Psalm 57, then, verse 1 - and I want to speak to you on 'The Cry From The Cave'.
"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me; He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth His mercy and His truth. My soul is among lions; I lie among the sons of men who are set on fire, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth. They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down; they have dug a pit before me; into the midst of it they themselves have fallen. Selah. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth".
Let us pray, and as we come to pray I would ask you that you would come to the Lord and ask Him for a message to your heart. I hope you have come prepared to receive a message from God. I believe the Lord has a message for you here today, but it's important that we are in a disposition to receive it. So let's get there just now, and just from your heart cry to God that He may speak to you now.
Father, we thank You that we can address You as 'Abba Father'. We thank You that the Spirit cries within us 'Abba Father'. We thank You that we are sons and daughters of God, and we thank You that You will never cast us out or shut us away from Your presence. Lord, we pray now that as we come to Your holy word, that we will hear from heaven. O God, there are people in this place now and they need to hear the voice of God into the midst of their circumstances, into their calamities. So Lord, I pray that they will clearly hear the intonation and the accent of the Almighty as You speak, O God, through the Holy Spirit. How we need the Holy Spirit now, in Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
The reason why I have entitled my message to you today 'The Cry From The Cave' is because this Psalm is known as 'The Cave Psalm'. That's a sort of strange title to give a Psalm, but it, along with Psalm 142 in particular, are called 'Cave Psalms'. I'm not sure whether your edition of the Psalms will have the title on it, but the title, if you have it, says 'To the Chief Musician. Set to 'Do Not Destroy'. A Michtam of David' - and this is important - 'when he fled from Saul, into the cave'. In all likelihood this was the Cave of Adullam, and if you want to read the narrative story about this incident, you read it in 1 Samuel 22. You will remember how Saul was really wanting to destroy David, knowing that God had set His pleasure upon him. Of course, David had to flee, and he hid in the Cave of Adullam, probably it's the Cave of Adullam that he's in as he writes this Psalm - of course he was in another cave, the Cave of Engedi - but Saul and his men were hunting David, the lone fugitive, like panting animals pursuing their prey. They were after his blood.
Now this week in particular I have received great encouragement from this Psalm, and I just want to share it with you. There is great encouragement for all who feel themselves to be like David, in a cave. Now at one time or another we're all going to be in a cave, and if you're fortunate enough this morning to have never been in one, there's one ready for you eventually - because we're all going to face these confining spaces, whatever they might be. Whether they be a sick room, or a home filled with domestic tension and trouble, or whether it's a difficult place to minister - we all have been in, or will be in at one time or another, caves.
On Friday afternoon, or late morning, afternoon, I was reading this Psalm and these verses in particular jumped out at me, the second half of verse 1: 'For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me; He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. God shall send forth His mercy and His truth'. As your pastor has said, you've been praying for my sister, and I was quite perplexed on Friday afternoon about her case - she's very unwell at the moment, thank you for your prayers, and please do continue to pray for her. I was greatly encouraged by these couple of verses, and as I was encouraged, I decided I would text them to a number of people, and I texted them to about 8 people that I knew who were going through difficulties, who were in caves of their own. Within an hour or two I received several very encouraging messages back, two of which I will share with you. One was from a dear friend who is suffering from leukaemia, and unbeknown to me had to go in for another operation just on Friday. He wrote this: 'Many thanks, just out of surgery to remove a lump on my arm, awaiting the results in three weeks. Timely message!'. Timely message. Then there was another text from a girl who is going through many family problems, and she just wrote: 'You will never know how much I needed to hear that today. Thanks!'.
Now, if you have ever been in one of life's caves you can identify with those people, and indeed with David, and maybe even some of the things he expressed in Psalm 142. If you quickly turn to it you will see some of the things that he said. He said: 'My spirit was overwhelmed and fainted within me' - have you ever known that? Your spirit to be overwhelmed and fainting within you? Then he says again in this Psalm, if you scan down it: 'There is no one who acknowledges me' - now that wasn't a prideful thing he was expressing, it was a lack of companionship and fellowship in his afflictions - 'No one acknowledges me'. Then what a statement this one is: 'No one cares for my soul' - boy, he was at rock bottom, wasn't he? Have you ever been there? 'No man cares for my soul', and then later on he says, 'I am brought very low'. Are you very low today? Well, the good news is: if you do what David did in Psalm 57, if you turn back to it, if you do what David did in his cave, you will experience peace and victory in the deepest depths that you might find yourself, even at this very moment.
