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.
I see the arrows fly and the swords flash, and I run scared. I search for solace behind walls of my own building. I pray that somehow these dilapidated barricades could be enough to protect me from pain I see everywhere I look.
I feel exposed every time one of my stones falls to the ground. And so I run behind another wall.
I long for protection, but these walls aren’t cutting it. I keep watch for something stronger. Something sure and stable.
You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely. – Psalm 59:9-10
Is that really true? Is it God who is my fortress? It doesn’t always feel that way. Sometimes I feel more like He is a pile of ruble. He is a rock, but He is not impenetrable. My life still has pain and difficulty.
Yet I know there is a deep difference in the peace of my soul when I am living in Him.
I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.
You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely. – Psalm 59:16-17
God, you are my fortress.
I find protection behind your walls and perspective from atop your towers.
You provide me with rest and peace from the battles that wage for my life.
I am embraced by the sureness of Your rock surrounding me wherever I look.
Thank you for welcoming me in. You give me a place of belonging and hope.
Add the link to your post about Psalm 59 below. Make sure to read someone else’s post, too! Or join next week with a post on Psalm 60.
Sometimes I wish I lived in ancient Jerusalem.
I long for the clarity of a theocracy, in which the laws of the land and the laws of God are one and the same. Wouldn’t everything be so much easier if we lived in a place God promised to protect? If there were bold lines drawn between our obedience and God’s blessing? If reaching the world meant establishing us, because through our strength other people would know that our God was real?
I want the picture of my faith journey to be a black and white drawing. I want it all to be clear and simple.
And so when I read a psalm like Psalm 48, I am jealous.
I am jealous of a people living in a city where God shows up to fight battles on their behalf.
I want to confidently praise with words like,
God is in its fortresses; he reveals himself as its defender. Mount Zion rejoices; the towns of Judah are happy, because of your acts of judgment. – Psalm 48:3, 11
And I want to confidently make requests with words like,
Walk around Zion! Encircle it! Count its towers! Consider its defenses! Walk through its fortresses, so you can tell the next generation about it! – Psalm 48:12-13
I am jealous of how uncomplicated this seems. We are God’s people, we live in God’s city, thank you for protecting us, do more of it in the future. Boom.
Meanwhile, today, as I follow Christ, I don’t know how to pray about blessing and protection. Christ calls us to humble ourselves and sacrifice and serve and give up all for His sake. It seems so shallow to pray for God’s blessing on my life. How can I pray for God’s protection when He asked me to die to self when I started to follow Him?
So, should I pray for more friends, or should I pray that I would be more content in Christ alone? Should I pray for more margin to rest, or for more energy to do all that is before me? Should I pray for God to protect against illness and suffering, or for Christ to be reveal in and through me as I endure it?
I want the freedom of clarity I perceive in the Old Testament. If I obey, God will bless. If I do the right things, I will be protected.
But then I look about this little line in verse 8.
We heard about God’s mighty deeds, now we have seen them,
And I realize that things were not always as simple as I like to imagine them. This verse is positive, but it implies the negative. The people have heard about God’s mighty deeds, but not seen them themselves. They have wondered where He was and why He was not intervening. Now, finally, they have seen His acts themselves, and are praising Him for them.
In ancient Israel, God’s blessing was on a people, not on a person, which made the whole journey of following Him just as jumbled as it is now. Perhaps even more so. What would it have been like to live as an Israelite faithful to God during a time when the king was erecting idols? Or to make sacrifices on behalf of our sins, always knowing that they were not actually enough to cover them?
But though that may make life more difficult, doesn’t it also make it more beautiful?
When my kids see a piece of paper that contains only black lines and white spaces, they immediately run for the markers. It is their instinct to add more to a black and white page. The starkness does not feel like enough. They want to blur over the lines and fill in the spaces with depth and variety. Often, as they do, there is frustration and tears when colors don’t look the way they thought they would. But no matter the process, in the end, the paper is much more beautiful than it was before they colored it.
God is a master Artist and we are His masterpieces. The picture of our life with Him is filled with color and blurred lines and frustration and variety and complexity and beauty.
Walk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.