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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Those who trust in the LORD will not be ashamed
Text:Psalms 25:1-5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Persecution
 
Added:2013-09-22
Updated:2016-11-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)


(2004 BoP):

Ps. 145: 1, 5

Ps. 1: 1 – 3

Ps. 25: 1 – 3

Ps. 143: 5 – 7

Ps. 86: 1, 4

 

Scripture reading:       Psalm 25

Text:                              Ps. 25: 1 – 5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.



Psalm 25 (A) – Trusting in the LORD     

 

(2004 BoP):

Ps. 145: 1, 5

Ps. 1: 1 – 3

Ps. 25: 1 – 3

Ps. 143: 5 – 7

Ps. 86: 1, 4

 

Scripture reading:       Psalm 25

Text:                              Ps. 25: 1 – 5

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

Here in the Free Reformed Churches we sing a lot of psalms.   And in our Reformed schools a lot of time is spent on memorising the psalms.  

This has always been so in all the Reformed churches worldwide since the Reformation; and it remains so also today in all the Reformed churches that are not only Reformed in name but also in practice.  

 

In fact, since the Lord has given His church the book of Psalms, it remained the hymnbook of His church throughout all the ages.   It was not only given as hymnbook to the church of the Old Testament, but also to the church of the New Testament.   

Reformed believers have always understood this, so that Reformed churches were always known as Psalm-singing churches. 

 

So then, we sing a lot of psalms and we teach our children to sing them.

But how do we sing them?

 

It can easily happen that we start to do something just out of tradition without knowing what we are doing.   We can still sing the psalms, without realising their importance; and we can still sing the words without knowing its meaning.

 

Do you still know that these psalms are all covenantal songs using covenantal language and that you cannot have a correct understanding of these songs without a correct understanding of the covenant?

And do we still understand the covenant which God has made with us?

 

Dear congregation, if we do not read the Bible in its covenantal context, as God’s covenant Word to His covenant people, and if we do not understand that the old covenant and the new covenant are in essence one covenant, with one gospel, one Saviour, and one doctrine – yes, if we do not know and understand these basics anymore, then the book of Psalms also becomes a closed book.   

 

Then no one understands the psalms anymore.

The solution is then not to replace the psalms by something else; the solution is simply to return to the truth of God’s Word.

Once we understand Scripture itself, the Psalms will live.

But: when the knowledge and understanding of Scripture is lacking, or in decline, psalm-singing will also come in decline.  

 

But the question is still: How do you sing the psalms?

After the sermon we will respond by singing the first part of this psalm, Psalm 25.  How will you do that?

Will you pray this prayer with David in your heart while you sing?

Will you say amen in your heart when you sing these words?

Or will you maybe try to figure out which parts of the psalm is “Old Testament theology” and which parts would be acceptable to fit your “New Testament theology”?   

Will you maybe try to sing the psalm through a complicated process of reinterpretation to make it more “spiritual”?

 

Will you sing with all your heart the whole psalm and say amen to every word; or disregard some parts in your mind as outdated and irrelevant as you sing it?

 

Dear congregation, such questions are important.

It is important to know that there is no such thing as Old Testament theology and New Testament theology.   All of Scripture has only one theology, one doctrine, one teaching, one gospel.

 

There is no such thing as an Old Testament faith or a New Testament faith; there is only one faith: the faith of the Scriptures.

Whatever is taught in the Old Testament is also taught in the New Testament – only with greater clarity.

And whatever is taught in the New Testament is based on the Old Testament. 

Let us therefore not tear Scripture apart, or disregard in our mind some parts of it, but sing these psalms with all our heart.

 

In order to do so we need of course some instruction.   May the Lord in this service open our eyes to see the riches of the gospel which are laid up also in this psalm.

 

I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme:

Those who trust in the LORD will not be ashamed

 

We will note…

 

1.      That David prays for deliverance from his enemies

2.      That David prays for instruction in the truth of the LORD

 

In the first place we note that…

David is praying for deliverance from his enemies

 

When a minister chooses psalms for the liturgy it can easily happen that, purposefully or unintendedly, he chooses only some selected stanzas which fits the so called “New Testament theology”.   In such a case all the stanza’s that speak about God’s righteous judgements by which He punishes the wicked and delivers the faithful, and about righteous men versus the ungodly, and about careful obedience to God’s law, and the like, will carefully be avoided. 

Then no stanza will be chosen in which the hatred and plotting of the ungodly is described.

Especially no stanza in which the ungodly is cursed will be chosen.

Stanza’s that speak about enemies and strife are not popular in the worship service, and will rather be avoided.

Then a selection of stanzas is made which is much more mild and soft on the ear: praising God only for love and mercy and peace; hallelujahs without judgements, hosannas without anxieties and strife, yes, apart from anything that men may call “typical Old Testament theology.”

 

But that is no true faith.   It is a self-invented theology that has nothing to do with the New Testament in Christ’s blood.  

It is far removed from the reality of the real Christian life.

The Psalms are honest songs, songs of truth, giving us a vivid picture of the real struggles of  faith among the Israel of God, of those who love and fear Him.

 

Dear congregation, also in the New Testament the church of Christ is a struggling church, despised and oppressed.   Singing prayers for deliverance of enemies is very much part of the true Christian faith.

And thus we sing with David:

 

To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.   O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me…”

 

Yes, the majority of psalms mentions enemies, and ask for deliverance from enemies.   And we will be blessed if we sing also these stanzas with all our heart with thanksgiving to God.

 

Who then are these enemies?

Throughout the book of Psalms the enemies are identified as the ungodly.   And there are various synonyms for the ungodly: they are fools and scoffers, workers of iniquity, the wicked, and so forth.

Throughout the book of Psalms a line is drawn between the righteous and the ungodly.  

The righteous are those who fear the LORD and put their trust in Him, who keep His commandments and shun evil.  

 

All people are placed in these two categories: the righteous and the ungodly.

We see this already in Psalm 1.   The righteous are blessed; the ungodly is cursed.

We find it on almost every page throughout the Psalmbook.

 

Now, these two words, “righteous” and “ungodly” are defined by God’s covenant with Israel.   The righteous ones are not sinless people; the righteous are those who fear the Lord and keep His covenant.   They also sin, but when they sin they repent and ask forgiveness.  

The righteous do not try to earn their own salvation; they live as covenant children who already received God’s mercy and redemption.   God made them His own and in His mercy granted them forgiveness of sins.   Through faith the righteous live in covenant communion with the LORD.   The righteous man delights himself in the covenant law of the LORD and meditates on it day and night. 

 

The ungodly, on the other hand, walks in counsel that deviates from God’s law.   The ungodly stands in the path of sinners and sits in the seat of the scornful.   They – the ungodly – shall perish.

And thus Psalm 1 is indeed an introduction to the whole book of Psalms.

 

Now, the enemies of the righteous, including David’s enemies, are throughout the psalms described as the ungodly. 

Yes, David counts himself with the righteous; and he describes his enemies as the ungodly.

 

When we now turn to Psalm 25 we find the same covenantal thinking and covenantal structure; the same antitheses.   David describes his enemies as those who deal treacherously – verse 3.   They hate him with cruel hatred – verse 19.    But himself he identifies with those who keep the LORD’s covenant and His testimonies, one who trusts in the LORD and wants to be guided in His truth.  

 

This antithesis is not accidental; one finds it throughout the whole Psalmbook.   David is not some private individual with his own peculiar enemies; no, he is a covenant child; and his enemies are the same ones who forsake the LORD and break His covenant.   His enemies are the enemies of the LORD and of His church.   If not – if they are on the other side of the line, if they fear the LORD and keep His covenant – then they are his friends (Ps. 16: 3; Ps. 119: 63; Ps. 139: 21, 22).

 

That is what defines friend and foe in the book of Psalms.  

 

Can we connect the names of specific persons to these enemies of David? 

Yes, we do have a description of David’s enemies in the historical books, especially first and second Samuel and 1 Chronicles.  

There we see the enemies of David as men of flesh and blood as they act in real life, with their schemes and plots acting in real history.

 

Who are they?  

We read of king Saul trying to kill David, Absalom plotting and rebelling against David, Shimei cursing David, the treacherous advice of Ahithophel against David, Sheba rebelling against David, and many others who seek his harm. 

And then there are also the heathen nations surrounding Israel.  

 

The psalms that speak about the enmity of the heathen nations are fewer.   Most of the time the ungodly are found within Israel, sometimes even within David’s own house!

These unfaithful ones, these ungodly among Israel, were often very close to David.   They even ate with him at his table.  

Think for example of Psalm 41:

 

“Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” – Ps. 41: 9

 

However, David does not seek in any of the psalms personal revenge on his enemies.   We have enough evidence in the historical books to see how he actually dealt with his enemies.   He spared Saul’s life twice.   He mourned when Saul died.   More than once we read that he did nothing but good to his enemies.   Think for example of Psalm 35:

 

“Fierce witnesses rise up; they ask me things that I do not know.   They reward me evil for good…But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth…” (Ps. 35: 12, 13)

 

Yes, his enemies were often men to whom he did nothing but good.   And he never sought personal revenge.  

