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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
 Singapore
 ferc.org.sg
 
Preached At:
 
 
Title:Psalm 91 Part 2 - Our Knowing Confidence
Text:Psalms 91:5-8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Mercy
 
Preached:2021
Added:2022-05-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

Psalter 171 - God in Nature
TH 341 - O Breath of Life, Come Sweeping through Us
TH 590 - Jesus, Master, Whose I Am
Psalter 151 - Prayer for Deliverance

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


There was a problem. He was 85 years old and she was 10 years younger. He had a great estate with many animals - and to tend this livestock, he needed a great number of servants - which he had. They had traveled extensively - and as an important man, he rubbed shoulders with kings. He had his dealings with Pharaoh and Abimelech. They gave him gifts. So he was a rich man. But there was a problem. And it was a significant problem in those days. He and his wife had no children. They were without an heir. But God had promised them one - a child of their own. But where would this son come from when they were so old? Could they be confident in God? Would they have a legacy? Where would their money go to when they died?

We all know the story of Abraham and Sarah - how they, in not trusting God, decided to trust themselves and their devices to give themselves a happy life, a secure future, a certain end. Their confidence was not in God or his promises. Their engineering with Hagar and Ishmael, brought countless years of pain and misery - and some claim that it even has repercussions for the present day. Had they had confidence in God, they would trust him to guide them and provide for them.

The plain fact of the matter is this - we trust ourselves and our devices. Eve believed herself wise. She and Adam sinned and were cast from the garden. Cain trusted his own good works. He sinned and was forever marked. The builders of Babel trusted their ability. They sinned and were scattered. We have problems because we don’t trust God or take him at his Word. 

In verses 1-4, we learned that God as creator of all things and therefore possessor of all things, can provide all things for the children he loves with an everlasting love. That even in difficult times, we can find in him refuge and rest, and receive from him deliverance and strength. This is why we can be confident in him. 

Today, we want to see what this confidence in God should be. If God is who he says he is, how should we react? With confidence. There are 3 points in this message. Firstly, we can be confident in God at all times. Secondly, we can be confident in God in severe trials. Thirdly, we can be confident because we hope in God.

Firstly, we can be confident in God at all times. Verse 5 -  “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.” Here we see two things that would make anyone afraid. The terror by night and the pestilence that walketh in darkness is the first; and the arrow that that flieth by day and the destruction that wasteth at noonday is the second.

There are very trying situations that come our way that are expected – things we can see and know the cause of.  But there things that are unexpected – which come at us without our knowledge. So what is this expected thing? The arrow that flight by day and the destruction at noonday. They can be seen. They can be identified. We know what they are. We know where they come from. We know it is that colleague that seeks to destroy us, we know it is that difficult boss, we know that it is the stress of our work; we know we have a medical condition; we know the where, when, how, and the why of the problems that we face, but we may not know how to handle it.

Even though it’s bright during the day and we know the reasons for the problems, it doesn’t make the problems any less difficult. Arrows are swift and sharp. By day or by night. Destruction, even if it happens at noonday, is still destruction. When Israel was at the Red Sea - before them were the waters, behind them were the armies of Egypt - they could see plainly what was before and what was behind. 

But we have an assurance from God.  Isaiah 43:2 says, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”  You can see how wide the river is, you can feel how deep the waters are, and even a distance away from the fire you sweat. You know, you see, you can fathom. But God is with you.  And it is that assurance that he is with us, that causes us to be confident and without fear. Even when circumstances are dire.

When Judah was about to be destroyed for her sins, and Habakkuk knew it would happen, and it would be terrible, he found assurance in the Lord. Habakkuk 3:16-18 – “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

But this confidence is foolishness to the world!  Who in their right mind can be confident in the face of so much opposition?  But the one who trusts in God - his creator, the one who possesses him, because he created him, the one who loves him with an eternal love - his refuge, fortress, shade. This truth shall be your shield and buckler if you believe it.

