An appropriate psalm for the beginning of Holy Week. Weeping may stay for the night… Except that Jesus’ first followers couldn’t see that joy would come in the morning just two days later. They had given up everything for Jesus. Followed him for maybe three years. Seen the unexplainable. Heard the incredible. Hoped for the unimaginable. And now…?
Sometimes it seems as if God is silent. We cry out to him for rescue, mercy, vindication… and the heavens seem impenetrable. It seems as if David is finding this in today’s psalm and I’m sure we can think of times in our own lives when we’ve wondered if God has heard us at all; whether his attention has wandered; whether he’s aware of the desperation we find ourselves in.
One thing I seek… God has been speaking to me a lot about having eyes only for him. The picture I have is of when you dance with someone. If you keep your eyes on theirs and let them take the lead (if you are the woman!), it works out much better than if you try and pushing your partner round the dance floor without any spoken or unspoken communication.
There are some pretty hefty claims in this psalm. I couldn’t write these words with all integrity, that’s for sure! And yet… because of Jesus’ blood, I can. Because I am clothed in white, covered by his blood. Forgiven, redeemed, purchased, restored. I am no longer guilty in his sight – even when I get it wrong. God looks on Jesus and pardons me. So where am I living? In the jail of shame or the freedom of forgiveness?
From the content, it would seem safe to assume that David is not in a happy place at the writing of this psalm. He is lonely and afflicted; troubled to his core. But that’s not where he starts. His starting point is, ‘In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.’ In other psalms we see him coming to this place after he has poured out his pain and frustration, but here the trust comes first.
We keep our hearts well defended, at least that’s my experience. The more we are hurt, the tighter our defences become. The more we give our hearts away and are disappointed, the more we keep them heavily guarded. This phrase about the gates lifting up their heads made me think of men defending a gate, keeping their heads down, not even looking at what might be approaching.
This is a song written in the most desperate of circumstances. Again, we don’t know exactly what David was going through but we do see his pain and anguish and we know that this psalm also contains elements of Messianic prophecy and words that Jesus would later utter as he hung, dying on the cross, abandoned by everyone and everything.
We know this psalm to be one of David’s but the surtitle doesn’t give us any more information as to when it was written and in what context. I would love to know what had just occurred to inspire such words! Had he won a great victory? Was he celebrating the birth of a son? Was life just generally good?
I have a suspicion that sometimes we are very small-minded when it comes to the things of God. Now I’m not advocating a health, wealth and prosperity gospel, but I suspect that in our Scottish context we are likely to expect (and ask for) way less of God and his goodness than he is longing to give.