Alfred Place Baptist Church

Psalm 5: David Sustained and Strengthened in a Rebellious World

Psalm 5:1 For the director of music. For flutes. A psalm of David.

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors. But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down towards your holy temple. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies – make straight your way before me. Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit. Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield.

On what occasions would you say to someone, “Now listen to me . . .”? I know a minister who called to his wife recently, “Margaret, now I want you to listen to me.” Oh dear. She thought she was in for a row. What was the matter? She was supposed to stay in bed but her husband and come home and found her hoovering and tidying up the house. She had a bad back; it was quite serious and the doctor had told her to lie flat in bed for three weeks. He had told her that only a prolonged rest like that could deal with her pain, but there she was tidying the rooms and putting away the rubbish. “Margaret, I want you to listen to me,” said her husband. “You know you are supposed to be in bed.” “I know, yes I know,” she said reluctantly. Then he reminded her of the three women from the church who were coming to clean up the house that afternoon. “Well that’s it,” she said. “I can’t let those women see all this dust and untidiness,” and her husband thought that was very funny.

When we believe the words we’re about to speak are important we begin by saying, “I want you to listen very carefully . . .” We’d say the same thing when we suspect the person we’re talking to is not paying attention. “Give ear to my words!” Again, you might say it when you were aware of your own insignificance, and you wanted this great personage to lift his head up from his book and deign to look at you and listen. Those are the kinds of reasons I believe why David goes to such lengths asking God to listen to him; “Give ear to my words.” We are all little people speaking to Jehovah, the God who is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. David, a sinner, is addressing this immensely glorious God, and he pleads, “Will you give ear to these words of mine?” He doesn’t take it for granted that God is bound to drop everything he’s doing whenever David mumbles a few words. He pleads, “Give ear . . . consider . . . listen . . .”

There are other reasons for David’s plea; he is conscious of his present lowly condition; he doesn’t feel very dynamic in fact he is plaintive, that is, he’s full of sighs (v.1). He’s a rather pitiable figure, but he still wants God to hear him. “Listen to my cry for help,” he pleads. That’s not a humble attitude to the Lord is it? It’s almost insulting to be asking the Lord please to listen to you, insinuating that you can cry to his God for help and he doesn’t listen to you. You have to beseech him for basic help. “Hello . . . hello . . . are you listening?”

Then David gets more desperate as he reminds the Lord of their personal relationship; “You are, ‘my King and my God, for to you I pray’” He’s reminding Jehovah, “Aren’t we in this relationship? Am I mistaken? And aren’t we in it because you set me apart? Didn’t you came to my father Jesse’s house by your servant Samuel and you chose me and anointed me with oil and made me your servant? It is because of you that I can call you my King and my God.” Then David gets even bolder and he reminds God that he has been crying to him for help for hours, since the break of day not at the 11 a.m. coffee break. As soon as it was dawn and the king woke up then his first thoughts were of his need of divine help. He underlines the time with that repetition: “In the morning O Lord you hear my voice; in the morning . . .” Wasn’t that true? Hasn’t he been crying to God all day? “I’ve been trying to get your attention for a long time.” So here is a man who is pleading with God to hear him in a very bold way. David is right in the face of God. What is all this self-conscious intercession about? How can we get into this prayer?

Then you notice another note, that as David repeats those sentiments he says, “I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” David expected God to answer him. After the morning quiet time he was looking around waiting for a response. It is a sin to ask God for something and not expect an answer, not to be looking out for answers. Real prayers never return home empty handed in tears. We know we’ll either get what we’ve asked for or we’ll get what we should have asked for. If we believe that God hears and answers our prayers then let’s be watching out for the answers. Thank of a cricket match and the intense concentration of the players. The bowler will look at the trajectory and bounce of every ball he bowls; he doesn’t simply hurl it down in the general direction of the stumps without glancing where it goes and what it does. The batsmen also will look to see where he has hit the ball and if there is a chance of a run; the fielders will be watching to see if the ball is coming towards them. There’ll be an action, and then they’ll all be looking and waiting for the response. That is a picture of true prayer. It is always followed by expectation. Whether it is an individual Christian praying, or especially when the whole church in the prayer meeting prays for something then let’s all be in expectation. One week it is praying for God to bless and keep and use the pastor who is away in Africa in the Lord’s work. Let our thanksgiving for answered prayers for this journey be as earnest as our intercession.

