A Real-Life Psalm

Today’s reading is Psalm 35.

I can’t prove it. However, I’m convinced our psalm is anchored in the real-life events of 1 Samuel 24. Saul was hunting David down. Somehow, in a cave in the wilderness of Engedi, Saul ended up in the exact same cave where David and his men were hiding out. Despite the urging of David’s men, he decided not to attack Saul, the Lord’s anointed.

Notice some connections between the record of the event and our psalm. In 1 Samuel 24:12, David says, “May the Lord judged between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you” (ESV). Psalm 35 begins, “Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.” First, recognize the call upon the Lord to do the heavy lifting here. But, and this is really compelling. In both cases, the first phrases are judicial terms (Judge, contend). In the second, they are combat terms (avenge, fight).

In 1 Samuel 24:9, David asks Saul why he is listening to men who are lying about him. In Psalm 35:11, David writes about the malicious witnesses who are testifying against him falsely.

In 1 Samuel 24:17, Saul admits to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil” (ESV). In Psalm 35:12, David claims, “They repay me evil for good” (ESV).

In Psalm 35:21-22, David makes a play on words out of the eyes and things being seen. In our psalm, he speaks of the lies of the false witnesses who claim to have seen some things. But then he drives home what God had actually seen. In 1 Samuel 24:10, David makes a clear claim about what Saul’s eyes had seen as part of his defense.

Thus, Psalm 35 is a meditation and series of prayers anchored in real-life events. Doesn’t it stand to reason then, that we can make some real-life application of this psalm for our own lives?

If there is one real-life application we should get out of David’s experience in the Engedi cave and this series of prayers he wrote about the experience, we must trust the Lord to fight our battles. We must leave vengeance to the Lord. I know we struggle with imprecatory psalms. We’ll talk more about that in later posts. But notice, despite what David asks God to do, when we look at this in the context of real-life, David didn’t take vengeance, he left it to the Lord.

This is even more noticeable in 1 Samuel when we go to the next chapter. That is where David almost lost this high ground. He almost took his own vengeance on Nabal, but was stopped by Nabal’s wise wife, Abigail. In fact, we may recognize some connections with this story as well. Abigail argues against David trying to work salvation for himself (1 Samuel 25:31). In our psalm, David asks God to declare, “I am your salvation!” (Psalm 35:3). According to 1 Samuel 25:39, Nabal had received his own evil on his own head. In Psalm 35:7-8, David prayed that his enemies would fall into the pit they had dug and be caught in the net they had laid. Further, in this story we find another reference to a man repaying evil for David’s good (see 1 Samuel 25:21). Finally, David sought peace for Nabal and his men (1 Samuel 25:6-8). But Nabal did not speak peace back to David. Psalm 35:20 refers to those who do not speak peace to those who are quiet in the land. Real-life events. A real-life psalm.

God is our real-life salvation, our real-life deliverer, our real-life avenger. We must trust Him. We must put the real-life judgment of our enemies into His hands. He will do what is right in our real lives.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 35.

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On Fear and Wisdom

Today’s reading is Psalm 34.

I understand why we do it, but I sometimes wonder if the modern attempt to classify psalms doesn’t miss the boat. “This psalm is a communal lament.” “That psalm is an individual praise.” “This other psalm is a Messianic psalm.” “That one is a wisdom psalm.” It is amazing to me the number of times the commentators have to say, “This psalm is hard to classify. It has some qualities of this kind of psalm, but also some qualities of that kind of psalm.” Honestly, it’s almost like they have forgotten that the Psalms didn’t come with a guide book explaining the various kinds of psalms and all their characteristics. From beginning to end all those systems of classifications are man made. They don’t tell us so much about the psalm we are studying as they tell us about our modern penchant to need to organize, classify, systematize, and order. If we are not careful, we may end up reading the psalms through our modern eyes and missing what the original authors intended.

This is another one of those psalms we classifiers struggle with. Is it a praise psalm or is it a wisdom psalm? David praises God, he calls all of his readers to praise God with him. It’s a praise psalm, right? But wait, based on the praise he teaches his audience how to live. It’s a wisdom psalm, right? Maybe it’s both. Or maybe, we just have to realize God didn’t label these psalms, and we don’t have to either.

I’ll tell you what we can see in this psalm no matter what we label it. David says, “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (vs. 11, ESV). In our modern day, we struggle with being taught to fear the Lord. However, ancient wisdom said we should fear the Lord, and we need to be taught how. Apparently, despite our modern conceptions of fear, it isn’t a natural reaction to the power of God, it is a learned response to the truth of God. Proverbs 15:33 says the fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom. Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, and Proverbs 9:10 all claim the fear of the Lord is the beginning of the wisdom.

What does fearing the Lord look like? I can tell you this: it doesn’t look like cowering in your closet, hoping the Lord will ignore you or forget you are hiding there. It looks like keeping your tongue from evil and deceit, turning away from evil, doing good, seeking peace and pursuing it. For more on this, you might want to read the New Testament letter from James.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 34.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

Continue reading “On Fear and Wisdom”