Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sermon: Psalm 63 You are my Strength

When was the last time you were really thirsty? Perhaps you were caught up in your work, out in the fields on a hot day, and you suddenly realised you needed a drink. Maybe it was after playing sport, having run around a pitch or court. Maybe you were inside - a hot oven or stirring a big pot of something bubbling on the hob. Or perhaps you were in a nursing home or hospital, where the heat is always high, and you realised you were parched. When were you thirsty?

In our Psalm today, the reason for David’s thirst seems obvious. He is (title) in the wilderness of Judah. He’s in the desert, having fled from Absalom his rebellious son. In the desert there’s lots of rocks and sand, but not much else - no iced water dispensers, no bottles of Evian or Ballygowan, no rivers or streams. Just heat. And sand.

But did you notice, David isn’t thirsting for water. He’s thirsty, but it’s not for water. Verse 1: ‘O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ The lack of water isn’t bothering David. The lack of God is. David’s desire is for God. Did you catch the intensity of his words? Earnestly I seek you; thirsts, faints. His physical surroundings reflect his spiritual state. He is spiritually thirsty. David’s desire is for God.

All the more so, because he remembers what he has lost. You see, when David was king in Jersualem, the sanctuary was right beside him. David was beside the tabernacle (before the temple was built). He remembers in verse 2: ‘So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.’ He’s not there any more, he remembers his special times in worship. Yet even now, he holds on to what he knows about God: ‘Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up your hands.’ David desires God, the God of steadfast love, the God who deserves our praise.

David is open about his desperate desire for God - that desperate longing for God. This isn’t just duty, this isn’t just something he feels he has to do. This is intense longing, a passionate desire for God. Would that describe you today? When we gather, are we here because we’re thirsty for God, desperate to meet with him and hear from him?

Perhaps you feel like you’re in a desert right now. Things just aren’t going right at all. You feel far away from God. You miss that intimacy you once had. You desperately want him. Cry out to him. A wee baby doesn’t hold back when she’s hungry. She instinctively cries out to be fed. So cry out - say to God, you are my God. Look to him, and see his power and glory. Desperately desire him.

Because, as David shows us, when we earnestly seek for God, we are found by him. When we desire God, he does indeed give us the desires of our heart. We see that in this one long sentence of verses 5-7. Let’s take it in bits, as we see that David delights in God.

Now, anyone who was at the BBQ on Friday night can relate to verse 5. After the steak and all the rest, and the desserts, we were all well satisfied. We couldn’t have eaten any more. Full up, full to bursting, and maybe too full for the ceilidh dancing. That’s a picture of the satisfaction David feels in his soul - my soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food. Also, my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.

So when will this happen? When will David be satisfied and praising? He’s not in church. He’s not with friends. He’s actually on his own, in the middle of the night. One of my minister mentors called this the hospital psalm, because of verse 6. David will be satisfied and singing ‘when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.’

A couple of weeks ago, we heard about David’s great night’s sleep, because God was his shield. Well here, David isn’t sleeping so well. He’s seeing every hour pass. He’s lying on his bed - but he doesn’t have a phone to tell him the time. There isn’t an alarm clock with a luminous display counting the passing minutes of sleeplessness. but there are soldiers changing the guard, as one watch takes over from the last. Every few hours, David hears the soldiers relieve their comrades, and he knows time is passing. But do you see what he is doing - remembering, meditating. He’s thinking about God, reflecting on who God is and what he has done.

And as he thinks about God, as he cries out to God, he is satisfied and sings, because of verse 7. ‘For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.’ David looks back, he remembers what God has done for him. He thinks about how God has been his help. The times God has delivered him. How God protected him against lions and bears and Goliaths. How God kept him safe when fighting enemies. How God had forgiven him when he had gone astray. You have been my help.

When you’re going through the desert, when you’re wandering in the wilderness, when you’re feeling far from God, looking back at God’s faithfulness in the past helps us to trust him for the present and the future. Being surrounded by his wings causes us to sing for joy. Have you know that satisfaction and joy, as you remember the Lord?

David’s delight is crowned in verse 8. Just like a child with their mummy or daddy, it’s one thing for the child to hold their parent’s hand. Far better for the parent to hold their hand. ‘My soul clings to you.’ - It’s a desperate holding, clinging, fearful of letting go. But as we hold on to God, we find that he is holding on to us: ‘your right hand upholds me.’ God holds us up.

And that brings the contrast of the last verses. God is not only David’s desire and delight, but also his defence. God will uphold David, ‘but those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth.’ It’s like getting into a lift and the attendant asks up or down? God’s people are upheld, but God’s enemies go down - given over to the power of the sword; a portion for jackals (so that the jackals are also satisfied).

This isn’t David expressing a personal hatred of his enemies. You see, those who are against David as God’s king, are setting themselves against God. An attack on God’s king is an attack on God. God will act justly, for truth, against every false claim, and every lie.

In defending the truth, God defends David, his king. The mouths of liars will be stopped. The king will rejoice, and all who swear by him will also exult and praise. Just as David was in the wilderness, so his greater son, King Jesus spent time in the wilderness as well. His battle was with the Satan, the accuser, the father of lies. His temptations? To be satisfied by turning stones into bread; to demand protection by jumping off the temple; to bow down and worship the devil and bypass the cross. Jesus answered each of those with scripture, from Deuteronomy but each has an answer in this Psalm also - desire: earnestly seeking God to worship only him; delight: finding satisfaction in God alone; defence: knowing that God upholds his people and gives over the liar. Jesus triumphed over the father of lies in the desert place. That triumph was completed in the cross and resurrection. The enemy of the king is overthrown, and we can share in that victory.

You might not be in that desert place today; things are going well for you. Praise God, but store up this word in your heart. You never know when you might need it. It’s better to be prepared in advance for the hard times when they come. But if you are in that desert place, then look to God, and find in him your desire, your delight, and your defence.

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 30th August 2015.

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