Friday, October 1, 2021

When Being Outnumbered is a Good Thing

I expect all of us know what it’s like to struggle with some kind of stubborn behaviour that we know isn’t pleasing to God. I sure do. A typical struggle in my life is how I can react very selfishly and imperatively toward people when I’m feeling under pressure. People I love get hurt. And then when the dust settles, I not only need to resolve things with them, but it can feel like God is disapprovingly waiting for a conversation as well, arms folded, with a furrowed brow. And I’m reluctant to even talk to him about it – yet again.

Even King David could relate to that. He wrote in Psalm 40:12, “My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head. Therefore my heart fails me.” But despite such struggles, David was full of hope and encouragement as he wrote this psalm.

David began the psalm by describing God as being inclined to him, and willing to help him, despite his unworthiness. In fact, I’m amazed at how a man who later described himself as being surrounded by “innumerable evils” and as having more sins than the hairs on his head (v.12) also had the faith to describe God as having thoughts toward him that are “more than can be numbered” (v.5). Do you ever feel like your sins can’t be counted? Then try counting God’s thoughts toward you! Hairs can be numbered, but God’s thoughts of you can’t be.

And God’s innumerable thoughts toward us are not disapproving thoughts. We know that because of how David began the psalm by describing how God had helped him: “he brought me up out of a horrible pit… He set my feet upon a rock… He put a new song in my mouth” (vv.2-3). That doesn’t sound like a frowning God looking down on our feeble frames. Then in response to what God had done for him, David poured forth his "new song" in response: “I have proclaimed good news of righteousness… I do not restrain my lips… I have declared your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your lovingkindness and your truth” (vv.9-10). David did “not restrain” his praise for a God who clearly did “not withhold” his love from David, despite his many sins. This is why we don’t need to feel reluctant to approach God, whatever our struggles might be.

It’s no wonder that David ended the psalm by declaring, “The Lord be magnified!” (v.16). David then repeats the amazing contrast: “I am poor and needy [meaning, my sins are ‘more than the hairs of my head’]; Yet the Lord thinks upon me [with thoughts that ‘are more than can be numbered’]. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” (v.17). I’m so glad he’s still inclined to help us too.

© 2021 Ken Peters