“If you could spend the day with anyone from history, who would it be?”.
How many times have we heard this question asked? And each time we hear it, we hear another answer to the question that makes us think about it again. The answers to this question pour out of us. We hear the names of history from Julius Caesar to Abraham Lincoln. We hear the names of the Bible from Abraham, Moses, to John. We hear the names of discoverers and literary minds, like Da Vinci, Aristotle, and William Shakespeare. And still others give us the name of a lost one or relative they would like to spend just one more day with. There is no wrong answer. Each of these we could talk to all day. And at the end of the day, we would still have questions left.
For me, a name that few think of stands out above all others. The name of an ordinary man that God used to accomplish extraordinary things. A man that few history books mention, but every nation of western civilization has been influenced by. A man who changed the world in his day, and through his lineage, the world was changed forever. If I could spend the day with one person from history, I would spend that day with David.
So why David? David was a man who truly sought the heart of God. David knew he was far from a perfect man, but he knew the only place that perfection could be found. We find a lot of each of us in David, at least I know I see a lot of myself. David would often let the world influence him, and often he let his pride drive him. But with each step he strayed from the path the Lord had laid out for him, he never lost sight of that path. Each time David found himself off that path, he would reach with all his might for the One Hand that could pull him back to that path again. David knew that Hand well, he knew every movement of that Hand. It was a Hand that had held him so often, he knew every crevice and wrinkle in that Hand. A Hand that had rescued him more times than he could count. Although David had often found himself a wanderer from the Lord’s path, deep in the soul of David lied a desire to please the One who had saved him. The desire the Lord has placed in my own soul, leaves me with questions I have for David that a single day could never answer.
In each of the words that David wrote, we see that desire. A desire that not only brought him close to the Lord, but a desire that gave David a glimpse of the wisdom of the Lord. You cannot read the Book of Psalm and not feel that desire within every word. Seventy-three of those psalms carry David’s name, and the New Testament attributes two more of the psalms to David also. In all, seventy-five times his words move you and touch you like no other. David brought the love of God off the pages, surrounding you with a mercy and grace that can only be found in that love. The passion in David’s words do not just bring us to our knees, they keep us on our knees. His words humble us. His words comfort us. His words encourage us. And his words lead us.
Of all the books of the Bible, I often find myself reading the Psalms more than all the others. And the more I grew in Christ, the more I cherish each word of every psalm. No book of the Bible teaches us more about worship. No book shows us more our need for a Savior. No book teaches us more about God’s love and mercy. And no book of the Bible is more prophetic I have often told those who want to know more about Christ to start by reading each of the Gospels, so they will know who Christ was and why Christ came to this earth I then suggest they read the Psalms, so they will understand why we all so desperately needed for the Lord to send Christ.
Each psalm not only shows us where the Lord desires for us to be, but paints for us a picture of where we are now. Each psalm lays our realities at the feet of the Lord, and it shows us the love, mercy grace, and understanding of where we now stand. As I look around me today, and I think about the current state of the Church, the words of David speak to me. The words of a psalm stands out in front of me, and it offers me hope.
Psalm 40 is a psalm that few have ever taken the time to read and study. But anyone who takes the time, will feel the words of David grab their heart and fill their mind. Most see it as a psalm of patience, but the words of David tell us so much more. The word “patiently” is actually not a word that exist in Hebrew. It is a word that is only implied. It is a word that is filled with and connected to heroism. A word of solace and strength. A word of wisdom, that requires our action in order to see that wisdom. A word that brings us to the exact place God needs us to be.
“I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD “ Psalm 40:1-3.
The old saying, “when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging” could have been found in David’s words. A pit in David’s day was a place you never wanted to find yourself in. A pit was a place where elements were taken from the earth. A place where prisoner were often left to do the lowest of manual labor. You could never get your footing in a pit, as you were constantly shoveling the earth below you. And often rain would come suddenly, trapping those in the pit, leaving them to face a horrible death. It was said that prisoners would often be found without skin on their fingers when these storms came. They would raise their arms, clawing at the top of the pit, trying to pull themselves out as the rains filled the pit. But the mire and mud that lined the pit would never allow them to get a grip, always finding themselves growing weaker as they fell back in.
Often, the pit shows us just how far we are from God, and reminds us of where we would be without the Lord. The horrors we would face on our own, surrounded in a pit of our own mires with no way out. But when we call to God, we find the only Hand that can pull us from the pit. A Hand that can lift us from our despairs. A Hand that can place us on solid ground, and give us the strength to walk away from the pit. A Hand that can remove us from the prison we have created for ourselves, and teach us a new song as that Hand frees us. And as those around see us free, we have the perfect opportunity to tell them about the One who has freed us.
“Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols. O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them. You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand — you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings. Then I said, ‘Look, I have come. As is written about me in the Scriptures: I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.’” Psalm 40:4-8.
In David’s day, the people sought forgiveness and redemption through the sacrifice that was done in the Tabernacle. But God showed David, if these sacrifices were being done just for sacrifice sake, they were meaningless. They accomplished nothing. Today, we often see the Church doing the same that David warned us about. Often we watch as as Communion is given, tithes are paid, but they are done for ritual sake. They are meaningless. They are not being done for God, but for self. This rituals can never satisfy us, only God alone can. If we just do the rituals the only thing we are truly safricing is our will, our joyous will to follow and serve the Lord. Rituals can take away the joy we find in that willingness to follow and serve Him. Without our willingness, the Word of God is taken out of our heart and placed back on a piece of paper.
A thousand years before He came, David knew that Christ’s sacrifice alone was sufficient, and there is tremendous joy to be found in His sacrifice. No ritual can bring us a greater joy, and no ritual can fulfill what that Cross accomplished. No ritual can ever nail itself to that Cross, and no ritual can place in your heart a desire to serve Him.
“I have told all your people about your justice. I have not been afraid to speak out, as you, O LORD, well know. I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness. LORD, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles surround me— too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage.” Psalm 40:9-12.
When we accept Christ in our heart, we reflect Christ in our lives(2 Corinthians 4:6). Our heart is not big enough to contain Christ, and His image shows in our actions and in each of our words. And as we shout from the rooftops about Christ, no one hears our voice louder than the one who cannot stand to see the reflection of Christ. The name of Christ serves as a shrill echo in Satan’s ears, and Satan will do everything in his power to silence those sounds. He will do his all to have the world mock you, hoping to embarrass you. And if he cannot embarrass you, then he will look to have this world silence you. But you have One thing on your side that all the world’s weapons cannot penetrate. You have an armor of courage, that is covered in the love that the Lord has for you. That armor serves as a microphone this world can never silence. An armor that serves as a protection that Satan’s lies can never pierce.
“Please, LORD, rescue me! Come quickly, LORD, and help me. May those who try to destroy me be humiliated and put to shame. May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace. Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, ‘Aha! We’ve got him now!’ But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, ‘The LORD is great!’ As for me, since I am poor and needy, let the Lord keep me in his thoughts. You are my helper and my savior. O my God, do not delay.” Psalm 40:13-17.
As we look around us today, we watch as this world drifts farther and farther from the morals and values God gave us. And as you look into the eyes of this world you see a distant stare. A stare that we may well see drift even farther away. With each word we hear the world speak to the Church, we watch as hate fills the air, and we see venom spit from this world’s mouth. The world feels like they have the Church in its’ “Aha” moment, thinking to themselves how they now have us. What they do not realize, is they only have us right where the Lord needs us! Trying times are only a call for us to try a little harder. To reach a little farther. And to speak a little louder. Now is not the time for us to cower, now is the time for us to stand. Paul told us, “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13. The Greek word used here for “stand firm” means “to stay on point, to persist”. This is where the wisdom of our patience kicks in. This is where our trust in God takes action. Not just calling us to speak the words, but to show this world why Christ is our only hope. These were the very moments that defined David. The moments when he knew that he alone would never be enough. But with Christ by his side, he was more than enough to change the world around him. David knew that in his most imperfect state, could still be found his most perfect hope. That is a hope with perfect timing, that is never delayed. A hope that will never leave you in the mire of a pit. A hope that jumps off the page every time you read God’s Word. A hope that is still found in each of our prayers. And a hope that still knocks on the door of every heart.
Church, quit digging! You may have distanced yourself from the Lord, but you are far from being out of His sight! Reach up and grab hold of the only Hand that can pull you from this pit! Plant your feet on the solid ground of the Rock, and stay on point! Do not let this world see you following rituals, let them see the joy you have found in His sacrifice. Surround yourself in God’s armor, and shout with a voice that will again have Satan covering his ears. This world may mock you, but it can never silence you. This world may tell you that all your choices have made you who you are. Remind them, only one choice has made you, only one choice can ever define you. You chose to follow Christ! And it is a choice that will outlast this world, a choice that lets you smile at eternity. And whether He returns today, tomorrow, next year, or the next decade, stand firm on that choice. Let His patience lead you, guiding you to the wisdom of heroic actions. Leading you to the exact place the Lord needs you to be. Find strength in that patience Church. The strength to let this world know, without Christ, this world will never claw its’ way out of the pit!
I pray each of you will be a man or woman after God’s own heart!
Dr Mike Murphy