To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.
1O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old:
2you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free;
3for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.
4You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob!
5Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
6For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me.
7But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us.
8In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah
9But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies.
10You have made us turn back from the foe, and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations.
12You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them.
13You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us.
14You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples.
15All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face
16at the sound of the taunter and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
17All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant.
18Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way;
19yet you have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death.
20If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
23Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.
26Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!
This Psalm has sat on the back burner of my mind for the last several weeks. Because of the holidays, I was given a reprieve on having to write about it. But here it is again – taunting me with its difficulty. And so, we dive into God’s Word with a giant question mark over the conversation. What exactly is the writer of this psalm trying to get across to God?
The situation surrounding the writing of this particular psalm is lost to us. We can make guesses, but finally we don’t really know why it was written and frankly that would be really great information to have but God has chosen otherwise. So, one has to look at these words and try to make application to today. The first question that comes to mind is “have I ever felt this way about my life with God?” While it hasn’t happened recently I guess I would have to say “yes – of course it has.” We’ve all been misunderstood or misinterpreted. I doubt if many of us have actually had to go to war over those misunderstandings but it may have felt like war nonetheless. And when we are in those circumstances it can certainly feel like God has abandoned us to our enemies. Frustration always rises when it feels like those who hate God are winning and we are losing.
And there are most definitely times when it seems like God has fallen asleep or is disregarding us altogether. Let me just say here that my faith tells me that this is never true. Just because it seems that way doesn’t make it true. God never sleeps and He doesn’t disregard His people. The whole of Scripture supports that stance. That head knowledge doesn’t always make to my heart though; sometimes my feelings win the day and although they shouldn’t be given that power sometimes they take it.
And therein stands the problem I struggle with in praying through (even just reading through) this psalm. There’s no happy ending. There’s no resolution. It ends with the writer begging God to pay attention if for no other reason than that He loves us. And there it is. God always responds simply because He loves us. The psalmist had earlier mentioned their obedience and devotion which appear to mean nothing to God because He’s not responding the way they want Him to. That takes us to an important fact as well; God will not be manipulated by anything – including our obedience or praise. He is motivated by one thing only – His perfect love for us. He gives us exactly what we need exactly when we need it for one reason only – He has chosen love. I’ll bet Jesus could have prayed this psalm as He faced the cross. If ever anyone on the planet felt abandoned by God, it was the Son in that hour. And yet He continued forward because He loves us – that was His sole motivation. I’m blown away by the perfect, Self-Motivated love of God. Amazing.