TODAY’S READING: Psalms 3–4, 12–13, 28, 55
The psalms are generally either hymns of praise or songs of lament that lead to trust. In the general order of the book (as compiled), the laments lead to the praises. Of the first forty-two psalms, over twenty-two are laments. This movement from woe to joy does not necessarily reflect the trajectory of David’s life; due to his own failings and sin, his later years held more sorrow than his former.
Not all the psalms have a detailed superscription, but Psalm 3 does (David fleeing from Jerusalem and from his son Absalom) and we can assume many of these other lament-filled psalms were from similar times. David struggled with the pain and anguish of hurt, betrayal, and loss, especially as life drew to a close: “My heart is severely pained…the terrors of death have fallen upon me…and horror has overwhelmed me… For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it… But it was…my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng” (Psalm 55:4–5,12–14). What is beautiful about these hymns that start with lament and end with trust is their missionary orientation. Christopher Wright explains: “The language of complaint, protest, and baffled questioning is…prominent in the psalms—right at the heart of Israel’s worship of YHWH. ‘How long, O LORD?’…Ps13:1-2…Why…Where? …For among the things Israel knew about itself…was that it held its own faith in trust for the world. Israel’s God was God of all the earth. Whatever was true for Israel was true for all. Whatever Israel struggled with would be a problem for all. There is then an implicit missiological dimension to the ruthless honesty in Israel’s testimony.”
Wright references what Walter Brueggemann labels “Israel’s Counter Testimony,” which is the internal debate in the Scriptures about how the character of God centered on how He can be sovereignly good and faithful when so much evil and sadness run riot in our world. Brueggemann comments that these “points of cross examination are not a safe intramural exercise for Israel. They are rather issues with which Israel struggles for the sake of the world.” Wright concurs and sums up: “For the sake of the world then, we must take this tone of voice…seriously, with its awkward questions, its probing observations, its acceptance of limitations of our finitude. It is part of our missional responsibility to do so.”
With Absalom threatening him, David took his mournful band (which included non-Israelites) across the Jordan River. The questions he struggled with concerning the character of God were struggled through while on foreign soil, away from home. It was in Moab or perhaps Edom that David cried and agonized his way to trust, ultimately saying: “You, O Lord, are a shield for me… I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me… I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety… But I have trusted in Your mercy…I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me… The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am ed… The Lord shall save me…I will trust in You” (3:3, 5; 4:8; 13:5–6; 28:7; 55:16, 23). All these declarations from David are made while running for his life (from his own son!) in a foreign land. David struggled through, from sorrow to praise, for the sake of the nations, for all those in the grip of sin’s consequences, for all those in pain who long to be saved. We, too, struggle through our pain, our questions, our hurts, our betrayals, and our unimaginable losses not just for our own souls, but so that we can with conviction and compassion the Uzbek of Kazakhstan do the same. We, too, hold our faith in trust for the good of the rest of the world. God can handle our laments, but for the sake of the nations, let us with David wrestle on to trust.
 Christopher J. H. Wright. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006. 451.
 Walter Brueggemann. Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997. 324.
 Wright, 452.