Andrew Fountain - When God doesn't seem to even care
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Full sermon notes - How long will you hide your face from me?
Is God listening?
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- 25 Psalms make some sort of accusation against God
- God is not answering prayers
- Time is running out
- Either circumstances are getting desperate
- or we are losing hope
- Much of today’s sermon is from the work of the Hebrew scholar, Allen Ross
Psalm 10 —God’s negligence
- Why do you hide yourself, just when you are needed?
- Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted
- God, please be involved!
- Implication that God has chosen to make himself unavailable
- Great personal loss—of their God. Grief is intense and far worse than the wicked could do to them.
- The psalmist is used to going to the sanctuary and seeing the evidence of the presence of God.
- But the only reason the psalmist can talk of God making his presence known is that he did so in the past.
- There is the assumption, and hope, that there will be a time in the future when he makes his presence known
- Only a God who reveals himself can sometimes be hidden
- God is not predictable—not at the beck and call of people, but he does promise to make his presence known to the afflicted.
- So this is in fact the proper and natural way to call for God’s help.
Psalm 13 —Has God forgotten them?
- If God seems to delay too long, then this accusation comes
- This is not unintentional, but deliberate!
- How long, O LORD?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
- How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
- The intensity of this lament is expressed with a broken-off beginning: “How long?”
- An intolerable situation that has gone on long enough and must stop.
- The Hebrew verbs to forget and to remember when used of God are always about action, not failing memory
- When he lapses into “will you forget me forever” v.1, despair begins to cloud the picture.
Psalm 22 —God has forsaken him
- My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
- O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
- But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
- “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
- The question is an implied accusation that God is not faithful
- It may seem that way, but this is the cry of a suffering believer who has received no response after a long and agonizing cry for help.
- And yet the sufferer maintains his communication with God. He says My God.
- This was the Psalm quoted by Jesus on the cross
- We’ll come back to it because it’s very important
Psalm 44 —God is hostile
- You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations.
- You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them.
- Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
- Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
- Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
- For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.
- In these cases God is actually the problem!
- God is to blame because he is sovereign and all-powerful
- So if I suffer and die, it must be his plan!
- He is the only one who can do anything about it
What is the answer?
- Do you ever feel like this?
- Why are there such shocking worship songs in the Bible?
- What is the answer?
- Sometimes our sin’s have got us into this mess
- how long?
- and how severe?
- God’s anger makes it harder to bear
- e.g. Ezekiel explains that the exile was because of God hiding his face because of sin.
- Isaiah adds a note of anger: Is 54:8 “In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.
- Ps 30:5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favour is for a lifetime.
- He goes on “you hid your face; I was terrified” —he was full of confusion
- but he acknowledges that the reason was his own pride and presumption: “I said in my self-sufficiency, ‘I can never be moved.’”
- At the time he was terrified, he could have died, but now he sees it was temporary
- This experience of anger leads to a focus on the need for repentance, or prayers will be rejected
- Ps 80:4 O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
- Ps 74 is an example of repentance being implicit in the song
- O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
- Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
- Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!
- Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place; they set up their own signs for signs.
- They set your sanctuary on fire; they profaned the dwelling place of your name, bringing it down to the ground.
- They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”; they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.
- We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long.
- How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
- Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!
- Arise, O God, defend your cause; remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!
Version: based on NET Bible
- Shock imagery of sheep in a pasture being hit by fire. The incongruity was meant to jar God’s attention as well
- Ps 79:5 How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire?
- Psa 38:1-2 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
- Concerned at the severity of God’s punishment 26:57
- Ps 77 asked penetrating questions:
- “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favourable?
- Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?
- Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
- Although it seems God’s mercy had ended, he recalls God’s former mercies, and the contrast with them makes the current situation more painful, but it does provide hope
- Yet if God does not rescue them soon, his worst fears might be realized
- Sometimes our sin’s have got us into this mess
- Sometimes it is our own impatience
- Psalm 31:
- I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your sight.” But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help.
- We are in time, for God it’s just a moment. We can’t see the future
- e.g. Why does David get so upset about being hunted by Saul for so many years?
- Doesn’t he know he’s going to be king soon?
- The complexity of God’s world is way beyond our remotest understanding
- Timothy & the internet
- Timothy and “Squirrels”
- Honesty as we pray to God
- They are still talking to God!
- shows they have not given up on him
- Where do you take your complaints?
- God responds to prayer
- Next time we will look at a more complete answer
Updated on 2012-08-16 by Andrew Fountain