Psalms – Prayers of Honesty
When we play games with our grandkids it is always interesting to hear them declare, “Play by the rules!”, but only if they are losing at the moment. As grandparents, when they were much younger, we might fudge on some of the rules so they could stay in the game until they learned how to play it.
Our oldest grandkid loves bringing a new game for the cousins to play. Most times, he is the only one who knows how to play it, therefore he was the only one who knows the rules…according to him. They trust him. They trust that he knows what he is saying. This also keeps him in control of the game. Now, that they are older, the grandkids are reading all the instructions of games we play for themselves and are realizing the fairness of actually following the rules written for the game! Mm.
David is extremely angry at those who don’t play the game of life by the “rules” God has given. He is appalled at the lack of integrity, lack of fairness, lack of following rules in general. There is no peace. Everyone is out for themselves and what they can win in this game. They ignore God’s rules and play loosely with life. Sound familiar?
Psalm 58, The Message
A David Psalm
1-2 Is this any way to run a country?
Is there an honest politician in the house?
Behind the scenes you brew cauldrons of evil,
behind closed doors you make deals with demons.
3-5 The wicked crawl from the wrong side of the cradle;
their first words out of the womb are lies.
Poison, lethal rattlesnake poison,
drips from their forked tongues—
Deaf to threats, deaf to charm,
decades of wax built up in their ears.
6-9 God, smash their teeth to bits,
leave them toothless tigers.
Let their lives be buckets of water spilled,
all that’s left, a damp stain in the sand.
Let them be trampled grass
worn smooth by the traffic.
Let them dissolve into snail slime,
be a miscarried fetus that never sees sunlight.
Before what they cook up is half-done, God,
throw it out with the garbage!
10-11 The righteous will call up their friends
when they see the wicked get their reward,
Serve up their blood in goblets
as they toast one another,
Everyone cheering, “It’s worth it to play by the rules!
God’s handing out trophies and tending the earth!”
SOMETHING TO CHEW…
During David’s exile years, Saul led the nation down a path of political and spiritual ruin as he disobeyed God’s law and opposed God’s anointed king. Saul was surrounded by a group of Flatterers who fed his ego and catered to his foolish whims. Not playing by the rules of God’s Law, he put into places of authority people who used their offices for personal gain and not for the national good. They wanted to get as much as they could before the kingdom collapsed.
David himself had been treated illegally, and it’s likely that many of his men lost all they had because they followed David. This honest prayer psalm may have grown out of his pondering the mess he had inherited from his father-in-law.
The prophets often preached against the lawlessness of the leaders in Israel. Certainly nations, corporations, and even churches today need to take this kind of leadership crisis seriously.
The problem? They had evil hearts, for they were born in sin just like the rest of us (51:5; Gen. 8:21). However, they made no effort to seek God’s help in controlling that sinful nature but gave in to its evil impulses. It’s because humans are sinners that God established government and law, for without law, society would be in chaos. It’s from the heart that evil words come out of our mouth and evil deeds are done by our hands.
Seeing innocent people suffer because of unjust judges made David angry, and rightly so. There is a righteous anger that ought to show itself whenever innocent people are condemned or helpless people are abused. David didn’t do any of the things he mentioned but instead asked the Lord to do them. He knew that vengeance belongs to the Lord. God will avenge the righteous…those who play by the rules of God.
We are always presented with situations in which rules can be followed or ignored. Can you think of times in your life when the choice was difficult?
How did you ultimately respond?
Are you a rule follower? Why? What rules do you follow? Or what is your guide?
How does it make you feel when you follow the rules but others do not and do not care to follow? How do you respond? In honest prayer to God or to tell them yourself? Do you deliver punishment in some ways by ignoring them or putting them in their place by quoting scripture to them? How does that play out?
David has the right way. Read God’s instructions for understanding and clarity. “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11). When others don’t follow the rules, take your anger to God and let God take care of being the moderator, referee and final judge.
LET’S GO A BIT DEEPER…
Sin (not playing by the rules) often harms another person, but, ultimately, all sin is against God. The Bible contains many references to people admitting, “I have sinned against God” (Exodus 10:16; Joshua 7:20; Judges 10:10). Genesis 39:9 gives us a closer look at this. Joseph was being tempted to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife. In resisting her, he said, “My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” It is interesting that Joseph did not say that his sin would be against Potiphar. This isn’t to say that Potiphar would be unaffected. But Joseph’s greater loyalty was to God and His laws. It was God he did not want to offend.
David said something similar after he had sinned with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). When confronted with his sin, David repented in great sorrow, saying to God, “Against You and You only have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). He had clearly sinned against Bathsheba and her husband, too, but it was the violation of God’s law that grieved David the most. God hates sin because it is the antithesis of His nature and because it harms us or someone else. By sinning against God, David had also hurt other people.
When someone commits a crime, the person who was harmed by the crime is not the one who punishes the criminal. Only the state can legally mete out punishment. It is the law that judges a person guilty or innocent, not the victim. It is the law that was violated. Regardless of the worthiness or innocence of the victim, all crimes are ultimately committed against the established law. If you rob your neighbor’s house, you have obviously wronged your neighbor, but it is not he who holds you accountable. It is the higher law you have violated. The state bears the responsibility to convict and punish you; your neighbor, although affected by your crime, defers to the state.
In the same way, all moral law begins with God. Because we were created in the image of God, we have His moral law written within our hearts (Genesis 1:27). When Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:22). At that time, no written law had been given. Yet Adam and Eve knew intuitively that they had sinned and ran to hide from God (Genesis 3:10).
We also know intuitively when we have sinned. Sin is a perversion of God’s perfect design. We all bear the very image of God Himself, and when we sin, we mar that likeness. We were created to be mirrors of the glory of God (Ephesians 2:10; 4:24; Hebrews 2:7). Sin is a big smudge on the mirror, and it diminishes the beauty and holiness we were designed to reflect. When we sin, we step outside the purpose for which we were created, thus violating God’s moral law, and we are accountable to Him for the trespass. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Sin is anything that falls short of God’s plan. So, whether it harms us or someone else, every sin is ultimately against a holy God.
We see now why David ended his honest prayer with:
“It’s worth it to play by the rules!”
ONE LAST THOUGHT…(I know, right?)
God created His Law for our good. His Law was given to reveal sin. “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply show us how sinful we are.” (Romans 3:20). We must be condemned by the Law before we can be cleansed by God’s grace. Law and grace do not compete with each other; they complement each other. Nobody was ever saved by keeping the law, but nobody was ever saved by grace who was not first indicted the the Law. There must be conviction before there can be conversion. Nor is Christ’s gracious forgiveness an excuse to sin. “Go and sin no more!” is what Jesus said to the woman accused of adultry.
Play by the rules, but if you slip, there is a Savior Who will put you back in the game.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Wow, so many thoughts to understand and meditate on today! You are God and we are not. We get frustrated when others don’t play by the rules…probably as much as they get frustrated with us when we don’t play by the rules. Your Law convicts us and bring us to You for redemption. Thank you for teaching us the rules. Thank you for helping us play the game while you moderate the players. Keep us close to you and to your will and plan.
In Jesus Name, Amen