Psalm 69 – One With the Mud

Bible opened to Psalm 69 with Green and Black's Organic 85 Percent Dark Chocolate on white plate

Today’s passage: Psalm 69

Today’s chocolateGreen & Black’s Organic 85% Dark Chocolate

In 1995, Jars of Clay released their self-titled debut album. You may remember the track “Flood,” which was a crossover success in both mainstream rock and Christian music. As a junior high schooler and pencil-necked geek, I had only the vaguest sense that something unusual was going on when I heard “Flood” both at youth group meetings and on the radio at the fitness center pool. “Flood” uses the metaphor of a flood to represent overwhelming distress that drives us to rely on God. Despite the line “If I can’t swim after forty days,” the band has stated that the song “is not about Noah”–but I’ll bet you anything it was inspired by Psalm 69.

David opens Psalm 69 with the flood metaphor, and after elaborating on the troubles that are symbolized by the rising waters, he returns to the metaphor in vv.14-15. Introducing the theme, he states, “I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me” (2). The line from Jars of Clay’s “Flood” that stood out most to me was “Slowly I become one with the mud,” and in this psalm, David speaks about the strength of the mire just as powerfully. We get stuck in our problems, we can’t find a foothold, the deep threatens to swallow us up (v.15). What can we do but cry for help from God before our lungs fill with water?

But what problem exactly threatens to engulf David? It’s not a literal deluge. If I had to sum it up in a word, it’d be “reproach.” David uses the word “reproach” six times throughout the psalm (vv. 7, 9, 10, 19, 20). Merriam-Webster defines reproach as “a cause or occasion of blame, discredit, or disgrace,” and David is drowning in it. His adversaries are adding insult to injury, and it’s the insult that David finds so unbearable. “For they have persecuted him whom You Yourself have smitten, and they tell of the pain of those whom You have wounded” (26), he writes. He trusts that God has a good reason for any suffering he may inflict upon him, but it’s the unjust criticism and persecution of unrighteous men that drives David to pray for rescue.

The song ends on a high note. “For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise His who are prisoners” (33), David sings. It isn’t clear whether he’s free of the waters, but if nothing else, his head is still above water and he’s still praising God.

Question of the Day: What aspect of David’s flood resonates the most with you?

 

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