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I Can't Get No Satisfaction - Psalm 78:12-20
Singing the Songs of Zion
I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
Psalm 78:12-20
I have found it very interesting how closely the songs of Zion we’ve been studying parallel the topics and subject about which we sing in more modern days.  What that reveals to us, at least in part, is that the needs and hurts and joys of the human experience remain unchanged after all these years. 
Everyone still sings a “Song Sung Blue” from time to time, just as they did when the 137th Psalm was penned.  And as the children of God, we still have the privilege of singing “This Will be An Everlasting Love” to a God Who is eternally faithful and loving, just as we found in Psalm 136.
And unfortunately, there are still times when we are challenged by the injustices and inequities around us and as Asaph did when he wrote Psalm 73, feel like we are “Slip Slidin’ Away”.  And who hasn’t felt the sting of their sin like David did, as recorded in Psalm 51, God’s prophet sang a chorus of “Your Cheatin’ Heart”?
Today I want to ask you to look with me at a portion of another of the songs of Zion found in Psalm 78.  And while you’re turning there, I’ll take you back a few years to May 6, 1965.  A group known as “The Rolling Stones” was scheduled to play at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater, Florida while on their first US tour. According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times, about 200 young fans got in an altercation with a line of police officers at the show just as the Stones pulled up in their limousines.
Seeing the chaos that ensured, the drivers never stopped and took the group back to their hotel.  That night, lead singer Keith Richardssinger and guitarist for the group, said he woke up in his hotel room with the guitar riff and lyric "Can't get no satisfaction" in his head. He recorded it on a portable tape deck, went back to sleep, and brought it to the studio that week. The tape contained his guitar riff followed by the sounds of him snoring.
The song was released a month later on June 6, 1965, and hit #1 by the first of July, where it stayed for four weeks. 
And in the lyrics, we once again have proof that you don’t need much to be successful in rock and roll music
As Richards explain, no matter how much he tries, he “can’t get no satisfaction”.  His life is filled with useless information that is supposed to fire his imagination as he drives in his car, but he can’t get not satisfaction. 
He watches a man on tv tell him how white his shirts can be, but Richards refuses to listen to him.  After all, he can’t be a man because he smokes a different brand of cigarettes.  And he can’t get no satisfaction.
And even though he travels around the world and has fans everywhere and women at his beck and call he still can’t get no satisfaction. 
And he sounds a great deal like many, many people I see and observe and know today.  No matter where they look or what they do, they just can’t seem to find any satisfaction.
And ironically, that’s the testimony of the people of God that we hear in Psalm 78 as Asaph brings their history and God’s provision to their mind.
Listen to verses 12-20
This particular section of the Psalm carries the listener back to the days immediately following the captivity in Egypt.  God has sent Moses to deliver His people and he has successful led them out of the land of Egypt, and has done it with some amazing displays of power. 
He’s divided the seas and stacked up the water like a pile of dirt.  He’s provided food and water and protection.  He’s given them divine guidance through a cloud during the day and an illuminated GPS at night. 
And yet for all that, verse 17 tells us they rebelled against the Most High and they find themselves in the wilderness.  And now they are worried about where their next meal is going to come from and so they ask the question “Can God set a table in the wilderness?”   What a foolish question!  You can almost hear the sarcasm in their question!
After all, people die in the wilderness!  So obviously, the answer is “no”.  God can’t set a table in the wilderness.  Or if he can, he won’t. So what’s the difference?  The only song left to sing is “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, no matter how much I try or look or search. 
And here we discover a very stark reminder of what happens whenever you forget what God has done.  You wind up in the wilderness.
Now to be honest, the wilderness is a fearful place to be. After all, there is nothing but barren hills, deep valleys, and sun-baked, gray dirt that seems to go on forever. A man without supplies wouldn’t last long in the wilderness. And a million-plus people wandering around certainly don’t have chance, especially with no provision. 
There isn’t enough water, there isn’t enough food, the sun beats down mercilessly during the day, and at night the desert grows dark, cold and dangerous.
So the people who had trusted in their God looked around, assessed their situation and spoke against Him openly.  Now this wasn’t the first time this had happened. If you had followed the Jews ever since the great miracle at the Red Sea, you would have heard them moaning and groaning and griping and complaining.
“Who is Moses anyway? Why did God put him in charge? We miss Egypt. At least we had food to eat. It’s hot out here. We’re tired of wandering in circles. Why are we here?"  And so it went for days on end.  And there we find the first recorded evidence that the Jews were originally Baptists! 
Now to be fair, in many ways their concerns and fears were understandable. Someone described them as being “between trapezes." It is that frightening moment between the familiar and the unfamiliar. It’s the first day of kindergarten.  It’s the day of graduation from high school.  It’s your wedding day. 
One writer described it this way:
    “It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change, or so in love with old ways, but it’s that place in between we fear ... it’s like being in between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.”
