Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 9 months ago

A Faithful Lament

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Christian McArthur

Now, as we open your word together, that you might continue to sanctify us, remind us of what is true about us, remind us what is true about your son. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts together be pleasing and acceptable in your sight, our rock and our redeemer. It is in your son's name that we pray. Hey men, if you have a copy of the scriptures with you, you may remain standing and open to psalm thirteen, which will be our sermon text for this morning. Psalm Thirteen, this is the word of the Lord. Let's give our attention to it. How Long, Oh Lord, will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider an answer me, Oh Lord, my God, light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemies say I have prevailed over him, lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken, but I have trusted in your steadfast love. My Heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. You may be seated when, the summer of nineteen sixty five, the Beatles released what would become one of their most famous songs, a song that charted number one in the UK would go on a few months later to chart number one in the US. Since then, it has gone on to be one of the most recorded songs of all time, recorded over twenty two hundred times by various artists, artists like Marvin Gay Ray, Charles Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, boys to men and the Ohio state marching band. BBC called this song the greatest song of the any century. Rolling Stones, that is the greatest pop song of all time. Now, I don't know if you are Beatles fans.

Perhaps you are not, but I'm sure there's some songs that come to mind that might fit the bill. You know, I tend to think of some of their more poppy love songs. Something in my life. I want to hold your hand, here comes the Sun. Great uplifting pop songs, certainly great songs that have that have remained in our memory, sometimes getting stuck in our head. Sorry if they are for the rest of the week, but this particular song that has seemed to resonate with so many, was written by Paul McCartney and a really dark time in his life, the time when he was feeling particularly lonely, troubled, sorrowful. Yesterday, all my trouble seems so far away. Now it looks as though they're here to stay. Oh, I believe, and yesterday. These are the lyrics of this song that has been recorded more than any other song, it seems, in pop history, a song that has seemed to resonate with so many. And it's not here comes the Sun, is it? It's a song of sadness, it's a song of lament, a lyrics, a lyricist and anguish, holding out a glimmer of hope that maybe tomorrow will look better than today, maybe the glory of yesteryear might one day return. Well, I think the popularity of this song yesterday gives away something about the human experience, doesn't it? That everyone, everywhere, at some time or another, experiences sorrow, experiences trouble, suffering, loneliness, betrayal. It would seem that we are left on our own to figure out what to do with those feelings. Well, interestingly enough, proper lament, it would seem as something that our culture is uncomfortable with, even though this song has been recorded so many times, it's not something we like to discuss a lot. In fact, I would say that oftentimes within the church this problem is even worse. We don't like to talk about lament. We're a lot better about singing songs of thanksgiving, you know, at least as far as the number of songs we sing, and we should sing psalms of thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for. But it is of interest that a third of our PSALTER, the third of the Psalms, are made up of songs of lament, over fifty of them,...

...which should again give us perhaps some permission, at least some confidence that everyone experiences sad times. Well, this morning we will be looking at one of those psalms of lament, and psalm thirteen. Some commentators have said that this is the model lament. Though it is short, it contains all of the necessary elements for what comprises most biblical laments, and is those elements that we will be looking at this morning, and we'll look at them under three headings. One, the complaint to the call and three, the consolation. The complaints, the call and the consolation. Well, right off the bat it was. As we jump into psalm thirteen, there is one element that is clearly missing. We don't get any information about why David is so upset, at least not specifically. We're not given the situation as we are in so many other psalms is at least a lot of psalms have a heading where it tells us exactly what's going on. Or we can study the situation and kind of understand. As we look at parallels and the Old Testament, we can figure out what's going on with David, but this one is a lot more general. Perhaps that's a gift for us this morning and we'll see. We'll see why. But one thing seems very clear though. This psalm shows the struggle to have components that are relational components that are psychological. It would seem that David's problem is primarily spiritual. It's primarily theological, that to say, his problem involves his relationship with God. And we see this right from the beginning, don't we? How Long, Oh Lord, will you forget me forever? Right off the bat, David Calls on the Lord, and it's of interest that David doesn't call just on God generally, but he uses the Covenant Name Yahweh or as in our English translations, is pretty printed lord at all caps. This is the same name that God has given to his chosen people that they might call upon him, that they might worship him. In in addition to using the Covenant Name Yahwah, David Calls God out on his Covenant Promises. What do I mean by this? Well, firstly, he calls on God not to forget his people, specifically not to forget David,...

