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Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

May 5, 2019, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Elder Jonathan Lee (Psalm 54:1-7) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Psalms
Preached at a Bilingual (Mandarin-English, Sunday) service

Tags: Maskil

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Title: Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Date: 05 May 2019
Preacher: Elder Jonathan Lee

Shalom.

Today we will be reading Psalm 54, a Psalm of David. Let’s read it together. I will be reading from the New International Version.

Psalm 54 is a plea for deliverance.

This Psalm was written when David was hiding from Saul’s pursue. In 1 Samuel 23, David and his men were hiding in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for David and his men but he could not find them as God had protected them. But guess what? David was betrayed by the Ziphites whom went to inform Saul of where they were hiding (v19). Ziph is a city in the remote south of Judah, and David belongs to the tribe of Judah. It was indeed painful for David to see his own people turned against him. Further, that was not the first time that his fellow brothers betrayed him.

Before the Ziphites played him out, David was nearly betrayed by the people of Keilah. In 1 Samuel 23:5, David and his men helped the people of Keilah to defeat the Philistines and saved the city of Keilah, a city in the low land of Judah. Saul heard about it and gathered his forces to go after David. However, God told David that the people of Keilah would surrender him and his men to Saul. Didn’t David just saved Keilah from the Philistines? In Mandarin this is忘恩负义.

David first moved from Keilah to Ziph. Then from Ziph, he escaped to the Desert of Ma’on. Saul and his army gave chase and were very close on one side of the mountain, while David and his men were on the other side of the mountain. Just when Saul and his army were close to capturing David, God allowed the Philistines to invade Israel and Saul had to abandon his pursuit to fight the Philistines. David and his men moved again from Ma’on to the far end of the Desert of En Gedi. This is a good place to hide as there are many caves, many are huge and deep that can house thousands of people (see ppt).

Although Saul tried to kill David, David continued to prove his loyalty to Saul. He spared Saul’s life twice although he had the chance to kill him. While hiding in the caves of En Gedi, Saul and his three thousand chosen men from all Israel came after them (1 Samuel 24:2). When a king picks his army from all over the country, he would be choosing the best soldiers. Choosing three thousand elite soldiers just to fight David’s 600 men? It showed that Saul was very determined to terminate David and his men.

But our God can be very humorous. While pursuing David, Saul needed to release himself. Although the bible did not mention whether he was doing BIG or Small business, I believe he was probably doing the BIG one. For men, if we need to do small business, we can just pick a tree or a rock. Saul was probably doing BIG business as he had to go into the cave to do his business in private.
He went into the same cave that David and his men were hiding at the deep end. David’s men was like, “ah hah, God sent him into our hands” and told David to finish him off. But David only cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. In fact, David was remorseful that he did this to God anointed leader. To him, his eyes were upon the Lord and not his personal safety or revenge. This was clearly stated in Psalm 54, whereby he believes that God will rescue him, help him and keep him alive. He need not take vengeance into his own hands.

The second time David had the chance to kill Saul was at the Hill of Hakilah. The Ziphites betrayed David a second time (1 Samuel 26) for their personal benefits. Thus, Saul and his three thousand men pursued David again and camped beside the road on the hill of Hakilah. At night fall, David and his nephew Abishai sneaked into Saul’s camp and took Saul’s spear and a water jug near his head, to prove that they were close enough to kill him but they didn’t. Again, David’s focus was on the Lord’s anointed and God’s timing.

David did not name the Ziphites as the one whom betrayed him in this Psalm. Instead, he faced the betrayal through a desperate prayer for help (as seen in v1 & 2). As he was desperately running for his life, according to the Hebrew text order his prayer was short, “God, by your name, save me” (v1) and “God, hear my prayer” (v2). He did not have time to sip his red wine under the moon light to come up with a poetic Psalm. The Chinese Bible translation is very close to the Hebrew text.

In (v3), he wrote about the character of his opponents and his life threatening situation. Those arrogant foes and ruthless people were David’s fellow tribal brothers, they had no regards for their covenantal relationship, no regards for God, refused to keep their eyes on God’s teaching but rather follow their ruthless ways.

In (v4), we saw the thematic statement of David’s confidence in God as his helper and sustainer. However, in (v5), David prayed for divine intervention to render justice on his enemies, “let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them”. Some of you might be thinking, didn’t Jesus taught us to love our enemies, why did David asked God to destroy his enemies?

V5 is not about hating our enemies or taking revenge, but to acknowledge that as human, we sometimes (perhaps often) do get affected by those whom hurt us and wished that their evil recoil on themselves. We may not fully comprehend these words of pain and rage as we need not run for our lives like David. Daivd and his men had to run for their lives from Keilah to Desert of Ziph, Ziph to Desert of Ma’on, Ma’on to Desert of En Gedi, En Gedi to hill of Hakilah (see map); sleeping on hard rocks and caves, enduring the cold night, not getting enough food to feed 600 men and in constant intense stress of running. All these running did not happen for a few days or weeks, they ran for years. Would we have prayed any differently? We need to understand that David is after all of flesh and blood.
God is our helper, if only we would set our eyes upon him. (Remember the song ‘turn your eyes upon Jesus’). Keeping our eyes on Jesus changes the way we see our challenges and the situation we are in, allowing him to be the helper who stands over us, to hold us up and sustain us. I asked an elderly lady why she did not report police when her former domestic helper stole her money. Her reply humbled me. She said the money belongs to Jesus, let Him deal with it himself. Her eyes were truly on Jesus even when misfortune fell upon her.

We are so blessed in Singapore as we can attend church and declare our faith freely. Some of you might have heard about the persecution of Christian in China. Take a look at these pictures. Nice and grand church building right? Although the church spent millions to build this new church, the authority refused to give them the permit to use it as a place of worship. They are only allowed to use it for other purposes. Just end of 2018, I met the Singaporean pastor whom has been serving in that church and doing ministry work in Xiamen for more than 20 years. His permit to live in China was cancelled without any reason and his ministry work is thus affected.
A sister from Xiamen shared that the wave of persecution from the north of China has reached the south. In the northern region, many churches were demolished by the authority, cross on churches were burnt and taken down, pastors and church leaders were arrested for unknown reasons. It’s like a repeat of the Cultural Revolution in the late 60s. Scary isn’t it?

Let me share with you a video on the persecution of Christian in Uzbekistan, a country near China.

How would we pray if we are the young lady whom father was imprisoned for pastoring a church? Would we pray like David in v5? “let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them”.

Thank God for small home churches in many parts of China. I had the privilege to visit one a year ago and was deeply touched by their love for Christ (see picture. I have to mask their face to protect them). The pastor of that home church does not receive a salary. I heard most home church pastors need a day job to support themselves.

What the authority failed to realise is that, the more they persecute Christians, the more Christianity will spread like wild fire. We witness that in the bible during Paul’s time. Our God is BIG.

I know most of us do not have to run for our lives like David or go through persecution. However, in our everyday life, we face challenges or worry about our studies, our work, our family, our children, our health. My son asked me a question about prayers which I have no answer. Why did God healed some people of their illness but did not answer the prayers of many whom eventually died? Doesn’t God hear the disappointment in their hearts?
Yes, we do get disappointed and maybe our faith shaken a little when our prayers are not answered. It is a constant struggle for us. Are we able to turn our eyes upon Jesus and let him take over? It is truly a journey of faith and surrender.

Let’s learn from David. At one of his lowest moment in life, he committed his future to God and praised God for his goodness. v6 is not to be seen as bargaining with God (if you do this for me I promise to do something in return), but as a spiritual response to divine goodness. Thus, in v7 he displayed the confidence of God’s deliverance, stating it as an accomplished fact, despite that he was still on the run.

Although David was anointed to be the next Israel’s king, he had to wait to realise the promise. He did not take things into his own hands. The difficult circumstances in life and the times of waiting, often refine, teach and prepare us for the future responsibilities God has for us.

Whenever we encounter Crisis (危机), do we look at the Danger (危) or the opportunity (机)? Let us learn to see Jesus in our daily life. In any crisis (危机) or challenging situation, let’s be reminded that God is our helper and he will sustain us. Focus on the opportunity (机) rather than the danger (危), and see Jesus in it. Are you able to see Jesus in the word 机? Let’s give him praise in all circumstances and believe that he will deliver us. Amen.

Psalm 54 (Listen)

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David, when the Ziphites went and told Saul, “Is not David hiding among us?”

54:1   O God, save me by your name,
    and vindicate me by your might.
  O God, hear my prayer;
    give ear to the words of my mouth.
  For strangers have risen against me;
    ruthless men seek my life;
    they do not set God before themselves. Selah
  Behold, God is my helper;
    the Lord is the upholder of my life.
  He will return the evil to my enemies;
    in your faithfulness put an end to them.
  With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
    I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
  For he has delivered me from every trouble,
    and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

(ESV)