Thursday, April 19, 2018
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
Have you ever been disliked, dissed, dismissed, dumped, or even damned for disagreeing with someone?
I’ll never forget the pastor search committee that rejected me as a candidate to become their pastor because I said they talked more about Rick Warren than Jesus and being a “purpose-driven” church than grace, mercy, forgiveness, and agape.
I said they were confusing people who just need Jesus by the book rather than slick packaging through personalities, programs, T-shirts, banners, the latest technologies, and other trinkets.
It’s kinda like sermons that have to be punctuated by pictures and movie clips on big screens in sanctuaries because the preacher isn’t called or gifted or passionate or excited enough about Jesus to hold anybody’s attention.
I’m reminded of going to see an old pastor in town not long after I was ordained.
“Why is your church growing and mine isn’t?” I asked.
He said, “Nothing can happen through you that has not first happened to you. You can’t give away what you ain’t got for yourself. People need Jesus. They don’t need Bob or Billy or Oral or…”
Sadly, obviously, I guess Jesus just isn’t enough for some people.
Paul was right about some people needing to have their ears tickled before they’ll listen.
When I was a young pastor, I filled my study with books and plastered the walls with parchments to pretend I was really smart, wore the best shoes and suits and ties and vestments that I could afford to show people that they should pay attention to me, insisted on titles, elevated and separated myself by degrees, and did everything that I could do to persuade people that I was worthy of their…whatever I thought defined being worthy…that violates the judgment of Jesus in Matthew 23.
I was sooooooo young.
While I have a long way to go, I’m growing up.
Jesus is enough.
Yes, Paul was right again: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, reasoned like a child…but when I became a man…”
When I started growing up into Him – and I confess I’m still just scratching the surface of my relationship with Jesus – I began to realize it’s all about Jesus.
A church or you or me or anyone at her or his best is all about Him.
Jesus is enough.
That’s especially and thankfully true when we’re feeling assaulted by the beast’s children who dislike or even hate us and work so darkly to slander and slay us.
Psalm 3 is about God saving us from enemies.
Contextually, David was praying from a broken heart.
With the voice of Jesus in the distance who warned a price of fidelity will be the hatred of even people who are closest to us – “You will be hated by everyone including members of your own families because you love Me!” – David was being stalked and targeted for assassination by his own son.
I like Frederick Buechner’s summary of the sadness: “Almost from the start, Absalom had a number of strikes against him…too handsome for his own good…his father, King David, was always either spoiling him rotten or reading him the riot act…He murdered his lecherous brother Amnon for fooling around with their sister Tamar, and when the old war horse Joab wouldn’t help him patch things up with David afterwards, he set fire to his hay field. All Israel found this kind of derring-do irresistible, of course, and when he eventually led a revolt against his father, a lot of them joined him.”
“On the eve of the crucial battle,” Buechner wrote, “David was a wreck. If he was afraid he might lose his throne, he was even more afraid he might lose Absalom. The boy was the thorn in his flesh, but he was also the apple of his eye…and before the fighting started, he told the chiefs of staff till they were sick of hearing it that if Absalom fell into their clutches, they must promise to go easy on him for his father’s sake.”
Joab killed Absalom to preserve David’s throne and it broke David’s heart just like we break God’s even when we deserve His judgment: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son…Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son.”
Buechner’s conclusion: “If he could have done the boy’s dying for him, he would have done it. If he could have paid the price of the boy’s betrayal of him, he would have paid it. If he could have given his own life to make the boy alive again, he would have given it. But even a king can’t do things like that. As later history was to prove, it takes a God.”
That’s the pain leading to the theme of Psalm 3.
Jesus is enough.
Like us too often, David felt the pressured, stressed, and threatened by enemies: “God, look at how many people hate me! There are so many; and they taunt me, ‘So where is God when you need Him?’”
Like us, David knew the only One who will save sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end: “But You, Lord, are a shield around me. You lift my head and spirit. You save me from every enemy in time for all time.”
Like us, David could sleep peacefully and rise and shine in the intimate knowledge of God as Savior: “I sleep. Then I’m up again – rested, tall and steady. I’m fearless because God is on my side.”
Like us, David trusted God’s ultimate justice: “Rise up, Savior! Slap down my enemies! My enemies are Your enemies and Your enemies are My enemies! We’re family!”
Like us, David heralded the most important truth in human history: “Salvation comes from God! Real help comes from God in time and forever!”
Our faith – trust and confidence and hope and anticipation – in God can be summed up so concisely, compellingly, and conclusively.
Jesus is enough.
Blessings and Love!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!