If you would balance your life out, what would you see?
Well, naturally, you would see some times where life was good,
where you enjoyed times with family and friends,
where you felt good;
but on the other hand, you would see times which were bad;
the conflicts you have had with people;
with friends lost;
you would see those times where you were sick and suffering;
times when the weight of troubles was crushing you
and driving you to tears.
Everyone has good times and bad times in their life.
But I would say that it's pretty obvious that each person's experience is unique
- no one can ever say "I know how you feel".
And of course it's also obvious that some have had better lives than others.
You might remember the poor Thalidomide babies,
born without arms,
or with severe deformities.
One third never lived beyond their first year of life.
Imagine the sufferings they went through.
And yet many of them are aged in their 30s and 40s today,
getting on with their lives.
Thomas Quasthoff, a thalidomide sufferer from Germany,
is now 46 years old
and is an accomplished singer
- he even won a Grammy award.
How many of us can say that?
One of the more common questions that people ask
when contemplating all this concerns suffering and the existence of God.
"How can a good God exist"
they ask "When so many people around the world are suffering?".
The question is an important one
- after all, surely God has the power to take away all our sufferings if he chose to,
and yet he does not.
Many have concluded that God cannot exist based upon this argument.
Here in Psalm 25 we see King David speaking to God.
He is in the midst of danger.
Enemies threaten him and threaten Israel.
He cries out to God for help.
Well let's look at this Psalm
- Neil the English teacher is now speaking class,
so make sure you have your schoolbooks ready!
in order for us to understand and apply this psalm,
we need to look at it carefully.
The Acrostic Structure
The first thing to note is that this is an acrostic poem.
This means that when David wrote it,
he used each letter of the Hebrew alphabet to start each line of the psalm.
There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet,
which is why there are 22 verses in this psalm.
It would be like one of us writing a poem
where the first line begins with the letter A,
the next line begins with the letter B,
and so on.
Why did David do this?
It's just a poetic effect
- it makes it look good.
Speaking to God
The second thing we need to realise is that the Psalm addresses two different audiences.
On the one hand, David is writing to God, speaking to him personally.
On the other hand, we see David writing about God
- David describes what God's character is like.
Obviously the Psalm has two audiences in mind
- God and the people of Israel at the time.
If we go to verse 11,
David says For your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.
This is an example of David speaking to God.
Now let's go to the next verse - verse 12.
Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will He instruct in the way he should choose.
This is an example of David speaking about God.
Also notice that when David speaks to God, he is asking God to do something.
In verse 2 he says: Let me not be put to shame, let not my enemies triumph over me
In verse 4 David says Make me know your ways O LORD; teach me your paths
In verse 7 he says Remember not the sins of my youth.
Every time David talks to God, he is asking God to do something.
I've just given you three examples of this
but it is through the entire Psalm.
But when David talks to God,
and when he asks God to do something,
what is it that he is asking?
David asks God to do three basic things:
1.He asks God to save him from his enemies
2.He asks God to forgive him for his sins
3.He asks that God teach and lead him to do the right thing
Verse 2: Let not my enemies triumph over me
Verse 17: Bring me out of my distress
Verse 20: Guard my soul and deliver me!
- David asking God to save him from his enemies.
What about asking God to forgive his sins?
Verse 7: Remember not the sins of my youth
Verse 11: For your name's sake O Lord, pardon my guilt
Verse 18: Forgive all my sins
And then we have David asking God to teach and lead him
Verse 4: Make me know your ways O Lord, teach me your paths
Verse 5: Lead me in your truth and teach me
So that is the content of David's requests of God:
1.He asks God to save him from his enemies
2.He asks God to forgive him for his sins
3.He asks that God teach and lead him to do the right thing
Speaking about God
But when David stops speaking to God and instead speaks about God, what is he saying?
Let's have a look:
Verse 8: Good and upright is the Lord: Therefore he instructs sinners in the way
Verse 9: He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way
Verse 10: All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies
Verse 12: Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose
Verse 14: The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant
So when David stops talking to God and starts talking about God, what do we see?
1.The Lord will keep his covenant promises
2.The Lord keeps his people safe
3.The Lord will instruct and guide all those who fear him.
Very similar to what David is asking isn't it?
We need to understand though, the relationship between King David and the people of Israel.
God's Covenant with Israel
Throughout this Psalm, it is obvious that David is being threatened by enemies.
We don't know who these enemies were or what they were doing.
But given the history of King David and the nation of Israel, they were probably enemy armies.
But if it was Israel being invaded, why is David taking the attack personally?
He isn't saying "let not the enemies of Israel triumph."
He is saying "let not MY enemies triumph over ME."
The thing is that in ancient times,
when one nation invaded another,
it was an attack that was taken personally by the ruler.
If you attack the country, you are attacking the king.
And that is what is going on here.
David takes it personally
because he is the ultimate representative of the people of Israel.
We can deduce all this by looking the final verse - verse 22.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his trouble.
I don't think David tacked this on at the end because he needed one more letter to fit the acrostic poem.
It indicates that the enemies that David talks about in the Psalm
are the same enemies that are troubling the nation of Israel.
It is at this point that we need to remember the covenant that God made with Israel.
As you know, God made a number of covenants - agreements
- with leading figures in Israel's history.
He made a covenant with Abraham
and this covenant, this agreement that he made,
is considered to be of solemn importance.
In this covenant, God promises that he will create for himself a nation.
He he promises that this nation will inherit the land of Canaan.
And he maintains that this nation will be under his rule.
So when David is calling out here to God to save
he is, at the same time, reminding Israel that God will save them.
Why? Because God keeps his promises.
We see that here in verses 14 and 15:
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever towards the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
He doesn't say it to twist God's arm
but he does speak of God's goodness
and he speaks it to those who are threatened by it
- the people of Israel who are under threat of attack.
So while David calls upon God to save Israel,
he is also declaring to Israel his total faith that God will save.
And what we see here in this Psalm is David acting as a form of mediator between Israel and God.
Similar to one of the Levitical Priests.
He speaks to God about the danger to the people of Israel.
And he speaks to Israel about how God will save them.
He speaks to God about sin - asking God to forgive.
He speaks to God about deliverance - asking God to save.
He speaks to God about guidance - asking God to lead him to make the best choices.
He speaks to Israel about their Covenant with God - that God will fulfil his promises.
He speaks to Israel about salvation - that God will rescue them from danger.
He speaks to Israel about their responsibility to follow God's laws and obey his commands.
So how are we to apply this Psalm to our lives today? There are four basic applications that we can make:
1. Christ's death for our sins is the basis of our forgiveness.
Like David, we too can cry out to God for forgiveness.
As God's people we need to recognise that we are sinful.
And as God's people we need to recognise that it is God who deals with sins.
Notice in the Psalm that when David speaks about forgiveness he links it entirely with God's goodness and grace.
The basis of forgiveness, according to King David, is God's goodness and steadfast love.
It has nothing to do with David's own works of goodness.
What this means is that Christians rely upon God to forgive them.
Christians do not rely upon themselves.
We don't try to deal with our own sins.
As though our good works or our enthusiasm or our charity acts to balance out our sinfulness.
We can't be forgiven that way.
Christ's death on the cross is the basis of our forgiveness.
David trusted in God's graciousness and love to take away his sins.
In Christ, we see what David did not.
In Christ, we see the means by which God's goodness and steadfast love takes away our sins.
Instead of punishing us, God chose to punish Christ.
When Christ was crucified, he was suffering for someone else's crime.
When Christ died, he died in the place of those who deserve death.
Did you know that we all deserve the death penalty?
Earth is like one giant death row.
We are all criminals who have broken the law.
But God provides Jesus Christ to take our place.
Instead of us being punished for our sins,
Jesus Christ is punished in our place.
Unfair? Of course it is.
If God was going to be fair, we'd all be dead.
But, instead, God chose to send his son into the world.
2. Christ's resurrection defeats death and delivers us from its power.
David and Israel were threatened by enemies.
These enemies were likely to be invading armies
or maybe just bandits attacking outlying towns.
Now David knew that God would save Israel from these armies.
Our situation is different though.
We can't pray in exactly the same way as David did.
If Australia was being invaded by a foreign nation
would we pray that God deliver us
knowing that Australia will be delivered?
Of course not.
Nor can we know that God will deliver us from closer enemies.
There are plenty of Christians who are robbed
stabbed, maimed, killed, even tortured.
God doesn't promise that we will be saved from this.
But we need to keep this in context.
The greatest enemy we face is death itself.
Whether we live a happy life or a sad life, death comes to us all.
Death may come sooner or it may come later.
Anna's Grandfather died a few months ago
just a few days short of his 90th birthday.
But then only a few days ago (June 2005)
we heard the sad news of those children dying in the Wyong house fire.
Death comes to us all.
And so does suffering, pain and grief.
But when Jesus rose from the dead, he defeated death.
What it means for us is that while our time on this earth is a time of suffering and pain and death,
it means that we have the promise of a future where we are immortal.
