The people are in great danger!

Psalm 28

If like me you are safe and comfortable in your home and nobody is threatening your life or the life of the people you love, you may wonder if Psalm 28 has any relevance today.  However, this morning I received a message from someone I know who is seeking asylum in the UK and the opening sentence was, ‘For the past three years we have witnessed and had to cope and deal with death, destruction of property, looting, kidnappings, massive arrests, chaos and fear in my country.’*  The setting is a country where the ethnic groups in power are trying to impose their will upon minority groups through the armed forces.  Oppression on the basis of ethnicity, religion, gender, political persuasion and organised crime are widespread.  A 2019 UK government report found that approximately 1 in 3 people suffer from religious persecution and that in parts of the world persecution of Christians is at near genocidal levels.  The latest UNHCR report (2018) shows world record levels of displaced persons at 70.8 million worldwide.  There are 37,000 new displacements every day.

In Psalm 28 David pleads with God to, ‘Save your people and bless your heritage!’ v9  In verses 1 to 7 David speaks as an individual threatened by the wicked and evil doers but he does so as the King and therefore is speaking on behalf of all his people.  He goes on to assert that the Lord is the people’s saving refuge. ‘The Lord is the strength of his people, he is the saving refuge of his anointed.’ v8

I am repeatedly impressed at the readiness of people who have experienced extreme suffering at the hands of oppressors, political, religious and criminal to turn to God rather than reject faith in disillusionment. They echo David, ‘To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me.’ v1  Verse 3 speaks of powers that pretend peace whilst practising such things as human rights violations.  ‘Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbours while evil is in their hearts.’

David looks forward to God’s righteous judgement, ‘Because they do not regard the works of the Lord or the work of his hands, he will tear them down and build them up no more.’ v5

In the mean time when we see God’s hand in protecting and saving people it is good to join the celebration of his mercy.  ‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.’ v7

Build your kingdom here – Rend Collective

Ordering the desires of our heart

Psalm 27

When we face turmoil in our life what symptoms do we display?  Does our mind go into overdrive?  Do we lose focus on what our priorities should be?  Perhaps we have physical reactions such as headaches, feeling sick or becoming overtaken by tiredness.  We could find that we have a spiritual reaction, it may be difficult to pray, we want to withdraw from worship, we start self-blaming.  One of the bible teachers I find particularly helpful, in both his writing and talks placed on Youtube, is Tim Keller.  He uses the phrase ordering the desires of our heart.*  This is a conscious act, in Psalm 27 David goes through this process.

In a time of darkness he sees the Lord as his light. ‘The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear?’ v1  It is easy to get lost in darkness but to him the Lord is light and draws him towards it and that gives him confidence. v3 

David has learnt that spiritually he needs to remain in the presence of the Lord and if that seems distant he must seek after it.  ‘One thing I ask from the Lord, and this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.’ v4  Jesus made this promise to his disciples about remaining in the intimate presence of God, ‘As my Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.’ John 15.9  While in the presence of the Lord, David can worship and seek understanding. v5

David has learnt the power of praise when surrounded by difficulties.  ‘I will sing and make melody to the Lord.’ v6  Paul and Silas grasped this when they were in prison having been flogged and their feet placed in stocks, they volubly prayed and praised God, and then an earthquake freed them from their bonds. Acts 26.26,27 

As David remains in the presence of God his desire turns to learning from God as this will guide him. vv 7-12 

Waiting on the Lord v14 is not a passive resignation, it is an active expression of confident hope.  The word translated ‘wait’ in the ESV in psalm 25 is translated ‘hope’ in the NIV.  Putting the two words together conveys a positive action in the same way Paul urged Titus to, ‘wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.’ Titus 2,13

David then, ordered his desires: he turned to the light of the Lord and chose to remain in his presence.  There he offered a sacrifice of praise and learnt from him placing his hope in God his Saviour.

Great is the darkness: (Come Lord Jesus)

How do you plead?

Psalm 26

Being unfairly accused of wrong doing is very stressful but an experience common to many.  It can impact on many things, our relationships, our public standing, our future capacity to continue in a role or earn income, where we are welcome and to what extent we are trusted.  How we react in those circumstances is a test of character.  If we hold a particularly prominent position these things can be heightened further.  David prays Psalm 26 as King.

