Sunday, October 9, 2016

He Lifted Me

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.  Psalm 40:2(NLT)
King David had gone through a period (perhaps several periods) of intense suffering.  The pit of despair is literally the pit of howling, giving the word picture of a place of loneliness where the wind whips through, and the howling of lurking predators sends waves of fear through one’s mind.  The mud and mire is …the mud of corruption.  

These are figurative expressions to point out the dreary, dismal, ruinous state of sin and guilt, and the utter inability of a condemned sinner to save himself either from the guilt of his conscience, or the corruption of his heart.[ii] 

David knew this condition.  He had been a fugitive, hiding out in lonely, windy caves while King Saul pursued him hotly, wanting David’s head on a platter. 

Later David placed himself in a miry quicksand; a kind of spiritual death row as he committed adultery with Bathsheba, then conspired to commit murder to cover-up his wrongdoing. 

David knew what it was like to be in a deep hole, separated from the God he once knew.  This was David’s Psalm – a heart’s cry!

This was also a Psalm showing us that Jesus knew how it felt to have that howling lonely existence in the Garden of Gethsemane; the loneliness and weight of his task, to pray for, suffer, and die for all humanity.  This mud of corruption surrounded Jesus and squeezed the sweat of great drops of blood from his body. 

He knew the agony of separation from the Father on the cross as He cried, My God, why have you forsaken me?[iii] 

This was a Psalm of Messiah.  It’s David’s Psalm; it’s Jesus’ Psalm; and this is our Psalm too. 

Do you doubt that it belongs to you?  Have you never been afraid?  Has it never been that the sound of howling waves of fear over some situation in your life has taken over; you sense that the muck of your life will drag you down until there is no memory at all of a better time?  Have you never felt separated from God?

All of us have felt that separation, that hopelessness.  You may not have messed-up as dramatically as David’s murder and adultery.  But you have messed up!  We’ve all messed up, and the winds of our sin howl through the horrible pit

Helplessness and hopelessness is the condition of the human soul.  It is our common predicament that sin creates, without exception, for every human being, a pit of despair – a miry bog of quicksand that drags our soul down to hell.

Now, the social scientists have been attempting to convince us for decades that the pit, hell, evil and the devil don’t exist.  Our problems are simply the product of our environment, or at the worst, the sum of some unfortunate choices.  If your mother dropped you on your head you have a lifetime exemption from responsibility for anything bad that happens. 

The word on the psychiatric street is that there’s no such thing as sin, no such thing as the consequences of offending holy God.  There is no right or wrong; there is only goodness and badness as we might choose to define those words, based upon the relative need we might or might not have at any moment in any given circumstance. 


We are, as the pop psychology self-help guru Thomas Anthony Harris wrote, OK.  I’m ok, you’re ok.  And even if you’re stressed out because you were raised in a fruitcake family, you’re still ok, because ours is a tolerant society that will not tolerate anyone telling you you’re not ok!  OK?

And so, where does that leave us? 

I should hope it leaves all of us convinced – more than ever – that the Scripture is right.  Humans are born into a precarious dilemma, hanging by a single thread of sand dangling over the open fires of hell.  The day any of us chooses to side with sin is the day our individual spiritual death warrant is sealed for eternity; we have chosen against our Creator, the Almighty judge of the universe. 

Absolutely no hope, no remedy, no excuses and no strength exists for a person to pull him/herself out of the pit; we are lost and caught in the quagmire of sin’s penalty…For the wages of sin is death…Romans 6:23a

Great, right? 

To paraphrase the disciples if that’s the way it is, who in the world can be saved?[iv]  I’m glad you asked, because…

There actually is HOPE!

David looked at his life with all his failures (sins) and understood that nobody could save him; least of all could David do anything about his fallen condition. 

This is so different from confident, self-serving modern day culture; especially in America.  We aren’t convinced that there’s anything out of our hands…we can fix anything. 

Eight years ago it was announced we’re on the threshold of growing new organs to replace worn-out ones.

