In The Ring (Psalm 61)

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Family in the ring and worth the fight.

  • Last week was discovering every family needs to follow God’s blueprints and every family needs abundant allies.[1]
  • This week’s family “ring” is Anchoring.
  • Different concepts come to mind about anchors:
    • Nautical: Anchor keeps a vessel in one place to combat the winds and currents from moving it off course. They are made of heavy metal (resistant to corrosion) and to dig into the bottom to firmly hold in place.
      • Temporary anchors are needed when the vessel is frequently mobile and just needs to hold position for a reason or weather out a passing storm.
      • Permanent anchors are needed when the vessel is in the harbor offloading or stationed at sea.
      • 2 Dangers:
        • Anchors might grab bottom vegetation roots or soft soil that hold temporarily and provide a false sense of security. Watch where you anchor!
        • Even large ships requiring permanent anchors should carry temporary anchors for backup in case of failure or loss.  
    • Financial: Anchor value of something based upon comparative assets and possessions to provide a baseline of cost or worth.
    • Photography: Wide angle shots provide visually stimulating images to see a large landscape: mountain ranges, nature fields or forest, sunsets over distant setting. However, they can also disconnect the viewer because the space is too big and nothing to draw attention. A photographic anchor provides focus: flowers or footprints, building or tree, animals or person.
    • Spiritual Anchor: “We have this sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters in… where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf” (Heb 6:19-20)

All brings to today’s text. But first, look at context of Ps 61

  • David is king in Israel.
  • David had 8 wives named in Bible and others unnamed (2 Sam 5:13). This is not right nor recommended – just reality.
  • David had at least 21 children… so lots of baby mama drama and dysfunction existed in family.   
  • One of David’s sons Absalom has beautiful sister named Tamar. Another of David’s sons from another wife, Amnon is obsessed with her and raped her (2 Sam 13). Then he disgraces her and sends her away.
  • David was furious but never spoke up or acted in her defense.
  • Absalom revenge kills Amnon. Then he flees from David for 3 years, but David still wanted to be a forgiving father (2 Sam 13:38-39).
  • Absalom returns to Jerusalem but doesn’t see David for 2 years (14:28). Eventually he returns home only to conspire against his father for the throne. David was forced to flee the kingdom with only a small band of men on his side.
  • Absalom has an army in pursuit to kill David, but they are defeated. Absalom has beautiful and big hair and while riding horseback gets hair stuck in a bramble and he’s left hanging in mid-air. David’s soldiers kill Absalom, which only further grieves David.
  • How many of you feel a little better about your family? There is always someone else with bigger problems.
  • How many, sadly, can somewhat identify? Yes, life can be messy, shameful, and grievous.

While we don’t know the specific setting of David’s life that led to his writing, Psalm 61, we do know these events help us to understand the psalm’s aim.

EXAMINE               Psalm 61

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David.

1 Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; 2 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, 3 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! Selah  5 For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. 6 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.

We anchor in faith by admitting our weakness.

Psalm starts with an inscription: To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David.  David writes, sings songs, and makes music when he needed transported from earthly pressures to heavenly perspective. There is something about music that awakens the senses and enlivens the heart from weakness to strength. So, David anchors his faith and focus by praising and praying to God.

He says: “Hear my cry, listen to my prayer.” Cry can be rendered “piercing cry,” or “ringing shriek.”[2] You can feel the fervency and sense the passion in David’s praying.

He addresses prayer with O God with emphasis as the one whom his cries and prayers are directed. Some people cry their circumstances are not what they should be, but they’re voicing concerns or venting complaints to the wrong person. When we fail to pray to God and invite Him to the center of our circumstances then we should not be surprised when God leaves us alone. There are times when God may allow us to drift and wander in the wilderness until we return our hearts and direct our attention to Him.  

David’s prayer is the overflow of his desperation: from the end of the earth, I call to you when my heart is faint. David was likely not at home, in his palace or kingdom when he penned this psalm. He’s at the end of the earth – far away from familiarity, which only worsens his weakness and heightens his grief.

