Certain Security in an Uncertain World

Psalm 61

8 June 2008

Blenheim Free Church, Maidenhead

Morning service


Last week I was discussing with a colleague (who is the father of teenage girls) why it is that today's young people seem so fragile. Why do they so often seem to over-react? Why are they so emotionally unstable? You could just put it down to the usual hazards of being teenagers, but it seems so much more of an issue these days than in the past.

As an example of this, it was recently reported that a third of girls aged 11 to 19 had tried to harm themselves, either through cutting, burning or punching themselves. And over a fifth of boys had done likewise.

Why is there this staggering epidemic of self-harm? I'm sure it barely happened at all when I was a teenager, not all that long ago. Why are the youth of today so fragile?

On the one hand it is so perplexing because in so many ways young people have never had it so good. They are materially wealthy; academically successful; living in times of international peace; with opportunities ahead of them undreamt of by previous generations.

But as we threw various ideas around, we realised that although outwardly prosperous, our present age is deeply insecure. Family life has never been so volatile. The pace of technological change has never been so great. Fashions have never moved so fast. Rarely has job security been so low. Rarely has the future been so uncertain.

In the face of this, perhaps it's a little more understandable why there seems to be an almost bottom-less well of insecurity in the hearts of today's young people. Of course, whether young or old, we all face exactly the same insecurities: perhaps it's just that in the lives of the young they are nearer the surface. No doubt many of us share exactly the same anxieties.

I wanted to tell you about this conversation because it sets the scene for Psalm 61. This Psalm is all about insecurity and how David found his way to true security. Through David, God shows us what kind of security we should be giving our young people, and what kind of security we need in our lives in this deeply insecure life.

So what does David teach us? First, he knows he must cry out to God; second, he knows that closeness is the goal; and third, he knows that the king is the guarantee.

David knows he must Cry out to God (1-2)

It's very likely that this Psalm was written during the time of Absalom's rebellion. Absalom is David's son, but he's rallied a great deal of support and organised a coup against the rule of his father, David. In the face of this, David has fled with some of his men, and Absalom is coming after him. David and his men are far from home; they are hungry and tired and thirsty, and they are about to have to fight for their lives against the whole army of Israel.

It is into this situation that David prays: Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint.ref

You can hear the desperation in his cry, can't you? I call as my heart grows faint. David has run out of resources. He cannot save himself. He's at the end of his tether.

All he can do is pray — and pray he does. And he is determined to be heard. David is a long way from Jerusalem, he feels a million miles from God — from the ends of the earth I call to you — but still he prays his heart out.

Have you ever prayed like this? Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayerref? Sometimes this is why God puts us into difficult situations: to make us pray to him. Sometimes he takes us away from our dull and dry and distant prayers and puts us in difficulties that squeeze out of us real prayers, heartfelt prayers, cries to him from the depths of our hearts. Often it is in the crises where we truly meet with God. It is when we start to pray real prayers we find that we have a real God.

As long as we have strength to pray there is hope; without the capacity to pray we have no hope. Spurgeon comments, "There is an end to man when he makes an end to prayer" . Had David stopped praying he would have started despairing, and then all would have been lost. In the clutches of insecurity there is just one thing to do: cry out to God. Keep on praying.

But what does David pray for. He pleads with God: Lead me to the rock that is higher than Iref.

David needs a safe place to be. When Hannah or Rebekah is frightened by something, what do they do? They run to Mummy and Daddy. Why? Because we are bigger than they are; when you are big you can handle anything!

David knows he needs something bigger than himself to rescue him. He needs to stand on a rock that is higher than he is. But he doesn't know where to turn; he can't save himself, so he prays, Lead me, lead me, God, to the safe rock that is higher than I am. Save me, I can't save myself.

You may have heard about the five divers who were found yesterday in Indonesia after being missing for two days. They'd been swept away by the current, and drifted for a day in shark infested waters with just a log to cling to. Imagine their desperation to find a rock, solid ground to stand on. Imagine their relief when one of them spotted land and they were able to swim over to it. Imagine their surprise on discovering that island they had landed on was inhabited by 10-foot man-killing lizards.

In the end, thankfully, they were rescued. And God will rescue us. When we are dragged away by strong currents of life, drifting in shark-infested waters, if we cry to him he will set our feet on a rock. And we can trust that it will be a safe place: he will lift us up to a rock that is higher than us; a rock far above the stormy seas; a rock too high for man-eating lizards to reach.

In answer to our heart-felt cries, God doesn't say, Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. He doesn't tell us to save ourselves. We can't! Any rock we could climb on, our dangers could follow us. Only a rock that is higher than we is safe, and only God can lift us there.

David knows Closeness is the Goal (3-4)

In the next verses we see what David learns about this rock that is higher than he. What is it? Where is it? How does he get there?

We see it as much in what David doesn't pray for as in what he does pray for.

What David doesn't pray for is physical security. He knows that God has already given him that, verse 3, For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foeref. But for David that is not the most important thing.

What he does pray for is intimacy with God, verse 4, I long to dwell in your tent for ever and take refuge in the shelter of your wingsref.

That's a surprise, isn't it? We would expect David, on the run from Jerusalem, tired and hungry and thirsty, to pray: O God, I long to live in my palace again. I long to eat like the king again. I long for the comfort and pleasures of royalty. I long for the security of living in Jerusalem.

