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.


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

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David Stumbles on the Lord’s Way

Today’s reading is Psalm 34.

Do you ever fear that stumbling and falling while walking the Lord’s way means it’s all over? Do you worry that because you messed up you’ve become lost? The Thirty-fourth Psalm helps. This is going to be a little longer than usual, but I think it will be worth it.

The ancient heading given to this psalm is “Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away” (ESV). There are a couple of problems. First, we turn back to 1 Samuel 21:10-15 and discover the king’s name was Achish, not Abimelech. This is probably not that big of a deal. From Genesis 20 & 26 (especially 26:1), it appears just as Pharaoh was the title for Egyptian kings and Caesar for Roman emperors, Abimelech was the title for Philistine kings. Thus, Psalm 34 uses the title of the office while 1 Samuel 21 gives the name of the individual.

The second problem is bigger. Why would anyone ever think this psalm had anything to do with that moment? It just doesn’t fit. Why would a psalm that claims “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in [the Lord]” have anything to do with an event in which David took refuge among the Philistines. Why would a psalm that says “Keep your lips from speaking deceit” have anything to do with a moment in which David got out of trouble through deceit?

The resolution to the second struggle may be found by paying a bit more attention to the first one. Why does the title refer to Abimelech instead of Achish? Why prompt an unnecessary question and potential accusation of error that was so easy to avoid? Because whoever placed that title on this psalm was purposefully connecting David’s experience before Achish with two other events. In Genesis 20, Abraham goes before a king of the Philistines called Abimelech. In Genesis 26, Isaac goes before a king of the Philistines called Abimelech. What did both men do? Because of their fears, they deceived Abimelech. Both cases are examples of misplaced fear and weak faith. Abraham and Isaac both should have trusted God and been honest in those instances. Why would the person who titled this psalm draw these connections? Because we are supposed to recognize David’s attempt to take refuge among the Philistines was not wise; it was wrong. Further, David’s deception before Abimelech was not faith and trust; it was doubt and weakness just like Abraham’s and Isaac’s.

You may need to let that sink in for a minute. The ancient title explains this psalm is a meditation on a time when David severely stumbled on his path with the Lord. There is absolutely nothing exemplary about David’s trip to Philistia or his plan for escape.

And yet, this entire psalm is a declaration of deliverance by God in that moment. It is about a man who takes refuge in Yahweh. It is about a man who cries out to the Lord for deliverance. How? When we go back to the event itself, none of that is present (or at least not revealed).

So, what is going on here?

It is possible, as some suggest, that this psalm is giving us more information. The author of Samuel didn’t tell us everything, and now the psalmist is filling us in on the rest of the story. That, however, seems to speak against the whole connection to Abraham, Isaac, and Abimelech.

I think the more likely explanation is also the more comforting. David generally loves and seeks the Lord, walks on the Lord’s path, regards the work of the Lord’s hands, glorifies and honors the Lord. David’s life, in general, is about the Lord’s will and way. However, in this particular event, he stumbles. Whether because of fear, haste, presumption, or plain old knee-jerk thoughtlessness, David strikes out on a course that isn’t of the Lord. It’s not like it’s the only time David did something like that. It’s just too bad he doesn’t have an Abigail on hand to stop him this time. He strikes out on his own, and it goes south quickly. His life is in almost immediate danger.

Here’s the comforting part. How does God react? Rather than leaving David on his own, rather than hanging David out to dry, He delivered David anyway (just like He did Abraham and Isaac). God has a covenant with David, and God always honors it. David messes up on his end, but he doesn’t abandon the covenant. God is never looking to zap people for messing up. In fact, what we learn is there is a big difference between stumbling on the Lord’s way and abandoning the Lord’s way.

Now, before we sign off for today. Notice that this moment in which David messed up royally, but was delivered anyway didn’t lead David to say, “Oh good! I can lie if I want to. I can go take refuge in Philistia if I want to.” It didn’t cause him to say, “My God is gracious, it doesn’t matter whether I actually obey him.” No, the whole event drew him closer to God and prompted him to want to obey God even more faithfully. Finally, it provoked him to tell others about how important it is to take refuge in Yahweh, trusting Him. What a fantastic balance we find in this psalm.

Have you stumbled on the Lord’s path? Don’t abandon it. Pick yourself up, by the grace of the Lord, and keep walking on His path. He will deliver you. That is just the kind of God we serve. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 34.


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 “David Stumbles on the Lord’s Way”

The God of “And”

Today’s reading is Psalm 18.

How great is our God, Yahweh? The graces and greatnesses add and multiply one on top of another. He is our strength AND He is our rock AND He is our fortress AND He is our deliverer AND He is our refuge AND He is our shield AND He is the horn of our salvation AND He is our stronghold AND He is worthy to be praised AND He saves us from our enemies. Yahweh is the God of AND! AND we have every reason to praise Him today. Thank You, Lord God for being who You are and for letting us be Your people!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 18.

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The Lord is His Refuge

Today’s reading is Psalm 14.

There is something about the fool and looking down on the poor. In Isaiah 32:6-7, where we get a more robust definition of the fool alongside his companion the scoundrel, we learn these brothers deprive the thirsty of drink and leave the hungry unsatisfied while actually planning to ruin the poor even when the plea of the needy is right. For some reason, the fool thinks the poor has no refuge, no protector. Perhaps because the poor lack what the fool believes provides him protection. In fact, this may be why Jesus Himself said it was so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. After all, they have plenty to take refuge in, but the poor have nowhere to go. So they often go to God. And this should cause the fool to fear. He is not getting away with his corruption. She is not getting away with her abominable deeds. Deliverance and salvation are coming for those who take refuge in God instead of all that fools take refuge in. You don’t have to be poor to have God as your refuge. But you are a fool if He isn’t.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 14.

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Take Refuge in Your Real King

Today’s reading is Psalm 5.

Have you ever seen the awful pictures of refugees in foreign lands? Have you seen on the news the horrible images of the survivors of genocide in one nation trying to escape to a neighboring land, seeking asylum and protection from their enemies? In those pictures, did you see bright eyes and wide smiles? Did you see peace and joy as they carried only the bare essentials on their backs, leaving their homes, sometimes abandoning family, marching for miles in ragged clothes, only to be herded into camps and live on rations in nations that often can’t afford to care for them or won’t spend the money to adequately do so? Of course not. There is no joy and peace there. Why would anyone choose that life? Because that is the only choice they have if they are going to live. But look at David’s plea and proclamation. David talks about happy refugees, blessed refugees, protected refugees, shielded refugees. David recognizes that if he follows the counsel of the enemies, all that awaits him is death. His only choice is to flee as a refugee. But his refuge is God. And refuge with God isn’t like living in a concentration camp. It isn’t like being a prisoner of war while being protected. It is joy. It is peace. It is life. The Lord is our refuge when the world starts to attack. Run to Him. Yes, we will be refugees, but not like any refugees the world has ever seen. We will be in protected peace, sheltered under the mighty wing of God.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 6.

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