The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
August 23, 2020
With a twinkle in her eye, Corrie Ten Boom used to tell about a practice she’d learned from a friend. “When I start to worry,” she’d say, “I go to a mirror, look myself full in the face and say out loud what I’m thinking: ‘I’ve got a problem I can’t solve, and I doubt the Almighty can.’ Once I see myself talking nonsense, I shake my head in embarrassment and laugh at my being so foolish.”
In the precarious early days of his reign, young King David faced a problem he feared he couldn’t solve. With his nation still divided from a civil war, and the mighty Philistines renewing their war to exterminate the Jews, he was staring at his people’s destruction. So he retreated to his stronghold in Jerusalem; and there he prayed to God for guidance. Though he doubted his army could defeat the overwhelming force of the Philistine troops, he heard God command him to go into battle against them. David obeyed; and, despite impossible odds, God brought them victory. Aware it was all God’s doing, David wrote this psalm to lead the people in thanking the Lord and affirming His faithfulness.
Its first two verses urge them to give God credit and to praise Him for His miracle. “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” the one verse repeats after the other, Israel would have been lost. It would have been as bad as a monster “swallowing” its victim in a single gulp, as a raging flood “sweeping” everyone from the face of the earth, as a ravenous lion inhaling its prey. Israel had been as doomed as a bird in a snare whose struggles against it only entangled it tighter in the trap.
But, by the hand of God, by His grace alone, the nation escaped annihilation. The psalm reaches its climax in its last verse, declaring with joy and hope: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” – that is, our help is in depending on the Creator mightier than all creation.
David bore in mind that, though his soldiers had fought hard, their efforts would have achieved nothing had not the Lord fought at their side. Hence, their success and all the glory belong to their saving God. As David put it in another psalm, “Some take pride in chariots…” – the most advanced war technology of David’s day – “but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God”. In other words, we boast in the Maker rather than in anything or anyone He made!
Pastor Tullian Tchividgjian tells of how devastated he was when he learned that his parents, two highly respected Christian leaders, were getting divorced. It distressed him greatly, and turned his whole world upside down. He ran to a wise family friend, and lamented how he couldn’t comprehend why God let it happen.
The friend replied, “The ‘why’ is none of your concern. This is not your burden to figure out or to fix. You are not responsible for your parents’ relationship or their reputation, or even your own. They are in God’s hands, and His ways are not ours. When it comes to God’s will, the sooner you can get out of the conjecture business, the better. If you don’t go to your grave confused, you don’t go to your grave trusting God.”
Acknowledging the pain of the situation, the family friend still concluded: “This situation gives you a chance to show your parents grace and to love them in their brokenness. Which is precisely what Jesus has always done for you and always will.”
Yes, we have crucial responsibilities to fulfill. But the biggest and most responsibilities are beyond our capacities and belong to God alone. Our prime job is to boast in His grace and to trust in His contribution more than our own, even when, especially when, we can’t figure out what’s going on – when, for example, we don’t know how to handle a seemingly never-ending pandemic that is worrying us all and wearing us down. Our prime job is to faithfully stand ready to carry out the orders God gives us, in the meantime to faithfully carry out the orders He’s already given us, such as taking care of each another, and to keep hoping in the help of the saving God who is always at “our side”.
After twelve years of a close, beautiful marriage and of shared missionary service in China, Hudson Taylor lost his beloved wife Maria. Just minutes before she passed, she whispered to Hudson, “I am so sorry.” He looked at her tenderly, leaned forward and gently replied, “You are not, I believe, sorry to go to be with Jesus.” “Oh, no,” she answered. “But it does grieve me to leave you alone at such a time. Yet, I know God will be with you and meet all your needs.” And as she was breathing her last, Hudson knelt by her bed and committed her to her Savior, thanking God for His having given her to him and for the dozen years of happiness they’d had together.
In later reflecting about his bereavement, Hudson said that, as He leaned on God in his grief, he felt, as he never had before, broken of heart and crushed of spirit – but he also felt, as he never had before, the Savior’s companionship and from it the comforting and fortifying peace that surpasses all understanding.
Until his death 35 years after Maria’s, Hudson kept experiencing this saving God at his side and kept coming to know better the uplifting help that is “in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Let us follow in Hudson’s steps and, in each and every set of circumstances, rejoice in hope in the God for whom nothing is too wonderful!