Fearing God Amidst Fearing Life

Psalm 86 is a very powerful Psalm – you can tell that David is writing this as someone in the midst of a trial as v1 shows a man desperately seeking God as he is “poor and needy,”  v2 asks for God to “preserve his life,” and “save your servant.”

David is crying out to God in a desperate time in his life – in the Hebrew “Lord” in v3 (and 6 other places” is “Adonai” which is “Sovereign.”  Here we see a very important thing about David’s perspective – he is in a desperate situation,but he knows who God is and he is calling up on the Sovereign nature of God.  God is in control of all things, and is working his plan for his glory.

It’s interesting to note what David does not pray for – that God would get him out of this situation, or simply ‘make the pain go away.’  Verses 11-13 a great summary of what he is praying for:

Teach me your way, O Lord,

that I may walk in your truth;

unite my heart to fear your name.

He wants to know God’s ways more, he wants to live them, he want his whole being to be one to honor, respect, revere God.  As one commentator puts it:

[David] does not mean ‘teach me how to get out of this trouble’ but ‘teach me, while the trouble still rages, to live your way’. Undivided heart, ‘unite/unify my heart’, deliver me from being double–minded, two–faced with God; give me ‘a single, steady aim, unmoved by threatening or reward, to you and your great name’.

As comfy Americans, this goes against everything we know in our blood.  God is there to make our lives more comfortable and take the pain away. When we are facing pain, we just call out to God and ask him to make it stop.  Yet, that is not what we see here from David – God is sovereign above all, and yes, even the pain he is working in for his purposes and our growth.  This Psalm should change the way we pray, moving the focus from us to God himself – that we may turn over all of our selves to him and seek to know him more. As v12-13 says:

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,

and I will glorify your name forever.

For great is your steadfast love toward me;

you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

God has rescued us from our sin and the penalty of it in Jesus.  May our focus on Him create thankfulness in our hearts and outward lives lead for his glory.

 

Acts 2 and God’s Unstoppable Plan

Sometimes we hear people say that they want to get back to a sort of “Acts 2” philosophy of church ministry, and that isn’t always a bad thing.  We see a powerful, growing church in Acts 2 – devotion to God’s word, building each other up in the faith, spending life together (both in the church and at homes), and an intentional prayer life – not to mention a very strong others-orientation – some even selling their material things in order to make sure that other  members had their needs met..  Those are all good things.

But what struck me this morning, perhaps it’s because of Good Friday being 2 days away are two things:

  • The amazing foreknowledge of God.  Peter in his sermon to the crowd states that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” (2:23) The cross was not a reaction, it was not a “Plan B” – as Pastor Matt Chandler says in his book Explicit Gospel “The cross of Jesus Christ was not some surprise, not some plan B for God, but rather the plan known within the Godhead since the beginning. God’s response to the belittlement of his name, from the beginning of time, has been the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on a Roman cross.”   As we celebrate this weekend, let’s also celebrate the amazing, intentional, unstoppable redemptive plan of God to bring a sinful human race back to himself.
  • David saw the resurrection of the Christ.  2:31 says something amazing about David, and I think it’s another passage that answers the questions “How did God see David – the adulterer, murder, etc – as  ‘man after his own heart?”  – “David foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ.”  David was looking ahead to the Messiah and understood that he would come and be sacrificed for the sins of the world and would rise again.  This is where he placed his faith. Yes, he had massive personal sin issues – but if the cross of the Christ is powerful enough to cover them – isn’t it then powerful enough to cover our sins?  Then what is stopping us from running to God instead of running away from God when we sin?  Look at the amazing knowledge of our God – he knows it all anyway.

Foreknowledge and other attributes that show God’s massiveness should bring us comfort that there is nothing that God doesn’t know and control in line with his beautiful merciful plan of redemption.  David knew this truth and even applied it to the Christ, according to Peter in our text today.  This brings peace and fullness of joy.

For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,

for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;

therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;

my flesh also will dwell in hope.

For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,

or let your Holy One see corruption.

You have made known to me the paths of life;

you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ (Acts 2:25-28, ESV)

Bed Repentance

It was one of those mornings where you are laying awake, perhaps the alarm has already gone off and you have it the snooze already. You know you need to get up…you start to think about stuff. Then conviction happens about something and you need to do something about it. You can (1) feel guilty and start your Monday off in a bad mood, not recommended, (2) ignore it, also not recommended, (3) try to motivate yourself into embracing your best life now and fill up your self-esteem tank – not recommended either, or (4) confess and repent and enjoy the grace of God in Jesus and move on.

My mind was in full “what’s next” mode and I was off and scheming, except I had left God completely out of it. I was thinking, planning, moving all in my own strength and my own wisdom. Then I read Psalm 21 this AM (after getting out of bed)…

O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices,
and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
For you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
length of days forever and ever.
His glory is great through your salvation;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
For you make him most blessed forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the LORD,
and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.
(Psalm 21:1-7 ESV)

David is rejoicing in God’s strength, not his. In God’s salvation, not his ability to save himself. He realizes that every good desire is from God and God has given him great things, he didn’t do it all on his own – including his very life and breath and health!

God’s greatest glory (v5) is demonstrated in his salvation that he offers us through the Messiah, Jesus. God is pleased to save sinners – 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God doesn’t wish that anyone should perish, but wants all to come to repentance. Repentance is a big Bible word meaning to “change direction” – we do this first in faith in trusting God to save us in Jesus, but then a life of faith is started – as Luther said we then our whole lives are repentance. A daily turning from ourselves and turning to God. Redirecting our thoughts, words, actions to be God pleasing, not self-pleasing – to have the mindset of King David…sometimes this is required even before we get out of bed…