“The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in time of trouble.
And those who know Your name put their trust in You,
for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:9-10)
My favorite Psalm is one that is often overlooked and is not one that most people immediately call to mind. Possibly because it is one of the more misunderstood Psalms because it fluctuates between a song of praise and a cry of grief. In many translations it is called “On the death of the son.” However, nowhere in this psalm of David is there any mention of a son dying. The timing of the psalm is often disputed, but the reality of the words within it paint a beautiful picture of humanity and all of the emotional turmoil that comes with following our LORD.
The best theories that I have read and studied regarding Psalm 9 are that this is written following the death of David’s best friend, Jonathan – the son of King Saul, who died with his father in battle at the hands of the Philistines (1 Samuel 31). The divided kingdom of Israel and Judah, now with no king or apparent successor, is in chaos with no leader. 2 Samuel 1 tells the story of how David hears the news of their deaths and records David’s immediate lament. David ultimately takes on leadership of Judah and one of Saul’s other sons takes on kingship of Israel and this led to a war between Israel and Judah over who was the rightful king.
David had already been privately anointed the next king of Israel by the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 16), signifying the sovereignty of God over the nation of Israel. But Saul’s son was choosing to follow in the traditional path of the foreign kings who succeeded by lineage. It isn’t until the fifth chapter of Samuel that David is publicly anointed king over Israel, reuniting the Promised Land. It is in the midst of this chaos that David writes “For you have maintained my just cause; You have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgement.” (Psalm 9:4)
Life is filled with struggles, many of which we don’t immediately understand. The death of a loved one. The chaos of a divided nation. A home in turmoil. A job threatened. In each of these circumstances we don’t always immediately have the right answer. In which case, the best response is to simply stop, breathe, and wait.
There is a military term to describe this type of waiting – a strategic retreat. It is often beneficial to take a step back from the battle and rest in order to regain your strength of mind and spirit, so that you can jump back into the battle fully prepared to tackle the challenges that face you. That is why it is good to take time to mourn. It is good to take time to focus and strategize. It is good to take time to simply wait and watch, seeking for the appropriate time to make the move. Sometimes, the best move is no move at all.
Sometimes, the best move is to simply walk away. But it takes times of deep quiet and focused serenity to allow the distractions of your mind to melt away so that you can properly assess the battle before you and exercise wise discernment in your decisions. It takes quiet times of spiritual focus to really hear the whisper of God’s Spirit as He speaks to your heart and mind, guiding you along your path. Three things you can count on with our Lord:
- A stronghold for the oppressed – a place for those under attack to seek refuge.
- A trustworthy name – God will put His own reputation on the line for those who trust in Him.
- A faithful hand – He will not turn away any who approach His gates seeking shelter from the battle.
Some of my favorite moments as a grandfather are when I get to hold my grandchildren while they sleep. It not only gives them a sense of comfort and safety while they rest, but it thrills my heart and brings calm to my own chaotic mind. If you are tired from the journey, seek a quiet place to simply close your eyes and breathe in His spirit. Allow Him to give you new strength and confidence that you can stand upon His enduring word. He will not force His way upon you. He desires that you run to Him like a child running into the waiting arms of a loving Father.
“He will cover you with His pinions [feathers], and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:4)