Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

A Lament for the Godly (Psalm 44)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

Let's give our attention now to a psalm. I'm taking a break for about a month, I suppose, from first chronicles. Will hear Psalm forty four tonight. As we hear it, let us here with humble ears and ears of faith, Psalm forty four, a Maskul of the sons of Cora. Oh God, we have heard with our ears. Our fathers have told us what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old, you, with your own hand, drove out the nations, but them you planted, you afflicted the people's but them you set free. For Not by their own sword did they win the land, nor by did their own nor did their own arms save them, but your right hand and your arm and the light of your face, for you delighted in them. You are my King O. God ordained salvation for Jacob. Through you we push down our foes. Through your name we tread thou down those who rise up against us, for not in my own bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me, but you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. In God, we have boasted continually and we give thanks to your name forever but you have rejected US and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies, and you have made us turned back from the foe, and those who hate us have gotten spoil. You have made us like sheep for the slaughter and have scattered US among the nations. You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them. You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us. You have made us a by word among the nations, a laughing stock among the people's all day long, my disgrace is before me and shame has covered my face at the sound of the Taunter and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and the Avenger. All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you and we have not been false to your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way. Yet you have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death. If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this, for he knows the secrets of the heart? Yet, for...

...your Sake, we are being we are killed all the day long. We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake, why are you sleeping? A Lord, Rouse Yourself. Do not reject US forever. Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and depression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust, our belly clings to the ground. Rise up, come to our help, redeem us for the stake of your steadfast love. May God bless his word to us. Please be seated. Despite the perpetual news cycle we're always in, can't seem to be freed of Americans are nevertheless optimists. We just can't let that go. I don't think we. We just always seem to find a way to or at least we feel the weight of optimism. There is a pressure we have to be optimists, so sort of always be on the up and up, even when things look very bleak, and sometimes, I'm afraid, that kind of American optimism, if I can put it that way, gets transferred over to our our faith. There is, of course, a great optimism that we have in God, a hope that is unfading, ever secure. We have a God who promises things and never lies. Who never changes, whose will is perfect. If anyone has reasons for hope, it's Christians. It's those who've found their lives, or find their lives in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross. But at the same time, Christians are also realists. We don't pretend things are ways in which they're not. We see the world as it is. Martin Luther says, the mark of a truth theologian is someone who calls a thing what it is, who calls good good and evil evil. Sometimes this is a bit backwards from the way it might seem, for we call the cross good and we call riches evil and net nevertheless, there is this distinction that Christians are called to make a really a realism, a realism that's based on what we see in front of us and what God has promised to us. And what that means is that in our Christian lives we will sometimes find ourselves, like the Psalmist, here singing a song of lament.

A lament. Maybe you've not heard that word before if you're little. A lament is a cry to God in a moment of crisis. Kids, you have lamented before when, let's say you're really, really hungry and dinner is about an hour late and you really want to eat and you say, mom, I'm hungry, please feed me, I'm so hungry. That's a lament. It's a pleading, as saying I need, I need this thing, I want this thing, I'm having a bad time, a hard time, without this thing. Well, we can lament for good reasons and for bad reasons, but here we have a lament over some very serious things. This cry to God in a moment of crisis. And what's unique about this psalm, we see other laments in the psalms, is that it's national, it's corporate. There are places where it speaks in an individual way. So, for example, in verse for it says you are my God, Oh king, or verse fifteen. All the day, all day long, my disgrace is before me and shame has covered my face. Here is the picture of an individual person feeling the weight of this distress that they're under, these hard times. But it's not just one person. The context are the problem that these people are facing is that they, Israel's armies, have gone out. They've gone out to face some enemy. It doesn't say who it is here, but they've gone out to face an enemy and you know what happened. They were defeated. We've been looking at first chronicles right, and we've been focusing on these great victories David has had. This psalm probably isn't from that period of time. David is going out battle after battle after battle, and he's winning, winning, winning, all, conquering all victory. It's going swimmingly well, but not here. This describes an instance where the people of God march out to battle confidence in the Lord, their God, and then when they get there they're destroyed. They're destroyed and it seems like they're destroyed in a very strong way. Will come to that. Will describe that in a moment. But that's the context that we have here for this lament, this cry to God in a moment of crisis. What I'd like to do is go through the Psalm, look at its four parts and then draw your...

