Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 20:2 - Strengthened by Prophecy

2 ​​May He send you help from the sanctuary,
​​And strengthen you out of Zion;

I have felt very discouraged lately. For many reasons, but ultimately I think it boils down to this: things haven’t gone the way I’ve expected them to.

And so I have battled depression, anger, frustration, and fear for the last few weeks. Truthfully, most of 2016. I would go so far as to say this year has been the most emotionally and spiritually challenging year of my life.

So these words - strengthen you - here in Psalm 20 are very appealing to me.

And from what we recently investigated about “Thought Rhyme” we can look at the two lines of verse 2 as being slightly different angles on the same idea.

So again in context from verse 1 - this is about “the Day of Trouble.” And God’s solution? To send you help. And what kind of help? Strength.

Very interesting. It’s not necessarily a deliverance - at least not yet. The first thing God wants to do to help you is to strengthen you.

And although there are many ways God can and does strengthen, there is one in particular that I want to focus on: prophecy.

Yikes. That can be a scary word. Images of Old Testament prophets calling down fire and casting judgments over nations come to mind.

Or perhaps you’ve been exposed to some modern day self-proclaimed prophets, who foretell of strange things such as the end of the world, or that God is going to send you to Africa, or something that is just… way out there.

In everything, I think there is a healthy balance.

So let’s try and put aside any prejudice we may have toward this idea of prophecy and look at one true Biblical concept of prophecy (this is not meant to be a comprehensive study of prophecy - but one purpose), and then we’ll consider how it applied to the life of David, who wrote those words, “May He.. strengthen you”

It’s likely that you’re somewhat familiar with the famous “Love Chapter” - 1 Corinthians 13, which ends with:
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13:13

But do you know what the very next statement in the Bible is? It is a command:

Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 1 Cor 14:1

Right after Paul gets through laying out the most beautiful and perfect definition of love ever written, he says, “pursue love, and desire that you may prophesy.”

Clearly, there is a connection! Prophecy is love in action. And listen to the following results - and I would suggest that this is a foundational Scripture for New Testament prophecy:

For he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 1 Cor 14:3

So there are three results of prophecy: edification, exhortation, and comfort.

And for now, I just want to focus on this word exhortation. To exhort. “To strongly encourage or urge (someone) to do something.”

To strongly encourage. To strengthen.

Let me just add at this point that if someone claims to be a prophet and says, “God is going to send you to Africa,” or something out of left field, that you haven’t even considered before,  you do not have to accept that word. God does not override your free will, and prophecy will not either. We are commanded not to despise prophecies, but to test them:

Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21

So prophecy is not primarily meant to give you direction (though it can at times). It is really meant to exhort you: to encourage you; to strengthen you.

I believe God gives prophetic words to give a picture of what the end result will be. So that when the world seems to fall apart around you, you can hang on to this promise and know that everything will turn out okay.

Let’s look at this in the life of David. Again, we find David in a Day of Trouble. After he kills Goliath, he becomes famous in Israel, and king Saul becomes very jealous of him, saying “now what more can he have but the kingdom?” 1 Samuel 18:8

Then Saul tried killing David. Several times.

Can you imagine if the president of the United States put out a kill order on you?!

Do you think you’d be afraid for your life? Take some time and imagine that. It will help connect you to where David was in his heart through this period.

So David flees. He gets out of town. And Saul sends his army after him. Every day.

Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand. So David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. 1 Samuel 23:14-15

I imagine it was a terrifying experience: sleeping with one eye open, always having to look over his shoulder.

I imagine David thought back to that time the prophet Samuel came and anointed him with oil and told him he would be king of Israel one day (1 Samuel 16:13).

“Where did I go wrong? I’m supposed to be king someday, yet I’m living like a fugitive, running for my life. Why hasn’t God’s promise come through? This isn’t what I expected!!

The Bible doesn’t explicitly say that David had those thoughts, but I think they are very reasonable thoughts to have in that type of situation. And I can admit I’ve had thoughts along those lines this year.

The day of trouble can be very discouraging. Very disheartening.

But God’s provision for David in the Day of Trouble shows up as a prophetic word that strengthens him:

Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” 1 Samuel 23:16-17

Jonathan pointed David back to the end result that Samuel had already established (in chapter 16). He opens a later chapter in the book of David’s life and says, “look, don’t be afraid… you shall be king” - so even though he’s living in the wilderness of a forest, even though the king is hunting him down - somehow he is going to get through this.

That is a wonderful example of prophecy. Very simple, but very profound. In the middle of the world falling apart - David was reminded of his future.

It’s interesting that there is no record of how Jonathan knew that David would be king. Was it common knowledge that Samuel anointed David? I don’t think so. Samuel said, “If Saul hears [that I am going to anoint David as king], he will kill me.” 1 Samuel 16:2 So I personally think it was done in secret.

But somehow Jonathan knew. Maybe it was just the favor that was on David’s life, but in any case - he was able to point David to his future, of what God had promised him, and

Don’t despise prophecies just because some people have misused the term. Prophecy is God’s gift to His people to strengthen us; to encourage and exhort us.

And if you’re needing strengthening in the Day of Trouble, trust that God will give it to you. It may come from a person. It may even be that the person doesn’t know they’re prophesying to you. They don’t say, “thus saith the Lord”. The just say something to you that hits you right in your heart and strengthens you.

And His strengthening may not come from a person - it may be a verse of Scripture that God highlights to you. It may be a sign on the side of the road. It may be a dream you have. Or, as happened to me this week, it may be revisiting older blog posts that I wrote myself, which ministered to the very heart of what I’m struggling with.

And in any case, recognize that though the message may be delivered through various forms, it is coming from the Lord Jesus Christ just for you.

May the Lord send you help and strengthen you in the Day of Trouble.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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