Monday, June 24, 2013

Touchng Base! Part 209

Heart Conversations with God 2013 - Part 2
Rouse Yourself!

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
What do you do when your transmission fails, your basement floods, and the teacher wants to speak to you after school about your son (…again)? Or when your house is broken into, your contract isn’t renewed, and you’re awaiting medical results? Or when your livestock is stolen, your employees are killed, your kids all die, and you get an itchy skin disease?

Do you scream that the universe is unjust? Do you curse God? Do you seek consolation from friends? Do you repeat, “Your will be done” over and over? Do you stop praying altogether?

This sermon series on the Psalms is about prayer. Pastor Mark showed in Part 1 that the psalms are often addressed to God like prayers and fall into several categories: penitential, liturgical, praise, etc.

Psalm 44 is a prayer of honest and difficult questions for God, interspersed with stark accusations – “You sold your people for a pittance,” “you crushed us” – and commands – “Rouse yourself!” (yes, again addressed to God).

Question: When you have your own hard questions, do you pose them to God? Have you ever accused Him of something?

The people speaking in Psalm 44 are pretty clear that they’ve done nothing to deserve rejection, defeat in battle, mockery, and misery (and we’ll have to take their word for it). They’re pretty clear that they would almost expect all this pain if they had been worshipping other gods or drifting away. But they haven’t. Injustice.

Job – whose kids died and, to add itch to bereavement, was then covered in boils – also was careful to proclaim his innocence (and God agrees with him). And yet the very worst befell him.

This is the Bible, not the prosperity gospel. This is not a message of “follow God as a path to earthly success and riches”.

Question: How do you think of God’s goodness and power when you are “brought down to the dust” (Psalm 44:25)?

If you turn from God, He may allow events to teach and redirect you just like a good Dad cares about his kids and doesn’t let them get away with disobedience. Our actions and choices have consequences: managing money poorly may result in debt and angry spouses may result in unhappy marriages, and we can’t scream injustice when these happen.

This is not what Psalm 44 and the Book of Job are about though. They are about the silences, times when the only noise is our questioning. Psalm 44 gives us a model, even permission, to question. For God can handle our questioning.

But can we handle His response?

If “Be careful what you ask for” is true, at least be ready for God’s answer when you question. It will be a divine answer for sure and, therefore, probably not the one you expect – more of a “response”, perhaps, than an answer.

Question: When you question God in prayer (if you do), do you actually expect a response? Can you think of an unanticipated – or unwelcome – divine response that you received?

Psalm 44 is mostly just a one-sided prayer. Only at the end is there a glimmer – and that’s all it is – of a potential response: “Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your [here it comes…] unfailing love” (v. 26, emphasis mine). Even as the psalm ends the people are simply entreating and commanding God to help, but they have, even while miserable and baffled, faith in His unfailing love.

Read: Take time this week to read the 4 short chapters in Job that are God’s own speech (Job 38-41).

Question: Is the speech comforting? Does it make any sense? Remember, it should probably be in red letters in your Bible. It’s God talking.

Question: How is God’s relationship to Job similar to His relationship to Adam in Genesis? God’s speech in Job is all about His creation, and it is only by comparing Job and Adam that I can get comfort from that speech.

Finally, Psalm 44 is quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:36. Paul doesn’t say that, with the New Testament, all will be answers and prosperity and comfort. It is in the context of writing about persecution and famine that he quotes the despair of Psalm 44. However, he then writes some famous words about the love of God (Romans 8:37-39). Read that, too, this week.


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