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Our Hope is Bigger - Psalm 56

The Big Story - Psalms & 1 Samuel  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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On June 22, 1941, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. He’d expected the war in the east to take Stalin by surprise since he’d earlier signed a peace treaty with him, and he thought that they would be able to swarm and overwhelm Russian forces for a quick victory. Instead, the Soviets sent wave after wave of men to the battle field until eventually the Russian winter would succumb the German forces in a battle of attrition. The real significance of this is that the audacious move to attack the Soviet Union thrust Germany and her allies into a two front war in both the east and the west. It spread their resources and forces thin, leading to their inevitable defeat by the allies.

God’s Word

In 1 Samuel 21, David enters a two-front war himself. Saul’s intentions to kill him become known and apparent, and he is forced to flee alone for his own safety. The problem is that the only place for him to flee is Gath. Do you remember who was from Gath? Goliath. And, guess whose sword David has on his side when he arrives. So, here is David seeking political asylum in Goliath’s hometown. This would have been like Osama bin Laden seeking asylum in New York City. And, it goes about the way that you would expect it to go. David goes from having one problem to having two problems. He goes from having one group of people trying to kill him to having two groups of people trying to hill him. His situation goes from bad to worse.
I imagine that many of you feel a lot like David. You feel like you’re fighting a war on every front. At first, you had stress at work. It was hard and overwhelming and you struggled with anxiety for the first time in your life, but you were managing. Then, you started having health problems. Then, your kids rebelled. Then, your mom died, and you were left refereeing between all of your siblings. You keep thinking everything is going to get better, but it just seems to go from bad to worse. The storm in your life has turned into a flood, and you’re drowning.
That’s why I’m so thankful for how God gave us the Bible. That thought has even been rejuvenated for me this week. He doesn’t just tell us what happens, and He tells us how people felt and reacted as it happened. That’s why we’re in Psalm 56 this morning. Notice at the top by the chapter number. It tells us that this Psalm was written based upon David’s experience in 1 Samuel 21. So that’s how I want us to approach this.
Two psalms written during this time: 34 and 56. 56 is the rawer, more emotional, likely earlier of the two.
It lays out how we are likely to feel in similar situations, and how we can weather the storms (headline):

Our “hope” is “bigger”.

David’s problems are big.
56:1-2 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly.
He’s pleading with God to have mercy on him in the midst of his multi-front, multi-faceted suffering. His language is meant to help us understand how big his problems really are.
Intensity. He feels “trampled”, “attacked”, and “oppressed”. Ambushed, beaten down, and then held down. (Oppressed)
Duration. Being oppressed points that the issue here isn’t just the intensity of the suffering, but also the duration. “all day long”.
Many people would say that they can endure almost anything for a short season, but what often causes us the greatest despair and hopelessness is not the intensity of the suffering so much as it is the duration. Didn’t you think things would be better by now? Your marriage. Your job. Your financial situation. Your relationship with your dad. Your relationship with your kids. Your health. Suffering virtually always last longer than we think it will.
David’s hope is bigger.
56:3-4 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?
So, what we’re getting is insight into how David felt and how David responded to this multi-front, long-form war.
“When I am afraid” This is the giant-killer who’s admitting fear. Even that brings me comfort. He was after God’s own heart. He took down bears and lions without a gun. He faced down Goliath. He’s afraid. I can identify with David here. He feels what I feel when I suffer. This is important to recognize. When you deal with suffering, you aren’t just dealing with the circumstance or the hardship itself. You’re also dealing with how you feel about it and think about it. You aren’t just coping with the threat itself but also with the fear and anxiety and pessimism about the future that the threat brings about. David is physically threatened and emotionally distressed, and both of these realities have to be addressed. That’s what we see in this psalm, and it’s a powerful reminder of how all suffering must be addressed. That’s what leads to the refrain that is virtually repeated in verses 10 and 11. It’s how David responds to external threats and internal fear. It’s how he responds to cancer and how cancer makes him feel. It’s how he responds to the loss of his job and the fear that it produces.
David responds to his multi-front war with a multi-dimensional hope. Notice this because this isn’t unique to David. This is accessible, real-world hope that can help us when we’re drowning in our own sufferings. He gives three responses that he has to hope to both his suffering and his fear. When I’m afraid: 1) “I put my trust in God.” That is, I make sure that my hope is not in myself to make me better. I remove my faith from my circumstances to make me happy. I remove my faith from friends and family to bail me out. David actively, intentionally concentrates his faith upon the only one worthy of it — the LORD. 2) “In God, whose word I praise”. How does he concentrate himself upon God? He focuses on what God has promised. God had anointed and promised him as king. God had promised that He would be with him and drive out his enemies. He’d promised. So, He praises God — in light of what he sees and in spite of what he feels — for what God has said. 3) “What can flesh do to me?” While concentrating on God, he remembers how puny and pitiful his threats really are. Who is Saul in the face of God? Who is Achish in the face of God? They’re just men! His problem is just temporary! God’s promises are forever.
A Two-dimensional response for a two-front war: Zoom in and Zoom out.
Our zoom is usually distorted. We zoom in and concentrate on our problems and our suffering so that we have a screen full of problems without a glimpse at God. The result is to be overwhelmed. Zoom in enough on a dust mite, and it looks like the boogie man.
The answer is the inverse. Zoom out on your problems and in on God. Only God can put your problems in proper perspective. Zoom in on the promises and out on the problems.
David was promised and assured the presence of God and the victory of God at his anointing. We were promised the very same things through Christ’s resurrection.
However big your problems are; your hope is bigger!

