A Story of True Confession

There is no more joyous person than one whose sins have been covered by God. Likewise, there is no more miserable person than one who tries to cover his sins from God’s sight. In Psalm 32, David shares his personal acquaintance with the shame of unconfessed sin and the wonder of having all those same sins forgiven. 

Most of us know the story of David’s sin, but the valuable lessons we can glean from it mean we should never tire of hearing it. God called the ruddy shepherd boy to be king of Israel when nobody else saw it coming, not even the great prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 16). God said David was, “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). Hopes were bright for David and yet in time, those hopes were dashed through one dark night of sin. David let down his guard and grew a little too comfortable with his own power and position. Seeing a woman bathing, David gave his heart away to lust and the downward spiral began. From lust to adultery to lies to murder, David seemed to descend the dark stairwell of his sinful heart. With every step down, David saw depths of depravity he never thought possible. When Bathsheba informed him she was pregnant, David quickly began the cover up process. He was like a child frantically attempting to hide the broken pieces of the cookie jar he’d wrongly gotten from the shelf Dad said not to open.

But there God was lurking in the shadows, watching and waiting for David’s contrite confession, even as He tenderly began to expose David’s sin. God gave Bathsheba a fertile womb that night, but David tried to cover it up by calling Uriah home from battle and getting him drunk so he’d have sex with his wife. If Uriah lay with his wife, perhaps the sin would be successfully hidden. But God loved David too much to let him cover up his sin that long. God gave Uriah such noble character that he was “a better man drunk than David was sober”, and he wouldn’t enjoy sex with his wife while his comrades fought in battle. So the only viable option for a clean cover up now meant the death of Uriah. David’s sin was as his son Solomon called it, “the letting out of water” (Prov. 17:14)…the mess he tried to hide kept spreading beyond his control and getting away from him. The execution was ordered. Uriah carried it with his own hands. The report came back that Uriah was killed. The cover up was successful. David’s reputation had been spared. He was now free to marry Bathsheba and hopefully nobody would do the math once the baby was born. No one knew, thought David. The only problem was that God knew.

David soon discovered that life with unconfessed sin was far worse than life with a shattered reputation. Sin exposed would have brought far less agony for David than sin hidden. God had tenderly used Bathsheba’s pregnancy to expose David’s sin, but he fought that. Then God used Uriah’s noble character to expose David’s sin, but he fought that too. Now God used David’s guilty conscience to bring about a confession, but David even fought that. For perhaps all of Bathsheba’s pregnancy, David pretended all was well while the alarm of his conscience rang out like a smoke alarm that won’t turn off while smoke is present. He writes in Psalm 32:3-4, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” When David refused to confess after all these more gentle exposures, God sent the prophet Nathan. I believe it was David Platt who said, “If we cover our sin, God will uncover it. If we uncover our sin to God, He will cover it up.” God knew it was time for the big reveal. He loves his children too much to let them linger in unconfessed sin.

Nathan told the story of a man to whom God had given an abundance of wealth and possessions and another poor man who only had one little ewe lamb whom he treated as a child. The rich man had guests coming, so he stole the poor man’s only ewe lamb and slaughtered it to feed his guests. David’s rage was palpable at this rich man and demanded justice. Then, with his finger extended to the great king’s face, the bold prophet Nathan announced that David is the man from the story and that David is the one who deserves justice. Then something astounding happens in the story: confession. Instead of killing the prophet, the God-fearing David comes out from hiding. Upon David’s clear owning of his sin in confession, this same fiery prophet quickly remarks, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Sam. 12:13). This declaration from the mouth of the LORD was a jaw-dropping change in affairs. Owning his sin in total confession brought from the Lord total cleansing. He moved from being the most miserable person to being the most joyful person. In Psalm 32:5, David described it this way: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Notice how many times David used the personal pronoun “my” to describe his sin and how he gave various descriptions of the nature of his sins. This is true confession. Confession that shifts the blame (“I’m sorry you were hurt”) or downplays the extent (“My bad”/”It was an honest mistake”/”I didn’t mean to do it”), is not confession at all. David’s contrition led to his confession, which resulted in his cleansing. Faulty confession comes from lack of contrition and will never result in true cleansing. This is why he begins Psalm 32 with the words, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Paul picks up this verse in Acts 4 to show it teaches the beautiful doctrine of imputation, or as theologians call it, the great exchange. For those who truly confess their sins and come clean before God, He does two things: 1) He refuses to impute/count/reckon their sin to them and 2) He imputes/counts/reckons them His own righteousness by faith. The Gospel of Christ is the good news that God not only pays off all of our debts, bringing our bank account back to zero. The Gospel goes beyond this to actually credit us with all the riches of Christ’s righteousness. Justification by faith means not only that we are declared, “Not guilty,” but that we are declared, “Righteous!” There is only one vehicle that can move a person from rebel to righteous, from sinner to saint, from hell-bound to heaven-bound: conversion…and God is the One driving this vehicle. And what is conversion? A turning from delighting in sin and a turning to delighting in Christ. Repentance and faith. A contrite heart that confesses and owns personal sin while trusting the cleansing power of Christ.

Such true confession doesn’t mean the removal of all consequences, however. Nathan’s next Spirit-inspired words to David were, “nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die” (2 Sam. 12:14). The child died and David’s sin was publicly known to all Israel and recorded in the Psalms for all future generations. His kingdom was never the same, but his account of confession and repentance in Psalms 32 and 51 have proven a help to millions of believers struggling with indwelling sin. May the words of David and Bathsheba’s next son Solomon ring in our ears: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity” (Prov. 28:13-14).

May we all learn from David the joy of confessing and forsaking our sins and the danger of hardening our hearts to them.

May we uncover our sins to our brothers and sisters in Christ, knowing such confession rescues us from our shame and restores to us the joy of our salvation.

Selah: Points to Ponder in a Pandemic

Selah. Its a word that shows up 74 times in our Bibles. 71 of those are in the book of Psalms and 3 are found in the book of Habakkuk. The word was most likely a musical term and reveals to us that the psalms were indeed written down for the congregation of Israel to sing the words. Most Christians throughout history have said it refers to a pause in the music. Perhaps a call for silence from those singing. This pause is a call for people to reflect on the words just spoken. Each of our lives in one way or another have been put on pause during this season of the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore I think it would be a good use of our time to pause and reflect on God’s Word. The following are a selected number of phrases from the Psalms followed by the word Selah which contain weighty truths for us to consider in this uncertain season.

1. “Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah.” (3:8)

How easily we forget our complete dependence on God. When doctors are looking for a vaccine and businesses are looking to government aide and families are looking to stimulus checks, may God’s people look to Him for their salvation.

2. “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah.” (32:7. See also 85:2)

David may have been on the run from murderous king Saul, but he knew he was safe in God. He gives us a glorious picture of God shouting as a warrior who has just conquered his greatest foe. Indeed He has conquered Satan, sin, and death for the believer by means of the cross. Jesus is a true hiding place for us. Corrie Ten Boom knew this. When she could no longer hide from the Nazis, she was hidden in God. May we remember as God’s children that we are, “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). We can be no safer! 

3. “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah.” (39:5. See also 9:16, 20; 89:48)

A handbreadth is the four fingers in your hand minus the thumb. It was one of the smallest units of measurement in Bible times. This pandemic should give us pause to reflect on our own mortality. Sickness and death have this positive effect on prideful humans and may we learn to use our moments for God’s glory. Instead of binging Netflix episodes or wasting time pursuing sinful pleasures, let us remember how frail we are.

4. “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.” (46:7, 11. see also 62:8)

Life in this stay-at-home, self-quarenteening season can stir up loneliness, especially for the single. But here is a glorious promise from our faithful God who calls us “friend” (James 2:23; John 15:14-15). It can be argued that God dwelling with man again is the point of the entire biblical narrative. Let us not forget that our Immanuel has come and now we abide in Him and He in us. He is a fortress for us, protecting us and preserving us.

5. “[He] rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations— let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah” (66:7)

Pandemics shouldn’t make believers panic. We must remember when all seems out of control, every tiny droplet of this virus is in God’s sovereign control, being guided according to His predetermined and perfect will for our good and His glory. As R.C. Sproul once said, “there is no such thing as a maverick molecule.” This is not a time for Christians to blush over, but to boast in God’s sovereignty. May we display the humility and submission to an invisible Sovereign even as the “rebellious” exalt themselves.

6. “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah” (67:4)

Be glad and sing for joy in a pandemic? Yes. As Paul has said, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). Why? Because our God judges and guides the nations with equity. Right now, through this pandemic, God is accomplishing His worldwide purposes and believers from every nation will eternally praise Him for it one day. 

7. “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah” (68:19)

May we remember that each day of this pandemic, Christ, “upholds the universe by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). He bears you up each day and is your true source of salvation. 

8. “When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah” (75:3)

The earth is tottering from COVID-19. Riots in the streets, businesses crumbling, unemployment rising, economy failing. But in the midst of it all, there is God. He is like Atlas under the world, bearing us up.  If our faith is in Him, we are eternally and gloriously secure.

9. “You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah” (85:2)

Take this time to reflect on the sheer wonder of God forgiving all your sins…and at the cost of His Son’s precious blood! Every one of them. Forgiven. Cast into the bottomless sea (Mic. 7:19). Thrown behind His back (Is. 38:17). Forgotten forever (Is. 43:25). As far as the East from the West (Ps. 103:12). Borne away by our precious Redeemer (1 Pet. 2:24).

10. “What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah” (89:48)

This question from the psalmist is rhetorical. The answer is obvious: no one. The wise Solomon has written, “No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death” (Ecc. 8:8). Sober way to end, but a good reminder for us all. Since Jesus tasted death for us on the cross, we need not fear the grave (Heb. 2:9, 14). Take precautions and obey the governing authorities, but do not attempt to run from the day appointed for all of us. Embrace that your good and all-wise God knows the end for your earthly life and will sustain you until He calls you to Himself. 

May you spend time to pause and reflect on these and many more of God’s precious promises in His Word. And may the Lord give us all a deeper gratefulness and trust in His good hand of providence in our current season. Selah.

 

God Our Refuge Confirmed

The past few days I’ve been blogging through Psalm 91. Click here and here to read the first two posts.

Let’s conclude today on the final movement of the Psalm. v14-16, “Because he holds fast to Me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows My name. When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.”

We now come to the crescendo of Psalm 91.

Here the tense and voice changes once again just as it did before in v3, but it’s not another human speaker this time, no. In v14-16 God speaks confirming all that’s been said before. God begins with a clarification and then makes eight promises. Because he holds fast to Me, because he trusts in Me, and because he dwells in the shelter of My shadow, because he loves Me…this is God’s clarification describing the experience of one who obeys v1-2 and takes shelter in Him. And by sheltering in Him do you see all that God in His faithfulness promises to do for us? He will deliver us, He will protect us, He will answer us, He will be with us in trouble, He will rescue us, He will honor us, He will satisfy us with long life, and He will show us His salvation. These promises themselves form a kind of melody that rises as it progresses culminating with God showing us His salvation.

Taking it all together teaches us, once again what v1-2 taught us: all that God is, is more than enough for all that life will bring God’s people.[1] His complete plenty is enough for our incomplete lack. So Christian, whether our earthly life is long or short, the life God gives His own in salvation extends far beyond the narrow boundaries of this world.[2]

I’d like to close this little series of blog posts with a question and a quote.

Here’s the question: Who is Psalm 91 for? It may seem plain enough but it’s one that’s tugged at me all week studying this Psalm. Who is Psalm 91 for? In one sense it’s for Israel. In another sense it’s for all of God’s people throughout all time. And yet, in another sense it’s only for those among God’s people who obey the call to come and dwell in the shadow and shelter of the Almighty and experience the precious promises contained here. But in a far greater sense, and this is stunning, Psalm is only for Jesus Christ. Because He, in His redemptive work, trampled down all His foes in a true Genesis 3:15 manner. But surprise upon surprise, Jesus said all who turn from sin, believe in Him, and abide in Him (very Psalm 91 like language!) shall be with Him forever because He will abide with them! That means, in Jesus we have all that Psalm 91 promises.

