Sometimes in our cynicism, we make assumptions about people’s faith.
If we hear people say something like this
I will sing of the LORD’s unfailing love forever! Young and old will hear of your faithfulness. Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens. – Psalm 89:1-2
We think they are probably the kind of people who are filled with platitudes and pat answers.
Or if we hear people say something like this
All heaven will praise your great wonders, LORD; myriads of angels will praise you for your faithfulness. For who in all of heaven can compare with the LORD? What mightiest angel is anything like the LORD? The highest angelic powers stand in awe of God. He is far more awesome than all who surround his throne. O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies! Where is there anyone as mighty as you, O LORD? You are entirely faithful. – Psalm 89:5-8
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants. Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD. They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation. They exult in your righteousness. –Psalm 89:14-16
We think they are probably people who walk around with rose-colored glasses with blinders on the sides, always seeing God’s faithfulness and never noticing pain.
The second half of Psalm 89 blows those types of assumptions out of the water.
The Psalmist transitions from words like this
No, I will not break my covenant; I will not take back a single word I said. I have sworn an oath to David, and in my holiness I cannot lie – Psalm 89:34-35
To words like this
But now you have rejected him and cast him off. You are angry with your anointed king. You have renounced your covenant with him; you have thrown his crown in the dust. –Psalm 89:38-39
And we see that his faith is not easy after all.
The Psalmist moves from praising God to questioning Him, all in the same Psalm.
O LORD, how long will this go on? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your anger burn like fire? – Psalm 89:46
So, what are we to do with a Psalm that seems to contradict itself, from one half to the next?
Stick with it. Read the whole thing. Don’t make assumptions about the person writing the words of either half without connecting them to one each other.
If we stay with this Psalm from beginning to end, if we read through both the overflowing praise that might makes us assume his life is easy, and the frustrated cries that might make us assume he has lost his faith, these seemingly contrasting postures come into focus.
The Psalmist knows God is faithful. He demonstrates with verse after verse how much this is his wholehearted belief. And so, when he experiences pain, he does not walk away from it. He moves right towards it. He picks up his frustration, confidently takes it to God. He knows there must be some way to reconcile it.
The Psalmist’s unwavering belief in God’s faithfulness is precisely what causes him to wrestle with the Lord.
Wrestling is not a sign of weak faith. It is a sign of a strong one.
That was my reflection on Psalm 89. Link up with your own below. Or come back next week with your thoughts on Psalm 90.
Sometimes people read the Bible and feel it is distant, and obviously written by people more faithful and good and dedicated than most.
Sometimes I think that.
Until I read the Psalms. I love the way they smack me in the face with honesty.
1 Truly God is good to His people, Israel, to those with pure hearts. 2 Though I know this is true, I almost lost my footing; yes, my steps were on slippery ground. 3 You see, there was a time when I envied arrogant men and thought, “The wicked look pretty happy to me.” 4 For they seem to live carefree lives, free of suffering; their bodies are strong and healthy. 5 They don’t know trouble as we do; they are not plagued with problems as the rest of us are.
I read those words and take a deep breath. I am not alone.
Isn’t it comforting to know you are not the only one who has wondered whether it’s worth it? All this serving others and giving up your own comforts and being faithful and loving stuff that God asks of us?
Don’t you sometimes look at others and think, “Their life looks so much more fun than mine?”
Or, “Why do all the people who could care less about God seem to be the ones who make it to the top?”
Where is God in the midst of the way the world works?
What do when we feel that way? The Psalmist shows us through his example. It is the example the Psalms display over and over and over again.
No matter how ugly, how angry, how cynical, how doubtful, how envious, or how bitter, we can take our feelings to God.
They are better off in His hands than ours. 21 You see, my heart overflowed with bitterness and cynicism; I felt as if someone stabbed me in the back. 22 But I didn’t know the truth; I have been acting like a stupid animal toward You. 23 But look at this: You are still holding my right hand; You have been all along. 24 Even though I was angry and hard-hearted, You gave me good advice; when it’s all over, You will receive me into Your glory. 25 For all my wanting, I don’t have anyone but You in heaven. There is nothing on earth that I desire other than You. 26 I admit how broken I am in body and spirit, but God is my strength, and He will be mine forever.
God stays beside us on every moment of our journey, whether our actions or our hearts are pointed towards him or not.
We don’t have to hide our cynicism or melancholy. God loves us no matter how we feel about Him.
And maybe, just maybe, if we come to Him in honesty, He will soften our callous minds. And we will begin to see His goodness again.
28 But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good. O Lord, the Eternal, You keep me safe— I will tell everyone what You have done.
*All Scripture passages are from The Voice translation.
That was my reflection on Psalm 73. Link up with your own post below, anytime in the next week. Remember, it’s not about right answers, it’s just about engaging with the text. Please take a moment to read some other posts as well. And then join next week for posts on Psalm 74.
I’m not a very cynical person by nature. Most of the time, I’m pretty optimistic, actually. .I love to recognize the potential in the people around me. I enjoy dreaming about future possibilities. It doesn’t take me very long to see the good in the bad.
Yet sometimes, my pessimistic side comes out.
One of the places this can occur is when I am reading the Bible. Too many times, I read verses, and instead of enjoying their beauty and depth, I focus on the “buts” in my head.
You know, the “buts.” The voices that say things like, “But that’s not the way life really works.” Or “But no one really feels that way.” Or “But what about the other times?
These buts can be good. They can cause me to dig deeper, explore, and not take the surface answer as the best answer.
But these buts can also make me think I’m smarter than the Bible.
I forget to treat the biblical writers as intelligent individuals that also knew about these exceptions. Yet, the exceptions and the buts did not hinder them from expressing their feelings of praise.
Psalm 18 is beautiful and grand. It speaks of God’s dramatic rescue of His servant, David. Yet, sometimes when I read it, the buts get in the way of me seeing its power.
When I read this verse,
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. – Psalm 18:3
I think, “But God doesn’t always save when we call. What about those times?”
Well, David knows that, too. In Psalm 13, he wondered how long God would hide His face. He pleaded with God to no longer let his enemies triumph over him.
David’s knowledge that God does not always rescue in the way and at the time we want Him to does not stop him from praising God when salvation does come.
Or what about these verses?
The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. – Psalm 18:20-23
They make me think, “But David is not blameless. No person is blameless.”
Well, David knows that too. He writes many Psalms of confession, the most famous of which is Psalm 51, written after David has an affair with Bathsheba. Plus, this Psalm is an adaptation of 2 Samuel 22, which is clear about David’s sins.
David’s knowledge of his sinfulness does not hinder him from seeing himself the way God sees him: forgiven. He has sinned, but He has also confessed. He has sacrificed and sought God’s grace. He can leave those sins in the past and not dwell on them any longer.
So now, I want to leave some of the buts behind. Can I challenge you to do the same thing?
Try diving into this Psalm without cynicism. Work to praise God for what He does, without thinking about what He doesn’t do. Attempt to appreciate the times you see God moving in your life, without dwelling on the times He has seemed silent.
Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could read it and think about it, even when that is difficult.