First Samuel 1 tells us about a story of God’s faithfulness and grace toward Hannah. Here’s a brief outline that covers the first chapter. This message was preached on Mother’s Day at Sagamore Baptist Church, May 10, 2020. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!
Some women are brokenhearted. 1:3-8
Some women make their pleas known to God. 1:9-11
Men just don’t understand women. 1:12-18
The Lord remembers you right where you are. 1:19-20
the Lord accepts your sacrifices. 1:21-28
Hope this encourages you along the way. And to my Mom, I say that I love you with all my heart!
Asaph, in Psalm 74, is grieving the fallen city of Jerusalem and its temple, the place where God meets with His people. He calls out to God to hear, answer, and move to reestablish His fallen but covenanted people. Through this prayer, Asaph teaches us a model of pleading with God: a) it is direct; b) it is passionate; c) it is honest; d) it is respectful; and, e) it is wise. As Charles Haddon Spurgeon said of this psalm, “We have here before us a model of pleading, a very rapture of prayer. It is humble, but very bold, eager, fervant, and effectual. The heart of God is always moved by such entreaties. By its very nature, this is truly a psalm of faith in God.
We plead with pain. 74:1, 2
This psalm is a “Maskil” which may mean it is a “skillful psalm” or “efficacious psalm.” No one is for sure what the term means, but it is a psalm that is instructive in the sense that it is teaching, or at minimum, implying wisdom for those who are singing or reading it.
Asaph first asks the question of God, “How long will You be angry with your people, O God?” He feels the sting of rejection from the Lord. God’s anger toward His people is felt deeply because of the sin of the people. Asaph is wondering if it will last forever. The anger felt is “smoking” or “raging” against God’s people, the “sheep of His pasture.” Asaph desires to see an end, the finality, of this anger toward God’s people. And this plea is painful as he reminds God of who His people are: they are purchased by God, they are redeemed by God, they have dwelt with God in His holy temple.
We pleaed with honesty. 74:3-8
Asaph, as if taking God by his right hand, begins to describe the ruins of the temple. The enemies of God have come and destroyed the temple, the place where God meets with His people. In the midst of this meeting place, God’s adversaries have broken into the sanctuary and replaced the banners of God with their own wicked banners. They have hacked away at the carved work and torn to pieces everything in their wake stealing the gold and silver that overlaid the wooden fixtures. These enemies of God have gone so far as to even burn the entire sanctuary to the ground. Asaph is showing God how they have destroyed every place that was used for worshiping Him–even destroying the City of God, Jerusalem.
Asaph points out that it is God who has allowed His enemies to come and destroy the temple and the city. How can there be public worship of God if there are no remaining places for worship in the land? Asaph, pained by what he sees, addresses God honestly with what he is thinking and how he is feeling.
We plead to know how long affliction will last. 74:9-11
This is the lowest point in the psalm. Asaph reiterates that the banners of God are removed. There are no prophets in the land to speak and teach the people. God’s people are at His mercy wondering how long this affliction will last. The enemy continues to bring contempt against the very name of God. They mock His name verbally. They take God’s name in vain. They spurn and despise God’s name. At this low point, Asaph admits that he believes that God has withdrawn His hand from His people. He feels as if God has turned back from them and is no longer there for His people. He then asks God to destroy His enemies. When the enemies of God come against His people, they are coming against God! Asaph speaks of the wanton destruction of the temple; Israel’s enemies are mocking God by doing what they have done. They are enemies not only of God’s people, but of God.
We plead knowing our unchanging God. 74:12-17
Asaph now turns his attention to how great God truly is. He is not one with which to be trifled. He is not one which is to be mocked. God is not one which is to be reviled, despised, held against with contempt. Earlier in the psalm Asaph asked God to remember His people. Now Asaph is remembering God! He remembers God’s works of deliverance, a reference to the exodus from the bondage of Egypt. God divided the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross over on dry land. And the sea monsters were broken, even Leviathan was crushed. These sea monsters, some scholars believe, may have been crocodile types of animals in the waters. Leviathan was supposedly crushed by Baal in the Canaanite religious legends. But Asaph says it is the God of Israel that has crushed Leviathan and fed his flesh to the wild beasts. Other scholars beleive this is representative of Egypt who’s symbol was that of a crocodile. At any rate, God defeated the armies of Egypt because they were enemies of His people, therefore, enemies of Him.
