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David Appointeth a Band of Singers and Music to Praise the Lord

“David Appointeth a Band of Singers and Music to Praise the Lord” Woodcut by Hans Holbein (c. 1497-1543)

The year is 1812, and William Carey, the founder of modern Protestant missions has been in India for nearly 20 years. It took him seven years before he baptized his first Indian convert to Christianity. It took him as long to learn Bengali and translate the New Testament. Along the way he had written grammars and dictionaries so that others could learn Bengali as well and in order to assist in the translation of the Bible.

Life had already been tough for him and his family, though. He had been sick repeatedly. He had a son die at the age of 5. His wife suffered with mental illness and had even attempted to take William’s life.

Then in 1812, after two decades of work (ultimately after a half of his life in India had elapsed), a fire broke out in the mission’s printing press. All of Carey’s work was destroyed. His original dictionaries and grammars burned without a trace and without any duplicates. Hand-written original Bible translations went up in smoke. Perhaps worst of all, Carey’s custom made, one-of-a-kind printing type had all melted.

What would you do?

How do you respond to hard times and suffering?

For example, how have you responded to being passed over for a promotion? Or burying your children? Or being betrayed by a close friend or relative?

How we answer these questions says a lot about us, but it says more about our worldview, that is, the comprehensive lens through which we see the world and respond to what live throws at us.

These are some of the most basic questions to life.

You see, one of the most important functions of a worldview is to answer the basic questions of life. Such as: Is there evil? If so, why? And how should I live in light of evil?

These are some of the most basic questions to life.

What I want to briefly explore tonight is that the Bible offers the only comprehensive worldview that can offer acceptable answers to these questions.

The biblical worldview is the only worldview that offers true joy in times of suffering.

Let’s take a look at our Psalm.

First, we notice that this is a Psalm of David, and like in many of his other psalms David does not hold back from sharing his heart.

And what a heart he shares! He feels abandoned by God. “How long, O Lord?” “Will you forget me forever?” “How long will you hide your face from me?”

Can there be anything more frightful than going through hardship alone?

He feels utterly alone. And I mean completely! If you feel like even God isn’t paying attention, then who else is there?

He also feels like there’s nowhere else to turn, “How long shall I take counsel in my soul?” The meaning of this statement is that he feels like he has nobody to turn to who could understand him. There is no one to whom he can turn for understanding or empathy.

There is no one who can say, “David, I know what you’re going through. I know what that feels like. David, I’m sorry for your loss. David, I’m here for you.”

But isolation is only the beginning, for we learn that David also feels beaten down. We don’t know who his enemies are here, but we know from David’s biography in the book of Samuel that David had many very real enemies.

There was Saul who was his king, his boss, and his father-in-law, but who also spent years trying to hunt down and kill David. There was his own son Absalom who killed his brother, overthrew the kingdom, slept with David’s concubines in public. There were also all of the neighboring nations that surrounded Israel that David had to battle on a yearly basis to maintain safe borders and expand national security.

These are the kinds of enemies that most of us could never comprehend. And certainly as the king of the nation, we can understand that there would be many burdens of that position that we cannot understand or appreciate. Certainly there are moments of isolation in every leader’s life. Certainly many leaders feel that they can’t turn to others for comfort.

But on another level we’ve probably all felt this way before. Human experiences of loss, betrayal, and suffering are universal. You can probably imagine what David is feeling:

  • That he is suffering alone
  • That no one understands what he is going through
  • That what he is going through is too much for one person to endure
  • That even God doesn’t take notice of his suffering
  • That there is no possible way that he could turn to others for help
  • That others are rejoicing at his loss

You see, he begins this song with five questions that we have all asked when going through life’s dark valleys. If I could condense and restate them, I would say:

  • How long will I have to go on suffering before anyone notices how much pain I’m in?
  • How long until God remembers to take notice of me?
  • How long will my enemies rejoice at my suffering?
  • How long will salt continue to be poured onto my wound?

These questions communicate total despair. But second, we also notice that he turns to no other place than to God. The God who feels so far away is the only God worth turning to.