Our “pain” is “known.”

Real suffering.
56:5-7 All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life. For their crime will they escape? In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
Verses 5-7 gives us more details about the nature of David’s suffering and his experiences during it.
I use the word ‘real’ for a couple of reasons because I think it helps us to relate to what David is experiencing. On one hand, I use ‘real’ because it’s not imagined. There are real people here devoting all of their energy and thoughts to killing David. David is being stalked like prey. He is experiencing real strife. His situation isn’t contrived or exaggerated. It’s a real problem. And, maybe, that’s what you’d say. You’re really not sure how the future is going to play out. You’re really not sure if you’ll live another year or two. You’re really not sure if you’ll be married this time next year. And, you’re looking for answers to real world problems, and it’s easy to roll your eyes at Biblical, God-centered answers because you think, “I need real answers this time.” But, what I’m wanting you to see is that God doesn’t offer cliche solutions. He offers real solutions to real problems. Rightly understood, rightly applied, there is hope here that can sustain you in the real world.
I use ‘real’ for another reason. David’s problems don’t primarily exist as spiritual problems. They’re personal problems. Of course, we know about David’s role into the future, but David isn’t aware of all of that right here. Here’s what he knows: two dudes are trying to kill him. We sometimes are tempted to think that God helps missionaries who fight demons and pastors who lead churches, but we have to figure out regular problems on our own. David was in a political, personal conflict, and yet God is involved. There’s no problem that you have that is too regular or ordinary for God to care. There’s no suffering so real and plain that God is unwilling to help.
Real concern.
56:7-8 For their crime will they escape? In wrath cast down the peoples, O God! You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?
34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Verse seven is a rhetorical question that is essentially answered by verse eight. Verse seven asks: “God, don’t you care? Don’t you notice?” Verse eight declares: “God, there’s not a dark night that you miss or a tear that you don’t notice!”
David is comforted by the LORD’s concern as much as he is his strength. God’s promise of presence isn’t just about strength; it’s also about comfort and concern.
The point is that God knows and God cares. He doesn’t just know the number of hairs on your head or the days of your life. He knows how how many nights you’ve spent tossing and turning. He’s written it down. He’s keeping up with it. He knows how many days you’ve rocked back and forth in your rocking chair trying to figure out how to make it one more day. He’s written it down. He knows the tears that you’ve cried over your children and over your marriage and over how bad you feel. He’s collecting them. He’s keeping up with them. Your tears are not lost on him. The type of bottle it’s referring to is one in which they would keep treasured wines and perfumes for safe-keeping. God is treasuring up your tears. He’s preparing a place for you where there will be no more. God knows, and God cares. He’s not just a tower of strength. He’s also a caring, concerned, and compassionate Father. He doesn’t just care about what happens to you; He cares about how you feel. God knows, and God cares.
I’ve thought this week about how many times I’ve prayed and paced my office. I’ve prayed and paced through some of the hardest times in my life over the last eight years. And, God knows how many steps it has been. I’ve thought about many of you. Kathy Jacks. Dennis Catoe. Mary Vaughn. Mary Craig. God knows and God cares. You are experiencing real problems and real suffering. It’s not contrived, and you’re not exaggerating. Don’t let your mind go there. But, God’s presence is really there, and his concern is genuine. Look at the sister Psalm. This is the hope of this passage. Realize this is the same context. David reflects back on this moment and comes to this realization: “The LORD draws near to the broken-hearted.” Do you feel the hope hope of that?
Jesus didn’t just come to earth to win a great victory. This is what the disciples misunderstood. Jesus came also because God is committed to KNOWING the sufferings of his people. Jesus knows what it’s like to cry. Jesus knows what it’s like to hurt. Jesus knows what it’s like to have people betray you and wound you. But, Jesus came to know our pain and to overcome it so that we could be sure that we don’t go through it alone and we won’t go through it forever. That is, He came because God knows and God cares.

Our “joy” is “assured.”

56:9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.
I love the ‘then” in verse nine. He’s saying, “Then, if all that’s true, there’s some things that are certain. If my hope is bigger than my suffering and if my God knows and cares about my pain, THEN I know one precious truth that ensures that my prayers will be answered: GOD IS FOR ME. “This I know, that God is for me.”
Two prayers both answered in four words:
Justice for his enemies.
Grace for himself.
Answer: “God is for me.”
God was FOR David, even when it didn’t feel like it.
I wrote this sermon with a migraine, and that ministered to me. Mary turning Ralph. Andrea losing her job.
Romans 8 was written for a suffering church, and it has Psalm 56 in view. So, here’s what Paul did, and he took David’s realization and showed how it was even more fulfilled in Christ. We may suffer, but so did Christ suffer. But, Christ didn’t just suffer, He was resurrected and overcame that suffering. He sent his Spirit so that we, too, might be raised with him and overcome suffering. That’s the context for these words: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That is, your joy is assured. Your hope is bigger. God is for you.
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