Monday, July 23, 2012

Psalm 31 – Clinging to God in Darkness

“Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was beset as a city under siege.”
~Psalm 31:21 (NRSV)
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and this psalm speaks of such times; when times get tough best are we when to cling fast to the Lord.
What’s added to the flavour of this psalm is the mode of imprecation toward an enemy—haven’t we all been there?  That is to bring a curse on someone.  If we’re honest, we have; all of us.
The psalmist (ascribed as David) seems to vacillate between honouring God with their praise for the Lord’s faithfulness and cursing the enemy who’s flatly derisive to God.  They don’t care a hang about the moral realm.  Without God that sort of person overwhelms our capacity for hope.
Seeking Refuge >> Obedience >> Humility
We all have times when there’s only one good place to go—into the loving embrace of the Lord.  Whatever is chasing down our spirits is not the point.  Where we go is.
This is a mature response to not hedge the right way despite our want to either fight or take flight.
The psalmist teaches us a good lesson here of both obedience and reliance.  These are disposed out of copious humility—ordered just in time.  This quality of poise is known to a spirit calmed only by its Maker.
Into God’s Hand to Commit Our Spirits
The psalmist is completing the transaction of the redemption experience by affirming their allegiance to “faithful God” (verse 5).  This is a beautiful harmony forged in despair.
Many of our biggest challenges force our hand.  We go one way or the other—away from God or to God.  The former is characteristic of our humanity; to take up cudgels with the enemy because we can have things just the way we like them (or so we foolishly think!).  The latter is the step that only needs to be taken once.  There we remain convinced to the value of going God’s way in temptation and struggle.
Marks of Lament
The attitude of lament is soaked into the oak of the psalm.
In the psalms we know that God connects with us; in this case by lament.  A third of the psalms are so despairingly human we can literally feel their emotion.  Laments are the particular language of David.  But there too are the communal laments; again, the human contrasts of life.
What makes this lament noteworthy, however, is the fact that praise and commitment to God is never too far away.  In our despoiled messes, can we be as gracious under tremulous threat?
Invocations to Follow the Lord
Verse 23 is an example where David proclaims the power of God to turn things around.  It uses commanding language to compel those doubting the Lord’s faithfulness to just love God—all else will settle itself.
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.”
~Psalm 31:24 (NRSV)
We recall the psalmist has been delivered.  And we’re just as excited about God’s delivering hand at the stead of our deliverance—myriad form that’s taken.
This is most assuredly a psalm to read and meditate over during low times of oppression, depression and persecution.  For any low place, take a swim in this.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

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