Sunday, August 09, 2020

Always a Step Ahead


2 Samuel 22:26-34

"With the kind Thou dost show Thyself kind, with the blameless Thou dost show Thyself blameless; with the pure Thou dost show Thyself pure, and with the perverted Thou dost show Thyself astute.  And Thou dost save an afflicted people; but Thine eyes are on the haughty whom Thou dost abase.
"For Thou art my lamp, O LORD; and the LORD illumines my darkness.  For by Thee I can run upon a troop; by my God I can leap over a wall.  As for God, His way is blameless; the Word of the LORD is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.  For who is God, besides the LORD?  And who is a rock, besides our God?  God is my strong fortress; and He sets the blameless in His way.  He makes my feet like hinds' feet, And sets me on my high places."

Sermon for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity                        8/09/20

Always a Step Ahead

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

One of life's great frustrations is a conversation with someone who seems to know where you are going and what you are going to say.  My father was like that.  He was always a step ahead of me.  A debate with my father was merely an exercise – he had always thought of everything I was going to say and had an answer.  It was extremely frustrating when I wanted to argue with him, but it was a wonderful resource when I needed counsel or advice.  When I needed his help, having him a step ahead was a great blessing.  I miss him and his wisdom.

God is like that, only more so.  He is always a step ahead.  Our text describes it for us a little.  We want to look at our text this morning for the help and comfort it gives us.  Our theme is, always a step ahead.

Our text is the words of King David near the end of his life, and all of his troubles were behind him.  David is celebrating and praising God.  He is talking about how God works in our lives.

Now let's face it, David did not have an easy life.  He was anointed to be king as a young man, and yet he still had to go and slay Goliath, serve King Saul, and be violently attacked by Saul who was in a foul rage most of the time.  David became a general and led the armies of Saul in important victories for Israel and his reward was then to be hunted for years by Saul, who was jealous of David's victories and popularity.  David had to serve a Philistine king for a time to keep his army together and stay out of the way of the King of Israel.  Even though he was chosen, anointed, and wonderfully blessed by God, David faced threats, challenges, pains, and frustrations for years before he became king.  These were tests by God, tests which David passed with flying colors.

We are also chosen of God and wonderfully blessed.  Does that mean that we will not face troubles, frustrations, sorrows, and other trials and tests?  Absolutely not.  God will put each of us to the test.  We will be tested by temptations.  We will be tested by troubles.  We will be tested by sorrows.  We will be tested by every aspect of life at one time of another.  That is just the way that God works with His people.  Those who are not tested are not God's people.

Understand this, however; God doesn't test us to see what we are made of, or whether or not we believe.  God already knows.  God doesn't test us to see what we will do or what we are capable of.  He knows!  He is the One who makes us capable.  That is what verse thirty in our text is about.  "For by Thee I can run upon a troop; By my God I can leap over a wall."  He knows what we are capable of because He gives us the strength and ability we need to do what He sets before us to do.

God tests us so that we might know!  He puts us to the test so that we might learn about ourselves – and so that we might learn about Him.  He wants us to understand how powerful He is in us through His Word and in our faith.  He wants us to experience and understand how much we can depend on Him, how powerful He is when we cry out to Him, and what He can equip us to do when we are faithful and do the holy things He lays before us to do.  He teaches us the truth of how He deals with us.

When we walk by faith and not by sight, we find God is just as David describes Him.  When we are kind, God is kind to us.  When we are holy in our conduct, God is holy toward us.  When we serve God with our whole heart, God takes care of us and keeps us.  When we trust Him in spite of what we see and hear and feel around us, God comes through in amazing ways.  He shows us what sort of people we are and what sort of people we can be.  He teaches us that what we often don't suspect is true, is true with Him.

We can win by repenting to one another and forgiving one another when there is trouble between us.  It doesn't seem that way.  Human reason says that we can get things handled more efficiently and effectively if we organize and maneuver and manipulate things and people.  The political solutions always seem best.  But when we do things that way, the problem just keeps growing, and repeating itself, and eating away at us.  But when we humble ourselves, and deal in love and forgiveness with one another consistently, and  set aside the sinful ways and things that so appeal to us, we can put the problem to rest.

God tests us with economic troubles to teach us that we can rely on Him. It always seems like there should be something we can do, but God can keep us and feed us in and clothe us in the midst of poverty.  He can also snatch great wealth right out of our hands in an instant – as the our nation's recent convulsions seem to be teaching us daily.

