Freedom to Say How It Is

As I read Psalms 9 & 10, I felt the healing affects of authenticity.  The lack of pressure to be something we are not is a great release.  For years we build up a facade of Christian life, but it needs to be torn down.  Many modern and postmodern church experiences build up this facade.  We sing songs that praise God for who he is and what he does for us.  It came to my attention that few of our spiritual songs for church complain and plead like the psalms.  Many of them take aspects of who God is, but they do not build an authentic picture of what it is like to struggle after God.  Maybe, there should be more songs that say:

God we struggle to keep up
It is hard to follow you

You are awesome, but we are not
A chasm seems to separate us from you
We wish for you to show up
But we don’t see you
You’re everywhere, but you’re pandimensional
Which makes you difficult to relate to
You designed life and gave us a book
Sometimes it is cryptic and leaves us baffled
Empty life seems easier
Life medicated by TV and booze seems attractive

However, there are times when you showed up
I remember the reality of the experience
There are times when your truth transformed
There are times when I saw the path ahead
Those times showed me the essence of life
Those times gave meaning to existence

Give me strength for the next step
Empower me to speak your truth
Let words flow from a healed heart
Let wisdom flow from an enlightened soul

Somehow, I don’t think we are going to see many songs like that in our churches.  The triumphalism is a bit absent in my psalm, and it doesn’t rhyme or have a catchy refrain.

Psalms 9 & 10

 For the director of music. To the tune of “The Death of the Son.” A psalm of David.

 1 I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart;
   I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
   I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

 3 My enemies turn back;
   they stumble and perish before you.
4 For you have upheld my right and my cause,
   sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
   you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
6 Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,
   you have uprooted their cities;
   even the memory of them has perished.

 7 The LORD reigns forever;
   he has established his throne for judgment.
8 He rules the world in righteousness
   and judges the peoples with equity.
9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
   a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
   for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

 11 Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion;
   proclaim among the nations what he has done.
12 For he who avenges blood remembers;
   he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.

 13 LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!
   Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may declare your praises
   in the gates of Daughter Zion,
   and there rejoice in your salvation.

 15 The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
   their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
16 The LORD is known by his acts of justice;
   the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.[c]
17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
   all the nations that forget God.
18 But God will never forget the needy;
   the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

 19 Arise, LORD, do not let mortals triumph;
   let the nations be judged in your presence.
20 Strike them with terror, LORD;
   let the nations know they are only mortal.

Psalm 10[a]

 1 Why, LORD, do you stand far off?
   Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

 2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
   who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
   he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.
4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
   in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
5 His ways are always prosperous;
   your laws are rejected by[b] him;
   he sneers at all his enemies.
6 He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
   He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”

 7 His mouth is full of lies and threats;
   trouble and evil are under his tongue.
8 He lies in wait near the villages;
   from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
 9 like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
   he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
   they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
   he covers his face and never sees.”

 12 Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God.
   Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
   Why does he say to himself,
   “He won’t call me to account”?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
   you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
   you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
   call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
   that would not otherwise be found out.

 16 The LORD is King for ever and ever;
   the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted;
   you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
   so that mere earthly mortals
   will never again strike terror.

Questions

  • Psalm 9 & 10 actually are two parts of a unit.  Can you see how they might flow?
  • How are the psalms more authentic than many of our spiritual songs today?
  • Take time to compose a psalm to God about how things are:
    • Use two lines to say things the same with different words.
    • Use two lines to say contrasting truths or use images that contrast like night and day.
    • Use two lines to continue the same idea
    • Play with the above pairings
       

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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2 Responses to Freedom to Say How It Is

  1. Heather Braden says:

    Thank you for this reminder!

    I remember a chapel at Moody when we sang this song. The last line speaks so much. Lord disbelief my unbelief.

    my unbelief
    Here Master, in this quiet place, where anyone may kneel.
    I also come to ask for grace, believing You can heal.

    If pain of body, stress of mind destoys my inward peace,
    in prayer for others may I find the secret of release.

    If self upon the sickness feeds and turns my life to gall,
    let me not brood upon my needs, but simply tell You all.

    You never said, “you ask to much” to any troubled soul.
    I long to feel Your healing touch, will You not make me whole?

    But if the thing I most desire is not Your way for me,
    may faith, when tested in the fire, prove its integrity.

    Of all my prayers, may this be chief till faith is fully grown.
    Lord disbelieve my unbelief and claim me as Your own.

    -Fred Green 1974

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