Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
A few moments ago, we heard _______ make several statements that were a public profession of faith. And we have another example of a public profession of faith in the Psalm before us today. As you can see from the Psalm’s title it is a “Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.” And this most likely refers to the time when David was forced to flee Jerusalem because his son, Absalom, had set himself up as king. But whatever the occasion, from a time in the wilderness, we have a Psalm that has been described as one of the most beautiful and touching Psalms in the whole Psalter. And it is so because it is a very personal profession of faith, and it is full of the joy and power and comfort of a life lived in close fellowship with God.
And at the very heart of this magnificent profession of faith are the words that begin v3, “Your steadfast love is better than life.” And that statement raises a question for us all here today: DO WE BELIEVE THAT THE STEADFAST LOVE OF GOD IS BETTER THAN LIFE? Well, let’s think about what this means as we consider the 3 parts of this Psalm: v1, vv2-8, and vv 9-11.
I. And we begin with v1 where the Psalmist CRIES OUT with LONGING FOR GOD.
A. As we have noted, this Psalm was composed when David was in the wilderness. PHYSICALLY then, rather than being in Jerusalem where he enjoyed easy access to the necessities and even the comforts of life, David was in the wilderness, which is a place where things like food and water are not easy to come by. So we read of thirst and fainting flesh.
1. Now, there have been times when I have been thirsty, but not in the sense of a DESERT THIRST. I expect that most of us have seen images of people in the desert who are thirsty; their faces are dry and sunburned, and their lips are cracked, and they yearn for just a few drops of water.
2. But David is using the image of physical thirst to describe something else. You boys and girls will know from your English classes that what we have here is a word picture. And it is a SIMILE because David uses the word “as.” What David is describing is a SPIRITUAL thirst for being in the presence of God that is as strong as a physical thirst in the desert. David earnestly seeks his God; David’s soul thirsts for his God; David’s flesh faints for his God.
3. You see, in OT times, the tabernacle (and later the temple) was the place where God lived among His people. EXODUS 40 tells us that after the tabernacle had been set up, the glory cloud of God’s presence came down to fill the tabernacle. This is what David talks about in v2 when he says, “I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.” To David, nothing was more wonderful and precious than to go to the tabernacle to enjoy being in the presence of God. But now, because he had been forced to flee Jerusalem, David could not enjoy being in the presence of God. And so, he longed to be in the presence of his God.
B. Now, we will return to these words when we come to the end of the sermon. But a big difference between David and you and me is that WE STAND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CROSS.
1. JOHN 1:14 tells us that the second person of the Trinity became flesh and dwelt or tabernacled among us; that is the literal translation of the word John uses – tabernacled. The Son of God came down to earth to tabernacle or live among humanity. John says, “We have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
2. So in the Gospels we have the written and reliable record of the disciples enjoying the presence of God, face to face! And although Jesus has now returned to heaven, He has sent His Spirit to permanently live or tabernacle in the heart of all those who believe in Him. So this means that unlike David, who experienced the presence of God as the glory cloud in the tabernacle, which he could be near only if he was in the tabernacle, you and I can experience the presence of God wherever we are. What David could only look forward to in faith, you and I enjoy in a much fuller sense, because the Lord Jesus has come.
3. So if David had this yearning; this longing to enjoy what we carefully call a limited experience of the presence of God, how much more should you and I long to enjoy His presence today?
II. But before we think about that any further, let’s look at vv2-8 where the Psalmist SINGS about His RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. And in these verses we see the Psalmist speak about the past, the present, and the future.
A. Notice how he remembers the PAST: v2. “So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.” And we spoke about this a few moments ago. David is here remembering those times when he enjoyed being in the presence of God in the tabernacle. And he longs to enjoy the presence of God again. But also v7, “For you have been my help.” This is a time of trouble and turmoil for David. So he forces himself to remember the many times that God has delivered him in the past. And he does this as a basis for confidence and trust that the Lord will deliver him now.
B. But David also speaks about the PRESENT: v3, “Because your steadfast love is better than life.” And we will come back to this statement in a moment, but David also speaks about the present in v8, where he says, “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”
1. We have two NEWBORN BABIES in the congregation. And I always find it amazing to see the tiny fingers of a little baby try and wrap around Dad’s little pinkie finger – so tiny and so big! But it is also beautiful to see Hanno or James cradling Jake or Evelyn in one hand. And that is a picture of safety. But those images don’t even come close to picturing the intimacy and protection of this powerful God upholding believers in His hand and their souls clinging to Him in devotion.
2. But let’s return to v3, “Because YOUR STEADFAST LOVE IS BETTER THAN LIFE.” Think about this statement. Do you love life? I am sure you do. We all do!
a. If you found out that you had a disease that would lead to death, how much would you pay to get a cure for that disease? Surely you would give away everything you owned just to stay alive? Yes?
b. A few years back I remember reading about a man who was exploring a canyon. It started raining and the rain caused a rockfall and his arm got stuck by one of the falling rocks. No one could hear his cries for help and he was starting to get dehydrated and hypothermic from the cold at night. So you know what he did? Ughh! Because he wanted to stay alive, he used his small pocketknife to cut off his own arm. And I am sure we all shudder to think of being in a situation like that ourselves, but the will to live is very strong!
