“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. ” ~ Psalm 73:21-22
“And the Lord told [Samuel]: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king… But the people refused to listen Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’ When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, ‘Listen to them and give them a king.'” ~ I Samuel 8:7, 19-21
Yesterday morning while getting out of bed I put the two parts of the bible that you see above together. I was just placing my feet on the floor while also praying a prayer I’ve prayed countless times over this past year. A prayer that God might make available for me at least an additional job or some source of more income for me and my family. Maybe even just the ability to see a little further down the road for this past year and more.
I have been well aware in this past year that I have had plenty of moments of being a brute beast before the Lord as I’ve wrestled, argued, stomped my feet, shook my fists, growled, wailed, and screamed at him over this. And every time I begin praying about it yet again I know that that can rise up within me.
With this awareness in mind this morning, the story above from I Samuel came to mind and I said to God, “I don’t want you to give me what I want because of my insistent bemoaning and wailing before you. So if what I keep asking you for is not part of your good, pleasing, and perfect will for me at this present moment, stand your ground and stay the course you have for me. Lord, too, when I forget this and bemoan and wail some more (which I am most definitely bound to do), be merciful and gracious to me, and still stay the course as well.”
This wasn’t the first time I thought of the story from I Samuel in relation to my ardent cries over this past year. I am glad I was remind of it yet again this morning. How does this strike you today?
Something I don’t want you to hear me say is that you can never be a brute beast before the Lord, or that I or God condemns that behavior. God is patient and gracious and merciful with us. He can handle our anger or whatever we bring before him. It won’t faze him one bit. In fact, I’ll go as far as to encourage you to just be real before God whatever that means at any certain moment. Bring your real, raw emotions and confusions, as well as your wow and joyous times and everything in-between. I think God would rather you be that way than try to cover up or fake something before him. You won’t be able to fool him anyways. Now, this isn’t meant to be a free ticket for you to go off the handle at God whenever you darn well choose. Have some sensibility and sensitivity about yourself. And in the midst of it, know and be amazed that God loves you, accepts you, listens to you, holds and caresses you, and acts on your behalf in that moment and all moments, even if your feelings may tell you otherwise at any time.
Psalm 73 is an interesting Psalm, and one of my favorites. It’s one of the many Psalms of lament (I was told once that 2/3 of the book of Psalms is laments) and I just love how honest it is. It starts off with the ardent proclamation, “Surely God is good…”, and then he goes on to describe the insenstive brute he’s been before the Lord.
Then, one of the most beautiful refrains is found near the end in vs. 23-23, “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Some of you with a good ear to hymns might hear the stanza from Amazing Grace in there that goes, “The Lord has promised good to me, his word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.”
Isn’t it amazing that at the end of this Psalmist’s brute beast-like ways he can proclaim this, hold fast to it, and revel in it all the more. He’s not totally bitter or disenfranchized after it all. In fact, I think he’s that much closer, more initimate, etc with God because of being that way with him.
Soon after pouring my first cup of coffee for the morning along with my Honey bunched of Oats cereal and sitting down for my devotions, some of my bible reading for the day included this from Colossians 2:6-7–“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Therein lies our true challenge in all circumstances.
“Oh, let us give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His steadfast love endures forever!” ~ Psalm 136:1