Drinking Deeply

Saturday, August 12, 2006 at 9:23 AM

Psalm 144

I had the blessing to speak before the jr. high kids yesterday night. What follows is what I wrote out. I usually try to write out word for word what I'd like to say and go through that a number of times, then give the talk referencing my notes, so what I say may sometimes not be what I've written. Quotes from the NIV, because I didn't want to be referencing something that the kids couldn't seen (definitely the best argument for the NIV, though that's changing =)).

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Ok, so I have to confess, I came to this text with an assumption. Paul asked me to preach on something of my choice and I said, “hey, these kids need boldness” so I looked through the Psalms for something about a warrior God. I wanted to talk about how God was powerful and almighty. That God was a warrior and I wanted to talk about spiritual warfare and what that looked like. Psalm 144, at first glance, looks like it would be great.

But then as I began reading and praying through it, I realized something. Psalm 144 isn't actually about God being a warrior at all! So I had to change my topic, because the passage asked for something else. I guess you can let it be a lesson to us. Sometimes the text doesn't say what we want it to say. So here goes.

A few words first by way of introduction. The beginning of the Psalm says “Of David.” David wrote this. For one, we know that David is (or will become) the King of Israel and a warrior. Though he is in the midst of conflict, he doesn't worry but rather trusts in God. Ultimately, it is not David who writes this by himself, but it is the Holy Spirit that is writing this through David. These words are God breathed.

To briefly summarize the Psalm, it is written by David, presumably in the midst of persecution and struggle. He praises God for who God is and what God has done, and then he calls upon God to deliver him from his enemies. When this happens, David will respond in praise. All of this leads David to think about the great blessings of having God as the nation's God and his own God and he ends with a final verse:

v. 15 Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is the LORD.

So, as a way of starting off, according to this Psalm, what are some attributes of God? How does David describe God?

I want to focus in on one word here, and it's a word we don't always notice. Each of those characteristics of God are often seen as standing alone. And indeed, God is loving. God is a stronghold. God is Lord. But I want to point to that little two letter word in there that David uses that makes all the difference in the world. That word is “my.”

Today, I want to focus on v. 2 and 5-8 and ask and answer a question that arises from them as well as the rest of the Psalm. Let me read it for you guys, from the NIV

verse 2:

2 He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples [a] under me.

Verse 5-8:

5 Part your heavens, O LORD, and come down;
touch the mountains, so that they smoke.

6 Send forth lightning and scatter {the enemies};
shoot your arrows and rout them.

7 Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and rescue me
from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners

8 whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

So here's the question: David proclaims God as his shelter, his fortress, his stronghold, which are all concepts we're all familiar with. But then he presents something which is seems like a contradiction. He calls for God to judge his enemies, to subdue them. But how can God, a loving and sheltering and stronghold God, go and “subdue peoples under David?”

We see the same issue coming up again in v.5-8 where David calls God to come down, send forth lightning, scatter enemies, shoot arrows and rout them? How can God do this? I thought He was a God of Love and kindness? Why all of a sudden this scattering of people? This routing of people? Why the harshness? And why does David call God “my God?”

I want to give you 3 answers here to this question. One bad one, one good one, and one awesome one.

I'll begin with the bad one and it's bad because it's wrong. That answer is that David earned the right to call God, “my God.” God doesn't love people because they deserve it. Look at verse 3 and 4.

3 O LORD, what is man that you care for him,
the son of man that you think of him?

4 Man is like a breath;
his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Like we learned two weeks ago, our days are short, sometimes even painful. David asks the question of God, “What is man that you care for him?” and he quickly follows it up with a proclamation of man's general unworthiness. “Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.”

You see, David sees himself as undeserving, and David, the King of Israel doesn't follow up his question with the answer, “but I, Lord God, am a man after your own heart. I have conquered kingdoms for you. I have won the hearts of Israel.” He answers in the general, lumping himself with the rest: Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow. Even though God had worked powerfully in His life, David sees himself as fundamentally unworthy of the attention that God gives him, unworthy of the answers to prayer that God gives him. David's days, even the King of Israel, is but a breath, a fleeting shadow. Here today, gone tomorrow.

This is just like our days. Whether you are a doctor, a king, a warrior, a student, a parent, or whatever, your days are but a breath. You are undeserving of the time you have, undeserving of the sun, the rain, this building, undeserving of anything that God gives us. We are, like David, like all the people in this world, we are unworthy.

Now, its true that David does do many things for God. He conquers many lands, he is described by God as a “man after my own heart.” But David doesn't point to those accomplishments and say “hey, I earned your love,” because he sees them as nothing. Taken in view of God, they are a breath. So our first possible answer, God loves David because David had done more for Him or something like that, is bad. It's the wrong answer. The passage teaches that David is just like everyone else.

Our second answer is the good one, it's good but not great because it's correct but incomplete. It only answers half of the problem. Our second answer to why God loves David and not his enemies only answers why God doesn't love David's enemies. And that answer is that it's because they were sinners. David's enemies are described by David as foreigners whose mouths were full of lies, they were currently opposing David and persecuting him. What do we know about God? God is a God that hates sin. He detests it. These people are sinners, they lie and they persecute David, both sins deserving of death according to God. So our second answer is a good one, but it only answers half of the question.

