“Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.”
Psalm 51:8, KJV
“Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
let the bones you crushed be happy again.”
Psalm 51:8, NCV
When I was five years old, I made a grand effort to fly. Jumping off the top bunk, I went one direction– down! Landing on my arm, it really hurt. Going to the E.R. they did a x-ray, and they couldn’t find anything wrong. The doctor told us that it was just bruised.
After a miserable three days, with my mom “exercising” my arm like the doctor suggested, it got worse. Back to the E.R. and after another x-ray, the doctor returned to tell us that the arm was indeed broken. Evidently it wasn’t spotted until then. I got a plaster cast, and a sling.
King David spoke about broken bones. For him, they were not physical. It was much worse. It was spiritual. He essentially collapsed with the torturous Bathsheba decision. The bones were snapped, and it left him in considerable pain. The whole affair came within inches of completely destroying him.
The chastening hand of God often settles on us. Rarely is the pain physical, it is worse. We seldom cope with this kind of discipline.
“We do not enjoy being disciplined. It is painful at the time, but later, after we have learned from it, we have peace, because we start living in the right way.”
Hebrews 12:11, NCV
Pretty much the entirety of Hebrews 12 will press us into a deeper understanding of truth. I encourage you to read it. Perhaps though, the most important thing is to realize that His love is always behind His discipline. Yes, He breaks bones. But He also mends those bones that have been broken.
“We may feel God’s hand as a Father upon us when He strikes us as well as when He strokes us. We often learn more of God under the rod that strikes us than under the staff that comforts us.”
For the director of music. A psalm of David. To help people remember.
“1 God, come quickly and save me.
LORD, hurry to help me.
2 Let those who are trying to kill me
be ashamed and disgraced.
Let those who want to hurt me
run away in disgrace.
3 Let those who make fun of me
stop because of their shame.
4 But let all those who worship you
rejoice and be glad.
Let those who love your salvation
always say, “Praise the greatness of God.”
5 I am poor and helpless;
God, hurry to me.
You help me and save me.”
Lord, do not wait.
Psalm 70:1-5, NCV
“As in all warfare, the two essential elements in victory are knowing your enemy and knowing your resources.”
Sinclair B. Ferguson
Welcome to the war! It’s very seldom that a new convert realizes what we are all up against. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you have become a target for hell to shoot their arrows at. What was never an issue before, now becomes an universal adjudication.
There is a nasty viciousness about Satan’s attacks. We look into his kingdom and see such hostility and spite that it takes your breath away. David saw it also. He was able to write cogently and forcefully about what he had experienced. What we have here in Psalm 70 is nothing less then a “first person” account of a war that’s going on for David’s very soul.
V. 1, there is a plea of desperate alacrity in this verse. There is a deep earnestness to David’s words. Figuratively, he has been pinned down by the enemy, and is making an urgent call for help. It’s typical for a soldier under a withering assault will cry out to be saved.
V. 2, Sometimes we start viewing the darkness as a kind of foggy philosophy of ‘anti-god’ protoplasm. But David won’t do that. His enemies are real, and they possess solid identities. They can be forced to be backed down. And yet David can’t push these bullies away, and so we see him on the radio to HQ for divine intervention.
V. 3, I can just imagine God hearing these words from David. I can see the hint of a smile that the Father has for such audacity and zeal. I can hear Him say, “Now that’s my boy!” The Father releases His power on those who are desperate.
V. 4, Now David doesn’t remain in this same place. We see him getting up and advancing directly into worship. (I always wanted to get a tattoo, “Born to Worship.”) David finds his footing enough to exhort and encourage his brothers and sisters. Warfare does that to you, David understood where everything was leading to.
V. 5, This verse always struck me as being out of sequence. V. 4 after all seems to be the pinnacle. This arrangement though creates a real sense of the cyclical nature of spiritual warfare. In a certain sense we will never see a final battle in our lifetimes. There will always be high places to tear down, and towering giants to kill. But our Helper is just a prayer away. Thank God.
- God, Come Quickly: Psalms 70 (psalmslife.com)
- Lord, Please Hurry!! (mrsknack.wordpress.com)
- Psalm 28:3 Draw me not away with the wicked and with the workers of iniquity, (calvinistview.com)
- Restore the Sparkle: Psalm 13, NLT (brokenbelievers.com)
- Psalm Chapter 70 (pofw.wordpress.com)
- Psalms (vannettachapman.com)
But I will sing about your strength.
