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Bend Thy Ear, O Lord

Sermon passage: (Psalm 86:1-17) Spoken on: July 26, 2020
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Keng Wan Ling
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Psalms

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About Keng Wan Ling: Deacon Keng was theologically trained in TTC, and currently serves as the worship ministry chairperson.

Title: Bend Thy Ear O God, Hear Me.
Date: 26- July- 2020
Preacher: Dn Keng Wan Ling

“Am I dreaming? Has the world gone mad- or have I?” [1]
This quote wouldn’t be out of place right now. 2020 has been a surreal year, giving us scenes right out of a dystopic, science-fiction movie. This infections virus killing millions! Beyond the virus... does it seem to you that everywhere we turn, people are disagreeing and acting up?
•For COVID: People disagree on what’s the best. Overseas, some people say it’s not real, it’s just the flu, that wearing mask or quarantine is against human rights.
•Racism and police brutality: The Black Life Matters trend. .Street protests and allegations of police brutality in HK
•Even at home, the recent elections has been exciting, but has people arguing. I shall say no more on this!
It’s enough for us to wonder- has the world gone mad? On TOP of working harder cos it’s WFH (work from home), or cos business is so terrible, or jobs being lost, or maybe at the CORE of it, what do we make of it all? Has the world gone mad or is it me?
Our passage for today is written by someone who might say the same thing. Has the world gone mad? (Let’s read the passage, Psalm 86.)
* The title of today’s sermon is “Bend They Ear, O Lord”. As the psalms is one of David’s 2 prayers in the book of Psalms. Subtitle: How to pray for yourself.
* You’ve probably heard plenty of sermons on how to pray for other people- also called intercession. This is not one of them 😀 Petitionary prayers are praying for yourself, myself, and they are sometimes seen as selfish, or less noble than praying for others. A balanced diet IS important:
- in intercession, we are in our priestly role, expressing our care and love for others through our praying for them
- petitionary prayer, we sit at God’s feet as His child, dependant, reliant, asking a loving Father who wants to do the best for us. This is a posture we will never move out, as it reminds us how small we are, and how much we need God.
Ps 86 is David’s petitionary prayer, an individual lament. It sits, kinda oddly, between a prayer for the land (national agenda, Ps 85), and a prayer for the nations (global/international agenda, Ps 87).
* While David wrote the prayer, its immediate audience is the exiles. Ps Siow Hwee has been preaching about Ps 43, written by the Sons of Korah, with the theme “From a distance”. Today’s psalm is from a different section- it’s from Book III (Ps 73-89), but it’s still focussed on the Exilic period. The temple has been destroyed and the people have no Davidic king. Thus, Book III ends with the question, “Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?” (Psalm 89:14). So Ps 86 is an individual lament, written by David, but read by the exiles.
* Let’s take a quick look at this psalm- the who, what, and why.
* While we don’t have that much information on the context of this psalm, it’s safe to say that David was in a bit of a hole. Literally, he was in a cave as he was forced in to hiding, with men after his life. Arrogant, vicious men hunting him like some animal.
David, a man after God’s own heart, was the ultimate “comeback kid”. His life was full of ups and down- some highlights- young shepherd boy, played music for the troubled king, battled Goliath in an epic battle, gained favour of Saul and started his glittering political career. Now, things didn’t seem so glittery when he was on the run, hiding in caves. He wasn’t as young as he used to be. All his allies had deserted him. Boy was he in a deep deep hole.
David didn’t know it then, but the best years of his life and careers lay ahead with him (together with some corresponding bumps, but hey, nobody’s perfect right). He would be the one who led the people to capture Jerusalem, that becomes the new capital over a united Israel. He would be a legend.
*But for now… the guy is in a hole. Things look bad, and he’s pretty desperate.
And that’s why he is praying.
