By Nora O. Lozano
Psalm 40 is full of contrasts. On the one hand, the Psalmist writes about his own difficult experiences:
Being in a desolate pit, and a miry bog (verse 1)
For evils have encompassed me without number; my iniquities have overtaken me…; they are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails me (verse 12)
The Psalmist is in a desperate situation. I cannot remember how many times I have recited and prayed this Psalm. In fact, at a certain point in my life, it was one of my most constant prayers. Perhaps you have had similar experiences where you felt, too, that you were in a desolate pit and a miry bog.
But there is hope! With God there is always a sense of expectation and anticipation as Christians wait for divine intervention.
In this hope, the Psalmist narrates God’s actions on his behalf:
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry (verse 1)
You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you (verse 5).
…the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; (verse 17).
Having experienced life’s vulnerabilities as well as God’s mighty deliverance, the Psalmist rejoices and invites us to do the same:
…may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” (verse 16).
For Christians who have witnessed God’s deliverance, joy is a deep state of mind and heart. Even though we may be experiencing problems and difficulties now, we rest in joy because God will act again on our behalf, just as God did in the past.
The topics of joy, deliverance, rest, and salvation continue into the New Testament, yet they find new expressions. As we anticipate the miracle of the incarnation, let’s rejoice because Jesus’ birth represents a fresh and powerful expression of God’s love, salvation, and goodwill towards humanity. Life is difficult, but there is rest in our triune God’s nature and actions Amen!
By Edgar Twedt
Psalm 62:1‐2, 5‐7
1. For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
2. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
5. For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.
6. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
These beautiful verses are packed with hints of Advent, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. One way to look at them is to see verses 1, 2, and 5, 6 as book ends within which we can begin to imagine and image Advent. And then one can see verse seven as the foundation stone on which the two bookends rest, and between these bookends rests the focus of the season of Advent. In the Hebrew text these two pairs of verses are virtually identical, with just a tiny bit of variation. One sees these slight variations in the second line of each verse when one compares verse one with verse five and verse two with verse six. It’s as if the author, in using rather typical Hebrew poetry, wants to do just a little more than repeat for emphasis. The author wants to add words (ideas) for even greater emphasis. Thus we learn a variety of things about the God whom we look for in this season of Advent. First of all we learn that in this Advent time of waiting, our soul is to wait for God alone and to wait for God in silence. Then we learn that from God comes our salvation (1) and hope (3). And we learn that God is our rock (2, 6), our salvation (2, 6) and our fortress (2, 6). Finally we learn that from all of this we shall NOT (6) be shaken. And, as if this isn’t enough, we learn that we shall NEVER (2) be shaken. Verse seven tops it all off by reminding us again that the foundation which underlies Advent, as well as all other seasons of the church, is the promise that God is our deliverance, our honor, our mighty rock and our refuge. Could we surround Advent with any more powerful or reassuring verses of Scripture? I think not, for the promise is finally the promise of God’s Self.
By Randy Edwards
I cannot hear this passage without also hearing in my head and heart an extraordinary solo written with this very text by Dan Goeller. The melodic line, sung by a mezzo soprano, is deeply rich and utterly passionate.
“O Lord, You are my God, how I long for You! How my soul thirsts for you in a dry and weary land. You are my God, so I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.”
The violas and celli lead the lavish accompaniment, followed gracefully by the violins, double basses, and oboe.
The result for me is goose bumps on my arms and cold chills around the gills!
But the holy shiver down the spine happens only if one has actually been in that spiritual valley where one absolutely yearns and profoundly longs for God’s presence in a me of stress, loss, grief, pain, suffering, despair, or disconsolation.
Over the past few years, we have heard a lot of talk about “first-world problems.” A first-world problem (as opposed to a third-world problem) is one where our internet is running slower than usual, or the iTune player in the car is acting up, when our cell phone battery discharges, or when we are delayed having lunch by an hour or two. First-world problems, when compared to third-world issues – such as no clean water, very little food, no shelter from the storm, and no shoes – seem rather lame and frankly are rather lame when compared to third-world crises around the world.
You and I can become so first-worldly that we actually never long for God the way the Psalmist did. Our always-under-control, well-scripted lives can actually barricade us from ever really longing for the Messiah.
Such was not the case in Ancient Israel. Such is not the case in the hearts of those who deeply long for Jesus today. We realize that, without the Savior, we are utterly desolate, parched, hungry, thirsty, exposed, and alone.
Keep watch! Salvation is closer than you might think!
By Lori Tyler
Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16
David was a man after God’s own heart. David was called by God. He worshiped Him with all his being. His Psalms praise God as King of Creation, Lord of All, and Light of the World. David knew his place. God was God, and he was not. But I think David was a man after God’s own heart, not just because of his faithful praise, but also because of his neediness for God’s refuge and help in his life.
In Psalm 31 he is running from Saul who is pursuing him. David is crying out for deliverance from his enemy. He is a man in distress and trouble. We are familiar with the many Psalms that praise God for who He is — mighty, majestic, a faithful Savior. But do we remember the Psalms that are open, honest, and raw before God?
It is good to know that we can pray a selfish prayer every once a while. A prayer to protect us from harm, watch over our children or help us in a difficult situation at work. We can run to Him for refuge and safety. He is, after all, Our Deliver, Our Refuge, and Our Savior. I want to praise Him for his holiness and majesty. But I’m sure glad He’s also there to hear about my worries and needs.
A healthy spiritual life, I think, means that we can be a little selfish every once in a while. David shows it’s OK to be afraid, to be anxious, to need God to step in when we feel out of control. Isn’t that what Easter is all about? Your salvation and mine was out of our control. We can’t save ourselves. Sin was the enemy, the winner. We needed a little, OK a lot, of help. Thankfully, what David knew and what Easter reminds us about is that God offers a love so great that His life was sacrificed for mine. Wow, what a beautiful reminder of the lopsided relationship we have with God! A selfless love for a selfish life.
By Daniel Zamora
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.”
Everyday there is at least one news portraying people who live in darkness, depression, prison, chains, bitter labor, helpless, trouble and distress. Although these terrible conditions sound like far away, many may experience some in different degrees when lack of health, partial or full loss of income, loss of a loved, an accident, or an unexpected event thwarts the plans for our families, church and communities.
These are exactly the situations described in verses 10 through 13 in Psalm 107. However, if we pay close attention, these things are described as of the past, not of the future. The psalm writer invites us to give thanks to the Lord because God has delivered, saved and freed us from all of them.
Jesus himself was subject to all kind of sufferings while he ministered on Earth. During the weeks preceding his death, he lost a close friend and was blamed for it. A few days later, he was betrayed by one of his students, then arrested, judged unjustly, spit in face, struck with fists, slapped, mocked, and crucified. Because of all of that, “he brought them [us] out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their [our] chains. Let them [us] give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron” Psalm 107: 15-16
The Lord is our past, present and future help.