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Sheep that Conquer

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
November 9, 2021 7:00 am

Sheep that Conquer

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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November 9, 2021 7:00 am

Do things ever go wrong in your life? This week on The Bible Study Hour with Dr. James Boice, we’re studying psalm 44, where the psalmist is begging God for help. Something is wrong. He knows that God has rescued His people in the past, and he knows that victory and triumph can only come by the hand of God. Is God even listening? What is He waiting for?!

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You're probably familiar with the age-old question, why do bad things happen to good people today on the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce were studying Psalm 44, which opens with this almost pleading with God to help them. He knows that God has rescued his people in the past and he knows that God is faithful. So what's the problem. What is God waiting for, welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically. What do you do when things go wrong in your life. Psalm 44 is a cry for help. This almost is in desperate need of God's rescue. He's distraught and wants to know why God seems to be asleep at the wheel. If you have your Bible handy turn to Psalm 44 and follow along.

That way, and on something at one of the commentators so I'm always interested in the way I approach the Psalms 1 element is opening remarks says God never sleeps a lot, maybe sometimes he seems to seems to be asleep when his people are having trouble call out to him and they don't seem to get an answer. The reason I begin that way is because of a verse that occurs in the Psalm verse 23 and the psalmist is crying out to God is asking God to do is wake up awake all Lord, why do you sleep, rouse yourself and not reject us forever is easy to dismiss the idea of God being asleep because we know God does not sleep much Acxiom were dealing with the Almighty one is omniscient, knows everything and yet last week. This engage ourselves from the idea too easily. We have to remember that in the New Testament there is a story much along these lines, the disciples were crossing the Lake of Galilee with Jesus Christ in the boat after a long days work and they were exhausted.

Jesus especially was tired. He was in the back of the boat in the asleep great storm came up with is an unusually fierce storm and the disciples were afraid for their lives and experienced fishermen, but nevertheless they knew they were in danger of drowning, and they turn to Jesus.

They wanted to wake him up.

They did and I said why don't you care that we drowning Jesus woke up and quieted the storm and he rebuked them for their lack of faith and all of that kind of good ending, but nevertheless their point of view. At least Jesus was asleep for a time. Now it is just out of that kind of experience that the Psalm is written was a frightening experience. We don't know exactly when it was only know the author was a member.

Last time we were talking about the sons of Cora know who they were. As a group, but not individually. This is the third of the Psalms by the sons of Cora may be the second one, Psalms 42 and 43 are to be taken together.

As I said last time, but as far as the individual is concerned, we don't know who he is, we don't know what.

Of Israel's history lived in. Therefore, we don't know what he was writing about Harry's talking about a great military defeat for Israel but it might have been as early as the time of David. Some scholars think that it might've been as late as the Persian. Or even later than that of the time of the Maccabees. We just simply don't know what we do know is that the people in support of the feet. God is apparently asleep.

The psalmist calls out on God to deliver them and he can understand why God hasn't done it done it the way he did in past days as far as he slams belly fall into various classifications and I mentioned it before, this one is a lament that is happened in a lament is that poetic response to it, or other kinds of storms of course are hymns and Thanksgiving Psalms and Psalms of confidence Psalms of remembrance and wisdom Psalms kingship Psalm some of those are messianic, but this is a lament that has three parts, and that will help us follow our way through it and learn what it's saying first part is verses one through eight, and it refers to the past. The second part, verses nine through 22 that refers to the present, and then the last part versus 23 through 26. Refer to the future now.

The past section deals with God's past acts of deliverance of the people and the longer central section deals with the present puzzling problem.

Although his deliver them in the plastic not delivering them in the present.

In the final section is prayer in which psalmist looks ahead to God's deliverance in future days. Now when you started with this first section you would never expect it to be a lament is positive when it's repeating all the good things that God is done on behalf of the people you would say will.

This is a Thanksgiving Psalm or appraisal. It's not only that it's a very mature reflection on the past because the psalmist is not merely saying these first eight verses that we had nice days in the past and I wish we had the Maui saying all those victories we had in the past were won by God's mighty power and by the strength of his arm.

