Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Psalm 59: The need for a defender?

Psalm 59 has many interesting images, especially the image of enemies prowling like unfed dogs. Today two verses jump out at me. The first is verse one: “defend me from those that rise up against me.” This verse really speaks to me because I often have wanted someone to defend me. As a modern woman who is fifty-four years old, I shouldn’t need a defender, right? It feels weak to ask someone to defend me. Society tells us that only little kids and weak overly-feminine women need people to defend them.

But I was often in a situation where —because of lack of family ties, being in the racial, financial, theological, or emotional minority— I stood alone.  My in-laws were against my marriage and my husband stood silent while they insulted me. Later, when my son was diagnosed with pervasive development delay, I stood alone against the doctor’s cruel comments while my husband sat silent. Even later, when my mother and aunt died, their lawyers — one in Jamaica, one in the US— stole the family house and other property. I could only watch as everything was stolen by those who had the poor, skill, and opportunity to commit fraud.

But my most important need for defense has surrounded my son’s illness. Having a disabled child has caused many cruel comments to be thrown at me. I have often begged God to defend me. If God showed His love for me and healed my son, all the theological, medical, and social judgments thrown at me would no longer matter because God would have shown the world how much He loved me. The best defense ever.

Another verse that jumps out at me is verse 8: The Lord shall laugh at them. This is not an image one generally has of God. On the one hand, it is normal for the wounded human soul to believe that God is on one’s side and is therefore laughing at one’s enemy. Certainly, David never seems to have felt that God laughed at him when David sinned against Uriah the Hittite. Surely, God would have been on David’s side at that time.

But David is not alone in showing God mocking the wicked. There are wicked people who are probably mocked in the heavenly court. In Jesus’ parable of the rich man who wanted to build up many barns, Jesus describes God as saying, “Fool, your soul is required of you.” Perhaps that was not mocking but godly pity. But the day will come when those who have mocked God will be mocked. 

This is a generation of mockers and sneerers, and indeed many people feel no qualms about mocking a holy righteous God. One wonders how it will be when the tables are turned, when sinners are caught in the hand of an angry mocking God.

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Psalm 59

For the director of music. To the tune of "Do Not Destroy." Of David. A miktam . When Saul had sent men to watch David's house in order to kill him. [a]

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
protect me from those who rise up against me.
2 Deliver me from evildoers
and save me from bloodthirsty men.

3 See how they lie in wait for me!
Fierce men conspire against me
for no offense or sin of mine, O LORD.

4 I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
Arise to help me; look on my plight!

5 O LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel,
rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
show no mercy to wicked traitors.
Selah

6 They return at evening,
snarling like dogs,
and prowl about the city.

7 See what they spew from their mouths—
they spew out swords from their lips,
and they say, "Who can hear us?"

8 But you, O LORD, laugh at them;
you scoff at all those nations.

9 O my Strength, I watch for you;
you, O God, are my fortress, 10 my loving God.
God will go before me
and will let me gloat over those who slander me.

11 But do not kill them, O Lord our shield, [b]
or my people will forget.
In your might make them wander about,
and bring them down.

12 For the sins of their mouths,
for the words of their lips,
let them be caught in their pride.
For the curses and lies they utter,

13 consume them in wrath,
consume them till they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
that God rules over Jacob.
Selah

14 They return at evening,
snarling like dogs,
and prowl about the city.

15 They wander about for food
and howl if not satisfied.

16 But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble.

17 O my Strength, I sing praise to you;
you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.

Footnotes:
Psalm 59:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term
Psalm 59:11 Or sovereign
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