This week Graham continued the series on the eight prayer Psalms of David. He reminded us that when we cry out to God in this way we can trust and rely on him to answer our prayers. No matter how desperate our situation, we can be used to transform the world around us. This has been the experience of Christian’s throughout the centuries.
You can listen again to the sermon here:
Psalms 138 – 145
The eight prayer Psalms of David
In order to read these prayers in such a way that they speak to both you and I in our time we must first note some features of their context.
These prayers are the prayers of one person. They present us with his thoughts, his hopes and beliefs and sometimes his human limitations. These are the prayers of a king. They are from the pre New Covenant age.
An introduction to the Psalms
The book of Psalms can be seen as a collection of poems prayers and songs. So it is a collection of these that have been used and are intended for use.
The Psalms represent the faith that had matured over centuries and had reached the stage of development at the time the collection was put together during, or shortly after, the exile into Babylon, probably by temple priests. It became the prayer book during the exile, in the life of the rebuilt temple after the exile and in the synagogues up to the time of Jesus and beyond. It is still used in synagogues and in the church of Jesus the Messiah.
One way to use the Psalms is to pray aloud portions of them as words of our own prayers to God.
1 A Safe Place
2 He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge.
“Rock”. Compare with Jesus claiming to be the Rock. See also building on rock and not sand. The psalmist describes God as fortress, shield. He sees God as his safe place.
24 ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’ 33 As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.’
In Jesus is our safe place.
2 A Loving God
3 Lord, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them?
Compare with Hebrews 2:5-8 Jesus made fully human
5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified: ‘What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? 7 You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honour 8 and put everything under their feet.’
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? 5 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour. 6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, 8 the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. 9 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Verse 7 “Foreigners”.
The psalmist wanted to be delivered from foreigners. Yet the blessing given to Abraham at the birth of Jewish nationhood was the Abraham and his descendants would be blessed to be a blessing to all nations.
1 The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 ‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’
I remember objections to the building of the Channel Tunnel. One objection from Christians at the time was that as Europe was mainly secular (or Roman Catholic) to then fear was that they could influence our national life in a bad way. I used to argue that we should not fear that they could come to us, but have faith that we could take the gospel to them.
Recently I was with some Elim leaders. As we chatted together we ended up talking about the low value of the pound. There were four of us and it turned out that one of us at voted for leave in the Brexit vote. He told us why. He said the same thing that I had heard all those years before about the Channel Tunnel, that in the realms of faith and the shaping of society “they” could have a negative effect upon us!
Talking with a church leader recently I heard how he was trying to give leadership in a situation where believers were fearful of pressures upon them rather that seeing opportunities.
3 A Torn Sky
Part your heavens, Lord, and come down; touch the mountains, so that they smoke.
Compare with Psalms 18
9 He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. 10 He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.
The psalmist remembers past events that he interpreted as intervention by God. He sees it as a cosmic disturbance when God comes to judge and intervene in his world. He wants a repeat of the past such as that described in Psalm 18
This longing for the parted skies is repeated by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 64.
1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! 2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! 3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
It is the longing of the psalmists nation’s and is seen repeatedly in the Old Testament scriptures. Eventually, it happens, in the coming of the Messiah. See Hebrews 12:18ff.
We may often find ourselves repeating the sort of cry that came from the psalmist but we should hold in trust to what has already been provided. The Messiah has come, the Comforter has made his dwelling within us. We are the transformed, the born again, the eternal ones.