Now for the quote. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Around the world the death of Jim Elliot and his four friends on January 8, 1956 was called a nightmare and tragedy. But Jim’s wife Elizabeth Elliot wrote, “The world did not recognize the truth of the second clause in my husband’s creed: ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose’.” She called her book about their story Shadow of the Almighty from Psalm 91:1 because she was utterly convinced that the refuge of the people of God is not a refuge from suffering and death but a refuge from final and ultimate defeat. Is that not what we’ve seen today? God did not exercise His omnipotent power to deliver Jesus from the cross. He did not do the same to deliver Jim and his friends that day. Nor does He promise to deliver you and I from all sorrow and death. Even so, may you know Jesus, and may you feel what Jim felt long ago; that though we live in this life, our hope in Jesus goes infinitely beyond this life.

Psalm 91 reminds us of such reality.


[1] Van Harn & Strawn, page 236.

[2] Calvin, notes on Psalm 91:15.

God Our Refuge Described

Yesterday I began blogging through Psalm 91, today I keep on…

Let’s begin with the first part of the second movement of the Psalm. v3-6, “For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.”

In this middle portion of Psalm 91 we see what it means for God to be the refuge of His people. The tense and person changes in v3. It’s no longer one speaking personally as it is in v2 but one speaking to another about God’s protection. So, in v3 God is said to be the Deliverer of His people, from the snare of the fowler, or the deadly trapper, specifically delivering His own from the traps of deadly pestilence or disease. In v4 God Almighty, in whose presence no sinner can be, stands forth as loving mother bird, covering us under His feathers, giving us refuge under His wings. This is an image we know don’t we? God actively protecting us with outstretched wings, like a bird with his young?[1] This imagery, by the way, is exactly the same imagery Jesus uses at the end of Luke 13 as He wept over Jerusalem because the people were unwilling to gather under His wings as a hen gathers her young.

But notice as v4 begins with the image of a mother bird it concludes with the image of God’s faithfulness being our protection and defense, literally our shield or buckler. Why the change from bird imagery to war imagery? Well, think of what a shield does. It comes between us and our enemies to protect us. Is this not exactly what a mother bird would do for her own? Now we see what v4 is up to. God as our great protector not only shelters us under His wings and gives us refuge in Him there, He also stands in front of us as a faithful and sturdy shield so our enemies can’t even reach us![2] Combined in this one verse is both great love and great might weaving a dual beauty for God’s people. Because of this massive reality in v4 we then find v5-6 saying God gives a steady peace to His people not only in the midst of arrows that fly and the destruction that wreaks havoc by day, but the terror that stalks in the darkness of the night. These contrasting images of day and night function to teach us the extent to which God’s wings stretch out to protect His people.[3] Or to say it another way, these contrasting images of day and night teach us that there is no attack which the shield of the Almighty cannot handle.[4] So, with Isaiah then we joyfully affirm, “His arm is not too short to save” (Isa. 59:1)!

v7-10, “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.”

Historically these verses have caused such trouble from some interpreters and some traditions that they’ve flat out rejected them as being too out of bounds to be true. Do you see why this passage vexes some? It seems as if this is a promise that no harm or evil will ever come to God’s people. Is that true? Some conclude that such a promise just isn’t realistic, that the people of God do suffer greatly, and sometimes they suffer more than the wicked in this life, so they skip ahead past this portion. We certainly don’t want to do that, so it seems we’ve got a question before us. What are we to do with this? Taking into account that v15 mentions we’ll encounter trouble in this life there are a few ways we can interpret this. We can simply say this passage needs no explaining away, it is plain and clear, and common sense tells us what it means. This is a promise of an absolute exemption from all that endanger life, and that it is true of none but Jesus.[5] Or we can say that eternally this passage is true. Thousands and thousands will fall around us but because the Lord is our refuge no evil will come near us, eternally or ultimately. We’ll only look on and see the fate of the wicked at the final judgment and rejoice that such a fate won’t ever eternally or ultimately come near the people of God. Or we could say that though we as God’s people won’t be delivered from every trial in this life, every trial we do encounter in this life will be turned to our greater good, and so the greater we suffer in this life the greater sight we’ll have of God turning all around. The result of this is what v7-10 teaches, no evil can touch God’s people because God our refuge turns the evil intending to harm us into servants of our joy in Him.[6] Therefore, loss serves to make us rich, sickness is eternal medicine, bearing dishonor is our honor, and finally when it comes to it death is gain.[7]

Taking the Psalm in these directions then it is no surprise that the Church in Western Europe looked to no other Psalm but Psalm 91 for comfort and courage when the plagues broke out. The black plagues in Switzerland and France in the 16thcentury, cholera in London and Germany during the 1850’s, or the various respiratory diseases and deaths that resulted from the industrial revolution in large cities on both sides of the Atlantic. In all of these cases for Israel, for these historical moments a few hundred years ago, and for us today in the midst of a global pandemic Psalm 91 proves true, and is a potent reminder that nothing will ultimately touch God’s people because He’s sheltered us under His wings.

Lastly, v11-13, “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.”

v11-13 without a doubt the most well-known portion of this Psalm. It is particularly known for its mention of angels guarding God’s people, but probably most well-known for how it was abused and misused by Satan as he quoted it to Jesus near the end of His wilderness temptation trying to get Jesus to believe that the Father’s care of Him had failed. But Jesus knew the trick of twisting sacred Scripture to a wicked end. Perhaps then it isn’t all that surprising to find that Psalm 91 has so often been misinterpreted. Satan did it first, and many have followed suit since. So what do these verses teach? Well first see angels. Angels that guard God’s people. This means part of way God shelters us is through His angelic host. Many from this verse see a proof text for each of us having guardian angel but that’s not quite what’s being said here. We find that God certainly does command His angels to guard His people. But note that it’s angels (plural) and not angel (singular), so the image in view is that of the angelic host carrying out a zone defense for the people of God as we go about life.

Recall the moment when the king of Syria was warring against Elisha in 2 Kings 6. Syria came up against the city with a vast host, so vast that Elisha’s servant was terribly afraid. Elisha taught him a lesson saying, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16). After this God opened the servant’s eyes and he beheld the mountains full of horses and chariots of fire all around them he and Elisha. Guardian angels? Don’t think so small! God commissions the whole armies of heaven to keep watch over every individual believer.[8] We stagger and stumble through all of life, but they bear us up and see to it that we don’t ultimately fall. And then v12, the angels defense remains true even though strong and sneaky trials come are way. The king of jungle might attack us with his strong might, or the adder (meaning snake) might attack us with his secret malice. Will these bring us down? Ultimately, no.