Ok, so let's rehash. We know a few things. God loves David and doesn't love David's enemies. The reason why God doesn't love David's enemies includes the fact that they are sinners. Yet, David, by his own words, is pretty much the same as David's enemies, undeserving of God's love and presumably deserving of God's wrath.

But yet we're still left with the first half of the question. Why does God love David? After all, David just leveled the playing field with his previous statements. He's the same as everyone else, but a breath. And that question leads us to our awesome answer.

Actually, we've already figured out the answer by reasoning. After all, we've already established that it's not anything in David, so the only possible answer is that God loves David because God loves David! Indeed, we have the confirmation of this very statement at the end of the psalm, when David exclaims out,

“blessed are the people whose God is the LORD.” It's not “blessed are the people who have earned God's favor,” but rather, “blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!” People don't earn God's favor, they're still undeserving, but rather it's God who chooses to have favor on an undeserving people.

Thus, David's confidence in God does not come from his own works, even though the rest of the Bible talks about his exploits and victories in the Lord, but his confidence comes from the very nature of God.

Look again at the first half of verse 1 and see it in a whole new light.

Praise be to the LORD my Rock,

God is David's rock. He is unchanging, dependable, the same yesterday today and forever, so that means when God chooses to love David, it's a love that will never fail. This is where David's trust is, where his stronghold is. This is why David can call God “my Lord.” It's not because he's earned it, but it's because God loves him first.

So why does God love David? Ultimately our answer is, “because God loves David.” And this is awesome because it tells us that even though David was unworthy, God has mercy on him. Remember, David was/will be guilty of both adultery and murder, both punishable by death, and God knows this. God knows this and still allows David to call God as “my God.”

Now what? We know why God loves David. We know why God doesn't love David's enemies. What does this mean for David, and just as importantly, what does it mean for us?

For David this meant a few things and I'm just going to quickly run through them.

1) We see that God's love meant confidence. Take a quick glance at how David praises God in v. 2 again:

2 He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples [a] under me.

It means what whatever happens to David, he knows he can trust in God because God's love is the same, and God will provide and protect His people.

2) It also means that God fights on David's behalf. In verses 5-8 we have David calling upon God's mighty power to come down, split the skies, set the mountains aflame, and rout David's enemies. This is what I wanted to talk about, a warrior God and a God of power. Maybe I can get to it in the future.

3) It means David's worship. Verses 9 and 10 tell us that not only does David praise God for who He is, but he also will praise God for what He's done. You know, sometimes it's hard for me to sing the songs we do, not because they're untrue, but because I feel like Peter making boasts to God. “I will give you my all. I will live for you alone.” Yes, God's love should inspire this type of devotion, but sometimes I just think to myself, “you know God, I say these words, but I honestly don't mean it as I should. I'm a sinner.” Can I encourage you guys to sing not only about what God's love inspires us to, but also about what God has done? One song I love is “In Christ Alone” and all it does is tell the story of what God has done, and that's my only hope. It's not me promising God, “I'm going to hang onto you,” but it's looking to the cross and see God's promise, “You are my people, and I will be your God, and I've proved it on that cross.”

4) It means David's future security. Verses 12 to 14 is David looking forward in eager anticipation to the future, secure under God's care. His people will prosper, his land will be plentiful, and the nation peaceful, everything a king longs for.

Ok, so what does this mean for us?

3 things:

1.

if we can call upon God as “my God,” then we can have that security that David has. A confidence that knows that it is God hanging onto us because God loves us. That as often as we may mess up, we can trust in God. It's not an excuse to be lazy, but a hope in the midst of despair. Blessed indeed is the people who's God is the Lord! You may not prosper in this life. You may not get the perfect job, or the best friends, but there is eternity stored up in heaven. Hold fast and run the race, seek God with all your heart, and continue to love God, out of a thankfulness that He has already loved you. This is your hope, your rock, and your treasure. I do hope it leads you to great worship and confidence in your life as well.

2.

If we can't, we don't know if God loves us or not, or maybe we're not sure, then this Psalm serves as a warning. Those descriptions of David calling for judgment upon the wicked is the same call that our sins plea to God. When we sin, we do something that God hates, and those sins cry out to God to part the skies, to set the mountains on fire, to send forth His arrows, and to rout us and crush us for once and for all. And this is what God has promised He will do on the last day. Jesus isn't coming back with a sheep beneath His arms, Jesus is coming back with a sword in his hand. So I beg of you, be reconciled to God. Seek God, and if you do it in true faith, then God has already found you. Don't put this off. Jesus says that whoever is not with him is against him. If you don't think you are one of God's people, then I'll be honest with you, your sins are calling for judgment right now. You're not deserving of living another second, and it's only by God's patience that you exist for this moment and the next. If you don't know how, talk to someone, talk to your small group leader, talk to your parents, beg of them, “how may I be saved? How may I call upon the Lord as “my God, my rock, my salvation?” Ask them about who Jesus is, and why He came, for it is only through Jesus Christ that you can be saved.

3.

Finally, all of us, this is a call to be humble. Remind yourself that before God you have nothing to bring. You, just like me, are completely undeserving of everything that God has given you. Don't use God's gifts as a source of pride in saying that somehow you've earned this. You haven't. That's why it's called grace. God isn't 'my God” because I was smarter, stronger, or better looking, God is my God because I am God's, and that's the only answer I can give.

Let's pray.

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