# 107 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 25 My hope, Lord, is in you.

6a0120a7fc3be9970b01b8d129527e970c

Watching the news on TV has its positives and negatives. The positive’s being that at least we have some idea (if not necessarily the ‘whole truth’) of what important things are happening around the world. The negatives being that these events are, more than often, overwhelmingly devastating, impacting people in terrible ways. But, we still like to be up to date and particularly in the light of the fact that many of our friends live cross-culturally in these nations where tragedy of some type is happening.

For example, friends serving in Cambodia living in the midst of monsoon flooding; friends serving in Spain in the midst of internal political strife related to the Catalan people; friends serving in Iraq where the issues relate to the Kurdish people; friends serving in Mexico in the midst of earthquakes; others in Japan, and in Korea, and so the list goes on.

And, not only are there expatriate friends living there, but there are the national people and amongst them the many national believers, the Church, who struggle in the midst of injustice, internal conflict, natural disasters, etc.

Psalm 25, most probably written by David, was relevant to whatever situation he found himself in when he wrote it, thousands of years ago. But, it is still very relevant to so many people in 2017 who find themselves in the midst of troubles. Maybe you are one of them? If so, this prayer psalm is for you. You can, like David, pour out your struggles to God, remembering, and being encouraged by all that David has reminded us about our faithful and good God up to this point in this psalm (i.e. verses 1-15).

And so David prays to the Lord:

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
19 See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!

20 Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, Lord, is in you.

22 Deliver Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!

In these verses David uses a number of verbs describing what he desires God to do for him, such as:

Turn to me…be gracious to me…relieve the troubles…free me…look on my affliction…take away my sins…see how numerous…guard my life.

I wonder, how often in our requests to God do we use such language? How bold are we as we talk over with our King the issues in our lives? It seems that David’s relationship with God was so intimate that he could talk over anything and everything and never considered that there were any subjects too insignificant or irrelevant to bring before God. And, I think, maybe even more important, was that David had little doubt that God was able to do as he requested and that He even desired to answer David’s prayers – even if not exactly in the way David would have liked.  In other words, David’s understanding of who God was, and of His ways, although not perfect and ever growing, was such that he was emboldened to pray as he did.

Longman suggests that “this prayer is a model for those who suffer, particularly at the hands of others, to call on God to help them. It expresses a fundamental trust that God will indeed answer the prayer, in spite of the supplicant’s acknowledgement of sin. It speaks of an eagerness to learn more from God and to grow in relationship with him, based on the covenant.” (see references # 30)

But, as Wilcock says, “the prayer…is a recognition of the forces arrayed against one who seeks to learn God’s ways. There are enemies who see this precious intimacy between the believer and his Lord as their key target. The maintaining of it must therefore be my chief aim.” (see references # 5)

When we turn to the New Testament we are encouraged to be confident and bold when it comes to praying to our Heavenly Father. In the letter to the Hebrews, for example, the author writes concerning ‘Jesus the Son of God’, calling him our ‘great high priest’. He exhorts us to ‘hold firmly to the faith we profess”. Why? Because Jesus is ‘a high priest who is [able] to empathize with our weaknesses’ because when on earth he was ’tempted [by the enemy] in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.’ So, says the writer of Hebrews, ‘Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Father, the world around us seems to be filled with bad news and desperately needs good news. Thankyou that the story of Jesus is not only good news but great news. A story of love, grace and mercy, of forgiveness and reconciliation, of present peace in the midst of suffering and of future hope and joy in your presence forevermore. Teach us your ways for the glory of your Name. Amen. 

# 107 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 25 The Lord confides in those who fear him.

Perth to Launceston

Seeking wisdom, guidance, direction, are all so very natural for us as human beings, particularly when we are faced with difficult situations or tough decisions.

I remember the conversation with our friend Evan when he asked my wife and I about the possibility of moving approximately 4000 km across Australia to join the staff of a training college for cross-cultural workers. In fact, the very place we had trained at almost 30 years earlier!

At the time, it seemed a big ask! It would mean leaving our 3 married sons and our married daughter and at that time our 3 grandchildren (we now have 11). Considering our previous lifestyle serving in Pakistan for 11 years and the fact that our children attended a boarding school, saying ‘goodbye’ again wouldn’t be easy. It would also mean leaving the so-called “security” of an excellent job in nursing, at a time of expansion and possible promotion, to again join a ‘faith mission’ with no income other than from those who would support us. Also leaving my involvement in a growing media ministry working with some Afghan believers who were great friends, and then leaving our church where we were both very involved in leadership and worship. Moreover, we would need to pack up our house and seek to rent it out while we were away for a number of years (number unknown at that stage). So, we said we would prayerfully consider it.

