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May 19, 2019

Sermon Psalm 61 . ..“Bible Songs:  A Rock higher than I”

“Bible Songs:  A Rock higher than I”

Psalm 61

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

One day, or so the story goes, a man named Jack was walking along a steep cliff when, all of a sudden, he lost his footing and fell.  But on the way down, he managed to grab a branch, which temporarily stopped his fall.

As he looked down, he saw, to his horror, a canyon, a thousand feet below.  And knowing he couldn’t hang onto that branch forever, and there was no way he could climb back up the steep wall, he called for help, hoping that someone might hear him and lower a rope.

He cried:  “Help!  Help!  Is there anyone up there?  Help!”

And before long, sure enough, he heard a voice.  It said:  “Jack, Jack!  Can you hear Me?”

“Yes, yes!  I can hear You!  I’m down here!”

“I can see you, Jack.  Are you all right?”

“Yes, but...who are you, and where are you?”

“I’m the Lord, Jack.  I’m everywhere!”

“The Lord?  You mean, God?”

“That’s Me!”

“God, please help me!  I promise if You’ll get me down from here, I’ll stop sinning.  I’ll be a really good person.  I’ll serve You for the rest of my life.”

“Easy on the promises, Jack.  Let’s just get you down from there, then we can talk.  Now, here’s what I want you to do.  Listen carefully.”

“I’ll do anything, Lord.  Just tell me what to do!”

“Okay.  Let go of the branch.”

“What?”

“I said, let go of the branch.  Just trust Me.  Let go.”

There was a long silence.  Finally, Jack yelled:  “Help!  Help!  Is there anyone else up there?”

You’ve felt like Jack.  I’ve felt like Jack.  We’ve all felt like Jack.  And in the words of our song today, Psalm 61, a man named David once felt like Jack too.

Please turn in your Bible to page 607 as I read the words of our text.  Psalm 61:  “To the Choirmaster:  with stringed instruments.  Of David.  Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint.  Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.  Let me dwell in Your tent forever!  Let me take refuge under the shelter of Your wings!  For You, O God, have heard my vows; You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name.  Prolong the life of the king; may his years endure to all generations!  May he be enthroned forever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!  So will I ever sing praises to Your name, as I perform my vows day after day.”

It’s been said that behind every song there’s a story.  So it was with Psalm 61.  Let me explain.

If you didn’t already know it, David lived a long and sometimes very complicated life.  When he was just a boy, God sent a prophet named Samuel to anoint him king.  God didn’t choose Eliab, Jesse’s eldest son, nor did He choose any of Jesse’s other six sons.  Instead, He sent Samuel to anoint David, the youngest one of all.  That was in I Samuel chapter 16.

Then in chapter 17, when a Philistine warrior named Goliath taunted the people of Israel, David killed him with a sling and a stone.  And when David killed two hundred more Philistines, he married Michal, the daughter of King Saul.

But as much as all the people loved David, his worst enemy was his father-in-law, King Saul.  In fact, I Samuel chapters 18 and 19 tell us Saul tried to kill him some twelve different times!  Still, by the grace of God, he managed to survive and then to reign as king.

And as the years passed, David took other women, quite a number of women in fact, to be his wife, like Ahinoam, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, Eglah, Abigail, and of course, Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, the Hittite.

And along with his many wives came many children--some twenty sons and at least one daughter.

That’s when things got even more complicated.  After all, with that many wives and children, there’s going to be a little friction in the home.

It all began when David’s first-born son, Amnon, fell in love with his half-sister Tamar.  And instead of having a perfectly normal relationship like any brother would, he tricked her into coming into his bedroom, where he attacked her and assaulted her.  Then he threw her out and refused to have anything to do with her.

Then when Tamar’s full brother Absalom learned what Amnon had done, he killed him, then hid for three years at his grandfather’s house.  Finally, David pardoned him and forgave  him, so he could return safely home.

Now what would you do if you were Absalom?  Most any of us would have fallen on our knees before David, and thanked him for his love, kindness, and mercy.  

But not Absalom!  Instead, he led a rebellion against him, causing David and most of his household to run for their lives to hide in caves, deep in the desert.

Now, if you would, for just a moment, put yourself into David’s shoes.  For all practical purposes, there he was all alone, sitting face-to-face with what happened under his watch as king.

