Be kind to me, God; I've been kicked around long enough. Once you've pulled me back from the gates of death, I'll write the book on Hallelujahs; on the corner of Main and First I'll hold a street meeting; I'll be the song leader; we'll fill the air with salvation songs.
-Psalm 9:13-14 (The Message)
Don't these words sound familiar?
"God, deliver me. Life has been hard, tougher than I deserve. Remove my worries from me, take my enemies out of the picture, and I'll serve you. I'll lift my voice. I'll shout for joy. I'll tell the world! With a witness like me, everyone will hear of your loving-kindness, your goodness, your mercy. You'll see."
Ever feel guilty for praying a prayer like that?
But there it is, on the pages of Scripture. Just when we've convinced ourselves that we are chumps for talking to God that way, there we find David, ushering us along a well-worn path.
Life gets tough, challenges come our way, we find ourselves on the receiving end of attacks and enmity, not just as a result of circumstance, but the direct action of other people. David is honest enough to ask God to intervene. And he shares with us his planned response: a passionate, fervent advocacy for the God who is the Deliverer.
Like David, we proclaim that God alone is judge, the one who "holds the high center, he sees and sets the world's mess right"(v.7). We would even go so far as to say that God is the one who "gives people their just deserts"(v.8). There is even a desire that God would reveal to our enemies "how silly they look!"(v.20).
But David appears to know something we do not. How does Psalm 9 begin? With this declaration: "I'm thanking you, God, from a full heart, I'm writing the book on your wonders. I'm whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I'm singing your song, High God."(v.1-2)
Before David names his troubles, he affirms this deeply held truth: God is good. And he knows God will act in his own time. Read in isolation, we might hear David's words as permission to offer bribes to God, as we have in the past, saying, "God, do this for me, and I'll do great things for you." But David avoids that trap, by first naming the goodness of God, making his petitions and desires clear, and trusting that the goodness of God will ultimately show through.
When it does, David will be ready to celebrate, to share, to name it, and to demonstrate it. Justice for all, dignity for the poor, an uplifted chin for the head-hangers. Can't you see? In verses 17-20: "The wicked bought a one-way ticket to hell. No longer will the poor be nameless—no more humiliation for the humble. Up, God! Aren't you fed up with their empty strutting? Expose these grand pretensions! Shake them up, God! Show them how silly they look."
Trouble may be dogging your steps. But God is good. Declare your desires for justice, act when responsible, and keep your eyes open for the movement of God. And when it occurs, lift your voice. Sing the songs. Fill the air. Salvation has come.
High God, may the words of my mouth honor you. You are good, and I trust you. But where trouble has come my way, I ask you for justice. Where the wicked thrive, I ask that they may be brought low. I pray that you would act, even if that action comes through me. Open my eyes to see you at work, open my ears to hear your call, put your words on my tongue, that I may speak truth. And when your salvation comes, when your rescue plan unfolds, let me sing your praises with joy. Amen.