I’ve been taking a lot of time so far this year to inundate myself with the historical hymnbook of my faith, the book of Psalms. Lately, I’ve read and reread particular Psalms, asking God to grant me fresh, new, and vibrant understandings of these these ancient songs in their entirety; in their triumphant celebrations, their awestruck wonder at God’s created order, their mournful lamentations, their cries for justice, their precise dissections of who man is, and their equally precise affirmations of who God is. And as I’ve spent time in this book, God has been faithful to let the contents fall on my heart in fresh ways.
One example came tonight as I went back over the seventh Psalm as part of a project that is best explained by reading my brother-in-law’s blog here. In the Psalms of David, it is common for the Psalmist to speak concerning his enemies, the writer often calling out to God for defense and for righteous judgment. Shooting straight, I’ve sometimes found it tough to connect with some such Psalms, and here’s why I think that is. Unlike David, I’m fairly certain I don’t have rival nations plotting against me (the food poisoning I got in Russia was coincidental, I think). I could be totally off here, but on an average day, I rarely if ever feel that I have other people working actively toward my demise in the way David did. But as I read the following passage, something powerful struck me tonight. The first lines of the seventh Psalm read:
O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it to pieces with none to deliver.
When I read those lines, I started to ask the question, “Who are my pursuers?” And here’s the honest truth: my pursuers aren’t external. On a day to day basis, the pursuers that hunt me down and rip me to pieces when they get their teeth in are internal. I’m constantly pursued by fears that I might fail, fears that I’m not everything people believe me or want me to be, fears that I’m just a bunch of talk, fears that sooner or later, people are going figure out I’m blatantly average on my best day with the wind behind me. And these fears come on like little whispers in the back of my head, little cracks in the foundation of my ego; however, it’s never long before the dam breaks and those whispers become yells. Once my mind latches onto these thoughts, I cycle and recycle them allowing my innermost fears of inadequacy to “tear my soul apart, rending it to pieces with none to deliver.”
This is where the lead line becomes crucial for me. The Psalmist leads by saying, “O Lord my God, in YOU do I take refuge.” When my floods of internal fears consume me and leave me feeling hopeless, it just reveals where I’m taking refuge. It’s my tendency to take refuge in the name I create for myself, the validation I receive from others, the pat on the back, the triumph of proving my own value to myself and those around me. What I want is for people to stroke my ego, for outcomes to prove my worth. What I need is to rest in the fact that my worth comes in that, as Paul says it in Ephesians 2, I am “God’s workmanship,” a creation that testifies not to its own paltry merit, but to the infinite merit of its Creator. To put my security in the merit of “Andy Love” is foolishness at best; trust me, I know him, and his track record makes him a pretty poor refuge.
Thus, my prayer is that when my fears pursue me like lions, when they threaten to destroy the security I’ve built on external validation and personal accomplishment, the Holy Spirit would give me the courage to let those lions do their work…because the more of my self-aggrandizing facade they tear down, the more apparent it becomes that the name of YHWH (not my own) is a strong tower the righteous run to and are saved.
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