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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, August 3, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Psalm 50:1–8, 22–23

The mighty one, God the Lord,
    speaks and summons the earth
    from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
    God shines forth.

Our God comes and does not keep silent;
    before him is a devouring fire
    and a mighty tempest all around him.
He calls to the heavens above
    and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
“Gather to me my faithful ones,
    who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
The heavens declare his righteousness,
    for God himself is judge. Selah

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
    O Israel, I will testify against you.
    I am God, your God.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
    your burnt offerings are continually before me.”

. . .

“Mark this, then, you who forget God,
    or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me;
    to those who go the right way,
    I will show the salvation of God.” (NRSV)

Once during worship a woman leaned over to me asked if I had any idea what the word selah meant. It was sprinkled throughout that morning’s psalm, and she wanted to understand. While its precise meaning is unknown, selah is used throughout the psalms and is frequently interpreted to mean rest, to take a pause, contemplate. After reading the first 6 verses of the passage, I need a selah. Whew!

I am much more likely to consider the expansiveness of God’s love. Because I’ve worked hard to let go of the “hell fire and brimstone” baggage from my youth, I don’t often think about God coming with a devouring fire and chaos while summoning, rebuking, and judging. As the first verses of this psalm call God’s people to account, selah is probably the most reasonable response.

But we do not get to stay in selah mode. God’s omnipotence might scare me into inactivity but that’s not the point. God doesn’t need us to be cowering in the corner. Eventually we move toward bringing thanksgiving and going the right way. God calls us to account so that we might care for all of God’s creation. God calls us to account so that we dismantle unjust systems. God calls us to account to create God’s dream here on earth. I might pause to contemplate the enormity of that command, but I can’t live in selah. I need to go to work.

God of righteousness, call me to account. Be tender and merciful when I fall short. Wake me up and propel me forward as I work to create your kingdom on earth. Amen.

Written by Andrea Denney, Executive Director of Operational Ministries

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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