Now, what did David do? Well, there are four things I want to share with you now that he did. The first thing he did was: he exercised transforming faith. Now, it would be good for you to note these things if you're not going to get a recording of them. He exercised transforming faith. We see it in the second half of verse 1: 'My soul trusts in You'. Now what that simply means, put in plain language, is: he believed God was going to come through for him. Now that's what faith is, and that's what will get you through your caves. In Hebrews 11 and verse 1 you have that wonderful definition of what faith is, we read: 'Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen'. So in other words, when everything else seems to be sending out signals of the opposite of what you want to believe for, faith is, as a paraphrase puts it, is our handle on what we cannot see. That's what faith is. Disregarding the circumstances, and the circumstantial evidence of the things around us, and looking to the promises of God and laying hold, with the handle of faith, on what we cannot see. It's actually in Hebrews 11 called 'the title deed', the proof of what we cannot see.
Now the life of faith is basically the Christian life. I mean, if you were going to try and summarise the Christian life in a statement, it's the life of faith - and that's what the Scripture says: 'The just shall live by his faith'. If you haven't learned this lesson you're not going to get too far, if you don't understand that it's all about faith. Not what we see, but what we cannot see, but what we believe. Hebrews 11 verse 6 says: 'Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him'.
Now, atheists don't generally come to God. Well, they do when they lose control of their car on an icy road - even they pray when their back is against the wall. But in the general sense, you've got to believe in God to come to Him. So you believe that God is, but I think there's more of an understanding in that word 'is', that you've got to believe that God is active. Those who come to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. In other words, if He's not active He's not going to reward you for your coming and your seeking. So when you come to God you've got to have the faith to believe He is active in the everyday life of His people, and He rewards them. That's what it means for the just to live by faith: we believe in a living God, a God who is instrumental in the lives of His people.
That brings transforming faith. Faith transforms caves! But the problem we have when we are in caves is: if we walk by sight and not by faith, we're not going to see very much in a cave. Caves are dark places, therefore sight is unreliable. But the silver lining to the cloud is, in this sense, this is why caves are blessings: because they force us to walk by faith, not by sight, because you cannot walk by sight. Most of the year you may be able to walk by sight, and give a bit of a nod and a wink to faith, but when you're thrust into a cave and you're in utter darkness, the sight won't do any good - you're forced to walk by faith, the evidence of things not seen, the handle on the unseen.
Now, if you're in a cave here today, do what David did: exercise transforming faith. Let me show you another saint of God, Paul the apostle, exercising transforming faith. Turn with me to Acts chapter 27 please, and this is the account of the shipwreck as Paul was being transported to Rome. Acts 27, and I love this story, verse 22 - the ship is about to be wrecked by the storm, and Paul exhorts the crew, verse 22 of Acts 27: 'And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you'. Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me'. What a man! Eh? Everything around him - and these are experienced, mature seafarers, they're not theologians, they're sailors - everything around him is telling him: 'This boat is going to go down, and we're going to go down with it'. But Paul says: 'No! I have a word from God, and I believe it will be as God told me'.
You see, it's the word of God that brings faith. Romans 10 and verse 17: 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God'. If you've got the word of God on a thing, you've got grounds and a right to have transforming faith that will turn your cave into the very Shekinah glory of God! We will see that in a moment, but maybe you're sitting here this morning, like I often do, and say: 'But you don't know what my faith is like! My faith is pygmy faith, my faith is very very weak, dwarf faith - that's my faith'. You're misunderstanding: I'm not asking you to measure your faith, I'm asking you to measure your God. There is a difference. You see, there is no value in faith per se - really that's true. There is no value in faith in and of itself. Faith will look after itself if you focus on God. Do you understand? It's like the wee lad that planted a wee seed, you know, watercress, in nursery school. He brought it home to his Mummy and it sat on the windowsill, and every day he got a chair, and he got up on to the workbench, and he got a spoon and he lifted it out every day to see how it was growing - everyday. What do you think happened? The seed never grew, because he was focusing on the seed. If he just had left the seed alone, it would have grown. Sometimes we focus on our faith, how strong or how weak it might be, or how strong we want it to be. Don't focus on your faith! Focus on your God! If you focus on the character of God there is nothing more faith-infusing than God's great character!
