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(231) Psalms 01_Feeling Forsaken

Notes & Transcripts

Stepping into the Psalms

Part I: Feeling Forsaken

Psalm 13

February 17, 2013

PRAYER

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 13

FEELING FORGOTTEN?

Q When was the last time YOU FELT like God had forgotten you?

One of my favorite books on the Psalms was one C. S. LEWIS wrote. But interestingly enough, he doesn’t talk about psalms like this one, ones we call “laments.”

* Yet three or four years later, when his WIFE DIED, he really seemed to understand.

“But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

Q Do you feel like that NOW?

Even if you AREN’T now, you likely WILL some day.

EXPERIENCED THEOLOGY

The reason I love the Psalms so much is that they don’t simply TEACH us about God (NT) or tell us HOW to LIVE (Torah)

* The PSALMS INVITE us to EXPERIENCE God.

When I did my grad work, I got to study with Dr. CRAIG BROYLES, who wrote a commentary on the Psalms. He taught us that, of all the Bible, the Psalms were the MOST FAMILIAR to the Jews.

Psalms is most PARTICIPATORY part of the Bible. Rather than being TAUGHT by someone above us, we are WORSHIPING, FEELING, and EXPERIENCING ALONGSIDE them.

Psalms is a book of HUMAN EMOTIONS. I’d bet that any and EVERY MOOD you have experienced is found in the Psalms: JOY, SORROW, DRYNESS, FEAR, DOUBTS, THANKFULNESS, GUILT, COMFORT, and ANGER.

* The power of the Psalms is they allow us to EXPERIENCE these ALONGSIDE the saints and find DIRECTION to our feelings.

STEPPING INTO THE PSALMS

* They were specifically written in 1ST PERSON so that the listener could easily BECOME the SPEAKER.

When you read the Psalms, especially ones that meet you where you are at, READ them OUT LOUD so that they become YOUR WORDS.

Q Isn’t it ARTIFICIAL and CONTRIVED to use another’s prayers?

They are like WEDDING VOWS; we are using TRIED and TRUE, age old promises that are better than what we would craft in our youth.

* We are not PARROTING another person’s words; they become our DEEPLY FELT EXPRESSIONS of...

...prayers for GUIDANCE:

Psalm 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

...words of PRAISE:

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

...expressions of JOY:

Psalm 16:2 I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

..and words of pain and confusion:

Psalm 13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

ON THE JOB TRAINING

Yet they are MORE just ways to EXPRESS ourselves. “VENTING” may make us feel better and have some value, but at the end you are not any different after venting.

* They are INSTRUCTIVE, “if you want to experience the result of the psalm, you had better adopt the attitude of the psalm.”

By not just reading the Psalms, but STEPPING INTO THEM, we not only give voice to our emotions and thoughts, but we also learn HOW to RELATE to God.

* Psalm 13 is the CLEAREST EXAMPLE of the “LAMENT,” crying out to God, not holding back, yet trusting in him.

So if you feel deserted by God, have ever or will ever feel that way, you need to step into this Psalm and not only LEARN HOW to VENT your frustration but how to MOVE ON.

FIGHTING WITH GOD

Psalm 13:1-2 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Psalms 13 is almost like hearing HALF of an ARGUMENT with God.

Q What is the difference between a GOOD FIGHT and a BAD FIGHT?

Whether you have moved FORWARD or BACKWARDS. I have learned from experience that GOOD FIGHTS require a couple of things:

1. HONESTY – if you aren’t honest about what is really bothering you, it can’t BE DEALT WITH.

2. FOUNDATION of LOVE and TRUST – If you don’t trust that they love you, there is little hope of moving forward.

We see both of these in Psalm 13; let’s START with HONESTY.

HONESTY

All too often, we are AFRAID to be HONEST with God, as if we will OFFEND him or ANGER him by speaking with absolute honesty. It seems IRREVERENT and DISRESPECTFUL.

Reading the Psalms will CURE of us of that. Psalm 13 shows us how to both give FULL VENT to our pain, not holding back.

* Psalms accuse God of LYING, Jeremiah of DECEPTION, Job of INJUSTICE.

Don’t worry about FORMULATING it in an ACCEPTABLE way, EXPRESS what is inside.

* Did the psalmist really THINK God had FORGOTTEN him? No; but he FELT as if it were so, so he said it.

Even if the feeling in INCORRECT or SINFUL, it cannot be addressed if we keep it INSIDE, HIDDEN behind theologically correct statements.

DESERTED WHEN WE NEED HIM MOST

Let’s take a closer look at this honest cry:

FOUR TIMES he asks, “How long?,” but there are three different things causing anguish. All of them feel very familiar.

* BTW: This is great example of PARALLELISM, using repetition to reinforce a point (1a, 1b) or introduce new ones (2a, 2b).

It starts from the MOST IMPORTANT and works to the LEAST. We know that the first is the most important because it is the one that is REPEATED twice.

But our PRIORITIES are usually WRONG, so I need to look at them in REVERSE ORDER:

1. External circumstances

Psalm 13:1-2 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

In ANCIENT MINDSET, if anything was going wrong, it was either GOD’S fault or an ENEMY. There wasn’t “BAD LUCK.”

* We do this too, making anyone who HURTS us into ENEMIES, including our spouse.

But whether or not there is anyone to BLAME, a lot of our PAIN comes from the OUTSIDE.

The funny thing is that EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES are the MAIN thing we care about. If life is GOING WELL, we don’t really care about GOD being DISTANT. In fact, we may not even notice.

