We all have fears. There are general fears like the fear of snakes or spiders, the fear of heights, or the fear of closed in spaces. What's on my list? I really hate spiders, snakes, and rats... and I am not too crazy about heights either. Those are general fears. They may scare the heart, but they aren't personal. They don't keep me up at night! Well, unless I feel something crawl across my face at 3 am! But they aren't matters that pierce the heart.
What are some matters that pierce the heart? What are fears that are more personal?
We usually don't like admitting those. I have no problem telling you that spiders are my enemy and that I struggle to muster up the courage to kill even tiny ones. But the personal ones are the ones that I like to keep undercover so that no one knows how they grip my heart. You have those kind of fears, too.
The fear of a bad diagnosis from the doctor
The fear of a child getting injured or killed
The fear of losing a loved one
The fear of not being able to pay an important bill
The fear of losing a house
The fear of death
I don't know if I have hit any that are your personal fears, but you surely have at least one or two. Just let the right circumstance happen and suddenly that fear surfaces. There's a lump that you need to have a doctor check. You child is a little late returning home and hasn't called. Your grandmother gets sick. And suddenly your heart reveals you have fears that you didn't even know you had.
Psalm 76 is about fear, but it's about the right kind of fear placed in the right thing. Psalm 76 gives a list of fears, but then it gives the right place to place our fears.
Things that cause fear:
Psalm 76:3 "There brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle. Selah."
Psalm 76:6 "At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep."
Weapons of the enemy caused fear for the soldier, and yet the Lord broke them like toothpicks. Not only can He destroy the things that cause fear, He can destroy the battle itself! What things in your life cause you to fear? What battles do you face?
Places that cause fear:
Psalm 76:4 "Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey."
Prey is something being chased and slaughtered. These mountains of prey were the places where people were hunted either by bandits and robbers or by wild animals. What places make you feel vulnerable?
People that cause fear:
Psalm 76:5 "The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands."
Stouthearted people are strong and confident. They can be very intimidating. They can make us feel inadequate. They can bring persecution. Are there people in your life who bring you feelings of fear and failure? Are there people in your life who literally seek your harm?
Who we should really fear:
Things, places, and people can bring fear into our lives, yet this Psalm reminds us that God is bigger than those things. Focusing on and fearing people is like being afraid of a spider when a lion is in the room. It's quite silly to fear the spider when there is a lion! The amazing thing is that this Lion is for us. He isn't against us. He is powerful and glorious and He loves us! He is angry with the wicked. His wrath is reserved for them.
Psa 76:7 Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?
What should this do? It should remind us as His children to respect and reverence Him, because though we are not His enemies, our Father still chastises His children. It should also remind us that God's wrath abides on the lost. It dangles over them like an ominous cloud. His mercy is restraining Him, but that mercy will not restrain His holy judgment forever. We need to get out there and warn the lost.
We live in a noisy city. One of the noisiest things they do is honk their vehicle horns constantly. They honk to let you know they are passing. They honk to let you know they aren't stopping. They honk to let you know they are going to pull out in front of you. Sometimes I think they honk just for the fun of it. They recently passed a law restricting honking. There are "No Horn" zones where you are not allowed to honk at all. In the rest of the city, the rule is only honk for emergency. I bet you are wondering how the law is working...
Well, the city is somewhat quieter... relatively... sort of. There is less honking, but that's like saying there are less fish in the ocean because you caught a few. People are addicted to their horns and everyone is used to them. The horn is a simple, yet often annoying, way of saying, "Hey, look at me!"
Have you ever heard the phrase "tooting your own horn"? It comes from the days of heralds when there was a horn blower sent before someone to announce the arrival of someone important. Tooting your own horn is when you arrogantly draw attention to yourself by bragging or boasting. But tooting ones own horn goes farther back in history, too. In Matthew 6, Jesus taught about people tooting their own horn. When the people would give alms for the poor, sometimes they would blow a trumpet to get people to look and see what they were doing. They wanted people to see how gracious and giving... and rich... they were to give so generously. And then there were those that stood on street corners and prayed out loud so that everyone would hear how spiritual they were. Their own voices became their horns. Jesus said for us to stop tooting our own horns and do things in secret.
But the horn thing goes back even farther.
Psalm 75:4-7 "I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn: Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck. For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another."
