We Australians have a saying: We say…”How are you traveling, mate”?
They say this when they want to know how you are getting on with a job; how are you traveling on that assignment, or, for that matter, everyday life...
We are one week into 2007 – how are you traveling?
Are you still filled with the excitement of the New Year’s festivities?
Is the hope that was so prominent on Christmas day, still in you?
Do you still remember the Christmas day sermon?
Or are you worried, troubled, almost to the point of despair?
What exactly is it that worries you?
Do you have financial worries?
Are you worried about your health?
(Incidentally, I ask these questions in this order because it seems often it is in this order that we think about things.)
We are worried about our wealth, first…and then our health, or for that matter, anything else.
With enough money we can buy our health, our security, our happiness, can’t we?
Now in the light of all of these worries, who will you bank on (if you will pardon the pun) to take away your troubles, your worries?
In the words of another Psalm (no 121)
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where will my help come from?
David, at the onset of this Psalm, perhaps like you or me, is not traveling to well at all!
David clearly is dying a slow death of worry here.
We do not know exactly why, but David is expecting God to visit and revisit him with His wrath!
David, for some reason or the other, is expecting God to discipline him, or rebuke him!
And David knows…when God rebukes, or disciplines, sometimes it is not only a little tap over the knuckles!
What is more, David feels altogether inadequate before God for what He has to offer God by means of his life.
You see, in the Old Testament setting, one’s progress, or lack of it, was a sign of how you were living your life before God in compliance to His commandments; If you were successful, one might deduce that you had found favour in God’s eyes – if not…well, maybe there was something that the others did not know about, but which God obviously new about and for which He was visiting you!
David, at the time of writing this Psalm, seems to be all too aware that his life closet may contain a few skeletons!
He knows, because already he feels God’s hand upon him:
2 Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
3 My soul is in anguish.
And immediately he translates his suffering into God’s punishment…
Do you know the feeling?
We do something…or we neglect to do something, and we feel ashamed and guilty about it.
We soon start worrying about our lack of goodness…
Soon our worry shows a physical side…. we develop an ulcer, or we break out in a rash…or get caught up in the false promise of drugs or alcohol.
Not long, or knowingly, sometimes unwittingly in our mental distress, we find we have started to let go of God’s hand, even as he holds on to us…but we no longer trust his grasp!
And then, all of a sudden, you feel all alone!
But are you?
What I have just described seems to be David’s experience.
David, too, is worried to death!
And I mean that literally. David thinks he is about to die, so hopeless is his case.
Why is David so worried?
As we said before, we do not know the exact reasons for David’s fears and worries, but we do know some things about David’s life.
Perhaps a closer look into David’s life, as it is recorded in the Bible, might give us an idea of why he finds himself in the spot he is.
Come to think of it… while we are preying into David’s life, maybe we can learn something about our own short comings, our own fears, and hopes…and our own reasons for feeling small before God, filled with worries as we are.
You see, David, for the upstanding man that he was, is in the end no better or worse than you and me.
To be sure, David had some great successes in his time.
But David also had a double closet full of skeletons – and he knows all too well that two rights does not fix a single wrong.
And so he worries. With reason, some might say…
For instance…shortly after David becomes king, his new found power leads him on to challenge God himself, as his sexual apatite stalks him, and overtakes him…
*he commits adultery;
*he plots and has a subject execute a plan to have the husband of the women he desires to be killed….
*and for the murder of his neighbour, Uriah, David will pay a terrible price…his infant son dies.
Who knows what God has planned for him next?
David, surely, has all of this in mind as he begs God for mercy…
And God hears his prayers… but does David’s suffering stop after God hears his plea for forgiveness?
But what God does give David, is hope…and faith! Faith and hope that he will be spared … to glorify God’s name!
And for David, the man who has all he desires, that becomes enough.
For even as David rejoices in God’s mercy and love, David, still living in a fallen world, has to continue living with the aftermath of his sin…the sin of Adam, no less.
His own son - Absalom - tried to steal the kingdom from him.
Another son - Amnon, raped his half sister - David’s daughter - Tamar.
David is constantly aware of these abominations before the Lord!
