Resurrection Out of the Ashes of Defeat
by Jack Wald | July 31st, 2016

Psalm 16

When Paul wrote to Timothy and said, (2 Timothy 3:16)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
what Scripture was he talking about?

I pointed out last week that we are sometimes surprised to discover that when the early church read the Bible, there was no Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John to read. The letters Paul wrote, including II Timothy, were not viewed as Scripture.

When Paul wrote about “Scripture,” he was talking about what we call the Old Testament. When Paul and others wrote their gospels and letters, they quoted the Old Testament to validate what they were writing. And when they quoted the Old Testament, they overwhelmingly quoted the Psalms and prophets. The book of the Bible most quoted in the New Testament is Psalms.

So we are in a series of sermons this summer, focusing on psalms that are directly quoted in the New Testament. We have looked at Psalm 2 which was viewed as a psalm talking about Jesus, the Messiah. We looked last week at Psalm 14 which Paul quoted in his letter to the church in Rome when talking about the wrath of God. And today we are looking at Psalm 16 which Peter quoted in the first sermon of the church at Pentecost.

I will follow the same pattern as in the previous two sermons. We will look at what Psalm 16 says and then examine the part of Psalm 16 Peter quoted in his sermon.

This is a great psalm, an encouraging and uplifting psalm. The theme of Psalm 16 is having our affections centered on God. If it is to be divided, the first half, verses 1-6, talk about the loyalty and devotion to God of his chosen people. The second half, verses 7-11 speak about the blessings that result from being loyal and devoted to God.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the themes of Psalm 16. I would encourage you to come back later this week and meditate on Psalm 16. This was one of the great encouragements of the Oasis Conference this past week. We need to read and meditate on scripture, not just read it to gain knowledge. You could spend a day on each verse and find it beneficial.

As I say, I will run through the themes and, hopefully, whet your appetite. Then I want to spend most of the time on the verse Peter quoted in his Pentecost sermon.

Psalm 16 opens with a plea for safety.
Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.

The world is not a safe place. It seems to us to become less safe each week as we hear about yet another terrorist attack. But my contention is that we are far safer today then those living five hundred years ago, a thousand years ago, two thousand years ago. Three thousand years ago when this psalm was written, safety was a major concern. There were wars, raids from neighboring countries, thieves and robbers. People were captured and taken away as slaves. The level of security that most of us live with was not present for most of the world when this psalm was written.

So the psalms talk repeatedly about God being a strong tower, a refuge. The writer of this psalm opens with a plea for safety.

Verse 2
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”

What are the things the psalmist does not consider to be good? In 1995 Peter Menzel published a book: Material World: A Global Family Portrait, by Country. Sixteen photographers traveled to thirty countries and took a picture of an average family in that country with all of their possessions on display in front of their home. It is stunning to see the differences in wealth from country to country.

When you look at some of the more affluent families, there is an abundance of possessions. Advertisers tell us these are good things. Marketers tell us we will be unhappy if we don’t have these things. But this verse tells us that good is defined by being in relationship with God. Of the thirty families in this book of photographs, who is most blessed? Seeing the pictures with all their possessions does not help us answer that question.

We read in Psalm 73:25
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

That is what the writer of Psalm 16 said when he wrote:
“You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

Verse 3
3 I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

This has long been a verse I have loved. When I was a young follower of Jesus in Boston, in the midst of a vibrant student ministry, I was overwhelmed with the blessing of having so many wonderful relationships. We eagerly studied the Bible and sought ways to apply what we read to our daily lives. We shared what we had with each other. My roommates and I were busy many weekends helping someone in the student fellowship move from one apartment to another. We went out into the streets and parks of Boston to meet people and share with them what we were experiencing in our relationship with Jesus. Every week there were people who became followers of Jesus. As I looked around with my heart full of joy, I said, “I say of the holy people who are in the land, They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

I have had the same sense of gratitude in my seventeen years as pastor of RIC. I pastor a parade, people come and go, and in the summer when friends have left, I have despaired that there would never be such wonderful people again. And then new people arrive who are unique, not like those who left, but wonderful, and once again my heart is full of joy and appreciation and I say, “I say of the holy people who are in the land, They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

Meditate this week on the wonderful people God has brought into your life. Give thanks to God for them and pray for them.

Verse 4
4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.

