Monday, September 20, 2010

David's Psalms: The Waiting

The Psalms speak to us in a variety of contexts and situations.  They show us how to pray, how to handle our questions and doubts, and reflect patterns of worship and praise.  

And yet, it's important to remember that they were written by men, in the midst of specific events.  These men were responding to specific questions and doubts.  And the worship is a declaration of faith in spite of specific challenges.  

We don't know a lot about some of the psalmists, but we know about David, and we know about his challenges, the struggle to become king.  

I don't think any of us are in line for the throne of Israel, but I think a lot of us are in holding patterns, and we experience many of the same types of questions that David asks.  Maybe we've stepped out in faith to do something.  Or maybe the Holy Spirit has led us in a direction, but now we're experiencing resistance from circumstances and maybe people, and we wonder what's going on.  (Didn't God say to move forward? Were we really listening?)

So here's David.  He gets called out of the fields in order to get anointed by Samuel.  He gets filled with the Holy Spirit, something not available for everyone in that time period.  He plays his harp and sings for the king of Israel.  He defeats Goliath.  He's a hero, not just for that exploit, but because he's a warrior, leading armies to fight the Philistines.  

Everything's going really great, and then the people start singing a song that goes something like this:
Saul has killed thousands . . . David has killed tens of thousands . . . 
And now David's troubles begin.  Saul gets jealous.  (You remember that he is no longer filled with the Holy Spirit, he's gripped with price, and Samuel's told him that he is going to lose his throne.)  He's convinced that David will be the next king, and he's out to get rid of David.  

And so the struggle begins.  The people take sides, some with David and some with Saul.  Of course the soldiers side with the king, and now they start chasing David.  To kill him.  It's not good.  David takes up with a band of raiders.  Essentially not nice men who like to fight just because they like to fight.  They hide in caves and travel around Israel and neighboring countries.  

And all the time, David's remembering that Samuel anointed him to be king.  What happened?  Did God change his mind?  Maybe that's not what that meant.  When will God come through?  Will he come through?  Can he be trusted?

David's psalms reflect his conflict.  He's hiding. He's always on the run.  He's hungry, facing death everyday, and he's tired.  We know there's a happy ending, that he becomes king eventually, but David doesn't see the end.  He only knows today.  And today he's at the back of a cave, waiting for the king's men to pass by.  

You hear the range of his emotions in the songs he writes.  
In Psalm 3, he's confident:
O LORD, how many are my foes! 
       How many rise up against me!

Many are saying of me, 
       "God will not deliver him." 

But you are a shield around me, O LORD; 
       you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.
Sometimes he expresses distress.
Answer me when I call to you, 
       O my righteous God. 
       Give me relief from my distress; 
       be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame . . .   (Psalm 4)
In Psalm 6, he repents. 
In Psalm 7, he's confident again.
In Psalm 8, he worships God boldly.  
In Psalm 10, he feels abandoned by God.  He asks, 
Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? 
       Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Again, in Psalm 13, he asks, 
How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? 
       How long will you hide your face from me?

 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts 
       and every day have sorrow in my heart? 
       How long will my enemy triumph over me?
I love that his psalms, even the ones that express his anguish, end with statements of faith.  
In Psalm 13, he ends, saying, 

But I trust in your unfailing love; 
       my heart rejoices in your salvation.
 Iwill sing to the LORD, 
       for he has been good to me. 
Sometimes I feel like David.  Confident one day.  Filled with doubt and feeling abandoned another day.  Yet clinging to God because in my core I know he is my only hope.  

It's no wonder I love the Psalms.  
And it's no wonder I love songs based on these Holy Spirit-inspired prayers.  
Check out this song, based on Psalm 13 . . .  and this one too.

We question, we doubt, and we worship.  
The questions and doubts strengthen our worship and increase our dependence on our source of strength.  
When we are weak, then he is strong. 


Anonymous said...

Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions

Anonymous said...

Hey - I am certainly glad to find this. Good job!

Erin Flew said...