December 19, 2004: “For God is My High Tower” – Psalm 59
· Psalm 59 is a psalm that cries out for deliverance… deliverance from David’s enemies that seek his life. And the Psalm shows us David looking to God for his defense…
· “Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men (Ps. 59:1-2).”
· David was looking to be delivered from the hands of evildoers, from “bloodthirsty men.” The title to the Psalm gives us the context attributed to it. It tells us that it deals with the time that Saul sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him. This is recorded in 1 Samuel 19. Saul is king, and David had just returned from war with the Philistines, and had achieved a great victory, such that they fled from before him with a great slaughter. David is sitting in Saul’s house playing his harp, when Saul seeks to kill David with the javelin…but misses and sticks it in the wall. David flees to his home. And in verse 11 of 1 Samuel 19 it says,
· “Saul also sent messengers unto David’s house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal David’s wife told him, saying, if thou save not thy life to night, to morrow thou shalt be slain. So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped.”
· We derive so much insight into David’s character when we reflect upon what he has written in the Psalms. He faces circumstances here where a powerful king seeks his life. He must flee for his life, and he turns to his God and seeks his assistance…he prays that God would “defend” him in verse 1. It is a word that means to “set me on high”. He asks God to set him on high…putting him out of reach. In verse 9 it says, “God is my defence.” In the margin, it has God is “my high place.” The NIV has that God is “my fortress,” and in the closing two verses, we see David’s great love and dependence upon his God:
· “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God (Ps. 59:16-17).”
· David saw God as his high place, his fortress of refuge to flee unto. Psalm 62 opens with the words,
· “Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence (high place); I shall not be greatly moved.”
· And down in verse 7,
· In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.”
· Psalm 61 opens with the verses…
· “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings.”
· The reference to “the rock” in these verses is the Hebrew word “Tsur” … which is one of the Titles that is applied to God. Interestingly, it is first applied this way by Moses in his song recorded in Deuteronomy 32. The opening verses of that song say,
· “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”
· At this time, David was already a famous general, leading Israel in decisive victories over the enemies of God. David had killed his ten thousands, and they commemorated his victories in song…Yet David had the right perspective as to the real source and “Rock” of his victories…it was at the hand of Yahweh! David wasn’t idle in His service…he was a man of action…but it was under the direction and care of his Heavenly Father at all times. He did not seek his own defense. He did not raise his hand ever against the Lord’s anointed by seeking Saul’s life…that he could have taken in a flash. He didn’t put his confidence in the strength of His own hand or his own abilities, but in the mighty hand of Yahweh. And Yahweh wrought victory or deliverance or salvation through David because of the trust he put in his God!
· In Psalm 31 David writes:
· “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me. For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me. Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength.”
· Though David had such a trust and dependency upon his God, as I mentioned, he did not just sit back and remain idle. He fled to the wilderness. He stayed in the cave at En-Gedi. He sought refuge in the mountains. He hid out in the “stronghold”. 1 Samuel 23:14 says,
· “And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand.”
· I had the privilege along with others from our Ecclesia to spend a day in this region of Israel. I was able to see the types of caves, mountains and strongholds that existed in this area. It was among this barren wilderness area that David placed himself in God’s care and sought deliverance from the hand of Saul. The most dramatic of such strongholds and places of refuge is Masada.
· What an amazing “natural” stronghold. It is a plateau that sits by itself, rising nearly 1500 feet above the ground…on the western shore of the Dead Sea…and about 11 miles south of En-Gedi. Herod the Great built an elaborate water system to provide water. He also built two elaborate palaces here. The only point of access to the top was through a winding path on its east side…called the “snake path”.
· It is not a place that is mentioned by name in the Bible, but many would associate it as a place among those that David fled to for refuge from Saul. Whether or not that is true is not of much value…but what I think is, is how the stronghold of Masada is seen today. Next to Jerusalem, it is the most popular destination of Jewish tourists visiting Israel. People are drawn there, not because of having a mind set like David…not because they look to Yahweh as their deliverer…but because it has become the modern symbol of Jewish survival!
· Why is that? For those of you that may not be familiar with the story…it figures into the “great revolt” that the Jews had against the Roman occupation. This revolt was lead by a group of Jewish zealots…and they attempted to throw off the Roman rule…much like the Maccabee’s had done with the Greeks. However, it leads to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70. The surviving Zealots fled from Jerusalem and went to Masada where they sought refuge. The Roman 10th legion did not take long in surrounding Masada, and laying siege to it. Since it was so easily defended, the 960 individuals held out for three years!