You remember what happened on one occasion in the life of Peter? He had been arrested and put in prison, and so the early church met in the house of John Mark’s mother and they’d prayed from the morning that he would be set free. In fact Peter was freed by a messenger sent to the prison by the Lord, and so off went Peter to join the prayer meeting that had been called especially to pray for his release. He knocked on the door and a girl called Rhoda went to open it, and who did she see but Peter. Rhoda ran into the prayer meeting and told them that it was Peter knocking. “Naaah,” they said scornfully, “you’re out of your mind; you’re seeing ghosts!” Then when finally they went to the door as Peter continued to knock they were astonished to see Peter. There was no expectation at all that their prayers for his release should be answered immediately. How different is David here; he says, “In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (v.3).

So this is a very deliberate start to a psalm; it is quite a build up. If someone came to your house and very earnestly asked to see you, and when you had sat down together he began by saying, “Now will you pay attention to me and consider the state I am in, and listen to my cry for help” I am sure that your attention would be gripped. You’d be listening with both eyes and ears wide open! If this person proceeded to say slowly and quietly, “Please listen to my voice; I am waiting in expectation for you to answer me . . .” You would think, “Oh dear, what’s this all about? I’ve never heard him (or her) act like that before. This person really has an enormous problem. It must be terribly serious. Are they leaving the church? I wonder are they going to die? Is there a divorce? Are the police involved? Has there been unfaithfulness?” All those thoughts rushed through your mind in two seconds, and you were saying to yourself, “How can I possibly help this person?”

So we read this psalm of David and it doesn’t seem a particularly special psalm, and then we begin to probe it and discover we are meeting a believer who is in dead earnest. Here is someone who has an enormous problem. He must get God’s attention; he’s in very great trouble; his sighs and cries for help are profound and sincere. He must have divine assistance. He’s got to have God’s attention. “Give ear . . . consider . . . listen.” I tell you that there’s not another psalm amongst all 150 whose first three verses sound the note of imploring beseeching urgency like this psalm. It certainly raises our curiosity, but we haven’t got into it yet, have we? I feel we are still skimming the surface. What is David’s problem? Why is he pleading with God to give him a hearing, and why is he sighing loudly like Christian and Hopeful in the dungeon of Giant Despair?

We still haven’t got into this psalm, or better, this psalm hasn’t got into us, and that will happen only when we set it in the life of this amazing man David. I am asking you to remember some of the incidents in his life.

1. DAVID WAS OVERWHELMED BY THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE PEOPLE WHOM HE LOVED.

As the psalm goes on David proceeds to tell God what’s his heartache. You realise that have to do that don’t you? Perhaps you are sighing because of some physical pain you’re worried about it. You know you have a medical problem, so you make an appointment to see your doctor. When he asks you what’s wrong do you say to him, “Well, I’m ill” and shut your mouth and not tell the doctor what’s wrong? You specify exactly what’s wrong. You spell it out, where the pain and discomfort is and what it is like. What are the symptoms? You tell him. You don’t say, “Well you are so smart. You tell me what’s wrong with me.” I am pleading with you not to play games with God. Tell him specifically why you are sighing and why you are crying to him for help. Put it into words. That is prayer.

