Rest for Your Soul

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(Psalm 62:1-12)

INTRODUCTION: It’s Labor Day weekend, a day in our country where we recognize the value of labor and work by taking a day off – unless, of course, you work in retail, in which case you have to go in early and stay late. It doesn’t seem fair, somehow! But whether you have to work tomorrow or not, I hope that today at least you will get some rest. We are going to be talking about rest today. Psalm 62 is a Psalm of David, and it is a Psalm about rest, not just physical rest, but rest for your soul.

As we read through the psalm, you will notice the word “selah” in brackets at the end of various phrases in the psalm. Although we’re not sure exactly what these signify, they most likely are meant to be breaks or places to pause while reading or singing the psalm. We don’t actually read the word when we come to it in the psalm, but we take a brief pause before going on. So, it’s interesting that in a psalm about rest, we have these various rests built into the psalm itself. (Read Psalm 62 and pray.)

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Psalm 62 speaks to a condition common to all people of all ages in all cultures. It speaks to the fact that a person cannot find true rest in life apart from God. Every age throughout history can attest to this. We see it in the endless striving to find peace and satisfaction through every avenue imaginable except through God. We live in a restless age, perhaps not more so than other ages but for different reasons.

Each age, each culture has its own peculiar characteristics that define its restlessness. Some of modern America’s characteristics include the following. First of all, many of us have incredibly busy schedules. When was the last time you sat and watched the sun go down, or took a walk in the early morning, or just had plenty of down time? Related to this is a lack of silence. Most peoples’ days are filled with noise and activity. The TV, the computer and the radio constantly compete with the time for silence that we so desperately need. Related to this is materialism and advertising. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements that urge us to buy more and more. We are never satisfied because we are constantly told that we’re not satisfied. One of the maxims of advertising is to create a need and fill it, but we’ve created too many artificial and superficial needs, and we cannot fill them all. We could cite other reasons for our restlessness – hurting families, world pressures, a multitude of fears and anxieties.

But the main reason for the restlessness of our age is the same as in any age. It is an abandonment of God. There are those who seek religious experience to try and fill this void, but religious experience will not do it either. Only contact with the true and living God can bring true rest and peace to your soul.

This is what David seeks to share with us in Psalm 62. As we look at the psalm together, I want you to observe three truths that David especially brings out. 1) God’s nature is such that we find rest in Him. 2) You cannot find true rest apart from God. 3) Knowing these truths is not enough – you must continually apply yourself to finding your true rest in God alone.

I. God’s nature is such that we find rest in him (1-2, 11-12)

The first truth David brings out in the psalm is this: God’s nature is such that we find true rest in him. Look at what David says in verse 1: “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.”

   A. Think worthy thoughts of God
      – Matthew 11:28-30; John 3:17

It is important that we think worthy thoughts of God. Too many people have mistaken ideas of God. Some people think of God as a kill-joy. They believe that God is out to get them or to deny them true satisfaction in life. Nothing could be further from the truth. God is not a kill-joy. You will find rest in God. God desires that you might have life more abundant, that you might be freed from the sins that entangle you and drag you down. He desires the best for you, and he knows what that best is.

Others view God as a cruel task-master or a condemning judge. Martin Luther viewed God this way before he came to a true understanding of salvation. Luther writes,

“I shuddered … at the name of Jesus Christ, for I thought that He had been represented as my Judge, not as my Savior…. I hated that word ‘righteousness of God’…. I was angry with God, and said, ‘As if indeed it is not enough that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law … without having God add pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath.’”

Before coming to Christ, Martin Luther didn’t understand God or the gospel. Which still happens today. If you get God wrong, you get the gospel wrong. And if you get the gospel wrong, you get God wrong. The two go together.

But God is not a cruel task-master. God does not desire to load you down with all sorts of burdens and obligations. Rather he desires to free you that you might find rest. Listen to Jesus’ words from Matthew 11: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-20)

God is not a condemning judge. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Yes, God is our judge, and he will and must and does judge sin, but his desire is to save, not to condemn.

   B. Receive God’s salvation by faith
      – Ephesians 2:8-9

That’s what David says here in verse one of Psalm 62: “My salvation comes from him.” My salvation does not come from myself. It does not come from my works or my religious deeds, but from God. Ephesians 2 puts it this way: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ) God’s nature is such that we find rest in him, and we cannot find rest in God if our salvation is by works. If we have to work for our salvation, we will only see God as Martin Luther originally did, as a taskmaster and a condemning judge.

   C. Understand God’s power to protect and preserve
      – Psalm 38:16; Isaiah 40:20, 41:17

David goes on to describe God’s character in the psalm. In verse 2 he says God “is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” In verse 7 he says, God “is my mighty rock, my refuge.”

