Friday, September 8, 2017

Psalm 31

Reflection on Psalm 31 for the prayer group which I am posting.

From the Jewish Study Bible (p1314-1315) Psalm 31

"I seek refuge in you O Lord may I never be disappointed, as you are righteous, rescue me!"
The Hebrew chacah means to flee for protection, trust, to hope in. It is a reminder to Christians that we did not invent "saved by faith," it is at the heart of Judaism. Trusting God is a tricky business, we are not always sure about Him. We doubt His intention to take care of us. Even when we try to trust God, we always have Plan B (and C, and D...). The psalmist declares His trusting hope in God, but voices that all too human concern that such trust will not prevail. Don't let me be buwsh (literally paled, as in ashamed, disappointed)--to be shamed in this "Honor" culture is the ultimate horror. The psalmist returns to this theme in the final verses--'I trust you, save me, deliver me, don't shame me, shame the wicked.'

The words used to describe the Savior God are very concrete: You are righteous, be quick to save me, be a rock, a stronghold, a citadel, my fortress. The only hope of rescue is God's power. That is the first step for many of us, coming to realize it is too big for us to handle.

Who is the enemy? Classical Christian thought identifies three: the (fallen) world, the (sinful) flesh, and the devil. The world does not worship or honor God. It worships power (hence the inherent issue with any political system, it is always about power and control) and wealth and seeks to be self-sufficient (hence the arrogance of unbelievers who mock God). The flesh is best understood as a darkened nous (NT Greek for "mind": the source of perceiving, understanding, feeling, judging, and determining) Sinful desires grow out of "bad thoughts" and sinful acts are committed based on bad thoughts and desires. We are at war with ourselves and we are our own worst enemies. Lastly, in the spirit realm there are the demonic powers at work. The demonic works inside us through our thoughts and outside us through the world. It is best to see these three as the ultimate enemy seeking to undermine faith, hope and love, to sever the relationships in the human community, and to generate illness, pain and suffering.

In Hebrew, sometimes a verb can be translated as
a declaration or a request. "Save me" and "You save me" are both possible translations, so different Bibles will translate it as a request or a declaration of faith. (If we trust we can ask, and if we ask we must declare our trust.)

The heart break of the psalmist is evident ("I am in distress, my eyes are wasted by vexation, my substance and body too. My life is spent in sorrow, my years in groaning; my strength limbs waste away...), our human struggles can be much to much. There are too many people who feel this words, sadly, and their need for God is unrelenting. Let's pause here, though, to remember that these are words in the Bible--they are God inspired. Ponder that. We should not be shocked or dismayed, no confused or doubtful when things go bad. Reality is filled with bad moments, and the Bible does not paint a picture of endless prosperity and trouble-free existence. 

The psalm also has a verse (v6) that resonates with our knowledge of Jesus. "Into your hand I entrust my spirit; You redeem me, O Lord, faithful God." Jesus said this on the cross, but I have to believe it was a prayer which He often made. It had been internalized into His core and expressed His relationship with the Father perfectly. You have to be firmly committed to giving your spirit to God each day if you want to be able to do it on your worst day! So, we are invited to pray these words dozens and dozens of times each day to get ready. Each hour is a rehearsal for our last hour, each minute is preparation for our last minute. If we trust, even in the midst of the struggles, the losses, the failures, the sin, the suffering, if we trust enough to say with each breath, "Father God, my life force, my spirit and soul, my 'deepest me,' I put it all in your hands," then we can live and die in the Lord. The fears and worries will dissipate, because our life is in the Redeemer's hand. 
Shalom peace is found by the one abandoned totally to God, so I have read. I continue the journey to do it.

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