1. Apparently Vanquished Psalm 60:1-5
Text: “O God, Thou hast cast us off, Thou hast scattered us, Thou hast been displeased; O turn Thyself to us again.”
Good morning, Under-the-juniper-tree Christian! Like the prophet Elijah - after receiving a vicious death-threat from the evil queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1-4) - today you and I may also be ‘lying asleep under a juniper tree’, feeling vanquished, and desperately low in faith and hope; ready to give up on all things Christian and all things Godly and good.
If this describes how you feel as you read this Bible Lesson, then read on, beloved friend in need, for there is new hope and encouragement for you in this message.
From my own personal forty years of experiencing the Christian life, by God’s free grace, I can usually recognise a pattern of events that will most definitely bring our Christian spirits down into grief, and further down into an ‘under the juniper tree’ depth of depression. When we, as genuine, Spiritually regenerate, Christians commit sin – sin, and our grief for it, pulls us immediately down, and will not just go away, until we confess our failing, and seek God’s renewing grace and forgiveness. There are no sinless Christians, just a sinless Christ.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins (to God alone!), He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him (God) a liar, and His Word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10)
The Lord lifts our spirits up again, when we exercise faith in His Word, and sincerely seek His forgiveness for sins we commit as true Christian believers – the Holy Spirit Who lives within us when we are born again, is no longer grieved, and we have full fellowship with our Holy Lord God once more. We must, of course, seek to also forsake the sin we committed.
However, there are also times when we are being our most faithful to the Lord God, and seeking to serve Christ fervently – in witnessing to others concerning Salvation; in preaching and teaching God’s Word; in successfully living out our Christian faith for all our neighbours to clearly see and glorify our Father in Heaven – that we can feel ourselves under a most vicious, and totally ruthless attack from the world, the flesh, the Devil, and even from members of our own close family and friends!
“Think not that I (Jesus Christ) am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36)
I have personally experienced such times of ‘under-the-juniper tree’ depression of spirit, and can honestly tell all readers that I would not wish such a hell of inner mental and Spiritual grief upon any true believer! It is a real nightmare of anguish and frustration; a pit of unwanted, and often unwarranted, stress and grief! A time when the Heaven’s seem as brass, and the besieged Christian heart feels that the Lord Whom he loves has turned His Holy face away, and is not even hearing his/her prayers for Holy Ghost relief!
Verse 1. “David found himself the possessor of a tottering throne, troubled with the double evil faction at home and invasion from abroad. He traced at once the evil to its true source and began at the fountainhead. His were politics of piety, which after all are the wisest, most profound.” (C.H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David, page 266)
Verse 1. “O God, Thou hast cast us off. The word here used means properly to be foul, rancid, offensive; and then to treat anything as if it were foul or rancid; to repel, to spurn, to cast away. It is strong language, meaning that God had seemed to treat them as if they were loathsome or offensive to Him.” (Albert Barnes1798-1870)
Elijah had felt this way when he fled in terror from Jezebel’s wrath and lay down under a juniper tree and, “...requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4)
King David had felt this way, as expressed clearly in the first five verses of Psalm 60.
No doubt the apostle Peter had felt this way too, after openly and publicly denying his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, some three times in a row!
Think it, therefore, no new event that lesser mortals like you and I, while suffering such deep anguish of soul and spirit, should sink down so low as to begin to believe that God has taken away the joy of His Spirit; turned His Holy face from even looking at us; and thrown us, like discarded waste, unto the dunghill of complete rejection! We feel totally ‘cast off’.
Verse 2. “...Heal the breaches thereof. The very rock of our faith’s foundations feels shattered and broken! Help, Lord God, my faith faileth! Cast me not away, O Lord! ‘Heal the breaches thereof’!
Verse 3. “Thou hast showed Thy people hard things. God will be sure to plough His own ground, whatsoever becometh of the waste; and to weed His own garden, though the rest of the world should be let alone to grow wild.” (John Trapp 1601-1699)
“I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Husbandman (gardener). Every branch in Me (Jesus Christ) that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you...Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples.” (John 15:1-8)
You and I, under-the-juniper tree, Christians, by these verses just quoted, must fully realise that, first, we are proven to be genuine, Spiritually regenerated, Christians. And, secondly, that we in such testing times are being ‘pruned’ by God, that we might indeed bear Him much more Spiritual fruit from among His predestined harvest of precious souls.
Verse 4. “Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee. The Lord has given us the standard of the Gospel; let us live to uphold it, and if needful die to defend it. To publish the Gospel is a sacred duty, to be ashamed of it, a deadly sin...As surely as God is true, He will give success to His own Word.” (C.H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David, page 266)
Thought: Our prayer today: “That Thy beloved may be delivered; save with Thy right hand, and hear me.” Take heart, Christian! God’s angels are on their way to help you.