David’s circumstances at the time of writing are not known.  He considers his accusers to be plotting against him, prepared to bribe others to achieve their goal of taking his life. vv9,10  Their false accusations relate to his lifestyle, v3 his friends v4 and the sincerity of his religious practice. vv 6-8

David’s response is to come to God and plead that he is blameless in these circumstances.  ‘Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life.’ v1David is not claiming a sinless life as is clear in many other psalms, but of these accusations he is not guilty.  David then prays a prayer of a sincere seeker after God.  ‘Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.’ vv 3,3  To David the judgement of God is more important that the judgement of people even though his standing as King in the eyes of the nation is of great significance.

Our private integrity with God is the cornerstone of our life.  It is entirely reasonable to then pray with David, ‘Deliver me and be merciful to me.’ v11  It provides a stable place to stand and then we can in good conscience publically praise God.  ‘My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord.’ v12

Does this mean we have to self justify ourselves to God?  No it does not.  Our standing with God relies on trusting in his unfailing love v3 expressed through Jesus’ sacrifice.  ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.’ Ephesians 2.4,5

Faithful one – Robin Mark

Don’t give me that attitude!

Psalm 25

I can hear that rebuke in so many situations.  I can hear the frustrated parent with the child over the tidiness of their room, the teacher when a student adopts the passive aggressive pose, the employer to the repeatedly late employee, the pensioner to the patronizing call centre worker.  Why is attitude so important?  It is because it acts as a key to unlocking learning, healthy relationships and personal well being. v13

The attitude with which we approach God impacts our learning but it does not come out of a vacuum.  At the time of writing David is fearful and afraid he will be shamed. vv 2-3,19-20  These are common emotions through life, they can cause spiritual paralysis but David is aware this is a time to turn to God and learn.

A key aspect of discipleship is ordering one’s desires and David’s first desire is for the Lord, ‘To you O Lord, I lift up my soul.’ v1  He then desires to learn and learning is much more that a quick fix answer.  Learning involves engaging with truth, understanding the character of God and his purposes.  ‘Make me to know your ways, O Lord … Lead me in your truth and teach me.’ vv 4,5For the modern disciple it involves being a life-long learner from the bible. 

David brings an attitude of humility to both his Lord and to the process of learning.  He doesn’t expect instant command of God’s ways.  Perhaps the most important word in the psalm is ‘wait’. ‘For you I wait all the day long’ v5 is repeated in verse 21, ‘for I wait for you.’  Learning takes time and understanding can come in unexpected moments.  For me, surprisingly, often in the shower. 

David knows God is the teacher, and this is an act of mercy v6  in response to repentance. v11 Learning comes from being in relationship with the Lord.  David speaks of, ‘friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him.’ v14  This should not be surprising as most remember learning best from teachers they liked and respected. 

Finally, learning is set in an attitude of trust.  The psalm is bookended with trust, ‘O my God, in you I trust;’ v2 and, ‘for I take refuge in you. v19 

A prayer, ‘Lord, enable me to order my desires.  I will wait upon the Lord’

Awesome presence of God

Psalm 24 and 2 Samuel 6

There is a generation who gained all their knowledge of the ark of the Lord from Indiana Jones and in a sense would have understood a partial truth.  The ark was not to be treated casually, not because blue lasers would be emitted from it, but because it was holy.  The awesome holiness of God has a tendency to be lost in the relaxed ease of modern worship but David and the Israelites had a sharp lesson regarding holiness as they carried the ark to Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 6   The ark embodied the presence of God in all his holiness, from God’s presence comes blessing, 2 Sam 6.11 therefore the entry of the ark into Jerusalem symbolized God’s blessing of David’s kingship and thus the whole nation.  Psalm 24 is closely associated with this event.

The starting point of reverence and worship is understanding and asserting that everything is God’s because he is the source of all. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.’ Ps 24.1  This changes our perspective as any ambitious drive to permanently own becomes illusory.

Who then can stand in the presence of such a holy God?  Four criteria are set out; righteous actions, righteous motives, loyalty to God alone and openness in relationships with others without unfair gain.  ‘The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.’ v4  Verses 5 and 6 change the phrasing and blessing from an individual to the collective people of God.  When we seek God’s blessing it is the whole church whose living worship Romans 12.1-2 is called upon to reflect God’s holiness.  This does seem alien in an individualized society but we are called to be in the world but not of the world.

The psalm in verses 7-10 changes to a call and response liturgy as the ark and thus the ‘King of glory’ ascends the mountain, enters Jerusalem and the tabernacle, later the temple, to bring victory.

How then can we enter the presence of such a holy God?  Praise God, only through Jesus.

‘God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.’ 1Corinthians 1.28-30

Who is this King of Glory – Chris Tomlin

(Suggest playing through a good speaker to get the bass)