Many years before he became America’s first President, a young George Washington supposedly chopped down his father’s cherry tree. But young George is not remembered primarily for his action of cutting the tree– he is noted for telling the truth and confessing to the act, rather than trying to cover it up or excuse it or escape his punishment.
Hundreds of years earlier, King David committed adultery, and later had one of his most loyal warriors assassinated to cover up his sin. But when he was confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan, David tore his clothes. He fasted and prayed, and confessed everything before the Lord. He accepted the bitter punishment that he had tried to avoid earlier, and he was reconciled to God.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (ESV)
This is a very basic tenet of Christianity, and one that most of us learn early in our journey of faith. But it is also one that we sometimes have trouble trusting fully. We find it difficult to confess our “petty” sins–they seem too little; we find it difficult to confess sins long past– why bring them up now? We find it difficult to own up to chronic sins– shouldn’t I be beyond this by now? And we find it difficult to confess that we know what is “right,” and still choose to go our own way. We haven’t been tricked or misled; we haven’t been ignorant or unaware. We have sinned. And God already knows it. God is already waiting to forgive us and to restore to the “joy of (His) salvation” (Psalm 51:12). But we must trust that God is both willing and able to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That He will not continue to hold our sins over us.
In the cases of George Washington and King David, we have stories of their failures– one pretty minor, and the other catastrophic. But God didn’t leave them in their failure– that isn’t the end of the story! God’s story is always one of redemption and renewal. King David went on to great victories– and even other failures–yet he remained a “man after God’s own heart.” George Washington endured many trials and setbacks, but God brought him to a place of honor, making him the first of America’s elected leaders, and the one who would be the model of limited power for a limited term of service to the Republic.
God already knows the worst about each of us. Nothing can separate us from His love. Failing to confess won’t change God’s offer– all it will do is prolong our shame and grief, and delay the peace and forgiveness we crave.
“Are you the type of person who sees the glass half-full, or half-empty?” Amateur psychologists like to ask questions like this, to determine if others are optimists or pessimists. But what happens when you realize your cup or glass is really full to overflowing?!
Often, we look at our lives and circumstances with a pessimistic attitude. “I’m stuck at home during the pandemic– I can’t be with my friends, I can’t visit the gym, I can’t go to work..” We think of our “full” lives just weeks ago, and we miss all the things we took for granted– even the things we were complaining about before! And we worry and panic about tomorrow, or next week, or later today! But this is not God’s view. All that we are “missing” right now, God knows. He knows what we need, what we want, and what is best for us to have (or not have) during these days. Even if we are suffering from COVID-19, or waiting and praying for a loved one who is isolated and struggling, God knows. He listens for every breath– even the labored ones; He knows all that has come before this moment, and all that will happen in the next. If our glass is truly half-empty, we need only ask, and God will give us wisdom, patience, strength, and whatever He knows we need for the next breath; the next step.
Sometimes, we carry an overly optimistic mindset–taking pride in our half-full glass, and not allowing God to finish filling it. We sit safe in our houses, confident that we will survive any threat and defeat any enemy, especially a tiny virus. We don’t need God’s help; His abundance of wisdom and grace. We’ve got everything covered with our half-full arrogance. But this is also not God’s view. God doesn’t want to fill our cup so that we can be smug and self-satisfied. God wants to fill us to overflowing, so that we can bless others, and see the incredible riches of His mercy and love! Some people look like they are “half-empty” from the outside– they are poor, or tired, or weak– but they are overflowing with God’s love; gushing with grace, lavish with love, exuding excitement, and overflowing with joy. Meanwhile, the optimist who is smug and self-serving, may seal up her “half-full” glass, refusing to share her hope and joy with others who need it.
In my last post, I talked about “When God Doesn’t Answer..” Of course, there are times when God seems silent, and I spoke about a couple of times when that was true in my life. God’s timing and wisdom are reminders that He is God– and I am NOT.
I want to revisit that theme for a bit. I was reading the post and realized that I spoke of the waiting and hoping and God’s faithfulness in sending an answer in the person of David, who became my husband. I spoke of God’s ways being higher and better than our ways– and they are. But I left out one aspect of God’s character. Forgiveness.
