We are going through Psalms and today we are on Psalm 9 . One of the most poignant lines of the psalm for me is the last one. In verse 20, David says, “let the nations know they are only mortal.” This is one of the prevalent themes throughout the psalm. David is praising God for is authority and power and simultaneously highlighting the fact that the power of man is finite.
We are only mortal. I sometimes forget this. I plan my life as though it will never end. I envision the things I can accomplish as though I were bound by nothing. While it’s not wrong to be idealistic and to have dreams and plans, there is a healthy recognition of our mortality that should accompany our planning.
The gravitational pull that most of us face is to take ourselves very seriously and to take God kind of lightly. God is out there doing his God thing and we have our lives to live. David lived in a different reality. David sees himself as a small part in a big kingdom that is ruled by a good and powerful King. The nature of his prayer reflects this understanding and it challenges me.
Even though I know better, I struggle with thinking that God is rather disinterested in human affairs. Even though he is capable of powerfully intervening, I tend to ascribe motives to him that are not consistent with what I know to be true. My default is to think that God is really powerful, but somehow chooses to sit back and do nothing most of the time. David proclaims a different truth. For David, God is a great King and he powerfully rules the universe he created. David recognizes that apart from God’s blessing and protection, he would simply fade away. David knows that he is only mortal. He sees that his part in the bigger picture is significant, but he’s aware of his limitations and of the limitations of humanity at large. The question is, are we?
We’re going through the Psalms right now and are on Psalm 8. In it, David takes time to consider the majesty of God. He thinks about the moon and the stars which God created. He gets a glimpse of the majesty of God through the grandeur of his creation. Some religions have made the mistake of worshiping created things as though creation was the Creator himself. This would be the same as thinking that a painting was the painter. When we realize that creation is not the Creator, we can learn a lot about God through his creation. That’s what David is doing here.
David is humbled by the fact that a God who is so majestic would put mankind in charge of his creation. He is blown away that we are made just “a little lower than the angels.” God’s original intention for mankind was that we would be his representatives in the world. That we would rule creation and be his image bearers all throughout the earth. His original design had us in close relationship with him and with a purpose to amplify his glory and splendor.
At times, we can see glimpses of mankind’s original glory. Through creations such as the Sistine Chapel and the compositions of Mozart, we can see that mankind was created for unspeakable purpose and beauty. You don’t have to be an anthropologist to realize that we have missed the mark. Simply looking at the atrocities in the daily news informs us that things are not as they should be. How the mighty have fallen. As we, as individuals, seek to grow closer in relationship to God and discover the purpose he has for our lives, we can be part of bringing Eden back. We can begin to discover the original design. I don’t know exactly what this will look like, but I know that it will be far greater than we could ever imagine. This is a purpose worth fighting for. Every inch of ground that we cover is worth every ounce of effort to get there.
I’m working through the Psalms right now and we are on Psalm 7. David is the author of this Psalm and in it, he cries out for justice. David is beseeching God to deal with the evil in the world. Unfortunately, I’ve seen God depicted in two misleading ways when it comes to justice. On the one hand, I’ve heard about the passive grandfather God that’s not a fan of evil, but doesn’t really do anything about it. The woes of this world just aren’t that big of a deal to him. On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve heard about the mean, wrathful and vengeful God who is to be feared, but certainly not loved and adored.
The Bible doesn’t affirm either of these two extremes. Instead, God is shown to be both loving and just. He’s not OK with evil and is capable of great anger and wrath. That being said, God also reveals himself as “slow to anger and abounding in love.” (Psalm 103:8). Most of us would probably affirm that there is something in us that desperately wants to see this world made right. We know that there is brokenness in us and in the world around us, and we don’t want the story to end this way. We love the stories that have happy endings because they resonate with something deeply embedded in our souls.
In this Psalm, David is calling out to God to bring justice on the earth…to deal with evil and usher in righteousness. We should not assume that because God doesn’t vanquish all evil in a moment, that he is somehow OK with it. Scripture depicts God as being deeply concerned with our plight. The entirety of scripture is actually a story about how God created the world in peace, but things went wrong through the freewill of created beings. God didn’t just leave things that way, but instead he concocted and is currently executing a rescue mission to bring back the grandeur of the original creation. The glorious ending of the story has not come yet, but scripture affirms that it will.
I’m working through Psalms one at a time and we are now on Psalm 6. Check it out here so you can follow along. This Psalm was pretty disarming for me. In it, David lets us into the deep need he had for God. The passion you read in his words is not a typical one. I don’t offer up or hear prayers like this one. He goes so far as to say, “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish.”
The more time you spend in church, the more you realize how committed people are to convincing themselves and everyone around them that they are just fine. Nobody wants to say that they are really struggling. No one wants to come off like they’re not managing all that well. Every once in a while, someone will break down and admit what they’re going through, but this is the exception and not the norm.
The real miracle of the gospel is not someone getting a great new job. It’s not someone getting out of debt. It’s not even someone getting healed of cancer. These things are phenomenal when they happen and I totally believe that God loves to do this kind of thing, but they’re not the most astounding miracles. The real miracle is when you see a human heart get healed. Our condition is a desperate one. It goes way beyond the scope of psychologists, medication and self-help books. Regardless of how charmed your childhood was or what neighborhood you grew up in, we all come with a fantastic amount of baggage. I spend enough time around people to know that this is universally true. Some just hide it better than others.
