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Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Scripture Reading: Psalm 74
O God, why do you cast us off forever?
Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation, which you acquired long ago,
which you redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage.
Remember Mount Zion, where you came to dwell.
Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;
the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary.
Your foes have roared within your holy place;
they set up their emblems there.
At the upper entrance they hacked
the wooden trellis with axes.
And then, with hatchets and hammers,
they smashed all its carved work.
They set your sanctuary on fire;
they desecrated the dwelling place of your name,
bringing it to the ground.
They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”;
they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.
We do not see our emblems;
there is no longer any prophet,
and there is no one among us who knows how long.
How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
Why do you hold back your hand;
why do you keep your hand in your bosom?
Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the earth.
You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
You cut openings for springs and torrents;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.
Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you established the luminaries and the sun.
You have fixed all the bounds of the earth;
you made summer and winter.
Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs,
and an impious people reviles your name.
Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild animals;
do not forget the life of your poor forever.
Have regard for your covenant,
for the dark places of the land are full of the haunts of violence.
Do not let the downtrodden be put to shame;
let the poor and needy praise your name.
Rise up, O God, plead your cause;
remember how the impious scoff at you all day long.
Do not forget the clamor of your foes,
the uproar of your adversaries that goes up continually. (NRSV)
How long, O God?
It is the cry of the downtrodden and the oppressed throughout the too-often bloody history of the human race.
It is to be heard in the pages of the Bible, in the arenas of Roman torture of Christians, in the Viking-ravaged communities of Dark Ages Scotland, on through the death camps of Stalin and the gas chambers of Hitler—yes, even today in the parts of our world where power seeks to wield its authority over people it deems expendable or a nuisance.
The presence of the cry here is a part of the deep sense of the human condition that is inherent in the Psalms and that keeps these ancient writings immediate to our life experience. For the cry “How long?” is not heard only in the headline-making acts of terror and horror throughout the historical record, but also in the heart of anyone who has watched a loved one experience long-term illness or agonized as a friend slowly, inexorably descends into the depths of addiction.
We do not necessarily know who the enemies are who have caused the terrible destruction the psalmist laments, but even in the midst of this darkest of the Psalms is the lamp of faith and trust that even in long suffering there is hope of God’s redemption:
Yet God my King is from of old
working salvation in the earth.
Even in the midst of all that is broken and hurt,
come Lord Jesus, whose suffering brings new life.
Written by Calum I. MacLeod, Executive Associate Pastor and Head of Staff
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