But as for me, I will always have hope”
(how the Christian spells “future”)
1. When you are young (I Samuel 25)
2. When you are in the middle years (2 Samuel 11)
3. When you are in the golden years (I Kings 1)
This psalm was written by an old man. An old man who had really lived some life. An old man who had learned some crucial lessons for anyone who wants to really live some life. Lessons that will lead you who are in Christ, when you think about your future, to always be able to spell “the future”, h-o-p-e. Not the maybe kind, like we use in everyday talk. But the sure kind, that’s found in Christ. Let’s find out what he learned when he was young, when he was in his middle years, and when he was in his golden years.
1) When you are young (I Samuel 25)
The lesson he had to learn when he was young is the same lesson all young people have to learn, the thing that pastors so often talk and counsel with them about—namely, you need to learn to have your brain be bigger than your emotions. To be led by what you know, especially what you know from the Word of God, more than how you feel at the moment.
Because this old man, when he was young, was a man of passion. He was, wow, when he was young. Confident, strong, handsome, decent, the kind of guy who could fight a bear singlehandedly; but he was also sensitive, played a musical instrument, family-oriented. And he was a natural born leader. His name was David. David, son of Jesse.
David had to learn to have his brain be bigger than his emotions. And he did. One time, he and his gang were helping out a rich guy; every day they helped him out; until the season came to an end; and when it did, the rich guy stiffed them; gave them nada, zilch, zip. And David was so angry (you know how anger can be a problem for guys), he got his gang together to go kill that man; and he wasn’t going to stop there, he was also going to kill every one of the rich man’s sons, and every one of his male servants. (see I Samuel 25) And he would have, too. Except the man’s wife, who happened to be beautiful and had the beautiful name of Abigail, cut him off at the pass, convinced him not to do such a thing. God took care of that rich man; he died from a stroke a week and half later. And Abigail and David ended up getting married.
The lesson David had to learn when he was young is the same lesson all young people have to learn—to have your brain be bigger than your emotions. To be led by what you know, especially what you know from the Word of God, more than how you feel at the moment. Not to shut out your emotions, no. Because the head should never shut out the heart. But it should rule it. Rule it by the Word of God. Those who learn this lesson, whenever they think about their future, they can spell it “h-o-p-e.” Because God is so utterly predictable—you can accurately predict what God is going to do in your future—he is going to keep every single one of his promises: make all things work out for good; forgive all your sins; give you eternal life in Christ; always show mercy; provide for your physical needs, etc. This is one of the lessons of Christmas—God keeps his promises, the God who promised to send us a Savior, did. God is utterly predictable, because, as it says in 2 Corinthians (1:20), “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” But if you don’t learn to have your brain be bigger than your emotions, then you will have to spell your future two ways: r-e-g-r-e-t-s and, unless there is repentance, eventually h-e-l-l.
2) When you are in the middle years (2 Samuel 11)
David got older, as we all do. And suddenly he was middle aged. And he had to learn what all middle aged Christians have to learn, the thing that pastors encourage and counsel them about—namely, keeping their priorities straight. Keep God’s Word and worship the top priority in your life. But when you are trying to make a living in a risky, highly competitive world, or even just survive day-to-day, it’s hard to keep your priorities straight.
That’s what happened to David, as king, which is a very risky and competitive position to have. There’s always someone looking to knock you off. It happened at the time of year when kings go off to war. Except this year King David didn’t. Which already seems to indicate his priorities had changed. Maybe he just didn’t care as much as he used to –which can be a problem for middle aged people. He stayed home as the army went off to war. And one night he saw a beautiful woman bathing on her rooftop who also had a beautiful name, Bathsheba. And David’s priorities took another sift. So, he committed adultery with her. And she conceived. Then his priorities took yet another shift. Because he tried to hide his sin. For nine months. Being right with God was no longer David’s top priority; repenting and receiving God’s forgiveness was not David’s top priority; holding on to God’s Word was not David’s priority. (2 Samuel 11)
Later he would write what a miserable time those nine months were. (Psalm 32) Because those who get their priorities mixed up, live to regret it. As Christ once promised, “Seek first (my) kingdom and righteous (found in my Word/Sacraments) and all these things (like food, clothes, computers, health care, etc.) will be given you as well.” (Matt. 6:33) Or CS Lewis put it, “Put first things first, you get second things thrown in as well; but you put second things first, you lose everything.” A person who puts God’s Word and worship second or third or fourth in their life, will end up spelling their future two ways: r-e-g-r-e-t-s and unless there is repentance, eventually h-e-l-l.