...attention to a couple points of application. So the four parts of this psalm I'm going to call past, present, protest and plea. First there is a description of Israel's past, then Israel's present, then there is a protest to God and then a plea to God. Past, present, protest, plea. So first the past. That's in verses one through eight. This is where the Psalm starts, and it starts out on this very positive note, doesn't it? Oh God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us. This is a good way to start, right. These are people that have grown up and they say our fathers have taught us about God. They've told us the stories. We know what you've done in the past and they described some of those things, things that we read about in Joshua and judges, for example. I'm even further back than that, and they describe the PSALMIST describes it in this way. With Your own hand, you drove out the nations, but the people, your people, are fathers and mothers. You planted them, the Canaanites. They were afflicted people's verse two says. But to the people of Israel, you set them free. You remember where? They were set free from Egypt, bound in Egypt. And what did God? He God do with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, he set his people free. He said to Pharaoh, let my people go, and Pharaoh resisted with everything that was in him. He made his heart as strong as a rock and said no no, no, I won't. He said to God I won't, and God said you will, and he made him and his people were set free. The people of Egypt were afflicted, but God's people were set free. Israel didn't rise up when some kind of insurrection, beat down their chains, kill some Egyptians and run out of town. No, they walked out with bags of bread and food on their backs because God had said go, you're free to go now. It was not even when they did use swords, when they went into the land of Canaan, the people of God recognize very much that it was not the sword that saved them, but it was God, God's right hand, his arm, verse three says, and the light of his face. What does that mean? How did the light of God's Face Save Them? It's described in the parallel phrase right after that. For you delighted in them.

To talk about the light of God's faces, to talk about his happiness. He was happy with his people, he was pleased with them, he was shining on them, he delighted in them, and so they were fine. Everything that God willed for them and for their protection happened. And this is what this is how this is what he did in the past. This is what their fathers had told them about, and they knew this, and so there's this confession that results from that. In verses for through seven, you are my king, our King, Oh God, or Dame Salvation for Jacob, it's through you, verse five, that we push down our foes. Through your name we tread down those who rise up against us. It's not our bows, it's not our swords that save us, it's you, are God, and for that, in Verse Eight, we have boasted continually and we give thanks to your name. We're all taught that boasting is a bad thing, and that's true when we're boasting in ourselves, but when we boast in God, when we say and we have confidence in his strength, there's no false pride in that. The problem with boasting is we're often exaggerating our achievements beyond what we really should. We're not humbling ourselves according to the way we ought. But in God there's no need to humble God. There's no need to chasing him a little bit and not let him get him too puffed up, because he's God, he's perfect, he's good, he's glorious in all things, and for that they are proud and they give thanks to him for his name. So that's the past. That's who they know God is. That's their experience of God, partly through the stories of their fathers. Now we come to the present. In Verses Nine through sixteen. What the plea this lamentous saying about the presence is that the present is very different from the past. You rescued our fathers, but us, you've rejected US and disgraced us. Instead of going out with our armies and conquering all these people, we feel like sheep being led to the slaughter we don't feel like a great and power for army working in the name of the Lord, but we feel like little lambs walking to the slaughterhouse ready to be killed. Lambs don't are not powerful. They don't have armor and defenses and swords. Their lambs sheep. This is how they feel and they are in some ways experiencing this. The armies have gotten the better of them. Verse Ten. They have got and the spoil. They've won the war. Their enemies have won...

