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Trouble comes to the people of God. If it is not here now, it will be here soon. Those who promise that the Christian life is a breezy walk through the meadow not only have not taken up their cross and followed Him, but, I fear, He may not have taken up His cross for them. Our walk, according to His Word, will be fraught with peril, our days filled with troubles. His yoke is indeed easy, and His burden light. But we follow Him on the via dolorosa. Praise God that He has not left us wandering in the dark. When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us. He has told us troubles will come, and He has told us how we ought to respond.
Take, for instance, the life of David. He was the original renaissance man, a man of deep and varied talents. Were we to look at his life with rose-colored glasses, we might think he moved from victory to victory. We might remember the killing of the bear and the lion, the service to King Saul, the astonishing victory over Goliath of Gath. We might recall the cries of his countrymen who sang, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7). He was made king over all Israel, expanded her borders, and established his throne in Jerusalem. He was the father to the wisest man, short of Jesus, ever to walk on the planet, a son whose rule is the very picture of the pinnacle of blessing. He was, and this surpasses all of the above, a man after God’s own heart.
Such an account of the life of David shows some glaring holes. First, there he was tending the flock, and a bear came after them, and at another time a lion. The king that he served was at best a mad man, given to fits of rage. Facing Goliath was no picnic, nor could it have been easy to go so often into battle throughout his life. Saul killed his thousands, but his special target was David, leading him to flee for his life and live in exile in Egypt. His own son toppled him from his throne, and in the end, his hands were too bloody to allow him to build the temple of the Lord. David’s highs and lows were as varied as his talents.
David’s greatest influence over the ages, however, is found in none of the above. He was a great warrior. He was, for the most part, a model king. He was an outstanding shepherd. But it is his lyrics that still shape the world. The truth of the matter is not only that the Christian’s life is much like David’s, with both breathtaking highs and soul-numbing lows, but that the life of the church is the same. The church of Jesus Christ has had, over the millennia, moments of grand triumph and episodes of grave sin. Whether it be the conquering sword of Islam or the steady decay of the Roman empire; whether it be feuding barbarian hordes or feuding clerical factions, the church of the eighth century did not move from triumph to triumph. It did move, however, under the care of the great shepherd of the sheep. And she went on her way singing the wisdom of David (Ps. 20:1–4):
May the Lord answer you in
the day of trouble!
May the name of the God
of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help
from the sanctuary and
give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your
offerings, and regard with
favor your burnt sacrifices!
May He grant you your heart’s
desire, and fulfill all your plans.
This blessed hope, however, is no mere hope. He delivers in the day of trouble precisely because He is the author of the day of trouble. He sends the trouble and the deliverance for the same purpose, to strengthen us, to grant our hearts’ desire, to fulfill all our purpose, that we would be like the One whom He remembers, Jesus His Son.
In times of trouble, which the church faces now and will face again, David tells us that “we will rejoice in Your salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.”
He calls us not to fear, not to worry, but to seek first the kingdom of God (Ps. 20:6):
Now I know that the Lord
saves His anointed; he will
answer him from His holy
heaven with the saving might
of His right hand.
In times of trouble, which the church faces now and will face again, David tells us that we must look to the resurrection. The Lord has saved His anointed, and in Him, He saves us. So we will walk as the fools (Ps. 20:7–8):
Some trust in chariots, and some
in horses, but we trust in the
name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.
David’s wise son told us that there is nothing new under the sun. Troubles — like those in poverty — we will have with us always. But the son of David reigns on high. And He shall reign for ever and ever. Thus we cry out in times of need, “Save, Lord!”
May the King answer us when we call.