October 14, 2019
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Psalm 57 – Dependence Despite Difficulties – Jesmond Parish – Sermon – Clayton TV


What’s your gut reaction to disappointments?
Difficulties? Disasters? I am not trying to trap you, or beat you up,
I just want you to be honest with yourself for a minute. Let me be honest with you, chaos, perceived
chaos, stresses me out. When I have to make a difficult decision, some kind of wisdom
call, between two good options, I get quite stressed. I can’t not make a decision. I
find it quite hard to sleep on it. I need to know the right decision, the best decision,
immediately. Where shall we live? What school should we send our kids. What car should we
buy? Which energy supplier? Not just with decisions, this is true with
disappointments too. Something doesn’t work out well, things don’t fall in line, as
I planned. We don’t get our first place school. Exam results are lower than we thought.
After a long time of waiting and praying, the answers “no.” I also need to resolve
the disappointment. I need to find the 2nd best option, the right resolution, the best
resolution, immediately. Decisions, disappointments, and difficulties
too. I need to solve the difficulty. I need to work out how to deal with the health issue.
Financial issue. Relationship issue. I need to find the right solution, the best solution,
immediately. Not just difficulties, but with disasters
too. Someone passes away unexpectedly. Can’t find a job. I drop everything to try and work
and solve the disaster. Working night and day to find a job, sending out job proposals.
I can’t deal with the chaos. The perceived chaos. I know I need to get better at responding.
[pause] When you are faced with decisions, disappointments,
difficulties or disasters, what is your gut reaction? I have been reflecting the last couple of
weeks while preparing this sermon and I need to be honest, it isn’t dependance. [pause]
It isn’t dependance on God and so this psalm has been teaching me to be more dependent
on God. So the next time you find yourself with decisions,
where to live, what job to choose, or reacting to a disappointment, not getting the results
you wanted, not working out difficulty or disaster this psalm encourages us to be dependant
on God. Throughout Scripture, we know as Christians that we must be dependant on God, that’s
always the best thing to do. Dependance on God is always the best first step when facing
decisions, disappointments, difficulties or disasters. This should be our gut reaction. To call out,
to cry out to God for mercy. I have been struck recently that this is not true of me. This
is not my natural instinct. Its not my gut reaction. But Psalm 57 has helped me become
more dependant, and I hope it will help us all develop better gut reactions to decisions,
disappointments, difficulties and disasters that descend on our life. Context In our Psalm today, David is in a disastrous
situation. Life is dismal for David. He has been fleeing from King Saul and his army,
who are hunting to kill David and his men. David is in a dark, damp cave. Destruction
is at his door. Danger is all around. He is faced with a difficult decision, devastating
disappointmen, depressing difficulties and disaster all around. What is his reaction?
57:1 be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me. Prayerful dependance on God. This is the same reaction we see from David
over and over again, and particularly in the two psalms before this one, 55 & 56. This
is his gut reaction. These three psalms follow a similar pattern: The enemies are coming
(56:2-3; 57:4); calamity is coming (55:12, 57:2), and David asks God to be gracious…
to have mercy. They are psalms where David is in immediate danger and he calls out for
God’s help. This is why it is important to read psalms in context. They are not thrown
together in a random order, the psalms before and after give clarity and context to each
other. Without evening looking at the words that he speaks, he is already a wonderful
model for us, isn’t he? This is his gut reaction: dependant prayer. Do we instinctively cry out to God when life
is difficult, when we feel we are in a dismal situation, life feels dark and disappointing?