It is tempting, and I gave in to the temptation, to focus on my feelings, and my positive actions during those years of waiting– taking good advice and making good use of my time as a single to volunteer and serve. But I also did plenty of wallowing in self-pity, of questioning God’s goodness and His timing. I slipped into bad habits that I had to break as a married woman– selfish habits and indulgent thought patterns. And I find myself battling new bad habits, slipping back into depression and isolation, or taking for granted the blessings of married life.
I don’t say this to negate God’s goodness in answering my longing for a husband and family, nor to suggest that God’s long silence and eventual answer were any less gracious and loving. Instead, I want to thank Him for being patient with me, for extending both mercy and grace in His good time, and in spite of my bad behavior.
God’s mercy and his goodness surround us–especially when we don’t see them. When we doubt His presence, when we accuse Him of not caring, when we pout, and posture, and resent the road He has us traveling. God’s word is full of stories of people who waited– some patiently, some not so much– and people who wandered, and even rebelled. And many of them perished without ever seeing God’s answer or without repenting. But I cannot think of any instance where someone who sought God’s face or His forgiveness and was turned away– EVER. God followed the grumbling nation of Israel for forty years, His anger breaking out against them multiple times, but He remained faithful to His promise to bring them to the Promised Land. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+1&version=NCV God went so far as to remove His Spirit from King Saul, but He allowed Saul to continue to reign, even when Saul tried to kill God’s anointed one and his own son-in-law. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+19-24&version=NIV God followed David from his days as a shepherd boy through his reign as Israel’s king– in spite of David’s sins, in spite of the drama and chaos of his household, in spite of betrayal by his own sons and generals.https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+kings+2%3A1-10&version=CSB God chased down Saul on the road to Damascus– after Saul had hunted and hounded faithful followers of the Messiah.https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+8%3A1-3%3B+9%3A1-18&version=ESV
God is patient and faithful with us– whether we have grumbled at His timing, or turned our back on Him for a season, or actively rebelled against His sovereignty and kindness.
When God seems silent, we often forget that He also remains silent in the face of our grumbling. He withholds His righteous judgment, giving us ample opportunities to rethink, repent, and return. His silence reminds us that He is God– and we are not. He does not owe us an answer– nor does He owe us a second chance. But He will give us both in His time. Because He is God– in His sovereignty, in His boundless Love, and in His mercy–and I am not. I am not God. I am the (sometimes) grateful recipient of all that He gives.
May I be grateful today, not just for the blessings and gifts and answered prayers, but for the patience, grace and mercy I don’t deserve.
30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.” 33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. 34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. 36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonitesof today.
I’ve been studying the life of Lot, the nephew of Abraham in the Biblical book of Genesis. The last we hear of Lot is a story of incest with his two daughters, after they have been rescued from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Lot’s rescue is filled with its own drama and scandal. First Lot begs the rescuing angels to let him flee to the small town of Zoar, instead of the mountains. The angels reluctantly agree to his request. But here we see that Lot ends up fearing for his life and fleeing again– to a cave in the mountains! As his family is fleeing, Lot’s wife turns back to see what is happening (against the explicit instructions of the angel), and is turned into a pillar of salt. Only Lot and his daughters are left from the wicked but prosperous city of Sodom and its sister-city, Gomorrah.
But the stench of evil and rebellion lingers. Lot is now just an empty shell of his former self–a spineless hermit, isolating himself from what is left of his life. His daughters take control and hatch a ruthless plot to get what their father has denied them– families of their own. Instead of talking to their father, who seems distant and unwilling to help, or pleading their case for justice, they take matters into their own hands. They take turns getting their father drunk– so drunk he is unaware that his daughters are using him for sex–and getting pregnant by him.
The product of this wickedness is the rise of two violent nations who will plague the region for centuries to come. The names of Lot’s daughters are lost to time, but their sons become the ancestors of the Moabites and Ammonites– ruthless tribes who raid and plunder the nation of Israel (among others) over the course of many generations, even though they are distantly related. Time and again, the Israelites will have dealings– mostly bad–with these two people groups.
The Bible doesn’t give us a reason why Lot did not make provision for his daughters. He seems to have made initial provision for them to be married to men from Sodom– he even tries to warn these men to flee the coming destruction. But afterward, he seems to have lost all interest in the future. Even in the small town of Zoar, there should have been some men who wanted to marry. Lot no longer had wealth and power to settle on them, but they were still related to Abraham, and to Nahor– why didn’t he appeal to his family to help with his daughters? We don’t know the reasons. Maybe he was ashamed that Abraham had to rescue him years before; that he had to be rescued again from Sodom’s destruction. Maybe he was too proud to ask for help. Maybe he was too broken to reach out. He had options open to him– he could have reached out– he could have called on the God of his uncle Abraham. But he didn’t. He could have stirred himself to do something on behalf of his two daughters, but he didn’t. He could have freed them to leave and try to find husbands on their own. But he didn’t. Instead, he became a pawn, yet again, in the wickedness of others– this time within his own household. He became the father of two mighty nations– without even knowing it!
