Summary: Exposition of Psalm 31 regarding David's pattern for prayer in turbulent times
Text: Psalm 31:1-24, Title: Bush University, Date/Place: NRBC, 1/2/11, AM
A. Opening illustration: Billy Graham at Bush University, 1949 in CA
B. Background to passage: “Context, context, context, I know that you have heard me say it before, but it is true. The context of this psalm makes all the difference in the world. You will see that David is in a difficult spot. Maybe he has just dodged another javelin from Saul; maybe he is hidden in a cave in the Judean wilderness holding his breath as a band of soldiers walks by hunting him; maybe he is running away from Jerusalem toward the boundary of Israel at the Jordan river having been dethroned, publicly disgraced, insulted, accused, betrayed, and attacked by Absalom, his son, and by the bulk of his advisors and the bulk of the people over which he ruled, knowing that they will come to kill him now. Whichever one it was, in fear, trembling, despair, and defeat, he bows down helplessly before his God.
C. Main thought: In these verses, David gives us a pattern for prayer in turbulent times that was even borrowed by Jesus on the crucifixion day.
A. Introductory Resignation (v. 1-5)
1. As he bows his head, he has a million thoughts going through his mind. He takes just about 30 seconds to calm his mind, fix it on God, and collect his thoughts before he begins the main part of his prayer. He gives himself a brief summary of what he is going to pray about. Trust in the Lord…hear me…deliver me…be my refuge…lead me…You know the trap…into Your hands. If you are familiar with the psalms, none of these is particularly strange or out of the ordinary, but one, the final one. And in a somber tone, he resigns himself (happily I might add) to God’s care, God’s plan, and God’s grace. It’s almost like the “not my will, but Thine” part of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane; although David doesn’t know what the plan is.
2. Illustration: Dr. W. A. Criswell talks about the kind of faith we have by comparing it to an operation. If you’ve ever had surgery, you go in and the anesthetic is administered usually by a mask. They tell you to count to 3 and you’ll be out. They put the mask over your face and you think to yourself that the gas is never going to be able to knock you out. You confidently count 1, then your out like a light. You put yourself into the hands of the surgeon completely. You’re as helpless as a newborn baby. “it is not only the committal of our lives- it is not only full trust, but it is the abandonment of any hope of any kind in anyone else or in any other way. It is a resignation of ourselves to Christ. There is nothing else to save. There is no one else to turn to. As the Lord said to His apostles, “Will ye also go away?” John 6:67. And finally Peter answered for the Twelve, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou has the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the Living God.” John 8:68 that should come into the world. It is the abandonment of any other hope save in Christ.”
3. Even before a matter of desperate need, sometimes we need to quiet our hearts/spirit/minds so that we can pray well. Knowing that “all things work together,” that God “works all things after the counsel of His will,” and that He loves us more than we could know, we can be at peace even resigning our very lives into His hands and His will. Are you truly willing to accept and even embrace “no deliverance” if that is what He deems necessary? Confess your resignation in Him! He is Your joy and sufficiency!
B. Recounting the Turbulence (v. 6-13)
1. David then embarks on a full account of what’s going on. It’s not that God didn’t know, but this gives David’s perspective on the situation. He says that he is in the wide place, but nevertheless, enemies surround, and slander along with his neighbors, acquaintances, and friends. His life is spend with grief, cut off from God (v. 22), repulsive, hopeless, wasting away (physically, emotionally), forgotten, and grief-stricken. He thinks that it is as bad as it can get. And maybe it was. They want him dead!
2. Illustration: “The whole world is not against you. 99.99% of the world has no idea that you exist.” Begin by fixing what you think is wrong…
3. We are told to come with our needs, and it helps us to be specific, and to gauge our own perspective. It’s OK to tell God how you feel. He can handle it. Don’t let recounting become wallowing. We are not victims, but testimonies, and gold being refined in a fire. Hopelessness doesn’t need to evolve to self-pity. Our focus is to be on Him, not on our circumstances. Know that others have been there before you. And that with God all things are possible, and there is always hope.