December 20, 2016
A Psalm of David.
35 Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me;
Fight against those who fight against me.
2 Take hold of shield and buckler,
And stand up for my help.
3 Also draw out the spear,
And stop those who pursue me.
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation.”
David was no nine-to-five suburbanite.
He was not what we would call a family man. He was a warrior and a man who, for much of his life, slept under the stars. Whether as a shepherd, where he fought against “the lion and the bear” that threatened his flocks, or as the leader of a band of mercenaries who rode along the borders of those ancient states, David’s life was a life of unbuffered contact with the real world. It was a life of “blood, sweat and tears,” a life marked by the “smack and tang of elemental things.”
Thus, David’s faith was a real-life faith. The faith of one who trusted in God in the face of immediate, flesh-and-blood enemies. David’s fights were real and physical, not existential. There was a day, there was a battle, someone won and someone died.
When we who drive air-conditioned cars and live in comfortable houses read David’s poetry, what does it do to us? Is it completely inaccessible to us who will not have to pass armed enemies to get into our heated garages after work this evening?
Or does his poetry translate into our own situation pretty well. Our enemies may not be armed with sword and shield, but there are those who would like to see us hurt – whether at the office, where they circle for a chance at our job, or in relationships, where they are jealous or envious.
Or does reading David’s poetry leave us so cold that we have to wonder about the lives we live. Are we so cossetted that we really don’t know the world? That we never really even bump into its edges or climb or fall on its mountainsides? Are we really venturing at all? Have we put anything at risk? Are we aiming at something? Anything? Do we recognize our real desires, or have we put those away long ago as unrealistic and unreachable?
Such a life is not the life of faith. It’s not the life that the Bible speaks of. The Bible speaks of real conflict. In David’s day it was a physical battle against the Philistines. In our day
. . . we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[a] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12New King James Version (NKJV)
Maybe reading David’s psalms will reawaken us to the reality of life as a battle. Christ has freed us from the prison of sin. We’re no longer imprisoned, no longer powerless, but the battle is still on.
There is still the risk of loss and there is still the prospect of great gain.