This horn wasn't one to be tooted or blown, but the heart of the matter is the same root problem of the heart! This is talking about an animal horn. Have you ever seen a deer with a huge rack on his head? He regally lifts it up by straightening and stiffening his neck for everyone to see the majestic nature of his stately antlers. His "horns" are his beauty, his power, and his crown. Speaking of crowns, do you know what animal horns were used for in the Old Testament?
1 Samuel 16:1 "... fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons."
The horn was filled with oil to anoint the king! It was lifted up above the chosen man's head and poured over him. Psalm 75 is saying, "Don't stiffen your neck in pride and lift your own horn of oil over your own head and anoint yourself!" This passage even declares this attitude, this pride and arrogance, to be the behavior of fools and of the wicked.
And here comes the "ouch".
How often do we do things to be seen?
How often do we show off things we have done so that we can receive the praise of people?
How often do we post our accomplishments on Facebook so that people see our beautiful, majestic "horns" on our head?
Let me make it even more personal:
How often do I share my completed to-do list so that people will see how awesome I am?
How often do I show off my spiritual opinions and counsel and wisdom so that people will think highly of me?
How often do I share "How I do it" and set myself up as an example for others to follow?
How often do I, even in an outward seemingly humble manner, try to exalt myself so that I teach a class, lead a group, lead a devotion time for ladies, etc?
(Just being honest!)
If we are in Christ, we live in a "no honking zone". We ought not draw attention to ourselves. We ought not try to volley for position. God is the one who sets up and God is the one who removes leaders. We need to soften our necks and humble our hearts. We need to bow the heart and knee to the real King, the Lord Jesus. We need to stop anointing ourselves, and we need to start pointing to Him.
Galatians 6:14 "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."
We stepped into the home. It wasn't an ordinary home. Most homes are not so grand and do not require a ticket to enter. The splendor was breathtaking. Every corner was decorated. Every wall was adorned. The floor was not neglected in the scenery either. Carpets or expensive tile canvased every place where we would tread. There was not a detail that was overlooked.
As we toured the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, we were particularly captivated by the elaborate furnishings. Each chair and table was not merely a chair or table. They were pieces of artwork. It was clear that every piece of wood was carefully designed and carved by a masterful artist. There were curves, lines, and even floral decorations hand cut by a professional. Oh, the hours of labor and heart that must have gone into every inch of the wood!
Psalm 74:5-8 "A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees. But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers. They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground. They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land."
A man was known for his skill in taking a piece of wood and transforming it into precious art and furnishings. These furnishings capture the eye and the wonderment of those who look upon the work. And yet how quickly those things can be destroyed. These treasures can be consumed in mere moments, and what tragedy it is when it happens. The pain is keenly felt by those who have experienced the beauty of the work. As the pieces lay scattered across the floor, our hearts would break knowing the time, effort, attention, labor, and heart that went into even one article from the master woodworker. Tears would flow.
God, the Master Designer, has carefully carved and created many things. Two of His most precious designs are the home and the local church. Beautifully and perfectly crafted by the Master, these two items should give us pause and amazement. Often we pass by them without even glancing at their splendor, yet they are a fabulous treasure whether we value them or not. But there is a tragedy. The enemy has entered into the sanctuary and has plundered, scratched, and destroyed. Homes are wounded. Local churches are ravaged, and we pass by without a tear.
When is the last time you have shed a tear for the condition of homes and churches? When is the last time you have intensely studied and prepared to care for and protect these precious masterpieces? (Oh, how it must grieve the Master Woodworker to see these treasures ignored, undervalued, neglected, or damaged!)
When is the last time you have studied how the home and the local church are Biblically operated? When is the last time you have focused on fortifying, edifying, and protecting these two masterpieces? How have you invested recently in strengthening the foundations of these treasures?
It isn't good enough to simply value these treasures, but we must care for and guard them. They are more priceless and precious than our bubblegum machine trinkets and entertainments.
It matters where my eyes are. When running, if I look around instead of looking forward, there is a good chance I am going to trip. There is also a good chance if I look to the side that I will veer to the side and get squashed by a vehicle. If I don't look forward, there is even a really good chance I will step in a pile of cow dung from where cows are aloud to wander around anywhere they please. And the ever beloved open manholes are waiting to swallow up the person who takes their eyes off the road ahead. Yes, running has taught me to look forward and keep my focus on my task.
My son is in Basic Training in the Army. We found out he won a shooting competition in his battery. He has learned how to shoot well. Part of shooting is focusing on the target. When shooting, the rifleman cannot be looking at other shooters. They have to focus on their own target. If their eyes wander even slightly, their aim will be effected. The motto is "Aim Small, Miss Small." In other words, pick a very specific point on the target and the likelihood of missing the target itself is very minute. But the eyes must stay focused on the target.
