graciousness, knowing that in the final analysis, without God’s forgiveness, they will get away with nothing.
4 …by giving us a future
As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.
David is confident, even in his trouble, that he will have a future with God. Probably he is confident that in the morning he will once again experience God’s love. But this also has a sense about it that even when his life ends, when he “awakes”, he will see God’s likeness. The Old Testament writers did not have a developed sense of the afterlife, but the Holy Spirit who was inspiring them did, and Jesus, of whom this psalm prophetically speaks, knew as he hung dying that he would be vindicated and see God’s face when his suffering was over. In the same way, we too know, in our deepest trial that vindication lies ahead of us, and even when we near the end of our lives, we know that the final enemy, death itself, has no hold on us, and that we will reach a day when there will be no more pain or suffering or mourning.
God is with us in trouble and when the trouble ends we have the certainty of a secure future with Him. It is well with our souls.