What was David’s problem? It was not unrequited love, or loneliness, or physical healing, or the problem of the hungry masses. They are big problems but David wasn’t sighing over them. He was sighing over sinners, over the bad behaviour of men and women. He was deeply troubled by the arrogant, and those who did wrong, and how their conduct brought them under the judgment of God. David’s problem was people. David didn’t look at people in the way the world looks at them and sticks labels on them – criminals, the underclass, dysfunctional, alienated, feral. David saw them in a different way. David tried to look at them as the only God there is looks at them, the holy and just Lord of all, the mighty Creator. This is what this king says, “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors” (vv.5&6). He saw them as people unable to stand in the presence of God. His was a holy presence, a just presence, a sin-hating presence, a fearful presence, and that is how David looked on them, with awe and pity. You walk through Cardiff late one Saturday afternoon and you discover that there is an international in the Millennium Stadium and the game has just ended and a tide of men comes surging out past you, thousands and thousands of them hurrying on to the trains and buses and car parks, all very animated, and you look at them and you want to weep. You turn your face away; thousands on the broad road that leads to destruction. That is how Christians see men; that is how David saw them. “O Lord, consider my crying!”

Why did this make David particularly upset on this occasion? Not because the Assyrians and the Egyptians and the Edomites and Moabites and the Babylonians behaved like that. David’s own family were bloodthirsty and deceitful liars, arrogant men who did wrong!

Remember what his son Amnon did to David’s daughter Tamar? He lusted after her, and when he had enticed her to his bedroom with some food pretending to be sick you know what happened; “When she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, ‘Come to bed with me, my sister.’ ‘Don’t, my brother!’ she said to him. ‘Don’t force me. Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.’ But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her. Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, ‘Get up and get out!’” (2 Samuel 13:11-15).

Isn’t that shocking? David’s son first raped and then threw out David’s daughter. Then there was another son whose name was Absalom, and he told lies about a party he was holding, inviting Amnon to his home and there had his men murder his own brother. One son of David murdered another son. That wasn’t the end; Absalom raised an army and declared war on his own father and marched into battle against David. 20,000 men were killed through his son Absalom’s rebellion. Now in the light of all that let’s read again these words of David; “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors” (vv.5&6). “Jehovah abhors my children!” He is not a God who takes pleasure in such evil actions, or even shrugs in indifference at this wickedness. David knew this and yet had to endure his own children behaving as they did. You are reading in this psalm the pain of a family member whose loved ones are wicked people, and they are doing this in the sight of the only God there is. Jehovah refuses to dwell with the wicked; they are banned from his heavenly home; they are outside.

There is a city bright; closed are its gates to sin.
Nought that defileth can ever enter in.

The Lord destroys those who tell lies in hell; he abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men, and yet this is how David’s own sons lived!

Then let’s read the opening words of this psalm again, in the light of this fact, and can you now appreciate the king’s passion and concern? “Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay
my requests before you and wait in expectation” (vv. 1-3). Love for his own family was living in David’s heart right alongside love for the God who is light in whom is no darkness at all, a God who is holy and just in all his ways. “I love my family, and I love my God, and so, Listen to my cry for help, My King and my God, for to you I pray.” Whatever David feels about the future of his family he does not question the holiness or justice of God. That is non-negotiable. He humbly accepts that those who reject the Messiah in their beliefs and in their lifestyles are not going to enter the kingdom of God. He grieves over the judgment, but trusts the Judge of all the earth. What sort of king was David? He was all heart, a heart for God and a heart for his family. The film The Wizard of Oz ends with Dorothy saying goodbye to a weeping group of friends. “Don’t cry, Mr. Tin-Man,” she says. “You’ll only rust.” He replies, with joyful tears, “Now I know I have a heart because it is breaking.”

What can we learn about David’s heart-felt prayer as he thought of his family? I’ve had help from Jim Elliff here: ten encouragements to praying parents;

1. David’s burden in prayer for his children was a gift from God. A persistent burden may indicate that God intends to give your children eternal life because authentic prayer always begins with God. Though we cannot be absolutely certain that we know all that God is doing, we should be optimistic if the burden continues.

2. The miracle of the new birth is no less possible to God if our children are like sweet wronged Tamar, aware of right and wrong and attentive to him, or if they are like Amnon and Absalom and are turning away in defiance from him. Our children are dead spiritually whether they are in church or not, whether they listen to the truths we’ve tried to teach him or not, whether they have some interest in God now or none at all. They may be converted in the pig pen or the pew.

3. God does hear our prayers. Though God has taught us that he chooses all who are his before the foundation of the world, he also taught us that we should pray, and not only pray, but look in expectation for answer to our prayers. It is true that God is sovereign and it is just as true that he answers prayer. In fact, he could not answer prayer if he were not in control of all things.

4. We may have hope because of God’s electing grace of those who will come to him. Every child is on his way to hell unless God intervenes and turns him around. God’s electing grace is our friend. We would have no hope for our child’s salvation without it, because no child would turn to Christ if left in the state of depravity (Romans 3:9-11). But given God’s election of people for himself, we can be encouraged.

5. Your child has some clear knowledge of what it means to be a true Christian. You brought him to church; you read the Bible to him; he heard you pray. The Spirit certainly may bring this to bear at any time if this is his chosen method. Though it is no less a miracle for a knowledgeable child to be converted than a child with little knowledge; God always uses the gospel seed in every conversion.

6. There’s a promise to parents about their families in the great statement of the gospel. Listen to it; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house.” Your family too is being offered the same Saviour as you have. Your bored ‘cool’ teenagers, who ‘ain’t bovvered’ about religion, may take this Saviour too. They may have him. Your children have a special status as ‘set apart’ and sanctified children because of your trust in Christ. You bring them to the notice of the King of glory day by day, and so in that sense they are holy children

7. Some children may need the experience of being away from parental care in order to face up to their own need for Christ. The sense of need for many may be discovered only in the context of difficulties. We should not be surprised if it takes some solo flying before a child learns that it really needs another as its pilot.

8. Remember that there are lots of people who have come to appreciate their history prior to coming to Christ. I’m not saying that these people would not have wanted conversion earlier, but that the pain of their pre-conversion history has left them with compassion, understanding, knowledge, testimony, and a burden that they would perhaps not have had any other way. They’ve seen God’s wisdom in the timing of their conversion. This may well be so with your child. Paul said that there was a reason he was chosen to be converted even though he was a murderer, blasphemer and violent aggressor—so that people will see and have hope that God can save anyone.

9. You cannot save your child yourself no matter how hard you try. You are in a position of trust alone. This is good because it is the only way to please God (Heb. 11:6). Your rest in God, while simultaneously praying to the God who answers prayer, will be an encouragement to others in the same situation It will also help you respond to your child more positively, and will make your life far more joyful than your anxiety ever could.

10. Finally, remember that God has a purpose in all he does. We will one day rejoice that God has done a perfect job of ruling his universe. When we acknowledge this and put God even above our children, we will actually demonstrate to our children the way a Christian is to live.

So there are two ways we imitate David; firstly we cry in deep earnestness for the salvation of our children, and secondly we submit to the righteousness and justice of God in the destinies of those we love. Our own wills will be brought perfectly into harmony with God’s will in the Day of Christ. We shall say our Amen to the final words of God; “Even so Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.”