When Christ returns to judge the world,
all of God's people will undergo a resurrection.
On that day, all of those who confessed that Jesus is their Lord and Saviour will be raised up.
They will have physical bodies.
And they will live in a world where there is no more suffering or pain or death.
And that is our destiny.
Even though we suffer now,
even though we have pain now,
our future is certain.
Everyone who has trusted in Jesus;
everyone who has relied upon his death on the cross for their sins;
everyone who has committed their lives to serve God...
this future is ours.
Death threatens us,
but God saves us
by sending Christ to die and rise again.
3. Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant.
When David speaks to the people of Israel in Psalm 25
he reminds them that God will fulfil his promises
- God will keep his covenant.
We see this in verses 12-14
Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
We need to remember that the specific covenant that God made with Israel is no longer in effect.
Israel did not keep their part of the covenant
- they did not follow God's rules
and God abandoned them.
The nation of Israel and the geographical land of Canaan are no longer essential parts of God's plan.
But the thing about God is that he keeps his promises - even when men and women don't.
You see, the thing is that God had Christ originally in mind when he made all the covenants in the Old Testament.
It wasn't as though God had to go to "Plan B".
Plan A was Christ all along,
and the OT Covenants,
including those made with Abraham, Moses and David
are individual parts of God's overall covenant of redemption.
Jeremiah 31:31-33 is an essential part of our understanding here:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant I made with their fathers on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
God will keep his promise.
The church is the fulfilment of God's promise.
We exist only because God keeps his promises.
We are God's people - the words I read in Jeremiah were written for us.
And Jesus Christ is the mediator of this New Covenant.
We read all about this in the New Testament book of Hebrews.
What this means for us today is that we can trust that God will save us.
We are not perfect people.
We sin, we doubt, we suffer.
But in the midst of all this, amidst all the pain caused by our own sin and the sin of others,
we can know that it is God who initiates and maintains his relationship with us.
Our salvation is not by our own acts of repentance and faith,
our human hearts are too sinful to ensure that they alone can remain true to God.
But God has written the covenant in our hearts.
It is the Holy Spirit working within us.
It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us, and allows us to respond to the Gospel in Repentance and Faith.
And it is the Holy Spirit who keeps us regenerate, who keeps us going as Christians.
You see, we don't have to rely upon ourselves as Christians.
We rely totally upon God.
4. Christ is the King - God's people submit to his rule.
As Christians, we have an obligation to serve God.
It is not as though obedience is optional.
Obedience doesn't save us.
But now that we have become spiritually alive
we have the obligation to believe what God has said to us
and the obligation to obey his commands.
It's always important for us as Christians to believe that God speaks in the Bible.
It is too tempting to think that he speaks through other means.
When I get up here and speak to you
I am obviously speaking to you all in an authoritative manner.
It could be misinterpreted that I am the one telling you what to do.
As though I, in my own arrogance and inflated sense of self-importance
know exactly what you all should do.
Bad preachers are those who act as their own authority on matters.
They come up with their own message and teaching.
They love to hear the praises of men.
Good preachers are simply messengers from the King,
relaying to God's people -including himself,
what God has pronounced.
They are willing to speak the truth
even if it is not popular.
Good preachers only preach what is found in the Bible.
And those who listen should always keep an ear out
in case they make any mistakes or say what is false.
But, in the end, it comes down to obedience.
We all know the parable of the foolish man who built his house on the sand.
This story can be found in Matthew 7.24-27.
The point of the story being that those who hear the word of God but do not do them
are like the man who built his house on the sand,
where wind and rain and floods destroyed it.
This is a picture of judgement,
but also a picture of stupidity.
It may be that you've been coming to church for years.
It may be that you've heard hundreds of sermons.
It may be that you've read what the Bible says.
But do you do what it says?
Who do you rely upon to get to heaven?
Is it your own works?
Or is it through the death of Jesus?
What is your future?
Is it one of eternal death?
Or one of paradise and eternal life?
And who do you serve?
Do you live your life for yourself - or even for other people?
Or do you live your life for Christ alone?
Let me encourage you to speak to God about this.
Pray to him, in the privacy of your own heart,
whenever you think is the best time.
Tell him you're sorry for your sins.
Tell him that you want to be forgiven.
Ask him to be merciful - and to take away your sins.
Tell him that you want to serve him for the rest of your days.
Tell him that you want the promise of eternal life.
And if you do this, God will work in you.
He will write his law on your heart by the Holy Spirit.
He will forgive you.
And he promises you life eternal.
From the Kerygmatic Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.