“Unsteady,” “turbulent,” “Tumultuous,” or “Tempestuous;” are words that come to mind when we think of the current state and stability of the world. How do you even begin to understand the shifts that are happening globally yet, even start to define them? The world was in a constant state of flux and change as ‘covid’ described our world and how we lived in it. Then, just as it seems, we were moving out of the pandemic world into a newer settled world. A global superpower invaded a neighbouring state by choice. For the first time in nearly eighty years, the continent of Europe felt war as the lives of 44 million Ukrainians was destroyed. “Tumultuous” does not even begin to capture how we feel when watching the news and watching as prices rise and the lives of innocent civilians are decimated by evil. We have grown so used to relative peace and stability that we almost assume unconsciously that our experience of the world is normative for the majority of people; Mark Sayers notes:
“Part of the reason we feel as if we’re living in strange days, like culture is decaying and the world is moving into greater conflict, is because of a fundamental and implicit assumption. The assumption is that we have reached a new era of human history, a post-conflict world in which we’ll gently slide toward a future both diverse and tolerant.”1
Yes, people might have less or face some difficulties, but generally, they enjoy the same stability and peace we try to convince ourselves. “Our’s is not a privileged position, but one everyone will soon have access to!” we tell ourselves. Yet, if we have travelled outside the European sunspots and have researched life for the majority world, the only conclusion that we can draw is that turmoil is the order of the day. After two years of daily death tolls and infection rates, we have been wearied, and now as we watch the horror of the news and see destruction and death on a scale so close to home, our collective weariness has moved to anxiety; Sayers further notes:
“The reason we feel as anxious as we do is that we don’t see what we expected. We came running into the new world with arms raised in triumph, like a boxer waiting for flowers to flood the ring. But as the darkness swirls around us, our posture shifts. Our arms slouch in confusion, as if to ask, “What is this?” Expect utopia, and dystopia is jarring.”2
“What is this world?” our mind wonders as our reality no longer conforms to what we have been conditioned to expect. Yet, most people in the world would tell us this is life, tumultuous and difficult, and if we are honest in terms of our faith and our engagement with scriptures, we should not be surprised by the state of the world. Jesus warned us to expect difficulty if we follow him, not because he liked to make discipleship hard but because he knew the world was a difficult place – especially for those who seek to be faithful to the truth – even beyond Jesus, the Bible hardly paints a picture of an easy life as it paints an honest portrayal of a world that is devasted by the effects of sin and human depravity. If God’s people are afflicted by those around them, then the Bible’s honesty records them afflicting themselves by their own evil choices and desire. One of the most profound lines Christians sing that sums up much of the human experience is that beautiful prayer written in 1831 by James Edmeston: “Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us o’er the world’s tempestuous sea!” So we might ask ourselves, how will our heavenly Father lead us as the storms of life rage? Our Lenten journey through the Psalms provides the answer.
A Psalm In Season
Last week as we looked at that great Penitential Psalm of David written in response to one of the worst moments of his life, we witnessed as he realised the stupidity of his ways and the wickedness of his sin as he turned to God in repentance and in search of Grace. We learned that in the worst moments of life, there is one too who we can turn – because he knows all – and who will carry our burdens because there is nothing beyond his Grace. This week we find ourselves jumping back to Psalm three, which is the very first titled Psalm in the Bible. This title is in the Biblical text and should be taken seriously as to the information and context it provides for us as we consider this prayer of David. Data tells us that David was reflecting on a time of great tumult in his life – the rebellion of his son Absalom who sought to take the throne from his Father David. Imagine how that must have felt for David, after years of peace, stability, and success for Isreal under him; that towards the end of his reign when he should be enjoying life and the riches of his leadership, he finds himself fleeing the Capital under the dead of night as word of Absalom’s conspiracy comes toward him! Then he and his officials find themselves moving from place to place to stay one step ahead of the rebellious son who has won the hearts of his David’s people. There could be no more a Tumultuous season for one of God’s servants! Hence, we have a Psalm that’s context is strikingly similar to the world when find ourselves living in; A psalm that reminds us to turn to God and shows us how (in prayer) with three stages:
- Honestly About Your Situation (1-2)
- Remember and Be Confident in God (3-6)
- Ask the One Who is Faithful Lord (7-8)
Psalm Three: When He Fled From Absalom
LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! 2 Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” 3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. 4 I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. 5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 6 I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. 7 Arise, LORD! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. 8 From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.