Verse three it was not by their sword that they won the landlord of their arm bring them victory. It was your right hand your arm in the light of your face for you love them was a lesson of Israel's history when they were brought out of Egypt became a nation were established in their own land was God. It didn't nation of slaves never got out of Egypt by themselves they were opposed by the mightiest monarch of the day all the armies on his side. God hadn't intervened in the planks to change the heart of Pharaoh and allow him to let the people go. Then when he pursued them actually defeated them in a miraculous way. Well, people would never broken free from their bondage so they well knew that, and that's what the psalmist is saying this first part versus one through eight falls into two sections. Verses one through three concern the distant past, and as we read it we are aware what he's thinking of the air. It's not the Exodus from Egypt, per se, but it's actually the conquest of the land.

He said we heard from our fathers. Those who lived in days long ago before us how you drove out the nations from Canaan under Joshua and how you established your plant our people the land you crushed all their enemies read the book of Joshua.

You find exactly how God did that he did it in a splendid way. Now that's what he saying the same look. We we listen to the. The history of our people and is our fathers tell us about these things passed down from generation to generation were aware of how strongly you intervene on behalf of your people in the past we have the equivalent to lack were not thinking nationally here when we take a sob like this and apply it to ourselves were thinking spiritually, but we have been told of things that have happened in the past that are part of our heritage for which we are thankful and for which we praise God, our spiritual equivalent might be, for example, the Protestant Reformation, which the gospel was rediscovered and then passed down to us. Many of us belong to denominations or the fruit of that Reformation or or the Wesley and revivals of the period of the great awakening in this country. Those are all things are part of our tradition and we say rightly as the psalmist does hear all these victories. These great spiritual victories were achieved because Martin Luther was such a smart manner are John Calvin was so perceptive or Jonathan Edwards with a powerful speaker is where victories were achieved by the hand of God, and we rightly acknowledge that Celexa distant past.

The second part of this first section, verses four through eight deal with a more immediate past you notice as you read that that the subjects of the sentence become singular rather than plural. Up to this point. It's been we us an hour now becomes median. This doesn't mean as some of the commentators suggest that this liturgical song to study the Psalms of all, you know that's the current rage among the commentators must've come from a liturgical tradition and when pronouns change, it means that the first part was said by the people and then the second part was said by the priest, and so on doesn't mean that all this is a device, a literary device by which the psalmist intensifies what he saying see. It's as if he is saying we know what God did long ago, but I want to say here right at the beginning of my small is not just a memory of things long ago that I praise God for things that God did for our fathers is also done for us. As a matter fact is done for me. See how the change in the pronouns accomplishes that I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring the victory anymore than it did with our fathers, saying you gave us victory over our enemies, and you put our adversaries to shame. Now if we put that in terms of our own experience. The way we would to express it is this. We would say those spiritual victories which are part of our heritage to go back after the Reformation or to the great awakenings or whatever it may be that not just distant things.

Those are things we have experienced as well, maybe not.

Does to the same degree we haven't lived through a time of rapid social change with the product of a Reformation, a revival, but the same power that was at work in the gospel of the reformers has been at work in our lives.

It's the same message. Justification by faith in Christ work of Christ in our behalf that transforms people today is much as it did then that's my testimony to something that I didn't, but it's what God is done. You see how it's moving now if Cliff Solomon stopped at that point with verse eight we would've said well it's a victory, or to slam the Thanksgiving because here the psalmist is saying as he looks over the past we have nothing to blame God for us.

On the contrary he's intervene for us in this all along the way. Yet as we read on to the next section we discover that that has not been the psalmist's experience in the present matter fact is been the opposite of the present God seems to be asleep and they suffered a defeat and so with that in you have to go back and read these first verses in a puzzled tone of voice is reiterating what God has done and that's a fact of history but it's puzzling because what's happening in the present doesn't conform with what is experienced in the past. Now notice of this section. Verse nine and following begins with the words, but now very common combination of words in Scripture. More than one preachers done a whole series of sermons on my done that myself.

Number of years ago, going to the Bible for the significant times in which that phrase, but now occurs and in all of these sermons has to deal with our sad past and the intervention of God in the things that are different now because of it. One great example of that is in the third chapter of Romans. After Paul is gone through his rehearsal of the wrath of God for the sins of the race and all are in bold under that and he wraps it up every mouth to stop.

He says as he begins to talk about the gospel but now but now a righteousness from God is revealed from heaven and that's what he talks about for the rest of the letter. Now this magnificent change now in this Psalm. The contrast is exactly the opposite.

