Once in awhile, I freshen up my morning time by praying through the Psalms. I read aloud a new one each day, talking with God about each sentence. “I know my transgressions… against You only have I sinned,” prompts a needed confession. “The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion,” begins a grateful reflection on what He has done for me. But I get to a section where David is writing in the midst of his enemies, “they who seek my life will be destroyed,” and I have to be honest – I can’t identify. There are places in the world today facing danger, but I haven’t personally experienced anything close. And it leaves me uncertain about what to do with these passages.
My pastor reminded us that the Bible was written for us – but it was not written to us. This is a powerful caution for those who want to personalize every sentence in the Bible. The words of the text were written to a specific person or people and in a culture that is different from ours. We need to look at what they actually heard in light of their situation, language and environment. It keeps us from misapplying promises or directions as though they were written specifically to us, like a telegram.
That being said, it is written for us. There is something being said God wants us to hear. In the case of David’s laments in the Psalms, what can I learn about God’s character? Or about how I can approach God? David’s situation is clearly different from mine, but in observing his relationship I gain something as well. I see God’s faithfulness, His compassion, His righteousness and His protection. I see that He is the only One I should cry out to and it gives my life perspective.
As David extols God’s victories, I realize most of my own battles are internal rather than external. But God’s words are for everyone and I learn from the Psalms about God’s mercy and protection and grow confident He is the ultimate victor. My sin nature is my biggest enemy that I fight every day and I need not rely on my own strength but trust in His righteousness.
But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. Psalm 13:5