I imagine many of us know the frustration that follows the questions “What is God?” and “How would you explain God?” It is nearly impossible to define or describe God with even the most well thought-out arguments.
The Psalms address this challenge by approaching the nature of God through individual and communal relationship with God rather than philosophical proofs. Our psalms for today, 25 and 51, are prayers that David articulated to God in moments of pain and need. This glimpse of David’s relationship with God enable us to see some of the ways David understood God:
- He understood God to be steadfast in nature. In his prayers, David expresses a bold confidence in God’s everlasting love for David. In both psalms, his entire petition and prayer are based on the fact that God’s love will motivate God to help David.
- He believed his sin created a sense of separation between him and God. David’s actions of sin, though they aren’t described in detail, are causing him to feel distant from God’s presence. David believes that he deserves punishment and judgement.
- He has a physical and tangible understanding of God. The language David uses in his prayers connote a relationship that can be felt, not only in the heart, but in a sense of location. This way of knowing God is aligned with the value Israel placed on the temple.
These reflections by David are spurred out of his own connection and engagement with God. They are not the result of deep study, and it would be irresponsible to form our complete theological frame from David’s individual reflection. For example, David’s sentiment that he was born from sin in his mother’s womb is not justification for the idea that children are born sinners.
Rather, David’s prayers offer us a sounding board: we can respond by exploring how our understanding of God does or does not align with David’s. These prayers also model a way to develop a profound intimacy with God. We can articulate back to God our understanding of steadfast love, confess feelings of separation, and request a return to intimacy.
Prayer and Reflection: Practice deepening your prayer by telling God the moments you’ve experienced steadfast love, and ask God to relieve any sense of separation from God.
Art: “Psalm 25” by Yoram Raanan