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Monday, September 8, 2014

Hemmed in, are you?

When we are faced by an enemy, kind of stuck in the middle of something which seems a little frightening, don't we have this desire to have God show the other guy we are right?  We want God to prove us right - not simply to get us out of the mess - but to help us come out of it smelling like roses!  This is human nature - we want to always come out of tough spaces shining like the stars, not cowering with egg on our face.  There are times when we are just in a tough place, not so much because of anything we did wrong, but because the harder we try to get away from our troubles, the worse it gets for us.  It seems this idea of trying to "escape" our troubles is not unique to us - it has been around for a long, long time.  Any time we are saying we just want to escape the situation we are in we are simply admitting we feel as though our "liberty" has been restricted - we are constrained in some manner and it is not a place of comfort for us.  It is this very lack of comfort God can work with - for it is there he shows his power on our behalf.

Save me, God, by your power and prove that I am right. Listen to my prayer and hear what I say.  Cruel strangers have attacked  and want me dead.  Not one of them cares about you.  You will help me, Lord God, and keep me from falling; you will punish my enemies for their evil deeds.  Be my faithful friend and destroy them.  I will bring a gift and offer a sacrifice to you, Lord.  I will praise your name because you are good.  You have rescued me from all of my troubles, and my own eyes have seen my enemies fall.  (Psalm 54 CEV)

When constrained, we feel like we cannot move without the permission of another - we have no sense of "free movement" - kind of like an elephant with is leg chained to a post in the ground.  We have just enough "give" to let us move a little, but at best we can only move in circles!  Things which constrain us can be both good and bad - the good ones giving us a certain "boundary" within which we are kept safe; the bad ones closing in on us and making us feel compelled to do something a certain way.  One protects, the other restricts.  It is this very sense of restriction David is feeling in our passage. He has run to the hill country to a little place called Ziph, in the Judean hills just outside of Hebron.  Why?  Saul is after him - he wants him dead and David is on the run to escape those who hunt him down.  It was surprising to him to find out some of the men of Ziph had actually turned on him and taken word to Saul's men that David could be found hiding in their town.

If you explore the psalms David wrote while he was being pursued by Saul and his troops, you will find a common theme of feeling like he cannot escape and no matter where he turns, there his enemy will be.  He is feeling restricted in his movements - uncertain about where to go, what lies ahead.  In short, he is "hemmed in" and he cannot make a move without Saul finding out about it! His enemy has informants and he seems to be unable to escape their cruel disclosure of his position.  Repeatedly we see David do one consistent thing in these moments of feeling "restricted" or "hemmed in" - he turns to his constant companion - God himself!  In this acknowledgement of trusting him to deliver him from even those who hotly pursue, he is giving us insight into how it is we are to respond to even our most "confining" and "constricting" events which make us quite uncomfortable.

David does two things - he talks with God and he worships the one he knows will deliver him from everything he faces including this present betrayal.  First, he gets it all out on the table, so to speak, with the one he knows can guide his path and keep things straight in his mind.  He knows when the circumstances seem to be closing in, the mind can make up all kinds of stories which are not close to the truth.  So, to keep perspective, he turns to what God sees and knows - laying out his perspective and trusting God to make it plain to him where his perspective differs from what God's perspective is. We can all take a lesson here - for when our mind gets focused too much on the negativity of the circumstances, we cannot see clearly to find our way to the next step we are supposed to take.  In mulling it over with God in prayer, he is showing us the importance of allowing God to sort things our for us.

The idea of worship might just escape us when we are up to our eyeballs in a mess like being hotly pursued by an enemy, or feeling like the walls are closing in around us.  Yet, this simple act of obedience brings David into the place where he can actually hear from God.  In prayer, he speaks with God - in worship, he is waiting on God's perspective to come - for God to answer.  Note that I said this was an "act of obedience" - for worship is a stilling of our "noise" within long enough to hear God's voice.  Obedience is part of worship - it is a "righting" of ourselves so that we can gain perspective.  In worship, we some all bent down and under the weight of the problems we are facing. Then as though gravity no longer seems to exist, we begin to feel the weight we carried "into" worship begin to lift off us and "right" our standing again.  

When we are faithful to come in prayer and worshipful contemplation of the goodness and power of our God, we find the things which constrain us and muddle our minds get sorted out.  Even our worst enemies cannot hold us back when the power of God begins to invade our lives through prayerful consideration of God's goodness and grace, and worshipful adoration of his power and provision!  Just sayin!