3. But David says, “Your steadfast love is better than life.” And what this statement reveals is that David knows the truth about God and about himself.
a. You see, 1 John 1:5 tells us that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” This means that God is perfectly holy and good and true and pure. Therefore, for a person to enjoy fellowship with God, there must be no unholiness or badness or lying or impurity in that person.
b. But Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In every single one of us there is unholiness, badness, lying, and impurity; we break God’s commandments and we do not keep them as perfectly and to the glory of God, as we should.
c. And Romans 6:23 explains that “the wages of sin is death.” Our sin means we deserve death and eternal condemnation in the agonies and awfulness of hell. So David knew that God was perfect and that he was imperfect and deserving of eternal condemnation.
d. But Romans 6:23 continues, “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And these words look back to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” God says, If you believe that I put all your unholiness, your badness, your lying, and your impurity on My Son, and punished Him there on the cross, I will give you His holiness, His goodness, His truth, and His purity, so that you may enjoy fellowship with me, now and in eternity. This is the love I offer you; will you embrace it?
e. And David had embraced God’s saving love; a love that is gracious and steadfast and unchanging. That is the love that David speaks of. And that, says David, is better than life!
f. And again, let’s remember that David stood on the other side of the cross. He didn’t have John 3:16. He didn’t have the Lord Jesus and His work on the cross as the explanation of how God saves His people. You do! Is God’s steadfast love better than life to you? Can you say with the Apostle Paul, as we read earlier, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”? Is God’s love your most precious and wonderful and refreshing and hope-filling and assuring and amazing possession?
C. If so, what David says about the FUTURE will be something you know also. Because he has enjoyed the presence of God at tabernacle worship, and deliverance by God in the past, and because of God’s steadfast love and protection in the present, David commits himself to the worship of God in the future with the rest of vv2-8. He says, “My lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”
1. And David’s personal longing to worship the Lord and enjoy His presence again is expanded to all of the OT people of God in the group of Psalms we call the PSALMS OF ASCENTS – Psalms 120-134. The best times in the year for the Jews were the three times that they went to Jerusalem for the national feasts of sacrifice and worship and celebration. And it is commonly believed that they would sing these Psalms as they made their way up to Jerusalem. And we sung one of these Psalms earlier in the service – Psalm 122. It is a Psalm that recalls the wonder of worship last time they were in Jerusalem as the basis for their eager anticipation to be in Jerusalem to worship again. “My heart was glad to hear the welcome sound, the call to seek Jehovah’s house of prayer. Our feet are standing here on holy ground, within thy gates, thou city grand and fair. God’s people to Jerusalem draw near, to hear His word and worship Him with praise.”
2. And if worship and being in the presence of God was so wonderful to them, how much more should it be to you and me who live on this side of the cross?
a. What did the Lord Jesus say about worship? Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” By His Spirit and in the Word, and as we look by faith to what the bread and wine represent, the Lord Jesus is among us!
b. From v5, we see that David looked forward to being satisfied with fat and rich food and committed himself to praise God with his lips. But right now, by faith, you are being spiritually fed with the living word of Christ and very soon you will be spiritually fed with the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. You have even more reason than David to praise the Lord with joyful lips! Is your heart glad to hear the welcome sound, the call to gather to worship our Triune God?
III. Well, your answer to those questions will have a lot to do with vv9-11, which is where the Psalmist SPEAKS about HIS TRUST IN GOD.
A. It becomes clear from v9 that David was in the wilderness because he had been forced there by his ENEMIES. Whether they were Absalom and his cronies or an invading army, the dividing line was plain: David was God’s anointed king, so all those opposed to David were opposed to God. They were “liars,” as we see in v11, because they refused to accept the revealed will of God, which was that David was God’s anointed king. Therefore, their end was clear; they would die a shameful death and face the condemnation of God as their judge. To become a “portion for jackals” is to die and remain unburied. And this was considered extremely shameful in those times. But David, the king, and all those who swore by him, which means they remained loyal to him as God’s anointed king, would be victorious and live and exult. This is why David trusted in God.
B. So the dividing line that is described here is between the King and his people, and all those opposed to the King. There was no neutrality; you were either for the king or against Him. And congregation, it is the same today. JESUS IS THE GREAT KING! Jesus is the eternal king! Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords! And society divides today between the King and His people and those opposed to the king. Are you on His side?
1. You see, if your hope is only this life and everything it has to offer, you may know some temporary, fleeting joys, but you will also know great sorrow and suffering and sadness. And that is because the things of this world – beauty, relationships, money, power, sex – they cannot satisfy. You have been created for eternity! Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has “put eternity into man’s heart.” You will only find true joy and hope and meaning and peace and happiness and purpose in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. For that relationship gives you an anchor for the soul when times are tough because your eternal destiny is secure!
And this brings us right back to where we started, and VERSE 1. This Psalm is an amazing profession of faith. Is it your Psalm? Two things are necessary for it to be so.
The first is a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP: “O God, you are my God.” Have you confessed your sins and repented of your sins and believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins? If so, then God is your God!
And to keep us from making the mistake of thinking that so long as we confess and believe at some point, it doesn’t matter what we do after that, the second things is that we EARNESTLY seek God. Those saved by grace alone will eagerly seek to walk in obedience, to work for His glory, and to worship Him with prayer and praise.
_______, we are glad to hear that God is your God and that you earnestly seek Him. May David’s profession of faith and _________’s profession of faith be the profession of faith of each one of us. Amen.