But here’s the deal:  To get to the Promised Land, you’ve got to leave Egypt. It would have been a whole lot easier for the Jews if the Promised Land bordered up to the Red Sea.  Then when they crossed over, they would have been there. 
But that’s not how God usually works. We all have to go through some “desert time” to get from where we were to where God wants us to be. That “desert time”, being in the wilderness, is like being “between trapezes.” On paper it made sense for the Jews to leave Egypt. Though they had enough to eat, Pharaoh had cruelly enslaved them. Who wouldn’t want to leave Egypt?
But having left, they discovered that the wilderness was a tough place to live. They were in that frightening place between the trapezes where you have let go of the past but the future has not yet arrived. You let go because you have to, but then you wait, hanging in space, hoping and praying that the other trapeze arrives in time. In that desperate place, it’s easy to doubt that God knows what you are going through.  But it is also there that we learn to trust Him. 
So if you feel like you can’t get no satisfaction, but you’d like to, let me share with you some lessons learned in the wilderness.
1. The Wilderness is Solitary
By definition, a wilderness is a lonely place. It’s a huge, vast, trackless expanse of desert that seems to go on forever. Walk for a mile in any direction and the terrain looks the same. Climb over a hill and all you see is more of the same. Even though you may actually be surrounded by people, in the wilderness you feel all alone.
We all have to go through some “desert time” to get from where we were to where God wants us to be.
And it may feel like we are abandoned, forgotten and discarded. 
We’ve all been there.  It may have been waiting for a job interview or hoping for good news from the doctor.  We’re watching the money run out or worrying about the kids or wondering if we can hold on for another week.
And in those taut, tense, fearful moments, it’s easy to think, “God has forgotten me.”  In fact, the devil loves nothing more than to convince you that you are all alone and nobody has ever gone through anything like you’re going through and nobody cares about you and God sure doesn’t know or care about your circumstances.
No doubt about it, the wilderness is lonely.
Here’s the second lesson:
2. The Wilderness is Necessary
Notice the question of verse 19: “Can God set a table in the wilderness?"
If we are honest, it is not God Who has forgotten us, but we who have forgotten God.  Review the verses immediately before this one and that’s what you’ll see.  They had an unbelievable history!  No one, other than the Jews, could boast of the deliverance and provision God had made available to them. 
And yet, now, here they are mocking God as if He is unable to care for their most basic needs by preparing a table.    
And the significance of the table in the imagery is not lost.  It is at the table where the family comes together to share a meal. At the table family members share their life together. Come to the table and there you will find food and drink and fellowship and laughter and encouragement. Come to the table and there you will discover that you are not alone. Come to the table and there you will find others who know what you are going through and welcome you anyway.
In Psalm 23 David says of the Lord, “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies” (v. 5).
Come to the New Testament and there you find “the Lord’s table” where brothers and sisters in Christ meet together (1 Corinthians 10:21).
Jesus told a story about a man hosting a great banquet with many empty seats because some who were invited decided not to come.
He told his servants to go out and find anyone, anywhere who would come to his great feast. No seat must be left empty!
    Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame (Luke 14:21).
And when there were still seats left, he sent his servants out again:
    Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full (Luke 14:23).
If those who had been invited first would not come, then the master would go after the outcasts who would never otherwise come to such a fine affair. That’s how God does it. He goes after the people the world overlooks because the “beautiful people” have no interest in coming to him for salvation.
When we come to the Lord’s table, all earthly distinctions must be set aside. We come just as we are, sinners in desperate need of the grace of God. We lay aside the things that separate us, things like titles, status, race, color, language and culture, and we come hungry and thirsty to the table of the Lord. Jesus promised his disciples that they would “eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Luke 22:30). And the final great meal is called the “wedding supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).
All four gospels record the vast miracle of the feeding of the 5000. Jesus fed the 5000 in “a remote place” (Mark 6:35). The disciples wanted to send the people away because they had no food.
But Jesus told them to stay. He would provide the food the disciples would serve to the hungry crowd.
At God’s table, the food never runs out. No one ever goes away hungry.
We all know that children love to complain about their food. They don’t like spaghetti or they don’t like broccoli or they’re tired of chocolate milk or they would rather have donuts or why can’t we have tacos tonight? Many a mom has spent hours preparing a meal only to have her children ruin it with their unkind comments.
So it was in the wilderness for the people of God. When God provided manna and quail so they would not starve, it wasn’t enough for them. The food of Egypt seemed so much better.  How boring to eat manna every day.  How many ways can you serve quail?
And we shouldn’t find their ungratefulness surprising considering how often we forget the Lord.  How quickly we take our blessings for granted. He led them through the Red Sea. He delivered them from Pharaoh’s power. He set them free from bondage.
He protected them from the plagues. He led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He gave them water from the rock.
But it was not enough.  No, it’s never enough when you don’t trust God!  So instead of praising and thanking God, they complained and said, “Can God set a table in the wilderness?” 