And on top of all this inner turmoil, David regularly had to deal with the day to day worries of being king:
the enemies of Israel who with there greedy eyes are peering across the borders, waiting for a chance to overthrow Israel.
How is David traveling/ Not very well at all…
a bit like us, quite frankly - No?
What will David do?
What will we do as we contemplate 2007, with all of its worries and trials and tribulations looming large as we open our diaries - one week on two pages at a time?
What David does is to turn to God, and as he does so, as we see it in Psalm 6, we see three distinct features:
- We see David’s fear, fear that will remind David of who God is…
- We also see David’s faith
- And we see that it is David’s faith, that will bring him peace, and hope,
- and an end to his worries.
And that is what this morning’s sermon is about: that in our faith, we may stop worrying. In our faith, we are safe even in the face of the worst worries!
And like David, that is what we should do – build every aspect of our lives on our faith in God!
David’s fear is self evident:
He is so afraid he worries that he might die.
After all…considering David’s life, it is actually bit of a surprise that God has not smitten him from the face of the earth already;
that God has not already handed him over to his enemies.
David deserves no better!
But note, David’s fear is not fear for fear’s sake.
David’s fear is a fear of the Lord…and this is not altogether a negative manifestation!
On the contrary! It becomes the basis of his alvation.
In David’s deepest hour of need of consolation, who does he turn to?
to the Lord, the overwhelming, awesome, almighty God.
For David knows that God alone has power over life and death.
Now, as he brings the words of Psalm 6 to the Lord, his plea is very much for his life…
Why? Because the wages of sin is death!
And if he is dead, how then will he worship the Lord –
That, after all, is what it is about!
Does David have a reason to be worried?
David, thinking back on his life, can offer nothing to be pardoned for his sins.
He deserves to die. The wages of sin is death!
And yet, in this Psalm, does David remain worried?
No he does not, for soon he will be reminded of God’s mercy, and he will sing:
9 The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed;
they will turn back in sudden disgrace.
And with him, we may boldly add: “death, where is your sting (now)?”
And when we can stare death in the face, how insignificant does many of our other worries become?
What is it that gives David this wonderful peace that allows him to stop worrying, even as he stares dearth in the eye?
Some time ago, I went to visit Nico van Niekerk in hospital.
Nico, as you know, is still gravely ill, in spite of occasional signs of recovery!
He is the first to admit that he continues to live in the shadow of death.
When I visited him, I asked him about it.
I asked him, in the light of his meditations on everything that had befallen him, what did he make of everything?
How did he feel about his present situation, and his future…
Almost without hesitation, he replied:
“I have come to realise that we do not deserve to live!
“Every day is a gift from God!
Our lives are a gift from God.
It is God’s to give, it is God’s to take away!
Nico continues to live each day in thankfulness of the gift that it is.
And yet we will worry about things we have no control over?
You will recall, early last year, when I preached a morning service here, Nico asked that I share Lord’s day one with the congregation as our confession for that morning…
Let me read it again…
READ LORD”S DAY ONE!
If all of this is true – as we know it is – why do we fret so easily.
David, by the work of the Holy Spirit, is reminded of this, too. And it brings him great peace!
This becomes clear as we see a sudden change in the emotions portrayed in Psalm 6…
The one moment David is begging God for mercy (verses 1-7), worried to death; the next, from verse 8 onwards, he becomes aware of God’s great mercy…and he sings out in praise of that mercy that we may only know if we believe in God, if we have faith in Him!
And so we have moved, with David, from fear (or worry) to faith! (or hope).
That is as it should be!
We do believe in God, don’t we?
When we are worried, don’t we turn to God for hope, for strength?
That would is an act of faith! So we do have faith
Don’t we turn to God?
To who then…or to what?
To our own means?
Brothers and sisters, if we cannot, if we do not call on God for healing, for forgiveness, for our very lives…who will we turn too in a plea to rid us of our worries?
David banks on God….for healing, for consolation in his darkest hour, for sustaining his very life – and God hears his plea!
Who do we bank on?
David has faith in the Lord.
In whom – or in what do we believe in, in our hour of need?
Does the way we turn to God display the quality of our faith in Him?
How do we approach our creator God?
