Finding Rest in the Midst of Crisis – Psalms Project: Psalm 3

Have you had a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, or even a bad year? Where is God when it seems like the bottom is falling out and sucking you down with it? Psalm 3 gives us powerful insight into how David dealt with such calamity at one of the worst times of his life. Even if our struggles are not as dire or dramatic as David’s we can learn to depend on God as he did. Then we will have rest – physical and spiritual.

David’s Situation

At first read, Psalm 3 seems to be an exaggerated, woe-is-me pity party.  Listen to verses 1-2:

O Lord, how many are my foes!
 Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God.

However, this was literally true for David. The Psalm’s title tells us David’s historical situation. He was on the run from his own son, Absalom, who had initiated civil war in Israel in an attempt to wrest the throne away from his father. Read 2 Samuel  15-17. Absalom had already killed one of his brothers, Amnon, because of the rape of his sister. Then he turned the people’s hearts away from David and toward himself. He then declared himself king and gathered military forces to his cause. David fled Jerusalem with a few faithful warriors. Seizing his advantage, Absalom publicly raped 10 of David’s concubines and set himself as ruler in Jerusalem. Then he sought to kill his own father. So, yeah, David really had many rising up against him, even from his family and supposed friends.

Then, on his way out of town, a member of Saul’s family, Shimei, comes out and curses him. He says that David is getting what he deserves from God. David’s men want to kill Shimei, but David answers,

“It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust. And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself.  2 Samuel 16:12-14

David’s Trust

It is speculation, of course, but I think David’s refreshment is what he reveals in Psalm 3.

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying to the Lord with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain. 
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me round about
Psalm 3:3-6

Against the many, David trusts in the One who lifts him from despondency. Though surrounded by enemies, David is safely shielded by the Lord. This is the God who hears and answers! Therefore David can rest, trusting in his sustaining God. Once David has his trust in God restored, he can look confidently to the future:

Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people!
Psalm 3:7-8

David’s trust in God proves well-founded. Salvation (deliverance) does come from God and not man’s opinion. God defeats Absalom’s forces in battle and Absalom is killed. While David mourns the death of his favored son, he is restored to the kingship for which God had chosen him.

Our Turn 

So what about you and me? In the drama and despair of my life, can I sleep unhindered? Do you toss and turn and spend what’s left of your strength on your own plans? Can we trust God to protect and restore us, even if family betrays us? The God David knew is still the same today. You can trust Him and rest. I can trust Him and rest. Will I? Will you? Let Psalm 3 be your cry to God as you end this day.

 

Did you miss Psalm 2? Safe, Not Shackled

Advertisements

God and Country? – I’m Good With That

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

Psalm 33:10-12 NKJV

This past Sunday our church had its annual God and Country worship service. We honored veterans, waved American flags, and sang patriotic songs. Some might argue that this is a dangerous mix of faith and patriotism. We should be honoring Jesus and not our country. However, I think those who would argue that are misguided.

I am not going to argue that the United States is God’s new chosen people. And our church is not declaring that either. There is plenty of evil in our land. And as our pastor said, if we keep going the way we are, God will have to judge us. Abortion (54 million+ killed since 1973), immorality, greed, and pride have powerful grips on our culture. Many Americans needs to repent and turn back to God for sure (starting with the church!).

However, while all that is true, America still is the number one missionary sending country in the world and the home of the greatest number of evangelical Christians. We are also the most charitable country in the world, according to the World Giving Index. We are the beacon of freedom to a world of bondage. We are the refuge for the poor and needy and persecuted. There is much more to America than the nightly (bad) news and the sewage seeping from Hollywood. God is blessing the world through America.

God and Country worship service

God and Country worship service – July 1, 2012 Burnt Hickory Baptist Church, Powder Springs, GA

America’s ideals are drawn from the truths of Scripture. Freedom and liberty. Sacrifice for others.  Protection for the weak and the minority. Checks and balances to curb corruption. The rule of law. The power of grace. The melting pot of many cultures, talents, and opportunities. The good guys win in the end. The value of one life. The importance of the individual. The bonds of community. We do not consistently live up to our ideals, yet they do inspire us toward  God’s best. America, ideally, is good.

