Psalm 13 | From Desperation to Determination | Will Peterson
Topic: Stand-alone messages Passage: Psalm 13–13
I want to in this week and next week as well—I’ll be preaching, so you can decide after this week if you want to come next week. I’ll be here either way, but you’re just kind of stuck. I want to turn our attention to the Psalms and to a couple of my favorite Psalms in particular. The Psalm that we’ll be looking at this morning is Psalm 13, and so if you would please open your Bibles with me to Psalm 13.
You may be wondering why Psalm 13 would be a person’s favorite Psalm. Though I don’t think that you would wonder that very often if you’ve lived the Christian life for very long. Psalm 13, as the title of the message makes pretty clear, is a psalm of lament, a psalm of desperation. And so the title this morning is “From Desperation to Determination.”
What we see in Psalm 13 is that very thing, a faithful man of God moving from a point of utter desperation to a point where he is absolutely determined to live a faithful life for his good God. So Psalm 13 says this:
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
I’m sure it’s already happened here this morning in our congregation and the other congregations that are gathered here today to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. You walk in the door and you’re greeted with that old, familiar question, “How are you?” And as if it’s a canned and prepared answer, immediately the words that rolled off of your tongue were, “I’m fine.” “I’m good.” Or maybe you’re really, really righteous and you said, “Better than I deserve.”
It’s true, but my question this morning for you is, is it honest? Isn’t it so easy to find ourselves presenting a version of Christianity that is not necessarily true about what’s going on inside of our hearts, but we present this version that we think other people should see. Christians are supposed to be happy people. After all, we’ve just sang about the amazing grace of God. How could I be anything other than happy.
So I’m going to go to church this morning, and I’m going to stuff all of those feelings down inside of me. I’m going to pretend as if they don’t exist. I’m going to put on my mask that says everything is fine, and when someone asks me, I’m not really going to open up to them because that would require me being vulnerable and honest and, honestly, who has time for that kind of thing?
Or if I am honest, how it will be received? If I tell someone, you know what, I’m actually struggling right now. It’s been a hard week. It’s been a hard month. It’s been a hard year. Would they really want to hear it? Or would they carry on with the rest of their Sunday plans? If I were honest with them, would they take the time to pray with me? Would they think less of me? Would I get knocked down a couple of rungs on their Christian ladder spectrum?
I was listening to a podcast, one of my favorite ones that comes out weekly called “The Mortification of Spin,” which is a play on John Owens’ book, The Mortification of Sin. They’re about twenty- to thirty-minute sessions each week and I find them to be very, very helpful. They’re very informative and they tend to look at culture, and Christian culture specifically, and sort of just talk and diagnose some of the problems.
And a couple of weeks ago they talked about seeing God as a therapist. And they talked about how today in Christian circles we’ve lost language like I’m a sinner. I’m a rebel against God. I am utterly cut off from God apart from Jesus Christ. And instead we’ve adopted language of therapy. Well, we’re just broken people. We’re just hurting people. We’re just kind of messed up a little bit and we need God to come alongside of us and just walk this walk with us and help us.
That’s true. We are broken people, aren’t we? We are hurting people, but all of that stems as a result of sin. My sin and the sin that this world has been plunged into from the Fall. And so they were talking about this concept, and one of them quoted—a guy named Carl Truman quoted—a different author, a secular Jewish author. And the quote said something like, in older times it used to be that people went to church to explain the suffering around them, but nowadays people go to church to get happy.
Isn’t that the problem altogether? We can sometimes tend to treat church as if it’s sort of a spiritual pep rally. You grab your pom-poms at the door, maybe you paint your face, and you walk in, and you have to be excited and energetic. After all, we’re here to worship God. In the light of all he’s done for us, he deserves that worship, doesn’t he?
And all of those things are true, but the reality is, friends, you might be struggling in the depths of your soul right now. And all the pretending in the world is not going to make that struggle any better, is it? In fact, eventually you come to the end of your rope and you realize, okay, something has to change here. I can’t continue to pretend like everything is okay. I need to get some help here.
Friend, that’s exactly what we see in Psalm 13. Why preach Psalm 13 this morning? Why direct our attention to Psalm 13 this morning? I mean, it’s kind of a downer, isn’t it? You don’t have to be alive very long, you certainly don’t have to be a Christian very long to understand that suffering in this fallen world is par for the course, isn’t it? Suffering is a way of life. Suffering is normal for us.
And so friend, I would challenge you this morning, even before we begin to dissect what God has to say to us, I would challenge you with this question: What does your version of Christianity say to other people? Does it say that Christians are perfect people? Does it say that Christians are always happy, that nothing ever goes wrong for the Christian? That the Christian life is just rainbows and lollipops all the time, riding on unicorns?
I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but I would venture to say that you probably have. I’ve heard this from unbelievers before. Well, Christians are just those good people. They’re just always so good. They’re goody two-shoes. Everything always goes right for those Christians.
Friend, that is not the Christianity that we represent, is it? Instead what our lives—the testimony of our lives and the relationship that we have with the Lord Jesus Christ—instead what it needs to say to the world is that, yes, life is hard, but there is a good God. There is hope here in this fallen world. Friend, that’s why God kept me here, to tell you about that hope. And the only place you can find that hope is in Jesus Christ. He’s the one who said, come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.
So as we approach Psalm 13, don’t see it with those tainted glasses. That tainted vision that Christianity is supposed to be all cleaned up and shiny and polished. That you have to come in here, and you can’t be honest with people about where your soul is really at.
You know what I would love to see next Sunday? I would love to walk through those doors and to see scattered all over this auditorium people praying for each other because they said, you know what, I’m hurting. I’m struggling, and I really don’t know why. I crack open my Bible, and I look and I read and it’s just words on a page, and I don’t understand why I’m feeling that way. Would you pray for me? And I don’t think I’m the only one that has ever experienced that this morning, am I?
So as we look at Psalm 13, we look at a man who knows what it is to be in a desperate position, and yet we also look at a man whose faith is exercised even in just six verses. His faith takes him from a point of desperation to a point of determination. Some have said that this Psalm could be called or characterized as seeing David going from the depths of the valley all the way up to the heights of the mountaintops, and I respect those who say that, but I think I see it a little bit differently.
I see it more as David beginning from a position of seated with his face in his hands just crying out to God, and then I see in verses 3 and 4, I see a man who stands up, and then in verses 5 and 6, I see a man who determines to walk with his God. We’ll notice that nothing in his circumstances changes within these six verses. The only thing that changes is his resolve. The only thing that changes is, he’s brought himself from a place of emotion to a place of thoughtfulness, and now he’s meditating on God’s truth, and he can live out that truth. He can walk out that truth.
We also don’t know how long it took David to move from those positions. Did it take him as long as it would take to write six verses? Did it take him a couple of days? Did it take him a couple of years? We don’t know. But you’ll remember from David’s life, he was a man that was well acquainted with suffering, wasn’t he? Anointed king as a teenager, then went to slay the giant that mocked his God even though no one else in all of Israel would stand up to him. Became a hero but then a jealous king threw a spear at him one day and set his aim to kill David, and Saul chased David for years, and he hid inside of caves, and he hid across enemy lines until one day his God would bring him back, and eventually Israel was at the height of its power, the greatest kingdom in the world at that time. Israel under the kingship of David.
But then one day as David got a little bit older, he relaxed his standards a bit. He was supposed to be out to war, but instead he was hanging out on his rooftop, attempting to see things he should not have seen. And he sinfully set his eyes on another man’s wife one day. And he took that man’s wife and then he killed the man. After he was called out by the prophet, he repented of his sin. He was utterly broken of his sin, and yet there are consequences to sin, aren’t there?
