Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"Turn to me and be gracious to me" -- what kind of man writes that?

Turn to me and be gracious to me
    for I am lonely and afflicted
Psalm 25.16
Looking at this verse, I asked myself, "What does he mean? Why would he write that? What is he thinking and feeling? How can I be more like him?" Here are a few thoughts on that.

He writes this because he's lonely and afflicted. He calls upon God because he thinks that God is not only willing and able to help him, but also because he thinks God is the source of the best, most likely help for him.

I noticed this parallel pattern
 Turn to me     and    be gracious to me
I am lonely and afflicted
and that gives me pause. When I was single and lonely, I asked God to send me a wife. Well, I actually I asked him to either send me a wife or to make me less lonely (or more satisfied with him). But when I'm lonely, this kind of prayer ("Turn to me," I mean) isn't the first thing that comes to mind; I tend to first look for something more tangible.

And he's afflicted. How is he afflicted? He's got enemies, for one thing. But he says something else interesting a little further on down:
Look upon my affliction and my distress
    and take away all my sins
Psalm 25.18
So he knows he's got sins. He's not in distress only because he's aware of his sins, but the sin certainly doesn't help.

But hold on a second. I wonder... I wonder if, when lonely and surrounded by enemies, he starts thinking "Why" and at that point becomes aware of his own sin? I wonder if that's what's behind Psalm 119.71: It was good for me to be afflicted / so that I might learn your decrees.

Not to say that being afflicted is always for that purpose, but whenever I am afflicted, I can certainly try to use it that way, to lean into God. And the good news is that, as the psalmist clearly believes, God is trustworthy; he's our best hope to counteract alienation and affliction, and to find forgiveness for our sins.

Sounds like good news to me.
posted 8/3

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