Seeing God Through the Psalms
There’s a painful truth to life – you will encounter difficult people on your journey from Earth to Home. You’ll encounter people who are rude, mean, disrespectful, hurtful – it will happen. It could be coworkers, family members, even brethren.
For David it was the king. King Saul was overcome with intense jealousy and suspicion against David. The large part of 1 Samuel is focused on Saul’s attempt to kill David. David went from being the hero – the giant slayer, to the nations #1 most wanted. Saul sought him every day (1 Samuel 23:14) – no rest – running, hiding, sleeping with one eye open. This all comes to a head in 1 Samuel 24. David and his men are hiding in a cave in Engedi, and by coincidence Saul enters that same cave for a moment of rest. David had everything he needed to seek revenge against Saul, to end this senseless manhunt. He had the opportunity to kill Saul. Instead he cuts off a piece of his robe, knowing that it was not his place to kill the Lord’s anointed.
Psalm 57 was written during this event in the cave. In this psalm we find 4 things to remember when facing difficult people (Saul’s) in your life:
Seek God’s protection (v. 1). David found his refuge from the storm in the wings of God. There is comfort in knowing that God’s love never fails (v. 3, 10). Though others will fail me, disappoint me, turn against me – God’s love will not. His love endures. When I remember how God sees me (reading passages like Psalm 8, Romans 5, 1 Peter 2), the feelings of insecurity and anger will melt away.
Seek God’s Will (v. 2). “God who fulfills His purpose for me.” When I face a difficult person, I should consider “perhaps our paths crossed on purpose.” Maybe I can help them. Through David’s patience and instruction, he not only spared the king but brought him to repentance (for a moment). Maybe the difficult people in our lives are there for us to help. When most would write them off or sling evil back, in us they find someone who returns good for evil, and curses for blessings (1 Pet. 3:9). And thus maybe God is allowing this person in my life, not just for me to help them, but for this person to help me grow to become more and more like Christ – more merciful, more peaceful, more loving and gracious.
Seek God’s Justice (v. 3). Yes, God has established governments in the nations, purposed to upholding what is right and preserving justice, but the ultimate judge, the ultimate source of judgment is God. When you’ve been hurt by another, don’t operate on their level. Don’t hurt in return. Don’t further evil. Don’t do Satan’s work. We overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). Don’t take justice into your own hands. Let God be God and trust in His timing.
Seek God’s Glory (v. 4-5). Ask this question, ‘In this harm, in this situation, how can God be glorified? How can I respond in a way tat will not dishonor my God – rather how can I suffer in a way that glorifies Him? Don’t let Saul’s steal your song (v. 6-7). Don’t quit on God because others have treated you wrong. Even in hardships – I’ll praise the Lord. Even in pain – I’ll praise the Lord. Because even in hardships God is good. Even in difficulties I have much to give thanks for.
A lesser man would have killed the king without hesitation. But not David. He sought what was best for his enemy, a man who was ruining his life. And God calls David a man after His own heart. That’s the heart we ought to aim for – a heart like David’s – a heart like Christ’s.
Holy Lord, merciful God, there are times I’ve been hurt by the words and actions of another. I know I am not alone in facing such situations, but the pain is real. Help me to respond like Your servant David. Help me to respond like Christ. Help me to place my trust in You. Help me not to become jaded towards others, but to love my neighbors, and to love even my enemies. Help me to return curses with blessings, to return harm with healing. Help me to seek what is good for others. Let me learn through these moments. Let me grow to be more like Christ – let my heart be soft and teachable. I’ll never turn my back on You. You are always with me. In good or in pain, in peace or in strife, Father my aim is glorify You. Use my life to show the world how truly great You are.
When Trouble Comes, God Is There
Psalms 46 assures God is in charge. We might think we control the world, but we do not. Yes, things seem to be spinning out of control at times. It is not just the world, but our world that seems to get out of control. Psalms 46 tells us, “The Lord of hosts is with us… He is a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.”
One thing that is helpful in the present is to remember what God has done in the past. God protected His people. He gave them great victories. On one such occasion, Sennacherib and the Assyrians surrounded Jerusalem. Hezekiah prayed to God and God responded with an angel who slew 185,000 troops. God is in control. God is victorious. He protected His people. As a result, His people would not live in fear. God who created the world is in control of His world.