In the morning I will sing about your love.
You are my defender,
my place of safety in times of trouble.
God, my strength, I will sing praises to you.
God, my defender, you are the God who loves me.
Psalm 59:16-17, NCV
I’ve always considered singing as strange. Leave it to me to try to understand music on any level. But to me, to vocalize with music as a bit bizarre. The dictionary really doesn’t clarify it for me at all, but it makes it even stranger,
“to utter words or sounds in succession with musical modulations of the voice; vocalize melodically.”
And yet from this strangeness, David can find a solid reason to sing. At this time in David’s life, things are quite tense. Saul has been focused on him, and has come very close to pinning David down (literally). I’m sure David is struggling with anxiety, doubt and despair. And yet, it is from these considerable issues that David starts singing.
A precedent has been set. Singing when you are in deep water. This particular Psalm has a definite theme and direction. David sings about God. He sings about His strength, and love, and protection. I suppose if you are walking through an evil mob– it is really good to be watched over, and to be securely protected is very much appreciated.
When evil is immense and active, our first response should be to sing! When we direct ourselves toward the Lord, and begin to sing to Him, the enemy scrambles for cover. Worship scares him. Satan is confused and frightened when we start to praise our God. (I tend to think he has an ‘allergy’ to our simple worship.)
I consider myself to be pragmatic and logical. There are things I see right through. Pyramid schemes, Nigerian banking plans, and multilevel marketing are things that are discernible to me. But this particular Psalm punches through, and I confess I have come to understand this extraordinary power of worship. When I decide to worship, all heaven goes crazy!
Often, I think, we “candy-coat” worship, we dip it in chocolate, and make it for ‘feeling good.’ If we ‘catch a buzz’ it was good worship. But then we come into His presence, it is a joy and there is peace for us. And this is terrific. But we should reformat our thinking.
But worship is warfare. As we stand and praise Him, the kingdom of Satan is substantially degraded and minimized. Worship does this and more.
Satan fully hopes that we will forget, or at least trivialize this idea of worship, he strategically works his way against it. It frightens him when we start to understand. The worship of the True God drains Satan of his power and authority. I think perhaps, when we do worship, we start to truly become ‘kings and queens’, but only when we praise our God.
Childlike Trust in the Lord
A song for going up to worship at Jerusalem. A psalm of David.
1 Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
2 Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—
now and always.
Psalm 131, NLT
The Christian, the struggler, and the mentally ill should become avid and fanatical readers of the Psalms. Some of us will need to take meds, that is true. But the Psalms are pretty much required as well. We diligently need to take a physical dose of our daily medication. For believers, Psalm 131 is a spiritual dose that is just as mandatory, and just as necessary.
This particular Psalm is unique, and deeply insightful. It begins its work in us right at the start; the superscription. “A song for going up to worship,” and it strikes me that a work must happen inside of my heart. It is a preparation that will take me higher, and help me see God more clearly. I need to worship. That is viewed by some as an option. We know it is critical. We must worship.
Verse 1 states the certain issue we have; it is called ‘pride.’ What David says seems to be a very arrogant and audacious thing to say. There is a truism that you think you’re humble, you’re not.
A church once gave an elder a medal for humility. But they had to take it away, because he wore it everywhere. To claim you are suddenly liberated from pride, knowing ears perk up. It is almost always a sign of danger. Perhaps it might happen, but don’t hold your breath.
Take it at face value, King David states that he has a real contentment with limitations and weakness. It appears that he has been freed from the vicious cycle of needing to be the center of everything, ‘in the mix,’ and a quite a very significant person. But he admits his ignorance, and something quite significant works its way into us through this psalm.
There exists a definite place where we must renounce “ambition.” Are you content to be the simple servant now, and delay the accolades and praise until you get to heaven?
Some make themselves, literally sick by the deep dark quest to be important. In verse 2, we connect with some astonishing imagery. A baby! I am like a little baby being held by my mom. It’s not an issue of sophistication, but simplicity. Of having limits, but never any applause. How can this be?!