  • If you’ve even been sick on vacation or stay in hospital, you just want to get home. This is David.

Our lives individually, together as families, and collectively as a church body, need to arrive at not only the awareness but the admission of how weak we are without God. When we acknowledge our limitations and humble our pride, we begin to understand the biblical principle, “when I am weak, then I am strong [in Christ]”
(2 Cor 12:10).

Illus: This sentiment is captured in a Peanuts cartoon with Lucy asking glum-looking Charlie Brown about what he was worrying. Charlie responds, “I feel inferior.” Lucy swiftly responds, “Oh, you shouldn’t worry about that. Lots of people have that feeling.” Charlie asks, “What, that they’re inferior?”
“No,” Lucy replies, “that you are inferior Charlie Brown.”

The human testimony and family experience is that all of us feel inferior, but few are honest about it. Families don’t often like to admit weaknesses.

  • Surface talk: weather, sports, a little school… but seldom struggles, grief, heart idols.
  • Don’t linger at church; get in and out as quick as possible.
  • Don’t join a group. Sit in rows to watch – fine! But not sit in circles to interact.

Our faith will be like a vessel at sea without rudder or anchor until we admit our weakness. When the psalmist is aware of his weakness, it leads him to worship:
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

The metaphor of God as our rock is rich in the Scriptures, especially in the Psalms.

  • Ps 18:1-2 “The LORD is my strength and my rock”
  • Ps 62:2 “God only is my rock and my salvation; I shall not be greatly shaken.” (cf. 62:6-7 repetition happens much in Psalms, so why any less in our prayers or praise songs? Repetition can be mindless but can also be meaningful relationship; recommittal of love.)
  • Ac 4:11 “This Jesus is he stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.”
  • 1 Cor 10:1-4 “our forefathers all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ”
    • God fed Israelites with water from a stricken rock (Ex 17:6).

We don’t need to approach God by having it all together. The Lord, our rock, puts us together. God doesn’t want our perfection, which is unobtainable, He wants our participation. Our relationship with God is not only our Savior from sin but our sustainer in life. We need Him every day, every hour, moment by moment. We rely upon His wisdom and depend upon His power. And the best way you can reflect this truth in your life and family is by inviting God and interacting with His word on a regular basis.  

  • Mt 7:24 “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise person who built their house on the rock – [sustaining the storms of life].”
  • Read Bible with accountability partner.  

We don’t need to approach God by having it all together. The Lord, our rock, puts us together. God doesn’t want our perfection, He wants our participation.

We anchor in faith by acknowledging God’s work.

The psalmist shifts from wallowing in his weakness to worshiping God for His work. David was an imperfect man who strayed and sinned in a moment of dark weakness. Yet, he was also a humble man after the heart of God. He was quick to recall God’s saving grace in his life.

  • “for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy”” David needed refuge from military exploits as well as internal disharmony. The Lord had been his former refuge and present strength. The fact that David was alive was testimony to God’s victories – the same is true for you. There could have been countless circumstances to overcome your life, but God has spared you; He’s not done with you (tell somebody!).
  • “Let me dwell in your tent forever!” OT saints did not have the Holy Spirit, and therefore longed to be surrounded with the presence of God. David was remembering God’s mercy, steadfast love, and abundant grace.
  • Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.” (61:3-5)

The concept of coming under someone’s wings is common to us. It implies personal provision and special guidance. When we come under the shelter of God’s wings, we have the sovereign care of our Heavenly Father.

Selah. Let that sink in. Breathe deeply the compassion of God. Inhale God’s powerful love and exhale God’s peace and security. The One who feeds birds, dresses flowers with spring-time beauty, and knows each star by name also knows you more than you know yourself, and still loves you.

We anchor our faith by acknowledging God’s work. From creation to the cross, God’s past faithfulness assures His future trustworthiness.

