A psalm of dependence upon God's mercy
“LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, 'There is no help for him in God'. Selah.” (verses 1-2)
David wrote this psalm during one of the most painful events in his life; his own son, Absalom had risen up against him to kill him and take his kingdom. (2 Samuel 16) Apart from the understandable agony one would expect as the father of such a rebellious son, David bears an even greater weight upon his soul. He is tormented by the keen awareness that it was his own sin that had resulted in this devastating estrangement from his son. One spring, some eleven years earlier, David committed adultery with the niece of his right hand adviser, Ahithophel, and murdered her husband, Uriah to cover his sin. It is likely that both she and her grand home, adjunct to the palace, had been given as a reward to Uriah, her heroic husband, for his loyal service to his country and king. What David did greatly displeased the Lord. God saw David's sin, as did his own family and intimate advisers. Through a prophet, God thus declared to David, as one consequence for his evil deeds, that his own children would become his enemies some day. (2 Samuel 11,12) David genuinely repented and received with humility the chastening of the LORD, knowing he deserved nothing short of death. David was never a perfect man, but what so characterized David as a man after God's own heart is his unwavering confidence in God's mercy. The psalms themselves are an enduring testimony of this one man's humble trust in God's goodness, despite a keen lack of his own.
Now, in the midst of God's chastening, humbled, and once more a fugitive in his own land, many speak against him. There is no sympathy. There is no encouragement. “He's getting what he deserves,” seems to be the common consensus. The people want a new king and David's former advisers have turned against him, as though he were cursed of the LORD. Knowing of his sin, the punishment prophesied, and it's present fulfillment, they assume coldly that this is God's wrath and justice upon an ungodly man. Like Job's “friends”, they interpret David's present distress as God having forsaken him. Yet they miss both the heart of God and of David, a man after God's own heart. In accordance with his character, David cries out to God, depending fully upon His mercy. Knowing he is sinful, he yet feels no condemnation from God, and boldly cries out for deliverance. In spite of the grim reality of his natural consequences, he knows he has been forgiven. As he himself had written ten years earlier, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart- these, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 52:17) David depends now upon the LORD's mercy, as he has always done, confident that God favours him still, even in spite of all his sins. This is the heart and soul of the gospel; GRACE-God's undeserved favour.
Have you ever fallen into a sin that had natural consequences that you perhaps have reaped for years following? Perhaps you stumbled and now have a child out of wedlock. Perhaps you tripped up and now have a criminal record. Perhaps you simply said something thoughtless, and have lost a close friend as a result. Now, in the midst of the difficult consequences, Satan condemns you, reminding you of past guilt in your present struggles, and perhaps even incites others to point the finger of judgment. Don't despair! Like David, cry out to God, who has never forsaken you, not even in your darkest moment! He looks for those with faith in His mercy, not those with a perfect report card. In fact, His eyes go to and fro across the whole world, searching for those who would trust in Him, that He may have the opportunity to show Himself strong on behalf of them. He will carry you through your trial and use your past for good. (Romans 8:28) “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) He said those words to the Israelites in the midst of their captivity in Babylon... the chastening of God for their sins. In the thick of all the repercussions of their wrong choices, He tenderly comforts them with a promise of peace, hope, and a future. This is not the end of the story. “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
“But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the LORD with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill. Selah.” (Verses 3-4)
Serving the Lord these past ten years, I have learned much of God's grace through my own failures. Like Peter, I once told the Lord, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.” (Mark 14:29) I loved the Lord with my whole being and would have given my life for Him in whatever way He asked of me. I knew well His Word, having given myself to the study of it, and I loved people genuinely and wholeheartedly. I could not imagine stumbling. Yet, I did, time and time again, and my pride fell with me, again and again. When I bore the natural consequences of those sins, there were those who rejoiced in my trouble, who took pleasure in my distress. They said, “Aha, God is giving her what she deserves!” But, ah, the undeserved grace of God; He has never given me what I have deserved. He bore my sin on Calvary and extends to me His righteousness in exchange. For my failure, He offers me victory. He is the One who lifts up my head and shields me from the enemy's darts of condemnation. Now my glory is not in my own blameless Christian walk; my glory and boast are in Him! In Jesus Christ, who ever lives to make intercession for me; whose own blood cleansed me from my guilt. Like David, I cried to the LORD with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill, Zion. “For whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
“I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” (verses 5-6)
David was literally running for his life, traveling as fast and far as he could from Jerusalem, with the lives of his family, and a few die-hard loyalists, all tied up in his own. Fear, emotional turmoil, and stress can all prevent sleep, and David was undoubtedly troubled by them all. Yet, his confidence in the Lord gave him a peace that is not explainable apart from God, and allowed him to rest. He made the choice not to give in to fear, no matter how frightening the situation appeared. David did not fear man; David trusted God. No matter what trial encompasses you right now, no matter how grave the situation appears, you can have that same peace. Peace that allows you to be at rest, day or night. Its a peace that the world cannot understand, but is available this very moment if you release your troubles into the hands of an almighty, caring God who has promised to bear this burden for you. Jesus said, “Come to Me all who you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 10:28) Place your trust in Him and He will give you rest.
“Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God! For You have struck my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah.” (verses 7-8)
Crying out for deliverance, David recalls the many past times that God had granted him the victory over his enemies. He remembered battles when God was so present in helping him fight, it seemed that He himself was beating up those that David was combating. God had, again and again, proven His faithfulness to David, and David did not forget. In his present distress, he bolsters his own faith by reflecting on God's faithfulness in equally dire circumstances over a course of many years. Salvation belongs to the LORD. He need never concern himself with statistical probabilities, for God is the God of miracles. He could route an army of 300,000 with a mere 300 men armed with farm equipment and clay pots. He could slay 1000 men through one man with a donkey bone in his hand. He could wipe out an entire army by one of His angels in a single night. Odds pose no problem for God. David also reminds himself of God's favour to those who trust in Him, His people. He truly need not fear any man, for God's blessing rests upon him through simple faith. He ends his psalm with the word, “selah”, meaning, “pause and meditate”, literally, “think about that.” He is going to mull over God's goodness and greatness as much, and as often, as he needs to in order to keep his peace of heart and clarity of mind. David was a man who simply knew his God, and depended upon Him for everything, in every season of his life. No matter what you may face, nothing is too hard for God. Trust Him. He will deliver you, for He is a God of mercy and of miracles.