In the late 1800s, Alexander Graham Bell was a master inventor, producing, among other things, the first telephone. But Bell’s wife Mable was concerned. Once she wrote to her mother that the endless hours he devoted to the telephone frightened her. She said: “He has his machine running beautifully — but it will kill him if he is not careful.’” (Candice Millard, Destiny of the Republic, p. 71)
Many of us face similar temptations today — and busy-ness IS a temptation that needs to be resisted. If we are too busy to get adequate rest; if we are too busy to get regular exercise, it will literally kill us — as it has many people throughout history. But we need to realize that the same thing is true on the spiritual level as well. If we are too busy to spend time with the Lord, it will kill us SPIRITUALLY, too. We need to slow down, and take time to sit before the Lord.
In I Chronicles 17, King David wanted to build God a “house,” a temple for worship. But through Nathan the prophet God told David that He never asked him to build Him a house; but He said, “The LORD will build a house for YOU”! And He prophesied that one of David’s offspring would set up a kingdom that would last forever (speaking of the Messiah that would be his descendant, which was fulfilled when Jesus was born in the City of David). This was an amazing promise, and David was humbled by it.
But David’s response to that is what I want us to focus on this morning. Verse 16 says “Then David the king went in and sat before the Lord …” and he began to pray. David’s response here, and the prayer that he prayed, has a lot to teach us:
I. We Need to SIT before the Lord
:16 “Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD …”
We need to make sure that we don’t miss what happened here. David went in and SAT before the Lord. He didn’t “rush by;” he didn’t “stand” for just a few minutes; he SAT. He spent some unhurried, unrushed time with God in His presence.
This is what so many of us need today, too. We need unhurried, unrushed time, in which we just SIT before our God.
One of the curses of this age in which we live is that almost everyone is so BUSY. Talk to people these days, and ask how they are doing, and almost everyone says, “Oh, I’m busy …” “we’re just running from one thing to another.” People are busy.
And sometimes churches can be the worst about it too, can’t they? I read where one church said, “We have something going every day of the week.” I thought, “and they’re bragging about that?” Often we equate “busy-ness” with godliness, but IT IS NOT! Especially when our busy-ness begins to crowd out our quality time with God, which it inevitably does. It’s sad but it’s true, that one of the first things to “go” when we get busy, is quality time with God. And that is “death” to our spiritual life, because we will never be close to God like David was, unless we take time to SLOW DOWN and SIT before God, and spend unhurried time with Him, like David did here!
This was a key to David’s spiritual life. Why did God call him “a man after My own heart”? How did he come up with all those Psalms: “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and so on — rich, deep, spiritual Psalms of worship that revealed the intimacy he had with God? You know how he was able to write those? First of all, of course, GOD gave them to him, under the inspiration of His Holy Spirit. But secondly, on a practical level, David took TIME to be with God. He HAD time. He was a Shepherd. What does a shepherd do? He watches sheep. David had a LOT of time out there, while he was in the fields with those sheep, to think, to meditate on the things of God, to pray … and undoubtedly while he was out there for hour upon hour, watching the sheep, keeping them from going astray, leading them to the place of water and rest … God used that TIME as he was shepherding those sheep to lay on his heart the idea: “The LORD is MY shepherd … He leads Me … He provides for ME …”! And he wrote this amazing Psalm that has spoken deeply to God’s people for the last 3000 years! But David would never have gotten that deep spiritual insight, without quiet, unhurried TIME with God.
There is just no substitute, spiritually, for unhurried time when we just SIT before God. Back in the 1950s A.W. Tozer wrote:
“I have often wished that there were some way to bring modern Christians into a deeper spiritual life painlessly by short easy lessons; but such wishes are vain. No shortcut exists! God has not bowed to our nervous haste nor embraced the methods of our machine age. It is well that we accept the hard truth now: the man who would know God must give time to Him! He must count no time wasted which is spent in the cultivation of His acquaintance. He must give himself to meditation and prayer hours on end. So did the saints of old, the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets and the believing members of the holy Church in all generations. And so must we if we would follow in their train!”
That little sentence is a key: we must accept the hard truth now: “the man who would know God must give TIME to Him”! We must take time to SIT before God, like David did here — or we will never really know Him well.