David learned what every middle aged person needs to learn– to put first things (namely worship and the Word) first, and to keep them first. Those who learn this lesson, whenever they think about their future, they can spell it “h-o-p-e.” Because God is so utterly predictable—you can accurately predict what God is going to do in your future—when you put his Word and worship as your top priority, all the other things you need will be given to you as well (and he does know what that means as you start thinking about retirement), he’s going to work all things out for good, he’s going to always, always, always forgive you even when you mess up your priorities, no matter how badly you mess up. After all, isn’t this what we are really celebrating at Christmas—the birth of a SAVIOR? Indeed, the manger and the cross are made of the same wood. For the promise was that that baby would die for us. And he kept his promise. In this, God is utterly predictable, because, as it says in 2 Corinthians (1:20), “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” Those who learn this lesson, whenever they think about their future, they can spell it “h-o-p-e.”
3. When you are in the golden years (I Kings 1)
Age snuck up on David, like it does to us all. And he could no longer claim to be middle aged. And you’d think that he had learned all the lessons he needed to learn by then. But there was one more. Same lesson all Christians in their golden years have to learn—namely, God is in control, not you, and that’s OK; because the reality is, you never were really in control of anything, it was only an illusion; God is in control, and that’s OK.
We learn that because in the golden years we start to lose control of so many things. Like David did. First his body. His body would not do what his brain wanted it to. Like his circulation, for example; it got bad. He couldn’t keep warm anymore. So they found a beautiful young woman whose name did not match her beauty (her name was Abishag, a Shunnamite) to be his electric blanket (you can check out the details in I Kings chapter 1). He also lost control of his palace, which was doubly stressful, for the palace was both his workplace and his family. One of his sons, by the name of Adonijah, planned on slipping into the job of being king before David was even gone. Started acting as if he were the king. And a number of people followed. Which was really a rebellion. And a betrayal of his father.
That’s likely what he is referring to when he writes in our psalm, “Deliver me, O God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men.” Harsh words, but true words that accurately described the situation. And it would have been easy for David, given all the disappointments in his life, so many people betraying him, his own son betraying him, and losing control of so many things, it would have been easy for David to become bitter, calloused, the kind of person who is grumpy and complains about always being cold, complaining about leg pains, about the children not calling enough, about babies being too loud in church, about how this country is going down the tubes.
But when you read this entire psalm, you find out that’s not what happened. For he turned his attention to the Word and promises of God. He wrote in our psalm, “For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since youth.” He wrote, “In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge.” He wrote, “Be my rock of refuge to which I can always go.”
David learned what every Christian in the golden years needs to learn– namely, God is in control, not you, and that’s OK. Because you know what kind of God he is. He is a God is so utterly predictable—he keeps every single one of his promises, in your life, from the promise to make sure that your physical needs will be provided even though you are on a fixed income to his promise to take you home to heaven at the last, and until then to keep you as the apple of his eye because he is at peace with you because of Christ. Isn’t this what we are celebrating at Christmas—“peace on earth to those on whom his favor rests”? And on whom does his favor rest? On sinners–who have nothing to offer him but their sin and shame and regret and who trust that Christ has replaced that with his own righteousness earned by living a perfect life for us and his forgiveness earned by his perfect death for us. And who rose again to prove he had done it all. Those who learn this lesson, whenever they think about their future, they can spell it “h-o-p-e.”
Do you know what the secret is to understanding most of the psalms? For most psalms, the secret is to find the middle verse. And the middle verse tells you what the whole psalm is really all about. The middle verse for Psalm 71 is, “But as for me, I will always have hope.”
Of all the lessons David learned, this old man who had really lived some life, the greatest lesson was to have hope. Not the maybe kind that we use in every day language. But the sure kind. The kind you get when by the power of the Holy Spirit you learn to count on God to do what he has promised to do because of Christ. In your life and at your death. Because in Christ, when you think about your future, you can always spell it h-o-p-e. Amen.