Daily Devotions are published Tuesday-Saturday during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.
On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.
All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
This short Psalm, one of those attributed to David—although some scholars think it is in fact a psalm written after deliverance from the Babylonian captivity—packs a lot into its eight verses. It is first of all a psalm of praise and thanks to God after the psalmist has passed through some time of trouble. We can all relate to that, especially now. But the psalmist is pretty vague on what the trouble was, and turns quickly to praising God’s love and steadfastness, saying in verse 3 “on the day I called you, you increased my strength of soul.”
To me, this seems to say that God did not intervene directly to solve a problem but rather gave the psalmist a greater gift—the strength to face grave trouble with faith in God’s ultimate mercy and love. We often hear from the pulpit that God, or faith in God, is not, to quote Pastor Scott, a “get out of jail free card,” and we know from our own lives that this is true. God’s right hand delivers us (v.7) but not in an easy, everything is okay now, way. The Lord has a purpose and will fulfill it, the psalmist tells us, but does not promise an easy life.
Luke 24 (another lectionary reading for today) opens with the visit of Mary and other women to the tomb—which was empty, and that terrified and baffled them, as it did Peter when he came later. Not the kind of Easter Sunday they write greeting cards about. Now look at the last line of our Psalm, a very human “I praise and thank you—but don’t forget about me.” All of us struggle with belief and doubt, with the tension between faith and fear: “I believe, help my unbelief,” cried the father in Mark 9:24. The psalmist understands, indeed lives, this, and left us a message for today. Troubles will come, but we are the work of God’s hands and do not face them alone.
God of creation, remind us of your presence in this season of Easter and in all the seasons of our lives. Grant that with the help of the Holy Spirit we may increase the strength of our souls, and give us the faith to fulfill your purpose for us and for all your creation. We ask this in the name of your son Jesus, whose resurrection we celebrate. Amen