Back to School
Vespers: Evening Prayer
Back to School
Text: Psalm 34
We made it. The first day of school. Done and over. Phew! The first day back to school is always interesting. There were smiles and happy faces. There were crying children. There were crying parents. Teachers were excited to get going again and to work with the new students. Parents were excited to get the kids out of the house and off their hands. Students, at least for one day, were excited to be back at school and learning.
You might call it the Back to School Syndrome. Homework and tests haven’t piled up yet. Students aren’t sick of each other yet. Teachers aren’t sick of students yet. For a time, everyone is truly focused on learning. Check back in mid-October and see if the Back to School Effect has worn off yet!
That Back to School Syndrome shows up in our Christian lives quite a bit. Sometimes we can be very fired up for reading and studying God’s Word. Maybe it was the excitement of CTK Bible Study Week. Maybe it was a topic that was particularly interesting to us. Maybe it was that we finally overcame our laziness and got our noses into the Bible.
But that Back to School Syndrome wares off in our Christian lives too. Suddenly we find ourselves too busy. We get tired of finding extra time to read the Bible. We get sick of taking extra time out of our day. We get lazy again. Like mid-October in a school year, we are downright tired of learning.
What better opportunity than on the first day of school to rededicate our Christian lives to learning? This evening you and I can get Back to School and do some learning of our own from Psalm 34.
First, you and I can Learn from King David. You can see the heading to the psalm. David wrote Psalm 34. He wrote it, “When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left.” Of all the events in David’s life, this is one of the less significant and lesser known ones. But the words of this psalm give importance to the event, especially as an event that we can learn from.
This event takes place in 1 Samuel 21. David had been on the run. He already knew that God had chosen him to be the next king in Israel. But Saul was still king. Saul hated David. He chased him all over the country for three years trying to kill David. This event was during that time period.
While he was running for his life, David made a few choices that were rather foolish and even sinful. Starting to despair, he ran from Israel to the next-door land of the enemy Philistines. But foolishly, he took with him the sword of Goliath the giant whom he had killed. All the Philistines would know that sword as soon as they saw it. He was running for his life from Saul, but only running into trouble in Philistia.
King Abimelech, also known as King Achish, had heard about David. As soon as he realized the trouble David would cause he knew he needed to get rid of him. David was very afraid. So David pretended to be insane. He acted like a madman. He made marks on doors and gates. He let saliva run down his beard, like he was foaming at the mouth. Thinking he was crazy, the Philistine king sent him away. David escaped and kept running for his life.
A strange story, isn’t it? It seems like a harmless, almost silly story. Until we consider this: God had made promises to David. God was going to keep those promises. But David didn’t trust God. He was afraid and took matters into his own hands.
It reminds us of the two times that Abraham lied and said that his wife was his sister and the one time his son Isaac did the same thing. Abraham, Isaac, David—when all three were afraid they doubted the Lord and took matters into their own hands.
We can learn from David. We don’t have to think very hard to think of times that we do the same. We have money problems in our lives and the worrying begins. We stress over paying bills and providing for our families. We aren’t sure if we are going to make it. We aren’t sure we have all the money we need. So in our stress we worry. In our worry we begin to doubt. In our doubt we try and figure out our own plans. Sometimes, like Abraham, Isaac, and David, if we worry and doubt enough it will even lead to lies. We worry so much about money that we begin to fudge numbers and cut corners here and there.
Name any other problem in life. Family problems. Friend problems. Work problems. Health problems. Political problems. Global problems. Once the stress levels rise, we begin to worry. In our worry we begin to doubt. In our doubt we try and figure out our own plans.
It’s as if we have never learned anything from the Bible or learned anything from the way God has acted in our own lives. God has never broken a promise to his people! God will always be with us! God always delivers his people from trouble, whether that’s to continue living on earth to continue living in heaven. But God always delivers his people.
David eventually realized his wrongful ways and also realized that it was the Lord who delivered him, not his own clever behavior. Listen to David recount the story in verses 4-7: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”
David, just a poor man on the run for his life, was delivered by the Lord. The gracious Lord, who planned to send our Savior Jesus through the line of David, was not going to break any promises to David or to us. So we can learn that our gracious Lord is with us. He will deliver us from our fears. He will hear us when we call to him. The angels of our Lord encamp around us, watching over us and protecting us.
The Lord’s great love and protection, as well as the Lord’s forgiveness of all of his doubt, led David to sing God’s praises. We can do the same. The Lord forgives all of our worrying and doubt. The Lord graciously watches over us. The Lord lovingly keeps all of his promises. So we can learn from David and join in his praises found in the first three verses: “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” Praise God for his forgiveness and for his protection.
As we rededicate ourselves this evening to learning more about our God and his Word, we don’t only learn from the people of Scripture like David. We can learn from the Lord himself. The second half of the psalm invites us to come to the Lord and learn of his goodness.
Verses 8-10: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
I can’t tell you how many times my children have refused to taste a new food. “That’s yucky!” they say as they cross their arms and pout their lips. “Trust me, you’ll like this.” “NO!” they shout back. Eventually we convince them to try a bite. Sure enough, they have one taste, realize how good it is, and proceed to devour the whole plate and even ask for seconds. But if they didn’t taste it, they would have never known.
David invites us to taste and see the Lord’s goodness. Take a moment. Try it. Trust me, you’ll like it. Consider all the good things that God has done for you. Think of his love in dying for your sins. Think of all the times he has delivered you in life. He has always been a refuge for you, as David says. He has always provided for your needs. Even if the lions and wild animals grow weak and hungry, “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” says David. The Lord’s goodness is delicious.
David’s invitation to learn of the Lord’s goodness continues: “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Those who know of the Lord’s love and goodness make good, God-pleasing choices. They keep their tongues from evil and lies. They turn from evil. They live in peace. Those are the righteous ways of the Lord.
So learn in the following verses how the Lord cares for the righteous. Verse 15: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned.”
The Lord is always with his people. David relearned that lesson through this sinful bout of doubt. The Lord always listens to us and is attentive to our cries for help. He doesn’t listen and help only some of the time. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.”
When we are brokenhearted, feeling guilty, and repentant, he hears those cries for help as well. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” His merciful forgiveness is always there for us, just as it was for David on this occasion.
The lesson learned is so important David repeats it in verse 19: “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all, he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” Interestingly, those last words are a small allusion to and prophecy about Jesus. We are reminded that when he died for our sins to save us, not one of his bones was broken.
David concludes his lesson then in verse 22: “The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.” We have no need to stress. We have no need to worry. We have no need to doubt. The Lord is with his people. He has redeemed us from all our sins. He is our place of refuge when in trouble. We are not condemned. We are saved and will take refuge in him for all eternity.
Like the first day back at school today, we had the opportunity to have a review lesson this evening. Sometimes we need to have a refresher, relearning of the Lord’s goodness. As we hear of his goodness, forgiveness, and protection for David tonight, we are minded that he does the same for us every day. Every day we can taste and see that the Lord is good.
God willing our students will not have the Back to School Syndrome, but rather will be excited to learn every day this school year. God willing he will be with us and bless us, giving us the eager excitement and desire to learn of his goodness every day of our lives.
Posted on August 23, 2013, in Church, School, Sermons and tagged Abimelech, Achish, Back to School, Church, Crazy, David, Insane, Learn, Mad, Psalm 34, Psalms, School, Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.