In other words, even when God feels far away, He is still the only one worth turning to because He is the only one who can do anything.

You’ll notice that even though God feels so far away from David, it is to God that David directs his questions and his appeals.

“Consider me and answer me, O Lord my God!”

“Give light to my eyes or else I will die, and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.”

The image that we are given from this psalm is of an utterly desperate man. He feels utterly alone. His pain is so great that he could die. His pain is so great that if God doesn’t intervene he will die.

In other words, even when God feels far away, He is still the only one worth turning to because He is the only one who can do anything.

And yet, in the final verse, David thirdly says that he will sing! Why?! Because God has dealt bountifully with him!?

But be sure to recognize that his pain is still ongoing. The biblical model is not to bury your head in the sand, nor is it to pretend like all is rosy when it is not. The biblical model is to mourn, it is to cry out to God, but it is also to recognize that there is always an eternal reason to rejoice.

How can David say this?

How can David sing for joy?

What can keep this man going?

Where could there possibly be any hope?

If David is this alone, if God Himself is not there to help David (as he believes is the case), then what keeps David going?

In other words, what keeps this Psalm from just ending after verse 4 in the valley of the darkness of David’s soul?

The answer is biblical. The answer is joy. The answer is the unshaking, unbreaking, unchanging, unfaltering, unwavering love of God.

Let us look at the final two verses to see how David ends this emotional cry for assistance. Let’s see what allows David to rejoice. Let’s see what allows him to go from sorrow to songs of joy, from gloom to gladness.

The answer is in two key Old Testament terms found in verse 5.

The first is Hesed. This word is so important to the Old Testament and so broad a term that it has been translated in a wide variety of ways.

  • Mercy
  • Loving kindness
  • Steadfast love
  • Loyal love

The term refers to God’s covenant commitments. The word is important because it is the love of God that does not change. It is the love of God with which He loves His people no matter what. This is the kind of love that says, “I love you no matter what. I love you whether you deserve it or not. I love you and there’s nothing that you can do to change that.”

How could this not lead David to rejoice?

For the Christian, this plays out whenever God sees us: He doesn’t see our sin, but Christ’s blood that has mate atonement for our sins. This never changes.

The second term is Yeshua meaning “salvation.” The word here in this psalm refers to David’s understanding that God has heard and will act to rescue him from his situation. David is not alone. The Lord hears his prayers and the Lord will act on his behalf.

David can speak confidently about the loyal love and the salvation of God because he knows these to be parts of God’s character. These terms accurately express who God is. These qualities are a part of God’s nature. Thus David can rely on these qualities no matter how hard life becomes. No matter how far away God feels he is not far off. He hears prayers.

And yet for the Christian, God’s salvation means so much more than what David is speaking about.

For Jesus’s name is Yeshua. His Greek name is Jesus, but his Hebrew name is Yeshua. The angel appeared to Joseph and told him to name his adopted son Jesus, “for He shall save his people from their sins.”

If David had reason to rejoice here in this Psalm for being loved eternally and also rescued by God, then how much more can Christians rejoice?

For Christians, no matter what is going on around us, we too know that we are loved by God and have been saved from our sins.

What is the worst that can happen to us?

Sickness?

Persecution?

Job loss?

These are nothing in comparison to eternity. These are temporary, but in the face of eternity, these are nothing. As long as we have been saved from our sins then there is nothing else that we need.

This also means that we don’t need to just survive in times of trials. No, we can have true joy, joy that is not dependent upon our situations in life.

You see, happiness depends upon what happens to us, but joy is unchanging and unaffected by our circumstances. This is why the Christian’s joy can survive in dark times, without ignoring or forgetting loss and hardship.

How else could David sing to the Lord in his situation?

At the beginning I asked you what you would do if you were in William Carey’s shoes. What would you do if your life’s work went up in smoke?

The next day William Carey stood in front of his team and preached on Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”

Can your worldview address the genuine trials of life?

Can your worldview allow for answers in the midst of suffering?

The Bible offers a comprehensive account of history (past, present, and future) that gives us the truth and equips us to handle life’s biggest challenges.

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