The word in Hebrew, isn’t “baby,” (as in newborn) but baby, but more like a small toddler. A “weaned” child more is a better translation. A weaned child no longer needs his mom’s milk. You can guess that it makes the child more content. He doesn’t fuss, or nuzzle his mothers breast, demanding his food. The child no longer receives his nourishment this way. There is a contentment, a simple desire just to be with mom, just because he wants to. This is a significant step into maturity.
To me, verse 2 is the centerpiece of Psalm 131. OK, let’s apply this spiritually. There was a time when it was necessary for me to have my mother’s milk. I screamed and would throw a terrible tantrum if she didn’t feed me from her breast. I would starve if she didn’t give me her milk. For all practical purposes, it seems we use God to get what we need. But we grow, and move into this new maturity.
David is saying that we need to emulate his example. Now we come into God’s presence– just to be with Him. That’s all. So simple. As a child, we just want to be where He is at. We have no ulterior motives, there is no manipulation. We seek His face, and not what is in His hands.
If we connect the dots, we find that we land right back to the opening superscription. This is an amazing concept of worship– the real kind. As a struggler, a rascal and mentally disabled, I must start at the beginning– again and again and again. I have to worship. And I can only do this until I become a little boy again. I finally realize I must throw ambition and pride overboard. And at this point, I must rest in Him.
- Mother-Led Weaning | How and Why I Gently Weaned My Son (thejoyofthis.com)
- Sermon Introductions: A Weaned Child (Spurgeon) (memoirandremains.wordpress.com)
- Mothers: Mother-Love Models Grace (colourmeballoon.wordpress.com)
- Psalm 131: With Childlike Trust (urcpsalmody.wordpress.com)
“In your strength I can crush an army;
with my God I can scale any wall.”
Psalm 18:29, NLT
“With your help I can attack an army. With God’s help I can jump over a wall.”
Psalm 18:29, NCV
David understood the issues. He knew instinctively what he was facing. He was confronting a spiteful and malevolent troop, that had absolutely nothing to give him. Rather there was a hatred, an evil directed right after him. ’A troop’ that would try to deny him any victory whatsoever.
There was a sense that God had to be involved. David was very perceptive. He fully understood that it was only through God’s active help would he ever advance against the enemy. As he hurled his armies toward the troop, he knew that any victory was going to have to be God’s victory.
There was absolutely no room for confusion or doubt. He went forward because God told him to. God had given him the ability to advance against the enemy. He adds an interesting personal dimension– ‘with my God I can scale a wall’.
The ultimate defense was the wall. If it was tall enough– and strong enough– it was the almost perfect defense against any attack. David was claiming that God was giving him complete access to the enemies strength. A wall could be pretty incredible — and quite formidable. But David was making his faith impenetrable.
“Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.”
Ephesians 6:13, NLT
Psalm 18 pushes us to a place where we honor God by present victories. You and I advance against satanic darkness. The Holy Spirit has equipped and protected us against the dark one. We already have the victory against him. We must advance by faith, resting in confidence of our God against the prince of darkness.
“You have established a new relationship with the powers of darkness. Whatever you were before you were a Christian… you are now a sworn foe of the legions of hell. Have no delusions about their reality or their hostility, but do not fear them. The God inside you terrifies them. They cannot hurt you, but they can still seduce, and they will try.”
A Prayer for Mercy in Troubled Times
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Upon the sheminith. A psalm of David.
1 Lord, don’t correct me when you are angry;
don’t punish me when you are very angry.
2 Lord, have mercy on me because I am weak.
Heal me, Lord, because my bones ache.
3 I am very upset.
Lord, how long will it be?
4 Lord, return and save me;
save me because of your kindness.
5 Dead people don’t remember you;
those in the grave don’t praise you.
6 I am tired of crying to you.
Every night my bed is wet with tears;
my bed is soaked from my crying.
7 My eyes are weak from so much crying;
they are weak from crying about my enemies.
8 Get away from me, all you who do evil,
because the Lord has heard my crying.
9 The Lord has heard my cry for help;
the Lord will answer my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be ashamed and troubled.
They will turn and suddenly leave in shame.
This is the first seven “penitential” psalms written by David. Residing within each psalm the themes of regret, and contriteness, brokenness and self reproach. However, you could say these emotions are the engines that push David’s faith, especially at this particular moment.
