May 30, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Psalm 69)

Submitted by George H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Psalm 69

Key Verse

13 But I pray to you, O Lord,
in the time of your favor;
in your great love, O God,
answer me with your sure salvation.
14 Rescue me from the mire,
do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
from the deep waters.
15 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
or the depths swallow me up
or the pit close its mouth over me.
16 Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
17 Do not hide your face from your servant;
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
18 Come near and rescue me;
redeem me because of my foes.”

God is …

God hears my prayers and answers me.  God rescues, delivers, and does not allow me to be overwhelmed by the things that are going around me, by my circumstances, or my enemies. God is always near me.  This psalm, written by David, is obviously one that is written by a person who is familiar with suffering and familiar with the difficulties associated with leading people and being a shepherd of God’s flock (vv. 4, 6-7, 10-12).  But even despite the intense suffering, it is clear that the psalmist’s experience of God has been that He has heard his prayers, answered them, and has rescued him even when he felt “worn out” or about to be engulfed.

Lessons for me …

This psalmist feels scorned, misunderstood, and overwhelmed by his enemies and circumstances.  Yet, he prays to God, and goes to him, knowing that it is only God who has the ability to rescue him, to bring salvation to him.  In his prayer, he desires for God to help him and to rescue him, but there it seems that part of the reason he desires this is so that those who are watching him as an example are not stumbled (vv. 5-6, NLT):

O God, you know how foolish I am;
my sins cannot be hidden from you.
Don’t let those who trust in you be ashamed because of me,
O Sovereign Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
Don’t let me cause them to be humiliated,
O God of Israel.

The psalmist’s response to his circumstances are so noteworthy because they are so starkly different from mine.  My own response when circumstances do not go my way, or when I feel that I am undergoing some emotional suffering, is typically one of self-pity.  I may feel wronged and betrayed, and may ask questions of God such as, “why?” or “why me?”  But the psalmist never asks these questions.  And though the psalmist clearly does feel wronged and betrayed, he turns to God in prayer, cries out to Him, and asks that God protect the people that have been given to his care.  The psalmist is aware of his own sin, his own foolishness, and so does not want others to be harmed by his mistakes.  One mark of maturity is to be like Jesus in considering the needs of others as more important that my own (Philippians 2:3).  The psalmist’s God-centered and others-centered attitude is not like mine.  When I’m faced with difficult circumstances, I often become more selfish, ignoring and not even noticing the needs of others, concerned only for my own problems that I feel are so overwhelming.

What allows the psalmist to be so others-centered in the midst of his suffering?  I think it’s because of his confidence in the saving power of God.  The psalmist knows God’s promise—that he will deliver the Israelites into the Promised Land.  This psalmist knows that God will bring to pass what he has promised, and therefore can have the room in his heart to pay attention to how the people may be reacting.

At the end of the day when I respond to my circumstances with self-pity and anxiety and with a self-focused attitude, it is because of a lack of trust in God and His promise to me.  God has promised that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and that the kingdom of heaven is like a house with many rooms, and he goes there to prepare a place for us.  Therefore, there is nothing to fear in this world.  God will be praised and He will save His people (vv. 34-35).  This is what I need to remember when I feel overwhelmed by my emotions or my circumstances, and use my circumstances as an opportunity to trust God and to grow in my love for others.

Prayer

Dear Lord,

Thank you so much for today’s DT.  Many times, I feel what the psalmist is expressing, like I am sinking and engulfed by the floodwaters of emotions or circumstances that I feel powerless against.  But Lord you have said that in my weakness, you are strong, and I pray that like the psalmist I can trust in your promises to me, and therefore have more room in my heart for the concerns of others.  Lord, please open my eyes and help me to not fall into self-pity, but to become mature by considering the needs of others as more important than my own, even when I feel that my own emotions are overwhelming.  Lord, help me to turn to you in prayer when I feel overwhelmed, and thereby to take on your perspective of my life. Even when things in my life don’t go the way that I want or the way that I think is best, help me to trust in your ultimate promise of deliverance in heaven.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Submitted by Chris L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

God is …

Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.