And his daughters, having done this wickedness, did nothing to hide it or repent of it. The names of their sons reek of arrogance. Moab sounds like the words meaning “son of my father,” while Ben-ammi means “son of my people.” If Lot’s beginnings/parentage had been somewhat obscure (see https://pursuingprayer.blog/2020/01/13/a-lot-to-discover/), these boys were clearly labeled as the products of incest and intrigue. The Bible never reveals what kind of father Lot was to his sons/grandsons, but their legacy is one filled with bouts of antagonism, conquest, raids, and bitterness. Prophecies against Moab and Ammon are recorded in Amos, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, among others.
In the middle of all this history, we have a bright spark of hope. In a sweet story of redemption and faith, we meet a young woman named Ruth (to read more, visit https://thebibleproject.com/explore/ruth/), from Moab. Her devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and her gentle spirit catch the eye of Boaz, who marries her and rescues her from poverty and disgrace after the loss of her first husband. Boaz and Ruth become the parents of Obed, and the great-grandparents of King David. Ultimately, Ruth, the descendant of Lot, the scandalous descendant of incest and shame, is listed in the ancestry of Jesus Christ!
Nothing– no act of defiance, no shameful event in your past or your family’s past– is beyond God’s gaze; nor his power to redeem and turn to good. Incredibly, Lot, with all his failures and bad choices; Lot’s daughters, unnamed and guilty of depravity; Moab, father of raiders and betrayers– all of them are in the earthly genealogy of the Savior who would come to die and pay the penalty for their sins. And for our sins. Lot’s descendants may have been ruthless, but thankfully, they weren’t “Ruth-“less! God– though He has the right to reject and despise those who are rebellious, defiant, or just unwilling to follow him– is not ruthless, either. Instead, He watches over us– whether we are living in a wicked sprawling city or a remote cave or fleeing famine, destruction, or poverty–and gives us opportunities to trust His plan for our future and for our good!
There is no way I can give a definitive answer to the above question. In a thousand blog posts or three volumes of analysis, I could never cover all the issues this question brings up. I offer the question today for two reasons:
This question is raised in the Bible. Asaph raised it in Psalm 73 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+73&version=ASV; Habakkuk and other prophets also asked it. Solomon pondered it in Ecclesiastes, and Job cried out against it. God is not afraid of such questions, but He doesn’t give glib answers, either. The psalmist received no immediate answer directly from God, but when he entered the sanctuary of the Most High, and considered the eternal destination of the wicked, his attitude changed. His envy, anger, and bitterness melted in a flood of awe and worship. God does not want us to be bitter, angry, or envious of the wicked; nor does He want us to be apathetic toward injustice, abuse, and inequality. There is something profoundly disturbing when we see the wicked prospering at the expense of the righteous and innocent. It should cause us to turn to God and seek His help.
That brings me to the second reason I want to grapple with this topic today. I need to! I have the tendency to want an immediate answer, and to see the wicked suffer– until I am in the presence of a Holy God. There is no wickedness that is outside of God’s justice, or of His grace. God WILL bring complete justice– in HIS time. But His primary goal is to bring redemption, restoration, healing, hope, and salvation– even to the wicked; even to ME. God’s justice is not just reserved for those I deem to be wicked and prosperous. God’s ways are not my ways. What if, in my eagerness to condemn the wicked, I miss God’s plan to change the heart of a Zacchaeus, or an Ebenezer Scrooge, or a sinful King David or arrogant King Nebuchadnezzar? No amount of wickedness can overwhelm God’s love and mercy, or His ability to make “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28) for those who love Him and are called to serve Him.
When tempted to dwell on this question, there are some wonderful alternatives. See some of the links below.
Lord God, today I pray for eyes that see Your face, even in this broken and fallen world. May I look to see Your patience, Your mercy and Your grace, as well as Your Holiness and Justice. May I be an instrument of all these aspects of Your character as I live in Your grace today. Thank You for Your great mercy toward me, and to the promise of Eternal Life with You. Amen.
