Fluctuations in a Broken World

IMG_3228Psalm 9:13-20

Life in our world is inconsistent. Circumstances vary like the changing of the wind. Winners become losers, and losers surprisingly win. The powerful suddenly fall, and the lowliest rise to rule. Years of good health unexpectedly end, while others have their strength renewed when recovery appeared hopeless. We have learned from this psalm about the Lord’s certain triumph, but the bright prospect of eternal joy does not mean that the walk of Christ’s people through this broken world is a pleasure tour. We can expect the ultimate victory of Jesus the Messiah, but God’s chosen path to that end is a journey of ups and downs. David willingly wrote about this aspect of the true story of God’s glory.

Life’s changes make us renew our prayers (9:13-14). In the previous verses, it seemed that David was very confident (9:7-12). He believed that God would act for his good. However, hope is not equivalent with instant deliverance. David was still in the midst of suffering at the hands of his enemies. For this reason, he continued to call out to God. Consider his requests.

  • He prayed for compassion. He wanted the Lord to look and see his condition. Because he knew that the compassionate God (cf. 2 Cor 1:3) would pity what he was going through, David could talk this way because he believed that God was able to see and to act in our broken world. His experience of God was not theoretical but real.
  • He asked the Lord to rescue him from the jaws of death. He knew that the Lord could save him even in his desperate situation. This kind of confidence comes from walking daily with God.
  • He promised to tell what the Lord had done for him. Here praise and mission join in his heart. He wants to help others have faith in God.

Next, David prophesied about the destiny of the wicked (9:15-18). In this section of the song he used a number of “prophetic perfects” that view the outcome as already accomplished. This is necessary in the life of faith. In our present circumstances, we might not see the immediate downfall of the enemies of the Lord and his people. As the old hymn says, “Oft the wrong seems oh so strong, but God is the ruler yet”. Notice that David wrote that the wicked unwittingly contribute to their judgment. They fall into the pits that they dug for others. An example of this is wicked Haman in the book of Esther. The wicked “return to Sheol” (9:17 HCSB). Sheol is the realm of the dead. Since sin and death are partners (Romans 5:12), their destiny is the fullness of the realm in which they have lived. David boldly states the final fluctuation. Though the present may be very difficult, the needy and the afflicted who trust in God will never perish.

Finally, David prayed for God to act (9:19-20). Prayer is not wishing for life to get better. It is communication with God to act for his glory and our good to make life better. He called upon God to “arise”. This word occurs a number of times in prayer, and is a bold way of telling the Lord to get up and act quickly. Yet the Spirit of God led David to pray in this bold way (2 Samuel 23:2). So then, we should follow David’s example and present our requests with boldness. He also asked the Lord to produce a change in the attitudes of their enemies. The nations need to know that God rules over all. They are not in charge; God is. In the chaos and confusion of the world, we can pray this also. Perhaps some will come to repentance when they realize that Jesus and the gospel will prevail over their schemes.

Grace and peace, David

Uncertain Journey

IMG_0942Ruth 1:1-5

Years ago in upstate New York, our family had a pastor from the Virgin Islands return to New York with us following a Bible Conference on the Jersey shore in mid-September. Now you must realize that mid-September in upstate NY is like early or mid-November in Philadelphia. This brother in Christ had never seen frost until he visited us. He wore my winter coat the entire time during his visit with us, including when he was inside our house! He was cold and told us, “If you would bring us up here to live, you’d kill us all!” Not only did he see frost for the first time, but he also saw fog when I took him to the Albany airport. The fog was so thick you could cut it with a knife. I actually had to stop the car one time in order to read a road sign. We thank God for safety on the road that morning, and for the many times we had to travel in thick fog in that area. But when you travel in fog, it makes for an uncertain journey.

Our text is about a family who started out on an uncertain journey. Given the increasing violence, the turbulent political scene, and the economy, you might feel like you’re on an uncertain journey today. What will happen? No one is really sure. I have always thought that a realistic, rather than a pessimistic or optimistic approach, is best at such times. Take a full view of what is happening, and remember to keep the all-powerful, wise God in the center of your view. In any sequence of events, it is better to trust the living God, the Maker and Ruler of all things, than to put your confidence in people.

What was the cause of their uncertain journey (1:1a)? People in Israel faced troublesome times. The religious and political setting was terrible. Israel lacked a stable, central government. Various judges, raised up by God, rescued and led his people after times of religious decline. But the people suffered constantly from actual physical danger or fear of danger because of weak government. Raiders and robbers were an ongoing problem, and they experienced civil war. All these things threatened the young nation’s survival. Israel continued to go through a recurring religious cycle a number of times: rebellion against the Lord, judgment by the Lord, repentance by the people, and deliverance by God. Any return to the Lord was short-lived and did not affect the whole nation.

Next came an economic disaster. God sent a famine in the land, probably in most of the land; otherwise, there would have been no reason for leaving Israel at all. Since Israel was God’s covenant people under his law, we must view this correctly. In our day, most people do not see God’s hand in anything, especially the weather. Jesus taught his followers differently (Matthew 5:45). God had promised to bless Israel (Deuteronomy 28:1-6, 8, 11), if they obeyed him. But he had also promised to punish them, if they disobeyed (Deuteronomy 28:15-19, 23-24). At such a time of famine, everyone in Israel was responsible to confess their sin to the Lord and turn from it. The question that confronted the people in this story was simply this. Would they believe God and return to him? Or would they seek their own solutions to the difficulties of their lives? This is the great choice facing God’s people today. Will we believe on and act according to God’s word, or will we rely on our wisdom and the opinions of so-called experts?

Please read the following carefully. America is not old covenant Israel or God’s nation. But the Scripture still warns any nation of judgment that turns its back on God. The wicked return to the grave, all the nations that forget God (Psalm 9:17). It is time for us to seek the Lord. The living God is gracious and perhaps he will have mercy on us. Do not wait for current events to improve. Now is the right time for each of us to humble ourselves before him. We need to follow Christ’s leadership through the Spirit and the word of God.

Grace and peace, David