The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, KY on the 3rd day of December 2017:
The following sermon was delivered at Lakeview Baptist Church, in Benton, KY on the 8th day of October 2017:¹
“A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
“O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
7 Arise, O LORD!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people! Selah” (Psalm 3).
Introduction: Sorry, But Rodney Atkins Was Wrong
There is a popular country song on the radio today that’s been around for a while, and I’ve got a bit of a bone to pick with its meaning. I know I’m overly critical of things in general, I know my wife can attest to that. I like country music myself, we listen to it all the time, so don’t get me wrong. However, the song If You’re Going Through Hell, by Rodney Atkins should have never been written. While it has some good themes and a good tune, it is the worst possible explanation for what is going on in the trials of life. I know its not meant to be a sermon on the trials of life, but what astonishes me is that many people have a theology of trials almost synonymous with the message of this song! I believe Rodney is seriously mistaken when he describes what’s going on in the trials of life and what to do about them. Here’s the chorus we all know:
If you’re going through Hell
Keep on going, don’t slow down
If you’re scared, don’t show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you’re there!
First of all, trials are not hell – not even close. Trials do not compare with the eternal wrath of God poured out on the nonelect. Though I know Rodney is using the term loosely, the fact is, some people actually believe that trials in life are hell on earth. Secondly, self-pride and self-strength are not the way to get through them. A lot of people think this way. Thirdly, if you are scared, it’s okay to show it. Don’t hide your fear of the unknown as many people do. Fourthly, most of the time you don’t get out of them. I’ll give Rodney credit here – he says you might get out. But for believers and nonbelievers alike, we will never been done with trials on this earth as long as we’re here. And finally, the devil isn’t always watching to see if you are in a trial. Though the devil is a crafty enemy, I think people give him way too much credit these days. He is rarely the direct cause of trials in life, and he is certainly not always watching you, though he does strike at moments of weakness which may happen during trials of life.
Rodney Atkins’ song is not what is happening in the trials of life, and that’s not the way to react to them either. But you know, just as worse sometimes is the way that we do react to trials. Sometimes we do have an outlook on trials like the one portrayed in the song, and sometimes our outlook is even worse! It has been my experience in speaking with people as a pastor, and in dealing with my own trials, that we as believers do not usually react to trials in the right way. We usually react with a desire to escape, or having great despair, suffering from anxiety, being depressed, or perhaps even being angry with God. If we always reacted rightly during trials, there certainly wouldn’t be a plethora of biblical commands concerning this very matter (John 16:33; Romans 12:12; James 1:2-4).
Whatever way that we tend to react to trials of life, it is certainly the teaching of Scripture that we should react to trials by trusting in the Lord. We could spend our entire time together proving that fact, but I’ll just note a few examples. Consider Joseph – he certainly trusted in the Lord during his troublesome times when he was sold into slavery by his own brothers. He had confidence in the Lord during the turmoil he faced along the way. He confessed at the end of that account in Genesis that he believed the Lord was doing what was good and right the entire time. Remember that he said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20). The book of Psalms themselves are each an expression in some way of trusting in the Lord during times of lament, sorrow, persecution, trials, and even joy. In fact, there isn’t one psalm that doesn’t have an underlying confidence in the Lord. It may not always be explicitly written, but it is always the thread which binds the verses together. James tells us in his letter that we should count our trials as joy because of knowing and trusting that the Lord, through the trial, is developing us into stronger believers (James 1:2-4).
And assuredly, David trusted in the Lord during the trial he faced as he was being pursued by Absalom his son. This entire psalm is an expression of trusting in the Lord during the time when David was fleeing his own son. That situation is what fostered the writing and praying of this psalm we have read, and we see clearly in this psalm that David trusted in the Lord in many ways. To give you some understanding as to his situation, look at the superscript above verse 1. It’s the smaller print above most of the psalms which will give you insight as to what spurned the writing of the psalm, or instructions regarding how to use the psalm. The whole narrative is in 2 Samuel 15-17, and we see there that David’s son, Absalom, conspired a revolt against David and his kingdom. Absalom wanted to be king, so David fled from Jerusalem in search of safety. Absalom would eventually pursue David to try to kill him.
