I am currently reading through Psalms. I gotta say, it’s not my favorite. I know many people enjoy reading Psalms and Proverbs for their comfort, insight and wisdom. But I really have a hard time getting through them, and always have. I think it is because there is no real narrative. Lots of people feel that way about some of the other books of the Old Testament, but for me, I’d rather read through something like Lamentations because at least there is a story flowing through the book.
Anyway, the other night I read Psalms 22 and it struck me in such a profound way. I’ve read it before, but I guess that’s one of the beautiful things about the Bible…you can read through it over and over, and still find new insights. It speaks to me differently depending on where I am in life.
New Living Translation (NLT)
1 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
2 Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 Our ancestors trusted in you,
and you rescued them.
5 They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you and were never disgraced.
6 But I am a worm and not a man.
I am scorned and despised by all!
7 Everyone who sees me mocks me.
They sneer and shake their heads, saying,
8 “Is this the one who relies on the LORD?
Then let the LORD save him!
If the LORD loves him so much,
let the LORD rescue him!”
9 Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb
and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.
10 I was thrust into your arms at my birth.
You have been my God from the moment I was born.
11 Do not stay so far from me,
for trouble is near,
and no one else can help me.
12 My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls;
fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!
13 Like lions they open their jaws against me,
roaring and tearing into their prey.
14 My life is poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
an evil gang closes in on me.
They have pierced my hands and feet.
17 I can count all my bones.
My enemies stare at me and gloat.
18 They divide my garments among themselves
and throw dicefor my clothing.
19 O LORD, do not stay far away!
You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!
20 Save me from the sword;
spare my precious life from these dogs.
21 Snatch me from the lion’s jaws
and from the horns of these wild oxen.
22 I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.
I will praise you among your assembled people.
23 Praise the LORD, all you who fear him!
Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
He has not turned his back on them,
but has listened to their cries for help.
25 I will praise you in the great assembly.
I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied.
All who seek the LORD will praise him.
Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.
27 The whole earth will acknowledge the LORD and return to him.
All the families of the nations will bow down before him.
28 For royal power belongs to the LORD.
He rules all the nations.
29 Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.
Bow before him, all who are mortal,
all whose lives will end as dust.
30 Our children will also serve him.
Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
31 His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.
They will hear about everything he has done.
I’d like to draw your attention to the “yet” at the beginning of verses three and nine. One of the things I’ve always loved about David, as the supposed writer of Psalms or at least many of them, is that he was a bit bipolar. He is loving life in one verse and cursing it in the next. I like to think it’s the artist in him. We are a sensitive bunch. I have no proof, but I suspect we are way more likely to experience things like depression than the concrete thinkers. So, in always being led by my heart and forever a drama geek, I appreciate a good show of dramatic flair.
And as I started this Psalm, I smiled at myself as I could see David heading for one of those hairpin turns. But then I got to verse three and I stopped. I reread it. I pondered. I kept reading. I saw it again in verse nine. I reread it. I pondered. I finished the Psalm.
It dawned on me.
David seemed to be having a pretty bad day. Like Jack Bauer 24 bad from the sound of it. But in the midst of it, he was able to have perspective. He got outside his circumstance to recognize God for who He was and is. I thought that was pretty remarkable. After all, we get pretty selfish (or at least I do) when everything seems to be against us. We (I) tend to draw inward and be consumed with our (my) own hardships. It’s easy to play the victim or remember all the other times things went badly. Especially if this has been a recent trend. And we know from reading any five, random Psalms that David had his share of bad days.
I admire, though, that he took time to talk himself through it. He stepped back and took a deep breath. The beginning of the Psalm has such a different tone than the end. At first he laments the things that are going wrong. Then he takes the time to recognize that God is still good, even when things are bad. He wavers a bit after that, but devotes the remainder of the verses to how he will still love and serve the Lord in spite of his circumstance.
I guess it’s easy to see in times like these why David was a man after God’s own heart. He was honest with God. He loved God. He shared his life with God. He even did a lot of complaining to God. He composed music and poetry for God. The foundation of it all came back to the fact that he desired a relationship with God. It’s a beautiful example of both God and David’s character.
Bad times will always be a part of life on this earth, yet God and His promises remain the same. There’s a time for eternal laughter, singing, joy and happiness…but not yet.