Last week we were at a family funeral, this morning a visiting preacher told us of one of his elders who was suffering from terminal cancer. On both occasions the sermon was based on Psalm 62. I imagine that at Bible College they tell you that a good topic for sad occasions is Psalm 62. It comes with the instruction pack.
It is supposed that David wrote the psalm when he had been deposed by his son, Absalom, before he regained the throne, but it doesn't really matter; its theme is universal.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a vulnerable condition; a leaning wall, a tottering fence - we are real pushovers for adversity. Where do we turn to for support?
We may turn to others. So we should. Being part of a Christian community not only requires us to help those in need, but also to ask for help when we are in need. But though others may help we cannot rely on them. They will let us down. The middle verse in the whole Bible is "Put not your trust in princes." For as we see here, "Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are a lie; if weighed on a balance they are nothing; together they are only a breath." From the highest to the lowest, a man is but a puff of wind; he is ephemeral. Be he ever-so trustworthy he has no control over the future. How many have faltered when their sponsor or mentor is carried off by death or by new circumstances. As a young doctor I had hitched my wagon to a rising star (there's a good mixed metaphor), until one day he told me he was off to Chicago and I was left to fend for myself. Be he ever so important or just a journeyman, a man may promise the earth but he cannot guarantee to deliver. Perhaps this night his life will be required of him.
You might put your trust in riches. In today's climate who would dare? I do not have a job to lose so I won't be affected by my firm going bust, though many will. I don't have a loan so I won't be made bankrupt if the loan is called in, though many will. I don't have a mortgage so I won't be forced to sell my house at a loss, though many will. Nevertheless, the pound has declined against the Euro and the dollar so much of my wealth has disappeared. In order to bail out the banks the government has borrowed billions. Those billions must be paid back and the government can only repay by taxing more. It's like putting your money in a pocket full of holes. I have not set my heart on riches.
Who then can be relied upon? Where then can my soul find rest? In God alone. He alone is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress, I shall not be shaken.
Over and over again this psalm insists that we are secure in God and nowhere else. One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard. That you, O God are strong.
It is a sign of the times that we have this picture of a weak and watery God. I have just finished reading "Seeing Red" the autobiography of Graham Poll the soccer referee. Poll is famous for his action during the 2006 World Cup. Certainly the top referee in the UK and highly regarded throughout the world, in many quarters he was expected to be chosen to referee the World Cup Final. As it happened it was to be an Italy v Germany Final so he would have been strongly tipped to get the match as the culmination of a long career.
Those who don't know soccer should recognise it as a violent game. In America is is often seen as a game for children and women, but in Europe and South America it is a game for real men who don't wear body armor. In Columbia and Iraq you are likely to be shot if you lose. In certain countries racism is rife. Twenty years ago crowd trouble was very common with pitched battles in the stadia and streets. Supporters were killed. Although some measure of control has been achieved, the fans are still aggressive. They are known for their singing. The songs are often funny, but more usually sexually explicit and abusive. The referee is often the butt of the humor.
The players are frequently foul-mouthed, deceitful and aggressive. They seek to intimidate the referee into favoring their side. The only defence that the referee has is the card system - a yellow for a warning, but a second yellow means a red card and dismissal from the field of play. At least it did until Graham Poll came along. In the Croatia versus Australia match he managed to give a Croatian defender three yellow cards. It was a tragedy for Poll and ensured that he was sent home in disgrace, his lifetime ambition unfulfilled.
A lot of people see God like that - a lot of warnings but no red card. They imagine a God who talks big but doesn't deliver. They mistake patience for tolerance. They think he winks at sin. So many people seem to 'get away with it' that there seems no point in obeying the rules. "They take delight in lies; with their mouths they bless but in their hearts they curse."
At football matches a company called Pro-zone films every incident. Thirty-six video cameras watch the action from every angle. The referee may miss a shirt tug or a sly push, but the cameras collect it. Things missed by the referee may still result in a retrospective red card. Pro-zone may be new to the Premier League, but God has had it for years. He never misses a trick.
What a referee to have on your side! Nothing the opposition can throw at you goes unnoticed. He is a strong supporter.
But why doesn't he act? The thing is, He is concerned about the result. In any game of football there may be setbacks. In the European Cup final a couple of years ago Liverpool were 3-0 down to AC Milan at half time. It would have been easy to give up in the face of such adversity. Liverpool refused to surrender despite the set-back and eventually won on penalties. God is not primarily concerned about our comfort. He is not looking out for our bank balances. He cares about the result. It is our salvation that matters, ours and every one else's. He is strong enough to protect those He loves.
That was the second thing the psalmist heard. God is not only strong, He is loving. That's why he is so patient. It is not His purpose that any should perish, He wants everyone to repent and reform. You may say it's not going to happen, but how do you know? The most unlikely have turned from their wicked ways. Look at the Nixon henchman, Chuck Colsen. Look at that privileged crook Jonathan Aitken. What about you? You changed didn't you? Do you imagine that others like you won't?