Sermon on August 15, 2021
KaB FKB (Volker Aßmann)
“Cry for help to God in greatest need”
This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
Preparing for this sermon was challenging for me, just as Bible reading can be challenging for us. Psalm 17 is the psalm suggested for the sermon this Sunday. And so I took on the challenge of this rather unknown and unspectacular psalm. And I have prayed that God would speak to me through this psalm and that HE would speak to you as well. Do not choose your favorite passages from the Bible, but ask: Lord, what are you telling me today through this word?
The situation in which David prayed Psalm 17 was perhaps 1 Samuel 23: David is hunted and apparently abandoned by Saul, driven and trapped. This is what his words sound like, rushed and under great tension. “Saul hunted him all the time, but God did not allow him to find him.” (1.Samuel 23,14) But God allows that. “And David learned, that Saul was on his way to track down and kill him.” (23.15) No pause! In this situation David experienced a glimmer of hope when Saul’s son Jonathan, who was also David’s best friend, visited him in the desert: “Jonathan encouraged David’s faith in God.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said to him, ‘my father Saul will never get you find. You will become king over Israel and I will be the second man after you.(23, 16-18)
But again and again David experiences how he is betrayed and has to flee again anew. Nowhere is he at home and safe. David is in dire straits and apparently at the end! And that’s only because God has called him to succeed King Saul and Saul is now sickly trying to get David out of the way. David is innocent of this situation, ultimately God brought him into it. And so we hear this psalm as David’s cry for help to God in greatest need, in which he is running for his life. David is being hunted down with his “loyal followers”, friends and henchmen and it seems that they will soon have to give up. And again and again David experiences short breaks and safe moments until the escape begins all over again.
Perhaps there is none of us today who is in such existential need and who is crying out for help. But the need doesn’t have to be that great, even small needs can sometimes rob us of confidence and hope. And so you might find yourself in this psalm after all and say with David: God, why and how long should this go on like this? And then maybe like David you experience a temporary calm and then it goes on again. > God gives rest to prepare His children for a new round of hardships and challenges. <(Dieter Schneider)
This psalm is about false accusations, evil allegations that we would say “bullying” about it today. When people are completely beaten up by other people, at work, at school, wherever. People who experience something like this feel like David harassed and persecuted and as if they were struggling to survive.
There is an interpretation of this Psalm that it is about divine jurisdiction. A “God decision” that David stands before God and waits for how God thinks and decides about his life. According to this interpretation, the person seeking refuge had to spend the night in the temple, exposing himself to the testing eyes of the invisible God present in his sleep. To then wake up the next day with God’s decision. The hope was that the next morning after the night of the divine test, he would have an encounter with God, a divine apparition (v.15) and everything would take a good turn.
Psalm 139:23: “Search me, God, and know what is going on in my heart; test me and recognize my thoughts! See if I have chosen a path that would lead me away from you, and guide me on the path that will last forever!”
1. Throw yourself in the arms of God
Verses 1 + 2: “Lord, hear my request for righteousness. Pay attention to my cry for help! Hear my prayer for it comes from a sincere heart. Your judgment will acquit me because it comes from a sincere heart. “
David is not concerned here with a false self-righteousness, but with honesty before God, but it is also against all intimidation by seemingly strong people! “… examine me and recognize my thoughts! See if I’ve taken a path that would lead me away from you …! ” David surrenders himself completely to God and says: You know me, my heart and how I mean it and you see my back to the wall and see no way out. Desperation sounds out of it and that puts his self-assessment in the right light. He is serious! It’s not about being perfect and sinless, David really isn’t and neither am I!
David does not pray with deceptive lips, but with a sincere heart. (V.1b) “On your face, God, go out my right!” (Your judgment will acquit me.) “May your eyes see my righteousness!” (V.2)
After all, he is the new King of Israel, already anointed by Samuel in God’s name, who now has to fight for his life and flee from Saul.
The point is that in our situation, in happiness and especially in great need, we “throw ourselves into God’s arms, and that against all voices that tell us: You are not good at all and you have no claim to God’s help. These are sentences that never come from God. Whoever wants to live righteously before God must resolve in his heart to serve HIM and to obey HIM. And don’t get perfect first.
2. Life with God means life under the testing eyes of God.
It is the question of our image of God: Is He the punishing God who is just waiting to discover our mistakes? Or is HE the God who knows us through and through, but whose heart is full of goodness and grace ?! Not a life full of fear of God, but with the request for God’s testing and purification as something good and salutary. God’s testing is about change and renewal and not punishment !!
David has made up his mind not to sin with his speech (v.3). And before the words there are the thoughts.
David seeks nearness to God, into whose strong and kind arms he can throw himself. And it is good to pray this again and again:
Psalm 19:14: “Lord, please the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart! Lord, my rock and my Redeemer!” Change my heart and teach me to follow and trust you!
Yes, that is not possible without the painful realization of your own guilt and the necessary experience of God’s forgiveness! (V.3) And in doing so, of course, David perceives the enormous injustice of his enemies, not arrogantly, but in his dismay.
The praying person perceives with dismay and horror the wrong path of those far from God and is all the more amazed at how he himself can walk the straight path of God’s righteousness. “(D.Schneider) “My steps stick to your tracks.” (V.5)
That is what we know in the New Testament as “FOLLOWERS”. Not thinking of being better, but of being on the better path with God. “My steps do not waver!” Even in this great need, David feels strength and security through God on God’s way!
