16 Protect me, God, because I take refuge in you.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord.
Apart from you, I have nothing good.”
3 Now as for the “holy ones” in the land,
the “magnificent ones” that I was so happy about;
4 let their suffering increase because
they hurried after a different god.
I won’t participate in their blood offerings;
I won’t let their names cross my lips.
5 You, Lord, are my portion, my cup;
you control my destiny.
6 The property lines have fallen beautifully for me;
yes, I have a lovely home.
7 I will bless the Lord who advises me;
even at night I am instructed
in the depths of my mind.
8 I always put the Lord in front of me;
I will not stumble because he is on my right side.
9 That’s why my heart celebrates and my mood is joyous;
yes, my whole body will rest in safety
10 because you won’t abandon my life to the grave;
you won’t let your faithful follower see the pit.
11 You teach me the way of life.
In your presence is total celebration.
Beautiful things are always in your right hand. (Psalm 16:1-11, Common English Bible).
Yesterday I was a bit hard on the psalmist. In Psalm 13, the psalmist is crying out for God to take care of his enemies. The Scripture never really says if the ones at to root of the psalmist’s complaints are people who have turned from God or if they are faithful people with whom the psalmist has a disagreement. Nowhere in Psalm 13 does the psalmist call that bunch anything but HIS ENEMIES. Nowhere does he call then God’s enemies.
Today is a different manner. Today the psalmist (the script above the psalm gives credit to David) is still voicing complaint but unlike Psalm 13, these are not his enemies, they are God’s enemies. These are people who once followed YAHWEH but now are followers of other Gods.
To our ears David (most scholars consider the script to be a later addition to the text and that these psalms may or may not have been David’s work. To quit, at least for this post, saying “the psalmist,” I will refer to him as David), this whole idea of David not letting the names of these people who walked away from God come out of his mouth, may seem a bit juvenile. It almost has a “I will never speak to you again as long as I live,” kind of feel to it. And, that doesn’t generally hold up for the long term. Most of the time when we hear kids say something like that, it isn’t long before we see them running off to play together.
We do, however, need to cut David a little slack with this. In our society, people who walk away from a relationship with God are not uncommon. They are not the rule, at least if we believe opinion polls, they are the exception. I am not saying they are faithful because they are not. I am not saying they are “good” in God’s eyes, but without Jesus, who is?
David is upset because these people had walked away from God. As far as David was concerned, when they walked away from God, they walked away from Israel. When they walked away from God, they not only turned their backs on God, they were traitors against the state.
One thousand years later, Jesus is having a conversation with the Herodians (probably a political party supporting Herod the Great) and the keepers of the law, asked Jesus a question about the legality of paying taxes to the emperor. They were trying to trap Jesus and this is the response. As he asks for the coin used for the tax, he calls them hypocrites.
The reason he called them hypocrites was, for a Jew to be in possession of the coin was to be in possession of a graven image. It had Caesar’s image on the coin and since the Romans considered Caesar a god, an image of Caesar would by the very definition be a graven image.
When you think about it, it would be tough to be in that position. How would it be if a picture of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln was a graven image and there for off limits for Christians to use. No one dollar bills and no nickels or no five dollar bills and no pennies.
The thing that would made it problematic would be that likely, all money would be considered a graven image. How would one function in life?
The one thing that is clear with Psalm 16, more than anything else, David demonstrates great faith in God. If you read through 1 Samuel, David’s faithfulness is without compare. God may have anointed David King but Saul wasn’t ready to give that up yet. And though David has proven himself an asset to Saul’s army on multiple occasions, Saul still wants the would-be king dead. Saul could have been one of those enemies David was crying out to God about in yesterday’s lesson.
At the end of the day today, David’s chief complaint isn’t Saul. His complain is against those who are backsliders, those who were heretics. I would have to admit, at a few points in my adult life, I was a backslider. Some may have said worse than that. I had slid well past my back.
As I read today’s reading the thing that keeps coming to mind is a heretic. It isn’t a word used much today but we do still use it. At best, they twist Scripture so it describes God beyond most of our understanding. At worse, it can be far more dangerous than that. Because David speaks of those who are giving him problems, seem so, he never calls them a heretic or anything like it. But Saul would certainly, at least in my opinion, fit the bill.
There are heretics around us today. Most cult leaders can all into that category. There is also a line of theological thought called “The Prosperity Gospel.” It says basically that God wants you to have not only your needs, but everything you ever wanted. All that is required of you, is enough faith.
I have a lot of problems with the two words, “enough faith,” but I will save that for another time.
Seeking the Genuine,
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.