The way David reacted is what we have recorded in Psalm 3, and it is easily recognizable that the way he reacted was by trusting in the Lord. He trusted in the Lord because he went immediately to the place of prayer. He trusted in the Lord because he knew who He was. He trusted in the Lord because he slept peacefully. And because he petitioned God for what he needed and believed in His promises, he trusted Him. The whole psalm is a beautiful call for all suffering believers to trust in the Lord during the trials they face in life. And because the psalms themselves model for us how we should pray, what we should believe, and how we should respond as the authors did to their various situations, we will see from this psalm that, like David we can and should trust in the Lord during our trials. We will learn from David’s prayer here exactly how we can trust in the Lord during our trials. We will look at each verse this morning and learn that we can trust God during trials if we will:
I. Lament in the Presence of God (3:1-2)
II. Reflect on the Person of God (3:3-4)
III. Gain Relief from the Peace of God (3:5-6)
IV. Express Petitions to God (3:7a)
V. Believe the Promises of God (3:7b-8)
Do you want to trust in the Lord during your trials? That’s something we should all want to attain, so let us look now at Psalm 3 to find out how we may do so.
I. Lament in the Presence of God (3:1-2)
The first thing we need to do in our trials is lament in the presence of God. We need to go immediately to the place of prayer. When the winds of trials are violently gusting upon our lives, we need to take cover in the place of prayer, and talk to the Lord about what is going on. We are by nature people who think we can handle problems by ourselves—we’ve been that way ever since Adam and Eve tried to cover up their sin and deal with it by themselves and without God (Genesis 3:7). But prayer reverses that tendency. Instead of handling trials and troubles with our own hands, going to the place of prayer puts trials and troubles in the hands of God. By prayer, we acknowledge our dependence upon the Lord for everything we need. And sometimes, the trial our trouble we’re going through is so extremely intense, we often need to pour out our hearts to God immediately—before we ask Him for anything or resolve to do anything about our trials.
And this is precisely what David did. David went immediately to the presence of God in prayer, and lamented about his situation to God. In vv. 1-2, David laments in the presence of God, expressing his situation to God. David lets the Lord know about the enemies he is facing because of Absalom’s rebellion. David laments to God regarding his enemies, noting that they are many in number and they taunt him, claiming that God is unable to deliver him. And it’s not because God doesn’t already know what’s going on—but it so that David can gain some relief from his distress—so that he can get some of these burdens off his shoulders. So what David does in the first part of this psalm is what we are to do when faced with extreme trials—we should lament in the presence of God. We should go immediately to the place of prayer, and talk with the Lord. Notice how David does this:
“O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.”
The psalm begins with a lament, which is an expression of great sorrow. And this lament is divided up into two parts—David tells God about his enemies, and then about what they are doing to him. So first, David tells God about his many enemies: “O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me” (v. 1). David is pouring his heart out to God concerning his many enemies. David wants to be delivered from his many enemies, that is abundantly clear. His enemies are great in number, for notice the language, “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul.” It is not just Absalom who is pursuing David, but many other enemies which Absalom convinced to join him! The author of the account in 2 Samuel tells us this when it documents Absalom’s conspiracy against David. It wasn’t just Absalom and a few soldiers who were coming up against David, it was a great number of people. The author of that narrative describes it this way, that “Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (v. 6, 13). So, there was a great number of enemies who were pursuing David—that fact is only confirmed by David’s second lament: “Many are rising against me,” conveying a similar meaning that David is being surrounded by enemies all around.
That brings us to the second part of the lament, where David’s enemies taunted him by mocking his relationship to God. In verse 2, it gets interesting because we see that David’s enemies are concerned with much more than his physical life. They taunt David with an insult towards God. The second part of David’s lament is this: “Many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.” The taunt and insult that David’s enemies hurl at him is directed at his soul, not just his physical body. Their taunt is in regards to David’s relationship with God—they claim that God is unable to save David. They say, “God will not deliver you,” indicating that David’s enemies do not believe in the power of God to save. David’s enemies attack him in the area which is dearest to him—his relationship with God. They are saying, “There is no deliverance for him in God!” or “God can’t save him!” They taunt, “No deliverance shall be his as we pursue him, for his God cannot save him at all!”
David is expressing all of this to God in prayer through his lament. We see David lamenting in the presence of God through prayer here, and this is the first principle in learning how to trust the Lord during trials. It should be our default setting to run to the place of prayer as soon as we are afflicted with difficulties and trials. We should be in the constant mode of prayer anyway, regardless of facing trials and troubles (1 Thess. 5:17). But we should especially go to the place of prayer when facing extreme troubles. Now, we must be careful that we are not just talking at God—moping and soliciting, as it were, in His presence. That is, spending time there and not accomplishing anything. And we must not stay there in lament-mode, but move on in prayer to reflecting on the person of God, trusting in Him, bringing our petitions to Him, and believing His promises. But the point is, it is okay to begin your prayers as such—the point is that David responded to trials with prayer, and so should we. We need to tell the Lord about what is going on in our lives.
Now, why should we lament about a situation God already knows? Why tell Him what’s going on if He is all-knowing? Jesus does say in the Sermon on the Mount to consider this truth when praying: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Why am I speaking to God about a situation He already knows? Well, because we do not pray to inform God, but to conform ourselves to His will. We pray to get burdens off our shoulders. Prayer is a means God has provided for us to be changed and gain relief from our communion with Him. 1 Peter 5:7, though written first to all elders in the church, instructs all believers, “[cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
We also pray in order to recognize that our trials aren’t as big a problem as we think. Sometimes we just need to vent, and as soon as we start describing the situation, we most of the time will realize that we may have exaggerated it and made it into something bigger than it is. But we can’t exaggerate to God—He knows the situation or trial we’re going through. Once we talk to Him honestly about it, it seems to shrink in size.
We pray also because it is simply obedient to do so. Scripture tells us to do so, and this verse implies that we should. It is what David first did, and it is what we must first do. During trials, we need to first lament in the presence of God. But we also need to reflect on the person of God.
II. Reflect on the Person of God (3:3-4)
As I noted earlier, let he who has ears to hear understand that it is a grave mistake and contradictory to the very nature of prayer to remain at the place of lament when praying about your trials. After we cry out to God in lament, we must reflect on who He is. In prayer, it is not enough to say, “Alright Lord, here’s what’s going on,” we must instead say, “Alright Lord, here’s what’s going on—but I trust in You because You’re a great and sovereign God.” We must reflect on the character and person of God during our trials—we must know who He is, and based off of knowing who He is, we should then trust Him.
That’s the second thing David does in this prayer. David expresses trust in the person of God, because he is reflecting on the person of God. In vv. 3-4, David refutes the taunt of his enemies by describing God’s character, and pointing to his relationship with God. Underlying what David says about God, and what David says about his relationship with God is a confident trust in Him that God will see him through. And we will see from these verses that, like David, we too must trust in the person and character of God during our trials. Listen to what David says in response to his enemies:
“3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah”
First of all, observe here that David reflected on and was confident in God’s character. David refutes the taunt of his enemies, that God is unable to save. David’s enemies say, “There is no salvation for him in God,” and David replies by pointing to who God is, that He is indeed, a God who grants salvation to His people. David defends the fact that God saves in this part of the psalm—he destroys their staggeringly foolish taunt with proof that there is “salvation for [David] in God.” And it’s because of who He is. “God can’t save you,” says David’s enemies—and David replies, “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” David describes God’s character in three ways:
God is a Shield. God is a king who protects—that’s what shields do, they protect. God is a shield of protection all around David, even when he sleeps. God has promised to protect His own and this is the first thing David points to in order to refute the claim of his enemies: “You, O LORD are a shield about me.” This is a repeated theme in the Psalms, the fact that God protects His people from physical and spiritual danger. God is described very often in the Psalms in terms of a protector. He is a refuge, protector, deliverer, a warrior, a keeper, the preserver, the rock, a fortress, a stronghold, a rescuer, a shepherd, and a king. You can learn all of that just from reading up to Psalm 23.
God is David’s Glory. God is also David’s glory, meaning here David’s “power.” God is the Glorious One who provides strength to His people, and especially to His kings. God is so glorious that He can marshal the angelic host to aid His children (Psalm 34:7; 91:11).
God Lifts David’s Head. This phrase means that God has raised David up. God raises the humble, and those with their heads down. While David may be down and afflicted, God is ultimately the one who raises him up again.
Now in v. 4, David gets more personal in reflecting on God’s character. Secondly, notice that David reflects on the person of God in terms of his relationship with him. David turns from reflecting on God’s character to reflecting on God’s relationship with him. And what’s interesting is that David uses answered prayer as the greatest display of his relationship with God: “I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill” (v. 4).
David explains that he prayed to the Lord, and God answered him. He cried aloud to the Lord, meaning he prayed. And God answered him from His holy place—where He sits high and lifted up. And by the way, David was not in Jerusalem when he prayed this prayer. Even when David was removed from the presence of God in Jerusalem, he knew that the Lord would answer him when he called. David understood that he didn’t have to be in Jerusalem for God to hear his prayer—and neither do we. We don’t have to be in church or even in some quiet room with Bible verses everywhere (as in the movie War Room). Anywhere we are, we can pray and God will hear us.
