The Lord, My Rock

Psalm 144

Take perspective for a moment: Bible just collection of stories, some true, others fanciful. Heroes and villains living out their lives on world stage. Along comes an engaging writer, takes some truth, weaves in some imagination, creates larger than life figure and called him David. There on pages of his biography emerges the ultimate self-made man: youngest son of shepherd, older brothers conscripted in army but lacking courage, his one outstanding skill… deadly with a slingshot! Right time, right place, lucky shot with sun in giant’s eyes. Leverages that plus ability to attract a following of disaffected bounty hunters. Before you know it, rightful heir to throne is dead, then the king himself. Clear shot, David makes his move, has arrived at the top! New dynasty, house of David the one to carry on into future. David gets his statue, place in Jewish folk-lore, place of honor secure for all generations.

Except that isn’t how David tells the story, is it? In this psalm, David reflects on past, considers present, anticipates future. In each, central figure is God – God is one whose fingerprints are on everything. The one who has eyes to see true reality is thoroughly captivated by powerful God who surrounds us, the compassionate God who delivers us, the gracious God who blesses us. Compared to God and his greatness, even great man like David fades into insignificance. At same time, psalm is intensely personal: 24 uses of first-person pronouns. Not a picture of God-in-principle but rather God-in-personal-relationship… God who knows and is knowable… both transcendent (above and independent of the material universe) and immanent (present throughout the universe).

A. powerful God surrounds me v.1-4 past

psalmist states purpose first: praise for who God is and what he has done, core element of acceptable worship

what he has done (1)

God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called – Samuel anointed shepherd, not proven political/military leader

was God who oversaw training of shepherd to lead people; same story second chapter… first chapter Moses

God certainly uses means/instruments to bring about his purpose, at same time keeping his fingers intimately involved

is good thing – otherwise, just like old photocopier, something gets lost with each copy until becomes unrecognizable

btw, God still works same way today… and deserves the praise – God is the one constant, the Strong One and source of strength to do his will

who he is (2)

keep in mind: worth of our faith depends, not on its size or strength or stability, but on its object; key way to nourish faith: meditate on faith’s object, God

the more of our thoughts and vision and desires are filled with God, less room there is for all the junk of this world

lovingkindness/goodness/gracious one – “Lord, everything good in me is due to you. The rest is my fault.” Augustine

God loves, we love in return; anything good that we have from God flows exclusively from his grace, not our merit

fortress/stronghold – old saying, “man’s home his castle”; place where safe from external harm, whether human or natural

are enemies that can penetrate castle of human engineering; when God is our fortress, protected from all forces incl. spiritual ones

high tower – another view of safe place, this one inaccessibly high; important advantage: enhanced perspective of surroundings

view from the trench extremely limited, much different story from reconnaissance plane; some times God lifts us up nearer to his point of view, get to see broader picture of what he’s doing

deliverer – God frequently provides way of escape within our circumstances; may not require change of job, address, health, finances

shield – defense when things get hot, close and intense fighting; need great dexterity, strength and awareness of surroundings to use shield effectively… God is really great at it!

refuge/one I trust – God is only one we need as place of first resort, he can provide all necessary in all situations, without exception

authority – this is good one to remember in midst of endless political posturing, rhetoric and bad decision-making: “the powers that exist are appointed by God”

we have civic responsibility, yes, but… no one has authority unless and until granted to them by God himself; is true whether ruler gets it or not

in relation to man (3-4)

if man is speck on planet that is speck in the cosmos, how significant is he anyway? question those w/o biblical worldview ask

question psalmist asks: if man is speck on planet that is speck in the cosmos that transcendent Creator spoke into existence, why is he significant? …in relation to the Creator (not the cosmos)?