...and we find this promise of Y'all way throughout the scriptures, specifically in books like Isaiah and Jeremiah, talk a lot about God not forgetting his people. But but I would say that this idea of not forgetting really encapsulates the entire, entire redemptive history, doesn't it? This promise that God will be with us, a promise of presence. We find this promise very early on, certainly explicitly to Abraham, that the God will be a God to him and to his children, and we find this same promise repeated on the last pages of the Bible and revelation that finally this fulfillment comes to pass, that God will be an eternal God to us and to our offspring. So David here is calling on God to remember his covenant promises. In a way, here David is acting like a prophet. What do I mean by that? What do we often think of when we think about prophets? I think we often think about people who tell the future. Right. Well, the Old Testament, one of the primary roles we see of prophets is to bring covenant lawsuits against God's people. What is a covenant lawsuit? Well, how God related to his people in the Old Testament, how he relates to us, is through covenant. And God would send prophets to the nation of Israel to remind them of the Covenant that they had made with the Lord. And after they would remind them, they would show them where they had not kept up their side of the bargain. They would show the people where they had been unfaithful to the covenant. And often times the prophets would do this by saying you have forgotten the Lord. Isaiah says it like this. You have forgotten Y'Ahwagh, your God, the God of your salvation. Josiah says that like this, Israel has forgotten his maker. Ezekiel says. You make gain of your neighbors by extortion, but me you have forgotten, declares the Lord God. But here David is not acting as a prophet, and so much as he's bringing a covenant lawsuit against God's People, he's bringing a covenant lawsuit against God himself. How Long, Oh Lord, will you forget me? And the intensity of his accusation seems to increase each time he cries. How long we...

...see this in this first stands. It's as if he's walking up the steps of the Throne Room of God yelling at the king, pointing a finger in his face, first saying that he is passively forgotten, but then he moves on to an accusation of active hiding. How Long, Oh Lord, will you hide your face from me? He blames God for this perpetual sorrow on account of the Lord's neglect, and finally accuses God of going back on his promises to protect David from his enemies. This would seem like covenant language, doesn't it? It would seem like a prophetic accusation. David brings a host of charges against the Creator, saying you have neglected who you have promised to be you have not only abandoned me, but you have turned me over to my enemies. David is bringing charges of neglect abandonment against the god of all creation. So how does that sit with you? Does it make you a little bit uncomfortable? Makes me a little bit uncomfortable, makes me not really want to pray this prayer, and yet it's in the scripture and it's what David seems to be doing. Well, if it's made you uncomfortable up and this, up until this point, the second stands. It gets a little bit worse. He is gone from from this complaint to now calling on God, barking orders, imperatives, demanding, it would seem so. We first had the complaint, now we have the call. And these calls, these orders, you could say, directly parallel the accusations from the complaint, don't they? Instead of questioning God's covenant promises and his Loyalty, God, David calls out with three very distinct orders consider, answer and enlighten, and these actions mirror the consent of the complaints. Let's take a look. First, David accuses God of forgetting him, and now he calls on the Lord to consider him, to remember him, to look upon him. Second, in opposition to God hiding his face, David Calls God to answer. If you will allow the language, David is calling on God to repent. He's calling...

...on God to turn towards him, to turn from his neglect, his forgetfulness, and to again look upon his servant. Well, there's something else striking here that David again uses this covenant name Yahwey. This time he uses it in its full form. Let's let's take a look. Well, throughout scripture you'll notice that God often identifies himself as the Lord God, as Yahwey God, Yahwey Elohim, or, even more directly, the Lord your God. A famous example of this is an exodus right before the giving of the law. God has delivered the people from the bondage of Egypt and he comes to them right before giving a Tin Commandments, and he says what, I am, the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the hand of slavery. And this is constantly how God identifies himself as the Lord God. Well, it's what David uses to identify God. Right here he says, consider an answer me, oh Lord my God. David is not barking orders to some unknown, arbitrary God, but the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God who took Israel by the hand and led them out of bondage, out of the yoke of slavery, the God who put his covenant name upon his people, the God of David and the God of his father's and this is so important to notice here, because in David's anger and frustration and sorrow, we don't find him calling out and crying in disbelief, do we? We find a cry of faith the God might be faithful to his promises, he says, consider an answer me. Who, oh Lord, my God, I want to consider this for a moment as we perhaps consider how this applies to us one I think I find it somewhat comforting at least, that our covenant God is not scared of US calling out to him in frustration, he's not intimidated by our demands for him to be faithful to what he has promised us,...

...and I would go so far to say that he is not angered by calls of faith when we identify him not according to our own imaginations but what he has revealed of himself. And what he has promised to be to us. And that's exactly what David is doing here, with boldness, crying out answer me, my God. David Calls on God to turn him from sorrow and introspection and enlighten his eyes or or revive him that he might not taste death. And again we see a parallel here. From first stands it, don't we? In the first stands David speaks of his enemies exalting over him, and now David repeats this in his petition. He says, God, if you don't consider me, if you don't answer me, if you don't enlighten me, My enemies will overcome me. They will rejoice when I am shaken. As we've said, David's sorrow, his trouble, certainly has a social component, a situational component, his enemies rejoicing over his failures, his adversaries exalting over him. His trouble certainly has a psychological component, doesn't it? He has sorrow in his heart, he has turned inward upon himself. But David sees his issue is not primarily social, not primarily situational, not primarily psychological. He sees his problem as theological David has a problem with God. And because David's primary problem is with God, God is the only source of consolation. I think, perhaps for us and our times of sorrow and our times of lament, we assume that everything is based on our situation. And, don't get me wrong, we find ourselves in very difficult situations. Sickness of ourselves, are loved ones, death, times of mourning, financial difficulties, relational difficulties, difficulties parenting, difficulties being parented, trouble at school, trouble at work, real issues that plague us. But even in those difficult situations, I think it is so important to remember that God remains our only source of consolation. Seasons of want and seasons of plenty will come and...

...go, but God is the strength of our heart, he is our portion, and David sees this, and and so we must see this if we are to properly lament. He directs his complaint, he directs his call directly to God, and he does so very directly, doesn't he? He points the finger at God, he describes the ways in which God seems to be unfaithful. We see this in the complaint. Then we see this call, that the David Calls God to reglent from his neglect, to repent, to turn towards David. But finally we see David's consolation. We our final section for this morning. Let's look at verse five together. But I have trusted in your loving kindness and your steadfast love. My Heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because he has dealt bountifully with me. It's interesting here. Just in one voice or in one verse, with one word, but everything changes. Life seems to go back to normal. I guess all that yelling and demanded, demanding worked for David. I think perhaps one of the things that is most troubling about this psalm is not David's anger as not the fact that he's demanding, is not the fact that he's complaining, but the fact that everything just seems to be okay, everything seems to improve in an instant. I mean there's a sense in which we like that right. It's like a good Sitcom. No matter how difficult things are for the main character, we know that it'll all be okay within thirty minutes. But one of the reasons why sitcoms are so far from reality is that things just don't improve that quickly, do they? One Minute David is dying in sorrow, yelling at God, in the next he's ready to join a chorus line, ready to sing. But is that what life is like? Hurt lingers, pain goes on and on, Shakespeare once wrote, one pain is lessened only by another's anguish, that to say, it would seem in...

...life that the only remedy for pain is for greater pain to come. And doesn't life sometimes feel that way? Yesterday all my trouble seems so far away, but now it looks as though they're here to stay, as one poet once wrote. But not for David Right not here. All of a sudden everything goes back to normal, life is sweet and the words of Monty Python, there was much rejoicing. But is there any evidence here that David's situation actually changes? Is there any indication that the troubles have ended? And if they have, the psalm doesn't mention it, does it? What we know in this short lament is that it is David who does the changing. Let's take a look again at verse five and six. But I have trusted in your steadfast love. This word steadfast love. Perhaps your translation says loving kindness or faithfulness. It's a word that, throughout the Old Testament, is one that speaks of the Lord's Covenant Loyalty, of his faithfulness to his promise. As one commentator suggests, that the best way to render this is covenant loyalty. I have trusted, and the loyalty to your covenant. You could say I have trusted or I feel confident in what you promise, that it will be true. My Heart, David says, shall rejoice in what your salvation. I would argue against some, and we can argue, if you want to, that David's situation hasn't changed. I would argue, perhaps, that that is even more troubling for us. I mean, is that that what we want for all of a sudden everything on the outside of us that is causing US grief to be remedied? I mean, whether these situations are of our own doing or not, we want the situation to be rectified. But God comes to David, the Lord comes to David with a true solution, doesn't he? Again we have seen that his issue is not situational but theological.

David here has an issue with God. Well, God hears David. God inclines himself to his son. God Has Mercy on him and in David's call for God to repent and turn it is God who repents David. God turns David from his situation to his salvation. And we see here that this Psalmist, by God's mercy, is, by God's grace, able to look to a grace somewhere, at some time that he has encountered, and the magnitude of that grace, that salvation, is a reality that no other experience can diminish. In a word by another poet, the things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light of God, God's glory and grace. Though in that moment the silence of God may seem deafening, David looks to reality that breaks through the silence with a song of salvation. One of the big days that we celebrate, that we have throughout church history, is Easter Sunday, rightly so, the The Sunday where we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. In fact, throughout Church history the church has celebrated the entire week of Holy week in different ways. I know back home we had a Good Friday service. I remember growing up we had Maunday, Thursday. Well, one of the days of Holy Week that does not get a lot of attention, at least in our reform tradition, is holy Saturday, a day that the church has gotten together to hold an Easter vigil to commemorate something a bit strange, the silence of God. Holy Saturday is the day that Jesus spent in the Tomb. Now, for think about holy Saturday for Jesus contemporaries, right the disciples, perhaps this truly was a day of silence, a day of morning, a day where they had to reckon with the fact that the revolution was over, that Jesus, at least, would appear to not be who he claimed to be. The day that death had defeated God, that the light of the world had been snuffed out by the grave, truly a day of silence. Why would we celebrate such a day? Well, for us...

...on this side of the resurrection, we can celebrate holy Saturday, with its pain and its sorrow, because we know that Easter Sunday is about to dawn. We know that the celebration of the resurrection is approaching. We can rejoice in the necessary death and temporary silence of Christ because we know that death does not have the last word about him. On the same way, for us, on this side of God's salvation, we can lament, we can call out to God and faith, bringing our complaints, our sorrow, our pain, our struggles, because we know that our pain does not have the last word about us. We know that the last word about who we are is found in Christ, Jesus himself, and our lives hidden in him. We, like David, can look beyond our situation, our struggle, our pain, to a grace, to a salvation, to God's Covenant Loyalty that he is shown to us in the giving of his only son that we might have forgiveness and life. And as we reflect on this reality, we can be reminded that it is Jesus who truly sang this psalm. Isn't it? That he was the one truly forsaken by the father, handed over to the ultimate enemy, death itself, that we might not taste death, that we might never experience the turned away face of God. Now, I know that there are those of you here, those of us here, who feel like they're weak, or their month or their year or their entire life has been a perpetual holy Saturday, of just sorrow after sorrow and difficulty after difficulty. Would seem that psalm thirteen is your theme song. In a lot of ways, life is difficult, pain is real, but if you resonate with that this morning, here this that your pain does not have the last word, that Sunday is coming and with it resurrection. Though weeping may last for the night, a shout of joy comes in the morning and after we have suffered a...

...little while, the God of all grace, who has called us to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. And, as he promises, he will wipe away every tear that we with the PSALMIST, may sing. I will sing to the Lord, because he is dealt bountifully with me. May the word of the Lord Strengthen and preserve us all to life everlasting. Let's pray the Lord, our God. We do thank you that you are not distant from us. We thank you that you hear us on account of your son and that, because he has experienced the forsakenness that we deserve, we might experience your fatherly affections. Grant that we might grow and faith in grateful obedience as we consider the magnitude of your gift of salvation. Lord, I do pray for those among us that are experiencing mourning and lament and sadness anger. Oh Lord, I do pray that you might repent them. When we lack the power to turn ourselves, Lord, we pray that you would turn us, that we would be able to focus not on the difficulty of these situations, no matter how difficult they may be, but that we might be focused on a salvation so great that everything else seems to grow dim oh Lord, we do pray for those who are sick, that you would bring healing, for those who are financial difficulty, Lord, that you would bring resolution, that you would bring wisdom. Lord. We do pray for the difficult SYS difficult situations among us. Lord. We do pray that you would come and that you would care for your children, that you would hear us according to your son, but most of all, we do pray that you would turn our attention away from our situations to where our true lives are hidden, on high, with your son, who is seated at the right hand of Majesty even now, interceding for us when we do not have the ability to intercede for ourselves. Lord, we thank you for your faithfulness, for Your Covenant Loyalty Toward Us. Lord, we do pray that you would be our ever present help in our time of need, according to your promises, according to who you are and who you...

...have revealed to us that you are through your son. Oh Lord, we do thank you grant us these things, for we ask them in your son's name, who lives in reigns with you, in the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

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