Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, Iowa on 7/2/17
Open your Bibles to Psalm 13. Today we pick up where we left off in September of 2015. If you recall, in 2015 we had a Summer of Psalms, whereby we worked our way through the first 12 Psalms. As we begin today, I want to take a moment and show a connection from last Sunday’s message and today’s message.
Last Sunday we briefly unpacked the realities of the Church. We saw from Matthew 16 that the Church is a specific group of people who have been called out of the world by God to assemble under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And that the Church is in direct opposition with the forces of evil. The Church is a military outpost stationed behind enemy lines to rescue people from the power of sin, and the judgment of Hell. And because of that, Satan is our enemy and he hates us and is prowling around waiting for an opportunity to make a ship wreck out of our faith. Christians are therefore in a constant state of war against this present darkness.
So what are we as Christians to do? We are to assemble together and build up and equip each other for the pending battle. We are to devote ourselves to fellowship, prayer, the breaking of bread and the Word of God, and when we do this we grow in spiritual competency, we grow in spiritual maturity, we grow in Christ-likeness.
So how does this look, practically? It looks like what we are about to do right now. We are going to open up the Word of God and pour over it together. God willing, I am going to teach the text of Psalm 13 so that you are better equipped to fight off the attacks of Satan, as well as equip yourself to build up and encourage others in this Church in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Today’s Psalm is very applicable to everyone in this room, and the ones who will benefit from the teaching of God’s Word are those who are actually here. Those who have chosen to neglect meeting with us this morning are missing crucial spiritual training, not only for themselves, but their spouses, their children, their loved ones, and their brothers in sisters in Christ who may need them in an hour of need. So with that intro, let us study the Scriptures this morning and encourage our hearts and build up the body.
“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2How 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?
3Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
We Can Relate
If you want to talk about relevance, you can’t get any better than Psalm 13. Everyone in this room can relate to the overwhelming theme, “How long, O LORD?” In just six verses, David poses this question four times, “How long?” In our lives, however, I would guess that we have posed it hundreds, if not thousands of time in our prayers, “How Long O Lord?”
For each of us, the circumstances behind a cry like this will be different. For some of you it will be, “How long O LORD until I get married?” For others it will be, “How long O Lord, until I am healed or cured from this disease?” For others it will be “How long O Lord, will my child be wayward?” For others it will be “How long O LORD will my husband or wife treat me this way?” This list can go on and on.
Everyone's situation is unique, but the feeling is the same. The feeling that your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling and that God has forgotten about you. Perhaps you have been crying out to God for weeks, months, years, or even decades, and still after all that time and all those prayers God seems to be silent.
The feeling of despair is not an uncommon reality for humanity. I have experienced the ache of waiting, as have you, and as have numerous people in the Holy Scriptures. Job, a person who suffered more than all of us combined cries out to God in Job 13:24, “Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy?” Jeremiah the weeping prophet writes in Lamentations 5:20, “Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days?” The prophet Habakkuk in 1:2 complains, “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?” In fact, Christ himself cried out upon the cross in Matthew 27:46, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” So it is good to know that we are not alone in our longing, the prophets who have gone before us, as well as our Great High Priests has experienced the sorrowful and heavy burden of a lengthy trial.
The Mighty Have Fallen
In Psalm 13, our author is none other than King David. The greatest Earthly King to have ever existed. A warrior of warriors. His fame was so great that we are told in 1 Samuel 18:7, “the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Today we see a very different picture of this mighty warrior King, oh, how the mighty have fallen.
We are not told what the circumstances are that caused David so much sorrow in his heart, but we can make a couple of guesses.
David’s path to Kingship was far from smooth. The song that I mentioned earlier about Saul striking down his thousands and David his ten thousands caused a great jealousy in the heart of King Saul. In fact, the jealousy was so great that it produced a murderous heart in Saul and he made it his life’s passion to kill David. 1 Samuel 18:29 says, “Saul was David’s enemy continually.” Saul tried to kill David with a spear, had people lie in wait to kill David at his house, and pursued David with his army. This blood-thirst of Saul for the life of David, from the best I could tell, lasted perhaps ten years. So perhaps it was in these ten years that David penned these words.
