Daily Devotion 9th December 2018

Psalm 76

In Judah’s land God’s name is known;
in Isr’el he is great.
In Salem he has pitched his tent,
his home in Zion set.

He broke the fiery arrows there,
the military might
Of those who with their swords and shields
against us came to fight.

Your splendour is more glorious
than hillsides rich with prey.
Brave men were stripped of all their spoil;
asleep in death they lay.

Not one of those great warriors
could lift his hands to kill.
At your rebuke, O Jacob’s God,
rider and horse lay still.

For you alone are to be feared—
before you, who can stand?
Who can endure your anger, LORD,
the judgments you command?

From heav’n your verdict was pronounced;
the land was hushed in awe,
When you arose to save the poor
and vindicate your law.

Your wrath against the human race
will surely bring you praise;
Those who survive your wrath will learn
restraint in all their ways.

Make vows before the LORD your God;
be sure to keep your word.
Let people from surrounding lands
bring tribute to the LORD.

The LORD alone is great, and he
must surely be revered.
The will of rulers he subdues;
by earth’s kings he is feared.

The editors of Sing Psalms suggest the tunes Martyrs, Montrose or York.

 

Reflection

The commonest reading of this Psalm suggests the God of Israel will, from Jerusalem, judge the nations (ie not Israel, the others) and destroy all who threaten God’s people (ie Israel). There are, indeed, other texts in the Hebrew bible with this message which helps us to slide into such a reading. … I’m not convinced (and not every commentary is convinced either) that this is the distinction being made. Is not the Psalmist saying God will judge the warmongers and power brokers, breaking their stranglehold, in order that God may decide FOR the oppressed?

What might we learn from such theology? It seems to me this text is one of those timely reminders that we can all too easily divide people into believers/non-believers, Christians/those of other faiths when perhaps we are being challenged to see that God does not use those categories. God might not always decide for the believer, or the church-goer but can, and does, judge for the oppressed – who might be of another faith, or no faith at all.

This takes us into the realms of a preferential option for the poor, which is also seen through the Gospels as Jesus ministers to the most marginalised, actually defines his ministry in precisely those terms (Luke 4), and who tells us sheep and goats will be separated not on the basis of what they believe but on the basis of how they respond to those in deepest need.

 

Prayer

When the texts are tough, O God,
help us to hear you speaking.
When the message is uncomfortable, 
O Lord,
challenge us not to seek quick
palliative treatments
to make our reading easier.
When our lives need
to come under your spotlight, O God,
we trust in your guiding
and your everlasting mercy. Amen

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Dr Rosalind Selby is Principal of Northern College and a member of Didsbury URC.

Bible Version

 

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