A Season of Transition, a Season of Prayer — Please join us each day at 11:30 a.m. in offering a personal but collective prayer for our congregation. Today’s focus for prayer is: For our enemies, domestically and abroad, that we may reach reconciliation and peace.
Scripture: Psalm 34
Key verses: 11-20 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. 12 Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. 18 The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all. 20 He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken.
Reflection: This rich psalm, like the twenty-fifth one, is written as an acrostic. The twenty-two lines of the psalm correspond with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and if we could read the Hebrew we would also discover the word ‘instruct’ highlighted through a clever sentence structure— poetic devices to inspire and encourage memorization. It doesn’t work the same in English obviously but the invitation to memorize and place these words deep in our heart is there nonetheless. How long would it take us to learn this psalm by heart?
At its center, in verses 11 and 12, is the invitation to come and listen to what is good so that we might live a full life. And what do we hear? By fearing the Lord, pursuing peace, loving what is good and departing from what is evil, says the psalmist, full life is found. It sounds straightforward enough. This psalm like the book of Proverbs is direct and clear. It’s inviting isn’t it?
What is not offered however is a lesson in how to always succeed in that pursuit or how to avoid the hardship and difficulty that will find us as we try. Often our journey of faith creates tensions as we try to reconcile the many demands and invitations before us. Praying for our enemies, tending the sick, walking humbly while seeking justice, renouncing evil, seeking then trusting God’s will— that all takes imagination and work, more than we can ever muster. But the Lord is near, declares the psalmist, the Lord redeems and offers refuge. Only because God is with us can we strive to live life with God. We can rest in God as we seek God— a holy mystery.
The day beckons us but there is much yet to study in this psalm. Allow me to highlight one last thing for now. Note how God ‘keeps the bones’ of the broken hearted and crushed in spirit. Another psalm notes how God collects our tears. Such images reveal a God who keeps us whole while we are falling apart. God keeps our lives though we know they can ‘taken’ in disease and death.
As I write this, news is coming from Libya of a massacre of twenty-one Christians. There is a link here to a letter written from a friend to our congregation in Egypt. It is sobering but very real and calls us to prayer and to a confidence that God indeed rescues.
May this psalm be a friend for you today and a balm for the spirits of all who seek and struggle to live a good life.
Prayer: Jesus, remember me. Amen.
Author: Derek Macleod
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].