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Sweet Opposition

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
August 1, 2021 7:00 pm

Sweet Opposition

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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August 1, 2021 7:00 pm

Join us for worship as Eugene Oldham preaches a sermon called -Sweet Opposition- from Psalm 3. For more information, please visit www.graceharrisburg.org.

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Many of the psalms in Scripture reflect some aspect of life in a fallen world.

Sin, suffering, persecution, death. We call these psalms, psalms of lament. But almost without exception, these psalms of lament end on a high and hopeful note. The psalmist plumbs the depths of life in a cursed world, but then soars up to the heights of heaven when he remembers that God is just.

And God is aware, and God will make all things new. Psalm 3 is where we are this morning, and Psalm 3 is one of these psalms of lament. We're going to spend a few moments today meditating on this beautiful psalm. So if you would please turn with me to Psalm 3, and if you would stand in honor of God's Word as we consider together how we as Christians are to respond to enemies who oppose our faith and who oppose our God. Psalm 3.

A psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son. Oh Lord, how many are my foes? Many are rising against me.

Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.

I lay down and slept. I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O Lord. Save me, O my God, for you strike all my enemies on the cheek.

You break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing be on your people. Let's pray together. You have made a promise to bless and multiply your people, your church, and you have sworn an oath in your own name to confirm that promise. So that as the book of Hebrews tells us, by these two unchangeable things, your promise and your oath, we who have fled to Christ for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. Father, there are many in the world today who are opposed to you, and because they're opposed to you, they're opposed to us, your people. We aren't surprised that this happens because you told us it would happen, but Lord, we are finite.

We are easily discouraged and easily disillusioned. So teach us this morning through David's example here in Psalm 3 to be confident in your salvation. So confident, in fact, that we can lie down and sleep in safety, in confidence, and even in joy, because you are our shield and you are our salvation. Holy Spirit, take these words and use them to change our hearts and minds and actions for your glory. In Jesus' name, amen.

Be seated. It is human nature to worry about trouble. Some of us are more predisposed to anxiety than others, perhaps, but all of us to one degree or another fret and fear and lay awake at night, distressed about the problems that we face. And the problems that distress us the most seem to be the ones that we can't do anything about, those worries that seem to have no resolution, because quite simply, we're not sovereign. We're not all powerful.

We're not all wise. Psalm 3 is in the Bible because the Holy Spirit knows that we tend to worry and fret about trouble rather than trust the Lord with our trouble. This Psalm addresses that aspect of our fallen human condition by reminding us that there is someone who is sovereign and omnipotent and all wise, and he isn't stumped by the troublesome situations and circumstances that make us panic.

In fact, he puts those very circumstances to good use. Brothers and sisters, the message of Psalm 3 is that life's troubles can be hidden blessings, because those troubles drive us to prayer, and prayer drives us to God, where we discover the fearless rest that only he can provide. Now, there's a very specific kind of trouble that the psalmist is dealing with in Psalm 3, and there's a specific way he responds to that trouble, and there's also a specific way that God responds to this trouble.

So let's consider these three things together this morning. First, we see the nature of the psalmist's trouble. The kind of trouble he's up against is spiritual opposition on a grand scale.

Notice the repetition of the word many in verses 1 and 2. He says, oh Lord, how many are my foes? Many are rising against me.

Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. The psalmist is outnumbered. He's overwhelmed, and all he can do as he begins to pray is to tell God how numerous the opposition is.

There's no safe space. His enemies are everywhere. And so he begins to pour out his anxieties to God. Do your prayers ever sound like that? Do your prayers ever sound like a child who's going to bed and he's afraid of everything and he's on a mission to get his parents to appreciate the fearfulness of his dark room? Mama, I heard a noise in the closet. Daddy, there's a shadow under my bed. What if a robber comes into my room? We can snicker under our breath at a child's fears because we know that the things they're afraid of really aren't dangers at all. I wonder sometimes if God doesn't snicker at our adult fears for the same reason. God, my boss threatened to fire me. My best friend is gossiping about me. What if the stock market crashes?

