Psalms of Youth, Faith, Distress (and Ignorance?)

David and Goliath by Michelangelo

David and Goliath by Michelangelo

I don’t think it is out of line to say that David (more likely than not) had an ego. He was anointed as the future king, hand picked by God, defeated Goliath, leader of the whole army, and son-in-law to the king. 1 Samuel 16:1-18 describes David as “a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech and a handsome man; and the Lord is with him.” To have all this as a young man would lead many of us, and perhaps David, to have an ego. An ego of youth: handsome and a warrior. An ego of accomplishment: a skillful musician and a man of valor. An ego of character: prudent in speech and the Lord is with him.

Perhaps it was some of this ego that God need to purge from David during the years when he was on the run from King Saul. It was during this time of distress, this time of hardship, this time of struggle that David wrote the two Psalms we mentioned last time, Psalm 18 and Psalm 59. What does David say in these two Psalms? What can we learn about how David faced this time of struggle?

When you read these two Psalms, the first thing you notice is how dark the Psalm is. 59 begins, “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God” and while 18  begins on a note of praise, it quickly turns: “The cords of death encompassed me, and the torrents of ungodliness terrified me” (Psalm 18:4). It reminds us that the dangers David faced were real. Saul really wanted David dead and David wasn’t afraid to lay it all out to God.

While David isn’t afraid to lay out his dangers to God, he is quick to ask God (or perhaps tell God) what he would like God to do. I think it’s here that we see some of the mixing of David’s youth, faith and ignorance. David asks for God to deliver him and punish, scatter and destroy his enemies. In Psalm 18, David depicts God as a warrior king riding down from heaven on a cherub and defeating David’s enemies with hailstones, fire, arrows and lighting. David, as a young warrior himself, asks and sees God coming to his aid as a warrior defeating the enemies in battle. David’s testosterone is pumping and while he has faith that God is able to aid him, he doesn’t see any other solution than for God to fight for him. Perhaps that shows that David still has things to learn about God.

I’m not judging David, because I do the same thing- and I bet you do too. We see the struggles that come against us and all we see are the enemies and the “cords of death” that have come to entangle us. Then we do the same thing that David does; we ask (or tell) God how to fix the problem. This in itself is not wrong (if we are really asking God and not telling God), however, the problem is that we ask God to fix things in the way that we would fix things. For David, it was as a warrior. For us it’s as a business leader, a pastor, a parent, a child. And we ask according to knowledge we have, whether that’s age (13 as opposed to 31 as opposed t0 91) or spiritual maturity.

Also we see in these Psalms is that everytime we go through struggle, there is a light that we have to find. This isn’t the “light at the end of the tunnel,” the light that means everything is fixed and the time of darkness is over. This is the light that shows that God is in control and that God can still be worshiped: “Therefore I will give thanks to the You among the nation, O Lord, and I will sing praises to Your name.” (Ps. 18:49) and “But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, for you have been my stronghold and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my strength, I will sing praises to You; for God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness” (Ps. 59:16-17).

David’s faith fitness carryover was his ability to continue to praise God. This is what he learned to do during his years as a shepherd and it doesn’t seem like he ever lost the ability to do it. He might have to dig down a few layers and lay out his problems, frustrations and questions but in the end he still finds the ability to worship God. That’s an ability that I need to practice because just as it sustained David, it will sustain you and I during our times of struggle.

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