God also caused the torrents of water to rage and dried up streams. He caused the waters to to swallow up the enemy in the Red Sea and then He caused it to dry out so His people could cross over into the His land on dry ground. Asaph remembers the sovereignty of God as having control over all that occurs on the earth. He is sovereign over all created things. He has made both the day and the night. God has established the boundaries of the earth. He has made the seasons to occur year after year for the sustaining of life. Asaph remembers all that God has done and how He is unchanging in His very nature and character.
We plead by calling on the character of God. 74:18-23
The psalmist now turns his attention to the covenant that God has made with His people. he calls on the Lord to remember how His enemy has spurned His name. Asaph asks that God not forget the life of His afflicted one. Then, in verse twenty, He asks the Lord to consider the covenant that He made with His people. It is a unilateral covenant. God, as you recall above, has purchased His people, redeemed His people, and has dwelt with His people. He made a covenant with His people stating that they are His and that He is there God (cf. Genesis 12:1-3). It is a covenant that God made and is one-sided. This is what God has chosen to do with Israel. By invoking this covenant, Asaph is saying to God that He cannot go against His very nature of being unchanging, but rather that He must keep His covenant. By keeping His covenant with His people, God will raise His people to a place of honor and in praise of His holy name.
Asaph calls on the Lord to plead His own cause. Show that the covenant that He has made with His people still stands. Show His enemies who His people are and who their God is. He should act because it is fitting that His enemies be rebuked and the poor and needy praise His name. God should act because it is His cause and not a mere man’s that is in jeopardy. It is God’s purposes that are being opposed by Israel’s enemies, therefore, by His enemies.
How then shall we plead our case to God?
We do what Asaph did! We make a list of why God should answer our prayer and plead those reasons. We need to repeat that God has secured us in Himself and by Himself. We have been made secure by the shedding of blood by His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. We are secured in the promise that He has made to those who have believed that Jesus Christ died according to the Scriptures, was buried, and was raised again according to the Scriptures (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). We state our case to God and we plead with Him to answer. Either He will answer, or we will find that our prayers and our pleading is not a good one and that we will pray for something better–namely for His will to be done.
May the Lamb who was slain receive the reward of His suffering.
Asaph, one of the musicians in King David’s court, writes a beautiful psalm–Psalm 73. It is a wonderful psalm. It is a psalm that brings its reader into his realm. His thoughts are deep and they are telling. They tell us how we, too, can fall into the same trap that Asaph almost fell into. He points out two thoughts that I think are very relevant for each of us today. First, he lets us know that sometimes we look upon the wrong people. Second, he tells us how we ought to fix ourselves upon our Savior.
We sometimes look upon the wrong people. 73:1-14
Asaph first acknowledges who God is. His character is that of goodness. Everything that God is and does is good. There is never a time when He is not good and Asaph knows this to be true. God is good to those who are pure in heart. Who are the pure in heart? They are the ones who are free from being in a state of sin and guilt. The reason for this freedom is because of the goodness of God who has shown His grace, His mercy, and His willingness to save His people. Those who are pure in heart are not pure based on what they have done, but it is purely based on the One who is good, and that is God alone.
Even though Asaph knows this goodness of God, he admits to almost falling into temptation. He says that he did not allow himself to stumble but came close to it–he caught himself before he fell. His self-control was waning because he began to lose sight of the goodness of God that he knew. What was the temptation? To look and admire those who were boasting and prideful in themselves and the wealth they enjoyed. Jealousy began to swell inside of him and he asks God this question: “Why should the people who oppose God be better off than those who trust Him?” It is an age-old question that many have asked. Sometimes this question is asked this way: “Why do good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people?”
As Asaph looks on these arrogant ones, his thoughts digress to the point that the believes they do not even feel pain when they die as others do. They do not struggle like mortals who are suffering and being afflicted all day long. And what seems even more disconcerting to Asaph is the attitude of these boasters–the wicked. He thinks they should at least–to some degree–show a smidgen of gratitude and a dash of humility for all the blessings they have. But this is not the case. Rather than boasting in God who has blessed them, they boast in themselves using words that destroy, being violent and malicious, and even brandishing their pride as though their pride was a chain around their necks. Instead of being grateful, they turn their wicked words against heaven, meaning they turn their wickedness toward God asking of Him, “Does God even know what we are doing?” And in the ease of their wealth, these boasters pay no attention to God who has given them the ability to create, expand, and build wealth.
