When I read Psalm 71, I am once again struck by what feels like the Psalmist’s selfishness (and maybe anxiety?). It is another in a long string of Psalms in which David and other Psalmists pray for God’s protection, for their enemies to be defeated, and for their own victories.
It just gets a little old to be honest.
But then I think about some of the most beloved stories in the Bible. Like when God protects Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Or when God parts the sea so that the Israelites may cross on dry ground and flee from the pursuing Egyptians. Or when Jesus stops the storm that is scaring the disciples. Or when the very same David who writes many of the Psalms stands up against a giant, and wins.
We love it when God shows Himself faithful. When He protects and strengthens and upholds those who are following Him.
And if we are honest, don’t we want that for ourselves, too?
Because it’s much easier to talk about God’s faithfulness when He helps us stay married than His faithfulness when He is present with us in the midst of a divorce. God’s protection when He helps us heal from our illnesses is more clear than His protection of our hearts in the midst of the pain.
The intersection of life and faith is messy. It would be nice if once in awhile God would clean it up a little.
Sometimes we are afraid to admit that.
Maybe it’s because we’re afraid God won’t come through if we are bold enough to pray for things like healing and protection and victory. Maybe it’s because it feels somehow selfish to pray those things for ourselves.
But I want to more often. I want to mix the “but even if God doesn’t save us” faith of the three in the furnace, and the audacious request of the Psalmist who says,
“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me.” – Psalm 71:1-2
And as the “I will praise You no matter what” attitude mixes with the “show up and prove me right” hope, I dream I will be the kind of person who will boldly declare God’s faithfulness like this,
“Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God? Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more.” – Psalm 71:19-21
Show Yourself faithful, O God, because I know that You are.
That was my reflection on Psalm 71. Please link up your own reflection below! And join the #PsalmsJourney community next week with a reflection on Psalm 72.
“Can I have some candy, Mommy?” This is a question I hear plenty in my day. And, really, I don’t mind it much if it’s asked directly. If my son and I can have a conversation about what’s been eaten so far and whether now is a good time for a treat.
Because sometimes, it starts with a cuddle. Or an “I love you.” Or a “You’re the best, Mommy.” But I see that his eye is on the candy the whole time.
Knowing that my son is coming to me only because he wants something cheapens his display of affection.
I know it’s just part of parenting and of childhood. And we are working on it. But the ”I love you’s” spoken out of desire for candy leave me feeling frustrated, not loved.
When I feel most loved is when my son cuddles me for no reason. Or says “I love you” spontaneously. Or comes to play in the room where I am sitting in order to be near me.
I feel loved when I know his desire is for my presence, and not for what I can do for him.
In the beginning of John 6, Jesus feeds a crowd of 5000 people with a boy’s lunch. Then He crosses the lake. When He gets to the other side, a crowd is looking for Him. Why?
Jesus knows. And He calls them out. He says,
“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” –John 6:26
The people were seeking Jesus because they wanted what they could get from Him, not because they wanted HIM.
Even so, Jesus tells them they can be satisfied. Just not in the way they expect.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” – John 6:35
The crowd was seeking Him because He could give physical bread. Jesus says the bread they seek will spoil. And even if they ate from it every day, they would still die. The bread of earth, and the life it provides, does not last.
Jesus says He has something bigger to offer. He explains it in another way later.
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” – John 6:51
Now honestly, this is kind of a weird and freaky thing for Jesus to say. In fact, the crowd was confused, and many turned away. They may have been wondering if Jesus was calling them to some sort of religious cannibalism. But, we have the beauty of reading this statement from the future. And understanding what an amazing offer it is.
We know that, in the end of this book of John, Jesus dies on our behalf, the consequences of sin upon His shoulders. Belief in Jesus’ work on the cross and His victory over death is all that is required. When we believe, we “eat His flesh.” We accept that His death meant something and we choose to partake in its benefits.
When we eat from the bread of Jesus, we will live forever.
But this is not some individual eternity on a cloud. When we believe in Jesus, we are joined with Him, just as eating joins us to our food. Jesus is promising not only eternal life, but eternal relationship.
An eternal relationship with Jesus. That’s a pretty astounding gift.
Which leaves me wondering how often I am like the crowd. Or like a young child saying I love you only so I can get candy.
Am I seeking what I can get from Jesus, or am I seeking Him? Do I recognize the depth of love it took for Him to give His body? Do I show Him a no-strings-attached, I just want to be in your presence kind of love in return?
Maybe the next time I pray, there should be less asking and more thanking. Less talking and more listening. Less complaining and more loving.
Thank you, Jesus, for Your bread of life.
That is what Jesus saying "I am the bread of life." reveals to me. What does it reveal to you?
Read the post before this one in the series, What does it mean to be gentle and humble, anyway?