Many of us understand these, at least to some degree. These psalms are especially prized by those of us in ‘liturgical services’, with some of these seven read aloud every Sunday. The first few verses of this work contain words like “correction” and “anger.” (The NCV also uses the word “punish.”)
In Hebrews 12, we see that God definitely intervenes into the lives of His own. He corrects, working to adjust us according to His will. The basis of this is relationship between a Father, and a son or daughter. There is harsh correction at times, as we learn how to behave. If He loves you, and you are His son, you will be corrected. Love and discipline are working together, side by side.
V. 1, Correction and punishment have become very significant issues to David. They begin to engage him and he is aware that things can get quite turbulent. Anger on any level can warrant our attention. But when God gets angry, it can be lethal.
V. 2, 3 mercy is a very precious commodity at this moment. And it is all that he wants. Mercy is never deserved, it can’t be earned, it just is given. It is clemency and generosity blended together. David knows this about God, and he “plays the mercy card.” David knows God, he just doesn’t always obey Him.
“How long will it be?” shows a desire to get things on track, and soon. Waiting for God to decide can be traumatic. Separation from Him is profoundly painful.
“The golden rule for understanding in spiritual matters is not intellect, but obedience.”
V. 4, 5 these verses fit together like puzzle pieces. David, when faced with his own depraved actions, turns and calls out for deliverance from the consequences. The key word in v. 4 is “kindness.” And this is exactly what he is aiming for.
The obvious meaning is that death and the grave end all possibility of change. The word is “Sheol.” A Hebrew word describing the grave, where the unsaved are placed when they die. Once there, you are “locked in” with no possibility of changing. Ultimately, it is the complete divorce from God’s presence and that without remedy.
V. 6, 7 Crying. Crying. Crying, Crying. It appears that remorse and grief are now the whole of David’s theology. And David is fatigued by it. Grief is exhausting. It is so intense and consuming, it wears you out. Jesus in the NT had much to say about grieving our sin. About brokenness, and mourning. He made it the starting point of a real Christian life.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
V.8 is a needful stop in a believer’s life. We must pull into this place. It is here that separation takes place. I leave the world by deliberate choice. I have no intentions of following sinners in their rebellion. “I see dead people” was a line from the movie, “The Sixth Sense. Sadly, it works well here.
V. 9, 10 we see the use in verse 9, of the past tense. And I must say that this is a relief. Mercy has been shown, but only when it is appealed to. There is a deep confidence that is quite opposite of some earlier verses.
David shines a spotlight on the strategies of evil people who have afflicted him. He enjoys the idea of evil being stripped and defeated. Today, I think it is completely appropriate to include your spiritual enemies in this equation, and throughout the psalms when this is mentioned.
Here are two versions of the same reference from Psalms 108. The first is from the English Standard Version (or ESV.) The second from the Contemporary English Version (or CEV.)
5 “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
6 That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer me!”
Psalm 108:5-6, ESV
5″Our God, may you be honored above the heavens;
may your glory be seen everywhere on earth.
6 Answer my prayers and use your powerful arm
to give us victory. Then the people you love
will be safe.”
Psalm 108:5-6, CEV
I’m wearing bifocals now. And false teeth are probably in my future fairly soon. (I’m debating the pros and cons of “denture glue.”) If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.
Bifocals though are great, just to be able to see close up, and then far away. Two lenses give me just what I need. I don’t see double, or two different objects. But it is seamless and unified.
We have put on bifocals for Psalmslife today. Now we need to use them.
V. 5, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!”
This is David’s heart. He asks God to exalt Himself. He seems to have a strong concern for God’s reputation. If God exalts Himself, than (and only then) are we are blessed.
“Our God, may you be honored above the heavens;
may your glory be seen everywhere on earth.” (CEV)
To be concerned about God’s honor only strengthens the Church. We not only want Him to look good, but to do good. He is a good God, and we want everyone to know it. Wherever people go on this planet, they will be able to see the Glory of God. After all, it’s all about Him, isn’t it?
“For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.”
Habakkuk 2:14, ESV
V. 6, “That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer me!”
The ‘beloved ones’ speak of the Church– the saints whom God strongly loves. In David’s heart, the glory is the cradle of deliverance. When God is loved supremely, we commence a walk of freedom.
