If we are faithful, we should expect the reproaches of those who hate God to fall on us. In Psalm 69, David laments the reproaches and dishonor he received in his zeal for God’s house.
David helped plan the construction of the Temple and arranged the Levites, the musicians and singers, but it was his son, Solomon, who built the temple.
When David refers to God’s “house” in the psalms, he’s referring to the singing and dancing and praises before Yahweh.
By “house,” David is referring to worship.
And worship is the answer to the suffering David endures in Psalm 69: “Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moves in them” (v. 34).
It is David’s zeal for worship that has drawn reproaches and threats to his life. Though David is not ignorant of his folly and wrongs, it is still for God’s sake that he has suffered.
So, how does David respond when his enemies outnumber the hairs on his head and his eyes grow dim with waiting for deliverance?
He gives the answer: “I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving,” (v. 30).
As the Psalms are the words of Jesus Christ, we take confidence in Jesus who suffered before us, Jesus who is the “name” we love and dwell in (v. 36).
How many churches have abandoned the worship of the Name? How long have we postponed ascending in song and praise to the throne room of God to enjoy His favor?
John Calvin, the 16th century French reformer in Geneva, Switzerland, instructs us in the distinction between those people who suffer without resolution and those people who are not called to suffer.
What Calvin preached:
Let it be held, as a fixed point among all Christians, that they ought not to hold their life more precious than the testimony to the truth, inasmuch as God wishes to be glorified thereby.
Is it in vain that He gives the name of witnesses (for this is the meaning of the word “martyr”) to all who have to answer before the enemies of the faith? Is it not because He wished to employ them for such a purpose?
Here every one is not to look for his fellow, for God does not honor all alike with the call.
The thought which instantly rises in our mind is, why do I suffer rather than others?
On the contrary, Jesus Christ exhorts all of us in common, and each of us in particular, to hold ourselves “ready,” in order that according as He shall call this one or that one, we may march forth in our turn.
Believers, therefore, ought to feel assured into whatever hands they may fall, that God is not divested of the guardianship which He exercises over their persons.
We see tyrants let loose: thereupon it seems to us that God no longer possesses any means of saving us, and we are tempted to provide for our own affairs as if nothing more were to be expected from Him.
On the contrary, His providence, as He unfolds it, ought to be regarded by us as an impregnable fortress.
Let us labor, then, to learn the full import of the expression, that our bodies are in the hands of Him who created them.
For this reason He has sometimes delivered His people in a miraculous manner, and beyond all human expectation, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, from the fiery furnace, Daniel from the den of lions; Peter from Herod’s prison, where he was locked, chained, and guarded so closely.
By these examples He meant to testify that He holds our enemies in check, although it may not seem so, and has power to withdraw us from the midst of death when He pleases.
Not that He always does it; but in reserving authority to Himself to dispose of us for life and for death, He would have us to feel fully assured that He has us under His charge.
And He does this so that whatever tyrants attempt, and with whatever fury they may rush against us, it belongs to Him alone to order our life.
If He permits tyrants to slay us, it is not because our life is not dear to Him, but because our life is held in a hundred times greater honor than it deserves.
Such being the case, having declared by the mouth of David (Psalm 116:13), that the death of the saints is precious in His sight, He says also by the mouth of Isaiah (26:21), that the earth will discover the blood which seems to be concealed.
Let the enemies of the gospel, then, be as prodigal as they will of the blood of martyrs, they shall have to render a fearful account of it even to its last drop.
In the present day, they indulge in proud derision while consigning believers to the flames; and after having bathed in their blood, they are intoxicated by it to such a degree as to count all the murders which they commit mere festive sport.
But if we have patience to wait, God will show in the end that it is not in vain He has taxed our life at so high a value. Meanwhile, let it not offend us that it seems to confirm the gospel, which in worth surpasses heaven and earth.
To be better assured that God does not leave us as it were forsaken in the hands of tyrants, let us remember the declarations of Jesus Christ, when He says (Acts 9:4) that He Himself is persecuted in His members. God had indeed said before, (Zech. 2:8), “He who touches you touches the apple of mine eye.”
But here it is said much more expressly, that if we suffer for the gospel, it is as much as if the Son of God were suffering in person.
Let us know, therefore, that Jesus Christ must forget Himself before He can cease to think of us when we are in prison, or in danger of death for His cause.
And let us know that God will take to heart all the outrages which tyrants commit upon us, just as if they were committed on His own Son.
Sermon edited with preface by Zach Parker, news editor at The Ouachita Citizen. The excerpt is from John Calvin’s sermon, “Enduring persecution for Christ.”