Sunday, 19th May 2019
Ps Kit Ho
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint me with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23: 5)
Change in relation of the Sheep to Shepherd
Triumph joy? Perhaps we find ourselves too easily defeated in our spiritual life, more than being triumphant. But is that how our Father would like to see us? Fail in all spiritual tests, have a low self-esteem, tell ourselves, we are a loser. No, if you are a parent, you will try all you can to help your child through, until they gains enough self-confidence to believe that they can do it, and does it brilliantly. But the child need to learn a lot of things in order to win. They have to trust their father as a coach, one who can teach them again and again. They must learn to focus, and be patient with themselves. They must not be afraid of failure, but believe once they gain control of the necessary ability, they can do it. It is about the trust in our coach, as well as ourselves, before we become an overcomer.
From the last sermon we notice that the biggest change in the experience of the sheep is not only a moving setting of the journey, but the change in relation of the sheep to the shepherd. He is no longer in the 3rd person “He”, he is now in the 2nd person “You” who is much closer and recognizable. The shepherd leads them away from the green pasture, leads them on the path of righteousness, leads them into the valley of shadow of death. Now he leads them to face enemies.
But here we do not feel a tensed atmosphere, nor a vigorous battle. The sheep does not even see the face of enemies. The sheep know they must be around, lurking on them, trying to attack them. But the sheep is not alarmed, though very alert. As in the poem, the sheep only cares about the shepherd. They are now trained not to look everywhere, but focus on the shepherd. What do they see? A victorious setting, a table of lush food prepared for them, a cup raised up for the hero, and the anointment for the one who defeats. It is a picture of triumph and joy. Seems not much to get excited in real life. Or do we experience too little of this kind of triumphant joy? A joy that takes us so many days to feel the happiness of it and smile would not fade away.
Heart bound to Egypt cannot Trust
This verse, like that of Psalm 78: 19 which talks about God prepares a table for Israel in their wilderness days. It was in the form of a question. They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness? “ which indeed God did. But in the wilderness we see Israel got a habit of complain and agitation. They grumbled when there was no water, no food or meat to satisfy them. Indeed God provides manna faithfully for 40 years. When they failed God, God did not fail them, or stop providing Manna. They were fearful and complained at the sight of enemies, the Egyptians or Amalekites. They always looked back at the days of Egypt than appreciated the fact they were now in the guidance of God. Their heart were bound to Egypt, although they were slaves, and did not give thanks that they are now liberated, and on way to the Promised Land. So we see they were at heart still slaves of Egypt, and despised the God who saved them, the God of “I am who I am.” The one who was with them, even with their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The one who is, as the God who guides them by the Pillar of Cloud and Fire in the wilderness, and The one who shall be, that He would be with them in whatever situation they would find themselves in. Only if they could trust God and have faith in Him, whatever challenges may arise in their life.
For Darkness is as Light with You
Yes, the sheep has gone through the valley of shadow of death, a time when he was frightened so much that they would feel that they were left alone. But they were comforted by the rod and staff of the shepherd, that they learnt to trust even when they could not see clearly. They would go right and would not go left when they heard the shepherd said, close to the right side. They did not depend on their own judgment, or imagination that ran wild. Because of love, and trust, they could see the shepherd is around. They begin to notice that the Lord sees in darkness as if it were in light. He moves freely among the herd, and always able to save His sheep when one is about to fall into the rift.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:5-6)
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (Psalm 139:11-12)
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:8-10)
Because this experience of walking in the darkness of the valley of shadow of death with his shepherd, he has a transformation at heart. Now he can see the presence of the shepherd not using his eyes but his faith, he can trust what he could not understand before. And his heartfelt respect for the Lord grew each day. He becomes more gentle, more shapeable, more responsive, more tolerable but also stronger in face of new situations.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. (Psalm 27: 5-6)
Real Spiritual Battles are always Inside
In Psalm 23, we do not see the appearance of the enemies. But real spiritual battles are always not outside. It is inside. We fight most fiercely within the battlefield of our heart. Our enemies do come unnoticeably to test us, lure us, saying all the wrong sweet things that poison our mind, which we are not aware of, so we would not resist. Say like we would revenge when we were hurt, we would cry louder if our spouse cried aloud. They tempt us with things we desire, not things we dislike. We even talk to ourselves when we fail, we say we are OK, never mind, just forget what we have done. We hide ourselves up as if nothing matter us. We just do things religious without real relation with God. We start to doubt the Lord, keep distance with him, lose our passion for his Words and become ignorant of truth. We open our mind to those noise, which could come daily, persistently and willfully. Those were the voice that keep replaying like a recorded sound track. At best they distract us from praying, at worst to win over us. Do you have such sound track that keeps replaying itself? We have to cut it out and asks the Lord to help us.
The Holy Spirit is gentle to us, he permits us to fall until we know we cannot depend on ourselves. He would enlighten us to see our true self, which is weak, self-centered and willful. But in total acceptance He will call us, invite us to seek him and to desire for His guidance. We know that just saying some prayer would not change things. We need to pray strategically.
The 4 Points of Praying Strategically
How do we win and pray strategically? To pray strategically means we do not just throw out prayers at him. We must know the weak point of the enemy, and we put up our prayer to attack it. We must know our own weak points where we are attacked, and so to ask protection from the Lord. That is, we are not just praying without knowledge. We need the Spirit of knowledge to reveal to us. But before having such knowledge, we first come back to where the Israelites were attacked, in Exo 14. They were pursued by Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen charging towards them from the back, and in the front was the Red Sea, which means they have nowhere to go. Immediately they complained to Moses and Moses cried out to God. What did Moses say to the people?
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exo 14:13-14)
What Moses said was simply 4 things, “Fear Not, Stand Firm, and See the Lord fight for you, but lastly “Be Silent” This “Be Silent” is what we must learn today. In order to receive the Spirit of knowledge, or how to pray at all, it is “Be Silent” inside. This is what always brought up in our conversation with brothers and sisters here. How can I listen to the voice of God. That is exactly the closet in the movie “War Room” A designated place where we can be silent, when you are there, God is there, and we just wait for God, until we hear from Him, like little Samuel heard God when he was young.
Esther’s Way of Turning Over the Table
Queen Esther was in panic and she was asked by her uncle to see the Persian King to save her Jewish people. For she has not been summoned by the king for a month, it would be a death challenge to see the king without his order. She was in fear, and asked Mortdecai and the Jews to fast and pray for three days. Did we become so afraid we don’t even know how to pray? Yes indeed, but this is a critical moment. Stand firm. It was crucial to change the heart of Esther, and the heart of the king. We need this kind of overcoming prayer, to change from chaotic fear to composure. And breakthrough comes it. Esther succeeded to see the king. She must know her next move, to set up a festive banquet to meet the king and Haman whom she knew by then was the arch-enemy of the Jews. So she had time to prepare the banquet, but more importantly, time to pray, to receive revelation from God. This is how we pray, not just by talking, but by listening. Everyday, spend time in quietness and let God knows you are waiting on Him. He comes close to those who comes to Him. That is how we fight the strategic spiritual battle. We have to know God’s will, what he is doing, and we pray where He leads us. And that is how we win spiritual battles.
Calm as the Depth of Sea
You will say, I have been silent, and nothing happened. That is alright, at least you start trying. Try some more, and God will not fail you. When you learn quietness before God, of course the first things you hear are those disturbing, distracting noise. It’s OK, keep on trying, until at some stage you find your heart as peaceful as the depth of the sea. The outside is all noise, but deep inside is calm and peace. You know that at this point, you are ready to receive Words from God. The more you try, the less time you need to come to this peace. And you have a heart that can be guided. That is stage one of a victorious life.