Here is our King

A Reflection on Psalm 93 by Canon Rob,
November 26th Sunday next before Advent

Unlike other Reflections, today’s is about the psalm set for Evensong, as we have already reflected upon the one set for the morning Eucharist. That was in March this year and the psalm was 95 with it’s opening words, “O come, let us sing to the Lord…” It was a call to worship and this evening’s psalm is just as joyful, celebrating the Kingship of God. As verse 1 puts it, “The Lord is king and has put on glorious apparel; the Lord has put on his glory and girded himself with strength.” Walter Brueggemann in his lovely book, “Praying the Psalms,” says of Psalm 93 and other psalms of celebration, “Those who pray this kind of Psalm will want not just to reflect on a general notion of well-being but to work with the concrete image of king, the gracious ruler who does manage well, provide for, protect the weak, and intervene for the helpless.” Verse 2 reminds us that it is God, “who has made the whole world so sure that it cannot be moved.” God, the Lord, is the Creator of all. However, He is not just the Creator, He is the One who subdues the chaos caused by floods. “Mightier than the thunder of many waters,….the Lord on high is mightier.” [See verses 4 and 5] As we reflect on this, we might want to take the words literally, but remember that the psalms are poetry and subjective. The author is telling a truth through metaphor and here his message is one of absolute reassurance, conveyed by the translation of verse 5 in the words on the picture here: “Mightier than the waves of the sea is His Love for you.” Even, and especially, in the midst of suffering, we can be sure that God loves us and is with us.

To put this in context, some commentators believe that Psalm 93 was written fairly soon after the Israelites returned from Exile in Babylon in 538 BC. If so, it marked a new beginning for God’s people. There are other psalms with a similar message. See, e.g., Psalms 47, 97 and 99. They are referred to as “royal psalms” or “enthronement psalms” and may have been used during the New Year Festivals in the autumn. They all recognise and celebrate the Kingship of God, who is Lord of all and who has existed from the beginning. So, in verse 3 we read, “Your throne has been established from of old; you are from everlasting.” God, the Lord and Creator of all, has chosen a people to be His own, to form a community under His Divine care and rule. But human kings were held in great honour too, especially King David. In the words of “The Oxford Bible Commentary,” The king was: “God’s anointed, as sacrosanct and the representative of the nation, the welfare of which depends upon his righteousness.” Today we celebrate Christ the King! He is the King of kings upon whom we can totally depend for he is Righteous.

This short psalm ends with words about God’s rule and laws. “Your testimonies are very sure; holiness adorns your house, O Lord, for ever.” [Verse 6] God is Holy and in the hymn book we use at St. Dunstan’s Church, one of the hymns we sing makes that very clear: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, holy is the Lord God, almighty.” [285 in “Complete Anglican Hymns Old & New.”] In the Old Testament, including the Book of Psalms, that holiness implies separateness. God is ‘other’ who lives in heaven apart from we who live on the earth. The Holy God chooses when He intervenes in our lives, as He did, for example, through the leadership of Moses at the Exodus. Then, as they journeyed to the land which He promised them, God intervened again by giving the People His testimonies, or moral laws, known as the Ten Commandments. Being chosen by God, they are very privileged but, as always, that comes with great responsibility which is fulfilled if and when they obey His laws.

You have established your throne, O Lord, above the chaos of this world:
may your truth, which is from everlasting, be ours for ever and ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[Prayer at the end of Psalm 93 in Common Worship, Daily Prayer]

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Good Lord, deliver me

A Reflection on Psalm 70 by Canon Rob,
November 12th, Remembrance Sunday

If you watch any of Sir David Attenborough’s programmes you will see how brutal life can be for those who are vulnerable. A big cat, for example, killing a young impala or zebra. A great white shark catching a seal pup. We watch such events and a natural reaction is often to think they are cruel until we are told that the big cat kills to feed her young and the shark will only kill enough to satisfy its hunger and we have some sympathy and understanding.

Psalm 70 is an urgent plea for help by someone who is vulnerable, whose life is in danger. The opening words, also used during Mattins and Evensong in the 1662 Prayer Book, show how terrifying the situation is: “O God, make speed to save me; O Lord, make haste to help me.” The author’s life is in danger from those who seek his life. [See verse 2] He is terrified and the only thing left is to turn to God for help. On this Remembrance Sunday, I recall that my father once told me how, during World War II, fellow soldiers who seldom thought of God, prayed to Him to spare their lives, just as the psalmist did. Also, one of my commentaries on this psalm refers to bullying and reading it I recall the many times I was bullied at school. Being physically small I was vulnerable: an easy prey to those boys who were much bigger than me. So, reflecting upon Psalm 70, I have a lot of sympathy with the author. You may find yourself doing the same. Wars and bullying are repugnant and their roots are similar: fear and the need to intimidate and control “the other.” As you reflect on today’s psalm can I encourage to pray for peace, for those who are vulnerable and bullied and for those who perpetrate acts of violence wherever they take place?

The author of Psalm 70 has faith in God and believes He will save him. After he has asked God to “shame and confuse” and “turn back” those who seek his life [See verses 2 and 3] he rejoices in God’s salvation and calls upon others to join him in doing so. “…let those who love your salvation say always, ‘Great is the Lord!’” [Verse 4] Here is confidence and trust in the One who has the power to free the writer from his fears. Again, as you reflect on this psalm, you can make it your own by praying that God will likewise free you from any fears you may cling to. When the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, mentioned above, was first published, the greatest fear of worshippers would probably have been the “fear of the Lord.” The word fear was used to mean “dread,” or “scared of, ” not “love for” or “faith in” as we might rightly understand it. However, God’s holiness reveals our sinfulness and in the words of St Paul, in his Letter to the Christians in Philippi, “You must work out your own salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you,….” [Philippians 2.12]

Having encouraged others to rejoice in the power of the Lord, the author returns to his own immediate needs and the urgency of his request is repeated: “As for me, I am poor and needy; come to me quickly, O God.” [See verse 5] In the final verse he recalls that God is his help and deliverer but his plea is urgent again: “O Lord, do not delay.” It is as if he is going round in circles, something which many experience when they are weighed down with anxiety. Being afraid sometimes is an experience most, if not all, of us will experience. It is a theme which occurs in several psalms, and if you look at Psalm 40, verses 14 to the end, you will find the words are almost identical to those of Psalm 70. However, for those with faith, there is something which overcomes fear: love! The love which God has for us, and the love we have for Him. As St John reminds us in the New Testament, “There is no fear in love, but love casts out fear.” [1 John 4.18.] As you reflect upon today’s psalm, may you be reassured that the God of Love is with you.

Lord, give us that love always. Amen.

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