He does pray that the ungodly may perish, but when he prays for God’s covenant wrath on the covenant breakers he is not seeking personal revenge on his enemies; he is seeking the honour and glory of God’s Name.   He prays that God, for His Name sake, will be faithful to His covenant also in the execution of judgements.  

The enemies of David are the enemies of God; they are the enemies of Christ and of His church.

Also: the covenant faithfulness of the LORD would be at stake if these enemies would not be cut off and punished.

 

“Pronounce them guilty, o God!   Let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against You.

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You.   For You, o LORD, will bless the righteous; with favour You will surround him as with a shield.” – Ps. 5: 10 – 12.

 

You see, all who rise up against the LORD must be destroyed, but those who trust in the LORD will be blessed.   The LORD will defend those who trust in Him, but the ungodly shall perish.

 

It is within this covenantal framework that we have to understand these psalms in which David speaks of his enemies.   He is not seeking personal revenge, but the fulfilment and execution of God’s gracious and righteous covenant.

Also here, in Psalm 25, David’s enemies are covenant breakers; ungodly men who deal treacherously.  

 

Dear congregation, these enemies are real men acting in real life; and the anxieties and anguish of the righteous are also very real.  

 

Now then, the stage is set and the actors are clearly identified: the righteous on the one hand, and the ungodly on the other hand.    The righteous – in this case David – is being oppressed by ungodly enemies.   And then David prays this prayer.  

 

He prays under inspiration of the Holy Spirit.   While this prayer came from the depth of his heart, and was born within the heat of his struggles, it is at the same time divine revelation and instruction.    And thus, when we sing this psalm the Lord Himself lays the words of this prayer in our mouth, so that we pray to Him with the very same words of David.   And thus we and David become one – one faith, one Lord, one church, one body of Christ, united as soldiers in the holy war of Christ which is not fought with carnal weapons.

 

Now, David did not pray this prayer as a private individual to his own private god, exercising his own private religion; he prays as a covenant child to the LORD, Jahve, who made His covenant with His people Israel.   He knows that he belongs to the LORD.   By virtue of God’s covenant with him he counts himself one with God’s covenant people.   And thus his prayer is the response of faith to what God has promised him in the covenant.

David comes to God not on the basis of his own religiosity or on the basis of his own private spirituality.  No, he draws near to God in prayer on the basis of God’s revealed covenant, trusting His sure promises.

And that is the way, dear congregation, in which we also ought to pray.  

We have to come to God in prayer not just as private individuals, but as a member of His church, fully assured that God gave us the same promises and made His covenant also with us.  

And thus we pray not only as private individuals, but as God’s covenant people, as a member of His church, in response to the sure and revealed covenant promises of our God.

 

Furthermore, although David may have prayed this prayer first in private, he has also put it to writing.   He has put it to writing, and the Holy Spirit caused him to put it to writing, with the very purpose that it may be sung in the public gatherings of Israel, the congregation of the LORD.

And therefore the same prayer is prayed over and over again throughout the generations.   The Holy Spirit gave this prayer also to us, and lays it in our mouth, so that our voice becomes one with God’s people, with the church of all ages.

 

The psalm is then not a poem about the private individual, David, who has trouble with some of his own private enemies.   No, note the last verse of this psalm:

 

            “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all their troubles!”

 

David identifies himself with God’s covenant people.   His enemies are their enemies; and their enemies are his.   It is the enemies of Christ and of His church.  

 

Now we start to see the relevance of the psalm.  

David prays to Jahve – the LORD who made His covenant with David, but also with us and our children.   We too belong to the Israel of God.

Our personal struggles are part of the struggles of Christ’s church; and vice versa.

 

And so our own voice unites with the one great choir of all ages, praying with all the saints:

 

            “To You, O Jahve, I lift up my soul.” – verse 1

 

There you have this majestic Name: Jahve; the Name which reminds us of God’s covenant faithfulness and steadfast mercy towards those who fear Him.

 

To Him, our almighty and faithful God, David lifts up his soul.

He does not seek his help from anyone else.

The LORD, Jahve, is his help, and to Him he turns in prayer.

 

O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me.” (verse 2)

 

When David prays these words he is responding in faith to God’s covenant promises.   The LORD, Jahve, has promised His people that those who put their trust in Him will not be put to shame.   He, the LORD, their almighty and faithful God, will be a shield to them and defend them, and thus their trust in Him will not be put to shame.  

 

Those who put their trust in other gods, they will be ashamed. 

 

And thus David pleads on the basis of God’s covenant faithfulness: O Jahve, You have promised that those who trust in You will not be put to shame.   Therefore, o God, do to me as You have promised.   I trust in You; let me not be ashamed.  

 

            “Let not my enemies triumph over me.”

 

What would happen if the ungodly would truly triumph over the righteous?   Would that not make God’s promises powerless, and cause those who trust in Him to be ashamed?

To be ashamed refers here to the disappointment of misplaced trust and hope.  

If David’s enemies, the treacherous covenant breakers, would truly triumph over him, then his trust in Jahve and his trust in the promises of God would be disappointed.

 

For Your Name’s sake, LORD, let them not triumph over me!

 

            “Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed…” – verse 3

 

In our translation it is translated as a petition: “…let no one who waits on You be ashamed…”, but the Hebrew text may rightly be translated as a statement:

 

            “Indeed, no one who waits on You shall be ashamed…”

 

David expresses his sure confidence as he trusts in God’s faithfulness.

 

 

The same covenant faithfulness of God also has a reverse side: all those who depart from Him shall be put to shame.

Thus David is still, as always, praying within the framework of God’s covenant, praying on the basis of God’s covenant, when he prays:

 

            “Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without a cause.” – verse 3

 

Again we may translate the Hebrew text: “Those shall be ashamed who deal treacherously without a cause.”    Those who put their trust in other gods shall not have their hopes fulfilled.   Those who unfaithfully depart from the LORD’s covenant – their hopes will disappoint and come to shame.

 

And thus the word, ashamed, which is repeated here three times – once in verse 2 and twice in verse 3 – is placed over against the fulfilment of God’s promises to those who put their trust in Him.  

Those who trust in the LORD, Jahve, shall never be ashamed.

 

We see also how David claims this not only for himself, but for all who trust in the LORD.  

No one who waits on the LORD, relying on His promises, shall ever be ashamed.

Why?

Because: the Lord is faithful.   He will do what He said.

 

You see then, brothers and sisters, that David’s trust in the LORD is not just a mystic feeling.   He trusts the revealed promises of God’s covenant; the revealed promises of His Word.  

In his great need and trouble he does not give himself a pep-talk to boost his spirit, or try to convince himself that all will be okay.   No, he turns to the LORD and to the revealed Word of His covenant.

 

We note that in the second place, that…

David prays for instruction in the truth of the LORD

 

Show me Your ways, O LORD, teach me Your paths.   Lead me in Your truth and teach me…”

 

The LORD has indeed revealed the path of life, the way in which we should walk, but although it is revealed we still need the enlightenment of His Spirit to see and understand what has been revealed.  

It is a prayer for the opening of God’s Word, for insight and understanding, that we may be instructed by His Word and Spirit, that we may know His ways and walk in His paths.

 

It is not a prayer that the Lord will guide us by a mystic feeling or experience, but that He will give us understanding to see the path that He has stipulated in His Word.

O LORD, lead me in the truth of Your Word and teach me.

 

Now, when Scripture speaks about the LORD’s ways and paths and truth, and adds that we have to walk in His ways and walk in His truth, then the paths and the truth of the LORD refer to His revealed will as spelled out in His covenant law.

In the context of this psalm the paths and the truth of the LORD does indeed refer to the revealed doctrine of God’s Word.

But sometimes the LORD’s ways and His truth, may also refer to the LORD’s own doings.   His truth and faithfulness is also revealed in His dealings with His children.

And this second meaning of the expression “the Lord’s ways” and “the LORD’s truth” is indeed also applicable here in Psalm 25.   When David prays to be instructed in the LORD’s ways and truth it also means that He wants to see and experience the LORD’s ways and truth in delivering him from his enemies!

 

He prays this in the midst of great trouble and anxiety.  He lifts up His soul to the LORD and clings to His truth.  

The Hebrew word which is here translated truth, may also be translated faithfulness, firmness, reliability.  

David clings to the sure and firm promises of God, and calls it the LORD’s truth.   The LORD’s Word is truth; it is true and reliable, because the LORD Himself is true and faithful.  

 

And with this truth he arms himself in his struggles against treacherous enemies.   He wants the LORD to guide and teach him in His truth and truthfulness, then he will be able to see that the LORD is faithful to those who put their trust in Him, and then his eyes will be open to see the LORD’s judgements on the ungodly.   Yes, instruction in the LORD’s truth will be to him instruction in the LORD’s salvation.

 

            “…for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.” (verse 5)

 

When David in his trouble turns to the LORD for help and put His trust in Him, and says, “Lead me in Your truth and teach me...”, he does not only pray that God will teach him the doctrine of truth, but that the LORD will clearly manifest to him His truth and faithfulness, keeping the promises of His Word.

 

LORD, instruct me in Your truth and faithfulness by delivering me according to Your promise.  

 

That is why he adds:

 

            “…for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.”

 

The knowledge of God’s truth will be to him knowledge of salvation.  

Because: it is the truth of God’s gracious and steadfast covenant.  

Dear congregation, those who trust in the LORD, Jahve, will not be ashamed.   He will deliver and save all who take their refuge in Him.  

 

Congregation, this covenant, and the truth of this covenant, has also been revealed to us.   It has been revealed to us even more clearly.

For in Christ we have the fulfilment of all God’s promises; in Him we see God’s truth and faithfulness clearly manifested.  

It is through Him that we know God as the God of our salvation.

And in Christ all the promises of God are firm and sure, yes and amen (2 Cor. 1: 20); sealed by the blood of Christ.

 

Let us then, together with the church of all ages, sing this psalm with full assurance.

Those who wait on the LORD will not be ashamed, for He is true and faithful.

The steadfast mercy which He has promised us in Christ will endure throughout all eternity.

 

This God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, will show His truth and salvation to all who wait on Him.

Indeed, no one who waits on the LORD shall be ashamed.

 

Our enemies, the enemies of the church and the enemies of God, will not triumph over us. For: through our Lord Jesus Christ God has become the God of our salvation.

 

Dear congregation, how do we apply this to our daily life?

Are we now in the New Testament enjoying peace and prosperity without struggles and without enemies?   Does the church enjoy such peace here in this country that petitions to be delivered from our enemies are no longer relevant?

 

We know better.   We are living in a hostile world which is becoming increasingly secular by the day.   God’s law is slowly but surely being erased from the lawgiving of this country.   And if we, the church of Christ, would be at peace and almost asleep in such a time, then we would no longer be a church of Christ.  

If the world does not hate us, it simply means that we have become on with the world.

If the enemies of Christ is no longer our enemies, hating and persecuting us, then it simply means that our light is no longer shining, and that the salt lost its saltiness.

 

In this life the righteous, those who trust in the LORD and His Word, will be hated and persecuted.   As the apostle Paul said to Timothy: “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” – 2 Tim. 3: 12

 

And thus the true believer will always have many enemies, ungodly men who deal treacherously, who hate the godly with cruel hatred, as David says in this psalm. 

The persecution is not always with the sword, but most often with the tongue, by reproach, slander and lies, as Christ said:  “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” (Mt. 5: 11)

 

It is exactly for this reason that the LORD has given us such psalms as Psalm 25 to sing in our distress.   It is songs and prayers that teach us to put our trust in the LORD while we are being surrounded by enemies.  

This song is at the same time divine revelation teaching us how to pray in times of oppression and strife.

 

The psalm is applicable to our personal life, but also to our lives collectively as church of Christ in this world.  

Brothers and sisters, we see much deformation in many churches.   We hear of worldliness creeping in.   Even within Reformed churches we hear how God’s law is being replaced by a new ethics where we are not to live strictly according to God’s commandments but have to follow a new and vague “style” of living.   We hear of churches that have no objection to allow women in office, churches that try to justify homosexuality or do not consider it an abomination anymore, churches that try to reinterpret God’s word with a new hermeneutics by which the Bible is turned upside down.  

 

For those who want to cling to the absolute truth of God’s Word the struggle is becoming intense.  

Yes, the struggle to remain faithful to God’s Word, and to His Word only, is becoming very difficult.   The church is facing, and will increasingly face, many struggles in our day.

Therefore we need to sing these psalms, these covenantal songs of the church, and unite our voice and our prayers with the church of all ages as we put our trust in the LORD.

 

Yes, let us sing these words with David, united with the one holy catholic church:

 

“To You, O Jahve, I lift up my soul.   O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me.    Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without a cause.   Show me Your ways, O LORD, teach me Your paths.   Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.”

 

Yes, while we cling to the LORD and to the truth of His Word we may indeed be a small and despised people, a small miserable church in this world, surrounded by many enemies from outside and from within, but if we trust in Jahve – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – our hope and confidence is not misplaced, and will not be put to shame.  

The LORD is faithful, the God of our salvation.   He will redeem Israel of all their troubles.

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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