We are going to take a one week break from our study of John’s Gospel because of an experience I had this past week. I was studying for my Wednesday night Bible study when, in our study, I was led to Psalm 62. The Psalm jumped out at me in a way that is hard to describe. I’m sure you will know what I mean once I explain. There are times in our life when the combination of our life experience and the truth of God’s Word combine in such a way that is more than powerful. It can only be explained as God’s intervention to convict us, strengthen us, counsel us, and reassure us of His divine Sovereignty and omnipotent power to see us through to the other side.
Our Bible study on Wednesday night, called “Recovering Redemption,” has been one of the most powerful studies I’ve done in a long time. The focus of the Bible study has been to recognize that we are broken sinners without hope apart from God’s intervention through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. For most of us, when we are confronted with the broken places of our lives we tend to focus more on behavior modification instead of focusing on crying out to God to change our hearts. Matt Chandler, the pastor of The Village Church and author of “Recovering Redemption” says, “The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.”
Fear and Anxiety
This past week we were taking a close look at “fear and anxiety” and the impact they have on our lives. There is not one person here this morning that is not familiar with fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety are involuntary reflexes that happen when we are startled by the events of life. When tragedy, trials, and troubles come we don’t have to resolve to be fearful or anxious. We don’t consciously think, “Well, I guess my heart should begin racing right about now. I guess I should be fearful about what could happen in the future.” These things just happen and oftentimes they come on us like a tidal wave full of emotion. Our hearts race, our minds spin out of control with the what-could-be in the near future, and we can’t seem find rest or peace.
Our lesson was designed to help us see that in those times, when we are bombarded by fear and anxiety, we are focusing on the uncertainties of life rather than focusing on the promises of God. Our fear is evidence that we are not trusting God in the present situation. What is important for us is to confess to God our lack of faith in the current situation and seek His help through the counsel of His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. We will never get to the place where we stand up and declare, “I use to deal with fear and anxiety, but now I’m bullet proof, nothing can phase me!” Events will happen. Trials will continue to come. Tragedy will drop us to our knees. These things are as certain as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. The difference for us is this: When those times come we can acknowledge the anxiety and fear we are experiencing and see beyond them to the God who has been faithful in the past and who will forever be faithful. He will strengthen us. He will counsel us through His Word. He can draw us out of the fear and anxiety into His quiet rest through the power of the Holy Spirit if we will utilize the resources He has made available to us.
Now, I said “when those times come…” The truth of the matter is that time has come for many of you who are here this morning. You have had a week full of anxiety and fear because of the circumstances of your life. During class on Wednesday night I asked, “What has had your attention this week? What trouble or concern has kept you preoccupied?” People didn’t have to give it any thought. One mom said, “The behavior of my son.” A man said, “My job. I’m on a 120 day review and the time of my evaluation is coming up.” Another man who had been battling cancer and had asked for prayer about his upcoming PET Scan said, “My adult children.” I said, “Aren’t you concerned about your PET Scan?” He said, “No not really.” Maybe it’s just that his kids concern him more than his own life. How about you? What’s had your attention this past week? What has drawn your gaze away from God and onto your problem? Whatever it is and whoever you are I’m so glad you are here this morning. Hold on, help is here and hope is available.
A Psalm of Trust
This morning we are going to spend our time in Psalm 62, a Psalm of David. Many Bible teachers believe that this Psalm was written during one of the most painful times of David’s life, when his son Absalom was trying to kill him. Let’s read the Psalm together and then I’ll share with you what I’ve been learning this week in hopes that it will help you as much as it has helped me.
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David. 1 Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. 2 Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. 3 How long will you assault me? Would all of you throw me down– this leaning wall, this tottering fence? 4 Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. 5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. 6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. 7 My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. 8 Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. 9 Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. 10 Do not trust in extortion or put vain hope in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them. 11 One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, 12 and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”; and, “You reward everyone according to what they have done.” (Psalm 62:1-12 NIV)
There is a phrase, found at the end of verse 2, that jumped out at me. It is the phrase, “I will never be shaken.” That is a strong statement isn’t it? I will never be shaken? Are we to take that statement literally? Are we to conclude that David was a tower of strength and certainty that was never affected by any of the troubling times that he went through in life, or is there a deeper meaning to the phrase, “I will never be shaken?” Now, I have to tell you that you won’t have to search too hard to find those who will tell you that we are absolutely to take David at his word and know that we too can go through life and never be shaken. I’m sorry, I think that’s nonsense. I’m convinced that there is a lesson in this Psalm for you and me that is far more powerful than to believe that we can have a Teflon heart and mind that deflects every heartbreaking and nerve shattering situation we encounter in life. Let me explain.