3. Pray because God hears!
“I’ll call you because you answer me, God, incline Your ears to me, hear my speech. “(V.6) “Show me your grace in a wonderful way!” (Verse 7)
Here again is this strong word grace = chäsad: goodness, grace, benevolent behavior that confirms solidarity in spontaneous love, similar to the word “hesed” = God’s faithful love and grace! “
With your strength you save the people who seek protection from enemies with you. (17.7)
Luther: “Make the people see how wonderful your mercies are!”
This is a strong prayer in a situation where people want evil to David or you or me, not because we have challenged it with our wrong behavior, but because it is just bad, maybe just because we are following Jesus. Do you know situations in which you are simply met with evil? I know that very well.
David sees himself as valuable, worthy of protection and vulnerable, as if he were God’s eyeball. No other organ is as sensitive to pain as our eye, because we need it to see and live. Everyone who has ever had a corneal injury, knows this piercing pain. Sach.2,12; “For this is what the Lord Almighty says, who sent me to the peoples who plundered you: ‘Whoever touches you touches the apple of my eye (my most precious possession).” “(Deuteronomy 32:10:” HE surrounded her and watched over her, He guarded her like the apple of his eye. “)
God’s people are like God’s eyes, so worthy of protection and central. We are not indifferent to God, but who touches God’s people touches God himself and directly !! “Guard me like the apple of an eye and give me refuge under the shadow of your wings!” (V.8)
4. Safe in the shadow of His wings! (V.8b)
Psalm 91: 1 + 2: “He who lives under the protection of the Most High finds rest in the shadow of the Almighty. He said to the LORD: “You are my refuge and my castle, my God, in whom I trust.”
“With your strength you save the people who seek protection from enemies with you.” (V.7) Like the wings of the cherubins over the ark, as a sign that God is watching over them.
It is about salvation and not some kind of help or consolation in heaven, but salvation now and here. Salvation is always more than a happy co-ordination of the situation, more than a happy escape. Salvation is encounter and contact with God himself.
Because David’s enemies, above all King Saul, show all their primordial and chaotic anger against him (D. Schneider), David needs God’s wonderful intervention and His rescue. Ultimately, it is about salvation from the machinations of Satan! (V.9-12) Just like a hungry lion, which no animal can withstand, so threatening are the enemies who know no mercy (contrary to the mercy of Chäsad God) Against such brutal and mean enemies David seeks refuge with God, like in a safe castle, protection under His wings.
1.Peter 5: 8 + 9: “Be prudent and vigilant and always ready for an attack by the devil, your enemy. Like a roaring lion (sometimes just like a lurking lion), he wanders around looking for a victim to devour. You should resist him through your firm faith. “
After a wildfire, firefighters look for embers. Somebody sees something strange, big black, and kicks it with his foot, it’s a charred bird,who sits on his chicks, who through him have survived the devastating fire. This is a strong image for God: Jesus dies so that we can live! God is not too bad and does not send a rescue command, but His own son to save us.
5. Pray – hand over the fight to God!
David realized that he cannot and should fight, but that God is fighting for him. This goes so far that when he finds Saul sleeping in a cave, he does not take revenge on him and does not kill the sleeping Saul, but trusts in God.
Christians should not accept everything and remain passive, but it is well for us to react with divine means and not fight the fight against people, when it is about the forces of evil behind them. Yes, there may be limits, as with the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, but we should hand over the fight to God and pray for the people who have bad things in mind !!
“Arise, Lord, meet him and subdue him! Save me from the wicked with your sword! MR; free me with your mighty hand from those who are only out to their advantage. She and her children and grandchildren should be punished justly! “(V.13-14)
Martin Luther: > A strong castle is our God, a good defense and weapons, HE helps us out of all hardship that has now affected us .. Nothing is done with our power, we are very soon lost; the right man, whom God himself has chosen, fights for us. Do you ask who he is? HE is called Jesus Christ, the LORD of hosts, and is no other God, HE must keep the field … < Psalm 46: 2 + 3 + 12: “God is our refuge and our strength, He has proven himself to be a help in need. Therefore, even if the earth shakes and the mountains fall into the sea, we are not afraid … The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Israel is our protection. “
In the midst of a struggle and desperate situation, David recognizes the divine truth, the reality: His enemies have only one hope in their fleeting life and must get everything out of this life. “The men of the world (his enemies, Saul and his followers besides his son Jonathan) have their share only in this life.” (V.14) “Lord, free me with your mighty hand from those who are only out for their advantage (which only you have here and now)” (v.14)
6. We have hope!
“But I did what was right, that’s why I’ll see you. When I wake up, I will be completely satisfied, because then I will see you face to face. “(V.15)
Perhaps David thought of awakening in the temple after the “decision of God,” where he had sought refuge in God’s sanctuary, and realized that God will stand by him and win his battle. But it seems that David here utters the hope of the New Testament, the hope of life in God’s new world without war and struggle and fear of death. > The sight of God in perfection, in righteousness, has an earthly predecessor, namely the experience of the goodness and closeness of God as an answer to the pleading prayer of the afflicted. <(D. Schneider) “You have distress in the world, but I have overcome the world! – Here on earth you will experience many difficult things. But have courage, because I have overcome the world. ”(John 16:33)
We can trust in this promise from the Lord of all Lord Jesus.
Would you also like to get to know this God?