But David knew far better than to put his trust in material things. He has a much bigger aim in mind. He knows that intimacy with God is the key to security. Closeness is the goal. That's point 2: first he cries out to God, then he makes closeness his goal.

David longs to be back at the tabernacle, the tent which was housing God's sanctuary before the temple was built. It was the place where God's presence was most clearly made known. David knows that lasting security is found only in the shelter of the wings of God, as if he were a tiny chick nestling closely, warm and safe under the wing of the mother hen.

This is the security David was seeking. Not the security of his wealth, or his palace, or his storehouses, or his armies. No, David knows that true security is to be found only in closeness to God. Calvin observes that David's "heart was set more upon the worship of God than all the wealth, splendour, and pleasures of royalty" .

Where do we look to find our security? So often we put our trust in our job, or in our savings, or in our house, or in our pension plan, or in a relationship, or in our family, or in our own skills and abilities. But we are fools to trust in these things: any of them could be taken away from us in an instant. Not one of them offers any true security at all.

Where have you put your hope for security in the future? In getting a better job? In building a bigger pension plan? In moving to another house? We are deluded if we think anything like this will help us. Actually, by relying on earthly things we usually only end up with more to worry about, don't we? Another source of insecurity.

No, David knew that there is only one place where real security is found: in closeness with God, taking refuge in the shelter of his wings. We need to make closeness our goal, and only then will we be able to live lives free from worry and anxiety and insecurity.

David knows the King is the Guarantee (5-8)

So, to recap: in verses one and two David cries out to God. In verses three and four, he makes closeness his goal. In the last part of the Psalm, verses four to six, he teaches us that the king is the guarantee.

The first thing to notice is that in verse 5, David has finally found what he has been looking for. He has confidence that God has heard him, and blessed him: For you have heard my vows, O God; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your nameref.

David's vows are his prayers. His crying out to God has evidently included an element of recommitment to God, a vow to stay close to him in future. And his prayers have given him confidence: he has received the heritage of those who fear your name.

This is a strange phrase, but we are to understand that it means eternal security with God. In the New Testament we are told that, if we are Christians, God the Father has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of lightref. It means that no matter what happens to us in this life, we are guaranteed eternal security: life for ever with God. We needn't fear anything in the world, the only right object for our fear is God himself.

How can we share that eternal confidence with David? Well, David goes on to pray, apparently for himself. Increase the days of the king's life, he prays, his years for many generations. May he be enthroned in God's presence for ever. Appoint your love and faithfulness to protect himref.

On the surface it looks like David is simply praying for himself. He is the king, after all. But, is he just praying that God will secure David's own throne for his own security?

The language he uses just seems too grand for that. David's prayer seems too big a prayer to pray only for himself: Increase... his years for many generationsref; may he be enthroned in God's presence for everref. And why does he pray in the third person? Why is it "his" and "he" rather than "my" and "me"?

What David knows is that there will only be true security for God's people while God's king is on the throne. His eyes have been lifted up from his current situation. He has become confident in his own security, and now he's thinking about the big picture: how can lasting security be guaranteed for all of God's people?

So David prays for the king: in the first instance himself as king, but then all his descendents as king after him for many generations. He knows that only when God's king is on God's throne will any kind of security be guaranteed for God's people. The king is their guardian and their protector. The king is the guarantee.

If we are God's people, how do we ensure that we have God's guaranteed security? Well, it's just the same: we need the King to be on the throne. The king is the guarantee.

We know that David was a prophet, and in these verses we find him praying prophetically. He somehow sees that there will be an eternal King to come, that God's has an eternal plan to guard his people. David has glimpsed dimly that one day one of his descendents will be eternal King, enthroned in God's presence: Jesus, son of David.

If you want true security, everlasting safety, the question is, then, Is the King on the throne in your life?

If we insist on living our own lives our own way we will never find the security we long for. It is only when we lay all that aside and put Jesus on the throne in our lives that we will know God's complete, reliable and everlasting protection. The king is the guarantee. He is the rock that is higher than we are.


So this is the security God offers us. This is the security we must learn for ourselves and teach our young people. First we must learn to cry out to God, to pray real prayers in times of need. Second, we must make closeness our goal: we shouldn't only pray that God will rescue us from trouble, but that he would bring us close to himself. Third, we must know that the King is the guarantee. Apart from Jesus there is no security; with Jesus as king in our lives, we have every security we can hope for, for ever in his presence.

I read a book recently with the great title "Who moved my cheese". It's a little story about how different people react to change and insecurity in their lives. You may have read it yourself: over 5 million copies have been sold worldwide, and it's Amazon.com's best-ever selling book. Which just goes to prove that there's a lot of insecurity out there.

One of the challenges in the book is to think, What would you do if you weren't afraid? What would you do if fear were not holding you back?

For the non-Christian, that's just wishful thinking, isn't it. It's just self-improvement self-delusion. The non-Christian has plenty to fear.

But for the Christian, it's a really good question. If Jesus is on the throne, we really do have nothing to fear. What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Perhaps God is challenging you to something new. Maybe there is someone he wants you to speak to about your faith. Maybe he is calling you to get involved in one of the activities of the church, or to go visiting on the estate. Maybe he's calling you away from here, to leave your earthly security and trust him in some new adventure.

Whatever it is, remember that with King Jesus on the throne we have utter and complete security for ever.