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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 1045am Svc, 2014-02-09

Text: Psalm 18:1-3

Within the last few weeks some of us may have had the unpleasant experience of being caught in the long traffic jam at the causeway while returning home to Singapore. One reason for the super-long delays is the beefed-up security measures that have been put in place since the Woodlands checkpoint was breached by a Malaysian driver 3 weeks ago. Well, it looks like security breaches are becoming a new trend. Just two months earlier, an activist group managed to breach the security of several important government websites. And before that, the shocking disclosures made by Edward Snowden about mass surveillance and unrestrained spying had already generated plenty of concern about the security of personal data and communication. And Singapore was implicated as a participant in tapping undersea cables to listen to top-level private conversations.


I think we will be seeing more and more of this, as we live in a world that is moving rapidly toward globalisation. Studies have revealed that the present trend toward globalisation has increased insecurity, especially economic insecurity and social insecurity. While opening our doors wide to the whole world may bring huge benefits, it also brings huge challenges to security. And thus the quest for security will become increasingly difficult. New measures will have to be put in place to prevent more and more unwanted intrusions.


The quest for security also goes on at a more personal level. I am sure we all put measures in place to protect our lives, our jobs, our homes, our health and our finances. We keep all our treasures under lock and key. We buy insurance to cover ourselves against any loss or breach of security. During the present season we wish one another a prosperous Lunar New Year – “May your life be filled with peace and happiness!” But despite everything we do and wish for, the iron-clad security we seek for does not materialise. Things may seem to go well for a while, but something inevitably comes and rocks our boat. Unexpected things happen. Circumstances change. Problems develop. Disaster strikes! We feel insecure. 
 And so we ask the question: What is the real aim of security? If you think that the aim of security is to have a trouble-free life, then you will be disappointed, because that will never happen. Dearly beloved, if security is all about having a blissful life that is totally free of all trials and troubles, then we can never have it. But God’s Word tells us of a wonderful security that we can have in this life, and one of the best examples of this is King David. David’s life was filled with troubles, and yet he had the greatest security! And this is what we will discover as we look at a psalm that he wrote. 


From the title we can tell that this is a psalm of victory, written after God had delivered David from all his enemies. Here David was praising God not just for one particular deliverance in his life, but for all the events in which God had delivered him. In fact this psalm was written when David was already a king on the throne of Israel. We see this in the last verse of the psalm – “Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.” (v.50)


One interesting point about Psalm 18 is that it is almost entirely reproduced in 2 Samuel chapter 22, just before the last words of David which are recorded in chapter 23. This indicates that David probably wrote it at the end of his life. This background gives us a better understanding of the psalm. Here we see David in his old age looking back on his life, and praising God for all the help that he had received from Him, especially in times of danger. And in the first three verses, David testifies of the great security he had experienced throughout his life. As we study these verses now we will see that we can experience the same security that David had as we do three things. Firstly, we must… 

1. Seek God as our RELIABLE RESOURCE of Security.


In the first two verses we see David using no less than nine terms to describe the LORD. In these nine terms we find four things that David had through the LORD. Firstly, David had strength through the LORD. This does not mean that David possessed superhuman physical strength like Samson. It means that David was empowered to do whatever the LORD wanted him to do. As Daniel 11:32 says, “…the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” Whenever God gives us a task to do, He will always give sufficient strength for us to do it. In moments when we feel weakest and without any strength to do all that God wants us to do, wecan be strong in Him and in the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10). We can experience how God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. We will also be able to glory in our infirmities so that His power may rest upon us (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9). 


And so we have seen that David had strength through the Lord. Secondly, David had safety through the LORD. Here the idea of safety is conveyed by the word ‘rock’ in v.2. Actually the word ‘strength’ later in this verse is literally translated as ‘rock.’ Thus there are two ‘rocks’ in this first but with different nuances of meaning - the first one (sela) refers to a rock that provides shelter, while the second one (tsur) refers to a massive solid rock that provides stability. 


One fine example of the shelter which rocks provide can be found in the ancient city of Petra in southern Jordan. The entrance to Petra is this rock formation called the Siq. It is a dim, narrow gorge about 1.2 km long and this made it almost impossible for an invading army to go through it. Thus the city’s inhabitants were sheltered from any attacks. Incidentally, the name Petra actually means ‘rock’ (in Greek). Besides providing shelter, rocks provide stability. From this we get the saying, “As solid as a rock.”