· The legend and “story” associated with Masada is bound up in how it fell. The Romans over a period of several months, built a man-made ramp up the western side of the cliff (it still remains today). They used Jewish slaves from the fall of Jerusalem to build the ramp. The defenders of Masada would not kill their own countrymen…so the ramp was ultimately completed, opening up the way for the Tenth Legion’s battering rams and catapults.
· The night before the Tenth Legion was to breach the defenses, the leader of the Jews brings them together and they determine that it is better for them to die at their own hands, than to give their wives and children into the hands of the Romans, and they themselves sold into slavery. So…that night…they burned all the buildings, except for the storehouses of food. They wanted the Romans to know that it was not an issue of starvation … but of their own choice. And, then a handful of men killed all the people, and then took their own lives. The Romans came into the Masada fortress to an eerie silence…no sound of battle…just the silence of death.
· The people in Masada did not put their trust in the Rock of their salvation…their high tower or fortress. They put it all in a series of stonewalls and towers perched on a cliff. Such is the view of the flesh. And… clearly the wrong lesson has been gleaned from this moment in Israel’s history…
· The story of Masada has become the modern symbol of Jewish survival. The valor of the Jewish zealots residing on Masada during the Roman siege is celebrated as the supreme example of self-sacrifice for the preservation of the nation of Israel. Today, when the recruits of the Israeli Armored Corps take their oath of allegiance, they do so on Masada to remind each generation of the price their forefathers paid for their nation. They cry out: “Masada shall not fall again!”
· They look to the might of their own hand…not to their God! Not to the Rock from which they were originally derived! That was Israel’s problem that caused them such grief and suffering. They could not keep their focus on their God…they did not value the Hope they had bound up in the great and precious promises of the Father. Turn with me over to Deuteronomy 32, to this passage where the title of Rock is seen applied to our Heavenly Father…the opening verses of this chapter I read earlier…where verse 4 applies the title of “Rock” to God. Picking it up down in verse 15,
· “But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful and hast forgotten God that formed thee.”
· The nation of Israel forgot their God…their Rock that had given birth to them and established them as His chosen nation. They did not have the attitude of David. Instead of putting their trust in Him, the nation sought every other avenue possible for their help…sacrificing to all manner of idols; to gods they did not know…to whatever became the latest rage of popularity. They lost site of the hope before them.
· Here are two examples of how we can approach living our lives in this world today. We can follow in David’s example, or we can allow ourselves to wax fat like Israel, and put all our trust on the present…looking to leaders, employers, physicians, heroes, friends, and family for our refuge, for our deliverance from whatever might assail us, and not in God.
· Sure, we are not in David’s shoes. We don’t have people camped outside our homes looking for an opportunity when they might kill us. Yet, spiritually, we are very much in the same shoes that David was in. Like David at this time in his life, we are called to be kings…but our kingdom is yet future. Spiritually, we are literally being assaulted on all fronts. Our enemies surround us. …The multitude of things in this world around us that are strong allies to our flesh. They seek our life. They want to snuff out any light within us. Yet…do we pray that God would set us on high? Do we run to the shadow of his wings? David felt overwhelmed at many points in his life…and when he felt this way, he prayed that he might be led “to the rock that is higher than I (Ps. 61:2).” He knew there was something more substantial than him. His shelter was to be found in God. He said, “I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust (make my refuge) in the covert of thy wings (Ps. 61:4).”
· Psalm 18 provides one of the great examples of David’s attitude of mind. Turn over to Psalm 18 with me, because this Psalm can help bring these points home for us, especially in light of these emblems.
· The Psalm is of great literary beauty, revealing the heart of David. The Psalm is also recorded for us in 2 Samuel 22 at the end of David’s life. It certainly was written much earlier and fits around 2 Samuel 7 when David was at the height of his power and had rest from all his enemies. Perhaps because by inspiration it is put at the end of David’s life, it is an important indication that God regarded it as an expression of the true David. It is how God would have him remembered, because it is a summary of David’s deepest feelings and the real direction of his life.
· In David’s life he had been without strength and sorely afflicted by his enemies. He had been snared and without means of escape, but God had delivered him. This Psalm is a confession of human weakness and of God’s powerful desire to save. What was true of the physical aspects of David’s life is also true of our salvation. In human weakness we are unable to save ourselves and except God should choose to intervene on our behalf there could be no salvation. This then is where our salvation begins; there must be a recognition and confession of human weakness, a plea to God that He will work for us that which is humanly impossible.
· Look at the opening couple of verses of Psalm 18.
· “I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies (Ps. 18:1-3).”
