Sunday, August 23, 2015
Sermon: Psalm 7 You are my Shelter
This morning we’re thinking about shelter, but I wonder what comes into your mind when you hear that word shelter. Perhaps it’s huddling under an umbrella, when the rain comes tumbling down, finding some protection from the elements. You get the same idea with a bus shelter - when you’re waiting for a bus, you can stand in under it, to get out of the rain or the wind. The idea is also found in the charity called Shelter, working with the homeless, or in those animal rescue shelters - a safe place, a protected place.
With the children going back to school, though, I began to think back to the best time of the school day (and it wasn’t the home time bell, but it was just better than that) - breaktime and lunchtime. If it wasn’t raining, we were allowed out into the playground. You could play football, or chasies or swop football stickers or pogs or top trumps. If you were ever annoyed by someone, or someone wanted to fight with you, then you knew what to do - get close to Mrs Malcolmson / Osborne / Clarke / Barr. The dinner ladies took no nonsense. No one would dare come near you if you were beside them. The dinner ladies were a shelter, a safe place. A person was a safe place, a shelter. And that’s the idea that David shows us in verse 1. ‘O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me.’
In August we’ve been looking at some of the Psalms from David’s life. Last week we saw how David was able to sleep despite being driven out of Jerusalem by his rebellious son Absalom - because he knew that God was ‘my shield, my glory, and the lifter of my head.’ As David continues on his journey, he is annoyed by the words of this Benjaminite. So he takes refuge in God - he finds that the Lord is a shelter. He needs God to be a shelter, because otherwise he would be torn apart, as if a lion had got him. God is David’s shelter.
Even though we’ve seen that David wasn’t perfect, yet he claims to be innocent of this charge. He appeals to God, his judge. ‘O Lord my God, if I have done this... if, if, if.’ If it was true, then he would deserve for his enemy to triumph. He feels so strongly, he feels wrongly accused, so he cries out to God, who sees all and knows all.
Whenever you’re accused of wrongdoing, how do you handle it? Do you go on the attack? Or do you take it to the Lord, your shelter, your refuge? David it takes it to the Lord in prayer. He appeals to the judge, and rests his case. Selah - that pause, that turning around.
From verse 6, we see David owning God as his vindicator, the one who will show and prove that David is in the right. I wonder would you talk to God like this? ‘Arise, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgement.’ Do you see the action of those three sentences? Arise, lift yourself, awake. God, don’t just sit there allowing this to happen. God, get up and do something!
It’s almost like the words that will be heard when the schools start again - get up, you’ve to be in school! And what is it that God has to do? Not go to school, but to act as judge.
David seems to be impatient with God - that God is slow to do his job. That God is slow to act on David’s behalf. Have you ever found yourself in the same boat? The wicked seem to get away with their wickedness. Come on, God, don’t let them get away with it! Don’t let them accuse me falsely!
In verse 8, it almost looks as if David has gone too far. He may well be right to be cross with the accusations. He may well be right to call on God. But is he right to claim verse 8? ‘The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me.’
It’s one thing to claim to be innocent in one particular charge. It’s another to claim to have righteousness and integrity. All the time? In everything? No slips, no faults, no secrets? It’s one thing to ask for God to judge others - but do we really want God to judge us? To come under his searchlight?
We find the answer in verse 10 and following. ‘My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent...’ Here’s why David is upright; here’s how David has righteousness and integrity - he hasn’t worked it up himself - he has received it, through repentance.
By taking refuge in the Lord, the righteous judge, David is counted as righteous. For any who will not repent, God is presented as the righteous judge. ‘If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.’
Those who do not repent are in the firing line. The sword, the bow and arrow, all aiming at the sinner. To rebel against God is to sign up for the enemy, to stand in opposition to God, to fight against God. That’s the position we’re all in by nature, and unless we have done something about it, then we’re still in the firing line. God is angry at sin - not an unpredictable, vindictive anger the way some people might be; but a perfect, holy indignation against sin, all that dishonours him and rejects his way.
Alongside God’s anger, we’re also afflicted on the inside. It’s as if David brings us to the maternity ward to give us an examination. The wicked man conceives evil, is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. Our sin comes from inside, and destroys us from the inside.
It’s almost like one of those Tom and Jerry or Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote cartoons. ‘He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.’ Our acts of sin return on us, and destroy us. By continuing in sin, not only are we our own worst enemies, but also, we have God as our enemy.
David finds comfort in these verses, as he looks forward to the end of evil enemies. But this might be the wake-up call we need. Perhaps you will consider your ways, and realise the end of your own path. It doesn’t have to be that way.
You too can experience the assurance David knew. You can also be confident of standing in the judgement. You see, God is our refuge, our shelter. Out of his great love for us, he turned his weapons on his precious Son. Jesus bore the punishment we deserve. Jesus died the death we deserve. He takes away our sin, and instead he gives us his perfect righteousness - the righteousness that David knew as his own, a gift from God.
When we take refuge in God, the accuser can shout all he wants. But he is powerless to change God’s verdict on us - the judgement revealed before the day of judgement: there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That’s why David turns to thanks and praise - for his righteousness. Can you sing his praise today?
This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 23rd August 2015.