Another event that could have been the backdrop to this heart cry of David’s is his own son’s mutiny for the throne of Israel. The story begins in 2 Samuel 13 with Amnon, David’s son, raping David’s daughter, Tamar. This leads to another son, Absalom killing his brother Amnon for what he did to Tamar. After Absalom killed his brother he fled Jerusalem and stayed away for three years. Eventually Absalom returned to Jerusalem and conspired to take the throne from his father. He then slept with all of David’s concubines and mounted a coup. This caused David, the King of Israel, to once again flee for his life. Eventually his Son was killed and David was able to return to the throne. Perhaps during David's time outside the gates of Jerusalem he wrote Psalm 13.
Either way, if one of these two events caused this Psalm to be penned, I think we will all agree that those are pretty significant circumstances; ones that none of us have, not will ever experience. Most likely, none of us will have a King of a nation trying to kill us for ten years. Nor are our families as dysfunctional as David’s. These circumstances are deeply sorrowful ones, that if we are honest, we can not even wrap our heads around. And I think it would be well served of us to remember that David is not superhuman. His is flesh and bone. He has anxieties, he has fears, he is a sinner. He is no different than you and I. And in this Psalm his heart is heavy.
What is interesting about the question of How long O Lord is the statement in verse 2, “How long must I take counsel in my soul?” The Hebrew word “must I take” is the word shiyth. From what I have gathered in my studying, Shiyth means to lay up. And the use of shiyth in this verse is the idea of stacking up counsel, one on top the other; piling up of counsel. The image for me was a towel closet whereby you stack towel upon towel upon towel until this is no more room in the closet, it is jam packed with towels. This is the idea of verse 2, that David has filled the closet of his soul with earthly wisdom, the counsel of men, the wisdom of this world.
How might this of looked for David? Perhaps this counsel were his own plans or schemes, perhaps it was past experiences, perhaps it was the counsel of his wives, perhaps it was the counsel of a close friend, or military advisers, we don’t know. But what we do know is that it wasn’t working. David had tried every earthly thing, yet still no change.
Once again, I think all of us can relate to this. Because of our fallen nature, because of our depravity, because of our sinfulness we default to the wisdom of man. Our knee jerk reaction is to look for answers in this world. We may begin with ourselves, thinking that we can do anything if we put our minds to. In fact, isn’t that the mantra of this world? Isn’t that the garbage that our children are fed from day one of school, you can do anything you put your mind to. This culture tells us that we are the answers to our own problems. That teaching is in direct opposition to the Bible. We just read in John 15, Jesus says that apart from me you can do nothing. What does nothing mean, it means zero.
When trouble arises, we tend to run to the computer and cry out to our Facebook friends; we comb over online blogs, looking for life hacks that will remove all of our problems, we will go and grab a beer with the guys and vent and wait for whatever foolish thing comes out of their mouth, or we will write Ann Landers, watch Oprah, or read Huffington Post. We, like David, lay up counsel in our soul.
But let's be honest, sometimes those tips work, at least for a short time. However the wisdom of this world is like taking aspirin for a headache caused by a brain tumor. It may dull the symptom, but it does not resolve the ultimate problem. The counsel of this world is a mirage in the desert of this life. It looks good from a distance, but in the end it does not ultimately quench your thirst. This was true for King David, this was true for Job, this was true for Jeremiah, and it is true for all of us.
The Answer to Your Deepest Pain
So what is the answer? Verse 5, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” Augustine said, “God always pours his grace into empty hands.” After David had finally come to the end of himself, he recognized that the answer to his greatest sorrow could not be found within himself, or within this world. The answer to his soul ache could only be found in the never-ending love of a God.