2. DAVID WAS ENCOURAGED AT THE GREAT MERCY HE HAD RECEIVED.

This is what he says, “But I” [what a contrast! Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!] “But I by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down towards your holy temple. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies – make straight your way before me” (vv.7&8). Amnon and Absalom would never enter David’s house again. Men and women who cursed God and served and supported other gods would never be welcome in David’s home, but David could run into God’s home and say to him, “I’m here, Abba, Father!” Why? Was David a better man than Amnon? No. Maybe far worse, but it was because he cast himself on God’s mercy. He prayed Psalm 51, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psa.51:1&2). Great mercy brought David to God. My point is this, that your own disobedience in the past or in the future – all alike known to God – will not ultimately keep your child from becoming a believer. This is David, remember, who is praying this prayer. We cannot forget his enormous sin, taking a wife from a brave loyal man and having him killed, and yet David is a father, with a father’s love. He is full of concern for his children. He still prays to God for them. His multi-marriages and his affair with Bathsheba had not helped his sons trust in the Lord, quite the reverse, but my point is this. It is pointless to berate yourself for any wrong behavior o
n your part as if that were the reason your children are without Christ. This doesn’t mean that we as parents shouldn’t repent and do better (and admit our wrong to our children), but the reason your children are without Christ is related to their own sin. Every parent is sinful and inconsistent. For most of us our sins have been veiled; for a few it seems to them that the whole world knows their sin, and yet we have all been saved by grace, through the blood of the eternal covenant. In other words, our sin is never a barrier to God saving our families. John Bunyan came from a family without God; so did Derek Thomas, and both received mercy from God. It is true for many of you. Your parents were anti-God and yet God saved you. We have been inconsistent men, angels in the pulpit and devils in the kitchen, and yet God has saved our children.

Isn’t that dangerous, to say that our sins need not prevent our children coming to God? Might not that encourage carelessness and presumption? No! The indwelling Holy Spirit will not let you! David’s encouragement was that because of the great mercy of God he could enter God’s house not to talk about himself but about his family and friends in their need. David knew God would hear a sinner like him pray because he feared the God of mercy: “in reverence will I bow down towards your holy temple” (v.7). Who is being photographed here? It is the publican in the temple whom Jesus saw, his eyes on the ground, his fist beating his bosom; “God be merciful to me a sinner!

Then you see the one thing he desires from God, “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies – make straight your way before me” (v.8). No turning back; no going to a married woman’s house and starting an affair. No plotting the destruction of people who are in the way of his getting what he covets – his neighbour’s wife. David wants henceforth to walk straight on the narrow way of righteousness all his days. Often we are confused as to where we should be going. We are surrounded by the enemies of the Lord who desire nothing better than to see a Christian fall. “Make straight your way before me!” You remember our Lord how he had set out a straight way before him and he would not be deflected from it by the beseeching of his friends or the threatening of his enemies. It was a way that led to the cross, and Christ had a single eye to that. The apostle Paul was like him; “This one thing I do . . .” he said. Let’s all pray that prayer. Make straight your way before me. Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil. I beseech you therefore brethren, by the great mercy of God, that you present your bodies as living sacrifices to God and cry to him to lead you day by day. You cannot pray for the salvation of your children without praying for the sanctification of yourself.

3. AFTER ALL THAT DAVID HAD EXPERIENCED HE WAS RESOLUTE IN HIS OPPOSITION TO SIN AND SINNERS.

Notice how bleakly David sees sinners; “Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit” (v.9). We know this because we read it in the book of psalms. We know it also because these very words are repeated in the New Testament in the majestic letter to the Romans at the heart of chapter three where the loving servant of Christ concludes, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” We know it because it matches our own experience of how unbelievers react when we talk to them about Jesus Christ. You cannot trust a word from their mouths as they defend their rejection of the Saviour. They will tell you, “We have studied Christianity; we have read the Bible; we have been to church; we have tried following Christ, yet we were put off by the hypocrisy of Christians. We have studied evolution . . .” and so on, claiming that they have weighed and judged the claims of Christ comprehensively with real resolution. Well, maybe one or two might have, but 99% of the men who answer in that way refuse to take the claims of Christ seriously and they will not. They have not bowed in the presence of God and pleaded with him to make himself known to them. They have not cried, “Show me who I really am!” They have not eagerly and thoroughly read the New Testament. They simply dismiss it all as ‘religion.’ “Not a word from their mouth can be trusted” (v.9). They don’t want Christ because it is always so inconvenient to their tastes and lifestyle. They love their sins too much to change. There are so many things they would have to give up if they began to worship the living God. All they say comes out of a heart that is biased against God; “their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit” (v.9). Not a word from their mouth can be trusted, but I am saying to you that you can trust Jesus Christ; you can trust his life; you can trust his promises and his claims; you can trust his warnings and his tears; you can trust all he said. He is the only perfectly trustworthy man that this world has ever known. Every word from his mouth can be trusted; his heart is full of salvation; with his tongue he speaks the truth. All my hope of forgiveness and everlasting life rests on the trustworthiness of Christ.

