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Seeking God in Troublesome Times

 

Psalms 3:1-8; Psalms 32:1-5; Psalms 51:1-11

 

Jim Davis

 

The psalmists often wrestle with their thoughts as they seek to clarify their feelings and beliefs about God. We often find them in agony questioning Godís ways. Yet, it seems to be the kind of questioning that is attempting to refocus their minds on God as they seek to realign their lives with his will.

 

Heart rending cries are heard throughout the book of Psalms. ďHow long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?Ē (Psalms 13:1-2 NIV.) At times they question Godís presence as their enemies are triumphing over them. At times their personal paths seem to deny Godís existence. They long to be faithful as they cry out, ďHow long, O Lord . . . must I endure.Ē

 

In Psalms 3:1-8 David is fleeing for his life. Davidís son, Absalom, is leading a rebellion against his father. He seeks to dethrone David as king. He leads thousands of Israelites against his father. David pauses in the midst of his troubles to meditate upon God as he seeks to refocus his mind on God.

 

Psalms 3:1-8

3:1 A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

 

O LORD, how many are my foes!

How many rise up against me!

2 Many are saying of me,

"God will not deliver him."

Selah   

 

3 But you are a shield around me, O LORD;

you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

4 To the LORD I cry aloud,

and he answers me from his holy hill.

Selah 

 

5 I lie down and sleep;

I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

6 I will not fear the tens of thousands

drawn up against me on every side.

 

7 Arise, O LORD!

Deliver me, O my God!

Strike all my enemies on the jaw;

break the teeth of the wicked.

 

8 From the LORD comes deliverance.

May your blessing be on your people. NIV

 

David may be in a cave or some other place of refuge as he pens these words. Yet, he stops in the midst of his troubles to remind himself of the kind of God he serves. The words arenít just empty repetitious words of a catechism. They originate in the depths of Davidís heart. It is not a long Psalm. In the midst of fleeing for his life he doesnít have a lot of time to reflect. But he reflects. He seeks to remember God. He seeks to believe. He seeks Godís merciful intervention. He believes God will sustain him through his troubles.

 

The Source of Davidís Troubles

 

The third Psalm seems more passionate as I realize the source of Davidís troubles. Absalom is not the sole source of Davidís troubles. David committed adultery with Bethsheba. When she became pregnant, David had her husband, Uriah, killed to cover up his sin.

 

The backdrop of Davidís psalm can be found in 2 Samuel 15-22. David pens the third Psalm as he experiences Godís judgment for his sin.God spoke these words of judgment to David.

 

2 Samuel 12:11-12

11 "This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'" NIV

 

Sinful behavior of others toward us often leaves us asking, "Why"? We ask, ďWhat have I done to deserve this?Ē We try to make sense of it all. However, my darkest moments in life are when I know I am being disciplined for my personal sin. It is when I know I have brought it upon myself.

 

David is the author of his troubles. David knows beyond a doubt that God is allowing his personal sin to make a mockery of his life. Yet, it is amazing how David refuses to lose his grip on God. When David is attacked by his enemy, he seeks to understand Godís hand in it. Yet, he knows he has brought it upon himself. David knows God promised to discipline him for his sin. As David was fleeing, Shimei came out cursing David and pelting him with stones. Yet David seeks to understand Godís hand in it.

 

2 Samuel 16:5-12

5 As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul's family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. 6 He pelted David and all the king's officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David's right and left. 7 As he cursed, Shimei said, "Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! 8 The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The LORD has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!"

 

9 Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head."

 

10 But the king said, "What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, 'Curse David,' who can ask, 'Why do you do this?'"

 

11 David then said to Abishai and all his officials, "My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. 12 It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today." NIV

 

David seeks to see the One beyond his troubles. David says, ďIf he is cursing because the LORD said to him, 'Curse David,' who can ask, 'Why do you do this?'" If God allowed Davidís son to bring havoc upon David, why shouldnít David think God was allowing Shiemi to pelt him with stones. Why should he resist?

 

David experiences the mockery of one who is rejected by God. God has withdrawn his hand of protection from David just enough to allow the mockery of his sin to haunt him.

Yet, in the midst of his agony he seeks to believe God will respond with deliverance and salvation. David says, ďIt may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today."

 

2 Samuel 16:13-14

13 So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt. 14 The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself. NIV

 

I can only wonder if part of David refreshing himself is writing the third psalm. Perhaps it is at this very moment that David pens the third Psalm. He seeks to maintain his confidence in God despite the mockery his life brings upon him. It is amazing how broken David is over his sin. And yet, he is full of true confidence in God in the hour of his difficulty. Is it at this moment he seeks to refocus his mind on the mercies of God? He trusts in Godís deliverance. He seeks a blessing for all of Israel.

 

Getting Into the Heart of God

 

We really have to get into the heart of God to understand how we can be punished for our sins and remain confident of Godís deliverance and salvation. It is difficult to understand and explain. I am not sure the paradox can be explained. I think it is something we must experience in our pursuit of God.

 

Throughout Davidís saga David mourns for his son. He seeks to allow Absalom to live. Perhaps he sees his failures as a father magnified in his son. Perhaps he agonizes over just the thought of the consequences of his sins destroying Absalom. It is more than a father can bear. When David heard of Absalomís death, ďThe king covered his face and cried aloud, ĎO my son Absalom ! O Absalom , my son, my son!í" (2 Samuel 19:4.) It went beyond the typical cry over the loss of a loved one. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote, ďThe bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.Ē It was an inconsolable cry of a father. A father feeling the full weight of the destruction of a son, for which he was responsible. It was more like the cry of God: ďForgive them for they know not what they do?Ē

 

Davidís confidence in God rests in the fact he is forgiven of his adultery. When Nathan confronts David with his sin, David replies, "I have sinned against the LORD. . . Nathan replies, The LORD has taken away your sinĒ (2 Samuel 12:13). Yet, in the same breath he pronounced Godís punishment upon David: "This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon youĒ (2 Samuel 12:11-12).

