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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, January 20, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 40:1–11

I waited patiently for the Lord;
   he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
   a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
   and put their trust in the Lord.

Happy are those who make
   the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
   to those who go astray after false gods.
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
   your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
   none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
   they would be more than can be counted.

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
   but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
   you have not required.
Then I said, “Here I am;
   in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God;
   your law is within my heart.”

I have told the glad news of deliverance
   in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
   as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
   I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
   from the great congregation.

Do not, O Lord, withhold
   your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
   keep me safe forever. (NRSV)

Reflection
At first glance, verses 910 seem to be the psalmist’s way of justifying his ask for God’s continued mercy in verse 11. That can be confusing since God’s mercy isn’t something we can earn; it’s freely given as a gift from God. But upon further reflection, and in the context of the title of this psalm—”Thanksgiving for Deliverance and Prayer for Help”—these verses read more like the psalmist sharing the actions he’s taking to thank God for the mercy he’s already received. Rather than keeping those acts of mercy to himself, he’s sharing his experiences of God’s faithfulness, salvation, and deliverance with others. And notice that he doesn’t say he’s sharing it with other members of the church; he says he’s sharing it with the “great congregation,” in other words “a great collection of people.”

As the psalmist mentions, one way to share these experiences is through speaking. But speaking isn’t the only way we can share our experiences of God’s love and mercy. As St. Francis Assisi famously said, “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” One way to communicate God’s love and mercy with others is through actions. Sometimes those actions can be overtly connected with our Christian faith, like donating to a toy drive sponsored by the church or serving meals to community members through a faith-based organization. But sometimes those actions show up as we go about our everyday lives, like when we choose to stay late to help a colleague finish an urgent project or stand up for someone being silenced.

Where do you see God’s love and mercy being proclaimed in your everyday life?

Prayer
Loving and merciful God, every day I have the chance to speak and act in ways that share with others what you have done, and continue to do, in my life. Give me the strength and courage to take advantage of those opportunities, both big and small. Amen.

Written by Nicole Spirgen, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church


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