Knowing a faithful God

A sermon on Psalm 62

In his book, Facing Life and Death, Leslie J. Tizard writes:

If you have doubts about the existence of God or misgivings about the kind of God he is, I do not think your need will be met by argument. It will be met only by an act of trust on your part. You must be willing to be found by the pursuing love of God which will not let you go; to face the challenge which is relentless; to move out fearlessly from your narrow self-centred life into a new, wide, spacious life with Christ at the centre – trusting not in yourself but in the all-sufficient love and power of God.[1]

The author of Psalm 62 had encountered similar experiences – indeed, as we meet him in the psalm, he is in the midst of a dangerous and exhausting conflict, moving through dark times; he is the object of criticism, hatred and malice; he is suffering at the hands of powerful and influential enemies.

Yet the psalmist knows that God exists, and loves him. God has reached out to him, and cares for him as a father cares for precious children. This is the living God, whose goodness never fails, who is unfailingly faithful to his promises, and completely reliable in times of adversity.

The heading ascribes this psalm to David, king of Israel, and it is “for Jeduthan,” one of three temple music leaders during David and Solomon’s reigns (see 1 Chr 16:41f; 2 Chr 5:12).

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him” (v. 1). We sometimes think of a “soul” as the part of us that exists forever, or the bit that gets “saved” when we convert to Christ. But David’s understanding of anthropology drew on Old Testament theology and wisdom, and when he referred to his “soul” he meant his whole person: body, mind and spirit.

David found salvation from his failings, and rest from his troubles, through knowing God, enjoying a deep and rich relationship with God, inviting God to reign supreme in his life and transform all of his being – body, mind and spirit.

It’s good to pause every week, preferably every day, to practice Christian mindfulness, to reflect on God’s goodness and guidance in the large and small spaces of my life, to bless God and acknowledge our experience of God’s sovereignty, holiness, and faithfulness.

As we grow in spiritual maturity, we pursue spiritual disciplines such as Bible reading, meditation and prayer, journaling, and other such practices, not primarily to feel good, or reduce stress, or appear godly, but to simply enjoy God and God’s presence, to know God better, to experience a richer and deeper relationship with the God who gives us life and breath, food and drink, friends and family, work and rest.

When the pressures of existence grow unbearable, and you don’t have the strength to carry on, reach out for God, and find your rest in God. When the weight of your inner life feels as though it will crush you, and the darkness rises, reach out for God, and find your rest in God. When the problems in your external world seem insurmountable, and hope fails, reach out for God, and find your rest in God. When friends fail you, and enemies prosper, and life no longer makes sense, reach out for God, and find your rest in God.

Rest on the promises of God, rest in the knowledge of God, rest with the assurance that God is your loving Father, utterly faithful, completely reliable, unfailingly dependable.

In verse 3, David confronts his enemies, as though they were face to face. It’s as though he is writing a letter to those who have caused him grief and anxiety, or imagining a difficult conversation with them as he writes in his journal.

It can be helpful, calming, and healing, to set your thoughts and feelings before you on paper, taking control of them, lancing their negative power, externalising the thoughts that disempower or feed anxiety, externalising the feelings associated with those thoughts, putting the problem in a more reasonable or objective perspective. I think David does something very similar here in verses 3-4.

At all times, especially in times of adversity, know that God is your Rock, your Salvation, your Fortress (v. 2). You can depend on God. The living God is your best and most secure Refuge from any storm, any peril, any injustice, the world or the devil can hurl at you (v. 8). You can rest in God.

And so the psalmist says, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him” (v. 5). This doesn’t mean the pain or the person or the problem will go away. David is still in the midst of adversity, still experiencing feelings of fear and grief – but now they are ameliorated by feelings of trust and hope that arise from his knowledge of God, and his assurance of God’s absolute love for him and faithfulness to him. Perhaps you have had experiences like that. I know I have.

And so David commends this God, and this confident trust in God, to others: “Trust in [God] at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (v. 8). The phrase “pour out your heart” is rare in Scripture. We read more frequently of anger or wrath being “poured out.”

But to “pour out your heart” is a beautiful phrase. It’s a helpful and healing practice to pour out our thoughts and feelings to God in prayer – and, where safe, to speak at least some of these words in community with people we love and trust. In Psalm 40:10, David says, “I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.”

We can learn a great deal of wisdom, and avoid a lot of pain and grief, by listening to stories of the harrowing experiences of others, and hearing how God has come to their aid in times of adversity.

Verses 9-10 remind us of the relative meaninglessness, or vanity, of human existence apart from our relationship with God, and our nature as created in God’s image. Both lowborn and highborn are a mere breath of air. Trust in our own resources and resourcefulness, or reliance on bribery and corruption, will always lead to failure and ultimate ruin. Put your trust in the right place! Trust in the all-powerful and all-loving God, not in seemingly powerful resources, or schemes, or threats, or people (cf Ps 52:6f).

Only in the last two verses does David address God (vv. 11-12). Perhaps this indicates his emotional exhaustion, or that he feels close to hopelessness, having exhausted all avenues of prayer and advice. But these are wonderful, hopeful words.

If you are looking for power, know that power belongs to God. If you are searching for love, you will find the strongest and deepest love, a love that overflows and never fails, in relationship with God. If you seek justice in an unfair and dog-eats-dog world, know that the living God is the ultimate judge who will weigh all our actions and dispense reward and punishment with absolute justice (Rom 2:5-6). The Bible teaches that the wrath of God against sin, rebellion and injustice is real, objective, uncompromising, inevitable and definitive.

With all this knowledge of God as background, David declares: “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (v. 1). Is this your experience? Do you know this God who is not only holy and just, but loving and faithful and personal?

I invite you to join me in praying this contemporary prayer by Michael Leunig:

God, help us to rise up from our struggle, like a tree rises up from the soil, our roots reaching down to our trouble, our rich, dark dirt of existence, finding nourishment deeply and holding us firmly, always connected, growing upwards and into the sun. Amen.[2]

Sermon 634 copyright © 2015 Rod Benson. Preached at Lithgow Baptist Church, Australia, on Sunday 6 September 2015. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).

[1] Quoted in William Sykes (ed.), The Eternal Vision (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2002), p. 438.

[2] Michael Leunig, When I Talk to You (Sydney: Harper Collins, 2004), p. 58.

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