Theme: When You Can’t See God, He Still Sees You
1. Blinded by iniquities and persecutions
2. Protected by our Savior’s grace and truth
Psalm 40:9-17: I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; see, I do not keep my mouth closed-- as You know, LORD. 10 I did not hide Your righteousness in my heart; I spoke about Your faithfulness and salvation; I did not conceal Your constant love and truth from the great assembly. 11 LORD, do not withhold Your compassion from me; Your constant love and truth will always guard me. 12 For troubles without number have surrounded me; my sins have overtaken me; I am unable to see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my courage leaves me. 13 LORD, be pleased to deliver me; hurry to help me, LORD. 14 Let those who seek to take my life be disgraced and confounded. Let those who wish me harm be driven back and humiliated. 15 Let those who say to me, "Aha, aha!" be horrified because of their shame. 16 Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; let those who love Your salvation continually say, "The LORD is great!" 17 I am afflicted and needy; the Lord thinks of me. You are my helper and my deliverer; my God, do not delay.
When I was younger, I would say about fifth grade or so, some of my family and friends decided to go on a Halloween scare trail. Now, I was old enough to not really be scared at such a prospect, but not quite old enough to remember that it was all just fake. I remember it pretty well because as we walked down the trail, II was terrified. I mean, I was really scared. It was one of those trails, through the woods at night, with various actors who would jump out and scare the crowds as they passed. A mummy would emerge from a coffin. A chainsaw would rip through the night silence. I’m sure you can picture the scene. While I was old enough to know it was not real, I wasn’t old enough to resist the fright.
Part of the thrill of a trail like that is the unknown and the unseen. If I would walked the same path during the daylight hours, there hardly would have been a fright. I probably would have seen that most of the scary actors were just weekend volunteers with pieced together costumes – not professional goblins or torturers. When you can see clearly, you can also see what’s coming up ahead. The fright factor of being caught off guard, being shocked, doesn’t happen during the day. But, there’s also something to the dark, of the inability to see, that causes your mind to conjure up things that really aren’t there. It makes the situation much more terrifying than it really is.
Our text today is about sight. David, as the inspired writer here, speaks of the blessings of faith in terms of being able to see. But, most important to David, is that God sees him. Contextually, this psalm fits best with early in David’s life, when he was on the run from King Saul. But, even after David became king he still had his fair share of troubles. The incident with Bathsheba was a deep mark on David’s record as a God-fearing king. The sins he committed surely created a difficult trial for his faith and would have brought public criticism as well. Or even near the end of David’s life, when his beloved son Absalom rebelled, you can sense the pain of having enemies attack once again. David’s life is much like every Christian’s in this regard. There is a deep struggle against personal sins – as they threaten the vitality of faith. But there is also a host of dangers from without – as the well-known Scripture verse tells us, “that all who desire live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” If faith is pictured as sight, what do you do when your spiritual vision becomes obscured? The Holy Spirit’s answer is: Remember and trust that God always sees you.
This text is uniquely arranged because it begins by describing the effects of faith. David says, I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; see, I do not keep my mouth closed-- as You know, LORD. 10 I did not hide Your righteousness in my heart; I spoke about Your faithfulness and salvation; I did not conceal Your constant love and truth from the great assembly. These words describe the believer’s witness of God’s truth and love – as David says “faithfulness and salvation.”
The idea of sight comes out as David says he does not hide or conceal the Lord’s work. The response of faith is to openly witness of God. The words for hide and conceal indicate both an attitude of weakness and an attitude of deliberate intent to destroy. At times, we fall from the LORD’s righteousness in weakness of faith – at other times we are deliberately trying to resist Him. Whatever the case may be, the Spirit’s message is that both obscure the true vision of the LORD’s plan for our lives. When sin enters our lives, it poses a danger to ourselves and to those around us – because it covers up what God has done. In this same way, think of the many instances in Scripture that portray sin as blindness or darkness. The same lesson is at play – sin distorts the vision of faith.
We get a glimpse of this within the Hebrew word for sin also, from v.12. This word, often translated as “iniquity” in the New King James version means “crookedness” or “twisted.” Think of a pathway. What should be straight and clear becomes twisted and difficult to follow. Sin has that effect on our lives. It makes the path of God’s righteous law impossible for us to traverse. We can’t see the way on our own.
And so, David follows up that confession of his sin by describing what effect it has on his life – and once again he brings in the idea of seeing. For troubles without number have surrounded me; my sins have overtaken me; I am unable to see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my courage leaves me. Here’s where fear enters in. Sin blocks out God. Sin makes us unable to see God, His truth, and His blessings. Sin keeps us focused on worldly things and ignorant of heavenly treasures, just as Jesus warned when He said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Mat 6:19 NKJ) Paul described it in similar terms when he wrote, Colossians 3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1).
Faith grants a heavenly vision where we look up – to God. What a profound effect this has on our lives when we consider dangers from within and without. Faith reminds us that we don’t’ have to look to ourselves. Our vision is more than just horizontal. The very structure of our churches is designed to display the same truth. Through prayer, confession, and praise we look up to God in communication. And through His Word, the Gospel in proclamation, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper He communicates back to us with His truth and grace. Sin and persecution cloud that communication.
This divine conversation between a believer and God, accomplished through faith, is described in our text in terms of seeking, again a term that is related to vision. You seek something by looking for it. You know you have it when you see it. Vv.14-16 read: 14 Let those who seek to take my life be disgraced and confounded. Let those who wish me harm be driven back and humiliated. 15 Let those who say to me, "Aha, aha!" be horrified because of their shame.
16 Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; let those who love Your salvation continually say, "The LORD is great!"
The lesson of our text is distilled down to these two verses. Herein is the contrast.
· The wicked seek wickedness. They mock and taunt. They are brought to shame.
· The believer seeks the Lord. They praise Him (witness of Him). They are delivered.
In both scenarios there is vision, something is produced, and there is a response. The wicked are entirely focused on themselves. There is only horizonal vision and communication. They hope to produce shame and trouble for their enemy. They respond with communications of mocking and ridicule. In contrast, the believer is focused on God. Faith produces deliverance from God and the effect is responses of praise, thanksgiving, and witnessing of God’s name to others.
Now, this lesson is very straightforward. The question is, what do we do in the midst of the trials and difficulty. When we fall into sin. When we are persecuted. When God is testing us. When we fail to discern His will. When that fog, whatever it may be, conceals the power of our trust in God, what do we do? Remember that the thoughts of our text start with the result and the contrast between the two sides. Sprinkled within the text is the hope.
11 LORD, do not withhold Your compassion from me; Your constant love and truth will always guard me.
13 LORD, be pleased to deliver me; hurry to help me, LORD.
17 I am afflicted and needy; the Lord thinks of me. You are my helper and my deliverer; my God, do not delay.
Each verse that describes the LORD’s power and grace is prefaced with David seeking. David is putting into action what he talked about in verse 16. The believer seeks to see the LORD’s work. In his own communication with the LORD David desperately seeks this for himself. He wants to see clearly again by faith. Listen to the action words that David uses in his plea. Guard me. Help me. Think of me. What David seeks here is expressed with clarity because he trusts in God. In real time, David is lost in the fog of his own iniquities and the troubles bought upon by those who seek his downfall. But in his heart, there is great clarity. By faith he sees in perfect vision what God has and continues to do for him.
In verse 11, David rejoices in the LORD’s love and truth as his protection. To protect in this way means to keep an eye on – to see with perfect vision. This is what the believer seeks by faith – that God would watch over them and see them. By faith, this is a blessing. By our flesh, it is a burden. No sinner wants to be seen by God. The first thing Adam and Eve did was hide. In a very real sense, there is no escape from God’s sight. He sees and knows all. In another psalm the Spirit posed this question about His own ability, Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there (Psalm 139:7-8).
Many are those who try to flee from God’s sight – as foolish an endeavor as that is. What allows us to not run to embrace God’s sight is His love and truth – the very same things David took comfort in. God’s truth leads me to repentance when I see my sins for what they truly are and what they have done to my life. God’s love in Christ helps me see the great value I have before God – that I am a blood bought soul. Sins, iniquities, and persecutions will seek to cloud those two constants – God’s truth and God’s love. When our own vision is lacking in this way – we return to the blessed fact that God always sees. He sees for our health. He sees for our protection. He sees for our eternal inheritance in heaven.
Just like our psalm the benediction we will receive in a few minutes is based on sight. Sight from God that penetrates the fearful perceptions and distortion of reality from our sinful hearts. Sight that shines on us like the warmth of the sun, emanating from our righteous and gracious Triune God – All-powerful Father, enlightening Spirit, and Redeemer Son. Praise be to Him for helping us see all things clearly by faith – may He keep us in that until our final day. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.