Living From The Heart – The Psalms – Episode 1

How personal is your God? In our new series, Living From The Heart, we’ll explore.

INTRODUCTION: For the Psalmist to say “my” in a first person pronoun is more than possession. This is a very unusual phrase. In fact, as the Old Testament developed to the careful student, you don’t talk about Yahweh as “my God.” You say the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of our Fathers. You don’t say “my.” It’s too casual. It’s too familiar. David is not being familiar or casual; he’s being intimate. He’s “my king.” This is “my God.”

EASLEY: How personal is your God? When you think about approaching God,when you think of praying or going to church, or going to some “place” where you are coming near to God, is He a personal God? A personal Saviour? I think too often from childhood, perhaps storybooks, or pictures, we generate in our mind or construct an image of God who may not be that approachable. Some how as we mature in the faith we need to see God as the Scripture reveals Him. As we read the Old testament, the personalization of “my God,” “my Lord,” “my Saviour,” is not something we read a lot about until the time of David. Now of course, it’s in the Scripture, but unlike any portion of the Scripture, in the Psalms we begin to read this personal address from the Psalmist to God.

Welcome to our new series, Living From the Heart. These messages were originally given at The Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove, a fabulous venue in Asheville, N.C. I had been privileged to speak there on occasions.

These messages came from the Psalter, from the book of Psalms. We begin the series from Psalm 5. Now if you have a Bible I would encourage you to open it today. This is good material to take notes on. We’ll look at some specific mechanisms that we read in the Bible. Sometimes we read over these verses so quickly we miss the rich texture of the writer. Keep in mind, the Psalms were built on structure. When you and I think of a song or a hymn today, we think of rhyme and meter and when you’re teaching it to a group, obviously it’s the rhyme and meter that makes the song memorable. So if you hear a song on the radio you can pick up the lyrics pretty quickly. The Psalms were different. The Psalms were built on structure. We don’t have an English, or technically even a Hebrew rhyme, so to speak. So as we study the Psalms, it’s important to look for the structure and I promise you as you start doing that, the Psalms will come alive to you. They won’t just be these repetitive phrases to you, but you’ll see the repetitions in every statement and that they are making a point so the worshipper will not forget. In the same way when you and I hear a song that rhymes, we remember the lyrics. So let’s take a look at Psalm 5. You’ll hear some personal information about the Easley family as we begin these series. So let’s pick up the program in progress.

 

MESSAGE: It’s great to be at the Cove. I’m humbled to be here. It’s a great privilege. It’s a lot more fun for me this year since Cindy is with me. She keeps me inline. It’s great to be away without the children. We do have four kids. We have three daughters and one son and I have one wife. If she was to introduce herself, she would say, “We have four children; all from different fathers,” because three of our four children are adopted and I’m the only biological father of number one. So it always gets a stir. Anyway that’s the Easley clan and we’re doing great. In God’s kindness, I have resigned from Moody. Most of you probably know that by now. It’s been just a phenomenal privilege to be a part of Moody, but after two back surgeries and the surgeon telling me the worst thing I could possibly do is get on a plane for the rest of my life, which is what a lot of Moody entails and so the trustees have been extraordinarily kind to keep me on salary and benefits while I get some medical attention these last few months. We’ve kind of run the gamut with that. I’m ok, but I do live with chronic pain and that will just probably be there. Anyway, but God is good, and I’ve got a great wife who shovels snow. (Laughter). So, it’s true and that’s why we’re moving to Nashville. No snow to shovel.

When you come to the Cove, you sort of put on the feedbag and you will graze from now on. Psalm 5. Open your Bibles. What I’d like to do in these four sessions is look at a couple Psalms you probably don’t know and some maybe you do: Psalm 5, Psalm 65, Psalm 110, and Sunday morning we’ll finish with Psalm 101, probably my favorite Psalm in the Psalter. The Psalms are full of narrator, of story, of pros, of lyric, of what we would call a Hebrew rhyme in that they are structural, not necessarily a rhyme, like we would sing a song. Many of the songs Marty sang are metered, they’re cadenced,they rhyme, they have structural repetitions. Hymns of course, are full of these types of devices. Why? Because when you sing a song that rhymes or has a lilt to it or a cadence, you what? You remember it. You can hear a song on the radio if you can understand the lyrics and in a very short while, you will have most of it committed to memory. The Hebrews of course, learned the same way we do. Most of your Psalms are broken into structures: two, three, five parts, all types of structural devices. I’ll show you just a few of them, but I hope to get you started. These texts were the Hebrew hymnbook. We’ll talk tomorrow a little bit more about some of the labeling of your Psalter, but I want to jump right into Psalm chapter 5. You follow, I’ll read. I’ll be using the New American Standard this weekend. It is in the handbook, if you don’t have that right copy of the Word of God. (Laughter).

