For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net, you laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our leaders, we went through fire and water.
This is a praise psalm. There are other psalms called lament psalms, they are the ones where the psalmist asks God for help during a time of trial, but this is a praise psalm. a psalm giving thanks to God.
For you, O God, have tested us. The psalmist is thanking God for this. He is saying that it is a good thing to be tested, to be purified as silver is purified, to be cast into a net and have burdens placed on our backs. Apparently these are good things.
Now our knowledge of Sunday school stories clearly kicks into gear here, the things that we see as bad times, through God we can see them as good. Joseph is the classic example, thrown in a well and sold into slavery, but through him God saved his brothers, his family and all Egypt from a devastating drought. God can turn bad into good. Our psalmist knows this, he has experienced it and is on the good side of the bad.
Before our psalmist tells us the way the God has tested us he calls us to praise Him " Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard". Why? because "He has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip." In the times of trial God was with us, he is with us, He keeps us alive, and he keeps our Faith from slipping. Now for those who have not come to faith, or have to our eyes have slipped and lost their faith I would preach another sermon, but to you baptised Christians right here and now God has kept your faith from slipping, He has kept you close to him and is with you always. For those of our family who we love, and would love to see back in church, we care for them love them and pray for them. Praying that God will change their hearts and bring them back to Him. We don't understand God's plan but we are hopeful in the promises given in the prodigal son, and the story of the workers in the vineyard, where no matter when in their life they came to know Jesus they all received the gift of eternal life. God calls people to his church, God has called you to his church and so I preach to you as baptised Christians who may be suffering a trial, or may have passed through one.
In your trial, whatever it is, whether it be bad financial years, broken relationships, ill health, or any of the many other trials that we experience here on earth. In your trial God is always with you, I won't say that God always causes the trial, because the bible doesn't, but God can always bring good out of bad.
As you are tested, as your earthly support systems break down, God is always there. As you lack money or time, or friends or good health, as these things fail or desert you in your time of trial God never does.
And as you rely on God you will find that he is worthy to be relied upon, the psalmist says, " Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me. I cried aloud to him, and he was praised with my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me. "
God is faithful in our times of trouble, He forgives us all our sin and cares for us giving us every good thing. God brings us out of the fire and water, set free from our heavy burdens, free to live a new holy life. Free to trust in God for all things and free to humble ourselves before God and before others.
God, the creator of the universe the one to who David an adulterer and murderer says, you alone have I sinned,. it is to God ultimately that we are judged by, and while we were guilty in God's sight, Jesus stood in our place taking our punishment and giving us his righteousness. If we can humble ourselves before God almighty, and ask for forgiveness.. Then surely we can also ask our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to forgive us.
This might be your trial, you might have sinned against someone you love. God knows all, he knows when you sin against him, and that makes it easier to confess to him, what is harder is confessing to someone you love, who might not actually know that you have sinned against them. In the freedom of the Gospel, we hear, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." We have been promised and will receive eternal life, we need not fear any mortal punishment or rejection. The hope that our eternal Father has accepted us in baptism bolsters our faith in God and comforts us when we are rejected by people. It gives us strength not to fear other people and their rejection, but to be open and honest confessing our sins to one another.
Experiences in the last days have made me think that we Christians need a reminder of how we are to confess our sins one to another. Say someone wrongs you, you can ask your heavenly Father, from whom all love and forgiveness flow, and ask him to help you forgive them. If you can forgive them this way, praise God, though it is a good idea to go to them and tell them that you have been hurt by their actions and while you have forgiven them, you would prefer it if the sin wasn't committed again.
If you are the one who commit the sin, and hurt someone, you should go to them, admit your sin, tell them how you wringed them, so that they know that you understand what you did, and then ask for forgiveness. Hopefully you will receive it then and there, but there is no obligation to forgive someone when they repent, it is an act of grace.
There is more to it, but that is a small reminder. we live in a broken world, we hurt those we love and we damage relationships, but God does marvellous things and the greatest one is forgiving us.
In this life we will sin against those we love, we will hurt our relationships, and By God's grace we will receive forgiveness and give it. Ultimately we have received forgiveness, ultimately it is to God alone who we sin against, and by the death of His son that sin has been paid for. And finally at the end of our days we will praise God, we will say to God we went through fire and water, yet you have brought us out to a spacious place, a glorious place, Where we no longer sin, where we are completely Holy, and where we will live eternally in perfect harmony, with God our Father and with others. Amen