“I will give thanks to You, O Lord among the heavens,
I will sing praises to You among the nations,
For your steadfast love is great,
Is great to the heavens,
And Your faithfulness, Your faithfulness, to the clouds!
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
Let Your glory be over all the earth!
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
Let Your glory be over all the earth!”
We would probably refer to this praise song as “an oldie.” The funny thing is until many of us read Psalm 57 this week; we may not have grasped just how much of “an oldie” it is! It is not just a song that was written in 1977 – the Holy Spirit through His servant David gave it to us. What may tend to astound us a little is the music studio in which it was written.
There he sat in a dark cave, wondering what possibly could be next. What had it been – 4 or 5 years he had been on the run? A fugitive from justice – at least the royal excuse for justice at the present moment. He could hear his own breathing – as well as the breathing of a small band of men who were with him in the place where light would not betray their presence.
What would today bring? Another close call with death – another sprint up the side of a mountain with our pursuers barely out of sight? It was a lonely existence and often a frustrating one. But before his thoughts could turn to another thing there was a noise at the entrance of their hideout. Silence – absolute silence had to be observed. Did someone see them come in? Did they not cover their tracks well enough? Even worse – were these their final moments before a flood of battle-hardened warriors would begin what would be literally the fight of his life?
No it was only one person – wait – it was one very recognizable person from his attire. The king was entering the cave – and remarkably – he was alone. It was soon evident that he was there to relieve himself. A lone soldier silently came to his side and whispered in his ear. “David – this is it – you can end all this now. God has led your enemy right to you where you can strike him down.”
The stealthy voice was hushed as David took only a moment (but it felt like a year) to know what he should do.
“This is God’s anointed!” He thought, “How can I stretch out my hand and kill him without guilt? He moved as if a small wisp of wind and cut just the corner of Saul’s garment off of the robe. Soon Saul was finished and began to depart from the cave.
David waited a few minutes and then followed him. His men crept behind him to see what would happen. David called out to Saul and apologized.
APOLOGIZED! What was he doing, his men thought!
He isn’t going to kill him?
He’s apologizing – and he’s giving away our position!
We’re all dead men now!
But soon after they heard Saul weep and apologize to him!
What an amazing thing to see and hear.
What a strange day it was.
That night they sat around the fire and David pulled out his lyre. They loved when he did this – for few if any could write and sing like their captain. What prayer would he weave with his music and words tonight? This was a new one – and from what he said – it about today’s events in the cave.
“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge Until destruction passes by.”
Sounds right – sounds like what we’ve been going through – that is for sure! But David continued with more.
I will cry to God Most High,
To God who accomplishes all things for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches him who tramples upon me.
Our captain is so good at telling the story! We were praying too! It is truly amazing how he turns to God in every situation. It is amazing that he looks to Jehovah to deliver him – and – us! Reproach? Yeah – Jehovah needs to do a little reproaching and rebuking! We are being trampled. The thoughts of what he just sang ran wild in their heads as he went through a little break from singing and the music played by itself.
A flourish of music seemed to be leading to some kind of revelation.
“God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.”
Send love and truth? What we need to be asking for is a few more soldiers – no – a lot more soldiers! Maybe even a batch of angels!
“My soul is among lions;
I must lie among those who breathe forth fire,
Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows
And their tongue a sharp sword.”
As I turned and elbowed a buddy next to me – we both had that look in our eyes. Yeah – David – tell it like it is!
Lions – yep – they’re like lions – fire breathing lions – with teeth like spears and arrows! Absolutely David – their tongue is like a sword – a very sharp one! We braced ourselves longing for a little more judgment talk! We wondered how God was going to deal with our persecutors? This was going to be good!
“Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.’
Looked at my buddy and shrugged. Where did THAT come from? He’s started praising God.
We were kind of used to this. It was like one moment he is concerned – maybe even a little mad. Then – boom – it’s like God does something to his heart and his tone changes.
You know - It’s like he sees something we don’t. Almost like God was in the midst of all this mess. Kind of like – no matter what God is still in control of it all? Whatever the case – it may be disturbing – but it sure is amazing and enlightening!
They have prepared a net for my steps;
My soul is bowed down;
They dug a pit before me;
They themselves have fallen into the midst of it.
YESSIR David! It was like they were hunting us with a net and a pit!
Right again! Our souls were bowed down too! And its about time for someone to knock them into their own pit.
Then – there is was again – that flourish in the music that meant a conclusion – or maybe some kind of insight. Oh how we loved how he did this!
“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens
And Your truth to the clouds.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.
There he goes again – praising and worshipping God. Was hoping for fire and judgment – but he turns to God and wants to awaken the morning.
Boy - how he views things so very differently than us! Oh – and there it is again – that same chorus.
Be exalted above the heavens – Let Your glory be above all the earth.
Not exactly what I was expecting after that harrowing experience! Then it was done – the song was over. Like all of his songs – this one left us thinking – wondering – considering things.