And so David’s first-born with Bathsheba was taken from him. David’s life continues, and then eventually he had a son who thought that his dad was ruling long enough and that his son was going to take the throne from him. And he marched in to Jerusalem, and David marched out of Jerusalem, chased off of his throne by his own son.
Eventually he gets his throne back, but it came at the cost of his son’s life, and he wept and mourned the rest of his life for that son. David suffered quite a bit, and I’m guessing that you, too, have probably suffered quite a bit in your lifetime. I’m guessing that you know what it is to live in a fallen world, that you know the aches and the pains that accompany sin. Your own sin, certainly. The sin of the people around you, certainly. But just the reality of living in a fallen world. It gets tiresome, doesn’t it?
So what do we do when we face those times where we’re at the end of our rope? We’re not sure if we can continue on. What do we do? That’s exactly what we see in Psalm 13. You may be interested to note that there are more lament psalms than any other kind of psalm in the whole Bible. There are more psalms that cry out to God as if you’re life depended on it than there are psalms of any other kind in the Bible. But that really doesn’t come as a surprise to us. When we live in a fallen world, we understand that it’s hard, isn’t it?
And so, brothers and sisters, as we look at Psalm 13, I hope that God, through the power of his Spirit, would perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps ten years from now be able to take you from a point where you feel as though you are desperate and bring you to a point where you are absolutely determined that in Jesus, your firm foundation, you will not be shaken.
1. The Cry of the Desperate
As we look at this psalm, I want to break this up in three particular parts. The first one that I want to look at in verses 1 and 2 is the cry of the desperate. The cry of the desperate. Verses 1 and 2 David almost pelts God with four questions. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”
David is wondering if God has forgotten him. David is wondering why it seems that God is hiding his face from him. After all, David would be well acquainted with the priestly blessing found in Deuteronomy. May the Lord be gracious to you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you. David would have heard that over and over and over again in his life, but the problem that he’s facing is not that he’s not hearing it. The problem that he is facing is that he’s not feeling it.
He doesn’t feel that shining face of God’s presence in his life, and so he cries out, how long? Has God forgotten him? Will God hide from him much longer? How long should he wrestle with his own thoughts? How long does he have to face that internal discouragement that only you can know? How long does he have to face defeat from his enemies? He cries out to God with these questions, and I wonder if you have ever reached a point in your life where you have cried out to God with some of these similar questions.
I wonder if you have ever opened your Bible in the morning, and you’ve been faithful to get up and do your devotions. You’ve made the coffee, you’ve set the rocking chair out—whatever your particular preparation is for your time with the Lord in the morning. You’ve done all of those things, and you sit there and you open the Bible, and it seems as though it’s the New York Times or any other publication that’s been written by a human being. It seems as though it’s just not living the way it once did to me.
It seems as though God isn’t there in the pages leaping out at me. It seems as though God has forgotten me. It seems as though God is hiding from me. It seems as if the pressures, the internal thoughts, the turmoil that’s going on in my mind and the turmoil that’s going on in my heart, it seems as though it will never end.
He says he’s taken counsel in his soul and he’s having sorrow in his heart all the day. How long will he be mocked by those who do not love God? How long will he be ridiculed by those who do not know God? How long will he be chastised by those who hate God?
Friends, when you find yourself in that position, the only thing you can do is cry out, isn’t it? God, how long? I know what’s true here, God. I know what I’ve been taught. I know what your word says, but how long though? How long will I wrestle with these things, God? I’m taking counsel in myself, but I’m learning that I’m an even worse counselor than I thought I was. How long, God? How long am I going to wrestle with all of these things?
In our sort of plastic version of Christianity that we present to people—our fake smiles and our “fines”, “everything’s going good”—we tend to think that it’s wrong to ask God questions sometimes, as if I have to be afraid that I might say the wrong thing to God. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a reverence that accompanies our lives. There absolutely must be a reverence that accompanies our lives; but friend, don’t forget what Jesus has done for you. Don’t forget that the veil is torn, that if you’re in Christ you have full access to God. You have a high priest that has secured your right to ask those questions.
Think of the example of Job. Satan came to God, and Job was the topic of conversation. And Satan basically said, well, his life’s so good; that’s why he’s faithful to you. Of course, he’s a righteous man. He’s rich. He’s got a great family. He’s got tons of land and a great house. He doesn’t have any problems at all. Let me have a crack at him.
So God says, okay, and the story goes on, and Satan gets a couple of cracks at Job. And then from chapter 3 on through chapter 38 it’s basically Job asking God a bunch of questions, isn’t it? Friend, do you know that faith sometimes responds in questions? Just because you have a question, just because you ask God something like how long, Lord, does not mean you don’t have faith.
Who does David aim his question at? How long, O, Lord? David knows where to take his questions, doesn’t he? David knows the only person that can answer his questions is his God. And notice it’s in all capital letters, which means David is using the covenant name of God. How long, Yahweh? How long? How long, God, who has covenanted with me to keep me and protect me and save me? How long?
And then, of course, thinking about the subject of questions as they arise in the Scriptures, we come to the ultimate one, the Lord Jesus himself on the cross. You remember his question? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Did Jesus ever sin? I tell the students that’s a softball question. I lob it up, and you hit it out of the park. Jesus never sinned, did he? Never sinned. And yet he asked God a question, didn’t he? Why have you forsaken me?
It’s okay to take your questions to God. He can handle them. He can handle every single one of your questions, and you know what, before you ask him, he already knows it’s there. And you know what’s more, before he ever even created the world he knew that in 2017 you were going to ask that very question. There’s nothing too big or too hard for our God, is there? There’s no question that throws him off. Take your questions to this God.
We might be tempted to think that asking questions demonstrates a lack of faith, but these questions that David is asking, and if you’re in Christ the questions that you ask as well, they arise from a position of faith.
I remember shortly after the Lord saved me, about ten, eleven years ago now, I was driving to work one morning, and I was wrestling with God’s existence. I thought, man, I grew up thinking I was a Christian. Now God has transformed my life. I’ve been born again. Now I really am a Christian even though I always thought I was. And here I am wrestling with whether or not God exists.
And so I’m just praying, God, are you there? Can you show me something to prove that you’re there? I’m just having this dialog with God, and then all of a sudden it hits me—wait a second, of course, I think God’s there. Who in the world am I talking to? It dawned on me like the sun breaking through the monsoon clouds. And the Spirit testified with my spirit that I’m a child of God.
It’s okay to take your questions to God. It’s okay to ask them. It’s okay to tell other people here that you have questions. It’s okay to tell people that you have struggles. We don’t want to present a false version of Christianity, do we? We’re not interested in a Barbie doll plastic version of Christianity. We’re interested in the real thing. We understand that this is not a place where perfect people come to gather in their perfect little worlds. We understand that this is a hospital for sick, dying people.
I understand that the only thing that makes me right with God is the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not my personal devotions. It’s not my prayer life. Those things are good. Those are the ways that we grow in that relationship. But it’s not any of those things. It’s my union with the Lord Jesus Christ, and that makes me right with God.
And so if I’m right with God, not based on anything that I do, if I’m right with God based on what Jesus Christ has done, then, friend, I can be honest with you about what a miserable wretch Will Peterson is sometimes. I can be honest with you about the struggles that I sometimes have, the doubts perhaps I sometimes have, the questions that I have.
And if you understand that your faith in Christ is secure in Christ, and you’ve been sealed by the Holy Spirit of God, then, friend, what are you waiting for? Why are you holding those back? Your God can handle it, and his people love you enough to be able to handle it as well. Cry out to God. Take those questions to God. That’s the cry of the desperate.
