1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.
6 Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
This morning’s psalm, a standard trust psalm, reminds me of the one about a man who was sitting on his roof because the streets around his house were flooded. The water was up to his knees. He prayed to God to save him. Minutes later, a boat with two people came by. They said to hop in but the man said God would save him. The water continued to rise until it was up to the man’s waist. Another boat came by with one person in it. He said there was room for one more but again the man responded that God would save him. The water got higher and higher until it finally reached the man’s neck. Miraculously, another boat floated by, this time with no people in it, but the man defiantly thought to himself, “No, God will save me!” Well, the man was overcome by the water and died an hour later. He went up to heaven and angrily asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?!” And God calmly responded, “What are you talking about? I sent you three boats.”
Isn’t that so true? We of strong faith know that God answers prayer but often times not when or how we expect him to. God sends us the help we need but for whatever reason we don’t reach out and grab it. We’re so focused on a very specific type of help at a very specific time that we let God’s help slip right on by. And what I particularly like about that joke is how God is persistent in sending help. Isn’t that also so true?! More often than not, God sends help multiple times and in multiple formats. He gets that his ways and his timing can be confusing and disorienting at times. He’s got a lot on his plate, what with overseeing ALL of existence! His help can get lost in translation, so to speak. He gets this and makes allowance for it. He is a gracious and merciful God even to himself. So He patiently doubles down, triples down…quadrupally downs on his help for those of us who are slow at receiving it. Oh, what a good and gracious God we serve!
We know this persistent helpfulness of our God yet we so easily tend to forget it. Life can get away from us and we can quickly get overwhelmed by any given situation. Our bodies can fail us, our friends can abandon us, our jobs can no longer have use for us, our families can leave us…there are a number of ways that life can and will cause us to struggle. It’s true, life is hard. But just because it is hard doesn’t mean it should be abandoned. Just as there are great struggles in life there are also great joys. There is great peace and contentment and harmony. There are great revelations of God’s mighty and majestic glory. Life is filled with God’s awesome wonders, great and small. A beautiful sunset, a hopeful sunrise, a tender touch, a warm smile, a soft word, a loving kindness, a new job, a new spouse, a new child, a new friend…you get the idea. There is deep and profound joy to be had in life!
And believe it or not, God wants each of us to experience such joy. God wants each of us to know the joy that is found in him. All the wonders of this life are great and mighty and majestic but they’re also fleeting and temporary. They are all gifts from our loving and gracious God but they are not God themselves. It is important to make this distinction. Gifts are not the same as the one giving them. They may be an expression of the giver’s personality or love but they are not the giver themselves. No, the joy we experience in receiving gifts lasts only so long. But that isn’t the only joy we can experience in this life. Indeed, we can know a joy that lasts forever, a joy that never fades, that never dies, that never abandons. It is a joy that is found in the giver himself—God. God is the unending source of ALL joy. So how do we know God? We can infer a lot about him through his gifts of this world and all its beauty, the sacrifice of the Son on our behalf, and the wisdom of Holy Scripture. Clearly He is a source of great love and mercy and compassion. But that doesn’t explain why there is suffering in this world. There must be more to God than just love and mercy and compassion if He allows suffering to exist. Yes, I understand that suffering helps us appreciate the love and mercy and compassion all the more but there are other ways to help us appreciate these qualities of God. Why did God choose suffering, allow suffering?
Well, I’m not going to claim to have an answer for that question. I only bring it up because we need something more than this world and the Son and Holy Scripture to know God. We need trust. God reveals himself to those who trust in him. God reveals himself to those who embrace and accept the great unknowns of this world and the next world. God reveals himself to those who love him. And so we get to today’s psalm, a psalm known as a trust psalm. Remember from last week how I told you the various types of psalms and the two most popular types are praise psalms and trust psalms. Last week we looked at a praise psalm so naturally we’re reflecting on a trust psalm this week. It makes sense that the two times we cry out to God would be when either He’s helped us or when we need his help. A trust psalm is a clever approach to seeking his help. It not only demands that one bring their troubles to God but it reminds us (and God!) of how God has helped us in the past so He’ll surely help us again in our present situations. “You’ve done it for me before so if you’re a consistent God you’ll do it for me again, God!” Bold yet effective. God delights in us placing our trust in him. God delights in us loving him and relying on him. God reveals himself to us and blesses us for our trust. We are advised in another trust psalm, Psalm 37, “commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” (vs. 5) God acts on our trust. God rewards us for our trust. Psalm 28 has us declare, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” (vs. 7) A trust psalm is a clever approach but also a true and effective approach. The Psalmist sings in the 9th psalm, “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” (vs. 10) God doesn’t deny love and help to those who love him. There is a happy exchange between God and a believer.
In God there is great and unending joy. We can know a part of God through his gifts. For us to know the rest of God, we need to have trust. God reveals himself to the trusting. Let us seek to be more trusting of him and all his many gifts. Isaiah writes, “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (41:10) This is good news! Perhaps the best news of all of Scripture! David has us ask in the 1st verse of today’s psalm, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” With God as our light and salvation, there is no fear! We rejoice and give thanks for this…thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.