Monday, March 11, 2013

The Lord is Our Sustainer

Psalm 54:1-4
1God, save me by Your name, and vindicate me by Your might!
2 God, hear my prayer; listen to the words of my mouth.
3 For strangers rise up against me, and violent men seek my life. They have no regard for God.
4 God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my life.

          At the time this Psalm was written, King Saul had become jealous of David’s popularity with the people and with the obvious favor of God that rested on David.
          As a result of that jealousy, King Saul tried to kill David and David fled with some of his loyal followers.
          Even though they were wrongly pursued, David and his man still endeavored to do what was right and often protected Israelites from raiders, the Philistines, and other enemies.
          At one point David’s group hid in the forest of Ziph. The entire story is found in 1 Samuel 23.
          In an effort to gain favor with King Saul, the people of Ziph, betrayed David’s hiding place. Those people should have been grateful for David’s protection, but instead they turned against David in his moment of need.
          David wrote this Psalm out of the anguish he felt over that experience.

Verse 1 - God, save me by Your name, and vindicate me by Your might!
          Though David was a man of great abilities, and had a strong fighting force under his command, the very first verse of this Psalm is David’s appeal to God for help.
          We often become so confident in ourselves and in our own abilities, that we only call upon God after all else has failed. Life would be much less stressful if we called upon God first instead of trusting in our own abilities.
          Notice that David knew God by name. David did not appeal to some nameless entity off in some distant corner of the universe, but to a God he had come to know as a young boy watching his father’s sheep.
          Because David knew God personally, the name of God sustained him through the challenges of his life.
          There is great power in the various names of God. Each name represents a different aspect of God, and therefore we use them at different times in life.
          Sadly, some people have confused the names of other gods for the many names of the One true God. Sometimes we replace God altogether and start trusting in our own abilities or man-made organizations or politicians.

Verse 2 - God, hear my prayer; listen to the words of my mouth
          If we hope to bring the name of Christ back to our nation, we must pray.
          Several websites that I consulted said that the average Christian in America only prays 3-7 minutes a day, and that includes praying for meals.
          George Barna’s research says that the average PASTOR only prays 5 minutes a day.
          Though those on the far right like to blame liberals, gays, Democrats and abortionists for our nation’s problems, our nation is not a mess because of the liberals, the gays, the Democrats, or the abortionists. Our nation is a mess because God’s people are not praying! When we can cut through all the labels and pray fervently, our nation will turn around.
          David asked God to listen to the “words” of his mouth. This is a reference to specific things David was praying for. Though David did not list those specifics in this psalm, since it was meant to be used by a group, when David prayed privately, he prayed specifically.
          Far too many of us pray such general prayers that lack a specific focus that we would not know if God did answer them. Instead of praying, “Lord, bless the missionaries,” we should be praying for missionaries by name and need. Instead of praying for “the lost to be saved,” we should be praying for our unsaved friends by name and by situation.
          Perhaps we are vague in our prayers because we lack the faith that God will hear us. God always hears our prayers. He does not always answer in the way we expect, but God does respond in the way that is right.
          When David prayed this, he was being unjustly pursued through the wilderness and had just been betrayed by people he had protected. It was not the best day of David’s life!
          Even with all those struggles, David knew that if he prayed, God would listen and respond in ways that would ultimately be for David’s own good.
          This was not a “name it, claim it” kind of praying, it was a “God, do something before I die!” kind of praying. When we pray with that kind of faith, it is amazing how God answers.

Verse 3 - For strangers rise up against me, and violent men seek my life. They have no regard for God. Selah
          David was in a situation where the men of Ziph, who he had protected from a distance, but did not know in a personal way, betrayed him. They were strangers to him, yet they sought to destroy him in order to gain favor with King Saul.
          How many times in our lives have people who barely know us hurt us?
          Think about what happened in Newtown, CT. A mentally unstable young man killed 26 strangers in ten minutes of violence that still leaves us numb to think about. Though Newtown is an extreme example of violence from strangers, many of us have had things done to us by strangers that hurt us.
          And sadly, many of us have also been hurt by those we thought were friends, or by relatives we thought we could trust. Whether strangers, or friends, the actions of others can be extremely painful to us.
          We often ask how people can do such hurtful things to others; David’s answer reminds us that they had no regard for God.
          This does not necessarily mean they were atheists, but it means that serving God was not the primary motivation of their lives when they took those actions.
          In this particular situation, their primary motivation was to gain favor with King Saul.
          Think of all the pain that is caused because people are trying to be popular, or manipulate some situation to their advantage. When we leave God out of any situation, the result is never positive.
          Do not miss the word Selah. The word “Selah” occurs seventy-three times in the Psalms, and also is found 3 times in Habakkuk. The exact meaning of the word is unknown, but it is believed by many scholars to be a musical term that means pause, or reflect.
          David was asking us to pause and reflect on this truth.
          We must realize that this kind of behavior, which leaves God out of various situations, is a constant reality in our sin cursed world. We will never overcome it by rules, regulations, legislation or any other man made system. We need God’s help when we face these kinds of situations.
          All the rules in the world will not change the human heart. Only a relationship with the true God of heaven, through His Son Jesus Christ, can change the human heart. We must acknowledge this great truth in our lives and place all of our hope in Christ alone.

Verse 4 - God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my life.
          When we understand this great truth, then God becomes our helper and if God is for us, no one can stand against us. But God is more than just a helper, He is our sustainer.
          The Hebrew word for sustainer is the bə·sō·mə·ḵê       or     בְּ ֽסֹמְכֵ֥י.
          It only occurs twice in scripture. In this Psalm and in Ruth 4:15 where it says that God would sustain Naomi in her old age.
          We do not have time to look at the whole story of Naomi, but the short version is that her husband and sons died, leaving her in a strange land with no money, no job and no one to stand up for her rights. In that day and time, a woman in such circumstances was destitute and often either starved or was taken advantage of by a man. Naomi had no other source of sustenance. Therefore, she had to rely on God. But God was there for Naomi and took care of her. Her story has one of those “lived happily ever after” endings.
          Likewise, God was there for David. And God is here for us.
          When we cast all our hope on Him, He will sustain us even in the most difficult experiences of life. When God is all we have left, then we can be sure that He will be enough to get us through whatever this sin cursed world throws at us.

A closing illustration about Connecticut
          Since I am in the process of moving from Vermont to Connecticut, I have been studying Connecticut history. When Europeans first settled in Connecticut, they were quite the religious group and their favorite prayer came from Psalm 54:4. That prayer was, “He who transplanted still sustains.” Incidentally, that remains the official state motto for Connecticut.
          But we have forgotten our rich Christian heritage. For example, Hartford saw ten new mosques built in the last decade but only one new evangelical church. Things that were once sinful are now the law of the land in Connecticut. If we do not soon turn back to the One who put us here, things will get worse instead of better. We still need the One who transplanted us to sustain us.

          We must know God personally and cast all our hope on Him.
          We must pray fervently and specifically, trusting God to always do what is right.
          When treated wrongly, our response should bring God’s presence back into the situation because He is the only one who can sustain us.

No comments:

Post a Comment