For the choir director, for flute accompaniment. A Psalm of David. Give ear to my words, O Lord, Consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, For to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. Now this psalm, I have called on your outline here The Morning Prayer for Protection, not really a great title, but it’s a wooden title and it reflects the Psalm well. It breaks neatly into three parts and they’re on your outline. The Cry for Help. The second part: You Can’t Stand, But You Will or Can Bow, and lastly the Psalmist asks to be Lead in His Righteousness. I’ll repeat those so you don’t have to worry about trying to write these things down. Now we know from historical books that a lot of the Psalter was composed at Davids’ order. In I Chronicles, Chapter 15:16, David spoke to the Chief of the Levites, to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. Cindy and I were driving from Knoxville today and we stumbled across a public radio interview. I dont remember the physicians name, but he was a neuro scientist. He studied music and how it worked with people’s brains. It was fascinating and the number of people who have perfect pitch. How many of you have perfect pitch in this room? There’s got to be a few. Some of you have perfect pitch. They don’t know why people have perfect pitch, but they said, “Some people just know G.” Marty, you have perfect pitch. Marty replies, “No Sir.” Easley says, “No, ok, just trying to give you the benefit of the doubt.” I wouldn’t know a G from a C or Z for that matter. but if I look at a shirt and say it’s blue, I have to think about that. The same type of neural network going on in a person’s brain, helps them identify songs. It’s all math if you know anything about music; it’s all mathematical. The Psalmist that David appointed, look at it: their relatives, the singers, it seems like there were some genetic predisposition to some of the Levis who said they were musically adept. So these are writers; these are not prehistoric people who were making strange percussions. These people were musicians and they were skilled and talented in extraordinary ways as they write the Psalm. We might envision an ensemble; we might envision a group of vocalists;we might envision period peace instruments. Some of these we’re not sure what they are; some of these the eph musicologists have a pretty good idea of what the Hebrew instruments were like so if you look at the superscription here, you see the word flute or wind instrument in Psalm 5. We don’t know what it means. That’s just totally a haphazard guess by Hebrew scholars wannabes. Nobody knows what it means. The best we can determine is that it is some type of instrument. The Hebrew word is a little complicated. Some of you are well accustomed to hymns. Of course, that’s the only Christian songs to sing: are hymns. As you know there are two signatures at the top of a hymn in a hymnbook. We may sometimes read like finlando or fallkirk or some others. That may be what some of these superscriptions mean because the Hebrew did not depend upon memorization by rhyme. They depended upon structure and it was the parallels, the repetitions, and what we’ll talk about later: chiasms, which are devices that bring a point, all sorts of clever super intended pieces of poetry that helped the Hebrew mind learn. My estimation is the pias Jew had most of the Psalter committed to memory, not because they were just brilliant, but they had no television, no internet, no Presidential debates, nothing to distract them and the pias Jew would sing. It is not unrealistic to think that many of these were not the top forty, but the top one hundred and fifty tunes, and some of them may have been similar the way our hymnals are penned. When we started with the Psalter, we need to remember that all the emotion of David or Asaph or whoever wrote them, the emotion is on the sleeve.Some of these are individual lament, some of them are corporate meant for public worship, some are complicated to identify how they fit and what they mean. This particular Psalm is going to talk about a number of themes. It’s going to talk about on the one hand the prayer that God should hear and listen to our cries, that evil people don’t harm us or come in and hurt us, and of course we live in a culture where we’re fearful of people and we live in fear as a people. The Psalmist is going to talk about his desire to worship and he longs to worship. He’s going to pray for the wicked to be destroyed and he’s going to pray for protection.

