In the Drought, Relief

What if? What if somebody pulled the curtain on everything certain that you thought you knew? (Apologies to A. L. Webber and Joseph…) Oh, I thought I knew. I was sure when I titled this message some months ago that by this time, August would have browned every blade of grass. And withered some trees to boot! But wouldn’t you know? This turned out to be one of the wettest and greenest summers on record. So there’s no drought to talk about today. None at all. At least not that we can see. But I’ll tell you the truth. There is dryness all around this room. Arid-ness. A withering sense of wondering what will be next. And how will we meet it. And make it. For some, it’s school in the morning! (Whether you’re goin’ or sendin’.) For others, it’s, “What’s the doctor or the lawyer or the banker going to say; or our life’s partner or our child or parent?” And it could go either way, bad or good… but we have a sense of foreboding in it all. Others of us are just, well, w e a r y… more than worried. Just… exhausted. Life takes an S turn… and we are reminded that you only have to pull out one single little s to turn dessert into a desert! The grass may be green this year. But this is still the right time to talk about dryness!

David knew about dryness. Jesus too. And together they can water our souls like nobody else. Oh, we’ve been trackin’ David lately. And Jesus since… forever. And they’ve been teaching us, Sunday by Sunday. David comes to us “The runt.” The haqqaton, in Hebrew. The lowest, last, least. Eighth of eight brothers fit only for the right field foul line, the left out legacy, the pretty boy sheep watcher, all muddied and mediocre-at-the-best. But God picks him. Him to snatch up hope for Israel, like a lamb from off some lonely ledge. Here’s the thing. God sees a heart out-for-God’s-own-heart in David. God’s looking for that in us, too. The Lord looks on our hearts, our insides, not on our outward appearances, and prays that we will do the same for each other. And He selects his Son to die for us, our Jesus, specifically to settle that we belong to Him! Oh, David, David: Goliath-slayer, giant-dispatcher, teaching us we too can joust with our giants and win, if only we will focus on God’s BIGNESS more than our own Goliath’s BRAWNINESS.

So what’s up with this dryness in David, what with all this goodness goin’ on? Well, let me tell you. Shepherd David shows up at the campsite of King Saul’s army. He serves Saul faithfully. And when the Philistine Goliath galls God with taunts and curses, David runs for the river and a purse of flat stones. And with one slung shot from this shepherd … BAM… Goliath is a giant no more! And that sets all Israel to singing, “Saul slays his thousands, David his TEN thousands!” Not good. Saul gets jealous, then enraged. He’s out for David! There’s a price on his head. Now, David’s on the run, on-the-lamb, no longer tendin’-the-sheep. What to do? Saul cuts David off from every comfort, every security, all solid ground and cup of mercy. David’s dry in the soul and parched in the throat. After several assassination attempts, Saul’s got him out of the army. Saul sandbags David’s marriage. His wife (the king’s youngest daughter) aids David’s escape, but lies to the king when called to account. “David tried to kill me,” she lies to save her skin. Thereafter, David will trust her no more. He runs to his preacher, Samuel, but is found out, runs to his best friend, Jonathan, but there’s nothing he can do. Here’s David: no place at home or court, no army job, no wife, priest or friend. Only his Saul, his monster, his pursuer, his latest & lethal giant OR… the desert! The wilderness. The sandpit. The dry place. Along his running, ruined way (to save himself as he sees it). He lies. He moves in with his enemies (in Goliath’s home town). He even pretends to be crazy, then sick (epilepsy). Whew! (Are you keepin’ up?) This IS dry. This IS wilderness country. This IS desperation, depression and distress in the desert of the soul.

Can you relate? That’s the question. Is there a Saul or two somewhere in your life? Your soul? ‘Some thing or someone that cuts you off from your security, your peace of mind, your job or your calling, even the one or ones you love? And hard as you try to

get right, stay right and keep going, have you stretched the truth, re-fashioned the facts, faked a little infirmity for sympathy’s sake? Or just cowered, hidden, trembled in fear, or kept on the run. Oh, I tell ya’, Monday-Morning-Belly-Ache will be more than the school kids’ preserve this year, more epidemic than the flu. And dogs will eat homework, not just among students, but amongst me and you. David ends up crawled tight in a cave at Adullam. Maybe us too.

That’s where it happens. David goes inward. And it lifts him upward. The fugitive recovers the shepherd boy. The “Saul-fearer” reconnects with the Psalm-Singer. David redeems his focus on God and is himself, redeemed! DAVID TAKES REFUGE IN GOD! To this day, we still print Ps 57 with this word, “A song of David when he fled from Saul into the cave.” And his song still celebrates,

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in you; and in the shadow of your wings I make my refuge ‘til the storms of destruction pass me by!” Friends, if this is only a two point sermon on relief in the face of spiritual drought, here’s the simple first point. MAKE REFUGE, TAKE REFUGE IN GOD. Let your God, not your Saul surround you! (Lucado) Let him be the sunshine over you and the rock that shelters you from every blast!

Here’s the second point. (Don’t blink or doze, you’ll miss it.) Lean on the community you’ll find among God’s people. It works for David. You, too. First his brothers came to him. Then family. Then 400! Eventually an army of ardent supporters, even a nation and now, virtually eternity! Friends, this is what we are in Jesus Christ. To each other and the world. We are folks who’ve fled to the cave at Abdullah. And we have carried the crucified savior to the stone cold tomb. We have known arid-nests. Dry to the heart, you and I. We have felt loneliness, done foolishness (you could read this, sin), and found refuge in God and even redemption in Jesus Christ.

And now, starting with some near-or-far-yesterday, embracing this moment and with arms outstretched to tomorrow, we have found each other. Come to each other. Come for each other. Like David’s community, we’re a rabble bunch, more sinners than saints. But we’re together. For each other. In Christ. On a mission. In the world.

Refuge and community! Here’s how Jesus teaches the same message. A woman loses a coin. (It’s like a wedding ring to her.) She’s bereft, in the desert in her soul. She sweeps and weeps and prays. God gives refuge. The coin, revealed and found. She calls in her friends and her neighbors (not all her favorites, we note). PARTY! Community comes with renewal and others are renewed. Yes, even saved. One believer says of all this. “You’ll never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have.” Are you in a dry time? Take refuge in God in Christ Jesus. Cling to the community. Then go and bring someone else in!

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