When Things are Unclear–Trust God

My devotional reading this morning included this verse from Psalm 56:

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust;  I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?”  Psalm 56:4

The superscription tells us that it was written by David when the Philistines seized him in Gath– most assuredly a scary and uncomfortable situation!  Although Samuel had anointed him as king, his future looked uncertain at best.

Most of us will never be captured by enemy soldiers but we still go through tough and confusing times.  Friends disappoint us;  our dream job becomes stressful;  the kids act up;  our financial situation deteriorates;  our health fails.  It’s hard to remember that God is at work in those difficult things, as well as the good ones.  Like David, we may not understand, but we can trust.  We can refuse to fear, because God is with us.

 

Anthony W. Thorold, an Anglican bishop during the Victorian period sums it up well in this quote:

“Do not fear circumstances.  They cannot hurt us if we hold fast to God and use them as the voices and ministries of His will.  Trust Him about everyone and everything, for all times and all needs, earth and heaven, friends and children, the conquest of sin, the growth of holiness, the cross that chafes, the grace that stirs.”

The bottom line — when things aren’t clear, trust the One who knows and controls all things.  You are in His hands. If things look like they’re falling apart, He’s still holding them together.  Your future is clear to Him.

For more on trusting God, see these posts:

Trusting Your Leader

“Even unto death”

I Will Give You Rest

 

The Snare is Broken part 3

I hope everyone here today has learned that facing enemies alone is a frightening and often fruitless thing to do.  We’re witnessing today something that should concern all of us, this corona virus pandemic.  People are frightened, especially those who do not know the Lord.  They’re looking to governments to protect them and while governments can marshal armies to repel invaders, there’s not a lot they can do about illnesses such as this.  They don’t even know if the drastic actions they are taking will have anything to do with the eventual end of this worldwide problem.  They’re trying because people expect them to try.  In fact, people expect them to win against this disease.  But surely we should have learned by now that there will always be some new or mutated disease that will endanger people.  As another psalmist writes, “put not your trust in princes, in a son of man in whom there is no salvation.”

David was a king, a great king actually, but he knew it wasn’t his careful war and battle planning of the valor of his men or even good luck that saved Israel.  It was the Lord who made and claimed them as His own people.  In verse 7 of Psalm 124 David speaks of a fowler’s net.  This was for centuries the way people collected birds for food.  They would wait until birds were on the ground and then drop a net over them, trapping them until they could be killed.  But the Lord had broken the snare in which Israel’s enemies sought to trap them.  The cords of the net were cut and once cut, the bird was able to escape the death that awaited.

The snares that entrap the people of God will always be broken, His people will always be saved unto eternity.  The snare of sin has been defeated.  The snare of death has lost its’ sting, the snare of the devil has no more power.  And we could go on.  But the snares that would truly harm us have been broken on the cross of Calvary.  The snare of the satanic fowler and the snare of our own sinful natures have been rent asunder and no longer entrap us when we have come into the knowledge of the truth that is shown in Jesus Christ.

Still more to come …..

For parts 1 and 2 go to these posts:

The Snare is Broken part 1

The Snare is Broken part 2

The Snare is Broken part 2

Ancient Israel didn’t have an “I” society.  The people of that time saw everything through an “us” lens.  Their identities were tied not just to their own egos but to the people into which they had been born.  No Israelite would think of themselves as isolated individuals but as part of a nation chosen by the Lord Himself.  The Church, as the continuation of Israel, is meant to be the same.  We identify not only with the people of St. Paul’s or the AFLC (Association of Free Lutheran Churches), or Lutheranism, we also identify ourselves with all who trust in Jesus living today, as well as those who have gone before us and those who will come after us.

I saw recently that John McArthur, a well-known evangelical leader in this country is calling on us to not let our differences over non-essentials keep us from cooperating when we are dealing with issues not involving the fundamentals of the faith.  Of course we don’t want to associate or work together with those who deny those things which establish the boundaries of Christianity, but with all others we should be willing to go as far as we can without violating conscience.  That is part of being a true community, the true church.