Verse 5 is the turning point in this psalm. David shifts from deep groanings and anguish to songs of rejoicing. What changed? It was not his circumstances. His enemy was still his enemy. The shadow of death still loomed over his life. No, what changed was where David set the eyes of his heart. No longer was David looking within himself, or the things of this world, he was now looking to his Covenant Creator who had been so good to him throughout all the years.
The faith of David has two components. One is implicit and one is explicit. The implicit element is the sovereignty of God. In order for David to trust in God as it relates to his specific circumstances is to believe that God has the ability to control those circumstances. If David's situation was the threat of King Saul or his son Absalom, David had to trust that God had authority over their abilities, their decisions, even their heart.
For trusting in a God who has no ability to control circumstances is a hallow faith, it is a foolish faith. It would be futile to trust in God if he did not have power to change things. Praise God, for David, the God of the Universe is Sovereign. He does have power. He is in control of all things. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. ” God was sovereign over King Saul and Absalom. God was sovereign over the trials and tribulation of Job. Several weeks ago we saw in John 21 that Christ was sovereign over the death of the disciple Peter and the long life of John. And God is unchanging, he is as sovereign over us as he was of them. God is sovereign over whatever trial or tribulation you are currently in the midst of, and He is Sovereign over what is waiting for you around the corner.
Beloved, in your darkest hour, God is not absent, he is ordaining. Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your father. But even the hairs on your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.” There are billions of birds on this planet, and not one of them dies without God's permission. Our God is Sovereign over all His creation.
The second element, is not only that God is Sovereign, but that his Sovereignty is channeled through his love for his people. As we saw in our above text, the Sovereignty of God is a fearful thing if he is your enemy, for he can cast us into Hell whenever he desires, however, the Sovereignty of God is our greatest treasure if he has set his love upon us.
And this is exactly what has happened if we have repented and put our faith in Jesus Christ. The love of God has been set upon us. Because Christ has purchased by His blood, God is no longer someone to be feared as an enemy, He is to be loved as a Father. And our Sovereign Father allows sorrows to come upon us, not because he hates us, but because he loves us, for it is through the fire that our faith is refined.
It is amazing how this Psalm connects so well with Romans 8. As we end, turn with me to Romans 8. I wonder if the Apostle Paul had Psalm 13 in mind when he wrote, Romans 8. Romans 8 begins by reminding Christians in verse 1 that, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This means that whatever trial a Christian is going through, it is not to be understood as punishment. For Christ already took the punishment upon himself on the cross. Our trials are to discipline us, the adopted children of God. To teach us to stop turning to the things of this world to find joy, and to instead look to him.
Romans 8 then goes on to remind us that we are Sons of God with the Spirit of God dwelling within us. Then in verse 26 it says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Does this not remind us of the prayer of David in the 13th Psalm? Deep groanings, “how long?” Then in Romans 8:28 we read, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Let us hear those words again, “all things work together for good.” All things, means all things, even the sorrowful things such as a broken marriage, a death in the family, financial struggles, disabilities, chronic diseases, prodigal children, etc.
The truth of verse 28 leads us to one conclusion, and that conclusion is found in verse 31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
This is where David finally rested his heart in the midst of his troubles, on the Sovereign steadfast love of God. Unlike David, we have the full mystery of this love revealed to us because we live on the other side of the cross. In the midst of our trials, we merely need to remind ourselves of Romans 8. As children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, we are not condemned, we are children of God, and no matter what is happening to us, it is God ordained for our ultimate good.
I know I have told this story before, but I believe it is worth sharing again.
Haratio Spafford was a lawyer and business man in Chicago. He had one child die from Pnemonia, lost part of his business in the great Chicago fire, and on November 21, 1873 his wife and his four daughters were on a ship sailing to Europe and the ship collided with another ship and sank at sea. Haratio's four daughter were killed and his wife survived. Haratio immediately boarded a ship and traveled to be with is grieving wife. Upon passing the location that the ship shank Haratio wrote the song, “It is Well” The beginning of the song goes,
“When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.”
I pray that this will be our song as well, when we enter into the dark waters of this life.