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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
My pastor is going through a series of sermons entitled “For God So Loved” through the Lenten Season. There is a devotional book that goes along with it that has devotionals written by several different authors. And for the next few weeks, I will be using the same scriptures and themes that come from that devotional to align with the sermon series my church is going through. So today I’ll be looking at a passage from Psalms 17 in which David writes these words:
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
9 from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.
10 They close up their callous hearts,
and their mouths speak with arrogance.
11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,
with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,
like a fierce lion crouching in cover.
13 Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down;
with your sword rescue me from the wicked.
14 By your hand save me from such people, Lord,
from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
We feel like David sometimes, don’t we? Try as hard as we may to live like we are supposed to, the bad guys seem to win and we want them to get what’s coming to them. We know there is a judgment day they will face. We know Jesus will sort the sheep and the goats. We know we will ultimately be avenged for what wicked men have done to us in this life. But we would like to see a little of that justice now, wouldn’t we?
I’d like us to go back and look at the setting in which David wrote this psalm for a minute. Samuel, the great and last judge of the nation of Israel, warned them about the trouble a king would bring on them. But the people insisted on having a king like the nations around them. God chose Saul for that position. Interestingly enough, of all the troubles a king would bring, like taxes, standing armies, forced labor, and so forth, all the things Samuel mentioned, Saul was the only king that did not impose any of those things on the people. David did, but not Saul. But Saul disobeyed a command God gave him through Samuel and made a sacrificial offering he was not authorized to make. Only a priest could perform that duty, but Saul took it upon himself to do it when Samuel was delayed. It cost Saul the kingdom and brought about the enmity between Saul and David. Samuel anoint David as the next king, but he had not yet been crowned.
Saul’s jealousy raged. He tried to kill David on many occasions and David fled for his life. As one of Israel’s greatest warriors, defeating the Philistines on the battlefield many times, the nations around Israel wanted the young warrior dead. Now the king of Israel wanted him dead, too. David had enemies surrounding him from every corner. He felt like he had nowhere to turn even though he was doing what he thought God wanted him to do in fighting for his nation and his king.
Remember, that on at least two occasions, David had the opportunity and the means to take Saul’s life, but refused because he would not harm the man God anointed as king. Instead, David ran for his life. It wasn’t fair. God laid out some spectacular things for him to do. God made some incredible promises to him and gave him talents that brought fear to his enemies. (When you can defeat a nine foot giant wearing battle armor with a sling and a stone, that can cause people to be afraid of you.) Yet David displayed a gentle spirit with many who came in contact with him.
Now on the run, David pours out his heart to the God he learned to trust as a shepherd out on the hillside protecting his father’s sheep against the wild animals in the wilderness. Was it fair? No. Did God ever tell us life would be fair? No. Was David’s life on the run an easy one? No. Did God ever tell us life would be easy? No. In fact, Jesus told his disciples to expect trouble. Following after God is bound to put you in opposition to the world. The average person will not like what you do if you follow his teaching. He puts boundaries on your actions. You can’t do anything you want to do. Your rights stop where they collide with responsibilities.
I would love life to be like that a couple of those line we read. “... hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who are out to destroy me... Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down; with your sword rescue me from the wicked. By your hand save me from such people…”
Doesn’t that sound good? But God doesn’t always do that. In fact, like with his son, Jesus, we often face the worst. God sometimes puts us in the very front of the battle lines of this world and we must stand against some of the most wicked and atrocious acts Satan has in his bag of tricks. Does that mean God doesn’t love us? No. Does it mean he has abandoned us? No. Does it mean he doesn’t care about the struggles we face in this world? No. God still loves and cares for us.
But as with David as he ran for his life, we sometimes draw closest to God in the times of our greatest struggles. Sometimes God allows these things to happen because it is in those times when we find we have nowhere to go for relief that we throw ourselves into God’s great arms because we know he is our last and only hope. It’s at times like those that we learn the greatest lessons about how little of life we control and how much we rely on him for every heartbeat and every breath of life.
God loves us so much he lets us endure some of the hardships of this world so we might draw closer to him and find solace in his embrace when life seems to overwhelm us in every direction we turn. Then when the lions roar, when the vipers strike, the hurricane winds and floods push to engulf us, we can rest in the assurance that God’s hand will reach down and cover us. He will not let us suffer more than we can endure. He will rescue us. But he does so will his purpose in mind.
God still wants his message to ring through our lives so others will see the peace in our hearts that come from knowing him. He wants others to know the legacy his son left us. Peace that when the chaos of life crushes in upon us, we can know that with our last breath, we awake in a new heaven and a new earth surrounded by the brilliance of God glory forever. A place where pain and death and evil can never touch us again.
Will I stop praying David’s seventeenth psalm just because I know my future in heaven? No, I would still like relief from the wickedness that plagues this world. I would still like God to intervene to stop the suffering that comes from the evil that lurks in the dark places that seem to encroach more and more on the innocent. I still cry out like David for God to rise up and confront those who find their reward in this world instead of in his kingdom.
But I also read the last chapter of the book. I know how it all ends. I have confidence and hope that someday soon Jesus will come as the avenger for all his children. And I cry for those who do not know him. Their eternity will not be as short or pleasant as they imagine. Eternity is something our human mind cannot grasp. Eternal punishment and banishment from the God of creation is something we cannot fully understand or imagine. I pity the lost whose souls will forever experience that awful place.
During this Lenten Season, take time to understand what Jesus has done for you in making a way to avoid that place of eternal lostness. Take time to think about the avenger who will come again and make right a world that has gone very wrong because of our refusal to accept God as God. Stop and remember that he will one day soon call an end to time and he will do exactly what the psalmist asked. He will rise up, confront, bring down, and destroy those of this world whose reward is in this life.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.