The God of Glory (2) -
Worship In The Strangest Place!
By Aeron Morgan
My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be above all the earth. They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have dug a pit before me, into the midst of it they themselves are fallen. Selah - Psalm 57:4-6.
It's no life being a fugitive! The best of men can soon be “bowed down” (verse 6) when the soul is buffeted in adversity. David is glaringly honest, never hiding his feelings – yet by no means does he permit such situations to destroy his faith or dampen his zeal for the honour of God. Earlier he found himself in a similar predicament, and confessed how he addressed God in the midst of it.
I will say to God my rock, 'Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?' With a sword in my bones, my enemies reproach me; while they say to me daily, 'Where is your God?' - Psalm 42:9-10.
Let's not miss that vital element in his cry, which was the cause of the greatest hurt he was bearing – the honour of his faithful God, as his enemies taunted him: “WHERE is your God?” And then hear him chide, yet compose, his own soul –
WHY are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? HOPE IN GOD: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health [Hebrew yeshû'âh, meaning, “saving health”] of my countenance and my God (verse 11).
We have already noted in Psalm 57, how David is crying to God in real need, beseeching His mercy – but seeing it NOT as some hopeless, vague utterance of pain and fear. NO! He states the predicament in the plainest of terms, yet all the while it is a song of confidence. I like the comment of G. Campbell Morgan:
“... the triumph of trust is (most) conspicuous.”
David says to God (if I can paraphrase), “I trust in YOU; I am sheltering beneath the shadow of Your wings; I know the calamities are going to pass over – YOU are going to bring me through”. Then he follows on with such a remarkable confession of His knowledge of God (verses 2-3). THIS is the One in whom David places his confidence, such confidence in God as yields worship in the strangest place:
- A God who LIVES, majestic and towering high above all creation , His transcendence being the pledge of His irresistible might – yet one who is personally caring for us and actively engaging with us in all our concerns;
- A God [Christ] whom we can depend upon to SOVEREIGNLY rise up for us, and in His RIGHTEOUSNESS plead our cause in cases of personal injustice;
- A God who ACTS to accomplish what He has purposed, with no one to prevent or to obstruct Him, whether men or demons. IT IS HE WHO CONTROLS ALL DESTINIES.
No, David cannot and does not ignore the unpleasantness of his situation, the galling fact of being pursued to the death. Yet, whatever be his sense of natural fear and trepidation, here is the incredible reality: in the midst of it all, with his soul overcome with distress (how human he was!), he comes up with this glorious demonstration of the ultimate in spiritual desire. It is NOT simply that God would be MERCIFUL, but that God would be MAGNIFIED in and through him. “Be exalted O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth.” (verse 5) This is the truest evidence of genuine faith in God – to be able to worship in the strangest, most trying of places. Some can't give God praise among lambs, let alone among lions! John Bunyan said, “I have often thought that the best Christians are found in the worst of times.”
So then, what truth can we draw from these verses to help us in our own personal, peculiar, and perplexing situations? How can we, like the Psalmist in his trouble, see all the events resulting in God being honoured and glorified? How may we maintain a worshipful spirit and not a woeful one, even in the strangest of life's trials? If there's CONSOLATION in verse 1; and SUPPLICATION in verses 2-3; let us note David's 'SALVATION' in verses 4-6.
Here the Psalmist is brutally honest about his situation. If God desires anything at all it is honesty, for He is fully cognizant of our need. And He is not in anyway glorified by some 'philosophic' denial of an actual condition under the guise of men's socalled 'faith'. No, David does not fear to confess it, for it is not the confession of fear. Someone has rightly said, “An eye that has seen GOD sees little terror in the most terrible things!” An old song we used to sing invites us to:
Go, tell Him plainly just how you feel; Jesus will pardon, Jesus will heal.
Why don't YOU do that today? But do so like David, with God's love and mindfulness uppermost in your heart, anticipating that He WILL “send forth His mercy and His truth” (verse 1). So observe with me three things that I trust will help and inspire your worship in the strangest place:
1. The Severity of David's Trouble
Verse 4 - What David is saying here is remarkable. He admits his precarious state is real. He exposes the ferocious, beastly nature of his enemies. With such poetic language he describes their innate character:
“Among LIONS” – they raged against him, so hungry to take his life;
“Them that are set ON FIRE” – they were burning with fury, evil intent;
“Whose teeth are SPEARS and ARROWS” – they were set on devouring him;
“Their tongue A SHARP SWORD” – how cruel and malicious they were.
