INTRODUCTION: We see Christ. It will take a redeemed man or woman to be able to see Him and it’s by His loving kindness that we get to bow, not because we’re righteous in our own self, not because we’re better than those other sinners, not because we’re better than those people that vilify Christ and Christianity. Watch the temptation to look down on others rather than bowing down in worship.
EASLEY: Well welcome back to the broadcast. This is Michael Easley. As I listen to those words again, it’s convicting as if it were the first time I taught them somewhere. It penetrates my own heart, it convicts me, it reminds me of the temptation of looking down on others, rather than bowing down and worshipping. I have a friend in Texas who often said, “Why pray when you can worry?” There’s a corollary here. Why bow down and worship when we can look down on people perhaps? The Christian life is a complicated life; well, it’s not really, but we make it complicated because we think of it in our own terms, in our own view of life. To live the Christian life the way Christ designed, to live the life that God intends for you and me as followers of Jesus Christ requires a continual recalibration to the Word, not to the world. So, in that vein as we continue looking at Psalm 5, we’re going to be reminded of God’s lovingkindness; we’re going to be reminded of what it means to bow down and worship as an individual, who has a personal relationship with a Holy God and what is involved in this kind of prayer. Now as you’re going to hear in the message, lovingkindness in my opinion is the single most important term in our Old Testament. Depending on what Bible translation you use, the Word is rendered lovingkindness in the New American Standard; it’s rendered steadfast love in the ESV, and many other Bibles will vary the translation, which is one of the reasons I like the NSB because it’s always consistent in using the term lovingkindness so you know this is a big important word. It’s a little cumbersome for us to say, but sometimes it’s good to learn what these words mean. What is God’s lovingkindness mean? Well as you’ll hear again, He loves to be loyal to two things: chosen people and His covenant promise. Not a loyalty like man’s best friend aka the dog; this is not loyalty to your spouse or to your friend,this is God’s loyalty. His loyalty is ethical. He says something, his character, his person, the reliability of who He is when He makes a promise, it’s good. Period! And He loves ethically to be loyal to that promise;when He chooses a people in the Old Testament; when He chose Israel, He loved to be loyal to His people; when He chose you to be a follower of Jesus Christ, He loves to be loyal to you! So God’s promises, and God’s people, He loves to be loyal to them. That’s the kind of Father we have. We live in a phronetic society that pulls us in a lot of different directions and we never stop to rest in the fact that we have a God who loves us and has this loving kindness toward us. The challenge then is do we phronetically try to respond to life with our human resources, or do we take a breath and do we stop and recognize we have a sovereign God who’s not pacing heaven’s floor worried about our lives or other people’s lives? But He’s sovereign, He’s kind, He’s holy, He’s just, He’s merciful and He desires an intimate, personal relationship with you.
Let’s continue to listen to some of the backstory of Psalm 5.
MESSAGE: Now the term lovingkindness in verse 7 is the linchpin of the whole Psalm. Lovingkindness means two things: It means God loves to be loyal to His covenant and God loves to be loyal to His chosen people. God loves to be loyal to two things: His covenant and chosen people. The word loyalty falls flat in the American brain. God is not loyal like a dog is loyal to his owner. That really isn’t loyalty, it’s stupidity. You can feed the dog, neglect the dog, beat the dog with the newspaper and it comes back and wags it’s tail. That’s not loyalty, that’s stupidity. Their brain is that big around; get over it. They love us and we love them, end of story. That’s not a good story of loyalty. Loyalty is an ethical character that says, when I make a decision I will never change; when I chose these people, I will never unchoose them; when I give you a promise called my covenant, I will never change it. God’s character is not an emotional gooey love, God’s character is, I as God love to be loyal to my Word; I love to be loyal to my people. So, if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, He loves to be loyal to you. If you have trusted HIm; if you put your faith in Him, and you read His promises and you say,” Oh, I don’t know if I can really trust that promise or not.” You can trust that promise, not because you read it differently, because the God who offered the promise is trustworthy. God loves to be loyal to two things. What are they? His chosen people and His covenant promises. See there’s c and p, so you can remember them. He’s supposed to be loyal to what? His chosen people and His covenant promises. God is loyal to what? His chosen people and His covenant promise That’s what the word hesed (Greek word for English translation) means and if you use the NASB, every time it occurs in your Old Testament, they consistently translate it lovingkindness. It’s a cumbersome word. It’s a big word. I like it, it’s not love, it’s not mercy, it’s not kind, which most English translations gloss it. This is one of the reasons, just use the NASB as a study, you don’t have to use it as your primary Bible if you’re in love with another translation. I get that. But every time it occurs in the NASB, they faithfully render it hesed (Greek word for English translation) lovingkindness.
