Listen to my prayer, O God,
    do not ignore my plea;
    hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
    because of what my enemy is saying,
    because of the threats of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering on me
    and assail me in their anger.

My heart is in anguish within me;
    the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
    horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away
    and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
    far from the tempest and storm.’

Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words,
    for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
    malice and abuse are within it.
11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;
    threats and lies never leave its streets.

12 If an enemy were insulting me,
    I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
    I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
    my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
    at the house of God,
as we walked about
    among the worshippers.

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
    let them go down alive to the realm of the dead,
    for evil finds lodging among them.

16 As for me, I call to God,
    and the Lord saves me.
17 Evening, morning and noon
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice.
18 He rescues me unharmed
    from the battle waged against me,
    even though many oppose me.
19 God, who is enthroned from of old,
    who does not change –
he will hear them and humble them,
    because they have no fear of God.

20 My companion attacks his friends;
    he violates his covenant.
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
    yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
    yet they are drawn swords.

22 Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken.
23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked
    into the pit of decay;
the bloodthirsty and deceitful
    will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I trust in you.

My eye is drawn to verse 21 as I read this psalm: His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords. I’ve been thinking a lot in recent weeks about how we share our faith in a culture which seems increasingly post-Christian. I was challenged by some words from Gabe Lyons (founder of Q ideas) on a podcast recently, where he talked about our natural propensity to condemn, critique or consume culture and how none of these will change it – only creating new culture will do that.

The problem is that that sounds like a lot of hard work and we are busy and tired people! These words in verse 21, remind me of the fact that our culture is lulling us to sleep in terms of the possibilities of the kingdom. Culture’s words can be a smooth as butter, as soothing as oil and they are everso gently sending us to sleep. We are becoming numb to the fullness of life that Jesus offers.

It’s time to say to ourselves, ‘Wake up, sleeper and rise from the dead!’ Clearly David is talking about a particular individual as he writes, but it does remind me of the very real danger if we just accept everything that culture throws at us and swallow it down nice and easy. We are called to be a people who bring kingdom life into all the worlds in which we walk!

Questions for thought and discussion:

  • How can you create a corner of new culture in the circumstances where you find yourself this week?
  • How can we help our young people not to just swallow down the culture of the world we live in?

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