The prayer of David in Psalm 25 would have been close to what we prayed at that time:

Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Saviour,
and my hope is in you all day long.

The psalmist then goes on to reveal the basis of his confidence in God and why he considered that God would answer his prayer for guidance. He said:

Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.

Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
    toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

David acknowledges God’s mercy and love and despite knowing that he is not deserving of anything from God due to the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways, he also believes that God will forgive because all the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful. Because of these great truths concerning the character of God he believes that He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

Kidner calls this “approach to divine guidance…personal and mature” and goes on to speak of the “marks of this prayer [as being]…first, persistence – a patient alertness for ’the first signal of his hand’ [i.e. ‘show me your ways’ (v.5) and ‘My eyes are ever on the Lord (v.15)]…second, penitence – recognizing that one is no apt or deserving pupil but a ‘sinner’ (v8), with a sinner’s bias and guilt; third, obedience – the…attitude implied in the word, humble  or meek (v.9)…and fourth, reverence [‘those who fear the Lord’’ in verses 12 and 14] – the simple piety that God honours with his ‘friendship’ [‘The Lord confides in those who fear him’ (v.14)]”   (see references # 29)

Blaiklock adds: “To know the will of God, and how it applies to personal circumstances is the final and most blessed security in life…A security indeed which makes the true follower of God a pupil in the school of truth, ready and willing to apply ultimate truth in all of life’s contexts, perplexities, decisions…It is because of [God’s] nature, His love, which emerges under rich and varied names in verse after verse, that sinners can expect, not chastisement, but instruction and guidance…[but our part is] gentleness and willingness to learn…patience that looks for reality…[and] humility [which] must precede all…[so] those who reverence God can expect to be guided…The friendship of the Lord can only be for those who trust Him.” (see references # 37)

Nicky Gumbel in the Alpha course gives examples of some simple practical ways that God guides today. They are through:

  1. Commanding Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16)
  2. Compelling Spirit (Acts 13:1-3)
  3. Common Sense (2 Timothy 2:7)

[I like John Stott’s comment: “God’s promises of guidance were not given to save us the problem of thinking!”]

  1. Counsel of the Saints (Proverbs 20:18)
  2. Circumstantial Signs (Proverbs 16:9)

Gumbel adds that we can also ask ourselves the following questions:

Is it loving? (1 John 4:16)

Is it in line with the Bible?

Is it strengthening, encouraging and comforting? (1 Corinthians 14:3)

Does it bring the peace of God? (Colossians 3:15)

From Alpha Series, Week 7, ‘How does God Guide Us?’ (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=alpha+series+2016+week+7)

So, in 2008, when we received the invitation mentioned above, we did pray and consider it carefully and came to the decision that it was indeed God’s plan for us, despite the many challenges. Eight and a half years later when we ‘retired’ and returned to our home and family, we had no regrets that we had obeyed when God had directed. I remember at some stage during those years having a conversation with our daughter concerning the ‘cost’ of being so far away from our family (especially every time another of our 8 more grandchildren arrived). She said something like, “As much as we all miss you, I would prefer parents who obeyed God and went, than those who disobeyed and stayed home!”

And, by the way, God honoured our decision and blessed our time at the college. Moreover he:

  1. provided for our families through others, including the other “grandmas and grandpas” (thanks!) and provided (on average) for us to return home twice a year to visit.
  2. My employer survived me leaving (😊) and God provided our needs in wonderful ways over the years. We were and are blessed with all we need!
  3. Another person took over my role as chairman of the media ministry and these days the ministry has grown from my Afghan friends producing radio programs to now producing Satellite TV programs!
  4. The church also survived us leaving (😊) and supported us over our years away. It was great to be involved with them again recently helping to facilitate the Alpha course.
  5. Then, our house was rented by the same excellent tenant for the whole 9 years!

So, the psalmist continues:

12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
    he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
    for only he will release my feet from the snare.

May we all seek God as we journey with him, and when he guides may we humbly obey!