As I mentioned earlier, David is listed as the author of Psalm 124.  It’s not certain when he wrote it.  It could have been when his son, Absalom, tried to take the throne from him.  I think it’s most likely, though, that it speaks of the Lord’s protection against some outside attacker, possibly the Philistines or the Amorites or the Moabites.  We just don’t know.  What we do know, though, is that the Lord delivered Israel, His chosen people from their enemy.

Whatever the enemy was, they would have swallowed up Israel alive.  You and I, indeed the Church as a whole, sometimes experience things which seem able to swallow us up alive.  Illness, financial problems, death, fear — all of these and more can at one time or another seem too big for us to deal with, too great for us to defeat, too overwhelming for us to even contemplate.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow …..

 

For part one of this sermon, go to this post:

The Snare is Broken part 1

I’m Nobody, too

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

Sorry, I’m an English major and I can’t help myself.  When I read Beth Ann’s post I’m A Nobody, I immediately thought of this poem by Emily Dickenson.  She was very reclusive and introverted and actually seemed happy to be a nobody, at least in the eyes of the world.

If you feel like a nobody, don’t worry.  God seems to have a knack for picking nobodies to do His work in the world.  He picked prophets who didn’t speak well (Moses) and were too young (Jeremiah).  He picked David, the youngest son of Jesse, just a shepherd boy,  to be a great king.  He picked Rahab (a prostitute) and Ruth (a foreigner) to be part of His son’s human family tree.  He picked Mary, an unmarried teenager, to be the mother of the Messiah!  Jesus picked a bunch of fishermen(James, Andrew & Peter), a tax collector (Matthew), and a rebel(Simon the Zealot), to be some of His first disciples!  Then he chose Paul, who called himself “the greatest of sinners” to carry his message to the gentiles.  Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth says:

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Do you get that?  God chooses the nobodies of the world on purpose, because our weakness shows off His strength!  And once He’s chosen us, we’re no longer nobodies — we’re His ambassadors, His body on earth, His beloved children–and that’s somebody pretty special.

He loves you and so do I!

A Time For Dancing

Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. 2 Samuel 6:14-15

These two verses paint quite a picture, don’t they?  David was so excited about the entrance of the ark of the Lord, he danced.  Others were shouting and playing trumpets.  It was a joyous and exciting event!

Lutherans don’t tend to “do church” this vigorously.  We like our liturgy.  The repeated chants and prayers are calming and put me in a worshipful frame of mind.  However, there Is a time and place to be more exuberant.  We’ve been studying 1st and 2nd Samuel in our weekday Bible study, and David’s dancing reminded me of a song that we often sing on Via De Cristo weekends.  I couldn’t find much background on how it came to be composed, but it makes me want to clap and even get up and dance a bit.

Maybe you don’t have dancing feet …. but

Do you have a dancing heart?

 

Call Upon the Lord

I posted earlier this month about Job, and how in his distress, he showed faith by continuing a dialogue with God.  Today I’m reading the 22rd Chapter of 2 Samuel, to prepare for our Bible study later today.  These verses are almost identical to Psalm 18, and constitute David’s song of praise to God, who had delivered him from all of his enemies.  Like Job, David  “called upon the Lord” in his troubles, and God answered him.  Not surprisingly, this Psalm has been adapted in modern times, as well, by  Michael O’Shields.  O’ Shields was a young minister travelling in Oklahoma and Texas in the 1970s. He often struggled to make ends meet, and so he was calling upon the Lord for very tangible, everyday needs when he wrote “I Will Call Upon the Lord”.  Remember these words of David in your  own times of tribulation.  Never hesitate to call on Him.

A Flawed Leader part 2

Like everything else about David, his love for God was big.  It became the central and defining relationship of his life, from the moment Samuel anointed him and “the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.” (1 Samuel 16:13)  After that, God’s will became part of his decision-making process.  The Bible records many times when David “inquired of the Lord” before taking action.  When things looked bleak, David turned to God and “strengthened himself in the Lord.”  When he succeeded, he humbly gave credit to God, saying, “who am I God, and what is my house that you have brought me this far?” (II Samuel 7:18)  When rebuked by Nathan, God’s prophet, he quickly admits, “I have sinned against the Lord”(12:13).  He begs God to spare the life of his child, but when the child dies, he accepts God’s authority without bitterness.  In fact, he immediately “went into the house of the Lord and worshipped.” (12:20)

As a dying man, David’s last thoughts are about the house he wanted to build for God.  He assembles his officials, seasoned warriors and army commanders, stewards and sons and commends the building of the temple to his son, Solomon.  He tells the people to “observe and seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and leave it as an inheritance to your children after you forever.”  He advises Solomon to “know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought: (1 Chronicles 28:9).  The best advice he could impart to those he was leaving was to know, obey and serve God.