 

In Psalm 51 we discover David mourning over his sin as he seeks restoration.

 

Psalm 51:1-11

51:1 For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

 

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity

and cleanse me from my sin.

 

3 For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you are proved right when you speak

and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth,

sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;

you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

 

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquity.

 

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence

or take your Holy Spirit from me. NIV

 

Too often we feel abandoned by God when suffering the mockery of our sin. The condemnation sin brings seeks to shame us into running and hiding from God. However, David is not running from God or seeking to hide from God. He is fleeing into the arms of God. He seeks Godís presence. He seeks the very heart of God as he mourns over his sin. Somehow through it all David not only knows how to mourn over his sin. He also knows how to sing the song of forgiveness. Psalms 32 reveals Davidís song of joy because of his forgiveness.

 

Psalms 32:1-5

Blessed is he

whose transgressions are forgiven,

whose sins are covered.

2 Blessed is the man

whose sin the LORD does not count against him

and in whose spirit is no deceit.

 

3 When I kept silent,

my bones wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night

your hand was heavy upon me;

my strength was sapped

as in the heat of summer.

Selah 

 

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you

and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, "I will confess

my transgressions to the LORD" ó

and you forgave

the guilt of my sin. NIV

 

God takes away Davidís sin, but not the consequences. Davidís need goes beyond the removal of his guilt. David must now deal with the fallout his sin brings upon himself, his family and all of Israel. Davidís salvation was about Godís deliverance as the consequences of his personal sin drug him through the mockery of his wrong doing.

 

We are often left to pick up the pieces of our shattered lives after repentance and forgiveness. Repentance and forgiveness means all is well. But salvation does not simply stop with penitence and forgiveness. The consequences of reaping and sowing are not dismissed. Godís reaches down and helps us clean up and salvage the mess we have made of our lives. God is here to help us put our lives back together. This is salvation.

 

Godís mercy salvages Davidís life as he reaps the harvest of what he has sown. Yet, Godís wisdom is such that in his deliverance he allows David to be disciplined. He is disciplined as he harvests the hardship his own actions. Yet, God is there to temper his discipline with mercy and grace.

 

When we suffer for our personal sins or because of the sinful behavior of others . . .  there are crucial lessons we must learn. Our God is our deliver. He salvages lives. He is a restorer of souls. We must trust in the mercies of God to deliver us from the curse of evil; even if we have brought the curse upon ourselves.

 

As David was being cursed by Shimei he says, ďLeave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today." When Davidís wisest trusted counselor, Ahithophel, began helping Absalom in his rebellion. David entrusted the matter to God. David simply asks God to frustrate Ahithophelís counsel.

 

2 Samuel 15:30-31

30 But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. 31 Now David had been told, "Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom." So David prayed, "O LORD, turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness." NIV

 

David doesnít feel so condemned by God that he is ashamed to ask God to intervene. As he reaps what he has sown he doesnít hide from God. He seeks to recognize God.  He does not hesitate to seek Godís help. God responded by frustrating Ahithophelís counsel. Ahithophel went home, put his affairs in order and hanged himself (2 Samuel 17).

 

Conclusion:

 

This is typical of the salvation and deliverance God offers to all covered in their own sin and shame. Do you ever feel broken over your sin? Do you mourn over your sin? Are you penitent during these times? Are you full of confidence in Godís desire to deliver you? Do you sing of Godís mercy? Do you discover meekness and humility in these times? Do you take the cup of salvation and call upon the Lord? Do we turn to Christ in these times to discover we are complete in him?

 

John 3:16-21

16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.   19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (NIV)

 

ďFor God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world . . .Ē God sent his Son into this world to save me from the destruction of sin. Christ comes to save us from ourselves. He comes to save us from perishing under evilís curse. It is the same typical deliverance David experienced. Evil brings its curse upon us as we reap what we have sown. It is the law of nature. God sends Christ to deliver us from the curse. He comes to save us from an angry world seeking its own destruction. He comes to help us work through the fallout of our personal sin and a fallen world. Jesus Christ comes in mercy to help me harvest what I have sown . . . good or bad. He intercedes with a merciful hand to see me through the hardships.

 

David knew God was there to salvage his life. Godís assurance of forgiveness gave him the confidence to trust in Godís merciful intervention. David hid from his enemies, but he focused on God.

 

The truth is that we live in a dark confusing world. Jesus Christ is the light of the world. If we refuse to believe in the salvaging power God offers through Christ we stand condemned. For we have refused to believe in the one who can frustrate the curse of evil by bringing deliverance.

 

The prophet Nathan confronted David with his sin. If David had refused to listen to the truth and come to the light of Nathanís revelation, there would be no psalm or rejoicing over his forgiveness. There would have been no third psalm. There would be no David as we know him today. There is no doubt that God would have accomplished his plan for our salvation without him.

 

What about your salvation? Wonít you allow God to forgive you and salvage your life? It begins with accepting forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Bury your old life with Christ in baptism and arise from the watery grave to walk in newness of life with Christ. Allow Christ to give you his Holy Spirit to resurrect you to a new way of living. Walk away from that watery grave forgiven and free to live with the power Christís resurrection offers.  Feel absolutely free to call upon God for help in troublesome times.

 

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