The King Who Was Shaken to the Core
If Bible teachers are right and this Psalm was written when David was on the run for his life from his own son Absalom, then we have a record of what that experience was like for David. We can read the whole story in 2 Samuel 13-19. David had three children by his wife Maacah. The story from 2 Samuel 13-19 involves two of her children, Tamar and Absalom. David had a son named, Amnon, by another wife named Ahinoam. Amnon was a half-brother to Tamar and Absalom. Amnon was infatuated by Tamar and he told one of his friends, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” (2 Samuel 13:4 NIV) Amnon was so obsessed and preoccupied by his thoughts of Tamar that it literally made him sick. It was a disaster in the making that eventually led to Amnon raping his half-sister, Tamar. Tamar’s mother, Maacah, and her brother, Absalom, complained to David, but he didn’t do anything. Read 2 Samuel 13:21-22 with me.
21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar. (2 Samuel 13:21-22 NIV)
The bitterness and rage grew and grew in Absalom until two years after Tamar’s rape, Absalom killed his brother Amnon. When David heard about Amnon’s death, we read that he “mourned many days for his son.” Turn to 2 Samuel 13:37-39 and let’s look at it.
37 Absalom fled and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. But King David mourned many days for his son. 38 After Absalom fled and went to Geshur, he stayed there three years. 39 And King David longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death. (2 Samuel 13:37-39 NIV)
Once he killed his brother, Absalom went to live among his mother’s family for three years in Geshur where his grandfather Talmai was king. Three years. At some point David’s thoughts turned from the grief he was suffering from the loss of Amnon to the loss of his son Absalom. Did David feel like he had played a part in Amnon’s death because he failed to address the situation when it took place? Did David wake up in the middle of the night thinking about Absalom and wondering what he was doing, how he was doing? I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I do know that “David longed to go to Absalom…” but he never went to see his son. Absalom’s bitterness continued to grow and grow.
Finally, after three years, Joab, David’s right hand man finagled and maneuvered until David agreed to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem, but David was clear that Absalom was to live in his own house and never come to the royal palace. Two more years passed and finally Absalom sent for Joab and said,
32 Absalom said to Joab, “Look, I sent word to you and said, ‘Come here so I can send you to the king to ask, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me if I were still there!”‘ Now then, I want to see the king’s face, and if I am guilty of anything, let him put me to death.” (2 Samuel 14:32 NIV)
“Why did my dad bring me here if he didn’t want anything to do with me?!” Absalom was confused, he was angry, he was hurt, he was…if you’ve ever wanted a relationship with your mom or dad and they just didn’t seem interested then you know some of what Absalom was feeling.
Things got so bad that Absalom began undermining everything David was doing. He was ruthless. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to shame his dad, try and destroy his dad, and overthrow his dad. Absalom turned the whole nation against David. When word got to David he gathered up his officials and said, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin on us and put the city to the sword.” (2 Samuel 15:14 NIV) Absalom was determined. He was relentless. His bitterness had turned into blind rage and nothing would stop him.
Some time passed. David and his men were at Mahanaim where they came up with a plan to attack Absalom’s men and bring an end to Absalom’s coup. Before the men set out David gathered his leaders and told them, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders. (2 Samuel 18:5 NIV) Joab knew that Absalom would not be deterred so when he got his chance, Joab killed Absalom. David had been waiting and wondering. When he saw the messenger coming towards him he had no idea of the news that would be delivered. When he got word that Absalom was dead, we read,
33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you– O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33 NIV)
“The king was shaken.” He was undone. He cried and cried. He wailed with no regard, no concern whatsoever as to who heard him. He didn’t care. His son was dead. “If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”
A Servant on the Run
This wasn’t the only time David was shaken. Long before he was every married or had children, when he was just a young guy with a desire to serve king Saul, he went through such a confusing, scary time as Saul’s jealousy of David led him to set his sights on killing David. David lived on the run and while he was hiding in a cave he wrote,
A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer. 1 I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. 2 I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble. 3 When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. 4 Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. 5 I cry to you, LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” 6 Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. 7 Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me. (Psalm 142:1-7 NIV)
He was shaken. His spirit grew faint. He didn’t have a friend in the world, no one to care for him, no refuge from the storm. He was in desperate need, being pursued by those who wanted to kill him. Then David reassured himself, he confessed the truth in the midst of his trying circumstances, “I cry to you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” That’s truth in the midst of troubles. Folks, our aim is not to avoid the troubles and trials of life which are unavoidable, but to know God’s truth as we journey through them.
Let’s go back to Psalm 62 and let me share with you a great lesson I’ve learned which hopefully will encourage you. Let me share with you a little Hebrew lesson which will focus our attention on a fundamental truth for those who are being shaken by life’s trials and troubles. I want to us to read four verses together from Psalm 62. Here we go.
