OH, REALLY…Psalm 18:20-29

Oh, the wisdom of youth! If it were only true! How I wish I could take some of what I’ve learned in life, as little as it is, and play it back into decisions I made as a young man and certainly into my middle years. But as they say, no can do! Let me ask you a question. What did you think when you read Psalm 18 today? What was your reaction to what the psalmist David had written as a song of his heart? Some of the phrases just hit me the wrong way: ‘according to my righteousness’, ‘the cleanness of my hands’, ‘I have not turned away from His decrees’, ‘I have been blameless’, ‘I have kept myself from sin’…Oh, really! Like he’s singing off-key here. Now we know lots and lots about David’s life, his successes and then his struggles. Hardly one of the Ten Commandments that he didn’t break at least once and sometimes many times more. Lying, adultery, murder…you name it. So, what’s he talking about–blameless, righteous, clean? Oh, really! Let’s go back a moment and read what’s right before the body of this psalm, underneath where it says ‘Psalm 18’ (at least in most Bible’s today). Called by Bible scholars the ‘superscription’, it is from tradition identifying where a psalm comes from in the life of the author, in this case David. This is a musical psalm, as most are. It calls him ‘the servant of the Lord’, and tells us that the occasion for this psalm is God’s deliverance of David from all of his enemies and especially Israel’s jealous first king, Saul. We don’t know David’s age here, except that he is a young man, early in his life. He’s got a lot of living ahead of him, good times and bad. Good decisions and lots of not so good ones as well. Sound familiar? Certainly is my experience. When I look back I had such good intentions. Then I got in the way; me, I and myself. Am I alone in this? Hope so, but I doubt it! What I do know is that David’s exuberance quickly was deflated by his own sinful nature, and so has mine in so many ways, at so many times in my life. Let people down, said what shouldn’t have been said, done what shouldn’t have been done, selfish and thoughtless. The list is just beginning. And that is why I look to Psalm 143 for a more mature word and song from David; later in his life, looking farther back over the decades of decadence and defeat. Now he says, ‘O Lord…listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief…Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you…(Psalm 143:1, 8). David sounds a bit different here, doesn’t he? He’s been eating that humble-pie after looking carefully and honestly in the mirror of his long life. That’s why he cries for mercy, for God’s love and forgiveness, exhibiting trust not in himself but in the One who is always righteous, always good, always clean and just. It’s not about me, but about Him. God’s grace is getting what I don’t deserve. His mercy is not receiving what I do deserve. The longer I live the more I depend not on me but on the One whose grace and mercy is new every morning…both now and forever. That’s good news, right? You agree, right?

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