Happy New Year, everyone! This is my first blog of the year and I would just like to take a moment to acknowledge everyone who read our blogs through 2021. I was set to have the last blog of the year last year but ended up handing it off to my wonderful colleagues as I waded through pageant and covid madness. As a result, I didn’t get to say goodbye to all of you who stuck with the blogs through the year and gave their feedback and support. Now we are back, wonderfully going through the Psalms, and I want to say thank you for then and for now – it has been and will continue to be an epic journey through which we’ve been bound up in Christ tighter than ever, so let’s praise God for that!
This Psalm of David was written as or after David was in flight from his son Absalom, titled Save Me, O My God. It is made up of three parts; a strophe, an antistrophe, and an epode, each of which are ended with the word Selah. The strophe lays out David’s cries of anguish and despair as he surveys the many thousands of his people who threaten and surround him, hurling insult and curse upon him as he runs.
The antistrophe is a declaration of the security David has in the Lord who is his glory and the lifter of his head; “I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy hill.” David continues in the epode the assurance and trust he has in God, saying that he lay down and slept, waking again only because the Lord had sustained him and that he will not be afraid of the many thousands who have come against him. He continues his pleas for the Lord to save him, ever affirming and praising Him as the only one to whom salvation belongs.
I absolutely love the Psalms. I’m so excited to be spending a whole year really spending time on them, too. There’s something so potent and real about them, especially once you get used to the type of language that was used at the time! Something I particularly enjoy about Psalms as a whole is that, with the exception of just a couple, they all end affirming the goodness of God, His care for those who run to Him, and always find ways to praise Him no matter what. We see all of these elements on full display in only 8 verses. This Psalm, like all the rest, should serve as a pattern for our own prayers. In Psalm 3, the comfort and peace in the midst of turmoil are what stand out most of all; David fluctuates quickly between help me, God and God’s got me, I’m going to be OK. I can hardly imagine anything more human than that!
David does not shy away from acknowledging his trouble before God, nor does he seek to refine his woes. He cries out in dismay, astonishment, and also tells what others are saying about him which no doubt has all sorts of layers of betrayal, for these venomous people are slandering his very soul; those who once loved him! They are planting seeds of doubt and try to chip away at his confidence in God as well which is salt in the proverbial wound. He turns around in this time of severe hardship and praises God for His steadfast care and promise. That description of God being the lifter of my head strikes me as deeply loving and intensely caring; like a father comforting his troubled child. The praise and worship David gives here is not only good and rightly placed, but also acts as a means by which he preaches to his own doubt and turns his eyes on God when he would likely have felt every right to sink inwards instead.
David also grounds himself in his daily reality instead of succumbing to drifting along in existential dread and anxiety; he reminds himself of the utter sovereignty of God who gives each and every one of us our next breath and heartbeat from His own hand. Even something as routine as sleeping and waking in the morning serves in the moment as a reminder that David only woke because God has sustained him and purposed him for the day’s work ahead. He then extrapolates that simple truth to a larger foe, saying “God is faithful and sovereign to sustain me in every way; each breath of mine is precious to Him, therefore I will not be afraid of those countless thousands who seek to come against me!” He calls upon the name of the Lord to rebuke his enemies, praising Him as the only one from whom salvation and blessings flow.
If you don’t know what’s wrong, what to pray, or even how to pray at any given time, read a Psalm. Read them with a pen and notebook in hand and be ready just to copy down any verse(s) that stir in your heart as a quiet act of prayer and worship, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in you as you talk with God. Write out all of your feelings and fears, your hopes and petitions, and most of all your praise and thanksgiving. Take note of each little blessing throughout your day, each area of trouble in which God has sustained you, and you’ll never have enough pages on which to write your thanksgiving. David sought the Lord when faced with a vast host of hostile people, yet still found time to glory in the most essential, unnoticed acts of grace and mercy of God!
Not only did he thank God for delivering him from thousands, but for waking him in the morning and sustaining him through the night. Not only should we praise God for this major event or that, but for the food, warmth, and shelter He has given in this day. I’m convinced that the Christian who takes much for granted has the least for which they are thankful, and that is a great shame. We praise God and give Him thanks not only because He is the only One worthy and deserving, not only because it is supposed to be our default way of life, but because in doing so we set our eyes outward instead of inward. Petty grievances and even larger wounds are swallowed up when we are face to face with Christ. The edges of hardship and bitterness are softened; depression and anxiety lose their strength; peace and comfort bloom in the most harsh environments; deserts give forth springs of refreshing water; most of all, we become more and more in love with Him! Our priorities are set straight and we can fall into joyful rest no matter our situations or enemies, moving from strength to strength and glory to glory because we live on every word that comes out of the mouth of God. We give ourselves up only to find ourselves secured and restored because of Jesus. That is the power of praise and thanksgiving, and my greatest encouragement to you (and myself!) as we look ahead at this New Year.
Father God, thank you so much for sustaining us over the past year and seeing us through such turbulent times as these. Thank you for caring not only about our bigger issues but being at our side, lifting our heads when we are downcast; for the Holy Spirit and the Prince of Peace. We are sorry for our many sins, errors, omissions, and guilt, and for exalting our self above you. Please forgive us our many trespasses. Help us to forgive others and fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, that we may decrease and see you increase. Teach us to love you more than anything else. We pray all these things in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.
Song: The Lord Is My Salvation (Shane & Shane)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.