There are three fundamental truths to encourage us. One, “I will not fear” (vs. 1-3). Whatever the trouble, God is with us. The word trouble means “tied up, cramped.” The word refuge means “a fortress for protection.” When we are pressed down hard, God is our refuge. He takes care of us. When Jerusalem was surrounded by 185,000 enemy troops, it seemed as though they were encompassed by the sea. Though the mountains shake, God remains in control.
Truth number two is “I will not be moved” (vs. 4-7). God delivered Jerusalem from the Assyrians. He was immovable against their mighty troops. Hezekiah dug a tunnel under the city wall during the Assyrian assault in order to keep water flowing into Jerusalem (2 Kings 20:20). Sennacherib could not understand why the attack was not working. Jerusalem was saved. The God of Hezekiah is God. He was in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the city where God had recorded His name. It was the city where the people came each year to offer sacrifice. It was the location of the temple. God would not allow her to be defeated and destroyed.
Truth number three, “I will exalt God” (vs. 8-11). “Come, behold the works of the Lord…” There are 185,000 Assyrian troops that are defeated. What remained looked as if God had broken every bow and spear and burned every chariot. Therefore, “Be still and know I am God. I will be exalted among the nations I will be exalted in the earth” (vs. 10). There is nothing God cannot handle. We must never doubt His power. Selah, pause and think about that!
- When fear overwhelms, remember God is in control.
- Remember God has always protected His people.
- Look at what God has done in your life and see what He is doing today.
Suffering in Love
The third theme of note found in Psalm 119 is suffering. This repentant and rule-loving psalmist also faces grief (v. 28), struggles with covetousness (v. 37), endures afflictions (vv. 50, 141, 143), mocking (v. 51), threats and danger (vv. 61, 85, 87, 95, 110), and slander (vv. 69, 78, 86). In fact, that’s the exact reason for his love poem. The psalmist fully and lovingly depends on God’s words, especially in repentance and hardship. “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (v. 50). The psalmist is deeply aware of God’s promises (vv. 38, 41, 50, 58, 76, 82, 116, 123, 133, 140, 148, 154). He knows God’s covenant love (vv. 64, 76, 88, 124, 149, 159).
Most importantly, the psalmist knows he needs life (vv. 37, 40, 50, 88, 93, 107, 149, 154, 156, 159), and that life only comes from God according to his Word. He writes, “Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules” (v. 156), and “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” (v. 25).
The psalmist knows that God’s speech does not just condemn sinners. God also redeems them through speech. While the words of God—his rules and commandments and statues—tirelessly remind us of our sin, they also reveal God’s promise to fully redeem his people from sin.
That is why the psalmist can’t stop writing. He knows that by the same speech of God he is both condemned and redeemed. Affliction under the law and love for the law operate on the same principle: God’s faithfulness to his own Word. God is unshakably faithful to himself, and therefore unshakably faithful to his people.
Thank God that He is a consistent and merciful God.
What comes to mind when you hear the name Jesus? What image comes to your mind? What do you see? Is it a man with a long beard, long hair, wearing a white tunic and a blue sash? Do you see Him in His power – walking on the sea, calming the storm, healing the sick, raising the dead? Do you see His gentle spirit? Do you see the touch of compassion, a warm smile on His face?
Psalm 110 is a psalm that shows us Jesus. This OT passage is most frequently quoted in the NT. Jesus quotes it in Matthew 22:42 to show that the people’s misunderstanding about the Messiah, about Him. Though He was a descendant of David (and thus a man), they missed that the Messiah was not merely David’s son, but also David’s Lord – one with the Father from all eternity.
Psalm 110 shows Jesus as King (v. 1-3). We often consider David as greatest king in Israel. All positive kings after him are compared to him. He led with wisdom. He led with compassion. He led with a God-focused heart. And yet, as good of a king as David was, there was one coming after Him who was greater.
Jesus is greater because He is God – “The Lord says to my Lord” (see Matt. 22:41-45). He is no mere man – flawed by sin, weak in mind, swayed by popular opinion. This King is God, perfect in justice, in wisdom, in power, in His rule. This psalm looks to the present time, when Jesus the Messiah is risen and ascended, Lord over all at the right hand of the Father.
Psalm 110 shows Jesus as Priest (v. 4). The kingship shows Jesus’ power/authority, the priesthood shows His heart. In order to be our High Priest He had to be able to relate/sympathize with us (whom He represents) as well as God (whom He represents). This is the thought the Hebrew writer expresses in Hebrews 4:14-16. Jesus came and dwelt among us. For over 30 years He lived here – He succumbed to the sufferings and pains of this life for us.
