We were working our way through the psalms on Wednesday evenings before our services and meetings were suspended. But I thought I’d continue to preach on the psalms for these special recordings. Just to update you, in case you were not at the Wednesday Bible study, I’ve been trying to show that all of the psalms are all about the Lord Jesus Christ. The whole of the Bible bears witness to him and to God’s covenant of grace by which he promises to deliver his people from our sin and misery by his Son and to give us everlasting life in the new and better world to come. The whole of the Bible is about that; and the psalms are about that too.
Think of the story of the Lord Jesus on the road to Emmaus. The Lord had been raised from the dead and he met two of his disciples on the road. They were kept from recognising him, but they talked to the Lord Jesus about the things that had just happened in Jerusalem and how the Lord had been crucified; but his body was not now in the tomb; and angels said he was alive. And it was clear the disciples were bewildered and didn’t know what to make of it. The Lord Jesus said to them:
How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?
And then, it goes on to say:
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Do you see? The Old Testament Scriptures — Moses and the prophets — bear witness to the Lord Jesus. And more specifically, they bear witness to how the Lord Jesus Christ had to suffer before entering his glory.
And we’ve seen how the psalms bear witness to the Lord Jesus and how they foretell how he would suffer before entering his glory. Psalm 1, for instance, which is about the righteous man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. The righteous man is the Lord Jesus. And he’s the one we read about in Psalm 2 who was installed by God the Father as king over all. He’s the one in Psalm 3 who was faced with many foes who rose up against him and who mocked him. He’s the one in Psalm 4 who called on his Father for relief from his distress. He’s the one in Psalm 8 who was made a little lower than the angels, but who is now crowned with glory and honour at his Father’s right hand. He’s the one in Psalm 22 who felt forsaken by God. All of the psalms, in one way or another, speak to us of Christ the Saviour. And Psalm 28 is the same.
The psalm can be divided into two parts. In verses 1 to 5, the psalmist calls on the Lord for help. And in verses 6 to 9, he praises the Lord for helping him. And those two parts follow the pattern which the Lord spoke of when he was on the road to Emmaus, because the first part of the psalm is about Christ’s suffering; and the second part of the psalm is about Christ’s subsequent glory.
Verses 1 to 5
Let’s turn to verses 1 to 5 and it would be helpful for you to have a Bible open in front of you.
To you I call, O LORD my Rock;
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
The word ‘LORD’ appears in capital letters which tells us that the psalmist was using God’s special covenant name. This is the special name he revealed to Moses and it speaks of his commitment to his people and his faithfulness towards them. God has bound himself to his people with a promise; and therefore his people can always count on him. If you’re a believer, then God is not a stranger to you, but he’s your God and you can trust in him.
And he’s a Rock. When we think of a rock, we think of something solid and strong and permanent. Something that cannot be moved. When the wind is howling around us, we hide behind a rock for shelter. When the ground beneath our feet is loose, we look for a rock to stand on. A rock gives stability and it provides security. And the Lord’s people can trust in him for stability and security. When everything around us is changing, we can count on the Lord who does not change. When everyone around us is in a panic, we can rely on our God to help us.
And the psalmist calls on the Lord for help and he asks the Lord not to turn a deaf ear to me. In other words, he asking the Lord to listen to his cry and to help him. And the psalmist’s life is in danger. We know that because he says at the end of verse 1 that if the Lord remains silent, he will be like those who go down to the pit. He’s referring to the pit of death, the grave. So, if the Lord doesn’t hear and answer him, then he’ll die. And so, in verse 2, he pleads with the Lord to hear his cry for mercy. Asking for mercy means asking for help. I mentioned one Sunday that I once lived near a convent in Dublin which was run by the Sisters of Mercy. These nuns were known as Sisters of Mercy because they were women who helped people who were in need. And so, here’s the psalmist calling on the Lord for mercy. He’s asking for help. He says he lifts up his hands towards God’s Most Holy Place. Lifting his hands means he was praying to the Lord. And when he mentions the Most Holy Place, he’s referring to the Old Testament tabernacle, which contained the Holy Place, which was a large tent, which only the priest could enter. And inside the Holy Place was the Most Holy Place, which was a special room which only the High Priest could enter once a year. And the Most Holy Place was really God’s throne room. And God was said to dwell there. So, that’s why the psalmist directed his prayers to the Most Holy Place, because the Most Holy Place was God’s dwelling-place.
And in his prayer to the Lord, he pleads with the Lord not to drag him away with the wicked and with those who do evil. And he describes the wicked as those who speak cordially with their neighbours, but who harbour malice in their hearts. So, on the surface, they’re friendly towards their neighbours and say nice things to them. But inwardly, they’re plotting all kind of evil against their neighbours. The wicked are two-faced, they’re hypocrites, who cannot be trusted.
And the psalmist asks the Lord to repay them for their deeds and for their evil work. Repay them for what they hands have done and bring back upon them what they deserve. So, he’s asking for justice, isn’t he? When someone does something wrong, when they break the law, we want them to be caught and punished. We hear on the news about thugs who break into the home of pensioners and they beat the man and they tie up his wife. And when we hear about it, we’re angry because of what they have done; and we’re glad when they’re caught and punished. So, the psalmist is not being vindictive. He’s asking God — who is infinite and eternal and unchangeable in his justice — to see that justice is done and to see that the wicked get what they deserve, because it’s right for justice to be upheld.
And since the wicked have no regard for the works of the Lord, since they have no regard for what the Lord has done, the psalmist asks the Lord to tear them down and never to build them up again. So, just as an old building which is good for nothing needs to be demolished and torn down, so he’s asking the Lord to tear the wicked down, because they too are good for nothing.