Here’s something else extremely important to notice about this part of the psalm. Consider the order of the verses here—David first reflects on God’s character, then he prays. David points to who God is as a protector and shield, and then he prays. David’s prayer comes after he has reflected for a time on who God is. The prayer of verse 4, comes after the reflection of v. 3. David first looks up to God and then he cries out for help. From this we see a great truth, which is worthy of imitation: David’s understanding of God is what lead him to pray and ask God for help. David’s reminiscing of the power and protection of God leads him to cry aloud to the Lord. And you want to know why we so rarely pray and trust the Lord during trials? Verily, it is often because we do not understand who He is. Often times, the reason why we do not immediately respond to trials by trusting in the Lord is because we don’t understand the character and person of God. David truly did, and it was only a few truths about God at that. David acknowledged a few key truths about God, and that is what lead him to the place of prayer. I mean, just consider this for a moment. Would you be more inclined to pray if you knew God “who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6)? Would you be more inclined to pray if you knew, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:27).
Maybe the reason why we don’t pray during afflictions is because we haven’t reflected on God’s character. Maybe if we knew more of God’s character, we might be more inclined to pray. If we stopped and remembered that God is “[working all things] together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28), we may be more inclined to pray. This is the biblical order of prayer—reflecting on God’s character—who He is, and then expressing our needs in prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Philippians 4:5b-7). That’s precisely what David did here. Now, the importance of doing this comes in the next section—why reflect on and trust in the person of God? Because of the benefits of doing so, and that we take up in the next two verses. We will see in the next section (vv. 5-6) why it is so important for us to reflect on and trust in God’s person and character during trials.
We need to reflect on the person of God during our trials. We must know who He is through His word, and in those times of trials, remember who He is. The only way to do that is to be saturated with the word of God—to be so much in the word so that life’s most difficult trials can’t get the word out of you.
III. Gain Relief From the Peace of God (3:5-6)
Trusting the Lord during trials requires for us to lament in His presence, and reflect on His person. And when we do, we will gain relief from the peace of God. Now, there is no command here in this section, neither is their stated anything we should do during trials. Rather, this is something which will happen if we respond to our trials the way David did. This is what God does in response to our lamenting to Him and reflecting on who He is, and thereby trusting in Him. You can observe here that David explains what God did in response to his prayer. Because David reflected on the person of God and therefore trusted in Him, he can sleep peacefully and have no fear of his enemies, even if there were more of them.
And this is what God will do if we will trust in Him. He will sustain us, and we can rest our weary head on the pillow of His sovereignty. God will give us “peace which surpasses all understanding,” says Paul the apostle, but we must first “let our requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6-7). That is, God will grant us peace in our trials but we must trust in Him and pray. We must rest in who He is as a sovereign God, and He will sustain us during our trials. C. H. Spurgeon preached once on this very thing, stressing the need and importance for us to trust in the Lord to sustain us during our trials. He said, “The sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which the child of God rests his head at night, giving perfect peace.” If we will understand the truth about God from Scripture, namely the sovereignty of God, we will trust in Him as David, and gain relief from the peace God will give us.
And to that point, David expresses two ways in which he gained relief from trusting in God. He can sleep because God sustains him, and he can have great courage in the face of his enemies. Listen to what he says,
“5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.”
David explains that he is able to sleep peacefully because God sustains Him: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.” After lamenting, after trusting in the Lord by reflecting on His character/person, he says that he went to sleep. Now, remember—David is in great danger at this time—his life is being sought after. Nothing has changed about his situation and his trial. But something has changed about his perspective. After reflecting on who God was and praying, he is so confident in God’s ability to deliver him that he prepares to go to sleep. Now that is what you call confidence. A king is either insane or truly protected to respond to war by going to sleep! But not only does he lay down to sleep—he does sleep (indicated by “slept”), and he wakes up again the next day! And David expresses trust once again in the person of God by telling us why he can sleep in the midst of trouble: “for [or because] the LORD sustained me.” So we get a picture of David no longer having fear of his enemies, so much so that he can lay down on his bed, go to sleep, and wake up the next day—all because God has sustained him. But notice too, not only does David have a great peace to come upon him because of how he has responded to his trial, but also he no longer has fear.