Medicine's dream of growing new human hearts and other organs to repair or replace damaged ones received a significant boost Sunday when researchers at the University of Minnesota reported success in creating a beating rat heart in a laboratory…Doris Taylor, head of the team that created the rat heart, said that she followed a guiding principle of her laboratory: "Give nature the tools and get out of the way."….The researchers removed all the cells from a dead rat heart, leaving the valves and outer structure as scaffolding for new heart cells injected from newborn rats.  Within two weeks the new cells formed a new beating heart that conducted electrical impulses and pumped a small amount of blood….The early success, she said, "opens the door to this notion that you can make any organ: kidney, liver, lung, pancreas - you name it and we hope we can make it."[v]

Behind the natural good news of this kind of thing lurks the motive:  we really do want to live forever.  And if we can figure out what we can do to replace the worn-out parts of these old, tired bodies, we get a new chance at bat.  We do it now with knee implants and hard-wiring whatever doesn’t work.  Our culture and unquestioned confidence in humanity knows we shall overcome; we will conquer immortality!

But, can we talk?  Deep down we know two things about that…

First, humans will make advances; it’s in our blood.

Second, humans will never conquer immortality; that is in God’s hands. 

But there is hope; our hope is in Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross at Calvary.

The God of Hope Still Saves

In Psalm 40:10 the NRSV has David saying he has not hidden God’s steadfast love and faithfulness; he has displayed it fully.  That whole phrase, “steadfast love and faithfulness” is only one word in Hebrew, chêsêd; it is often translated lovingkindness.  It is the kind of love and mercy a benevolent being has for a lesser being.  

God’s word, chêsêd describes the covenant He made with Israel, his  beloved children of Abraham. 

God decided without any help that he was going to act with lovingkindness towards Israel; He was going to love them and bless them, and they are His special possession.

And that’s where we find our hope…because:

Everything about why Jesus came to earth has to do with the salvation of God. 

The Jews had the sacrificial system – if you sinned, come offer a dove (if it was a big sin, make it a bull). 

Every year at the temple it was sacrifice, sacrifice and more blood spilled.  That blood did nothing; it was the repentant hearts of the people that brought those sacrifices that moved the heart of God.  God, in His lovingkindness forgave and blessed those who repented.

The whole system was given by God so the Jews, and everyone who wanted to know God, would understand that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.[1]

Now here’s where the hope comes in – God does that – He forgives, and it’s totally free!  Not only is it free, He wants us to have that forgiveness! 

All of Jesus’ teaching while he lived here on earth was pointing to the free and good forgiveness of God.  Jesus said that it was to this purpose he came into the world…that all people might receive forgiveness.

He Lifted Me[vi]

In loving-kindness Jesus came
my soul in mercy to reclaim,
and from the depths of sin and shame
through grace He lifted me.

From sinking sand He lifted me,
with tender hand He lifted me,
from shades of night to plains of light,
O praise His name, He lifted me!

He called me long before I heard,
   before my sinful heart was stirred,
   but when I took Him at His word,
   forgiven, He lifted me. [Refrain]

His brow was pierced with many a thorn,
   His hands by cruel nails were torn,
   when from my guilt and grief, forlorn,
   in love He lifted me. [Refrain]

Now on a higher plane I dwell,
   and with my soul I know ’tis well;
   yet how or why, I cannot tell,
   He should have lifted me. [Refrain]

If you have never received that free gift of God’s grace, forgiveness for your sins, your mess-up, your rebellion, call it what you will – that which separates you from holy God, and punches your ticket for hell – you can do that right now.  Confess your sins to God; place your trust fully in the free grace of the cross of Jesus…his sacrifice paying YOUR debt of sin! 

By faith trust that God will be true to His offer and that He will forgive you. And, from personal experience, let me reassure you, if you will do that, God will do what He has promised. 

Scripture tells us that Jesus preached righteousness in word and deed.   Everything he told people, and all that he did for people, preached the Gospel, the good news.  Our name disciple presupposes that we want to follow in His footsteps…even if it leads to a cross.

If you’re a Christian, you need to shout out the good news. 

If you have not made that decision yet let me encourage you to come to Christ – then you’ll have something to shout about!

In our Psalm text the next verse says what happens to the one who trusts in God through Christ:

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.   Many will see what he has done and be amazed.  They will put their trust in the LORD.  Psalm 40:3(NLT)

So, can YOU sing with the millions, He Lifted Me?

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen

[1] Hebrews 9:22

[i] Title image:  By Ralf Schulze from Koblenz, Germany, via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Old Testament © 1999, Parsons Technology, Inc.
[iii] Matthew 27:46
[iv] Matthew 19:25, Mark 10:26, Luke 18:26
[v] Researchers create new rat heart in lab, Lawrence K. Altman, Intl Herald Tribune, Jan 13, 2008

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