Psalm 110 shows Jesus as judge (v. 5-7). For most of David’s life he had no judge. No one would plead his case. No one who would enact judgment on those who mistreated him. But David knew God is THE judge and that He would judge the wicked in His time and in His ways – and that is the same for us today. Christ’s judgment will be complete (every knee will bow – Phil. 2:10), and it will be victorious – pictured by the one who drinks by the brook in v. 7 – the battle is won, thus rest and refreshment is His.
What’s all this mean for us?
- Jesus is King – Follow Him. “King of my life I crown Thee now” – the King of my habits, king of my relationships, king of my mind, my words, my plans, my dreams.
- Jesus is Priest – trust in Him. In the times I feel alone, Jesus knows, Jesus understands. And Jesus continues to work on our behalf. Thanks to His work we have access to the Father’s presence (Heb. 4:15-16). Jesus is working on your behalf. Jesus prays for you. One author wrote: “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference. He is praying for me!”(Robert Murray McCheyne)
- Jesus is Judge – Fear Him. One day the Lord will come in judgment (2 Cor. 5:10). This is a strong motivation to live holy lives. God will bring justice. God will answer, will rescue, will deliver one day. Live to hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Do you know my Jesus?
Wonderful, merciful Savior – Prophet, Priest, and King. All glory belongs to You! You are the King of Kings – You reign on high. You have conquered the grave, death submits to Your voice. I submit my life to Your will. You are the great High Priest – merciful, compassionate. You fully understand my pain and my suffering. You hear the words I pray, and carry those words to the Father. Thank You for Your loving service. Thank You for understanding. I know I can always come to You. I know You understand. You are the Perfect Judge. You are just. You are fair. And One day I will stand before You face to face. I plead for Your mercy over sins I have committed. I ask for Your daily help to live a life that would be pleasing to You – that when You come, I may be found right in Your sight. Knowing You fills my heart with joy. Precious Jesus, let me ever come to know You more and more.
The Challenge Of Despair
Psalms 42 and 43 deals with a common problem of many… depression. Three times the question is asked, “Why are you in despair, O my soul?” (42:5,11 and 43:5). This tells us even God’s people are not immune to despair. If those people who are great like David, Elijah and Jeremiah faced serious bouts of discouragement and depression, then who am I? David gives us three pieces of advice.
First, he says get your mind off yourself and get it on God (42: 1-4) Sounds simple enough, right? See his yearning for God: “As the deer pants for the water brook…My soul thirsts for God, of the living God. So, my soul pants for God. When, oh, when shall I appear before God? Where is God?” His feelings have not been relieved (vs. 3). He is discouraged because his questions have not been answered (vs. 5,9). Where is God? Here he is drowning in sorrow and trouble (vs.7). His friends are quick to say, “Just trust in God.” But no one seems inclined to comfort and help. He reflects on how things were. How he used to be involved and how he once was used. He went to the house of God with a voice of joy and praise but now is left behind. When you get old and it seems all have left you behind, be encouraged by hope in God. He has not forgotten you. It is so easy to be discouraged by what once was and now is but hope in God does not fail.
Second, David says stop looking at the past and look to the future. We are fascinated with the future and nostalgic about the past. The past is never as good we remember it being and the future will not be as fulfilling as we imagine. It is okay to remember the past if we remember what God has done for us. Remember how He saw us through our difficulties and discouragements (vs. 6). In the future David knows God will give him victory (43: 1). He knows God will protect him (43:2). He knows God will direct his life (42:3) He knows God will bring him joy (42:4).
Third, stop searching for reasons and start resting on the promises of God. In these two Psalms there are thirteen questions. We need to ask questions but do not ask about and question God’s love or His motive and judgment. Even if God had answered every single one, we still live on His promises, not His explanations. Explanations may satisfy curiosity but only promises give strength. There are five promises. God promises to care for us (42:1). He promises to always be faithful (42:8). He promises to forgive us (43:3). He promises to be our strength and refuge (42:6). He promises to lead us (43:3).
“Standing on the promises of Christ my King, through eternal ages let His praises ring; glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God. Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God. Standing on the promises of Christ, the Lord, bound to Him eternally by loves strong cord, overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword, standing on the promises of God” (R. Kelso Carter).
- What we think affects how we feel about ourselves.
- When we think about God, we find encouragement, not discouragement.
- The past is never as great as we remember. The future is yet to be.
- God’s promises give us stability.