God’s Global Glory
August 22, 2015 | Brian Bill
Pastors get asked questions all the time. Here are some actual questions kids have sent to ministers:
- Dear Pastor, does God like everybody? If so, He never met my sister. (Arnold, age 9)
- Dear Pastor, I’m sorry I can’t leave more money in the plate, but my dad didn’t give me a raise in my allowance. Could you have a sermon about a raise in my allowance? (Patty, age 10)
- Dear Pastor, could you say a prayer for our little league team? We need God’s help…or a new pitcher. (Alexander, age 10)
- Dear Pastor, do I really have to learn the 10 Commandments? I don’t think I want to because we already have enough rules in my house. (Joshua, age 10)
- Dear Pastor, do people tell you how much they like your sermons? I really liked your message on Sunday. Especially when it was finished. (Ralph, age 11)
As we’ve been “Praying Through the Psalms” this summer, I’ve been struck by the questions and concerns that come through these prayers. It helps me to know that people like David struggled just like I do.
As we come to Psalm 57, we’re given some helpful background information at the very beginning. By the way, the Bible is set in history. I smiled this week when archaelogists announced that the gates to the city of Gath have been discovered, thus “proving” its existence. Duh. One article reluctantly acknowledged the significance of this find with these words: “The Goliath gate discovered at the Philistine city Gath would seem to confirm the Bible story about David and Goliath.”
David is on the run because King Saul is chasing him: “To the Choirmaster: According to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David. When he fled from Saul, in the cave.” David penned this poem while he was hiding out in a cave. The word, “miktam” means that these words are like a “golden ornament” to those of us who are overwhelmed with questions.
David is filled with questions and concerns. He’s slain the giant Goliath from Gath. He’s been anointed to be the next king but it will be over 10 long years before he will be coronated. He’s been promoted to a high rank in King Saul’s army. But there’s a problem.
Saul couldn’t take the fact that God’s hand of blessing was on David and so he was determined to wipe him out. Listen to 1 Samuel 18:8-9: “And Saul was very angry…He said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?’ And Saul eyed David from that day on.”
In 1 Samuel 24, Saul comes after David with 3,000 troops. As they searched among the ravines and rocks, they also explored the many caves that dotted the landscape. David is hiding deep inside a cavern with a few faithful followers, when he hears some noise at the mouth of the cave. As David makes his way through the shadows of the stalagmites, he spots Saul, who had come into the cave to relieve himself (yes, that’s actually in the Bible!). One paraphrase says that Saul came in to use the “bathroom.”
While David’s men urged David to assassinate Saul, he instead “arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.” His robe would have had a distinctive fringe or design marking him as the king. This was David’s way of symbolically saying that Saul’s reign would be severed. David was unwilling to lay a hand on God’s anointed servant, and then felt badly for slicing off the royal seal.
This psalm was written while David was hiding out in the cave, afraid for his life. The phrase, “Do Not Destroy” refers back to the scene of David refusing to murder Saul when he had the chance.
Would you notice that verse 5 and verse 11 are identical? These verses serve as the refrain or chorus: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” God’s glory is global because He is exalted above the heavens. As we walk through this “golden ornament,” I get the sense that the first section reflects what David was feeling when he was in the deep recesses of the cave. I picture him moving toward the mouth of the cave in the latter verses and eventually out into the world in the final section.
David didn’t know why all this was happening to him but he knew that the why question is ultimately not the right question. The better question is this, “God, what do you want from me in the midst of the mess I’m in? What can I learn about you?”
David could have questioned God, but instead he went on a quest to find God. Instead of wondering, He chose to worship. We can do the same thing as we follow the progression of his faith, from deep inside the cave, to the entrance, and then to the world. We can outline it this way:
- Pray For His Mercy (1-5)
- Praise His Majesty (6-8)
- Proclaim His Message (9-11)
Pray For His Mercy (1-5)
When we ask God for mercy, we’re in a position of desperate need and authentic humility.
Take a look at the first part of verse 1: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me…”The word “mercy” literally means, “to bend in favor.” It’s the idea of asking God to attend to our situation. David’s request for mercy was urgent because he repeated it twice. He knows that he deserves to be struck dead but instead appeals to God’s lovingkindness. When we ask God for mercy, we’re in a position of desperate need and authentic humility.
Instead of demanding that He do something for us, when we cry out for God’s mercy, we’re throwing ourselves completely on Him. I like what Trevin Wax says, “Hell is full of people who think they deserve heaven. Heaven is full of people who know they deserve hell.”