I agree with our pastor’s exhortations from Sunday. America’s future hope is in Jesus Christ and His people, the church.  It is not in Washington, D.C., or Hollywood, or Wall Street or even Main Street. It is at the foot of the cross. When we bow to our Creator; when we seek His ways and turn from ours; when we earnestly pray and trust; then He will hear, and answer, and heal. Otherwise, America has no hope. The church must stand unashamedly for Jesus in our land.

So, it is with joy and sorrow that I celebrate our country’s birth. I am so thankful for God’s blessings on America. I am thankful for the freedoms we (yet) have. And I am inspired by the ideals that spur us on. My heart is stirred when I think of all those who sacrificed to make our nation great and free. But I mourn for the lost in America. I mourn for those who spurn God and turn to the false idols of self, security, fame, fortune, and power. I wish we did not use our liberty as a license to sin against God. Yet, I will wave my flag, pledge my allegiance, and celebrate this great nation.

Happy birthday, America! May you honor God and realize His blessings.

My recent prayer for America

Esther vs Evolution

Because of some recent discussions on evolution (on other blogs), I have been listening to a college course on evolution and Darwinism. Then, in our church’s weekly Bible study, we recently read through the book of Esther. As our class discussed the truths revealed in Esther, it struck me that it had something to say about the creation/evolution debate, even though that is not its subject matter.

If you haven’t read Esther recently, let me remind you  of the major details. Esther (or Hadassah) was a Jewish orphan in the Persian empire sometime after the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland (mid 5th century BC). Her cousin (or uncle), Mordecai, helped raise her. She became Queen of Persia after being chosen in an empire-wide Persian Idol competition for a new queen (except the king had the only vote). Following Mordecai’s advice, she does not reveal her ethnicity. Entering the scene is the villain, a court official named Haman, who is determined to destroy the Jews, especially this Mordecai who won’t bow down to him. He throws the dice (or the pur) to determine the date when this destruction will occur. Through a series of ironic twists and turns, Esther ends up defying the empire’s laws to intervene for her people, the Jews, and save the day. It is a story of courage and faith and is the basis for the Jewish holiday called Purim.

It is interesting that God’s name is never used in this book. However, His fingerprints of providence are all over it. It is His providence, not mere coincidence that:

  • Esther is chosen as queen and “happens” to be Jewish
  • Mordecai overturns an assassination plot the he “happens” to hear about at the gate
  • the king is saved from the assassination, but Mordecai is not initially rewarded or recognized
  • the king “happens” to have trouble sleeping and is read the account of Mordecai’s deeds
  • Esther “happens” to have great favor with the king, even though he banished his previous queen
  • the king “happens” to return when Haman is threatening Esther

None of this is happenstance.  While Haman rolls the dice and trusts in chance (and himself), Mordecai and Esther trust in the God who sees and intervenes. This is why Esther is correctly included in the Scriptures, despite having no explicit reference to God.

Is this dichotomy any different than the creation/evolution debate today? Creationists and evolutionists look at the same evidence in the living beings around the world. But they interpret it very differently. Classic Darwinism teaches that evolution occurs when blind chance (or random mutation) changes a species to have a new trait that makes it more fit to survive. There is no Creator involved in “natural selection;” it just happens.  And the result (over an extraordinarily long period of time) is the astounding variety and balance of life we have today, though I suspect the evolutionists are not that much astounded. After all, it is just blind chance. Evolution’s “nature” reveals no purpose or design, except procreation.

Spawning Salmon

The creationist looks at this diverse and beautiful world and recognizes the providential hand of the Creator. It is not mere chance and blind “selection” that could provide such a world. The woodpecker, for example, who needs a strong bill, a tongue that wraps through his head, and the muscles to allow for pecking is specially created for his role and environment. The salmon that  swims thousands of miles, including much upstream to spawn at the place of its birth, receives its instincts from a Creator. God’s name is written into the fabric of His creation, though many refuse to see it. This world reveals the majestic creativity of a Master Designer. And it demonstrates the taint of sin which has marred its original form. Thus, it cries out for redemption.

 

I’ll stick with Esther and the creationists on this one: God is the power behind the scenes of everything.