Strength from the Psalms
The poetry of the Old Testament has always held a special appeal for me. I am certain that a large part of that appeal has been due to my enjoyment of poetry as a style of writing Through sound patterns, imagery, structure and metaphor, the poet is able to combine his words into a musical language that has an intensity not found in other types of literature. The Psalms employ these characteristics to convey some of the deepest emotions of the human heart and are as beautiful as the poetry of any nation.
Eventually, however, I gained an appreciation for the Hebrew poetry that is much deeper than its literary style. I realized much more fully that the Psalms should be viewed as practical Scripture to apply to my life. As a result they have contributed much to helping me have the contentment and peace that I believe all Christians should have in life (Philippians 4:7; John 14:27).The words of David, Asaph, and the other poets can be helpful for a Christian woman in any age.
Among their words, some of the most meaningful to me are in the thirty-seventh Psalm. The exhortations given by David in this passage can be used as the keys to peace and contentment on the earth. Consider three of these.
1. "Trust in The Lord" (verse 3). One of the most prevalent ideas in the Psalms is that of trust in God. This often-repeated advice is essential for anyone who wants to do God's will. We must have an attitude of complete trust, total dependence, and willing submission. We must believe that God will take care of us no matter what circumstances may develop in our lives. Whether we acquire many material possessions or relatively few, we must trust The Lord to "uphold the righteous" (verses 16 and 17). Whether we are alone in this life or have family and friends to comfort and support us, we must believe that God "does not forsake his saints" (verse 28). Truly and deeply trusting in the promises of God we can "say of The Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in him will I trust" (Psalm 91:2).
2. "Commit your way unto The Lord" (verse 5). Another very evident spiritual characteristic of the psalmists is commitment. We can never attain true joy and peace in our lives without having made the decision to serve God at all costs, even when the "wicked plots against the just" (verse 12). Anything less is hypocrisy and can only lead to our being unhappy on earth as well as to our suffering eternally. In order to have this dedication and determination, we must have the law of God in our hearts (verse 31). Obviously, we must know God's word and understand it; but really to have it in our hearts, we must also find enjoyment in the ways of The Lord. "Delight yourself also in The Lord" (verse 4), David says. With the resulting commitment will come involvement in whatever is necessary to put God first in our lives. Life in this society and this century requires much involvement in earthly affairs - from job responsibilities to efforts involved in raising children. But when hobbies, extra jobs, or social activities (even with other Christians) hinder our study, prayer or acts of love and concern for others, something must change. Total commitment to God will prevent our becoming so involved in this life that we neglect preparing for the next life.
3. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him" (verse 7). Even as trusting, committed Christians we may wonder occasionally what God has in mind for us. We may become discouraged when difficult times cause us to stumble. But we must not be "utterly cast down" (verse 24). The Lord will hold us up and direct our lives. Sometimes the way is hard to understand. At times God's purposes are unclear and uncertain. But we must take comfort in God's word and constantly improve our submission to His will. We must wait on the Lord because those who do so "shall renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31). David tells us that he "waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined to me and heard my cry" (Psalm 40:1). If we truly believe that "the Lord is faithful to all his words and kind in all his works" (Psalm 145:13, ESV), we will be able to maintain our faith through any circumstances in life with patience and contentment.
In whatever situation a Christian woman finds herself, the Hebrew poetry of the Psalms can and should be used as encouragement for righteous living. May we always find comfort in these ancient words: "But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their strength in time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them; he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him" (Psalm 37:39-40).