“You know – there is something about these songs,” I thought. Strange – but the more I hear them – the more I trust in God. The more any situation becomes Jehovah’s situation. The more I see God ultimately in control – no matter how bad or how good it gets.
Then there is also that steady drum beat of everything being for God’s glory.
I looked over at my buddy one last time before I lay down to sleep. “Eh – pretty good song,” I said. “And weird as it may seem – it makes me want to trust God right along with him.”
As I turned my head and lay on the ground I thought of the words of the song I just heard – and drifted off into a restful night’s sleep. My last conscious thoughts were – “With a God like that – doesn’t matter what your situation is – a man can sleep peacefully at night.”
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord remind us that our words affect people - no matter how they are shared. May we then speak words that build up rather than tear down.
First of all, my heart goes out to those in Oregon at the community college that was the site of the recent rampage that killed 9 students. As was the case with every shooting like this, I have a special place of empathy and sympathy for those involved. Having been one of the pastors who helped pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the Westside school shooting, I know what it is like to be a community living in the aftermath of these kind of horrors. Long after the news trucks and politicians have milked what they can from the situation, those locally are the ones who put things back together for months and years afterward. No knee-jerk reaction by either those on the political or journalistic right or left solves anything. And after thinking about this for the past several days - ANY knee-jerk reaction in the midst of the pain and horror will probably do more harm than good. It is better for wiser, less power-motivated people to think through things and come up with truly wise decisions. That being said - I do want to weigh in on a matter that currently is breaking my heart as I read about this event.
I read several articles online about this wickedness, and in seeking to be informed, was shocked at the kind of rhetoric that is dominating the conversation. There was one news report that tried its best to stick to the facts on the incident - but the others quickly descended into pejorative and incendiary remarks that broke my heart. You can actually look at the source of the articles and pretty much predict whether it is going to be a rant from the right of the left before you even read the article. One rants about gun violence - the other gun control. Some rant about this being a hate crime - others that it is senseless violence. But if you truly want to be shocked, read the comments below the articles. The pure unadulterated vitriol and verbal poison spewed there blows my mind. It is as if we are unable to react to the tragedy and horror of what the people in Oregon are going through without immediately indicting the political right or left for what has happened. If you read enough of it - you will find yourself inexorably drawn into it - with the subsequent raising of your blood pressure and temptation to join in the verbal barrage from one vantage point or the other. After reading all this and thinking about it, I’d like to take a great risk and seek to insert some Scripture into our understanding of Oregon, Charleston, Fort Hood, Ferguson, Columbine, and even Westside.
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:29-32
I’ve actually walked up to a school that was shot up and smelled of death. I have sat and talked with people who were in shock after they endured an attack like this. They need comfort, prayer, and a shoulder to cry on. They need “edifying” words spoken - words which give them grace as they hear them. They do NOT need anyone from either side of the political aisle to politicize their suffering and grief. Paul said it best when he said we need to be kind and tender-hearted - steering clear of bitter, angry, clamoring, slanderous words that try to assign blame to someone other than the evil man who murdered 9 people at the community college where this happened. It is unconscionable in any of these horrific situations to take the pain or others and turn it into a platform for political action - and to do so before the sun even goes down on the blood of those who have lost their lives. What we did at Westside for days was sit and listen and cry and pray and comfort real, living, hurting people.
Where are we as a nation when even our most tragic moments cannot elicit from us comfort and compassion without it degenerating to a political shouting match within hours? I was in shock as I read how people posted online the most horrible statements about each other and about various groups that either support or oppose gun control. Both sides should be ashamed of themselves for using this event for their own ends. Before we have even buried one of the dead - the rhetorical “long-knives” have come out and the battle has ensued for who can claim the moral high ground. The truth is both sides are patently immoral for their words and actions that seek to use this situation for their own benefit - rather than respond with grief, compassion for those killed and their families, and prayer and support for the community that needs it right now.
Let me ask a few questions as I close this article. Rather than get caught up in the political rhetorical barrages that are being loosed by both sides, can we consider the following course of action instead? Will we use our words to build up others according to the NEED of this moment? Will we consider how to insert GRACE (especially the grace of God in the gospel) into the conversation? Will we make a decided choice NOT to respond with bitter statements and anger toward the wrong people or groups? Will we choose to reject what the Scriptures call “clamor”? (the word here is “krauge” and it spoke of a public outcry or public controversy - think seriously about the political people using this for THEIR advantage right now) Will we reject the temptation to slander others by stating that this shooting is their fault because they did or didn’t support “insert your issue of choice”. The fact is that this shooting is the fault of the lawless, ungodly actions of one man who chose to act wickedly! Here is the truth folks! We can use our words right now to build up or to tear down. The choice is ours. May God so work in the hearts of His saints, that especially in this situation, we look and talk radically different than the rest of the world.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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