2. The Prayer of the Desperate
And then in verses 3 through 4, let’s look at the prayer of the desperate. The prayer of the desperate. You’ll notice the change of tone that is found in these two verses here. “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.”
Notice the language that David is now using. He’s not asking questions anymore, is he? In fact, he makes three imperative statements. It’s almost as if he has the audacity to command God to give him an answer. He says to consider, he says to answer, and he says to light up my eyes.
To consider means to look intently at. It’s as if he is sort of grabbing God by his collar and saying, God, look at this, look at me, look at my life. Don’t turn your face away from me anymore. Look at what’s going on in my life. He’s demanding that God would give him an answer. Does that sound like a man who’s not sure if God is there? Does that sound like a man who does not have any faith, does not have any hope? It certainly sounds like a desperate man, but it sounds like a man who knows where he needs to go, doesn’t it?
Charles Spurgeon told the story of a lady in his congregation that he called Mrs. Much-Afraid. I don’t know that he called her that to her face, though Spurgeon was pretty blunt most of the time, so maybe he did. He called her Mrs. Much-Afraid, and she was always wrestling with the turmoils of life. She was always wondering about her salvation. She was always in an upheaval spiritually.
And so one day Spurgeon was talking with her and was talking rather bluntly with her and said to her that she was basically acting like a hypocrite and that he didn’t want those sort of hypocrites coming to church. And he was doing this to get to a point. And she was responding and having this dialogue with him. And eventually he took out his billfold and he said, I will give you five pounds for your hope. I’ll give you five pounds for your hope. Sell it to me. I’ll give you five pounds for it.
And Mrs. Much-Afraid thought for a second, and she said, I would not sell my hope for a thousand worlds. And Spurgeon’s point was finally made. Mrs. Much-Afraid, you have more hope than you realize that you have. You have the faith that you doubt that you have. Because if you didn’t have any hope, you’d take the money and leave. But you actually have the thing that you’re wrestling with, and that’s in fact exactly why you are wrestling in the first place.
If you didn’t think God were there, you would leave him, wouldn’t you? But instead because you know he’s there, because you know he doesn’t leave his people, because you know he doesn’t forsake his people, you wrestle with him. And you come to a point eventually where, though you might respond emotionally as David did in verses 1 and 2, you eventually respond intellectually.
Isn’t it how we respond initially when we find ourselves in a difficult time? The emotions take charge, don’t they? And some of us are wired to be a little bit more emotional than others, and some of us over time have learned that your temptation is to respond emotionally, and so you’ve worked very hard to get yourself to a point where that the response time of your thoughts would kick in very quickly after your emotions kick in. But we tend to respond to things emotionally.
And so David responded to his situation emotionally in verses 1 to 2, but now he’s come to a point where he’s beginning to think—wait a second, can God actually hide his face from me? Isn’t God’s presence everywhere? Wait a second, what do I know to be true right now? What’s true in this situation?
And so he begins to think about what’s actually going on, and he says to God, consider and answer me, O Lord. Light up my eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemies say I’ve prevailed over him, lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. He begins to list to God the reasons why God must answer him. I wonder, friend, if you have ever had the boldness in your prayer life to do that very thing.
One of my favorite preachers and commentators, Dale Ralph Davis, says, “At the throne of grace tears fall from your eyes and arguments from your lips.” He means arguments in the sense of reasoning. When you approach the throne of grace with boldness based upon what the Lord Jesus Christ has given you access to, tears may be falling from your eyes, but you eventually come to a point where you understand, okay, I gotta go to God.
God, me and you are going to have this out. I’m going to talk to you, and I’m going to speak to you exactly what I’m feeling because I know you already know it anyway. And God, I’m going to list reasons why I think you should answer my prayer, and yet the humility comes in there, and so I know that though you may not answer my prayers according to how I pray them, I actually want your will more than I want my will. But here’s my requests, God. I’m laying it out. Here’s the reasons why I think it’s the best thing in this situation.
