"I am the vine, you are the branches"
Persecution, Part 4
David the Suffering Servant
We have been taking a closer look at persecution and martyrdom the last several months, and as we saw last month, those who overcame and stayed faithful in the midst of trials and persecution would receive an imperishable crown. All throughout the history of God's people, there has been a resounding voice which asks the question, "How long, O Lord, how long will the wicked prosper?" The Psalmist writes over and over again from a heart longing for God's intervention and justice to prevail in the midst of a perverse and wicked world, "When will Thou execute judgment on those who persecute me?" In the Book of Revelation the souls that were martyred that rest beneath the altar cry out to the Lord, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"
We have looked at the Apostles along with brave Christians who have suffered persecution, but when we think of the Hebrew Scriptures, we have to think of David. All throughout the Psalms we read about the brokenness of David who for many years was isolated and lonely because of the persecution of King Saul. So we want to look at his writings in the Psalms to see how David made it through all those years of persecution from Saul.
David the Suffering Servant
David was considered a man after God's own heart. David points to Yeshua in his writings even though he is writing about himself so many times. David's cry, "O God why has thou rejected us," is Yeshua's cry from the cross quoted from David's Psalm 22, "My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken Me?" David ran from Saul for about twenty years. He also ran from others like Absolom, his own son who wanted to do him harm. David knew the hardships of persecution. He could relate to the agony and desperation that one goes through when God is testing your faith through trials and persecutions. But time after time, David would always come back to the truth that God really hadn't forsaken him, that he was not forgotten but just the opposite, that God was for him and loved him and one day the wicked would come to an end, and that end would be an eternity without God while he would enjoy the rewards of the righteous forevermore. We want to take a closer look at David's writings and see how he dealt with his persecution. Let's see if we cannot learn from God's Word the power to overcome.
"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked, nor stand on the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers." Immediately in the book of Psalms, there is given the difference between the wicked and the righteous. Here David gives us the first hint to overcoming. The righteous delight in the Law and in His Law he meditates day and night. As believers, we need to be sure that we do not listen to the world but only to God's Word. "My sheep know my voice and a stranger they will simply not follow, but flee from him because they do not know the voice of the stranger." We need to take the Sword of the Spirit and fight the good fight and we need to take the belt of truth and put it around us so that we are firmly anchored and stable in the Word of God.
"Why are the nations in an uproar and people devising a vain thing? The kings take their stand and the rulers take council together against the Lord and against His anointed: ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!'" The wicked hate God and His Messiah and they will do anything to break away from under the yoke of His authority. But God responds by laughing and scoffing at them, for God will break them and shatter them like earthenware. God is the Almighty who sits on the throne and nothing gets past his eyes. For the Psalmist writes, "And they have said, ‘The Lord does not see, nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.' Pay heed you senseless among the people; and when will you understand, stupid ones? He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see?" Our hope during our time of testing is in God, that He will one day remove the wicked like one removes the chaff.
This psalm was written when David was fleeing from his son Absolom. "O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no deliverance for him in God.'" David knows all too well the division God's Word can bring in families and how children can rebel against parents. Yeshua said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his own household." These trials and persecutions can be the most difficult because we are torn between children we love and God in whom we not only love, but serve. David goes on to say, "But thou O Lord art a shield about me, my glory and the One who lifts my head." Only God can protect us from the hurt. Only God can carry us and even lift our heads when we just want to hang our heads in sorrow. Yeshua said, "Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." This Morning Prayer of David gives us strength to go through the day to meet every challenge that the day holds because we know that nothing will come our way that God and I cannot meet together.
Yeshua tells us that we are not to worry about tomorrow, for today has enough problems of its own. At the end of the day, we lay our heads down to rest and only God can give us the peace to close our eyes in sleep. Psalm four is called The Evening Prayer, and David writes, "Answer me when I call O God of my righteousness! Thou hast relieved me in my distress; be gracious to me and hear my prayer." After all day of fighting the good fight, it is good to know that God does not slumber or sleep, that God is faithful even when we are not. But here in this psalm we see some key components to becoming an overcomer. Here we see in verse 2 God says, "O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim deception? But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him. Tremble and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the Lord."
We see here that first of all, to overcome you have to be set apart. What does it mean to be set apart? Well, God gave specific commands to set his people apart from all the others. In fact, God tells Moses, "Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My Covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy (set-apart) nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel." Now we have to agree that if we Gentiles were not grafted in, that the Word of God would be meaningless to us because it would only pertain to the Jew. But Paul does tell us that we have been grafted into Israel and into the promises and into the covenants, so God's word is relevant to us as well as to the Jew. So Paul says that the congregation of believers is to be a kingdom of priests and a holy (set-apart) nation, a peculiar people, God's own special treasure. So what sets Israel apart must also set us apart. And what helped those of the Hall of Faith will also help us to overcome.
