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Psalm 7--The upright in heart

Psalms - Songs from the Heart  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  24:29
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In Psalm 7, David responds to accusations in surprising ways. Yet, when we look deeper, we see that his response is so much more fruitful than the responses of our contemporaries. In our world, where words are becoming terribly powerful, as they were in the ancient world, we must, like David, find a way to deal with accusations. Join us as we explore David's holy response, and how it draws us closer to God.

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Psalm 7 ESV
A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite. 1 O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver. 3 O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, 4 if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, 5 let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. Selah 6 Arise, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. 7 Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; over it return on high. 8 The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. 9 Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous— you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! 10 My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. 11 God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. 12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; 13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. 14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. 15 He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. 16 His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. 17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

Introduction

Let’s pray:
Lord, teach us how to value your word. Teach us how to be your people. Open our hearts and minds to you today.
Amen.
Once again we find ourselves reading a Psalm that contrasts the wicked and the righteous. Indeed, that theme weighs heavy on David’s mind, and each Psalm unpacks a different aspect of this difficult conflict.
Psalm 7:1 ESV
1 O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
What does this Psalm speak about? A key to understanding this Psalm is in the title. These titles are in the Hebrew text and, even though we don’t know when they were added, we know it was very early in the life of the Psalms. This one tells us that David wrote this psalm “concerning the words of Cush, a Benjamite.” So it is a response to some words.
And yet the Psalm starts with
Psalm 7:1–2 ESV
1 O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
How could the words of this unknown Benjamite, Cush, cause the King of Israel to flee to God for refuge? How could they “, like a lion tear [his] soul apart?” It is, of course, no coincidence that Cush was a Benjamite, the tribe of David’s old enemy, Saul.
Let me tell you a story about the power of words. Two stories, in fact.
A couple of weeks ago, the ABC reporter Louise Milligan breathlessly reported that an anonymous letter and “dossier of evidence” had been sent to various leaders in the Australian Commonwealth government accusing an unnamed cabinet ministry of historical rape. Details were sparse, but the media jumped all over this story, and continued to obsess about it until the minister outed himself. He turned out to be the Attourney General of Australia, one of the highest offices in the land. The evidence against him was, and remains, nothing more than words. This photo shows a key part of the so-called “dossier of evidence,” released in The Weekend Australian yesterday. In fact, the NSW police have dismissed the case since there is insufficient evidence. Now, we don’t know whether the Attourney General is guilty of this alleged crime or not. Nonetheless, many commentators beleive that he can no longer continue as Attourney General simply because he has been accused of this crime, regardless of the reliability or otherwise of the evidence. In other words, many people beleive that mere words, with nothing behind them—no evidence, no other supporting witnesses, nothing—is sufficient to cast the Attourney General out of his office. Words have power.
As if this were not enough to convince you of the horrendous power of words in today’s world, consider this week’s media storm. A woman has accused her in-laws of all sorts of horrible treatment, offering no evidence whatsoever to support her case. Nonetheless, millions have made up their minds that the in-laws are guilty of such outrageous crimes as commenting on the tone of a child’s skin. I am speaking, of course, about Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah. Given the furore over the alleged racism of the Royal Family, it is worth looking at the words that caused it:
Meghan: But I can give you an honest answer. In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time . . .  so we have in tandem the conversation of ‘He won’t be given security, he’s not going to be given a title’ and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.
Oprah: What?
Meghan: And . . . 
Oprah: Who . . . who is having that conversation with you? What?
Meghan: So . . . 
Oprah: There is a conversation . . . hold on. Hold up. Hold up. Stop right now.
Meghan: There were . . . there were several conversations about it.
Oprah: There’s a conversation with you . . ? 
Meghan: With Harry.
Oprah: About how dark your baby is going to be?
Meghan: Potentially, and what that would mean or look like.
Oprah: Whoo. And you’re not going to tell me who had the conversation?
Meghan: I think that would be very damaging to them.
Oprah: OK. So, how . . . how does one have that meeting?
Meghan: That was relayed to me from Harry. Those were conversations that family had with him.
So, there is a second-hand report of a potential conversation on how dark baby Archie’s skin might be, and this is, supposedly, rocking the royal family of the UK.
Words have power to tear down kings!

Have you been accused?

Have you ever been accused? Have words been thrown at you, to hurt you? I’m sure you have. As kids we throw words at people as if they are mere twigs, and it is only our youth that does reduce their impact. But as we get older, our words take on weight, and if we keep throwing them around, they start hurting people.
The reality is, if you’ve been in any close relationships, you’ve probably been hurt by accusations. Husbands and wives throw them at each other all the time, although this is often kept private, at least until it spills into something like a divorce. Workplaces often breed conflict and it often spills into the open. I remember arriving in the US office of DASCOM, a company I cofounded years ago, and being beseiged by accusations of all sorts, with the hope that I would take up arms against others on behalf of the various petitioners.
If you think back, I’m sure you can remember times when you have been deeply wounded by the accusations of another.

What can we do?

The natural question to ask in the face of such events is, “What could I do if such types of accusations were leveled against me?”
And this is the question that David is wrestling with in Psalm 7. It is worth looking at the process that David follows, because it is a very holy one, rather than a human one.

Refuge

Psalm 7:1–2 ESV
1 O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
David’s first response is to seek refuge in God. Although he is the king, and has the power of the entire state behind him, he doesn’t simply lash out. Instead, he flees to God. What a lesson that is for us! Today our response tends to be like Harry and Meghan’s: we’ve been hurt so we flee to Oprah in order to inflict maximum damage on those we believe have hurt us. But that is not the way of the righteous. God is our deliverer, not the media, not the law, not the mob.