The real miracle is when you see God touch hearts and you see real life change. Like when an anxious person becomes peaceful or a jealous person becomes content. It’s miraculous when you see a proud man humbled and an angry person living in deep peace and rest. It’s so amazing to see someone who was depressed becoming filled with joy or someone who was apathetic filled with a passion for life. This is where the miraculous power of God is magnified. Dry religion cannot accomplish this kind of thing. Only the life-changing, darkness-piercing and awe-inspiring power and love of God can accomplish this. This is the real miracle. You can be the real miracle.
Today, we are on Psalm 5 and you can read it here. For all of us that have some familiarity with the life of King David, you know that he was a hunted man. Throughout the course of his life, he had a lot of enemies. In this Psalm, David reveals to us that he sees God as his refuge. David explains that he is in the daily habit of turning his worries over to God when he says, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” David finishes the Psalm by describing God as his protection in saying, “Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”
The idea of God being our refuge and protection may sound foreign. First off, how many people even perceive a need for protection? I mean, we aren’t hunted in the same way that David was. How many of us actually think that we even need God to be our refuge? In difficult times, this need may arise, but what about throughout the course of our everyday lives?
Whether or not we feel like we need protection and refuge has everything to do with the lens through which we see the world. In the Lord of the Rings, Sam asks Frodo an important question. He asks, “I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?” This is a pivotal question. How do you see the world around you? Is the world, in your eyes, simply a matter of handling daily needs, paying bills and trying to make a living? Do you see yourself as living in a story? Is there more to life than what meets the eye?
The Bible has a lot to say in answer to these and many other questions. I believe that we are all a part of a massive story. There is a protagonist and an antagonist. There are forces of good and forces of evil that operate outside of the realm of the seen world. When looking through that lens, it becomes abundantly obvious that we are each in need of refuge and protection. If however, life for you is simply a matter of cause and effect, dollars and cents and simple pragmatic concerns, I can’t imagine that you see much need for God to be your refuge.
Have you recently though about the lens through which you see your life? How would you articulate it? Do you believe you are part of a bigger story? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’m really enjoying this journey through the Psalms. The Psalm we are on now is Psalm 4 and you can read it here. One thing I want to call your attention to is the beginning of the Psalm and the end. David starts out by saying, “Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.” He concludes by saying, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
I’m struck by the vulnerability of his request in the beginning. He’s desperate. He’s putting all of his eggs in one basket. As as a pastor, I hear people pray quite often. It’s rare that you hear someone expose their desperation before God. Perhaps we hold it back to protect ourselves. If we go all in with God and trust him with everything we have, what if he doesn’t come through? We’d be completely brokenhearted. Wisdom has taught most of us that we must diversify our investments. Keep your options open. Don’t put all your chips in the middle of the table. Hedge your bets. There is wisdom in this advice, but when it comes to God, we are called to do the opposite.
Scripture emphatically teaches that we are to go all in with God. Proverbs 3:5-6 calls us to trust God with everything we are. At the end of Psalm 4, David informs us of one of the results of his decision. He is able to sleep in peace. God guards his heart and takes care of him. I wonder what kind of peace we are forfeiting by holding back our trust from God. I struggle with this. I want to trust him, but I don’t want to trust him with everything. I don’t want to get my heart broken, so my tendency is to hold back just a little. My hope for all of us is that we would move in the direction of trusting God with everything. This is the only way we will experience peace….if we put all our eggs in one basket.
Have you ever been in a situation and you knew you were in way over your head? I felt that way after I accepted this new role at Seacoast Church. I felt that way when I first found out I was going to be a dad. I felt the same kind of emotions the day I got married. In situations like these, you know that you can’t do it on your own. You know that you are in way over your head. I’m working through the Psalms right now and Psalm 3 is all about being overwhelmed. You can read it here.
David is the author of this Psalm and this is exactly what he’s talking about. Verse 1 says, “Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!” Most people do their best to stay out of situations where they might feel outnumbered or overwhelmed. We do our best to hedge our bets and stay within the context of situations we can manage with our collective resources. Unfortunately, life just doesn’t seem to work that way. People get sick….the job falls through….the raise doesn’t come….the kids don’t do as their told….and the list goes on and on. All of us have, at some point, felt completely in over our heads.
What do you do in those situations? Depending on how overwhelmed you are, you really don’t have many options. Some retreat….some try to fight their way through….some depend on their God. Verses 3-4 says, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.” If you read through the gospels, you realize that the people that Jesus had the toughest time with were those that didn’t acknowledge their need for him.
He wasn’t repelled by the sinners and dregs of society. His harshest words were generally reserved for those that thought they had things taken care of on their own. He still loved those people, but his words to them seem to be directed towards bursting their cozy bubble. God is a loving God. He deeply cares about you. Perhaps the reason you feel overwhelmed right now is because God has divinely orchestrated your circumstances in such a way so as to lead you to trust him. What’s your next step in that process?