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The one vs. the many

Faith & Inspiration

… many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God” (Psalm 3:2).

There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good?’” (Psalm 4:6)

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We often hear the expression, “They say …” followed by some cultural truism. And the preface “they say” seems to confer a vague authority on what follows, merely by virtue of the espousal of a large number of people.

If you skim through the first five Psalms you will see a definite contrast of “the one” to “the many.” The psalmist is “the one”—alone and lonely in his belief that God is very able to deliver him from anything that comes down the pike. Thinking he is naïve or a religious fanatic or a complete idiot are “the many.” In Psalm 3:2, these people consider it silly or quaint or spiritually unsophisticated for someone to expect deliverance from certain situations. (Other versions of Psalm 3:2 say, “There are many who say, ‘God will not deliver him.’”) These same people are likewise skeptical about their own circumstances and prospects (see Psalm 4:6 above).

The “many” who are trying to drag down the faith of the psalmist (if it were possible) may even be people in his own religious congregation. There is no reason to think that David in this psalm is speaking of Philistines or Amalekites. The people he rubs elbows with daily are other Jews, people he goes to the Temple with. There is nothing like feeling alone in your faith in the midst of people who are supposedly of the same faith as you.

There is great temptation for “the one” who believes in the impossibilities-busting power of God when he is surrounded by “the many” who “are saying” God cannot help. It is not so much a danger of changing religion and become a Buddhist (though I suppose that happens, too). It is more likely the danger of subtly and imperceptibly lowering one’s expectations of God in one’s life and the lives of those around him.

You started off, as a new believer, asking God to deliver so and so from an addiction, or to undo the damage done in a relationship, or to bring your child a Christian spouse. You were all excited; you were watching for it to happen, like a man with binoculars on the watchtower. But after hanging around for a while with “the many” who have more sophisticated notions that God does not operate in this miraculous way in our day and age, you may start wondering if perhaps you’re a religious fanatic.

If you are a fanatic, then the psalmist David is a fanatic. Read Psalms 1 through 5 and you will see why. This loner still talks like this:

“I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.”

This sets the one apart from the many.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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