Roxana shared a very honest and transparent testimony last week about how she made a commitment to take time to “feast” on God’s word every morning — even if she didn’t get to straighten her hair before she left for work. I think what was so good about what she shared, is that most of us struggle with that same tension. We know that feeling of “rush” in the morning – especially if you have work, or school, or somewhere you have to be every day. I’ll be honest; I feel that same pressure even as a pastor. I get up at 5:30 every day. But I STILL feel, many times, like I am just “rushing” through my Bible readings, and just barely getting all my prayer requests done, so I can be at the office at 8:00 every day. And I really look forward to the weekends: (my “weekend” is Friday and Saturday) when I can just SIT and take as much, unhurried time as I need to read God’s word. And I tell you what: if you just sit and linger over God’s word, you can take a long time doing your Bible reading. But it is also amazing how much we can get OUT of it if we do! And this is what we SHOULD be doing. We need to take time to just SIT before God and seek Him in His word and and meditate on it, and pray over it; confess our sins, and intercede for others — but the honest truth is, most of us do not do that. And we will never be the “people after God’s own heart” He created us to be, until we learn to just SIT and take unhurried time before our God.
May God help us to learn: that NONE of the things we are rushing out of our house to do, are as important as sitting and being still before our God.
Because in eternity, most of the things we were hurrying out to do, are not really going to matter. The only thing that will ultimately matter, is did you learn to be still and take time to love God? Just like Jesus told Mary: you’ve chosen the best thing, that cannot be taken away from you. “Find me at the feet of Jesus” as our song today says.
II. What to DO when we sit before God?
David shows us some of those things in these verses:
A. Sit with humility
:16 “who am I …”
When God made the promise to David, that He would build a house for him, and that one of his descendants would establish an eternal kingdom, David went in and just sat before God, and his first response was humility. The first words out of his mouth were: “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house that You have brought me this far?”
Basically he’s saying, “I don’t deserve this.” God, this is just of Your grace. I’m not anything; my family’s not anything, that You should do this for us. He just sat before God, first of all, with an attitude of awestruck humility.
And that’s a great example for us too. When we come and sit before God, we should do it with humility. In fact, if we truly do present ourselves before God, we MUST be humble. You can’t really present yourself to God and not be humble. Every servant of God who came before Him in scripture, always ended up falling down to the ground in humility. “Our God is an awesome God.” “For our God is a consuming fire.”
This is the attitude, first of all, that we have to bring with us in salvation. “Who are we?”, that we deserve salvation? We DON’T deserve it. We are all sinners. We were born with a sin nature, and as soon as we came to the time in our life when we could make a choice, we all chose to sin. We are sinners, by nature and by choice — ALL of us. We don’t deserve to know God, or have heaven. The ONLY way we could be saved, like we talked about last week, was for God to send His only begotten Son, to die on the cross and pay for our sins. How did we deserve that? The plain fact is, we DON’T! It is absolutely, totally God’s mercy and love and grace alone. NONE of us could ever complain if we didn’t get into heaven; because NONE of us deserves it. None of us could complain about anyone ELSE God lets into heaven; because WE don’t deserve it ourselves. WE only have it by God’s grace! (The question you should ask yourself right now is: DO I know that I have it? If not, you can know it. Admit your sin to God, and ask Him to save you, NOT because of anything good that you have done, but only by His grace in Jesus’ death on the cross for you. But come humbly and receive that gift; you don’t deserve it, and neither do I. None of us do.)
Because we are only saved by His undeserved grace, we should all be so humble before God. We should have the attitude of the old hymn: “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love ME, a sinner, condemned, unclean. How marvelous; how wonderful, and my song shall ever be. How marvelous, how wonderful, is my Savior’s love for me.”
And we should never lose that sense of humility before God. Every day we should come before Him with humility. Every day, come into His presence with Psalms, and sing of how great He is. And then, confess your sins to Him, and admit how far short of Him you fall. And thank Him that the only way you can come before Him is through Jesus — “preach the gospel to yourself” every day. Every day. Never lose that! Sit before Him with humility.
Humility keeps US in our right place, and it helps remind us to keep GOD in His. Humility is SO vital in our relationship with God. That’s why God says in Isaiah 66:2,“To this one I will look, who is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at My word.” God will look to YOU — God will pay attention to YOU — YOU of all people! — you can say with David, “Lord, who am I, that You should pay attention to ME?!” But amazingly, He says He WILL: IF will you come and sit before Him in humility, and be contrite about your sin, and if you will “tremble at His word.” Sit before Him, with humility.