With respect, and fear?
In verses 5 and 6 we are reminded of an uncomfortable truth…
It seems to me sometimes that we have become all too familiar with God!
(And our hymns aren’t always helpful…)
We sing: “What a friend we have in Jesus…” and it is as if, in our minds, we equate God with a good mate, a friend who we may call on from time to time to do us a favour here and there. And as if God who is a God of love can hardly refuse us our requests…
When David talks to God in the Words of Psalm 6, he is probably on his knees before God, perhaps even on his face or on his stomach, lying there in total submission before God, and deeply aware that his life has not been such that you come before God with an attitude, as if He owes us anything.
And David pleads for his life – the very life that God has given him so that he will bring glory to His name!
See the emphasis in this Psalm: David asks: How will we praise God if we are dead!
verse 5 No one remembers you when he is dead.
Who praises you from the grave?
That is what David is praying for – that the Lord will spare his life, not so that David may become richer, or healthy again for the sake of enjoying life more, or so that he might be handsome so that he may seduce another woman …but so that he may live to honour God… bring praises to God almighty.
That is the very purpose of our lives…to praise God in all that we are given do!
It is for that reason we are given life! It is for that reason we are given faith.
It is for that reason we should call on God to spare our lives – so that we may honour Him!
By what means will we accomplish this... By what means will we bring glory to God?
By grace alone, through faith alone! Do you see how God’s goodness works?
It is this faith that David discovers as he stoops before God in prayer for mercy, and because he has this faith, his other worries pale into insignificance!
Ultimately, his prayer becomes a prayer for this faith!
“Away from me all you who do evil!
The Lord accepts my prayer!”
What prayer – in effect – the prayer that the Lord will take forgive David the sin in his life; to set him apart from those who persist in doing evil.
And when David’s prayer is heard and his faith leads him back to the Lord, David’s worries start to cease!
In faith, we return to God, time and time again, in good times and bad; happy or sad; afraid or filled with joy – in faith we put our hope and our trust in God…our Father who is in heaven.
Even when our final hour looms large!
Now David discovers, the more we lay our lives before God in faith and in trust, in our prayers and supplications, the more we know that we are safe in the arms of our Lord and maker…
and when that happens, the less we will lie awake, cringing before God, reminded only of the wrongs in our lives…like David at the beginning of his Psalm.
The more we turn to God, the more we will realise that there is no other help but the help and hope we have in the Lord, like David at the end of the Psalm – and then we are reminded that it is God through His mercy who gives us the ultimate example of faith, to our salvation, the faith of Jesus Christ, that sets us free from having to try to earn ourselves a spot in God’s kingdom by our works.
Our works and our worries will always fall short, and if it was up to us, we would live lives filled with worry.
Our faith and Gods mercy is all we need to be righteous in the sight of God and because of this faith, we may hand our worries over to God!
How are you traveling this first Sunday in 2007?
The year is seven days old… have you found yourself saying:
“When I win the lottery, all my troubles, all my worries will be over!
It might sound trivial, brothers and sisters, but the question is what does it say about in whom – or what - we trust?
You see, while we might say, well, it’s all just a bit of fun, you know, when last did you hear someone say:
“When God hears my prayers, all my troubles will be over?”
When we lie awake at night – do we struggle with God, asking Him to lead us on a path that will be acceptable to Him?
or do we lie there, thinking, thinking, worrying what we can do, how we are going to get out of the predicament?
What does that say about our trust in God, what does the way we worry say about our faith?
I am not suggesting all we have to do is pray to God and then we may fold our hands and say: God will provide!
But From Psalm 6 we may learn that in all that we do, in our work, our play, we should live our lives in thankful recognition of the many opportunities and mercies that He provides, and that we recognize that he looks after us far better than we deserve – then we will be less worried, less thankless for His many mercies.
That, after all, is the full implication of verse nine, in which David declares…9 The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed;
they will turn back in sudden disgrace.
To which we might add, boldly: “Death, where is your sting (now)?”
When will all of this happen? When will God hear my prayer?
How long Lord?
May we say, in faith and trust…In your time, Lord!
Give us strength to endure!
For yours is the power and the glory,
For ever and ever