David’s history depicts a man who walked and talked with God throughout his life.  To David, God was not a distant authority to be appeased or obeyed out of fear.  God was his rock, his deliverer, the satisfier of his soul.  Read through the Psalms to get an idea of David’s enduring and personal attachment to God.  More than 70 Psalms indicate in their superscriptions that David wrote them.  Many mention specific occasions in his life:  for example, “when he fled from Absalom”  or “when the Philistines seized him in Gaza.”  Others were written as a cry for mercy, or guidance;  they expressed joy and despair.  They recall his days as a shepherd and a king.

David’s leadership and his relationship with God were not perfect, because David was not perfect;  but he had the saving faith “the ancients were commended for” in Hebrews 11.  With confidence in God’s grace he could say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear?(Psalm 27)  Like Abraham before him, David “believed the Lord and (God) counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

A Flawed Leader

This article was originally published in the October 2009 issue of The Lutheran Ambassador.  I believe that David’s story can give all Christians hope and point us to the most important component of Christian leadership. 

When you think about David what comes image comes into your mind first?  The young shepherd whose faith in God empowered him to face the giant Goliath with only a slingshot?  The King who was so unselfconscious he danced with joy before the Lord?  The sensitive poet and musician who composed many of the Psalms still used in our worship services today?  With God’s help, David was a leader who did great things.  He was a saint.

But David also had a dark side.  He lusted after another man’s wife and took her in adultery.  When she became pregnant, he tried to trick her husband into believing the child was his own.  When it became apparent that his deceit wasn’t going to work, David had him killed.  God punished David by taking the life of the son who resulted from his adulterous liaison.  David did some terrible things.  He was a sinner.

David seemed to do everything in a big way.  He was a fierce soldier–“Saul has killed his thousands and David his tens of thousands (1 Samuel 18:7)–and a charismatic king who united the Jewish nation, brought the ark to Jerusalem and built a palace there.  His magnetic personality attracted both men and women.  Brought to King Saul’s service as a young man, David quickly became a favorite who could calm the King’s terrible moods with his music.  Saul’s son Jonathan loved David with a friendship that was “more wonderful than that of women” (II Samuel 1:26), and Saul’s daughter Michal also loved David and became his wife.  In all David had at least eight wives and 14 children, but his family life was far from successful.  The jealousies that arose between these children of different mothers resulted in so much dysfunction that one brother raped his half-sister, was then killed by another brother who subsequently led a rebellion against his father, David, and was killed himself.

How did this man, a liar, fornicator and murderer, a man who could control armies but not his own children, come to be considered by God, “a man after my heart, who will obey my will (Acts 15:22)?  Why was his family chosen to be the human branch of Christ’s family tree?  David’s story reminds me of a nursery rhyme I learned when I was small about the little girl with the curl down the middle of her forehead:  when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.  Some of David’s sins were truly horrid.  So why does God hold him up as an example, we should follow?

The reason is simple:  God does not keep score.  The most saintly among us are still sinners and we still need a savior.  David’s good works did not earn him special credit with God and his sins did not preclude him from being Gods’ man.  That slate was wiped clean by Christ’s sacrifice.  It wasn’t anything David did that made God call him “a man after my own heart.”  It must have been something else.  I think the something else was his steadfast and life-long relationship with God.

To be continued tomorrow …..

Prayer as Sacrifice

“O Lord, I call upon you;  hasten to me!

Give ear to my voice when I call to you!

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!”

Psalm 141:1-2

In this Psalm, David compares his prayer to the evening sacrifice of a lamb offered by the Priests.  Do you think our prayers constitute a sacrifice to God?  Send us your thoughts.