As we come to the end of our consultation on “Deliver us from Evil” let us look at a Psalm which asks the questions we have been asking, reveals the pain and the weakness we often feel & finds, in the presence of God, the important answer which emphasizes the final victory.
The psalm is attributed to Asaph, the song leader in David’s court. The opening statement is both a starting point for his reflections and their conclusion. In the psalm he moves from:
- slipping away to coming near
- confusion to understanding
- bitterness to boldness
- dejection to declaration
- from crippling envy to joyful evangelism
LET US LISTEN IN ON SOME OF HIS THOUGHTS:
1. ANXIETY: His feet had almost slipped, he had nearly lost his foothold (cf Psalm 66:9; Psalm 94:18). Why? Because he saw “the wicked ” around him apparently doing far better than he. They appeared to be prosperous; have no problems; be strong & healthy, carefree, proud. He was perplexed and troubled by their apparent ” success” and his apparent losses. He was confused, angry, envious & bitter & could not understand –
UNTIL: “I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood….” What he understood when he came into the presence of God was the final destination of the wicked. (V17). They were the ones on SLIPPERY GROUND (V18) not he! Their prosperity was temporary; their apparent success, short lived. They were heading for ruin, destruction & terrors, while he was heading for GLORY! (V24).
What God revealed to him in the quietness of the “sanctuary” was their final destiny and his own.
Juliet Thomas has emphasized this week that when we come into the presence of God and worship him by responding with all that we have to all that He is, we find that the things that concern us gain a new perspective as we focus on Him. This happened for the psalmist and this will happen for us.
2. NEVER ALONE: V. 23 ” I am always with you” “You hold me by my right hand” (cf Ps 63:2 & Ps. 41:10, 13) V. 24 “You guide me with your counsel” “afterwards you will take me into glory.”
The day before I left to come to this consultation, my next door neighbour gave me a book to read on the plane. It was called “Lilies amongst thorns” & tells the stories of our brothers and sisters in China who are suffering for Christ.
One is the story of ZIZHONG who died in October, 1989. We well remember that at Lausanne II in Manila we did not have the joy of receiving the delegation of believers from China. Instead, we put four red chairs in the front of the auditorium with a gold thread around them. This was to remember our brothers and sisters who were prevented from coming by the Tienanmen Square incident. Would ZIZHONG have been one of the delegates? I don’t know. ZIZHONG, over a period of 30 years was beaten, “struggled against”, kicked, imprisoned and forced to suffer terrible indignities because of his faith in God. He eventually lost everything – including his wife.
On hearing that his wife wanted a divorce because he had just been given a term of 15 years imprisonment and could not support her, he ran out into the snow in the prison yard and cried the words from Psalm 73 verse 25: “whom have I in heaven but you? and here on earth there is nothing I desire besides you.” Then he sang: “My family has deserted me, My friends ridicule me. But Lord, my heart love you. Let the oceans dry up and the stones be crushed Lord, my heart loves you.” The psalmist knows that though his flesh & his heart may fail, God is the strength of his heart (v. 26)
3. ACCEPTANCE & PROCLAMATION Let’s listen in on his conclusion:
- It is good be near God
- I have made the sovereign Lord my refuge
- I will TELL of all your deeds. V28
We may find ourselves asking the same questions as the psalmist, but like him we also know where to go for the answers. We go into the “Sanctuary of God”, we go into His presence to worship him. Here we may not get specific answers to all the details which concern us but we are reminded of the ultimate answer and that is:
God is Sovereign
He is the one who reigns
He is the Victor and
He is preparing to take those who believe in him, and all who are steadfast to the end, into GLORY.
Christ says in Revelation 22: “Behold, I am coming soon.” Our response is “Come, Lord Jesus.”