Saturday, August 18, 2007

Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Ps 46:10 )

We read in the Old Testament of a man named David. He was a mere shepherd boy who killed a giant Philistine with one rock and a sling. He was chosen to replace King Saul as the King of Israel, a fact which nearly cost him his life due to Saul’s jealousy. When God revealed to Saul that He was taking the kingdom from him, God described Saul’s successor as “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

Our scripture text today, Psalm 46:10, comes from a psalm written by David in which he extolls the comfort provided by God to those who believe. The first verse states “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”. We read in the Old Testament of the sin of David and Bathsheba, of David’s sin in having Bathsheba’s husband purposely killed in battle, and of the subsequent death of the child Bathsheba conceived with David. We read in 2 Samuel 12:16 that David fasted and prayed, asking God to spare the child’s life.

David was going about his life, enjoying Bathsheba, his child, his kingdom. Suddenly, his child became sick and David’s life focus become one thing and one thing only...saving his child’s life. On the seventh day, the child died, and David’s servants feared what would happen if they told him. While the child was alive, David did not eat food, change his clothing, or bathe. David was obviously devastated and his only prayer was that God spare the child’s life.

When David discovered that the child had died, he got up, washed, changed his clothes, and went to worship God. When he returned home, he ate. His servants were confused...he had been so upset when the child was sick and now he was no longer mourning? To them, David’s actions seemed backwards;. before the child died, there was hope and he was devastated; now the child was dead and he was resuming his life? How could he eat when his child had just died?

In 2 Samuel 12:22-23, we read David’s response “And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who knoweth whether Jehovah will not be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” David realized that he had done all he could do to save his child. David was facing the reality of his sin with Bathsheba and the reality of God’s power. God could just as easily have killed David or Bathsheba. Instead, God had taken their child, and in doing so, He had regained David’s undivided attention.

The Hebrew word used for fast is tsuwm {tsoom}, meaning to abstain from food. The practice of fasting, of abstaining from eating food for a period of time, is demonstrated several times in the Bible. We read in 2 Chronicles 20:3 that Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast throughout Judah. In Ezra 8:21 we read that a fast was held to reflect humbling before God, to seek His will. In the story of Esther, we read that Queen Esther asked Mordecai to fast, or abstain from eating food or drinking liquids for three days. She and her maidens were also going to fast, and pray that the King would hear her plea. When Jonah proclaimed to the people of Nineveh that God would destroy them if they did not repent, they fasted and wore sackcloth, the clothing worn during mourning. Fasting was practiced by those in great mourning, either mourning the sickness or death of a loved one or, the mourning of sin in their life. It was a means of expressing to God great sadness and was accompanied by prayer to God requesting healing, comfort, even forgiveness.

In the case of David, certainly he realized that the child was born as a result of the sin of adultery that he and Bathsheba had committed. He knew that he had sinned against God, and the child being taken from him, while painful, did not sway David’s faith. When he heard that the child had died, David cleaned himself up and worshipped God. In his sorrow, David recognized God’s power, His glory, and His omniscience.

David was a warrior in his lifetime. As a result of this, he was not allowed by God to build the temple. David had shed the blood of both animals and men. He had been sought by his enemies, including Saul, who desired to kill him. While caring for his father’s flocks as a young boy, David had killed a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17:36). He was no stranger to violence, and yet was looked upon by God as a man whose heart was like the heart of God.

We, like David, become consumed with this life’s tasks and with our desires. It is difficult enough to find time to do all we need to do each day, and finding a moment for God can seem impossible. We never seem to have enough time to do all we want to, but, more accurately, we tend to concern ourselves with things that should not be a priority. We intend to get together with other people, we intend to do good things, we want to help others, but there is no time. Truthfully, there is time, but our inability to properly prioritize results in less important things superseding the more important. But no matter how busy we are, now matter how consumed, the death or illness of a loved one will stop us in our tracks. Suddenly the day to day tasks become less important to us. Our focus is shifted from ordinary things. We now focus on the person who is sick, on helping them and their family. If there is a death, we may call the family, go to see them, take food, attend a memorial. It is a time when our lives are made to stop moving so quickly, and we focus on the fact that this life is temporary.

The last verse of our scripture text reads “Jehovah of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.” David realized this while praying for his child and in his acceptance of the child’s death. David made many mistakes in his life, but when confronted with his sin, he became still and realized that God was in control. At a time when it might have frustrated some to have their fervent prayers answered differently than they hoped, David accepted God’s answer and worshipped God. David accepted the fact that his child was dead, and that there was nothing he could do about it. David had prayed for the child to be healed, and God had said “No.”

Today we have events that occur in our life, sometimes as a result of our own sins, that grieve us. The consequences of sin are never worth the pleasure of the sin, and David’s sin with Bathsheba had resulted in the loss of their child. It seems a hard lesson to understand why God would allow this innocent child to suffer and die. Perhaps David believed it to be because he had sinned and therefore accepted it as a consequence of his actions. For whatever reason, the experience brought David to a halt, and caused him to look at his life and see the sins he had committed. While David prayed for the life of his child, he put his faith in God, and recognized that he was powerless over God. David was a mighty warrior, a powerful king, but he was bested by Jehovah, the creator of all living things. David humbled himself before God both while the child was alive and when the child died. David knew that God was in control, and that humbled David to the point that he could trust God, implicitly, and accept even that which was too painful to understand.

Life is filled with injustice, unfair treatment, and evil. There are times when we pray and our prayers are answered with silence or are answered the opposite of how we hope. At times life can be overwhelming in its sadness and frustrating to deal with. But David learned that no matter what, God is there. Whether our sadness is due to our own sin, the sin of others, illness, or death, God can comfort us. He may not remove the circumstances or the consequences, but He will provide comfort to us. In order to gain the comfort, we must first believe in God’s power. While God provides for all people, many struggle greatly in this life because they do not acknowledge God.

Jesus suffered many things in His life and yet as He hung on the cross, He prayed for those who sinned against Him (Luke 23:34). Jesus, who calmed the seas and quieted the storms, sought comfort from God through prayer as he prepared to go to the cross. We too can experience the peace and comfort from God, if only we will acknowledge Him.

Are you suffering today? Are you in need of comfort? God loves you and cares for you so much, He gave His Son’s life to provide a means for you to be reconciled to Him. Won’t you acknowledge God’s power today, and allow Him to comfort you?

Be still, and know that He is God.

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