Blogging the Bible 125 – Psalms 17-20 – Confidence and prayer

Psalm 17

I’m not sure that I could confidently pray to the LORD as the psalmist does in the face of his enemies. He asks God to search his heart and find that it is pure. To do that would require either complete self-knowledge or none at all – and while I know that of course God knows all that is in my heart, I’m not always comfortable with that.

But in the face of false accusation I know that integrity is a great strength – and that knowing that God knows the truth is stronger still. I don’t have to be blameless in everything to appeal to him no the basis of truth – though in doing that I do take the risk that he may point out other parts of my life where I am less innocent.

Psalm 18

‘I love you, O LORD’.

Admittedly it’s only in the Psalms that we’ve had much of the Bible addressed to God rather than being about what he’s done, but these words still stand out. The Psalmist (David?) Is praising God for his victories over his enemies, and it’s a psalm of celebration and thanks. It’s clear that all the victory is due to God, and so is the glory.

If this indeed by David, as tradition and the sense of it suggest, then it does remind us that even an awareness of God’s hand in our lives, a thankfulness for all his blessings and a heartfelt outpouring of praise don’t guarantee that we’ll stay as faithful as David proclaims himself here. Psalm 51 is still to come…

Psalm 19

This is a wonderful psalm of praise, and a celebration both of the glory of creation and of the glory of God’s word. First the psalmist points us to the glory of God revealed in the heavens. The more we learn of the majesty and scale of the universe, the more glory of God we see. Unimaginable distances and beautiful structures in the universe hint at the glory of the one who made them, and the insights of physicists into the strange, expanding nature of reality seem only to show a God whose glory is ever increasing.

Yet we still need this glory to be interpreted, and so we praise God also for his revelation in Scripture – the ‘law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.’

The vision of grandeur that is the night sky should be enough to keep us humble – but we still need that humility to be directed into obedience through God’s word, interpreting his will to us. The NRSV gives two possible translations in v.13 – I think that ‘proud thoughts’ makes more sense here than ‘the insolent’ – the danger is in ourselves, not in others.

I can contemplate creation to glorify God and humble myself. I need Scripture to help me to work out what I do about that glory and that humility.

Psalm 20

It doubtless helped David to know that his people were praying for him.

Let’s pray clearly and positively for our leaders – for their success as well as their guidance.

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