Expressions of confidence

Rose picked up the mirror. She hadn’t touched it for 84 years. After glancing at the back she turned it over and looked into the cracked glass. She looked at herself (no longer young but 84 years older) and remarked that ‘the reflection has changed a bit’. And who was Rose? The fictional character in the film Titanic. What a contrast between the young Rose and the old Rose! And this reminded me of another contrast. One of the early compositions of Edward Elgar is called Contrasts: the gavotte [AD] 1700 and 1900. He had been inspired by seeing a couple of dancers on stage who appeared to be two old people dancing a gavotte: but when they turned round they were in fact two young people who then danced to a modern tune. What a contrast between the old dancers and the young dancers!

The book of Psalms is a collection of extraordinary diversity – both in terms of mood and composition. Some Psalms are heart-warming, reflective and devotional, while others challenge us to the very core of our being and speak directly to our hearts. Certainly the Psalms are like a mirror – a mirror of the human heart and human condition where we see ourselves ‘warts and all’ (ourselves as we really are and not as other people see us). Ourselves as we really are as God see us. But beware! You may well be disturbed by what you discover about yourself.

The first of the Psalms is fundamental to the whole book. Psalm 1 sets the scene, and provides an introduction to the psalter. Psalm 1 speaks of the two ways; of the believer and the unbeliever, or, we would say of the Christian and the non-Christian. Fundamental too is the inter-relatedness of the Psalms. We read them as individual poems but they also echo and reflect what is said in other Psalms too. Could I encourage you all to do two things: First, could I encourage you to read a different Psalm each day (or part of a Psalm); or read the same Psalm each day for a week. Then be quiet and in the silence listen to the voice of God and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart.

Second, could I encourage you to read the Psalms and to meditate on them and be open and honest before the LORD? As you read what do you see? As you read what do you hear? Be open to the Spirit of God and allow him to open your heart to the living God; and to re-dedicate your life to him. John Calvin was so right when he said that the Psalms are an ‘anatomy of all parts of the soul’. And if you want to cultivate your soul and to grow in holiness: then read the book of Psalms. And if you want to grow in Christlikeness then read the Psalms that Jesus read and discover afresh these pointers to the Saviour.

So much by way of introduction to the Psalms and to our current sermon series. Today we are looking at Psalm 62 (on page 479 in the church bibles). The commentators helpfully say that Psalm 62 contains a number of contrasts. They draw out the opposition from the enemies of the king. They point out the activities of unbelievers as they attempt to undermine the faith of believers. They highlight the importance of expressing our trust and confidence in God rather than in material wealth and power. And did you notice what is perhaps the most significant contrast? That of the two voices – the silent human voice (Psalm 62.1,5) and the audible divine voice that speaks (Psalm 62.11). Too often we speak when we should be silent, and fail to hear what God is trying to say to us.

The commentators give various titles to Psalm 62. Three of the best are: (1) the secrets of stillness (J. Eaton); (2) of us waiting upon God (A. B. Rhodes) - and the most helpful of all - (3) this is the psalm of certainties…the psalm of contrasts (A. Motyer). Certainly as we read Psalm 62 we are challenged to consider the basis and outworking of our confidence in God. And so we look together at confidence in stillness; confidence in belief; confidence in God’s love and confidence in prayer.

1. Confidence in stillness

Though not particularly clear in our Bibles, Psalm 62 contains six expressions of confidence. They are the verses that begin truly, only and alone (Psalm 62.1, 2, 4. 5, 6, 9). Truly, my hope is in God alone. Psalm 62 is helpfully divided into two parts. It opens with the refrain in Psalm 62.1-2 which is then repeated again in Psalm 62.5-6. When you said these words just now did they remind you of anything? They sound like a confession of faith, a very simple creed. The psalmist said: ‘I wait in silence. I long to hear God speak’. The believer is silent before his creator and redeemer. ‘I wait in silence. I am ready and eager to hear the your voice.‘ ‘Speak to me, LORD in the stillness’. That was the psalmist’s humble and expectant attitude. But, honest: is that how we come before the LORD? When we are by ourselves. When we read the Bible. When we pray? Is that how we come before the LORD when we meet together for Sunday worship? Ready and eager to hear the divine communicator? What comes across in Psalm 62 is the contrast between the divine voice and the listening believer. God speaks and we listen. But is that always the case? Waiting in silence is often far removed from the verbosity of much evangelical faith. Our activity dulls the silence. We promote schemes and programmes which give us a boldness and confidence and assurance of our faith. We ask God to bless our activity. But how often do first come in humble, silent submission before him? How often do we rush into his presence and speak - and yet fail to hear what he says? In our response to the LORD we need to acknowledge him, and worship him, and fall down before him in humble submission. Our evangelical tradition has conditioned us to speak when in fact we should be silent. To speak when we should have listened to God.


2. Confidence in belief

Which words challenge you most in Psalm 62? Look at the use of the word trust in Psalm 62.8 and Psalm 62.10). Don’t trust is what is false but trust in what is true. Psalm 62.8 provides a challenge for both the believer and the unbeliever. Trust in God at all times…pour out your heart before him. That should be the prayer of the believer and the unbeliever. Here is an invitation to the unbeliever; that is to the person who has no faith and is indifferent to God. Psalm 14 begins The fool says in his heart “there is no God”. The fool represents the godless person, those in prominent positions, those who are hard and ruthless, those who continually ignore God and are indifferent to him. They turn their backs on him. They live for themselves. They are self-sufficient. We see that self-centredness all around us. Self is at the centre and God is rejected. The cult of self and self-worth is at the heart of our culture. We see it in social media (where only one perfect selfie will do). We see it too in sport, in education and in politics. In Psalm 62 unbelievers attempt to discredit those who believe. They live a lie. They say one thing and do another. They speak well with their mouths but they curse in their hearts (Psalm 62.4). Their dishonesty is not just in what they say, but is found in their business dealings and work ethic, they steal what is not theirs and are applauded for their behaviour (Psalm 62.10).

If you do not yet believe in God and trust in Christ then respond to what is said in Psalm 62: Here the gospel invitation is addressed to you (Psalm 62.8) ‘Trust in God’. If you are an unbeliever have you ever turned to Christ? Have you ever trusted in him as your LORD and Saviour? Have you poured out your heart to him, and confessed you sin and recognised you need of a Saviour?

Here is an invitation to the believer; if you are a Christian believer you have already put your trust in God, but do you still continue to trust him each day? Look at the examples in Psalm 62. Trust in him when you are under attack from the devil. Trust in him when you are tempted to put wealth before duty. Trust in him when your faith is being undermined by unbelievers. Trust in him when their words cut you to the quick and try and make shipwreck of your faith. In these circumstances continue to Trust in God at all times (Psalm 62.8). What about those times when you are in a bad place and struggling to believe? When doubt over-shadows your faith? When you are in despair and don’t know what to do or where to turn? Here are words for you as a battered and bruised believer (Psalm 62.8):

Trust in God at all times

During the recent political leadership debate an MP was asked to say what were the essential qualities for political office. The qualities he highlighted were not wealth and power, and privilege and status; but the three virtues of humility, honesty and integrity. And if that should be true of those in politics how much more should they be true of the Christian believer? Humility, honesty and integrity. Think of where your faith is tested most - on the frontline at work on Monday morning. Where the Christian believer has to live the Christian life amongst unbelievers. Where there is the challenge to live like Jesus in terms of lifestyle, work ethic and profession of faith. Christian brothers and sisters: Trust in him at all times and in all circumstances.

3. Confidence in God’s love

In reading Psalm 62 you might have overlooked what is said in Psalm 62.12. It speaks there of the reality of the steadfast love of God. His love for us is fundamental and it comes before our love for him. His love for us is unmerited and undeserved. We certainly can’t earn it and mustn’t take it for granted. His love for us is fundamental to the faith we profess and of our standing before him. In Psalm 62.12 the steadfast love of God is his covenant love. And this takes us to the heart of the divine revelation. That God has pledged himself to his people. That he has made a binding agreement with them. His covenant love is fundamental to the faith we profess. In it God has taken the initiative. For none of us deserves his love and grace and mercy. It is undeserved and unmerited and is not based on what we do or what we say. There is a further hint in Psalm 62 of the faith and convictions of the believer. There is nothing airy fairy here. Nothing vague of imprecise. How does the Christian believer express his faith? Someone once said that the Christian faith consists of personal pronouns. Yes, we trust in God, we submit ourselves to him, we believe that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour. And we should also echo what is said in Psalm 62. That God is my rock, my salvation, my fortress and my refuge (Psalm 62.2, 6, 7). These words express a simple confidence that trusts in him alone. These words remind us that we are eternally secure in Christ. From time to time, our faith may wobble. We are tempted. We fall. We agonise over our doubts. We backslide. We experience the dark night of the soul – and yet in spite of all of these things we are secure, eternally secure, in Christ – who is our rock and our redeemer. So when life is hard. When you feel isolated and alone. Remember the abiding love of God. Remember that he is your rock. Your salvation. Your fortress and your refuge.

4. Confidence in prayer

In closing, I want to return to the theme of prayer and silence. It has practical implications for us as we pray privately and how we pray publically. Look again at Psalm 62.1. In God alone my soul waits in silence: from him comes my salvation. One commentator says that ‘the overwhelming impression of the psalm is reverential silence before the awesome God’ (Motyer, Psalms, 162). The silence of Psalm 62.1 and Psalm 62.5 refers to silent inner peace; and in Psalm 62.8 we use our voices to pour out our hearts to him. First the silence then the speech. Too often we rush into the presence of God and present him with a shopping list of requests. Think of your own prayer life. Think of when we are led in prayer here in church, and whether we are praying by ourselves or with other people or we ought to use periods of creative silence much more. Otherwise we rush from confession to song to prayer and to sermon without thinking what we are doing. Let’s make prayer and silence something we take very seriously and put into practice. We can we can learn much from Michael Ramsey (a former Bishop of Durham who became the Archbishop of Canterbury) when a reporter asked him a question:

[Archbishop] have you said your prayers this morning?
Yes.
What did you say in your prayers?
I talked to God.
How long did you talk to God?
I talked to God for one minute …
[Hey, wait a minute – here is the Archbishop who says that he only prays for a minute! But of course he added something else].
How long did you talk to God?
I talked to God for a minute. But it took me 29 minutes to get there.’ [Chadwick, Michael Ramsey, 361].

Psalm 62 opens up our use of silence in personal prayer and public worship and in the challenge for us to trust God in all circumstances. Let’s spend a few moments in silence. In God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is in him.

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