Would you feel quite comfortable in that kind of company? I don't think so. I cannot blame David for retreating to some cave for refuge! But more, for David goes on to reveal the steps his enemies had taken to dispose of him:
They have prepared a net for my steps ... they have dug a pit before me (v.6)
Like hunters that lay a snare for their prey, his adversaries were planning his complete downfall. They would be satisfied only with his death and burial. Little wonder David admits, “MY SOUL IS BOWED DOWN!” Wouldn't yours be? One can conclude from this that even GOOD MEN MAY BE CAST DOWN! So don't chastise yourself. Paul's attitude also helps us –
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed - 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.
The LORD upholds all that fall, and raises up all those that are bowed down - Psalm 145:14.
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind: the LORD raises them that are bowed down: the LORD loves the righteous - Psalm 146:8.
What comforting truth! “The Lord LOVES the righteous.” This is a foundation for praise. Verse 6: “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help.” I wonder if you feel you are there where David was – not essentially the same situation, the same perils or predicament, but the same awareness of an enemy stalking your every step, designing your downfall, intent on your utter spiritual collapse. But before I make further comment on that, let us be honest here: there are some whose situations are the result of personal folly, the lack of wisdom, and sometimes the neglect or despising of godly counsel cf. Psalm 1:1-2. There can be self-induced difficult, even critical, situations because we fail to abide by God's Word; times when it seems we are “wise in (our) own conceits” (Romans 11:25). When we ignore God's Word and His revealed Will, we will be in BIG trouble. We do well to heed Paul's counsel:
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is - Ephesians 5:15-17.
What we cannot deny, and must not overlook, is the fact that we do have a real foe, hunting our souls. We are like the Psalmist, “among lions”. He knew it. And we know it. Sometimes it can be very severe. Peter talks about “…the fiery trial ... as though some strange thing happened to you ...” (1 Peter 4:12). He goes on to exhort us to:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary (opponent) the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour (swallow up) - 1 Peter 5:8.
In what way is the enemy besetting you today? Is he coming as the ACCUSER? the DEVOURER? the SLANDERER? Spurgeon said, “No weapon is so terrible as a tongue sharpened on the devil's grindstone.” How it behoves us to walk carefully, circumspectly, giving no room for the enemy to take advantage of or through us. (2 Corinthians 2:10-11.) Yet, let us not fear him. Thank God for “a refuge in the shelter of (God's) wings” - Psalm 91. Now observe with me:
2. The Surety of David's Triumph
Verse 6 – “They have dug a pit before me, into the midst of which they have fallen. SELAH!” Just think on that! It is a confident David, who can “lie down” even among those who are as “lions ... set on fire.” And what an expression of faith is here, as David, still being hunted, hiding in a cave, apprehensive about even those he was among, yet speaks as though God had already dealt with his murderous pursuers. He says, “They've dug a pit before ME into the midst of which THEY have fallen”. He knows that God will never fail him. David has seen God vindicate him in the past, and he knew He would do it again!
“The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot caught” - Psalm 9:15.
So now – it's as good as done, so much so that in the midst of his predicament there is PEACE. He is like DANIEL in the den of lions – confident of God's mercies, reclining, even reposing in anticipation of salvation. As God assures us through Isaiah:
NO WEAPON formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment, you shall condemn. THIS IS THE HERITAGE OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD - Isaiah 54:17. In a prior Psalm David says:
I will BOTH lay me down IN PEACE, and SLEEP: for only You, O Lord, make me dwell in safety - Psalm 4:8.
God always comes to rescue the believers. His eyes are upon the righteous. He marks our every step; He registers our every need and desire. And, as in the context of this Psalm, the reassurance is this that HE'S AWARE of all injustices, those wrongs we might have suffered, and the grievous hurts that have 'bowed down' the bruised soul. So, what a lesson is here for us: let God vindicate you. He has a word for you today.
Repay to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, don't avenge yourself (i.e. don’t be the punisher), but rather give place to (God's) wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord. Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink: for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good - Romans 12:17-21.