God is the only one who can save us from the miry depths.  Some of the things that life throws at us surely feel like mire that we can’t ever get ourselves out of.  There are the stubborn sinful habits that keep coming back.  Sometimes, for periods we are able to keep them under control, but they never seem to die – they just keep bouncing back when we put our guards down, defeating us yet once again.  There are the miry depths that result from relational tensions.  We can get engulfed in anger, bitterness, cynicism, and eventually, perhaps even a sense of hopelessness.  And most of all, there is the deep mire of our own sins.  The psalmist says in verse 5, “You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you.”  Even if I have been treated unjustly by another, even if I may have been a victim of unfortunate circumstances, one truth that always remains is that my sins are always there, playing some part in all that goes on in my life.  There is that ever-present pride that takes advantage of every opportunity to exalt myself, the pride that refuses to humble myself and admit guilt.  There is that sin of self-focus through which I look out for my own interests and focus on how I want to be treated, while ignoring my duties and responsibilities to others.  One thing that is clear is that through my sins, I perpetuate and increase wrongs that are already done, and most certainly, initiate many.  There is only one who can help me out of the miry depths – the God of forgiveness and mercy, the God of salvation.  Only He can provide the power that can purge out my pride, my self-focus.  Only He can put an end to the cycle of sin and destruction through His mercy and forgiveness.  No human effort can generate such power.  As Jesus went to the cross to put an end to sin and hostility, so I must look to the cross once again that I may receive his mercy and grace in a fresh way, and see myself properly that I may gain a foothold in my battle against sin and all that life throws at me.

Lessons for me …

29 I am in pain and distress;
may your salvation, O God, protect me.

30 I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the Lord more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hoofs.
32 The poor will see and be glad —
you who seek God, may your hearts live!

In the midst of pain and distress, the psalmist turned to God’s salvation for deliverance.  He chose to praise God and give thanks to Him, demonstrating his trust in God’s salvation.  When I trust in His way of salvation, when I put my hope in God, this pleases Him more than anything I can offer up to him.  His way of salvation often is not by rearranging things around me, or by changing the circumstances, as I wish He would do.  Rather, it comes in the form of a challenge to change and grow, through confronting what’s in my heart and setting before me His words that I need to obey.  He asks me to take a look at what’s going on in my life and in my relationships, and see what those reveal about my heart.  I am confronted with the question of how I am going to respond to different people in different situations.  Am I going to respond out of frustration, out of cynicism, out of disbelief at what’s happening?  Or am I going to trust God that He is continuing His work in me through all things, and therefore commit to doing what is right before God by loving people?  As Jesus entrusted His life in the hands of God the Father, so I must entrust my life to God, by trust that His ways are good.  My way is not good.  It is impulsive.  I don’t think about what will happen to me if I follow my ways, especially to my heart, and, consequently, to others.  Only God is good.

Prayer

Father, only You and Your ways are good.  Often I try to save myself out of the miry depths through my own foolish and impulsive means, only to sink deeper.  Please help me to trust in your goodness, and trust that I will experience your salvation when I submit to your words.  Even if my problems don’t get resolved as I hope, I will choose to praise and thank You, for You are good, and really my only hope.

Submitted by Karen L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Key Verse

 16 Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love;

in your great mercy turn to me.

30 Then I will praise God’s name with singing,
and I will honor him with thanksgiving.

32 The humble will see their God at work and be glad.
Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.
33 For the Lord hears the cries of the needy;
he does not despise his imprisoned people.

God is …
God answers me out of the goodness of his love.  He turns to me in his great mercy.  He answers me and turns to me not because of anything I’ve done for Him, or what great investment I would be if he saves me, but it’s simply out of His love and mercy.

God hears the cries of the needy and he doesn’t despise his imprisoned people.  The world pays attention to and esteems only the rich and the influential and rejects and despises the needy and the lowly people.  Our God is just the opposite.