When we look around at all the beauty God created (see yesterday’s post:https://pursuingprayerblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1206&action=edit ), we also see the ugliness of a fallen world. What God created, he proclaimed “Good.” That goodness still exists, but it is tainted and polluted by sin. God has the authority and the right to destroy it all (and us along with it!); instead, he chose to redeem it. God’s promise to do this has been playing out from the very beginning.
God did not strike Adam and Eve– He allowed them to age, and reproduce, and live out their lifespan–but He did keep his promise that they would have to die (see Genesis 3). God kept his promise to Noah, to save his family from a worldwide flood (Gensis 6-9). He kept his promise to Abraham, to bring him to a new land and give it to his descendants– though the promise was made when Abraham as childless and wandering in the wilderness (Genesis 12-25). God kept his promise to Abraham’s descendants, to bring them back to the land he had promised them (Exodus–Joshua).
God kept his promises to Israel– promises of blessings and of curses, of retribution and revival. God chose King David, and kept many promises to him about his dynasty, the building of the temple, and the coming of a kingly redeemer in David’s line of ancestry (2 Samuel-1 Kings). He kept his promises given through the prophets concerning the exile and return to Jerusalem.
In this season, we celebrate all the many promises God made and kept regarding the coming of our Savior (Matthew-John). Just as God’s creation is “good,” so too are His promises– they are sure and true. God’s promises reveal His nature–He is Just, He is Kind, and He is Omnipotent. What He says, He can and will accomplish.
Today, I am grateful for God’s promises– for all the ones He has already fulfilled, and for all He will bring to pass!
A Psalm of David. 103 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 4 Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, 5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The Lord executes righteousness And justice for all who are oppressed. 7 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. 8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. 9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him. 14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. 16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more. 17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, 18 To such as keep His covenant, And to those who remember His commandments to do them. 19 The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all. 20 Bless the Lord, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word. 21 Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, You ministers of His, who do His pleasure. 22 Bless the Lord, all His works, In all places of His dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Often in our churches, we focus on two factors of our relationship with Christ– worship and obedience. Worship focuses on His majesty and worth. Obedience focuses on His power and authority. But when the Psalmist speaks here, he is actually focusing on another element. Blessing isn’t so much about majesty or authority; it isn’t about obedience or worship. It is about communion. We bless and are blessed, not just by a word or deed, but by the speaker or doer–they bless us by what they say or do, but they ARE a blessing to us for who they are.
God is worthy of our worship and obedience, but he wants us to be a blessing– to come to him in Love and fellowship, and to be blessed by Who He Is as we meet with him.
Today, worship God. Obey Him. But let’s take time to bless Him and be blessed in return as we spend time with the Lover of Our Souls.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
King David wrote this verse..one that I learned at Vacation Bible School as a child. Taken out of context, it reminds us that the Name of the Lord is powerful and trust-worthy. It is better to trust in the Lord than to place our trust in even the might of an army. Military might, political power, wealth, popularity, social influence– all are fickle. God is Sovereign and will do what He says He will do.
In context, David is not just recounting a principle; he is speaking from the experience of being God’s anointed King. In the verse just before this, David says:
6 Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.
David knew God’s saving power– he had experienced protection, blessing, and victory from the hand of his Creator. He had also known exile, hardship, and danger.
It is interesting to note that King David did not come up with the image of horses and chariots– God had already spoken to the people of Israel, warning them NOT to put their trust in such things. David was proclaiming his adherence to God’s command several hundred years before:
Appointing a King
14 When you have come into the land which the Lord your God gives you and possess it and dwell there and then say, “I will set a king over me just like all the nations that are around me,” 15 you must set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. You must select a king over you who is from among your brothers. You may not select a foreigner over you who is not your countryman. 16 What is more, he shall not accumulate horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order that he accumulate horses, for as the Lord has said to you, “You must not go back that way ever again.” 17 He shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he acquire for himself excess silver and gold.
18 It must be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write a copy of this law for himself on a scroll before the priests, the Levites. 19 It must be with him, and he must read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, and carefully observe all the words of this law and these statutes, and do them, 20 that his heart will not be lifted up above his brothers and so that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or to the left, to the end, so that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children, in the midst of Israel.
Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (ESV)
David did NOT adhere to all of God’s commands for a king. He had many wives, and family troubles plagued his house for generations to come. Tragically, his son Solomon, for all his wisdom in other areas, failed in his kingship because he failed to put his full trust in God. He accumulated wives, horses, chariots, and wealth, but he lost the opportunity to establish his father’s house and his family’s dynasty by trusting in the very blessings of wealth and wisdom that God had given to him.
God blessed both King David and King Solomon with peace and prosperity. Neither one followed God absolutely, but David understood something his son never fully grasped. God’s blessings are abundant; they are rich and glorious. God showers blessings upon both the just and the unjust. They are not always a mark of God’s favor– frequently, they become a stumbling block and a substitute for the worship that belongs to God alone. Solomon began his reign by trusting the God of his father, King David. But in the end, he put his trust in his wealth and honor, and turned his back on God.
25 Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots and twelve thousand horses, and he put them in designated cities and with him in Jerusalem. 26 He ruled over all the kings from the River to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. 27 So the king made silver in Jerusalem as abundant as stones and cedar as plentiful as sycamore trees in the lowlands of the Shephelah. 28 The horses of Solomon were imported from Egypt and from all other lands.
2 Chronicles 9:25-28 (ESV)
In fact, he did exactly what God had warned against during the days of Moses– importing horses from Egypt. Without context, it seems like such an ordinary thing–kings accumulate might and power, and they import the best this world has to offer. What’s wrong with that? Solomon’s own father had the answer; the answer was written into the laws of Moses(the very ones Solomon was commanded to keep with him at all times!), but Solomon turned away and crossed the line between gratitude for God’s blessings to placing his trust and identity in those very blessings.
Some (people) trust in chariots and some in horses;
Some trust in their jobs or their homes;
Some trust in their bank accounts or their popularity–
I have been bombarded lately with political ads–and that takes some doing, since I don’t have television and don’t listen to the radio– still two major sources of “coverage” used by most candidates. And many of the political ads are deceptive, in that they don’t seem to be “for” or “against” a particular candidate– rather they are trying to encourage me to see a particular issue (healthcare, abortion, gun control, education, taxes, etc.) in a particular way, or vote based on a single polarizing issue. I get very frustrated with the intense saturation and obvious propaganda, but overall, I am thankful that we have the freedom to state our political preferences and encourage everyone to vote– hopefully based on thoughtfully looking at the issues, policies, and consequences of the actions proposed by the candidates.
One thing that frustrates me is the conflation of politics with religion and Christianity in particular. God is apolitical…He is not a Republican or Democrat, a Socialist, Fascist, Capitalist, or even monarchist. He is not American, Canadian, British, Honduran, Somalian, Laotian, Korean, German, Bolivian, Syrian, New Zealander, Nigerian, Greek, or Pole. His Kingdom is a Theocracy– He is the sovereign and absolute ruler. He does not consult with a Senate, or Assembly, or Cabinet, or Ministry. He cannot be “voted” in or out, succeeded, or supplanted. He allows for and even institutes worldly governments– He raised up priests and prophets in Israel and founded their Monarchy–but He also tears down corrupt governments and destroys empires.
So when we pray for government officials, we are not doing so based on their merits in God’s eyes. When we pray for upcoming elections, we do not pray for the “best” result, based on our personal political preferences..or we shouldn’t. We should be praying that God will be honored by our vote; that our nation (and its leaders) will recognize God’s sovereignty and act in obedience to His will; and that we will be prepared for God’s blessings or corrective punishments as He sees fit to bring them..that we will learn from those in authority, pray for them with sincerity and good will, and use our vote as stewards of Grace, and not as power-hungry, politically rabid puppets trying to create a substitute Kingdom of God within our own state or nation.
Consider King David– God had anointed him King of Israel to succeed King Saul, who had fallen out of favor with God. David was hunted down as a traitor by Saul, his own father-in-law, and forced into exile. Yet he continued to faithfully pray for and speak kindly of Saul. When given the opportunity to kill his tormentor and take the crown, he refused– even though God had promised him the kingdom BECAUSE Saul had become corrupt. (see 1 Samuel, chapters 16, 19, 23 and 24) David still prepared to become King–he learned many lessons during his exile that made him an excellent king– diplomacy, warfare, economics, and listening to his future subjects. Most importantly, he learned from the bad example of King Saul that he should not second-guess God’s purposes and timing.