Here the psalmist declares that he will not deviate from his focus on God. He will not make offerings to other gods. This is in obedience to the first two of the ten commandments. (Exodus 20:3–6)
“You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them;

The declaration of Psalm 16:4 is the declaration of God’s faithful people through the ages. When the covenant God made with Israel was renewed at Shechem, Joshua challenged the people: (Joshua 24:15)
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

The theme of the Oasis Conference this past week was taken from Paul’s passion for Jesus in Philippians 3:7–14
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Are you single-minded in your focus on Jesus? What is distracting you? Meditate on this in the coming week.

Verses 5 & 6 are a summary of the first four verses.
5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.

Augustine said, “The one who has Christ has everything. The one who has everything except
for Christ really has nothing.” When we find we are longing for more than Christ, when we are lusting for something or someone other than Christ, then we have to realign our priorities.

Verse 6 reminds us of the green pastures and quiet waters of Psalm 23
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.

God is good. Our devotion to him is good for us. This takes us to verses 7-11 where we see the blessings of devotion to God.

Verse 7
7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.

We receive guidance from God. This has always been true and now, after Pentecost, we have the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. (John 16:13)
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

Take time this week to speak to God about your life and then listen to his guidance. Read the Bible with the expectation that he will speak to you through what you read.

Verse 8
8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

We receive stability and security from God. He is the rock of our salvation. (Psalm 40:1–3)
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.

Take time this week to meditate on what God has done in your life. Remember when you came alive in Christ, when you knew you had been rescued.

And now we come to the verses Peter quoted in his sermon. Verses 9-11 speak of resurrection and eternal life. The grave cannot hold down the creator of life.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

There is great truth, beautifully expressed in these verses. They are full of hope and joy with the promise of eternity.

Take time this week to read Psalm 16 and meditate on how these verses speak to you.

Now let’s move to Peter’s sermon at Pentecost.

This was Peter’s first sermon. He had shared the good news of Jesus when Jesus sent him out with the other eleven disciples. And then he had gone out again as part of the 72 disciples. But this was his first sermon and it amazes me to discover how articulate Peter is in this sermon. Peter did not know he was going to preach a sermon that day. He had not prepared a sermon to be preached. He did not know that day was going to be the day of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all flesh.

In the forty days between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus into heaven,  Jesus had taught and instructed the disciples. Peter had listened well. Peter had been a good student. And then with the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke.

There is a lot more Peter said in his sermon than is recorded in Acts 2. It takes just three minutes to read Peter’s sermon and it is certain Peter spoke for a much longer time than that. What Luke recorded in Acts is just a short summary, a highlight of the sermon.

The focus of the sermon was Jesus whom people had seen. They knew of his miracles. Some had witnessed his miracles. They knew of his arrest and crucifixion. They had probably heard rumors of his resurrection. But now Peter led them to understand that Jesus had not failed to be the military leader who freed Israel from the occupation of the Romans because it had not been the intention of Jesus to be the military leader and king of Israel. Jesus did not come to defeat the Romans; Jesus came to defeat death. The people had expected Jesus to pick up the sword and set Israel free, but Jesus showed a new path to victory. He put down the sword, suffered, died, and out of the ashes of defeat he rose victorious over death.

Acts 2:22–28
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him: [in Psalm 16]
“ ‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

Jesus came to die for those he loved. There was no disputing his death. But then, to the wonder and amazement of his disciples, Jesus had defeated death. He had broken out of the tomb. The grave could not hold him. The creator of life could not lie in the grave without the power of life bringing resurrection.

Peter quotes Psalm 16 because it affirms the intention of God that Jesus would not see decay. From the perspective of Psalm 16, the resurrection of Jesus was inevitable.

What we learn from the resurrection of Jesus is that the grave cannot hold down the creator of life and, because Jesus died for us, the grave cannot hold down those Jesus loves and has rescued.

What we learn from the resurrection of Jesus is that the loving power of God brings resurrection out of the ashes of defeat. Let’s take a look at this.

In the Old Testament, Moses and Aaron confronted Pharaoh with plague after plague until he finally relented and allowed Israel to leave Egypt. Elijah boldly confronted the prophets of Baal and defeated them. But this is not what Jesus did. Jesus stepped up to his encounter with the Chief Priest and Pilate and those who were expecting a Moses and Aaron or Elijah power encounter were disappointed. Jesus showed a new way to be victorious.

