December 29, 2013

God Never Forsakes Us

Psalm 27

1 A Psalm of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked came against me To eat up my flesh, My enemies and foes, They stumbled and fell. 3 Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war should rise against me, In this I will be confident.
4 One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple. 5 For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. 6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me. 8 When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” 9 Do not hide Your face from me; Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation. 10 When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me. 11 Teach me Your way, O Lord, And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
12 Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries; For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. 13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. 14 Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!

-        There is not a lot of specific background for this Psalm.
-        We know from the opening notation it is a psalm of David, who throughout his reign encountered enemies.
-        But this psalm is more than a prayer for help against people opposed to David. 
-        While David speaks in generalities of warfare, worship, repentance and confidence, the psalm is very personal.  In it, David deals with his inner feelings and insecurities as he seeks reassurance and a closer sense of God’s presence.
-        The best description for Psalm 27 may be that it reinforces the general idea we know is true: God never forsakes us.
From Psalm 27, I want to make three observations about God and His relationship with us.  As we read through it, you no doubt will notice more truths than just these three about the character of God and the reality of his presence and care.

1. He is the source of our strength
A.    Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David describes the Lord as “my light and my salvation.” (1)
1) By “light,” David means “guiding light.”  It was one of the most common descriptions of the Lord in Israel . . . the pillar of light in the night in the wilderness, the light on the righteous path, etc.
2) “Salvation” here signifies deliverance, rescue, and safety.
3) Therefore “Whom shall I fear?” David asks.  The context of the question calls for the answer, “No one.”
B. Then he repeats the thought a slightly different way:  “The Lord is the strength (some trans. “defense”; it means “stronghold” or “place of safety”) of my life; whom shall I dread (“be in great fear”)? (1)
1) The context of these two questions (“Whom shall I fear?”; “Whom shall I dread?”) calls for the answer “No one” or “Nothing.”
C. In vv. 3-4, he describes perhaps the greatest opposition he can think of—evildoers attacking to “devour my flesh”; a “host” (an entire army) ready to attack; and “war arise against me.”
1) Even in these most perilous situations, David affirms that evil enemies “stumbled and fell” and that he has no reason to fear and every reason to remain confident . . . because the Lord is his light and salvation and his defender.
        2) This Psalm is not a metaphor or abstraction to David.
a. He is speaking of real, military enemies, people who have the potential of killing him . . . situations he experienced in the past and expects in the future.
b. God has protected him in the past and he is certain He will protect him in the future:  David had a record to reflect on:  God was with him against Goliath, the Philistines, when Saul wanted to kill him, even when his own son Absalom fought against him.
    D.    So it is with us and God.
        1) We normally won’t face armies or people wanting literally to murder us, but we face challenges and have fears and generally can feel overwhelmed and discouraged.
        2) God gives us the example of David—who faced evil and terrors most of us will never face—whose testimony is that God is our light, our rescuer, and our place of safety . . . and that we do not need to fear and can always be confident in Him.

2. He will lead us in a smooth path
A.    Trouble or challenges sometimes just come out of nowhere and hit us broadside . . . we’re stunned . . . we wonder what happened.
1) The truth shared with us through David is that our Lord will lead us . . . and when things come in and hit us, God is there to help us with our footing and make it smooth.
2) That’s what he means in v. 11 by “a smooth path.” (some trans. “level” or “straight”)  It means level country or a smooth place, where there is nothing to stumble over.
B. We ran into this a month or so ago when we discussed Psalm 26, where David writes (vv.11-12), “But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be merciful to me.  My foot stands on an even place; . . .”
1) Interesting juxtaposition—“I shall walk in my integrity” and “my foot stands on a even place.”
2) It’s not just that God shields us without our participation.  When facing troubles, He expects us to act, too . . . with righteousness and moral integrity, with good judgment based on our knowledge of God and His character.
        3) I am reminded again of a very deep truth I hold to from Proverbs 3:5-6 (read).
a. There the concept is again—He direct my paths (lit. “He will keep my paths straight”).
b. There is a lot of meaning in that verse—If I trust in Him, do not try to solve things without Him, and in every way acknowledge (means “perceive or know through experience) Him, then He will lead me along a straight and upright path.
Finally, David tells us that God is our strength and He will never forsake us.

3. He never forsakes his own
    A.    We pick up this truth throughout the psalm.
1) V.3—I can be confident even though an enemy surrounds me.
2) V.5—in the time of trouble He will hide me (“conceal me in His tabernacle— (i.e., in His dwelling place, or with Him, in His presence; not a reference to a specific physical place, but merely “in His presence”).
a. My confidence comes not from experiencing the problem’s solution, but merely from the knowledge and assurance of His presence and care, whether or not the problem has yet been solved.
3) V.10—Even in the worst circumstances David can imagine (forsaken even by parents), we can know He will “take care of me” (“take me up,” receive me, gather around me).
B. As we know from our Bible studies, this is a consistent truth God gives us in His word—He loves us and takes care of us; we look not just to ourselves or others for solutions, but we look first to Him.
1) He may work through others—in fact, one of our duties is to help each other.
2) Or He may work through circumstances.
3) Or He may work through a good old-fashioned miracle.

-   Notice as David writes about his circumstances and anxieties, he also expresses confidence and peace—not because there were no problems in his life, but because he trusted in the Lord to protect him.

-   I am reminded of a rite of passage ritual practiced in the past by some American Indian tribes.  When a young boy became of age and was to be regarded as a man, he was blindfolded and taken miles away, deep in the forest to spend the night alone.  Until then, as a child he had never left the safety and security of his parents and his village.  So the blindfold was taken off and he was left alone for the night, told not to move from that spot until daylight and then find his way back to the village.  Imagine him being by himself through the long night, perhaps cold and hungry, with every sound maybe imagining an animal ready to pounce out of the darkness.  And then after what seemed like an eternity came the first rays of sunlight. Looking around, the boy would start to see trees, leaves, and maybe a path.  Continuing to look around as it got lighter, he would finally see a his own father, 20 or 30 yards away, armed with bow and arrow.  He had been there guarding him all night.  

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