What is a Psalm?
It is a song. A song based on someones experience. It reveals something about their experience in the world. Songs do this – they express the emotion and try to capture the image of someone’s experience of the world.
- Happy – Pharrell Williams – Happiness in a song
- Somebody that I used to know – Gotye – the feeling of loss that occurs when a relationship is lost
- Wedding Song – Old Man River – the song that played as my wife walked towards me on our wedding day
- 10,000 reasons – Matt redman – the emotion behind the relationship we have with an amazing God
Just like that last song Psalms are songs written by people who follow God. The writers of the Psalms are based on the experience of people following God and so we can learn from their experience of following God. They reveal the height, depth, width, and breadth of the human experience before God. This incorporates joy, lament, fear, hope, doubt and more. Through the Psalms we are given an insight into the emotional life of a follower of God.
Break down of the Psalm
Just like in a song where there are verses, choruses, etc. Psalms have structure to communicate truth clearly. So we can break down this psalm into parts to see its message clearly. This psalm is written by David and he has written a song to capture a particular moment in his life. David is a follower of God so the song captures his experience of life with God.
Let me break down into parts
- Fear in relationship with God – v1-3 – He is crying out in pain. He is crying out in mercy. He is having a bad day, maybe a bad life. He is in anguish – he is crying out in pain from the very centre of his being. His suffering is greater then not passing an exam, or an average day. It is a fear that comes the nature of the authors relationship with God. The authors relationship with God is not a place of comfort and safety but one of anguish, anxiety, and fear.
- Asking for mercy – v4-5 – the author asks for mercy, salvation, hope, deliverance – help from God. It’s a cry that recognises his complete helplessness. They say even the bravest of people scream if they fall from a great height. Because they know they cant do anything about it. Once you have released from the support of something solid and you are falling then you are out of control. The author appeals to the character of God in his unfailing love. Life can feel like it is out of control and it does for this person. They cant control anything so they cry out to the one who can help them. God.
- Fear and anguish overwhelm him – v6-7 – How great is the pain he is feeling? He cries so much that his bed is wet with his tears. This guy just seems overwhelmed by his fear, pain, sorrow – he just seems drowning in the toughness of his experience. He is just exhausted from the struggle. This persons fear debilitates them. They are exhausted from it. The feeling of suffering taking over someone’s is a real experience for many people.
Being heard changes the story
Now in v8-10 the tone changes. But before we read them I want to try and capture the experience of v1-7. The experience of this suffering that consumes the writers life. Nothing else is in focus. He is consumed by his suffering.
Skydiving captures the feeling of change in this Psalm.
For the first forty seconds of Skydiving there is screaming and shouting which you can’t hear my voice because it has been left 100 metres above you. The wind overwhelms everything as a torrent of rushing air blocks out every sound. There is nothing but this torrent of wind the sight of the ground rushing towards you – it is so loud you cant hear yourself think. It overcomes everything – absolutely everything.
Then a change. A sudden jerk and you are gliding. The parachute has released. You are safe – everything has changed. You can breath and think and speak and you have perspective. The feeling of being overwhelmed and out of control is released. You can see the world and enjoy the view. Peace follows.
When we enter into v8 its like we have stopped falling in this all consuming sound and we begin to glide. The glide is beautiful and so much better then the fall.
God has heard him. He has been crying out in pain. Crying out for mercy. God has heard him. The creator of the universe has heard him. The creator of the universe – God has heard him.
Knowing that God has heard him makes all the difference because he knows that no matter what happens he is with the one who will decide the end of everything. No matter what happens he is in relationship with the Sovereign Lord of the universe.
God hears you. He knows you. In your worst and best moments he hears your cries of joy and cries of help and mercy. The God who is big, the creator of the universe hears you. The fear of the author in this Psalm comes from doubt, anxiety, and aguish in his relationship with God. It captures the real feeling that arises from fear of not meeting expectations of another or that their are repercussions from hard parts of that relationship. Finding that the relationship is not broken. Finding that there is peace is like breaking the surface of the water to get to air when you were drowning in the depths of fear and anxiety.
This Psalm makes space for the emotion of fear and anguish in relationship with God. There are times when we fear and are anxious creeps into our relationship between us and God. It creeps in moments we are forgetful of the good news of Jesus. Moments when we compare ourselves to others, when we define our relationship with God with the expectations we place on ourselves or others place on us.
Often fear and anguish comes upon us when we define our relationship by what we or others have done rather then by what has been done for us. Though we may begin in fear and anguish we need not stay there for we have a saviour in whom we can trust and by whose actions we are defined. In him no matter our failure to meet expectations we are defined by his success rather then our failure, by his perfection rather then our imperfection, by his life rather then our own.
Because our relationship is defined by his life and not our own we need not stay in fear but sit safely in the knowledge that God hears us. He listens because that is who he is and he defines that nature of our relationship and it is one where he is for us and with us despite us not because of us.