1 Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. (Psalm 62:1 NIV)
2 Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:2 NIV)
5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5 NIV)
6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:6 NIV)
These four verses have something in common and that is each of them begins with the same Hebrew word, ?????” “ (‘ak). The word can be either a “restrictive” word meaning, “only” or “alone” or it can serve as an assertive declaration like “truly” or “indeed.” In this Psalm of David the word, “’ak,” really includes both meanings. Let me show you what I’m talking about. Take verse 1 as an example. We can read it as “Truly, or indeed, my soul finds rest in God.” We can also read it as, “My soul finds rest in God alone.” If we apply both meanings to the reading of the verse then we would read it like, “Truly, in God alone, my soul finds rest.” Rolf Jacobsen, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, writes,
The truth is that in Hebrew the term most likely has a sense of double-entendre — at each point it carries both senses of the term. To wait for God alone means to wait on God indeed! To truly hope in God means that one must hope only in God! (Jacobsen, Rolf. Commentary on Psalm 62:5-12)
That’s our first order of business when those experiences that shake us, trouble us, and drop us to our knees come our way. We must resolve in our hearts and minds that we will have no rest, no peace outside of trusting in, abiding in, crying out to God alone.
In Times of Trouble…God Alone!
I don’t know about you, but I can confess to you that when those times come about in my life my mind races in a thousand directions. “What’s going to happen? How can I fix this problem? Who do I need to call? Am I going to make it? Why is this happening to me?” And on and on my mind races with the thoughts that bombard my soul. Rather than allowing my mind to run wild I’ve got to stop and speak truth to my mind rather than allowing my mind to dictate my thought processes. I’ve got to, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV) As my mind races I have to stop and say, “N0! That’s not the truth? The truth is this: I will find rest in God alone. He alone is my hope and salvation in this situation. Indeed, truly, He is my fortress, my rock, in this terrifying moment.”
There is one final thing I want to share with you that I’ve learned this week from David’s Psalm that has been so helpful to me. I want you to notice the repetition in these verses. In verses 1 and 5 David declares, “My soul finds rest in God.” David repeats his declaration in verses 1, 2, 6, 7 that God is his “salvation.” In verses 2, 6, 7 David declares that God is his “rock.” In verses 2 and 6 David declares that God alone is his “fortress.” In verses 7 and 8, David reaffirms that God alone is his “refuge.” Last of all, in verses 2 and 6, David says, “I will not be shaken!”
What’s the point of the repetition? Did David forget what he had written? Was it really necessary that David repeat the same truths over and over again? You better believe it was necessary. I’ll tell you something else, it’s still necessary for you and for me—those who face battles in life. I can’t tell you the times I’ve met with people who were engaged in a battle and were at their wits end. Typically our time together has gone like this: I listen to them talk about their situation. I ask questions. I share Scripture with them that pertains to God’s promises of provision, strength, comfort, and deliverance. I encourage them to write it down, read it over and over again throughout the day until they don’t need to look at it anymore because it’s in their heart, and encourage them to focus on God’s promises instead of their problem. I pray for them and ask the Lord to use His Word and His Spirit to draw them into His presence and provide them His strength. Later, when I check back in with them, I will oftentimes hear, “I tried what you said, but it didn’t work.” It didn’t work?
Tending the Garden of our Hearts
What God desires to do in us is different than putting together a 5,000 piece puzzle, changing a busted carburetor, or building a house from an architect’s set of plans. What God desires to do in us is more like tending a garden. He plants the seed of the Gospel in our hearts, waters it regularly and in various ways, and tends the garden. If you’ve ever had a garden then you know that along with the seedlings you plant there are other plants that come up voluntarily. They aren’t the ones He desires, but they are there and there is no denying it. They are weeds. They are worthless weeds that will choke out the good plants if left to themselves. They’ve got to be uprooted and uprooted again and again and again. Tending the garden of our hearts is a battle, a never ending battle.
I learned a verse from 2 Corinthians 12 many years ago that has helped me in ways that I can’t even describe to you. Paul was writing about some “thorn in the flesh” that he battled. We don’t know what it was and I’m thankful that we don’t because we can apply the principle to our own battle with the weeds of our lives. Paul said he asked the Lord three times to take it away from him. “Just remove it once and for all so that I don’t ever have to deal with battle ever again God.”
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NIV)
God did something much more powerful that remove every vestige of the battle—He said I will be your strength and power to fight that battle and win the victory. Do you recognize why this is so much more powerful that God ridding you and me of the battle? Whatever it is that we have battled, are battling, or will battle—if God settled it once and for all then we would just head on down the road and forget all about Him. You say, “I would never do that!” Really? Seriously? Ok, whatever. For everyone else, are you ready for this? By God not ridding you and me of the battle once-and-for-all He is inviting us to walk with Him in an ever growing trust and dependence. From mountaintop to mountaintop and through every valley He will be our ever present help in our time of need, every need and every battle. Won’t you trust Him? Won’t you renounce your self-reliance and cling to Jesus as your sole source of salvation and strength?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 2, 2014