“Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.
Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.
Right of the bat, we see that the focus of this Psalm is on God. Well, that’s hardly surprising, but what I mean is that the Psalm appears intended to help David (and us) focus on God, presumably in opposition to focusing on our selves or our circumstances.
That statement carries both a sense of affirmation and a note of supplication, which gets amplified as we go along:
That certainly hints at a context where David is in danger of succumbing to enemies. What’s more interesting, though, is that he couches that in the context of shame. It sounds strange to modern ears, but it really does seem like David is more worried about being “shamed” than merely being “defeated”; then again, if you’ve ever watched pro wrestling or talked smack, you might more easily believe that “winning” is intimately related to “shaming an opponent.”
In that context, it is interesting to see whom David thinks does — and does not — deserve shame:
Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
I actually don’t think that is mere rhetoric. Rather, this seems to be David’s foundational understanding of the valid source of shame: whether or not we trust and obey God.
Which is why David follows up with a series of prayers for God to:
a) teach him
Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou [art] the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
b) regard him with mercy, not strict justice
Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they [have been] ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD.
David appears to instinctively recognize that, at some level, he actually does deserve to be shamed, due to his past iniquities and failure to follow God’s commands. That is why his ultimate hope is in God’s character, not his own:
For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it [is] great.
This ties back into the idea of mercy and submission: that the only way to redeem the shame of failure is to voluntarily subjugate ourselves to something greater. That is why the fear of the LORD is so important, as it enables God to teach us how (and to whom) we need to submit:
What man [is] he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way [that] he shall choose… The secret of the LORD [is] with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.
David certainly counts himself among that number:
Mine eyes [are] ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
But just because he sees God doesn’t mean he sees his salvation — at least not yet:
Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I [am] desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged: [O] bring thou me out of my distresses.
Yet, David is not merely crying for deliverance from external troubles, but also from his internal failures that might otherwise prevent God from rescuing him:
I was quite surprised to see that the word translated “forgive” — nasa’ — is the same one used in the first verse for “lifting up” (appropriately enough :-). We lift our eyes away from our troubles, unto God, in the very same way He lifts our sins away from us. Hmm.
We then close with what might be a summary of David’s case for why God should help him:
a) David needs it:
Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
b) David “deserves” it — not for his righteousness, but his submitted-ness:
O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.
Which all boil down to a single plea:
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.
God, I’m not facing many enemies these days (thanks :-), but that doesn’t mean I can ignore you. Rather, now is the time I want to learn how to walk in your ways, and submit to your teaching. Lord, show me the paths of righteousness, that I might live in holy fear — and live well. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.