Prayer isn’t about asking God to give us what we want– not on a personal level and not politically. It is about asking God to help us want what He gives!
I’ve been reading in the Psalms lately, and one that has really spoken to me this week has been Psalm 3
Psalm 3English Standard Version (ESV)
Save Me, O My God
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
3 O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 2 many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah[a]
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 4 I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.
7 Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Selah
Psalm 3:2The meaning of the Hebrew word Selah, used frequently in the Psalms, is uncertain. It may be a musical or liturgical direction
Everyone has foes– no matter how hard we try to get along with everyone or do right by everyone. And if those foes are people who should be or used to be close to you, it hurts deeper and more profoundly. King David’s own son tried to take the throne and have him murdered. David, who had slain Goliath, feigned madness to escape from his own father-in-law’s murderous plots, and united a kingdom, still fled in terror from his arrogant and foolish son. Even when God rescued him from this foe, David wept and mourned for his rebellious son– to the point of discouraging the very men who had come to his aid!
But, as David did so well and so often, in the midst of his trouble, he turned first to the Lord who ruled his heart. I love the names he gives God in this Psalm—You (Thou), O Lord are a Shield about me, My Glory, and the Lifter of My Head (v. 3– emphasis mine).
David’s God is powerful, majestic, awesome– but He is not distant or unfeeling. Thou (used in the King James and other older English translations) is a term unfamiliar to many modern speakers of English, but it is the familiar form of the second person singular. Many other languages still use this form. It connotes an intimate relationship, such as a family member or beloved friend. David knew his God better than he knew his own son. He loved God whole-heartedly, devotedly, and without reservation.
Lord recognizes God’s position of authority and omnipotence. As close as David was to God, he never lost the awe and wonder of God’s holiness, His majesty, His power, and His wisdom. God raised David from shepherd boy to king. David wasn’t perfect in his obedience, but he was quick repent of his failures, and quick to give God the credit for his successes.
A Shield— God fights alongside David, protecting him, not patronizing him or removing him from the struggle. God doesn’t remove us from our battles; but neither does He leave us alone and unprotected, waiting on the sidelines for us to be slaughtered.* Yesterday, I felt clobbered by circumstances. I felt crushed and battered emotionally, and I wanted a couch, far from the noise of battle. But God knows that no one wins a battle from the couch; no one grows stronger, learns to persevere, builds character, or gains compassion from a couch. God didn’t take me out of the battle, but He was (and continues to be) a shield, protecting me from the real arrows of the enemy– despair, rage, isolation, arrogance, self-destruction–I still feel the force of the blows, and sometimes, I get wounded, but I’m still in the fight, and He’s there with me. *(One caveat– God is a shield to those who trust in Him. He does not promise that we won’t be hurt, won’t fail sometimes, or won’t face death because of our faith. However, He promises a comforter and counselor–the Holy Spirit. There are many who lead so-called “charmed” lives– lives untouched by trials or spiritual battles…Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is the same thing as being “shielded”– shields are meant for battle– charms are meant to bring luck)
My Glory— I get chills trying to wrap myself around that thought. That God, the almighty, the all-glorious light of a million galaxies worth of stars, would notice me– let alone that He would number the hairs on my head, provide for my needs, heed my call for help, and fight alongside me–would create me in His image, so that I am an exact reflection of even the teeniest part of His Glory…that He invites me to know Him in all His Glory after all my failures, and broken promises, and shortcomings, and bad moods, and thoughtless words and actions, my bad hair days and dandruff days and runny nose days, and other inglorious ugliness that I cannot hide… But the best of all, I think is the last…
The Lifter of My Head–What a picture of God’s compassion! Think of picking up a newborn baby; how carefully we lift up and support that tiny head– how longingly we cup and shield that fragile face. That’s our God! Imagine on the battlefield, a soldier, wounded, parched, having his head lifted gently by a comrade who comes to tend to his wounds and share a drink of water. Or the prodigal son, who cannot meet his father’s eyes, but finds his chin gently tilted to meet undeserved but merciful smile of his loving Dad. God lifts our head so that we can see beyond the battle; beyond the pain; beyond the grief, and gaze at the Glory only He can share.
If you don’t know this God–He is only a prayer away. If you feel distant from God– call out and ask Him to lift up your head. If you are struggling (as I have been lately), let this be a reminder to seek God by all His glorious names— He will reveal Himself to you for who He is as you call out to Him.