As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.
My thoughts (Jeff Miner):
When I read passages like Psalm 43, where the psalmist asks God to defend him/her from “ungodly” oppressors, I get a little uneasy. I remember back to my fundamentalist days and how we took so much comfort in these passages. People often disliked us and said we were judgmental and mean spirited. We reflexively dismissed their criticism as unjustified, and called out to God to protect us from these “heathens.” We engaged in no meaningful introspection. Criticisms were automatically dismissed. After all, we were righteous, so if someone was criticizing us, they must be unrighteous.
I’ve seen many times when people of faith are too quick to dismiss criticism and call for God to vindicate them. Before I became a pastor, I oversaw a group of attorneys who regulated savings banks in a Bureau of the U.S. Department of Treasury in Washington, DC. A secretary assigned to support our group was a devout Christian, with Bible verses plastered all over her cubicle. Let’s call her “Marsha.” She would often respond to something by saying, “Praise the Lord.”
Marsha was very sincere in her faith, but she was a bear to work with. She was temperamental, spent too much time on the phone, and aimed mostly to please me (group lead and fellow Christian), while having little regard for the needs of our staff attorneys. One day I heard her out in the hall shouting. When I went to investigate, I discovered that one of our attorneys had asked where a certain project stood and justifiably expressed concern that it wasn’t yet done. Marsha went off on the attorney with volcanic anger.
I’m sure Marsha went home that night convinced she was being persecuted, praying and trusting God would vindicate her.
All of which makes me think about myself. How many times have I asked God to defend me when, in reality, it’s others who needed to be defended against me? In other words, how can I objectively distinguish situations where I’m being falsely accused from those where I’m being justifiably criticized?
I believe we find the answer in verse 3, where the psalmist prays, “Send out Your light and your truth; let them lead me.” That is a vital prayer. David, who wrote many of the psalms, was known for carefully examining himself before ever dismissing the criticism of an enemy. E.g., II Samuel 16:5-14
We should follow his example. Whenever someone accuses us, we should resist the impulse to reflexively reject the criticism. Instead we should ask God for discernment. After a searching self-examination, we may actually conclude that we’ve been wrong, in which case we should apologize. Only after we’ve conducted a searching self-examination and concluded we’re truly innocent can we confidently rest in the assurance that God will defend us.
Thought for the day: We Christians need a lot more humility. We should always double-check to make sure we’re on the right side of an issue before invoking God’s defense. Only then can we be confident of God’s protection.
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.