Self-Examination

Psalm 7:3–5 ESV
3 O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, 4 if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, 5 let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. Selah
The second thing David does is equally strange. Instead of defending himself, he examines himself.
“Am I guilty of this accusation?” he asks. “And if I am,” he adds, “then let me be squashed like a bug!”
Is that how you have reacted when people have accused you of something? Do you instinctively wonder, “Am I really that sort of person? Did I really do that? And if I did, well, I deserve to be punished harshly!”
It might seem impossible to react this way, but it’s not. In fact, it is quite possible to react this way provided two things are true:
You love God and his ways.
You are not guilty of the accusation.
You see, a guilty person will panic and try to hide their guilt, usually by lashing out, pointing away from themselves. An innocent person has nothing to hide, so they can be open about their own behaviour.
Now, no-one innocent of any wrong-doing. But there are plenty of people who are innocent of accusations made against them—people who, say, didn’t do evil to their friends, or plunder their enemies, or deal in lies or violence. Such people can afford to be open with their accusers. Their innocence speaks for itself when their lives are properly examined.

God’s wrath

Psalm 7:6–7 ESV
6 Arise, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. 7 Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; over it return on high.
Those who make false accusations, on the other hand, should fear God’s anger. God is a righteous God. He loves justice, and he will punish those who deal in lies and violence. It doesn’t matter how corrupt our own nation becomes, this will always be true. This will always be our hope and refuge.

God’s justice

Psalm 7:8–11 ESV
8 The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. 9 Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous— you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! 10 My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. 11 God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.
Indeed, God’s justice cuts two ways. And here we find the key to David’s response: integrity.
A person of integrity has nothing to fear from God, or true justice. Lies and corruption hurt everyone, but even in the midst of lies and corruption, a person of integrity still stands tall. Their confidence in God’s justice allows them to cry out to him, unafraid for themselves.
You see, if the Attourney General is a man of integrity, he has nothing to fear. Sure, the mob can bay, the pathetic journalists can proclaim their victim mentality, but his innocence will testify against them all. If, on the other hand, the Attourney General is a man who is only righteous on the surface, who has hidden guilt, then it doesn’t matter what he does, he will fall. The chief law officer of the land cannot be a man who hides crimes. Integrity is key.
The same is true of the Royal Family. If their generous welcome of Meghan was genuine, and they have no reservations about her (or anyone else’s) race, then they have nothing to fear. If they harbour secret sins, though (and I’m not talking about the sins of past royals that are well-and-truly picked over), then they are in for a rough time. The figureheads of a racially diverse nation cannot be racists.
Integrity is particularly important for the Christian. Like the Jews, we are intended to be light to the nations. We are here on earth, rather than already up in heaven, for one purpose: to share the Gospel. If we have integrity, if, when we are accused, we can openly demonstrate our innocence (not of every sin, but certainly of what we have been accused of), then we can share the Good News.
If, only the other hand, we don’t have integrity. If we are guilty of secret sins, then God’s justice will cut away that sin ever so painfully, and he might use the accusations of others, and the consequent loss of position, reputation, and livelihood in order to free us from the rot of sin.
But, of course, even having integrity doesn’t mean that we won’t suffer. What it does mean is that our suffering will be entirely the responsibility of our enemies, we will not have brought any of it on ourselves. And, ultimately, we will be rewarded for that suffering. Remember Jesus’ reaction when he was falsely accused?
Matthew 27:13–14 CEV
13 Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear what crimes they say you have done?” 14 But Jesus did not say anything, and the governor was greatly amazed.

Repentance

Psalm 7:12–17 ESV
12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; 13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. 14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. 15 He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. 16 His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. 17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
Finally, David turns to the most important action we can take to preserve our integrity: repentance.
You might be surprised that repentance is required to preserve integrity. Shouldn’t not sinning in the first place be the measure of integrity?
Well, that might work in a fantasy world where human beings never did anything wrong. But in the real world, where our selfishness and ignorance guarantees that all of us have done something wrong at some stage, repentance is key.
You might say, “Hang on, you (and King David) were just talking about integrity, how does repentance fit in with that?” Well, I’m glad you asked.
You see, repentance involves two things:
Stopping the evil you’ve been doing. If you keep doing something wrong, you haven’t repented, no matter what you might think. If you have been talking contemptuously about a coworker, for example, and you say you have repented, and yet you keep talking contemptuously about them, well, you haven’t repented.
Publically confessing your wrong. Now, what “publically confessing” means depends on context. Generally, the “public” that needs to hear your confession is the people that have (or will be) impacted by your sin. If you said something horrible to your spouse in an argument while you were alone in your house and you repented before any ill will could affect the rest of your family, then only your spouse (and God) need to hear your confession. If, however, you falsely called someone a “lying cow” in a room full of people who then spread it far and wide, well, your public confession involves everyone who has heard your contemptuous comment.
For someone in a public position, public repentance is important. If everyone knows your past sins, and still approves of you, they can’t suddenly turn around and condemn you, unless you do some new wrong. This works even in a society that doesn’t hold to the Christian ideal of constant forgiveness.
On the other hand, if you keep on sinning instead of repenting, then, as David says, you’re digging a pit for yourself to fall into.

Conclusion—Praise

Psalm 7:17 ESV
17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
And so we find ourselves recognising the glorious goodness of God’s goodness.
God’s love of righteousness, his unchangeable justice—these things give us confidence that, in the end, all will be well.
As Jesus told his apostle John:
Revelation 22:12–13 ESV
12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Let us pray,
Dear Lord, please keep us from sin. Keep our hearts and bodies pure, so that we can share your word with power and integrity. Words do have power, and your Word has the power to bring life to the dead. Help us to remember that, and to dwell in your presence always.
Amen.
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