In my devotional time this week I read that after David sinned by conducting a census, God gave him three choices – three years of famine, three months of devastation by foes, or three days of the sword of the Lord. I might have picked the famine but David didn’t. Why? Because he was hoping God would be merciful to him. Check out 1 Chronicles 21:13: “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of men.”
Verse 1 continues: “…for in you my soul takes refuge…” David is definitely humbled as he declares that he has taken refuge in God. While he’s in the supposed safety of the cave, he knows that he will only be secure in the hands of God.
We see this in the second half of verse 1: “In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” Just as a baby chick finds safety under the wings of a hen, so too, God Himself protects us when we run to Him. One preacher puts it likes this: “When we cannot see the sunshine of God’s face, it is blessed to cower down beneath the shadow of his wings.”
The imagery of hiding in the shadow of God’s wings is quite common in the Bible as seen in Exodus 19:4: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Wings are used as symbols of protection and deliverance in Middle Eastern language. David finds comfort in God’s protection and ultimately knows that he will be delivered.
This could also have reference to the wings of the two cherubim, who were positioned over the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant. They stood at opposite ends, facing each other, with wings stretched above and their faces bowed toward the seat of mercy, which was where God dwelled (see Exodus 25:17-22). This is in the imperfect tense in Hebrew, meaning that David will continue to take refuge in the Lord.
The last phrase of verse 1 is very comforting: “…till the storms of destruction pass by.” David has confidence that this calamity will eventually blow over. He has to wait out the storm, and he can do so because he has sought refuge under the wings of God. Whatever you’re going through right now, run to God and take cover under His wings of protection. Hang on to Him and have confidence that the calamity will pass.
In verse 2, David’s intensity deepens, “I cry out to God [Elohim – Creator and Sustainer] Most High [Elyon – The Highest], to God [El – the Mighty One] who fulfills His purpose for me.” There are three names for God found in this one verse! What a powerful reminder that He will accomplish His purposes for His infinite glory and your ultimate good. When you’re in a tough spot, cry out to Him and trust that He is fulfilling His purposes in your life, even when it doesn’t seem like it. God’s plans will come to pass even in the face of problems. Even in our failures God is faithful and will fulfill His purpose.
Are you hesitant to fully trust God with something right now? Tim Challies wrote a post this week called, “Where is God Asking You to Take Him at His Word?” Here’s part of what he said: “So much of the Christian life comes down to this simple discipline: Taking God at his word…The question is, will I believe, and will I obey? Will I take God at his word… The great enemy of the Christian is the sin of unbelief—the sin of refusing to accept what God says and the sin of refusing to do what God says. The great friend of the Christian is the joy of belief and the joy of obedience. Where is God asking you to simply take him at his word?”
Because God is sovereign, He fulfills, which means that He “brings to an end, completes, and perfects” his purposes for us. If you’re in a cave right now, God is not thwarted. He is working everything together for His glory and your ultimate good.
The phrase, “His purposes” is the idea that God will do all things to perfect His plans for us. Isaiah 26:12: “LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” That’s very similar to Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God finishes what he starts.
David knows that his help comes from heaven in verse 3: “He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out His steadfast love and His faithfulness.” God will show Himself true to all the promises He has made.
God sends out His steadfast love to His children even when we’re rocked by the realities of life. Will you trust His faithfulness even when you don’t feel like it? When you’re down, will you look up? Will you cry out to God Most High so that He can send His answer from Heaven? When we pray, God performs. When we wait, He does His work. If you think your situation is pretty bad, put yourself in David’s sandals in verse 4: “My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts – the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.”
David then breaks out into the chorus of verse 5. No matter what he’s going through, and what will happen to him, he puts his attention on the exaltation of God. His primary concern is God’s global glory, not himself. It’s all about God, it’s not about us: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” To “be exalted” means to be raised up. The word “glory” refers to His splendor and weightiness.
I like what A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.” If God is big, your problems will be put in their right perspective. If your God is small, your problems will weigh you down.
Praise His Majesty (6-8)
Verse 5 sums up his prayer and helps David shift to praise. He’s now moving from the darkness of the cave to the light of the exit in verses 6-8. In verse 6 he describes what it felt like to be hunted: “They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down.” Nets were used to trap birds and pits were dug along paths in order to trap large animals. David was threatened on every side and had no rest. He was “bowed down,” which meant that he was drooping and dragging. He didn’t know how much longer he could take it. Do you ever feel like that? You’re not sure you can handle one more problem and then two or three more things pile on you.
Would you notice the placement of the word Selah in this psalm? It’s found two times and both times it comes after describing how God will punish those who are trying to wipe out David. Look at verse 3: “He will put to shame him who tramples on me” and verse 6: “They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves.” Selah means to pause or ponder. Let’s do that right now as we contemplate all that is happening in our culture toward Christ-followers. Some of us want to hide in a cave and others of us want to clobber people. As we think about the evil unleashed in the world, let’s pause and remember that God is in charge and He will bring His retribution, in His time.