Honestly About Your Situation (1-2)
One thing ingrained in us from a young age is that it is always best, to tell the truth. You could summarise it by the old quip, “honesty is the best policy!” I think one of the hardest things that we can do as individuals is to be honest with ourselves and others about how we are feeling, the situations we might find ourselves in, and what we are going through; the reasons are many: we think people do not want to know or care, we believe they would not understand, think less of us; perhaps, we have not even begun to process what it is we are thinking or feeling. Yet, when we come to the point of turning to someone for help or support, there can be no more excellent relief of putting into words what is weighing us down/causing us anxiety. It does not provide a solution at the moment, but it can feel like lifting a heavy rucksack off our back because at that moment, we no longer feel alone. Our words help to incarnate our feelings and fears, and when others hear them, it feels like they join us at the moment.
What if there was one to who we could turn in any situation without fear of judgement or disinterest? We do not need the perfect words because they already know all that we are and all that we face? One who was desperate to hear from us and to whom we can completely depend and trust?
As David writes Psalm three, we learn that there is one to whom we turn in any situation or season of life because they are already there and know exactly all we are feeling, thinking and going through – God. David has faced many seasons in life, and in each of them, he has remembered the faithful one; hence, here in a time of great tumult, he again turns to the one who is consistent when the word lack’s any consistency. David here practices what Peter wrong many centuries after his encounters with God incarnate:
“Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7)
Peter knew what it meant to turn to God; and David knew the same motion as he described to God the reality of his situation, “How many are my foes, and how many rises up against me!” and that the gossip of the day is even suggesting God has abandoned him. David brings to God all that he has been feeling as he is honest with God about the reality of his situation and feels abandoned. There is nothing fancy about knowing and trusting God; it is as talking with a friend; John piper put it wonderfully as he wrote:
“Drawing near is not moving from one place to another. It is a directing of the heart into the presence of God who is as distant as the holy of holies in heaven, and yet as near as the door of faith. He is commanding us to come. To approach him. To draw near to him.”3
So what are we to do through faith in Christ? First, we are to receive the invitation he speaks to each of us and draw into his presence through faith in his Son, to commune with him through the dwelling Holy Spirit and as we connect with him to be about what we are facing and feeling because we trust in him.
” Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
o’er the world’s tempestuous sea;
guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,
for we have no help but thee;
yet possessing every blessing,
if our God our Father be.
Remember and Be Confident in God (3-6)
The wonderful thing about being honest with God about our situation is that as we bring it before him and our honesty, we remember just who we are being honest with. That God is more significant than any circumstance, we find ourselves in. In being honest with God about what we are going through or worried about, we remember who God is. David moves from being concerned about the number of his enemies and the gossip that God has abandoned him to immediately remembering that God has not ever been far off. Still, the one is his protection, “his shield.” In the threat of man’s enemies David will not depend on the strength of men or armies to defend him, but God, the one who comforts when there are no comforters near. Furthermore, David remembers that when the pressures of life get too much and the weight of worry burdens, still it will be God who will act. God is the “One who lifts his head,” there might be nothing beautiful about the situation David finds himself in, but there is a more outstanding beauty in the One he finds himself turning to.
In being horns too, God about what he is going to David is able, to be honest about God and trust that the Lord he is still sovereign and in control, working in all things and through all things. Furthermore, David seems to be emboldened by his confidence in God despite facing such a dire situation as he trusts that should one who walks with God call out to him, then God will answer! That is, David knows that even amid the tumult, when the faithful turn to God, He will turn his ear to them and hear them. Then, he will answer and act, the answer may not be as we would expect, but the sovereign God will always be at work for his people, to his cause, and for his glory.
