Summary: Pentecost 3: Whom do you seek when you find yourself in trouble? We get sage advice from David in the words of Psalm 28.
If there is one thing that is highly valued today its self-reliance. Folks value the capacity in others to stand on their own two feet; to have the where-with-all to weather the storms; to adapt, overcome and conquer. It’s a trademark of our times. We strive to raise our children to be independent, self-sufficient and to just learn how to stand on their own two feet.
But that all is turned on its head when we begin to consider what we face in life. You see, when the rubber meets the road – when we stand at the grave of a friend, a parent, a spouse, or heaven forbid a child – then all the self-reliance in the world won’t cut it. When these moments come, the size of the checkbook balance, an address in the Dominion or having the latest designer clothes or fancy gadgets won’t mean a thing.
Psalm 28 is the text that we’ll meditate on today. It is widely accepted that David wrote this Psalm. Some believe that he wrote it while he was being persecuted out of jealousy by King Saul. Picture the situation. David had no where to turn. He could find nothing to comfort him anywhere because the highest authority in the land - King Saul - wanted him dead. And for what reason? – because Saul was jealous.
Now where was David to turn? If he was here today, his manager might just say something like, “Now boy, this is a real gut check. Let’s see what’cha got. Gut it up – put your nose to the grindstone.” But when the enemy is sin and death – turning inside looking for inner strength or a spark of divinity or inner spirituality won’t cut the mustard – it just isn’t there.
And yet – that is where we are so often directed – look inside. Paul the apostle laments, “The good that I want to do, that I don’t do – instead I do the evil that I do not want… There is a struggle inside of me,” he says, “that wars against my desire to do good.” (Romans 7) When Paul turned inward, he didn’t find any kind of help!
One day the teachers of the law were criticizing Jesus because the Lord’s disciples were eating without washing their hands. But Jesus tells them:
“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ’unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ ” (Matthew 15.17-20)
You see, as uncomfortable as it may sound or be, the Scriptures clearly teach that we are unable to do anything to rescue ourselves. All our attempts will fall short and leave us feeling utterly frustrated as we see our best efforts at being good and holy and just turn out wrong.
In a large textile mill hung a sign which read: “When your thread becomes tangled, call the foreman.” A young woman - new on the job - whose thread became tangled thought, “I’ll just straighten this out myself.” She tried, but the situation only worsened. Finally she called the foreman. “I did the best I could,” she said. “No you didn’t,” said the foreman. “To do the best, you should have called me.” (adapted from an illustration on www.christianglobe.com)
That’s good advice for us too. When our thread gets tangled, seek God! It’s not an easy thing to do. Our first parents, Adam and Eve set the pattern that has been followed throughout the generations. You see, when they faced the reality of their sin – they hid from God. And we see that pattern time and again. Jonah ran away from God when commanded to serve. Judas tried to escape by committing suicide when he realized that he had betrayed Jesus. And when we sin - we hide from God when we are afraid to face Him. So you see, seeking God when the thread gets tangled is easier said than done.
David finally realizes that in his running from Saul, that he needs God. And so our Psalm begins with the words: “To you I call, O LORD my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place…” (Psalm 28.1-2) David has hit rock-bottom. He is like the alcoholic that can’t take another drink or he will die and he can’t not take another drink or he will die. He is desperate. The only place left to turn is to God because he finally realizes that without Him, he is doomed to be mired in the pit.