For the Love of God, Volume 2/September 14
From Gospel Translations
2 Samuel 10; 2 Corinthians 3; Ezekiel 17; Psalms 60—61
A PASTORAL COLLEAGUE OF MINE, Dr. Roy Clements, has preached through a number of psalms under the series title “Songs of Experience.” The title is insightful. Though they are full of doctrine, the psalms are not summaries of doctrine. Many of them are, quite literally, songs of experience. In the Psalms, not a few doctrines become firmly planted in our minds, or their implications are worked out in our lives, precisely because they are heated up in the cauldron of experience. To put the matter another way, the existential value of many doctrines is best seen in the way they are worked out in human lives. So there are psalms of hope, of fear, of doubt, of exuberant joy, of forgiveness, of disappointment, of danger, of despair, of solitude, of contemplation. Many psalms plunge from one mood to another.
One of the psalms before us, Psalm 61, finds David hungering for the security that only God can give. When the psalm opens, David is apparently suffering from exhaustion or depression (61:2). Perhaps when he penned these lines he was a long way from home: “From the ends of the earth I call to you” (61:2). On the other hand this may simply be a poetic way of expressing how alienated he feels, how far removed from the living God. What he wants, then, is “refuge” (61:3), “a strong tower against the foe” (61:3)—or, in the line that has been incorporated into many hymns, he begs God, “[L]ead me to the rock that is higher than I” (61:2). This conjures up competing images: a rock that will provide shelter to a person beaten down by the sun, a rock that is a craggy redoubt—something far more secure than the man himself can be.
But the following verses show that the security David longs for can never be reduced to physical strength, “a strong tower”—a Maginot Line, a nuclear deterrent, a carrier task force. “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings” (61:4). The prayer for security has become immensely personal: David hungers above all for the presence and assurance of God himself. This God protects his own—and his own are those who have been granted the glorious heritage of fearing God’s name (61:5). It is almost as if the precise nature of the security God affords gradually dawns on David. Each verse adds an everdeepening grasp of the true ground of the believer’s security, culminating in this prayer for the king: “May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him” (61:7). No greater security is possible. Small wonder David ends his reflection in unbounded praise (61:8)—as must we.