Through God’s sheltering us in His shadow and through being strengthened by the host of heaven we will walk, in a Genesis 3:15 like manner, trampling down all the foes that come against us![9]


[1] William P Brown, Seeing the Psalms: A Theology of Metaphor (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002) page 201.

[2] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (accessed 7/13/19, via accordance Bible software), notes on Psalm 91:4.

[3] Van Harn & Strawn, page 237.

[4] Calvin, notes on Psalm 91:5.

[5] Plumer, page 850.

[6] The English Annotations, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, vol. 8: Psalm 73-150 (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2018) page 120.

[7] Spurgeon, page 93.

[8] Calvin, notes on Psalm 91:11.

[9] Van Harn & Strawn, page 238.

God Our Refuge Affirmed

In the Psalms we come across many different kinds of Psalms expressly fit for every season of the soul. Today, as I begin blogging through Psalm 91, we come to what many call a Psalm of consolation.[1] These kind of Psalms express deep relief and comfort, but because they tend to focus so much on God’s protective care over His people these Psalms can often feel like a rousing pre-battle speech. Psalm 91 in particular has an unusual quality about it: being that it appears on Hallmark cards very often as well as being the only Psalm quoted by Satan. Nevertheless, Psalm 91 cheers the soul immensely. Its tone is elevated and triumphant, its message is fearless, and it presents faith at its best from start to finish.[2] But as encouraging and bolstering as it has been to many, it has also given some much vexation and frustration. Why so? Because the promises of God contained in it, some say, are so remarkable that they’re simply untrue.[3] And on the surface many do believe that these promises, especially v7-8, bring some unanswerable interpretive questions to the surface. But as we’ll see this morning, Psalm 91 is a masterpiece about how our strong and sovereign God holds us fast.

We do not know the events that gave rise to the words of Psalm 91, there is no setting given before in v1a. Many speculate on various seasons of David’s life these words fit into, some say since Moses wrote Psalm 90 he also wrote 91 and 92 as a kind of threefold introduction to the fourth book within the Psalms, while others believe it was used as something of a back and forth responsive reading in the worship of Israel. While we can see potential in all of these explanations we shouldn’t give ourselves too heavily to any of these opinions because we just don’t know for sure. So, like many other Psalms we take this one as it is, glad that it can fit into a variety of settings for all of God’s people throughout all time.

There are three movements to Psalm 91, all having to do with God as our refuge.[4] Today I’ll begin with the first movement…

God our Refuge Affirmed (v1-2)

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

v1 is forms a kind introductory trumpet call for the whole Psalm to all who have ears to hear while v2 is the suitable response to it. In v1 the call to God’s people is to not remain at a distance from God but to come near God and take up a permanent residence, or dwell, in Him and near Him. If this call is obeyed do you see what is promised? For all who come to dwell in the shelter of the Most High, they will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. And all those who dwell there will not only be reminded of but will state confidently how firm a fortress and refuge God is for His people. This God isn’t like any other weak idol of the nations, no. This God, because of who He is, can be trusted by His people. Shelter and shadow is here paired with refuge and fortress, forming a stunning promise of protection for God’s people. That’s what v1-2 says, and this is the rousing beginning of v1-2.

Many people and often we ourselves at times in conversing with others will casually ‘name drop.’ As well intended as we may be, the reason someone drops a name is to bring about a certain kind of awe or astonishment in those we’re talking to. Whether it’s the name of a close relative or family friend we usually desire to be seen as important because of our connection to them.

Notice not just what v1-2 says but how it says what it says.

Witness here in v1-2 ‘name dropping’ at its finest. While speaking of the great benefits and security offered to those who dwell in Him, four times in v1-2 the Psalmist gives us different names of God. In v1 God is the ‘Most high’ (Elyon) and God is the ‘Almighty’ (El Shaddai). In v2 God is the ‘LORD’ (Yahweh) and God is ‘my God’ (Elohim). Why do this? Why go into such detail about who God is with an extensive list of His names? To bring about a certain kind of astonishment in us about all that our God truly is in Himself and therefore all that He is for us. Of all the connections God’s people have in this life it’s our connection to God that we should prize the most. Why? Because all that God is, is more than enough for all that life will bring God’s people.[5]

His complete plenty is enough for our incomplete lack. While the bird has its nest, and the fox has its hole, the believer has the Lord Himself.


[1] William S. Plumer, Psalms (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth, reprint 2016) page 848.

[2] Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David – vol. 2, part 2 (Mclean, Virginia: MacDonald Publishing, reprint) page 88

[3] Roger E. Van Harn & Brent A. Strawn, Psalms for Preaching and Worship: A Lectionary Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2009) page 236.

[4] Reformation Study Bible, introductory notes on Ps. 91, page 939.

[5] Van Harn & Strawn, page 236.

Why Hebrew Parallelism Ought to Matter to You

Catchy title huh? Ha! In our current world of social media saturation we usually only click on links if they grab our attention. I’m aware of this. But I’m also aware that most of that is just ‘click bait’, a kind of deception trying to lure you in with a cleverly phrased title. I’m not trying to do that here, clearly. Rather than trying to trick you, I’m seeking to introduce you to a word that you’ve probably never heard before but have certainly felt the effects of. What is this word? Parallelism. So, if you’re reading this, I’m glad you clicked, and you’ll be glad for having read this.

In Hebrew poetry there are many ways to place emphasis, but one way in particular stands out as important to how we interpret Hebrew poetry in general, as well as the Psalms in particular. Parallelism in Hebrew poetry has been defined by many as simply ‘saying the same thing twice.’ For example, in Psalm 1 we read of those who delight in the Law of the LORD and meditate on it day and night. 1:3 then says, “He is like a tree planted by streams of living water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does he prospers.” If parallelism is simply saying the same thing twice we would interpret v3 to be describing the character of the one who does v2. But I’m convinced parallelism is more than this. Rather than saying the same thing twice, Dr. Mark Futato has said Hebrew parallelism is “the art of saying something similar in both cloa but with a difference (whether small or great) added in the second cola.” Wait, what is a cola? It’s not a soda, no. It’s a Hebrew line of poetry, that’s all. So if this is true, which I think it is, we interpret Psalm 1 differently. Rather than merely describing the godly character of the one who meditates on the Law of the LORD with similar repetition, each new line, or cola, adds to and expands on the lines that come before it, giving us a progressively increasing view of all that meditation does within the heart of man.

