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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Arguing with God (Psalm 17)

This psalm by David is a prayer for divine help against powerful enemies (vv. 9-12). In his prayer he uses various arguments as to why God should hear his prayer. The first is found in verses 1 to 4, and it is an interesting one because it is not one that we would normally use. In these verses David uses his innocence as a plea for being heard. David is not claiming to be sinless when he uses this plea, rather he is saying that he is not guilty of the wrongs with which his enemies have charged him (vv. 9 and 10). Therefore he is coming to God and asking for his blamelessness to be made clear to his opponents. Yet he also realises that he needs God’s help in order to remain blameless, which is why he asks God to uphold him in verse 5.

The obvious deduction from verses 1 to 5 is that sinfulness can prevent our prayers being answered by God. Sinfulness can show itself in a wide variety of ways such as (1) failing to do an important duty, (2) persisting in maintaining an unforgiving spirit to a person who has offended us, (3) and persevering in disobeying a commandment of God. The psalmist says in Psalm 66:18 that the Lord will not hear us if we regard fondly sin within our hearts. Jesus also said that we would not know ongoing forgiveness from God if we failed to forgive a fellow believer (Mark 11:25-26). We should do as David did in verse 3 – ask God to test our hearts.

A second argument that David uses in order to have his request answered is his relationship to God. In verse 8 he says that he is as weak as an eyeball, which is in constant need of protection. He then changes the imagery and likens himself to a young bird being protected from danger by the wings of its mother. Both these pictures point to the gentle and permanent protection that God gives to each of his people.

David closes the psalm by mentioning a third argument to use in prayer – his future enjoyment of God. The psalmist knows that he lives for the next world, an outlook vastly different from those who only live for this world (vv. 14-15). He knows that he will yet see God. Quite what he understood by this desire is unclear. Yet we know that the Bible as a whole indicates that in heaven we will see God as he continually is revealed in the person of Christ. This eternal contemplation of Christ will be transforming and soul satisfying.

We can use these three arguments as we pray to the same God.

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