The psalmists are well known for their evocative poetry and impassioned pleas. They consistently push us to reexamine how we worship and pray; fundamentally, how we speak to God, giving us (God-authorized) language to do so. While I was reading Psalm 74 the other day, verse 11 particularly stood out to me. It reads, “Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!”
The psalmist paints a vivid image of God as a passive by-stander, calling on him to take his hand out of the fold of his garment. The original Hebrew has the sense of God’s hand being in his bosom, resting near his chest. Just imagine that image in your mind for a moment. We might modernize the psalmist’s idiom to say, “Get your hands out of your pockets, God!”
What is most surprising to me about the psalmist’s language, however, is the person to whom it’s addressed, namely, God. I don’t know about you, but I’m not inclined to talk to God like that. I think most of us probably consider ourselves too pious to accuse God of such a thing; or at least if we did, we would think we’d spoken inappropriately. But the psalmist challenges us to be honest with God about our hurts and cares, about how we feel in the moment, even with linguistic flourishes such as this.
So, here are two questions for you to think about. First, are you honest with God when you speak/pray to him? Second, are the Psalms a teacher and guide, a faithful companion, to you in your prayers?
I commend to you Dr. W. Robert Godfrey’s book entitled Learning to Love the Psalms as a resource to further ponder these things. He recently gave an interview to Ligonier Ministries about the book (it can be found here: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/live-interview-godfrey-april-18/). As it happens, he even referenced Psalm 74 in much the same way I have here! (I promise I didn’t steal his thoughts.)