...the war against them, or the battle against them, and have taken away their things. Verse Twelve describes the magnitude of this by saying you've sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price to them. For them. It's as though this enemy army has overtaken God's people, and it wasn't even hard. There was the Israel can't even say, well, at least they took a lot of casualties, at least they lot used a lot of equipment. You've sold your people for a triple. You didn't even demand a high price for us, and because of that, now there's this shame attached to us. Not only did we die in battle, not only have our armies been routed, not only have our things been taken from us, but now there's this shame, and not just internally, but real shame among the nations. Verse Fourteen says you have made us a by word among the people's a by word is is like a little phrase, a little short phrase that describes something larger. So you know. Well, we all know about Israel. Right like. That's all you would have to say to know about how embarrassing these people are, how shameful and weak they are. All you have to do is is mentioned them a laughing stock among the people's. Perhaps in your bibles you have a little superscript to there. That points you down toward the bottom, and it says Hebrew as shaking of the head. That is kind of yeah, I can't believe those guys. What fools trusting in Yahway. And look at what happened to them. They got destroyed. We wasted them, we blew them out of the water. What a joke, what a joke of a people, what a joke of a nation? That's how that's what they were hearing from their enemies, the enemies that God was supposed to be protecting them from. And so now the instead of feeling confident and proud and happy, Verse Fifteen and Sixteen says that, at the sound of the Taunter and reviler, every time I see an enemy, every time I see the avenger, I filled with disgrace. All the day long, shame has covered my face. So that's the present situation, very different from the past. In the past you've taken care of us, you've fought for us, but in the present you've left us out in the open. We feel as though you've simply led us to die. Where are you? Well, that's then comes the protest. In verses Seventeen through twenty two. The protest of essentially says what did we do? DID WE DO ANYTHING WRONG? No,...

...we didn't. We kept your covenant, we didn't commit adulter our idolatry. We didn't open our hands to false God's we didn't forget your name. You know the secrets of our hearts. We've done the things that were Sparta supposed to do, whether that's in a legal sense, being false to your covenant, or in the imagery of walking a straight path. We stayed the course. We've kept on the PAT on the on the path. Essentially, another way to put what they're saying is they're saying if we had sinned, if we had put up idols or forgotten that you are our God, we could understand why this was happening, but we haven't done that, so we don't understand. We are being killed all the day long. And then again this phrase. We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. That's the protest. And then, finally, the plea. The plead to God is to help. They describe God as though he were sleeping, unaware of what was going on. Wake up, help me, Lord, wake up. Why are you sleeping? Rouse yourself now. Of course they don't believe that God is actually sleeping. God never sleeps, he never slumbers, he always knows what's going on. But they're saying this is a descriptive way to say, don't leave us alone, don't reject US forever, as they as it goes on to say. It's put in a second way. Instead of a sleeping image, a face, a facial image is used. Remember, before, the light of his face shined upon his people, and that's why they were victorious. Well, the flip side of that is hiding the face. Twenty four says, why do you hide your face? Why have you turned away from us? You have maybe experienced this body language says as much in the ancient world as it does today. When somebody turns your back on you, when someone turns their face away from you, it's a kind of rejection. As what we mean by that, and that's what they mean here. Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? The situation is bad, they plead one more time. In Verse Twenty Five describes a situation of being near to death. You remember God's curse on Adam. I'm from dust, you were made to dust. You shall return. Well, Verse Twenty Five for our soul is bowed down to the dust. Our belly clings to the ground. We're not standing up with strength and confidence, we're clinging to the ground. We...

...are near the dust. We are almost dead. Rise up, verse Twenty Six, Rise Up, come to our help, redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love. They plead for deliverance. So this is the psalm. This is one example. There are others in the psalms of what we might call a godly lament. How do people here we have an example of the people of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, lamenting, crying out to God in a moment of crisis. We have the press, the past, the present, the protest and the plea. Well, what shall we make of all of this? I think there's a lot we can say, but let me mention two things. First, there is a permission to pray here. There is a permission to pray here. We have, in God's inspired and holy word, permission to be realists, to look at our situations and feel desperate and to express the desperation that we feel to God. God gives us permission in these words and even gives us words to use that we might pray to him and cry out to him in our desperation to express our feelings and our difficulties. Now, this permission to pray is not permission to feel desperate and hate God. It's not permission to feel desperate and judge God or to reject God. We know that. Jesus, when he washed the disciple's feet, you remember what he did. He washed their feet, and I believe it was Peter who said no, no, no, you shouldn't wash my feet, Lord, and he says no, I must wash your feet and you, likewise must also wash feet, he says, as a servant greater than the master, were called to follow him. Are we not in service to him? The same is true of our suffering, of our persecutions. Jesus suffered and we are called to suffer in his name. This is a reality of our lives. This is something that God indeed calls us to and in that just as Jesus felt desperate, even bleeding straat drops of blood, as he prayed to God before he went to the cross, feeling that desperation, if you could take this cup of me, please do.

