Monday, September 19, 2011

Psalm 14 - A Study in Contrast

This psalm is pretty much the opposite of Psalm 8, which proclaims how glorious man is.  In stark contrast, Psalm 14 exposes how foolish and corrupt man is.  This contradiction serves to clarify the depth of how far man has fallen.

Psalm 8
Psalm 14
Verse 1
How majestic and glorious is God’s name
Verse 1
Fools say there is no God
Verse 2
God has ordained praise to silence foes
Verses 2 and 3
God notices that no one seeks him – they
Verse 3
God’s works are awe-inspiring
Verses 6 and 7
He needs to be a refuge and restore his people
Verse 4
What is man?
Verses 1 -7
Corrupt and evil!
Verse 5
Man is glorious, made in God’s image and rules over Earth
Verse 1
Man is corrupt and vile – no one is good
Verse 9
How majestic is God’s name
Verse 5
He is present with the righteous

I think I can summarize like this:
How majestic and glorious is God's name?  And yet, fools say there is no God.  These fools are evildoers, but the Lord has ordained praise to silence them.  Unfortunately, mankind has turned aside and no longer seeks God. 
Since God is capable of such awe-inspiring works, he needs to restore his people and provide refuge to them.  Mankind is in need of this refuge because they have become corrupt and evil.  The same mankind that God has created to be glorious, made in his image, has become corrupt and vile.  Now good is left in them.   
But still, God is majestic and has everything under control.  He is present with the righteous in the midst of all the chaos, corruption, and evil.
Want to know the scariest part of all this?  I can be described more aptly by corruption and evil than by glory and majesty most of the time.  It's not like I'm constantly purposefully denying God or choosing a path apart from him, but I'm not purposefully choosing him, either.  I want to be one of the people who seeks God, not one that has turned away.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Psalm 13 - Far More Questions than Answers

Time to "break it down" again.

Verses 1-2
How long...

  • Will God forget me?
  • Will he hide his face from me?
  • Must I wrestle with my thoughts?
  • Must I have sorrow in my heart?
  • Will my enemy triumph?
Verse 3a
A demand for God to answer

Verses 3b-4
Why God needs to answer

Verses 5-6
Statement of trust and praise

This psalm really does summarize my feelings.  I'm no longer angry at God (except every now and then), but I definitely understand questioning him.  I still feel like he is far off.  Really, I could echo most of the first two verses, claiming them as my own.  Then even put into words things I've had trouble explaining adequately.

For example, "Will [God] forget me forever?"  Are things ever going to get better, meaning am I ever going to get to the point where I no longer feel abandoned or distant?  "How long will [He] hide his face from me?"  And, why does it feel as if God is hiding his face from me?  Finally, "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?"  Really, how long do I need to wrestle through the Psalms before God feels near to me again?  I really do feel like wrestling is the most apt description as I am battling for each and every minuscule amount of progress.

I wonder if David's demands for an answer were, in fact, answered.  He tells God to look on him and answer him, two very bold commands.  It encourages me to know that I can be equally as bold in asking God to answer me.  But, I also wonder, have I not been bold enough yet?  Or, have I been too bold?  Or, maybe it's just going to be awhile.  Did David get answered quickly?

David also had reasons to back up his demands.  What reasons do I have?  It's not killing me, as David alludes to in his own psalm.  I don't think the distance I'm feeling is making any enemies triumph over me.  What reasons could I possibly claim?

Finally, as I've noted repeatedly, David ends the psalm with praise and a promise of trust, even though no answer had been given.  It seems odd to me that he chooses to say he trusts in God because of his unfailing love, though.  After all, he was just complaining that God had basically turned away from him.  How could that possibly make him trust in God's unfailing love?  Could he perhaps have been only restating a long-ago accepted truth about God to reassure himself that God was, in fact, trustworthy?

Then, to end it all, David says he will sing praises because God has been good to him.  Again, it doesn't mesh with the previous verses.  Is David intentionally reminding himself of his blessings?

This, to me, is very frustrating.  I know I went into reading the psalms ready and willing to ask the tough questions and I said that I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up with even more questions.  However, I did not fully estimate the frustration that could come from 1) ending up with more questions than answers, and 2) not feeling any closer to God - at all.  I'm committed to keep working at it, but it's quite possibly even harder than I expected.