Monday, January 19, 2009

Psalm 25

Psalm 25 (NET) reads:

By David.

O LORD, I come before you in prayer.

2 My God, I trust in you.
Please do not let me be humiliated;
do not let my enemies triumphantly rejoice over me!

3 Certainly none who rely on you will be humiliated.
Those who deal in treachery will be thwarted and humiliated.

4 Make me understand your ways, O LORD!
Teach me your paths!

5 Guide me into your truth and teach me.
For you are the God who delivers me;
on you I rely all day long.

6 Remember your compassionate and faithful deeds, O LORD,
for you have always acted in this manner.

7 Do not hold against me the sins of my youth or my rebellious acts!
Because you are faithful to me, extend to me your favor, O LORD!

8 The LORD is both kind and fair;
that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live.

9 May he show the humble what is right!
May he teach the humble his way!

10 The LORD always proves faithful and reliable
to those who follow the demands of his covenant.

11 For the sake of your reputation, O LORD,
forgive my sin, because it is great.

12 The LORD shows his faithful followers
the way they should live.

13 They experience his favor;
their descendants inherit the land.

14 The LORD's loyal followers receive his guidance,
and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.

15 I continually look to the LORD for help,
for he will free my feet from the enemy's net.

16 Turn toward me and have mercy on me,
for I am alone and oppressed!

17 Deliver me from my distress;
rescue me from my suffering!

18 See my pain and suffering!
Forgive all my sins!

19 Watch my enemies, for they outnumber me;
they hate me and want to harm me.

20 Protect me and deliver me!
Please do not let me be humiliated,
for I have taken shelter in you!

21 May integrity and godliness protect me,
for I rely on you!

22 O God, rescue Israel
from all their distress!

In Psalm 25, the psalmist finds himself surrounded by enemies who wish to humiliate him. He cries out to God for protection, proclaiming "The LORD always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your reputation, O LORD,
forgive my sin, because it is great." Note that He doesn't point to any of his righteous acts that merit the Lord's protection, but pleas on behalf of the covenant--God had sworn to protect Israel, and His reputation was on the line.

At the same time, the psalmist recognizes that the law was given as a rule for life. In vv. 4–5, he seems to confess that God's way is the best way and that if he had lived according the law he wouldn't be in his current situation. Yet he asks for mercy and forgiveness in vv. 6–7.

I love the psalmist's penitent heart. He doesn't claim that he deserves God's protection because of all the good he's done. He simply says, "God, You are faithful and good. You've always protected Your people and You've sworn to always do the same. Please help me now. I trust in You for protection."

Last week our church reflected on "The fellowship of suffering" (Phil 3:10). We Christians face a strange dissonance. We worship a God who has sworn to protect and bless His people. Yet His own Son, when dying on the cross cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34 NET) We confess that the way of Christ is the way of the cross, yet the words of Christ by their very nature express surprise. If God was a God who forsook His people in their hour of need, He wouldn't have had to ask the question.

My own way of harmonizing the dissonance is to remember that this life is not the last word. I read the psalms, with their promises of divine favor, and I don't walk away thinking, "I'm going to have a good day today." I read the promises of the psalms, and I walk away thinking, "We have a good God." The way of the Jesus is the way of the cross. Paul wrote that in the end YHWH will put everything in submission to Christ (1 Cor 15: 24–28). This implies that things currently remain in rebellion against their Creator, and the clearest reminder of this is death.

Thus the title of this blog, from Romans 8:20–24:

"For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?

God is "the God who delivers me," as the psalmist proclaimed, even in our humiliation. For God is faithful and compassionate, and He will vindicate those who trust in Him.

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