Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A psalm for 2009

2008 saw a dramatic amount of change. My own personal circumstances have altered in ways I could have scarcely imagined a year ago. The world has been seen to be an unpredictable place over the past twelve months. Psalm 62 speaks to those who are aware of changing and bewildering circumstances. It is a great psalm to reflect upon at the beginning of a new year.

It is reckoned that David might have written this psalm when he had been deposed by his son, Absalom, before he regained his throne. In some ways, it doesn't really matter: the theme of the psalm is universal.

Sometimes we all find ourselves in a vulnerable condition described by David: as if perched on a leaning wall or a tottering fence. We feel like we are real pushovers. So, the question is, where do we turn from for support in these times?

We may turn to others. And so we should. God’s design is that believers in him should be part of a church. And being part of a Christian community not only gives us the opportunity to help those in need, but also to ask for help when we ourselves are in need. But though others may help we cannot rely on them. Even they will sometimes let us down. As this psalm puts it, "Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing: together they are only a breath." All of us – from the highest to the lowest – are but ephemeral breaths of wind. And even as trustworthy as others might be, they have no control over their futures. Eventually even they will die.

You might put your trust in riches to support us as we totter. Writing at the end of 2008, that seems less sensible than at other times. Apparently, the average British person lost 13% in 2008. In 2009 it seems that many will be affected their firms going bust, and many will be made bankrupt as loans are called in. Some will lose houses. In order to bail out the banks the government has borrowed billions. In future years we will have to pay this all back as taxes are increased. One person I heard recently said it's like putting your money in a pocket full of holes. How foolish it is to set your heart on riches!

Who then can be relied upon? Where then can my soul find rest? In God alone. Truly he is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Over and over again this psalm insists that we are secure in God and nowhere else. ‘One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: power belongs to you, God.’

A lot of people see God like a liberal football referee, who gives a lot of warnings but never books a player or shows a red card. They imagine a God who talks big but never delivers. They mistake his patience for his tolerance. They think he winks at sin. So many people seem to 'get away with it' that there seems no point in obeying the rules. "They take delight in lies; with their mouths they bless but in their hearts they curse."

The age of Premier League football with cameras everywhere has changed discipline in football. Apparently, there are at least thirty video cameras recording all of the action at Premier League games. And that means that the referee may miss a shirt tug or a sly push, but the cameras collect it. Indeed, things missed by the referee may still result in a retrospective red card. Omniscience may be fairly new to British football, but God has had it for years. He never misses a trick.

What a referee to have on your side! Nothing the opposition can throw at you goes unnoticed. He is a strong supporter.

So why doesn't he act? Well, it’s because he is concerned about the final result of the game. A few years ago, I missed the first half of the European Cup final. It was AC Milan 3 Liverpool 0 at the time. I almost didn’t watch the second half. I’m glad I did. Although it would have been easy to have given up in the face of such adversity, Liverpool refused to surrender and eventually won on penalties, masterfully led by topical figure Steven Gerrard. God is not primarily concerned about our comfort or even our bank balances. He cares about the final result. It is our salvation that matters, ours and every one else's. God is gathering together a people that will be his forever. That is how he is glorified. That is how his strength is shown.

And that’s second thing David heard. That God is not only strong, but that he is also loving. That's why he is so patient. It is not his purpose that any should perish, rather he wants everyone to repent. I’m very glad he gave me time to repent. I’m sure you are too.

In 2009, let us turn to the LORD. As the wall we are standing on starts to lean, as our fences totter, let us rely on him in everything.

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