The psalmist Asaph knew this concept well. He learned it the hard way. He was "running his race," but almost slipped because his eyes were in the wrong place.
Psalm 73:1-3 "A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.
But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."
Asaph got his eyes off on the wicked. He knew God was good. He knew God was just. But he started focusing on the prosperity of the wicked. What happened when his eyes wandered? What happened when his focus was distracted? Much like when I run without focusing on the road in front of me, he stepped in the lie that the wicked were flourishing and successful. He tripped on the deception that they had it better than he did. He was almost swallowed by the open "manhole" of discouragement.
Psalm 73:13-14 "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.
For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning."
He actually started believing that the wicked had it better than he did. He actually let the thoughts play in his mind that he followed God in vain. "I have wasted my time! I am over here with trials and chastening, while the wicked are living the good life! Why did I bother?!"
He believed these things until he went to the sanctuary. Then he was refocused on truth. His eyes were redirected on the target.
Psalm 73:17 "Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end."
In the sanctuary, Asaph was reminded that the wicked have and end. They seemed like they were prospering, but they were on a slippery slope. It was only a matter of time. Asaph, however, was on a firm foundation. Asaph was slipping because he chose to get his eyes off the target, not because he was on slippery ground. When Asaph got in the sanctuary, his thoughts were redirected toward truth. His eyes were refocused on truth.
Why is it so important to go to church? It's a place of refocusing. It's a place where a corporate body of believers get their minds strengthened with truth so that they can keep their eyes focused on the target... glorifying God. God is good. He has a plan and purpose for every detail in our lives, even the painful and difficult things. If we get our focus on other people, we will forget the goodness of God. We will fall into discouragement. Are you struggling with discouragement? Make sure you are faithfully getting with other believers in church and getting refocused. Purpose to keep your eyes on your goal. Stop looking around at others. Keep your eyes on Him.
Psalm 73:28 "But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works."
My dear son,
I am praying for you.
Just as David had walked the path of being king before his son Solomon, I have walked the path of becoming an adult. I understand what you face during this transition, and it drives me to my knees for you. And much like David prayed for his son, I pray for you today.
I pray that you will be dependent on God, knowing that wisdom and righteousness, right decisions and strength comes from Him. I pray that you will seek Him and that He will give you the wisdom you need. I pray that He will guide you in righteousness and that you will follow.
Psalm 72:1 "Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son."
I pray that you are a Godly leader that is not afraid to take a stand for right. I pray that you care about those who have not been as blessed as you.
Psalm 72:2 "He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment."
I pray that the big and dangerous obstacles that you face each day (your mountains and your hills) would not cause you to fear. I pray that you would face them confident in the favor of the Lord because you know He is with you. I pray that as you walk in righteousness, He would bless your path through these towering trials.
Psalm 72:3 "The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness."
I pray that you would be a guardian to those around you in need, and that you would stand up for the weak.
Psalm 72:4 "He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor."
I pray that those that oppose righteousness, that oppress the poor, and that hate the Lord would be gripped in fear because of you when they know that you stand in God's favor.
Psalm 72:5 "They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations."
I pray that you will be a refreshing rain to those around you who thirst for truth and hope.
Psalm 72:6 "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth."
I pray that those around you would be encouraged to be better Christians (or to accept Christ) because of the example you live, and that their lives would be impacted with peace simply because they know you.
Psalm 72:7 "In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth."
I pray that God would increase your circle of influence as you glorify Him.
Psalm 72:8 "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth."
I pray that even your enemies will begin to thirst for truth when they see your God refreshing and watering you while their lives seem dry as the dust.
Psalm 72:9 "They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust."
I pray God would give you favor among leaders around you.
Psalm 72:10-11 "The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him."
I pray that your heart is full of compassion and not criticism and impatience.
Psalm 72:12-13 "For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy."
I pray that you will have courage to intervene when the weak cannot defend themselves.
Psalm 72:14 "He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight."
I pray for God to provide you with the finances you need, the spiritual help you need, and the encouragement you need.
Psalm 72:15 "And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised."
I pray that the whole earth, for generations to come, will be blessed because of you.
Psalm 72:17 "His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed."
I pray that God will be glorified and exalted... not you or me.
Psalm 72:18-19 "Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen."