18 February 2010

Lenten Devotions: Who ARE These People?

Psalm 17

1Hear a just cause, O LORD; give heed | to my cry;

listen to my prayer, which does not come from | lying lips.

2Let my vindication come forth | from your presence;

let your eyes be | fixed on justice.

3Examine my heart, visit | me by night,

melt me down; you will find no impuri- | ty in me.

4I have not regarded what | others do;

at the word of your lips I have avoided the ways | of the violent.

5My footsteps hold fast to your | well-worn path;

and my feet | do not slip.

6I call upon you, O God, for you will | answer me;

incline your ear to me and | hear my words.

7Show me your marvelous | lovingkindness,

O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand from those who | rise up against them.

8Keep me as the apple | of your eye;

hide me under the shadow | of your wings,

9from the wicked | who assault me,

from my deadly enemies | who surround me.

10They have closed their | callous hearts,

and their mouth | speaks proud things.

11They track me down; now | they surround me,

watching how they may cast me | to the ground,

12like a lion, greedy | for its prey,

and like a young lion lurking in | secret places.

13Arise, O LORD; confront them and | bring them down;

deliver me from the wicked | by your sword;

14deliver me by your hand from those whose portion in life is | in this world;

whose bellies you fill with your treasure, whose children have plenty, who leave wealth to their | little ones.

15But at my vindication I shall | see your face;

when I awake, I shall be satisfied, behold- | ing your likeness.

I wonder sometimes if I will ever stop being surprised by the Bible. Offhand I’d guess the answer will be, “Not a chance.”

I’m flabbergasted by verses 13 and 14. In a kerfuffle. Bamboozled. Essentially, the psalmist prays, “Deliver me from the people you’ve blessed and who are trying to kill me.” There’s either a maturity here that outstrips every single psalmist or an accusation akin to Job’s case against God. Either way, it’s obvious this is a psalmist in a real pickle, and this psalmist is placing some of the blame on God’s largesse.

Such is the contradictory insanity of life, I think. God provides daily bread for the wicked and the righteous alike. Dick Cheney, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson all have enough to eat tonight. And, to play fair, so do Nancy Pelosi, Al Franken, Keith Olberman, Hillary Clinton and Jim Wallis. Pick your political poison: God has blessed them with enough this night. It’s enough to make the righteous weep in despair, if you can find them.

We have had such a year in our family. Some unbloggable things have happened over the last four months to people I love, things that continue to infuriate me whenever I think on them. And in the wider world, things sometimes haven’t been much better. Were it not for the occasional glimpse of God at work among the students I serve, things would be much, much harder than they are at present. As it is, most days are okay, some are torture, and some are sublime. In other words, it’s life.

Ah, Jesus. I don’t understand you sometimes. I look at some of the idiots who label themselves with your name and just want to pull out what little hair I have left in frustration. Why you fill the bellies of these people is beyond me. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that they probably feel the same way about me. Because they read the same Bible I read. Sure, they don’t read it the same way I do, but the words are there, and if we look really close across the chasm that divides us, we’ll find the same Scriptures in each others’ hands.

I have a hard time believing you answered this psalmist’s prayers as he asked. As a matter of fact, I have a pretty strong feeling this psalmist never got the answer for which he was praying. Because I’ve been spinning around on this earth for 35 years and I know I’m perplexed on a daily basis by some of the dumb things we do to each other. Why you bother with any of us is miracle enough for me most days, and to believe that someday I’ll awake and see your face, well, like the psalmist, I think it’ll be satisfaction enough. I’m pretty sure I’ll be questioning your choice of companions even in heaven, but the good news is, they’ll be saying the same thing about me, and best of all, our children will want for nothing.

Grace & peace,


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