“Answer my prayers and use your powerful arm
to give us victory. Then the people you love
will be safe.” (CEV)
A prayer life is not about me; it effects every believer. The power of my prayer is that it touches God, who touches everyone. “Then the people you love will be safe.”
One should learn soon on how to accept “prayer assignments” from the Lord. He is recruiting an army that will step into vital places of the Spirit. People– neighbors, towns, states and even entire nations can be touched by God from your prayer closet. Just as a cobbler fixes shoes, and the carpenter builds a chair, so it is the work of every Christian to pray.
4“ I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
6 In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.
7 For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.”
Psalm 34:4-7, New Living Translation
“As is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to make shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.” — Martin Luther
Our lives as Christians should be our occupations, and the work that we do should be prayer. A farmer has a craft or a vocation, a welder has his profession. We, as people of faith are to be laborers of prayer.
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” — Martin Luther
Within these four verses we hear David (ringing like a brass bell) calling us to pray. He extensively lists the benefits of coming into the presence of the Lord. They are quite extensive and completely attainable.
V. 4, “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.”
Fear (of whatever, or whomever) can only be overcome by prayer. Perhaps fear is allowed so we start praying. My life has been threatened several times. A few of those times I really sought the Lord. The result was a supernatural gift of peace, joy and freedom which made no sense at all on a natural level.
V. 5, “Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.”
Radiance is a fine word. Often it comes wrapped in trouble, threats and difficulties. It is delivered to our door by special couriers, and it comes by God. When it arrives we find out exactly how human we are. Every Gethsemane will have an angel to minister to us.
Dark faces are the opposite of radiant ones. Shame is the opposite of joy. If we think about this, we realize that our faces are truly the “barometer” of our hearts. We are more readable than we think.
V. 6, “In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.”
David never really strays far from this theme of desperation does he? The word implies despair and lostness. Perhaps only desperate people find God? If you can’t admit you are quite lost, you can’t really be found.
“Troubles.” I wish they they didn’t exist. I have protested to the Lord regarding the excessive quota I have received. It hardly seems equitable in my mind. Job once wrote, “Man is born for trouble.”
V. 7, “ For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.”
Aren’t angels great? They are like God’s “Secret Service.” They have many duties to perform, and not least is protecting you and I. The ESV uses the phrase, “encamps around.” The implication is of a perimeter guard around the believer. Your protection is assured.
“The Lord is good and right;
he points sinners to the right way.
9 He shows those who are humble how to do right,
and he teaches them his ways.
10 All the Lord’s ways are loving and true
for those who follow the demands of his agreement.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
forgive my many sins.
12 Are there those who respect the Lord?
He will point them to the best way.
13 They will enjoy a good life,
and their children will inherit the land.
14 The Lord tells his secrets to those who respect him;
he tells them about his agreement.”
Psalm 25:8-14, NCV
Our views of God shape our daily living. If God is nothing more than a celestial judge, we will be shaped by that personal theology, and be angry and rigid people. (Often, we won’t even realize it. But others will.) And if our theology says that God really does love me, I will become a person of kindness. What we decide about the Lord, and ourselves, is incredibly significant.
This psalm has the power to come alongside and “sculpt” our faith. Often I think of God as impassive or neutral when it comes to me. It’s like He’s this evaluator or auditor. He is inspecting me to see if I measure up. He is cold-blooded, and emotionless as He monitors what I do with my faith in His Son.
V. 8, ”Good and right” are actually pretty rare qualities. But if your God possesses them, you should be in pretty fine shape. God excels in goodness, and He outshines everyone in doing things right.
And v. 8 continues, “he points sinners to the right way. “ This is an active, roll up your sleeves kind of commitment. He isn’t confined to the sidelines, or the judge’s table. “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” Romans 8:31, (NLT) . Two words, two very different positions, now linked by an “is for”:
- God, creator and sustainer of everything. Completely full of compassion, power, goodness and justice.
- Us. Sinful, and depraved. “Missing the mark.”
We are now irrevocably linked. God and us. God and us, now forever connected.
V. 9, Note the phrases- “He shows” and “He teaches.” Will we let Him do what He wants? After all, He is a passionate teacher that loves to illustrate and instruct in His ways. But the word “humble” declares the status that is prerequisite or mandatory. God loves humble people (I mean He really, really loves them!)