I'll be financially ruined. And all the while, God is saying, I'm bigger than those things, and most of them haven't even happened yet. But all we can see is the overwhelming size of the trouble, or at least our perception of the overwhelming size of the trouble. And it makes us forget that there is a God who sees and understands and even sits enthroned over the things that trouble us. So the first thing we notice is the overwhelming size of the psalmist's trouble, at least in his own eyes.

But notice also the nature of his trouble. There are a couple of clues that give us an idea of the sort of trouble the psalmist is facing. First of all, there's the title to the psalm, which reads, A psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. Now there is some debate about whether these titles in the psalms are original to the text of Scripture, or if they were maybe added later by scribes. If they're original, then we need to treat them as part of the inspired, authoritative Word of God. If they were added later, they may still be true, but they aren't going to be as essential to our understanding and interpretation of the psalms.

Now without going into too much detail or going down a rabbit trail, let me just say that I think there is good evidence that these titles are original. If so, then we have a very detailed understanding of the trouble David was in when he penned Psalm 3. In fact, Doug has been preaching on this very narrative in recent weeks, so it should be very fresh in our minds. Let me just point out a couple of relevant details about this story that I think will enlighten our understanding of Psalm 3 specifically. First of all, the trouble David is facing is internal, not external. In other words, it's coming from within, not only Israel, but within David's own household. Absalom is David's son. Now this ups the ante of the trouble, doesn't it?

Whenever it's a family matter, it's even more intense. It's not just some random Gentile over there in Moab or Philistia. No, it's David's own son causing the trouble. Also, remember that the situation David finds himself in as he is forced to flee the palace and hide out in the wilderness was not entirely other people's fault. David had sinned and sinned heinously. He had committed polygamy, he had committed adultery, he had even murdered, and God promised to chasten David because of his sin. In 2 Samuel 12, God says to David, The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house.

He's referring to Absalom. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor. And he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this son, for you did it in secret, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the son. And that promise of God was fulfilled in 2 Samuel 16 22 where it says, So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, the roof of the palace, and Absalom went into his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel. The trouble David was facing when he wrote Psalm 3 was trouble of his own making.

He was facing overwhelming opposition. It was brought on by his own guilt as God chastened him for his sin. Now I want to say more about that in a moment because it's so critical to our understanding of Psalm 3, but there's something else we need to notice about the nature of this opposition. Not only was it brought on by David's sin, it was also brought on by Absalom's sin. Absalom and those who were supporting him in this attempted coup were not acting righteously, even though they were being used by God to chasten David. They were in sin because they weren't merely opposing David, they were opposing God. Verse 2 makes this clear.

Psalm 3 verse 2. We hear David's enemy saying there is no salvation for him, for David in God. God's enemies aren't interested in balancing the scales of justice. They're not concerned about David's repentance and restoration. No, they're engaged in a self-centered grab for power because they hate David and they hate David's God. But you see, once they begin accusing God of being unable and unwilling to save David, they have started barking up the wrong tree.

What had appeared to be a mere civil conflict is exposed for what it truly is. It is spiritual opposition to the plans and purposes of God as they concern his covenant people. You know, a lot of the suffering that Christians endure today is the same sort of spiritual opposition that David was encountering. We may mistake it as civil, but it's spiritual.

If you watch the news or listen to the world's analysis of current events, you come away thinking that our greatest threat today is viral or economic or social. But the Apostle Paul tells us that our enemy is not ultimately social or financial or medical, it's spiritual. He says in Ephesians 6, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Like Absalom and his thugs, the world and the devil hate God's people because they hate God. And their opposition to us, though it may be used by God to chasten us and humble us and bring us to repentance, is ultimately an attempt to show contempt for God and discredit his power to save. Well, that's the nature of the enemy's opposition to God's child. Let's see then what the response of God's child ought to be. I think we can identify four responses of the psalmist.

First, there is confession, and I don't mean confession of sin, I mean confession of faith. David's confidence in the face of this overwhelming opposition is incredibly unwavering. He confesses in verse 3 that God is his shield and his glory and the lifter of his head. He confesses in verse 6 that he will not be afraid of thousands of people who have set themselves against him. How can David hold this confident confession in the power and favor of God towards him when it's David's own sin that brought this trouble on himself? Well, first of all, don't think that David is excusing way of sin or presuming upon the mercies of God. Even though confession of sin is not included here in Psalm 3, remember that David did confess his sin. He did repent genuinely, sincerely before God.

We can read about that, about his brokenness and his grief over his sin. If you go back to 2 Samuel 12 or Psalm 51. What I want us to be amazed at here though is David's confidence in the mercy of God. His confession of faith is unwavering even though David knows good and well that he does not deserve God's mercy and favor. David knows he doesn't deserve God's protection and yet he declares, you, O Lord, are a shield about me. He doesn't deserve to be associated with this glorious creator of the universe and yet he boldly states, O Lord, you are my glory. He deserves to be cast out and forgotten and yet he is somehow able to confess, you, O Lord, are the lifter up of my head. David deserved the opposition he was facing and fearing and he cried out to God and God delivered.

Why is that? It's not because David deserved God's favor but because Jesus deserves God's favor. You say, now, what has Jesus got to do with it?

Well, everything quite frankly. David is simply an imperfect flawed shadow of the king, the Messiah, the anointed one, the Lord Jesus Christ. And we could spend the rest of the day looking up parallels between David and Jesus.

That would be a rich study but for the sake of time, let me just make the point briefly. Psalm 110 is a psalm about David's kingship. When you come to the New Testament, every one of the synoptic gospels and the book of Acts and the book of Hebrews numerous times quotes Psalm 110, a psalm about David but they apply it to Jesus. The typological connection between David and Jesus is undeniable in the Bible. It's arguably the strongest, most explicit typological connection of any of the things that are pointing forward foreshadowing Christ. But even though that connection is explicit and strong, we come away with mixed feelings about David, I think, as we read stories about him and as we meditate on these psalms that are expressions of his heart and mind, we think, David, how could you be so brave when you're standing in front of Goliath and yet so fearful in front of Absalom? Why were you so virtuous in your dealings with Saul but so impure in your dealings with Bathsheba? David has a lot of traits and qualities that we admire but he has a lot of faults and flaws.

And by faults and flaws, I mean horrendous sin tendencies that we shudder when we read. What we've got to continually keep in mind as we read these psalms and these Old Testament narratives is that David is not the main star. He's just a signpost pointing us to a better father, to a braver giant killer, to a much more faithful husband, to a more majestic king. David leaves us wishing, hoping, and praying for something more. He leaves us desperate for an anointed king who would wear the crown and carry the scepter without all these errors of judgment, who would defeat the enemies both within and without of the covenant community. Folks, David's purpose is to make us desperate for Christ and he does a great job of doing that. By the same token, it's not just David's shortcomings that make us desperate for Christ.

Church, my sin, your sin, make us long for another, for one who can overcome our transgressions and set things right. In fact, all of these things, David's life, our lives, all of scripture, all of history, point to the adequacy of one person and that person is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the prophet, the king, the priest who has no equal.

He's unparalleled, he's unsurpassed in power and beauty and purity and perfection. I think Christians who read Psalm 3 might be tempted to exclude themselves from the grace of God that we're about to consider. We might be tempted to read this and exclude ourselves from that grace on the grounds that we're not worthy. We're not deserving, we're not obedient enough.

Church, read the title again and be encouraged. The Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom. Yes, that David. All of this happened on the heels of David's adultery and murder, perhaps even of his parental negligence. And yet God's protection and blessing extends to David so much so that he responds with incredible confident faith to the spiritual opposition he was up against. And the point is this, if God's grace can extend to David, it can extend to you, it can extend to me. So David's grievous sin had resulted in the present trouble. God's goodness to him was grounded in covenant promises that could not be broken. And Christian, those same covenant promises extend to us because it's not David's faithfulness, it's not my faithfulness, it's not your faithfulness that guarantees those promises.

It is God's faithfulness, full stop, no qualification. So scandalously free in fact is this grace that Paul had to ask and answer the question, if God's grace is that gracious, then what is to stop me from indulging in sin? And the answer in Romans 6 is, oh, God's grace even takes care of that problem.

It's so comprehensive that it changes your very desire to indulge in sin. That's the graciousness of God's grace. This is the gospel we confess. And so look at all the wonderful acts of divine favor that David is able to confess. He says of God in verse 3, you are a shield about me. In this context, God's shielding of us means more than just spiritual redemption, it includes practical, temporal help in this life.

There are plenty of modern-day Absaloms who hate God's anointed one and want to destroy God's people, but God can protect us from their pathetic threats because he is our shield. David says you are my glory, my weightiness, my significance, my honor. When our enemies want to sideline the church and discredit our beliefs and our values and dishonor our Lord, God is our glory. God will not allow his bride to be impugned without returning retribution. He is all glorious and he is our glory.

David says you are the lifter of my head. This phrase is a Hebrew idiom, a figure of speech that refers to taking someone or something that has been cast aside, thrown out, discarded as worthless and restoring it to its place of honor. It's what happens when a slave is set free or when an impoverished man inherits great wealth. It's like when the roles were reversed in that story in Esther between Haman and Mordecai.

Haman, who had enjoyed the place of higher honor, had to honor Mordecai instead, the man who he despised and wanted to kill. To say that God is the lifter of my head, to say that God takes a sinner and makes him a saint. He takes a slave and treats him like a son.

He takes an enemy and calls him his friend. He's the lifter of our head. So David's response to trouble began with a confident confession of faith that God is all these things, he is good, he is favorable to us. But then David moves from confession to supplication. Verse 4, I cried aloud to the Lord.

Verse 7, Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God. David didn't just passively confess his confidence in God's goodness. He actively, fervently, zealously prayed. He didn't just say, Lord, you are my shield. He said, Lord, shield me, save me, protect me.

He made supplication. God wants us to take our request to him. He commands us to cast our cares on him. He implores us to pray without ceasing.

Why? It's not because he doesn't already know what we need. It's because we need to know that he is listening and working on our behalf. And we know this and are convinced of this as we bring our needs to him and as we see him respond to those requests with answers to prayer.

Supplication carries us from panic to peace in a way that gives the credit and glory to God. Just in passing, I want to point out a beautiful connection between David and Christ here that I think will encourage us to pray when we're faced with spiritual opposition. 2 Samuel 15.30 tells us that when Absalom's betrayal of his father David had come to light, David fled from Jerusalem and went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. Centuries later, on the eve of the crucifixion, Jesus was also betrayed by someone close to him. Judas Iscariot, his disciple and companion, his friend. And after this betrayal, the Gospels tell us that Jesus also retreated to the very same place, to the Mount of Olives, where he spent the last few moments before his arrest, crying out to God in grief and agony. David deserved his betrayal.

Jesus did not. Both David and Jesus prayed in response to that betrayal. One prayed because he himself needed to be saved. The other prayed in order that others might be saved.

David is our example. Christ is our savior. So we should pray with both confession and supplication in the face of spiritual opposition. The third response of the Christian then is rest.

Look at verse 5. I lay down and slept. I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. Have you ever thought about sleep theologically? Have you ever thought of sleep as spiritual warfare?

David did. For him, sleep provided an opportunity to put God's protection and sustenance of his child on display. We sleep to know that we're not sovereign. But we also sleep to declare that our enemy is not sovereign. John Piper said, sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. Once a day, God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think that we are in control and that our work is indispensable.

Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day. Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. God wants to be trusted as the great worker who never tires and never sleeps.

He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps. The fourth and final response of God's child to spiritual opposition is fearfulness. Verse 6 says, I will not be afraid, excuse me, fearlessness, opposite of fearfulness. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. What good is it to confess confidence in the goodness and grace of God and to ask for his deliverance and salvation and to sleep the peaceful sleep of the redeemed, only to then turn around and cower in fear over my enemies. God has not given us a spirit of fear. So if my tendency, my temperament, my habit is to fear the enemies of God, I need to repent.

I need to mortify that fear with faith in God's faithfulness. Very quickly then, let's consider thirdly and finally God's care for his child. And that care comes in two parts, salvation for his people and judgment for his enemies.

First, there is salvation for his people. David says in verse 4, God answered me from his holy hill. God's holy hill refers to Zion in Jerusalem, the place where God resided, so to speak, and from which he reigned over his people and over the world. Of course, at this point, David had fled from that holy hill and Absalom had taken up residence on it. But Absalom didn't realize that Jerusalem was really just God's footstool. It was merely an earthly symbol of the true Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, from which God's rule and reign are carried out and will be carried out for all eternity.

