Daily Devotion for Sunday 16th June

Sunday, 16 June 2024 Psalm 35
O Lord, plead my cause against my foes;
fight those who fight me.
Take up your buckler and shield;
arise to help me.

Take up the javelin and the spear
against those who pursue me.
O Lord, say to my soul:
“I am your salvation.”

Let those who seek my life
be shamed and disgraced.
Let those who plan evil against me
be routed in confusion.

Let them be like chaff before the wind;
let God’s angel scatter them.
Let their path be slippery and dark;
let God’s angel pursue them.

They have hidden a net for me wantonly;
they have dug a pit.
Let ruin fall upon them
and take them by surprise.
Let them be caught in the net they have hidden;
let them fall into their pit.

But my soul shall be joyful in the Lord
and rejoice in his salvation.
My whole being will say:
“Lord, who is like you
who rescue the weak from the strong
and the poor from the oppressor?”

Lying witnesses arise
and accuse me unjustly.
They repay me evil for good;
my soul is forlorn.

When they were sick I went into mourning,
afflicted with fasting.
My prayer was ever on my lips,
as for a brother, a friend.
I went as though mourning a mother,
bowed down with grief.

Now that I am in trouble they gather,
they gather and mock me.
They take me by surprise and strike me
and tear me to pieces.
They provoke me with mockery on mockery
and gnash their teeth.

O Lord, how long will you look on?
Come to my rescue!
Save my life from these raging beasts,
my soul from these lions.
I will thank you in the great assembly,
amid the throng I will praise you.

Do not let my lying foes
rejoice over me.
Do not let those who hate me unjustly
wink eyes at each other.

They wish no peace to the peaceful
who live in the land.
They make deceitful plots
and with mouths wide open
their cry against me is: “Yes!”
We saw you do it!”

O Lord, you have seen, do not be silent,
do not stand afar off!
Awake, stir to my defence,
to my cause, O God!

Vindicate me, Lord, in your justice,
do not let them rejoice.
Do not let them think: “Yes, we have won,
we have brought you to an end!”

Let them be shamed and brought to disgrace
who rejoice at my misfortune.
Let them be covered with shame and confusion
who raise themselves against me.

Let there be joy for those who love my cause.
Let them say without end:
“Great is the Lord who delights
in the peace of his servant.”
Then my tongue shall speak of your justice,
and all day long of your praise.

Reflection

Psalm 35 is a national lament using the voice of the king to call for God’s aid against deceitful enemies. The military imagery is unmistakable asking God to take up shield, buckler, spear and javelin. There are no shades of grey: the nation is blameless, the enemies are contemptible and are to be obliterated, and, if victorious, the nation and king will praise God.

Read the psalm and imagine it being delivered to a mass gathering on the eve of war. There is mention of rejoicing in God for delivering the weak and needy, and praising God’s righteousness, but how would the crowd hearing it respond? How would the mood of the assembly shift as the enemy’s crimes are outlined, their punishment described, over and over again? Would the natural reaction be shouts of ‘Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!’ or something much more brutal and life-denying?

At times of crisis subtly, nuance and comprehensiveness are left behind, and binary arguments come to the fore. This pattern has been shaken in recent decades, but it remains the predominant one.

But a situation is named a crisis for a reason. A crisis demands a swift and definite response, and we rely on the judgement of our leaders to see us through. You can’t deal with a crisis in any other way, and our selection and retention of leaders needs to be based on their judgement.

Of course, there is also the tendency to either amplify a situation to make a crisis, diminish an actual one, or ignore a potential one until it strikes. But, yet again, this is all based on our leaders’ judgements.

We all have a part to play in participating in debate, campaigns and elections. We need to be involved or else we end up with the leaders we deserve. 

Prayer

Living God,
when being involved can feel a relentless slog,
light a spark of thankfulness.

When possibilities are being explored,
may openness, respect, and tolerance fill the air.

When decisions need to be made,
may equity, justice, and virtue burn.

When hindsight makes things crystal clear,
may compassion, honesty and humility glow.

When forks in the road are before us,
may tempers, grudges and disappointments cool. Amen

 

Today’s writer

The Rev’d David Coaker serves with Grays URC in Essex.

Copyright

The Psalms: The Grail Translation, Inclusive Language Version, Collins, 2009.

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