Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sermon: Psalm 3 Salvation belongs to the LORD

I wonder how you cope when things go against you. Where do you turn to when people turn on you? Christmas isn’t yet a distant memory, a time for family to gather together - but maybe it wasn’t such a pleasant time because of that particular relative. Perhaps they had a go at you for some reason, maybe even because you’re a Christian.

Or maybe you face opposition in your work. A colleague or a customer has made it their new year’s resolution to make your life difficult. How will you deal with the situation? Where will you turn to?

There are some who say that when you become a Christian that nothing bad will happen, that all will be sweetness and light. One such teacher is a guy called Joel Osteen. His recent books have titles along the lines of ‘Your Best Life Now’ and ‘Every Day a Friday’ - that every day can feel like the start of a weekend. But try telling that to Job as he suffers; or Abraham as he ties Isaac to the altar; or King David as his son Absalom rises in rebellion against him, trying to remove him from the throne of Israel.

We’re told that this Psalm is written ‘when he fled from Absalom his son’ in the superscription - the title of the Psalm (in my version it’s in tiny capital letters). We’re told the story in 2 Samuel 15-16, but we don’t have time to read it all now, perhaps you will when you get home. Psalm 3, though, is the eyewitness testimony. It’s a bit like those first interviews with the victims of crime. How will they respond? What will they say?

First David spells out his situation (1-2). ‘O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me...’ But as well as the physical assault, there are also verbal assaults: ‘Many are saying of my soul; there is no salvation for him in God.’ This may be the harder to deal with - there’s a way in which peoples’ words can get under our skin, can be on repeat, can stick longer than any injury.

It’s a report of what has happened to David, but it’s far more than that. It is first and foremost a prayer to God - he began with ‘O LORD’ - David turns straight away to God when faced with difficulties. I wonder do we?

So we’re told what the many are doing and saying; next David reminds himself (and God!) just who God is: ‘But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.’ As David is under attack, the Lord is a shield around him - God is defending him, not just at the front, but all around, whichever way the assault comes. As well as defence, God is the one David glories in, the one he depends on, the one he delights in; the one who lifts up David’s head. There is no need to be ashamed or frightened - if God is for us, who can be against us?

Here we find the reason why David will not fear, the reason he knows that the LORD is his shield: ‘I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill.’ If you remember, in Psalm 2 God has installed his King on his holy hill, but now in Psalm 3, even when David the king has been evicted by the rebels, God is still on the holy hill - God has not been evicted, God is still in charge!

There is a great testimony here - I cried to the Lord and he answered me! It’s a great encouragement when our prayers are answered, as we look back and see how God has answered our prayers. It helps us to continue to pray, confident in God’s provision and protection.

Speaking of confidence - here’s another sign of confidence in God being in control, but I’ll put it in a question: did you sleep well last night? Remember where David is - he’s on the run, having been kicked out of his royal palace by his rebel son, there’s the constant possibility of attack, his life is under threat, yet here’s what he says: ‘I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.’

It’s as if he’s still lying in the royal palace, tucked up snugly with the royal duvet. The Lord sustains him, giving him sleep even in danger. I wonder if we were using sleep as a barometer of your spiritual state, what would it tell us? Are we content to leave it all in God’s hands (because, let’s face it, he’s up all night anyway!), or do we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, never able to sleep because of our worry?

In the closing verses we see the reversal of the opening verses. You might remember what his enemies were saying: ‘there is no salvation for him in God’. The truth is that ‘salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people!’ Because of that, David cries out: ‘Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.’ The image is one of David’s enemies being unable to bite - think of a lion or a crocodile without any teeth - they would be less fearsome, unable to do any damage.

As the biblical account continues in 2 Samuel 18, Absalom dies and by chapter 19, David has returned to Jerusalem, and retakes the throne. The opposition has been silenced, his reign is established. Yet David facing opposition points to one greater than him, the great King who faced much fiercer opposition. The one who was the subject of many plots to take his life; the one who was taunted as he died: ‘He is the King of Israel; let him come down now... and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.’ (Matt 27:42-43).

This one endured such opposition, proving that everyone who desires to live a godly life will be persecuted, hounded to death. His enemies thought they had won; they were glad to get rid of him. Yet even death could not hold him - while he lay down and slept the sleep of death, on the third day he rose again; and nothing can defeat him now.

Salvation does indeed belong to the Lord, who went to the cross, despising the shame in order to save us and win us for God, and to be able to pour out his blessings on his people. It is in Christ that we do not need to be afraid, as we are changed from Christ’s enemies to his friends, and given all the riches of his blessings. As Psalm 27 says: ‘The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?’

As we follow Jesus, opposition will still come. We’re not guaranteed an easy life. But even facing that opposition, we can have confidence that the LORD hears our cry and will answer us, not just in time of need, but all the time. Because it’s not what other people think of us that is the most important thing - it’s what God thinks of us. In Christ we are his, and so he is our shield; our glory; and the one who lifts our head.

Perhaps it’s time to think again about your problems; to size up your enemies - to look at them compared with God, who is on your side as you trust in him. I love the moment when the prophet Elisha is in the city of Dothan (2 Kings 6), surrounded by the army of the king of Syria. Elisha’s servant pulls back the curtains and sees the horses and chariots, and panics. ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ Elisha prays that his eyes are opened, and suddenly he sees that there are more (horses and chariots of fire) for them than agin them. Will you trust in God and call on him this year? Salvation belongs to the LORD. Amen.

This sermon was preached in the Brooke Memorial Hall in Brookeborough on Sunday 8th January 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment