Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 5 months ago

A Faithful Lament

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Christian McArthur

Now, as we open your wordtogether, that you might continue to sanctify us, remind us of what istrue about us, remind us what is true about your son. May thewords of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts together be pleasingand acceptable in your sight, our rock and our redeemer. It is inyour son's name that we pray. Hey men, if you have a copyof the scriptures with you, you may remain standing and open to psalm thirteen, which will be our sermon text for this morning. Psalm Thirteen, thisis the word of the Lord. Let's give our attention to it. HowLong, Oh Lord, will you forget me forever? How long will youhide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my souland have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemybe exalted over me? Consider an answer me, Oh Lord, my God, light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lestmy enemies say I have prevailed over him, lest my foes rejoice because I amshaken, but I have trusted in your steadfast love. My Heart shallrejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he hasdealt bountifully with me. You may be seated when, the summer of nineteensixty 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 fewmonths later to chart number one in the US. Since then, it hasgone on to be one of the most recorded songs of all time, recordedover twenty two hundred times by various artists, artists like Marvin Gay Ray, CharlesBob Dylan, Elvis Presley, boys to men and the Ohio state marchingband. BBC called this song the greatest song of the any century. RollingStones, that is the greatest pop song of all time. Now, Idon't know if you are Beatles fans.

Perhaps you are not, but I'msure there's some songs that come to mind that might fit the bill. Youknow, I tend to think of some of their more poppy love songs.Something in my life. I want to hold your hand, here comes theSun. Great uplifting pop songs, certainly great songs that have that have remainedin our memory, sometimes getting stuck in our head. Sorry if they arefor the rest of the week, but this particular song that has seemed toresonate with so many, was written by Paul McCartney and a really dark timein his life, the time when he was feeling particularly lonely, troubled,sorrowful. Yesterday, all my trouble seems so far away. Now it looksas though they're here to stay. Oh, I believe, and yesterday. Theseare the lyrics of this song that has been recorded more than any othersong, it seems, in pop history, a song that has seemed to resonatewith 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 tomorrowwill 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 aboutthe human experience, doesn't it? That everyone, everywhere, at some timeor another, experiences sorrow, experiences trouble, suffering, loneliness, betrayal. Itwould seem that we are left on our own to figure out what todo with those feelings. Well, interestingly enough, proper lament, it wouldseem as something that our culture is uncomfortable with, even though this song hasbeen 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 iseven worse. We don't like to talk about lament. We're a lot betterabout singing songs of thanksgiving, you know, at least as far as the numberof songs we sing, and we should sing psalms of thanksgiving. Wehave much to be thankful for. But it is of interest that a thirdof our PSALTER, the third of the Psalms, are made up of songsof lament, over fifty of them,...

...which should again give us perhaps somepermission, at least some confidence that everyone experiences sad times. Well, thismorning we will be looking at one of those psalms of lament, and psalmthirteen. Some commentators have said that this is the model lament. Though itis short, it contains all of the necessary elements for what comprises most biblicallaments, 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 calland three, the consolation. The complaints, the call and the consolation. Well, right off the bat it was. As we jump into psalmthirteen, there is one element that is clearly missing. We don't get anyinformation about why David is so upset, at least not specifically. We're notgiven the situation as we are in so many other psalms is at least alot 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 atparallels 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 forus this morning and we'll see. We'll see why. But one thing seemsvery clear though. This psalm shows the struggle to have components that are relationalcomponents 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 juston God generally, but he uses the Covenant Name Yahweh or as in ourEnglish translations, is pretty printed lord at all caps. This is the samename 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 NameYahwah, David Calls God out on his Covenant Promises. What do I meanby this? Well, firstly, he calls on God not to forget hispeople, specifically not to forget David,...

...and we find this promise of Y'allway throughout the scriptures, specifically in books like Isaiah and Jeremiah, talk alot about God not forgetting his people. But but I would say that thisidea 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 theGod will be a God to him and to his children, and we findthis same promise repeated on the last pages of the Bible and revelation that finallythis fulfillment comes to pass, that God will be an eternal God to usand to our offspring. So David here is calling on God to remember hiscovenant promises. In a way, here David is acting like a prophet.What do I mean by that? What do we often think of when wethink about prophets? I think we often think about people who tell the future. Right. Well, the Old Testament, one of the primary roles we seeof prophets is to bring covenant lawsuits against God's people. What is acovenant lawsuit? Well, how God related to his people in the Old Testament, how he relates to us, is through covenant. And God would sendprophets to the nation of Israel to remind them of the Covenant that they hadmade with the Lord. And after they would remind them, they would showthem where they had not kept up their side of the bargain. They wouldshow the people where they had been unfaithful to the covenant. And often timesthe prophets would do this by saying you have forgotten the Lord. Isaiah saysit like this. You have forgotten Y'Ahwagh, your God, the God of yoursalvation. Josiah says that like this, Israel has forgotten his maker. Ezekielsays. You make gain of your neighbors by extortion, but me youhave forgotten, declares the Lord God. But here David is not acting asa 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 increaseeach 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 yellingat the king, pointing a finger in his face, first saying that heis 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, andfinally 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 likea prophetic accusation. David brings a host of charges against the Creator, sayingyou 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 chargesof neglect abandonment against the god of all creation. So how does that sitwith you? Does it make you a little bit uncomfortable? Makes me alittle bit uncomfortable, makes me not really want to pray this prayer, andyet 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 fromfrom this complaint to now calling on God, barking orders, imperatives, demanding,it would seem so. We first had the complaint, now we havethe call. And these calls, these orders, you could say, directlyparallel the accusations from the complaint, don't they? Instead of questioning God's covenantpromises and his Loyalty, God, David calls out with three very distinct ordersconsider, 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 iscalling 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 covenantname Yahwey. This time he uses it in its full form. Let's let'stake a look. Well, throughout scripture you'll notice that God often identifies himselfas the Lord God, as Yahwey God, Yahwey Elohim, or, even moredirectly, the Lord your God. A famous example of this is anexodus right before the giving of the law. God has delivered the people from thebondage 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 youout 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 ananswer me, oh Lord my God. David is not barking orders to someunknown, arbitrary God, but the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God who took Israel by the hand andled them out of bondage, out of the yoke of slavery, the Godwho put his covenant name upon his people, the God of David and the Godof his father's and this is so important to notice here, because inDavid's anger and frustration and sorrow, we don't find him calling out and cryingin disbelief, do we? We find a cry of faith the God mightbe faithful to his promises, he says, consider an answer me. Who,oh Lord, my God, I want to consider this for a momentas we perhaps consider how this applies to us one I think I find itsomewhat comforting at least, that our covenant God is not scared of US callingout to him in frustration, he's not intimidated by our demands for him tobe faithful to what he has promised us,...

...and I would go so far tosay that he is not angered by calls of faith when we identify himnot according to our own imaginations but what he has revealed of himself. Andwhat he has promised to be to us. And that's exactly what David is doinghere, with boldness, crying out answer me, my God. DavidCalls on God to turn him from sorrow and introspection and enlighten his eyes oror revive him that he might not taste death. And again we see aparallel here. From first stands it, don't we? In the first standsDavid speaks of his enemies exalting over him, and now David repeats this in hispetition. He says, God, if you don't consider me, ifyou don't answer me, if you don't enlighten me, My enemies will overcomeme. They will rejoice when I am shaken. As we've said, David'ssorrow, his trouble, certainly has a social component, a situational component,his enemies rejoicing over his failures, his adversaries exalting over him. His troublecertainly 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 notprimarily social, not primarily situational, not primarily psychological. He sees his problemas theological David has a problem with God. And because David's primary problem is withGod, God is the only source of consolation. I think, perhapsfor us and our times of sorrow and our times of lament, we assumethat 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 thatplague us. But even in those difficult situations, I think it isso important to remember that God remains our only source of consolation. Seasons ofwant and seasons of plenty will come and...

...go, but God is the strengthof our heart, he is our portion, and David sees this, and andso we must see this if we are to properly lament. He directshis complaint, he directs his call directly to God, and he does sovery directly, doesn't he? He points the finger at God, he describesthe ways in which God seems to be unfaithful. We see this in thecomplaint. Then we see this call, that the David Calls God to reglentfrom his neglect, to repent, to turn towards David. But finally wesee David's consolation. We our final section for this morning. Let's look atverse five together. But I have trusted in your loving kindness and your steadfastlove. My Heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to theLord because he has dealt bountifully with me. It's interesting here. Just in onevoice 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 ismost troubling about this psalm is not David's anger as not the fact that he'sdemanding, is not the fact that he's complaining, but the fact that everythingjust seems to be okay, everything seems to improve in an instant. Imean there's a sense in which we like that right. It's like a goodSitcom. No matter how difficult things are for the main character, we knowthat it'll all be okay within thirty minutes. But one of the reasons why sitcomsare 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 andon, 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 painis 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'rehere to stay, as one poet once wrote. But not for DavidRight not here. All of a sudden everything goes back to normal, lifeis sweet and the words of Monty Python, there was much rejoicing. But isthere any evidence here that David's situation actually changes? Is there any indicationthat the troubles have ended? And if they have, the psalm doesn't mentionit, does it? What we know in this short lament is that itis David who does the changing. Let's take a look again at verse fiveand six. But I have trusted in your steadfast love. This word steadfastlove. 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 thebest way to render this is covenant loyalty. I have trusted, and the loyaltyto your covenant. You could say I have trusted or I feel confidentin what you promise, that it will be true. My Heart, Davidsays, shall rejoice in what your salvation. I would argue against some, andwe 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 suddeneverything 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, wewant the situation to be rectified. But God comes to David, the Lordcomes to David with a true solution, doesn't he? Again we have seenthat 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 turnit is God who repents David. God turns David from his situation to hissalvation. And we see here that this Psalmist, by God's mercy, is, by God's grace, able to look to a grace somewhere, at sometime that he has encountered, and the magnitude of that grace, that salvation, is a reality that no other experience can diminish. In a word byanother poet, the things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light ofGod, God's glory and grace. Though in that moment the silence of Godmay seem deafening, David looks to reality that breaks through the silence with asong of salvation. One of the big days that we celebrate, that wehave throughout church history, is Easter Sunday, rightly so, the The Sunday wherewe celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. In fact, throughout Church history thechurch has celebrated the entire week of Holy week in different ways. Iknow back home we had a Good Friday service. I remember growing up wehad Maunday, Thursday. Well, one of the days of Holy Week thatdoes 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 anEaster vigil to commemorate something a bit strange, the silence of God. Holy Saturdayis the day that Jesus spent in the Tomb. Now, for thinkabout holy Saturday for Jesus contemporaries, right the disciples, perhaps this truly wasa day of silence, a day of morning, a day where they hadto reckon with the fact that the revolution was over, that Jesus, atleast, would appear to not be who he claimed to be. The daythat death had defeated God, that the light of the world had been snuffedout by the grave, truly a day of silence. Why would we celebratesuch a day? Well, for us...

...on this side of the resurrection,we can celebrate holy Saturday, with its pain and its sorrow, because weknow that Easter Sunday is about to dawn. We know that the celebration of theresurrection is approaching. We can rejoice in the necessary death and temporary silenceof 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, bringingour complaints, our sorrow, our pain, our struggles, because we know thatour pain does not have the last word about us. We know thatthe last word about who we are is found in Christ, Jesus himself,and our lives hidden in him. We, like David, can look beyond oursituation, our struggle, our pain, to a grace, to a salvation, to God's Covenant Loyalty that he is shown to us in the givingof his only son that we might have forgiveness and life. And as wereflect on this reality, we can be reminded that it is Jesus who trulysang this psalm. Isn't it? That he was the one truly forsaken bythe father, handed over to the ultimate enemy, death itself, that wemight not taste death, that we might never experience the turned away face ofGod. Now, I know that there are those of you here, thoseof us here, who feel like they're weak, or their month or theiryear or their entire life has been a perpetual holy Saturday, of just sorrowafter sorrow and difficulty after difficulty. Would seem that psalm thirteen is your themesong. In a lot of ways, life is difficult, pain is real, but if you resonate with that this morning, here this that your paindoes 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 themorning and after we have suffered a...

...little while, the God of allgrace, who has called us to his eternal glory in Christ, will himselfrestore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. And, as he promises, hewill 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 arenot distant from us. We thank you that you hear us on account ofyour 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 ingrateful 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 sadnessanger. Oh Lord, I do pray that you might repent them. Whenwe lack the power to turn ourselves, Lord, we pray that you wouldturn us, that we would be able to focus not on the difficulty ofthese situations, no matter how difficult they may be, but that we mightbe focused on a salvation so great that everything else seems to grow dim ohLord, we do pray for those who are sick, that you would bringhealing, for those who are financial difficulty, Lord, that you would bring resolution, that you would bring wisdom. Lord. We do pray for thedifficult SYS difficult situations among us. Lord. We do pray that you would comeand that you would care for your children, that you would hear usaccording to your son, but most of all, we do pray that youwould 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 handof Majesty even now, interceding for us when we do not have the abilityto intercede for ourselves. Lord, we thank you for your faithfulness, forYour Covenant Loyalty Toward Us. Lord, we do pray that you would beour 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 arethrough 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 withyou, in the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

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