URC Daily Devotion Sunday 18 February 2024

Sunday 18 February 2024
 The First Sunday of Lent
Psalm 21
 
O Lord, your strength gives joy to the King;
how your saving help makes him glad!
You have granted him his heart’s desire;
you have not refused the prayer of his lips.
 
You came to meet him with the blessings of success,
you have set on his head a crown of pure gold.
He asked you for life and this you have given,
days that will last from age to age.
 
Your saving help has given him glory.
You have laid upon him majesty and splendour,
you have granted your blessings to him forever.
You have made him rejoice with the joy of your presence.

The king has put his trust in the Lord:

through the mercy of the Most High he shall stand firm.
His hand will seek and find all his foes,
his right hand find out those that hate him.

You will burn them like a blazing furnace
on the day when you appear.
And the Lord will destroy them in his anger;
fire will swallow them up.

You will wipe out their offspring from the earth
and their children from amongst its peoples.
Though they plan evil against you,
though they plot, they shall not prevail.

For you will force them to retreat;
at them you will aim with your bow.
O Lord, arise in your strength;
we shall sing and praise your power.

The Psalms: An Inclusive Language Version based on the Grail translation from the Hebrew
© 1963, 1986 The Grail (England) GIA Publications

Reflection
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) Amen to that.  Who can put a price on the opportunity to live in communities that are quiet and at peace, in which godly virtues and dignity are treasured and honoured?  Good governance is important and those in power need our prayer support.

In the age of the psalmist, it was the king who wielded power and whose attitudes and values were of crucial importance for the well-being of the people.  Give us a Hezekiah or a Josiah, not a Manasseh!  In our day we need to reframe the psalm to speak to the same intent.
 

In a recent lecture at St Martin’s in the Field, the politician Rory Stewart spoke about morality in contemporary politics.  He bemoans what he sees as the rehabilitation of Machiavellian politics, which focuses on taking power.  He contrasts this with the classical view of Aristotle and Cicero that politics is about virtue.  But Christianity, he says, goes further than this.  His answer to a Machiavellian approach is Thomas More, who chose to say “No, here I stand”.

Psalm 21 is one of the psalms that both Jews and Christians have seen as applying supremely to the Messiah.  You might like to read the first three and a half stanzas again, thinking of Christ the King.

But today is the first Sunday of Lent and our minds are beginning to turn towards Calvary.  There we see a way of dealing with those who hate and plot evil which is very different from the way described in the last four stanzas of this psalm.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Prayer
O Lord, arise in your strength;
the strength of overcoming, sacrificial love.

O Lord, arise in your strength;
the strength of healing, reconciling love..
 
O Lord, arise in your strength;
the strength of truthful, joyful love.
 
We shall sing and praise your power.
 
Amen

 

Today’s writer

The Revd Gwen Collins, retired minister, Avenue St Andrew’s URC

Copyright

The Psalms: An Inclusive Language Version based on the Grail translation from the Hebrew
© 1963, 1986 The Grail (England) GIA Publications

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