His first-born son and heir to the throne assaulted his daughter, and was killed by the same son that’s now trying to kill him--the one who should have been punished, the one he pardoned.

And now, because of his weakness, all of his officials and most of his army had turned their backs on him, and followed Absalom instead.  And all the people, the loyal subjects who once loved him and supported him, now rebelled against him and installed Absalom as king.

In a matter of days, he had gone from living in high luxury as the most powerful man in the world, to sleeping on a rock in a cave, with barely a blanket to keep warm.  And the kingdom with which God had once blessed him, was suddenly torn away from him.

So what did he do?  What would you do?  

He wrote a song, Psalm 61.  As it says in verse 1:  “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint.  Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Though it’s only eight verses long, it’s one of the deepest and most beautiful psalms of all.  In the words of Charles Spurgeon:  “This psalm is a pearl.  It is little, but precious.  To many a mourner it has furnished utterance when the mind could not have devised a speech for itself.”

“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer,” he said.

Think of the words of Psalm 50:  “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me.”  And Psalm 91:  “‘Because he loves Me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will deliver him and honor him.’”  And Peter wrote in his first epistle:  “Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.”

It’s funny if you think about it.  Take any coin--a quarter, a nickel, even a measly little penny--and you know what you’ll find?  You’ll see a year along with the words “Liberty” and “The United States of America.”  But don’t forget about the most important words of all--”In God we trust.”

How good it is to know that no matter who we are, no matter where we go, and no matter what we do, God will hear and answer our prayer.

As David wrote in the words of his psalm:  “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint.”

“From the end of the earth,” he said.  Notice he didn’t say, “From the end of the earth, I will give up hope,” and neither did he say, “From the end of the earth, I will deny that You love me.”  Instead, he said:  “From the end of the earth, I call to You when my heart is faint.”

As one author put it:  “If there is a place nearer than another to God’s throne, it is the end of the earth, for the end of the earth is the beginning of heaven!”  And he wrote:  “When our strength ends, there God’s omnipotence begins.  Nature’s extremity is God’s opportunity.”

And what else?  Verse 2:  “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”

If sin and circumstance threaten to overwhelm you and to crush you, if you feel you’re the greatest sinner of all, then come to that rock that is higher than you, a place of safety and security, something strong enough to stand against crashing waves and quaking earth, a fortress far above anything you could ever think, say, or do.

As David wrote:  “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

You know that eagles are large and powerful birds, and you know that since they’re so large and so powerful, they stand at the very top of the food chain in the bird world.  In fact, bird watchers tell us that whenever any other bird captures its prey, it’ll look back over its shoulder to make sure a bigger bird isn’t coming.

But not the eagle.  Nobody messes with the eagle.

But what you may not know is that one of the most fascinating parts of an eagle isn’t necessarily its wings or its talons or its large, hooked beak, perfectly designed for ripping and tearing, or that it can dive as fast as two hundred miles an hour.

Instead, the most fascinating part of an eagle is its eyes.  They have, after all, the best and strongest of any eyes in the animal world.

So how good are they?  They say that even though an eagle may weigh only ten pounds, its eyes are the same size as human eyes!

And what makes them so amazing is that the backside of their eyes are flatter and they’re packed with more rods and cones, making it possible for them to see between four and eight times better than we can see.  Not only can they see a rabbit from two miles away, they can identify five distinctly-colored squirrels, and even see exactly where they hide!

But there’s one more thing that’s amazing about those eagle eyes, and that’s they have not one, not two, but three different eyelids!  And those eyelids not only help keep their eyes clean and sharp, they make it possible for them to fly in any weather--the snow, the wind, or the rain.  Even more, they say that if an eagle were ever attacked by a flock of other birds, all they would have to do is to close one of their eyelids, and fly up high toward the sun.  And there’s no way any other bird could catch him.

And there’s a lesson for us who are the children of God.  When the enemies of life attack us, we can turn our face up toward the Son.  And in Him, our Savior Jesus, we’ll find refuge in any storm.

As David wrote in the words of his psalm:  “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You...lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

 

Dear Father, life sometimes brings us trials and troubles of all kinds.  Circumstances seem so out of control.  Hear us, lead us, and shelter us from every storm, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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