Now, that will give you transforming faith, and look at what it did - this is the second thing that David did, and really his faith did. His faith led to him fleeing to God's presence for refuge. First of all he exercised transforming faith, and then that faith led him to flee to God's presence for refuge. Here we have it: 'For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge'. Now turn back with me to Psalm 55, because it wasn't very long ago in the sequence of things that David, in verse 6, was saying: 'Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest' - he wanted to run away! He wanted to fly away! If you're one of those people that has these dreams, I used to have them a lot, you know when you get wings all of a sudden, and you start flapping and flapping and fly away. I don't know what psychologists would say about that, but I don't interpret dreams either - but I imagine it's got something to do with getting away from your problems. That's the way David felt: 'I just want to run away from all of this' - but rather than sprouting a set of wings, he sought the wings of God.
Maybe that's what you're going through? You're going through an experience you really want to run away from, but now God is leaving you there for a while in order that you flee beneath His wings, you flee to God's presence for refuge. Now I want you to see this, because there are many analogies used of the mother hen and the chicks and all, and that's all well and good. You know how the mother hen puts the chicks beneath her wing during the storm, until the storm passes by - and you can use that as an illustration, but that's not what the wings here mean. The wings here are the wings of the cherubim, and the cherubim are the angelic creatures that are in heaven and speak of the immediate presence of God. They minister to God in worship, and they hover over His presence on His throne - but in the Tabernacle, if you were to go into the tent and into the very last compartment, the Holy of Holies, there is the Ark of the Covenant, and on the Mercy Seat, that's the golden lid of the box, there are two cherubim meeting face-to-face. It's called the Mercy Seat, it's called the Seat of God, where the actual Shekinah glory, the cloud of God's glorious presence and light, dwelt.
Now what David is saying is: 'I'm sheltering under those wings' - do you understand what he's meaning? But this is his point: by fleeing by faith under the refuge of God's present wings, this cave that he was in was being turned into the very Holy of Holies. That's amazing, isn't it? Do you know, if you know anything about the Tabernacle you will know, that the Holy of Holies - there was the Outer Court, then there was the Holy Place, and then there was the Holy of Holies, and nobody was allowed to go in only the High Priest once a year. The Ark of the Covenant was there, there were no windows in the Holy of Holies, there was no artificial light - there was the menorah in the Holy Place, but there was no artificial light, so where did the light come from? The light came from the Shekinah glory of God hovering over the cherubim, the light came from God's presence. Here's David in a cave, no darkness, no windows, no artificial light - and what is happening here? God's immediate, real presence is giving him all the light that he needs!
Now I'm not saying that that happened literally, it may well have done - but all I know is that God's real presence came into that cave, and he sheltered beneath the wings. Whatever cave you're in today, do you know something? You have the promise of God's real presence. You have! Even more than David ever had! It's wonderful, Jesus said: 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age, or the world'. He said to His disciples before He was leaving them: 'I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you'. That's now! He wasn't talking about coming again in His second advent, He was talking about now, this present dispensation, that He would come to us by the power of His Spirit, and He would minister to us by His real presence - especially, and I think this is true, especially when you're in caves!
Samuel Rutherford wrote from prison in Aberdeen four centuries ago. He was persecuted for his faith, and he wrote his famous letters from prisons to his parishioners. He ended one of the letters like this, with this sentence, wonderful, he said: 'Jesus Christ came into my prison cell last night, and every stone in it glowed like a ruby'. I remember reading years ago Psalm 46 verse 1: 'God is a refuge and a help, a very present help in trouble'. I was reading this day from the NASB, and in the margin it rendered 'very present help in trouble' like this: 'abundantly available to help in tight places' - that's our God! Are you in a tight place? Are you in a dark place? Are you in a cave? God is abundantly available! His presence is more promised in those circumstances than at any other time. David's confidence was not in the rocks of the cave, his confidence was in the wings of the cherubim, his God.
I thought it was interesting that Ruth said something like this - and you know who Ruth was, she was a great-grandmother of King David. She said in Ruth 2:12: 'The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to trust', or 'you have come for refuge'. To be under the wings means more than the presence of God, to be under the wings means to be under the blood - do you know why? Because it was onto the Mercy Seat, it was onto the lid of that box of gold, the Ark of the Covenant, that the blood was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement. So to be under the wings is to be under the blood, and to know the presence of God, and to know God indwelling you - because Jesus is the Mercy Seat, Jesus is the Ark, that's what it all typified. We read in 1 John 2 verse 2: 'He Himself is the propitiation for our sins' - the word literally means 'He is the Mercy seat for our sins' - 'and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world'.
