Psalm 17 – Hear We Go Again

Bible opened to Psalm 17 with Green and Black's organic 85% cacao dark chocolate

Today’s passage: Psalm 17

Today’s chocolate: Green & Black’s 85% Cacao Dark Chocolate

Prayer is weird. God, being omniscient, already knows what we’re going to say, he already knows what we need, and there is absolutely nothing we could tell him that he isn’t already aware of. And I’m not here to de-weirdify prayer today, or explain what the point of it is if God knows everything that he and everything in the entire universe are going to at every single moment in time, but I wanted to point out a particular weirdness of David’s prayer in today’s psalm.

He begins the psalm by asking God to hear him. Consider his words: “Hear a just cause, O Lord, give heed to my cry; give ear to my prayer, which is not from deceitful lips” (v.1). He basically says, “Listen, Lord, gimme a minute and hear what I’m saying! I’m not trying to fool you!” Trying to fool God, who invented truth and falsity when he created a universe in which saying things is possible, would be nothing short of a fool‘s errand. And why is David asking God to hear him, a thing which God does all the time by virtue of being omnipresent?

I fear that I’m not even gonna get to dig into the part where David reminds God he (David) is a good guy (vv.2-5, cf. Psalm 7), or where David characterizes the wicked men that once again are at his heels (vv.9-12). But yes, let’s milk this very first verse of this fifteen-verse chapter for all it’s worth. After appealing to his own just behavior, David echoes his plea to be heard: “I have called upon You, for You will answer me, O God; incline Your ear to me, hear my speech” (v.6). When he says “hear,” I don’t think David merely means “be aware of and comprehend.” He’s looking for God to hear and respond. He’s looking for God to really, effectually be there, to be involved in David’s world , conversing with him and making him aware of his presence and working some good in a situation that seems catastrophically bad.

David ends this psalm on an interesting note, an odd form of resolution. He contrasts his pursuers with himself. They are “men of the world, whose portion is in this life, and whose belly You fill with Your treasure; they are satisfied with children, and leave their abundance to their babes” (14). But about himself, he writes, “I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake” (15). It’s like when Princess Leia says to Han Solo, “If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive.” David’s pursuers have chosen their treasure; they take what they can from this life, they gather possessions, and they have the ancient Middle East’s surest sign of blessing: a line of descendants to carry on the family wealth and family heritage. But what does David have? God’s presence. And that’s enough for him.

Prayer is still weird, though.

 

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