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Friday, September 2, 2016

Today’s Reading | Psalm 91    

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
   who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
   my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
   and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
   or the arrow that flies by day,
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
   or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
   ten thousand at your right hand,
   but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
   and see the punishment of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
   the Most High your dwelling place,
no evil shall befall you,
   no scourge come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
   so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
   the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

Those who love me, I will deliver;
   I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
   I will be with them in trouble,
   I will rescue them and honor them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
   and show them my salvation. (NRSV)

Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket and, there, find the words “For my sake was the world created.” But when feeling high and mighty, one should reach into the left pocket and find the words “I am but dust and ashes.”

—Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa

Maybe you’re like me and find it very easy to accept the way of thinking of Reformation-era Protestant leaders—like John Calvin or Martin Luther—who had a pretty negative view of human nature and who experienced, in their very selves, the weakness of what it meant to be flawed. It can be very easy for us to get trapped in a way of thinking about our relationship with God where we are constantly undeserving of God’s love and care.

This is why we need the gift given to us in Psalm 91. Just as it is wrong to believe that we are entitled to everything that God has given us, or to act as if we alone deserve the good blessings that God prepares for the world, it is also a mistake to believe that we are not somehow special to God. If we reject the idea that we are special to God and recipients of God’s particular care, then we do not understand the true nature of God.

Psalm 91 has been characterized by Israeli scholar Yair Hoffman as an “amulet psalm”—something that we might carry around with us so we might feel God’s guarding power and special care for us. Perhaps this day you might hold Psalm 91 in your own spirit and feel how the overflowing love and care of God is for you as well.

Loving God, I pray that you might confront me in my moments of pride, so I might comprehend my own brokenness. I pray also that you might console me in my times of weakness, so I might feel in my deepest soul how much you love and care for me. Amen.

Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism

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