A major theme in salvation history is that God does not abandon his people. He does not abandon humanity to their sin, but seeks to save them. He does not abandon his people to slavery and oppression, but frees them so they can fulfill their purpose and make His name great. He doesn’t abandon his people by standing by and watching them fall into idolatry, but he punishes them so they may be redeemed from their wickedness. So I think we can safely say, “God does not abandon his people.” However, this does not mean that his people will not experience trials and difficult times. Many of the great heroes in the Old Testament, as well as God’s people as a whole, have experienced extreme trials. We know that none of the biblical characters were perfect. They all had their own faults and made many mistakes. However, one of the main things that separated them from those that didn’t follow God, or maybe what just qualified them for being included in Hebrews 11 (the Hall of Faith) was the way these people would respond during these times of crisis. This response can be best seen in the book of Psalms. The Psalms demonstrate how we are to deal with the seasons of our lives and what our response should be.
The issue of worship and trust runs throughout the psalms. These important aspects of what it means to follow God cannot be overlooked. We will explore the Psalms to understand how we are to respond to the world around us and to God.
God demonstrates his faithfulness in order to fulfill his promises and take care of his people. The Psalms show his people’s response to the faithfulness of God: Worship. However, the Psalms are not all joyful songs of worship. There are many different kinds of psalms that are used to express specific emotions. Just as the genre of the book of Psalms is poetry, there are sub-genres into which each of the individual psalms fit. The genre that includes the majority of psalms is known as the Laments. The writer of a Lament Psalm was usually going through an incredible hardship and was expressing their struggle to God. A Lament Psalm could either be from the perspective of an individual or from the entire nation of Israel.
This is some nice information, but you may be wondering what this has to do with you. It is often said in churches, “God is big enough to handle you yelling at him.” This statement has some truth in it, but it is very misleading. This statement seems to give license for people to blatantly yell at God and express their anger at him. This is a problem when we forget to whom we are speaking. We are “yelling” at the sovereign creator of the universe, King over all. We had better approach this great God with respect as well as fear and trembling. After all, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10 ESV). However, this statement that God is big enough to handle our problems and that we can bring them before him is a very biblical concept. In fact, the Psalms are full up people bring these sorts of complaints before God. To understand the key to doing this in a respectful way that actually gives God praise and glory we must evaluate some of these Psalms and glean their wisdom. This will allow us to see how we should appropriately worship God even in the midst of great trials and turmoil.
There is a famous scripture taken from a Psalm that we often quote to demonstrate the idea of giving our problems over to God. That Scripture says, “Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you.” This is a verse where we get this idea that God is not only big enough to handle our problems, but that he wants to take them from us too. It is interesting that this verse comes from a Psalm. Psalm 55 is an excellent example of the right way to approach God to vent our frustrations, communicate the hardships we are currently facing, but do it in a way that respects God’s position as God, as well as appropriately praises Him for his wisdom, power, and grace. Let us look at this Psalm a little more closely.
Read Psalm 55. What is the psalmist’s main problem? What does the psalmist wish to do to escape it? What does the psalmist wish God would do? What does the psalmist ask God to do? What is the psalmist’s response the situation?
Another great example of Lament Psalm is Psalm 86. We the Psalmist cry out and ask God to take notice of him and his situation (v1). It is okay to notice the difficult situation that we are in and look to God for help and guidance. The Psalmist appeals to God on the fact that he is one of his faithful followers (v 2-4). This is followed by an appeal to God’s goodness (v5). The Psalmist is pointing out that he has faithfully followed God, and that being loving good God that he is, should take notice and intervene in the situation. The Psalmist once again calls God to listen and take notice of the situation (v6-7). This repetition is a common element of Hebrew poetry. Verse 8 picks up as a repetitious parallel with verse 5, but the psalmist pushes the issue and expounds upon the greatness of God. He ascribes to God rulership over all the nations because of his great works (v8-10). Even though the psalmist has indicated that he has faithfully followed the Lord’s ways, he still seeks to be instructed in the Lord’s will. (v11). Even though the psalmist “knows” the ways of the Lord, he is still not so arrogant to think he knows everything about God or what God is doing. He realizes his place in relation to God. Having realized the greatness of God’s mysterious ways, the Psalmist then breaks into praise and glorifies God once again (v12-13). The psalmist finally, after more than halfway through his petition, brings up the issue that is troubling him (v14). Rather than asking God to destroy his enemies, he simply acknowledges, once again, God’s great love and mercy (v.15). It is on this bases the Psalmist asks that God would be the one to show vindicate him and to shame the enemies that do not follow God, so that they may be shamed by sin and see the glory of the Lord (v16-17).
The key to understanding worship in this way is that it does not matter what the situation or circumstances are. God is worthy of praise and we should give it to him. Yes, we can and should cast our burdens on the Lord, but this can only happen when we approach God with the right heart. The Psalms teach us that we must approach Him as the almighty God and that no matter what, we must be willing to trust Him with our situation and praise him in the midst of it. Without this approach, we cannot truly let go of our burdens, and instead of letting them go, we continue to try to usurp God’s role and becomes gods ourselves, relying on our own power and wisdom to resolve the issue. This however goes against everything the Old Testament reveals about the God we serve, the God of Jesus Christ. In fact, accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior is the ultimate way to die to our own desires to be god and to take our lives into our own hands. As the lesson on the Law mentioned, the law was powerless to affect this change in us. The Holy Spirit must write the law’s intent on our hearts through accepting Christ’s death and resurrections so that we can be made into followers of God and doers of his will.
Using the pattern of a Lament Psalm, write your own psalm. You do not have to use the exact template of Psalm 86, but express a genuine need while ascribing praise to God in the midst of it. Identify some points of contention in your life and how you would like the Lord to teach you to walk through the situation. End the Psalm by expressing praise to God in the midst of the circumstance regardless of the outcome.