By Daniel Zamora
Was the line above the headline of a newspaper or tabloid of any city in the twenty-first century?
No, that is the topic summary of Psalm 17 written around 1,000 BC. It seems that things have not changed much in these many years. People lie to each other, commit violence, display hatred in many and hidden ways and plot a variety of crimes.
Western civilization, through its laws, medicine and psychology, has observed, studied, tested and proposed solutions for all the mentioned behaviors ranging from punishing them with death penalty or life imprisonment to modifying them through counseling and therapy. While all of these are great and wonderful tools to help people, there are new situations that lead individuals to cause and inflict pain into others. In today’s terms, we could add to that list confusion, stress, discrimination, and bullying, among many other situations.
Yes, the resource of all resources is only a prayer away, our God.
“Hear, O LORD, my righteous plea; listen to my cry, Give ear to my prayer” (v. 1)
“May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right” (v. 2)
Let’s make this Lent season a time to ask the Lord help through our prayers.
By Chris Langford
Where do we place our hope when others cause us pain?
This is a question I often seem to ponder and perhaps one that King David reflected on. Our human nature many times may drive us to lash out at those that try to hurt us, furthering a vicious interpersonal cycle of pain and grief. Or we may decide to seek support from close friends or help from mental health professionals. While there may be value in these two options, restoration for ourselves and others will not occur without reaching out to the Lord and placing our trust in him.
We read in Psalm 40 about how King David put all of his hope in the Lord and cried out to him earnestly asking for help (40:1). He developed many enemies over the years often times as the result of his own sins and shortcomings. The Lord delivered David from the filthiness of sin that had enslaved him (40:2). Although David was a new man in the sight of the Lord, the same did not hold true in the eyes of his fellow man. His previous wrongdoings caught up with him (40:12). David’s enemies continually wanted to do him harm by revisiting his past sins and wrongdoings (40:14-15). He could have denied any past mistakes, or succumbed to the negativeness circulating around him, but instead David calls on the Lord’s love and compassion to protect him (40:11).
David, being freed from his former life of sin, cannot contain the joy he has and his praise for God (40:3). Nobody can separate him from the holy reassurance he has in the Lord. When everything else is crumbling around him, David places his faith in the Lord and urges others to do likewise. David concludes Psalm 40 by urging those who seek the Lord to rejoice in him and the salvation he offers (40:16). While humans continued to rebel against God, he sent his Son to die for us, that by his sacrifice we might receive the Holy Spirit, be cleansed, and live as new creations. This is God’s love, this is his faith in us.
We are called to forgive others their trespasses if we are to expect God’s forgiveness of our own (Ma hew 6:14-15). Perhaps one of the greatest measures of faith is praying to the Lord and believing that he will transform the hearts of those that do us harm. Perhaps one of the greatest testaments to that faith is living a life that reflects such a transformation in ourselves. Like David, let us place our hope in the Lord. A hope that through our forgiveness of others’ misconduct towards us that we find forgiveness of our own shortcomings, a hope that we find peace for the pain that others cause us, and a hope that others will find the love of Christ through our actions and they will experience the miraculous transformation that only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can provide.
By David Goree
Years ago I was in a play at Manor Baptist Church. The play had two characters: Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot. I played Judas.
The play portrayed the two disciples meeting after they had each betrayed the Lord in their own ways. Let me tell you: it was difficult for me to deliver Judas’s lines, how he was glad he did what he did and how he rationalized it. It was made even more difficult by our excellent director, who was a devotee of Method Acting. I couldn’t simply “act” my lines. Oh no. I had to live my lines. I had to become a bitter, sarcastic Judas, sputtering my contempt for the ones I had betrayed. To tell you the truth, it kind of messed with my mind. I remember saying a short prayer before and after each rehearsal: “Remember, Lord, this is just a play. These lines do not represent my views.” The prayer was for my benefit, of course, not God’s. God understands the concept of acting, even my cringe-worthy over-acting. Still, I had a hard time connecting with such dark human emotions–especially in the church sanctuary in front of the congregation.
I was reminded of dark emotions when I read Psalm 22:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
Psalm 22 is a difficult passage to read. The Psalmist’s images are so evocative. He says, “I am poured out like water” and “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.” The despair and pain are so palpable and so painfully honest. The passage is a plea from a person who has run out of options, run out of hope and nearly run out of faith.
Amazingly, Jesus redeems these dark emotions when he repeats the Psalmist’s words from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” On the cross, Jesus gathers our fears and doubts and bitter disappointments and binds them to His own suffering—if we will accept it. I suppose we could keep our emotions at arm’s length, like bad actors, or, better yet, we could own up to our pain, fears and doubts and lay them at the foot of the cross.
By Lois Gagné
In this beautiful Psalm, David is a broken father and leader, who’s household and kingdom are in turmoil because of his own indecisiveness and halfhearted efforts to correct his own children. David flees from his angry, bitter, rebellious son Absalom who has stolen the hearts of the people. The pain David now faces is guilt-ridden, entangled in the confusion of a father not wanting to harm his own son, obliging David to back down and spend lonely, sleepless nights in a barren land.
We have all been there, guilty, humiliated and broken because of our own sin, staring at disaster and knowing we, in our own folly, have brought it upon ourselves. How do we go on and find hope once again?
David turns to God, repentant and confident in His love and forgiveness. He pleads for God’s presence, provision and protection. “God, you are my God, I am searching SO hard to find you.” (v.1) “I have seen you in your holiness – your love is better than life.” (v3)
No matter where we are, or why we are there, when we turn to God, our hope is not in vain. “You are the one who helps me. It makes me happy to be under your protection! I stay close to you, and you hold me with your powerful arm.” (v.7-8) Only He satisfies completely and like David, we can sing.
View the present through the promise, Christ will come again!
Trust despite the deepening darkness, Christ will come again!
Lift the world above its grieving through your watching and believing In the hope past hope’s conceiving, Christ will come again! (Celebrating Grace Hymn #99)