Let’s look at the cry for help in verses 1-3, Hear me. Technically, this prayer is God be just; technically, the author is saying, You’re God, you’re sovereign. Why aren’t you acting in a just way? Implication: there are injustices going on. If you look at verse 3, you’ll see twice the phrase, In the morning. We call this a morning Psalm. I think it’s more than just, he’s going to be disciplined and devoted each morning to get up and pray. I think he’s waking up with a preoccupation on his mind. He can’t not think about it. He awakes and it hurasses him from the moment he opens from his slumber. In the morning, O Lord, you will hear my voice. In the morning, I will order my prayer to you and eagerly watch. This is consuming him.

Now let’s look at some of the parallels so you can start to see them. Some of you know this stuff backwards and forwards. Some of you perhaps have never seen some of these in your Bible. This will hopefully prod you on to your Bible study. Look at verse 1: Give ear. There’s two strophe in verse 1. Give ear to my words, O Lord.  The second strophe: Consider my groaning. Give ear is parallel to the word, what? Consider. He’s saying, “Give ear to me.” It’s almost the same thing. Consider. There’s a parallel theme. Give ear to my words and the second strophe: Consider my groaning. So the word, words are parallel to the term groaning. Look at verse 2, the first strophe: Heed the sound of my cry. The parallel continues: Give ear, consider and heed are all parallel thought. The word groaning, my cry, and my words are all parallel thoughts. So where we would expect a rhyme, Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, oh what a fortune, all the words that we’d remember, the structure and the repetitions and the parallels are how the Hebrews would remember things. The cries underscored with a list of imperatives. These are terms that stick out in our verbal vocabulary. Hear the words: Groaning is a very interesting word. It is an inarticulate expression. Because I live with chronic back pain, I moan and groan a lot. Cindy will often to say to me in the morning, “You didn’t sleep well, did you?” “Well how do you know?” “Every time you turned, you groaned.” Well that’s an inarticulate sound of pain, that I’m going, “Ohhhh.” I don’t even know I’m doing it some of the time. Some of the times I do it just to get attention. (Laughter). These are inarticulate words, and it’s the same for the Psalmist as it would be for you and me. The word has a hint of the word “burn.” Lord, I’m groaning to you; I’m consumed with this thing and he’s addressing Him with these parallels.

Notice verses 1 and 3, He says, “Oh, Lord, and my king and my God. Now the word King in Hebrew is malec, Melchizedek, which we’ll see in another Psalm, and Elohim is the second word. For the Psalmist to say “my” in a first person pronoun is more than possession. This is a very unusual phrase. In fact, as the Old Testament develops to the careful student, you don’t talk about Yahweh as “my God.” You say the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of our Fathers. You don’t say “my.” It’s too casual. It’s too familiar. David is not being familiar or casual. He’s being intimate. He’s my King. This is my God. Over against the cultures gods, and idolatrous natures, and propensity for multiple gods unlike those, He’s my King and my God. Whenever you read the word King, remember it is the King of Israel, David, writing this Psalm is saying, (the king is saying,) “My King.” If this is used in a corporate worship setting, the king valiantly is putting the attention on, not himself as king, but on my King. He’s leading Israel to remember: I’m just a chosen servant of Yahweh. He’s my King. He’s my God. It’s one thing to be intimate and personal in our approach, but I fear we’ve become too casual. Sometimes when I hear young people pray especially, men and women in their twenties and thirties, I almost whince. They’re just too chummy. Now I understand a personal relationship with Jesus Christ: I understand that He calls us His friends; I understand that we read, and some cry out Abba in their heart; dad or daddy; I understand that. But there’s a difference between respect and awe, and a cavalier familiarity, isn’t there?

