by Frank Luke
FCF: As the world is broken, so must we be broken before Christ. We may pour our emotions out to God.
Sermon Introduction: Last time, we looked at Psalm 1 to see how the entire Psalter begins with wisdom. It is wisdom that leads the life. We saw how a wise person acts and reacts. We saw how the wise differ from the wicked. This time, we will look at another type of psalm, the lament.
The Psalms begin with wisdom because a life lived without wisdom is not a life worth living. An old Jewish proverb states, “If you have wisdom, what do you lack? But if you lack wisdom, what do you have?”
The Psalms come in several types. This week we will look at a psalm of lament. All psalms have one thing in common, they pour out all emotions before God. The psalms are poems of wisdom, praise, thanksgiving, and lament, to name a few categories.
Scripture Introduction: As you turn to Psalm 51, it’s that last kind of Psalm I want to talk about today. A lament. A cry of grief. Of all the kinds of music we have in our worship service, this is the one we shy away from. I suppose we think that because we are in God’s covenant, we shouldn’t have times of despair? However, the Hebrews were living in their covenant when they wrote the psalms. Lamentations is an entire book of the Bible that consists of nothing but cries of grief. God knows that we will experience times of hardship.
While giving into despair is a sin, confessing it before God is not. When we have these emotions, we need to be honest with God. One way to keep from giving in to despair is to talk to God when it is coming on you.
We will quickly look at several laments today to see how they expressed grief to God.
Psalm 51. The Cry of Repentance
Psalm 51:1-4 For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. 2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. 4Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.
David thought he could get away with adultery and then murder. Of course, there were lies baked into this scheme. David lay his sin before God at this time. There isn’t much worse you can do to another person than steal a spouse and commit murder. David made grave mistakes and committed grave sins. He laid those before God.
This psalm is in the book because we need to pour those times out to God. Our sin should make us mourn, and we must confess it for repentance.
David had sinned many times in the story, and none of them were accidental. They may have been unexpected in one way or another, but not accidental. Beginning in 2 Samuel 11, David stayed home while he sent his troops on to war. That was irresponsible of him. The king was expected to go to war and lead the troops. He walked on the palace roof in the evening, a time of day when men stayed off the roofs. Women took their baths at this time. Let me repeat, David went out at a time when he knew women were bathing. He saw Bathsheba, lusted after her, and brought her inside his chambers. This wasn’t a point and command her to come. He inquired of his advisors about whom he might have seen and sent messengers to bring her to the palace. She became pregnant, and David arranged for her husband to be killed. The Bible places the blame of Uriah’s death on David, calling him the murderer.
All this sin was in David’s heart, and he wrote a psalm to capture that repentance. No matter how we have sinned we can turn it over to God in prayer.
Psalm 4. The Anger of the Wronged
Psalm 4:1-3 For the choir director; on stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. 2 O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah. 3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him.
David hadn’t wronged someone when he wrote this Psalm. He had been wronged. This brought great anger to him. Just as grief is not a sin by itself, anger is not always a sin. It can be. It certainly can be.
The Bible teaches of righteous anger. Righteous anger comes when you are mad because of what people are doing wrong in the name of God. When Jesus cleansed the Temple, this was righteous anger.
Jonah had unrighteous anger when he was angry at God for killing the shade plant and letting the city live on.
However, Elijah had righteous anger when he challenged the prophets of Ba’al. Jehu, the godly man who slew Jezebel, had righteous anger at the false prophetess who had slain so many faithful.
David’s anger here came because others had slandered him. David is known as a man after God’s own heart. That must have cut deep. But David doesn’t stop there. It isn’t just his honor that is wronged. The men who have dishonored him hunt after lies. They love empty boasts.
Just as we saw with David a moment ago, it never ends with one sin. This is a broken world. You will be attacked, threatened, beaten. It does not help to keep this bottled inside.
Psalm 7. The Grief of the Pursued
Psalm 7:1-2 O LORD my God, in You I have taken refuge; Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me, 2 Or he will tear my soul like a lion, Dragging me away, while there is none to deliver.
David cried out to God when his enemies not only slandered him but pursued him. David was no stranger to pursuit. However, he knew that this time it was unjust.
Remember that we are seeing here reasons we can be confident in going before God. It’s okay to tell God you are scared when someone threatens your life. He is the ultimate refuge. Think about this. You can’t have a refuge unless there are threats. This world is dangerous and needs places to get away from danger. That is God. The psalms show us we can turn to God when others come after us.
Grief like this feels overwhelming. Psalm 69 points that out. In grief and despair, we feel as if there is no end. We become weary with the deep mire pulling us down. It would be so easy to let go and let the mire cover your face. Do not do that. Despair is a grievous sin that hurts not only you but those around you. When we share our griefs, the burden is lessened by Jesus. He bore the cross so we would not have to.
Psalm 6. The Pain of the Wounded
Psalm 6:2-4 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away; Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed. 3 And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O LORD– how long? 4 Return, O LORD, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your lovingkindness.
In this time of sickness, David knows that the only healing he will have comes from God. If God didn’t want to heal us, He would not provide for healing in the atonement. By His stripes, we are healed. The Prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles all had miraculous healing ministries.
It does no one any good to pretend we have no hurts. When we deny this part of ourselves, we hide the healing power of God from those who need it. In fact, we do worse when we pretend everything has gone perfectly since our salvation. We hide the fact that God can work in us in the midst of our turmoil and tears. We make it so that hurting Christians think they are doing their Christianity wrong because they don’t have it great.
Psalm 13. The Tears of the Forsaken
Psalm 13:1-2 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
The ultimate grief comes from feeling forsaken by God himself. When it looks like everyone is surrounding you and getting their victory, this is when you wonder how God can work this to good for those who love Him.
If you think about it, Jesus experienced this kind of sorrow and took it to the Father. At Gethsemane, in His own dark time of the soul, He cried out to God, “My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death.” This was the man closest to God. He was God the Son, and as He prepared to take upon himself the sins of the world, it felt as if God the Father had turned His back. Imagine having walked in communion with God every day of your life and losing that connection. Adam and Eve had walked with God in the cool of the day. Jesus walked with God at all times.
The deepest hurts of the heart must be expressed to God otherwise they will overwhelm and become despair. I admit it is easy to despair at all the things going on in the world today. It looks like the Enemy is bowling things over. But we know the God wins. The book tells us so!
It is a poor relationship with God that cannot express the deepest hurts of the heart to Him. I think this is one place that our modern worship services do an injustice to the worshiper. Listening to the songs we sing, one would think that only happy thoughts are allowed in the throne-room of God.
But God is not the king of the Medes and Persians who made it illegal to appear in their court with a sad expression. God is greater than those kings were. He who made the human heart knows what is in it already.
Conclusion: There is no reason to keep secrets from God. Healing cannot come without admitting the issue. What is in your heart today? Most likely, you have something inside that is tearing you apart. Jesus never condemned those who came to Him grieving. He comforted them in their agony. Instead of sending them away, He promised, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Maybe you need that comfort. Your sorrow is here with you now. Please take the time to cry out to God and let Him take it from you.
One of the names prophesied for the Messiah was “God with us,” Immanuel. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He promised to be with us now and always, even unto the end of the world. That promise was made after the cross, when He had experienced the weight of all sins. Good times and bad, He is with you.
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