Monday, April 20, 2020

I'm Praising God Anyway!

Psalm 57 is a strange and beautiful cry of David, the shepherd who would later become king of Israel. 

The superscription says that he composed it while hiding out in a cave from King Saul. Saul could see how God favored David: Saul had been faithless and there would come a time when God would displace him from the throne and give it to David. 

But David was unwilling to lay a finger on Saul, the Lord's anointed and so, despite his military prowess and popularity among the people, instead of defending himself against the king, David ran. And hid in caves.

David prays:
I cry out to God Most High,
    to God, who vindicates me.
 He sends from heaven and saves me,
    rebuking those who hotly pursue me—
    God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.
 I am in the midst of lions;
    I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
    whose tongues are sharp swords. (Psalm 57:2-4)
David knows his dire situation and prays for deliverance to the only One he believes can help.

It's here that David prays:

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth. (Psalm 57:5)

Whatever God does, David is saying, he prays that God will be exalted and His glory seen by everyone. Yes, he wants to be delivered. Yes, he asks that God spare his life. But more than anything, he wants his God to be given glory. He wants the whole creation to give God the honor and praise that is God's due.

In verse 6 of the psalm, David again speaks of the plans for his destruction being hatched and implemented by his enemies. 

But then, David prays not only that God will be exalted by the nations of the world (he will pray that again in verse 11), he expresses his intention to himself sing God's praises, even in the midst of his distress:
My heart, O God, is steadfast,
    my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music.
 Awake, my soul!
    Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;

    I will sing of you among the peoples.
 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
David is making no deals with God. He hasn't prayed, "God, deliver me and I will sing your praises." David has a confidence in God that no matter what happens, he will belong to God. And no matter what conditions prevail in his life, he will praise God. He will make music to God. He will praise God among all peoples and nations.

Last night, I was feeling down. No, bleak. Almost everything I've tried to accomplish in the past two weeks has ended in failure. Or at least that's how I felt. From technology (for work) to taxes (my daughter's), from giving myself a haircut that was a disaster to trying to record some of my songs on a new app, from an online Catechism lesson plan that didn't turn out as I'd hoped to the ongoing fear that all of us who are in at-risk categories feel in the midst of this coronavirus plague, I felt accosted by failure, even by death.

But as I prayed before going to bed last night, I realized how self-absorbed my thoughts had become.

My call is to praise God among the nations, when I succeed and when I fail. My call is to "sing" of God among the peoples.

David said that he was so intent on fulfilling this call that he would "awaken the dawn" with his songs of praise to God!

I went to bed with a different perspective. Then this morning, I woke to see this psalm appointed for my quiet time reading in The One Year Chronological Bible. The question is never whether I have succeeded or failed in my own eyes. It's not even whether I live or die. It's whether I'm following Jesus, the One Who gives life and peace and forgiveness to those who turn from the stupid, futile ways of thinking in this selfish, fallen world. No matter what, He is my Deliverer!

God, forgive my bellyaching and self-pity. Your Son Jesus died and rose from the grave, assuring us that all who turn from sin and follow Him have a share in His victory over sin, death, and the grave. And we live with You now and forever. In Jesus, I belong to You and You deserve my praise always. Help me today to praise You and sing Your praises by whatever means You give me to do so.In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen

[This song, composed and performed by Bruce Cockburn during his "Christian phase" in the 1980s, always reminds me of the last line in verse 8 of the psalm. At the time of the song's release, Cockburn called To Raise the Morning Dawn one of his "God songs." Like David, he seemed intent to wake up the day with praises of God. I pray that he will come again to his former love for Jesus and follow Him. He has more songs he could sing in praise of the God we know in Jesus Christ!]

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