Q Who is the ENEMY that YOU FEAR will triumph over you?

* Your money?

* Broken relationship?

* Singleness?

* Work situation?

The POWER and PURPOSE of these external circumstance is to DRIVE us DEEPER. Don’t just focus on them.

* More often than not, it is external circumstances that bring us to our KNEES – either in DEFEAT or PRAYER.

2. Internal Anguish

Psalm 13:1-2 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Even DEEPER, and often ignored, is the internal anguish – EMOTIONAL and MENTAL TURMOIL.

Many times the anguish comes from EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCE – that feeling of IMPENDING DOOM always hanging in our mind, that follows us into our sleep.

* Other times, it is a MYSTERY. We are ANGRY, HURT, DEPRESSED, or DISCOURAGED, and we don’t know why.

These will either drive us DEEPER into OURSELVES or up towards GOD. But what if it feels like he is not there?

3. Spiritual Anguish

Psalm 13:1-2 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

To those who do NOT KNOW GOD in any real sense, this thought NEVER CROSSES the MIND. They might blame him for their misfortune, but that is it.

* Just as a WIDOW experiences sharper LONELINESS than a single woman, so the child of God acutely feels his absence.

The DEEPER, more INTIMATELY we know God, the more painful his ABSENCE. And the greater the pain we are in, the more conspicuous his distance is.

Much can be said about WHY he SEEMS to forsake us – he is forcing us to GROW UP, to become less DEPENDENT on the FEELINGS of his presence and trust more deeply in him.

Q WHICH of these COMPLAINTS do you FEEL most sharply now?

PLEADING WITH GOD

But Psalm 13 does not stop there. Complaining is only complaining if it stops there. It is like STOPPING the ARGUMENT after everything is TORN apart but BEFORE things are REBUILT.

* LAMENTS must lead us to PRAYER, it is pointless otherwise.

Psalm 13:3-4 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

These are not “THANK you for this FOOD” prayer, but “If you don’t come through, I am SUNK” prayers.

* Not said in DESPAIR, but HOPE of SALVATION; prayers of EXPECTANT DESPERATION.

The most POWERFUL, HONEST, and DEPENDENT prayers don’t come in the calm. They can’t. They come in the midst of the STORMS.

They may NOT be the most ELOQUENT or well REHEARSED prayers. They may be SHORT, like this. Words may fail us altogether, and our TEARS become our prayers, but these are the BEST prayers.

* DESPERATE, HONEST PLEADING for God’s intervention.

But even PRAYING, by itself is INCOMPLETE.

CALMING DOWN

Psalm 13:5-6 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

The STRUCTURE of this Psalm reinforces TRUST and PEACE in his love. It is divided up into the three stanzas we have studied (lament, prayer, and praise), but each stanza gotten SHORTER:

* It is as if you (when speaking it) are CALMING DOWN, resting in God.

It reminds me of one of my FAVORITE PSALM, and one of the shortest:

Psalm 131:1-3 My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. 2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.

Q Why the image of the “WEANED” child?

We might be a little squeamish about reference to breastfeeding and all that, but the image is powerful – the weaned child can rest with his mother, NOT WANTING anything, just to be held.

* We have CALMED down – we have honestly COMPLAINED to God, we have PRAYED, and now we can REST in him.

Q And why can we rest in him? Because we TRUST him.

TRUSTING GOD’S LOVE

I said earlier for an ARGUMENT to be PRODUCTIVE, there must be both complete honesty and a FOUNDATION of TRUST and LOVE.

* Being completely HONEST with be WORSE than USELESS if there is NO FOUNDATION of love and trust.

The word for “UNFAILING LOVE” here is a special one, “HESED,” meaning not just love, it is a LONG-TERM, COVENANTAL love, demonstrated by commitment.

* This differs from regular word for love as ENGAGEMENT love differs from 50TH ANNIVERSARY love.

Hesed means God will not TIRE of US or our COMPLAINTS, prayers, sin, or failings. He is in it for the LONG HAUL. Even when we WISH he would LEAVE us ALONE, we are his, never to be ABANDONED.

Israel knew this on the basis on the MOSAIC COVENANT. When know it based on something even greater, the GIFT of his SON:

Romans 8:32, 35-39 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? ...Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

* Please text Sunday School Teachers ; service is almost over

Having CRIED OUT in pain and anger, pleaded in PRAYER, but now RESTING in the FIRM HOPE that God will not forsake us, no matter how it FEELS at the moment – rest in TRUTH, not FEELINGS.

* At this point, DOUBTING his LOVE, his SALVATION (doesn’t just mean from Hell), and goodness become SINFUL LACK of FAITH.

If on this side of the lament, you are not also able to say:

Psalm 13:5-6 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

It is an occasion for REPENTANCE. Not an “I am a worthless person” repentance, but an “I believe! HELP my UNBELIEF.”

* Like an argument, it is a time to RECONCILE and move FORWARD.

PRAISING IN FAITH

From there, the psalm ends with praise:

Psalm 13:5-6 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

This doesn’t mean that God has ANSWERED the prayer yet, but that you are LOOKING BACK on his faithfulness and his GOODNESS, his LOVE, the gift of his SON, his GRACE, and saying:

1. He HAS BEEN GOOD to me, my heart knows full well.

2. In faith, I know that he WILL BE GOOD to me again, regardless of what happens.

* And so we END in PRAISE, and GO into PRAISE.

If you are in AGONY, feeling DESERTED by God, go through Psalm 13 in YOUR heart. Start with honest LAMENTS, go on to PRAYER. And when you are READY, join us in PRAISE.

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