· Cyril Tennat writes about this Psalm how David gathers together a list of titles in the second verse that are used of God throughout Scripture. The list is divided into two parts, the first being headed with “Yahweh” and the second with “El”. There is a progression of thought in each list.
· The first list begins with God’s memorial name, which occurs some sixteen times in this Psalm. It is not a surprising fact when we remember that the name is particularly associated with God’s deliverance. It promises much more than a mere physical deliverance from trouble, it speaks of a deliverance from the evils of the human heart with the promise of becoming partakers of God’s own nature (2 Pet. 1:4).
· This is followed by “my rock”, the word we’ve already discussed. An elevated place of refuge…a hiding place. It may be necessary to take some evasive action to avoid trouble, but such action must always be preceded by prayer and be the kind of action that does not reveal trust in “man’s world!”
· Next comes “my fortress.” In addition to providing a hiding place – God is also a defense, a bulwark, or a stronghold. A hiding place is only a temporary escape from our enemies, but when we add to “hiding place” the term “fortress,” the position is made secure. When we add the last title of “my deliverer,” we see a progression of thought… God hides, He defends, He delivers! And, the purpose of His hiding place is salvation! “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance (Ps. 32:7).” The purpose of the covering placed on the ark that Noah built was not just to “cover” the blemishes; it was also to keep the Ark floating! In the same way the forgiveness of our sins is not just the removal of our offenses, it is also that we “might live in his sight!” In Jesus, God is battling with our human nature that we might share His! God’s good work that he has begun in us is purposeful and will be continued until the coming of His Son (Phil. 1:6).
· The next group of titles is headed by the phrase “my God” (my El), the title that speaks of God as the very center and source of all strength…so it begins with “my strength”. It is another word for rock. This is followed by “buckler”…a type of shield. A word often found in the messianic Psalms to describe God’s protection provided in Jesus. Next comes “the horn”, the figure of strength and supremacy. It is used in the prophets to record the strength of the nations that they saw in vision. There was no doubt in the mind of David that his strength was not his own. God was his strength and He alone had wrought his salvation. The phrase “my high tower” completes the list. The refuge of God’s providing, high, out of the reach of men.
· Once again the same theme is seen to run through the list – hiding place, defense, and deliverance. But this time we are taken to the “high tower,” and this helps bring it home for us because it sounds forth an echo for us linking it to the “heavenly places” of Ephesians! To the “heavenly citizenship” of Philippians! To the “heavenly Jerusalem” of Hebrews! Paul writes concerning these “heavenly places” in Ephesians 2:4-7:
· “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
· As a result of Jesus’ sacrifice, and our baptism into his name, we have become the children of God. “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).” We are no more “strangers and foreigners” according to Paul, “but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God. And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:19-20).”
· Because of this, we need to have the same mind that was in David…the same mind that was in the Lord Jesus Christ. God is our high place…and we are there with Christ because of what was accomplished through him and as testified in these emblems. “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous run into it, and is safe (Prov. 18:10).”
· We are being assaulted on all sides brethren and sisters, and we have a choice in how we will cope with each day we face…each trial we encounter…each blessing that we receive…each joyful moment we experience. We can look to our flesh and the solutions it might offer … or we can turn to our God and put our trust in Him. One is easy and natural, the other requires effort, action and sometimes difficulty and suffering.
· God’s Word is here for us to help in choosing wisely. Jesus taught that “whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.” If we plant ourselves solidly upon the foundation of our Lord and the Word of our God…we will not be moved.
· We also have a mediator at God’s right-hand … established for us through sacrifice, so that we might come into Yahweh’s presence to seek His face…that we might call upon His name!
· Psalm 18 continues on immediately after listing out those titles of God, saying: “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.” When we can see and understand these titles that David has put before us…then we too can “call upon the LORD” in faith! For we know and believe that by Him we will be saved! The verse has the idea that a proper view of God’s dealings with us in the past SHOULD lead us to feel that we may put confidence in Him in the future! The experiences of David’s past led him to put great faith in Him in times to come.
· These emblems speak of what God has done for us in the past brethren and sisters. Whether it was just one week ago when we were baptized, or several decades previously…God has accomplished great things for us. As Peter records,
· “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (2 Pet. 1:3-5).”
· Let us partake of these emblems now brethren and sisters, being resolved that as we seek to live in faith in these last days, that each day as we seek to manage life…that we “look up, and lift up our heads; for our redemption draweth nigh (Lk. 21:28),” echoing in our hearts the words of the Psalmist:
· “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore (Psalm 121).”
Dave Noble, North Industry, Ohio
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