In God We Trust
In God We Trust
It’s true and it works
Those of you who are students of our culture, keen watchers of our society, will know that in previous generations, the dominant question that our culture would ask of a world view, a religious framework, was “Is it true?”
If you said to your friends, “This is what I believe”, the response you’d mostly likely get was , “Well, show me how you know it’s true.
Where’s the evidence?”
There’s been shift though, in our culture, which means that that question, “Is it true?”, has largely been replaced by another question, “Does it work?”
It seems that we’re not so much interested in truthfulness, in the empirical facts concerning something, but more about whether it works.
And if it works , for you, great,
But whether or not I’ll buy into your faith system,
Whether or not I’ll believe what you believe, will be determined not by the truthfulness or otherwise of your belief system, but “does it work?”, and particularly, “does it work for me?”
Psalm 16, is, in some ways, what today we might call a testimony.
A testimony of someone’s faith in God.
We have people, from time to time, share their testimony here on Sundays,
A bunch of us went late last year and got some tips from Sam Chan, about how to more helpfully share our testimonies.
So we can see the similarities, can’t we?
See the title there A miktam of David
For, some of the Psalms, we know exactly the context that caused them to be written down.
We don’t for this one, but these titles that we find in the Psalms are not just paragraph headings like we find elsewhere in the Bible, added in by the publishers to help us find our place.
These are actually part of the Bible text.
So we know that this is David’s testimony.
And although we don’t know what specific situation he’s in at this moment, the repeated ideas of death and dying in the closing verses might suggest to us that whatever the situation was, it was touch and go for a while.
Nevertheless, David is confident, isn’t he, that he can trust God.
A miktam of David.
Keep me safe, my God, , for in you I take refuge.
He declares his trust in God, and then gives his testimony, about how his trust in God shapes his life.
Because that’s the question we want to ask, isn’t it?
It’s definitely the question that our friends and family, people in our society want to ask of our faith?
“What’s the impact?
Does it work?”
“You say that you trust in God,
Well, how does that work?
Point to some area of your life, where your trust in God makes a difference.”
And that’s not an unreasonable request to make, is it?
I mean, it is unfortunate that the question of truthfulness, “is it true”, has been somewhat sidelined.
But it’s entirely fair and reasonable for someone to say to you or me, “You say you trust in God, great. Show me how that makes a difference to your life.
Show me, that it works.”
Well, David shows us in his case, that it does work,
His faith in God works itself out in various areas of his life.
To trust God is to know that you have enough
And the first bit of evidence that David’s trust in God works, that it actually shapes the way he lives his life, Exhibit A, if you like, if you’re into those courtroom dramas on TV, “let me present the evidence, your honour”, Exhibit A is, that David has his God, and that is enough.
Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.
David begins, by stacking up different names for God.
In verse 1 it’s just the generic word for God, it’s like our word G. O. D.
But then in the beginning of verse 2, you’ll see the Bible translators have put the name LORD in capital letters. That’s because David uses Yahweh, the personal name of the God of Israel.
And verse 2 has yet another name for God, translated in our Bibles as lord, but this is the Hebrew title “Adonai”, which maybe you’ve come across. It’s used over 350 times in the Old Testament to describe God as master.
When David says, I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;”, he’s saying “The God of Israel, is my Lord”,
That God who has acted for deliverance and rescue throughout history, is my master.
This is the language of belonging to God, but not just any God.
Belonging to the God who is mighty, and powerful, the God who is majestic.
David acknowledges that he belongs to this God who can provide refuge, but he’s also master, Lord, a God to submit to.
We actually have language a little bit similar to this. Sometimes Christians speak of Jesus as “saviour” and “Lord.” Not only does he rescue us, save us, but we also submit to him as Lord, for all of life.
And to trust in God, is enough, David says.
“apart from you I have no good thing.”
