that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son
I must admit, I’m never quite sure how authoritative to treat these superscriptions. In this particular case, while the identification is plausible, it dramatically changes my attitude towards the text. After all, the rebellion of Absalom was largely caused by David’s indulgent yet neglectful fathering, so in some sense he is whining over self-inflicted wounds:
LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many [are] they that rise up against me.
Of course, who am I to cast the first stone? It is difficult to find many instances of trouble in my life for which I am not at least partly responsible, even if just through insensitivity or carelessness. In that sense, it is reassuring to know God hears us even at times like that. In fact, in some ways our enemies do us a favor when they turn the discussion from our frailty to God’s ability (or willingness) to save:
Many [there be] which say of my soul, [There is] no help for him in God. Selah
Yow! (which is my loose translation of ‘Selah’ :-). For a believer in God, there is no worse curse than to think that either our troubles are too big for God to solve, or our folly too great for Him to care. Perhaps that is why David responds with honoring the name (character) of God:
I am particularly struck by the word ‘glory.’ For all his faults, David consistently affirms that his best aspects — his ‘glory’ — belong to God, not himself. That is why:
I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.
There’s two remarkable things here. One is David’s faith in God’s protection and supremacy despite his present difficulties, the second is that such faith is in fact justified!
This reminds of me of Rick Warren’s disjunction between “worship” and “worry.” David certainly has cause for worry! All the more so if he is nagged by guilt over his relationship with Absalom. Yet instead he turns to worship, and is sufficiently free from fear to enjoy a good night’s sleep. Not that he forgets the existence of his enemies:
Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies [upon] the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.
I don’t know how severe a curse that is — was a broken tooth life-threatening back then? — but it seems very, well, pugilistic to see David asking God to “smack them in the kisser.”
I know some commentators tut-tut at such violent requests, but I suspect they have never really had to process such enormous anger. There is a certain logic even to extreme emotion, though very different than the logic governing reason. Sometimes you can’t simply wish the feelings away, but you need a place to put them. And there’s no safer place (for both ourselves and others) than with God:
Salvation [belongeth] unto the LORD: thy
blessing [is] upon thy people. Selah.
God, I am grateful that I don’t have any serious troubles in my life at this time — though I know that could change in an instant. Yet, I know many people who are hurting, and I am tempted to “flee” from their troubles rather than embrace and sustain them. I also know that my soul nurses innumerable petty grudges and resentments over slights large and small, that sap my energy and turn my will inward. O Lord, arise and save me from myself! Teach me to find my glory in you, that I may see your salvation in the land of the living. Free from the walls of indifference and pride, that I may be your agent of reconciliation in healing. Smack me in the mouth if you need to, that I may learn to honor you as I should. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title is from the slightly Psalmic Lionel Ritchie song.