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(Click or hover over the above Scripture reference link to read the passage.)
Psalm 21 is a straight up victory song. You can picture this psalm being written during one of Israel’s (brief) periods of prosperity, where everything was aligned the way it was supposed to be within the Mosaic covenant. Israel was following God’s commands. They weren’t worshiping other gods. God was bringing them bountiful crops and military victory. Their enemies were fleeing before them.
This psalm sits in the psalter as a “this is how it’s supposed to be” psalm, which would have been looked back on, and even sung in worship, during the lengthy seasons when Israel was not experiencing this type of victory or blessing from God.
While our new covenant context is different than the Mosaic covenant agreement God had with ancient Israel (you can read about the difference in this Psalm 7 devotional), there’s a helpful discipline we can apply from Psalm 21. In the same way Israel would have used Psalm 21 to remember God’s victories, strength, and faithfulness, we need to do the same–especially when things look bleak.
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.
When we are in a “What have you done for me lately?” mood with God, it’s important to pause and remember what God has done already.
In addition, we have to be honest and ask: does God have to continually “prove himself” to me in order for me to follow, believe, and worship him? Most of us would answer ‘no’ to this outwardly, but inwardly we each have our ‘but just this one more thing…’ that we expect and hope God does for us in order to really believe in him. Or to really have peace in our lives and in our faith. (And once God does that “just one more thing,” the next “just one more thing…” is right around the corner.)
We need to be careful in trying to tell a holy God what he must do. Or in acting like God’s job is on the hot seat and he might get fired if he doesn’t bring home another trophy for us this year.
To strengthen ourselves when we feel this way, we can do what the Israelites would have done with Psalm 21. Do you have any journal entries or even photos of a time in your life when you were experiencing God’s presence and blessing? If not, (and we would all be better served if we made a discipline of recording times when God is so near to us) track back through your mind’s memory bank. Remember when you experienced God. Remember when you witnessed God. If you’re unable to locate these memories, go outdoors. Look at the stars. Look at the sunrise or sunset. Look at creation. Be in wonder at the works of God’s hands. Open the Bible. The Bible is God’s journal, filled with memories of his great victories and his grace for a fallen and rebellious humanity. Read about God’s victories! Read about his once-and-for-all victory over sin on the cross & victory over death in the empty tomb.
God doesn’t need to prove himself to us. He doesn’t owe us anything. What he has already given us is more than enough. It’s well more than we deserve and if we tap into it, it will be enough to give us the strength we need to persevere in his love. It will allow us to be joyful and grateful, even when our circumstances would say otherwise.
Remember God’s victories today. List them out. Praise him. Worship him. Thank him. Love him.
Prayer for the day: Lord help me to remember your faithfulness! Help me to remember all of your victories, and especially your victory over sin and death on the cross and in the empty tomb. That you won this victory for me! Forgive me for thinking you owe me more than this. Help me to tap into the unlimited wealth of your love and grace and mercy. Be with me in my struggles and in my suffering. Give me comfort. And God in your unlimited grace, have mercy on me in this situation. Bring relief. Bring healing. Bring hope. Help me Father. I will not give up on you. Thank you that I know you will never give up on me.
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