I come from a family of poor gift-givers. When I was first married, the Christmas gifts I gave to my wife, Stephanie, contained too many appliances that we needed for our home. I could have done a much better job of buying her things that were more personal and meaningful to her.
The sad truth is this trait has been passed down from generation to generation in my family. Several years ago, about a week before Christmas, my father placed a large, wrapped box under the Christmas tree for my mom. She was excited when she saw it because dad usually doesn’t buy gifts that are this big. Since mom had told dad she wanted new dishes, she convinced herself this box contained new plates, saucers, bowls and cups. Throughout the days leading up to Christmas, mom’s expectations grew.
Then the moment she had waited for arrived. It was Christmas morning. Mom opened some of the smaller gifts first since they were stacked around the large box from dad. When she finally opened dad’s gift, she was left speechless. Inside of that large box was one of the nicest leaf blowers on the market. Dad’s gift was far different than mom expected it to be.
Let’s use this story to ask some questions about our relationship with God. First of all, mom expected dad to give her something she wanted. When we pray, worship, and study the Bible, should we expect God to answer our prayers and reveal himself to us? Psalm 5 helps us answer this question. It was written by David, who became one of Israel’s greatest kings.
According to the Teacher’s Commentary, “The Psalms were written over an extended period of time, most probably coming between 1000 and 400 b.c. They were written by different authors, and at several times new groups of psalms were added to the collection. Seventy-three of the psalms were written by David. Forty-nine are anonymous…They express emotions, personal feelings, gratitude and interests of the average individual.”
In Psalm 5, we see 2 distinct groups of people are being described.. The first group is those who want to follow the Lord and be made righteous by him. The second group consists of those who reject the Lord and choose to do evil deeds. If we look at this psalm verse by verse, we see how they interact with each other.
Psalm 5:1-12 – 1 Give ear to my words, O Lord,
consider my sighing.
* David is coming before the Lord because he is having severe problems. Why else would he be sighing?
2 Listen to my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
* Through prayer, he’s asking God to help him with his problems. We all have problems too. Do we bring our problems to God in prayer?
3 In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.
* The phrase, “In the morning” is repeated. This stresses that David’s first thoughts in the morning were praying to God. The last phrase of this verse says David wasn’t just praying out of habit or with a weak faith. He was praying with the expectation that God would answer him.
Is talking with God the first thing on our minds in the morning? When we pray, do we really expect God to answer?
4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil;
with you the wicked cannot dwell.
5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence;
you hate all who do wrong.
6 You destroy those who tell lies;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
the Lord abhors.
* In these three verses, David knew he could confidently approach God is prayer, ask for help and then trust God. This is because God detests evil, wicked and arrogant people, liars and those who are bloodthirsty. Since God is a God of “good,” David can trust that God will answer his prayer with “good” answers.
7 But I, by your great mercy,
will come into your house;
in reverence will I bow down
toward your holy temple.
* He isn’t coming before God because he’s virtuous but because God is merciful. The Hebrew word for “bow down” can also be translated “worship.” This signifies prostrating oneself before God. Wicked people are arrogant before God but a worshipper is humble before God.
Obviously David’s life wasn’t perfect or he wouldn’t have been sighing because of his problems. He wouldn’t have been crying out to God for help. Yet, because he trusted in God’s mercy, he could worship while he waited for God to answer his prayers Are we able to do the same thing? Or, are we disconnected from God because we’re too concerned with my problems?
8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
make straight your way before me.
* David is still praying. As he prays, he’s saying, “Lord you are righteous, my enemies are not. Lead me down your path – not the path of my enemies. Don’t allow me to get down to their level! Help me be above them and to trust in you.”
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
their heart is filled with destruction.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongue they speak deceit.
* He lists some of their sins – lying, evil in their hearts, speaking deceit. This probably includes complaining and gossiping about him. One simple question we need to ourselves is: How much do I complain and gossip about others? Complaining and gossiping are signs of spiritual immaturity because we’re actually saying, “God I don’t trust you because I don’t like the way these people are carrying out the ministries you gave them. I could do it better.”
10 Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.
*David asks God to deal with them because of their wickedness. In this psalm, it appears David’s problems are related to the things his enemies are doing to him. It also appears David is powerless to do anything about it. But rather than concentrate on his enemies, David is choosing to concentrate on God. David knew something we all need to remember. The more we focus on our enemies (problems), the less we focus on God. This can make our enemies (problems) seem bigger than they really are.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12 For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
* David felt helpless to address his problems but he expected God to help him. When he opened himself up to God, he had to accept whatever God had in store for him. This brings us to our second question about our relationship with God. What should I do when God doesn’t answer my prayers the way I think he should answer them? How do we react when we pray for dishes but God gives us a leaf blower?
Philippians 4:10-13 helps us answer this question. It says, “10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
We see from Verse 10 the church at Philippi showed concern for Paul’s well-being and Paul appreciated it. However, he wanted the church to know God taught him to be content whether he was living in abundance or living in need. What did God teach him? The answer is found in Verse 13 – “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Basically Paul is saying, “Jesus Christ gives me the strength to face any challenge life throws at me.” If things are going well, God is in the blessings. If things aren’t going well, Jesus Christ gives me the strength I need to face the difficulties which life throws at me.
Through all of this, we need to realize one important thing. God knows that sometimes we don’t need the dishes. We really do need the leaf blower.
I heard a story from years ago about a young pastor who was working in his first congregation. One of the members was an elderly lady who was in failing health. As the church prayed for her, the young pastor became convinced God was going to perform a miracle and heal her. One day, the Lord spoke to him and said, “What I have in store for her is better than anything she has on earth if I leave her here.” A few days later, this dear lady went to be with the Lord. God didn’t heal her but he gave her family the strength they needed to face her death.
We see from Psalm 5 and Philippians 4 there are some principles we can apply to our lives as we follow the Lord. They are:
1) When we pray, worship and study the Bible, we should expect to meet God.
2) We must make God our main focus – not our enemies or our problems.
3) We should expect God to help us though our problems.
4) We must realize that many times God doesn’t take away our problems. Instead Jesus Christ gives us the strength we need to face them. This leads to contentment in our relationship with God and in our service to him.