I can't hide it. I am a pretty patriotic person. I love hosting the July Fourth annual party for fellow laborers in this country. I love decorating in red, white, and blue. I love displaying the American flag. It means something special to me. One year, I hosted a homeschool day and it was about the American flag: what it means, the history, and flag protocol. It was a great day of projects, games, and hands-on learning. I taught the group of homeschool students how to properly fold the flag. The Stars and Stripes still mean something special to me even though I live in a new country.
Flags (banners) mean something. They can be used to represent a group. They can be used to communicate. They can be used to declare a status or situation.
Psalm 60:3-4 "Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment. Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah."
In Psalm 60, David describes a difficult situation. In the beginning of the Psalm, David explains that God was chastising His people. They had turned their backs on Him, and God responded with severe discipline. It was painful and costly! The things that God did left the children of Israel standing in awe and astonishment. They were hard things! Then David switches gears and talks about a banner (flag) that is displayed because of truth. What does that have to do with this battle and chastisement? It will make more sense if you see the other flag in this Psalm.
Psalm 60:1 "O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased; O turn thyself to us again."
There is a white flag of surrender. David hoists this flag high in fear and reverence to his God. His flag of surrender declares, "You are right, Lord. We deserve this. Our sin has earned this. Please have mercy and turn Thyself to us again!"
As David humbled himself, his banner of surrender turned into a banner of victory and truth. Those who fear the Lord hold this banner high. It is a banner that declares God's holiness that must judge sin. It is a banner that declares God's mercy that reaches out to man. It is a banner that declares God is true to His Word and that His Word is true. It is a beautiful banner that is precious to those who know the Lord and treasure His character and nature. They fear Him and love Him. We can all carry this banner, but only if we first hoist the banner of surrender and repentance when we realize we have sinned against our God.
One evening when I was younger, my mom and I looked out of the window in our house. Across the way, down a hill and back up another incline, we saw a house on fire. It was blazing! Flames poured out of the front of the house. We knew who lived there and that the situation was serious. They were older and less mobile. Their chance of escape was limited. We were petrified! My mom grabbed the phone and dialed 911. Within moments, the fire department barreled in with sirens blaring. They arrived on the scene to find my grandfather and a couple of other people burning brush on the far side of the house. The house wasn't on fire at all, but from our limited perspective, the fire looked like it was coming from the house. Our fears were unfounded and we caused a lot of heartache for several people simply because our perspective was limited.
David had some of those "limited perspective" moments. He was backed into a corner by his enemies. He was trapped! When a person is backed into a corner, their vision is limited. They cannot see the full picture. David was frustrated and at the end of himself. He called out to God, but it seemed like God wasn't doing anything. He felt alone and forsaken. And then he said it. Actually, he said it twice!
Psalm 59:4-5 "They run and prepare themselves without my fault: awake to help me, and behold. Thou therefore, O LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake to visit all the heathen: be not merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah."
Awake? Was God asleep? Had God accidentally dozed off and forgotten about David? Did God get tired and have to take a siesta?
Psalm 121:3-4 "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."
In the country where we live, people ring bells to wake up their gods. Every time I hear those bells, I am thankful that we serve the God who never slumbers nor sleeps. David knew that God doesn't sleep. David was backed in a corner, felt alone, and it felt like God had forgotten him. It felt like God was sleeping and not taking action. Yet the whole time, God was on the throne, wide awake, and still in control. God is never backed in a corner. He never loses sight of the full picture. His vision is never impaired or limited. He knows when is the best time to respond. He knows exactly what to do and when to do it. Just because He isn't moving when and how we want Him to does not mean He is sleeping. Remember Lazarus? He was dead four days! Martha and Mary were convinced Jesus arrived late. In all actuality, He was perfectly timed.
When Jesus took on a physical body, His physical body needed rest, but He was never unplugged from what was going on. He never woke from His sleep groggy and disoriented, unaware of what had happened while His physical body refreshed through sleep. He was still 100% God at all times even though He was also 100% man. When he was asleep on the boat and a storm came, He was still in control. When they awakened His physical body, He wasn't startled by a storm. He could sleep physically through the storm because He was still completely aware and in control.
When you feel backed in a corner and you feel like God is sleeping in your greatest hour of need, remember that we serve the living God who never sleeps, never takes a day off, never tires, and isn't bound by our physical limitations. Don't panic. He is still in control.
