Today’s passage: Psalm 30
Today’s chocolate: Alter Eco Dark Velvet organic chocolate
It seems like for every psalm in which David, faced with death, prays to God for deliverance, there’s a psalm in which David has been rescued and is praising God from the other side of the pit. To put it into Brueggemann’s terms, for every psalm of disorientation, there’s a psalm of new orientation. And to be honest, I prefer psalms of new orientation to psalms of mere orientation. Generally, worship isn’t compelling to me unless it comes from a place of having been through the valley of the shadow of death.
And David’s been there. Most of this psalm consists of joyful praise and gratitude for God’s deliverance, but David doesn’t hesitate to remember his darkest moments: “O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit” (3). Sheol is the place of the dead, dreary and bleak; God has rescued David from the very edge of the abyss.
In Sheol, no one can hear you scream. In fact, in Sheol, you can’t make any sound at all. That’s why, interestingly enough, David recounts trying to negotiate with God in his desperation on the razor’s edge:
To You, O Lord, I called,
And to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me;
O Lord, be my helper” (8-10).
Think about his words for a moment. Here, David engages in exactly the sort of bargaining that we widely consider an immature prayer, almost an attempt to bribe God with promises of praise. Moreover, if God wants it to, the dust will praise him. Consider Jesus at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. When the Pharisees command him to tell the crowds of his cheering disciples to shut up, he responds, “I tell you, if these [people] become silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:40). And compare that to John the Baptist’s words: “I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham” (Matthew 3:9). God is omnipotent, and he doesn’t need us around in order to praise him; he can make whatever worshipers he wants.
But this is a psalm of new orientation, and David’s not in the same place that he was when he tried to strike a deal with God. He doesn’t explicitly state it, but it may be that David recognizes his old prayers as weak, and recognizes God as charitable in answering them even though he didn’t have to. What do you think? Does David consider a “bargaining prayer,” an attempt to incentivize God to do what you want, a good or acceptable form of prayer? Or would he say that he has grown as a person and has found more mature ways of relating to God? Drop a comment, let me know your thoughts.