Confused? Let me show you this in one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 46. Go ahead and open up there and follow along verse by verse:

v1 – The first cola presents God as being two things for His people, a refuge and strength. This on its own is encouraging but the second cola heightens the ideas of refuge and strength by adding how these realities of God meet God’s people day to day. In other words, the second cola explains why the first cola matters so much.

v2 – The first cola of v2 brings about the first implication of v1, that God’s people shouldn’t fear because of what v1 has taught. This remains true even if the earth itself gives way. The second cola then, expands on the earth giving way by actually giving us the means by which the earth gives way, namely, the mountains falling into the heart of the sea.

v3 – The first cola of v3 describes why the mountains of v2 fall into the sea, because the waters roar and foam. The second cola raises this image to a higher level by speaking of the mountains fearing the waters because the waters are raging with a swelling pride or majestic terrible haughtiness (this comes out clearer in the NASB).

v4 – The first cola describes the image of water changing from causing chaos to serving the gladness of God’s people in the city of God. The second cola expands on the reality of the city of God by adding another name to it, the holy habitation of the Most High. Which means then, this is no ordinary city. God’s very presence is there dwelling with His people.

v5 – The first cola in v5 expands on the reality v4 taught. Because God dwells in the city it shall not be moved or shaken. The second cola than adds to this reality of God helping by speaking of His help coming as morning dawns, which brings a fuller understanding of why the city won’t ever be shaken. When the inhabitants of this city wake, God is already at work to help. This is a figurative way of saying the Lord’s help is ever near and brightest to God’s people after the dark of the night.

v6 – Likely the most pronounced and powerful parallelism in the whole Psalm, the first cola of v6 describes the earth shaking when the kings of the earth make their threats. As fearful as that shaking is, the second cola raises the bar to an infinite degree when it says the earth doesn’t merely shake, but melts, when the Lord opens His mouth. The conclusion is that the Lord truly is what v7 will say He is.

v7 – The first cola presents God as the LORD of hosts, Yahweh, God Almighty who is with His people. The second cola adds that this LORD of hosts is also the God of Jacob who wrestles down His enemies and sometimes even His people to make His power known. The first cola is a general statement, while the second cola expands on how this God is with and for His people.

v8 – The first cola of v8 is an invitation to God’s people to come out of the city and witness God’s works while the second cola slightly expands on what that work is in context: desolation.

v9 – The first cola is a general statement of God making war cease on earth. How does He do that? The second and third cola of v9 explain how by adding details of God piling up the weapons of His enemies in a heap that He then sets of fire. These three cola give the sense of a progressing rise in the Lord’s triumphant victory.

v10 – The first cola of v10 states what the whole Psalm means for God’s people, they should be still and know that He is God. But the second and third cola of v10 add the reason why His people should do so. Specifically His people should be still because He will be exalted, not just over the nations but over the whole earth. Which taken together forms a powerful summary statement of the whole Psalm. Both the threats of nature (v1-3) and the threats of the nations (v4-7) will ultimately come to nothing before God.

v11 – A repetition of the cola present in v7. But that we hear this again after the new information brought forward in v8-10, both cola of v11 form a fitting conclusion to the Psalm as a whole.

So as you can see, noticing the Hebrew parallelism, lingering on each cola, and seeking to notice what each new cola adds to or expands on what’s before it brings out the meaning of the Psalm in powerful ways.

Bottom line: since there is so much of it throughout the Psalms, Hebrew parallelism ought matter to you.

Two life altering words.

But God………Two words that can bring live from death. Two words that in the midst of sorrow, weeping, and hurt we may find comfort. Two words that should shock us from our complacency. Two words that put everything into perspective. Just two words that change everything.

Over the course of my walk with God these two words have continually resonated in the back of my head. These words I first fully encountered in Ephesians 2:4 resonated that in the midst of my sinfulness and willfully life of sin, He entered into the picture and transformed me. He did a work I could not accomplish, He, in the midst of my depravity, brought new life, a heart of stone replaced by a heart of flesh. There is beauty in the realization that God is at work and it is He who can change the darkest of nights to the brightest of days. However, as we travel through the scriptures the reality is far greater and the work of God is far more than simply found in taking his own out of the dominion of darkness and bringing us home. There are many places throughout the scriptures that reflect on the But God nature of events. I wanted to explore the two ends of these today Judgment and salvation.

But God…..Will judge the Wicked

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?

The steadfast love of God endures all the day.

Your tongue plots destruction,

like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.

You love evil more than good,

and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah

You love all words that devour,

O deceitful tongue.

But God will break you down forever;

he will snatch and tear you from your tent;

he will uproot you from the land of the living.

Psalm 52:1-5

One of the remarkable things about the Old Testament is its continually reminders that those who choose wickedness and pursue destruction will find God is not to be mocked and the life they have desired will find its completion in destruction. There is a warning here in the Psalter to check our hearts and lives. The steadfast love of God is evident and apparent, but do we respond to this or do we deep down spurn it, do we do as Paul warns us not to do and sin all the more so that grace may abound. God is not mocked. God’s loving kindness is steadfast, but He will judge.

These verses should wake us up when we slumber, not that we should not rest in the grace and love of our God, but that we should not pursue wickedness because of this grace. God is not to be mocked, scorned or presumed upon. Does our walk reflect the reality of our love for God? Is our speech reflective of one transformed by the gospel or is it filled with deceit and evil? But God……Will break you down forever. This is a truly humbling song one that should make us stop in our tracks and reflect back on our God, remember his steadfast love that endures and cling to Him.

But God….Will Save & Preserve

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Rom 5:6-11

From reflecting on the reality that sin deserves punishment from God, and that God is not blind to our facades, we see now the incredible mercy of God. In Romans, we are reminded of the price Christ paid to free us from the bonds of our sinfulness. Our wickedness deserved punishment. We were the ungodly walking in darkness forsaking God, deserving of the judgment stored up for us and our sin, yet the Lord in His steadfast love made a new and better way for His own. We were His enemies and the judgement and wrath was stored up against us because of our sin, yet now those whom Christ has transformed, the wrath has subsided against us for it has all been poured out on Christ. He has absorbed the wrath and in so doing given us new life, that those who are His no longer reflect the spirit found in Ps 52, they have been reconciled with God and no longer live in fear, but rather in repentance.