David expresses that he no longer has fear of his enemies: “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (v. 6). Notice again—David’s problem hasn’t changed at all. In fact, he expresses that he will have no fear even if it does—even if it gets much worse! Even if there were more enemies surrounding him, he would still have no fear. Compare v. 1 to v. 6—a lot has changed since v. 1! A lot has changed since David has lamented in God’s presence, reflected on the person of God. David’s problem hasn’t changed at all, but his perspective certainly has. Now there is a new perspective on the same problem. What a great change from simply reflecting on God’s character and praying!
Everything changed when David reflected on who God is. This experience of peaceful sleep and courage in the face of more enemies comes only after David brings his prayer to God and reflects on the person of God. That’s the central thrust of this psalm—David wants everyone who reads this psalm to understand that they too can have peaceful sleep and courage in the face of trials if only they will pray and understand who God is! We too can experience sustenance, peace, and courage in our trials if we will do what David did. Our problems may not change, and they may even get worse (and most of the time they do), but we can change our perspective! We can get through the trials we have in life when we pray and recognize who God is. Once we understand who God is, our perspective and attitude will change—we will trust the Lord.
And another thing too, note how brief David’s reflection of God’s character is—David only needs to understand a few key truths about God in order for him to gain confidence again. All he acknowledged about God was that God protects him, God answers his prayer, and God sustains him. This just goes to show you that the length of our prayers do not matter as much as their content! David’s brief description of God’s character, and his corresponding confidence shows us that you are closer on the road to peace and faith when you know who God is, than you are if you pray for 10 hours. And you know, something I have found to be astonishing in comparing our faith to the faith of characters in the Old Testament like David is this: Many characters of the Old Testament had a better understanding of God and a greater faith in God with less Bible than we do with the whole Bible! David had peace, joy, and courage again after reflecting on only three truths about God—but it was because he knew them. He had read them, known them, and been taught them. Let me tell you something—you’ll never have a faith like David’s and you will never have the peace, joy, and courage like he had until you understand truths about God which come from His word. And it is those truths which we must reflect on during our times of trouble.
This is especially important during trials in life, because there are all kinds of emotions we are dealing with—and emotions can be deceptive. You may feel distant from God, you may feel like God has abandoned you, you may even feel like God is “punishing you,” but you need to have your faith rooted in the objective, unchanging word of God because it doesn’t matter how you feel during your trials. What truly matters is what you know and what you do with it. Once we know who God is through His word, we can truly trust in the Lord during our trials.
For a while now, my parents have had a little Jack Russel Terrier named Charlie, and one thing that has been surprising to us about him is that he likes to take care rides. He’s the first dog we’ve ever had in the family that actually likes to take rides in the car. Our dog hasn’t always been so audacious—he used to be really timid and scared. But as long as he rides up in the front with you, he’s pretty calm. He usually puts half his body out of the driver side window, while burying his nails into your knee. But you know, I’ve noticed something about him. When he is hanging out the window while we’re going 45, or while we are driving on a curve, he will start to lose his footing. He gets freaked out and comes back inside the car for fear that he may drop out. So usually I hold on to his side or his back leg so he won’t go out the window when we turn on curves or are going too fast down the road. He is pretty fearless when you’re holding on to him—he has faith in me because he knows who I am. He knows I’m not going to drop him. He knows that if the ride gets rocky, too fast, or swings him around, he’s going to be just fine because I’m not letting him go. Charlie has no fear because he knows who I am.
Let me tell you something—we should have no fear of what might happen to us when we’re driving through life because we know that God isn’t letting us go. You may be suffering so much that you feel like you are being thrown out of the window. You may be in such a tumultuous situation that you feel like your life has crashed—but all you need to do is look over to the driver seat, my friend. God is there, and He is the one driving. He is holding on to you, and He won’t drop you—all you need to do is trust Him. Don’t trust your hold on Him, but trust His hold on you.
Once we lament in the presence of God, and reflect on the person of God by knowing and believing His word, we will gain relief from the peace of God—He will allow us to sleep peacefully and have courage.
IV. Express Petitions to God (3:7a)
Trusting in the Lord during trials begins by lamenting in the presence of God. We then must reflect on the person of God, and when we do, we will gain relief from His peace. Fourthly in this psalm, we see that we must express our petitions and requests to God. After all of these things in the psalm, David prays for what he needs. David petitions God for salvation and deliverance saying, “Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God!” (v. 7a). David made mention in v. 4 of a prayer he prayed that God answered, and the first part of v. 7 contains that prayer. David wants for God to rise up and deliver him. Though many have arisen against him, David wants for God to rise against his enemies. He wants God to get up from His throne, and to come down and save him from his enemies. We won’t spend much time here in this point because there’s not much said in this part of the verse—but one thing we can glean from this for sure is that David petitioned God. And this too is an essential element to learning how to trust the Lord during our trials. Whatever it is that we need, we need to ask the Lord for it. We need to petition God as David did here. What is it that you need during your trial or difficulty? Ask the Lord for it. This is certainly included in Scripture’s teaching on responding to trials and anxieties (Phil. 4:7; Matthew 7:7-12; James 4:2).