Peter picked up his sword to attack those who were arresting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus said, (Matthew 26:52–53)
Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

Jesus had the power to confront the Chief Priest, the Sanhedrin and Pilate and all their soldiers. He could have had an Elijah encounter with them in which the full power of God was displayed in all its wonder, but he chose not to use the power available to him.

Put yourself in the shoes, or perhaps sandals, of the disciples. In the three years the disciples had been with Jesus, the ministry of Jesus kept on growing. The crowds kept getting larger. The miracles kept flowing. Demons kept getting kicked out. This was an increasingly viable ministry. Success was all around them. When Jesus came into the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers, the disciples must have been thrilled to see the power of Jesus increasing. Even greater success was just around the corner. “What great thing will Jesus do tomorrow?” was the question they asked themselves.

Success followed success and then the world turned upside down. Jesus was arrested and he did not resist. Jesus was taken to the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish body. (Mark 14:60–65)
Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.

This is not the sign of a successful ministry with a bright future, to have the leader arrested, mocked, and beaten.

Jesus was taken to Pilate, the Roman governor, questioned, sentenced to death, flogged, forced to carry his cross through the crowds, crucified, and then his battered and lifeless body was taken to a tomb.

The leader of this growing, increasingly powerful, ever more successful ministry was confronted, humiliated, killed and buried.

Where were the disciples in all this?

Judas came to betray Jesus and the Temple guard took Jesus away. What did the disciples do? (Matthew 26:56)
Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Bold, fearless Peter who stepped out of the boat to walk on water, who declared Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, this Peter snuck along in the shadows, following Jesus and the Temple Guards, stood with a crowd on the perimeter of where Jesus was being questioned, proceeded to deny that he even knew Jesus, denied him three times and then fled in tears and grief at his own disloyalty to Jesus.

Where were the disciples the day after Jesus was crucified?

John 20:19
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Where were the disciples? Out in the streets protesting the innocence of Jesus and the injustice of his arrest and crucifixion? Were they in the Temple preaching the truth of Jesus? No! They were hiding in a room behind locked doors.

What were the Chief Priest and the other members of the Sanhedrin doing? They went home satisfied. One more threat to their establishment had been taken care of. He had been one of the more troubling problems, but now it had been resolved. Peace and serenity would return. The business in the temple could continue. This upstart from Galilee had been dealt with.

Where was the success of Jesus that so excited the disciples and all the others who followed Jesus? It was scattered and torn, lying among the ashes of failure and defeat.

The Sanhedrin was satisfied. The devil was delighted. He had struck a blow against God himself. God had made a tactical error, sending Jesus to live a human life, and the devil had exploited this error and killed Jesus.

The devil was the first to realize a mistake had been made. The spiritual battle commenced as Jesus preached to the dead. A day of earth time passed. Another half day of earth time passed. And then out of the ashes of defeat burst the risen Lord Jesus.

About forty days later the disciples were sitting and praying when the Holy Spirit came upon them with power and then they were no longer hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. Peter boldly preached. (Acts 2:36)
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

Imagine the shock and dismay of the Chief Priest when he received word that the followers of Jesus had not dispersed and were now preaching boldly in the Temple courtyard and were healing people just as Jesus had done. They killed Jesus and thought it was over but it appeared Jesus had been cloned and instead of just one man, now there were many doing what Jesus had done.

This is the pattern of the growth of the church. It is when the church is weak and helpless, lying in the ashes of failure and defeat, that God brings victory. It is when leaders, like Peter, are humbled and allow Christ to make them strong, that they become strong leaders in the church.

This is why, when the church over the centuries of its history has been persecuted, the result has been the growth and expansion of the church. When it looks like all is lost and there is no hope for the future of the church, when people work to exterminate the church, that is when God is about to work and bring resurrection.

The story of Jonah is a wonderful example of this. (Taken from The Open Secret)
Jonah, as a picture of God’s chosen people, is called to go and bear witness in the midst of Nineveh, which represents the world with all its awesome power and wealth.

But Jonah because of his nationalism, and maybe other reasons, runs off in the opposite direction from Nineveh. He boards a ship sailing off into the Mediterranean to evade God’s call and thinks he has succeeded. He goes below deck to sleep – a picture of the church that sleeps in times of peace and prosperity, concerned not with God’s work in the world but only its own comfort.

But God whips up a raging storm and the pagan soldiers pray for deliverance. It is the pagan soldiers who have to wake up Jonah and ask him to pray. When lots are cast Jonah is forced to confess his guilt, that he is running away from God’s call.