By your lovingkindness, the Psalmist has no virtue of his own. What does he do? He bows down. I will enter your house and at your holy temple, I will bow in reverence before you. Bow down has a root word that means fear. You bow for lots of reasons, but the reason he bows is because he’s afraid, not afraid in the sense of looming judgement, but he’s afraid. Revelation 1:17, The angel of the Lord appears to John. Listen, he says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man.” If you want to do an interesting study, look up all the times angels appear on the scene in the Bible and look at a man or woman’s response. Most of the time,they’re what? They’re afraid. There’s no buddy, high five chum stuff. They’re on their face and that’s just an angel. That’s why I think eternity is going to be eternity because the first time you see Christ, you’re going to throw yourself in the dirt and He’s going to pick you back up and He’s going to say, “It’s okay.” Then you’re going to fall back over and He’ll go to the next one and say, “Get up.” Then they’ll fall down. It’ll take an eternity for Jesus to keep picking us up. When you see Him, you’re going to fall down. It’s only recorded in one of the gospels, I think it’s Matthew, when they come to rescue Jesus at Gethsemane. He says, “I am.” and they fall down. Love that scene. What a bunch of embarrassed soldiers! You fall down with your shield and your armor, and your sword, and your hilt. All of them tumbling over each other. How embarrassing! It’s like the Monty Python review, you know. This is the Army of Rome! Jesus just knocked them over with the word. Do you think when we see Him we’re going to be afraid? Its an interesting word, and again, I think we’ve sort of watered it down. Psalm 2:11 says, Worship the Lord in reverence and rejoice with trembling.” Have you ever been in a situation where you’re so excited, but you’re terrified at the same time? One of the first times, Cindy and I met one of our Presidents, we didn’t know we were going to meet him at the time. It was a bait and switch. We were told to come to a certain function down in Washington D.C. and we lived near there for eleven years, and we didn’t know we were going to meet the President and I’m glad we didn’t because it’s good not to know those things. We were in the Oval Office there with just a handful of people and what do you say to the President when you meet him? “Uh hi, my name’s Michael Easley.” So what? He meets eighty six thousand people a day, so what difference does it make? As I reflected on that, I thought he’s just a guy. Before he ran for office he was a nobody and now he’s a somebody. Now the whole world knows his face. When we see Christ, it will take a redeemed man or woman to be able to see Him and it’s by His loving kindness that we get to bow, not because we’re righteous, in our own self, not because we’re better than those other sinners, not because we’re better than those people that vilify Christ and Christianity. Watch the temptation to look down on others, rather than bowing down in worship. Watch the temptation. Maybe you are better than me at this. Evil cannot stand and worshippers can only bow. Maybe we have become too sophisticated and too chummy in our walk with Christ to realize we have a Holy God and the only reason we can relate to Him is because of His loving kindness, which becomes a parallel for His grace, and His mercy, and His salvation in the New Testament.
Number one: This is a cry for help. “God, why aren’t you being just?”
