We are a “What have you done for me lately?” culture. A football coach will win the Super Bowl, then get fired two years later. A star player has a breakout year and signs a huge contract, only to get cut or traded when his production falls off or is beset by injury. “What have you done for me lately?” is the engine that drives our culture’s romantic relationships today. People hop from boyfriend to boyfriend or girlfriend to girlfriend because the initial shine has worn off and the butterflies have fallen asleep, but there’s a new shiny person that has entered life who offers these things again. People change out of sexual relationships today as easily as they change outfits. It’s no surprise that we treat God the same way.
I’m not going to lie, the psalms continue to puzzle me and bend me theology in different directions. A psalm like this can feel a slam dunk that God is always going to answer all of your prayers and always bring you victory. But as we read through the entire book of psalms, we know that wasn’t always the case for the very psalmists writing these prayers. We know that many of the psalms are filled with prayers crying out to God in the midst of suffering and asking God why he is so silent.
Psalm 19:1-6 describe what is called “general revelation.” This is how God has revealed himself to everyone. These verses tell us that the sky declares God’s glory and proclaims the work of his hands. That the sun, moon, and stars are literally talking. Literally saying, “God is awesome! God made this! God is God!” That when we look at the majesty of the stars or the brilliance of the sun, it is obvious that God is God. It is obvious that these things couldn’t never be matched by humans and could never have just appeared randomly. My Psalm 8 devotional talks about the disadvantage we have today versus people from ancient times in being able to see God in this way.
Psalm 18 is God’s hype music. Hype music is what a sports team plays in the locker room before a game or what blares from the speakers as a fighter does his walk up to the ring. Hype music is loud, it gets you pumped up, and it has the air of victory to it. Psalm 18 is all of these things.
Psalm 17 plays like a greatest hits album, replaying many of the common lines and themes we’ve seen from the psalms so far. Greatest hits albums are comforting because they show that this material lasts. They show that these concepts are not just one-hit-wonders, but are a deep well we can come back to again and again. In Western Christianity and Western culture at large, we are obsessed with solving our problems. If it is conceded at all by Christians that we’ll have problems in this world, in the next breath we are being told a 3-step plan to solve those very problems. The repetition of the psalms tell us problems don’t work that way.
This is a perfect picture of the alcoholic, so thirsty for a drink that satisfies, yet never does. Barbossa’s plight always reminded me of my previous porn addiction: wanting something that satisfied, but always being left empty. Tasting the wine in my mouth, but it emptying out onto my feet. The only way to keep the wine inside of me was to keep drinking more and more and more of it. Our culture feeds us this lie about sex all the time, with people having sex before marriage with regularly, yet continuing to come up empty, in loneliness and despair, masking it all by chasing the next hit with even more abandon than the last. In the Pirates clip, the crew-mates reaction to Barbossa’s wine is telling. They are all staring silently at what is one of the most tragic sights imaginable, then when he looks at them they all laugh as loud as they can! If they can make his tragedy cool and popular and desirable and normal, it will mask how sunk they really are.