What would be your approach if you knew you didn’t have long to live?
Tim Keller is dying from pancreatic cancer. He recently wrote that he does several things to feed his soul during this season. For instance, he talks Scriptural truth to himself when he is troubled. Another daily practice is to pray a psalm each day. I wonder how he prayed Psalm 83 when it came up. Let’s walk through it briefly.
Psalm 83 is the last of the Asaph songs (50, 73-83). Asaph’s psalms are a mixture of our soul’s daily realities—both praises for and to God and His provision alongside His apparent silence. “We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for you name is near…O God, do not keep silence, do not hold your peace or be still, O God!” (75:1; 83:1).
The song immediately reminds us of God’s ability and right to do what He pleases, and it reveals our dependence upon Him (see verse 1, above). While God may seem distant in suffering, God’s name tells us He is in charge and His full array of attributes are working together for His glory and our good (see Exodus 34:6-7). Note the variety in God’s names. He is “God” (1, 13), a general designation for God; He is “LORD” (16, 18), His personal name, Yahweh—the great I AM; and He is “the Most High” (18), in contrast to the many pagan gods. Today, God’s name “is revealed in the name of Jesus, to whom all power and authority belong (Matt. 28:20). Even as Yahweh’s name was not to be taken in vain (Exodus 20:7), the name of Jesus our Lord is holy!”
Verses 2-8, name specific enemies (helpful in our prayers, too). We, too, know about and pray against “the world, flesh, and devil” that seek to hinder us from being conformed into the image of Christ. The song has an interesting twist to add: Their assaults on us are ultimately targeting God Himself, “For they conspire with one accord; against You they make a covenant” (5). Dare I remind us: Our personal sins are “cosmic treason” and “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4). Ouch.
Asaph asks God to judge his enemies “as You did” in Psalm 83:9, introducing historical reminders of God’s intervention. The faithfulness of God to Himself and His own is more that theoretical and is promised to be unleashed soon in judgment (read Revelations!).
Psalm 89:16-18 brings the song to a rousing conclusion with the goal for judgment. It is: “that they may seek Your name, O LORD…that they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, are they Most High over all the earth.” Great prayer points for us! “The ‘name’ signifies all the benefits…to those who love Him…but also the powerful acts of judgment.” Note: Creator, Savior Jesus will be the judge (John 5:22).
I suspect Tim Keller is regularly rejoicing in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ. Will we?