Asaph is conflicted. He’s conflicted within his soul because of the propserity of the wicked and the adversity of the righteous. He gives way to his melancholy cry of despair. He is at the lowest point of his thoughts. While the wicked drink all day from a full cup that never appears to run out, Asaph feels as if he is plagued and afflicted all day long. He would be satisfied if he had been able to see the people of God doing as well as the wicked, but to no avail. His eyes were turned toward the wicked, the boasters, the arrogant, those who waged war against God.
We need to fix ourselves on our Savior. 73:15-28
He quickly changes his tune. Asaph overcomes his doubts by considering the very destiny that these boasters will inherit. It is not wealth they inherit, but rather it is misery. Asaph acknowledges his former thoughts and concludes how they and his words, had his own people heard him speaking in this way, would have damaged them and would have pulled them away from God. He realizes the pain it could have caused his people so he is now pained with his own thoughts of wanting to be like the wicked. And this pain is intensified as he considers their end. He comes into the sanctuary and right away he realizes the end of the wicked is the judgment of God against them. God will set them in dangerous places where they will stumble and fall, and they will come to a place of ruin and suddently be destroyed. The judgment bringing them to waste will come in a moment and destroy them, bringing sudden terror to them. When God finally sets things right, the wicked will be like fantasies, like dreams, counterfeits of reality. This is the negative aspect of the solution to Asaph’s temptation: he understands the destiny and judgment of the wicked and wants no part in it.
He now becomes convicted of his own glorious destiny. He confesses his perspective had been dulled by his own bitterness. It pierced his spirit deeply and grieved him. It was as if stinging pains had infiltrated his soul and he was pained by the sourness of his thoughts. He admits he became senseless toward God and did not realize just how his feelings were affecting his thoughts. He feels stupid for looking upon the wrong people and feels as if he becomes animal like by wanting what they have instead of remembering the goodness of God.
Asaph now recognizes his true position before God. He is always with the Lord because the Lord has a firm hold of his right hand. He will never be let go even in the midst of the struggles he faces with feelings and false thinking. God brings Asaph with Him and leads him in the right way. He leads him all the way into glory and good favor with Him. He convicts Asaph of the temptation and almost allowing himself to fall into sin. God loves His people and shows them His goodness so they do not rely upon themselves but upon Him. Asaph acknowledges that God is his only possession in heaven and earth. There is none like Him and he desires no other. He knows that his strength comes from God who cares deeply for him even when he is weak.
He then closes this psalm with chilling words. As a reminder to his readers, Asaph speaks of those who are far from God. What will happen to them? They will perish. These are the wicked–the boasters, the arrogant–who betray or desert anything having to do with God. These wicked will cease to exist as we know them and will be silenced. As they continue to prostitute themselves through idolatry of the wealth they have, the violence with which they have clothed themselves, with the pride hanging around their necks, God will surely come upon them in fierce, quick judgment.
But Asaph’s confession, confidence, and reassurance is that God is keeping him secure. Nearness to God always helps believers maintain a balanced perspective on material things and even on the wicked. The nearness of God is good because God is good in perfection without limitation. Asaph has made the Lord his refuge, his shelter from the dangers of becoming a boasting, arrogant, wicked person. As his shelter, he turns to others and speaks of God’s wonderous works: His work of creation; His work of giving life; and, His work of redemption.
What does God’s work of redemption look like today? It works in the same way that it always has. His good work of salvation comes through the Person and Work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He died according to the Scriptures, was buried, and was raised again according to the Scriptures. All who turn to Jesus Christ, seeking the forgiveness of sins, who believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, and who confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord, shall be saved! This is what the Bible teaches us. This salvation is the good work of God. This salvation is the shelter form danger for all who believe. This salvation is the nearness of God in every believer’s life.
Asaph knew that looking upon the wrong people would bring him down to ruin, but when he fixed himself upon his Savior, he ended up having the proper perspective.