Confidence in the Face of Trial
While it is a weird time of year to have it one of my favorite quadrennial events is the FIFA World Cup. Like a lot of Americans I was introduced to soccer when the 1986 edition was the first one to be televised live on air in the United States. One of the things unrelated to the sporting part that I was blessed to learn through the competition was flags. It developed a life long joy of all things vexillophile. My parents bought me an atlas (that I still have) and I studied that thing like no one’s business. It was a labor of love. It taught me a lot, but most of all the importance of national emblems, being able to distinguish one from another and being proud of who you are. Identity matters, and in today’s worship and prayer help we are going to talk a little bit about some of the marks and banners of the Christian life that assist believers as they walk in faith.
If you did a word search in your Bible app for “flag” or “banner” you’d find this passage from Psalm 60:4, “You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth.” That particular chapter is unique because it is one of the only psalms that has a tune associated with it in the subscription saying:
“To the Chief Musician. Set to ‘Lily of the Testimony.’ A Michtam of David. For teaching. When he fought against Mesopotamia and Syria of Zobah, and Joab returned and killed twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.”
Now, you’ll remember from the sermon Sunday that salt plays an important part in the mindset of the Israelites. Every sacrifice was to be mixed with it and it was often used to describe the preserving of God’s people in His covenant promise. We also read in this opening line that it was written following a historical event where David slaughtered the sons of Esau. You can go and read more about this in 2 Samuel 8. Psalm 60 is a song of triumph and thanksgiving. The son of Jesse is rejoicing at what the Lord had done in giving to him a great victory over the enemies of God. So what else has He done for David and his men? He has granted them a banner to take into battle with them. A sign of His support and the sure measure of their having Jehovah on their side. Back in the day when we still fought wars shoulder-to-shoulder flags and their carriers were the most well protected parts of the army. In the Southern field units of the war it was common to sew names of battles on the unit pennant carried by the regimental color guard. Part of this was more than just for their own morale. It was clearly seen by the men on the other side. It showed them that the fellas they were up against were not a green set of fresh troops, but hardy vets who had been there before. The glory they had earned the man’s way was to be seen by all, yet when David is proclaiming this truth in the psalm he has something much different in mind.
The Standard showed that he was not there of his own accord, but of the LORD’s. It was in His strength and purpose that the king served, and any triumph won was to be understood not to be David’s merited reward, but the grace and mercy of God illustrated in His providential blessing. It is because of that comprehension that the leader of Israel anointed by Samuel is able to gain the upper hand against those who seek to trouble the very people he is called to shepherd. Another thing I said Sunday in the evening service is apropos here. David is not a superhero. He’s not given some special gene in his DNA that allows him to do certain things you cannot. Part of the danger of how we talk about people in the Bible can be, especially those mentioned in Hebrews 11, because of the Marvel-culture in the air, there is a tendency to make out the people in the holy word to be more than they are and act as if we have no hope of having the same faith they expressed. While it is true that we are not to “Dare to Be a Daniel” as if we are in a similar unique redemptive event, however, whether it be Shadrach or Peter the faith they show is the same faith that we have access to because it comes from the same source, Jesus Christ.
It was through His gift and grant that any of us are able to stand in the day of trial. The one who is the standard bearer of the kingdom of God goes before us to show the devil himself that we are not to be trifled with for our banner shows the greatest victory ever won. It’s as if calvary itself walks ahead of the believer as he or she goes down the field to smash the gates of Hell. In the well-known hymn written by Martin Luther at the end of verse three and going into verse four are these words:
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. That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth:
Luther describes exactly what David expresses for us in the psalm and what we have been talking about today. We are living in a difficult age where we will have to make a decision, and that choice needs made with knowledge. For Christians who know their God this should not be a hard one primarily because we know His power, His history, and our future with Him in paradise. Whatever the world may do? What of it! We have the LORD of glory as our banner, shining forth in the sun of His benevolent grace. Find peace and rest in Him.
Wonder more? Here’s something to consider:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church