What can flesh do to me? - Psalm 56 Sermon June Prayer Service
Prayer Service June 1st Season of Pentecost - 2016. Pr. Ted Giese, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina SK. Psalm 56 - What can flesh do to me?
Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
I must perform my vows to You, O God;
I will render thank offerings to You.
For You have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. In Psalm 56 the Psalmist says to the LORD, "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?" David was having trouble sleeping, yet he knew that, "He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." That God was not asleep as David tossed and turned, as he wept over his predicament, no David knew that God took note of the trouble he was in.
David had grown too popular with the people for the liking of King Saul and after Saul's repeated attempts to pin David to the wall with a spear, and at the urging of king Saul's Son Jonathan, David's dear friend, David had chosen to run and hide from Saul. Electing to avoid a confrontation because both David and Saul were anointed king of Israel. David felt as if he was in an impossible situation. He'd been in impossible situations before, as a youth he'd gone toe to toe with the Philistine giant Goliath, he'd put his trust in the Lord saying to king Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” But now this bravery seemed to have evaporated when the threat was no longer the paw of the lion, or the paw of the bear or the hand of the uncircumcised Philistine giant but rather was the hand of Saul his king and one anointed by the Lord. In the darkness of the night David had run, run to the nearby city of Nob, to Ahimelech the priest, who gave him the bread of the presence to eat, who put in his hand Goliath's Sword with which David had cut the head off of the giant, and from there David ran again, Saul hot on his heels, nipping at him as he ran, 1 Samuel chapter 21 tell us how "David rose and fled that day from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances,
‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”
And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. So he changed his behaviour before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?” Psalm 56 is set in the midst of this episode of David's life. And as the sun set and the gates of the city of Gath closed David with the rest of the peoples would have settled in for the night, but in such a place could David find rest? could he sleep? Knowing that the Philistine men, who had all day long injured his cause dragging him before Achish, seeking his life - stirring up strife, were watching him? Could he sleep knowing that he was alone in their midst and that all their thoughts were against him, that all their thoughts for him were evil? Could he sleep knowing that they lurked in the shadows of the setting sun; that they watch his steps, that they had waited for his life, waited for the day they could take it from him, they had in fact been waiting from the moment Goliath had struck the ground, from the moment David had cut off Goliath's head with Goliath's own sword, the sword David held in his hands as he tossed and turned as he wept in the dark of the night.
If David closed his eyes would they end his life? Would they kill him in his sleep? Who could he trust? Who could he turn to? There was none but God - Psalm 56 is about trusting God when all seems lost, when it becomes apparent that you have found yourself in a bed of your own making. The world says "you've made your bed ... now sleep in it ... now lie in it" The World says, "it's all your fault," and even if the World is right, even if there are legitimate dangers all around you, dangers of your own design, Psalm 56 says, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust;" David the psalmist says, "I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?"
Saint Paul echoes this in Romans 8, when he writes, "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 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 looked forward to the coming Christ, and in Psalm 56, a Psalm, a Prayer, written after the fact, you can hear how David knows that, "It is God who justifies," that these Philistine men had no grounds on which to condemn him before God or their king. David knows that his righteousness comes from outside of himself. That he is in no position to save himself. That it is God who saved him that night, and it is God who will redeem his life from the pit. David points to Jesus when he prays, "in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?" when he prays, "For You have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life." The light of life is the big tip off. The Apostle John wrote in his Gospel says of Jesus, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." And of Himself Jesus later in the same Gospel Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” When David in Psalm 56 says, "For You have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life," another way you could put it is "For You [my heavenly Father] have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in [Christ Jesus who is the very] light of life."
David was spared from death in Gath, Achish didn't order his death, even when his people desired it. For David this was grace upon grace, truly he should have died that day, and if not that day, he should have died that night and yet the sun rose and David was able to depart "from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And," 1 Samuel tells us that, "when [David's] brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men." David was no longer alone, he was surrounded by God's people, he wasn't abandoned into the hands of his enemies. But why? Why should David be so "luck?" Why should David be spared?
