How To Read The Psalms (Psalm 17, 35, 54, 63)

I used to read the psalms where David talked about his enemies, how often he asked God to destroy them, and honestly I couldn’t relate. Now I understand that Saul was out to kill him and the king made David’s life miserable. But David said some pretty harsh things about Saul and his followers. I mean, I’ve had conflict with certain individuals over the years. But I wouldn’t describe them as enemies. And I certainly wouldn’t pray for God to destroy them liked David prayed about the people he  considered his enemies.

So for years, I’d read these psalms, check them off my reading list, and move on. I didn’t think there was anything in there that had anything to do with me. I shared my thoughts with a pastor who looked at me and said, “But you do have an enemy.”

What? I wondered if he knew something I didn’t. Was there someone in our congregation who had a vendetta against me that I didn’t know?

He must have seen the shocked and confused look on my face because he went on, “Your enemy isn’t flesh and blood. You have a much more dangerous enemy than any person on this earth. Your enemy is Satan. And believe me, he wants to see you suffer. He’s out to destroy you every bit as much as Saul wanted to destroy David. More.”

He told me I was wrong to believe the psalms didn’t relate to me. He challenged me to re-read every one and instead of picturing the conflict between Saul and David, or between me and someone I wasn’t getting along with at the time, and picture the conflict between Satan and me, the conflict between sin and holiness. He told me I would grow to love the psalms and realize that God not only understands my struggle with sin, He is the answer to my struggles.

I’ve been reading the psalms that way now for decades. When David talks about swords and arrows, I picture the temptations Satan throws at me. When I hear David say his enemy is out to get him, I know the devil is out to get me, too.

And when David in Psalm 63 says, “They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals,” I know Satan doesn’t stand a chance against me.

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I stay close to you; your right hand upholds me. (63:7-8)

I have a different attitude toward the psalms these days because I’ve learned to read them. And I can absolutely say every psalm applies to me in some way. I dare say they apply to you, too, if you learn to read them.

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