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.