If the first “but God” causes us to stop, reflect, repent and seek God, the second should lead us to praise and proclaim the goodness of our God. If in hearing the first warning of God’s wrath to come, your heart is hardened and inclined towards sin all the more that should be a warning that the second reality may not have taken place. A heart set free from sin is one that owns its forgiveness. It is broken by its sin, it is grateful for its savior, and awestruck that the one and perfect God would sacrifice himself for a wretched sinner. The second realization doesn’t lead to perfection, but it leads to praise of who God is, a striving after him daily in love for all He has done, and a desire to proclaim that truth to others.

The term “but God” appears throughout scripture showing us and reminding us that what appears on the outside as one thing is not always the true reality. It reminds us that God is the one who is sovereign and in control. It is He who judges, it is He who sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike, it is His design and order that is at work even when we don’t understand, and ultimately it is from that design and order we have experienced newness of life. We live because of the “but God”s of scripture. We have breath because of God’s goodness and mercy, and for those in Him we have reconciliation because of His work and His alone.

Psalms for the Journey

In College I once had an Honor Seminar on the classics of Literature throughout time and culture. In one of these classes I was introduced to Bonaventure’s The Journey of the Mind to God first published in the 13th century. In this text we began to unpack the reality of the medieval churches fathers and the thoughts they had on experiencing God and experience God along Life’s journey. For Bonaventure he understood himself to be a sinner unworthy of God’s glory and grace first and foremost, and because he was a sinner he began first to see God in the world around him and in the mercy that was seen in his own life. Thus, from seeing the mercy of God on his own life he then move forward into creation and into all that was around him, which lead him to ponder greater things about who God was and what God was doing in this Journey and as such he came to a greater understanding of God. Over the course of seven quick chapters Bonaventure takes us on a journey from the world around us to the depths of Scripture, to God’s name, to God’s gracious gifts, to the reality of His love for his saints and most importantly for His Son. Alas this text is far from perfect but I wanted to begin with this quick thought for it reminded me of another great journey to knowing and experiencing God provided in the scriptures, specifically in the Psalter.

For the past few years the men of SonRise have been working through the book of Psalms and as we came back off summer break we once again reengaged in this text, specifically teaching through the Psalms of Ascent (120-134). For many of you maybe you’ve never even realized that this book within a book was there. The Psalms were meticulously ordered, compiled, and placed in this beautiful hymnbook for us through the work of the Spirit and throughout the history of the faith to be an encouragement, a rebuke, and a challenge to be led deeper into the reality of knowing and worshiping God. So as we journeyed through the Psalms we came upon these 15 Psalms grouped together to lead us on a journey from exile to our Home Praise God.

So with that in mind I wanted to draw our attention to three specific ways these Psalms remind us of our journey home.

  1. It reminds us of our beginning

In Psalm 120 the author speaks of the yearning to be with the people of God. He speaks about his longing for the peace of God for all around him he is surrounded by words of war. He is surrounded by arrows and violence, but he knows that there is hope before him in God. Thus, the Psalms of Ascent begin with the yearning for the peace of God. It is a cry in a parched desert for water, and prayer that we quickly see realized as the page turns and we quickly come to the hills of Jerusalem in Psalm 121. Here we see that God lifts up our eyes and leads us to cry “where does my help come from” my help comes from; the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. Here the opening two Psalms draw our attention to the reality of our salvation. They remind us that we were once far off in war and in misery surrounded by the flesh and yet when the Lord interceded he lifted up our eyes and we saw from where our help and comfort came from, it did not come from ourselves but it came from the Lord. We must never forget where our journey began. It began in the muck in the mire of sin, and was not are doing that drew us out of the pain that surrounded us, it was not our strength that drew forth our feet from the mud, it was Christ who pulled us out, it was the mercy of God that set us free. So to truly understand our journey to God we must begin by understanding that it is He who set us on the journey, it is He who made it possible, it is He who paved the way, for Paul reminds us in Ephesians that is he who prepared the works that we are to walk in. We are but the beneficiaries of his good gift, for it is He who lifted up our eyes in the desert lands to see his beauty.

  1. It reminds us of our present situation

The second reality these Psalms reveal to us is that it is not just the Lord who saved us, but it is the Lord who sustains us. The continuation of the Journey reminds us daily of the mercy of God as we cry to Him. We are reminded that are present state is not free from sin but that in our cries for Mercy he is merciful. The Lord will be gracious to us in our sin for it is only He who brings us victory over sin and death. It is He who protected us and guided us we have done nothing to earn or deserve such gifts. Therefore, when we see the mighty hand of God sustaining our lives we can say as Psalm 125 says “Those who trust the Lord are like Mount Zion which cannot be moved.” When we see the Lord for what He has done, and what He is doing our faith should be strengthened and reinforced knowing that it is He who has done great things and it is He who will continue to do great things on the journey home. So whether our present situation be joy or distress we know that God is good and will be glorified through it. So for those who are in joy they may sing the first stanza of Psalm 126 “the Lord has done great things,” and for you who mourn you may sing the second stanza “knowing that he who goes out weeping bearing the seed for sowing shall come home with shouts of joy bringing his sheaves with him.” For both situations we know that it is God who is building the house through joy and through suffering. He is building us into the image bearers of His Son.

  1. It reminds us of our future blessing

Lastly, the concluding sections remind us of our future blessing. Here we are reminded of the Lord’s steadfast covenant love for His people. Our “soul will wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning.” Our souls will yearn for the Lord who has not marked our iniquities against us, but has given us grace in His Son, and in His Son a family. As the Psalms of Ascent wind to an end, they remind us of not only the blessings of the grace of God, but in the family he has brought us into; for we sing here of how majestic it is that brothers dwell in unity. We are reminded of the wonder and majesty of the church now assembled in part and yet in future assembled as one before the throne of God. Here it is brought to a dramatic conclusion as we enter into the beautiful picture of the saints lifting their hands to the holy place, singing the name of the Lord by day and by night for He has made heaven and earth, He drew us out of the desert and gave us a home, gave us a people, gave us a name, and he alone gave us true life. All of which we did not deserve. All of which is by His merciful hand and so from understanding our future blessing we are reminded of our broken beginning and the God who put it all in motion and sustains us until the end.

His Love is Better than Life

My wife woke up today to a single long stem Rose, a card, and some Reese’s chocolates hearts from myself and our two boys. Why? Because we want to make much of her, of her love, her care, and her hard work. We want to remind her of how greatly we appreciate all she does for us. We could do this every day of the year in reality but we did it today because it’s Valentine’s Day. It’s our hope she feels loved, cherished, and adored from this. In other words we want to make much of her today.

Do not confuse Valentine’s Day love with how God loves us. The two loves are not the same. Let me explain…

Psalm 63:2-3 says, “I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory. Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”

These verses in Psalm 63 have always stuck out to me because of the transition David makes within it. In 63:2 David says that He has seen God in His sanctuary and beheld Him in His glory and power. In 63:3 David then says in response “because Your love is better than life my lips will praise you.” A question rises up upon seeing this. Why would David not say “because Your glory is better than life?” Didn’t he see His glory? How does God’s love come into the mix here?

I think the answer is quite revealing about the manner in which God loves mankind as well as revealing about the manner in which man receives the love of God. Here’s what I think is happening in these two verses.

David saw the glory and power of God and he rejoiced in that glory by praising God. Particularly, in praising the love of God. What then is the connection between seeing God’s glory and power and praising God’s love? I think it’s this. After seeing God’s glory and rejoicing in that glory by praising God, David expressed his joy in God’s love because allowing us to behold His glory is the primary way God loves us.

This would mean that God’s love does not make much of us (man-centered view), but God Himself (God-centered view). God is beheld in His glory, God is then praised in response, man’s soul is filled with joy, and God is glorified and made much of. This displays that God is love precisely because He graciously gives the elect the greatest possession they could ever have – Himself!

Seeing God’s Glory, Praising God’s Love

Psalm 63:2-3 says, “I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory. Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”

These verses in Psalm 63 have always stuck out to me because of the transition David makes within it. In 63:2 David says that He has seen God in His sanctuary and beheld Him in His glory and power. In 63:3 David then says in response “because Your love is better than life my lips will praise you.” A question rises up upon seeing this. Why would David not say “because Your glory is better than life?” Didn’t he see His glory? How does God’s love come into the mix here?

I think the answer is quite revealing about the manner in which God loves mankind as well as revealing about the manner in which man receives the love of God. Here’s what I think is happening in these two verses.

David saw the glory and power of God and he rejoiced in that glory by praising God. Particularly, in praising the love of God. What then is the connection between seeing God’s glory and power and praising God’s love? I think it’s this. After seeing God’s glory and rejoicing in that glory by praising God, David expressed his joy in God’s love because allowing us to behold His glory is the primary way God loves us.

This would mean that God’s love does not make much of us (man-centered view), but God Himself (God-centered view). God is beheld in His glory, God is then praised in response, man’s soul is filled with joy, and God is glorified and made much of. This displays that God is love precisely because He graciously gives the elect the greatest possession they could ever have – Himself!

The Heavens Declare

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. – Psalm 19:1

Sometime ago I heard a pastor speaking about the size of our galaxy. It is incredible. We know that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. Not per hour, but per second. That is fast! To travel from one side of our galaxy to the other side of our galaxy would take 100,000 years traveling at the speed of light. Yes, you read that correctly. It would take 100,000 years to travel across our galaxy if you were traveling 186,000 miles per second. That is how enormous our galaxy is. And that is just our galaxy. It is estimated that there are billions of other galaxies in our universe. Billions! Our universe is absolutely gigantic. And planet earth is nothing more than a small speck in comparison to the universe that we live in. It really is amazing to think about the vastness of our universe.

I shared the above information with some family of mine at lunch one afternoon. And I remember someone responded, “Why? Why would God create such a huge universe?” Almost as if to say it was overkill. To that my wife Rachel responded, “To show how awesome God is!” That could not be more true. As Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” God’s glory and greatness can be seen in His creation. When we explore the vastness of the universe and we see how great and awesome it is, we should be pointed to how great and awesome God is.

Then to think that this great and awesome God not only created us and allowed us to live in His universe, but He even lowered Himself to become one of us, so that He might redeem us from our sin, is an incredibly thought. David in Psalm 8 rightly asks the question, “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?” (Psalm 8:3-4)

It is truly amazing that our mighty God, who created everything and is in control of everything, would become one of us in order to save us, but He did. Philippians 2 tells us, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5b-8).

God is great and majestic and yet He cares enough about us to come down to where we are to rescue us from our sinful state. He does this, not because we are awesome and deserve His grace, but because He is awesome and pours His grace on sinners even though we are undeserving. The God who created the sun and the moon, and the billions of the galaxies in our universe also made you and me and then died so that by faith we could live.

As we think about who God is and what He has done may praise and adoration flow from our lips.

How Do the Psalms Relate to Jesus?

A good thing is happening in our day.  In more and more churches Christians are seeing the whole of Scripture in relation to Jesus.  What I mean is that it didn’t used to be this way a few decades ago.  People taught the Bible but it was in a vague or superficial manner in which they would draw principles out of it that were true but had nothing to do with the whole grand theme of Scripture.  What is the grand theme of the entire Bible?  Jesus Christ.  To say it another way: Jesus Christ is the end which every verse in the bible longs to take us.  To teach in any other way is to teach wrongly.

Sometimes this is easier to see in certain parts of the Bible than others.  In Luke 24:44 Jesus said, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Jesus means for us to learn the following from this verse:

He is the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.  This means the entire Old Testament speaks of Jesus, and that from looking into them we get a glimpse of His Person, His Work, and His Coming.  That Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law of Moses is made much of in Romans 10:4 which says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”  This means that though the Law is good (Romans 7:7-12) and though the Law points out our sin (Galatians 3:24) it cannot save us, condemns us, and leaves us guilty before the holy God (Galatians 2:16).  Paul’s aim in Romans 10:4 is that the law leads us to Christ, and even more, when a person puts their faith in Christ, we receive the perfect righteousness the Law demands of us (2 Cor. 5:21), and are therefore counted perfect before God.  That Jesus is the fulfillment of the Prophets is made much of throughout all the prophetic writings in the Old Testament and especially in the book of Acts.  For example, Peter’s sermon on Pentecost in Acts 2 traces the work of God through the Old Testament in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.  Lesson?  All of the prophets told of a greater Prophet who would one day come and usher in the Kingdom of God.

How then is Jesus the fulfillment of the Psalms?

