So today I have been looking through Psalm 3 in preparation for a small group bible study this Sunday. I help to run the youth group at the Church I work at (narrowly avoided calling myself a ‘youth pastor’ there, did you notice?). This Sunday I am going to share my story with the young people, so they can get to know me and, more importantly, get to know God. I think that our stories each, in different ways, emphasise something of the character of God.
The trouble is, sometimes we reduce the Gospel down a three-step program:
- I was a filthy heathen
- God changed my wicked ways
- Now I’m a good boy, I wear beige trousers and attend Church every sunday
You know, something like that.
Trouble is, the Gospel is rarely this simple. I mean, thats the story so often taught in Church, but I have come to realise that wasn’t actually my story.
When I first met God, what I really needed was rescue. I wasn’t a bad kid. I did my homework, I went to bed on time, I didn’t smoke, drink or do drugs. I paid attention in class and I answered the questions the teachers asked. By all accounts I was a good kid. I wasn’t an addicted homeless person. I wasn’t a lecherous party-animal. I stayed in and read books. Good kid.
But when I met God, I needed to be rescued. Not from any mess of my own making, but the hell I experienced at the hands of others. In that season of my life I didn’t care about the fact that I was born a sinner. What does it matter that Jesus died for my sins? My sins weren’t the ones ruining my life!
High school was ruining my life. The cruel mockery of the playground. The taunts and jeers in the locker room. The apathetic indifference of the teachers.
My peers, in a very real sense, built up their sense of identity and community by putting me down.
I wasn’t the sinner. I was the one being sinned against.
So I needed to be rescued. I needed someone to walk into my life and fight my battles. I needed someone to hold me up when life beat me down. I needed someone who could hit back when I couldn’t.
Psalm 3 is King David’s prayer to God when he was under threat from his son, Absalom, who had managed to undermine the king all over the country and gather a large following. Personally, my favourite line is the second half of Verse 7:
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;you break the teeth of the wicked.
Is it wrong to want God to do this for us? Is it evil to want God to stand up for us, to fight for us?
I mean, that’s how I first met him. That’s why I first prayed to him and trusted him. I believed he could get me through when nothing else could. It’s like God reached into my life and pulled me up from a deep pit.
Did I know I was a sinner then? Did I even care? All I knew was a firm hand holding onto my heart.
Somewhat like David, I heard stories of how so many people had been kept safe by God, in Scripture and amongst the friends I had. Is was their stories that showed me what God was like.
Yes, it is where God’s power meets our weakness that he is most glorious. I couldn’t stand up for myself, but God stood for me and was truly a shield and lifter of my head.
In reading this Psalm I am really challenged over how I tell the story of God. In this prayer, David does not confess any sin. He doesn’t tell God he’s sorry for doing anything bad. He just asks God to save him from his son’s army. That existential salvation is what I knew when I first met God. Maybe I’m not the only one who needs that? Maybe God needs to be more than a forgiver of sins to all of us.