Do you have the boldness in your prayer life to do that? After all, Hebrews 4:14-16 says:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence [not timidity, but confidence] draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
David was before his time. He was drawing near to the throne of grace with confidence, wasn’t he? He begins to reason with God. He lists three reasons why God should answer his prayer. He says, if you don’t answer me, if you don’t act in this situation, I’m going to die. Lest I sleep the sleep of death, light up my eyes.
You know that saying, “the eyes are the window to the soul”? I don’t know if that’s true, but the eyes certainly say a lot about a person, don’t they. You can tell in someone’s eyes when that, “Oh, I’m fine,” isn’t really true, can’t you? The eyes say a lot about what’s going on inside of the heart. David’s eyes are droopy. They’re dim. They lost their shine. And he’s saying, God, if you don’t revive me, if you don’t restore my soul, if you don’t empower me from within, I’m going to die here.
He says his enemies will prevail over him and his foes will rejoice because he’s shaken. They’re gonna sing a song because the man of God has fallen. They’re mocking the child of God, and therefore they’re mocking the God of the child. And so David just begins to reason with God. He’s telling God why he should answer his prayer; and once again, this reminds us of something that the Lord Jesus himself did.
The night that he was betrayed he goes to pray in the garden of Gethsemane, and he takes his three closest friends with him, but they can’t seem to stay awake. And so Jesus all alone, knowing exactly what was coming his way, goes and prays to his Father. And he says, my Father, if it be your will, let this cup pass from me. But he didn’t stop there. He said, nevertheless, not my will but your will be done.
Jesus asked to let the cup of the wrath of God that he was going to drink on the cross, let it pass me, but ultimately, I want your will, Father. And so at the same time Jesus knew that cup was not going to pass him. That cup could not pass him. But he had such an intimate relationship with his Father that he could ask that very thing.
Friend, do you have that type of relationship with the heavenly Father? Do you know him? Do you know him? The only way to know him is through the Lord Jesus Christ. This isn’t the Center for Spiritual Living. You can’t do it on your own. Your sin separates you from a holy and righteous, just God. That’s why you need a Savior. That’s why the Bible says there’s only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
Friend, are you in Christ? Have you turned away from your wretched sinful life and owned it and said, God, I’m done with that. I’m done with trying to rely upon myself. I know that I fail, and I try to clean myself up, and I try to make excuses in front of other people, but when the doors are closed, I know that you’re right about me, God, that I’m a sinner. So God, save me. I come to Jesus in faith, trusting in him.
Friend, has that ever happened in your life? And if it has happened in your life, do you come back to that point every single day? The gospel never gets old to us, does it? That’s why we sing it. That’s why we pray it. That’s why we preach it. That’s why we share it with the world. That’s why we meditate on it ourselves, because the gospel never gets old. Grace is always amazing.
3. The Determination of the Desperate
The last movement in this psalm—we’ve seen the cry of the desperate, the prayer of the desperate, and now we want to look at the determination of the desperate. The determination of the desperate. David began this psalm wrestling with himself, but now he can take his eyes off of himself. He’s looking outside of himself now, and he’s looking to the one that he knows can help him.
Verses 5-6: “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” David makes three resolutions here, and I think we would do well to pay attention to this today.
I think we live in a time where, if I can say it, we have sort of a sissy Christianity. You know, I’m gonna try to get my eyes on God, but I just struggle. It’s just hard. Next week: How’s that going for you? Well, you know, I just struggle. It’s just hard. You know how it is. And we live in this constant state of defeat.
Life’s a struggle, isn’t it? We know that life’s a struggle. But friend, more than that, we know that Jesus overcame, as we sang earlier. And in him I also overcome. And yes, life is a struggle, but praise God, because of Jesus Christ I am going to determine to follow him in the face of anything that comes my way. I’m going to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, and I’m going to walk the walk.