He says the same kind of thing down in verse 5,
LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
Notice, David doesn’t say, “you provide me with my portion”, or “you fill my cup”, which, maybe be expect.
God is David’s portion.
God is David’s cup.
This is imagery that comes from Israel’s history.
And we’re given another hint to that in verse 6, The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance
You probably recall that God had promised the land of Canaan to Abraham, and when his descendants, the nation of Israel, came to possess it, it was divided among the 12 tribes.
boundary lines were drawn up, and the allotment for each tribe was described as their portion, their inheritance.
And each tribe’s portion provided what they needed to live.
All except the tribe of Levi.
The Levites were to serve God in the tabernacle, the temple, and they were provided for, by the tithes and offerings of the other 11 tribes.
They didn’t get their own portion, of land. God said to them “I am your portion, your inheritance.”
It sounds to us like they’ve missed out,
If you were the only one in your family to not get mentioned in some rich relative’s will, you’d probably be a little bit upset,
But this “missing out” was actually a blessing, and honour even.
Not being given a portion of land for your provision and for your security, points to the fact that the only real security comes from God,
The only dependable source of provision, is God.
Well David says, it’s not only the Levites who can have the real security, the real provision that comes from God.
David claims that language of the Levites, to say, “I too depend on God, and not on the things my hand can provide,
Not on the things of this world, that are at my disposal.
LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
C S Lewis, author of the Narnia books, and plenty of others, preached a sermon in Oxford in 1941. Later it was published as a book, The Weight of Glory, and I’m sure that some of you have read it. But in the sermon he commented he who has God and everything else, has no more, than he who has God only.
He who has God and everything else, has no more, than he who has God only.
Now, clearly he’s not saying that, family, for example, is of no value. You don’t have to read too much of Lewis to see the great love he had for his own family.
But have God, is to have enough.
To trust in God, is to have the one thing, that really can be depended on.
David’s trust in God works, because he now needs nothing else.
Trusting in God for forgiveness and relationship, actually works.
And I wonder if we would say the same;,
That God alone is our portion and cup
That to have God, is to have enough,
Or, would we say, we have God, sure, we trust in him, we cling to him for what he offers us in the next world, but in this world, we still want other things, to fill in the gaps.
Would we say, God is my portion and cup, alongside, some other stuff.
I want God, but I also want influence,
I have God, but I also want to have the respect of people around me.
I trust in God, but I need to secure my financial future,
I trust God, but I’m still going to kind of , cling to my achievements , what I can contribute to the relationship,
What I can offer to God and to other people,
That’s where I go for my security, and my value,
God, , and stuff.
David has no such divided loyalty, does he?
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians. I consider everything a loss, because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.
I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ
For Paul, to gain Christ, to have Christ as my portion, means everything else is garbage.
Think of all the bags of rubbish that maybe your family threw out over the last week!
It goes in the bin,
It goes in the truck,
It goes in the landfill,
“Everything that this world offers,” Paul says,
“Everything I could contribute to my relationship with God,
Everything I could look to for value, and security, , is garbage compared to having God, to gaining Christ.”
To trust in God is to delight in God’s people
David’s trust in God works, the rubber hits the road, in his relationships with God’s people.
See verse 3, I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Now, he’s just finished telling us that to have God is enough, now he says that he delights in people?!
But he’s not contradicting himself. Rather the immediate effect of his relationship with God, is a new kind of relationship with people.
Holy people, doesn’t mean people who are extra special,
Super Christian. This is the Bible’s language for all God’s people. Holy just means “separate”, “set apart.”
When someone sees God as everything, they cannot help but delight in the people God has set apart for himself.
“They are the noble ones.”
It’s lofty language to speak about a group of people who, well, I don’t want to be rude but, we know what God’s people can be like, don’t we?
David knew what God’s people could be like, he led them and served them.
There’s no way that he’s going to have a rose-tinted view of what Gods’ people are like.