Father, you are good! What a privilege to be your children and experience your good purposes for our lives. What a thrill to serve the Living God. May we seek your will in all that we do, and then respond with total obedience. Amen.

# 106 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 25 Honour and Shame

PAKISTAN_-_1016_-_Contadini

Twice in Psalm 25 David asks God, “do not let me be put to shame”. I think, for most of us we would consider this a pretty reasonable request. For David though, this was especially relevant, who, similar to many people from Asian and Middle Eastern cultures today, lived in, what is called, an “honour and shame culture”.

One definition of shame is “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness [or due to an accusation, whether true or false] of wrong or foolish behaviour.” (Wikipedia) Another word often used is “loss of face”.

“Honor is a public claim to worth or value and a public acknowledgment of that claim. Positive shame is a concern for maintaining and protecting one’s worth, value, reputation. Negative shame is the loss of one’s honor. Refusing to be concerned about one’s honor is to be shameless.” (http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com)

So, David in Psalm 25 said:

In you, Lord my God,     I put my trust.

I trust in you;     do not let me be put to shame,     nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you     will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those     who are treacherous without cause…

20 Guard my life and rescue me;     do not let me be put to shame,     for I take refuge in you.

For someone like me, not being from a so-called “honour and shame culture”, it has sometimes been difficult to relate to the concept, even though I lived in Pakistan for 11 years, a typical “honour and shame culture”. I recall one day in Pakistan when I failed to be sensitive to this cultural norm.

It was a typical day in the clinic I worked in with about ten patients sitting around while I examined them, heard their histories and suggested a treatment. All were poor, illiterate farmers from the surrounding villages. Then, a 4-wheel drive vehicle pulled up in front of the clinic, which indicated a wealthy “landlord”, i.e. one of the people who owned the land that the farmers lived and worked on and from whom they received an income.

When he entered the clinic he asked me to go with him to see his daughter who he said was unwell. Having asked some questions concerning her “illness”, I determined that this was far from an emergency and so promised to come after I had closed the clinic in a couple of hours. Not used to being disobeyed, the landlord began to insist that I come right then. I was very conscious of the 10 patients who had travelled far (and definitely not by a 4 wheel drive!) and would have to leave not having been seen by me, and so again I said I would come after I had seen these waiting patients. The landlord, obviously not happy, abruptly left!

I was immediately informed by the waiting patients (whom I was concerned about) what a big mistake I had made! They told me that I should have gone with him and they would not have been worried about it, but rather, just left and returned the next day. Basically, I had dishonoured the man publicly (i.e. he had “lost face”) in front of those who were basically his “servants”. I never saw him again (or his daughter)!

Concerning this subject Longman, commenting on Psalm 25, gives further insight as follows:

“Biblical Israel was as an honour and shame society, in which ‘honor refers to the experience of being esteemed by one’s group or other social entities on the basis of embodying that which is deemed desirable, virtuous and socially productive. Shame refers, generally, to the opposite experience of being devalued and belittled on the basis of failing to measure up to or transgressing the same’ (deSilva 2008:287). To be shamed publicly has negative connotations. According to Pemberton, ‘to be “put to shame” means the loss of social position which negatively affects every familial relationship and business interaction. For an enemy to take honor (status) at the psalmist’s expense is no small matter in a society with foundations built on the bedrock of honor and shame (Pemberton 2012:81).”

So, in this psalm David desires that his enemy (by triumphing over him) would not get his way by causing David to “lose face” as the King in front of all those who were his “subjects”.  He desired to keep his honour, his reputation as a godly man. He had given a definition of such a person in previous psalms:

“The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to his neighbour, and casts no slur on others; who despises a vile person but honours those who fear the Lord; and keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.”  (Psalm 15:2-5)

Or the shorthand version:

“…one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” (Psalm 24:4)

Longman concludes: “Such an attitude and behaviour would win the praise of the community of the faithful. The psalmist’s present situation is problematic, however, because his enemies, who are treacherous (verse 3), are trying to shame him, although he is one who hopes in God. He calls on God to assert proper order by having shame come on those who are trying to shame him (verse 3).”   (see references # 30)

Maybe that is your situation and if it is, then follow David’s lead and cry out to the Lord, do not let me be put to shame.

 

Father, thank you that “No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame”. Teach us to live lives that bring honour and praise to you and lives that cause us never to be ashamed. May we be those who have clean hands and a pure heart. In Jesus Name. Amen.