You are My Lamp – Nov. 11, 2018

Moore is the 7th largest city in Oklahoma and it sits ‘in about the middle of the state’. It is located in an area called Tornado Alley. On Monday, May 20, 2013, a large and very powerful EF5 tornado ravaged Moore and nearby cities. An EF5 tornado is one of the strongest storms with winds estimated at 210 mph.

The tornado touched down at 2:56p.m and stayed on the ground for 37 minutes – over a 17-mile path, crossing through a heavily populated section of Moore. The tornado was 2.25 miles wide at its peak. In its direct path were many homes, two elementary schools and a junior high school.

The tornado struck both Briarwood Elementary School and Plaza Towers Elementary School directly, and destroyed Highland East Junior High School’s gym. Briarwood and Plaza Towers sustained enough damage to be considered a total loss. When it was all said and done, 24 people were killed and 212 others were injured in Moore.

While news of the disastrous tornadoes in Oklahoma made the national news, the real story was what happened inside the schools. News reporters later uncovered these stories…

Second-grade teacher Tammy Glasgow got her children into bathrooms and a closet before taking shelter for herself. Wayne Mayes, a first-grade teacher, distracted his students with songs and games as he moved them to safety. Suzanne Haley was ‘impaled by the leg of a desk’ while protecting her students.

Another, pregnant teacher, Cindy Lowe, positioned herself between her students and a falling wall. She suffered a concussion -but because she took the hit, it saved the lives of the children in her care. These brave teachers demonstrated sacrificial love, risking their own lives ‘to protect the lives of the students under their care’.

Mr. Rogers, from his show ‘Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood’ is quoted to have said concerning tragedies: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. Do not focus on the devastation, but focus on those who are working or sacrificing themselves in order to help.”

Ever since September 11, 2001, there is an image I just cannot get out of my mind. While people inside were fleeing to get out, police and fireman were rushing in, to help. Many victims said it gave them great peace to see those brave men and women coming to their rescue.

Let me just ask you, who do you look to when disaster strikes? Who is your refuge in the midst of the storm? Many of the greatest leaders in the Bible turned to God; Abraham, Moses, Deborah, and especially King David.

David is considered by many to be ‘the greatest king to ever live’. He was a shepherd, a giant killer, a faithful follower, a strong soldier, a lover, a singer and a musician, a sovereign king, and…a terrible sinner. Yet, when faced with the truth, he was always humble and repentant. He always returned to God.

David wrote in Psalm 121:1-4, “I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 

“He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

As King David was nearing the end of his life, he took account of all the things that had happened to him. He was a strong leader ruling a great nation. His kingdom was often at peace because God had given him victory over his enemies. I imagine David ‘with tears in his eyes’ as he took his writing tool in his hand to record one last song of praise and thanksgiving. This would be his opus, his hallelujah chorus to the King of kings.

If you compare Psalm 18 – to 2 Samuel 22, you will find that they are almost identical. Only a few words are changed. Both are songs of joy, victory and praise. Some scholars believe that Psalm 18 came directly from David’s last song. Others believe that this simply was the arc of David’s life and he just loved to ‘tell the story’. Either way, it gives us insight into David’s mindset.

While David is still considered ‘a man after God’s own heart’, his final years took a less than fulfilling turn. It is the hope of every king to leave a great legacy – and children that ascend to the throne. In King David’s case, things were beginning to fall apart. What we find with King David is a good example of ‘what we sow, we eventually reap’. David was a distant father, always at war or traveling. He took very little time for family. He grew distant from his wife and sons. Then, instead of going off to battle one last time as he grew older, he stayed home and embraced temptation.

David’s affair with Bathsheba ended up destroying many of his strong relationships and it alienated his sons from him. As David grew old, his son Absalom killed his half-brother Amnon and later conspired to take the kingdom from David. One thing lead to another until Absalom was tragically killed. Finally, David’s old enemies the Philistines returned to battle against his kingdom. In the end, King David’s men triumphed but it took its toll on him. It was at this time, that David sat down to write this final song of praise to God.

It is easy to celebrate when things are going well. But life isn’t always easy or pretty. King David had his faults and regrets. Like him, we all fall short of God’s purposes for our lives. Yet David had a way of being humble, picking up the pieces and still moving forward towards God. David had experienced the highs and the lows – but refused to become bitter, he truly believed in God’s mercy and grace. I think that puts this song in a particularly special light.

I grew up listening to Casey Karem’s Sunday night top 40 hits and I never missed his year-end top 100 most popular songs in the nation. Like those who sat near the radio to listen to The Shadow, Little Orphan Annie or Mystery Theater; I sat mesmerized and wrote down the most popular songs that I liked.

It was the words that most often captured me. Some songs were funny; others serious – and still others captured the mood of the nation. Maybe you know what I mean; have you ever said, “Listen sweetheart, they are playing OUR song!”

If we listen carefully we can get insights into David’s song and I believe, in many ways it is our song as well. It pours out from his heart and it reveals his character, one that just keeps returning to God.

Listen,…         (Read 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18) I will hit the highlights!

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent people, you save me.

“I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies.
The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook;

“He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his canopy around him the dark rain-clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth.

“The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.
He shot arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning – he routed them.
The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the rebuke of the Lord,

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.    

He brought me out ‘into a spacious place’; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

“The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from them.

“I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.

“To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
To the pure you show yourself pure, But to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.

You save the humble, but your eyes are ‘on the haughty – to bring them low’.

“You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.
With your help, I can advance against an army; with my God I can scale a wall.

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?
 
“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can ‘bend a bow of bronze’. You give me your shield of victory; your help has made me great.
You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not turn and give way.

“You have delivered me from the attacks of the peoples; you have preserved me as the head of nations. The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!
“He is the God who avenges me, who puts the nations under me, who sets me free from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me.

“Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.

He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants, forever.”

What can we learn from this? Here are 4 lessons we should reflect on…

1) When our future is uncertain, – the Lord is our only hope.

2) When days are dark, – the Lord is our only light.

3) When our walk is weak, – the Lord is our only strength. And…

4) When times are tough, – God is our only comfort and security.

Earlier I asked, “Who do you look to when disaster strikes? Who is your refuge in the midst of the storm?”

Mr. Rogers aptly said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find someone who is helping. Do not focus on the devastation, – but focus on those who are working or sacrificing themselves in order to help.”

The Lord is our helper and it was Jesus who made the ultimate sacrifice. Out of compassion, mercy and love, God came to our rescue. In the midst of the storms of life, ‘look to the calm center and focus on Jesus’. There is no greater love than this.

As David sang, “Your word is a lamp to my feet – and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) Let Jesus turn your darkness into light.

Your assignment is,…to journal this week on your life – write down all the times that God has rescued and redeemed you when you fell. Notice how God never gives up on you – and, in fact, he is still calling to you!

He ‘is’ your Guide, your Savior and your Hope.   

Amen