You see why I said this begins with David like this, and then he stands up, and then he determines himself to walk forward in life. I don’t know what your struggles are. I don’t know what things that you have gone through in life, and quite honestly, you don’t know what I’ve gone through in life. But guess what, we don’t need to know that about each other.
The only thing we need to know is who our God is, don’t we. It doesn’t matter the things that have come into my life. It doesn’t matter the struggles and the emotional scars that I bear with me. It doesn’t matter. It only matters who I am in Christ. It only matters what Jesus Christ has accomplished for me.
And so David says, but I might be wrestling with my feelings. I might be attempting to put my mind into the right place, but I’m not going to stay there. I will walk forward. I have trusted in your steadfast love. Who’s he speaking to? He’s still speaking to his God, isn’t he? He’s speaking to the only one that bears steadfast love.
This is the covenant love of God. Hesed. It’s that word that runs throughout the Old Testament and then gets carried out into the New Testament as we think about the love of Christ that extends to his people. It’s that love that God put on his people Israel when they did not deserve it. It’s that love that’s not dependent on the performance of Will Peterson or anybody else. It’s the love that’s dependent on the God who gives it.
And so he’s back in his right mind, and he says, you know what, it doesn’t matter how I’m feeling. I know who you are, God. I know how you act, God. I know that when you covenant with someone, you don’t break that covenant. I know that nothing will separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
As it says in Romans 8:38-39:
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.
David appeals to that love. Not the kind of love that you and I give—the kind of love that we turn on one minute and turn off the next minute. When you rub me the wrong way, okay, I’m not going to love you anymore. Forget that person. They should just go to another church or something. Maybe I’ll just go to another church or something. Forget those people.
Friend, can you imagine if Jesus Christ did that to you? There he goes, he sinned again. He just woke up and he already sinned. See ya, buddy. That’s not the love that God gives, and so David doesn’t appeal to the love that any human being could give to him. He appeals to the love that only his God can give him, his steadfast love.
And then from the depths of who he is, my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. He doesn’t say my heart is going to try to rejoice in your salvation today, God. He doesn’t say, you know, if I can get my feelings back in order, then my heart’s going to rejoice in your salvation, God. No, he says my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. Do you hear the determination here? Do you see that here?
And then he says I will sing to the Lord because he has dealt bountifully with me. I will sing to the Lord because he has dealt bountifully with me. I’m not a good singer, but singing helps the soul, doesn’t it? I know some of us are a little bit grumpy when it’s time to sing, and we don’t really open our mouths because we just want to get to the word part. Friend, it’s very biblical to sing to God. Sing like there’s nobody around you. Cry out to your God. Sing to him.
Why? Why would I do that? Because he has dealt bountifully with you, if you’re in Christ. He’s given you more than you deserve, hasn’t he? He’s given even unbelievers more than they deserve. Our sin should send us directly to hell from birth, and yet here we are in a cool, airconditioned theater enjoying each other’s fellowship, directing our attention to the word of God, singing to him, praying to him. God has dealt bountifully with you, my friend.
What is David doing here? Well, he’s doing something that he didn’t know was cool, as cool as it is today. He’s preaching the gospel to himself. He’s reminding himself of how God has acted on his behalf. He’s rejoicing in God’s salvation. He’s saying, no matter what my circumstances may be, I know the God who is in control of those circumstances, and I know that I am absolutely secure in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing can separate me from the love of God, not even my own wicked self.
And so in his moment of desperation, in the bottom of that valley, he can rest in God’s sovereign love, can’t he? My friend, that same thing is true for you, if you’re in Christ. No matter what you might be going through, as difficult as it might be, as insensitive as it might seem for me to say this, you can rest in the love of your God. And when we fix our eyes on what Jesus Christ has done for us, everything else just sort of melts away, doesn’t it?