I use to love Saturday morning cartoons as a little girl. I loved Garfield with all his sarcasm. I loved Tiny Toons. I loved Tom and Jerry. But one of my favorite Saturday cartoons was always the iconic Bugs Bunny. I loved watching Bugs outsmart Elmer Fudd and I loved Foghorn Leghorn trying to teach the chicken hawk boy about hunting chickens. One of my favorite characters was Wiley E Coyote. Usually he was up against the Roadrunner, but occasionally he was after sheep in the pasture. There was a sheep dog watching the sheep. Sometimes the coyote would dress up as a sheep and try to blend in, but the sheep dog always caught him. How did the sheep dog always know it was the coyote and not a sheep? No matter what the coyote was wearing on the outside, he was still the same coyote on the inside. The same coyote "talk" and sounds, the same coyote smells, the same coyote habits and appetites.
Psalm 58:1-2 "Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation? do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men? Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth."
Sometimes coyotes come in the church and try to look like sheep, but sooner or later, their coyote "talk" and habits and appetites show themselves. God cannot be fooled even for a second, but sometimes the sheep are fooled for a little while.
One thing I never remember seeing on the cartoon, though. I don't think there was an episode that I watched where the sheep dressed up like coyotes. Sadly, in our churches today the sheep slip into coyote costumes, and it makes you wonder if they are sheep. We cannot see the hearts of men, but when their actions and words scream "coyote" it is best for sheep to keep a close eye on them. They may not be sheep at all, and they may be sheep who are still trying to act like coyotes. They have forgotten they are new creatures in Christ. Or maybe it is you who has forgotten?
2 Corinthian 5:17 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
If you are saved, you are a sheep. Your conversation (lifestyle) should look like a sheep. In Psalm 58, David speaks to the congregation. They are speaking righteousness, but their hearts and their actions declare coyote. It should concern you that others can see your coyote costume, but it should make you fear knowing that God sees your heart.
God rewards those who are sheep and act like sheep. He knows who is only dressed up like a sheep.
Psalm 58:11 "So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth."
The storm is raging.
The wind is howling.
The enemy is encompassing...
Yet my heart is fixed.
My eyes are overwhelmed.
My ears are bombarded.
My hands are trembling...
Yet my heart is fixed.
My feet are stumbling.
My knees are knocking.
My legs are weakening...
Yet my heart is fixed.
Fear wants to grip me.
Panic wants to take me.
Darkness tries to break me...
But my heart is fixed.
Under His wings I will hide,
Staying close by His side.
Unto Him will I cry...
Because my heart is fixed.
My foundation is firm,
My step is sure,
My path is clear...
Oh, my heart is fixed!
Peace in the fight,
Songs in the night,
Giving praise is my delight...
Yes, my heart is fixed.
This is my victory.
I did not faint in adversity.
He rescued me and now I sing...
My heart was fixed!
Fixed: fastened upon, focused
Psalm 57:7 "My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise."
Are you facing a battle? Fix your heart (your affections, desires, delights) upon Him. Fasten your heart to Him. Praise Him. Adore Him. Get your eyes off the battle and onto your dearest Love. He will carry you through.
We love bicycling. Our family enjoys rocky downhills, windy uphills, and fast roads. My daughter and oldest son enjoy trail riding. My youngest son loves speeding down smooth roads and jumping over bumps. Sometimes we pass other people on bikes. We smile at them and they smile back. It's like we are part of a team... part of a family. Then there are some people we pass on bikes and we immediately know they are what we call "Weekend Warriors."
Weekend Warrior: Someone who doesn't practice their skill or sport frequently (often only on weekends), and therefore does not improve quickly in fitness and endurance.
They are pretty easy to spot. Often they have on the wrong gear or they have the wrong bikes for the task. The easiest way to spot the Weekend Warrior, though, is they are pushing their bikes instead of riding them up simple, short inclines. We are certainly happy these Weekend Warriors are getting out there at all, but it is easy to see that the lack of repetition and practice holds them back from progress.
Psalm 56:1-2 "Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High... Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil."
Do you know how frequently the enemy gets out there practicing his sport? Daily! Every day our enemy is practicing his skill. Every day he is actively seeking whom he may devour. He is no Weekend Warrior. He is a lion who never stops.
What about us? Are we Weekend Warriors? Do we only get in God's Word and under the preaching of the Bible on weekends? Do we only study once a week? Do we neglect Bible time throughout the week? It's no wonder we would find ourselves struggling when we are in an uphill battle! We have no endurance and we are ill prepared! If our enemy is daily practicing his trade, shouldn't we practice our skills in God's Word just as frequently?
The steep uphill climbs and battles will come, but if we have been exercising in the Word, we will be ready!
Just as we see bikers walking and pushing their bikes uphill, and can tell they are Weekend Warriors, there is no hiding your Weekend Warrior status when you are struggling over simple inclines. More experienced and prepared "bikers" will still cheer you on and encourage you, but they will also tell you that getting in the Word daily will help you be better prepared for those hills.
Are you a Weekend Warrior?