B. Sit with thanksgiving
David’s prayer here is full of gratitude for what God had done for him:
He says in :16, “You have brought me this far …;” he goes on pray:” You have spoken of Your servant’s house … You have regarded me … a man of high degree … (he speaks of) the honor bestowed on Your servant …” and on and on. He was just so grateful for all that God had done for him.
David knew how far God had brought him, and he was thankful for it. God said in :7 “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader over My people.” It’s interesting the way God said that, isn’t it? God didn’t say, “I took you from LEADING the sheep;” no, He said, “I took you from FOLLOWING the sheep.” (Kind of puts you in your place, doesn’t it!) And even the occupation of a shepherd itself was not a glamorous one in those days. Many of us today think of a shepherd with kind of “romantic”, or nostalgic overtones. But in Bible days especially, the job of the shepherd was the lowest of the low. If you remember from Genesis, the Egyptians wouldn’t have anything to do with Israel, because they were shepherds. Shepherds then had a bad reputation. You just didn’t mingle with them. The Jewish Talmud, which contains the traditional Jewish interpretations of the Law, says that shepherds were not to be allowed to testify in the courts as witnesses. Their credibility was so bad, no one would believe them. In another place the Talmud goes so far as to state that “no help must be given to the heathen, or to shepherds.”
SO David was saying, Lord, I KNOW how far you’ve brought me! I was a shepherd — I was the lowest of the low — and now You have made me a king; and given me these amazing promises. David was so thankful for what God had done in his life.
And it’s not an accident that he was thankful. Because as we have seen, he was humble. And humility and thanksgiving go together. If you are humble, then you will be thankful. You know you don’t “deserve” what God has given you; so you are thankful for it. But if you think you “deserved” it all anyway, you won’t be grateful. But the humble person is always thankful.
David said, Lord, look at all You’ve done for me! And that’s how we should be too. When we come and sit before the Lord, we should be thankful. We should say, “Lord, look at all that You’ve done for me; thank You!”
We should take time every day in our prayer time to give God thanks. The Bible tells us to begin our prayers with thanksgiving:
— Psalm 100:4 “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.”
— Psalm 95:2 “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving”
I usually begin my prayer time each morning with a Psalm of thanks, and then spend some time just giving God thanks for all the good things He has done for me. I’ll review the previous day, and thank Him for all the good things that happened, and then for our home, and material blessings, and the food I’ve had, and for my family — and then for the spiritual blessings of salvation, and forgiveness, and heaven, and His word, and His Holy Spirit in my life, and on and on. It’s not hard to spend a lot of time just thanking God for all the blessings He’s given you. We should do that every day in our prayer time.
But these verses remind us that we should also have some special times, where we just SIT before God, in an unhurried way, and just be thankful. Just sit before Him and be grateful.
There are two ways we can choose to live: we can take everything for granted, or we can be thankful. Most people take way too much for granted. When the Brooklyn Bridge was constructed over the East River in New York in the 1800s, it was considered to be “a miracle of the age;” one of the “7 wonders of the new world.” But Thomas Kinsella, the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper wrote in an editorial:
“‘When the perfected East River Bridge (Brooklyn Bridge) shall permanently and uninterruptedly connect the two cities, the daily thousands who cross it will consider it a sort of natural and inevitable phenomenon, such as the rising and setting of the sun, and they will consciously overlook the preliminary difficulties surmounted before the structure spanned the stream, and will perhaps undervalue the indomitable courage, the absolute faith, the consummate genius which assured the engineer’s triumph.’” (Brave Companions, McCullough, p. 124)
And he was right. Now, 150 years after that “miracle of the age” was finished, nobody thinks a thing about crossing that bridge any more. They just take it for granted. They DON’T think about the genius that developed it; they DON’T ponder the courage it took to construct it. And it’s like that with so many things in our lives, isn’t it? We just take them for granted.
Here David reminds us: don’t be one of those people, who lives thoughtlessly every day, taking everything for granted. Be thankful. Give God thanks every day. Here we are in November, the month of Thanksgiving. Let’s not just CALL it Thanksgiving month; let’s really give God thanks this month. Make some time to just sit before Him, and be thankful, for all the good things He has done for you. Like David, sit before God, with thanksgiving.
