Evening Service Sunday 16th November 2014 – Kenneth Gray.
King David wrote these glorious words which praise the Lord in a clear, straightforward way. Yet this same David was a man prey to the lust for woman after woman to such a degree that he even killed Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, so that he could possess her. He had offspring by Bathsheba and others and muddied the line of succession thereby changing the course of Jewish history.
David’s life did not fulfil his words in this Psalm. He allows himself to become distracted from his promises ‘I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; before the ‘gods’ I will sing your praise. I will bow down towards your holy temple and will praise your name’.
But do we not also allow ourselves to become distracted? In a typical 16 hour day when we are not asleep how much time do we spend praising God? Some might say everything we do praises God but can we really make such an extravagant claim? Does everything we do or say each day honour God? Do we devote ‘all our heart’ to anything? Is it not true that we tend to give more attention to the trivial things in life and ignore the really important things?
The ‘gods’ David refers to in verse 1 for us can be the man-made idols we create such as our families, our jobs, our money. Many people these days are even completely hooked on their mobile phones. We so easily seem to make ‘gods’ for ourselves. For David his ‘gods’ were women, power, his children.
His greatest desire was to build the Temple but the Lord told him he could not do this. So often temples are built to honour the name of the person paying for the building rather than really to honour God. So it was with David. His goal was supposedly to honour the Lord but, whether he knew it or not, building that temple would have glorified himself. Pride can be a besetting sin and our original, stated motivations can be lost.
Kenneth recalled the decision taken by the Scottish Parliament in the 16th century to ratify and approve, by an overwhelming margin, the document which declared Protestantism to be thenceforward the religion of the country. This committed the Parliament to ‘exalt God’s Word above all things’. This commitment has long since been forgotten. It is not even observed by the 10% of Scots who attend church. There is virtually no discernible difference nowadays between the way Christians live and how the rest of society behaves. It is easy to make, like David, extravagant and beautifully worded declarations of commitment to God but so much harder to live up to them.
We have even somehow come to believe that living according to God’s Word will not bring happiness. Kenneth observed that he had for months been putting up with back pain omitting to go to the source of medical help perhaps distrusting that it would work. His body had developed a twisted shape as he had tried to relieve the pain by his changes of posture. Then he resorted to physiotherapy and is now enjoying the benefits. It struck him then that what many of us need is ‘physiotherapy for the soul’. If we ignore God’s Word it’s not long until our lives get ‘bent out of shape.
David did have a lot on his plate. It is hard to be a leader. Today we have presidents and prime ministers – 3 thousand years ago it was kings. The average leader has to face hundreds of battles every day and make thousands of decisions. Who is equal to such responsibilities- no-one! David knew that better than anyone. He had grown up the youngest son in a family of shepherds. His stout-heartedness and station in life had been given to him by the Lord.
Life is impossibly demanding at times and gets us down so we need God to ‘answer when we call’ and to make us stout-hearted and bold. We know this yet even when we experience God’s help we forget to give God his due or to continue to praise and glorify him.
‘Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar’ says David. How do we approach God – in lowliness or in pride?
David, despite all his own sinfulness, knows God has a plan for his life and knows how he depends on the Lord’s protection. That is the experience of every true believer even if we sometimes wonder why we are buffeted in life.
Kenneth commented that life can be like rugby. Sometimes we are taken down by a ‘tackle from behind’. We don’t see it coming and we feel pain and injury. We need help to lift ourselves up again and carry on playing. David knew God’s right hand would always raise him up. So it should be with us. When we’re in a ‘muddy puddle’ with the ‘18stone brute’ on top of us we must cry out to God and he will strengthen and heal us.