So here is the choice you must make. On this one hand is Jesus Christ, his peerless teaching, his attractive blameless, loving life, his staggering claims to be equal with God, his mighty miracles – he never failed to heal anyone completely and his indisputable resurrection on the first day of the week. There is that. See it on this hand, all of Jesus Christ and all that he has done in the lives of many people whom you know and respect and millions other just like them. Then on my other hand there is man, his achievements, his brilliance, his kindness and graciousness and glories, but everything about him is of this world. There is nothing supernatural whatsoever here; all you have is man. Jesus Christ, or man? Which is it going to be? Which will you reject? You say you reject Jesus Christ. You will stand with all those who do the same. “Man! Man alone! Man the measure of all things. There is nothing else but man.” Then see your position in the words of David; “Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you” (v.10). Do you see it? On the one hand pardoned, forgiven children of God through Christ. On the other, guilty, banished rebels full of intrigue. My only authority for telling you this is what this psalm of David says, reminding you that it is honoured and quoted in the New Testament. Its truth is also heard on the lips of the Lord Jesus, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (Jn. 3:36).

4. DAVID CONCLUDES THE PSALM HAPPY IN THE BLESSEDNESS OF THOSE WHO HAVE TAKEN REFUGE IN THE LORD.

What have they done? They have found a place of security in Jesus Christ. They are hiding in him. A mighty fortress is their Lord. How safe they are in that place, the safest place in all the universe from the enticements of the world, and the angry threatenings of Satan. Shouldn’t that make you glad? So “Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy” (v.11). They, and they alone have something to sing about.

But David longs for them to be absolutely and perfectly secure; he doesn’t want them to have one weak spot; he doesn’t want the youngest, weakest Christian who has taken refuge in the Saviour to be hurt in any w
ay, and so he cries, “Spread your protection over them” (v.11). The picture is the mother hen seeing the hawk circling overhead and calling for the chicks to come and shelter under her wings. There they’ll be safe. Your son is joining the army – spread your protection over them. Your daughter is going away to college – spread your protection over them. Your husband is going away with his business for a week – spread your protection over them. One of your family is often surfing the web – spread your protection over them. You are praying for them that they may have no cause for shame, rather “that those who love your name may rejoice in you” everywhere and always. Here is a man who is not covetous; he has learned contentment; he does not envy the possessions of others. The living God knows him and loves him and he rejoices. So David commits his family to his Sovereign Protector.

King Saul once doubted God’s power to protect David if he fought with Goliath, and David said to him, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (I Sam. 17:34-37). God will protect us; nothing will take us from the hands of God. Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ.

David is absolutely certain of this. Surely this will happen . . . surely! And on that note of assurance he ends this psalm, “For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield” (v.12). In ancient warfare the shields were tall and wide. They covered the entire body so that no weapon could penetrate or do any harm. And walls of salvation surround the soul he delights to defend.

When Martin Luther was summoned to the papal court one of the cardinals mocked him. Where would he find shelter when all the world was gathered against him and if his patron, the Elector of Saxony, should desert him? Luther said, “I’ll be safe under the shield of heaven.” And so we will be, for greater is he that protects us than all the forces that oppose us. “For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield” (v.12).

December 7th 2008 GEOFF THOMAS