For the week commencing 11 August 2019
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on “Dear God, why aren’t you real to me??”
Next Sunday we continue our new series called “Dear God”, where we look at just some of the questions or doubts people would love to raise with God. Here’s the plan:
11 Aug Do I have to go to church? Heb 10, 1 Cor 12, 1 Peter 2
18 Aug Why aren’t you real to me? Psalm 13
25 Aug Sometimes I’m not sure if you care Psalm 62, 2 Cor 12
01 Sept How can I trust your promises? Psalm 46, Psalm 119
08 Sept I’m not a very good Christian Romans 10:9-13
15 Sept My kids don’t want to know about you Mark 10:13-16
“Why aren’t you real to me?” This question was contributed by a member of one of our connect groups, but my guess is that we have all felt at times that God isn’t real. One of the challenges in addressing such a question is the unreliability of our feelings. We may sometimes feel that God is not real or he’s a long way away, but we have to challenge our feelings with the facts. My prayer is that by looking at Psalm 13 throughout this week and next Sunday, we may on the one hand know that our feelings need to be acknowledged and named, but on the other hand, that the evidence for God’s love is strong and compelling.
Psalm 13, in three pairs of verses, climbs from the depths to a vantage point of confidence and hope. If the path is prayer (v3), the sustaining energy is the trust expressed in v5. The view from the top (v5) is exhilarating, and the perspective gained (v6), overwhelming.
DAY 1: Read Psalm 13
While I’ve suggested you read the whole Psalm; today, we will just concentrate on vv1-2.
Notice first of all, that expressing frustration with the Lord – even that you’ve been forgotten, and that God is somehow hiding from you – is welcomed in Scripture. King David pleads four times ‘how long?’ How long will you forget me, hide your eyes from me; how long must I wrestle with my thoughts and struggle with the sorrow in my heart; how long will my enemy triumph over me. David has no trouble expressing his inner most thoughts with the Lord! He’s in distress and he’s telling the Lord!
No doubt David felt he’d been forgotten and overlooked because he was not receiving the practical help and divine intervention which he had sought. In the Old Testament, God’s ‘remembering’ and ‘seeing’ are not states of consciousness but preludes to action. Nevertheless, David’s ultimate feeling of hurt, was personal. Because of God’s lack of intervention (and we’re not sure what the precise situation was that David was facing), David felt abandoned by God.
As a result of feeling abandoned, David is restless. He wrestles with his thoughts and his heart is full of sorrow. He is experiencing the full ache of dejection. The ascendency of his enemy caused dismay not only in regard to personal humiliation, but perhaps as a threat to his life or his kingship. He is questioning God’s justice, along with his plans and purposes.
Life for each one of us is at times overwhelming. There have been times in all our lives which reflect the way David feels here. We must feel welcome to take such feelings to the Lord in prayer! Will you?
DAY 2: Read Psalm 13:3-4
The pain in David’s heart came from a sense that God had forgotten him, and that God was distancing himself from David. No doubt David had faced worse circumstances but had faced them move bravely when he had sensed the presence of God was with him. Yet now feeling distant from God, it did not take much to send David into despair.
David now turns to the Lord directly in prayer. When he says “look on me and answer me” he does not mean two different things but is using the Hebrew method of repetition to show emphasis. David desperately cried out to God, asking God to hear him. Even though David felt he had been forgotten by God, he will continue to cry out because God is honoured when we persistently cry out to him (recall Kevin’s sermon on persistence in prayer). God often waits until our prayers are desperate until he hears us. The cause of the powerlessness of much of our prayer is betrayed by its lack of desperation. Too often we almost pray with the attitude of wanting God to care about things we really don’t care too much about! Desperate prayer has power not because it in itself persuades a reluctant God, but because it demonstrates that our heart cares passionately about the things God cares about, fulfilling Jesus’ promise, if you abide in me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. (John 15:7).
“Give light to my eyes” was a great prayer. His vision was clouded and dark. We need the light of God to shine upon and give us his wisdom and knowledge. We need to rise above our circumstances and see a bigger picture – God’s big picture.
David is concerned for God’s honour. He doesn’t want his enemies to be gloat that they have won victory over David and his God. David is saying “intervene Lord, lest my enemies (a) overcome me and (b) rejoice in so doing.” Note that even though David has expressed utter desperation, he still knows that his only recourse is to turn and run to the Lord for help.
When we feel most desperate, we must remind ourselves again, that even if we feel abandoned by God, we must turn and run to him again – for there is nowhere else to turn and he is waiting for our persistent, heartfelt prayer. Feeling desperate today? Are you asking the question ‘why aren’t you real to me’? Then run to the Lord and tell him!
DAY 3: Read Psalm 13:5-6
After calling out to God, David came to a place of confidence and trust. The NIV version reads “But I trust in your unfailing love” which is fine, but the tense in the Hebrew would be better reflected in “But I have trusted in your steadfast love”. David is reminding himself not only that he trusts God now, but has done so in the past and therefore, needs to now. It is as if David remembered that he really does trust God and so he cleared away the fog from his sleepy eyes. It is by looking back to evidences of God’s love and the reality that God has been good to him in the past, that he can come to a position in the present, of trust in God’s unfailing, steadfast love.
My heart rejoices in (or shall rejoice in) your salvation – David is telling himself to rejoice in the Lord. He is directing his feelings, rather than have his feelings direct him. If he could rejoice in nothing else, he could rejoice in the salvation God gave him. Here is solid ground for anyone and everyone who trusts Jesus. We know God’s love for us in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. David comes to be confident that he will sing to the Lord with rejoicing.
What a transition! In the beginning of the Psalm, David was overwhelmed by his feelings and believed that God had forgotten him and was hiding from him. Yet now he saw God had been good to him. God has enlightened his eyes and he could now see God’s goodness. What a change in perspective that was! We need to realise that our feelings are not reliable! They are not giving us full and accurate information! But if we cry out to the Lord, he will enlighten our eyes and bring us from a place of despair, to a place of trust, joy and confidence!
DAY 4: Read Romans 8:31-32
Dear God, why aren’t you real to me? It is when we take ourselves back to the Scriptures and see the reality and depth of God’s love for us in the Lord Jesus, that we understand God is real. As we look again at the gospel, and remind ourselves that while we were still enemies, Christ died for us, God will seem real to us. And in our desperate moments, it is ONLY by crying out to God and expressing our feelings with honesty, that we will connect with God and he with us, and he will become very real to us once more.
Resources: Derek Kidner’s IVP commentary and https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/psalm-13/