I have never met Billy Graham. I corresponded with him when I first came to Moody; I asked him to come; I asked him to do a video, and his health was fading and he wrote a splendid note that I still have. Even though his name is Billy, it just seems to casual to call him Billy Graham. There’s a respect there. There’s an honor there, but you don’t call the president George; you don’t call the president Bill; you don’t call the president Obama. You call them President! That is an appropriate title for certain people. You honor them. The only reason I’m stressing this and most of you are further down the road than I am with your walk with Christ, but there needs to be a holy approach to Christ. There needs to be a worshipful response, even though He’s my King and my God because I trusted Christ and Christ alone. I’ve put my faith in Christ to do for me what I cannot do for myself. There’s nothing I can bring to my salvation. I’ve trusted by faith; I’ve believed in Him and it’s His work on calvary who forgives me of my sin, that gives me a relationship with Him. I don’t deserve it, I don’t earn it, but I can live to say thank you to Him, but He’s not my pal; He’s my Saviour; He’s my God. I think we need to recast a humility toward the King of Israel. When you and I pray to Father, through the Spirit, through Jesus Christ, we are speaking to the very King of the universe. I suspect based on what I know of Scripture, if we were to see Him, it would pretty well undo us. I don’t think we’d give him a high five and slap Him on the back. I don’t think we’d run and get a cup of coffee with Him. In fact, it’s very contrary in the Scripture, when we see Him.

Well this cry for help is a picture of a cadence, Hear my cry. Hear my prayer. Hear my groanings, consider my words. He’s asking God to listen to him and then this powerful, intimate, but reverential, my King and my God. He’s asking God for His attention. Now we all have issues and problems. Some of us wake up in the morning. I do, but I don’t know how many of you do, but there’s seasons. If I wake up at two in the morning, or three in the morning, or four in the morning, I’m up like a start. Any of you like that besides me? How many of you are like that? Some of you are like that. You need some more sugar. You’re starting to fade. You need some more sugar and when that hits you and you wake up and oops, wake up there. (Michael must be pouring packets of sugar. Laughter in the crowd). This is a morning Psalm. When you wake up like that, all of a sudden the thoughts of the day consume you. If you’re like me you have got to get out of bed. I used to sort of over spiritualize that and say, “God wants me to get up and pray.” I have to come to the conclusion that I’m a worrier.  I’m anxious and once my stomach gets going like that, I’ve just got to get up. I think David was that way too. Whatever it was, whether the context of the Psalm was Absalom, or an enemy, we do not know. But we do know that morning by morning, it drove David to a place.

CONCLUSION: I wonder how many of us, when we wake up in the middle of the night or early in the morning, earlier than we intended, and that startle, our minds start to run, our stomach starts to churn. Perhaps you are like me; you are a to do list person, an anxious person, a get up and go person, and it’s very frustrating. Over the years as I analyzed my own spiritual life, I’ve concluded  the work is always going to be there. No matter how anxious, or busy we become, how important we feel by accomplishing a lot, there’ll be more work tomorrow. Learning to rest, which is a big part of the Psalter; learning to rest is key for the spiritual life. Morning by morning when you wake up, what’s the first thing you do? My hope, my prayer, my plea, for you is that you get your nose in the Book. That you’re able to take a deep breath, to rest, and to read His Word. I often say, we all need two things every morning. We need oxygen and caffeine. By oxygen, I don’t mean what we’re breathing, I mean the Word of God, because it is the oxygen of our life. Apart from an intimate relationship with God, He would be that impersonal being, that far away construct, somehow out of reach God, whose holy and I don’t know how to approach Him. Well if you have a Bible, and you have a quiet place, there’s nothing keeping you from approaching Him. So I want to encourage you, perhaps today, perhaps in this broadcast, when you listen to this when it’s over, that you sit down and read Psalm 5 a couple of times. Look for some parallel structures; rest in what He is doing in His Word; know that He’s God; know that He loves you; know that even though He may feel out of reach, or out of touch, He is a very present God. He cares about you intimately; He loves you completely; He’s not mad at you and He wants you to linger in His Word; He wants you to spend time with Him. Again, as David said, “In the morning, O Lord, you will hear my voice. In the morning, I will order my prayer to you and eagerly watch.”   What a great way when you wake up early and it startles you to say, “I know God will hear me.” My part is I will order my prayer.  If I’m going to do something, I’m going to get up and I’m going to order my prayer and I know that you watch. I know that you care. I’m going to watch and see how you work in life, and I know that you watch me, and care about me. This is Michael Easley inContext.

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