Lately I have been enjoying – and drawing strength from – a leisurely stroll through the book of Psalms. It is amazing how words written thousands of years ago by a man very different from me in his culture and experiences can shed light and breathe life into my modern circumstances.
This section of Psalms has really hit home with me. David speaks a great deal about needing refuge, a safe place to hide, a place where he can be protected and secure. I get that. Man, do I ever get that. Sometimes the tenants of our faith can be so simple, so easy to spout out when “someone else” is experiencing trouble or grief or hardship. But when the roles reverse and it’s our trouble, our grief, our hardship. Well, now; that’s a different matter entirely. Then all the cute catch-phrases suddenly seem like just another Hallmark card. It’s like we are starving to death and someone offers us a giant bag of cotton candy when what we need instead is something solid and substantial. What’s a girl (or guy) to do? Turn to Scripture – more importantly, we need to turn to the Holy God who gives His backing, His authority, to these written words.
1) Lord my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me
David jumps right in with a plea for help. He addresses God as Lord, recognizing his subservience to the real King. Not only does David acknowledge the sovereignty of God, he also establishes that their relationship is personal. Yahweh is not just a God out there somewhere: He and David belong to each other. And this changes everything. There is a President in the United States. He has responsibility for us as a nation, but it’s not like President Trump and I have a personal relationship. I can’t exactly call him up and ask for a favor. (Please don’t miss everything else by latching onto the pro/con Trump train. It’s just an example.) But my Father is an entirely different story. Like David, I can go to Him in my distress and ask for help. He is my refuge, my safe place. It is He who saves me, who delivers me from those who pursue me.
Although he had been anointed as Israel’s next leader, David spent many years being chased down by King Saul in a dangerous and very literal game of cat and mouse. I don’t think I’ve ever understood before what it feels like to be pursued in this way. I’m sure that there are people out there who don’t like me very much. I’m not sure what their problem is, but I am sure that these people do exist. (:P) In all seriousness, while I can be pretty sassy, I’m basically a non-confrontational kind of gal. I’d rather look for a solution than a fight. But sometimes fights find you whether you’re looking for them or not. And so it has been. Through the times of incredible difficulty, the overwhelming love of friends and the Father has been such a comfort. There were times I needed to hide, to allow myself the luxury of a safe place to fall part. My troubling times have certainly been different from David’s, but I do understand the cry of his heart.
9) Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure – you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts
Yeah. I’ve prayed this. Often several times a day. I’ve got to be honest with you. David’s words in this Psalm are quite strong. He asks for God to end the violence of wicked men and to uphold the righteous. Look at David’s word choice here – the righteous God, who probes our hearts and minds, makes the righteous secure. Of course I’d love to believe that I am righteous, because surely the world revolves around me, right? But it doesn’t work that way. I need to probe my own heart and mind. Am I righteous? What makes me any better than this other person that I have labeled as wicked? At the risk of opening an incredibly large theological can of worms, the simple answer is Jesus. When I become a dedicated Christ-follower, I am granted the righteousness of God. I am still going to mess up, regularly, I’m afraid. But the blood of Jesus has covered the sins I’ve committed in the past and the ones I haven’t even gotten around to doing yet. This is not a license to sin, but rather a relationship to be fostered.
10) My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart
As a soldier, David uses a lot of military metaphors in his writing, like I might be inclined to use teaching or running or parenting. This flowed out of who he was. Certainly I have never been in the throes of battle, never had to duck behind a wall while projectiles were hurled my way. The arrows of my battle have been words aimed at my heart and mind. The impact they make may not be visible, yet they leave gaping wounds.
This verse creates a strong mental picture: Two opposing armies face each other. The tock and swish of flying arrows. The cries of the injured. The muffled last breath of the direct hit. Metal shields glistening in the sun, offering protection, security. David’s shield is not made of wood and leather, or even iron. His shield is God Most High, the One who saves the upright in heart.
Once again, this begs the question, does this mean me? Can I number myself among the upright in heart? As a follower of Christ, I can. I am delivered, not because of my shiny external image and resume’ of good deeds, but because of Jesus! An honest inspection of my life reveals that, no matter how much I try to appear so, I am not a “good person”. What I am is imperfect, broken, shattered. The good news is, when I gather those shattered pieces of my life and place them in the hands of the Father, He takes them and He transforms me. He doesn’t just put me back together as I once was. He creates something new, something magnificent, something I never was before. At His touch, this pile of broken glass, once suitable only for the rubbish heap, is now an exquisite work of art. As the light of His Son shines through me, His beauty, His righteousness is reflected in my life.
I am a firm believer in the eternal security of the believer. Once I place my faith and trust in God, my relationship with Him is sealed forever in Christ Jesus. The fellowship we experience, however, can be impacted by unconfessed sin in my life. Like dirt on a window must be cleaned away in order for the light to shine through unhindered, we must, as one of my pastor friends states it, “keep short sin accounts.” In this way, righteousness (maintaining a right relationship with God) is a continuous process.
17) I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.
David begins and ends this psalm with the goodness and power of God. Whether or not he has already received his deliverance, David gives thanks. It is the righteousness of God that makes all the difference, so much so that David bursts into song.
Sunlight coming through a window is a mere fraction of the power and energy of our universe’s most important star. Even when it rains, we know the sun is there, sending forth its rays of warmth and light. Similarly, in our daily lives we can catch small glimpses into the boundless heart of the Father. When times of trouble come, we can know that He is always there.
The righteousness of God is eternal, infinite, unchanging. He is good, and I am His.
That, my friends, is a reason to sing!