ďMy Heart Is SteadfastĒ†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† July 20, 2014

Psalm 57

 

SI:Weíre spending the summer in the Psalms.

The Church Father Athanasius said of the book of Psalms:

†† ďwithin it are represented and portrayed in all their great variety the movements of the human

†† soul.It is like a picture in which you see yourself portrayed, and seeing, may understand and

†† consequently form yourself upon the pattern given.Ē

 

In other words, the believer sees himself in the experiences of the Psalms.

†† And, by studying the responses of the Psalms to the experiences of life,

†† we learn how we are to respond as believers, and we are empowered to do so.

 

This morning weíre looking at a Psalm of David, Psalm 57.

†† Itís going to show us what it looks like to be a steady person, a stable person.

†† As David puts it, a person whose heart is steadfast.

 


 

INTRO:There is poem you might have read in your high school English class:

Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson.Do you remember it?

 

Whenever Richard Cory went downtown,

We people on the pavement looked at him:

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean-favored, and imperially slim.

 

And he was always quietly arrayed,

And he was always human when he talked;

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,

ďGood-morning,Ē and he glittered when he walked.

 

And he was richóyes, richer than a kingó

And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place.

 

So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

 

When youíre a 10th grade boy, thatís the kind of poem you likeó

†† startling and violent.It perks you up in a dull English class.

But reading it as an adult is not pleasant.

Because Iím sure that many of you here have known someone like Richard Cory.

 

Itís always tragic when someone takes his life.

†† But what makes suicides like the one described in this poem so unnerving,

†† is when the person gives off all the cues that he has it all together.

Heís well-mannered and well-off and well-liked, he has his affairs in order.

†† Everything in his life seems good and happy and normal.

†† And then one calm summer night he puts a bullet through his head.

And you realize that inside, hidden from view,

†† he was in the deepest turmoil and despair, and you never even saw it.

 

It makes you wonder, what is stability and whatís not?

†† What does it mean to be stable?

We all want that.We want to be stable, steadfast people.

†† None of us want to be flaky.

But the picture we usually have of stability is being on top of things,

†† having all your ducks in a row, having it all together.

†† Itís essentially a stability that comes from the outside in.

 

Psalm 57 presents a fascinating contrast, because the circumstances are so unsteady.

†† The applecart of Davidís life has been upset in a major way.

†† Yet he looks at himself inside, the person he is hidden from the view of others,

†† and he says with complete honesty, verse 7,

†† ďMy heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.Ē

 

Donít picture somebody saying that as heís walking across a beautiful meadow,

†† or sitting on the beach looking at the sunset.

†† This is not someone whose life is all in order.

Not at all.As we will see, David is under great duress.

†† But he was able to say with honesty:Iím stable.

†† In my heart Iím steadfast.

 

So what does this actually look like as you live it out in the life of faith?

†† And how does this grace of stability take root and grow in our lives?

Thatís what weíll examine as we look at this Psalm.

†† Going to do so under three headings:

†† 1.Realism

†† 2.Review

†† 3.Reach

As we move along, weíll develop each of those.

 

Before we go any farther, credit where credit is due.

†† Rev. Bryan Haybig, Downtown Pres Church, Gíville SC

†† preached a sermon on this Psalm, Iím using his excellent outline.

 


 

MP#1Realism

A steadfast heart is characterized by a realistic appraisal of life.

There are a few Psalms that tell us in the introductory material the circumstances

†† in which they were written, or about which they were written.

This one tells us it was written by David when he had fled from Saul into the cave.

 

Let me give you a brief history review.

Saul was the first king of Israel, but he rejected the Lord.

†† So the Lord sent the prophet Samuel to anoint David king.

†† David was just a young man, still working as a shepherd for his father.

After the Lord chose him and he was anointed, his troubles began.

†† Saul was still king, and he went from being jealous of David,

†† to suspicious of him, to trying to destroy him.

David had to run for his life.

†† David went to a cave in a deserted area, the cave of Adullum.

†† A group of men who had been wronged by Saul gathered with him there.

And King Saul began to scour the countryside with his army to find David.

 

Those are the circumstances in which this Psalm was written.

†† David living in a cave, hiding out in a cave, far from civilization,

†† not sure what to do, just waiting, while Saul was trying to find and kill him.