Instead of moving from a sad past glorious presence. The song moves from a glorious past with tragic present is talking about victories in the past seven. He is now bringing up this defeat of the present look at the contrast back in verse seven. You gave us victory over our enemies within verses nine and 10, but now you have rejected and humbled us.

You no longer go out with our armies make us retreat before the enemy and all our adversaries have plundered us you want to ask the question, is this what the people of God are to expect from a God who has been there champion in past days you and understand that that's a puzzling situation you have understood the Psalm so far. How can that be the unchanging God it would been with them in the past, seemingly is abandon them in the present so puzzling that the psalmist is playing with possible explanations.

Now he doesn't lay them out on the surface there behind the kind of things he says what we have in this middle portion of the Psalm are not the proposed solutions which are inadequate, but the reasons why the proposed solutions are not inadequate. So you have to go back behind the reasons it is giving the things he saying kind of solutions that might be offered by somebody as they try to work through this dilemma. Let me review what three of them would be first excavation would be this many God was looking the other way and because God was looking the other way. Not paying attention to what was happening among the people of time.

After all, it's a big world a lot of things going on. People simply were taken advantage of by their enemies.

That's the way you should handle us well that might work for the pagans because they have limited God's regarding work of the Jews, Jehovah is the all seeing, all knowing, all powerful and nothing ever escapes Joe but you can't deny kind of an explanation when you're dealing with the Bible is God is made very clear here in an interesting way. Stylistically, you'll notice that at this point, beginning with verse nine.

You have a repetition of the word you again and again and again is in every verse. Verses nine through 14, and ask that you find it again in verse 19. And every time it says that God's behind is God's behind God's behind you have rejected and humbled us. You made us retreat before the enemy.

You gave us up to be devoured like sheep you soldier people for a pittance. You made is a reproach to our neighbors. You made us a byword among the nations you crushed us and made us hunt for jackals and covered us with shame, and so on.

It's exactly that makes the situation so puzzling is if God wasn't paying attention when you had an accident while accident might be bad but there's nothing puzzling about an accident you say will accidents happen. The reason a situation like this is puzzling is if you believe there is an all-powerful God, for whom accidents don't happen, who was also a benevolent God and cares for his people, but in that situation things nevertheless happen that are bad that that's what the psalmist is saying now is what makes it puzzling. But at the same time.

It's the only situation that actually gives us hope is that what I mean by that of your secularists that you don't have an omnipotent, all knowing God and bad things happen, but this is nowhere to turn. It's a bad thing.

It's all except your misery running into about has no meaning no hope for lap is why the existentialist despair and why they say the only real question in all of life is a question of suicide you go on living is no meaning so do you commit suicide or do you go on living. That's the existentialist approach now that is a formula for despair.

Your secularists are the only place you come out now if if you're a believer and an Almighty God, you always have the answers been released for an answer because if you believe in a God. It was all-powerful, knows what he's doing doesn't make mistake.

You might not understand what the answer is but a means is an answer there somewhere, may not even get the answer in life but nevertheless you see you can approach what you're going through an entirely different frame of mind and you can believe you're going to have an answer. Eventually that's what it is for the believer you see as we go through life. Lots of things come into our lives, for which we don't have answers. We do have a God. We know that God has the answers and that gives an entirely different approach to the Christian as a Christian goes through tough times. So that's the first possible answer and that's what the author is dealing with when he says again and again you have done it. You've done it, you will.that's what makes it puzzling. On the other hand, he knows that the only ways of working to get an answer is to reaffirm what he knows about God. Second possible suggestion has that's not the God wasn't paying attention and thing just happened, but that maybe the defeat wasn't as bad as it appears see people say that when other people go through trouble.

It's a Pollyanna approach. Every cloud has a silver lining is a really so bad, that is not what the psalmist says I am only I like about the psalmist where they are is that they really know how to call the tragedy of tragedy and pretend it is in the tragedy of its tragedy. That is bad and I got explain wise man things happen when he says there is look just like sheep if our enemies is on question of the battle was almost evenly matched and they just overpowered us a little bit for time and we lost a few soldiers. We were like sheep before the age of slaughtered is like animals, we are scattered all over the hillsides made is a reproach to our neighbors don't go around telling me that the battle wasn't bad that your Pollyanna theology somewhere else.

