Thursday, December 29, 2011

Psalm 11

Psalm 11
A psalm of trust through trial

"To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. In the LORD I put my trust; how can you say to my soul, 'Flee as a bird to your mountain'?" (verse 1)

     Have you ever just wanted to run from a certain situation or trial you were facing, to flee like a bird when it is in danger? To run as far as the east is from the west from your trouble, that you might never have to face it? 
      David knew this feeling all too well, for he was often in great trouble. David, also, is famous for talking to himself. In Psalm 42, for instance, he questions and then admonishes himself, "Why are you cast down, oh my soul? And why are you disquieted withing me? Hope in God! For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God." (Psalm 42:11) 
      Here in Psalm 11, David rebukes his own treacherous thoughts that are encouraging him to doubt and fear. He reminds himself that he has put his faith in God, and will not run from his troubles, like a bird flies to a solitary sanctuary in the hills when pursued. 

      When faced with a frightening or overwhelming circumstance, we may be tempted to run from or avoid the pain, the shame, or the turmoil that will be the natural accompaniment to the coming trial. I, for one, do not not relish suffering. 
      However, it says in 1 Peter 1:6-7, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Trials are a test of our faith. 
      When we cling to our confidence in the Lord in the midst of the suffering, our faith itself increases in value. As faith is the currency of heaven, so to speak, our trials are really but wonderful opportunities to store up heavenly treasure! No wonder, then, in grasping this reality, Peter was able to "greatly rejoice" when faced with multiple and "various" fiery trials! 
      Stand fast in your difficult situation, be patient, and endure it in the confidence that God will never leave you, nor forsake you, and will bring you safely through. Your faith will shine like gold and your testimony of victory will glorify God. Be encouraged!

"For look! The wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.  If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (verses 2-3)

      Ah, now we begin to see what David's particular troubles entail; he is under a malicious attack, intended to destroy the very foundation that he stands upon. Those who trust in the Lord must choose, like David, to not give in to fear, but to put their faith in God, who is able to deliver them. 
      Notice, too, the intention of this attack: the destruction of foundations.  This has ever been the ploy of satan, the enemy of our souls. He hates the gospel of grace, and seeks to thwart our every attempt to fulfill the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20, whether in our homes, churches, workplaces, or community. 
      He attacks our homes with strife, our minds with temptations, our relationships with confusion and suspicion, our bodies with fatigue, our hearts with stress, and every other arena of life he can. He never fights fair, either, always going after the weak and defenseless areas first. 
       When a church falls apart due to divisions and strivings, when a marriage falls apart because of sin and selfishness, and when a life falls apart through belief in the lies and deceptions of the enemy... foundations are destroyed, and that particular witness of the gospel is wounded.  It is tragic. What can the righteous do? We've all seen it happen before. Perhaps it has happened to you.

      Well, I have a message of hope for you today regarding such situations! The gospel of grace has not been destroyed, no matter whatever else may have fallen in the crash. 
      And furthermore, the very essence of the gospel IS GRACE. Grace is the power of God to transform what was dead, broken, and ruined into a testimony of beauty, strength, and glory! God delights to take a humble, broken heart and breath new life and power into it. No one is too far gone for God to take them and totally transform them into a beautiful trophy of grace... in fact, that's His specialty! 
      If you have fallen down, take His hand of mercy and arise. He has a future and hope prepared for you still.  It is NEVER too late for God to restore a broken life. In spite of the attempt to destroy it, the gospel always wins through God's great mercy and grace. It is impossible to destroy the foundation of the gospel, for it is founded upon Jesus Christ Himself, who is alive forevermore. "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11)

"The LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD's throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The LORD tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. 
Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright." (verses 4-7)

      Notice, first, that there is a contrast provided for us here in these last four verses. There are the righteous and there are the wicked.... and then, there is GOD, the LORD of heaven and earth, sitting upon His Great White Throne of Judgment. Here too we have a contrast of affections: those whom He loves and those whom He hates. But it is the final contrast in these verses that I will comment upon. 
       Those whom He tests and those whom He sends into eternal torment.  God looks upon the righteous with love and proves them through times of suffering, but He abhors those who love violence and wickedness, and portions out punishment accordingly. 
       David writes this set of contrasts for a definitive purpose: to differentiate the great trials and tribulations that we may face even after we have been clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, with the final judgment of the wicked in that "great and terrible Day of the LORD." It says in 1 Peter 4:17, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?"  
      We are in the age of grace, the church age, or the "time of the gentiles," where for a short season that seems long, He has extended great mercy to the nations, Jew and Gentile alike. During this time period, He is simultaniously gathering together a "bride" for Himself and purifying her for the day of the "wedding." 
      This is accomplished through many means, including testings and trials. Much like we strengthen our bodies through lifting weights, (which actually tears the muscle tissue causing growth in the healing process), God strengthens us spiritually through tribulation. 
       We, however, will not go through the "Great Tribulation" period spoken of by the prophets, because it is synonymous with the Day of the Lord's wrath, meaning the "period" of God's judgment upon the wicked.  The book of Revelation speaks clearly about this time period of great punishment upon those left on the earth. Those who trust in Him experience trials in this life, but we are spared the judgment of God. 
       David reminds us, even as he reminds himself, of this this terrible reality that awaits those who would make it their life's aim to hate God and all those who belong to Him. The point simply being, the wicked, though they bend the bow to shoot secretly at the upright in heart, seeking to destroy the foundations of the gospel, will NOT succeed. 
      Even if there are casualties from their arrows, God is the ultimate redeemer and healer, and is victorious in the hearts of all who hope in His mercy. He will one day put an end to all evil, and make a distinction between the righteous and wicked.  Take comfort in this thought: Whatever we may face in this life, no matter how hard it may get, that is the worst it gets for us!  
      After this life is eternal life, where there is joy unspeakable! You don't have to despair, you don't have to run, you don't have to fear. This is a test; it is ONLY a test. And on the other side is joy and peace beyond measure. "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11) 
      May God minister comfort to you though His Word in your times of trial. Amen.

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