V. Believe the Promises of God (3:7b-8)
Lament in God’s presence, reflect on God’s person, gain relief from God’s peace, express petitions to God, and finally we need to believe God’s promises. Finally, David expresses belief in the promises of God. Why does David have such a request as the one in v. 7a? Why does David believe that God will answer that petition/prayer? Because he believes in the promises of God. Listen to the way David explains this: “[Petition] Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For [or because] you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people!” (vv. 7-8). David prayed because he rested in God’s promises—and these two statements in this section are two promises of God. One is a promise from God to His enemies, the other a promise from God to His people.
The first is a promise to God’s enemies (v. 7b). Now, this phrase may seem harsh to our ears, but it’s what this phrase conveys that is really important. David is resting in God’s promise that He will protect His covenant people by destroying their enemies. This was a promise from God to do this. God will strike the enemies of the king, and wipe them out.
The second is a promise to God’s people (v. 8). This was also a promise that David rested in. David knew that God had promised to deliver His people, and it was the only source of David’s confidence that God would answer his prayer for deliverance. God has promised to eradicate the wicked, and has said previously that salvation belongs to Him. And these promises are what gave David the confidence to pray such a thing as he did. These are promises David recalled which are specifically applicable to his situation. They speak directly to what he was going through. And because David rested and believed in these promises, he was able to pray confidently. He prays, “Arise and save me, for here is what You promise to the wicked, and here is what You promise to Your people.” These specific promises of God from His word are what gave David his confidence that God would hear His prayer and answer it. And let me just ask this morning, considering that these are promises specifically applicable to his situation—how many promises of God do you know which are specifically applicable to your situation? If we do not know the promises of God, we will have no rest nor confidence that God will answer our prayer or see us through. The promises of God are the blood flowing through our arms when we lift up our burdens to the throne of God. If we know what God says in His word about our troubles and trials, then we can rest in those promises. If we don’t know the promises, we will have no rest. How many promises of God do you know?
We need to believe the promises of God in order to trust the Lord during trials.
Conclusion: A Hymn With the Wrong Name
One of my favorite hymns is What a Friend We Have in Jesus because it conveys to us the importance of prayer in our pain. It explains to us what God will do when we pray. Really, I think this hymn has the wrong name. It only speaks of Jesus as a friend remotely—it’s main emphasis is how God works through prayer. I love this part of the song:
“What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!”
We forfeit peace and bear needless pain when we do not carry our pain and burdens to the Lord in prayer. It’s what David did, and it is what we must do if we will learn to trust the Lord during our trials. We do not have to go through our trials without peace and bearing needless pain—if we will trust in the Lord, He will take care of the rest. We don’t have to act like we’re not scared during trials—but we should trust the Lord to calm our fears. Like our dog Charlie, we should not fear what will become of us because our Father holds us near Him.
As God enables us, may we trust in Him during our many trials by going to Him in prayer, reflecting on who He is, gaining relief from His peace, expressing our petitions to Him, and believing His promises.
- This sermon was also delivered at LaCenter First Baptist Church in LaCenter, KY; Ohio Valley Baptist Church in Barlow, KY; New Concord Baptist Church in Melber, KY; and Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, KY.
The following sermon audio was recorded at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, KY:
Sermon on the Mount: The Meek (Matt. 5:5)
“The Christian is altogether different from the world. He is a new man, a new creation; he belongs to an entirely different kingdom. And not only is the world unlike him; it cannot possibly understand him.”—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1)
In our consideration of the Beatitudes, we have already seen that Jesus turns the world’s ideas upside down. The world thinks in terms of strength, power, of ability, self-assurance and aggressiveness. But Jesus says just the opposite in the third Beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). Think about what a shock this statement was to the Jews of Jesus’ day. They had ideas of the kingdom which were not only materialistic but military also, and to them the Messiah was the One who was going to lead them to victory. So they were thinking in terms of conquest and fighting in a material sense, and immediately Christ dismisses all that.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).
