Saturday, June 24, 2017

Unto Thee O Lord – David

He was a powerful king, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). So, how did he come to contemplate shame when he considered his conversations (prayer) with the Almighty? David had many moments of which he was not proud, so when he called out “Unto Thee, O Lord” in one of his songs, he felt the need to ask his Creator to help him with this particular emotion. It’s a sensation we believers still find disturbing, so it’s not surprising that a 20th Century composer (Charles Monroe in the early 1970s) crafted his own tune to David’s poem, thereby permitting Christians to vocalize musically what was first expressed some three millennia ago. Its history tells us its theme hasn’t waned. In fact, its words are some I probably should sing every day.   

David’s life had plenty of valleys to keep him humble, in spite of the mountain-top peaks he also experienced. Whether it was being on the run from a jealous predecessor, or committing a series of heinous errors while stealing another man’s wife, to mishandling his family relationships, David had lots that gnawed at his psyche. At what point in David’s life did he consider his disgrace when he wrote Psalm 25, the text for “Unto Thee…”? Biblical commentators offer no insight, but there might be clues in what he wrote to suggest David’s circumstance. He indicates ‘sins of my youth’ as a concern (v. 3 in song; v.7 in Psalm 25), so is it more likely these are the penned words from an older man’s hand who's looking back with some regret? It may have been a series of errors, or those made over many years, that this individual recalled, since he uses the plural ‘sins’ rather than a solitary misdeed in his confession. Guilt is a powerful inducement to confession, an avenue to a profoundly deep mood that the Psalmist initiates with the song’s opening words. David wants to ‘not be ashamed’ before other people, perhaps his most pressing disquiet, since he uses this phrase twice in the first three verses of the Psalm, and then again near the Psalm’s conclusion (v. 20). That sounds like a king aware of his need for a merciful God, and yet conscious of his public image, too. How does a man look at his own warts and ask God to remove the stain of ignominy? How does one overcome humiliation? You can sense David’s soul search in the psalm has found an answer – God’s teaching, and His nature (vv.4-6, 8-10, 12, 14-15). David’s still human, with his own situation seemingly paramount (vv. 15-21), but does v. 22 indicate King David perceived his own flaws had brought trouble on his people (‘Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles’)? On both planes – his own, and that his people – David seems to know where to reach for help.   

Where’s that reach for help begin? David might have said it started for himself when he acknowledged in his own inner being his iniquity (v.12). Doing this somehow does not disallow his calling upon the Holy One. This act, in fact, draws David toward Him, perhaps mostly because he doesn’t enjoy the consequence of his wrongdoing. It’s enlightening to see this king exhibit this propensity for straying, and yet returning to God like the thirsty man needing an oasis in a desert. My body needs water, one of the most fundamental of His creations. But, I need Him, the creator of that water, most of all.  

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