Rest in that. The severity of our trouble is addressed by the surety of the triumph God secures for us, as we put our trust in Him. When this is so, worship will ascend to Him even in the strangest place! Let us then see a final truth. It concerns –
3. The Secret of David's Trust
Verse 5 - Right in the heart of his prayer, as he pours out his 'bowed down' soul, he breaks forth into the most sublime expression of PRAISE. So much so that, “this verse looks like an abrupt and illogical change of subject”. It is true, is it not, that the character of believers is so often puzzling to the unsaved, for their human reaction in times of trouble is so entirely opposite to that of unbelievers. As A.W. Tozer wrote,
Through the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit, the Christian is involved in a daily life and habit that cannot be explained. A Christian should have upon him an element that is ... beyond all natural laws and into spiritual laws.
Worship is most natural to the true believer, and in the strangest of places, not just when things are seemingly pleasant and trouble free, but in the hour of adversity, when it is as though (as in Psalm 46:2-3),
… the earth is removed, and the mountains are carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and are troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah. (FOR) THERE is a river, whose streams shall make glad the city of God ... GOD is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; GOD SHALL HELP HER, at the break of dawn. (At the appearing of the morning).
DAVID knows – and we know – that God is there all the time, and that it is just THERE, in the place of deep trouble and adversity, we prove God to be so true and faithful. The dark places of trial do not obscure the God of glory or the glory of God. Rather, to the eye of faith it is seen transcendent and, therefore, that by which ALL our need is covered – in God's divine and infinite fullness. THIS is the secret of David's trust. He lifted his thoughts to God. He believed in the sovereignty of God. He knew that GOD REIGNS, and that He is higher than what men can naturally conceive. That is why both David and Daniel could lie down even among lions – they put GOD where He belongs. And there'll be NO PEACE unless and until WE do. And where is that? Well, David's worshipful prayer reveals it, a prayer that should also be ours:
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth.
Get GOD in focus THEN it matters not who or what comes to trouble you; for when you desire HIM to be rightly glorified, you summon His merciful help. Hear David in his worshipful expression:
O Lord our Lord – [i.e. Jehovah our ADONAI, our rightful Sovereign Lord, the One upon whom we depend], how excellent is Your Name in all the earth! Who has set Your glory above the heavens - Psalm 8:1.
Is that how YOU see Him today? THIS is surely the secret of our effectual trust. Indeed, look at our blessed Saviour Himself, whose peerless soul was among the lions. He could say:
Father, glorify your name. Then came a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again -John 12:28.
Take a moment to read Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3:13-16. What kind of a view of God do you have?
Dr. Tozer well observes:
In some circles, God is abridged, reduced, modified, edited, changed and amended until He is no longer the God whom Isaiah saw, high and lifted up.
The Church can only be the Church when GOD has His rightful place. And you and I can only know that calm repose amid our adversaries when GOD has His rightful place. When we live our lives bereft of their chief purpose (to glorify Him), when we lack the due care for God's honour above everything else, we cannot expect to rise in triumph. See Him today, in the midst of your hard and unwelcome situation, for who He is and where He is: enthroned above the heavens – His glory above all the earth. What a difference that will make! Muse on the expressions of Oliver Wendell Holmes' worshipful and inspiring hymn:
Lord of all being, throned afar,Thy glory flames from sun and star;Centre and soul of every sphere,Yet to each loving heart how near.
Sun of our life, Thy quickening raySheds on our path the glow of day;Star of our hope, Thy softened lightCheers the long watches of the night.
Our midnight is Thy smile withdrawn,Our noontide is Thy gracious dawn,Our rainbow arch Thy mercy's sign;All, save the clouds of sin, are Thine.Lord of all life, below, above,Whose light is truth, whose warmthis love,Before Thy ever-blazing throneWe ask no lustre of our own.Grant us Thy truth to make us free,And kindling hearts that burn for Thee,Till all Thy living altars claimOne holy light, one heavenly flame.
Lord of all actual existence – there is none greater or higher. O may the Holy Spirit enable you and me to catch a glimpse of HIM, amid any and every pressing circumstance, which may cause us to worship in what seems to be the strangest place!