V. 10, the NCV uses the word, “agreement.” Most versions use the better word, “covenant”. It does have the idea of agreement, or a contract, but one much more formal. It is between two parties instilling a permanent relationship. It was serious enough that blood had to be shed to validate it.
This is exactly what Jesus did. His sacrifice has the power to bring us into a covenant. Those of us who come to Him through this covenant will find an exclusive source of love and truth.
V. 11, This is an direct appeal to God’s honor and reputation. Father, “forgive my many, many sins.” We maybe tempted to hide some of them. But only full disclosure will bring full deliverance. Whatever is not brought into the light will go on to infest your life. Trust me, you will regret it.
V.12, to respect or to fear the Lord entails an active action or response. But there is another dimension. Celebrities will often hire a “life coach,” or someone to come alongside to guide them in their decisions and choices.
V. 13, what an incentive! It is a tangible and significant pursuit. Godliness is always profitable, and not just materially. Its essence is the blessing of the Lord, and an intimacy with Him. Also, there is an idea here, of my own obedience effecting my children’s future and destiny.
V. 14, “The LORD is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant” (NLT). To have the Almighty as a personal friend is an amazing thing, it sets you apart from any other claim or status. God choose to become your personal tutor, teaching you of such things that thinkers and philosophers have wanted to see into throughout the history of the world.
“My eyes are always looking to the Lord for help.
He will keep me from any traps.
16 Turn to me and have mercy on me,
because I am lonely and hurting.
17 My troubles have grown larger;
free me from my problems.
18 Look at my suffering and troubles,
and take away all my sins.”
Psalm 25:15–18, NCV
These are delicate verses, each one is soaked with salty tears. We slam through them so quickly, and completely disregard the meaning and purpose. It would be like taking a 20 minute tour of the National Gallery in London.
The content of these four verses alone are made sacred by suffering. They seep blood and stink of sweat. Their source is found in a broken and hurting heart (which makes up most of the human race.) Take these four verses, and compare just then with any other religious texts. There is an obvious dearth between the Christian Bible and anything coming out of comparative world religions.
V. 15, the writer tells us things we must know about himself. There is a settled fact in his mind; he is always looking for the heart of God. He diligently continues to look at his Father’s eyes. I get the sense that this is one of those enduring habits he had decided to do “before” and he has trained his eyes to look. The idea that there are “traps” just accentuate the need. Traps only intensify the deep urgency of getting it right.
V. 16, such a personal prayer to a personal God. (This is what I meant earlier when I talked about the superiority of the Christian writings.) The persistent question must be asked, “How personal is God to your soul?” Can you be this truthful or honest with Allah, or the Buddha? Are you just connecting on a superficial level, or our you in a true intimacy with the true God? Christians will talk about a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” This phrase tries very hard to make an intimacy real and authentic.
V. 17, ”My troubles have grown larger; free me from my problems.” Pondering this will lead you through a lot of twisted theology. The stark reality is our faith was never meant to relieve us from the issues of living life. The psalmist seems to think that things may have gotten worse. I’ve read that birds in a cage will actually sing louder. It strikes me that the purpose of life is not to find your freedom– but your master.
V. 18, Most of us would agree. We must put the “best foot forward.” Clean up, and do the right things to be accepted by God. Hide the dirty dishes in the oven, and spray air freshener all over.
But acceptance by this (ultimately neurotic behavior) is never the basis for His love. It can’t be! We will never do enough good things to outweigh our bad. God has “junked” His scales, you will never see them in His courts. He will never measure the good you’ve done. And the bad– well, that has been dropped into the Mariana Trench. (Micah 7:19)
A Cry for Help
A prayer of David.
1 Lord, listen to me and answer me.
I am poor and helpless.
2 Protect me, because I worship you.
My God, save me, your servant who trusts in you.
3 Lord, have mercy on me,
because I have called to you all day.
4 Give happiness to me, your servant,
because I give my life to you, Lord.
5 Lord, you are kind and forgiving
and have great love for those who call to you.
6 Lord, hear my prayer,
and listen when I ask for mercy.
7 I call to you in times of trouble,
because you will answer me.
Psalm 86:1-7, NCV
We should never try to acquire knowledge to put a notch on our Bibles, but to understand Him. When we skim these verses in a general way we can only see it as a prayer. The best kind of prayer is typically generated by any kind of deep crisis. King David is in trouble, and things are desperate.