Number two: When you look at the evil, who do all these things bad? I know I can only come to you as a worshipper who’s been compelled by your loving kindness. So, you see the movement of the Psalm. At first God be just, and now he’s saying, “I understand that it’s only by your loving kindness I can worship you.” Then the Psalm turns when he asks, “Lead me into righteousness.” So I suggest a progression. As he prays this anxiety driven prayer, “Morning by morning,” and he wants God to deal with the enemy. God be just because I’m the good guy and they’re the bad guys and as he starts articulating that in the prayer; he realizes I’m not not any better than them. It’s only by your loving kindness, I can even approach you. When I approach you I’m on my face. So what’s the next prayer? Help me be righteous. Help me walk in that righteousness. That’s precisely where he takes us verses 8-12. “Oh Lord, lead me in your righteousness because of my foes.” The causal reason of languages, the reason I need you to lead me in righteousness is because these evil unjust forces are after me. My natural response is to want to kill them, but you don’t want me to respond that way. That’s your job. My job is to be lead in your righteousness. Make your way straight before me. There’s nothing reliable in what they say; Their inward part is destruction;Their throat is an open grave;
They flatter with their tongue. Hold them guilty, O God; By their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out for they are rebellious against you. But, here’s the contrast, but let all who take refuge in you, be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And may you shelter them, that those who love your name may exalt you. For it is you who blesses the righteous man, O Lord. Surround him with favor as a shield. So invariably, he says, “Lead me in righteousness.” This morning prayer, he’s not being asked to be lead through a valley, to be lead through trouble, to be lead to victory, he’s saying, “Lead me in your righteousness because of my foes.”
David says a lot about his enemies here. The word enemy is a different word here in your text. It means a watcher. It is the idea of one who’s lying in wait to trip me up. They’re watching me along the roadside. Look again at the litany. Foes. Nothing reliable, Their inward part is destruction; Their throat is an open grave. It’s a very grotesque metaphor for the stench of death. That’s what the word means. If you’ve been around someone who’s dying, there’s a so called death rattle. There’s a stench of death coming out of the throat as a person dies perhaps over a long period of time. That’s exactly the image here. Their voice is stinking death; that’s what he’s saying. It’s a very graphic picture. They flatter with their tongue. Same thing James says. Hold them guilty. Deal with their sins. Now you know the word: Imprecation. Imprecation is when you pray for God to kill your enemy. Psalm 55 is a Imprecatory Psalm. God kill my enemy. So part of the Psalm becomes an imprecation. But notice he’s not saying, “God just destroy them outright.” There’s a process in this. If you lead me in your righteousness, I’m going to trust you to deal with the enemy. It’s a very fine balance in the Psalms and we’ve got to be careful when we try to apply imprecation. “God, please kill all those people that hate us. Amen!” In Jesus Name. There was an old Monty Python skit where this Anglican Priest says, “O Lord, please bless this thy holy grenade to blow thine enemies to bits. In thy mercy.” That’s sort of the way we think. We don’t say it, but that’s the way we think about it. After 9/11, we lived in the Washington D.C. area and we had one man die from the church and he had burned about sixty percent of his body, Brian Birdwell. We had probably, one hundred and twenty people working in the Pentagon that day; one of our good friends rescued about twelve people out of the fire before his admiral stood him down. It impacted our church tremendously right inside the beltway there. I remember the recoil of watching men and women who love Christ desperately, who love their country first, and I so appreciate Michael acknowledging our men and women who serve our country. I love the military. I love the military and they’re the finest people I’ve ever met because they love Christ and they serve without a question. They’re just extraordinary men and women. I remember the feelings of anger and vindication and revenge and yet compassion and all those different emotions. Maybe you didn’t respond that way, but it was difficult for me and I decided to pray along the line, “Dear Lord, please help my enemies come to know you, but if they don’t stop, stop them from harming your people.” That’s as close to implication as I can get. I’d like to pray that God would just destroy them all, but I can’t because Calvary is level ground, as hard as that is for me to swallow. Calvary is level ground. Once we go beyond that, we’re self righteous in our process.
Well the Psalm is not praying for the destruction, vs 10, By their own devices let them fall! In other words, let them be caught in their own traps. America is not a theocracy as much as we love the country; this is not a theocracy! A lot of good Christian people live here; a lot of phenomenal ministries happen because of Americans. No debate! But we’re not a theocracy so we live with a different rule, and a different land, and a different time. We’re more like the Israelites in Cana than we are the Israelites in Israel. It’s hard to remember as much as we love our country. Peter Craigie writes, “Though evil persons are excluded from the presence of God because of their sin, it does not follow that the Psalmist would admit by virtue that he is good. The Psalmist entrance into the house is based only upon the abundance of your lovingkindness. Verse 10 the summary, For they are rebellious against you. There’s a triplet of verbs in verse 11. We don’t have time to look at them. I’ll entrust you to look at each one of them. Let me just point out three times: be glad, sing for joy, exult in you. The triplet is take joy in God, not this anxious, ridden, morning prayer, but take joy in God and find joy in God because He is our shelter; He surrounds us. Finally, verse 12, we read that, He loves those who love His name. For it is you who blesses the righteous, O Lord, You surround him with favor as a shield. The picture is: shields are a defensive tool, some say crown; the word just means around. So the idea is you’re protecting him, around. So the Psalm begins with the prayer for justice and it ends for the acknowledgement of protection; it laments about the injustice of his enemy; it talks about the destruction of his enemy and in the middle of it as the worshippers response that because of His abundant lovingkindness, that’s the only reason he can bow and worship.
