A greatly loved Psalm this one, not least by fans of Irish Rock Band U2, who used to finish their concerts with their song ’40’, based on this. It’s a Psalm of patience, so I’m starting with it, both because we reached Ps 39 back in 2015 and because we are all going to be growing in patience in the coming weeks. Waiting stretches us, refines us, rearranges us. I hate waiting, but this Psalm helps me to grow deeper in God when I do.
The timing of the Psalm is interesting, most of it is written looking back at a time of waiting, which is now over, a celebration of what God has done. Then the final section from v12, the time frame changes and the Psalmist is in a time of trouble, waiting and longing for God.
It’s a Psalm about waiting in hope, turning towards God when life is hard, which we can all connect with right now. Very early in the Psalm hope invades with the assurance that God ‘inclined’ to me and heard my cry. So God leans in to us too.
The Psalmist remembers waiting for salvation, for God to come and lift him out of the pit and re-establish solid ground for him to stand on. That may be how many of us feel in the times of waiting in the coming weeks. At the end of it, there is praise, but the way the Psalm works, it calls us to praise and trust, whilst we wait. We can’t gather to praise loudly together, but lifting our thoughts to the greatness of God is key right now, when I do that, my perspective shifts. Make space for the discipline of praise, not based on how you feel, but the truth of God’s goodness. Use lines from this Psalm today to shape your praise.
Integrity, those who trust God and hold fast, are blessed in the end. This Psalm helps me to set my focus and steer towards God, not down into that pit. In ‘shut down’, we all need self discipline, we won’t have so many external patterns of routine, our motivation needs to come from within.
Intimacy. V6 is a hugely important verse in the Bible and repeated a number of times, including Hebrews 10, where we see that God shifted a model of worship from animal sacrifice, (ritual) to intimacy and delight in God. Self discipline and routine are important, but superstitious ritual can mean we go through the motions doing ‘the right thing’, but without relationship to God, it is just hollow religion, worse than useless.
Telling others. V9-10 the Psalmist remembers how he has told others about God’s salvation, like God’s mercy, he has been unrestrained in telling people of the goodness of God and the story of salvation. How can we use this time to help other people hear the good news story of salvation?
Tough times. V11-15 talks of the contrast of God’s goodness and the painful realities of life, in his case enemies coming against him and an awareness of his own sin, (I take some comfort in v12 – I’m not sure if having fewer hairs on my head means I have less sin – sadly that’s not the point!)
The final part of the Psalm, he turns to God, with raw and passionate language of the heart, and a powerful cocktail of praise, vindication, heart cry and lament he lands on the truth. God is our saviour. We need him right now. He is our hope and our saviour, our help and deliverer. Waiting is painful, we need to be raw and honest about it, I’m going through a huge range of emotions everyday in this time. We aren’t through the worst of this pandemic, but our hearts can stand on the solid rock of truth of who God is.