“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away. “ (Psalm 31:9-10)
I am not what you would call in the best of health. There is something within these first two verses that resonate with me. When I woke up this morning I did not feel good at all, and was fearful that the rest of the day would be spent in pain and misery. I have called out to the Lord often since my ill health started, and the Lord has been gracious and merciful to me, walking with me and supporting me. The psalmist continues writing saying,
“I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many— terror all around!— as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. (Verses 11to 13)
It has not been, beloved reader, as bad as that for me. The psalmist, who many believe was David, was writing about a time not of ill health but in a grave situation and danger. Not until in old age do we hear about King David being in falling health. So these verses were most likely written during one of the periods of trial in David’s kingdom. Since there were many times like that we would be had pressed to know which time this was. The opening eight verses do not continue much of a clue.
Regardless of where David was in his life, or where we are in our lives, God is with us. The psalmist says,
“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love. (Verses 14-16)
Our “enemies and persecutors” may not come in the form of people, but as situations or even as ill health. When a person is ill it seems like cause of the illness or the symptoms are like “enemies” and “persecutors.” Even if the illness or situation persists, God’s presence and comfort can be felt and known.
“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1-2)
Let all people, in all places, at all times, say the Lord’s steadfast love endures forever and for all things! Psalm Sunday is the celebration of Jesus coming into Jerusalem fully revealed as the salvation of the people.
“Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. (Verses 19-21)
Long, long before I became ill, I have believed in, followed, and depended upon the Lord. Long before King David became King he believed in, followed, and depended on his Lord. While this verse may be closely associated with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, it was in existed and used by the Israelites and others for generations.
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Verses 22-24)
What do you think that original “chief cornerstone” might have been? For when it was written by the psalmist, if it was King David, it would not have been meant and understood as a “Christ” who had been overlooked. Because so much of the Old Testament is seen through the lens of the New Testament, the connection between Christ and is image is quite fixed. But it was not always so.
I have an idea of what the psalmist might have meant; I think the psalmist is referring to a person who others had disregarded, but the impact of that person was under estimated by some, but the Lord has used that person in surprising ways, and the psalmist is giving thanks to that. If my theory is correct, there might be a touch of hubris in the psalmist’s telling of this. But God has uses for all things in creation and for all of humanity. And that God values each one of us, regardless of the opinions of our peers, is marvelous. When the overall tone of Lent is self-examination and seeing where we have fallen short, it is good to be told that God values and uses each one of us. And the verse that follows,
“Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!” (Verse 25)
is a confirmation of the value we have of ourselves, seen through the Lord’s compassion. And then the verse that follows . . .
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. (Verse 26)
. . . confirms this value. But as all people should, we reserve the greater adoration for our Lord. The coming of our Lord is salvation and redemption for all of us.
“The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Verses 27-29) Selah!