A couple of things just to conclude my lessons. The prayer is to be lead in righteousness and as I was studying for this a few weeks ago, I was greatly convicted. I don’t know that I pray to be lead in righteousness. I pray for God to stop my back pain; I pray for my kids to know Christ; I pray for my oldest to find an extraordinary young man who loves Christ tremendously; I pray that my wife won’t have to shovel snow anymore with a husband with a bad back ; I pray for people to know Christ, a lot of things, but do I pray to be righteous? Have you? Do you pray God lead me in your righteousness? This is exactly what the Psalmist is saying. We’ll talk more tomorrow about the term righteousness. Secondly, how good at you at waiting? How good are you at waiting? I don’t get better at this for some reason and I pray about that. I ask God to help me through this. Yeah, there are times I do a little better than others, but typically I’m pretty impatient as I already shared. F. B. Meyer’s again, “We don’t like to wait on the dock for the ship.” It’s a hard corollary to think that the reason our prayers aren’t answered is because we’re so bad at waiting. Well, I suspect that may be some of it. The reality of life on earth is going to frustrate the joy of the believer. That’s it. Life on this side is going to frustrate us at times and it did the Psalmist. Fear swells up, we wake up with anxiety, maybe we go to bed with it, the morning comes and we immediately get to our knees which is a great thing and we’re asking for His help; we’re asking the sovereign King to protect us. Don’t let the enemy distract you. Worry less about the enemy, and more about your intimacy. Worry less about the anxiety, and worry more about the Almighty. Even when no answer comes, we’re surrounded. That’s what the Psalmist says. It is You who blesses the righteous. You surround him with favor as a shield. So what is it? It’s faith. My prayers aren’t answered. I still believe. When I don’t find what I want, I still trust and I learn to sit on the dock and wait.
PRAYER: Our Father in heaven you’re good and kind always. We are slow and hard to learn. For the men and women who are doing it so well, bless them and encourage them as they help others. For those of us who need the prodding of your Spirit, and help the men and women who seek you in righteousness, who love you well, who follow you well. Give us that energy, give us that courage and give me that patience as we wait on the dock for your grace. In Christ name we pray. Amen.
CONCLUSION: When you examine the things you pray for, what does that list look like? If it’s like mine, it can often be a shopping list of “God will you please do these things?” One of the many lessons we learn from studying the Psalter, is that these prayers were different than a Western view of consumerism and materialism and God give me xy and z. In Paul’s letter to the Church of Galatia, and we know this passage well, he challenges them to walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. Then he makes these wonderful comparisons and contrasts about the fruit of the Spirit is this, comparative and contrasted to the deeds of the flesh that are evident. Now all that to say, let me ask you, change your prayer life a little bit. Take a look at Galatians chapter 5:22, The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control and against such things there is no law. What’s Paul saying there? The fruit, which I would argue is singular, by the way is love. The fruit of God’s Spirit is love and what does love look like? It looks like joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. One of those, I’m certain jumps off the page at you. I’m not patient. I’m not kind. I’m not faithful. I don’t have self control, whatever it is. I assure you one of those manifestations of God’s love probably causes you trouble. This is the fruit of God’s Spirit working in your life and mine. This is transformation. Why don’t you try to pray that list or pray from Psalm 5, but pray some prayers that aren’t simply, “God give me this. God fix that,” and what’s fantastic about this is when you pray for patience, pray for self control, when you pray for gentleness, only you and God will see the answer to that prayer. This is Michael Easley inContext.