This is a bit less clear to many people, but it doesn’t have to be.  Here’s why.  The Psalms are prayers and songs, they are the cries of God’s people.  Thus, see Jesus fulfill every Psalm in that Jesus Himself is the definitive answer to the cries of His people, in this manner Jesus is the fulfillment of every Psalm.

Hurt With God, Not Without Him

Psalm 13 – How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?  Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.  But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Now we come to an end.  After David got out what was inside, he felt comfortable in the arms of God because he knows that God will care for these things, and work out all the things that are concerning him, crushing him, and captivating his heart at the present moment.  That’s what happened in Psalm 13, and that’s what’ll happen to you to if you go to God when you hurt.

Earlier I said that the purpose of Psalm 13 is to teach us to bring our pain, our confusion, and our sorrow to God, because He cares and can do something about it!  Psalm 13 gives us words, to give us vocabulary to say to God when the dark times don’t end or don’t get better!  When we hurt, we must hurt with God, rather than without Him.

So you see, I have to ask you a question now.  Are you hurting?  Have you cracked?  Are you under the ocean floor right now, feeling the weight of all the seas of the world pressing down on you?  Well, if that is you now, good.  If that’s not you, it’s coming.  Were not promised prosperity or a pain free life, Jesus Himself said in John 16:33, “I have spoken these things to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”  We will have trouble in this world, so will you, trusting that Jesus has overcome the world, overcome the world with Him by having faith in Him?

When you place your faith in Jesus having looked at the cross, treasuring it above all things because by it you now have God, you will overcome the world.  BUT, just because you’ve overcome the world because of Jesus, pain still comes – and when it comes, will you use the words that God has given you to do your hurting with God rather than without Him?

From Complaining to Confidence

David’s Appeal – 13:3b-5 – “…light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him’, lest me foes rejoice because I am shaken.  But I have trusted in your steadfast love my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”

Notice that David here in Psalm 13 and other authors in other Psalms try to persuade God to act so that they’ll get out of their current problems!  David isn’t afraid to try and convince and motivate God to do something!  He is not afraid to do some “divine arm twisting” if that’s what it takes to get God to act.  David states that the reason God should act and save him is a) because he is in a mess, b) because of his enemies, and c) because of God!  You probably get these first two right?  Anytime we’re in a mess we beg God to take us out of it, and anytime people wrong us we talk God about it, or we should talk God about it, usually before we respond to them.  But notice the third reason?  David wanted God to act here, because he has trusted in God’s steadfast love.  What does this mean?  Well, David has trusted in this God for salvation, and God has proclaimed Himself to be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.”  If God is that good, David is saying, “Shouldn’t You show up God?”  In David’s mind, he is calling God to be what He has said He is, and if God doesn’t show up, David is implying that God’s loving and faithful reputation is on the line.  Now before you accuse David of doing something wrong here, let me indeed tell you that though David talks like this, he knows God is sovereign, all powerful, majestic, all glorious, that nothing happens on this earth apart from His will, and that God always does what is best for him.  But David knows that prayer can really make a difference in what happens or what does not happen in his own life!  So given the situation he is in, David goes for it in prayer with God, and he’s got nothing to lose in doing so, because God hears the cries of His children and always acts for them.  You know what’s crazy about this?  We should do this too.

David’s Confidence – 13:6 – “I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

Now we’ve come to the last verse in our Psalm, and it is strange.  Well this whole Psalm is strange isn’t it?  But really, look at this last verse – the tone totally changes.  David was bleak and had cracked emotionally and spiritually.  He’s at the end of is rope and is calling God to action to rescue him from this mess.  Then in 13:6 we read this?  What?  Some scholars believe that this verse was added onto the end at a later time because it’s so different in tone.  I don’t believe that, and you shouldn’t either, it’s wrong.  I believe this different feel for an ending shows the heart of David and oh (!) is it awesome!  It reveals that David’s heart knows that regardless of how God answers this prayer, whether He shows up and rescues him, whether He does something totally unexpected, or whether He does nothing at all, David will be ok.  Why?  Because he’s gotten what was crushing his heart off his heart, it’s in God’s hands now, and David knows deep down inside that God has been faithful in the past, and that he can trust God with his future, even if he doesn’t understand the present.  David has just traveled from complaint to confidence, how?  By taking God to task, getting mad, screaming, throbbing, crying, all in prayer.  God is now taking care of His boy, and David knows…everything will be ok.

If God Doesn’t Show Up…..

David’s Complaint – 13:1b-2 – “Will You forget me forever?  How long will You hide Your face from me?  How long must I bear pain (take counsel) in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

This is now the section of the prayer where David pours out his complaints.  Clearly, whatever David is going through he is not well.  He is experiencing all kinds of trouble and turmoil: he thinks God has forgotten him, that God has hidden his face from him, and these thoughts are tearing his soul apart, bringing him inner pain and sorrow in his soul every second of the day.  Then we learn that David has an enemy who has or is bringing extreme difficulty into his life, because they have somehow gained the upper hand with David and seem eager to proclaim their victory over him, rejoicing at the downfall of David.  Whatever the situation was the this enemy it is clear that David thinks it is not what God wants to happen, so he cries out about it.  David’s complaint can be summarized in a few statements: 1) I am in pain, 2) my enemy wants my demise, 3) God, where are you?

David’s Request – 13:3a – “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…”

Often when someone makes a complaint to God and pours out there heart before Him, the person will beg for God to show up directly afterwards.  We need to remember that the Psalms are poetry, and that when David says, “…light up my eyes…” he is not saying that all he needs is physical light because he follows the statement with, “…lest I sleep the sleep of death.”  This is highly poetic language describing the fact that if God does not show up and save David from this awful time, his life – in his view – is done!  Light up my eyes means – save me, restore the health of my heart and soul, I’m in anguish, show up and lead me out of this mess, or else I’m at my end.

I wonder, where are you?  I mean, as you read this you’re doing life somewhere with other people, and I’m certain that some of you might be in this moment feeling the way David felt.  Is that you?  Do you feel that your circumstances are bleak enough to believe that God must show up sometime soon or else you are done?  I’ve been there.  It’s not fun, but the glorious thing is that God does show up.  Always, He is faithful, good, kind, and won’t leave us in a moment of weakness but sustain us with Himself to make it through.  If this is you, hold on.  God is coming, God is working, keep your eyes open for Him, He’ll reveal Himself soon and capture your heart.