I'm an Old Testament Jew and I don't like the way it really is so that's a second answer that's Osama's response possible explanation of the situation is a better one. And this is the idea that maybe it was due to the sin of the people. In other words, the people themselves were at fault. The reason that's a better explanation is that there were many times in their history when they were at fault. Read the Old Testament history of the Jewish people and you find that the story is this again and again they departed from the Lord.

Judgment came upon them, God was merciful and the judgment to bring them back.

I got reestablished in the send again judgment came again.

Of the judges is one long history of left and that's even true of the period of the kings of follows as well. You would say well maybe that's it. Maybe. Maybe that's explanation will send after all, when they sinned Jericho and Aiken took the forbidden things from the tent, God judge the people and it was explained afterwards. And that's why didn't maybe that's what's going on here. The problem with that is that the psalmist says that wasn't the case, is why assays answering these questions are in the back of people's minds and what he says is is verse 17 is describe everything that's happened and then he says all this is happened to us even though we have not forgotten you foster your confidence in our hearts had not turned back her feet and not stray from the path and yet you crushed us is arguing that they were obeying God and yet they were defeated. Well, we say that they cannot really be be rare for a Christian to insist in the face of God that he or she was innocent, had been obeying God all along. Therefore, God should know aloud what happened to come in the Christian's life.

We say look is not self-righteousness of medicine in itself. While it would be a valid explanation except for two things.

One thing is what the psalmist himself says in verse 20 says if we had forgotten the name of our daughter spread out her hands to a foreign God would not God have discovered it since he knows the secrets of the heart was that mean well, it does not mean, wouldn't God know about it because God knows everything reason it doesn't mean that is that the conclusion that would fall over my kind of an argument is exactly the opposite of what the psalmist assign you if if you're saying that God knows the heart of every knows everything. The argument would be well. He knows our hearts.

He must know that we sin, somehow, even though we are not aware of it is because of that unknown sin, which is nevertheless known to God that the judgment is come in anything the exact opposite of that. So what does it mean when it says would not God discovered it means would not gonna discovered it to us when he made it known to us for disobeying and God is not done that.

So what the psalmist is saying is look we are aware that we are sinful human beings and we have deceitful hearts the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked the soul as well do that but he said that if that is the heart of the people are gone astray.

God would've told us that God is not said anything along those lines. Therefore, the puzzle remains were not blatantly disobeying God in any area is a second reason why we have to understand that to be an adequate explanation is because of the way the apostle Paul uses verse 22 in Romans eight know I'm sure as you read this that it occurs toward the end of the chapter in that great declaration of the love of God in spite of the fact the people of God suffer for him. Verse 22 yet for your sake we face death all day long we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. While Paul is arguing there that he and the other preachers of the gospel in Christians in times of persecution suffer for their profession of faith even though there standing for their profession of faith are doing what they ought to be doing and yet they suffer so Paul pulls the verse out of the Solomon uses exactly in Romans eight would understand. That's the meaning of the verse has Psalm 44. Psalmist is not saying that there are some hidden sin for which God is judging is he saying now, in this case many times in the past, when that's been the explanation. But in this case is not it. And yet we are judged pleasing as easy as it would be to turn to one of the explanations and save a lot. That explains it. None of them really work now we come to the point and where we say what what is the explanation. I hope you won't be impatient with me when I say that in the Psalm.

At least there is no explanation are some suggestions explanation starters for our thought to come back to those in a moment, but is not what the psalmist dwells on the psalmist's hands.

Here is not an explanation but an answer which has to do with praying to God anyway.

That's where that verse awake overlord. Why do you sleep comes in. You see, he deals with the past and its distant aspects in its more immediate aspects in the talk of the middle section, the greatest section in length about the problems of the presently has no real answers for only gets to the end. He turns to God because God is the only place he has to turn and he says wake up God and help us because we sure need your help.

That's the way it goes. One of the commentators said the movement of the song goes like this, you help us in the past.

You must help us now, you're not helping us now, even though we've done nothing to prohibit your helping is not so helpless now saw was really as simple as that and I said I was going to return to the suggestions of deeper answer starters for our thinking and their two of them and let me call them to your attention.

