Come on coach! How did you see that?

Psalm 11 & 1 Peter 4.7-11

At the beginning of the use of video cameras an American football team transformed itself from a mediocre performer to a top flight team in one season.  When the captain of the team was interviewed, he said after every match the coach made them watch a video recording of the match and examined in detail the performance of every team member.  Analysis like this and much more is now common place but if coaches had read Psalm 11 they might have caught on to this approach earlier.  ‘The Lord is in his holy temple …. His eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.’ vv4,5a 

David refused to run and took his stand trusting in the Lord. v1  His stand takes the form of behaving righteously.  David links the holiness of God in heavenv4 with righteous deeds on earth. ‘For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.’ v7

Does this support the notion that going to heaven depends on how good a life we lead?  No, it does not.  Biblical teaching is that when God looks at a person who has faith in Christ he sees Christ’s righteousness not their own.  This is termed imputed righteousness. ‘This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.’ Romans 3.22  The righteousness here is the outworking of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.

Peter sees the outworking of righteousness as being alert, sober minded to promote prayer, deeply loving, hospitable and applying one’s gifts to the benefit of others. 1Pet 4.7-10 ‘So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.’ 1Peter 4.11  The challenge for us is how to do it when in lock down.  To summarise Peter, teachers should teach and servers should serve. v11

Does God really want me to suffer in silence?

*Hilary was living at home with three small children.  Her husband had just been made redundant and she worked shifts as a carer.  The house they were living in was privately rented and had severe damp problems affecting the family’s health.  The landlord had been making excuses for two years now and it had got to the point that it dominated Hilary’s mind.  When she went to church, Hilary found it almost impossible to join in the praise when everybody else seemed so happy.  Hilary kept asking herself, ‘Does God really want me to suffer in silence?’

One third of all psalms are laments, that tell the Lord about a difficult situation, ask him for help and praise him for help.  In times of difficulty God can seem remote.  In Psalm 10 David says, ‘Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?’ v1  David describes the motivations of oppressors.  They reject God,vv4,11 are arrogant and fixed on their own evil schemes,v2  boastful and greedy, v3 and despising of their enemies and the poor. ‘As for all his foes, he puffs at them.’v5

The oppressor’s actions betray him.  He seeks to exploit the weak, laying traps for them,v8 always watching out for new victims, ‘He lurks that he may seize the poor,v9  The consequence is, ‘the helpless are crushed.’v10  He then boasts to himself, ‘God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.’v11  We can see from Psalm 10 such oppression is not limited to individuals such as Hilary’s landlord but applies to many organisations, political parties, businesses and even countries.

No wonder then that David cries, ‘Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;’ and ‘Break the arm of the wicked evil doer.’vv12,15   But, ‘God is not deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.’Galatians6.7  In the end David’s final trust is in God’s eternal kingship and his desire to hear the afflicted, strengthen them, do justice and grant them peace.vv17,18

Does then God want us to suffer in silence?  Definitely not, he wants to hear us in our troubles and church should be a safe place for us to say it out loud.

*Hilary is a representative figure.

Beginning and ending with praise

From my early days as a Christian I remember two pieces of advice that were frequently repeated.  Trust the word of God rather than your feelings because it is God who made the promises and don’t wait to feel like praising before you praise him, just start.

In Psalms 9 and 10 David constructed one acrostic poem.  Psalm 9 is a psalm of praise and Psalm 10 is a lament.  He speaks as an individual but also in his capacity as king he speaks on behalf of the nation.  He faces troubled time with praise. ‘I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.  I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 9.1-2 He then recounts how the strength of the Lord defeated the enemies of God’s people. 9.3-6  He did this because God reigns eternally and his throne is a throne of justice, 9.7 his justice is righteous and he applies those righteous judgements to mankind. 9.8-9   As David considers how God has been a stronghold for the oppressed it causes him to burst into song recounting all God has done. 9.11 

David did not praise God because he lived a trouble free life.  He praised God because he deserves praise and mostly he praised God because God does not forget the needy and the poor.  ‘For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.’ 9.18  In our testing times it would be good to remember the character of God and what he has done through Jesus and give him an offering of praise.  ‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. 1Timothy 1.15

So let’s join all the saints for the last 340 years in singing God’s praise with

We are designed for intimacy.

Psalm 8.4-5 and Hebrews 2.5-13

Sylvia has just been moved from the town centre to a top flat on the edge of town; Jill speaks with the husband she lost last year each day; Ahmed lives in a shared government provided house but no one else speaks Arabic; Graham left university last year and was excited to get his first job in a new town but now he has been placed on furlough.  Each one surrounded by people but craving intimacy.

If it is so hard to find human intimacy, how can intimacy with God be gained, when David in Psalm 8 describes the massive gap between the creator of the universe and humanity?  *‘What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?’ v4a Hebrews Chp 2 interprets this passage to reveal Jesus as the means by which humanity can gain intimacy with God and regain the relationship with Him that He had always intended.  Son of man is a term Jesus regularly used to referred to himself.  It was Jesus, when he took on humanity, that was made a little lower than the angels v5 and Jesus who was crowned with glory and honour following his death on the cross, resurrection and ascension.  ‘But we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.’ Hebrews2.9 Jesus has made believers sons and daughters of God, been the forerunner of our salvation and made his people holy in God’s sight. Heb2.10-11

‘Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.’ Heb2.11 It is difficult to get more intimate than that.  As we have been designed for intimacy with others so our soul cries out for intimacy with God.   ‘Jesus says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” Heb2.13

*ESV translation

In the darkest place one can see the best

Who hasn’t walked hand in hand through a remote place, laid on the ground and gazed at the wonder of the night sky?  David’s night in Psalm 8 would have been darker and therefore his stars brighter than most of ours.  It might have been under such a sky that you first declared your love, it is easier under the cover of darkness.  But to David the sky shouted out the laws of creation.

Firstly David declared the majesty and reputation of YHWH (Yahweh) God’s self-given name.  ‘You have set your glory in the heavens.’ v1  So great is Yahweh that he takes the weakest of all things, the praise of children and infants, and makes something great and strong from it. v2 

To the modern mind the wonder of God’s creation of the universe is even greater than David’s as our telescopes and satellites probe the beauty and size of His creation. v3  How humbling this is when we compare our apparent universal insignificance to His creation, only made significant by God’s compassion for us. v4  

It is to God and God alone that we owe our role in the world.  He has honoured humanity with being in His sight, made a little lower than heavenly beings.  He ascribes us with honour. v5  With such honour comes responsibility, as His emissaries, to care for His creation. vv6-7

This puts a particular light on what God’s work in our world consists of.  But before, during and following the day’s work we are to be inspired by His creation to give honour to His name. Yahweh.  ‘Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.’ v9