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(Click or hover over the above Scripture reference link to read the passage.)
Psalm 7 is a reminder that the genre and context of the psalms are not designed for us to draw concrete theology on how God works today. For one, the psalms are songs of emotion. Divinely inspired, yes, but still are the recordings of a psalmist oftentimes shouting at God or weeping puddles of tears in mourning and anguish. It’s important that we don’t miss that as being one of the main pieces of theology we are to draw from the psalms: that God welcomes us addressing him in that way. But beyond that, they are set within the old covenant. You can follow my blog trail here to learn more about the old covenant if you’d like. Or, if you’d like the really gruesome version, you can read Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, which record the blessings and curses within the old covenant. And beware, they are not for the faint of heart.
In a nutshell:
God and Israel made a covenant (think contract, or marriage covenant). The deal was if Israel obeyed and stayed true to God, he would bless them with the tangible blessings of big crops, victory in war, peace from invaders, long lives, etc. And most importantly: they’d get the Promised Land of Canaan. Other nations would be drawn to Israel’s God in this way. But if Israel disobeyed, rebelled, and worshipped foreign Gods, really bad things would happen to them. Disease, defeat in war, bad crops, and worst of all: they’d lose the Promised Land of Canaan. They’d actually get displaced and removed from the land by their enemies. Which, if you know the story, is sadly what happened.
But my point is, there was a direct correlation to good things happening if they obeyed and bad things happening if they rebelled. This is why the psalmist in Psalm 7 often refers to his track record of obedience and puts it before God as justification for why God needs to deliver him and openly asks God to show him the potential evil deed he did that would be causing these bad things to happen. There are general principles here that sin certainly doesn’t bring fruit in our lives and it will always bring destruction in its own way. And on the flip side, that obedience does produce fruit and spiritual blessing. But it’s important to know that in the new covenant, in Jesus, the old blessings and curses of land, disease, crops, etc. of Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 don’t apply to us anymore. And thank goodness! I am telling you, you’ll have nightmares if you read those curse passages.
Jesus makes this clear on two occasions in the New Testament as well: John 9:1-3 and Luke 13:1-5. Earthly travails are not the direct result of someone’s sin. It’s clear in Psalm 7 that the psalmist was operating under a different set of rules from God than this.
Back to the Psalm. I hope my theological detour wasn’t too distracting. If you’ve been tracking along with the daily devotionals for Psalms 1-6, I hope it was a nice change up from some of the repeated themes of those psalms. A lot of today’s health & wealth theology comes from not understanding the differences between the old and new covenants and misapplying Psalms or the Old Testament in general.
I have a challenge for you. Next time you pray aloud in a group setting, start your prayer by loudly reciting Psalm 7:1-2! Then let me know how that goes over. We just aren’t used to this type of emotion and intensity in our relationship with God. Know that God can handle your intensity. (That was a joke, by the way. Don’t actually do that…or if you do, please video record it.)
Covenants aside, this psalm is still a great reminder to let God search our hearts. As followers of Jesus, we don’t want sin in our lives. Jesus is the path of life and we want that life flowing through us and in us. And we love Jesus! He clearly tells us if you love me, you’ll obey what I command (John 14:15). We don’t obey to earn his love, our obedience is the expression and result of our love for him. Sometimes it feels like there are two types of churches: those that talk about sin and God’s wrath way too much and those who don’t talk about it nearly enough. Psalm 7 is a good reminder that we need to talk about our sin and God’s wrath. We can’t fully experience the joy and depth of God’s mercy unless we realize we don’t deserve that mercy. We can only fully experience this joy if we know it is a gift, and what an elaborate gift it is!
I know for me, God’s wrath has also shaken me and woke me up when my life was teetering on the edge of cashing it all in and pursuing a lifestyle of blatant sin and rebellion. We again are so afraid of being that “hell, fire, and brimstone” preacher that we miss the many times the Bible says to fear God, or even to tremble before him. This fear is an awe and reverence of how holy God is and it can be healthy to meditate on what we deserve (hell) apart from him. But only if that then draws us into his mercy and grace, as that is the full picture of God. The mercy and grace envelops us and gives us our new identity as sons and daughters of our Father. That’s our identity in Christ and we aren’t under his wrath anymore! It’s just important that we always remember how great of a gift this truly is. These things draw us into a deep expression of worship when we think about them. Worship for who God is, what he has spared us from, and what tremendous treasure he has given us instead.
Prayer for the day: I worship you God! You are holy! Thank you that your wrath is no longer on me because I am covered by Jesus’ blood. Thank you Jesus for coming and dying for me. Thank you for the riches of your love, grace, and mercy, which I don’t deserve but you lavish on me. Thank you for my new identity as your son / daughter. Examine my heart oh God. Reveal my sin to me so that I can repent of it and draw closer to you. So that I can live in the freedom of your will and not believe the lies of Satan. Thank you that you are my shield. Thank you for your righteousness. I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High!
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- Ep. 87: Dr. Peter Sung on the Post-Church Church - September 20, 2023
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- Ep. 85: Dr. Terence Lester on how confronting buried racial history can build racial solidarity - August 9, 2023