Verse 22. First of all, that phrase for your sake and for your sake we face death all day long on the psalmist doesn't develop at all was no explanation of what that means there in the Psalm, but we do find it developed in the New Testament Lord Jesus Christ when he was talking to his disciples. Even in the sermon on the Mount is talking about those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, and those were persecuted because of me that's an explanation you say it's a way of saying if in the midst of an ungodly world you stand up for righteousness. Those who love sin will hate you, and in our secular world.

Anyone who will demonstrate an honest faith in God is going to be persecuted for in some way subtle ways.

Perhaps nevertheless, in some ways, I heard this morning that a number of people were angry with Reggie White on the Eagles because following the game against the Steelers as he does in every game he gets the players together at the end of the kneel down on the sidelines and thank God for keeping it from injury during the game and forever having the game go a good way and he is a marvelous witness on the pro football players and doing that, but there was objection to it because all you don't always catch up on the TV cameras in his last game actually photograph that all the players kneeling together the Christians on the team to pray. It was on one of the new stories and these objections were being raised and and and someone said I think he said look at you you put everything else on TV why Somebody kneeling and praying like what format being on TV say of some drunk and loud at the football game gets in a tussle in the stands and throws a beer bottle and somebody else all the cameras started on that.

No question about that. That's news right that of a Christian and the client way thanking God at the end of again deals in the sidelines while begin to apply persecution.

Now that's part of the answers you say that's the way Paul deals with that in Romans when he picks that verse often uses a toward the end.

Romans eight saying that's why we suffer, we went along with the worldly ministers of the gospel of Leith if we geared our message to what the right wants to hear. We would be persecuted the world. Speak with you like to be entertained by that sort of thing. I want a good speaker. You are and we laugh so hard. Why we haven't had such a good time since we listen to Demosthenes but you say when Paul comes with the message of the gospel people hated that they persecuted for it and they do that in different ways throughout history/part of the explanation and enters a second that comes at the very end. Verse 26, rise up and help us redeem us because of your own failing love was a very important ending.

Again I say the psalmist doesn't develop that at all with something he knows and understands God's unfailing love. What that really means is this it is to be taken at face value, the love of God is of such a quality that even the turn of the defeats of the present moment are not without a purpose, and they will not even in the worst extremities sever the believing one from God. I'm sure you recognize that that's exactly the way Paul handles it in Romans eight as well occurs there at the very end of the chapter where he says I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be in us and I am convinced that neither death nor life, or angels or demons, neither the present of the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth or anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from a lot of godly unfailing love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. The face like that, based on the demonstrable love of God in sending Jesus Christ to die for us on the cross. Those who were scattered like sheep can actually conquer Concord, not because were strong super week. We don't conquer because we are why sheep are foolish, we conquer because the love of God under the undeserved has been fixed upon us through Christ we are brought into a fellowship that neither heaven or hell height or depth things present, nor things to, or anything else in all creation is ever going to sever that we suffer now God in the end is going to provide a victory that brings glory to his name. I don't know about you but I would rather have it that way than any other way. Suppose we are able to answer it in secular terms we able to say well this is why it happened, but without reference to God going to comfort without the sun happens and this is why it was as awake, still a bad thing happened to see if you're a person upon whom God is fixed is eternal and unfailing love and the end result of that is good however bad it is now.

Moreover, even in the bad times we have an opportunity to glorify him.

All of this earth is passed away. All of these things which seem so important, so weighty to us now are gone and gone forever. Saints will still be in glory and what we call billions of years from now in the be praising this God.

God works in their lives to bring victory to be there.

I trust you're going to be there to spray father who blesses him to our hearts. Sometimes we come to the Psalms and we don't know them very well and perhaps even haven't studied them or use them more, even memorized parts of them that we should as we get into them. We find that they deal not with problems of the distant far-off age with the very kind of things we face in do it in a way that directs our minds and our hearts upward to yourself. Do that as we study this as we meditate upon it as we go grant the week to calm her months, or even years from now is troubling, puzzling things come into our lives as they surely will we might be drawn back to the statements long ago people who suffered as we do directed their thoughts to God and find comfort there in order that we might find comfort in victory to Jesus. Thank you for listening to this message from the Bible study our listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance is a coalition of pastors, scholars and churchmen who hold to the historic creeds and confessions of the reformed faith and who proclaim biblical doctrine in order to foster a reformed awakening in today's church. To learn more about the alliance visit alliance and while you're there, visit our online store reformed resources.

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