So if you're in a cave today, take refuge under the blood. Maybe it's a demonic cave, and in Revelation 12 verse 11 we read that they overcame him, the Dragon, Satan, by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. That's how we overcome: taking refuge in the presence of God, and beneath the blood, beneath the shadow of Calvary. That's why we are exhorted in Hebrews 10, turn with me to Hebrews 10, that's why we're exhorted to go the blood-sprinkled pathway. Verse 19 of Hebrews 10: 'Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest' - that's the Holy of Holies! - 'by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God' - look at this - 'let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith', there it is, transforming faith, fleeing to God's presence for refuge beneath the blood, 'having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful'.
'Let us draw near', that's what God wants you to do just now. He wants you to draw near under His wings, under the cherubim, beneath the blood. Chapter 4 of Hebrews verse 16, we're to 'come boldly unto the throne of grace, to find grace and mercy to help' - my translation - 'in caves'. To find mercy and grace to help in caves, in time of need! You know some of the most hairy, difficult, frightening times in my life - and I haven't had as many as some of you - but in the short experience that I've had, as I look back, I got through them, just got through them, by prayer and the word of God - in other words, fellowship and communion with God, being in God's presence. As I look back at some of the worst times in my life, I was carried through because I sought to abide - not always, but when I did get through - I sought to abide in His presence, realise His presence.
Do you know that hymn 'All hail the power of Jesus' name'? It was written by a man called Oliver Holden, and he wrote another wonderful hymn that goes like this:
'Those who seek the throne of grace,
Find that throne in every place;
If we live a life of prayer,
God is present everywhere.
In our sickness or our health,
In our want or in our wealth,
When we look to God in prayer,
God is present everywhere.
When our earthly comforts fail,
When the foes of life prevail,
Then we look to God in prayer;
God is present everywhere.
Then, my soul, in every care
Supplicating words prepare;
God will answer every prayer;
God is present everywhere'.
That's what David did in this cave. He exercised transforming faith, he knew and believed that God was going to come through for him, and he fled to God's wings for refuge - the presence of God beneath the blood. He got into communion with God and dug his heels in in the character of God. The third thing he did was: he waited patiently for God's intervention. First he exercised transforming faith, second he fled to God's presence for refuge, and third he waited patiently for God's intervention. Look at the last part of verse 1, he said he would take refuge in God's wings: 'Until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me; He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth His mercy and His truth'.
Now, I don't know about you, but the hardest thing that I find in the Christian life is waiting on God. Am I the only one? Do you find it hard waiting on God? I find it hard waiting on the kettle boiling, let alone waiting on God! But there is great reward in waiting on God: calamities pass by - wonderful, isn't it? Do you know the word 'calamities' in the original Hebrew has a meaning: 'a destructive storm that could engulf me'. Destructive storms that can engulf us, when we exercise transforming faith, and flee to the presence of God beneath the blood, and we wait patiently - they pass us by! It's like Mark chapter 4, you remember the storm the disciples were in, and the Lord Jesus was in the hinder part of the boat. He was asleep on a pillow. They thought this storm was going to engulf them - it was a Satanic storm, by the way, we know that by the way Jesus rebuked it. He said 'Be muzzled', He used the same language He used when He was casting out devils, demons. There was a Satanic storm ready to engulf them, and they cried - you remember they went down and tried to wake Him - they cried, what did they cry? 'Do You not care that we perish?'. A storm about to engulf them, and they thought the Lord had forgotten them in this storm, they thought the Lord had fallen asleep and was ignorant of all that was happening to them.
Sometimes the Lord waits, and we have to be patient. Do you remember Jairus' daughter? The Lord allowed Himself to be delayed by the woman with the issue of blood, and then Jairus' daughter died. There was a delay, and nobody could understand what it was about. Do you remember Mary and Martha? Lazarus is sick, and the Lord delays a number of days, and He doesn't come, and they don't understand why the Lord is delaying. Let me share a verse with you from Isaiah 30 verse 18 - if you're in your cave, and the Lord is delaying, listen to what He's saying: 'Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you' - Isaiah 30 verse 18 - 'The LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. Blessed are all those who wait for Him'.
