Saturday, June 22, 2013

Answer Us When We Call - Psalm 20, Part 2

In the previous post, I mentioned that I feel a certain amount of shame over an area where I doubt God. I have full confidence in the almighty power of God.  It's never been an issue of whether God could show his power in my life, but rather an issue of whether God would.  After spending the past several years with the general feeling that God wouldn't use that power in my life (whether I should have been feeling that or not isn't really the issue right now), I am noticing a certain amount of bitterness in my relationship with God that wasn't there before.

All that being said, I am excited to look at the second part of Psalm 20.  I broke this up into two parts not because the psalm is particularly long (it isn't), but because I felt like my thoughts were going in such different directions they just needed to be posted separately.

The last part of Psalm 20 begins with a very confident statement, "Now this I know."  I talked about this some in my last post, but I do want to take a second to remember the reason David, the psalmist, is so assured.  Here's what he knows: "The Lord gives victory to his anointed.  He answers from his heavenly sanctuary."  He doesn't say when or how this victory will come or try to explain why it hasn't come yet, he just has overwhelming faith that it will come.  Somehow.

The next part of the psalm talks about the two choices when it comes to trusting that this victory is coming:

  1. Trust in chariots or in horses.  (Now I'm going to take some interpretive license and apply that thought to some of the worldly things I might be tempted to trust in.  Like myself and my own abilities.  After all, I don't think many of us put trust in chariots anymore!)
  2. Trust in the name of God.  
To help with our decision of what to trust, David lets us know where both choices lead:
  1. Those who trust in "chariots" are brought to their knees and fall.
  2. Those who trust in God will rise and stand firm.
Now, maybe it's the nerd in me, but I actually get excited at the poetry of this.  Trust in worldly things and be brought to your knees; trust in God and rise.  Trust in worldly things and fall; trust in God and stand firm.  Does anyone else see the beauty of this simple juxtaposition?  

Here's another interesting thought that just occurred to me: those who trust in worldly things fall and are brought to their knees.  What a perfect time to pray, to repent and trust in God instead, to be given the opportunity to rise and stand firm!  

When I first opened to this psalm, I quick skim of the verses led me to believe that it was a gloating, victorious passage.  It is not what I assumed it to be.  The words written by David so long ago apply to my life more than I imagined.  It's not at all about basking in the victory God has provided, but instead about trusting that God will answer and protect and provide that victory.  It's about firmly and confidently trusting and having faith in God and that in itself being a source of joy and comfort.  

May the Lord Answer You - Psalm 20, Part 1

Here is yet another example of a psalm that actually makes me nervous to think about, much less reflect on and write about.  For some reason, the beginning of this psalm leaves me feeling intimidated.  I'm not sure I can even explain what it is that leaves me feeling like anything I could say would be inadequate, but I think it all boils down to one word: shame.

Let me attempt to explain.  You see, I have been a Christian for a very long time.  I grew up in a Christian home with Christian values and have never doubted God's power.  So it shames me to be honest and say that I have been struggling for a while now with the perceived lack of God's power in my life.

Maybe I need to explain my explanation.  I know in my head that God is all-powerful and I believe that to be true whole-heartedly.  However, I have, at times, doubted whether God will use that power in my life in tangible ways.  It has never been an issue of could God, but rather would God.  Many times it has seemed, at least, that the answer is that God would not, leading to a vague sense of bitterness on my part.

So, when I read Psalm 20 and see a list of things that God is fully capable, I am conflicted because I believe my God can accomplish all that and more, but I don't have as much confidence that he will do that in my life right now.  And what does it say about my faith that I lack that confidence?

Verses 1 through 5 are framed by two very similar sentiments:

  • May the Lord answer you when you are in distress.
  • May the Lord grant all your requests.
In between though, may start to help me process through some of the bitterness I have felt.

Following the opening line, "May the Lord answer you when you are in distress," there is a list of requests.  May God:
  • protect you
  • send help
  • grant support
  • remember your sacrifices
  • accept your offerings
  • give you your desires
  • make your plans succeed
Without transition, this is followed by what the response to those answered prayers would be: shouts of joy and lifting high the banner of God.  Basically, this means a lot of loud and obvious praising of God for bringing victory and answering prayer.  

Then comes the reminder that God hasn't yet answered the prayers, "May the Lord grant all your requests."  The psalmist, David in this case, has listed his requests in confidence fully believing that God could do all of that and more.  I wonder if he felt any shame over doubting whether God would answer.  

I tend to think that there wasn't any shame because the very next line boldly states, "Now this I know." There is no room for doubt in that confident, faith-filled statement.  Makes you wonder what would have David so confident if his prayers hadn't been answered yet.  

Well, here it is: "The Lord gives victory to his anointed.  He answers from his heavenly sanctuary..."  Again, no room for doubt or shame in that statement.  God may not have answered yet, but David had faith that he would.  

Like I said before, I have never doubted the power of God.  Maybe it's time for me to start trusting in that power a little more.  Then maybe I will share a little bit of David's confidence.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Then I Will Be Blameless

I'm not sure that I have completely processed Psalm 19 at this point, but I'm starting to learn that sometimes you just have to jump in and do something even if you don't have the time to do it perfectly.  This is one of those times because I couldn't wait to share an "aha" moment I had while I was reading Psalm 19 this morning.  I also realize that by writing about this psalm, I am skipping posting about several.  Those posts are currently in the works and I have decided they can wait because this one is on my heart today.

When I started reading this psalm today and saw that it was very familiar to me, I must admit that I wondered what I could possibly "get out" of it.  I'm not saying that my fleeting thought was correct by any stretch of the imagination and thankfully, God did lead me to "get" something out of the chapter.

Starting in verse 7, there are several verses that talk about how God's Law is perfect, trustworthy, radiant, right, pure, sure, and righteous.  This handful of verses also talked about the benefits that come from the Law.  It revives the soul, it makes the simple wise, gives light to the eyes, and is more precious than gold.   As long as I have been a Christian, I have struggled to make sense of passages like this.  To me, the Law has never been reviving or joy-giving, but instead tends to be guilt-enducing.  I know the Law is perfect and I am, well, not.

Just as I'm beginning down my usual path of thinking about all the ways I don't quite measure up, I read on.  Verses 12 and 13 say, in part, this, "Forgive my hidden faults...Keep your servant also from willful sins...Then I will be blameless."  Duh.  I'm not sure if this has just never sunken in before or if it's one of God's truths that I just too easily forget.  I am not expected to be blameless.  I'm not completely sure why, but sometimes I forget that I become blameless because I'm forgiven, not that I'm forgiven because I am blameless.  Perfection is not expected because I am incapable of it.  But, my imperfection in light of the Law is the very thing that should bring me joy because it serves to remind me of the One who is perfect.

My imperfections allow me to appreciate how incredible it was that Jesus was perfect.  They allow me to recognize the magnitude of what he did for me and to seek forgiveness for every fault whether hidden or willful.  THEN and only then will I be blameless.  THEN I can see the Law as reviving because I will be looking at it through the lens of what Jesus has done.

I also need to remember that my "failings" in other areas of my life - the things I perceive I'm not doing right as a mother, wife, friend, or whatever - those things may not be imperfections in light of the Law.  In other words, those things might not hold as much value as I sometimes assign to them.  Small example: in light of what Jesus has done for me, does it really matter that I currently have an entire basket of unmatched socks spread throughout my living room?  (Or that I have an entire basket of unmatched socks to begin with?)


Instead, my focus should be the last verse of Psalm 19:
May the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.