And if the day is that bad, what of the night?  There are situations that are unexpected. The terror by night and the pestilence that walketh in darkness. They represent those things which are shrouded in mystery – the things that we have no knowledge of – we do not know the when, what, how, and the why. These are things in the future perhaps - your investments during COVID, the economy, your health, the health of your children, inflation, your results. 

But we do know one thing – when such uncertainty comes into our lives – there is usually one certainty – and that is anxiety. We don’t know why things suddenly went south. And that makes us anxious. And that is what terror is. We are affected by our anxiousness. We are wrecked with fear. We fear the unknown – we get all worked up because we do not know what will happen. The child fears the darkness and what may lurk under his bed – but we know these are irrational fears. But we have many more real fears - the fear of retrenchment, the fear of loneliness, the fear of debt.  

Yet in these uncertain times, the truth can still be our shield and buckler. “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.”  “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”  “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). We can be confident in God.

Secondly, we can be confident in God in severe trials. There are times of trouble which are expected and unexpected, but there are trials that are severe and trials which are more severe. These are the two sub-points. Verse 7 - “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand.” There will be a thousand that will fall at your side. That’s a lot. These are severe trials. The word thousand can refer to a thousand troops - in battle you have battalions and companies, etc. This refers to a company of soldiers under the command of a leader. When the enemy comes, the fight can be so gruesome that an entire company is lost. 

But it doesn’t end there. Sometimes that trouble abounds. It increases. It’s like a fire that continues to rage - it crosses roads, residences, rivers. The troubles we have now, as bad as they may be, may even get worse. There are trials that become more severe. 10 thousand at your right hand. The word for ten thousand isn’t literally 10,000 in Hebrew. The actual word has no direct translation. It has the meaning of “a lot, a lot, a lot.”  It’s sometimes translated as a myriad, other times as a million, and other times, a ridiculous number. When Abraham’s servant found Rebekah by the well, and she was willing to go with him to be Isaac’s wife, her family members blessed her as she departed in Genesis 24:60, saying - “And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions…”

The point in our verse is simple. While there be a thousand falling at your side, which is a lot, but there is a thousand million more at your right had falling - even then, you can be confident in God. When Gideon went against the Canaanites, and he had so few troops, yet the Lord asked him to cut down the number. And in the end, he prevailed. On one side, he had the Midianites, on his other side the Amalekites, and yet on another, he had all the children of the east. ALL! One thousand here, one thousand there, and a lot, a lot, a lot on another.  But yet the Lord cut his troops by 22,000 from 32,000.  And of the remaining 10,000, he cut down to 300. The Israelites, when they were crossing the Red Sea, behind them were Pharaoh and his numerous troops and in front of them was the desert and the hoards of Amalekites. They were fearful I’m sure – if not for themselves, then for their kids and grandkids.  But the water parted and became like walls on their right and left, which then crashed down upon the captains of the troops.  

Martin Luther when he was faced with great opposition, yet he was able to write these words:  “And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us: The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.”  

These words were sung in 1720. A remarkable revival began in a town in Moravia. The Jesuits opposed it and the meetings were prohibited. Those who still assembled were seized and imprisoned in stables and cellars. It was reported that at one house, where 150 persons were gathered, the police broke in and seized the books. But undismayed, the congregation struck up these stanzas of Luther’s hymn. Many were imprisoned and killed.  During those times, thousands were martyred for their faith. But the Moravian church grew from strength to strength.

They were not confounded. And saints who trust in God will never be confounded. It will not come nigh unto thee. Now this phrase never means that suffering will never come our way. It just means that although these things happen, the saint doesn’t have to give into anxiety. It doesn’t mean that we won’t fear - or fear greatly. Just as Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. But 1 Peter 2:23 tells us that when He suffered he committed Himself to God. Committed means to entrust. 

