Perhaps no other season exposes our suffering, sin, and shame, more than the holidays. Family and friends, food and fun, mistletoe and magical lights surround us, and yet they often accentuate our suffering instead of relieving it. The same family and friends that can be such a source of comfort can also be a source of heartache. The food and fun that can be a wonderful blessing can also remind us of loneliness and pain. The mistletoe and magical lights that brighten our homes cannot brighten our hearts. So the holidays often come and go leaving us weary instead of refreshed. That is why Psalm 18 is such an encouragement as we head into this time of year. It is a reminder that sin, suffering and shame will not have the final word.
Our Rock (18:1-3). Our love for God is forged in the heat of life. It is when we are weak that we learn God is strong, sinking in sand that we learn God is our rock, fighting for our very life that we realize God is our fortress, in despair that we realize God is our deliverer, facing our enemies that we fall to our knees and call upon the Lord in prayer and praise. We don’t praise the Lord based on our circumstances, but on our confession. David had come to learn this truth well. Whether hard pressed by his enemies on every side, or enjoying peace in his kingdom, his heart worshiped the Rock.
Our Rescuer (18:4-19). In David’s deep distress, he confessed his need for help to the Lord. In words laced with allusions to God’s covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai, fighting for Israel against the Canaanites, delivering Israel from the Egyptians through the Red Sea, and parting the waters of the Jordan for Israel to cross on dry ground, David declared that the Lord rescued him from his enemies. Don’t miss the reason why. The Lord delighted in him! The covenant King delights in His people, and delights to rescue them from distress.
Our Righteousness (18:20-24). David was not a blameless man (he committed adultery and murder), but in these verses he testifies of his innocence before his enemies. Though at times he fell into sin, he mostly feared the Lord. We cannot read these verses without recognizing how Christ has fulfilled them. The Lord rewards us according to Christ’s righteousness, not our own, and according to the cleanness of His hands that were pierced for you and me on Calvary.
Our Reward (18:25-29). David knew that his reward was the Lord himself—His mercies that showed themselves new every morning, His blameless character, His purity, His judgment of the Enemy (and enemies), and His light that illuminates all darkness. Christ is our reward and the hope of our redemption. He is the light that illumines our darkness, and the strength that carries us through each day. Apart from Him we can do nothing, but in Christ we can run against the biggest army and leap over the highest wall threatening to undo us.
Our Refuge (18:30-45). David credits the Lord with dressing him for battle and giving him victory. From his feet to his hands and arms, the Lord armed him so that David became the head of the nations. Of course, it is David’s greater son, Jesus Christ, that has made the Enemy turn his back to us and who has become the head of the nations. As those who are in Christ, we have been given a battle plan. We must buckle on truth, put on righteousness, walk in the gospel, cling to the faith that has been passed down to us, guard our minds with the truth of our salvation, fight in the Spirit, and pray that we will stand firm against the Enemy (see Eph. 6:10-20).
Our Ruler (18:46-50). David closed the psalm with how he began. The king sings to the King! The Lord is the living Rock who has saved him from his enemies and shown his steadfast love, his covenant kindness, to him and to all his offspring after him. We not only sing to our heavenly Father, we also sing to Christ, our living rock that has subdued the Enemy on the cross and in whom we are exalted. He is the Ruler of all rulers! Great salvation He brings to God’s people.
For the suffering soul searching for a source of sustenance this holiday season in the midst of searing circumstances, look no further than Psalm 18. Marinate in it, meditate upon it, memorize it, and make it your own. No matter the trial, Christ is where your hope must rest. He is your rock, rescuer, righteousness, and your reward.
On my way to a speaking engagement one weekend I missed a critical turn. Thankfully, I hadn’t gone too far before I realized my mistake and pulled into a gas station where some of the locals helped me find my destination. In that case, taking the wrong turn wasn’t that big of a deal. After all, I arrived on time. But what about taking a wrong turn onto the road labeled anger, beauty, drugs, entertainment, idolatry, envy, food, power, position, prestige, or sensuality?
The day I took a wrong turn onto the road labeled thinness became years of walking on the wrong road. At first I just walked in the counsel of the older girls on my cross-country team who closely counted calories. But it wasn’t long before I stood with them in their convictions, not wanting one ounce of fat to cross my lips. Finally, I sat down and ignored those trying to change my sinful ways, thinking my ways were better than theirs.
Change didn’t come through nutrition counseling, but Scripture. The words of Scripture cut through my seductions, put salve on my sores, cleansed my corruptions, revealed my rebellion, and strengthened my starved soul. In the end, the Lord buried my addiction to thinness with His gracious shovel and put me on the right road again.
Scripture has something specific to say about right and wrong roads. Today I want us to look briefly at Psalm 1.
The Righteous Road (Psalm 1:1-3)
The opening verses of Psalm 1 remind us that there is no true happiness apart from the righteous road. The righteous man is compared to a tree that is continually nourished by the plentiful waters of a stream, so that its fruit never fails and its leaves never languish. The one who is constantly nourished on the steadfast words of the Lord is one who bears good fruit and whose source of strength never shrivels.
The Enemy, the world, and our own flesh will try to capture us by counsel of a different kind. The wicked will tell us that God’s way won’t lead to power, prestige or position. They will try to get us to walk with them, and before we know it we will be standing the same way sinners do, secretly looking for the next seduction that seemingly satisfies. Finally, it won’t be long before we actually sit down and stay awhile, scoffing at the righteous road and pitying those who walk on it.
There is only One man who has never walked in the counsel of the wicked, stood in the way of sinners, and sat in the seat of scoffers. Jesus Christ delighted in the law of the Lord and meditated on it day and night as He lived a life of perfect obedience, died a cursed death for you and me, rose again as the firstfruits of the resurrection, and ascended into heaven where He is exalted at the right hand of God the Father. As those who are in Christ, we are to walk on the road of righteousness by enjoying God, loving Him, trusting Him and obeying Him. How are you walking today?
The Rebellious Road (Psalm 1:4-6)
In stark contrast to the righteous road is the rebellious road. It seems prosperous, fruitful, and lucrative, but like the threshing floor that sifts out the good grain from the useless grain, it reveals rebellion, doesn’t get you anywhere or anything in the end—except burned.
On judgment day, when Jesus returns, the rebellious won’t be able to stand secure in His presence. Instead, they will seek shelter in anyone or anything they can find, but it will be a futile attempt, because the Judge of all the earth knows our hiding places. When He returns there will be a great divide, displaying which road was right. The righteous will be with Christ for all eternity, but the wicked will be separated from Him forever.
Perhaps you can relate to my wrong turn on the road labeled thinness, or another road with the same alluring power. Today the Lord offers us a better road and a perfect Redeemer. Jesus Christ has come to free us from false, futile, foolish roads in order to put us on the right road where we can persevere in faithfulness because we are preserved by the faithful One. No matter what suffering is on your road today, or what sin you’ve committed, or what service you are struggling to complete, the Lord beckons you to choose the right way, the way that will not only delight Him, but will delight you as well. Man’s chief end is not just to glorify God, but also to enjoy him forever.
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