Psalm 55:19, "God shall hear,
and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they have no
changes, therefore they fear not God."
This morning, change is in the air. Every day brings more news of change that is coming (or has come) in many different venues, and most of the time, we dislike changes as they generally cause us grief and discomfort. For example, most of us follow some sort of daily routine (especially with young children), and that routine becomes comfortable and peaceful. Truth be told, sometimes we need a change to escape the rut we are in, and sometimes we need constancy to stay in the path we should be following. However, there are changes that we need, and some of these changes are absolute to the family of God, while others are conditioned upon what we (as the family of God) should be up and doing. Therefore, let us, this morning, consider change in the light of good changes that we experience and should perform.
David in this Psalm utters a prayer with layers of lamenting due to the strife that he has experienced in his life. Sometimes, this strife and conflict arose from those closest to him. His own sons rose up against him, tried to usurp the kingdom from him, and his generals and chief captains (Joab especially) brought much anguish to his soul by their bloody deeds. At other times, David's griefs came upon him for his own wayward steps, but however the problems came, David experienced changes with these problems. He saw scenes change before him, and he also experienced the downturn of spiritual and natural peace from time to time. David's life, much like ours, shows ups and downs/highs and lows. Yet, there are some that do not experience changes in some senses. David speaks of them in our verse above.
One of the changes that David experienced that these men did not was the change of heart given by God in regeneration to all of His children at some point during the course of their lives. While Samuel had trouble detecting the Lord's anointed at Jesse's house, the Lord told him that He could look upon the heart and not the outward countenance. (I Samuel 16:7) While not casting a disparaging slur upon Jesse's other sons, we can unequivocally say that David's heart had been tendered by God Almighty by His Spirit. David possessed something not given him by Jesse. All Jesse could give David (or any other son) was a fallen nature that inherently is the same as a child of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3) All my natural father could give me according to nature was a fallen nature that has its origin in the polluted well of Adam. All I can give my children by nature is a ruined nature that is without goodness, mercy, or holiness.
However, David experienced a change that brought him feelings that he did not have before the change. Paul, while Saul of Tarsus, had not experienced this change either. But, God met him, struck him down, and gave him a change that overwhelmed him. Romans 7 is a clear account of Paul's description of his change. What he once hated, now he loves. What he once enjoyed, now he hates. Yet, even after this change, there is still a constant battle that takes place. This battle of natures within the regenerate child of God does not end until death, and this change evokes a situation that the wicked do not experience. They do not experience the pain and sorrow from straying from the right path. They have not the conscience or capacity to feel true guilt for wrongdoing. As they have no changes, they never come to the place where they feel like they are in the wrong.
This great change of regeneration brings other changes, as mentioned earlier, that Paul describes in personal detail. Every child of grace will experience this life-altering change of regeneration, and they will, subsequently, experience the changes in feelings about things that regeneration brings. Their ability to communicate the changed feelings will vary based on their knowledge base, and it is this precise point that shows the infinite wisdom of the Holy Spirit by who He inspired to pen this personal account. Why did He inspire Paul as opposed to Peter, John, or any other inspired writer to record these changes he felt? I daresay that Paul, at the point of the change, had more knowledge of God's written word than any other man at that time (and possibly before). He knew the law, the prophets, and was acquainted (as a Pharisee of the Pharisees) to communicate precisely what the letter of the Old Testament declared. However, he did not understand the true spirit or import of it until his change, but consider what a knowledge base that he could draw from in chronicling his feelings.
John the Baptist, changed in his mother's womb, did not have much knowledge to chronicle his change of feelings. I, personally, cannot recall a time in my life that I did not love the Lord, but even still, the changes that I have felt since the work of His marvellous grace correlate very well with Paul's. While not knowing 800 of what was going on, he could relate in better and broader detail than most any of us could have. What wisdom by the Holy Spirit to use this vessel in this way to give us an account of these things! As mentioned previously, changes are generally met with resistance since we do not like being pulled away from our "comfort zone." Regeneration is no different in that much conflict or resistance arises after the event. Indeed, no resistance can stop that change as God moves sovereignly in that act (John 3:8), but much resistance by the flesh seeks to impede changes thereafter.
Every child of God will experience that overwhelming sensation of misgivings about their shortcomings. While they may not be able to verbalize the ins and outs of it, they are internally at odds because of the change. While perhaps not knowing the specifics of the Saviour (including the name of Jesus), they feel to be in need of something. They feel at a loss to be able to appease the wrath of which they know they are deserving. These feelings were foreign to them before the change, and these changes are those not experienced by goats (children of wrath). All of these changes are absolute in the sense that they will affect God's family without exception during our course here.
In conjunction with these changes discussed above, there are other changes that we need to be found engaged in. One of the changes that we need to be up and doing is that of repentance. After the feeling of guilt, sorrow, and shortcoming from regeneration, we need to repent (change) from one lifestyle of shame and discord to another of honour and peace. Saul's life was making havoc of the church of God, but Paul's life was repentant service to this same church in preaching those things he once destroyed. How does the gospel move us? Does it move us to change what we are doing and be found seeking paths of righteousness humbly following the Lamb of God? It should spark within our soul the desire to change our path and seek the higher ground that it tells us about. Do all of us (as God's family) so engage? Sadly, sometimes we do and sometimes we do not. As Scriptural record so abundantly records, the lives of God's children are littered with times of stubborn, hardhearted attitudes that we likewise so do. (I Corinthians 10:1-13)
Other changes that we need to be engaged in are those of study, meditation, prayer, and assembling together with the saints. One might say, "But I do those things." Paul encouraged people doing those same things to abound more and more in them. (I Thessalonians 4:1) There is always room to change our schedule and improve our time management to go up to His house more, read His Book more, meditate in quiet solitude with Him and about Him more, and further our understanding of what He has done for our souls. Indeed, this change is met with much resistance as all changes inevitably are. It takes a prodding away from what is comfortable and into areas of "newness" that can seem foreign to the senses.
But what of those that experience no changes? Do they ever modify their behaviour? Indeed, a murderer will not be a perpetual and continual murderer. A thief is not a thief 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Yet, these modifications of behaviour are not true changes in the sense that the intent of the heart is never altered. An unregenerate person may not be engaged in sinful conduct at every moment (certainly not while sleeping), but their heart's desire is wholly given to the same course with no change whatsoever. As a result, they do not feel the discomfort of the change. They do not have foreign feelings down inside their corrupted soul. Their only sense of loss comes when they are stripped of every means to avail their heart's desire. A murderer that is caught, thrown in prison, and banned any type of parole experiences the loss of means to do what he wants. However, there is no change in the want of his soul.
When a child is born into this world, they are quickly taken from a place of warm comfort into the realm of the old, cold world. Their crying could probably be most aptly verbalized, "What is going on? Why is this happening?" Indeed, those words do not come forth, but they experience a change of situation. When God's children are born again, there is a change that is difficult and painful to them. The life from that point on is painful and full of doubts and misgivings. Yet, as trying as it may be, may we rejoice in those changes and feelings of misgivings. If one did not have them at all in their life, they could then properly say, "I am a bastard and not a son." (Hebrews 12:8) May we look upon our changes with the comfort of knowing that they are a token to us of God's change in our lives. May we grip the plow of service with renewed vigor to change our course as need be in more fruitful service to Him in our various scenes of life. By so changing outwardly, we better show that marvellous change inwardly that He wrought in our lives by His grace and mercy. (Philippians 2:12-13)