This Psalm most of all was an encouragement to our Lord Jesus. A thousand at his left, 10,000 at his right hand - his disciples were dropping like flies in their resolve - but he trusted in God. God’s truth would be his shield and buckler. But more than just trust, there was hope. The foundation for all our confidence is our hope in God. That’s the last point - we can be confident because we hope in God. Verse 8 says, “Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.”  

Evil will not always reign. This is what we are told here in this verse. The trouble that is confounding us – the fowler trying to trap us – the fears that we have of the unknown – all these things shall not last. If the wicked will have its just reward, then the domination that it has now is only temporary. In other words, your trouble will not last forever.  God will take it away.  And should the Lord see fit to purify us through a prolonged trial and trouble, we know that it can never harm us more than what God would allow.

But just as we see this, and we know that the wicked will have its just rewards, evil will be judged. We learn here that the wicked will also see the saint’s permanent compensation – our reward. While we wish not evil on those who hurt us, we know that if they never turn from Christ, the words of Jesus in Luke 13:28 will apply to the wicked - “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.”

But to the believing. Revelation 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” God preserves his saints. We can have a sure confidence because of his sure word of promise. The power of evil will not overwhelm us, because we hope in God.

Remember, the words of this Psalm were first meant for Jesus. When at Gethsemane, facing the greatest trial of his life - to obey God and go to the cross or not not. There, he sweat great drops of blood. But what happened to his friends on his right and left? They were falling like flies. They were falling asleep. At a time, when the moon was high and full, when all Jews stayed up late into the night, the disciples were giving into the weakness of their flesh. Judas himself, fell to the temptation of Satan. And on that night, all the disciples fled - the spears and the arrows of the Romans were too sharp and deadly - the words of the servant girl to Peter was too accusing and too condemning that he denied Christ. But Jesus trusted in God. Why didn’t he let Peter and his disciples defend him with the sword? He was to inherit a kingdom. Why didn’t he bow down to Satan and have all the kingdoms of the world?

Because unlike Abraham, Sarah, Adam, Eve, Cain, and the builders of Babel, he trusted in God. The way of self-preservation was by self-denial. God’s only begotten Son, gave his life up. He did not engineer a way out. He went to the cross trusting. And three days later, he saw death conquered by his own resurrection. He trusted - and God delivered him. He even conquered his enemies. Those who called upon him to be crucified were 50 days later brought into submission to him by the gospel. All 3000 of them, and the church would grow, to the uncountable souls down the ages. So while we are weak, and we may at times be among those of the 10,000 falling - and our faith and confidence is so weak, we look to Christ, who struggled like we do - but was confident in God, that he faced those trials, knowing that refreshing was at hand. Dearly beloved, some of us who struggle greatly, may also be struggling with imagined fears - or maybe not imagined, but stirred up fears - we spin these idols in our hearts to make our fears greater than what they should be. In the sight of God, they are small - because Christ has gone through the mother of all fears - the judgment of God.

What are your trials this year? They are expected and unexpected. And though your troubles come from known and unknown sources, they can be severe - and unexpectedly severe. Will you hope in God? Your trials will not last forever. They have an end to them - in this life, and definitely in the life to come. 

Beloved, I close with the words of Jonathan Edwards. He said, “God’s people, whenever they are scorched by afflictions as by hot sun-beams, may resort to him, who is as a shadow of a great rock, and be effectually sheltered, and sweetly refreshed.” But you must go to him. He must be your confidence. In order to have any comfort, to experience any of these things, we need to persevere towards him. But that’s next week’s message.

Sermon Outline:

1. We Can Be Confident in God at All Times

    a. Times of expected trouble

    b. Times of unexpected trouble

2. We Can Be Confident in God in Severe Trials

    a. Times of known enemies

    b. Times of unknown enemies

3. We Can Be Confident Because We Hope in God

    a. Evil will not always reign

    b. Evil will be judged




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Mark Chen

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