No one supplants that throne. And it is from that throne, that holiest of all hills, that God answers the cries of his people. It's God caring for his child. Not only does God answer our prayers, he also sustains us. Verse 5, we can rest in every sense of that word deeply and peacefully because God never rests.

His eyes are always on his child. Not only does God answer our prayers, not only does he sustain us, he is also the source of our salvation. David prayed in verse 7, save me, O God.

And in verse 8, we see that God indeed is the one who saves. The last statement of the psalm then grammatically could be a request or it could be a statement of fact. Your blessing be upon or is upon your people. This indicates that David's concern was not merely for himself but for all who belong to God.

God's concern, God's deliverance, God's blessing is for all of his people. But God's response entails more than just blessing. It also entails judgment for his enemies.

Verse 7, you strike all my enemies on the cheek, you break the teeth of the wicked. You know, a significant portion of the psalms are given to prayers for judgment. These are severe prayers of cursing directed against the wicked. And a lot of ink has been spilled trying to explain or excuse or justify these kinds of prayers, particularly as they relate to the coming of Christ and his teaching on love and grace and forgiveness. How are we supposed to deal with these cursing prayers in the psalms? Now, I've dealt with this topic before, so I'm not going to go into depth here this morning. But since verse 7 is in our text, I do need to address it briefly.

Let me just say this. The kingdom of God will advance either through the salvation of its enemies or through the destruction of its enemies. And so like the psalmist, we pray for God's purposes to succeed one way or another. We pray that justice would be served because God loves justice. Now, whether that justice comes through sins being covered by the cross or through sins being punished in hell is up to God. But we pray nonetheless that justice will be served because his purposes are more important than anything else. Prayers for judgment, like we see in Psalm 3, are simply prayers that long to see God's kingdom and God's glory be appropriately esteemed in the world. One Presbyterian pastor put it this way. He said, in these prayers for judgment, the Christian must embrace the tension inherent in reflecting both the kindness and severity of God. That's Romans 11, 22. These psalms are a reminder that a war is raging.

It is a war of opposing powers with casualties, traitors, and triumphs. The principal weapon of that warfare is the dual-edged message of the gospel, a message of life and death itself. Folks, this is a beautiful psalm that describes the nature of the spiritual opposition we face and the response we ought to give as children of God. And it shows us God's faithful response to us. A response that includes both blessing and judgment.

As we close our time in the written word this morning and transition into a time of considering the living word in the sacrament of communion, let me just exhort us to pursue two habits by way of application. We all face opposition of one sort or another. That opposition may come in the form of a family member or friend who thinks your Christianity is silly.

It may come in the form of a colleague or an employer or maybe a teacher who is angry and mean-spirited toward you because of your love for Christ. One of the devil's chief tactics is to accuse us of guilt, and you know sometimes he's right. We are guilty.

We're not without fault. We have often brought opposition on ourselves, and so if you're faced with opposition, with persecution, make it your habit to use that opposition as an opportunity to humble yourself and repent of your own sin. John Calvin said if at any time God makes use of wicked men to chastise us, it becomes us first to diligently consider the cause, namely that we suffer nothing which we have not deserved in order that this reflection may lead us to repentance.

Make that your habit. But then Calvin goes on to say, but if our enemies in persecuting us rather fight against God than against us, let us be confidently persuaded of our safety under the protection of him whose grace they despise and trample underfoot. Make it your habit to use spiritual opposition as an opportunity to repent of your sin, but also make it a habit to not doubt the mercy, grace, and love that God extends to you through Jesus Christ. Regardless of the circumstances of your life, crosses or comforts, danger or deliverance, adversity or prosperity, be assured that God's blessing through Jesus Christ is always upon his people.

Let's pray. Father, thank you for the love that's ours in Christ, a love that is constant through the ups and downs of life, through the joys and sorrows of this fallen world, through both the beauties and even the betrayals of a sin-infested world. Your grace is constant. May that truth temper us and keep us steadfast and even enable us to peacefully rest in a world of turmoil. Thank you that you will come again and make all things new. Until then, may your blessing be upon your people. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-18 12:40:22 / 2023-09-18 12:52:17 / 12

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