The Meaning of Meekness
It’s important to see the obvious logical connection between these different Beatitudes. Clearly, each one follows on from what has gone before. Also, the Beatitudes, as they proceed, become increasingly difficult. In the first Beatitude (Matt. 5:3), we are asked to recognize our spiritual poverty apart from God. When we truly realize our spiritual poorness apart from God, we inevitably become “poor in spirit.” That in turn leads to the second state in which, realizing our own sinfulness and our own true nature, realizing that we are so helpless because of the indwelling sin within us, we become godly mourners (Mat. 5:4). If these things are present, then it follows that we would reach a point at which we become concerned about other people. That’s where meekness comes in. A man can never be meek unless he is poor in spirit. A man can never be a meek unless he has seen himself as a vile sinner.
What then, is the meaning of meek? The Greek word for meek here is praus, which means to be mild, or gentle. The same Greek term is used of Jesus’ triumphal entry when Matthew quotes Zechariah 9:9, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble (praus), and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” (Matt. 21:5). Meekness is very similar to “poor in spirit,” but it is not exactly the same thing. Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. It is my attitude towards myself, and it is an expression of that in my relationship to others. Meekness does not weakness. It doesn’t mean laziness. Meekness does not mean niceness. Meekness is compatible with great strength and it is compatible with great authority and power (as we will see). When a man truly sees himself for what he is, no one can say anything about him that is too bad. “He that is down needs fear no fall”—John Bunyan. When we are meek, there will be a complete absence of the spirit of retaliation, having our own back or seeing that the other person “pays for it.”
The Manifestation of Meekness
Who is this meek person? What is he like? Since this is a hard word to define, perhaps it is best to see examples of meekness to better understand what it means.
Cooperate with me on this. I am going to present you with various scenarios. Read them and imagine yourself as the person described in them. Then think about what you would do in that situation:
1. You own a lot of land. You have a distant in-law who depends on you for their welfare and their safety. They have all they need from your rightful land, but they are not content with it. What would you do?
The same thing happened to Abraham. After God had called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeans to the Promised Land and had made the marvelous unconditional covenant with him, a dispute about grazing lands arose between the servants of Abraham and those of his nephew Lot. All of the land of Canaan had been promised to Abraham. He was God’s chosen man and the Father of God’s chosen people. Lot, on the other hand, was essentially a “hanger-on,” an in-law who was largely dependent on Abraham for his welfare and safety. Yet, as the story reads, Abraham willingly let Lot take whatever land he wanted, thus giving up his rights for the sake of his nephew, for the sake of harmony between their households. “Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left” (Genesis 13:8-9). That is a great example of meekness.
2. The world is without food and is in a great famine. Before the famine, your own family sold you into brutal slavery. Soon you become the king of the only nation with food. Your family comes to you in need, what would you do?
The same thing happened to Joseph. You know the story. he was abused by his jealous brothers and eventually sold into slavery. Soon he came to be second only to Pharaoh in Egypt and he was in a position to take sever vengeance on his brothers. When they came to Egypt asking for grain for their starving families, Joseph could easily have refused, and he could have even put his brothers into more severe slavery than into which they had sold him! Yet he had only forgiveness and love for them. Speaking to his brothers, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors” (Genesis 45:5-7). Joseph understood that it was God’s place to judge and his to forgive and help. His is a great example of true meekness.
3. If someone had tried to kill you multiple times, and they were right “underneath your nose,” and you had the ability to kill them, what would you do?
The same thing happened to David. He was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to replace Saul as Israel’s king. But when, in the cave of Engedi, he had the opportunity to take Saul’s life, as Saul often had tried to take his, David refused to do so. “So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way” (1 Sam. 24:7). David presents before us a great example of meekness.
4. You are the founder of a great company. You know more than your employees, you make more than your employees, you are way more powerful than your employees. They mess up your company and destroy everything up and the only way they will live is if you become an employee, give all your power away, and then die a humiliating death. Would you do it?
Similarly, Jesus experienced the same thing. He created this world, and we corrupted it with our sin. Christ is God and that means He is more powerful than we can imagine and more wise than we can imagine. We are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1), and we will pay the price for our sins (Rom. 6:23), if nothing is done about God’s wrath against us and our terrible condition apart from Him. Christ became a man, going through our struggles, weaknesses and difficulties. Eventually He died a humiliating death that we might live life eternal. Paul expresses this truth: “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). Christ has demonstrated the greatest example of meekness. (For further study of Christ’s meekness, see Christ’s Supreme Example of Humility)
The Result of Meekness
Jesus says that those who are meek “shall inherit the earth.” The person who is meek already inherits the earth in this way: A man who is truly meek is a man who is always satisfied, he is a man who is already content. The person who is not satisfied never has enough, he always wants more. On the other hand the satisfied person is happy to enjoy all things. He possess all things and yet those things do not possess him. “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2 Cor. 6:10). But the phrase “shall inherit the earth” also has a very future implication. The meek person also knows that everything is in the hands of God—his rights, his cause, his entire future. One day God will completely reclaim His earthly domain, and those who have become His children through faith in His Son will rule that domain with Him. “If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12). We may not always have earthly blessings, but we have the promise of one day ruling and reigning with Christ.
