that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.
For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD. He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.
I tend to believe this superscription, since David must’ve been feeling pretty secure to sit down and write a fifty-verse Psalm! Hopefully I can get through all of it this Sunday morning (thank heaven for 10:45 worship services :-).
Wow. The word ‘love’ (
) is very much an expression of tender emotion; hardly unusual for Christians, but I wonder how many other gods of that time merited (or even wanted) love. Most religious ceremonies I’m familiar with focused on loyalty, obedience, and sacrifice — not affection. Who is Yahweh to be worthy of such attachment?
The LORD [is] my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, [and] my high tower.
Which is why David calls upon the Lord:
He then describes What he needed to be saved from:
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
What he did in response:
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, [even] into his ears.
and then ten verses on How God responded:
He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness [was] under his feet… He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters… Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
With the end result that:
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.
And Why did God do all this?
He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me. The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
I have to wonder, is David bragging when he says:
For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments [were] before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity. Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
Or, is he merely trying to illustrate God’s character?
With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward. For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.
Ah, I think I realized why David sounds so self-serving here; we all ‘know’ that it is good for people to be merciful, upright and pure rather than crooked. But, the point David is making that God knows that too! I realize this may seem obvious to Christians, but we typically only think of that as a platitude. With David, that knowledge is as concrete — and risky! — as a military tactic:
For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
Or at least, it would be risky if God were not entirely trustworthy:
As for] God, his way [is] perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he [is] a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who [is] God save the LORD? or who [is] a rock save our God?
Plus, lest we think David is getting a swelled head, he attributes even his own righteousness to God:
[It is] God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
Perhaps that is why David’s listing of his own virtues feels like exultation, rather than boasting. He isn’t glorying in himself at all. Rather, he knows full well that everything is from God, which is why he doesn’t feel at all self-conscious about listing his own virtues. Far from self-pride, this might actually be humility of the highest order; so self-forgetful that he doesn’t even worry about appearing proud!
He goes on like this for another few verses, then starts talking about the impact of all this imputed virtue on his enemies:
and continues on like that for another five verses:
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
I suppose one could read this as vindictive, even bloodthirsty, but somehow I don’t. To me, it feels more like the (original) Battle of New Orleans, filled with a sense of wonder and joy at God’s deliverance:
Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; [and] thou hast made me the head of the heathen:
Which brings us right back to the original thesis of this Psalm:
The LORD liveth; and blessed [be] my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
For it is not David who has done all this, but:
It is] God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me. He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
Which is why David wrote this Psalm: not to memorialize his great achievements — otherwise, why not lists his enemies and battles by name, like other ancient kings did? — but to thank God:
God, I don’t think I could praise you as exuberantly and humbly as David, due to my own fear of appearing proud. In all honesty, I could not escape the cynical, self-centered calculations about how this might make other people think of me. Father, I long to know you the way David did, to be filled with a love and affection for you so strong that I can’t help but praise you, regardless of how it makes me look. Let me focus on making my ways pleasing to you, so that I can see you hand at work in the overthrow of my enemies. Which I suppose means accepting that I will have some. Lord, as reluctant as I am to pray this — for I know the cost — show me your glory. For only then will I truly see the face of Jesus, whom I love. For it is in his name that I pray, Amen.