Passionate Love Psalms
Have you ever watched the movie The Blues Brothers? If so, do you remember the scene where they are in the church service and James Brown is preaching, singing, dancing and shouting? John Belushi does several back flips, reaches the altar and is now repentant and wants to follow God’s ways? When I see that part I often wonder why that can’t be like a real church service that we could experience?
When you read this section of Psalms you can get a bit of that kind of emotional intensity from David. Look at a few of the descriptions from David, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and wary land where there is no water…because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you” (Chapter 63:1&3). I truly don’t even know the passion that David is talking about, but I long to. This kind of language about desiring God at this deep level makes me feel like I am reading a passage in a tongue that I don’t know. This is the heart of which back flips are really formed.
I know we have heard these kinds of things sung on the radio, and it’s always taken as hyperbole. But David speaks from a connectedness with God that blows my mind. It’s not just words, but a true desire for God’s Righteousness. In Psalm 66:17-19 David writes, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” This is not to imply that the Lord answers us because we have merited his favor by our own righteous endeavor. But instead, when we enter a relationship with God, we owe him our allegiance, our faith and our obedience. I believe this is key to David’s passionate love for God, he knew he was loved deeply and he responded with love back toward God in the form of obedience.
One more aspect in this section of Psalms is passion for God when life is beating you up. In Psalm 69, (maybe the most quoted Psalm in the NT), David bears his soul in tragic language. “My eyes fail, looking for my God…I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none” (verses 3&20). Yet David prayed with confidence and praise throughout the struggle. “Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love…I praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving” (verses 16&30). This is the kind of passion that is enjoyed in the exciting times, in the times you struggle with your own sinfulness, and in the times you are not sure what God is doing in your life. We can live out a passionate love affair with God for the long haul, not just for one worship service of back flips - but for a lifetime.
Tips for Reading (Interpretation tip #13)
Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.
We started looking at how to decide when the passage we are reading is figurative. This is important to know what promises are being made or what commands to keep. Some folks write off legitimate callings on our lives to the “figurative.” If this section gets too technical for you, don’t worry about it and go to another tip on interpretation and come back later. Anyway, here are a couple more ideas to help knowing when to look for metaphors.
Use the figurative sense when the passage tells to you to do so. For example, some passages tell you up front that this is about a dream or vision. You can expect to find symbolic language when a dream is being deciphered. The end of the book of Daniel has a lot of this.
Secondly, use the figurative sense if a literal meaning is impossible or absurd. This really just calls for common sense in Bible study. God does not shroud himself in unknowable mysticism. When He wants to tell us something, He tells us. He doesn’t confound us with nonsense. However, He often uses symbolism to make His points. Yet He expects us to read them as symbols, not absurdities.
Two examples in our passages this week show us this point. Psalms 57:4; “I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts…” David is writing about evil men, not some kind of half man, half animal creation. He is using figurative speech. It’s easy to spot when you simply read it in the manner, which you would speak. “Frank is as mean as a lion.” The second one is Psalm 61:4, “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” God does not have a literal tent in the desert that David hung out in from time to time and He certainly does not have feathers. But we are welcome into his presence and He is our comfort. Look for more of these this week in the Psalms.
Notes from David’s Journal
In Psalm 69 David feels overwhelmed, like his head is in a flood and he's groping for air. He feels like he has faithfully served God but everything in his life is falling apart.
What does he do? He prays. Verse 13 particularly summarizes how he handles his despair: "But I keep right on praying to you, Lord. For now is the time, you are bending down to hear! You are ready with a plentiful supply of love and kindness. Now answer my prayer and rescue me as you promised." The he continues in verse 14: "Pull me out of this mire. Don't let me sink in. Rescue me from those who hate me, and from these deep waters I am in" (TLB translation).
My prayer for all of us today is to trust the Lord amidst our flood waters. I pray we'll keep praying and not give up. I pray we will trust our Lord's loving kindness, believing he will rescue as promised.
To God be the glory!