When David uses the word “rock” here to describe God, he is not thinking about a small stone lying on the ground, the kind David used to pick up to use in his sling. No, God is a mighty rock, a “refuge,” a place of shelter for David. Don’t think about a small stone lying on the ground. Rather, think about El Capitan, a great mountain made out of solid rock. David is saying that God is a completely reliable foundation for his life, a sure source of strength, a place of shelter that nothing may penetrate.

The word “fortress” refers to a high place, whether a tower, or a high mountain fortress. When you combine rock solid fortification with the advantage of height, then you have a place of absolute safety. You are safe from enemies, from wild animals, from floodwaters or anything else that might threaten you. God is your fortress.

Twice in the Psalm David says that he “will never be shaken,” literally, “I shall not be moved.” The word “shaken” here is a figure of speech of speech referring to great insecurity. David used the same word in Psalm 38:16 to speak of his foot slipping. Isaiah uses the same word to describe unsteady idols toppling off of their platforms (Isaiah 40:20, 41:7). The false idols must be nailed down so that they do not topple, but God will not let David’s foot slip. God cannot be shaken, and because God is David’s rock, his refuge and fortress, therefore, David will not be shaken either. The poet John Donne wrote about this psalm:

If God is my refuge, then what enemy shall pursue?
if my fortress, then what attack shall succeed,
if my rock, then what storm shall shake me,
if my salvation, then what sadness overwhelm me,
if my honor, then what slander shall harm me?

David finishes off his description of God’s nature in verses 11-12, calling God both “strong” and “loving.” God is strong. He has unlimited power, but he is also loving, and he chooses to use that power for our good. God is strong, loving, unshakeable, full of mercy, grace and salvation. That’s the first truth David brings out in the psalm this morning. God’s nature is such that we find true rest in him.

II. You cannot find true rest apart from God

   A. Repetition of the word “alone” (vv. 1,2,5,6)

The second truth David brings out in this psalm is that you cannot find true rest apart from God. David brings this truth out in a number of ways. First of all, there is his repetition of the word “alone.” Four times in the Psalm David emphasizes “God alone.” Verse 1: “My soul finds rest in God alone.” Verse 2: “He alone is my rock and my salvation.” Verse 5: “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.” Verse 6: “He alone is my rock and my salvation.”

   B. Three things that will not bring rest for your soul

But David also brings out this truth by pointing us away from those things that we often trust instead of God. David speaks of three things specifically that will not bring you rest for your soul.

      1) Trusting in self will not bring you rest for your soul (v. 3)

First of all, trusting in self will not bring you rest for your soul. Look at verse 3. David writes, “How long will you assault a man? Would all of you throw him down — this leaning wall, this tottering fence?” David is being attacked. He is outnumbered, and he knows that he cannot trust in himself for the victory. He is weak. He calls himself a leaning wall, a tottering fence. The word he uses for “fence” here often refers to a stone wall made from loose field stones piled up without any mortar holding them together (Numbers 22:24). That’s all we are compared to God. We are just loosely built stone walls, easily pushed over, easily collapsed. Now compare that to God who is a mighty rock and fortress who cannot be moved. Trusting in your self will not bring you rest for your soul.

      2) Trusting in other people will not bring you rest for your soul (vv. 4, 9)
         – Psalm 146:3; John 2:25

Secondly, trusting in other people will not bring you rest for your soul. David tells us that a great number of men have come and attacked him. Their assault is relentless. David cries out, “How long?” Speaking of himself in verse 4 he says, “They fully intend to topple him from his lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse.” (Psalm 62:4) They seek to remove David from his lofty place, that is, his rightful place of dignity and honor as king. They take delight in their lies. They act hypocritically towards him. They pretend to bless him, but in their hearts, they curse.

In verse 9 David speaks of both common men and men of nobility. “Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath.” (Psalm 62:9)

There is a word play here in the Hebrew. The lowborn men are literally “the sons of Adam” and the word for “breath” is the word “abel,” as in Cain and Abel, the name of Adam’s son. The word “abel,” means breath or vanity. And so, David says the sons of Adam are “Abel,” they are nothing but a breath. They are here today, gone tomorrow. And the highborn are a lie. The highborn think that they are superior to others, but there is no advantage before God from birth or rank or high position. David says, “If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath.” David literally says, when you put them on a scale, they go up! They are so much hot air. They are less than weight!

Psalm 146:3 says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.” Jesus would not trust himself to men because “he knew what was in a man.” (John 2:25) Jesus knew that people can cry “Hosanna!” one moment and “Crucify him!” the next.

      3) Trusting in power or wealth will not bring you rest for your soul (v. 10)

Trusting in your self will not bring you rest for your soul. Trusting in other people will not bring you rest for your soul. And then thirdly, trusting in power or wealth will not bring you rest for your soul. Look at verse 10: “Do not trust in extortion or take pride in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.”