And yet, and yet, so, all-pervasive, is his relationship with God, that it overflows into this kind of love for, and delight in, God’s people.
This is a good moment for us to pause and consider the question of our age;, Does it work?
Does your trust in God, overflow, into this kind of delight in God’s people?
Do we long to gather with God’s people,
Does the church, the church for which Christ died, hold such a place in our heart, that we could speak of it like this?
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
We might hear people talking about delighting in their children.
And if we think about that comparison,
Someone who delights in their child, cares for them,
Wants what’s best for them,
Wants to meet their needs.
To delight in your child, is not actually to give them everything that they want, is it? That’s to spoil your child, not delight in them.
To have all your delight in someone, it seems to me, is to be overwhelmed with thankfulness to God, for them.
To delight in God’s holy people therefore, is to be overwhelmed with thankfulness to God for his people.
To delight in someone, is to see the good that they do for you.
So to delight in God’s people, is to long for God’s people to be at work, on you;
Does it work?
Here we stand at the beginning of a new year. Maybe this year, is a year to ask that God might be at work in us in this regard.
To trust in God is to reject his rivals
The flipside of what David delights in, is what David rejects.
Because there are other gods that appeal for our allegiance.
See verse 4, Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.
I imagine you’ve noticed a pattern in the early part of this Psalm;, the single-mindedness that comes from trusting God, from throwing your lot in with God.
There’s lots of contrast isn’t there?
I do this,
I reject that.
It’s quite common in the Psalms,
Nearly all of David’s Psalms have some kind of contrast between those who trust God, and those who don’t.
And so here David says there are some who seek after other gods, but he wants nothing to do with them.
, To pour out libations of blood, is simply to make sacrifices.
David steadfastly refuses to give these other gods what they want, even though, there are many who run after them.
I think it’s hardest, is it not, to stand firm in your faith, to live out your trust in God, when others around you are running head-long in pursuit of the gods of our age?
If no one else was seeking other gods,
Seeking delight in other things,
Trying to find their security by other means,
Then it would be relatively easy for us to live out our trust in God, in the way that David does, and the way that this Psalm urges us to.
Maybe your parents used to ask you, like mine me, “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, does that mean you’d do it?”
And as much as I hated hearing that, I now find myself saying it to my children!
But for David, it really is that everyone else is jumping off a cliff, because he can see what lies ahead for those who run after other gods;, They will suffer more and more.
The language here is literally, multiplying sorrows.
Which is quite an image isn’t it?
To run after other gods,
To serve other gods,
To create Gods,
To put anything in the place of God, is to multiply sorrows.
It’s the same language used in Genesis 3 when God describes to Eve, the effect of sin.
Sin multiplies sorrows.
Putting something in the place of God, multiplies sorrows.
And that shouldn’t surprise us, should it?
To put something, where it doesn’t belong, we should expect that it’s going to lead to sorrow.
To put something else in the place of God, the only one we can truly depend on, is going to lead to disaster.
To expect, security, refuge, protection, deliverance, from something that is ultimately unable to deliver those things, is to set ourselves up for disappointment,
To multiply our sorrows.
Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in New York, says that the human heart is an idol factory!
We can create a god out of anything!
But just because we put something in the place of God, doesn’t mean it can take the place of God.
And in fact, in every case, , it cannot.
Replace the real thing, with something else, and in every case, it will lead to multiplying sorrows.
You might recall the story of the British Airways flight from Birmingham to Spain in 1990, which, shortly after takeoff, lost one of its cockpit windscreens, sucking the pilot halfway out of the plane. One of the cabin crew who happened to be in the cockpit grabbed hold of his belt and was able to hold onto him, as the co-pilot made an emergency landing.
Amazingly the pilot survived, and returned to work a few months later, no doubt, double checking every morning, that he was wearing a belt!
The cause, it was determined, was that earlier in the day, the bolts holding the windscreen in place had been replaced with bolts that were 0.66 of a millimetre too small.
