Never mind how I got here.
Share a bite with me:
1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me.
2 Take up shield and buckler;
arise and come to my aid.
3 Brandish spear and javelin
against those who pursue me.
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation.” (Psalm 35:1-3, emphasis added)
I had no interest in reading David’s complaint in 35. Not that day, anyway. But I wouldn’t get as far as the complaint. I’d stop at just the third verse.
And stay there.
Speak to my heart
I had dessert for breakfast again this morning, savoring and sampling and trying to decide which four words tasted better.
David, finding himself once again the object of a deadly pursuit, begged God’s intervention. Contend, O Lord.
He pleaded with God to assist, asking Him to suit up with His shield and His buckler — fight in both the cavalry and the infantry. He called on God to fight for Him with the javelin, not tossing it into an advancing army and hoping for it to take someone out but using His spear to hold off an marching enemy.
David had no fight in him.
He just needed the enemy held off so he could run.
And so in the midst of telling God how to wage war, David cried out these four short words:
Say to my soul . . .
Is this one more weapon in His arsenal? He contends for us with the sword, the spear, the shield, and His whisper?
David seems to think so. While You arm Yourself for war, Father, speak to my heart.
Four short words, followed by four more. This is what David longed to hear God say: I am your salvation.
All I really need, God, is Your voice, whispering to my heart, that You are my life and my salvation.
Allowing the words to descend
Funny that I should stumble into 35 while reading Matt Woodley’s chapter on Prayer as Paying Attention. He reminds me, as a friend has been known to say, that meditating on the word is like eating your favorite dessert. You eat it slowly, savoring, tasting, “allowing the words to descend from the mind into the heart.”
He contrasts meditation with study, observing that
. . . it’s the difference between analyzing a recipe for double-chocolate cake and eating the cake, allowing the rich, dark chocolate to melt in your mouth, savoring every rich and delicious bite. You do need to study the recipe. Then you need to purchase and organize all the ingredients. But eventually you’ll want to make it and eat it so you can savor it. Savoring is the point of a chocolate cake. Meditation leads us to the point of savoring God’s Word. In other words, meditation always leads to love, intimacy and delight. (The Folly of Prayer, Matt Woodley, p. 134, emphasis added)
When I first read David’s 35, I admit I quickly sought out reference material. Why both a shield and a buckler? Didn’t they serve the same purpose? Why a spear and not a sword? Who was David running from? Where would he run to?
I easily get lost in the study, and forget to slow and savor.
Say to my soul . . .
Woodley quotes Kierkegaard, catching me at my own game, all the ingredients laid out neatly on the counter and not a chocolate cake to be found:
Being alone with God’s Word is a dangerous matter. Of course, you can always find ways to defend yourself against it: Take the Bible, lock your door — but then get out ten dictionaries and twenty-five commentaries. Then you can read it just as calmly and coolly as you read newspaper advertising. . . . Can’t we be honest for once! We have become such experts at cunningly shoving one layer after another, one interpretation after another, between the Word and our lives, (much in the way a boy puts a napkin or two under his pants when he is going to get a licking), and we allow this preoccupation to swell to such profundity that we never come to look at ourselves in the mirror.
Yes, it would seem as if all this research and pondering and scrutinizing would draw God’s Word very close to us. Yet this interpreting and re-interpreting and scholarly research and new scholarly research is but a defense against it. (p. 135, emphasis added)
So go ahead and mix up the ingredients, make the cake, and savor it, Woodley challenges. Linger over His words, and as I do, ask the question, “Where is God’s Word intersecting with my life?” (p. 136)
Right now, in those four short words, Say to my soul, He whispers to my heart about His whisper. About hearing it, savoring it, playing with it.
If there is a point to chocolate cake, this truly must be it.
What’s your chocolate cake today? What is His whisper to your soul that you are savoring?
Posted as part of an ongoing series from Matt Woodley's The Folly of Prayer: Practicing the Presence and Absence of God Søren Kierkegaard quoted in For Self-Examination and Judge for Yourself