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.
Sometimes I think it can’t get any worse than it is right now. Or that it’s never been this bad. Psalm 12:8 reminds me that it’s been this way for thousands of years. On one hand, that sure is a discouraging thought on its own. But despite humankind’s obsession with and acceptance of evil, hope and encouragement come from knowing God has remained faithful all this time. If the evil of the past hasn’t knocked God out, the evil of the present sure isn’t going to either. God has remained on the throne. God cares about the needy and the oppressed. God will judge the wicked. God is and always has been worthy of our praise, adoration, and obedience.
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.
The fifth psalm brings with it some familiar themes from the preceding four: God not answering prayer, lament, crying out to God, and struggle against bloodthirsty adversaries. Whenever Scripture repeats itself, this is a flashing red light to take notice, God is trying to make sure we really understand something. It’s ironic then, how these themes have been lost or minimized in much of modern day Western Christianity. We seem to have crafted a religion around comfort and God making you feel good. Like we are selling a product and we need to convince those in the pew that it works. In order to do so, we have to hide these more uncomfortable truths and only emphasize the happy ones.
We often forget when we read the Psalms that these were written in a real time and a real place. That real time and real place was God’s Old Testament people of Israel that he had made a covenant with (which you can read more about here). They were an earthly nation chosen by God to shine his light to the rest of the world. Within this relationship, an agreement was made (the Mosaic Covenant or “old covenant”) where Israel was to obey God’s commands and if they did, their nation would prosper. But if they worshiped other gods (which they did often!), they would be under God’s judgment and the nation would falter. Most of the years of Israel that the Old Testament spans is of the faltering variety, not the prospering variety. In fact, with the exception of a very brief window of time (David and Solomon’s reign), Israel got its rear end repeatedly kicked by the neighboring nations and the regional superpowers. It’s important to keep this context in mind when we read the Psalms, especially one like Psalm 2.