We who also follow in his steps and suffer, will find ourselves, like our Lord feeling desperate. But what do we do? Did Jesus turn away from God and say, forget you, I'm going to do my own thing now. No, he didn't do that. He called out to God, he pled to God, he prayed to God, he lamented to God. Jesus didn't reject God, nor did he hate him. He didn't say, I hate that you're doing this to me, you're wrong for doing this to me. Jesus didn't stand over in a judgment over his father. What did he say? Not My will, but yours be done. Brothers and sisters, this is what we do when we follow in the steps of our Lord. When we suffer, is he suffered. The Servant is not greater than the master. We go to God. We have permission to pray, permission to open up our hearts and say, Lord, this is hard, this is really, really hard. But we go to him. We don't go to ourselves, we don't go somewhere else, we don't find our salvation away from him. We don't hate God, we don't get angry at him, we don't judge him. We say I don't understand it, but it's for your sake that I am being killed. It is for your sake that these things happen. So please save me, please help me according to your will. When we come, when we face our suffering, we must not lose heart in God. We cry out to him and it's to him that we cry. Too often it's really hard to see that what's going on. A lot of times we think, will God, I can deal with my suffering, assuming I can know what this is all about. I if you tell me what's going on here, then okay, I'll I'll believe you for that and we'll go forward. God doesn't always give that to us. He doesn't always tell us what's going on and why it's going on. You remember job. Did job know what was going on in the Court of Heaven when Satan came to accuse him and God allowed these things to fall upon him? Did job know all that was going on and how we would be blessed by what happened? Did job know the end of the story and how he would be blessed exceedingly and beyond what he even had before? No, he didn't know any of that. And yet he was called to be faithful to God, and job was. Remember, let me remind you of some of the things he said. Job On twenty one, he says, naked I came from my mother's Womb and naked I shall return. Yahwig gave, Yah weigh gave...

...and Yah wit has taken away. Blessed be the name of Yahway, who are we to go to God and say, I don't think your calculus is right on this one. If things should be another way? God gives, God takes away. Blessed be the name of God. Job To ten. Job's wife comes to him and tries to tell him to do exactly the opposite of what I've said. She says just give up on God, curse him and and die, and job says to her, you speak is one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil. And then scripture comments on job. What job just says they're again, job says to his wife, shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil, and then scripture comments and the Holy Spirit says in all this, job did not sin with his lips. This is a way of God's. I'm giving his approbation of saying this is how you should talk, this is how you should think. When we face these difficult times, we cry out to God, even as job did, but we do not turn away from him and we can express the desperation of our hearts, our grief, our sadness, are not an inability to understand what's going on, but we do not say I curse God. The cry of the Christian is the cry of job. You are the Lord and I will take whatever you give. So this is a one application of on this psalm. We have permission to pray, we have permission to cry out to God, but as we do so, we do not reject our Lord in suffering, but instead we cling to him, we plead with him and we find comfort in his promises. The end of the Psalm says, come to our help, redeem us for the sake of your stead fast love. And that brings us to the second point of application in my final point, and that's this. This lament teaches us that our hope is in God and in God alone. This is a godly prayer. This is a Christian prayer because it doesn't go elsewhere. It goes to God and go to him alone, and for good reason, reasons that we can find in the psalm itself. We can find in the minds of the people that are praying this. One reason that we hope in God and him alone is because he's sovereign. As I've not...

