This psalm of David is a tough one to read. And it seems a dangerous one to pray. The psalmist is sure of his own righteousness, convinced that his personal enemies are enemies of God and thirsting for savage vengeance (especially in the verses of the psalm omitted from the lectionary reading for today).
I have done nothing wrong, he declares: My feet have not slipped; my mouth does not transgress; I have avoided the ways of the violent. (This claim of innocence is an interesting one for David to make, given the accounts of his life in First and Second Samuel in the Hebrew scriptures.)
Surrounded and threatened by those who wish us ill, any of us, like David, may be tempted to protest that we don’t deserve such enmity and to demand protection. It’s a passionate prayer, but not a pretty one. Considering its merits and temporarily overlooking its faults, this psalm is worth a closer look.
David serves as his own advocate, presents his case to his Lord, the judge, and cries for vindication against his adversaries. To his credit, he does not seek authorization to take his own vengeance against his foes but calls upon God to save him. Regardless of the self-righteous tone, he trusts God to deliver him.
The prayer reflects a journey from embittered fear and anger toward confidence in God’s saving presence. Having vented his spleen, David seems by the end of the psalm to be able to rest in the hope of deliverance and to express a simple faith that God will help him.
As trusting as a child, the troubled king is sure that when he wakes he will behold God’s face and “be satisfied.”
Gracious God, deliver us from self-righteous anger, and “wondrously show your steadfast love” to those who put their trust in you. Amen.
Jacob is attacked one night by an unknown assailant and wrestles with him until morning. We discover that the assailant comes from God, so Jacob is given a new name, Israel. The psalmist is feeling unjustly accused and cries out to God. He is confident that he would be vindicated if all the facts were known. In Romans, Paul deals with difficult theological issues. He states that he would sacrifice his own soul if his fellow Israelites would accept Christ. Jesus teaches a crowd that is growing hungry, and his disciples are trying to figure out how to feed them. They see only what they lack, while Jesus asks them what they have. This story is a lesson about offering God what we have and trusting God to multiply it.
Read Genesis 32:22-31. When have you been forced to wrestle with yourself or your self-identity? How did this struggle reveal a blessing?
Read Psalm 17:1-7, 15. When have you felt the need to serve as your own advocate before God? How has this experience affirmed your trust in God?
Read Romans 9:1-5. When have you experienced Paul’s anguish that others do not accept what you have come to know in your faith, whether by conversion, denominational change, education, or encounter with God? How do you continue to be in relationship with such family or friends?
Read Matthew 14:13-21. When have you witnessed small acts of sharing that have led to great abundance?
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