Scripture: Psalm 99
Key verse: (8) O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
Reflection: The emphasis in verses 6-8 is the nearness of God, responding to the cries of people in distress. Who is God responding to in this passage? “Them” refers to Moses, Aaron, and Samuel (v.6), who called upon God in prayer for guidance and help. Moses and Aaron bridged the gap between God and the people at the time of the exodus (Exodus 4, 5-11). Samuel called upon the Lord for help and the Lord answered (1 Samuel 7:7-11; 12:16-18). They turned to God in times of need; God heard, and God responded.
The Psalm speaks about God as the One who hears and responds. In the business sphere of life, response time may differ from a ground floor worker and the CEO of the company; but here the psalmist tells us that God responds, over and over. The CEO and Creator of the universe responds. This is a reason for praise and an invitation to all people to call upon the Lord in times of distress to receive help and forgiveness.
In verse 8b God revealed Godself to them as the God-Who-Forgives. Our God is a forgiving God, and we can learn from this. God forgave them — them being either Moses, Aaron, and Samuel or Israel as a whole — but condemned their wrongdoings. Forgiving is not accepting the behavior. God looked upon them in mercy, forgiving the soul, not the action.
How hard is it for us to respond to those in our lives reaching out for help or guidance? Even further, how hard is this to do when there is a wrongdoing that needs forgiving? The psalmist holds response, forgiveness, and accountability together. Can we take a few moments each week to respond to those reaching out to us? God is a responding God; God is a forgiving God. May we be just as quick to respond and just as merciful in forgiving.
Prayer: Responding God, you answered your priestly people when they called upon you. We praise you for your nearness in times of distress. Help us to respond to those who call to us, so that to them we may share your mercy and love. Amen.
Author: Ben Brannan
[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].
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