Samaritan

Dear Samaritan Member,

I’m so glad that I get to assist you as a fellow believer in this time. I hope the Lord brings encouragement to you through Samaritan Ministries. In the past, I wondered how I could be more of an encouragement to others, instead of simply writing down a verse with my check, as I used to do. Then I had an idea – perhaps I could encourage you by sharing with you, on this website, one of the messages that I preached in the past. I know that we are all in different situations, so this may not necessarily fit with your current situation, but perhaps God can use it in your life. Another reason I created this page was to perhaps hear from you in the future through the comments section below. I would be grateful to hear how it is going with you, rather than simply sending you a check one time and never hearing more. Of course, do not feel obligated, but that option is available if you so decide.

Blessings,

Daniel

 

My Hope is in Thee

“And now, O Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee” – Psalm 39:7

DAVID was a man who suffered much in life, and those who endure hard knocks make good teachers. He was hunted like a gazelle on the mountains of Judah, reviled by his brothers, forsaken by his followers, hunted by his sons, and even had his own wife torn from his bosom by a godless king.

Yet David did not give up in despair; his sufferings add a plaintive note to his music, and from that spring of emotions he was molded into the ‘sweet Psalmist of Israel.’ In the thirty-ninth Psalm, he details one particularly trying period of life, and dedicated the song for the tabernacle-worship in Jerusalem, to be sung by the choirs of Israel for the glory of the Lord. It was composed by David sometime during a period of great tribulation, and given to a man by the name of Jeduthun, famous for his musical skill.

Reader, I do not know if you are suffering now or not, but Christians suffer, and sooner or later this Psalm will be for you. It contains David’s struggle against sin (verses 1-3), David’s speculation about life (4-6), and David’s supplication for mercy (7-13). But it is united by one grand theme: since man is vanity, the suffering believer should hope in the Lord.

David’s Struggle against Sin (1-3)

WE do not know what trial David was facing when he wrote this psalm, but he determined to serve his God during that time. He said, “I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.” He was determined not to sin, and he feared that wicked men would accuse him of slander if he spoke unwisely. It is a good thing to guard one’s tongue, and no surprise that a man who was ‘after God’s own heart’ should determine to be careful with his words. Indeed, David determined to be like a muzzled animal, unable to make a single bark that could be interpreted as complaining.

Christian, you may be afflicted and suffering. But watch your words! The enemies of God are lurking, waiting for you to stumble! In these times, it is a good thing to pray the prayer of David, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”[1]

But total silence is not always the best policy, and David learned that quickly. He was dumb with silence, determined not to speak a word. But did that help? No! For then, he says, his sorrow was stirred, his heart was hot, and the fire burned. Like a pudding whipped with a wire whisk, David’s heart was roiled within him. His emotions were agitated, and his sorrows whipped up. As Spurgeon notes, “while his heart was musing, it was fusing, for the subject was confusing!”

And so, like a closed container in the middle of a bonfire, the pressure grew greater and greater, threatening to rupture his silence, until he finally could endure no longer. In an agony of emotion, he spoke with his tongue. And so must you, dear Christian, in your trials. But when you speak, let it be a prayer like David, and not a murmur of complaint.

David’s Speculation about Life (4-6)

LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.” David breaks his silence in a prayer to see the temporary nature of life. This is the same request that Moses had – “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” [2]

Note that David does not wish to know when he will die. That is never profitable information, since it is best left to the sovereignty of God. God does not chose to reveal that to mankind. But he is willing to answer this prayer: to teach us the finite span of our lives.

And then, almost as if it dawns on him in an instant, David sees the answer to his prayer. “Thou hast made my days as an handbreadth.” What a picture of brevity! Our Psalmist could have used a more concrete picture, he could have compared his length to an inch, or a foot, a yard, or a meter. But a handbreadth! That is the distance of four knuckles, from the knuckle of your index finger to the knuckle of your little finger. You may not always have a ruler or yardstick in front of you, but whenever you see your hand, you remember the passing nature of life.

It was once written in a certain room, in Latin, “You would weep if you knew that your life was limited to one month, yet you laugh while you know not but it may be restricted to a day.” How often we imagine our lives will endure forever, but in affliction we suddenly are confronted with the temporary nature of our human existence. Are you prepared for the eternity that comes after death?

God uses trials and suffering and affliction to show us that we are nothing, and therefore, he must be everything. Mankind is a fleeting, vain shadow, and David realizes that he is weak and helpless. But not only is he frail – all of humanity is frail, a vain thing, that is passing away. Listen to his words! “Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.”

Like the delicate morning-glory, that blooms so beautifully in the morning, man’s life is also temporary, destroyed as the morning sun withers the blossom. “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”[3]

I can hardly imagine the confusion of the New York Stock Exchange, the frantic bartering, the excited chatter, the monumental decisions and incredible stress that goes on there. If that place pictures the very hustle and bustle of the world, what does David have to say about it? “Surely they are disquieted in vain.” Where will all of that frenetic activity end up? Not in eternal riches. Instead, it is soon forgotten, like the great king in the poem Ozymandius:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away

“Every carnal man walks in a vain show, and yet how vain is he of his shew of vanity!” This is one man’s wise observation, and David also sees this. Man spends his life heaping up riches, raking them into a great pile, so that the autumnal gusts of death may disperse his life work among strangers. Few men did so well in collecting wealth as John Jacob Astor IV, who owned $2.13 billion dollars (in modern currency). But when the Titanic sank unexpectedly and he did not survive, he lost that wealth forever, just as we will all lose our physical possessions.