Extortion refers to the abuse of power or authority to benefit yourself at the expense of others. There are many warnings in Scripture not to oppress the poor or the weak. “Stolen goods” here refers especially to violent robbery but any type of theft could be included. The word “riches” refers to strength, might and wealth. If your riches increase, David says do not set your heart on it. Jesus said where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21)

And so, David tells us trusting in these three things will not bring you rest for your soul. 1) Trusting in your self won’t do it. You may think you can handle everything, but you cannot. Time will eventually prove that to you. 2) Trusting in others won’t do it. You cannot find true rest for your soul through other people – whether it’s a friend, parent, child, coach, Sunday School teacher or pastor. We all eventually let each other down, because we all have something in common. We are all human, and we are all sinful. 3) Trusting in power or wealth will not bring you rest either. Money can sprout wings and fly away, and even if it doesn’t there are more important things to get excited about. Don’t set your heart on riches – even if they increase.

You cannot find true rest apart from God. Some people try to divide their trust between God and something else, but that doesn’t work either. As someone once said, if you’ve got one foot on a rock and the other in quicksand, you might as well have both feet in the quicksand. (John Trapp) Put your trust in God alone.

   C. The structure of the Psalm (“chiasm”)

There is one other way David emphasizes this truth that you cannot find true rest apart from God, and that is through the structure of the psalm itself. The psalm is structured as a chiasm, which is sort of like a palindrome, something that reads the same forwards as backwards (e.g. “Mom,” “Dad,” “Madam in Eden I’m Adam.”). You will notice that the psalm has five sections. The first two sections and the last two sections are each two verses in length. The middle section has four verses. It is not only the longest section, it is also set off by the two “selahs.” The themes of these various sections run like this:

Section 1 (verses 1-2) > God
Section 2 (verses 3-4) > man
Section 3 (verses 5-8) > God
Section 4 (verses 9-10) > man
Section 5 (verses 11-12) > God

And so, the Psalm both begins and ends with God, and then God is also the theme of the main, central section. This also reinforces David’s theme of God alone. You cannot find true rest apart from God.

III. Knowing these truths is not enough – you must continually apply yourself to finding your true rest in God alone (5-12)

1) God’s nature is such that we find rest in him. 2) You cannot find true rest apart from God. 3) And then the third truth David brings out for us is this. Simply knowing these first two truths is not enough. You must continually apply yourself to finding your true rest in God alone.

Notice how David talks to himself in verse 5. He says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.” He knew the truth from verse 1, but that was not enough. He needed to practice it and apply it to himself.

We are in exactly the same situation as David. We may know these things are true, but we still need to remind ourselves constantly. So how do you do it? Let me share with you six ways from the psalm that you can apply these truths to yourself.

First of all, claim God’s promises for yourself. Look at verses 5-6. Notice how David refers to God not simply as “a rock” or “a refuge,” but as “my hope, my rock, my salvation, my fortress, my honor, my refuge.” What good are all the riches in the world if you have no inheritance in them? But you have a rich inheritance in God’s promises. David personalizes the promises of God and claims them for himself. You need to do the same.

Secondly, place your honor in God’s hands. Look at verse 7: “My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.” Too often we lose our rest because we worry about how others view us. We defend ourselves unnecessarily. We try to make ourselves look better than others. Psalm 75 says: “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.” (Psalm 75:6-7) David says to place your honor in God’s hands and leave it there. God is the one who exalts a man or brings him down.

Thirdly, trust in God at all times. Look at verse 8: “Trust in him at all times, O people.” In both the good times and bad, put all your hope and trust in God, and never give up. Learn to wait on God. John Trapp, an English pastor in the 1600’s wrote: “Waiting on God is nothing less than hope and trust lengthened.”

Fourthly, pour out your heart to the Lord. Back to verse 8: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” There is no problem too big or too small that you cannot bring it to God. Pour out your inmost thoughts, desires, sorrows and sins. We talk too much of our troubles to others and too little to God. Charles Spurgeon said, “Hide nothing from Him, for you can hide nothing from Him.” If you keep your grief to yourself, it will only become a burden too great for you to bear. 1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Fifthly, rely on God’s Word. Look at verse 11. David says, “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.” “One thing God has spoken.” God’s word is a unity. We take all the many words of God in the Bible, and we can still call it “the word of God,” because it is all God’s word. God’s word is a unity, and David relied on the word of God that he had heard.

Finally, look forward to your eternal rest. Look at verse 12 which closes the Psalm. “Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.” The word “reward” here is the Hebrew word shalam. It is the verb form of shalom, the Jewish word for peace and rest. God will “shalom” each of his children according to the things they have done for him. God will bless you with peace and rest for our soul.

CONCLUSION: Where do you seek your rest? If you seek it outside of God and outside of Jesus Christ, you will never find it. St. Augustine prayed, “O Lord, thou hast made us for thyself, and our souls are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” He was probably thinking of David who wrote: “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him; I will never be shaken.”

© Ray Fowler

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