He was in an extremely dangerous and unsettled situation with lots of tension.

†† But he was not reacting to the situation.

His negative emotions were not dominating him.He was settled.

Thatís what spiritual health looks like for Godís peopleó

†† itís when you donít just react to the storms of life.

 

We studied Psalm 73 a few years ago.

†† David didnít write that Psalm, a man named Asaph did.

And Asaph describes very honestly how he reacted to a financial storm in his life.

†† He said, I basically went crazy.I was senseless and ignorant, like a brute beast.

†† I thought and said things that a believer shouldnít think and say, but I did.

†† I wasnít the thoughtful, calm child of God he should have been.

God was with him through that, and brought him around.

†† But Asaph up front and honest about how harmful his reaction could have been,

†† especially to his children if he had let it all hang out.

 

So Christian steadfastness is not reacting, itís not being dominated by the situation

†† or being dominated by your emotionsóbut itís also not pretending.

Itís not pretending that everything is ok by praying shallow prayers,

†† or by telling everybody else that things are ok, or by telling yourself everything

†† is ok by stuffing your emotions and putting your head in the sand.

And this is the point about realism that David makes so powerfully.

†† He wrote this Psalm for other people to read it.

 

Look at the way he describes his situation in verse 4.

†† ďI am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts,

†† men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.Ē

Thatís poetry, but it couldnít be more realistic.Heís describing his fears.

†† I get nervous when a dog chases me on my bicycle.

†† Imagine being surrounding by lions.Thatís terrifying.

David says Iím in a life-threatening situation.

Men with swords are coming to kill me.

†† He didnít try to downplay the gravity of the situation or how he felt about it.

†† Thatís one facet of a steadfast heart.

 

Several years ago I was in a meeting that involved discussions about the future

†† of a Christian ministry.There were some very sobering, very hard facts

†† that needed to be faced and talked about because they could have led to the

†† closing of this Christian ministry.

But when those facts were brought up in discussion,

†† one person who was there began to argue that it was wrong to talk about them.

He said that even talking about the possible negative outcome was a lack of faith,

†† and if we said it out loud, that was as good as making it a self-fulfilled prophecy.

†† And he shut down the discussion at that point.

 

I understand at times a leader has to keep up morale with positive talk.

†† But for believers to refuse to face the negatives of life is wrong.Itís pretending.The Lord might have mercy and work things out in the way you want,

†† but itís not because you didnít talk about the negatives.

†† And it doesnít make you a steadfast person.

 

A steadfast heart starts by acknowledging we live in a world surrounded by lions.

Peter says your enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion,

looking for someone to devour.And there is also the world and the flesh.

That unholy trinity is in the business of tearing apart good things.

†† The steadfast heart is realistic . . . but then where does that lead you?

 

MP#2Review

When you go through a trial or conflict or a lot of pain,

†† what is the first question that tends to come to the forefront of your mind?

The first question is:What should I do?

†† Itís the question of resolving this situation as quickly as possible.

And we expend enormous mental and emotional energy rolling this around

†† and around in our minds, looking for a solution.

†† What can I do to fix this thing?What can I say?

†† What strings can I pull?What influence can I exert?

†† What arguments can I make?What steps should I take?

 

But the question that David asks in response to his pain is not:

†† What should I do, but who is God?††

Rather than spending all his emotional and mental energy on figuring out

†† what he needs to do to fix this mess, he reviews for himself who God is.

Thatís the focus of his thoughts.

 

We could look at any number of verses, but look at verse 2 again.

†† David says: ďI cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.Ē

Weíre pretty limited and repetitive in the way we talk to and about God.

†† We say God, Lord, Father.We say Jesus, Christ, sometimes Savior.

But in the Old Testament there are over fifteen different names for God

†† that believers regularly used to address him and talk about him.

 

Here David prays to him as the Most High.Hebrew name Elyon.

†† Itís a name that speaks of the absolute greatness of God over all things.

†† He says the Most High fulfills his purpose for me.

When you read that, have to keep reminding yourself this man was in a cave.

†† Nothing drives home the love of God like living in a cave.

†† Nothing drives home the faithfulness of God like homelessness

†† and uncertainty and threats against your life by violent, unhinged people.

 

Think about it, if you had been anointed king and then someone tried to kill you,

†† and you were hiding in