This psalm encourages us to do that. Prayerful dependance in the midst of despair
(1-5) Just like in psalm 55 and 56, the psalmist
David, cries out in the midst of a violent attack (v2 &4), but the difference here, in
psalm 57, compared with the other two psalms is that David spends much more time speaking
in detail about God coming to rescue and how he is going to do that. v.3 he will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples me. God will send out his steadfast love and his
faithfulness! Our God is a God who saves. He is a powerful God who can overcome all
his enemies. David is God’s anointed one, his chosen one, his Messiah and will keep
him alive to accomplish his purposes. The enemy is not a pampered poodle, but a
fiery beast, a lion. A ferocious, intimidating, growling, roaring lion. This is a terrifying
image, predatory violence. King Saul and his army are hunting to kill. They are talking
and looking forward to hurting David and causing him pain…. Planning and plotting. The context in verse 0, tells us that Saul
and his army are literally outside. David is in the deepest, darkest parts of the caves,
waiting for his destruction. Its enough to make most people give up, but he cries out
vs.2 God will send him from heaven and save me vs.3 . God will send out his steadfast
love and his faithfulness. This is because David knew that God had promised
to keep him safe. That God would fulfil his promises through David’s offspring. David
is trusting in the promises of God. So despite the reality of the situation, David
exalts God. v5. David isn’t alone in the cave. He has some
men with him. This group of men know David is being hunted. They know they are trapped
in the cave. You need to wonder, what they were thinking. What they were saying to David
in the depths of the dark damp cave. Excuse me, David, are you sure God is with
you? David, who wasn’t a king at this point, didn’t look like God had blessed him and
had promised to look after him. David. Why do you trust God? This Psalm is David’s
response to questions like this. David’s words are the words of faith. The
words of those that trust in God. It is at the time of decisions, disappointments, difficulties
& disasters that faith erupts and speaks out. Prayerful dependance. What does he say? “Be
exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” Doesn’t
look like God is doing that in the depths of the cave does it? Prayerful dependance after deliverance (v6-11) Somethings happens between vs5 and vs6. God
delivers David. We see that in 1 Samuel 24, when Saul enters the cave where David and
his men were hiding, but then God delivers him while he is still in the cave. He was
delivered from Saul’s destructive plans while he was still in the cave. Vs.6 They set a net for my steps, my soul
was bowed down (i.e. he almost gave up). They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen
into it themselves. Ha! Justice. But more than this, David says, it was God’s salvation.
God’s deliverance. vs.7 David is so happy he wants to sing and
make music. David is going to tell the nations how great God is! Because this is a God that
the other nations need to hear about. A god who delivers. A God who keeps his promises. David ends up ever more deeply in worship
of God – lovingkindness and faithfulness he hoped to be sent to him in v.3 now fills all
creation. David speaks of God’s steadfast love. His
covenant promise that he will be God to his people, forever. David finishes writing this psalm after he
has been delivered, but while he is still in the cave surrounded by Saul’s army. God
changes Saul’s heart after he sees that David didn’t kill Saul when he had the chance.
If you remember the story, David just cuts a piece of his clothes off, then as Saul walks
away David calls out to him from in the cave. This is the reason that David can then repeat
“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” Because
he has seen that God has delivered him. Christian reading How do we pray this prayer, as a Christian?
