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STUDY - MORAL
ISSUES - KING
JAMES BIBLE - CULTS
HE HATH PUT A NEW SONG IN MY MOUTH
I WILL SING OF THY MIGHT AND MERCY
There was a scene from the movie Gandhi that seared itself into my mind. A deep hostility burned between the Hindu and Muslim populations in India. It was late at night in one of the Indian cities. You could cut the tension with a knife, the air was so full of it. Suddenly you saw a frantic crowd of men running wildly up a narrow street with torches in their hands. Then, in one of the most dramatic moments of the film, the fleeing crowd slows, turns and realizes that there are so many more of them than the pursuers they can turn back on them. Then come five seconds of unbelievable suspense as you watch the frightened fox become a bloodthirsty hound and the bloodthirsty hound become a trapped and terrified fox.
The fire of revenge sweeps through the crowd, and they start to chase their pursuers. They run them into a house with only one exit. And then they set the house on fire.
Can you imagine what it would be like to have your house surrounded by a bloodthirsty mob? No police available. No 911 to call. No appeal to reason or innocence. Just sheer rage and wickedness. David knew what it was like. Did you hear the title to the Psalm? "A Miktam of David" -- nobody knows for sure what Miktam means -- "a miktam of David, when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him."
What is it like to be surrounded at night by vicious men who have a command from the king -- whose word is law -- to kill you? Verses 6-7 try to help us feel what it is like.
Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city. There they are, bellowing with their mouths, and snarling with their lips -- for "Who," they think, "will hear us?"
And again in verses 14-15,
Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city. They roam about for food, and growl if they do not get their fill.
The men who came after David were like packs of bloodthirsty wild dogs that surround a trapped or wounded animal and tear it to shreds when they are starving.
As the smoke began to bellow from the Indian house, the men inside made their awful choice and stumbled out into the mob. The cheering stopped. The sword appeared. They forced one of the men to the ground and beheaded him in the street. It was an utterly terrifying scene.
Of course, it was only a movie. But the death of John and Betty Stam was not a movie. December 6, 1934, Tsingteh, China. Betty was bathing their three-month old daughter when the Red Army surrounded the house. They took them captive and made them walk to Miaosheo. There they bound John to a post for the night. The next day they forced John and Betty to walk in their underwear through the streets of the town out and forced the people to come watch the execution. Outside town in a clump of pine trees they beheaded John Stam with a sword while his wife watched. And then when she fell over his body they beheaded her.
This was not a movie. John and Betty Stam went to Moody Bible Institute, they were in their mid twenties like many of you, they had a three month old daughter, and they were beheaded by howling dogs 51 years, one month and 11 days ago today. It was no movie. And neither is Psalm 59.
David was a fugitive of the irrational king Saul. He was surrounded by fierce and bloodthirsty men. Their mission was to kill him. But God saved him. And David sang. He sang about the mercy and might of God.
So it has been all through redemptive history. The more the people of God have suffered -- the more they have been forced to live on the brink of eternity where things are real and all sham and shallowness is blown away -- the deeper and more beautiful has been the music and hymnody of the church. As Charles Spurgeon said, "The music of the sanctuary is in no small degree indebted to the trials of the saints."
We have the great hymn "Abide With Me" because Henry Francis Lyte came to the end of his life plagued by ill health and by a church that wanted nothing more to do with him. He gave his last sermon and that evening sat watching the sun go down on his life and his ministry, and gave the church perhaps its greatest hymn on death.
We have the hymn "O God Our Help in Ages Past" because England came to the brink of a national crisis with the "Schism Act" that would have brought a Catholic monarch to the throne. But on the day in 1714 that the act was to become operative Queen Anne died, and the the threat of popery was past. In all of the upheaval of those days Isaac Watts saw the hand of God. And so today we sing,
And we have the deep and moving Hymn "It Is Well With My Soul" because Horatio Spafford lost four daughters at sea, and found the grace of God to write,
"If the eye had no tears the soul would have no rainbow."
If no shepherd-kings were ever surrounded by fierce and bloodthirsty mobs, if no young missionaries were ever beheaded, if no pastors were ever hated and driven from their churches, if no nations ever tottered on the brink of oppression, if no daughters ever drowned at sea, the Song Book of the Bible and the Hymnody of the church would be very thin and the singing of the church would not reach the bottom of our heart.
This is what John Calvin was getting at, I think, when he said,
"If singing be tempered to that gravity which is fitting in the sight of God and the angels, it both lends dignity and grace to sacred actions and has the greatest value in kindling our hearts to a true zeal and eagerness to pray."
That kind of singing is born in the day of distress, when we taste the might and mercy of God in the midst of suffering.
In November of 1731 a child was born in Hertfordshire, England. Three of his brothers and two sisters died in infancy, and two days before his sixth birthday his mother died in childbirth, leaving him one infant brother and a father.
He suffered from a physical deformity that few knew about but of which he was deeply sensitive. In 1753 he fell in love with Theodora, but her father forced an end to the relationship. He became exceedingly melancholy and resolved to end his life. He tried to hang himself, but the weight of his body broke first an iron pin and then a wooden spar. The third attempt was almost successful, but just as he went unconscious the noose tore and his body slumped to the floor.
In 1763 he had to be institutionalized in Cotton's Asylum for two years. During that time the wonder of God's grace began to sink in and he became a lover of the gospel. For the rest of his life he fought the recurrence of these fits of melancholy. His name was William Cowper, and we owe to his deep discoveries of grace the hymn "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" and "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood."
Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning. And when it comes it comes with a song, not a cheap or silly song, but a deep and weighty song. It doesn't gloss over the tragedy or the pain or the loss. When the sails of joy go up, the heartaches of life, which once threatened to capsize the boat, become ballast deep in the belly of the ship to make the keel cut deep through the waves and guide the ship through rougher seas ahead.
Great songs are born out of great suffering.
Why do I love the hymn "Wer nur den lieben Gott laesst walten" ?
Because it was born of "evil days." Georg Neumark wrote it after he had been attacked and beaten and robbed of all he had on his way to the University of Kiel in 1641. When the sails went up there was ballast in the ship. Georg Neumark's boat has a deep draw. He has to avoid shallow water.
The point of all of this is to put verses 16 and 17 in their proper light. David unfurls his sails in these two verses. The fierce and bloodthirsty dogs may prowl at the door of his life . . .
Notice what has moved David so deeply: the might and mercy of God which come together to make a fortress and refuge for the saints. He says it twice. In verse 16 "I sing your might . . . I sing of your mercy." ("Steadfast love" is just another way of saying "mercy".) And the reason the might and mercy of God are so precious to David is that they come together to make a fortress -- "For thou has been to me a fortress!"
Then he says the same thing again in verse 17 so we don't miss the point of his praise. First he praises God his Strength, his might. ("O my Strength, I will sing praises to Thee.") Then in the last line he mentions God's mercy (". . . the God who shows me steadfast love"), and between the two he sets his eyes on the fortress ("for thou, O God, art my fortress").
So the contours and colors of this sail are clear: he is singing the might and mercy of God because they conspire to make fortress and refuge for his life.
And make no mistake, they made a fortress and refuge for for John and Betty Stam, too! When the China Inland Mission notified Betty's parents in Patterson, New Jersey, of the death of their daughter and son-in-law, the mission received back a telegram immediately:
Deeply appreciate your consolation. Sacrifice seems great, but not too great for Him who gave Himself for us. Experiencing God's grace. Believe wholeheartedly Romans 8:28.
Betty Stam's parents knew that "we are being killed all day long. We are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors." And they were persuaded that nothing -- neither life nor death-- could separate John and Betty Stam from the fortress of God's might and mercy.
Not only they, but their other children knew it too. O parents, here is an admonition to teach your children how to suffer and accept suffering. Betty's sister Helen wrote to her bereaved parents,
Dearest Daddy and Mother, you don't need to hear me say how much we love you and are thinking of and praying for you in these days... I have such a radiant pictures of Betty and John standing with their palms of victory before the Throne, singing a song of pure joy because they had given everything they had to their Master, that I cannot break lose and cry about it as people expect. Crying seems to be too petty for a thing that was so manifestly in God's hands alone; but my heart is very, very sore for you.
David was delivered in the day of distress and he sang of the might and mercy of God. John and Betty Stam were also delivered in the day of distress, and they also sang of the might and mercy of God.
When will you really sing of the might and mercy of God? I mean really sing from the bottom of your heart?
The answer is, you will sing when you suffer for Jesus Christ, and find in the midst of that suffering that the might and the mercy of God are your refuge and strength. No, I don't mean that you should go out and try to get persecuted. I mean that we should open our eyes.
This world is one massive aching sore of need. People in nursing homes, people in hospitals, people in jails, people in half-way houses, people in pain, people in hunger, people in confusion, people enslaved to money and alcohol and drugs and pornography, people people everywhere in need of the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation! All I mean is open your eyes and let your heart be moved, and you will suffer, if only bone weariness of love. And then you will sing.
I mean really sing, because then you will see and know the might and mercy of God in a way that you have never known it before. Safe and secure and comfortable "saints" who live for themselves and do not spend themselves to meet as many needs as they can will never sing like David. Their sails will be small, their keel will be shallow, their ballast will be light and they will spend their lives sunning themselves on their little decks in protected coves and wonder why they cannot sing the great hymns of the church of God with any authentic depth of emotion.
O the privilege of singing together as a church! When the army of the Lord has served to the breaking point, and they have found the might and mercy of God to be a fortress and a refuge, and then they come together to worship the God of all the earth, there is nothing this side of heaven like the united voices and hearts of those people.
Pastor Piper (The name fits- right?) ended with a challenge to potential choir members and to his friends to sing. I want to ask you a couple of questions:
Are you a listener? Do you fill your head with contemporary Christian Music- Trash? It is repetitious, light on doctrine, and now days is sung in a sexy lusty manner. Shame on you if that is music in your life.
Do you have a hymn book-- an old time Gospel hymn book-- for every member of your family. There ought to be NO book in your life in higher place except the King James Bible.
Do you SING as a family? Do you sing yourself home from work? Do you sing when things go wrong?
Singing, for a saint, is NORMAL, not exceptional. Singing for the world is now becoming extinct. Have you noticed that? The world cannot sing any more. Music is not singable. Think about this, and discuss it with friends.
Have you noticed that the old fashioned Gospel sing, getting several churches together WITHOUT a whiz-bang quartet to do all the singing-- IT IS GONE!
Preachers-- What are you going to do about it? Will you lead? We met an evangelist recently who hates singing. He is King James Only, and he is sound in doctrine, BUT he hates Gospel singing. I think the man is backslidden or has a devil running his life for him. How can such a thing be? I suggested we get together and have a singing time, and he nearly hit me. Weird. Hey, is that YOU?
Maybe you don't have much to sing about because you have not joined the battle for the Lord. Maybe you have not gotten into it with the devil. So, what's to sing about? Get your zeal up, and God will put a new song in your mouth, even praise to our God.