Hindsight Theology

“A resolution on reflection”

            For years the Psalms were a mystery to me.  There was something untidy and elusive about them that I just couldn’t wrap my head around.  There were exceptions of course – Psalm 23, 34, 100, etc.  Nevertheless, I primarily saw the Psalms as a “spiritual espresso” that one used when one needed a bit of a lift!  It was Phil Yancey that first provided some interpretive light for my “psalm blindness” in his book, The Bible Jesus Read.  He pointed out that the Psalms are primarily personal letters to God and one must read them as an “over-the-shoulder” reader since the intended audience was not other people but God.  In more recent years, my understanding of the Psalms has grown appreciably by reading Dennis Kinlaw’s book, Lectures in Old Testament Theology. This remarkable book helped me to see the Psalms as a treasure trove of profound theological insight into the person and nature of God.

Today, I read the Psalms and thoroughly enjoy the no-holes-barred look into every aspect of David’s life – identifying with many of his emotions and struggles.  However, it is the practical and theological insight that flows out of these experiences that I find most helpful.  David was a master at taking life’s experiences and turning them into a form of Hebrew poetry that is filled with both wisdom and deep insight into the character of God. Obviously, David wrote most of his Psalms after he had experienced the particular trial or difficulty he is writing about.   This allows him to write from “hindsight” and it is out of that reflective “look back” that he offers some practical advice for every spiritual traveler as well as some of the most remarkable insights into the character of God.   I like to call this “Hindsight Theology.”

An example of this is found in Psalm 40 (read it now).  David is journaling about a time of inward disquiet, deep anxiety or trouble.  What valuable truth comes out of David’s reflections?

Patience is a key ingredient in navigating difficult times.

David says he “waited patiently for Yahweh”.  The Hebrew implies that he waited and waited and waited.  David learned that, “God will avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bears long with them?” (Luke 18:7).  The key in coming through the trials of life successfully is patience.

Patience finds its footing in the knowledge of a faithful God.

             David says, “He turned to me” – “He heard my cry” –   “He lifted me out” — “He set my feet on a rock” – “He gave me a firm place to stand.”  Verse 11 says, “thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me”.  David is testifying to the truth that God will always respond as He does because that is the kind of God that He is.

 Personal transformation is the silver lining behind every dark cloud.

“He put a new song in my mouth, even praise to God.”

                 Horatio G. Spafford, a successful Chicago attorney, Presbyterian Church elder and a dedicated Christian is a sterling example of this truth.  Within a three year period, Spafford lost his only son to scarlet fever, his vast real estate holdings in the Chicago fire and his four remaining daughters in an accident at sea.  Out of the tragedy, Spafford penned the words to the famous hymn, It is Well with My Soul.  It is believed that Horatio took the words “It is well” from the words of the Shunammite woman who lost her only son but was later raised from the dead by Elisha (II Kings 4:26 ).

 Difficult times are not just about us. God can use them to exalt His name and extend His kingdom.

“Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him”.

             As I face this New Year, I am resolved to do a better job of reflecting on the “ups and downs” of life with the intent of seeing God’s loving hand at work in molding me into the image of His dear Son.

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