Fitting a theme we’ve followed throughout the book of Psalms, all four of those we’ll read today reach out to the LORD as a refuge:…”He is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and He in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” If you’ve been paying any attention to the rest of the Bible, it’s not at all surprising that the Israelites’ worship book would reflect this. The LORD who sets apart, preserves, and rescues His people is the predominant theme of the Old Testament.
All four of our Psalms today also make reference to some enemy, danger, or outright terror that the writer is facing. In Psalm 141, David asks the LORD to “Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers!” Two chapters later, the enemy has David within arms’ reach: “…the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.”
As we near the end of the book of Psalms, let’s reflect on the importance of the threat-and-rescue motif in Israelite worship. Given the history of Israel, and especially the experience of David, it should also not be surprising that appeals for rescue were composed. But remember that the Psalms were compiled and arranged much later. We’ve seen evidence of intentionality in the way they’re arranged, so surely there were editorial decisions about what to include and exclude.
So what does it tell us that the worship leaders of Israel, the scribes who had most intimate knowledge of all the writings concerning Yahweh, considered these as so central? What does it say, furthermore, that the LORD’s governance would permit it?
What you hear of today are not abstract fears – terrors simply of the author’s mind. They appear as real characters in a living drama with tangible consequences. As you read today, focus your mind just as much on the fear and lament as you do on the faith and trust, and allow the very human story and response to sink in.
Our verse for this week is James 5:16: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Psalms 141 through 144. Now let’s read it!
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.