...to just repeat the point, but this is what job is saying, isn't it? He's saying God is sovereign over both the good and evil, the calamity that comes upon us, as well as other things. This is what Isaiah forty five says. A God says I form light and create darkness, I make wellbeing and create calamity. I am Yahway, who does all these things. God is sovereign. We have in some ways, no choice about to submit to him. He is king and we should UN bow our hearts before him. But that's also why our hope is in him. What kind of foolish person would go elsewhere? There is nowhere else to go. If God is sovereign over these things, if he is the one that makes one army win and another army lose, does it make sense that Israel would turn elsewhere, would turn to another God that night? Don't do that. They don't say, well, God's rejected us, so let's try molech see how he does. Know, they go to their God because he is sovereign, also because he's powerful. Remember, throughout this psalm it says again and again that he alone is powerful to save, that he alone can bring from bring about salvaytion verse, for you are my king, Oh God, ordained salvation for Jacob. And finally, our hope is in him and in him alone, because no other God as powerful and as sovereign as he is. And there is no other God, but no other God has made promises to his people, has given and made expressed covenant with them. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love. The Christian goes to the Lord in lament in their difficult trials and circumstances, not just because God is sovereign, which he is, not just because God is powerful, which he is, but also because of God's promises and the character that is attached to those promises. When they say redeem us for the stake of your steadfast love, they very much have in mind the promises that God has made to Adam and eve in the garden that stay, that a son would be born who would crush the head of the serpent, to Abraham, that God would make out of him a great multitude and a people, a bigger than more infinite than the stars and the skies. A good promise to remember when you see people around you dying. God has promised these things. Perhaps they are also remembering God's promises to David, but he would establish his kingdom and his throne forever. The remembering...

God's character, that it's attached to these promises, his steadfast love. And that's why Paul, as we saw this morning in Romans Chapter Eight, draws our attention to this psalm, this psalm in particular, because when we face distress and sword and famine, when we face a pressures against governments and our physical bodies and our sins and all the things that we face trials and difficulties under, we feel like sheep being led to the slaughter. We feel like we're being killed all the day long, and in some ways we are. Christians has suffered, sometimes in the thousands, persecution, hard trials, when they have done no good, no wrong against God, but instead have confessed his name and been true to his word. But Paul quotes these these UN these verses, which remind us of the whole of this psalm, to say what he says there and what we heard in God's word this morning that nothing can separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus, Our Lord, and that's what they say here too, in Verse Twenty Six. Redeem us, rescue us by US back from the evil one. For the sake of your steadfast love. We have confidence in God because of his love, because of his promises, because of his power, because of his sovereignty, because God is God. This is what job felt, isn't it? This is the great words that God overwhelmed him with, that God is God and we are not. And so when we're feeling like our trials are killing us, and brothers and sisters, even when our trials do kill us, we don't despair. We don't despair because God has given us Jesus, who didn't just go to the garden and suffer, he didn't just go to the Cross and suffer, he didn't just die, he didn't just lay in the grave, but he rose again from the dead. Didn't he any promises that we will to God takes care of us and often does rescue us in this life, but our hope is not ultimately in this life, is it? It's in the hope to come, even as Abraham hoped in that heavenly city, so we too are hoping in God's judgment. Revelation pictures the martyrs under the throne of God, crying out God, God, when will you have your vengeance? When will justice be done? And he says it will be done.

The day is coming, the day of the Lord. So I'll finished by reading these verses from James Chapter Five, verses ten and eleven, where we're pointed to the steadfastness of job as an example of suffering and patience. Brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider these blessed. Who remains steadfast? You have heard of the steadfastness of job and you have seen the purpose of the Lord. How The Lord Is Compassionate and merciful, whether we are in times of great joy and celebration for the goodness of God or whether we are enduring the evils of the Lord, to use Biblical language. There we have our eyes on God who, as James Says, is compassionate, is merciful, as Paul says, is full of love, who is, the Psalmist says, has steadfast love. We keep our eyes on the Lord in all of our prayers, in the good times and bad, because he is good, because his promises are sure and made sure in Jesus Christ. So let us pray.

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