These verses reveal a harried and hard-pressed man, who understands God. He also understands himself. And both are necessary to become intimate with the Lord God. I want to emphasize this. You need to discern both God’s heart, and than your place.
“We are at this moment as close to God as we really choose to be. True, there are times when we would like to know a deeper intimacy, but when it comes to the point, we are not prepared to pay the price involved.”
J. Oswald Sanders
V. 1, there is a deep sense of spiritual poverty, and awareness of our weakness. Once this is established we will find our authentic voice. And our prayers become supercharged, and can enter His throne room. Our weakness is a good thing, if it leads you to God.
V. 2, protection in a very dangerous world is a good thing. I need to know deep down that He has focused on me, and completely briefed on my situation. He is aware to the utmost of my needs.
V. 3, David had a consistent reliance on mercy. He knew it and called on the Lord through it.
V. 4, there is a sort of a barter transaction here. I give Him my life, and I can find the happiness waiting for me. This really fulfills life for me. It is not merchandising spirituality, rather it enhances it.
V. 5, these qualities are a triad in which God’s deep presence flows to me. Kindness, forgiveness and the love that He possesses are the three ways in which we can relate to God.
V. 6, perhaps this knowledge revealed to David has given him a hunger for prayer. And a desire for authentic prayer. If you had the ability to email the President of the United States, and you knew he read everyone you sent, wouldn’t that give you a boldness?
V. 7, there is that confidence here. There will always be “times of trouble.” Don’t let anyone tell you different. When a child is frightened of something scary, she runs to her father. The father reaches for his little one. This is the way discipleship is supposed to work itself out.
“To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances; To seek Him, the greatest adventure; To find him, the greatest human achievement.”
7 Troubles have come again and again, sounding like waterfalls.
Your waves are crashing all around me.
8 The Lord shows his true love every day.
At night I have a song,
and I pray to my living God.
9 I say to God, my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why am I sad
and troubled by my enemies?”
10 My enemies’ insults make me feel
as if my bones were broken.
They are always saying,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why am I so sad?
Why am I so upset?
I should put my hope in God
and keep praising him,
my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:7-11, NCV
The remainder of Psalm 42 is fascinating. It continues to carry us through many issues, that could be regarded as a challenge. I must admit, I really like this psalm. It has good things embedded into it, like God’s chocolate chip cookie, lol.
When we come to it, there should be a reverence and a willingness to obey what we are reading. A disobedient heart will immediately short circuit this psalm. It would be better to have never read this, than to have read it, with a disobedient heart. We would do well, if we would settle certain issues, right at the start.
V. 7, this verse will stretch your imagination. David uses a word picture that makes us scramble as we try to catch up. It’s not the troubles part, but the waterfalls. David had this in his mind as he penned these verses. He remembers hearing the roar of the water, in his ears. He “saw” the turbulence, the whirlpool and he understood something. It worked through his thoughts. He felt as if he were a target, and the raging and roaring was a real effort to bring him down.
V. 8, “The Lord shows his true love every day. At night I have a song, and I pray to my living God.” This is a sponge that is over full, you can’t add a drop. When you barely touch it, it leaks all over the place. There is God’s desire to bless us, and than there is a powerful response of worship and prayer. At night David would sing, and he would pray. He wanted to connect with God’s sweet presence, more than sleep.
V. 9, just because you know God, you think you are immune to certain things. This is not one of them. David has a deep sense that God is not listening to him. His darkest enemy seems more aware than God. David carries a significant sadness, he can’t seem to shake it. He is quite vulnerable, as the enemy has complete access to his heart and mind.
V. 10, David has a sense that he has just been beaten up. At least, it feels that way. He has the sensation of having his bones broken. The pain verges on the horrific. Too much pain. The enemy insults, there is a mocking tone in his voice. He insults, and mocks at will. He tries to damage us through his viciousness.
V.11, this is self assessment time. As David writes he processes all that concerns him. “Why am I so sad?” He is bewildered by his own heart, and David seems to struggle at this point. It’s funny, but reading our own hearts is extremely difficult. But there is aspiration yet. David understands what he needs and requires. It is God’s presence, first and foremost.