The Necessity of Meekness
What then, does the Bible say about the necessity of meekness?
It is commanded. “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD” (Zeph. 2:3). Similarly, James writes to the believers of the Jerusalem church, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Those who do not have a meek/humble spirit are not able even to listen rightly to God’s Word, much less obey it.
Essential for church unity. Meekness is necessary for living in church unity: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:1-2). Paul commands the Ephesians to live in a way that is worthy of their great calling. How are they to do that? “With all humility and gentleness.” Those are the first characteristics mentioned in Paul’s list of behaviors necessary to live out church unity.
For effective witnessing. Meekness is necessary for witnessing: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Peter tells the believers to be prepared to defend the faith and to be verbal about their faith. . .”yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
Direct fruit of the Spirit. Meekness is necessary evidence of walking in the power of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23).
Are we living in true meekness? Let us face this Sermon on the Mount with all honesty, let us meditate on this statement about being meek; let us look at the examples; above all let us look at Jesus Christ Himself. Let us be finished with ourselves so that He who has bought us at a great price may come in and possess us wholly.
1. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Kindle Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: InterVarsity Press, 1959-60; Reprinted 2000), Kindle Locations 866-867.
You’ve Got Questions: Do Children/Babies Go to Heaven?
The Age of Accountability
The idea of the “age of accountability” is that children are not held accountable by God for their sins until they reach a certain age, and that if a child dies before reaching the “age of accountability,’ that child will, by the grace and mercy of God, be granted entrance into Heaven. Is the concept of an age of accountability biblical? Is there such a thing as an “age of innocence”?
First of all, it is important to mention that the fact that children, no matter how young, are not “innocent” in the sense of being sinless, and this is frequently lost in the discussion regarding the age of accountability. The Bible tells us that even if an infant or child has not committed personal sin, all people, including infants and children, are guilty before God because of inherited and imputed sin. Inherited sin is that which is passed on from our parents. In Psalm 51:5, David wrote, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” David recognized that even at conception, he was a sinner. The very sad fact that infants sometimes die demonstrates that even infants are impacted by Adam’s sin, since physical and spiritual death were the results of Adam’s original sin.
Still, what about babies and young children who never reach the ability to recognize sin? The age of accountability is a concept that teaches those who die before reaching the age of accountability are automatically saved, by God’s grace and mercy. The age of accountability is a belief that God saves all those who die before reaching the ability to make a decision for or against Christ. Thirteen is the most common number given for the age of accountability, based on the Jewish custom that a child becomes an adult at the age of 13. However, the Bible gives no direct support to the age of 13 always being the age of accountability. It likely varies from child to child. A child has passed the age of accountability once he or she is capable of making a faith decision for or against Christ.
The one passage that seems to identify with this topic more than any other is 2 Samuel 12:21-23. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, with a resulting pregnancy. The prophet Nathan was sent by the Lord to inform David that because of his sin, the Lord would take the child in death. David responded to this by grieving, mourning, and praying for the child. But once the child was taken, David’s mourning ended. David’s servants were surprised to hear this. They said to King David, “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” David’s response was, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” David’s response indicates that those who cannot believe are safe in the Lord. David said that he could go to the child, but that he could not bring the child back to him. Also, and just as important, David seemed to be comforted over this. In other words, David seemed to be saying that he would see the child (in heaven), though he could not bring him back.
While these passages imply that God applies Christ’s payment for sin to those who cannot believe, the Bible does not specifically say that He does this. Therefore, this is a subject about which we should not be adamant or dogmatic. God’s applying Christ’s death to those who cannot believe would seem consistent with His love and mercy. But we can safely assume that God applies Christ’s payment for sin to young children and those who are mentally handicapped, since they were not mentally capable of understanding their sinful state and their need for the Savior, but again we cannot be dogmatic. Of this we are certain: God is loving, holy, merciful, just, and gracious. Whatever He does is always right and good.