It looked impossible to them.  So what did God do?  God proved He could provide a banquet in the desert! 
He rained down manna.  Then he sent the quail.
But still they doubted the Lord.
And are we not just like them?  When we get in trouble, we cry out, “God has forgotten us.”  God has not forgotten us.  We have forgotten God.
We have no idea how much God has given us in the Bread of Life!  We have no idea how much water is in the River of Life.  We act like we serve a poor God, a God Who cannot afford to help his people or take care of His children! 
We say, “Where’s the money?” and let that rule everything for us.  But in Christ are hid all the riches of heaven.  And from time to time, we need to pay a visit to the wilderness because there we discover just how poor and needy we are and how rich is our God.  There we see both our own weakness and how God can meet us in the most amazing ways.
And as long you stay in Egypt, you may never need manna and quail, but you will also never experience the miracle-working power of God either.
Here’s the final lesson:
3. The Wilderness is Temporary
The wilderness is not an easy place to be. It can seem dangerous and deadly.  It is lonely and risky and even hopeless.  It’s easy to get lost there.  You may spend a long time there.
But it is also the place where you learn your own limitations, face your own failures, wrestle with temptation, learn to listen to God’s Word and see Him work in unusual ways. 
It’s out in the wilderness where you learn the value of friendship and learn to lean on others.  There you will find power and strength you never knew existed. 
So what kind of wilderness are you facing?  Is it some unpleasant person?  Is it a difficult work situation?  Perhaps learning to deal with grief or losing your job?  Some fear?  Some disease? 
A parent who abandoned you?  A sick child?
Depression?  A dying marriage? 
So let me ask you something:  Can God prepare a table in a place like that?  Is God big enough to meet you right where you are and take care of every need you have?  Can God spread a table amid your personal wilderness?
Listen:  God delights in doing that!  That’s what God does. He meets us when we feel abandoned and forgotten, and he says, “I will spread a table for you in this wilderness.”
Pastor John Piper has a good word at this point:
    “O, how God must become weary with how often we question his itinerary for our lives. How often we think we know better how to get from here to there! We are so much more prone to grumble with the conductor when the train turns south, than we are to sit patiently and wait for lessons from the Lord. He is a very mysterious guide. We never quite know what is coming next.
God would never make it in the travel industry because he is always leading his best clients into the wilderness.”
By the way, I want to remind you that our Lord knew some wilderness time also when He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There he experienced great temptation from the devil but came out of it empowered by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1-14). 
In fact, the devil would have had Him settle for bread crumbs rather than eat at the banquet tables of Heaven!
Can God set a table in the wilderness? Yes, he can. But you’ll never know as long as you stay in Egypt.
The wilderness is never easy. But God has purposes for us in the wilderness that cannot be accomplished by staying in Egypt. Those who resolve to follow Jesus must eventually spend time in the desert with him. There in that solitary place, they gain what cannot be purchased except through pain and suffering.
It was necessary for Jesus to go into the wilderness. It is necessary for us also. Think of it this way. The wilderness isn’t a fun place to be. You always end up feeling alone and exhausted. You may not fast for 40 days, but you will often come to the end of all human resources. And you will feel like giving in and giving up. You will wonder why God has abandoned you. Nothing will make sense; all will seem confusing. But do not despair.
God never leads us into the wilderness in order to destroy us. He intends the time of testing to make us stronger. Think of what you find in the desert:
It’s far better to be in the wilderness with Jesus than in a fancy penthouse without him.
Victory is here!
Holiness is here!
Spiritual growth is here!
The Holy Spirit is here!
Jesus is here!
When you feel like you can’t get no satisfaction, remember this, if I can’t get no satisfaction, that means I can get some satisfaction.   See, not only are rock singers notorious for shallow lyrics, they also didn’t learn good grammar. 
What we have is a double negative which means there is something positive.  In math, adding negatives increases the negative value, but in English, adding negatives creates a positive. 
I cannot get no satisfaction, therefore I can get some satisfaction. So where do I look for satisfaction? 
Follows the narrative of this psalm and you will see that time and time again, the Jews would forget God, and God would bring judgment until they returned to Him.  But it never lasted.  Over and over again that process was repeated. 
But notice how the psalm ends. 
Verses 65-72
Now while that is a literal, historic narrative of David being chosen as King of Israel, it is also a reminder of our Savior and Lord who guides and shepherds us according to the integrity of His heart and the skillfulness of His hands. 
Listen:  Life isn’t about your dreams, your agenda, your hopes, your ideas, or your plans. Life is all about God’s dreams, God’s agenda, God’s ideas, and God’s plans. It’s his kingdom we’re praying to come, not ours.
Can God set a table in the wilderness? Yes He can.  In fact, ONLY He can.  He can, He does and He will!  And we need to learn that the only place we can ever get real satisfaction is at the table the Lord has prepared. 
By the way, dinner’s ready!  Y’all come.
Let’s pray 
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