God, I realize there’s no problem bigger than my sin problem. Forget the person who just sinned against me. There’s no problem bigger than my sin problem. It’s the tax collector beating his chest saying, God, be merciful to me the sinner. God, there’s nothing bigger than my sin problem. Have you ever realized that before? Have you ever come to God for the solution for that sin problem in Jesus Christ?
So David moves from a point of desperation to a point of determination, and very quickly I want to give you sort of three points of application if you haven’t already gotten these. I want to draw your attention to how we should also respond in desperate times.
Three Way to Respond in Desperate Times:
1. Take your trouble to God.
The first one is to take your trouble to God, the only place where you’ll find relief. When we are weak, when we are in this position of desperation, sometimes it’s tempting for us to take our troubles to a friend who is just going to make us feel better about that, isn’t it? A friend who maybe won’t say what’s true to us, a friend who will commiserate with us.
Yeah, you’re right, your boss is a jerk. Your husband shouldn’t have said that to you. You’re totally right. It’s easy to do that, isn’t it? But don’t take your problems to a place where you can find no relief from them. Take all of your questions, take all of your confusion to the only place where you can find the answers—to God himself.
2. Have humble confidence in your prayer life.
And then secondly, have a humble confidence in your prayer life. Have a humble confidence in your prayer life. God is God and we are not. Heaven is his throne and the earth is his footstool, and yet he has given us access to his throne of grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. You’re not God. You can’t speak flippantly to him, but you can speak confidently to him. You can reason with him.
3. Resolve to live according to what’s true and not what you feel.
And then thirdly, resolve to live according to what’s true and not what you feel. Most of the world’s problems would be resolved if we just did that, wouldn’t it? If people would just stop bickering back and forth for the sake of bickering. If we would just stop letting our emotion be the car that leads everything, and put it back at the caboose, and let truth be what leads us, and let truth be what guides us. And eventually our emotions will fall into place with that. But resolve to live according to what’s true and not according to what you feel.
In 1871 a great fire swept through one of my favorite cities, the city of Chicago, and it caused total destruction, mass destruction, to that city. It left about a hundred thousand people homeless, and at the time there was a lawyer living there with his family, named Horatio Spafford. He was a friend of D. L. Moody and was well acquainted with his ministry, was a faithful man.
He lost just about everything he had in the Chicago fire. Earlier that year he had lost his four-year-old son, the only son that he had, and so he was left with his wife and four daughters. In November of 1873 they decided to take a family trip to England. They were going to visit D. L. Moody on one of his evangelistic crusades, and they were also going to get away and have some vacation time together.
Some last minute business came up in Chicago, and so Horatio had to stay there, and he sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him on a luxurious French liner. On November 22nd as that ship was crossing the ocean it collided with another ship. And it only took, records say, about 12 minutes for that ship to sink into the bottom of the middle of the ocean. Once the survivors finally made it back to Cardiff, Wales, Mrs. Spafford, who was the lone survivor from her family, sent a cable back to her husband saying two words: Saved alone.
You can imagine the devastation that Horatio was feeling and certainly Mrs. Spafford was feeling as well, and so he as soon as he could, he made his voyage over to be with his wife and to comfort her. And as they were passing the spot where the ship was said to have gone down, the captain called him out and said, this is where your daughters are laid to rest.
It’s not quite clear if he penned the words to “It is Well with My Soul” on that voyage, if perhaps it came after, but certainly the words were spoken and written about that specific moment. The first line says, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows role, whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well with my soul.”
Father, teach us to say that very same thing. It is well with my soul. No matter what may come our way. No matter what trials, no matter what temptations, no matter what suffering we may endure, make the Lord Jesus Christ so precious to us that nothing compares with knowing him.
God, remind us of our sin, not the world’s sin around us, but our own personal sin so that we would be more and more amazed by the grace that you have shown to us in saving us. Lift us up out of those moments of desperation, and bring us to a place where we can be determined to live a life wholly dedicated to you, God. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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