Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 24: Wednesday
“Save me, O God,
For the waters have threatened my life.
I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me.
I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched;
My eyes fail while I wait for my God.”
Wednesday’s Bible reading is Psalms 69–71. As I read these psalms once more I thought about how very real the psalms are. There is no denial here of affliction or the fact that suffering hurts. These are not robotic or glib prayers. These are cries of the heart. It’s odd, isn’t it, how many times conceptions of the Christian life can be the opposite of the reality that God shows us in His Word? It’s not more spiritual to think that life is something it is not. God deals with reality, and because He does, we can as well.
David was a man with a nature like ours, and although he lived thousands of years ago, when I read his words I frequently find him echoing my thoughts and feelings. His raw words shows us that it’s fallacious to believe we can have events under control or to think that when we’re cut, we do not bleed. Look at the words of this verse:
“Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick.
And I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
And for comforters, but I found none.”
David helps us learn to turn to God with the reality of our lives as he turns to God because he trusts God to answer him and to help him. We do not have to pretend that events and circumstances do not leave us reeling; David teaches us to cry out and turn to God in humility and need, and he gives us encouragement when we are sunk in life’s mire and overwhelmed with wave after wave of heartache and affliction that God will hear us and not despise us:
“The humble have seen it and are glad;
You who seek God, let your heart revive.
For the LORD hears the needy
And does not despise His who are prisoners.”
I don’t think I’ve previously mentioned that some psalms are called imprecatory psalms because of the cries for judgment found in them. In psalms such as these, not only does the writer call upon God for help, but he also calls upon God for vengeance. How do we understand these psalms? M’Caw and Motyer have some helpful explanations:
“…it must be clearly grasped that all the offending passages are prayers. There is no indication that adversaries were personally rebuffed by either word or deed. The persecuted men flew to God, and even though they certainly expressed themselves with vigour, fundamentally they assert their contentment to leave all to God, a course of action which Christians are commanded to follow (Rom. 12:19ff.). This trust in divine action is based on the revealed truth of the righteous judgment of God (see Ps. 7, where the imprecation of v.6 rests on the theology of vv. 11–13).
“…the motives behind these imprecations were three in number: first, the moral passion of a holy man (e.g. 139:21, 22). [John] Stott confesses that ‘I myself would find it hard to echo these sentiments. The reason for this is not, however, that they are beneath me, but that they are beyond me….I cannot attain to desires for divine judgment without vindictiveness nor to assertions of my own righteousness without pride’ [The Canticles and Selected Psalms, 1966]. Second, they were moved by a zeal of the clearing of God’s good name (e.g. 9:16–20; 83:16, 17), and third, by a determination to be realistic. Is it right to pray that God will avenge His persecuted people? If it is—as assuredly it must be—then the precise petitions of Ps. 137:7–9 are often involved, even if in our polite way we prefer to leave them unsaid. In the same way, we would readily pray Ps. 143:11, but hesitate over its realistic corollary, v. 12; likewise, we happily pray for the second coming without stopping to think that we are actually praying for the events of 2 Thes. 1:8. Possibly, therefore, our sense of offense at the imprecation arises not so much from Christian sensitivity as from our general inexperience of persecution and our failure to make common cause with Christians under the lash….”1
When we are weary and worn to the bone with our sorrow; when we are estranged and abandoned and bear the infliction of wrongs; the psalms teach us to turn and pour out our heart to God, call upon Him and trust Him with the reality of our lives.
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1Leslie S. M’Caw, J. A. Motyer, “Psalms,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie,
J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., pp. 450–451.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter