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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, June 23, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Psalm 69:7–18

It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
   that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my kindred,
   an alien to my mother’s children.
It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
   the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so.
When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.
I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,
   and the drunkards make songs about me.
But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
   in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire;
   let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me,
   or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
   according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant,
   for I am in distress—make haste to answer me.
Draw near to me, redeem me,
   set me free because of my enemies. (NRSV)

Biblical scholars put this psalm in the category of what is known as an individual lament. It is part of the ancient temple ritual in which someone would take their complaint directly to God in the temple instead of any kind of civil court. After emotionally pleading their case before God within the temple, they wait—usually overnight—for God’s response.

The kind of case that the worshiper takes to the temple in a psalm like this was one that had issues larger and deeper than could be solved in their equivalent of small claims court. For instance, in this particular case, the psalm mentions how the gossipers at the gate and the town drunks are mocking the psalmist as someone who is fake and a hypocrite. However, the psalmist seems to know that the issues here are much larger and more complex than that, and so they take their case directly to God instead of trying to hash this out with the drunks and gossipers.

Right now I think we know deep down that, as satisfying as that might be, we can’t find one person to “take to court” for this virus and social unrest. There are deep hurts and laments involved here that only God can really hear, understand, and adjudicate.

Psalms of lament like this remind us that whenever we hurt it is OK, in fact appropriate, to take our complaints fully and directly to God and await through the night for God’s response that will come with all of the glory of the sunrise on a new day.

Sometimes, God, our frustrations are a “sigh too deep for words,” and we don’t know whom to blame. Yet we believe with all of our heart that we will soon be witnessing your boundless love and steadfast mercy in action. Amen.

Written by Stuart Jamieson, Major and Planned Giving Officer

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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