Remember what Saint Paul said, "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?" Here we have the sweet exchange: Where David was spared, Jesus was not.
In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus found no rest. It was on the night in which He was betrayed that Jesus prayed in the garden, He knew death was directly before Him, He knew that there were men who sought to take His life, He had often told His disciples that He, “The Son of Man [was] going to be delivered into the hands of men, and [that] they [would] kill Him." And with a warning to his disciples to stay alert and to pray He Himself, "knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony [Jesus] prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. [Here we see that Jesus was like one tossing and turning in the night, His tears collected in the bottle of the LORD, His days marked in the book of the LORD] And when [Jesus] rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” [And] while [Jesus] was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. [And Judas] drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”
And so began Jesus' hard walk to the cross. These men had come, "with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders," they came to take Jesus before the Sanhedrin, the council of Jewish leaders, men who wanted Him dead. His own people - in this way Jesus and David share a similar path, Saul a leader of the Jewish people, their king, wanted David dead just as the Sanhedrin wanted Jesus dead. And while Jesus didn't run from them, as David had run from Saul, Jesus still ended up in the hands of a foreign ruler, Pontius Pilate the Roman governor, and Pilate like Achish, the Philistine king of Gath, didn't desire to have die the man brought before him. Neither Pilate nor Achish desired to have blood on their hands when it came to these men. Scripture attests to this, when it recounts how hen Pilate was pressured by members of the Sanhedrin and the mob to crucify Jesus Pilate had said, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him [yourselves], for I find no guilt in Him.” And only when his hand was further forced did Pilate gave in to their demands, washing his hands of Jesus' innocent blood, and then Jesus went to His death. Jesus went to His death when David was spared, and it is Jesus' death then that wins eternal life for David and for you and for me.
Seeing the cross, seeing the suffering and death He would face and experience there, Jesus doesn't falter in His trust of His heavenly Father. From His time in the garden of Gethsemane we can see that Jesus was familiar with the sorrows and vexations that David felt, the sorrows and vexations that from time to time we feel in our lives, yet Jesus didn't run when Judas came with men to arrest Him; and truly David didn't need to run either, David could have stood like Jesus, David could have stayed and faced king Saul directly. He could have placed his trust in God as Jesus did. And so could you for that matter. When you are faced with challenges why take what seems like the easy way out? A way that might just turn out to have been a poor choice, as poor a choice as running into the hands of the very people who have it out for you, who have plotted against you for years. Or perhaps you are like Jesus disciples who are tempted to fall asleep even though real danger threatens to devour you.
For all the times we took the path that we believed would be safe only to find ourselves running from God straight into danger there is forgiveness in Jesus. In Jesus' faultless trust of His heavenly Father, even in His trust that our heavenly Father does indeed desire to hear our prayers even in our times of trouble, Jesus fulfils the first commandment as He fears, loves, and trusts in God above all things without sin. His perfection, including His innocent death in your place is the fountainhead of forgiveness for you.
When the night is dark and you toss and turn in bed unable to sleep, as you find yourself weeping tears for your troubles remember that it is Jesus who out of love for you is the one who now watches after you and He "will neither slumber nor sleep," He is with you in your trouble as He was with David in his. On this side of Easter you can trust that Jesus has delivered your soul from power of death, His Holy Spirit has kept your feet from falling, that you may indeed walk before God in the light of life. That you may walk in the light of Christ Jesus who is the Light of the World even in the darkest of moments. Remember what John says, Jesus who is the light is the one who, "shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." The sun dawned on David's darkness and the sun will dawn on yours, if not today then on The Last Day, the day with no dusk, no night, when "night will be no more. [Where you] will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be [your] light ... forever and ever." Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Psalm 121:4
 1 Samuel 17:34-37
 1 Samuel 21:10-15
 Romans 8:31-39
 John 1:1-5
 John 8:12
 1 Samuel 22:1-2
 Luke 22:39-48
 John 19:6
 John 1:5
 Revelation 22:5