To replace the real thing, with something else, even something that seems very, very close to the real thing, is to multiply sorrows.
But also, you probably noticed, just how far David wants to be away from these false gods.
He says, I will not even take up their names on my lips
The temptation for us is sometimes to see how far we can go,
How close to the line we can get,
To flirt, with allegiance to things other than God.
We know for example, that money can’t guarantee us the kind of security that David finds in his God, and yet it so often looks, for Christian people, that when it comes to money, we’re doing almost everything exactly the same as our friends who aren’t Christian, but who put money in the place of God.
Sure, maybe we haven’t quite jumped off that cliff that everyone else is jumping off, but we’ve gone right up to the edge.
We know that advancement in career, is a god in our age.
It’s a god that many, many people serve.
Even children, and family, can become gods to many.
Everything becomes subservient, to giving my children the very best, to making sure they have everything I didn’t have when I was their age.
And to look at a lot of Christian families, you’d be hard pressed to spot the difference, wouldn’t you?
It looks like the success and experience of children is the god before which the family bows.
They may not yet have completely switched allegiance, but they’ve walked this line so far it’s hard to tell!
David would say to us, “Get away, get as far away from that as you can. Don’t walk up to the line, as far as you can possibly go, and still claim to be trusting in God,
Have nothing to do with it.
I will not even take up their names on my lips.
To trust in God is to be given great confidence for the future
We also see
We see here in David’s song, that to trust in God is to be given great confidence for the future.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
This is a challenge for us, isn’t it, to keep our eyes always on the Lord.
It’s important, because it’s the Lord who counsels me, David says.
It’s important because, because having God near him means David can say, I will not be shaken.
And yet it’s hard, because there are plenty of other things that our eyes can turn to.
I read the other day that we’re exposed to around 5000 advertisements every day.
Now, that’s not all bad, some people came to our Christmas services because they were given the advertising! But it means there are lots of things competing for our eyes, for our focus.
This is a picture of a deliberate turning of our eyes to God in order to hear his Word.
The older English translations used to read “I set the Lord always before me”, which for me, captures something of the intentional focus,
The purposeful and deliberate, turning of my ears to the Lord’s counsel.
And because of this, because God speaks, and counsels,
Because of the intentionality of the person of God, putting themselves in a place where they can hear God speak, God’s person can have confidence for the future.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
I said before, that we don’t know which particular time in David’s life caused him to write this.
Probably any number of moments in his life could fit the bill.
And if you’re anything like me, you kind of want to know the back story. But, we just don’t.
But of course, one of the great things about not knowing what the particular circumstances were, is that our focus is taken away from the particular issue, and directed to the God in whom David trusts.
It’s actually something we see a bit in the Bible, the author only gives us half the picture, because they want us to focus our attention on the bit they have given us,
What they have told us.
See, the danger for people like me, and maybe it’s the same for you, is that when we’re told the circumstances, as I say, we are, sometimes, in the Psalms, but when we’re told the circumstances, I quite easily think, “my circumstance is not exactly parallel,
Or even really remotely parallel, to what’s described here”, and so kind of automatically, maybe even subconsciously, I have less confidence in the assurance, the promise that the author wants to direct my attention to.
So I’ve never committed adultery with a woman after watching her in the bathtub, as David did,
As is the occasion for writing Psalm 51, and so I can distance myself from the circumstances, and distance myself from the obligation of repentance and contrition that that Psalm speaks of.
I’ve never pretended to be insane before a pagan king, as David did, when he wrote Psalm 34,
And so it’s all too easy for me to think that the deliverance David speaks of there, is limited to that particular, somewhat unusual set of circumstances.
Now, of course, David doesn’t say that. That’s not the point of Psalm 34;, you can only extol the Lord, if he allows you to escape by pretending you’re insane and letting your saliva run down your beard, like he did!
He doesn’t say that at all, in fact he says that no one who takes refuge in the Lord will be condemned,
But I’m always tempted to think, “My situation’s different,
It’s easy for David to say,
I’ve never been in those circumstances,
And so I end up concluding that somehow the promises and assurances are less applicable to me.
And as I say, maybe that’s you as well.
But see, we can’t do that here.
Because we’re not told the circumstances, we can’t write off our circumstances as being different.
We’re just told “you can take refuge in God.
You can put your trust in God.”
And because our God is a God who speaks in his Word,
If we’re willing to hear his counsel,
If we’re willing to engage in the deliberate, purposeful, putting of ourselves under God’s Word, we can have enormous confidence for the future.
To trust in God is to be given confidence in the face of death
And a particular application of our confidence for the future, is our confidence in the face of death.
It’s one thing to trust God, for relationship, for forgiveness, for refuge,
But what happens when God doesn’t save us physically?
Because there are differences between us and David.
Even with what I was saying before, we mustn’t ever think that our situation is precisely the same as his.
David was God’s anointed king!
He was a little prototype of the Messiah!
He was to show people something of what it was to live under the reign of God’s king. And God had very particular purposes that he wanted David to accomplish.
For David’s enemies to oppose him, was to oppose the Lord’s anointed king, which was tantamount to opposing God himself.
That’s not true of us.
So what happens when we don’t get the refuge that we long for?
I’m sure you saw in the news that at 7 Christian farmers were killed by Muslim fighters in the Philippines on Christmas Eve.
What is it to trust in God when you’re facing that?
We were reminded over and over again in 2015, that our world is a dangerous place,
That safety never seems to be guaranteed.
And yet David’s confidence in God isn’t something that’s good up until the point of death, and then useless.
Maybe you’ve had that experience of buying something, it comes with a warranty, and then just a few days after the warranty expires, so does your product!
David wants us to be sure that when it comes to trusting in God, we’re not going to find that the warranty’s expired, just when we come to use it.
See the confidence of eternal refuge in God, even in the face of death.
Verse 9, Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay
David knows that at some point, he is going to face death. It may not be in this moment, but it will come one day.
And far from his trust in God being proved worthless by death, which maybe we’re tempted to think. Those Christians in the Philippines, their trust in God didn’t save them, what’s the point then, of trusting in God?
On the contrary, David’s trust in God is proved most useful of all, in the face of death.
you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
See David’s not just talking about a trust in God that works for this life. He’s got his eye on eternal pleasures, in God’s presence!
To trust in God, gives confidence in the face of death, because God promises us that the relationship David enjoys with his God, the LORD is my Lord, that relationship continues even after death.
And notice, the relationship after death, is even greater than the relationship he enjoys now.
He will be in God’s very presence then;, something that he can only look forward to now.
Little wonder that his whole body rejoices!; His heart, and his tongue, or as some translations say, his heart and his flesh.
The person who trusts in God, even today, and believes that God himself makes the way open for us to enjoy relationship with him, that person, has an enormous confidence in the face of death.
Christian person, hear what’s in store for you,
joy in God’s presence,
eternal pleasures at his right hand.
But does it work?!
All well and good to say, you need not fear death.
All well and good to say, you won’t be abandoned to the realm of the dead.
But does it work?
Well, twice in the New Testament, these words from Psalm 16 are quoted.
Here’s the Apostle Peter speaking in Acts chapter 2. He’s talking about David. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay.
32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.
How do we know that we need not fear death?
How do we know that trusting in God won’t leave us with an expired warranty the day we pass from this life?
Because Jesus has triumphed over death.
We don’t have to fear death, because Jesus has gone through death.
David makes a promise, about death being defeated, something he didn’t understand in all its detail, but something that we see, in detail.
And it’s a great promise.
The last enemy defeated.
And friends, when we look at Jesus, in whom the Bible tells us this promise is fulfilled, we see that this promise is both true, and it works.