208 - Courses on Prayer and Human Nature (Psalms 13-15)
In Psalms 13–15 we find some great and little-known truths about prayer. Here, too, we are taught two crucial, contrasting truths of life—the desperate corruption of sin and the redeeming grace of God by which we can walk blamelessly before Him.
You could call Psalm 13, Basic Prayer 101. It’s an important course for all believers, who often find themselves attending the School of Hard Knocks.
As class opens, David prays here in verse 1: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” It sounds more like a complaint than a prayer.
Well, David then goes on to complain that God is often late for class or possibly hiding from him, which only causes David greater suffering. This kind of praying is for real. And honestly, have you not felt the same way with God at times? “How long, O Lord? Are you going to forget about me forever?”
Does God respond to David by sending a bolt of lightning? Not at all. In fact, the Lord patiently allows David to give him all the reasons why he is feeling this way. We tend to think that God is not capable of handling our tough questions, our raw emotions. We tend to think that God is going to get His feelings hurt if we are not smiling every time we get on our knees in prayer.
Beloved, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I want to remind you that God already knows you complaint is coming; in fact He knows the worst about you, after all He knew you before He saved you.
So there may be times when you are upset and angry and disappointed with God as David is here, but God can take it, He can handle it. Well, here David feels like God has forgotten about him. This is a wrong assumption. God has not forgotten, God has been following along with David even though troubling times have come into David’s life.
David goes on to give a really good reason why God should show up and act on his behalf. In verse 3, he says, “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God.” Essentially, he is saying, “Hey Lord, remember, I belong to you! You’re my God!”
After pouring out his heart in prayer, David experiences what you and I often have as well—reassurance of the promises and faithfulness of God. David closes this song by writing in verses 5 and 6:
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord.
Now we move from Basic Prayer 101 in Psalm 13 to another class here in Psalm 14. You could call this one Basic Humanity 101. And it isn’t a pretty sight!
The defiance of the human heart against God hasn’t changed over the course of human history. David writes here in verse 1—and this says it all—“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” In other words the fool says, “There is no such deity. God is only a figment of your imagination. God doesn’t even exist.”
If you go back to the end of the nineteenth century, one man carried this idea to the masses in Europe. His name was Friedrich Nietzsche. He was born into the family of a Protestant minister; but his father died while he was still young, and by the time he was twelve, he had rejected the faith of his parents. He blasphemously redefined the Trinity as God the Father, God the Son, and God the devil. This was his first step in a lifetime of defiance.
His writings validated violence and oppression, and his philosophy would impact culture for several generations. His most famous book, entitled The Antichrist, called for people to defy God. Nietzsche would refer to Christianity as “the one great curse … the one immoral blemish of mankind.” “God is dead! God is dead,” he declared. In other words, we need to put to death any notion of a living God.
Nietzsche died literally and tragically insane. But he stands to this day as one more illustration of Psalm 14:1: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Here is what Nietzsche learned too late: God always has the last word.
Now back to this course on basic humanity, where David writes with prophetic insight here in verse 2: “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” And what does the Lord see? “They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”
The apostle Paul will quote this verse in Romans 3:12 as he describes the human race. In fact, this same text will be quoted again in Psalm 53. It’s as if God wants to make sure we grasp this truth—He repeats it three times in the Bible. Here is Basic Humanity 101: All of humanity is born “corrupt,” and “there is none who does good.”
The Hebrew word for “corrupt” in verse 3 literally means tainted. It refers to what is impure.
The other day I pulled some leftover barbecue out of the fridge to make a sandwich. My wife saw me and said, “Oh no, honey, don’t use that meat—it’s old. I should have thrown it out days ago.” Well, it would have made me sick. Why? Because it was corrupted—it was tainted.
That’s the human heart. Even when we do something good, it is tainted with self-interest, self-congratulation, or self-promotion. Even the good we do is tainted with sin. Oh, how we need a Savior who can forgive us, because at our very core we are tainted.
But when you come to the Savior, He forgives you, and He imputes His righteousness to your account. You are bankrupt; He is wealthy. And He changes the name on your account, pays for your sin and bankruptcy, and gives you the wealth of His righteousness.
Now in Psalm 15, David reinforces the relationship we should have with our Lord. He asks two parallel questions in this psalm, and then he gives us the answer. The questions are here in verse 1: “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?”
The words for “hill” and “tent” refer to the literal tabernacle, which included the Holy of Holies with God’s presence flaming over it. “Who can reside in the Lord’s tent?” David is asking. Or, “Who could ever be an invited guest in the house of God?”
David answers that in verse 2: “He who walks blamelessly and does what is right.” A godly person is not a perfect person but one who pursues a Godlike lifestyle. And when godly people sin, they are going to confess their sin, turn back to God, and start walking like Him again.
In fact, David describes the godly person here as someone who “doesn’t slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor” (verse 3); he “does not take a bribe against the innocent” (verse 5).
In other words, his godly speech and godly conduct relates to all of his personal relationships. In a very real sense, David is saying, “The person who is an invited guest in the house of God is someone who wants to be a guest in the house of God.” Beloved, I know a lot of people who would never want to be a guest in the presence of God. The question is, do you? That is the question for today.
Are you living in Psalm 14, saying in your heart and living your life in such a way that says God does not exist; or do you want to live in Psalm 15, where your priority in life is not only believing that God exists, but also seeking His involvement in every part of your life? God has invited you to live in His house. The question is, have you invited Him to live in yours?
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