The Psalms

God, our defense and refuge

But I will sing of thy power, and will praise thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble. Unto thee, O my Strength will I sing: for God is my defense, and my merciful God.

~Psalm 59:16-17, 1599 Geneva Bible

These words stopped me in my tracks this morning.  I try to make it a daily habit of reading through a selection of Psalms, culminating in a reading through of all 150 Psalms a month.  Some days the reading seems routine, but today…today these words hit deep within me, calling out that God has been my every increasing source of strength as I struggle to piece together a new life with incurable cancer.  Having faith and loving God is so simple when life is going well.  There are so many things to thank God for and the blessings of his love are felt in a tangible way; however, when life becomes taxing, it is so simple to try to pick up the pieces without looking to him for guidance and help.  It is in the deep, dark valleys of life that I find I want to do things my way and find resolution to all my problems through human power, not actively seek out God in prayer. The more I attempt to solve my own problems, the deeper into the pit I fall.

This is the beautiful thing about David, he knows when he is beaten.  He knows when life is dragging him down and members of his own household are turning against him that this is the most perfect time to turn to God.  David trusts in God to solve his problems.  He waits on God to seek vengeance for him.  He knows when he is facing defeat in the circumstances of life and, during those times, he pens some of the most beautiful cries to God for relief contained in the Scriptures.  I think what stands out the most to me is David’s steadfast faith that God will intervene on his behalf and deliver him from the most trying of circumstances.  I wish I possessed just a fraction of the faith David demonstrates.  I cannot imagine how I would feel if someone I once trusted tried to slay me in my sleep.  I am not so sure I could reach out to God with confidence that he will vindicate me; I would desire to take matters into my own hands and seek vengeance on my own terms.  The words David writes are powerful:

“He is strong; but I will wait upon thee: for God is my defense.

My merciful God will prevent me: God will let me see my desire upon mine enemies” (GNV Ps 59.9-10).

He is willing to wait on God to act against those who attack him without provocation.  He understands God’s mercy and speaks with confidence that God will allow him to taste victory over those who would persecute him.  I stand in awe and pray that my faith would be strengthened in the light of my momentary troubles, for I face nothing as desperate as David.

What stands out the most to me is that David is not calling for their immediate destruction.  He prays that God will destroy them slowly so they may stand as an example of the power and justice of God to the nations.  David is patient in his call for retribution, knowing that this is the perfect opportunity for God to demonstrate his love for his people.  I am not so sure I possess that kind of faith, and I know I lack the intensity of patience required for God to work slowly.  I want action in my pain and I want it now.  I want God to slay what ails me with fire and brimstone so I can revel in the destruction.  This is not what God seeks to develop in his people.  Peter writes that God desires us to:

“…give even all diligence thereunto: join moreover virtue with your faith; and with virtue, knowledge: and with knowledge, temperance: and with temperance, patience: and with patience, godliness: and with godliness, brotherly kindness: and with brotherly kindness, love” (GNV 2 Pe 1.5-7).

Without developing patience, those who love God will never reach godliness, brotherly kindness, but, most importantly, we will never reach the point of love for one another because love requires patient endurance.  David, through this Psalm, demonstrates his love and willingness to endure patiently so that God is glorified among the nations.  Oh! To have that strong a faith!

The key to developing this kind of faith that seeks after God’s glory first is found in the last two verses of this Psalm.  David writes:

“But I will sing of thy power, and will praise thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.

Unto thee, O my Strength will I sing: for God is my defense, and my merciful God” (GNV Ps 59.16-17).

David tells God that he will sing of his power and praise his mercy in the morning.  It is the first thing that David seeks to do, reminding him throughout the day that God is all powerful and merciful at the same time.  All that is needed to make it through the day are contained in those two words, acknowledging that God possesses the power to overcome all that seeks to stand against us and resting in the mercy of God to intervene on our behalf.  If his people seek after these qualities daily, there is nothing that can stand against us.  David also acknowledges that it is God’s power and mercy that are his defense and refuge when times are difficult and enemies arise against him.  He recognizes that he, by himself, is powerless to overcome all the obstacles that stand against him.  What stands out to me the most is that David speaks of God being a defense and refuse in the past tense.  He looks back at all the times God has proven faithful in order to be able to face an uncertain future with confidence.  Each of us, in our lives, have evidence of God’s power and mercy over trying circumstances.  This truth is what helps to develop the character traits Peter speaks of, we can be patient because we know God will intervene.  We can act with godliness, brotherly kindness, and love because we have confidence that God will interact with his people for his glory.  What a blessing!

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