Tuesday, May 26, 2020

May 26 - Tuesday prior to Pentecost

Psalm 25:1–15—This psalm of David makes an excellent prayer for daily use. It first contrasts godly (the one who trusts in God) with the ungodly. In verses 4–11, we consider our sins, especially as contrasted with the righteousness of God, and pray for forgiveness and spiritual renewal, trusting in the mercy and steadfast love of the Lord.

Verses 12–15 deal with sanctification—godly living—asking for guidance and instruction. The closing verses of the psalm, though not appointed for next week’s reading, brings the plea full circle, as, once again, we pray for deliverance from suffering and from persecution by our foes, those who are opposed to the Lord and to those faithful to the Lord.

By means of instruction the Psalmist reminds us of a simple yet powerful aspect of our faith – we receive mercy; God’s undeserved compassion and forgiveness. God does not require us to earn His forgiveness or gifts. He teaches and leads the humble; those not esteemed by the world.  Those who live by faith receive the blessings of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Faith does not earn these blessings but receives them.

In these difficult economic times, how much we want to hear the promise that God will make us abundantly prosperous in our undertakings and in the fruit of our bodies, livestock, and soil. (Deuteronomy 30:9) No need for another stimulus package. A God-ensured economic recovery must surely be right around the corner. Yet, as a response to this reading, Psalm 25 leads us to pause and contemplate what it means to prosper in God.

Psalm 25:1-10 is not a heartfelt expression of gratitude for a windfall, but a heartfelt expression of trust in God. "The first ten verses of the psalm, which make up the present lection, constitute, at root, a theological reflection and heartfelt plea rising out of that reflection."[1] 

In fact, rather than a rousing chorus of "Happy Days Are Here Again," these verses are an introit to lament and an expression of the trust that makes it possible to complain to God. The psalmist asks God for instruction on how to avoid shame and disgrace and then provides instruction of those who wait on the Lord.

"To you, O Lord, I lift my soul," the psalmist declares (25:1). Anyone who has regularly sung Psalm 141 as part of Vespers or Evening Prayer will find in these simple words a profound description of prayer. To lift up one's soul to God is shorthand for lifting up one's hands in an outstretched position in prayer. The gesture signifies holding one's conscious identity, one's life, outstretched to God in sole and complete dependence upon God and God's help. To pray, "To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul" (25:1) "is a psalmic synonym for 'In you I trust' (verse 2) ... and 'I wait for you' (verses 3-5, 21)."[2] 

To prosper in God is to own and acknowledge one's utter dependence upon God. Deserving has nothing to do with it.

Lord our God, you show us your ways of compassion and love and you spare sinners. Remember not our sins; relieve our misery; satisfy the longing of your people. And fulfill all our hop for eternal peace through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.[3]

[1] Roger E. Van Harn and Brent A. Strawn (eds.), Psalms for Preaching and Worship: A Lectionary Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 109.
[2] James Luther Mays, Psalms, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994), 124-125. 
[3]Prayer for Psalm 25  For All the Saints A Prayer Book For and by the Church copyright © 1994 The American Luther Publicity Bureau Delhi, NY

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