See, as Christians we come after Jesus’s death and resurrection, unlike David who came
before. 57:6 is a picture of the cross. There has
been a great reversal here in the psalm, where David’s enemies are trapped in their own
nets and trapped in their own holes. Jesus died on the cross, and it looked like
that was the end for God’s people. Our saviour died. But it was on the cross that there was
another reversal. The penalty of sin was paid for at the cross, so we don’t have to suffer
the consequences of sin. God’s enemies thought God’s saviour was defeated, but this is
how we came to save all those that trust in him. Throughout these 3 psalms over the last few
weeks we have seen that David’s gut reaction is to depend on God. Jesus throughout the
Gospels, including the Gospel reading we had today, also depends on God the Father. David was not steadfast in heart his whole
life, he murdered and committed adultery. But it is only Jesus who remained fully steadfast
in his heart. It was only Jesus that modelled perfect dependance despite disappointments,
difficulties and disasters. We also saw Peter, the outspoken and bold disciple, deny Jesus
3 times, unable to be completely steadfast in heart. We also know that this is true of
us too. We struggle to be completely steadfast in dependance on God. Its only Jesus that
is able to be completely steadfast in heart. Do we need to be like David, or even better,
like Jesus and have a gut reaction like that is perfect dependance on God? If we can’t,
can we honestly pray the psalm that says in vs.7 “my heart is steadfast, O God, my heart
is steadfast.” I don’t think any of us can say that apart from Christ. But as Christians, we enjoy the wonderful
news of grace. Our salvation is not dependant on our steadfast heart. Thank goodness. Our
salvation is dependent on Jesus’ steadfast heart, which was steadfast all the way to
the cross. As we saw in the Gospel reading, even in his last hours, Jesus was completely
steadfast and dependant on God the Father in prayer. However, we are still encouraged to follow
this model of dependance. When we are faced with decisions, disappointments, difficulties
and disasters… we don’t instinctively depend on God. Thats not our gut reaction.
But that’s the lesson from this psalm today. To be more dependent in prayer. Lets think through how this applies Decisions, disappointments, difficulties & disasters
come. How do we respond? Let me suggest a few ways that we might respond. 1. Ignore: we pull up Facebook, Instagram,
Youtube, switch on the news, maybe even take a nap. We don’t want to think about it.
All that thinking takes effort. This issue is going to need a lot of thinking. [Nope.
Pick up phone, aww cats!] Not now thanks. Ignoring. 2. Solve it: we tell ourselves when the going
gets tough, the tough gets going. We are going to use all our might, resources, and energy
to solve this thing. I am not sleeping or resting until this is solved. 3. In complete desperation: we ask someone
else to help us. Personally, my gut reaction is to do a bit
of all 3. But that’s not what David models, that’s not how Jesus prayed. That’s not
the example we are to follow. Let me offer a very basic solution. Pray,
then ignore. Pray, then solve it. Pray, then ask someone else. Its this prayerful dependance
when facing decisions, disappointments, difficulties & disasters that we are to follow. It might
be the right thing to ignore a decision, to put it off. It might be the right thing to
address it straight away. But we also need to have the gut reaction of prayer. Lets get a bit more practical. Lets write
things down. Get a prayer book. Write things down. There have been lots of studies recently that
says writing things down helps us memorise them. We are more likely to pray for something
if we write it down. Get prayer mate on your phone. 2nd best in my opinion, but whatever
helps. Developing this a bit further… For most of us, our situations are not actually
as terrifyingly horrible as we see in the Psalm. Just sometimes a bit of a disappointment,
a bit of a difficulty, a bit of a “disaster.” In those situations too, the message is the
same – call out to God. God, be merciful. Provide me with a decent job, so I can provide
for my family. God be merciful. Provide me with decent health, so I can work, feel useful
and enjoy your creation and the other many benefits that good health brings. God be merciful,
help me find somewhere to live, somewhere we can settle. Because as Christians, we often feel guilty
about asking for middle class standards of living, don’t we? Should we feel guilty
asking God for these things? Should we just be praying for the Gospel? Should we just
be praying the nations see God’s glory? Should we be just praying that God frees Christians
like David Ajak from an unjust legal system in South Sudan? Is it ok to pray for a better
job? A nicer place to live? Fulfilling relationships and deep friendships? Of course we can pray to God about anything
we want. God wants us to come to him in prayer. He wants us to have the instinct of David
that we pray to God. Not just ignore. Not just to solve it ourselves. Not just to ask
other people. Pray. So, this week, Decisions, disappointments,
difficulties & disasters come. How are we going to respond? Dependant prayer despite
disappointments, difficulties & disasters. Heavenly Father, help us to depend on you,
despite decisions, disappointments, difficulties or disasters that come up. Help us to learn
to depend more and more on you. In Jesus name we pray, amen.

Otis Rodgers

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