Today’s passage: Psalm 60
Today’s chocolate: Green & Black’s Organic Mint Dark Chocolate
Growing up, my brother and I learned to be polite. I was born in Texas, and until the age of eight, I lived in the Carolinas. While I’m glad that my parents refrained from drilling into me the traditional southern “yes sir, yes ma’am,” they did insist that my “yes” be “yes” and my “no” be “no”–none of that “yeah” or “nah.” Whenever someone did something for you, you thanked them. And when you asked for something? You said “please.” To issue a command without the polite qualifier was rude.
My upbringing colored the way I view commands and made me particularly attentive to them. Only four of Psalm 60’s twelve verses contain imperatives, but they stood out so strongly in my mind that at first I thought the psalm was rife with them. David begins by telling God his people’s situation, and after he’s set the stage, he makes his first request: “O God, You have rejected us. You have broken us; You have been angry; O, restore us” (1). He appeals to God’s mercy; for unidentified reasons, God has issued a forceful “no” to the people, and David now prays for restoration.
Throughout the psalm, David issues more commands to God:
- “You have made the land quake, You have split it open; Heal its breaches, for it totters” (2): David prays for the rifts in the land to be mended, rifts which I take to be a metaphor for defeat at the hands of Israel’s enemies
- “That Your beloved may be delivered, save with Your right hand, and answer us!” (5): using two imperative verbs, an appeal on the basis of God’s special love relationship to his people
- “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain” (11): acknowledgement that humans are inadequate to overcome Israel’s opposition; the only being up to the task is God himself
David’s commands paint a picture of a desperate king pleading to God on behalf of a nation in dire straits. Psalm of disorientation? No question.
But in the midst of disorientation, David still has remarkable confidence. It’s not entirely accurate to say that he has the guts to make demands of God without even saying “please,” because as far as I know ancient Hebrew has no analogue to the English “please.” But still: he’s telling God, “Do this thing for your people! At the end of the day, you are responsible for what befalls your people!” I’m reminded of Hebrews 4:16: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The author of Hebrews identifies the basis for that confidence as Jesus Christ, but centuries before the Messiah’s birth, David is coming to God with boldness in spades.
They say that it never hurts to ask, and when it comes to God, David’s taking that saying to the bank.
Question of the Day: What guidelines should we follow when giving commands to God?