Christian, have you seen the frailty of man, the mortality of life, and the vanity of all the hustle and bustle of the world? Do you look forward to the New Jerusalem, or are you still focused on the banal aspects of earthly existence?

David’s Supplication for Mercy (7-13)

IT IS only when David had seen reality as it really exists – with all its mortality and vanity – that he was able to grasp the significance of God’s comfort. “And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.” Is this the cry of your heart, and the testimony of your suffering? It was the proclamation of the saints of old.

Old Jacob, tenderly blessing his children on his deathbed, exclaimed, “I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.” [4]

Suffering Job, scraping his wounds with a pot shard, comforted himself that “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” [5]

Isaiah, who preached so faithfully to an obstinate people, asked “O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee.” [6]

And Micah, forsaking all the confidence of human friendships, encouraged himself that “I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.” [7]

Then David makes a request, and a very good one for all who are suffering – “Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.” It is not first and foremost a desire to escape his trial that David seeks, but a cleansing from God, a removal of any sinful filth in his life, so that he would escape the charge of hypocrisy from his enemies. Have you asked for this?

Now that David’s mouth is open, will he complain? No, because his God has brought this trial into his life. “I was dumb,” he says, “I opened not my mouth.” And why not? “Because thou didst it.” But what does that look like for Christians? Is it possible that God would have us honor him in silent acceptance, rather than murmuring and complaining?

Hortius Bonar gives a pathetic picture of a suffering Christian who trusted rather than complained. He writes, “I know not a better illustration of what the feelings of a saint should be, in the hour of bitterness, than the case of Richard Cameron’s father. The aged saint was in prison “for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” The bleeding head of his martyred son was brought to him by his unfeeling persecutors, and he was asked derisively if he knew it. “I know it, I know it,” said the father, as he kissed the mangled forehead of his fair-haired son, “it is my son’s; my own dear son’s! It is the Lord! good is the will of the Lord, who cannot wrong me or mine, but who hath made goodness and mercy to follow us all our days.””

Another picture of the appropriate response is illustrated very well by Mrs. Rogers, and quoted by Spurgeon: “A little girl, in the providence of God, was born deaf and dumb. She was received, and instructed, at an institution established for these afflicted ones. A visitor was one day requested to examine the children thus sadly laid aside from childhood’s common joys. Several questions were asked, and quickly answered by means of a slate and pencil. At length the gentleman wrote, “Why were you born deaf and dumb?” A look of anguish clouded for the moment the expressive face of the little girl; but it quickly passed, as she took her slate, and wrote, “Even so, Father; for so it seemeth good in thy sight.”

Do not think that David wants to stay in suffering. By its very nature, suffering is something that we all wish to avoid. The Psalmist has learned to accept it from his heavenly Father, and having learned that, he now humbly asks for mercy: “Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand.” Like a man in a fistfight, the blows of God were heavy, and David cannot stand their impact. He is overwhelmed by the force of the tribulation, and pleads for mercy.

And what are the rebukes of God like? They consume like a moth. Perhaps you have observed some clothing, stored in a closet, that was destroyed by moths. It is not that God’s punishment is so heavy, but that man’s strength is so feeble, that we are overwhelmed by our trials.

When thou dost touch humanity with but a light distress,

What fickleness and feebleness our dustly frames express.

Finally David cries out for mercy, that God would hear him and spare him. He wishes to recover, and argues from his tears. This is a powerful and moving argument for God, when we argue with our tears. But it is also a powerful argument to remind the Lord that we are strangers – not strangers to him, as though we do not know him, but strangers with him – ones who have no part in this world, and who have no other portion except him.

And so, reader, when you are suffering, and you have recognized the frailty of man, and you have been brought face-to-face with the sovereignty of God, you may also cry out with David for mercy. We cannot know what God will always do. But Christians do have access to a very special place, a ‘throne of grace.’ [8]

Conclusion

THERE are some teachers who can theoretically describe suffering, and there are other teachers who have been through it, like David. He uses his suffering, and walks us through his different feelings. But through it all, he is careful to avoid sin, and he recognizes that his heavenly Father is testing him through it all. But that does not discourage him, or make him angry with his Maker. No! He also knows that God is, so to speak, swayed by his tears, and he pleads for mercy by pointing to his pilgrim status.

Christian, do not waste your suffering, but remember: since man is vanity, the suffering believer should hope in the Lord.

[1] Psalm 141:3

[2] Psalm 90:12

[3] Ecclesiastes 1:2

[4] Genesis 49:18

[5] Job 19:25-26

[6] Isaiah 33:2

[7] Micah 7:7

[8] Hebrews 4:16