Tag Archives: David

A Verse for Meditation

Torah ScrollThe sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  Psalm 51:17

This verse falls near the end of Psalm 51, a psalm composed by David after Nathan called him to account for his adultery with Bathsheba. Read Psalm 51:1-6. In what way does verse 6 set the stage for verse 17?

1     Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2     Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3     For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4     Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
5     Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6     Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom
in the inmost place.

Verses 7-9 are about the work David asks God to do because of his (David’s) sin. What does David really want?
7     Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8     Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9     Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Verses 11-16 are a plea from David. Have you ever felt this way? David knows that he cannot be reconciled with God as long as the blots and stains of his sin remain? What does he think is necessary for his reconciliation?

11    Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12    Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13    Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
14    Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness
15    O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16    You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 

Coming to the end of this long penitential prayer, David makes a startling statement. How does the statement in verse 17 enhance the meaning of the statement in verse 19?

17    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
18    In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19    Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Would you agree that verse 17 is the climax of this psalm-prayer? If not, which verse do you see as the most powerful statement of the message of this psalm?

When was the last time you felt as guilty as David felt when he wrote this psalm? Have you ever come to God with your shame as David did? Think of your shame and the disappointment you feel about yourself. Pray this prayer for yourself.

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A Verse for Meditation

I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.                                              Psalm 146:2

  •  Every day the news brings us more reminders of disaster and tragedy in the world. How are we supposed to praise God in the midst of such misery?
  • We know that David’s life was no picnic, and it is unlikely that any other psalm writer had a life of never-ending ease. How did this writer motivate all that praise?
  • When I am in the midst of deep pain myself, does God even expect me to praise him?
  • The book of Revelation describes myriads and myriads of angels and people praising God for eternity. Is that what this writer means? Is that something I should actually look forward to? Is that all heaven is?

No Rescue for You

The biblical story of Absalom and David is a dramatic tale of broken relationships and the complete inability of humans to heal the breach. Most people know that Absalom attempted to usurp his father David’s throne, but few people take the time to discover that Absalom’s scorn for his father was sparked by his father’s unwillingness to rescue the honor of Absalom’s sister Tamar after she was raped by the heir apparent. David’s unwillingness to sully the image of the crown prince by taking any action on behalf of his own daughter had terrible consequences, capped by Absalom’s attempt to steal the kingdom from his father, whom he doubtless regarded as feeble and useless.

Psalm 3 is tagged as a prayer David wrote during Absalom’s rebellion. The author’s lament that people think his situation is hopeless makes sense to anyone who has read how Absalom spent years building himself up in the eyes of David’s subjects, largely by implying that David was remote and impotent while Absalom was out among the people and ready to do what needed to be done. David had, indeed, avoided knowing what Absalom was doing and was totally unprepared to respond when Absalom moved to seize power. The Psalm is attributed to David, who would probably have tired of hearing people say, “It’s hopeless.”

No rescue for him through God. (Psalm 3:3)

Here is a prime example of the wisdom of ignoring gossip. David knew that people were muttering that God wasn’t going to pull David out of the fire this time. He knew that a lot of people thought it was good enough for him that Absalom had rebelled. Just as a voter might hear a political promise in an election campaign and hope that there would be some reward for his vote, many of David’s subjects likely hoped that Absalom’s fine words would mean good things for them in the future. God had dumped Saul and anointed David. Why think God wouldn’t dump David and enthrone handsome, virile, silver-tongued Absalom?

It comforts me to know that God did not abandon David just because David was not good at relationships. When I hear the teaching that God’s most important laws are, Love God above everything else, and Love your neighbor as yourself, I know that I am doomed. I am not good at relationships, either. If David had had any skill at building and healing relationships in his family, the tragedy of Absalom’s rebellion could have been avoided. If I were good at relationships, some tragedies in my life might have been avoided, too. I often give thanks that God didn’t dump me. I am reminded in David’s words that God didn’t dump him, either.

You, Lord, are a shield for me. (Psalm 3:4)

When I pray Psalm 3, I tend to paraphrase some lines. Verses 6 and 7 come out as, “Thank goodness, I can get some sleep, because I know God is with me. It feels as if everybody is against me, but I know I can let God take care of me.” I am inclined to skip over the lines about God breaking people’s teeth, because that isn’t the outcome I really hope for.

 

I am inspired and comforted and motivated by the final verse. In the NRSV, Psalm3:8a reads, “Deliverance belongs to the Lord.” Every time I read it, I remember that this was the cry of Jonah from the belly of the fish. Talk about dire straits! David’s rescue from Absalom’s rebellion was dramatic, but Jonah’s rescue after being thrown into the sea was 3-D drama. Of course, David’s cry in Psalm 3 is a statement of faith that we expect from David. When Jonah cried out those words, it was his moment of truth. In David’s story, Absalom was the rebel, but in Jonah’s story, the rebel was Jonah himself. When Jonah cried out those words, it was more of a confession that he had finally seen the light than a statement of his ongoing faith that God was with him. After all, Jonah arrived in the fish’s belly precisely because he had sought to escape God’s presence.

 

All of which is truly comforting. Whether my enemies gang up on me, or whether I gang up on myself by trying to run away from God, I can’t escape God’s presence. Even though God can’t count on me to love him or to love people, and even though God can’t count on me to be where I am supposed to be when I am supposed to be there, God never gives up on me. That is the deep truth that I pray when I pray Psalm 3 in the spiritual company of David and Jonah and all the saints. There is rescue for me, after all.