What was your reaction as you read Psalm 18 today? Some of the phrases used by the psalmist, King David, hit me the wrong way. As in ‘according to my righteousness’, ‘the cleanness of my hands’, ‘I have not turned away from His decrees’, ‘I have been blameless’ and ‘I have kept myself from sin’. Oh, really?
We know quite a bit about David’s life–his successes and his struggles. Is there one of the Ten Commandments he didn’t break? And more than once? Lying…adultery…murder. Need I go on? So, what’s he talking about–blameless, righteous, clean?
Let’s go back a bit to what’s called the ‘superscription’ of this psalm. That’s the introductory comments at the heading, before the body of the psalm itself. It calls David ‘the servant of the Lord’ and says the occasion is his fleeing from enemies. David is most likely a young man writing this psalm. Early in his life. Much ahead of him, good times and bad. Good decisions and others not so.
Sound familiar? When I look back on my life, I had such good intentions. Big plans… with God somewhere in the picture. Then I got in the way. Me…I…myself. Like David whose early exuberance for the Lord was sidetracked by his own sinfulness. As was mine. Me alone?
Let people down. Said what shouldn’t have been said. Did what shouldn’t have been done. This is why I look to Psalm 143 for a more mature word from David. Much later in his life, after decades of decadence and defeat, he writes this: ‘O Lord…listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief…'(v. 1). David sounds different here, doesn’t he?
He’s been eating ‘humble pie’ after looking at himself in the mirror of God’s Word. That’s why he cries for ‘mercy’. As we all do, when we’re honest with ourselves and our Lord. No longer trusting in ourselves but moreso in Him. In God who alone is always righteous and good, clean and just. God’s grace is getting what I don’t deserve. His mercy in not receiving what I do deserve.
As with David, the longer we live, the more we pack into this life, the greater I need both the Lord’s grace and certainly His mercy, which in Jesus are new every morning. That’s really good news!
Prayer: For your grace and mercy daily received, we are thankful. In Jesus’ name. Amen.