  • Share your faith testimony with family. Do it again if already done 😊
  • Consider creating a timeline of past circumstances, milestones, and faith events in your life. Explore trends of highs and lows based upon decisions or environments. Spend time giving thanks for the good and learning from challenges. Share this with someone – family, small group, friend, pastor.
  • Consider creating a genogram.[3] A genogram is a diagram tool that tracks family and friend relationships and history. It can be used to identify health factors, relational patterns, or even faith connections. A spiritual aim would be to discern the ways God has worked in the past to form the present, and potential opportunities to align with God’s design for life and family.

We anchor in faith by anticipating the king’s glory. 

David’s prayer looks forward to spending all eternity with the Lord. He desires a legacy that will extend to multiple generations. His legacy could be defined by material possessions such as wealth or places, but instead, David asks for steadfast love (hesed) and truth to watch over his life. This is the only way David’s throne would last forever.

Israel’s history of kings would not have a successful legacy. The Northern kingdom would have zero (0 of 19) godly kings, and the Southern kingdom only 8 of 20 kings who honored God. Israel would long for a monarchy that manifested the glory of God and the good of others. This is why God blessed Israel – to be a blessing and light to all the nations. While David’s throne appeared in jeopardy, the Lord’s throne was in full security. God’s kingdom endures despite how barren our circumstances appear. David’s prayer committed to sing God’s praises and perform his vows (v.8). In other words, David understood his legacy was linked not to promoting his own platform but giving God all the glory.

Likewise,

  • The glory of a parent’s legacy will not be scoreboards, stats, and trophies that will eventually end up at Goodwill.
  • The glory of a marriage will not be material possessions, vacation trips, or entertainment experiences.
  • The glory of a life will not be job titles or bank accounts.
  • Ultimately, the question is not if but how you will make it to the end. All of us will stand before a throne with the choice who sits on it.
    • If we tell God, “Not Thy will but my will,” then He will say, “Let thy will be done,” and our glory will fade, our prosperity will disappear, our legacy will be spoiled.
    • But, if we tell God, “Not my will but Thy will be done,” then He will say, “Enter into the joy of your Master… You are born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
  • Where are you stealing glory from God?
    • When we go multiple days without sincere time in God’s word.
    • When we try to control circumstances without praying and trusting God to work.
    • When we look to please and appease others without consideration of God’s commands.
    • When we spend finances on earthly enjoyment but little investment on eternal impact.
    • When we are quick to judge and condemn and slow to give grace and forgive; placing ourselves in God’s seat.  
    • When someone you know is going through a struggle, and instead of praying with them or speaking to them about the Lord, you stay on the surface saying, “It will work out.”
    • These and many other ways…

APPLY/THINK

Your family has atonement in God’s grace.

  • David promised to perform his vows. The word implies making payment for peace (shaw-lam’).[4] David felt the weight of his wrongdoing and that of his family dysfunction. He wanted to be at peace with God.
  • Peace with God is not earned but received. Jesus Christ has done all that is necessary for your family not to be burdened by a broken past but hopeful for a renewed future.
  • My hope is built on nothing less
    Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
    I dare not trust the sweetest frame
    But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
    On Christ the solid rock I stand
    All other ground is sinking sand.

Your family has an anchor in God’s word.

  • Like the little boy who adored framed picture of dad. He slept with it each night while his father was on deployment. One night mom heard son sobbing and she asked, “What’s wrong?” He responded, “I want dad to come out of the picture frame.”  
  • The good news is God has come out of the frame and entered our fragile circumstances. God hears your prayers and cries.
  • Ask Him to lead you to the Rock!

Your family has an ally in Christ’s church.

  • David’s prayer started in lamentation but concludes with celebration.
    • David’s faint heart is strengthened with the support of brothers and sisters praying.
    • David’s fight against the enemy is empowered to victory when others are with him in battle.  
    • David’s singing resounds greater in the congregation.
    • The king’s glory beams brighter among a united nation.
  • Brothers and sisters are here… but it takes willingness to step out or speak up.

[1] https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2022/04/24/in-the-ring-proverbs-243-6/

[2] See John Phillips, Exploring The Psalms, p.486.

[3] https://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/GENOGRAM-WORKBOOK.pdf

[4] John Phillips, Exploring The Psalms, p.491.

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