An example of the stability which rocks provide can be found in the ancient city of Tyre, on the west coast of Lebanon. This city was originally built on a rock island that jutted out of the sea. Because of its secure position and strong fortifications, Tyre became an important maritime power in the ancient world. It was able to withstand invasions from land and sea for centuries until Alexander the Great finally conquered it by building a permanent causeway to join it to the mainland. Incidentally, the name Tyre also means ‘rock.’


The kind of shelter and stability which rocks provide give us an idea of the excellent safety that we have in the LORD. In fact, Jesus Himself used the term ‘rock’ in Matthew 16:18 to portray the safety of the Church. He said, “…upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” And because of this we sing, “On Christ, the solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.” 
Besides having safety and strength, we can also have sanctuary through the Lord. There are two words in v.2 which describe how the LORD was a sanctuary to David. The first is the word ‘fortress.’ A fortress is a place of refuge that is usually located on a mountain top. The Lord is our refuge.


 The other word that conveys the same idea is ‘high tower’ found right at the end of the verse. Both of these words indicate a place where one can find not only safety, but also rest and refreshment. Located high above the plains below, a fortress or tower gives those who are in it a clear aerial view of the enemies below. Dangers that had seemed to be so huge and fearsome become small and insignificant when they are viewed from our lofty sanctuary. And as we commune with God there, we find all the rest and refreshment we need to keep us going in life’s battles.


One famous fortress that provided rest and refreshment in ancient Israel was Masada. If you visit Israel, be sure to see Masada. It was built on an isolated rock plateau surrounded by vertical cliffs up to 400 meters high. Today, it is easier to get up to Masada, as there is a cable car. The main feature of this ancient fortress was its large storage capacity of food and water to withstand a long siege in battle. King Herod the Great built palaces for himself on Masada as a personal refuge, complete with storage jars filled with oil, food and wine, a swimming pool, and even a nice sauna bath!


 How good it is to know that God is our safe refuge who sustains us and refreshes our souls throughout our earthly life. So let us make David’s fortress and high tower ours as well. Now we move on to see that through the LORD, David not only had strength, safety and sanctuary. He also had salvation. There are 3 words in v.2 which show how the LORD was David’s salvation. The first is the word ‘deliverer.’ In modern English usage, the word ‘deliverer’ may be mistaken for ‘a person who delivers’ or a delivery man. That’s not the intended meaning of this word. The intended meaning is a person who rescues someone out of danger and brings him into full security. 


The second word in v.2 that shows how the LORD was David’s salvation is ‘buckler.’ This was a small hand-held shield that soldiers used for defence during hand-to-hand combat. Therefore to say ‘the Lord is my buckler’ is the same as saying ‘the Lord is my defence.’ We know that the best defence is sometimes offence. This is brought out in the third word that shows how the LORD was David’s salvation: the word ‘horn.’ Horns were what animals like oxen, sheep and goats would use for defence as well as for offence when necessary. When the meanings of all 3 words (deliverer, buckler and horn) are put together, they present a complete picture of salvation – The sharp horn repels away the enemy who attacks us, the buckler wards off all the spears and arrows that are hurled at us, and our deliverer rescues us out of danger and brings us into full security.


David was so thrilled with the fullness of the LORD’s salvation that he elaborates on it further in vv.4-17. There he describes how God moves heaven and earth just to rescue him from being destroyed by his enemies! The point of all these graphic descriptions is to prove that there is no better resource of security than God. He is absolutely reliable to keep us secure in every trial we face in life, with strength, safety, sanctuary and salvation. According to the title of this psalm, God delivered David from the hand of all his enemies. This means that there was no enemy that God could not deliver David from, not even David’s greatest enemy. Do you know who that was? It was not King Saul. Saul troubled David’s life for eight years, but this enemy troubled David’s life throughout his entire life. This greatest enemy of David was David’s own sins!


