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When I read Psalm 64, I cringe at the very first line: “O God, listen to my complaint.” I picture God flinching, getting ready to hear something he’d rather not hear. I wonder if God ever gets tired of hearing people’s complaints.
Jack Benny was a beloved American entertainer. Though in real life he was an excellent violinist and a generous man, he often played comedic roles in which he was a terrible musician and an extreme penny-pincher. One of Benny’s most famous sketches involves an attempted robbery…
Psalm 62 begins with David’s expression of confidence in God as he waits in silence for the one who is the source of his salvation (62:1). But then, after David remembers those who seek to bring him down through slanderous lies (62:3-4), his tone changes slightly. Now he speaks to himself, literally, to his own “soul” (nefesh): “Yes, my soul, find rest in God” (62:5).
Have you ever found yourself in a difficult, even hopeless situation, and desperate for God’s help? If so, then you can relate to Psalm 61. (If not, then Psalm 61 will help you when you face overwhelming challenges in the future.)
Yes, I have drunk deeply at the fount of American self-reliance. Like so many of my fellow citizens, I admire people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and forge ahead with determination. I want to be one of those people. And I’m not alone. Most of us want to control our lives and our destinies. When we get in trouble, we expect to help ourselves out of it.
In the last couple of days, we’ve been focusing on how we can love God with all of our strength in and through our daily work. Today, we continue to reflect on the notion of strength, but from a different and, I would suggest, absolutely essential perspective.
In Psalm 58:6, the psalmist prays in reference to unjust leaders, “Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; LORD, tear out the fangs of those lions!” Should we pray like this when we face perpetrators of injustice? Should we ask God to break the teeth of unjust leaders?
Yes, by all means, let’s use the glorious sections of the Psalms to guide and enrich our praise of God. But, let’s also pay attention to the unkempt and unflinching passages that teach us how to praise God when our lives are painful and confused. Let’s allow the full voice of the Psalms to be read, heard, and sung in our personal prayers and in the prayers of our communities of faith.
In the hit musical Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s political opponents recognize that one of his most powerful assets is his close relationship with George Washington.
Yes, in early years of the United States, it was nice to have Washington on your side. But Psalm 56 offers something even better. You have God on your side, and that is nice, to say the least.
In Psalm 55, David affirms the reality of answered prayer. When David cries out to God, “He rescues me unharmed” (55:18). According to this psalm, God hears David’s prayer and responds in ways that satisfy David’s longings. What a fine rationale for prayer!
But this psalm says more about prayer than this. It also illustrates the paradox of faithful prayer.
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