The Scriptures tell us that the redeemed of the Lord shall live by faith. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. Faith without works is dead. Even though I do not consider obeying God's commands as works, some people do. I believe we keep God's commands out of love for Him. Yeshua said, "If you love Me, then keep My commands." The Psalmist writes, "The Lord has set-apart the godly man for Himself." God gave Israel specific commands to keep them set-apart from the world. First of all, all His commands separate us from the world. But we only like to think of the Ten Commands; well, really we only like to think of nine of them. But it is keeping the Sabbath that separates us from the world. It also speaks to the world that we believe that God is the Creator of all things because after He created, He rested on the seventh day and made it holy. The seventh day was a day of rest and it shows the world that God is the one who provides for us and takes care of us. In the wilderness they were to collect manna for six days and on the sixth day they were to collect enough for the seventh day.
God's appointed times, which the Sabbath is one of, is God's calendar, not the world's. It is distinguished by the moon, and every new moon starts a new month and a new time for us to begin anew with God. In the service of the New Moon, it speaks of the day when all abominations will come to an end and God will rule and reign with all of His saints. It definitely is a service that all believers should keep because it is what we are all waiting for: the return of our Messiah who will one day sit on the throne of King David and be King over all. So as the world keeps a calendar that is not lunar with all of its pagan names, the set-apart godly person should be keeping God's lunar calendar because it again speaks of God who is the Creator. For it says in Scripture that it was evening then morning for each of the days of creation.
Passover is another Appointed Time. Yeshua died on Passover, not Good Friday. The scriptures clearly stated that it was Passover and that Yeshua was our Passover Lamb and that we should keep Passover by taking the leaven out of our lives. Of course, three nights and three days later, Yeshua rose from the dead triumphantly. And we are to keep the counting of the Omer which begins on the day after Unleavened Bread, or the sixteenth of Nisan, which is the feast of First Fruits because Yeshua is our First Fruits from the dead, which brings us to Pentecost on the fiftieth day. On this day, God married Israel and the marriage covenant was the giving of His commands on Mount Sinai; at the time of the disciples it was the giving of the Holy Spirit which is our down payment or the seal on that marriage.
There is Rosh Hashanah, which speaks of the Lord's return with the sound of the trumpet and the High Holy days which lead to Yom Kippur, the holiest of all God's Appointed Times because it is the time of repentance when we who have heard the sound of the shofar and have prepared ourselves have our names written in the Lamb's Book of life. And there is the Feast of Tabernacles which is God dwelling with man. Sounds like the birth of Yeshua! Don't we say that he became man to dwell with us? This is the time of our Savior's birth, not Christmas, which is a pagan holiday. The Feast of Tabernacles is recorded in Zechariah 14 and it is stated that any family of the earth that does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King during this feast, there will be no rain on them and they will be punished. These Feasts not only separate us from the world, but it is during these Times that God says, "I want to meet with you, I want you to draw near."
God gave us the Kosher diet to separate us from the world. Was it because it was healthier? NO! It was to separate us from the world. The Scriptures tell us that if we love the world, we cannot have any part of God because they are enemies of each other. We are not even to resemble the world. Our friends wonder why we do not run with them any longer (1 Peter 4:3-5). It is because we are now separated from the world and its ways. No longer do we lust after the flesh and the eyes, the pride of life (1 John 2:15-19). We are to be godly if we are ever going to be overcomers. The Bridegroom is coming back for a Bride without spot or wrinkle. We are to keep our garments white with good works and deeds and we are to shine in the darkness. This is what keeps faith.
Next, we are to be people of praise. We are to offer the sacrifices of righteousness. The sacrifice of praise is the fruit of our lips. "Rejoice in the Lord always," this is what Paul tells us. We are to rejoice in our trials and tribulations because we trust in our God. It is the Song of Moses that the redeemed will sing, the song of triumph, the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are They works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are thy ways, Thou King of the nations. Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy Name? For Thou alone art holy; For all the nations will come and worship before thee, For thy righteous acts have been revealed." The Psalmist writes, "May my prayer be counted as incense before Thee."
When the angels fall before the Lamb they will have golden bowls full of the prayers of the saints and they will sing a new song saying, "Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break the seals; For Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth. And to him who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron as the vessels of the potter are broken to prices. I am coming quickly; hold fast to what you have, in order that no one take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which will come down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."