You see, David didn't just exercise transforming faith, and flee to God's presence, and then be presumptuous: 'God, You've got to come through right here and now, this split-second'. No, no, no, that's not faith, that presumption. He waited patiently for God's intervention. The old gospel song says:
'In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face,
While the storms howl around me, and there's no hiding place.
'Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by'.
Is that where you are? You need to be patient: God performs all things for you. Look at the verse, verse 2: 'To God who performs all things for you'. Let me share a verse that has been such a blessing with me over the last while, turn with me to Isaiah chapter 64 please, Isaiah 64 verse 1. Isaiah says: 'Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence. As fire burns brushwood, as fire causes water to boil - to make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence!' - Your presence in verse 1, Your presence in verse 2 - 'When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, the mountains shook at Your presence', there it is again. Now this is the verse: 'For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him', or, to put it another way, 'Who acts on the behalf of the one who waits for Him'.
What's the best thing you can do in a cave? Do nothing. Exercise transforming faith, and faith is not a work. Flee to God for refuge, and wait patiently for the intervention of God who performs all things, who works on the behalf of those who wait for Him. I love this statement here, verse 3: 'He shall send from heaven and save me'. As you wait on God in faith and in communion, God dispatches the forces of heaven at your disposal to come and to deliver you from the one who will swallow you up. Verse 3: 'He reproaches the one who would swallow me up', my margin says 'the one who would snap at me, who hounds me, who crushes me' - that's whatever enemy you like! As Isaiah 59 and verse 19 says: 'When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will raise up a standard against him'.
You need to do what David did in his cave: exercise transforming faith, flee to God's presence for refuge, thirdly, wait patiently for God's intervention - and fourthly and finally, long passionately for the glory of God. Verse 5: 'Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth'. You see, David's desire was not just to escape his cave and his predicament. His chief desire was to exalt the Lord, and he repeats it again in verse 11, the same statement. Now, let's be honest, and I'll be honest with you: often my desire is just to get out of the calamity! Isn't that right? It's just to get out of the problem! Lord, I don't care how You do it, just get me out of here! But I have a hunch, and I believe this, that if we could change our attitude from just getting out of the cave to one of seeking to exalt the Lord's glory in the midst of whatever furnace we are in, I believe the deliverance would come all the quicker. What do you think?
Davis desire was to exalt the Lord. You say, 'Ah, well that sounds good from the pulpit and all, but practically how do you do that?'. How you do it? When you're in a cave, how do you seek the glory of God over and above getting out of your predicament? Well, let me make it very easy for you: transforming faith, patient waiting on God for His intervention, and the desire for the glory of God are all expressed in this Psalm through one concept, a one-word concept: praise.
Look at verses 7 through to 11, we'll read it: 'My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth'. In verse 8 we see that he prayed going to sleep, and when he awakened the next morning he praised. The first thing he did was, he picked up his harp and he sang praises to God - that's how he opened the day, that's how he closed the day. He locked up the night with prayer, and he unlocked the morning with praise, and he slept in between in a cave! That's what praise can do! In this Psalm praise was the expression of transforming faith, it was the expression of his fleeing to God for refuge, it was the expression of his patient waiting on God's intervention, it was his expression of his desire to exalt and glorify God - even above getting out of his predicament. It will be for you as well, if you realise the power of praise.
Do you know the power of praise? Do you know what praise does, quickly, and I'm closing now - do you know what it does? You could note these down: it accelerates answers to prayer, that's why the Lord taught us His disciple's prayer, I call it. 'Our Father, which art in heaven' - and the first ten words of 'Our Father' is praise. Then if you go to Matthew's Gospel, the end is all praise as well, 'Thine be the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen'. So it starts with praise, it ends with praise, and the reason why the Lord taught His disciples to pray like that is: praise accelerates answers to prayer. It was George Mueller, that great man of faith and prayer, who believed: 'Pray for a promise, and then praise from the promise'. When God gives you a promise, don't pray and ask Him for it, He has given you it - and that is applicable to all the promises in God's word. So, if you've got the promise, don't pray for it! Praise God for it, and praise Him for the fulfilment of it! John Livingstone said: 'A line of praise is worth a leaf of prayer, an hour of praise is worth a day of fasting and mourning' - that's the power of praise!