Jonah is ready to pay for his sin with his life but the conversion of these pagan soldiers by this improbable follower of God has already begun. They work to save Jonah and themselves and they pray to God. But Jonah must be thrown into the sea. The grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die. The followers of Jesus must suffer. The church must lose its life.

But out of death there is resurrection. A penitent and restored Jonah goes to speak God’s word to the pagan world and his obedience is met by an incredible miracle. Nineveh repents.

Jonah was lying in the belly of the whale, lost and defeated, but God brought resurrection. Out of the ashes of Jonah’s life, the sailors gave praise to God and the people of Nineveh were spared.

We see this also in the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. From slavery he was unjustly thrown into prison and from prison he was brought out into the court of Pharaoh and given responsibility for distribution of food to the surrounding area that was affected by a famine.

When he was reunited with his brothers and they feared he would seek revenge for what they had done, he told them (Genesis 50:20)
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Out of the ashes of the misery and defeat of Joseph, God raised him up to be the one who saved his family during the famine. God provided for his people through the resurrection of Joseph from the ashes of slavery and prison.

This was also the lesson Paul learned through all his preaching in the cities of what is today Greece and Turkey. The people who responded to his preaching about Jesus were not the religious or political or business elite. (I Corinthians 1:26–30)
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

Out of the ashes of failed lives, God builds his church.

Paul learned this lesson himself. In the beginning of his ministry he was a bit arrogant, confident of his debating skills, sure he could overcome the objections of people to his message about Jesus with his many talents. But as he endured beating after beating and as the Holy Spirit worked in his life, Paul was transformed into a man who was more humble, who called himself the greatest of all sinners and who knew the power of God that worked through him.

It is with this depth of experience and spiritual insight that he wrote to the Corinthians in II Corinthians 12:10
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

When we are weak, then we are strong. When the church is lying in the ashes of defeat, then God works most powerfully.

We resist this because we learn from the world that we need to be strong to be successful. We learn to hide our weakness and project strength. But the strongest, most effective leaders in the church are those who know they are human, they know they are limited, and they allow the power of Christ to work through them. As Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul learned this lesson. We need to learn it as well.

Resist the temptation to model yourself after leaders who seek wealth and power as they establish their own earthly kingdoms. They draw attention to themselves, demand to be treated with respect, and expect to be served by those under their leadership. Instead, follow the example of Jesus who knelt on the ground before his disciples and washed their dirty feet. When church leaders follow the example of Jesus, loving, serving, and sacrificing themselves for others, then the church becomes healthy and works with Jesus as he rescues the lost.

We do not move through life from triumph to triumph. Sometimes we lie in the ashes of defeat. It could be our marriage, it could be a project we were working with as we tried to love others in the name of Jesus, it could be the loss of a job and financial ruin, it could be that there is a church fight and the church splits, it could be that a pastor you trusted is discovered to have had an affair. There are disasters in our lives and we sit in the ashes, despairing, devoid of hope.

It could be that we are the one whose affair was made public, or it could be that some other secret sin has been made public. We are humiliated and sit in the ashes, devoid of hope.

There is always hope for a follower of Jesus. We can repent and be restored to leadership. This was Peter’s experience. I know of church leaders who went through counseling after it was discovered they had been having an affair. When they came back into ministry they were stronger, more effective leaders than they were before the affair was discovered. When we acknowledge that we are weak, then Christ makes us strong.

If you are presently sitting in the ashes of defeat, hold on to Jesus, hold on to hope. Repent if needed. Keep on holding on to Jesus and look for resurrection.

God did not allow his holy one to see decay. Jesus said the gates of Hell would not prevail against his church.

The Kingdom of God advances in every generation. Church membership rises and declines and rises again, but the Kingdom of God does nothing but grow as Jesus rescues those who reach out to accept his salvation.

We are sometimes discouraged when we see defeat. It can seem to us that the devil is winning. But Jesus is never discouraged. Jesus works in every generation. His kingdom advances each year.

Let Jesus be the example for you as you lead in ministry in the church. Let the example of Jesus encourage you when you sit in the ashes of defeat. Do not lose hope. Do not despair. Hold on to Jesus in your desperation. Keep your heart and mind fixed on Jesus and resurrection will come. Out of the ashes of defeat you will rise.