DO WE TRUST IN OPPRESSION, VIOLENCE, AND REVENGE, OR DO WE TRUST IN GOD?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
26 JANUARY 1997
BY Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Before I even considered asking you the question presented as the theme of today's service, "Do we trust in oppression, violence, and revenge, or do we trust in God?" I knew what your answer would be.
You would emphatically say, "We trust in God!"
In fact, some of you might be downright indignant that I would even think to question you on such a matter.
But on the other hand, you've known me for quite some time now, and you know that I'm simply trying to make a point and not point a finger.
The reason I am presenting this theme today is because we live in a world that is much more willing to trust in oppression, violence, and revenge, than it is willing to trust in God. And since we live in this world, we have to learn to deal with it.
Jesus gives us the answer as to why this occurs, and both Luke and Matthew record it.
Luke says in 6:31:
31. "And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way.
Matthew, in 7:12, says almost the same thing, but adds something more:
12. "Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
This is the "Golden Rule," and it is obviously meant as a guide for us to live lovingly with one another.
That if we treat others with love and respect, they will return that love and respect.
This may be true for many believers, but it is not the way the world operates.
Matthew, who was writing primarily to the Jewish people of his day, records that Jesus emphasizes that such a way of living really fulfills the whole of God's word, the Bible.
But it also fulfills the way of the world, too.
For if someone is filled with anger, and they want to pick a fight with someone else, the way they attack will usually bring a similar response.
And if we move this up to a national activity, we get involved in wars.
We offer violent responses to violent acts.
We are doing unto others as they have done unto us, or to one of our so-called friends.
And if we are more powerful than others, we lord our power over them, and quite often bully or oppress them into doing what we want them to do.
In essence, we have turned the "Golden Rule" into an ungolden and ungodly rule.
Last week we looked at how David, a man after God's own heart, fell into this trap.
Today, to be fair to David, we are going to look at another of his psalms, 62; and this time, we’ll see that he seeks the proper course of action:
1. My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
In the Hebrew, the word, "waits" is not there; it is added for clarity in understanding.
The Hebrew really says, "Only to God, is my soul silent."
However, when we put it in context with the rest of the psalm, we come to realize that even with God, we have a struggle in keeping our soul silent; but He is the only answer to our having a peaceful soul and spirit.
In other words, we need to put our trust in Him, for He is our only true and lasting salvation.
2. He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.
We can sense this inner struggle in David, with his soul; for he says that even though he understands that God is his salvation, his stronghold, his fortress, he still gets shaken by the problems around him.
Note carefully that he doesn’t say he will not be shaken, but only that because of his understanding and trust in God, he will not be greatly shaken.
He still suffers the anger and frustration and inner pain of seeing the evil around him.
And when it's directed at him, it's that much more of a struggle, for his first reaction is to defend himself in similar ways, just as we saw last week in Psalm 139.
He is very much like us.
Then David does something: He speaks to the evil people, maybe not directly, maybe only through this psalm, or maybe in open remorse about the way things are.
It may be a way of praying for God's intervention, and a way of quieting his own soul.
Mary and I cry out this way very often, and I have heard several of you express similar thoughts, and I pray that all of us would respond in similar ways, at all times.
Listen to what David says:
3. How long will you assail a man,
That you may murder him, all of you,
Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?
We look at the cruelty around us, and cry out in our hearts and souls, "Stop! Stop! Why are you doing this? Don't you realize the pain and suffering you are causing?"
But in this case, people are seeking to kill him.
However, it really doesn't matter; for if we have a soft heart, we recognize all evil for what it is, regardless of where it's directed.
And this is where David's lament takes on a prayer-like form:
4. They have counseled only to thrust him down from his high position;
They delight in falsehood;
They bless with their mouth,
But inwardly they curse. [Selah.
Here David falls silent for a time. He reflects upon what is happening and what he feels inside, and he still feels the anxiety.
He still doesn't have that inner peace that he, as a child of God, knows he should have.
David is very much like us.
So what does David do?
He begins to talk to himself, not because he's crazy, but because he's also a spiritual being in God.
In a way, he speaks with the voice of the Holy Spirit.
As a way of convincing himself of the truth, he begins by speaking to his own soul:
5. My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
Isn't this very much like us?
We know the truth.
We know we can have absolute peace in the arms of God; but at times, we let the problems of this world take away our peace.
This is when we need to speak to ourselves in this manner.
And sometimes we need to go on speaking to ourselves of God, as David does, for he still has this feeling of anxiety:
6. He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
7. On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
And as David begins to feel his anxiety and frustrations leaving and his peace returning, he reminds others of what he knows to be true:
8. Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. [Selah.
This is what we all need to remember to do.
We need to pour out our heart to God.
Again David relaxes and reflects upon the ways of God and of worldly people.
And he comes to an important realization:
9. Men of low degree are only vanity, and men of rank are a lie;
In the balances they go up;
They are together lighter than breath.
In other words, they are puffed-up with their own importance; but in reality, they are not really important people.
They are really fearful people who are trying to bluff their way through life.
We are not to get caught up in their ways:
10. Do not trust in oppression,
And do not vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.
In other words, don't let what we have become an idol to us.
Enjoy possessions while we have them, and be thankful. Put some of what we have away for a rainy day, but don't rely upon them for everything in our lives.
We are to put our trust in God:
11. Once God has spoken;
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God;
12. And lovingkindness is Thine, O Lord,
For Thou dost recompense a man according to his work.
God, in His own time, will take care of the evil people of this world.
But as for us who trust in Him, we have constant and everlasting peace, if we are willing to receive it.
If we have struggles, we need to talk to our own soul and spirit; we need to talk to God.
We are not to worry about formulating a prayer; we are simply to talk; we are just to pour out our whole heart and soul. We are not to hold back anything.
We need to trust in God.
Then we can truly rejoice, no matter what is going on around us.
And in this knowledge and trust, we set the example, and witness to the world around us of what it truly means to be peacemaking children of God (Matthew 5:9).
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