It accelerates answer to prayer, another thing: it encourages the miraculous. Praise encourages the miraculous. Do you remember in Acts 16, Paul and Silas at midnight praying and singing hymns in a cave - in a prison, in a dungeon - singing hymns to God! Would you be singing hymns? I know what I'd be doing! The prisoners were listening, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, the foundations of the prison were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened and every one's chains were loosed - and a man was converted and his whole family! Through praise! It encourages the miraculous, and an Old Testament example of that is found in 2 Chronicles 20, Judah faced a huge host of an army from across the Dead Sea. Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast, and the people sought the Lord, and the Holy Spirit spoke, dispelling their fear, and told them: 'The battle belongs to the Lord'. Early the next morning the people were to go out to see what the Lord had done, and at dawn they marched to the battlefield as though they were going to a festival. They were singing, the singers led the way, the singers led the way! God heard, the Bible says, His people singing the songs of faith, and the enemies turned on one another and destroyed each other and when Judah arrived all they had to do was collect the spoil - and it took them three days in doing it. With unbounded joy they praised the Lord in singing as they returned to Jerusalem, and we read in 2 Chronicles 20:22: 'They began to sing and to praise, and the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated'. Praise sparks victory!
It accelerates answer to prayer, it encourages the miraculous, and I love this one: praise drives the devil away. It does! In this very story of David and Saul in 1 Samuel chapter 16, you remember that an evil spirit was sent from God to torment Saul. David took a harp, and played with his hand, and Saul was refreshed and well, and the evil spirit departed from him. Praise drives the devil away. Do you know the devil is allergic to praise? Where there is jubilant praise, Satan is paralysed! Praise is the antidote to the poison of Satanic oppression, and if you're under it at this moment in time: start praising! You see, we have made a mistake in our reasoning: that you have to feel good to praise God, that's rubbish! You praise God to feel good. When you're not feeling good, it's time to praise God - and it will not be long until you are feeling good!
If you want to strengthen your immunity to the enemy's attacks, learn to praise God. Something else: praise accelerates answers to prayer, it encourages the miraculous, it drives the devil away, and it heals the soul and calms the troubled spirit. In 2 Kings chapter 3, Elisha was angry at the idolatrous King of Israel. He was going to 'throw a wobbly', as we would say, and he asked for a minstrel, a musician, to come and to play a tune. The Bible says it calmed his soul, and he began to prophesy - 2 Kings 3:15: ''Bring me a musician'', Elisha says, 'Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him', and it calmed his troubled soul and his wounded spirit. Do you need your soul healed and your spirit calmed? Praise God! Praise God!
But finally, here's the last thing - it's not an exhaustive list, of course - but the last thing praise can do is: it brings an entrance into God's presence. You see David, I believe, fled into the immediate presence of God, as if it was the Holy of Holies, through praise. Now one verse, Psalm 100 and verse 4, you probably could quote it to me anyway: 'Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise'. Now, every word of Scripture is important. That verse depicts a progression into the Tabernacle: 'Enter His gates', that's the gate at the Outer Court, 'with thanksgiving, and into His court', the Court of the Tabernacle, 'with praise'. There is the progression into the very presence of God, into the Holiest Place of All, by the blood of Jesus according to us. So there are two degrees in this progression: through the gate in thanksgiving, and into the court with praise. So what David is saying here is: 'This is the way into God's presence' - and in his cave, if the cave is going to be turned into the Holiest Place of All and the very real presence of God is going to come into it, it ain't going to happen if he doesn't start praising and thanking God!
I go into some churches, it has to be said - not this one! - and there is very little praise, and there is very little Presence. You cannot have access into the presence of God without thanksgiving and praise. God inhabits the praises of His people, and God manifests His living presence in a praise-saturated place. You look, we haven't time to turn it up now, 2 Chronicles chapter 5, when the Shekinah glory of God came down into Solomon's Temple. Yes, we're often hearing that Solomon prayed - and he did pray - but what we miss often is that Solomon praised, and it was when the praising started that the Presence came down. God shows up, even in caves, when His name is praised.
I have been to concerts in concert halls, in schools, you've been to some perhaps in public parks, and even in churches - but I was never at a concert in a cave, but David was! So may you be, if you exercise transforming faith, if you flee to God's presence for refuge, if you wait patiently for God's intervention, and if you long passionately for the glory of God alone - God will translate any cave into the very Holy of Holies.
May God bless His word to every heart.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Ballynahinch New Testament Church, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "The Cry From The Cave" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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