Conquering the Cliffs

I posted a month ago about Psalm 18. I would like to just go through it with you. There is so much packed into it.

“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:”

King David wrote it. The King David who had enough faith in God to go against Goliath.  The King David who spent years as an outlaw, running for his life. The King David who committed adultery and then murder to cover it up. The same King David that God said was a man after His own heart. We often place those whom God used to write His word on a pedestal. They were just like us though – scared, lonely, moments of great faith only to come crashing down and do something they regretted.

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.”

He starts off by affirming who God is, which is important for us to do when our emotions are taking control and we feel overwhelmed and like the world is spiraling out of control. Much of what we tell ourselves is a lie or is unknown. We need to hold onto the truths we know. Affirming who God is is also important for when we get distressed by what we think other people think of us (whether it is true or not). Are we going to believe what the all-knowing Creator of the Universe thinks about us or what the broken, imperfect, hurting people around us think about us?

4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.

I think it is easy to read the Psalms and assume they don’t apply to me because nobody is physically attacking me. I’m not being hunted. I’m not fearing for my life anymore than the average person. Yet I can feel the cords of death or the torrents of destruction swallowing me when I let my thoughts spin out of control. When something big is coming up and I’m terrified. When I screw up or someone else screws up and hurts me. And when I get into those mindsets I tend to think that nobody else feels that way, but King David writes about his fears here and I know a lot of you struggle with the same feelings as well.

6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From His temple He heard my voice,
and my cry to Him reached His ears.

When we feel like we are drowning in life we need to call upon the Lord. Often times instead I try to forget that I’m drowning by eating chocolate, reading books, or watching movies – I always get to the end though and it doesn’t change anything, it just puts off dealing with it. Sometimes I refuse to talk to God about things because sometimes I get angry at Him. I feel like everything I wish for or desire He takes away. I feel like He’s stacked too much on me. I feel like I’m talking to an empty room. Just like its good for human relationships for parties to talk if they are upset at each other, it is also good for us to tell God when we are upset at Him. He can handle it. He knows that we hurt and hates that we hurt. He also knows the big picture and how the things we are angry about will change the world. Anger stuffed inside just sucks the life out of us and He knows everything anyway.

7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because He was angry.
8 Smoke went up from His nostrils,
and devouring fire from His mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from Him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
He came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before Him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through His clouds.

13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And He sent out His arrows and scattered them;
He flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

16 He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because He delighted in me.

This is how God feels about us. He is fiercely protective of us. He allows trials to come in this life because He knows they will allow us to grow, help others, and carry out His plan, but no way will He allow them forever. One day He will abolish Satan, death, sickness, pain, and evil and the hard days and hurtful times will be a distant memory in the vastness of eternity in His presence.

20 The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands He rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all His rules were before me,
and His statutes I did not put away from me.
23 I was blameless before Him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in His sight.

I know that I haven’t been blameless before God. I know that if God rewarded me on the cleanness of my hands I would get punishment instead. But Jesus said that I was worth enough to Him that He redeemed me, which is what this season of Christmas is all about. He was born into the world He created not to judge and lecture, but to have compassion and rescue. We mean so much to Him that He was willing to take our dirt on Himself so we could be clothed in His perfect righteousness.

25 With the merciful You show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man You show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified You show yourself pure;
and with the crooked You make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For You save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes You bring down.
28 For it is You who light my lamp;
the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by You I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—His way is perfect;
the word of the Lord proves true;
He is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

31 For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have given me the shield of Your salvation,
and Your right hand supported me,
and Your gentleness made me great.
36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
39 For You equipped me with strength for the battle;
You made those who rise against me sink under me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
41 They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.

43 You delivered me from strife with the people;
you made me the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
44 As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
foreigners came cringing to me.
45 Foreigners lost heart
and came trembling out of their fortresses.

46 The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation—
47 the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
48 who rescued me from my enemies;
yes, You exalted me above those who rose against me;
You delivered me from the man of violence.

49 For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing to Your name.
50 Great salvation He brings to His king,
and shows steadfast love to His anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.

This last section is full of some violent pictures that might make us cringe a little. Sometimes though I don’t think we think on Satan tempting us with enough violent emotion. We remain too passive which leads to inaction. We allow ourselves to get lulled into the belief that he really just wants whats best for us and forget that he is a roaring lion trying to devour us.

I love how it describes us doing impossible things with God’s strength – run against a troop, leap over a wall, set me secure on the heights, bend a bow of bronze. Most of the time my days just seem impossible – I want to live with joy and free of anxiety, but huge hurdles block my way. Things like public speaking, a foggy brain, the humiliation of taking a gazillion medications on my lunch break, being in charge of the health and well being of an innocent creature. The last couple clinical rotations I was on especially made me feel like there was just no way I was going to get through. So I kept reading this Psalm. I named what was my troop, wall, cliff, and bronze bow and affirmed to myself that with God’s strength I can overcome, too. And guess what, I have. The month I dreaded is almost done. And maybe it wasn’t the smoothest or easiest month. God didn’t miraculously change the schedule so I didn’t have to go through it. But He did go through it with me and showed me that He was with little God moments scattered through when I most needed them. Like when I was exhausted and overwhelmed on my second day of internal medicine and I randomly ran into a friend and she gave me a hug. My favorite TobyMac songs coming on the radio. Friends coming up to me at church where I was sitting alone and asking me to sit with them.

And He will help you overcome your troops, walls, cliffs, and bronze bows, too. Just ask Him and be willing to step up and take the hard road if He asks you to instead of wishing the hard things would go away. This life will never be free from trouble and pain, but the ending is already written and it will be beautiful and endless.

Psalm 18 taken from: