Thursday, September 7, 2017

Psalm 37

This is a reflection for prayer group on psalm 37. Prayerfully read the psalm first...

"Do not fret because of evil doers; do not be jealous of those who do wrong." The Hebrew "charah" means to be kindled, burn, incensed, angry, hot with anger. Evildoers (Hebrew: those who break apart, who spoil, who do harm to others) are vexing. Of course, many of us see ourselves as victims of evil doers forgetting that we are designated evildoers by others. We are exhorted to not be jealous of the unrighteous or envious of those who do wrong. Do we envy sinners? The danger of focusing our ministry on the sins of others cannot be overstated. Feelings of anger and jealousy are interrelated. We may want bad things to happen to the "bad guys," yet are strangely envious that they might be getting away with something when justice fails to lower the hammer upon them. Jesus' teaching is helpful here; "stop looking at every little thing that is wrong with others and focus on the big things wrong with yourselves." The two passions (anger, envy) are among the deadly sins. To be freed of these passions is the spiritual discipline of faith.

The psalmist makes this clear--they shall soon wither like the grass and like the green grass fade away. As Teresa' prayer reminds us, "all things are passing." You and I forget the perspective of time. We are impatient for God act! All things are temporary, the psalmist declares, especially the ascendency of the evildoers. 
Verse 3 continues, "put your trust in the Lord and do good." Arguably, this is a summary of the Judaeo-Christian way. Trust the Lord and be faithful ("do good"--the Hebrew towb also means beautiful, benign, beneficial, pleasant, appropriate, fair, fine and wealthy). Abide in the land and be faithful. Always the life of faith implies fidelity, to trust God means to be loyal to Him.

Verse 4 is grace and hope. Take delight in the Lord and He shall give you your heart's desire. The Hebrew, 'anag, means delicate, soft, even alluring and in this usage means to take great delight. Those who truly seek God, who have purified their minds and hearts, whose focus is on the Father and His will--such people are in alignment to receive His Kingdom beneficence. It is interesting that the word delight reappears several times in Isaiah 55-60, usually in reference to the abundance God pours out upon His faithful ones.

The psalmist repeats the charge---trust God, wait patiently, God will do it, do not be angry and aflame with rage. The time of trial will pass and the ascendancy of the evil one will end. God will be true and God will suffice. The lowly shall inherit the land... This verse is lifted by Jesus and placed in the Eight Beatitudes.

Friends, it is a task to keep eyes focused on our own conversion rather than distracted by the sins of others around us... It is a challenge to not be driven about by this negative emotion or that; impatient with God's slow justice. Psalm 37, describing the path of theosis (unity with God) instructs us that withdrawing from anger and judgement, impatience and doubt are a good thing. Psalm 37 reminds us that all things pass. Temporal reality is a veil hiding the eternal and the God who holds all time in His hand. The way to life is trust and faithfulness. Refocus, yet again, on trust and faithfulness. Do the hard work of cooperating with the Holy Spirit who makes mind and heart pure. Do the hard work of obedient love. Embrace the freedom, peace and joy of the Kingdom among us and pray for the Kingdom to come. amen  

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