In my personal devotions, I follow a practice of spending time praying and reflecting upon three Psalms every day for a week, and then three new Psalms the following week, and so on. I find myself falling ever deeper in love and gratitude for these incredible songs and prayers which David and other writers lifted up to the God who was their hope and strength, refuge and rock.
This week, Psalm 28 is among my trio of Psalms. It is one of David’s most poignant prayers of petition and pain, as well as his heart’s cry of exultant praise. Psalm 28 is a prayer for deliverance from a time of deadly peril in his life because of personal enemies that not only attacked him maliciously but did so with defiant disregard of God’s commands. In his appeal to the Lord, David not only wept out his own frustration and pain at the unfairness of the slanderous attacks that were leveled against him, but proclaimed his unwavering conviction and hope in God’s faithful and righteous defense of his servant. The psalm echoes with those beautiful descriptions of God as rock, strength, shield, strength, fortress of salvation and shepherd. The God of Israel is praised as the one who hears David’s cry for mercy and responds with help and blessing, and therefore David’s heart leaps for joy.
What particularly struck me this week was a line in the second verse in which David begged God to hear his cry for mercy and help as “I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.” We don’t know whether David was actually in the outer part of the Tent of Meeting (for the Temple had not yet been built) or whether this psalm was at a time when he was far away in hiding from King Saul. It matters not; what does matter is that his posture of prayer was oriented towards the inner sanctuary of the Tent of Meeting, to the Most Holy Place where the ark of the covenant was placed as symbol of God’s faithful presence with his people. In essence, David was saying that he was crying out to God and was lifting his hands up to the Lord for help in the same way that a little child might lift up their hands to a parent, pleading to be picked up and embraced in their strong, protective and loving arms.
It is an amazing image of David’s humble and trusting dependency on God as the only one who could aid and rescue him and bring judgment upon those who oppressed him. But even more beautifully does the image reveal the tender graciousness of the Father, the Holy One, who stoops to embrace us, his little ones, with steadfast love and unflinching kindness.
As I prayed through the Psalm, that image seized hold of my heart in such a commanding way. God, I believe, longs for and invites us to come to him, lifting heart and hands as the helpless, broken, fearful and hurting children that we are, in simple trust that our God is more than sufficient to calm our souls, comfort our hearts, heal our wounds and renew our joy. Our God is no stand-offish deity before whom we must present ourselves with trembling, distant formalities. Like the father in the parable of the prodigal, our God is one who is ready to sweep us into his arms, hold us in saving power, and wipe away the tears from our eyes. If God delights in our lifting up our arms to him, our delight is that the arms of God have always been reaching out to take hold of us with all the warm, glorious and holy passion of heaven. What a promise! What a gift!