The Third Sunday After Easter May 11, 2014
2 Samuel 15:1-18
18, 534, 552, 352
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
My heart is severely pained within me,
And the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me,
And horror has overwhelmed me.
So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
Indeed, I would wander far off,
And remain in the wilderness.
I would hasten my escape
From the windy storm and tempest…
Cast your burden on the LORD,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
Dear fellow-redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son, now risen from the dead:
Can you relate to King David’s expression of pain and terror, fearfulness and trembling in the first two verses of our text? We know of many trying and even terrible circumstances in the life of David. Surely, the Old Testament reading from 2 Samuel tells of one of the most difficult times in David’s life. His proud and wicked son, Absalom—whom he dearly loved—coveted his father’s kingdom. For many years Absalom contrived behind David’s back to steal “the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6) away from his father.
Although David was a mighty king, he had the heart of man, easily broken by those he loved. Whatever the specific instance that lay behind David’s writing of this psalm, he expresses those feelings of a breaking heart by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Absalom had been a favorite son. Whether David is referring to Absalom or another enemy in verses 12-14 of Psalm 55 we cannot know, but in either case, the one opposing David had once been very close. They had confided with one another and worshiped together for many years. Oh, how the king must have been torn apart! What should he do? For he was God’s chosen ruler over Israel, not his opposing foe. It was someone dear to him, who now had made himself David’s enemy.
It is no wonder we hear David cry out: “Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.” [vv.6-8]
David does not want the wings of an eagle or a hawk to destroy his enemies. Instead, he desires the wings of a dove in order to fly away from them. He wanted to get away into the wilderness, away from his throne, away from his people and even his family because of the grief he was experiencing! All he wanted was to live in quietness and peace! Where Will You fly?
Haven’t we also wanted to “fly away” from our own troubles, cares, and responsibilities at times? Human beings know how to escape the little pressures and cares of life. Some escape to books, some to food, some to alcohol and drugs. We may know people who think it is therapeutic to watch only movies that have an “escape” ending. We can be real “escape artists.”
At this time of year, there are high school and college students who would like to fly away from the papers, book reports, and tests that lie ahead. There are even faithful moms and dads who would like to “fly away” from their heavy responsibilities. Pastors and teachers may also wish to “escape” their responsibilities at times. The daily sins of our spouses, financial burdens, problems raising our children, and so much more can place a heavy weight upon marriage.
When the desire to “fly away” rises within us, we need to carefully consider where it is that we should fly for the peace and quiet we are seeking. The very place we consider desirable may turn out to be an even greater place of trouble and danger! Is the dove safe in the wilderness?
People flee to wilderness, woods, and water on weekends, hoping to “get closer to God,” and end up further away from Him! Spouses try to escape the burdens of marriage by flying into the “arms” of those who make them feel more “fulfilled” or “happy,” even though God forbids such flight! Remember the prophet Jonah who didn’t like the idea of preaching the Gospel to the people of that wicked city, Nineveh. So he escaped on a ship and found himself drowning in the depths of the sea! Think of how many people you know who tried to escape from the various burdens and trials in the church and the home, only to end up worse off than before!
If our concern in life is to take the easy road and fly away from something, we are wrong. David was wrong, and with the help of God he recognized his faulty thinking. After recording his thoughts about escape, he also writes these words to us also by inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” [v.22]
We read in the book of Acts that the Jewish Council threatened Peter, John, and the early Christians because they were proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. They may also have been tempted to fly away from Jerusalem. But instead, they prayed: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them…Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your Word…” (Acts 4:24,29).
Whether we are young Christians, middle-aged Christians, or old Christians we are to fly to God—to His Word, His promises, and to prayer! He is our heavenly Father through Jesus Christ, our Savior. He has the solution to all our cares and burdens. He promises that when you cast your burden upon Him, He will “sustain you.” He will hold you together and hold you up!
When we are desiring to “fly away” our minds and hearts may be clouded and fuzzy because of the pressures we feel. But the heart and mind of our God is always absolutely clear where we are concerned. The really great and troubling thing in His mind is not our burden, but we ourselves—His purchased possession, His dear children! It’s our faith, our life, our love, and our final salvation that is uppermost in His heart and mind.
It cannot be otherwise for our God since in Christ He has declared Himself to be all about us! Did He place our greatest burden—our sins—upon His own beloved Son because we first sought Him? Or did He call us to faith by the Gospel because we fled to Him first? No! For surely each of us confesses with the hymnwriter that Jesus’ love “found me when I sought Him not” (TLH 342:2). Having been sought and found in Christ, will He not continue to hold us together and hold us up no matter what trials and troubles we face? Of course! That’s why Peter writes to us: “Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
So David concludes that his God, our God, “shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” [v.22] The “righteous” are all those who trust in His Son as their Savior. For as long as His believing children come to Him with repentant hearts, seeking refuge in the blood of His Son, our faithful LORD God will hold us up and hold us together. He may permit us at times to sway like the limbs of a tree in a storm, but He will not permit us to be torn up by the roots. Rather, He will strengthen us for “the LORD knows the way of the righteous” (Psalm 1:6a).
Where will you fly? May it never be away from God into the wilderness, but to Him who will help you to stand firmly in His grace unto His glory. Then you will find even more reason to sing from your hearts: “The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!” Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.