Every situation, every trouble, every temptation is a test.  God knows who you are and what you are capable of.  He knows the blessings and good that He has planned for you.  The point of the test is for you to learn - and to come to know - and believe - and trust God.

Of course, we don't always live up to our faith.  Sometimes we try to massage the situation and end-run God and gain some sort of advantage.  We do things the way we think they are most effectively done or accomplished to personally please us, rather than doing what we know God would have us do.  That is what David referred to in verse 27, "and with the perverted Thou dost show Thyself astute."  

Sometimes, gossip seems to be a good tool.  Sometimes we think we can seize a situation and make it work out right by doing wrong.  Perhaps we withhold ourselves from God and His people.  Maybe we organize a movement to fix a perceived problem.  It might be a family problem, or it might be a church problem, or might be a personal problem.  It doesn't matter.  Every trouble and every problem is an opportunity to be faithful and do what is holy and trust God, or to seize the bull by the horns and make life work the way we want it to, no matter what.

Sometimes the lesson that God wants you to learn is that you are not a good person, or holy in all that you do.  Now and then, God wants you to see yourself in the light of the truth – that you sin, that you do the wrong things, and for selfish reasons.  God wants you to compare your behavior, and your heart, to the standards that He has revealed – so that you can see that you are not always right and good, and so that you might turn to Him for forgiveness and for help and guidance.  After all, "As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him."

And when we turn to God for forgiveness, He is always a step ahead of us.  He has already seen your sins, and punished them!  But you are not bearing the guilt and pain of your sins.  Your sins were carried to the cross by Jesus, and nailed there in His body.  He died in your place, the death which you have earned.  When

He rose from the dead on Easter morning, God was proclaiming that Your sins, whatever they may be, have been punished completely, fully paid for, and forgiven.  To all those who know this wonderful truth, and trust God to be the sort of God He reveals Himself in the Bible to be, and trust God to do all the good things He has promised to do, He gives eternal life and calls them His own children.

Your sins have been forgiven.  He paid for you because He loves you.  He invites you to come to Him and live in His light and see what David saw.  "For who is God, besides the LORD?  And who is a rock, besides our God?  God is my strong fortress; And He sets the blameless in His way.  He makes my feet like hinds' feet, And sets me on my high places."

Who is like our God?!  He makes you holy.  He forgives you, and He sets you on the path of righteousness.  When you fail, He is there to help you, always a step ahead.  He knows your need before you do.  He also sees what you are – and what you are capable of doing - and capable of being as His child, and He challenges you with troubles and temptations and sorrows to cause you to discover how deep and wide His love is and how strong He has made you.  He gives you heaven, and then invites you to live as a citizen of heaven right here on earth.

He doesn't leave you alone to do it, though.  He gives you the church, filled with others who are also His people.  He preaches His living Word to you to teach you and strengthen you.  He continues to forgive you when you sin, and He nourishes you with His own body and blood in this Holy Meal, the Lord's Supper.  He knows what you need before you do, and He is there pouring it out upon you, always a step ahead.

He thinks faster than we can think, and He knows where our troubles are going – and how we can not merely survive, but triumph!  When troubles seem to surround us, God knows, and God is there.  He is your Fortress and your Shield.  He wants you to face the temptations with your faith, trusting Him and doing what is right and holy and good.  He wants you to see that you can do it, and that when you do, He is there to bless you and help you.

As I read through the Bible in my daily devotions, I am always amazed at how the faithful kings of Israel and Judah would see God's rich blessings and how He would even win a war without them having to fight - just stand by and watch God defeat the enemy - and then these same kings would go do something stupid and evil and sinful.  It was always something that showed that they didn't trust God.  The reason they did it was that life was real, and they did not connect the dots – they did not see their next temptation in the light of God's goodness and faithfulness in the face of the last temptation.

Well, we want to see it.  We want to remember that our God is always a step ahead of us.  We cannot out-think Him, outrun Him, out-maneuver Him, or manipulate Him.  We cannot win when we live contrary to faith and we cannot lose if we trust in Him, and walk according to faith and holiness.  Our troubles cannot overwhelm us, if we trust in God.  Our needs cannot outstrip His ability to provide.  The dangers we face cannot destroy us, with God at our side.  Our enemies may be awesome and our troubles terrible, but our God is greater – and He is always a step ahead!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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