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Lent 2015 Devotional—Day 42

2015LentCoverWebDon’t Quit On Me

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
    with your right hand you save me.
The LORD will vindicate me;
    your love, LORD, endures forever—
    do not abandon the works of your hands.
Psalm 138:7-8

The superscript beginning this psalm says that this is another psalm of David. The influence of David, the “sweet singer of Israel” (II Samuel 23:1), is felt throughout the Psalms. David wrote at least 73 of the 150 psalms and established musical praise in God’s house (Ezra 3:10). Through years of being pursued by Saul, hiding out in the wilderness, facing treachery from family and friends, and eventual triumph, David’s psalms provide instruction and encouragement for God’s people.

Eugene Peterson points out that we know more about David than any other person in the Bible: David’s story is the most extensively told story in Scripture. And yet, as Peterson says, David’s story:

like most other Bible stories, presents us not with a polished ideal to which we aspire but with rough-edge actuality in which we see humanity being formed – the God presence in the earth/human conditions… David’s importance isn’t in his morality or his military prowess but in his experience of a witness to God. (Peterson, Leap Over A Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians)

Today’s psalm text is yet one more witness to David’s experience of God’s presence when in trouble. Notably David begins the psalm not focusing on his troubles but focusing on God and God’s character: “I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart…for your unfailing love and faithfulness” (vv. verse 1-2). Through David’s experience of God he is confident that God will deliver and vindicate him: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.” These words call to mind David’s words in Psalm 23, the beautiful shepherd’s psalm where he affirms: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (23:4).

David is no Pollyanna dreamer or escapist, but he is a realist who knows that trouble can strike the faithful. David’s experience of God’s presence has taught him a sense of security even in life’s most terrifying situations. David’s enemies may rage against him but he knows that God will stretch forth His hand against them and “vindicate” David. Like the apostle Paul who affirms that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35ff.), so David affirms that God’s love “endures forever”. Out of David’s experiences, which are so important for us, there arises great confidence for the future.

David saves any petition or request until the very last line of his psalm: “do not abandon the works of your hands.” Up to this point David has focused on God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. Having time and again experienced being held in God’s hands, David now asks that God’s hands continue to uphold him forever.

Here is a prayer of realistic faith that lives between trouble and triumph, between sorrow and deep joy, between broken dreams and fruitful accomplishment. This is a prayer we can pray in the same confidence with which the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

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