Psalm 40 shows us that we can confidently approach God in our time of need, and that we can continue to worship and rejoice in him, even when our circumstances would indicate otherwise. It also sets a clear pattern that God doesn’t always tie things up in a perfect, red bow at the end. It doesn’t promise that “all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion.” That prayer is prayed, but as far as we know, those attempted murderers are still on the prowl. What it does promise is we can go to God as our refuge and strength in the midst of this.
We love these pretty red bows in our contemporary sermons and ideas of prayer. But the psalm does not stop here. The transition from verse 10 to 11 feels like taking a stick shift automobile from 5th gear to 2nd. One minute the psalmist is extolling God for rescuing the poor from their oppressor, the next he is writing about his ongoing, brutal oppression. Verses 1-10 paint the picture that God has throttled the oppressors and the poor (and the psalmist, written as one of the poor) are free. Verses 11 and following take us down the dark road of the real, daily, in-your-face oppression that the psalmist is still currently under.
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.
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.
When we are going through suffering and trials, we so often forget that there is an eternal or spiritual reality that is as true, if not more true, than the temporary, physical reality we see in front of us. When our foundations in this physical reality get destroyed, it’s so easy to think it’s the end of the world. It’s so easy to think all hope is lost and to fall deep into despair. Psalm 11 reminds us that God’s job is never at stake. He’s never on the hot seat. God will judge the wicked, period. And God will rescue his children, period. God loves justice. God wins. God is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Man. If someone who is struggling and suffering ever needed Scripture to relate to, they only have to look to the Psalms! Psalm 6 continues the prevalent theme of the first five psalms of crying out to God for mercy in the midst of suffering. I’ve read through the psalms countless times, but taking this methodical approach through them to write these devotionals is having a profound effect on me. I’m not sure I have ever noticed how strong the theme of suffering is, and we are only six psalms in! This only makes it even more astounding that Western Christianity has gravitated toward the unbiblical teaching that God will make everything go right for you if you follow him. I don’t mean to write the same thing in each of these devotionals if you are following along each day, I just can’t get away from these themes that God has put in BOLD, ITALICS, ALL CAPS, WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!… and yet we have still missed them.