Monday, May 22, 2006

"But You, O LORD"

"O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah. But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and He answered me from His holy hill. Selah.” Psalm 3:1-4 ESV

King David was quite familiar with what it meant to have enemies. He had seen the effects of sin in his life and others and how it has the ability to destroy relationships, even those of familial ties. The third psalm is a result of this in-depth, personal knowledge and when there lies the absence of forgiveness leading to reconciliation, an enemy emerges.

(See 2 Samuel 13-15) In short, David’s daughter, Tamar, was raped by her half brother, Amnon. Tamar’s biological brother, Absalom, was none too happy regarding the situation and conveniently had Amnon murdered. David was eventually forced to flee Jerusalem in fear of his son Absalom as Absalom sought to overthrow the kingdom. When left to our own devices, sin will make decisions that have consequences far beyond the ephemeral pleasure that it provides. Lust led to rape; rage led to murder; mutiny led to separation; and sin will always lead to death for that is the only wages that it works for.

David’s life is being pursued and the desired outcome is that he would be without it; and in the midst of this, David makes a startling discovery. More accurately, God reveals Himself in a powerful way to David who has the privilege of eternalizing this revelation, and he does so in a simple phrase, “But You, O LORD…”

In essence David says, “LORD, I have left my kingdom, the kingdom that You gave me and entrusted into my care, because my son is so angry that he desires to kill me. My daughter has been raped and my son murdered, and I have long passed my emotional limit. Life seems to be utterly hopeless…but You, LORD. You. You, are the only One who can save me. You are the only One who hears me and knows my situation more fully than I do myself. You have not moved one inch away from me, but I have moved from You. You are the One who is all powerful, all knowing, and all wise. You are the One who spoke the earth into its existence and You are the One who breathed life into me. You are the One is the sustainer of all things for it is in You that all things hold together. You are the Sovereign LORD. You are my provider. You are my healer. You are my refuge and strength, and ever present help in time of need. Regardless of whatever outward or inward circumstances that appear to have an entanglement upon me – even the threat of murder, You, O LORD, are shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”

David declares God to be his shield. There were a few different types of shields used in battle. One was a smaller shield that was fastened to the forearm to be used in close combat situations. Another was a much larger shield that could be used to hide behind when facing enemy arrows, the grenade of the day. At times this larger shield had a shield-bearer whose task was to simply hold the shield. Regardless of the shield size, a shield’s specific purpose is for protection. If you were to set a shield up and then walk a hundred feet away from it, the shield offered no protection. You must remain within close proximity to the shield in order for its protection to be worthy. So David, says, “You, O LORD, are a shield about me.” His proximity to the LORD was such that he could trust in his eternal protection. Despite the impending danger, David could trust that his defense was impenetrable.

Next, David asserts that God is his glory. God is the One who determines David’s identity. God is the One to whom all must be measured against. David’s desire is not for his own glory, but for the glory of the Father who has chosen David from a list of shepherd boys to be crowned King of Israel. But still, David’s identity is not found in his kingdom, his kingship, his power or prestige, his children, his wives (topic for another time), or anything that is earthly. His identity is found in God alone. God is his glory.

Finally, David affirms that it is God who is “the lifter of his head.” Notice the passive verb tense here. God is the lifter. David is powerless to lift his own head, not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense – to turn his gaze towards the heavens, to seek the Lord, to be reminded that the Lord is his shield and his glory. God is the One who acted upon David, not David finally choosing to seek God. This is a display of the glorious grace of God acting upon one of His children even though his child is in the wilderness as a result of sin. For those who are His, He will always cause them to seek Him.

So David, after being reminded that the Lord is his shield, his glory, and the One who has acted upon him to turn his thoughts heavenward, David reaffirms the relationship with his Maker. And in turn, “[cries] aloud to the Lord” and it should be no surprise that the Lord of hosts affirms this relationship as well and “answered [David] from His holy hill.”

The Lord is in the business of restoring relationships and reaffirming His role in our lives. I’m quite thankful for this for if it were entirely my choice, I would never choose Him apart from Him first choosing me. Grace is a powerful force. Grace is what moves us towards reconciliation, grace is what enables a prodigal to return to his loving father, and grace is where our protection lies, our identity is found, and our eyes become fixed. For without grace, all we have is everything else. And upon further examination, this “everything” is simply nothing, but through the wonderful majesty of grace, we are given the ability to proclaim, "But You, O LORD..."

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