David’s look back


It is interesting that often the arrangement of lament psalms together with thanksgiving psalms. Usually, lament is followed by thanksgiving psalms.

Seems unnatural. I know, I didn’t expect to say “unnatural” in that previous sentence. It wasn’t a typo.

Lament, to the natural person leads to despair, destruction, falling apart, but not thanksgiving.

Lament that leads to thanksgiving is not natural. It’s a work of grace.

While I was reading Psalm 18 today, something else came into place for me.

The historical setting of this psalm seems important. As stated in the title, here David is addressing these words of thanksgiving to the Lord when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies.

Jumping over to 2 Samuel 22, we find this psalm is duplicated in almost exact form. We don’t know which came first, but for sure we know that these are King David’s words.

The setting in history, according to 2 Samuel 22 is that King David is looking back, almost as if these are among his last words (which is exactly where the next chapter starts).

Psalm 18 is David’s summary of thanksgiving for God’s many deliverances through his long life of service.

This is David looking back.

It is quite possible that the amount of time between lament (which biblically does always end in trust) and thanksgiving is is more distant than we’d like it to be.

When we are lamenting, we are lamenting in the moment, in the trial, in the suffering, in the pain that has not yet subsided.

Lament is before the deliverance, before the rescue, and before God even “shows up” for many psalms of lament in the Bible.

One of the most helpful definitions that I have read on lament is from Mark Vroegop in Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy…

“Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness.”

He goes on to say, “Christians affirm that the world is broken, God is powerful, and he will be faithful. Therefore, lament stands in the gap between pain and promise. Lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust.”

Lament is the pathway to hope.

David knew that path well. He walked it often.

Here in Psalm 18, David is thankful for God’s deliverances from King Saul, from his years of fighting against Israel’s enemies, and even from his own son, Absalom. He rehearses God showing up in powerful ways (using some very descriptive images).

I know that one day I might be able to look back and see more clearly than I see now, but that day has not come yet. And I said “might” because God may choose to keep hidden the full purpose of loss and pain that has changed my world.

David, through all these trials, the deceit, the battles, finds refuge in One person — Yahweh.

In verses 2, 31, 46, the metaphor goes like this…

The Lord is my rock.
My God is my rock.
Who is the Rock except our God?
Praise be to my Rock!

Lord, I am thankful that you are my steady Rock. Even though my life is not “put back together again”, even though you haven’t “fixed everything” (and you may decide not to), even though I have no clue of what comes next, I still run to you, knowing I can trust you. Thank you for being true to yourself — faithful, good, loving, merciful!

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