C. Sit in worship
David prayed in :20 “there is one like You, nor is there any God besides You …”. He sat before God, and worshiped: “There is no one like You!”
This is the best thing we can do: just sit before God and worship Him. Not ask Him for things; not even pray for others; but just worship Him for Who He is. Appreciate that there is none like Him.
I remember when our oldest son Paul ran with the Jenks Oklahoma running club in elementary school, he did very well, and he went the State championship, and if you placed there, you’d go to Nationals. I was probably TOO invested in it, like a lot of us dads get, all worried about his times and diet and everything else, and probably didn’t just appreciate it as much as I should. I remember watching that race, though: at first another guy ran to the front, and it looked like he was going to win — and all of the sudden about the third of the four laps, Paul ran to the front. It was a thing of beauty. And he just sprinted away from the field. And as he pulled away, I knew it was all over; he was going to win. So I just watched him: I wasn’t worried about his time any more, or who was going to win, or where he was going to place. I just stood there with a smile on my face, and watched him run. It was a thing of beauty.
And that’s what we need to learn to do with God. We are so BUSY. So caught up in time, and details, and goals, and “things” — even when it comes to our religion. So we “parcel” out to God a song or two, or a Sunday morning — but hopefully it doesn’t last too long, because we have things to do — but do we ever just stop, and sit back, and appreciate God? Put everything else aside, and just sit before Him and worship.
Like I said last week; that’s what we’re going to be doing for all eternity; just worship Him. And many theologians believe, that to a great extent, our capacity to worship and enjoy God in eternity, will depend on how much we learned to worship and enjoy Him HERE. That will be part of our reward. Our rewards in heaven won’t be silver and gold, or foolish, temporal things like that. Our reward will be GOD. But how much ability we have to ENJOY God, will depend on how we prepared ourselves here, to enjoy Him when we get to glory. Yes, we will ALL enjoy God in heaven, no doubt. It will be glorious for everyone who is there. But will you be able to enjoy Him ten-fold, fifty-fold, or a hundred-fold? That may depend on how much you prepared yourself here, by enjoying Him now, and how much you made yourself ready to enjoy Him even more in glory. But like Tozer said, that takes TIME. There is no shortcut. Will we sacrifice the TIME, now, that it takes to just sit before Him, and worship?
Job’s friends have taken a lot of flak over the years, and perhaps to a great extent they deserved it, because of the things they said. But we should also give them their due. These men did something that many of us would not do: they took time and just SAT with Job. When all the calamities came upon him, do you know how long the Bible says these men came and sat with Job, without saying a word? SEVEN days, Job 2:13 says. They just sat there, mourning with him, without saying a word, for SEVEN days. That’s a real friend, who gives that kind of time.
I visited with Barbara Hurst a few days ago, to prepare for Tim’s service, and she shared with me a lot of things about his life. One thing that she mentioned actually came back to me while I was preparing for this message today. She said when Tim went into the care center in Pearland, James Peterson would just go up there and sit with Tim. Barbara said they couldn’t really converse; Tim couldn’t speak. But she said that James would just sit with him, hour after hour. Folks, THAT is a friend. That’s how you SHOW friendship; and that’s how you BUILD a friendship, by spending unhurried time like that.
And what we need to learn today from this scripture, more than anything else, is that if we want to be friends with GOD; if we want to be closer with God; that is what we we must learn to do with Him, too. We’ve got to learn to take unhurried, un-rushed time, to just SIT WITH GOD!
— If you are certain that you are a Christian today, would you let God evaluate your spiritual life this morning? How much un-rushed, unhurried do you really get with Him? Some? None? And what specifically would you need to change in your life, to get more? What are you spending a lot of time on, maybe rushing away from God to get to — that’s not nearly as important as the God you’re rushing away from?
— This Thanksgiving season: would you determine to really give God thanks. To stop taking things for granted, and really thank God.
Maybe you need to start including a time of thanks in your prayer time every morning: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving” like Psalm 100 says.
— Or maybe you would say, “I really DON’T know that I am a Christian right now … but you’re ready to come to Him with humility, and say, “I know I’ve sinned, and I don’t deserve anything from You, but thank You that Jesus died for me …” and ask Him to save you right now …