*So we can understand why he calls himself “poor and needy”. When David prays, that’s how he describes himself. Never mind the glories of the past, the triumphs of the future even more distant, right now he is at a real low.
But… notice his other self-descriptions. He also says he is a:
-Devoted servant of God and
-One in a long line of those who have received God’s covenantal love.
Sneaky!!! Like a child saying to the father- dad… you know I’m your loving and loyal kid right? And how in the past you’ve always been faithful and loving to me? In this case, it’s true, and would have served as a reminder even to David himself of the relationship between him and God. Remember? Petitionary prayers, that is our posture.
But it doesn’t mean we can’t complain.
•And complain David does. This slide shows some of his cries.
We need to realise that these were not said in a polite, formal way, but, going by the original phrasing, were forceful and anguished, frantic. It’s like calling someone and you keep getting the busy tone… and you redial and redial and redial…
Here’s a paraphrase:
“I have been devoted to you, so GUARD my life. You are my God and I am counting on (trust) you, so SAVE your servant (86:2).
I have been calling to you all day long, HAVE MERCY on me (86:3) [There is a possible insinuation: I have waited long enough. What’s taking you so long? Too busy lately? You’ve forgotten me, or what?]
You are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Is that still true? [If so,] hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy [specifically, guard my life (v.2a), save me (v.2b), have mercy on me (v.3), and make me joyful again (v.4)]. I am in the day of my trouble, and I am calling to you, [for I know] you will answer me. (calling to you… The Hebrew imperfective verb “Call”).
* Context/ application
This sense of desperation, repeating crying out to God, would have been familiar to the exiles. It may be familiar to you as well. COVID means many thing are badly affected.
Therefore, I’d like to suggest that when we petition to God, we can bear in mind David’s postures and his requests here. There was desperation, but also a clear statement of their relationship.
* We may not have people who want us dead, but life can be hard, and needs lots of prayer, lots of God in our lives. Like david, we can pray for safely, for help, for mercy. Adopt a posture of humility. Ask God not to disregard us (look me in the eye, show me kindness).
* Moving on, note that David asks for a sign of God’s favour.
Now prayer can be difficult, because the perennial question is- why pray, if God doesn’t answer my prayers? Was David able to be safe immediately? Did the exiles get to return to their land soon- or indeed, without their lifetimes?
Sometimes, what we need is a sign from God, to help us hang in there, to have the strength to go on, or even to keep praying. Please note, I’m not saying to test God- it’s not giving Him an ultimatum- “you better show yourself, OR ELSE!”.
* This favor that David sought may not be a modest request. In Exodus 33:19, The LORD told Moses, “I will make all my goodness pass before you …” [That “goodness” is the same word for “favor” that David requested]. God’s favor to Moses turned out to be a grand one.
Throughout history, many people have asked God for a sign and lived to give testimony…
-Ravi Zecharias and his conversion experience [2]
Attempted suicide at 17, someone gave him a Bible and turned to Jn 14- You also shall live- conversation with Thomas. “It was a prayer of desperation, I cried- Jesus, if you are who you claim to be, take me out of here! I will leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of truth”.
“Jesus, if you’re offering me life like I’ve never had it, I want that life from you…. That was the turning point”. [3] In a New Dehli hospital, that’s where his journey started.
-A man named Michael, who killed a man as a 16 year old in a botched robbery, and ended up crying to any and all gods in desperation. [4]
“ It was torturous. Every night, he thought about the noose around his neck and agonised over his soul. Deep down he knew that if they hanged him, he would go to hell, he said. He cried out to all the gods and idols that he knew of, begging for power or for some kind of release. “Bo xia bo yia – no sound, no appearance. No return call,” he said.

He began to doubt if there was even a higher power. In a last ditch effort, he turned his face to the ceiling of his cell and cried: “If there is a true God, a real God, come and help me. I’m at my end already. If you are there, come and save me.”

The moment he uttered this cry, an inexplicable feeling of peace and calmness washed over him, he said. It was like a drowning man’s first gasp of air.

While waiting to enter the courtroom, he could not help but sing praises and hymns to the Lord, much to the bewilderment of the officers who were with him.

In the courtroom, Teoh was given much grace. His charge was reduced from first degree murder to robbery causing grievous hurt, and he was sentenced to eight years imprisonment and 12 strokes of the cane.
* In Hebrew, the phrase is” show me a token for good”. We are forgetful people, and current pain and troubles can eclipse past favours and “miracles”. We forget that our God is a good, good God, even if it doesn’t seem like it at that moment.
During dark times, we CAN, like David, boldly pray: show me sign of your FAVOUR, of your GOODNESS! He might remind you gently that He is compassionate, abounding in love and faithfulness, and remind you how He has provide this to you in the past.
* One thing that David, the exiles, and we people of today may share is that we live in uncertain times. We have a certain amount of stress, fear, caused by different things. There may be a sense of powerlessness- we can’t control what’s happening, we’re not sure we can cope, and we’re scared. We see what’s happening around us, and we don’t understand, and it’s not pleasant.
* Most of us will not be able to fully understand what it’s like to be running for your life, hunted by violent men who are baying for your blood. Neither can we imagine what it’s like to be refugees, without a home, without land, without a king.
=> I wondered how people can emerge out of these experiences, continue with life, even heal, grow? I looked, and I found a modern day term to categorise their experiences are: traumatic events. This is used on survivors who experience abuse, war, torture, who are victims of unspeakable things. I wondered- what does God have to offer them?
Traumatic events, by definition, are events so stressful that people cannot cope. Our normal coping mechanism don’t work, we can’t adapt. Traumatic events are not rare, because we know life can be rough, and people don’t always show what they have gone through. You can be traumatised as a witness or observer- for example, watching helplessly while your loved one is attacked, or watching a video of a cat or dog being mistreated.
* What does God offer those in dark places?
We know that God can, and will deliver, can save, but we also know that He does it in His own time.
If you’re in a situation where immediate help doesn’t seem to be coming, OR you’ve come out of the worse of the harm, but need to recover and move on from it all…. What does God have to offer?
There is a theory that COVID is stressful because it’s a series of constant changes and adjustments. Before you have time to adjust and grief properly for one loss, for one change, another one is on the way. There may also be some mixed messages- maybe you feel guilty for not coping well, because, well, look at the news! Others have it much worse, who are you to say that you’re struggling?
The thing is, to adjust to a loss, you have to mourn it, and then move on.
-A change IS a loss. It is a loss of the way things used to be. It’s a loss of how you used to be able to go about freely, used to be able to freely have lunch with your colleagues, to step into a plane and travel 2,3,4 times a year.
-Some of our poly grads mourn that, after working so hard for 3 years, they don’t even get a proper closure or a graduation show, or ceremony
-Some of our older folks mourn that they cannot sit at the coffee shop and “shoot the breeze”, just watch the world go by, drink with their old friends.
-Others are watching their businesses go down, slowly, inevitably- they might not have time to mourn, they’re too busy dealing with fires- staff salaries, zero revenue, rental rebates, increased advertising, thinking of alternative business ideas.
To heal, mourn and move on, true emotional safety is needed- we need to be held so that we can give voice to our fears (even though it’s difficult) and work through it. We cannot do it by ourselves- so we have pastors, counsellors, even trusted friends. Healthy and supportive relationships help healing. [5]
But the one who provides true emotional safely, who is really able to hold us through it all patiently, lovingly, without judging, beyond what any human can, really is God.
If you’ve been around people who need help, sometimes their need is disconcerting- that’s my experience. I feel sorely lacking, I feel- I know- that I cannot hold them while they process their pain. I- me- cannot bear their pain without being overwhelmed.
Yet. There is a divine one that CAN.
There is a divine love that is capable of bearing what is unbearable for us as mortals.
* the phrase used is “relational home” for pain. What is a “relational home”? One description is that – it’s the social networks, and habitual social practices that make us feel at home and the accumulated resources that arise from social networking. [6]
A “relational home” is a context in which painful emotional experiences can be shared, understood and “held” by others, and integrated into one’s experience. [7]
Beyond humans, God can provide this relational home, if we allow Him to.
I believe, this is how David endured.
I believe GOD was his context in which his painful emotional experiences were hared, understood and “held”, and integrated into his one’s experience
Not that he is some super-human, but God was his “relational home”… for pain, for fear, for everything!! Frankly, he didn’t have many options! Everyone else had deserted and betrayed him and he was all alone, on the run.
* And it shows in David’s prayers! He speaks of the covenantal God, the powerful God. He knows God well and describes God accurately and powerful from all the time he’s spent with God.
* And you know what? David prays that he will CONTINUE to be able to relate to God… in verse 11, he prays that God will help unite his heart and mind IN GOD, so that he will be able to worship God always. This prayer echoes back to the Sh’ma, in Deut 6:4-9.
•Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is One God.
•You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
This is the prayer that is the essence of Judaism, that God must be loved and obeyed at all times. These words are inscibed on small scrolls contained in a box called a mezzuzah fastened to the doorpost of Jewish homes.
David is asking God to help him to love God with all his heart and all his soul and all his might, and that he will always walk in God’s ways, in joyful fear.
* The psalm starts with v 1- incline thy ear, or bend thy ear, O God, and answer me! For I am poor and needy. If this sounds childish, then remember that when we petition, we take the posture of a child, at the feet of God.
* It is my prayer for all of us that we will, in this times, that are chaotic financially, politically, healthwise, that we will lean in with God, and pray harder than ever before. Let us keep telling God- listen to our prayers! We need you God! Bend thy year, O God and answer us. For we are poor and needy.
* We being by praying for OURSELVES, like David did, that:
-God gives us a sign in our hardship
-God shows others (and ourselves!) that He loves us
-God helps us to have an undivided heart.

[1] That’s a quote from HG Wells in his book “The Invisible Man”- it happens after one of his “victims “ (Kemp) experiences him, and murmurs to himself in disbelief at who, what he’s met, and what he’s been asked to do, and to be complicit in.
[2] (12 mins onwards)
[3], 11 mins onwards
[6] Relational home definition: It’s the banal daily activities- going to the market, having lunch with colleagues, having your Saturday coffee with friends. It’s the enactment of important life events- celebrating a grandfather’s birthday, coming to church for a combined celebration. From