That’s the psalmist’s prayer. He’s asking the Lord his Rock to hear his cry for mercy. so that he won’t die and go down to the pit. And presumably his life is in danger because of these false friends, these wicked people who are friendly to his face, but who are harbouring malice in their hearts.
Verses 6 to 9
That’s the first part of the psalm. And it’s as if something has happened between the end of the first part and the beginning of the second part, because in the first part he was asking the Lord to hear his cry for mercy; and in the second part, he’s praising the Lord who has heard his cry for mercy. So, something has happened to turn his prayer into praise and his petition into thanksgiving.
So, praise be to the Lord, he says in verse 6, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord did not turn a deaf ear to him. The Lord did not remain silent. The Lord heard him and answered him. And so, the psalmist praises the Lord who is his strength and his shield. In other words, the Lord is the one who upheld him and who protected him from the danger he was in. He trusted in the Lord and the Lord helped him. And so, his heart leapt for joy within him and he promised to give thanks to the Lord in song.
And look: he goes on in verse 8 to testify that the Lord is the strength of his people and he’s a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Well, the anointed one is the king. This psalm was written by King David and King David is saying that the Lord has been a strong fortress for him personally; and he’s a strong fortress for all his people. And so, he pleads with the Lord to save his people and to bless his inheritance. Saving his people means he gives his people victory over their enemies. And he refers to God’s people as God’s inheritance, because they belong to him. And just as we take care of a family heirloom which we’ve inherited, so the Lord will take care of his people. And he will take care of them the way a shepherd takes care of his sheep. So, just as a shepherd will pick up and carry his little lambs, so the Lord will carry his people. When we’re in danger, he will protect us. When there’s trouble all around us, he will carry us through.
I said at the beginning that all of the psalms bear witness in one way or another to the Lord Jesus Christ. And this psalm speaks to us of his suffering and his glory.
It speaks to us of his suffering, because the Lord Jesus was surrounded by wicked and evil men who spoke cordially to him, but who harboured malice in their hearts. It began at the time of his birth, when King Herod pretended to the wise men that he wanted to go and pay tribute to the new king, but really he wanted to kill the Lord Jesus. And throughout his public ministry, the Pharisees and teachers of the law and the Sadducees came to him with their questions. And they showed him respect, didn’t they? ‘Teacher’, they said, ‘we know you are a man of integrity.’ But secretly they hated him and were plotting to kill him. And we can mention the Devil as well who came to tempt him in the wilderness before he began his public ministry. And the Devil pretended to be his friend, offering him all kinds of good things and rewards if only the Lord Jesus would listen to him. But the Devil’s heart was filled with malice, wasn’t it?
And so, the Lord Jesus faced enemies who hated him. In fact, they not only hated him, but they killed him, by nailing him to the cross. Nevertheless, his Father in heaven did not turn a deaf ear to him; and he did not remain silent; and he did not abandon him to the grave; but he raised him from the dead. And after the Lord’s resurrection, he could say the words of verses 6 and 7:
Praise be to the Lord,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield.
My heart trusts in him and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song.
He could say those words, because his Father in heaven heard him and raised him from the dead to live forever. His Father in heaven was indeed a fortress of salvation for his anointed king, because God the Father raised Christ the King from the dead to reign for ever.
This psalm bears witness to the Lord Jesus. David was writing as a prophet to foretell how the Lord Jesus would suffer before entering his glory. But, of course, we wonder how this psalm relates to us? Where do I fit in to the words of this psalm?
And the answer is that you fit in to verses 8 and 9. If you trust in Christ as the only Saviour of the world, then you are one of God’s people; and the Lord is the strength of his people. That means you can count on the Lord to strengthen you and to uphold you day by day. And isn’t that what you need to hear today? In these unusual circumstances, everyone is wondering how they will cope? How will we manage? Will I be safe? But the Lord’s people can trust in the Lord to uphold us and to help us and to provide us with everything we need to face all the troubles and trials of this troubled life.
And he will save his people which means he will give victory to his people. And he will bless his people, which means he will fill their lives with good. Well, we will still face troubles and trials. They’re part of life in this fallen world; and there’s no avoiding troubles and trials. However, if you trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation, if you’re a member of God’s people, if you’re part of his inheritance, then the Lord your God is able to turn whatever trials you face to your advantage. He’s able to work all things together for your good. He will enable you to conquer them. And so, he will give you victory over your troubles and he will bless you with good.
And look at the final line of the psalm again, because here is God’s promise to you today. And it’s very precious, isn’t it? He is your shepherd who carries his people for ever. In all that’s happening around the world, know and believe that the Lord is your shepherd and he’s carrying you. You may not know it, but he’s already lifted you in his arms and he’s carrying you right now. So, nothing can harm you, because whatever trials you face, he will turn them to your good.
And so, the end of the psalm teaches us to look to the Lord who is able to strengthen us and who is able to save us from our trials and troubles and who is able to bless us with good things and who is able to carry us as a shepherd carries his little lambs.
And the reason we can expect good from the Lord, and not evil, is because the Lord Jesus suffered before entering his glory. He suffered on the cross, when he laid down his life as the ransom price to set us free from condemnation. He suffered on the cross, when he shed his blood to wash away our guilt. He suffered for sinners before entering his glory. And because he suffered like that, whoever trusts in him is reconciled to God the Father and can expect from God the Father every good thing you need to cope with this troubled life.