Because God came through for him, David is able to trust God and sing His praises. In verse 6 he is downcast and in verse 7 he is steadfast, which means to “stand erect.” Instead of being bowed down, David is now standing tall. He repeats it twice in order to remind himself to not be down: “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast!” He’s experiencing the truth of Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”
Because His heart and mind are steadfast, David experiences perfect peace and is now able to break out into praise. Look at the last part of verse 7: “…I will sing and make melody.” David praises God even when his problems are pervasive. The word for “sing” represents our voices and “melody” refers to instruments. God wants our mouths, more than our might.
Instead of yelling His praises, we yawn
In verse 8, we see how important it is to be awake when we worship. When we’re praising the Most High, there’s no place for sleepy singing or wimpy worship. But this isn’t easy because we’re prone to head south spiritually. Instead of yelling His praises, we yawn. I find it comforting to know that David had to battle spirtual sleepiness himself. It’s almost like his alarm is going off and he’s just about to reach for the “snooze” button when he cries out, “Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn.” The idea here is to be stirred to action, to not be spiritual sluggards.
1 Thessalonians 5:6: “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” Romans 13:11: “…The hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Revelation 3:2: “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.”
Let me remind you of something I shared this past January when we kicked off our series called “Countercultural Christianity.”
1. Many churches have caved on biblical truth.
We won’t do that at Edgewood. Our aim is not to be politically correct, but to be biblically correct. It’s time for churches to speak out…and reach out to those who are confused and ensnared. As our culture spins out of control we must maintain our call to be salt and light in a decaying and dark world.
2. Some churches clobber sinners.
We want to always remember that the gospel is for sinners. It’s ok to be incensed about evil but we’re to extend love to those who practice evil things.
3. Our model is Jesus Christ.
We don’t want to cave into sin or clobber sinners but instead to follow Christ as our example. John 1:14 says that Jesus is “full of grace and truth.” When a woman was caught in adultery in John 8:11, Jesus ministered grace to her: “Neither do I condemn you…” and He told her truth: “…go, and from now on sin no more.” Likewise, we’re called to minister in truth and with grace.
We must neither give into culture nor crawl into a cave, but maintain our convictions while engaging and serving the world. Don’t withdraw or go to war. Instead, let’s witness.
Proclaim His Message (9-11)
David has moved from prayer to praise as he comes closer to the exit of the cave. As he praises God, he can’t help but leave the cave behind as he proclaims the mission of God to the world around him. Notice that God’s praise is always intended to be shared with others in verse 9: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praise to you among the nations.” The word translated “nations” refers to “people groups.” Worship of necessity leads to witness. When we exalt God we will want to bring all peoples to the “praise party.” Worship has an expansive impulse to it.
I’ve learned a lot about how worship and missions are linked from a book called, “Let the Nations Be Glad.” Listen to a few sentences: “…In missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God…when the flame of worship burns with the heat of God’s true worth, the light of missions will shine to the most remote peoples on earth…Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak” (Pages 11-12).
How do people from every nation, tribe and language come into the kingdom? It can only happen when you and I get out of our caves and take the message of mercy to people who are lost and dying in their sins. Some of us are deep inside a cave right now. We might be praying but we’re not praising. Can I encourage you to begin praising so that you can move toward getting out of your cave? When you pray for mercy and praise His majesty, you can’t help but proclaim His message. And we can count on the truth of verse 10: “For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”
If we’re serious about following Christ, then proclaiming his message is not optional, it’s mandatory. And, we can’t just focus on the familiar. We must be actively engaged in strategic mission outside the comfort of our caves. Every heart without Christ is a mission field and every heart with Christ is called to live on mission.
Listen. God doesn’t exist just to solve all my problems. God is all about His glory and His people are called to pray for His mercy, praise His majesty, and proclaim His message to our neighbors and to the nations.
Psalm 57 ends with both a refrain and a statement of fact: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” I get asked a lot of questions but my favorite one is this: “What is Edgewood all about?” Based on this psalm I would answer this way: “We are a community of Christ-followers who are committed to God’s global glory as we gather with God’s people, grow in our faith, give what we’ve been given and go with the gospel message to those who need to hear it.”
Well, today is the day to be saved. Jesus was born in a feeding trough in a cave used for animals. When he died, his body was put into a cave-like tomb. But death couldn’t hold Him. He came out of the cave so we can come out of the cave as well.
Let’s exalt our King right now with a song that comes right out of Psalm 57.