he really has already answered, as much as can be – “My lovingkindness”, v.2: mankind in general, individuals in particular have God’s attention because of those he loves

genuine love not based on anything measurable – size, beauty, usefulness, significance; God loves because… he is love, more than that God has not revealed

given ways of thinking prevalent in culture, topic is especially relevant – basic level of significance comes from imago Dei

image is present from beginning of life onward – not added e.g. at birth, was defaced but not erased by sin in the Garden

if God has worth and significance, everything that bears his image does also… on some level, enough so that God purposed to restore it in those who are one with Christ

don’t have to understand much about circumstances, just recognize that it is powerful God who surrounds us who has brought us safely this far… and will bring us safely home

Psa. 34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

B. compassionate God delivers me v.5-10 present

plea for deliverance… now, in dramatic and earth-shaking way, for particular purpose – could almost take this as call for Second Coming except this life continues on afterward (v.12ff)

whether poetic figures of speech or what David really wanted God to do, bottom line request is this: “deliver me from evil-doers, my enemies, in such a way that they will recognize your greatness like I have”

not an unreasonable request – is in circumstance from which only God has adequate resources to deliver

since God has already showed love, can expect he will continue to do so; God is a Rock, unchanging in his character and purposes

situation seems dire, even life-threatening: mention made of surging waters (v.7) deadly sword (v.10) indicates urgent need for attention

almost a “no-brainer” prayer – asking God to do what is consistent with his character

God regularly demonstrates his power for people to see and praise – sadly many don’t recognize or acknowledge

God routinely delivers his people from their enemies, from overwhelming circumstances – sometimes they/we don’t realize it

God is committed to punishing evildoers and rewarding the righteous – it’s his nature to be that way: righteous, just, compassionate

praise and prayer directed to Yahweh, self-existent God who stooped to make covenant with his people

should expect when we ask God to provide what he has promised in his covenant that he will answer in affirmative

be careful, God not like diner jukebox – put nickel in, push right buttons, get song of choice played

God without fail keeps his covenant promises… not always in precise way we request or expect… but always in best way to carry out his good purpose

Ex. 34:6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”

since God is compassionate, his deliverance his way requires no unnecessary pain and suffering on our part

God is pleased when people praise

not making a deal (v.9-10), simply stating ahead of time how a good child responds to Father’s care

“One could say that there is one new song but this song has many stanzas. All of God’s redeemed will add stanzas to that song throughout eternity as they praise him progressively and continually for his mercy, love, and grace to the children of men in both the exodus from Egypt and the cross of Calvary.” Carl B. Hoch, Jr.

iow, our new songs of praise are more verses highlighting God’s ongoing work of redemption applied to his people throughout history

note: promise/vow v.9 is foremost an expression of faith in God, confidence that God will indeed deliver his child in need

C. gracious God blesses us v.11-15 future

dependent on God to meet needs in present, same dependence extends into future and hope for productivity

if covenant community is to continue, need progeny (12), provision (13), peace (14), praise (15)

just as true of the Church, God’s people, today as for ancient people – have same dependence, same needs

also have same God who is pursuing same agenda and final goal – God our Rock has plan A, never has and never will deviate from it

God blesses his people who are committed to following him, doing his work his way – God delivered his people from Egypt to Canaan, not a barren desert

is God who adds children to families and to Christ’s church – we have responsibility for our part… raising children God blesses us with “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” Eph. 6:4

God expects us to make most of resources he entrusts to us – good stewardship, managing wisely so as to promote his work: “lay up treasures in heaven” Matt. 6:20

also exhorted to insofar as possible “live peaceably with all men”; “pursue the things which make for peace” Rom. 12:18; 14:19

real true lasting peace begins from inside, shows on outside – results from being at peace with God, only by power of Gospel

Talking with funeral director – from his perspective, dramatic increase in level of hopelessness. Seen in frequency of “accidental suicide”, drug overdoses among twenty- & thirty-somethings. Does all he can to point grieving family members to source of hope. For those “whose God is the Lord”, who depend on “the Lord my Rock’, should never experience that kind of hopelessness. God’s design is that we would be “blessed”, “happy”, that our joy would be full because of who God is, what he has done in us, what he is doing through us, what he will do for us. Enables us to look beyond present circumstances that cause pain and sorrow, recognize the great treasure we have in Lord Jesus.

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