The man who had slain Goliath and had subdued powerful kingdoms was defeated by his own sins of lust and pride. At the prime of his life as Israel’s greatest king, David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband by proxy. For that he almost lost his throne and suffered the loss of four sons. And then toward the end of his life, David proudly ordered the numbering of his men to glory in his might. For that sin, he had to witness the slaughter of a tenth of all his troops by the angel of death. But the worst was yet to come. Without any help, David’s soul would have been plunged deep into Hell by his own sins, to languish there forever.


David’s greatest need therefore was to be saved from his own sins. And God met that need fully by saving his soul. You see, when David made the LORD his security, the LORD gave him the greatest security of all, which is eternal security! Unfortunately many people have been seeking after the wrong resources for their security. Some think that money can give them all the security they will ever need. But what money gives is merely an illusion of security. It makes you think that your needs are met, but actually they are not met. Some think that having certain key people as their friends will give them all the security they need. But when crisis comes, they find that their friends have either left them or are unable to help them at all. How different things would be, if only they would seek after the only true and reliable resource of security. 


How about you, dear friends? Have you sought the right resource for your soul’s eternal security? Have you turned to the Lord Jesus Christ and received Him as your own Saviour and Lord? 
If you haven’t, please come to Him right now and don’t delay. He is the only one who can save you. Do you know that in Jesus Christ, God has moved heaven and earth to rescue you from sin and eternal death? If you know this, then be sure to seek Him as your reliable source of security. Now we come to second thing that we need to do in order to experience the same security that David had… 


2. Build the RIGHT RELATIONSHIP with God for Security.


King David had such a relationship with God. He knew the LORD from the time of his youth. The story of David begins in 1 Samuel chapter 16 when he was only a lowly shepherd boy tending his father’s sheep. To young people today, this may seem to be a very boring thing to do, but the many hours David spent taking care of the sheep benefited him a lot spiritually. While he was out in the fields with them, David probably spent a lot of quality time alone with God, meditating on portions of Scripture he had memorized, and reflecting on God’s greatness and goodness to His people. 


And it was in those fields that David began to experience God’s help in a very personal way. A ferocious lion and a hungry bear came to attack his sheep and took a lamb from the flock. With God’s help, David managed to pursue after them, rescue the poor lamb and then slay both the lion and the bear when they attacked him! (1 Samuel 17:34,35) This gave him confidence to trust the LORD for help in more dangerous situations later on – facing the giant Goliath, escaping from King Saul’s wrath, fighting the armies of the Philistines, and handling Absalom’s attempt to overthrow him. Through all these events, David personally experienced the LORD’s help many, many times.


And perhaps when David wrote the words of psalm 18 in his old age he may have recalled the most significant events where he experienced God’s help. Each metaphor that he used to describe God in v.2 may have been a mental image taken from a past event. Just imagine how an old man may flip through an old photo album, and shed tears as he gazes upon each faded photograph which brings back happy memories from the days gone by. 


As David begins to write, ‘The Lord is my rock…’ perhaps he recalls a certain rock in the wilderness of Maon where he took shelter as King Saul was pursuing after him as mentioned in 1 Samuel 23:25. 


The metaphor of the ‘fortress’ after that was probably inspired by a certain ‘stronghold’ that is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 12:8 where David recruited his first army of warriors who came to join him. The metaphor of the ‘buckler’ may have come from one of David’s great battles, perhaps the memorable one where he led his men to rescue their families from the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:1-19). 


The metaphor of the ‘horn’ probably originated from David’s days as a shepherd, as he watched the strong rams in his flock lock horns when they fought with each other. How about the ‘high tower’ mentioned at the end of v.2? This metaphor may have been inspired by a tower that David himself built as an armoury to store the shields of his valiant soldiers, mentioned in Song of Solomon 4:4. If you were to visit Jerusalem today, you will see a tower on the city wall near the Jaffa gate. It is called the Tower of David and is probably a later version of the original tower. All the metaphors that David used to describe God in v.2 may therefore stand as a testimony to David’s personal relationship with God, each of them filled with fond memories of the help he experienced from God. 


Dearly beloved, what memories do you have of your own experiences with God? Can you recall them? How precious are they to you? But perhaps someone here may say, “What is there to recall? I have never experienced God’s help in my life.” If this is your situation, I suggest that you start earnestly to build a right relationship with Him. Read His Word daily – a good place to begin is the Book of Psalms. Read through it slowly and meditatively, allowing the Lord Himself to speak to you. And as He speaks, respond to Him with prayer – express frankly how you feel about what He reveals to you in His Word. If there are things you don’t understand, ask Him for help to understand it. Make this a daily habit, and you will soon begin to experience His help in your life.  There is also something that you will be able to do if you have a right relationship with God.


You will notice that in the midst of all the metaphors in v.2, one description stands out as it is not a metaphor but a statement – “my God.”  This is the first of five instances in this psalm where David used this term (see vv.6, 21, 28 & 29). This indicates how much David delighted in the thought that the LORD is his God. Many others may be content to regard the LORD merely as Abraham’s God or as Israel’s God. But that was not good enough for David. He proceeded one step further to say with firm conviction, “The LORD is my God.” How was he able to do this? 


And more importantly, how can you have this firm conviction that the LORD is truly your God and know for sure that He belongs to you as much as you belong to Him? This conviction must come to you directly from God Himself – as you read His Word, the Holy Spirit who dwells in you bears witness with your spirit that you are a child of God who has the privilege to call Him, ‘Abba, Father.’(Romans 8:15). For instance, consider what God said in Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” As you heard this, do you have the boldness to respond to Him now, “O Thank You, Lord! I know deep in my heart that this is certainly true of me. I know that You are my God!”


Please don’t settle for anything less than this. Ask yourself today: Are you truly able to call Him your God? Such boldness belongs to every child of God. The apostle Paul expressed the very same boldness when he said, “…for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”(2 Timothy 1:12) 


If you know deep down in your heart that the LORD is your God, then you too will be fully persuaded that He is able to keep what you have committed to Him. This is the blessed security that comes from building a right relationship with God. And now we come to third thing that we need to do in order to experience the security that David had… 


3. Give a RESOUNDING RESPONSE to God for His Security.


Such a blessed security that David found in God drew a three-fold response from him. His first response was to love God, as he says in v.1 – “I will love thee, O LORD my strength.” Now, the Hebrew word for ‘love’ that David used here (racham) is a unique verb that is used only here in this verse for a man’s love toward God. This word is often used for a mother’s love for her child – a deep, strong love that comes from the bottom of her heart. This is the kind of love that David committed himself to have toward God. 


And this is the kind of love that we ought to have for God because He rightly deserves it from us. It may not be too difficult for us to have that kind of love for God when things are going well for us. The difficulty comes when things are not going well – How can we love God with all our heart at times when everything seems to be going wrong?   Like: When our health is failing? Or when we lose our jobs? Or when disaster strikes? This is where we need to learn from David’s second response, which is found in the words “I will trust” in v.2. Here David commits himself to trust in God for help. Such trust in God means firstly, he would have to Accept his circumstances. Secondly, trust in God means that David must Ask God for help. Thirdly, it means that he must Allow God to act in His own time. 


This is the kind of trust that you must have in God, especially when everything seems to go wrong for you. (1) You must accept the changed circumstances of your life, believing that God will use them to work out His plan for you. Instead of wanting God to change your circumstances, let God change you through these circumstances. (2) You must ask God to help you by whatever means He chooses. He may help you directly or He may direct you to someone whom He has prepared to help you. (3) Then you must allow God to act in His good time. Always wait patiently for His help to come and do not be impatient.  


Thus far we have seen two responses of David to God: To love Him, and to trust Him. The third and final response is found in v.3 – Here King David confesses that the God whom He calls upon deserves to be praised. Let us be ready to praise God under all circumstances, knowing that they are ultimately meant to bring glory and praise to Him. Even the most difficult trials we face are designed by God for His praise, and it is by praising Him that we triumph in our trials. For instance, when Job was severely tested by the worst trials of his life what was his response? Instead of complaining to God, Job said, “…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”(Job 1:21)


And this answers the question that was asked at the beginning of this sermon: What is the aim of security? It is not to have a trouble-free life. From what we have learned from God’s Word today we understand that the aim of security is to be able to triumph in the midst of every trial we face in life. And this security becomes ours only as we seek God as our reliable resource of it, as we build the right relationship with God, and as we give Him a resounding response of love, trust and praise. May the Lord help us to do these things.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25