Going Deeper 11-6-19

Psalm 17:1-9   Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.  From you let my vindication come; let your eyes see the right.  If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress.  As for what others do, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.  My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.  I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words.  Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.  Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who despoil me, my deadly enemies who surround me.


Honestly, I find the content of this Psalm to be difficult.  I believe it reveals how the Psalter contains very human expressions which give voice to the wide range of human emotions and spiritual reactions to real life experiences.  To be honest, the theology that is reflected if often problematic… as is the case with this Psalm.


What we see here is an example of how Israel came to misunderstand their covenantal relationship with God.  The Psalmist seeks God’s blessings on the basis of his merits and right-ness rather than on the goodness, grace, and mercy of God.  His request is that God take note of how there is “no wickedness in me” and of how his “steps have held fast to [God’s] paths; my feet have not slipped.”  In other words, the writer feels as though he deserves God’s help.


In the covenant God formed with the descendants of Abraham whom God had powerfully and dramatically delivered from abusive slavery in Egypt, obedience was to be primarily based on remembering what God had done and gratefully responding by living according to God’s commands.  Yes, there are references to blessings which would follow obedience and punishment which would follow disobedience, but this was secondary to obeying out of love and gratitude.  The blessings and curses were focused on what would happen if/when Israel forgot God and His incredible acts of mercy and grace... which is what happened repeatedly.


God’s children have continually gotten this confused throughout our history, concluding that God works on a merit system.  The outcome of this mindset is obedience based either on a desire for reward (self-centered) or on a fear of punishment.  It is vital for us to not go down that road, and to understand obedience as an expression of love for our Creator and Savior, and as a reflection of lives being restored to their original created design.


When we go to our Abba in prayer, we do not cite our own merits, but humbly seek the blessings of our loving Father.


With You in Him,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."