Lessons for me …

David is going thru an extremely hard time in his life, when he feels like he is “in deep waters” and he “can’t find a foothold.”  People hate him without reason, his enemies are trying to destroy him, and even his own brothers pretend they don’t know him.  He’s suffering not because of his own wrongdoing, but he’s enduring insults and humiliation for the sake of God.  Though he is exhausted from crying for help and his throat parched, he doesn’t give up and he continues to pray to God, hoping this time God will show him favor.  He continues to trust in God’s love and mercy that God will answer him and will turn to him.  His confidence in God’s love and mercy is so great that he is already proclaiming what should happen after God delivers him: he will praise God’s name with singing and will honor him with thanksgiving.  His confidence is not based on his circumstances, which by the severe suffering he’s going through, he should have given up hope.

Through this Psalm, I see that David gives purpose to his suffering.  David knows that through his suffering and eventual deliverance, “the humble will see their God at work and be glad,” and “all who seek God’s help will be encouraged.”  He knows that through his experience, they will know that “the Lord hears the cries of the needy” and he “does not despise His imprisoned people.”  Just like how God has listened to David’s prayers and has rescued David from his troubles, they can trust that God will do the same for them in their troubles.  From the earlier part of the Psalm, David writes, “may those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me… may those who seek you not to put to shame because of me.”  Even in the midst of his great suffering, he is not falling into self-pity or hopelessness, he is thinking about others who also have placed their hope in God, how they would respond to his suffering and perhaps how his response to his suffering would affect their own faith.  I wonder for a moment what would happen if David decides to give up his hope in God and allows his great troubles and sorrow to overtake him, how many people would be affected down to this day.  It’s so true that my faith in God gets challenged and grows when I see others who are going through a difficult time not giving up but clinging unto God’s love and promises.  Despite of how grave the circumstance might be, they choose to hope in God.  This helps me to look at what I’m going through with a new perspective.  It helps me to hang in there just a little bit longer and hope just a little bit more.  When God answers our prayers, together we affirm God’s faithfulness.  Not only is their faith strengthened, the faith of the people who witnessed the answered prayers gets strengthened as well.  Our faith has this kind of rippling effect.  Though I cannot say I am going through great pain and suffering, I can learn from David that the hardships that I go through in life and from serving God can be meaningful and be a source of blessing to others.  People can be challenged by my faith when I choose to trust in God to provide the strength, energy, resources, rather than shrinking back in my commitment to God out of fear of not having enough.  People can be encouraged through my response to setback in ministry, when people are not responsive and I choose to continue to give my time and energy, to find ways to equip myself so I can be a more effective minister, to pray that God will work in people’s hearts, rather than throwing in the towel and just give up.  As a mother of two young children and working full-time, the fear of just not having enough feels so real, not enough time, not enough energy, etc.  There is a desire to shrink back from loving the people God has given me as life gets more complicated and tiring and especially when people are not responding.  However, I’ve experienced so many times God providing for me His strength and encouragement through DT or a message or through His people just at the right time, that I was reminded of God’s unfailing love and mercy upon me, how He never gave up on me, how He wants to use me to bring back His lost children, despite my sins and inconsistencies.   Just as my faith has grown when I see others pushing through and keep trusting in God despite their hardships, I see the faith of others around me challenged and strengthened as well by my own commitment and my testimony of how God provides.

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank you for being a God who answers me out of the goodness of your love and that you turn to me in your great mercy.  You answer me and turn to me not because of anything I’ve done for you or what great investment I would be to your kingdom, but it’s simply out of His love and mercy.  I thank you for giving me the example like David and many others around me of what it means to keep clinging unto your love and mercy despite the circumstances they’re going through.  You’ve reminded me once again that my faith or lack thereof has a rippling effect on those around me.  Just as David gives purpose to his suffering and allows you to use it so that others who are seeking you can be encouraged and see you at work, please help me to see what I’m going through in that light, that I will not just give in at the slightest of discouragement or setbacks, but I will also learn to hope in you and trust in you.

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