Reorientations In The Sanctuary
20/21 MARCH 2021 | PRAYER & PRAISE SERVICE
Rev David Ho
Scripture Passage: Psalm 73 (NIV)
WATCH | SERMON (VIDEO)
READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary: God works in our disorientation to re-orientate and anchor our faith in Him.
In Psalm 73 we observe a three-movement process of orientation, disorientation and re-orientation which Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann suggests characterizes a life of faith as reflected in the Psalms. What do we do when life’s trials unsettle us, or when we see the wicked get away with injustice and evil? As we follow the journey of Asaph, the psalmist, appointed by King David as Israel’s worship leader, we too can learn to find anchors in seasons of disorientation. Asaph’s authentic prayerfulness eventually restored his faulty perception and rejuvenated his faith in a turbulent season.
1. v1 Comfortable Orientation – The introductory “Surely God is good to Israel” signals a strong affirmation and confidence Asaph has come to learn over the years. Yet in this psalm he wanted Israel to discover God’s goodness more profoundly, beyond superficial religious cliches.
2. v2-16 Unpredictable Disorientation – Asaph confesses immediately after, that he had nearly lost his foothold on faith - “I almost slipped!” He saw how the arrogant wicked thrived in their well-being – strong, healthy, prosperous, and unaffected by human ills (v4-5) they become prideful, violent, get away with unlimited evil, malicious, oppressive (v6-8), yet go on amassing wealth and were popular (v10). Why were they succeeding while he was in despair? The reality of his circumstances conflicted with the treasured conviction of his soul that God is good. The twisting and tainting of his mind, heart, and source of hope caused his faith to be shaken to the point of falling away.
In reality, however, do the wicked have no problems? Adolf Hitler lost the war and ended up killing himself. Dictators suffer obesity and health issues. Wicked influencers eventually fall because of their cumulative wrongdoings. Asaph’s evaluation was wrong because his perception became skewed. He had become too biasedly extreme to see clearly. Asaph’s disorientation was not an intellectual issue so much as it was a condition of his heart. It was envy that caused his heart to grudge the good life that someone else was having, which he felt he deserved instead of them. It was in this state of jealousy that he regarded God as unfair. He was upset not because he cared for the poor but because he did not have what the wicked had. The cause of his own unhappy turmoil was his own tainted heart.
Will our thinking likewise become distorted when we see others getting ahead, our dreams shattered, our hearts broken, our loved ones fall gravely ill or die unexpectedly? Will we become disoriented and lose our vision of God’s faithfulness? We need to look at someone bigger than our human selves. Attempting to understand hardships with our own wisdom will cause us to be deeply troubled.
3. v 17-28 Uplifting Re-orientation – The turning point from disorientation to restoration for Asaph came when he entered God’s sanctuary instead of running away from God. He was radically able to perceive reality from God’s perspective. As author John Stott (Favourite Psalms) wrote, it is when we fall to our knees humbly seeking God’s face, that we begin to see things as God sees them, so that we neither envy the wicked nor pity ourselves bitterly. Asaph could see the destiny of the wicked as going down a “slippery slope”. He no longer debated the happiness of their condition, feeling instead “horror” for “their impending doom” (Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David).
Asaph was then able in this re-oriented season to vulnerably confess his senseless ignorance, and receive God’s correction. With newfound confidence, he could proclaim that God grasps his hand, guides with His counsel, and will redeem him to His glory. God intervenes to hold on to us even when in our weakness we question Him. He continues to guide, shape and bring us to our destiny even when we are lost and in despair. When we place our hope and confidence wholeheartedly in the LORD, we can say with Asaph that there is nothing in earth that we desire but God Himself. By acknowledging our own mortality, we discover God as our true secure strength and portion forever.
These are four practices that will anchor our faith in God so that the storms of life will not swallow us and we can travel long and far in the LORD.
- Make daily appointments with the LORD as VIP – honour intentionally our appointed times with God, dependent not on mood or chance, nor allowing any worldly distraction to sidetrack us.
- Pray with honest, vulnerable authenticity – surrender our struggles and sorrows to the LORD, and willingly receive His instructions.
- Seek for our wandering hearts alignment with God’s perspective – not demanding but resting our desires submissively in God’s way, and in His near presence experience His Shalom peace.
- Abide intimately in the LORD – not yearning for eternal existence but experiencing eternal communion with God. Discipleship is not about acquiring more information. It is with a posture of abiding rather than striving that we re-orientate confidently to await the ultimate joy of salvation in Heaven.
The priority in times of disorientation is not to seek answers but to find our faith anchors in God. When we seek God in His sanctuary, God lifts us out of despair and gives us new hope to experience gratitude and joy. We can then declare with Asaph that “it is good to be near God, the sovereign LORD is my refuge”. God is good and faithful who works in ways beyond our understanding when we re-orientate our beings in His holy sanctuary.
(Sermon Notes by Marjorie Tan)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. (a) What has caused you to experience “disorientation” (i.e. moments where you felt unsettled and confused about life, faith and/or God) in your Christian journey?
1. (b) Do you agree that the Christian life is a journey that goes through cycles of “orientation, disorientation and reorientation”? Reflect and share from your personal experience.
2. Asaph begins Psalm 73 with a creed or proverb – a well-known, familiar expression that his contemporaries knew and believed. What similar or familiar expression(s) do we often use in our context?
Has such expression(s) been adequate for you in times of “disorientation?”
3. Read Psalm 73: 3-14. What caused Asaph to describe his experience in v.2: But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
4. What were the disorientations that Asaph was experiencing in his (a) mind, (b) heart and (c) hopes?
5. Describe the reorientations that Asaph experienced in his (a) mind, (b) heart and (c) hopes after entering the Sanctuary (v. 17).
6. Read this quote by John Stott (“Favourite Psalms”) and discuss the importance of “entering the Sanctuary”:
“Perception is granted to those who humbly seek God’s face. When we are perplexed by the problems of God’s providential rule in the world, we are neither to look at the wicked with envy nor at ourselves in bitter self-pity. Nor should we give up looking for any solution and lapse into despair, but rather fall on our knees and look at God. Then from the secret place of the Most High and we see things as God sees them.”
7. Discuss how following practices and/or postures help you to reorientate back to God and/or stay orientated with God:
(a) Intentionally making Appointments with God daily
(b) Being Authentic before God (instead of trying to appear good)
(c) Aligning to God (i.e. allowing your mind & heart to be transformed by God instead of trying to get God to do something)
(d) Abiding in God (i.e. being intentional to seek & stay with God)