David moves from worrying about his life and situation to trusting fully in God, acknowledging that in all things, it is the Grace of God that sustains and nothing else! The knowledge of such assurance allows David to lie his head down and sleep then arise each morning – because God is sustaining him in the face of ten thousand enemies. No matter how great the situation we face, the God with whom we meet is greater still. Even with ten thousand rallied against him, David has nothing to fear because the power of man has nothing on the all-powerful and all sovereign one. That which is valid for David is valid for all who know God through faith; we have one who will answer our prayers from on high, one who sustains us in all things and one who is more significant than any peril of this world. Thus, as we turn to God in prayer with honestly, our minds are centred on the truth of who he is and what he is doing. Our honest prayer helps us to remember that despite the power of the storms that are rocking the world, there is one who is above the storms and directing all things to his purposes; in his presence, we are safe and assurance in light of eternity and in His company we can rest. Whatever we are facing and going through, let us bring it to God in prayer and be confident in the God we are getting it too! The words of Charles Spurgeon speak such comfort as he wrote:
“When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head. “
Conclusion: Ask the One Who is Faithful Lord (7-8)
Today amidst the storms of the world but great and personal, David has reminded us about the beauty of being honest with God and in that honestly remembering just who God reveals himself to be to us through faith in Christ and the dwelling of the Holy Spirit – the All-powerful, All-Glorious and All Sovereign one. Thus, as we communion with God through prayer and scriptures and find true peace and comfort during the storms of life, we bring to God that which is our concerns. We do not just rest in God. We also trust God to act. David demonstrates that in the final stages of the Psalm as he moves from being honest about his context, being assurance by his knowledge of God, to petitioning God in his situation. That is David’s knowledge and trust in God allows Him to ask God to act and to trust in his actions even when he cannot know what they will be. He specifically asks God to strike down his enemies and deal a blow to those whose way is evil. Part of our being honest with God about what we are facing and knowing God is seeking his help without knowing what that looks like trusting it. David is confident enough to sleep even though the threat of his enemy is great because his trust in God is greater than any situation he will come across, so he asks God to deal with those who are opposed to him as God’s anointed.
Today, the storms of life, both global and personal, can be many as we face the pressures of rising costs, worry about how to deal with unique situations and all that before we even begin processing what is going on globally in Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, and so many other places. We can feel overwhelmed and wearied by it all, and that is okay; David’s honestly in this Psalm shows us that such feelings are natural and the essence of the human experience in an anxious world. Furthermore, David shows us that such things are the very things that we must bring to God in prayer through faith in Christ because he cares for us; then as we get those things, we grow in the peace that passes all understanding as we rest and relaxation in the one who holds eternity, before we entrust our situation to him as we ask God to act. David is not just honest about when he is going through then delights in God; his Delight in God moves to a petition for God to do something. Thus, the final movement of our prayer requests, specifically that as we find rest in God, we entrust our concerns to God by asking him to do something with them. We might never know how God is working in such things, but we can be assured that he is, and so as we seek his action.
“God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knows.” 4
The Storms of life are Great, yet, the one who is over them is greater still. David concludes his Psalm in a typical fashion: by focusing all on God rather than himself or situation, as he declares that ultimately deliverance/Salvation from the perils of life belong not to us but to God alone. That is to say that regardless of our efforts or desires in any situation, it is the Sovereign Lord who will decide the outcome of all the affairs of humankind, so we must trust him. God alone will determine the how, why and when of any situation because he is the Lord and working all things out for His purposes. It is not to say that we bear no responsibility to act or serve, but that we do so knowing we are tools in the hands of an all sovereign God whose ways and purposes are higher than ours. It’s is a stunning conclusion as David rests in the ultimate authority of God he prays not only for himself but that God’s “blessing be on your people.” That is, David prays for those who at this moment are specifically his opposition that they who are rising up with his Son, that God’s blessing would be upon them. God would Ultimately be glorified by whatever the outcome was. A prayer that echos the instructions of Jesus to pray for those who persecute us and a beautiful conclusion to a powerful Psalm. Today, we ever we find ourselves in, facing or worrying about, let us be honest to God about it (because he already knows), let us rest in the goodness and authority of God as we seek his intervention, pray for those around and remember that deliverance and salvation ulaitmely belong to God.
Today, through faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, via the dwelling of the Holy Spirit let us know God through Prayer, make known our situations to God in prayer and trust that He is working in the world.
“Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life.”5