And the words of the Lord are flawless,
like silver purified in a crucible,
like gold refined seven times. Psalm 12:6
We often tend to think of our age as particularly evil but when we read Psalm 12 we realise that David struggled against great evil too. He often felt helpless against its onslaught.
In Psalm 12 he reveals a battle that is fought through the words of people in contrast to the words of God – the flattering, lying and boastful lips of people versus the pure, truthful words of God.
It is a relevant psalm for our time when advertising dominates our lives. The huge amounts spent on political campaigns to sway a small percentage of voters comes to mind. “Spin doctors” try to flatter and manipulate us. Then we have the culture of celebrity where their position and fame is used to make us believe …. whatever. I am reminded of a certain TV host of Africa American descent, amongst many, many others.
We have two choices: we either join the throng of deceivers and deceived or we run to God for His protection. His protection came in the form of one who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” and “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
David recognised his own helplessness because by nature he too was like the deceivers, but in God’s promises his life would have a completely alternative and truth led orientation through the promises of God. In God’s arms he could begin to see life differently.
A reflection on Psalm 91
I have …
… a God who covers his children
like a mother hen,
and whose feathers
become a fortress that is
a refuge from danger,
and all that destroys.
… a God who lifts me up
beyond the harm
and hatred swirling ’round me.
… a God who gathers me
in his arms
and gives me
than I deserve.
… a God
whose son is,
busy making a home for me,
“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“ I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!” Psalm 91:14-16 (The Message)
One of my daughters pointed me to ‘The Message’ translation of Psalm 91. As a family we are in need of a party right now and here we find God promising us one. In the NIV and KJV it speaks of “honouring” us. I like the “party” idea better. It has a sense of joy and celebration and also echoes forward to the story of the prodigal son and the party his dad throws for him.
When you read Psalm 91 it becomes obvious that there is nothing in our own strength that we can do about our broken human condition. All we can do do is “dwell”, “rest” and seek “refuge”. God however “covers”, guards”, “lifts up” and “protects”. God is active in His care for us and all we can do is flee into His arms. But that is what we must do – fall helplessly into His arms. It is not easy. We are by nature arrogant and stubborn. Like a little child we stand stubbornly stamping our feet, arms crossed defiantly thinking we know best.
Our heavenly dad says, “Come to me my little child. I will hold you and because you have obeyed my call to fall helplessly into my arms, we will have a party.”
I don’t know about you, but a party with God sounds brilliant!
In Psalm 11 David asks the question, which many of us have asked when we peruse the condition of the world, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
David recognises that evil, so often, seems overwhelmingly strong. I am sure there are many times when we too have felt overwhelmed. Just looking over the past year, whether it is our own life or the news, evil has been rampant. Social values are in decline, greed, murder and injustice are seen as “normal”.
David was undergoing his own trial, probably with either Absolom or Saul, but gives us the answer. God in His time will deal with the rebellious because he loves the righteous. The righteous, of course, are those who in their brokenness come to God in faith. It is a Christ bought righteousness. David was acutely aware of his own lack of holiness. God was his only hope.
So as another year ends and a new one begins, David’s Psalm points us to our hope and security – God’s divine promises. And David adds, we will see his face. There is a place for us in His presence where evil is eliminated. In the meantime we have His Word, His Spirit and each other to remind us of this hope in the midst of heartbreaking evil. God is indeed, good!
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer. Psalm 4:1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs. Psalm 100: 1&2
One of the amazing characteristics of the Psalms is the passion that leaps from the words and phrases. The Psalms are not cold, calculated and remote. They are heartfelt. Filled with joyous, desperate, angry, exhausted, amazed and yearning cries , pleas and exaltations.
To put it differently, the writers have a living and engaged relationship with God. There is nothing distant or clinical. We see similar expressions in slaves yearning for freedom “I wants to go where Moses trod,/O de dying Lamb !/For Moses gone to de promised land,/ O de dying Lamb !) These songs are personal and immediate. During WW2 no one under the boot of the oppressors sang or read Psalm 91 (“Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.”) without the words coming from the very depths of their being. Years later in the safety of a new country, I know from my own family, those words in Psalm 91 still brought up the tremors of dark memories as well as the overwhelming realisation that God had been with the family through those dark times.
The Psalms are a clue to the relationship that God wants with us – a living, ongoing and thirsting connection between Him and the very core of our beings. We also see in the Psalms honesty and vulnerability. Pretence and self-aggrandisement are put aside. The Psalmist is completely open with God with all his feelings.
I fell in love with the Psalms during one of the tougher times of my life and in the process I came to realise how close God was all the time. His comfort, challenge and direction were never far away. The Psalms became, for me, a gateway to worship – a worship that is founded upon an utter and helpless dependence on a living God.
Immerse yourself in the Psalms and be amazed how near God is!